A couple of weeks ago I celebrated a year and a half of blogging, which simultaneously feels like no time at all and like a lifetime.
Compared to established bloggers, the travel blog I run with my husband Jeremy, Our Escape Clause, is an infant.
On the other hand, considering that the vast majority of bloggers give up within a year, we’re getting downright ancient compared to all blogs across the internet.
I have learned more in the last 18 months about travel blogging and all of the effort that goes into it than I once would have thought possible.
While I know that my travel blogging education is far from over, I have definitely picked up some tips throughout this journey.
If you’re thinking of starting a travel blog, take the advice of someone who has been there: here’s what I wish I would have done differently during my first year travel blogging.
1. Just started
I decided to start a travel blog the same day that Jeremy and I decided to quit our jobs to travel: September 28, 2015.
In a perfect world, I would have started a blog shortly after that, and used the time before our May 2016 departure to experiment with themes, build up a backlog of content, learn about SEO, and generally get all of the awkward early stages of blogging out of the way before hitting the road.
Instead, I froze with stage fright and did nothing.
When I finally hit “publish” on Our Escape Clause’s first post on March 10, 2016, I had spent nearly six months planning a blog when I should have spent six months actually writing one.
True, content would have been a little thinner (my primary excuse for delaying the launch) as I wasn’t actively traveling at the time, but I would have moved my entire informal blogging education forward by half a year, and I still kick myself for not doing it.
2. Learned the basics of SEO earlier
When I started blogging, the mere sight the acronym SEO was enough to make my eyes glaze over: the whole thing seemed technical and vaguely intimidating, not at all like the creative writing and social media sides of blogging that I was primarily interested in–and so, essentially, I ignored it.
This was a big mistake: basic SEO is not terribly complicated once you get the hang of it, and dozens of early posts that never see the light of day could have potentially been rising through the Google ranks right now as my Domain Authority (DA) grows, if only I had set them up for success in the first place.
3. Spent money sooner
When I started blogging, I was very hesitant to spend money on it outside of a basic web hosting package.
I suspect that tendency came from the fact that my blog operated in the halfway space between a hobby and potential business: I wanted my blog to eventually make money, so spending money when it wasn’t making any seemed, well, silly.
This was not the right way to look at it, however: not only do businesses need capital to thrive, Our Escape Clause was also a passion project and a hobby, and it’s normal to spend money on hobbies, right?
While many travel bloggers (me included) start writing these days with the hope of eventually turning at least a small profit, the first year is really not the time to be worrying about that.
Keep it reasonable, of course, but even a $30/month budget to spend on my travel blog could have made a difference in those early days.
The one purchase I did make in the first six months of blogging was my TBS membership, which has been absolutely invaluable ever since–definitely money well spent!
4. Used Lightroom
Starting Our Escape Clause coincided with Jeremy and I getting our first DSLR and starting to teach ourselves photography–a skill we have improved immensely in the time since.
In the beginning, Lightroom (and editing our RAW images in general) seemed intimidating and like something not worth spending money on “at first” (there’s that hesitancy to open our wallets again), but the difference in quality is enormous.
Looking at Our Escape Clause, it’s easy to see the improvements in our photography over time–but to us, it’s also incredibly obvious when we switched from editing JPG images to editing RAW images, and when we moved from editing our RAW images on other software to springing for Lightroom.
There are so many photos that we hope to go back and edit properly one day, but that’s a daunting project that we’re unlikely to take on anytime soon.
5. Worried less about social media
In just the year and a half since I started blogging, social media has changed significantly:
- Snapchat has faded from the must-use new app to relative obscurity in the face of Instagram Stories
- Instagram’s algorithm changes have caused uproar after uproar among influencers
- Facebook’s algorithms have continued to cause frustrations
Having a social media presence is simply a part of travel blogging these days, and one that I truly enjoy–but in the first year, I should have allocated a decent chunk of the hours I spent scrolling through Instagram or sweating over keeping an active Twitter presence developing great content, working on building a stronger DA, and learning about SEO.
After all, I can’t control the ever-changing landscape of social media, but I can control my blog.
6. Let my voice shine through
It’s a common problem among new travel bloggers: in a quest to not overstep our bounds and declare ourselves “experts” on places we haven’t explored every nook and cranny of, we cower away from expressing opinions and instead stick to rather mundane information.
The result? Boring blog posts without a voice–and a voice is the only reason readers come to travel blogs instead of big-name travel sites like Lonely Planet.
It is a hard, slow, and constantly evolving process to try to strike a balance between providing practical information and putting my personality on full display–I haven’t perfected it, yet (can one ever perfect a form of creative writing?), but I’m miles better than I used to be.
The best way to find your voice when travel blogging?
Write. A lot.
In other words, if you’re thinking of starting a travel blog… it’s time to check off the first item on this list.
I promise you’re ready. It’s time to get started.
We’d like to hear from you! What’s one thing you wish you’d done differently in your first year of travel blogging?