First Year Travel Blogging: Thoughts and Takeaways

I started professional travel blogging in July 2016. I cannot believe my blog has turned a year old. During this year, I’ve gained many skills, connected with kindred souls, worked with editors, and got my articles featured in online publications. Meanwhile, I wasted many hours and made a number of mistakes. If I could go back a year ago, there are things I would want to change, and other things I should have known better.

Here, I share my travel blogging experience, thoughts, and takeaways from the past year. I wish this post can help and save your time so you can work efficiently and grow your travel blog.

Take care of your blog followers and subscribers

Your blog followers and email subscribers should always be the top priority. Engage with your readers and inspire them to travel, overcome their fears and offer valuable trip information from your own experience.

I used to write machine-generated paid posts, send out newsletters, and giveaway free e-books. It was boring and it did not match the needs of my readers. People came to my blog clicking on the external links looking for information, asking me questions about their coming travels. Listening to them, helping them with their travels, and starting conversations with them. I had readers ask me about the weather and what to wear for a winter trip to Alaska, and that prompted me to create the post “The complete packing guide for Alaska winter trip“.

Professional travel blogging: thoughts and takeways

There will be follows and unfollows (will mention this later) on your social media account, but your blog followers and subscribers will never leave you. I once had not updated my blog for a month and the number of my blog followers remains the same.

To grow your blog followers and subscribers, here are my three takes on:

  • Writing great stories
  • Engaging with your audience
  • Content upgrading (in the trial period)

Content is the king

I swiftly realized that there is no point in posting poor quality writing and images on my blog and social media platforms. If it takes me a week or two to write a high – quality post or rush through to get multiple posts out in a week, I will choose the former. Writing, choosing pictures, re- sizing images, creating pins, and SEO optimization are all part of the process of creating blog posts, which cannot be done in a short space of time. When I am not writing, I look back on the old posts and see if there is anything that needs an update. I have removed many old posts that had poor writing and did not offer any value.’

Professional travel bogging: thoughts and takeaways

Writing, photography, and videos are three key elements made for blog posts, and not all of us are excelling at all of them. Find your strength and use it. If you are skilled at photography, write photo essays. If you are good at filming, focusing on creating and editing videos.  I am not skilled at writing, but I have many readers who have told me they like my pictures, so I will involve more visual in my blog next year.

Pinterest is a potential traffic – driven source

Initially, I was annoyed by the concept of Pinterest in favor of vertical images with a specific size, and I did not realize Pinterest has become my number 1 traffic driven source. Open a Pinterest business account, design good vertical images for your pin (Canva is my best friend), and write down countries and searchable long-tail keywords on your descriptions.

Additionally, lookout for group boards to join, pin to them, and do some re-pins as well. I usually pin my new posts to the group boards. At the same time, I re-pin 2-3 pins from the group boards to get the most out of it. I try not to pin the same posts with different pins to the public boards as this is considered spammy and may risk my account getting removed.

Comment pods do not work in the long run

Last month I did a scary thing: I left two travel blog comment groups. I have found myself wasting hours leaving comments on blog posts I have no interest in, and I cannot stand myself writing comments just for the pure sake of it, not to mention comment pods are potentially hurting blogs.

I started this blog inspiring others to travel beyond tourists’ attractions, not for writing and collecting comments from the pods. After quitting the comments groups, my comment section has been silent for a while. However, I have had more time to work on my content, engage with the people I want to engage, progress in my travel writing course, and work on pitching and collaboration.

No follow and unfollow on social media network

I realize that engagements are way more important than a large number of followers. For Twitter,  I join Twitter chats if time permits and re-tweet and like the tweets that interest me on my Twitter newsfeed. I also participate in sharing and Retweet threads, and Travel Tuesday (hashtag #TravelTuesday) Retweet groups for engagement and exposure.

Professional travel blogging: thoughts and takeways

I have stopped posting blog posts on my Facebook page, as I hardly find my readers come to my blog through Facebook. I only post my travel images to my page for tips and inspiration, and share others people’s posts I can relate to. Live video does not have an algorithm on Facebook. If you can manage, do not be afraid to show your travels in 3-D in front of the world population to grow your reach and engagements.

Having groups of supportive travel bloggers is invaluable.

During the past year, I have networked and interacted with many travel bloggers. They understand the amount of work travel blogging involves and are happy to help out others. There are Facebook groups supporting travel bloggers as well, which have become an integral part of my blog growth.

*Facebook group threads do help in boosting your traffic and engagements, but it can be a huge time sink to participate in some. Pick the thread wisely and get the most out of it. Here are my all-time favorite Facebook groups based on the thread participation, learning and collaboration opportunities, and the simplicity of the threads.

