For the last two and a half years, blogging has been our life. While traveling across four continents and experiencing the most insane adventures, we’ve also managed to turn our little travel blog into a business that brings in five figures a month. There was a time where I thought only my parents (hi, mom & dad!) were reading what I wrote. Now, a grand total of 300,000 people land on our site every month. Whoa. How did that happen??
Honestly speaking? A lot of money spent on coffee and a lot of hours working. Kidding aside, when we first started blogging, we didn’t know what we were doing. The night we decided to start a travel blog (we may have been drunk on wine), my partner Tom said…”great, let’s do it! But wait, what’s a blog?”
Blogging has changed our lives and we want to help others navigate through the minefield of content and advice that’s out there. Why? Well if someone guided us towards one direction and gave us clear advice on how to grow and monetize our blog, we could have avoided countless mistakes. So regardless if you’re a new blogger or a seasoned expert, here are a few super useful websites, tools, and platforms that have helped grow our blog to where it is now!
- 1 Best Hosting for WordPress Websites
- 2 WordPress Plugins we Recommend Having
- 3 Marketing Your Blog: Social Media 101
- 4 Best Social Media Tools
- 5 Best Websites to Get Stock Photos
- 6 Email List Management
- 7 Best Photo Editing Softwares for Travel Blogs
- 8 Other Websites/Services that We Use for Our Blog
- 9 How to Get Paid as a Travel Blogger
- 10 Useful Travel Blogging Groups
- 11 Conclusion
Best Hosting for WordPress Websites
If you want to take your blog to the next level, getting a self-hosted blog is crucial! By creating a professional looking blog, this tells your readers and brands that you’re an authority in your field and you should be trusted.
Although Blue Host gets a lot of flack, we personally have two of our other sites under their hosting plan and are more than happy with our experience. Prior to that, we were with Siteground and had a year’s worth of headaches and pains. Although Siteground’s customer service was good, they never actually solved any problems for us. Bottomline, as our pageviews grew, Siteground couldn’t keep up which is why we left them. They are by far one of the best and most affordable hosting ($2.95 a month!) providers for new bloggers. Blue Host also comes with a FREE domain name which you would otherwise have to buy separately. If you’re anything like my partner Tom who makes a hobby out of buying domain names, you can also purchase your own from Names Cheap.
If you haven’t started a travel blog yet because you’re still trying to think of the perfect travel blog name, check out our complete guide on how to choose the perfect blog name!
For those who have larger blogs, we highly recommend Performance Foundry. Although they are a little bit more expensive than most hosting providers, the support that we get for our website is incredible. Their team optimizes and speeds up your website as well as takes care of all the monthly WordPress updates and all the other tech stuff that are usually a pain to do! If you want to turn your blog into a business and are serious about investing in it, these guys are our top pick!
WordPress Plugins we Recommend Having
This is one of the things that makes wordpress.org awesome. Plugins! Do you want a facebook like box in your sidebar? There is a plugin for that. Do you want people to subscribe to your emails? There is a plugin for that. If your theme doesn’t have the ability to do something you want, more often than not, there will be a plugin that can do it for you. While most plugins are optional, there are a few essential plugins that you should install on your new travel blog.
P.S. When it comes to plugins, although it’s tempting to install them all, less is more. Some plugins are extremely heavy, causing your site to slow down.
“SEO” or “search engine optimization”, is improving how Google ranks your blog posts in its search results. For example, search “Travel Quotes” on Google right now. Hopefully (if not this is awkward), you should see an article of ours in the top results. Month on month this brings lovely people to our blog. If you want people to find your blog, install Yoast as it is the first crucial step to making this happen. For those looking at taking blogging seriously, I generally advice to really read up on SEO from the beginning. While Yoast is a good start, letting a plugin do all the work for you is not enough.
We were late to install WordFence and man, do I wish we did it earlier on. You might not think it now but at some point, hackers will try to hack your website. Simply put WordFence will stop this from happening or at least do its best by adding a layer of security to your website. It’s super easy, just Install WordFence and that is it. It will do the rest.
Okay, this isn’t essential and actually isn’t used on Adventure In You (but I wish we had used it), but Monster Insights allows you to easily connect to Google Analytics and track outbound clicks. So if you would like to see how many people are reading your blog posts and what links they click on, this is best. On a side note, installing Google Analytics is a MUST! linking this up to your website allows you to keep track of how many people have visited your blog, where they are coming from, which articles they visit, and a bunch of other interesting statistics to help you get to know your readers more.
W3 Total Cache
This is pretty technical to explain but the main thing you need to know is it will speed up your website ie. your site will load faster. For now, that’s all you need to know. Listen to my advice and install this cache plugin.
Other WordPress Plugins Worth Looking At:
- Disqus Comment Plugin
- Inline Related Posts
- jQuery Pin It Button
- TOC (Table of Contents Plugin)
Editor’s Note: Want to Know How We Get Paid to Travel? Check out our post on how we make money online!
