How to Make Your Own Blog
Use These Techniques for Travel Blogs, Fashion Blogs, Photography Blogs & More
By Ken Faught
I have been making money as a writer and photographer since I was 16 years old. This has given me the freedom and flexibility to travel the world and create a unique lifestyle for my family and friends. The goal of this story is to teach you how to start your own blog, and this detailed guide is one of the longest stories on this site. I have provided some quick tip sections for convenience, but if you are serious about eventually making money, I suggest you take your time and read every word. I have also included a section on the best blogging tips, how to be a successful blogger, and top blog categories, so you can really grasp what it takes to start a travel blog.
And just so you know, blogging requires serious commitment and it not a quick payday. People see my photos on this site, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and some of the other sites I write for and think that it’s always fun and easy. Although Vanessa Doleshal and I really enjoy it, there was a steep learning curve in the beginning and a lot of burning the candle at both ends. Now, we get paid to travel and couldn’t be any happier!
I am going to start out with two really quick bullet-point lists that will help you understand some of the most-important elements on how to be a successful travel blogger and the best blog categories to create. Then we will get into more details.
Ken Faught has been writing stories and shooting photos his entire adult life and has contributed to over 75 magazines worldwide.
Quick Tips- How To be a Successful Blogger
Find your niche
Find a good domain name and associated social media accounts for Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest
Buy a good hosting package for your website / blog.
Design A Logo
Focus on one main subject
Let your audience get to know you
Find something you enjoy writing about
Choose a blogging platform, the software that will run your site.
Design your website to be logical and intuitive
Find interesting topics to write about
Start a newsletter
Add a free bonus for anyone who signs up for your newsletter
Push upgraded content to your newsletter which you will eventually monetize
Integrate SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Offer value to your audience
Focus on marketing and driving traffic to your website
Consider buying ads on Google Adwords
Learn about Google Analytics and how to understand what’s working and what’s not
Establish a solid social media platform with Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest
Make commenting quick and easy
Make it easy to read
Write powerful compelling headlines
Use tools like Grammarly to check spelling and grammar
Be yourself and write in a casual manner
Use lots of photos and illustrations so it’s visual and interesting
If you are using WordPress, research PlugIns and use them to increase functionality
Backup your website content
Focus on smartphones first, then laptop and desktops
Get to know your readers by doing surveys
Add a FAQ page your blog
Create a budget for advertising
Establish goals for your blog, audience growth and profit potential
Keep updating your content and keep it fresh
Consider creating premium courses that people will pay for to learn (I.e. workshops)
Never stop learning – keep reading blogging tips as long as you take this career serious
Add video to your blog
Generate money from advertising on your site
Generate money by using Affiliate Marketing programs
Top Blog Categories
Repair Service blog
TOP BLOGS POSTS
8 Amazing Things To Do During Your Cabo Vacation
A Quick & Easy Guide To The Best Epic Adventures on Kauai
St. Barth's | Arguably One Of The Best Islands In The Caribbean
How to Take Better Photos
A Quick & Easy Guide
GoPro Accessory Guide | Tips & Tricks For Better Water Photos
Ken Faught has done a lot of amazing things in his life including a time he was paid by Suzuki to compete in land speed racing at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Although he is considered an expert in motorcycling, he saw a greater opportunity in travel blogging.
STEP 1 – Find Your Niche
Spend some serious time thinking about what you want your blog to be about and whether or not there is an audience for it. Vanessa and I love travel and photography, so we chose the combination of the two since they go really well together. Some people may want to write about exotic island destinations, luxury travel, budget travel, affordable travel, traveling on a budget, ski resorts, off-road adventures, extreme travel, etc. Spend a lot of time really thinking about it because it may be difficult to change down the road.
