HOW TO BECOME A PROFESSIONAL TRAVEL BLOGGER – STEP 2
Hello and welcome to STEP 2 of your own successful travel blog. Now that you have an idea of your blog and your niche (STEP1), we should start and build your own blog! By the way, our blog www.bobaroundtheworld.com is all built by ourselves and we have absolutely no idea about html and all that stuff.
We are neither web designers nor IT-nerds, but if you are a little patient and willing to learn, you can easely build an attractive blog in a few days. Are you ready? Let’s start!
YOUR BLOG NAME AND URL
Your blog needs a name of course and it is very important to follow some rules. Always keep in mind that you will NEVER change the name of your blog again. Take your time 🙂 As I said before, the competition out there is HUGE! To be honest, most of the “good” URL’s are already taken. Be creative and DON’T COPY. I know that most travel blogger names include words like
This could make sense in terms of SEO, but hey – you are not the first one with this idea and therefore the SEO advantage is usually busted. I think it helps more, if you have a name people will remember. JustOneWayTicket or Mytanfeet for example are blogs I will never forget for sure and they have non of the above words included in their name. It is original, memorable and stands out. Great!
You should also keep in mind that your traveling style might change. If you have a name that includes “backpack“, you should be a backpacker. But what if you don’t want to go backpacking anymore? A backpacker in a five star resort doesn’t make any sense, right? Try to find a more neutral name and to look ahead. Some more tips:
– The name should fit your niche (If you are a couple, it could be in the URL as well – Crazycouple.com)
– Don’t use your own full name! Nobody cares about your surname (www.mikeschwarzersexamplepage.com)
– Don’t use a free domain! It doesn’t look professional at all (www.mikes-travelblog.wordpress.com)
– KISS – Keep it short and simple (mikestravelblog.com)
All right, do you have your name for your blog? Great, let’s move on!
Before I answer this question, we have to talk about hosting your blog… you have no idea what that means? Don’t worry, I had no clue as well. But you can relax. It’s no rocket science and super easy once you got it.
I try to explain it: Imagine the internet is a highway and you want to drive it. (Sorry, I am German 🙂 ) Therefore, you need a car – this is your host. The good thing about hosting is that it doesn’t cost you much in the beginning.
There are loads of great hosts out there and they cost about US$5 to US$7 a month. Not much to start your own business, right? BUT imagine your blog is getting more and more traffic. More and more people want to jump in your “car”, so you need a bigger one. The more traffic you have, the more you pay for your host. Once you have a few hundred thousand visitors per month, your normal host can’t handle it anymore and you need to upgrade. Then the host costs a few hundred dollars a month.
But when you start your blog, you probably won’t have thousands of visitors every month, so I recommend the following host to start with:
Bluehost: One of the oldest web hosts and they have become the largest brand name when it comes to WordPress hosting. They are an official “WordPress” recommended hosting provider. You never have to worry about your website being slow even when there is a lot of traffic. The rate starts at US$3.95 a month. It has a one click wordpress installation what makes it super easy to install your future software for your blog.
I will NOT explain you how to install Bluehost, as it is soooooo easy. Just go to their website and click the green button 🙂
WORDPRESS – Nothing else!
If you want to take travel blogging serious, you need to work with WordPress (WP). Almost every successful travel blogger uses WP and that’s for a good reason. Your options are unlimited. People often think WP is just a blogging platform but that’s just not true. It has evolved into a very powerful CMS. Imagine, it already powers almost 25% of ALL websites in the internet inluding CNN, Google, facebook, Sony, Disney and many more!
It is totally free and due to the nature of open source, WP is a community software. Anyone can contribute to WP by writing patches, plugins or creating themes. By the way, there are over 2,500 FREE wordpress themes and more than 30,000 plugins available. It is fairly easy to use, safe and secure, search engine friendly and social media friendly and, last but not least, it just makes fun using it.
If you need help with WP, a great website is wpbeginner.com. I am a big fan as it is perfect for newbies. If you have a question – they definitely know the answer!
I could talk hours about this great software but it is time that you install WordPress on your hosting platform. Just go to wordpress.org (not .com) and install the software. If you are using my recommended host Bluehost, you can use the one click installation: login to your bluehost control panel under “Website Builders” and click the “Install WordPress” button. Follow the steps to set it up, install it to your domain (your new website URL) and voila, you have a CMS. (If you need help, you will find it HERE!)
THEME and PLUGINS
You have a host and the CMS. Perfect. Now it is time to build your blog like you want it. I highly recommend to BUY a good theme for your blog. You just have to buy it once and it usually looks way more professional and includes many more features compared to free themes.
You can look for a new theme by clicking on “Appearance” and then on “Themes” in your WP sidebar on the left. Another way is to check out this site http://market.envato.com. Click on “themforest” → “WordPress” → “Popular items”. A good theme costs about US$60 but it is totally worth it.
I can’t tell you which blog layout fits best to your blog idea, but make sure it is mobile ready. I recommend a responsive layout (provides an optimal viewing across a wide range of devices) but as I said before it is YOUR blog. Choose a theme, click on the LIFE PREVIEW and see, if you like it.
IMPORTANT: Just install and work with the “child theme“, otherwise every update of the theme can destroy your whole work and you don’t want that!
