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Lessons I’ve Learned From One Year of Travel Blogging

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Author Note: This article was first published on October 14, 2017. I’ve since updated the photos and edited the original article for SEO and grammar reasons. But all the insights I wrote back then remain – even though I’ve learned even more blogging lessons since that first year.

Today marks one year since publishing my very first article. When I first launched this blog a year ago, I had no clue what I was doing.

I knew how to travel. I knew I had lots of advice and inspiration that I could give to others about travelling.

But I had absolutely no knowledge about SEO, blogging or what Internet users would even want to read about.

Fast forward to today and I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge by simply trying things out, analysing what’s worked and what hasn’t. And I’ve had oodles of fun!

I love my blog, and today, I want to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned throughout my blogging journey…

Lessons I’ve Learned From One Year of Travel Blogging

Justine's tidy desk

1. Don’t use clickbait titles: readers don’t like it!!

I like to think that I haven’t used clickbait titles in any of my articles, but there’s a chance I’ve been guilty of this by accident.

Some bloggers, though, choose to use clickbait articles on purpose and it really frustrates readers!

I recently saw an article about how to travel anywhere in the world for $1,000.

Upon reading the comments, I noticed a lot of people had noticed the same thing I had.

In order to fly to the places being quoted as $1,000 trips, you need to spend a lot of money on flights to other places before you can save up enough frequent flyer air miles.

Hmm… that’s not quite what people have in mind when they think of budget travel advice or saving money, eh?

Anyway, the comments were pretty severe! That website has since removed the comment section from their articles, which is pretty telling in and of itself, don’t you think?

Clickbait is something I’ve seen the world over within the blogging community.

Although it might increase page views, it’s not going to make readers come back for more or trust you.

So my advice? Avoid clickbait titles.

Yes, you gotta make them catchy. But try to ensure your reader knows what the article will be about before they click on it through the use of a fun, engaging and useful title.

2. Use WordPress.org

When I first started my blog, I didn’t know anything about blogging platforms.

I first tried out Wix, until I realised how difficult it was to customise and even publish a simple blog.

After that, I went straight to WordPress.com, took out a cheap package so I could use my own domain name and away I went.

I loved it: it was easy to publish new blogs, I liked my theme and blogging was enjoyable.

But as my blog grew, I realised I was missing important functionality such as a link to Google Analytics data and the ability to customise my site to match my personality and branding.

In May 2017, I moved my site over to WordPress.org with the help of my hosting provider: SiteGround.

They did this for free for me, and the entire switchover was painless.

I chose a theme that could be highly customised and began re-building my site the way I wanted… and now, I love my blog even more!

Wanderer of the World
My old WordPress.com website header… oh, the memories!

3. Find ways to monetise your site

Another reason to move away from WordPress.com (or to not use it in the first place) is so that you can monetise your site.

No matter how much you love writing, you’ll love it even more if you can find ways to make money from your new hobby too.

Some simple ways to monetise your site include using affiliate links, writing sponsored posts or writing paid guest articles.

For affiliate links, a great program to use is Awin, as well as Amazon Associates.

As for finding paid writing opportunities, there are so many sites you can use including Copypress and Upwork.

I’ve even had some companies contact me with paid writing opportunities just because they saw me on Twitter!

Update: We now monetise this site through a number of affiliate programs, as well as advertising through Mediavine, which was easily one of the best decisions we made.

4. Take photos of EVERYTHING

This is especially key for travel blogging.

Although you can use stock footage from sites like Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons, it’s always best to use your own photography as much as possible.

On the one hand, you know that there are definitely no copyright issues, and on the other, it also helps to kick you up the butt to improve your own photography skills!

Views from Fort Royal on Lokrum Island

5. You don’t have to have a highly specific niche

If you attend any blogging course or listen to famous bloggers, they’ll tell you time and time again that you must have a highly specific niche.

Apparently ‘travel’ isn’t ‘niche’ enough. It needs to be: ‘couples travel’, ‘food travel’, ‘solo female travel’ etc etc.

But why would you want to pigeonhole your writing in this way?

Why shouldn’t you write about whatever you love, even if the articles don’t quite fit into a highly specific niche?

Although my blog focuses on travel, that’s about as niche as I’d like to get for now.

Why? Because I love writing and I love travelling the way I want to. I don’t want to limit myself!