STEP 2 – Find A Good Domain Name
It’s very important to find a good domain name (URL) and it’s getting harder than ever. Then it’s also important to make sure that you can get the associated social media with it such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, etc. You want to go for consistency and you want to avoid things like hyphens, underscore and numbers. It should also describe your site, be memorable and easy to share. Try writing down a bunch of descriptive words and then play with word combinations. We kinda chose a unique angle because we offer professional photography, videography, design and consulting services, and also enjoy writing about our world travels. So we came up with XSporeMedia.com as the site, because we have to sound like an agency, but blog about our adventures under Semi-Sober Travelers, because, well, we like to drink, and we think the name is funny. We also have Instagram and Facebook accounts under both names since they serve two different audiences. After all, we didn’t think we would get much corporate business if people weren’t sure if we were going to show up to work buzzed or hungover. Also, make sure you don’t trap yourself with the name like California Adventures where you are most likely limited to writing about and marketing to people interested in California, and avoid names that are trademarked. I am sure Disney might have something to say if you tried to make a claim for that particular name.
STEP 3 - Capitalize on Social Media
One of the secrets to making money as a travel blogger is to effectively use social media to drive traffic to your site and help with Affiliate Marketing programs. If you are able to gain enough followers, then you can earn yourself influencer status which can open up a lot of other opportunities. It’s absolutely critical that you sign up and create an account with Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube, immediately so no one claims your name. Also, some people try to make money blogging on social media without a website, and we don’t recommend this for a variety of reasons. The first is that you don’t have any control over those mediums. In a heartbeat, they can change their algorithms, policies, etc., and you can get crushed immediately. Second, is that they don’t offer a lot of critical navigation opportunities that a website offers because you can’t link to other posts. The goal is to use social media to drive traffic (i.e. your audience) to your sight to support and promote your blog.
STEP 4 – Setup Hosting for Your Site
A website host is basically a place that stores all your blog’s files including text, photos, charts, diagrams and other digital information so that people can view it all over the world on the web. BlueHost is one of the most-popular website hosting companies. There is also HostGator, Dreamhost, Hostinger, A2 Hosting, GreenGeeks, WP Engine, Inmotion and SiteGround.
STEP 5 – Choose A Software Platform
A software platform is basically the framework of your website and there are a lot of quality companies in the market. They can offer website templates, customizable website elements, mobile-friendly themes, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) apps, 24/7 support, the ability to push blogs to social media, built-in marketing tools, the ability to easily track and manager orders, etc. We chose Wix because it was very intuitive, has a lot of power, and really good support. There’s also HostGator, Network Solutions, Site123, Squarespace, Weebly, Register.com, but the most-popular is WordPress with over 75 million sites operating on their platform.
WordPress is popular because of its power, but it’s recommended that you self-host a WordPress account if you are serious because it gives you more freedom and flexibility. It allows your website to not have the .WordPress.com extension, allows you to own your data, sell advertising on your site, and install plugins and custom themes. It also allows you to use Google Analytics which is extremely important.
STEP 6 – Install WordPress Plugins (If You Choose This Platform)
Plugins to a website are like apps to an iPhone. They increase performance and functionality for little or no money. If you decide to go with WordPress, we recommend that you install Akismet, Yoast SEO, Imagify, Easy Social Share Buttons and WP Rocket.
Fiverr.com is a great place to start creating a logo if you are on a tight budget.
STEP 7 - Design A Logo
We do a lot of in-house design and would be happy to help you with development of your own logo, but there are also a lot of companies on the internet who can help. You don’t always get the results you crave, and there are a lot of language difficulties, but sites like Fiverr.com, 99designs.com, upwork.com, logura.com can be good places to research.
STEP 8 – Choose A Website Template / Theme & Setup Account
Make a list of all the elements you want on your site and choose a template or theme that best represents your blog. Think about the elements and key sections like About, Contact Us, Destinations, Travel Clothing, Best Travel Cameras, etc. Then, start setting up your account by following the platform’s instructions.
STEP 9 – Make Your Site Intuitive
Don’t make your audience guess at navigation. Make your blog very logical and incredibly intuitive. Focus on smartphone design first, then laptop, then desktops.
STEP 10 - Create an ABOUT Page
One of the best ways to start understanding your “voice” or “tone” of your blog is to write the ABOUT section first. This allows you to tell your audience about yourself, your goals with the blog, your background, and your expertise. You want to add a little humor, make it memorable, be real, be personable, and be trustworthy. Post lots of pictures of you on your travels, with your family, participating in your hobbies and any sports you enjoy. This is one of the most-viewed pages on a blog and you should put some serious time and effort into its creation.
