I have been blogging for about two years now (not counting the occasional blog I wrote for family and friends) and I’ve learned a lot. In fact, sometimes I think I’ve learned more than my mind can handle. I’m not talking about technical stuff here such as how to use WordPress or making backups (I’ve got Martijn for that) but how the bloggers world really works. That it’s not about starting a blog and then traveling the world for free. That it’s not just about numbers. That the life of a travel blogger is not always as sweet as it seems because you just see travel pics. I learn something new every day and today I learned that my personal blogs ( Confessions of a Travel Blogger ) generally get more interaction than most of my other posts. Readers want to get to know the person behind a blog and luckily I don’t really mind sharing some of my misery and mistakes. There are some people I’m forever thankful to who have contributed in a positive way to where I am right now. But keeping the information to myself would not be useful and in fact, they gave me tips that I wish I had known before I started blogging. It would have made my life so much easier. So today I’m giving you my 5 best tips that I wish I would have known before I started travel blogging. From me, to you. Just because I hope you find them as useful as I found them one day!
1. Choose one or two social media channels and be a star in them
As long as I can remember I’m a fan of social media. I was one of the first of my friends to hit Facebook (and before that, Hyves, which was a similar Dutch social media platform) and I may have been the very first on Instagram. Pinterest is not something my friends even consider. Apparently, now is also the time to Snapchat, Twitter is on its return and Google Plus doesn’t really seem to have any importance anymore. Although I love social media, it sometimes gets a bit too much and I learned that it’s impossible to be active all the time at every channel, at least not if you still want to have some kind of social life as well. In early 2015 I decided to focus on Pinterest and by now all the time that I invested in it has paid back by giving me up to 200-250 visitors a day (one day even 1.000!). Especially for our English blogs (we are dual langual since one week!) it is a great way to find likeminded people who are also interested in the outdoor/adventure, which is our niche. Besides Pinterest I’m a fan of Instagram because I like visual stuff and can easily spend hours browsing through my feed and sending hearts to pictures I like. Last week I was at a conference for Dutch journalists and bloggers where there was a discussion going on about social media platforms and how everyone differs from each other when it comes to social media. My advice for you would be to pick one or two channels and shine in those, rather than doing a little bit of everything everywhere!
2. Be patient
Visitors don’t come to your blog out of nowhere. If someone gets 10.000 unique visitors during their first month, you can be sure that he/she got paid traffic or just simply wrote something brilliant. Now I know we all think that our own stuff is brilliant, however it’s hard to stand out of the crowd with all these blogs popping up all around us. I recently learned that each semi second a new blog is launched somewhere in the world, so that are 120 new blogs each minute, or about 250 since you started reading this blog. All those blogs want your attention and will be asking for it. Over the past years I’ve seen many blogs come and go, maybe because they didn’t reach their target soon enough. What I can tell you from my own experience is that you first have to make sure that you have a good blog and then the followers will start coming. It takes a while though, it took us 1.5 years to reach the point where we had 10.000 unique visitors. Also consider that many brands will want to work with bloggers who have been around for a while because they don’t really want to invest in a blog that will quit soon after. My mother always used to tell me (and please note, that this is a Dutch proverb and I have no idea if there is an English version of it) that the person who has the longest breath will eventually become the winner. So be patient, it will be worth it!
3. Design isn’t everything
I’m not going to mention names here, but some of the blogs that I truly enjoy reading, don’t really have the most attractive layout. However they do get tons of traffic and interaction because their stories are good and attract readers. Because they really have to say something or they know how to move readers with their stories. When I decided I wanted to redesign we12travel, I quickly decided that it had to be come simple and clean. No more sidebars, no advertisements and no banners that distract visitors from the stories they are reading. Even though we spent weeks working on the new website, one of my colleagues recently hit me in the face by saying “remember that many people won’t even notice your website has a new lay-out, so please don’t worry about it” and she couldn’t have been more right. Therefore we decided to launch the new website last weekend already, even though it wasn’t perfect yet and we were not entirely ready. A design is nice for first time visitors but I’m convinced that eventually, Content will always be King. So don’t invest all your time in design but make it the stories why visitors are returning to your site!