UPDATE: My husband and I have since rebranded Wanderers of the World into a couples travel blog, but we didn’t do this for SEO purposes. Scott and I began travelling together more and more (and now we’re married), so the rebrand simply fitted our new lifestyle.

6. Write from the heart & follow your passion

This goes hand in hand with the above. You need to write about what you love and are passionate about.

Otherwise, if you don’t love what you’re writing, then no one else is going to. Seriously, I’ve been there!

When I was first starting out, I wrote an article called: “6 Reasons Why You Should Visit Berlin”.

Now, although I liked Berlin, I didn’t find it was this incredible place that I want to travel back to time and time again (like Hawaii).

So, why did I write that article about Berlin?

Well, I’d seen other bloggers writing similar articles about other destinations and I felt like I had to write about Berlin because I’d been there. Those were literally the only reasons.

And seriously, you can tell when you read the article!

It’s still my least favourite article on the whole site and it just sits there in the background, unloved like a large bruise on my foot.

Someday, I’ll get around to improving it.

But my point is: if you’re not loving what you’re writing, no one else will either!

7. Get involved with collaborations

This took me a few months to find out about and to understand.

Firstly, what’s a collab or collaboration? Well, this is when you work with other bloggers on content, in return for a link back to your site, which is good for your website’s Domain Authority (DA).

An example of this might be: “Travel Blogger’s Favourite Afternoon Teas Around the World” or “Weddings from Around the World”.

Afternoon Tea

And… why would you get involved with a collab?

If you send content to other bloggers, you’ll receive a link back to your site, improving your DA and your ranking in search results.

Plus, you’ll be getting your content in front of a new audience with very little work required on your part, as most collaborations will only ask you to contribute a couple hundred words.

Alternatively, you may decide to launch your own collab post like my examples.

Again… why would you do this?

Well, you’re essentially getting “free” content for little effort, plus most people who get involved usually share the articles with their own audiences (at least at first). That’s a win-win!

The easiest way to find collab opportunities would be to join groups on Facebook. Here are some particularly good ones:

8. Learn SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

SEO is vital to building a great blog and getting your content in front of a large audience.

Plus, when you get SEO right, bringing new users to your site becomes a lot easier as you just simply write the post effectively and watch people come to you.

There are lots of people out there who will tell you all kinds of ‘SEO tricks’, but really, it’s not that difficult.

Here are some key SEO points to takeaway:

  • Keywords: Ensure you have keywords (words you want to rank in search engines for) in your main title, URL, image alt tags and meta description (this is the blurb shown in search engine results under each article).
  • Write for the searcher: Try to answer a question. Is someone else already ranking for this question? Be better than them. Write a better answer to the question, a longer answer and outrank the competition. I managed to do this with both my “Why Does it Always Rain in Wales?” article and my “5 Highlights of Venice” article. By writing in-depth, valuable answers to searchers’ questions, I’ve been on page one since the articles went live, and both are now featured snippets in Google. Cool, eh?
  • Get linkbacks: By getting involved with collabs, or by producing useful content, you’ll start building linkbacks to your articles. If Google sees this from high-quality sites, you’ll start ranking higher. Take my article about “Morocco Airport Security” as an example. This consistently brings me good traffic and is referred to by other sites as good knowledge or source material. This has happened through very little effort of my own, other than writing a useful article!

9. Compress your images

This leads on nicely from the SEO point above, as another key element to ranking highly is having a decent page speed for your articles.

This means having a good website theme, fewer plugins running in the background and compressed images!

Luckily for you, I like to keep things simple.

For images less than 1 MB in size, I use a plugin called Smush Image Compression and Optimisation, which automatically compresses images when you upload them to WordPress.

For any images larger than this size (usually my pinnable images), I run them through Optimizilla before uploading them to my site, which is super quick and easy to use.

UPDATE: I now solely use Optimizilla, so I didn’t need yet another plugin on my site. They naturally slow down websites (some are worse than others), so a plugin audit is a must-do activity – especially if you’ve never done one before. I now do a plugin audit every year.

10. Brands will want to work with you even if you don’t have a massive following

Time and time again, you hear of influencers who have large social media followings getting paid to travel the world. Well, yes, of course, that’s the dream!

But what about when you’re just starting out and beginning to build a following?

Well, brands will still want to work with you, and may even contact you themselves!

