After 10 years of travel blogging, the subject itself is the one I get the most questions on these days. Back ten years ago when it wasn’t exactly a career choice, things were very different. I started this blog solely for the love of sharing a story through writing and photography. Little did I know a travel blog could ever become my career and, well, my entire life.
I was probably the last one to join all the hip social media channels and I remember my class mates in university posting their coffee cups on Instagram when I still had no idea what it was all about. When I started my blog it was called Running with Wild Horses as I lived on a horse farm in Australia. Next I changed it to Wanderlust Expert because I felt like I had to. And a few years later I started to use my name Veera Bianca everywhere – in an ideal world your blog has the same name since the beginning.
Now this travel blog is the biggest part of my identity and a big part of my career. I make about half of my living through this blog and half through projects that I’ve gotten through it one way or another. I work in social media marketing, photography and influencer marketing, do some speaking and training here and there. And boy I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I never planned a career in blogging, because it wasn’t exactly an option back in the days. Things just fell into place because I never stopped doing what sets my soul on fire the most and that shines through.
But hey, without further ado shall we get to the point! Here are 10 things that in my opinion make a good travel blog;
1. Be you, all of you
The first point might sounds a little generic, but it cannot be emphasised enough. If you look at the most successful bloggers out there what most of them have in common is an interesting bold personality. Sure what comes to travel blogging, we tell stories of destinations but we tell them through our eyes, which is the way we get people hooked on following exactly our journeys of the thousands and thousands out there.
So don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Lonely Planet is there if someone is just looking for destination information.
2. Niche is important, but only if it comes naturally
There was a time in the blogging world when everyone was talking niche niche niche. I remember stressing over this so much I lost days of sleep. Am I backpacker? But what if I also like luxury hotels? Am I a city girl but what if I also love the mountains? Later I realised that being myself is niche enough. If I enjoy travelling like this, why limit it?
Niche has a point, especially in this vastly rivalled world of travel storytelling but there is not point to stress over it. Travel in itself is sometimes niche enough.
Surely if you have a specific niche it may help you on your journey and bring you more opportunities even with a smaller audience.
These days I call my ‘niche’ value experiences, because I think life is boring spent in a 3 start hotel. I want to stay a night at the Four Seasons drinking champagne but I’m just as home at a quirky hostel dorm in Tokyo. Life should taste a little more like adventure.
3. Write with emotion
Surely as a writer you gotta have some writing skills to start with, but don’t let bad grammar stop you if writing stories is what you love. The more you write the better you get. I know I make a ton of grammar mistakes both in Finnish and English, but I try not to stress over it when it’s my own blog – I’ll stress about it when I’m writing articles for other publications such as Matador Network or Expedia.
The most important thing is to write through your emotions. Facts can be googled. Bring some soul into your work.
4. Learn the art of photography and develop your own personal style
Bloggers don’t need to be professional photographers, but camera skills go a long way.
This doesn’t mean you will have to start by investing thousands of dollars into a new fancy DSLR. A small mirrorless camera or even a good smart phone goes a long way.
My favorite camera to use on my travels has for years been both the Olympus PEN or OMD series with a 25mm f1.8 lens.
I’ve learned photography by taking photos (dah) but years of doing so have inspired me to sign up for a photography school from where I’ll be graduating later this year.
Editing is a big part of your photo game. Practise goes along way and helps you develop your own personal editing style. Lot of my photos might be the generic Instagram photos of me holding my hat and looking out into the horizon but they still look like my photos through the edits I make. Lightroom is your best friend and worth the money. On mobile, I often use VSCO, Afterlight or Snapseed – or even each one just for one photo.
5. Be present and engage with your audience in an authentic way
In today’s world of travel blogging everyone is just racing to the top to get the most followers to get invited on the most amazing adventures. But we have to take a step back and remember what all of this is about. We should remember to authentically engage with the people who have hopped along our journey. It brakes me to see the follow-unfollow games, automated liking and commenting, the not responding to DM’s and just the GAME.
Let’s forget pointless games and going after numbers. If we authentically spend time engaging with people, our channels will grow organically and be of more value for potential collaborations too.
I have met so many of my followers here in Finland and around the world. I even sent flowers to one when she got out the hospital a couple of weeks ago – treat everyone as a friend. That’s the magic of it all.
6. Network with other bloggers and the industry
Networks are your most important asset in any business. Get to know other bloggers through Facebook groups and events in your own hometown. Attend some conferences like TBEX, World Travel Market or ITB. Most of my friends these days are travel bloggers, because I’ve gotten to meet so many incredible people throughout the years on press trips and at events.
There are groups like Female Travel Bloggers, Girls vs Globe and Travel Blog Chronicles to help you mingle with your colleagues around the globe.
The question I get the most is how do I get invited on trips? How do I get to collaborate with airlines? And how do I get so many products sponsored? Well, it comes back to the networks that I nurture. I have met so many PR representatives at events and travel fairs and actually spent time to get to know them and their product. Most of the brands and destinations I’ve worked with want to work with me again and word-of-mouth goes along way too in an industry so small in the end – you’ll learn fast that everyone knows everyone, haha.
7. Learn some SEO
Blogging comes with a lot of boring tech stuff too, which will be important to master if you are in it for the business of it. SEO is the way to bring traffic to your blog for years to come. Learn some. Let someone teach you. Watch Youtube videos.
About 60% of my traffic comes from Google these days which to me is a good number. I’m no SEO expert but you learn a thing or two in ten years.
8. Invest some money to get started with a professional website
If you are in it to win it – take some money in the beginning to invest into a good website. Let someone design it for you or purchase a theme from somewhere like solopine.com (my personal favourites). Get your own domain and decide on the name right from the start to build domain authority from day 1.
There are so many bloggers out there too who know how to build a website, so ask for some help in different groups and be ready to invest some hundreds!
9. Master social media – but don’t stress about being in all channels
Social media has become more and more important in the blogging word. Many travel influencers might not even have a blog but just Instagram or Youtube. But at the end of the day the world of social media is ever-changing and your website is yours.
You don’t need to jump on all social medias at once, but master one. For me Instagram is most important and my absolute favourite channel even though the algorithm changes totally bug me too like everyone else.
For an English blog I would suggest to learn Pinterest or even hiring someone to promote your posts through Pinterest, it’s a great source of traffic especially in the beginning when your blog is not yet so well ranked on Google.
10. Don’t give up if you don’t reach thousands of followers in a year
I started this blog 10 years ago from a passion to storytelling. Back then it wasn’t really a career option, so I did it for the absolutely love of it.
There are thousands of new bloggers every day and most quit in the first year of blogging. So many get discouraged for not reaching massive follower numbers or getting invited on great trips. I spent 7 years working on this before anyone ever reached out to me on business reasons. I’m not saying you can’t build a blog business in a year, but do know it takes W-O-R-K.
There are many easier ways to travel the world, but if you know this is what you’d love – then go do whatever sets your soul on fire.
What are your favourite travel blogs? Would you add any tips?