If you are new to blogging, I recommend to install the demo content on your blog. That means, your blog looks exactly like the demo. Now you can just change the images and textes etc. and step by step you personalize your blog. You will not need all the pages of the demo. Delete the ones you don’t need, otherwise it will slow down your page.
PLUGINS are great to upgrade your blog BUT they can slow down your page. Make sure you just install the plugins you REALLY need. If you have no idea what you need, I give you some tips. These plugins are a MUST HAVE!
– Akismet, protects you from SPAM
– Contact Form 7
– Google XML Sitemaps, helps for SEO
– UpdraftPlus – Backup/Restore
– W3 Total Cache, makes your blog faster
– WP Smush it, shrinks the size of your images
– WordPress SEO by Yoast, to optimize your SEO
– WPBakery Visual Composer, Drag and drop page builder
I also recommend to install a nice gallery plugin, a plugin for social media share buttons, and an attractive slider. Remember, you have more options than just looking for plugins in your WP site. Visit http://market.envato.com and click on “codecanyon” to view more great plugins!
To build a blog until it looks like you want will take a few days! Don’t give up too quickly 🙂 It is sometimes sooo confusing and you will probably hate me the first week because I said WP is easy to handle. Believe me, EVERY blogger who builds his/her blog by himself/herself has doubts in the beginning. But once you get used to WP, it is the coolest CMS ever!
SPEED / VISIBILITY / USABILITY
While you build and design your blog (which I think is great fun) I want to give you more essential tips for your blog. It needs to be fast, visible on every device and easy to handle for your readers. How can you build a blog with all these features? Let me show you.
Most bloggers say speed is the key for your bounce rate: A normal bounce rate for a blog is 70% or higher! So don’t worry, if yours looks similar. However, it is of course important how fast your website loads. Especially the start page of your blog should load quickly as most of your readers are linked to this page. There are different ways how to improve the speed of your blog. Let’s start with the free options. Especially new travel bloggers don’t need to pay hundreds of dollars for some extra speed.
First of all, you should delete everything on your blog you don’t need. Every page and post you don’t publish and especially every plugin you don’t use. Plugins are great but every single one of them needs resources. I know, I repeat myself but check every now and then, if you really use every plugin you have installed and if not, get rid of it.
A great plugin to increase your speed though, is W3 Total Cache. Once installed, it will boost your pageload times. There are also a lot of other plugins but we had good experience with that one. You can also pay extra money to have a private server to make your page faster but I would not recommend it when you just started your new business. The difference is normally just a few seconds and as long as you don’t have 100,000 clicks or more a month, I think it is not worth to pay US$30 or more every month.
“Okay Lars, sounds great but how do I know how fast my blog is?”
Good question. Just check out these websites. They show you the page speed and give you tips how to make your page faster.
Unfortunately the times are over when you just had one screen resolution of 1024 x 768px. Nowadays, you have many different resolutions and there are coming more and more. Don’t ask me why it is getting so complicated but as a blogger we have to deal with it… shit happens 🙂 You can have the coolest and best designed blog in the world, but if it just looks cool on an Full HD screen, you will probably loose all your readers who come to your blog on their mobile devices. You have to satisfy ALL your readers, no matter which device they use to check out your blog.
That means your blog needs to look good on smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop PC’s. Especially smartphones and tablets are getting more and more important. Wait – let me use my psychological power just for a second…. I think…YOU… have a smartphone. Wuhu…magic… No seriously, it is so important to look good on these small evil things.
But how can you create a website that looks good on all devices? Here are good news again: You don’t have to. At least not, if you listen to me. 🙂 I highly recommend you to install an ultra responsive design (like our blog). If you buy a theme that includes a responsive design, your blog will automatically look good on all devices. How cool is that?
The only thing you have to do, is to double check the visibality when you install new plugins etc.
If you want to know how your blog looks on an I-phone or full hd monitor, just check this site: cybercrack.com. If it looks good on every device, your bounce rate will decrease, I promise!
Different menu (make sure you don’t overload)
Menu has no dropdown! Don’t forget that
Are the images big enough to look good in FullHD?
Play with some nice Parallax and other effects
Nobody wants to waist time nowadays. Everybody wants to get the information with just a few clicks. Especially new travel bloggers put as much information as possible on their blog with loads of texts. Try to build your blog with a clean design and a good and simple navigation. Readers make their decisions very quickly.
I recommend a sticky drop down menu as it is much easier and quicker for your readers to find what they want and they don’t need to scroll up again to see the menu. That means more clicks on your blog and that’s what you want. You should always think about what YOU like about other blogs.
Usually an image and a headline is enough to get their attention, so don’t overload your start page. If you have something really important, you can use a sticky widget to get the readers attention (Like our little BoB here to the right->), but this only works for laptops or PC’s.
All right, now it’s up to you my friend. I gave you some information but you alone decide how your blog looks like. Besides all the tips I gave you I missed one super important advise.
YOU have to like your blog!
You will work with your blog every single day, so I think it would be an advantage, if you also like it, right?
A blog is a great way to give all your ideas and imaginations a home. I wish you great fun by realizing your blog and remember: It will take some time until you have your blog like you want it and I can tell you from my personal experience you will never be 100% satisfied. But hey – that’s life!
As usual, please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. I think it is also a good idea to sign up for our newsletter, hehe. And do you see this little share buttons down there? Do me a favor and hit them. 🙂 I hope to see you in STEP 3.