1: Read a lot
Woman reading (Dreamstime)
I’m always shocked at how few travel bloggers develop their skills by reading. Very few read any marketing, strategy, business or self-development books. Running a blog is running a business, and if you don’t go to ‘school’ and constantly learn, you’re going to fall behind.
Every successful person I know is a voracious reader. They constantly try to improve their skills and knowledge. You must always be student. You must always learn.
After all, why reinvent the wheel? Read what experts have to say, learn what works, and apply the tips you pick up to your blog. If someone has been there and done that, why try to learn it all through trial and constant error? Read the best way to do something and then go ahead and do it.
I read a lot besides travel books. I consume marketing books, management, writing, history books and biographies. Even if you only get one idea from the book, that book was worth it. I read at least one book a week and I'm often reading multiple books at a time. I consume it all, including travel writing, history, business and fiction.
2: Be like Apple and think different
Apple logo (Dreamstime)
Whatever you are going to write about, try to present that subject in a way that hasn’t been done before.
If everyone is sharing sponsored content, don’t. If everyone is writing text, make a video. If everyone is serious, be funny. If everyone has complex designs, go simple and visual. If everyone is doing one-off blog posts, create a story through a series of posts that keep people coming back for more.
You should always be innovating. Do something different and unique.
3: Create Products
Make money while you sleep (Dreamstime)
Businesses sell something and so should you. Whether it’s a course, a book, T-shirts, tours or just other people’s products via affiliate marketing, give your audience an opportunity to support your website.
Offering products for sale allows you to be independent from sponsors and brand deals, and not compete with other travel bloggers for spots on press trips. It allows you to scale your website and your revenue. Many products offer value to your readers by going more in-depth and in detail than a blog post usually allows.
There are few travel bloggers that produce products. Most of the time, travel bloggers end up making money by creating sponsored content and getting paid to go on trips. That’s cool if that's what you want to do, but it's time-consuming and requires you to be constantly working, and it’s soul-sucking. You never have time to relax or do something for yourself. It’s not a hamster wheel you want to be tied to.
Products allow you to generate something once and then earn revenue while sleeping, sightseeing or getting a suntan on a beach.
4: Be Niche
Find a niche, whether RV travel or a specific country (Dreamstime)
Back when I started blogging in 2008, it was easy to maintain a general budget travel website. You could cover a wide range of travel topics and face little competition. There was only a handful of bloggers. Now, there are too many long-established blogs and websites to do that. You’d also be way behind in Google search results.
I recommend being as narrow and focused in your topic or topics as possible. Whether it’s RV travel, Turkey, Thailand, NYC or your small town, the power of 'search' lets everyone define their niche and still be able to reach millions of potential readers. In fact, being niche now is better than trying to be a more general resource site like mine.
Moreover, focusing lets you become an expert. You can be the person to whom readers always turn for information on this subject or that destination, which allows you to cultivate a bigger presence online.
Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Go narrow, but go deep.
5: Stop Talking About Yourself
Matt trekking in Chile (Nomadic Matt)
While running a blog means you are going to say “I” a lot more than in magazine or newspaper writing, that doesn’t mean you should write only about yourself. If your blog is solely a journal or trip down memory lane, write about anything you want. But if you’re looking to run a professional blog that creates a sustainable business, remember that it’s not all about you.
It is, and always will be, about the people reading your website. Whether you do that by providing practical advice, telling them a good story or making them laugh, remember that it’s all about how you can be of service to them.
If you are going to write about yourself, do so sparingly or relate it to the bigger picture of travel on the road. Don’t write about your new shoes, what food you ate, your thoughts on whatever or the mundane details about your life. Few people really care about that. We read writers because they connect with us on an emotional level, tell good stories and allow us to visualise ourselves in the places they talk about it.
Far too many travel blogs are a glorified personal diary but the most successful ones tell stories of places and improve their readers’ travel experiences.
Nomadic Matt runs Superstar Blogging, an online ‘school’ teaching all aspects of running an online travel website, with courses on travel writing, photography, videography and the business of running a blog, whether you want to turn your hobby into something more or find a way to move your career forward ten steps. It features industry experts, writers, photographers, marketers and YouTubers. For details, see superstarblogging.nomadicmatt.com
For more on Nomadic Matt, see www.nomadicmatt.com