I frequently get emails from people that are either considering starting a travel blog or that recently started a blog of some sort and want advice on how to build traffic.
Even though I’ve been blogging for over six years now, let me be the first to say that I’m hardly an expert on blogging, and never started this with the intention of making it my full time job. For that matter I don’t think I made a single dime for the first two years I blogged (I mean, literally not a single dime, the blog didn’t even have Google AdWords).
So it truly always has been and always will be a labor of love, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
While I don’t think I’m qualified on “coaching” others to blog, I learn something new every day, and have had an epiphany or ten over the past six years. So I figured I’d share some of the blogging tips I wish I had picked up earlier.
In no particular order, here we go:
Have a unique viewpoint
I’m often asked whether I think there’s still space in the “market” for more travel blogs, or more miles and points blogs, or aviation blogs, or what have you. My answer is always the same – there’s always room on the internet for more unique content.
The unique content can come in the form of covering a unique subject matter/niche, or just having a totally different perspective on things than everyone else.
Let me give an example. If you’re a lawyer that’s obsessed with miles and points and want to write about the industry with an “insider’s perspective” of a lawyer, I think that could be interesting. After all, there are many “grey areas” when it comes to tickets, contracts of carriage, etc.
Meanwhile being a third year med student isn’t inherently something “unique” for the purposes of a travel blog. Some people seem to think that as long as no other blogger is at the same “place” in life as them their perspective is unique. I don’t think it’s quite that simple.
But the most important thing is to show your personality, because that in and of itself can be a unique viewpoint. There’s no right or wrong way of “showing personality,” but personally I love reading blogs where the writer is passionate and has a unique writing style.
Content is king
This sounds so obvious, but to be honest it amazes me how many times people get this wrong. There are lots of pretty blogs with all kinds of cool integrated widgets and features, but they’re lacking content.
And I’ll often get emails from bloggers where that’s the case that are asking for advice on how to build traffic, and I always struggle with a nice way to say either a) “you just don’t post enough” or b) “your content just isn’t interesting enough to differentiate you.”
Now ultimately there are good “blogging practices” that can do a lot to further increase traffic. But good content definitely comes before good SEO.
Rome wasn’t built overnight… and neither is the readership of a blog
My approach to blogging has always been very simple, perhaps because I never intended to make it my job. I write the content for myself. Now, I’m not saying my content is necessarily good or interesting, and yes, I should think about what my audience is, but the truth is that for the first two years I hardly had any traffic. But I didn’t get discouraged, because I wasn’t writing for my Google Analytics page, but for myself.
Six years is a long damn time to sit down every day and write something (though Gary has been doing it much longer than that), and the truth is that traffic grows massively every year, but you wouldn’t realize that if you’re micro managing your Google Analytics page. A watched pot never boils – if you’re proud of the content you’re putting out, don’t focus too much on the results at first, in my opinion.
Write for yourself, focus on content, and don’t expect you’ll be getting hundreds of thousands of pageviews per month in your first year of blogging.
Post consistently, frequently, and in a way that engages people
Ultimately this probably fits under the “content is king” header. If you want to maximize traffic, post consistently, post frequently, and engage people. Post consistently in the sense that you want people to check back often. If you make one post every two weeks then chances are you’ll have a hard time building a loyal following.
Conversely, there’s nothing wrong with posting two or three times a week, as long as it’s consistent and people know when they can expect the content. Chris Guillebeau is a great example of someone that doesn’t post all that often, but does publish thought provoking posts consistently, so people know exactly what to expect.
Similarly, know when people are reading your blog. For example, my blog gets the most traffic mid-morning on the two coasts of the US and then again after lunchtime on both coasts. While I don’t always do a good job publishing content then, I do aim to post around the times that I get the most traffic on my blog.
I want my blog to be a community where people are engaged and commenting, and they’re much more likely to do that when I’m posting around the same time that they’re reading, so that makes sense for me.
For example, I get very little traffic between 10PM PT and 4AM PT. So if I published a post at 1AM PT every day it would more or less “sit” for three hours before it picked up meaningful traffic.
Meanwhile it would generate a lot more discussion, comments, and interest, if it were published while people were actually online.
Do it for the passion
This is more my general approach to life than specific to blogging. You’ll ultimately be much more successful if you’re passionate about the subject matter.
There’s no “quick money” to be made in travel blogging, or probably any blogging, as far as I know.
Long term you can certainly turn it into a living if you do a good job, and I’m very grateful to be able to do what I love every day, but all the time I see blogs that pop up, go 110% in, and then quit a few months later when they realize that blogging won’t fund a second home in Cannes overnight (or at all, for that matter).
Don’t be discouraged by the comments – what other people think of you is none of your business
People say mean $*&^ about me all day every day in the comments section, via email, etc. When I first started blogging it really bothered me. What could I do to wrong someone so much that they are taking time out of their day to let me know how much I suck?
And then a little while in I realized that what other people think of me isn’t really any of my business. Don’t get me wrong, my single favorite part of blogging is interacting with you guys. Literally, that’s what makes my day.
And I appreciate all constructive feedback, be it positive or negative. I’m wrong a lot of the time, and I learn from that. That’s why I love constructive negative comments, because they allow me to change and improve things.
But when I say “what people think of me is none of my business” I’m referring to the hateful comments that aren’t constructive.
That’s because those people will leave troll comments on the internet, whether it’s on my blog or elsewhere. They’re insecure and they leave them to feel better about themselves. I mean, I can’t help but feel bad for someone that takes time out of their day to consistently leave comments on a website to say how much they hate it.
So my approach to negative blog comments is similar to my approach to TripAdvisor. I don’t use TripAdvisor to read individual reviews and make decisions based on that, but rather look for consistent comments/feedback. If people are consistently pointing out how much one part of my blog sucks, then it’s time to change it. But if it’s one person here or there, I don’t let it bother me one bit.
Be social and interact with others
When you’re first starting out blogging, this is the single most valuable thing you can do. How can you be social? I’d recommend leaving comments on other blogs and being active on Twitter, Facebook, and other frequent flyer communities.
Make your social contributions as organic as possible.
Generally unless it’s breaking news I’m not a fan of people Tweeting a handful of bloggers to make them aware of a post they wrote. That feels forced, and I think you’ll get much further by contributing to the community in an organic way.
Hopefully that’s at least a bit helpful. If you have any questions about blogging feel free to let me know and I’ll do what I can to answer them.
I’d also love to hear from fellow bloggers with any tips they’ve found helpful, and of course feedback on what I’m doing in my little corner of the internet in general is always welcome.