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We know the current world situation means we won’t be traveling for a while, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start a travel blog. You can share your past travel experiences or use it as a place to plan and prepare for future travels. You can also use this guide to start any type of blog – or simply to build an online business presence quickly.
From ultralight packing lists to women’s travel tips, HPL is all about getting you ready for upcoming adventures. And for many of you soon-to-be travelers out there, that preparation will involve mapping out how you share your story with your friends and family- and even the world!
An easy way to do that is through a travel blog, and yes, anyone who is going on a big ol’ once-in-a-lifetime type of adventure should definitely consider creating a travel blog of their own.
Yep! A travel blog is beneficial for travelers in so many ways:
- You can easily update friends and family from anywhere in the world.
- You can record travel memories in full detail, creating a digital scrapbook. (While we love it, not everyone enjoys hand-writing in travel journals and notebooks, or creating physical paper scrapbooks after a trip.)
- It helps you pass time while waiting for your next big trip (you know, when you’ve read all the good female travel books on your list), and it makes you excited in the process.
- If you get good at it, you can work with brands and make money blogging!
That’s why we’ve prepared this handy first-timer’s guide on how to start a travel blog. It’s insanely simple, and you can have your very own site up and running in just 6 minutes (seriously – check out the video)! So, let’s jump on in.
What to Do BEFORE You Start Your Travel Blog
I know you’re excited to get up and blogging, but wait just a minute. A little bit of pre-planning will save you time and stress down the road- I promise! Here are a couple of things to think about in this step:
1. Identify Your Blogging Purpose
- Are you wanting to use the site to blog about a singular trip, or will you be blogging about your next trip and any trip for the rest of your life?
- Are you blogging purely for the ability to keep a digital travel journal, to update friends and family, or are you looking to take it to the blogging as a business realm?
2. Travel Blog Name Ideas
The process of signing up for hosting and setting up your blog will go much quicker if you gather some travel blog name ideas in advance. Some things to keep in mind:
Blog Names: If you’re moving to China, then a blog called “Emily in China” will work just fine. But, if you’re going to China and then plan to continue blogging on future travels, “Emily in China” will someday become obsolete and confusing for future readers (if that’s what you’re going for).
Domains: Once you have a name in mind, you’ll want to make sure the domain that matches (as best possible) is available. Check for emilyinchina.com, and if that’s not available, find a suitable alternative such as eminchina.com or inchina.com or anything else you feel comfortable with.
Hyphens are also a possibility (emily-in-china.com), but keep in mind that most people tend to remember domain names without them. Not a deal-breaker though.
For those looking to get the blog in front of as many eyes possible, another step in this process is to see if social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) are available as well.
BEFORE YOU PURCHASE A DOMAIN: If you plan to go forward with Siteground web hosting, as walked through in this post, then registering your domain name with Siteground will make the blog setup process even easier.
Video: Watch Me Set Up a Self-Hosted Blog from Scratch (in 6 minutes)
For those who are visual learners, I put together a video to show you how easy it is to get a blog up and running if you decide to purchase Siteground web hosting.
You can watch the video walkthrough process here, and then you can read on after for the full step-by-step guide. I promise, it’s super easy!
NOTE: For this tutorial, we are creating a self-hosted WordPress blog from scratch (not the free WordPress.com sites). While there is a small monthly fee involved with this method, you get full control over your website from the beginning.
And, you save yourself from stress down the road when you would otherwise decide to make the switch. I’ve seen it happen time and time again. So, you might as well start as your own self-hosted site and have fun with all the possibilities.
Starting a WordPress Blog Quick Step-by-step Guide
The following steps are taking you through the fast-track, super quick version of getting set up with a Siteground hosted travel blog. I will not get into too many details in the step-by-step guide about the intricacies of maintaining and running a travel blog.
What You’ll Need for This Tutorial:
Step 1: Secure Siteground Web Hosting + Domain Name
Hosting is where your blog actually lives on the Internet- where all your site’s files and images are stored. Choosing the right hosting is important so you can be sure your blog is accessible without issue and loads quickly.