Marketing Your Blog: Social Media 101
For new bloggers, you can write as much as you want but if you don’t have a way for you to market your new articles, people won’t find your content. Yeah sure, you can post it on your facebook wall and say something like “Wooohooo! Read my very first article on my blog…” and sure, you will have people read it but after a while, people will stop.
Here are a few marketing tools that you can use to help get your blog and your writing out there.
Along with starting a travel blog, start up your social media pages. Remember to only choose ones that you are comfortable doing. Don’t sign up for Snapchat if you’ll be pulling your hair trying to find something interesting to document on a daily basis. Don’t sign up for Twitter just because other bloggers are on it. Social media can get very overwhelming so remember to only choose ones that you enjoy. My tip, start with a Facebook page and Instagram. They are both easy enough to use and are both pretty fun too.
Create social media accounts using your new blog’s name. In our case, in Instagram, some guy had @adventureinyou as his handle so we settled with @adventurein_you. Not advisable but still okay.
Use your Facebook page to post your articles and if people like your content, encourage them to follow you. Facebook’s algorithm for pages is quite frustrating but for newer accounts, you shouldn’t have a problem. Whenever you post something on your facebook page, share it from the page directly to your personal page. This should help increase the reach. Plus, doing so is also a good way to help market your brand new spankin’ blog!
Tip: Don’t get frustrated by your Facebook page growth. Even if it stays relatively small, as long as you have a handful of people who like and enjoy your writing style, that’s what matters.
Everyone like pretty photos and with the crazy amount of travel blogs out there, posting substandard photos won’t cut it anymore. Invest in a good travel camera or phone and showcase them on Instagram- which is a great way to also build a following.
Pinterest is my favorite marketing tool because it allows you to reach a larger audience. Learn the basics of Pinterest by reading stuff online- there’s loads of awesome information out there! Top tip, don’t treat Pinterest as a Social Media Platform because it’s not. Treat it as a search engine (just like google) where you have to write good descriptions, make catchy looking images. I could go on and on about Pinterest but for now, look into it as it is a great tool for newbie bloggers.
P.S. Check out my Pinterest Guide here
Best Social Media Tools
I have a confession. Social Media is the bane of my existence. There, I said it. I know as a travel blogger social media should be my jam. It just isn’t. Unlike other people who obsess about how many likes they get and how their posts did I can’t be bothered. To me, social media is an awesome way of connecting with our readers but apart from that, I’m not interested in playing the popularity game.
However….just because I don’t like it, it doesn’t mean that I can completely forget about it. Like it or not, social media is a huge part of travel blogging. This means that I’ve researched and looked for as many time saver tools that can help me keep up with everything that’s going on. Here are a few helpful social media tools that help keep me sane!
If you ever want to drive more traffic to your blog, I have one word. PINTEREST. As soon as I stopped treating Pinterest as a social media platform and started putting more effort into it, I started getting results. While our biggest traffic driver is still Google (Big G!), Pinterest accounts for about 25% of our blog traffic. Tailwind is an automation tool which you can use to schedule out your pins in advance. Currently, I pin about 25x a day, 7 days a week. However, the amount of time I actually am on Pinterest is about 1 hour weekly thanks to Tailwind. Using it as a scheduling tool, I can get my pins scheduled weeks in advance without having to actually be online.
P.S. If you click on our Tailwind Link you can try it out for free for one month!
Buffer is a super affordable social media platform which you can easily use. You can use it for free for one platform or avail of their super cheap packages which allows you to schedule 10 items at a time. They have a plugin which you can add to your browser which tells you the best times to post based on your audience size.
For Twitter, I recently started using Round Table which allowed you to plug in a few twitter accounts that you can automatically retweet. This is great if you’re constantly looking for good content to tweet. They have a free package which allows you to tweet 200 times.
Other Social Media Scheduling Tools
- Meet Edgar
Best Websites to Get Stock Photos
If you’re serious about blogging, do yourself a favor and use stock photos! When we wanted to take our blog to the next level, one of our biggest hurdles was dealing with all the sub-par photography that we had on our website. While it’s 100% better to use your own photos if you have them, you have to make sure your images are high quality! Sorry folks, no blurry phone photos.
Nowadays, there are a plethora of incredible stock free websites where you can get stock photos for free. If you’re looking into doing a complete website revamp, it also might be worth getting a stock photo description. We have taken out both deposit photos and Shutterstock subscriptions in the past and have found them extremely helpful in transforming our site and getting rid of crappy images. Some people also recommend using Flickr however if you do use them, please make sure you credit the photographer properly. Also, check the image licensing terms as using other people’s photos can get very costly.
Free Stock Photos
- Kaboom Pics
Email List Management
We made the HUGE mistake of not growing our email list the moment we started our blog. We were in the mindset of “oh, we’re not emailing them right now so there’s no point in building a list just yet.” Do yourself a favor and make it a point to start grabbing emails as early as day 1. Even if you’re not doing much with your list, grab emails as soon as possible.