STEP 11 – Topic Ideas – Think About What Interests Other People
As you map out your blog, you want to really think about the best topics for blogging, and what your readers want to see. Ideally, you want to publish new articles 1-2 times a week, so you need to think of up to 100 story ideas a year. The goal of your site needs to be about increasing your traffic so you can make money through advertising, affiliate marketing, influencing, paid workshops and/or creating your own drop ship program. And this is a perfect time for disclosure. XSploreMedia is a news site and may receive compensation from some companies whose products or services are presented on our website and associated social media. This is important because you want your readers to know that you make money by educating them about topics that are on your blog but trying to do it in the most unbiased way possible.
As you begin your writing journey, it’s really important to note that quality is much more important than quantity. Don’t just throw out a lot of stories because you heard that fresh content is important. You want your stories to solve a problem, offer a value, provide tips or otherwise educate your audience. You also want to experiment with your voice, story types, etc, and then research what your readers like using analytics. You also want to encourage interaction, make it easy to read, and make commenting quick and easy.
STEP 12 – Proofread Your Stories
Spend time proof reading your stories and even have friends or family assist with this critical function. It’s amazing what a second set of eyes can see. There are also online tools like Grammarly that will help with spelling and grammar.
STEP 13 – Write Powerful Headlines
Ideally, you want your headlines and subheads (also known as H1s and H2s) to pull the reader into your story. You want them to be so strong that the reader is afraid to click past your blog. You want it to catch their attention and make them want to read the story. I worked for a publishing company that at one time owned nearly 250 magazine titles like (MotorTrend, Hot Rod and Guns & Ammo), and we spent hours and sometimes days working on covers and coverlines because we competed with hundreds of titles on the newsstands and were directly competing for sales. We had to find things that would make us the preferred purchase.
Google SEO offers detailed instruction on how to get started with SEO HERE.
STEP 14 - Integrate SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Different website platforms like WordPress, Wix, HostGator, Network Solutions, Site123, Squarespace, Weebly, Register.com, all have options to help with SEO, and this is really important. SEO is the industry term for increasing quality and quantity of your traffic through organic search engine results. You see, the search engines like Google, Bing, Baidu, Yahoo!, Ask.com, Wiki, Boardreader, Swisscows, CC Search, Yandex, DuckDuckGo, Start Page, Search Encrypt, Gibiru, OneSearch, GiveWater, Ekoru, Ecosia, SlideShare, Internet Archive and even social medias like Instagram and Twitter,
STEP 15 – Add A FAQ Page to Your Blog
At first, you are going to have to make a lot of assumptions about your audience, and you will have to think about the type of frequently asked questions that they will want answered. Over time, you can use data to help you modify the content. You will also be able to take questions from Instagram, Facebook, and your contact page, and revise your FAQ page whenever you feel necessary.
STEP 16 – Start a Newsletter
There are all sorts of newsletter programs that help you get solid double opt-in list of your audience so that you can email them on a regular basis. Companies like Constant Contact and Critical Impact are leaders in email marketing. One way of enticing people to sign up for your newsletter is with a free bonus. You can also push upgraded free content for things like free online webinars, workshops, etc. that you otherwise normally charge for on a regular basis.
STEP 17 – Learn All About Google Analytics
This is a very robust and powerful tool that will help you understand your audience and much, much more. We simply cannot explain how important data will be for bloggers of all skill levels. This will show you what is working and what is not on your site, and will help you when it comes to how to drive traffic to your site.
STEP 18 – Start Making Money with Affiliate Marketing!
You won’t be able to focus on making money until you actually have solid content for people to read, but you can start working on Affiliate Programs through companies like Amazon.com and Booking.com relatively early in the process. Affiliate Programs pay you a commission every time you drive traffic to the program’s site and your audience makes a purchase. Say you have a story on the Top 10 Suitcases and someone clicks on your special affiliate link for Amazon and they make a purchase. Well, as long as you are part of their Affiliate Program and have used the proper link, you will make a small commission. There are literally thousands of affiliate marketing programs that are available. A lot of people also ask how much money can you make blogging? That’s really an opened ended question as the sky is literally your limit.
More than 2 million websites share revenue with Google Adsense, and the key is having high traffic numbers for your blog.