As your site grows, your needs will change, but for beginners, the Siteground StartUp hosting is a great place to start.
With Siteground, you can get your blog rolling for as little as $3.95 per month for your first year. That’s less than a coffee!
Why do we recommend Siteground for your first travel blog?
It’s reliable, affordable, and packed full of features. Plus, setup and install of your blog is a breeze (go back to the section before and watch that video). And you get a free SSL certificate, daily backups and free email addresses. Hot tip: It makes you look so much more professional when emailing from your blog’s official email account.
Disclosure: Her Packing List is not hosted on Siteground, but I am starting a new Siteground hosted project and switching another personal project from Bluehost to Siteground.
Let’s get started!
How do you sign up for Siteground?
1. Visit the Siteground homepage. Select the orange “Get Started” button under Managed WordPress Hosting.
2. Select the StartUp Plan.
3. Enter the new domain name you chose in Step 1 for registration. Or enter a domain you already own.
4. Fill out your account information.
5. Choose your hosting period. One of the good things about Siteground over Bluehost is that you can get the cheapest price even when selecting a 12-month package. In order to get that price in Bluehost, you have to select a 36-month package from the get-go.
Enter your billing details and continue to the next screen. You may also enjoy knowing there is a 30-day Money Back Guarantee.
6. Here you will see upgrade options. As a new blogger, you don’t necessarily need to select any of these. Continue on to complete your purchase.
You now have hosting (and potentially a new domain name)!
Step 2: Use the Siteground Wizard to Set Up Your Site
If you didn’t watch my video yet, this is the process I walk you through. Once you have hosting and a domain, the process of “building” your site and going live takes literally 6 minutes to complete.
- Log in to your Siteground account and select the orange “Set Up Site” button to be taken to the setup process.
- Select either new domain or existing domain. Enter your domain name (or select your domain from dropdown if it’s registered with Siteground) before continuing.
- Select “Start New Site” followed by “Wordpress”. Create your login info before clicking to continue.
- You do not need to add anything extra on, but you definitely can! Click “Finish”.
It will take up to 2 minutes for your site to be created. Once it’s done, you will be taken to a confirmation screen.
From here, I’d recommend selecting the Access WordPress Admin option, which will take you through yet another quick installation wizard where you can select a theme and basic plugins to jumpstart your blogging game.
Choose Your Theme
WordPress already comes installed with a default theme, so you don’t have to make any selections beyond this point if you don’t want to. But, if you want to have a more customized, personalized, and pretty travel blog in less time, you’ll probably want to load up one of these free blog theme options from Siteground.
Note: Don’t get too caught up in finding the perfect theme right now. Once you start adding your own images, stories and plugins, you will find that the theme instantly becomes personalized. We’ll discuss modifying your theme in the next step.
Select Your Plugins
From the plugin options provided, I’d recommend choosing:
- Contact Form
- Google Analytics
- Optimize for SEO
After you continue, the site’s theme and additional plugins you selected will be installed.
In a few short seconds, you will be given the option to access the backend of your new WordPress website, or visit the live version.
Hurray… you have a blog!
Step 3: Modify Your Theme
This is pretty much the point where my video ends. You can start blogging away pretty much immediately, but you will want to make a few small adjustments soon.
In the backend of your WordPress site, click on Appearance > Customize. This may be a little different depending on the theme you have selected. However, in our Siteground blog example, we are able to update just about everything from this screen.
A few of the main things you’ll want to update on the Customize screen:
- Update your site identity: site name and tagline.
- Update your logo, if you have one. Check out Canva for a quick and easy logo design tool. The basic version is free, but if you go for Canva Pro, you can do so much more.
- Update your site typography – fonts, colors, and sizes. For my example, I immediately increased the body text size and changed the font of all the headings.
- Link up your social media accounts. Most themes have a social media menu. If yours does, then change the links to the live accounts, or remove the accounts you don’t intend to use.
