Travel blogging has become a popular profession in recent years. When I started my blog in 2008, I only knew of a handful of dedicated travel bloggers.
Now, there are thousands of people trying to make it in the industry. Last year’s travel blog conference, TBEX, had more than 1,200 attendees compared to 100 just five years ago.
The dream of getting paid to travel the world drew me to the profession. I wanted to write guidebooks and be an intrepid travel writer like Bill Bryson or Anthony Bourdain.
Travel bloggers are just like other bloggers, though: they want to overcome obscurity and make it to the top of a big heap.
The problem is that new bloggers tend to follow established patterns and copy the success of others. In doing so, they end up contributing to the echo chamber in their field.
As you begin to establish yourself as a travel blogger, how do you avoid mimicking the content that already exists and build your own authority?
Even if you aren’t a travel blogger, you can apply the seven tips below to your own blog to stand out from the crowd. Just substitute the word “travel” for your niche.
1. Research the industry
Many travel blogs are poorly written narratives about what somebody ate in Rome on a Tuesday.
Since there’s little barrier to entry, anyone can become a travel writer. Given that millions of people travel, it’s no wonder that thousands think to themselves: “I travel, I write — I’m going to be a travel writer!”
But just because you travel and write doesn’t mean you do either well … yet.
Exceptional travel blogs are well-designed, don’t feature advertorials, and make the story about the place, not the writer.
Even though you may aspire to be a travel writer, you may simultaneously wonder, “How can I compete with all the existing travel blogs?”
Instead, think: “There are a lot of travel blogs but only a few great ones. I can compete and win in this industry.”
Knowing what works, what doesn’t, and what is lacking will give you a leg up on your competition.
2. Approach travel writing as a service
Travel writing is not about what you did or who you met. It’s about the location you visit and helping readers imagine themselves there.
The average travel blog follows a script similar to this one:
“Today, I was walking around Rome. It’s really beautiful here. I had some delicious pizza, met friendly locals, and we went drinking. Italy is amazing!”
No one cares about you. Sure, there will always be a small portion of your audience who will follow your adventures for entertainment, but effective travel writing is a service.
No one wants to be reminded of all the wonderful activities they aren’t doing. So, when writing a travel story, think about:
- What made a location special?
- What cultural differences did you notice?
- What practical advice can you include to help people follow in your footsteps?
- How can you take “I” and “me” out of the narrative and include more “you?”
Invest effort in improving your writing skills. It’s what keeps people around.
3. Tell your unique story
Most travel tips have been shared thousands of times over.
It’s your unique story that is memorable and will set you apart.
For example, the website Nerd Fitness covers health and fitness.
Health and fitness aren’t new topics, but Steve Kamb framed his story around his love of gaming and nerdy hobbies; he tells his fitness story from his unique point of view.
It resonated with like-minded nerds who wanted to get in shape but felt overwhelmed, and Nerd Fitness is now one of the most popular fitness websites in the world.
And although it may seem weird to say, “no one cares about you” and “share your story” in the same post, you can use your story as a backdrop to connect with your readers.
When you write about your feelings and emotions — rather than superficial and vague descriptions — people will relate. They’ll see themselves in your story because they have those same feelings.
4. Choose an unconventional medium
Present your story in a different medium. If everyone is writing, produce a video or podcast.
Remember, no two people see the same place the same way, so use that to your advantage. For example, if most writers in your field use a serious tone, can you cover your topic with humor?
A travel blog that does this well is The Great Affair. Candace Rose Rardon tells her travel stories by first presenting paintings, sketches, and illustrations she makes.
5. Build your expertise first
A lot of people make the mistake of starting a travel blog before they’ve traveled.
Don’t do this.
Travel first; write about it later. It doesn’t matter when the story happened, just as long as it happened. For example, I backpacked for 18 months before I started blogging.
The more you can establish yourself as an expert on one place or area, the easier it will be for you to rise to the top. Trying to be everything to everyone is not going to work, especially in a crowded field like travel.
It was easy for me to be “the budget travel guy” when there weren’t many travel blogs. But now, with so many blogs dedicated to travel, you have to narrow down your expertise and own it.
6. Network outside your industry
If you want to grow your audience, network outside of your industry.
I often write on lifestyle, finance, and entrepreneurship websites because travel on a budget and running your own business from the road interest those audiences.
This practice gives me a much wider audience than if I just focused on travel-related websites.
Find where your expertise overlaps with other industries and pitch yourself there.
To get the most out of your attendance:
- Stay organized. Create a list of people you want to meet and why.
- Attend meet-ups. Most top bloggers host their own meet-ups at these events.
- Don’t “sell yourself.” At this early stage, simply introduce yourself and have a meaningful conversation
Most travel bloggers don’t attend conferences outside the travel industry.
This is your chance to network and become the go-to travel person for people who want to include travel articles on their blogs but don’t know any travel bloggers personally.
7. Create your own products
If you want travel blogging to be the way in which you make a living, you need to sell something: books, courses, or consulting.
If you’re unsure about what to offer, ask your audience about their problems and what type of help they need.
You’ll find your next product in those answers. After receiving tons of questions about travel hacking (the art of using points and miles to get free flights) via my website and Facebook page, I realized that this was an underserved topic.
So, I wrote an ebook about travel hacking over the course of two months, and then sold more than 1,000 copies the first week it was released. I created a product that met my readers’ needs.
In January, I released an updated version of my print book, How to Travel the World on $50 a Day, after many readers clamored for a revised and expanded edition with more destinations and travel tips.
It’s important to remember one thing about travel: few people are interested in it all the time. Topics such as marketing, fitness, or finance are more applicable to people every day of their lives.
No one usually cares about travel until they are going to do it. And once their vacation is over, they typically won’t think about it again for a while.
A lot of customers will come and go. Therefore, don’t focus on courses or products that require a long-term investment. The best products for travel are:
- Consulting/Trip planning
- Destination guides
Map out your journey
The tips above have helped me grow my website to seven million visitors per year, publish a book, gain nearly 100,000 email subscribers, and attract more than 150,000 social media followers.
While the field may be cluttered with people mimicking each other, there are plenty of opportunities to grow and become successful in the realm of travel blogging.
If you discuss your expertise and passion, over time you’ll find an audience who wants to hear directly from you.
Are you ready to start a travel blog?
How can you apply the tips above to your niche?
Let’s continue the discussion over on LinkedIn …
Image source: Steven Lewis via Unsplash.