I’ve had several companies find me on Twitter to work with me on sponsored content in return for payment and products.

If you have a small social following, don’t fret.

Brands will still want to work with you if they can see you have an engaged, loyal following (albeit small), and that you create good content.

11. Expect many sleepless nights

This is important. Blogging is great fun, but it can be stressful to keep on top of the latest trends, a high workload and stiff competition (especially if you’re trying to go it alone).

You may find that you start having sleepless nights as your mind whirrs away over all of this great content you just don’t have the time to write.

But you’ve really got to try to stop your blog from affecting your sleeping pattern.

The Cleaves bed at Highcliffe House in Lynton, Devon

Here are some tips for when you want to sleep, but your mind just won’t let you:

  • Write everything down in a notebook: If your brain really won’t shut up, quickly write down what you’re thinking in a notebook (don’t use your phone or iPad!) This will help appease your mind into thinking you’ve achieved a goal, allowing you to get some much-needed shuteye.
  • Try some non-caffeinated herbal teas in the evening: I swear by herbal teas that contain camomile or lavender for the evenings. Some of my favourites include Sleep by Twinings and Night Time by Pukka.
  • Exercise! Pop out for a walk in the evening, or try some Yoga. Either of these are great options to help reduce the amount of thoughts swimming around in your brain, whilst giving your body a gentle workout to tire it into a restful sleep.

12. Believe in yourself in case no one else does

Confidence is something I’ve personally always struggled with, so I know it’s easier said than done to believe in yourself.

But seriously, you’ve just got to.

Blogging is a tough industry and most fail within the first year. But you’ve got to have belief that what you’re bringing to the group is useful, valuable and highly sought after.

Trust me when I say there’s enough room for all of us!

When I first started out, I thought I had no chance of appearing on page one or even two of Google.

Yet, I started producing content that others weren’t doing as well (or at all!) And I know there are still a lot of topics out there up for grabs!

But whilst you’re creating your blog, don’t expect non-bloggers to “get it”.

Often, they’ll ask: “Why do you do it if you don’t get paid for every post you write?” or “Who cares about blogs when you could be doing vlogs?”

I’ve been there and had these questions asked of me time and time again.

All I can say is: keep loving what you’re doing and forget the haters. They’re just jealous they don’t have as cool or as motivating a hobby as you do.

13. Read, learn, grow

For any writer, reading other content should be part and parcel of the day.

From reading other blogs in your industry to totally random blogs to reading cereal packets and novels, reading needs to be a part of your blogging schedule (even if you can only manage 30 minutes per day)!

Travel Coffee Table Books

Not sure where to start? Here are a few of the blogs and websites I read regularly:

14. Don’t be a copycat: be unique!

Even though you might be reading other blogs and websites, don’t be a copycat.

Taking inspiration from others is great, but you’re never going to stand out if your content just looks and sounds like everyone else’s!

Be unique… you might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you’ll develop a loyal following of people who hang onto your every word and who like everything you post on Facebook.

15. Your blog, your rules!

There are lots of people out there who will tell you what you should do with your blog. Some examples of what you’ll hear regularly are:

“Only write long-form content: Google loves it!”
“All your Instagram photos need to have the same theme.”
“No one cares about your personal stories. Don’t write those.”

You’ll hear a lot more within the blogging community, but these are definitely some standouts I’ve heard multiple times over the year. But who cares what they think?

Pretty bridge in Paris, France

Providing you’re writing valuable content, that you love, others out there will love it too.

If your style is short, snappy blog pieces, then great! Just maybe aim for over 400 words to at least stand a chance in the search results.

Do you prefer writing mammoth articles? Great! Just keep an eye on how long people are actually staying on the page.

Basically, your blog, your rules!

Go about things how you want to do it, keep it consistent and you might just succeed.

I’ve tried all kinds of things over this past year.

Some have worked amazingly well, which I never expected. Whilst things I thought would definitely work (and was told would work), totally bombed.

Along the way, you’ll find your own footing on what works for you and your audience.

And once you’ve got your own personal formula worked out, stick to it!

16. Use Pinterest

A year ago, I never knew how valuable Pinterest is as a social media tool. I seriously thought it was all about Facebook and Instagram these days.

Pinterest is great as it acts like a visual search engine. So rather than social posts becoming lost and forgotten pretty much as soon as you’ve posted them (like in a Facebook feed), pins are evergreen.

