Earlier this month I appeared on a panel at Social Travel Market, the social media conference that’s part of the massive London World Travel Market. While there, I met some of the most innovative travel bloggers in the world — EverythingEverywhere.com, NomadicMatt.com, BudgetTraveller.org, LiveShareTravel, WildJunket.com and SoloTravelerBlog. They travel literally everywhere in the world. But their advice isn’t far-flung or out of reach for those of us whose journeys tend to veer closer to home.
In fact, the tips they passed along work not just for travel blogger but for anyone who’s looking to build their audience and earn.
1. Grow your audience
Time and again the most influential bloggers emphasize this first and foremost. Gary from EverythingEverywhere – who works with a small number of sponsors and has a team of 3, spent 5 years building his following before trying to monetize. Not only will you have more to “sell”, but your content is less likely to be skewed or overwhelmed with sponsored projects.
Here’s an illuminating interview with Gary. Around 4:45 time mark he describes how he got serious about his blog.
2. Look for a niche to fill
Kash Bhattacharya had a focus on budget travel but realised that nobody was covering the “luxury” hostels that had sprung up around the world — places nice enough that people other than students would want to stay. He put together a plan to visit 50 hostels in 43 cities in 6 months. He pitched the project and found 5 key sponsors, including Easyjet and Travelzoo booking site. Hostels paid a fee of £200 – 350 to be involved. Along with writing regular posts and real-time blogging, he’s combining the posts into a free e-book. The project got coverage in Glamour, Cosmopolitan and Conde Nast Traveller. While Kash generated £11,000 from the project, much of that was taken up with costs. His main goal was to explore his niche and build his brand on a journey to bigger and better monetization projects.
3. Don’t compete with guide books
You are one person. Guidebook companies have legions of folks writing as well as editing and photographing. You post weekly or possibly daily. They spend months putting together an edition. What you offer is personality, your own viewpoint. Let your quirkiness shine through and focus on descriptions and observations to make your posts rich.
4. Focus on quality
There are more blogs every day covering travel. You stand out by making sure every post you put up has a focus, appeal or angle. That means avoiding the clichés of green valleys or hillside dotted with sheep. Don’t describe anything as “pretty” or “lovely”; paint a picture instead, using unusual verbs and adjectives. When writing up child-friendly hotels, look beyond the expected kids’ menu and mini-dressing gowns to what makes it truly a great place for families.
5. Incorporate visuals
One of the most exciting things that travel magazines, books, websites and blogs bring us – alongside tips and advice – is the ability to travel right from our own homes. Use big, high-quality pictures and lots of them to bring to life the places you’re visiting and writing about. Wild Junket showcases fabulous photography in a quarterly digital magazine along with long-form travel narratives. It earns 80% of its revenue from the 115,000 subscribers and 20% from advertising, even paying contributors $150 per article.
6. Don’t rely just on ads
Of all the schemes and projects that these bloggers were experimenting with, none involved straight ad sales from space on their blogs. Other types of content offer the opportunity to grow your audience, build your brand and also make money.
What do you think about these projects and ideas? Got any tips of your own? Add them here.