Step 4: Set Up Plugins
If you installed the plugins mentioned above during the Siteground installation wizard, now is the time to set them up.
The Contact Form plugin installs WPForms with a simple contact form pre-made onto your site. Now we just need to tweak it to fit your site better, and then paste that form into a page.
In your WordPress backend, go to WPForms > All Forms. Click to edit your Simple Contact Form. The only bit that needs to be updated is the dropdown options for Subject.
Click on the Subject block in the form. In the lefthand column, modify your contact reasons. Maybe they can be “Advertising,” “Reader Question, ” and “Guest Post Pitch.”
Save and exit the form editor.
Your theme may have automatically created a Contact page with this form installed. If not, create a new page called Contact and paste the form’s shortcode into it.
Jetpack helps with site security and performance. You should definitely get that set up at least using the free plan option. Once you select the free plan, an announcement will show up at the top of the Jetpack dashboard to Activate the site accelerator. Do this now.
Optimize for SEO:
This plugin by Yoast is considered one of the best when it comes to optimizing your site for search engines (like Google!). To get started, go to SEO > General and click to start the setup wizard.
SEO is a beast of its own and deserves another blog post altogether. I wouldn’t stress over this too much in the beginning, but learning SEO basics is recommended if you want more eyes on your content.
Especially when you’re starting out, you’ll want to see how people find your site, and what they are interested in reading. That’s where Google Analytics comes in.
The MonsterInsights plugin connects your blog to Google Analytics. To set that up, you’ll need to click on Insights > Settings and start the setup wizard on that page.
Remember not to stress if this is sounding too technical and overwhelming. Focus on blogging (next step!) and this other stuff will come.
Step 5: Blog Away!
Ready to blog your heart out? You can now start writing about your adventures, even months in advance. Share your trip planning, your itinerary, your packing list (see how to DIY your perfect packing list) and so much more.
Most importantly: have fun!
Now that you have a blog, you can share it with your friends and family, or even the world!
If the latter is your goal, then you will want to, if you haven’t done so yet, secure all the social media accounts that will be associated with your travel blog – even if you don’t think you’ll use them all. Better safe than sorry later on!
And don’t forget to share, share, and interact with your readers and other bloggers. It’s fun, and you never know what friends you might make in the process!
- Get started by signing up for Siteground hosting now.
What Comes Next…
Here is a quick list of extra things you could be looking at with your new travel blog once you start to get more familiar with your site and blogging platform.
Set Up Your Email Address
You will want to set up your very own, personalized email address for your domain! Think something like firstname.lastname@example.org (it looks so much more professional than email@example.com).
To get started, log in to your account on Siteground. Go to Websites > Site Tools (next to your domain/site) > Email Accounts. Create your email address and password on that page, and that’s it! You have an email address.
Now you can access your email via Webmail by choosing the 3 little dots button next to your email address and then going to the “Log in to Webmail” option. Be sure to bookmark this page for easy future reference!
Or, you can choose the option of “Mail Configuration” for the info you need to load your mail into desktop and phone apps. This guide from Siteground will help you to load your email in Google Mail.
Create a Mailing List
We used Mailchimp for years here at HPL before moving to ConvertKit. Creating a mailing list that people can sign up for gives you the ability to send out messages to your followers, directing them to new blog posts or sharing any other special news along the way.
- Mailchimp plans start off free, so it’s a great place to get your feet wet!
- Flodesk is fairly inexpensive (just $19/month forever when you sign up with this link!) and helps make it easy to send out beautiful emails. The awesome part about Flodesk is that you pay one fee per month/year no matter how many subscribers you have! When you start to really grow your following and list, this can get pretty darn expensive with other service providers.
- ConvertKit was built for bloggers and online creators. While the extra features and functionality come with a fee, ConvertKit has finally launched a free version for those who are just getting started!
Get creative with your theme, images, and blog posts using Canva. I use Canva for HPL nearly every single day– no joke! And, I’ve been using Canva since they launched around 7 years ago now… there was even a time when I was interviewed and displayed on their homepage in a cute video!