Most travel bloggers start with a free email list like MailChimp, Tiny Letter or Mailerlite which allows you to have an account for free up to 1000 users. If you speak to any digital marketer, you would know that emails are the single most powerful tool that you can have. It allows you to directly market to your audience and speak to them in a relatable way. On our website, we have multiple lead magnets which lead our readers towards various sales funnels, allowing us to really monetize our email list. We can use this list to send out special deals and discounts that we often run for our Southeast Asia Travel Guides.
We personally use Convertkit and LOVE them. If you’re ready to start monetizing your list and growing it, Converkit has so many useful tools and hacks allowing us to make each email personable and segmented.
Email Pop Up Suggestions
While a lot of people HATE email popups, the problem is that they work. If you want to actively grow your list, you need to integrate a pop-up. As long as whatever it is you’re giving away is valuable, people won’t mind so much. Here are a few suggestions for email pop-ups. Naturally, there are free ones that you can implement if you’re just starting off. There are also more expensive ones that come with A/B testing capabilities which are also very powerful.
- Mail Munch
- Ninja Popup
- Popup Alley
- Optin Monster
- WordPress Pop Up
Best Photo Editing Softwares for Travel Blogs
Another newbie mistake that we often see is people putting up their own photos without any sort of editing. Right now, there are so many photo editing apps out there (you can even find some on your phone) so there is really no excuse to put up ugly unedited photos. As travel bloggers, the saying pictures speak a thousand words mean even more as your words and photos can literally inspire people to visit specific destinations.
We personally edit most of our photos in Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. I absolutely love these two programs and adore their photo editing features. If you’re looking for something a bit cheaper, there are heaps of other free photo editing software like VSCO, Inkscape, Photoscape, etc. There are a few other platforms like Alien Skin and Photolemeur which I’ve heard are pretty good but I’ve never really tried out.
If you’re looking for programs that will allow you to design blog graphics, here are a few of our favorite tools.
- Magic Mockups
Out of the tools listed above, Canva is probably my top favorite. Canva allows you to design any type of graphic that you want using their super easy to use interface and design elements. You can easily design Pinterest images, Media Kit, and Social Media headers.
I use Canva for EVERYTHING and recommend getting the pro version so you can upload your brand colors, fonts, and logos.
Other Websites/Services that We Use for Our Blog
Grammarly- Trust me on this one! Even though you won 10 spelling bees when you were in 5th grade, everyone needs a second look at what they write. Grammarly has an awesome Chrome extension as well allowing you to add their services to your emails. Horray! No more embarrassing typos.
Bitly- You use this website to shorted long ass links to make it more appealing to users. I use bitly links quite a bit and love the tidy looking URLs that they give out.
Google Campaign Builder- If you’re working on a campaign with a brand and they ask you to track your links, I use this to add a UTM source so they know how many click-throughs came from your website.
We Transfer- We usually use this to send over large files, videos, or images. This can come in handy when you have people sending over guest posts etc.
Rafflecopter- If you ever want to run social media promotions or contests, you can use Rafflecopter to help you set guidelines and choose the winners. It’s a great way to grow your social media subscribers (all you have to do is make sure you have a super awesome prize!) to incentivize people to join.
Xero- As our blog grew and grew, we needed a way for us to keep track of everything which is why we got Xero. This online accounting software allows us to invoice clients, keep track of our incoming cash and outgoing expenses.
Trello– Trello or Asana is a huge productivity time management tool that helps us focus and create tasks. This is great if you have a team of writers as you can easily keep track of what other people are doing.
How to Get Paid as a Travel Blogger
Although this might seem like a fairly simple question, for newbie bloggers, I remember sheepishly googling this and even asking a friend right after we got our first client. Most travel bloggers get paid using Paypal which is definitely the easiest and most convenient way. However, please make note that Paypal takes a HUGE transaction fee so make sure you calculate this into the cost that you quote your client.
Apart from Paypal, we also use direct bank transfer, Payoneer, and Transferwise to receive payments. Programs like Payoneer allow you to receive transactions from all over the world by setting you up with local bank accounts. We use this primarily to receive our Amazon.com affiliate commissions. Alternatively, Transferwise is also a great payment gateway to avoid heavy transactional fees between different banks. We use Transferwise to move money from our different accounts as they usually have the best fees and the money comes super fast as well!
Useful Travel Blogging Groups
Luckily, the travel blogging community is very open to beginners and newbies. For the most part, people are willing to answer questions and dish out advice. There are plenty of blogging Facebook groups that you can join which are all really helpful! A few helpful groups that you can join are listed below:
- Female Travel Bloggers (for all you ladies out there)
- Under 1000 Club – Aspiring Travel Bloggers
- Digital Nomad Wannabe
- Make Traffic Happen
- We Travel We Blog
If you’ve read this article all the way through…first off, woohooo! Please do yourself a favor and grab a beer/glass of wine and congratulate yourself. Travel blogging has SO many ins and outs that it can get overwhelming at times. My biggest tip for travel bloggers is to take it one day at a time! There will always be a million and one things that you need to do so go easy on yourself! Travel blogging is supposed to be enjoyable so make sure you enjoy the entire learning process. As usual, if you have any questions- you know where to find me!