Though many of you have come to know me over the past year and a half as “TBS Community Manager,”
in this blog post, I’d like you to consider me as one of you. I am, as you are, a travel blogger.
In the Travel Blog Success Facebook group, we recently made an exciting announcement. After a two month intensive effort, we have released a brand new version of our Fundamentals of Travel Blogging course (part of Travel Blog Success membership).
All I can say is: Woo! It was a lot of work, but the course is something which we believe brings true value to travel bloggers like us.
As part of the updates, I recently spoke with Dave, our founder, about Module 1. See, Module 1 is entitled “The Foundation of Your Travel Blog.” It’s the “Foundation of the Fundamentals” if you will. It doesn’t get more important than those lessons, which is why they’re first in the first course we advise you work through.
Within this module, there are seven lessons specifically designed to help you align your inspiration, motivation, and goals as a travel blogger. You’ll then use that information to choose a niche. In my tenure as the TBS Community Manager, I’ve never seen a word so dreaded as niche. For some reason, there’s a deep-seeded aversion to choosing a niche, based somewhat loosely on the idea that choosing a niche will pigeonhole your potential as a travel blogger.
This couldn’t be farther from true.
Why You NEED a Niche to Succeed in Today’s Travel Blogging World
As you may have noticed, everyone seems to have a travel blog these days. Or, they have an Instagram with 100k+ followers or a YouTube channel where they do daily travel vlogs. Travel is hot right now… understatement of the year, right?
In a post late last year, I detailed how a niche can help you stand out in today’s crowd of bloggers. At the time of writing (and still), I was being a bit hypocritical. In a recent Mastermind call with fellow TBS community members, one asked me, “So what is your niche?”
It turns out that, despite my best efforts to ‘practice what I preach’ as part of the TBS team, my blog does not have a clearly defined niche. If it did, my fellow mastermind members would be able to tell what it is.
If you know me in real life, you’ve probably heard me complain about my blog’s lack of traffic. Over the past two months as I’ve worked to help update the Fundamentals course, I came to understand one important fact:
A blog without a niche will find it very hard to attract an audience.
Let me decipher that ‘marketing speak:’ if you don’t pick a niche, you will probably struggle to get readers.
Maybe not right away, when your friends and family support your endeavor and read everything you post. Nor when you connect with the TBS community and find like-minded travelers who also want to read your blog. But if you want to get outside those two audiences, you need a niche. I’m confident in saying this based on my 3.5+ years of experience running a blog that doesn’t have a niche and doesn’t have an audience.
Don’t Fight It: Pick a Niche
I’ve seen fellow bloggers go from “okay traffic” to “holy cow, partners are seeking me out and my traffic is growing month over month” by choosing a niche.
My good friend (and fellow TBS community member) Marissa Pedersen from Postcards to Seattle is one such blogger: “After realizing how much I love the Pacific Northwest and all the outdoor activities there are to do around here, I decided to make that my focus,” Marissa says. “My traffic naturally started progressing as people around the area were sharing articles with their friends, excited to see their local hometowns featured in my articles. I also started to hear from more local tourism boards inviting me to check out their city and write about what there is to do in the outdoors there.”
When Marissa and I met about 18 months ago, my traffic was greater than hers. Marissa now gets invites on trips, whereas I’m still pitching. Her traffic continues to climb, while mine has plateaued.
When people ask me for another great example of a niche, I often point them to Jeremy Jones and his blog Discover the Burgh. With a specific focus on Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Jeremy has seen massive growth. “Going hyper-local really let us have rapid growth as our audience and niche are one in the same,” Jeremy says. “The defined audience of those who live in the region allowed us to then utilize geo-targeting for social media advertising which helped us reach our target marketplace for pennies per fan. A win-win all around!” We all want to pay pennies per fan on Facebook, right?
One more example: our own Dave and his second blog Medellin Living. “Unlike my first blog about budget travel worldwide, choosing a single city to focus on for my second one was easier in that the scope of information that needed to be covered was smaller,” Dave says. “I wanted to be a destination expert for a single city and that felt more manageable.”
These three examples are all loosely based on geography, which is a great opportunity to choose a niche and stick to it. As a traveler, you may feel constrained – as Dave once said, it’s not like he was traveling to Paris and Beijing while running a blog about Colombia. Nevertheless, having a geographically based niche helps each of these bloggers (and countless others) create a clear focus for their blog and attract a specific audience.
You can also get super niche-y on a subject, which is what I’m doing in my second blog, Space Tourism Guide. As the name suggests, I’m focused exclusively on space tourism activities like observatories, zero-g experiences, and eventually trips into orbit. It sounds like there might not be an audience, but within two months of focusing on this blog, I’ve seen my traffic grow. When people reach my site, they are looking for – and find – exactly what they want: nerdy space tourism content. I haven’t given up on my first blog, but I’m more focused in the one that has a strong niche and growing audience.
How Travel Blog Success is “Requiring” You to Pick a Niche
Because I believe that choosing a niche is too important of a step to skip, we recently made a change to the way you can access the Fundamentals of Travel Blogging course as a member. Now, when you purchase a membership and gain access to the course, you can’t access any other lessons until you work through Module 1 in order. Basically, you need to read/skim the lessons about choosing a niche before you can read about promoting your blog on Instagram or improving your photography skills.
I made the case to Dave about this because I want to help other bloggers succeed where I have failed. I don’t want you to skip this most important first step, and wonder why your blog is so damn hard three years from now.
Now, I can’t make you read those lessons and take them to heart – but I hope you will. I hope that I’ll see fewer conversations in the community Facebook group where bloggers feel frustrated and burned out when I can see that their primary problem is a lack of niche and focus.
If you log in today, you may find that you need to work through Module 1 again, even if you’ve previously accessed later lessons in the course. For new community members – and new bloggers struggling to find your place – we invite you to review Module 1 closely and seek guidance from the community on Facebook in choosing your niche.
Though I dearly love my first blog, take it from me: it’s better to choose a niche from Day 1 (or maybe Day 30 if you need a few weeks to mull it over) than spend several years without focus and lose heart. At least I’ve got space tourism to keep me focused now!
You can view the first lesson in Module 1 for free by clicking here.
Join us in the Travel Blog Success community by purchasing TBS Membership today.