How to Build Your Travel Blog’s Brand: Tips from the #LakeErieLove Blogger Tour
Experiencing exotic cuisine and cultures, backpacking through countries you’ve only read about, hang gliding across a beautiful vista with your trusty GoPro.
Being a travel blogger sounds like a permanent vacation, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the means to bankroll full-time travel. If you’re considering taking a cliff dive into travel blogging, you need to prepare yourself. The notion of being a travel blogger is alluring, but the reality entails much more work than deciding what to pack.
During the recent #LakeErieLove blogger tour, Midwest travel bloggers had a chance to learn from two bloggers whose journeys led to blogging success.
On a trip to Thailand in 2005, Matthew Kepnes met a group of backpackers who drastically altered his path in life. Just as they showed him he didn’t need to be rich or tied to an office job to travel the world, Nomadic Matt shows readers how to travel without spending a lot of money based on his own experiences.
For bloggers starting out and building their audience, Kepnes offered this piece of advice: “Find a focus. There are people out there that will find your blog.”
The last decade has seen peaks in travel blogging’s popularity first in 2008, then 2010, explained Kepnes. When he started, he had the luxury of being “the budget guy” because there were fewer travel bloggers out there. If he was starting out now, he admitted, he probably couldn’t do that.
Because of the large number of travel bloggers, it’s essential to drill down and find a very specific niche. If you don’t have an audience, generally writing about how to save money when traveling isn’t going to be enough to distinguish your blog from other budget travel bloggers.
We’ve talked about this before on Beyond Bylines — take time in your blog planning to consider what you are passionate about and what makes you unique. These are the first steps to finding your niche.
There are many benefits to doing this. It’s easier to demonstrate authority on one topic rather than spread yourself thin over multiple ones. And both your readers and Google are looking for authority. Sticking with a consistent focus also means readers interested in that topic are more likely to subscribe and return time and again.
Once you find your focus, said Kepnes, build your expertise. Get out there and travel, write about what you did right and what you did wrong. The lessons you learn and experience you gain make you a resource for other travelers researching your niche.
As you continue blogging, you’ll want — and need — to refocus your content to stay relevant and keep growing. One way to do this is to consider the audience you’ve built. Look at your most popular posts and the comments readers left. Or survey your readers on social media and your blog. Why do they travel? What challenges do they face while traveling? What keeps them from traveling more?
Once you answer these questions, ask yourself whether your blog posts are in line with your readers’ interests and needs. Is there anything else you can do to help them?
You can’t settle into a routine with your blog and understanding what drives your readers helps you identify how to improve.
Focus is similarly essential to your social media choices, says A Dangerous Business’ Amanda Williams. Although the number of social media networks continues to grow, your free time for maintaining your social media presence does not.
Instead of promoting your blog on every social media network (and failing to promote it well), decide the platforms on which you’ll focus.
There are two things to consider when deciding on platforms: Where does your audience live and do you personally enjoy/easily use the platform?
Research Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, Quora, and other networks. If there aren’t many travelers talking about your niche or you’ve tried out a site and find it demands too much of your time with little return, consider a different one.
There are editorial calendars and scheduling tools like Buffer that make social media easier to use; however, it’s OK to cut loose from one particular network when it’s not working and focus your efforts on another.
When it comes to the type of content you post on social media, Williams said, remember that your audience wants to know who you are.
Promote your blog posts on social media, but let your personality shine through and share what you’re reading, doing, and thinking.
On A Dangerous Business, Williams’ goal is to demonstrate that “traveling (and especially traveling as a woman) doesn’t have to be scary, lonely, or out of anybody’s reach.” She tweets others’ blog posts, asks questions about people’s travel preferences, and posts photos to connect with her audience. The photos that attract the most engagement feature inspirational travel quotes, food and drinks, and herself.
Williams’ final piece of advice: Don’t forget to network with other travel bloggers and brands on social media.
Make time to participate in one Twitter chat each week, such as #TNI, #tourismchat, #expediachat, or #passionpassort. Other hashtag topics to participate in include #frifotos, #ttot, and #travelwriting. Many of these hashtags also are popular on Instagram.
If you’re on Google+ or Facebook, research communities and groups that are related to your niche. Williams mentioned Travel Blog Chronicles as a great place to share your posts, while Midwest Travel Talk and Midwest Travel Bloggers specifically focus on bloggers in the Midwest.
It’s easy (and free!) to get travel news specific to your niche.
Register for PR Newswire for Journalists and customize a newsfeed focused on a specific geography or topics like amusement parks, tourist attractions, airlines, cruises, hotels, and children- and women-related travel. Visit prnmedia.prnewswire.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.
Amanda Hicken is a media relations manager with PR Newswire. In her spare time, she blogs on Clue Into Cleveland about her travels around Northeast Ohio. Follow her at @ADHicken for tweets about the media, comic books, and her love of Cleveland.