I’m ending this blog with two tips that I received from fellow bloggers and that have helped me out a lot. The first one comes from Henriëtte who is a Dutch travel blogger at Travel Around With Me . About a year ago I asked her how she got invited on all these trips and and she told me that you must network in order to be noticed. I never was a fan of this and luckily for my daytime job there isn’t that much networking required, however nowadays I see presenting we12travel to others as a challenge. Most people I meet for the first time think that I typically wear my hiking boots and goretex jacket every day but after meeting me, they know that’s just a stereotype. Networking does not only mean that you have to attend blogger conferences and events to meet up with potential partners to work with, but also make sure that you network with other bloggers. Don’t see them as competitors but as people you can learn from. Most of them don’t bite, so don’t be afraid to ask them for help. What helped me out a lot is joining various Facebook groups for travel bloggers that have proved to be very valuable and where I can ask questions if I can’t find it out myself. Make sure you actually engage there with others, because lurking generally isn’t appreciated.
5. Choose a niche (and stick to it!)
The best advice I ever received came from Bret Love from Green Global Travel . A couple of years ago I worked on a pitch all Sunday long. I sent it to a brand that I knew would be a perfect fit for us. A really perfect fit. After re-reading it plenty of times, I eventually sent it out and I got a reply back the next morning, saying that we didn’t have enough visitors. BAM! The one brand I really wanted to work with, didn’t want us. I was incredibly disappointed and had a bad day. I talked about it in a closed Facebook group for bloggers and Bret replied to me. He didn’t say I should’ve handled things differently, however he told me story of his and how they still managed to work with certain brands without having massive numbers. The most important piece of advice he gave me was to “choose a niche and stick to it”. That was the moment I decided to no longer write about citytrips, beach vacations and that sort of things. Back then I was a bit afraid that nobody was interested in reading about outdoor/adventure (especially in The Netherlands) but it turns out that this isn’t true at all. From that day on, I started working on our image and telling the world how cool the outdoors is. Walking for nerds? No way! Camping for adventurists only? Not really, as long as you have the right gear! By now, some really cool outdoor brands have asked us to work with them and we’re proud of that. After the pitch I was denied, I wrote to their direct competition and they did want to work with us. That was a total confidence boost. By now, we reached the level they wanted us to have, but I can’t be bothered anymore getting in touch with them again. By now, I’m proud of we12travel and how we positioned ourselves. We may not have 50.000 visitors but we are unique and basically, that’s all that matters!
In addition, I’d like to give you another 5 tips that I found very useful over the past couple of years:
– Switch off your phone at night (hello flightmode!).
– Never post more than 1 picture on Instagram at the same time, leave at least 2 hours between posting pics.
– Use a scheduling tool for social media (I only use Tweetdeck and the FB scheduling tool however).
– Leave comments on blogs you like (and not just “nice blog”) if you want people to comment on yours, too.
– Set up a media kit and publish it, so that potential partners know what you have to offer them.
I hope you found these tips useful and that they will help you to become a better blogger. For now, this is going to be my last Confessions in a while because next weekend we’re off to Nepal. Since we are hiking the Everest Base Camp trek, we won’t have wifi most of the time. However, if you want to read more confessions, I’m sure you’ll like these posts, too!
– My 2 year anniversary as a real blogger
– I’ve got the Bloggers Blues
– 11 Reasons why I’m the worst travel blogger
– How to grow your Pinterest traffic from 50 to 200 in just a couple of months
More tips? Green Global Travel (yes, I’m a fan) recently published a list with their blogger tips after 5 years of blogging. A must read if you ask me! Check it out!
Any tips you’d like to add for (newbie) bloggers?
Thank you for sharing!