There are some pins I posted maybe six months ago that still bring in heaps of traffic.

Do I understand how? No. I just know it works.

So yeah, consider giving Pinterest a go. And Canva is a great tool to help you create awesome pins (I use it pretty much every day!!)

17. Guest posting is important and fun

When I was first starting out, I couldn’t understand why writing for other blogs was a good idea – until I tried a bunch.

First and foremost, they act in a similar way to collabs by giving you a backlink, and by getting your content in front of a different (and often much larger) audience.

But what I didn’t think it would be was fun.

By writing to someone else’s style guide, you’re able to perhaps try a different format, topic or writing style from what you’d normally use.

That’s a great experience for any budding writer!

And when the finished result is published; well, it feels pretty darn good to be published elsewhere!

Justine and Scott in the i newspaper

There are Facebook groups you can join to get guest posting opportunities… some of my favourites are:

But you can also contact blogs, newspapers and journals to have your work published.

With your own blog as your portfolio, you should get more “Yeses” than “Nos”. But seriously, ask!

By asking, I’ve had my articles published on the Visit Bristol blog, as well as in my local newspaper… and I don’t intend on stopping there!

18. Give yourself goals and objectives

To help you grow your blog to the size you want it to be, it’s important to have a note of the goals you want to achieve.

This can include things like the number of page views you want to reach each month, social media followers or even more subjective goals like improving your photography.

When I started my blog, I defined a set of objectives I wanted to achieve by launching my site and writing articles, which I’ve listed below:

  1. Share my memories
  2. Improve my photography skills
  3. Become a better writer
  4. Share hints and tips
  5. Make my stamp on the world
  6. Build a traveller following
  7. Travel more
  8. Bonus: make money

These were simply jotted down in a notebook, which has since become full of blog ideas.

And then along the way, I’ve established monthly goals to achieve plus a few daily goals, such as completing blogs X, Y and Z today.

19. Try to stick to a schedule

When reading other blogs (particularly those I’m a super loyal reader of), I’ll frequently check their sites for new posts.

However, there have been occasions when bloggers have gone MIA for a couple of weeks or longer.

Maybe they went away travelling? Or they just wanted some time off?

Even as a loyal reader, I found this frustrated me. (Sorry guys!)

Although I would still come back to their site, I noticed when the blogger went MIA.

So something I’ve learned from that for my own blog is to try to avoid going quiet.

If you’re going away travelling for long periods of time, maybe consider scheduling blogs to go out whilst you’re away. You can easily schedule them before your trip, appeasing your eager readers.

Also, it’s great if you can produce content that fits in with the time of the year as well.

Maybe a Halloween-inspired post in October or a Christmas-themed one in December, for example?

Victorian Christmas Decorations at Tyntesfield

Throughout this year, I’ve tried all kinds of tools to help me develop a blogging schedule.

But the one I’ve settled on (and love) is Trello. This allows you to create boards, which act like to-do lists.

By moving cards from the left to the right, you get a feeling of satisfaction for completing an action (i.e. publishing a blog post).

Plus, you can add attachments, checklists, colour-coded labels and due dates to help you keep on top of your workload. And it’s free!

For some inspiration, here’s my Wanderer of the World Trello board:

Wanderer of the World Trello Board

It allows me to create cards for my neverending blog ideas, schedule them based on the due date, and keep a to-do list of collaborations I’m involved with. Useful, huh?

Update: I still use Trello but my board looks very different today. I’m going to write a separate article all about that, though, so stay tuned!

20. Have fun!

But most importantly… have fun. Just enjoy what you’re doing, keep learning and honing your craft and keep it up!

If you want to learn from other inspiring travel bloggers, here’s a quick look at who we recommend checking out!

Lessons I've Learned From One Year of Travel Blogging
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Justine Jenkins

Justine is one half of the married couple behind the Wanderers of the World travel blog. She lives in Bristol, UK and has travelled extensively within Europe and beyond since 2013. After her trips, she shares detailed travel itineraries, helpful travel guides and inspiring blog posts about the places she's been to. When she's not travelling overseas, you'll find her joining her husband, Scott on various day trips, weekend getaways and walks within the UK, which she also writes about on Wanderers of the World. Aside from travelling and writing, she also loves reading, crafting and learning about nature.

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