STEP 19 – Start Making Money with Display Ads
Display ads are the ads that you see all over websites, including right hand column, middle of the feed, and pop ups. It’s these ads that allow content to be free for most companies. Yes, they can be annoying, but they are a vital part that makes the internet mostly free. Companies like Google Adsesne let other companies post ads on your site for a fee. You get a percentage of the money Google charges, and you also have the ability to choose the type of ads you want to display, and also block competitors or categories that you don’t want shown to your audience. Over 2 million companies use Google Adsense just to give you an idea at how large this planform has become over time.
STEP 20 – Build Your Audience
Without a quality audience, you will have no source of revenue. One of the absolute most-critical components to successful blogging is building up your website traffic, and it all starts with writing content that people are searching for on search engines like Google, Bing, etc. One suggestion is that you can try to answer travel-related questions that people have in online forums like Reddit and Quora. For example, people want to know what type of camera gear I use so I wrote a story on My Personal Camera Gear and also one on Best GoPro Accessories. The goal is to help people who are searching for your expertise. Note that when people find a good story, they are highly likely to share that information which ultimately helps your sites quality score on Google. You see, companies like Google use bots to crawl your site and rate it for search queries. It’s very important that you read How Google Search Works https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/70897?hl=en because this is the very foundation of getting free traffic to your site. Another great way to build your audience is to do things that are unusual, sensational or otherwise fascinating. Things like 13 Coolest Things To Do in Maui, 5 Times I Thought I Was Going To Die, Living in Hawaii on $18 A Day, etc. Mix up some of the things that you would expect to find on Buzzfeed, but don’t over do it.
Ken Faught has written a lot of guests posts for sites like racerxillustrated.com and now chases backlinks which help with search engine optimization
STEP 21 – Guest Post & Work on Creating Backlinks
I have been writing and photographing for other websites for a long time, and there is a lot of value to this strategy. It will help people discover you on other networks, plus backlinks help increase your search quality score with Google. It also gives you credibility, but you have to be careful to find the balance of writing too much for others and not working on your own site.
STEP 22 – Spend Quality Time on Marketing to Drive Traffic
Over and above people landing on your blog through Google and search engines, you can push traffic to your site in a number of different ways. You can add links from your Instagram and Facebook posts, you can Tweet about your blog, and you can post pins on Pinterest that will garner attention. This is really important to have a well-rounded and well thought out traffic driving program.
STEP 23 – Establish Goals for Your Business
When Vanessa and I first started out, we set of number of goals, these were based on website traffic, revenue, number of stories, number of Instagram followers, etc. We chose to wait a while on pushing a YouTube channel, but the end result is that we wanted to develop real Key Performance Indicators that would let us manage our business.
STEP 22 - Build a Budget
Part of the startup process for the business was creating a budget. Here are some things that we believe you should consider so you know how much it will cost you to be a professional blogger:
Monthly website hosting fees?
How much to invest in computer equipment?
How much to invest in professional camera equipment?
How much will you spend on freelance writers, editors, web designers, photographers and other content creators?
How much will you spend monthly on advertising?
How much will you spend annually on travel?
How much will you spend annually on clothing and other travel goods?
How much you will spend on miscellaneous activities and adventures?
STEP 23 – Consider Buying Advertising
I have spent several million dollars on advertising my businesses over the last 20 years. I have purchased Google ads, Facebook ads, Instagram ads, television commercials, magazine ads, billboards and have even wrapped cars with in-your-face attention-getting graphics. Although not required, buying ads can be an important part to any professional blogging strategy.
STEP 24 – Add Video to Your Blog
Video is becoming more and more important, and you need to find a healthy balance between powerful photos and high-impact video to entertain and teach your audience.
STEP 25 – Keep Content Fresh
Make sure you keep your content fresh and update any blogs as required. Say you are doing a Top 10 list on best travel headphones, well, that story you did two years ago probably needs some refreshing. Keeping your stories relevant is a huge part of successful blogging and making it more SEO friendly.
STEP 26 – Crush the Social Media
Social media will help you in your quest to get attention and drive traffic to your site. An active social media strategy is incredibly important, but it also takes a lot of time. We use “insights,” “analytics.” And third party tools to figure out what works best. We also use tools to help us create effective hashtags for each of our posts on Instagram.
