Whether you’re a budding travel journalist who wants to go digital, or a nomadic hobbyist wanting to document their adventure, these 5 key tips will help you turn your destination blog dreams into a reality.
Domains are the name of the game
‘What’s in a name?’ Unfortunately, Romeo’s quippy rebuttal wouldn’t be as powerful in the modern era, as the domain name is crucial when it comes to creating a successful niche blog.
Think about it this way- a goldfish has an average attention span of 9 seconds. Despite our homo-sapien status at the top of the food chain, humans have been desensitised by digitalisation to the point where our own attention span has decreased to just 8 seconds. And that’s on a good day.
So how do you capture the attention of people that are just as statistically likely to add to your bounce rate as a goldfish is to swim away? With a unique name that not only captures your site and your message but stands out from the standard keyword-studded domain names. This means avoiding the keywords that have used more times than the Asian backpacking trail has been trodden on by European tourists, including:
You must remember that your name represents your brand, and should reflect your goals and aspirations in a memorable way. Travel trends change faster than your attempts to claim the bottom bed of a hostel bunk (No, just me?), so keep this in mind. For example, if you describe yourself as a low-budget traveller, you have breached an even more niche market, whether intentionally or otherwise, that you may not want to cater to forever in your career as a blogger.
DIY because you can
If you can come up with the concepts, content, and domain name for your travel blog – why not take it one step further with hosting and designing?
And no, I don’t mean Airbnb hosting, I mean having control of your blog by using your own device as a server allowing online accessibility. To do this you first must check the service provider terms and conditions (you know that fine print stuff no one reads but everyone accepts? I mean I’m pretty sure Apple could have included a clause that they own my soul and I still wouldn’t read it…). Hosting yourself also means you have to keep your device online as close to 24/7 as possible. This means you can’t always rely on wifi and broadband when on the road, and updating and schedule software updates and virus scans to off-peak traffic times which may need to be considered beforehand. A great step by step guide can be found here.
Moreover, learn how to design and incorporate your own unique style into your blog. Play around with photoshopping your own photos – think of all the cool angles you can score with your selfie stick! If you, like me, sometimes lack ability to bring that creative and brilliant image in your mind to fruition, look for a designer that you can work with to make your digital design dreams come true. And you’re in luck, as your search can be satisfied through looking at Dribbble, Forrst, and Sortfolio.
Don’t only write for SEO
At the end of the day, your goal should always be to write meaningful content mixed in with your own recipe of amusing anecdotes, travel tips or pointers, and even a few tangents on things that appeal to you and you want to share with your audience. It should ooze your own ‘je ne se quoi’. Would you rather read about the different cafes in Paris with information no different to that of Tripadvisor, or an interesting language-barrier-fuelled argument over a baguette? I know what I which one I would rather sink my teeth into…
SEO can improve the ranking and visibility of your blog, but only when used in moderation. Don’t over-saturate your writing by including endless keywords, but also don’t limit your writing by sticking to one topic that has the most search volume.
Use SEO to your advantage as a starting point to find out reader intent (example, Cafes in Paris), and as a diving board to explore new things (What can happen if your French isn’t as ‘bien’ as you think). Decide whether you want to use a narrative (storytelling) or non-narrative (guidebook) voice, making sure to use an individual tone in any case.
Deal with Links
Would you take travel advice from a non-credible source? Well, for your sake I hope not – and you shouldn’t expect your audience to either. For search engines to deem your site trustworthy, rank it higher on the SERPs, and give it a greater domain authority, they take into consideration other sites that are talking about (or linking) to yours. This includes individual posts, your home page, your about page – the whole enchilada. And as long as other credible sites are linking to your site and vise versa, your site will be given a higher rank than that of unrecognised blogging counterparts.
As we learned earlier, writing content for SEO isn’t best practice, but linking is! It generates more traffic, industry connections, and builds your brand as well as awareness. This includes using some relevant keywords in anchor text (or the text that is hyperlinked from a 3rd party site to your own) that correlate with your blog’s key message, and help search engines figure out what the link is. With this, don’t go too keyword heavy! As we generally recommend 60% of anchor text to be branded, and 40% to be embedded keywords.
Linking is most important for individual travel blog posts instead of the landing page or homepage. For example, if you have a post about the best place to get a kebab in Berlin (mhmm… kebabs…), anchor text saying “Bob’s Blog about Berlin’s Best Kebab” would be a lot more powerful and have a bigger influence than if you blog’s name was mentioned and the anchor text was a mere ‘click here’.
As a last remark on linking, the goal is to build a big enough audience, following, and reputation within your blogging community that other sites and contributors organically link to you, without you yourself seeking it out. This can be done through building relationships online and offline with industry professionals, but mostly through producing great, unique content that makes people want to read on and recommend to others.
Don’t give up!
Whether you are making a destination blog post for a singular trip, writing as a hobby on your travels, or blogging as a professional endeavour don’t fret if at first, you don’t succeed. It takes time to build an audience, traffic, and (if you monetise your site) ROI.
In order to be successful, you have to be bold and follow through with your intentions. Don’t be deterred by fears of other blogs being too similar to yours, or the saturated blogosphere as it stands. Most importantly, be yourself! Seriously-only you can add your own personal touch. What makes a travel blog unique and successful is you. So make your voice heard, push your individual brand, and don’t be afraid to publish content you find meaningful even if it doesn’t follow the SEO suggested beaten track. With passion and conviction, your travel blog dreams can become a possible reality.