Travel Bloggers Social Media Sharing Group 

The Aspiring Travel Writer 

Next Level Travel Blogging 

Travel Bloggers Guide to Pinterest 

Travel blogging is a never-ending learning process

Added to working on my blog and collaborating with others, I spare sometime every week to listen to social media podcasts, read online magazines, and look at course materials on MatadorU. I browse through other travel blog sites and see what makes their content and blog standout. I also look at some Pinterest boards to see what makes a pin go viral.

If you have questions, do not be afraid to reach out for help. I have come across a Pinterest board that has many beautiful pins and hundreds of re-pins; I reached out to that travel blogger and asked him how he did his pins. Not only did he tell me his process of creating his pin, he looked at my boards and told me his feedback on my pins so I could work on it.

Professional Travel blogging involves very hard work

If you have been professional travel blogging, you have already realized travel blogging is very hard work. It is not at all free travel and glamorous pictures of us sipping cocktails on a beach. It is operating an online publication without any employees – writing, copy-editing, photography, photo editing, graphic design, marketing, social media promotion, SEO, content upgrading, pitch and outreach, contacting the press and the media, blog admin…the list goes on. Not to mention taking care of the logistics of traveling to foreign countries.

Professional travel blogging: thoughts and takeways

Travel blogging is not a lucrative market, and you will be lucky to earn $50 for the first six months. There are travel bloggers making a full-time income, but it takes years to work up to that point. Emily Luxton has written a very insightful post on the reality of travel blogging and how to make a living out of it, you can read it here. My Tan Feet publishes monthly income reports of 2015 that include blogging posts to guide others in monetizing their blog.

Regardless, it is the best profession I have ever had

During the course of my travels and blogging journey, I get to travel to many places and explore parts of Canada that many do not have a chance to experience. I have been to eight Canadian provinces, explored the beautiful prairies in the winter, and road-tripped from Montreal to Fundy Bay. I saw the fireworks over the Niagara Falls on the Rainbow Bridge on a beautiful summer night. I get sponsored for the winter festival and museums in Winnipeg, and will be off to a beautiful hotel providing me with a complimentary stay in Bogota.

Professional travel blogging: thoughts and takeaways
My self-organized press trip to Winnipeg, Manitoba: found polar bears and ended up watching them swim.

Professional travel blogging: thoughts and takeaways

I have met countless wonderful souls and hospitable locals during my travels. I have listened and read many wonderful stories and gotten to know other people’s lives. I have worked with editors and publications to hone my craft. I am constantly connected with other travel bloggers, some of them have become my blog friends and chat with me on Facebook for hours despite having never meet in person. I have also managed to meet a few travel writers during my travels, and we still keep in touch to this day.

Professional travel blogging: thoughts and takeaways
Travel writers, photographers and MatadorU student meet up in Toronto/ Photo credit: Paul Porter

Plans for the next travel blogging year

For the remaining 2017, I will travel long-term in South America while working on my blog and finishing the MatadorU Travel Writing program. I have contacted companies for sponsorships, but most times I will do my own travel. It is amazing to explore a place in my own peace, not thinking about pleasing my sponsors and posting on social media.

I want to say a big thanks to the travel bloggers that supported me, and my blog followers and email subscribers for always being there with me. I wish all of you enjoy the rest of 2017 and have fun travel blogging.

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Travel blogging: my first year takeaways

 

 

Julie Cao

Julie Cao is a travel blogger, travel writer, and global citizen currently living in Toronto Ontario.

6 thoughts on “First Year Travel Blogging: Thoughts and Takeaways

  • July 8, 2017 at 3:41 pm
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    Julie

    Congratualtions on your getting through your first year. I’m in my first year of travel blogging also and I can relate with many of these. I agree it is a never ending learning process and I love it. Sounds like you have an exciting second year ahead of you.

    Happy Travels
    Bisa

    Reply
    • July 10, 2017 at 2:39 am
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      Thanks Bisa! I have learned a lot through this year and there is still so much to learn in the second year and I am looking forward to it. Enjoy your travel blogging journey as well. I believe you will have a great year traveling and blogging. – Julie

      Reply
  • July 9, 2017 at 12:52 pm
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    Love this post! As a fellow travel blogger I can appreciate everything you covered. You have come a long way and can’t wait to see what year two brings. Congrats!!

    Reply
    • July 10, 2017 at 2:40 am
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      Thanks Albert! Glad this post helps. I look forward to reading more of your travels as well! – Julie

      Reply
  • July 12, 2017 at 9:19 pm
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    I learned so much just in this post and can completely relate to much of what you said. I’ve got a long way to go and will certainly be following your advice. Congrats on your first year of hard work!

    Reply
    • July 15, 2017 at 3:43 am
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      Thanks! Good luck with your travel blogging journey and I know you will do well!

      Reply

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