* Instagram – This is our favorite platform and we found posting 4-5 times a week seems to work best. We usually use about 10 hashtags in the caption and then another 20 below, and we do add links to our site. Sometimes we will even add hashtags in the first comment section which allows us to get more views as other people search hashtags a lot.
*Facebook – We usually sync our Facebook with our Instagram so we post the same content, but also add some other unique photos to albums.
*Pinterest – We are huge fans of Pinterest and find that it does have the ability to drive a lot of traffic. We have found that the most relevant and interesting pins you post, the more traffic you can effectively drive to your blog.
*Others – We don’t really use Twitter that much yet or YouTube for that matter. We haven’t found them to be that successful for other bloggers because of the time and effort it takes to maintain. We know that people literally make careers off blogging on YouTube, but that hasn’t been our strategy. We have learned that we can’t be everything to everyone, and we have to make some tough decisions. It doesn’t mean we won’t or don’t use them, but we’ve found it better to focus our time and effort elsewhere.
STEP 27 – Market Yourself – Become Your Own PR Agent
You want to do a lot of self-promotion to drive traffic to your blog, and this is one area that I have really enjoyed. I have written and/or photographed for over 75 newspapers and magazines so far, and plan to work professionally for many more. This is an incredible way to build a reputation and even make some side money for providing relevant content. Here’s a couple tips:
Find media outlets that use the type of content you create, and simply pitch them that you would like to contribute and ask for a copy of their editorial guidelines. Network with other writers or photographers and perhaps work on joint projects. I have done this a lot during my career with motorcycle journalists like Mark Kariya, Karel Kramer and Donn Maeda.
STEP 28 - Network
One of my greatest gifts has been the ability to network and make a lot of professional connection. This is more than just using linkedin.com, although I do use the platform, but it’s going out and meeting other people in order to develop a reciprocal relationship with. It will take time and money, but you can meet a lot of people that will have a lot of good advice and potentially create a lot of unique opportunities. Some good places to meet people are:
STEP 29 – Understand Security & Backup Your Site Often
It’s very important that you put safety measures in place, use strong passwords and backup your site often. Nothing will be more disruptive than having to deal with someone who has hacked into your blog.
STEP 30 – Start Hiring Independent Contractors
Having the proper well-written content is extremely important and there are times where it’s important to hire others to help. Although there are several successful one-person bloggers, it’s relatively rare, because most want some form of help. You can outsource everything from travel writers, photographers and website designers, to SEO specialists, personal assistant, video editors, etc.
STEP 31 – Create Premium Content Courses
Online training courses can be an incredible way of making money. These are courses where other people pay to view your content, whether that’s done in text form, a vlog, livestream event, etc. A lot of bloggers do this to make money. It’s where they really tell you some of their absolute best secrets for blogging. If there is any real interest level involved in a subject, we bet you can find someone online who is willing to teach you about it. There are premium courses on everything from cooking to photography, from architecture to video editing, and everything in between. There are also tons of courses you can pay for about blogging and virtually every niche of blogging.
STEP 32 – Network with Other Pro Bloggers
One of the best ways to learn is to network with other bloggers who are willing to share information. As you get more seasoned, and have more knowledge and more content, other bloggers will want to collaborate and exchange content for backlinks.
STEP 33 – Use Keywords
Keywords are important because other search bots used by Google and some of the other search engines discussed previously, use these to help determine ranking. Make sure to use keywords in each and every story. Here are some samples of things that people search for in some of the top categories on this site.
*Cheap plane tickets
*Last minute travel
*Fasion designers games
*New York fashion week
*London fashion week
*food and drink
*Food and beverage service
*Food & beverage
*Food processing industry
*Food and beverage manager
*Food and beverage industry
*Food service jobs
*Food service companies
*Food service worker
*Food industry jobs
*Food & drink
*Food and beverage management
*types of food service
*Food and beverage department
STEP 34 - Never Stop Learning
The world changes around us every day through technology, trends, political influences, and many other means. It’s important that you continue to learn about the changes and how they impact your blog and your readers. Pay attention to news and follow trends very closely, because this can ultimately determine if you will be a successful travel blogger.