Canva is so easy to use and many of the images and graphics are available free of charge. Use Canva to design your own logo, add text to images, or combine images into collages.
If you go on to purchase a Pro account, you can do more – like create reusable templates, access more free images and graphic elements, and build a brand identity with custom uploaded fonts.
Set Up SSL Certificate
You get a basic SSL with your hosting at Siteground, so set it up! The URL for your site should actually start with an https:// these days in order to be considered secure by the old Google bot and ultimately protect your visitors.
Log in to your Siteground dashboard. Go to Websites > Site Tools (next to your domain/site) > SECURITY > SSL Manager to add an SSL to your site.
Follow the instructions in this Siteground article to configure WordPress to work with an SSL certificate. And double check your site URL in the Settings > General option in your WordPress backend. The WordPress Address and Site Address should start with https.
Advanced (Travel) Blogging Tips
If you want to know how to start a travel blog and make money, or get sponsorships and free travel, or just to use your blog to leverage a business, then this section is for you.
Since becoming a travel blogger, I have been able to:
- Earn extra spending money selling ads
- Earn free travel experiences to destinations and activities around the world (I no longer take part in these offerings)
- Make a living by using my knowledge and experience to freelance write for other sites (I no longer freelance write)
- Leverage my audience to promote and grow a physical product business
- Learn and implement affiliate marketing techniques that result in a predictable monthly income (prior to the current situation)
- Turn Her Packing List into a successful business with a team
- Speak at conferences like Travel Bloggers Unite and Problogger
Honestly, I’m amazed that I can write this list of accomplishments, and I do so to let you know that you can, too, do the same. But…
It’s not always as easy as it sounds.
What you don’t see in this list is all the years I’ve been blogging (since 2007 on WordPress!), all the years I had a measly income, all the hours on the computer, and all the stress and worry of just not knowing if what I’m doing makes sense.
Becoming a professional travel blogger, or turning any blog into a business, takes real work. With real planning and goals. And will probably include your fair-share of self-doubt and guesswork along the way. Trust me.
If you’ve made it past the last couple of paragraphs and still think you’d like to look at a blog in a more professional manner, then read on.
Here Are My Top Blogging Tips
- Know what you want to get out of it.
Are you looking for comped travel experiences, or are you looking for paid sponsorships? Are you blogging with the hopes of getting a book deal or to create digital products like travel guides?
What prospect excites you? Mold your blogging plan around this goal, from the beginning.
- Know what you can provide that solves a problem for your audience.
This is key! It’s the main reason HPL has seen success that my personal blog never could have. There, I was really only writing a travel journal and not helping others as much in the process. (However, I should note that I was able to land freelance writing gigs because of my personal blog, which is definitely a level of success.)
Long story short: Focus on your audience! It’s about them.
- Treat it professionally from the beginning.
Write well. Share nice photos. Make connections with companies and blogs with a focus. Invest in yourself and your business. That last one is hard at first, but later on you will look back and know that it was money well spent.
- Take a course to help improve your travel writing or to learn the ins and outs of blogging as a business (like the courses offered at Superstar Blogging).
- Tackle SEO (try the course from Hashtag Jeff) or test your hand at Pinterest (try a Pinterest course on Skillshare) to drive more traffic to your site.
- Test out tools to help you manage your blogging and promotion. I recommend and use the Tailwind app for Pinterest account management and CoSchedule to manage the full social media calendar.
- Look at the big picture.
Becoming successful at blogging is a marathon, not a race. Avoid small temptations and focus on the big wins of the future. Easier said than done, I know.
And most of all, prepare for some good old hard work.
Growing a blog is definitely a challenge, and regardless of my comments above, it can actually be a super rewarding one at that. Best of luck in your blogging journey ahead!
- How much money can you really expect to make travel blogging?, Living the Dream
- This Is How I Get Paid to Travel the World, The Expert Vagabond
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