How Do You Start a Lifestyle/Travel Blog?
Recently, my sister in law asked me how I got started on the blogging ladder, specifically, how did I get set up and into online blogging?
While we sat down together over tea (and cakes, of course!), we went through my own personal account. It dawned on me, why not create a simple how-to guide on how I personally got into blogging.
I want to stress that this is not a paid or sponsored advert, it is a personal real-life account of how I got into blogging, and how I manage to keep it going.
I appreciate that pretty much every other blogger has detailed their account of how they got set up, but hey, why not 1 more blogger adding to the never-ending list.
I am quite fortunate in some respect as my partner is in the digital marketing arena and I have been exposed to a lot of it. Over the years I have dabbled in Photoshop, web building, SEO copywriting, just to name a few. So I appreciate if you are a complete novice, it can be daunting to just throw yourself in. Even I struggle now! It’s a constant ‘learn on the job’ avenue.
For the sake of this article, I use WordPress so will be making references to how I built it on WordPress.
Find Your Niche
Firstly, and arguably the most important, you need to decide on what niche you intend to blog about. Are you fanatic about food? fitness? business?… You get the picture. You need to build a blog and a brand that represents you. You are on show to the world, you know, so you have to make it genuine. It will be easy to see through any false articles, or forced social media posts.
I personally went down the lifestyle/travel route due spending the majority of my working and personal life between Spain and the UK. It is quite easy to integrate the both of them into my life. As well as talk about whatever thoughts come to my mind.
You also need to think long-term, it needs to be a passion and something that you can easily get excited about to keep the momentum going. If you force a niche you are not passionate about, the task to write another lengthy post, will seem almost impossible and you will talk yourself out of it.
Hosting and Domain Name
A domain name is a name that you want your URL to be, or simply, what you type into your browser to be found; think of it as your own personal slice of the internet.
When thinking about a name for your website, this is another area where you will need to think long-term, you should be thinking of a name that you’ll be happy with, let’s say, in 6 months, 1 year, 5 years etc…
Personally speaking, your domain should be short, clear, easily understood and, if possible, relevant to your niche. Having the word “blog” in your domain name is a personal preference and by no means a necessity.
Hosting, on the other hand, is where your domain name will be stored, usually, you can purchase a domain name with hosting at the same time.
At this point, you don’t really need to think too hard about hosting. It’s just a company that will need to meet a few requirements, which I will detail below.
In the future, if your blog grows, you may need to think about scaling your performance, so it is a good idea to select a hosting account that has the option to be improved and scaled up to meet the needs of more traffic on your website.
When searching for domain and hosting providers, you will be met with hundreds of viable options.
- 123 reg
- and many more!
Of course, every person will be different with their needs, but I recommend looking at providers that offer “1 Click installs of WordPress”, “Free SSL certificate”, “99% uptime”, and “24/7 customer service”.
It is also worth taking into account where your potential hosting account is located, for example, if you are based in the UK, it is logical that you will sign up using a .co.uk provider. Not only does this help make timezone communication easier, it could potentially help your SEO.
Let me elaborate. If you sign up using a provider that is located in the same country, they will potentially place your website in a server that will be located in that same country. Meaning that your website will not have to travel hundreds of miles to a potential user in comparison to if you placed your hosting and domain within a foreign country.
Social Media Accounts
Social media is a huge aspect of blogging and should be taken as such. It builds your brand, positions and aligns content with your chosen audience. All the while it builds that ever so important following.
As soon as you have decided on a name for your website, you should scour social media platforms to see if you are able to register that name.
If your chosen name is not available on any or all social media accounts, it is time to reconsider your domain name.
If your chosen name is available, register the accounts asap. This is a great brand protection method, and while you may not use all of them straight away, it is good to know you can post in the future.
With the rise of mobile smartphones, posting on social media has become the norm, make sure you include your social media accounts for your blog on your phone, for easy on-the-go updates.
As mentioned earlier on, I use a CMS called WordPress. Given that it powers something like 25% of the whole world-wide-web, and that it can also be as user-friendly or as advanced as you desire, this was my go-to website builder. Especially considering most of my experience has been with WordPress.
But by all means, go out and research what meets your needs. Here are a few other options that you may want to consider: Drupal, Joomla, Silverlight, Google blogger, and many more.
My hosting provider gave me the option for a 1 click installation of WordPress (which I would recommend), just one click of a button and WordPress is installed and ready to be used.
WordPress use templates called “Themes”, these provide the structure, functionality and appearance of your blog.
They can be free, paid or completely bespoke, but as you are just starting out, I would recommend you do your research and go for a free, or low cost, yet trustworthy theme.
You can read all about the current trending free themes.
There are just a few things to look out for when selecting a free theme:
- Make sure it is regularly updated
- The reviews are good
- That it offers the functionality and aspects you desire on your website
- Try Googling your selected theme to see if it has mentions of hacking.
Once you are happy with your selection, upload your theme and away you go.
Recently, Google has been on a mission to secure and make the web safe, this means having websites appear as HTTPs.
HTTPs stands for hypertext transfer protocol secure. This basically means that you are visiting a website that has a secure encryption, which makes it safe for the user.
So how do you tell if a website is HTTPs? By the little green icon that appears in website URL’s
Now switching over to HTTPs is not an easy feat, this is why I recommend selecting a hosting provider that includes a free SSL certificate (another term for HTTPs). By doing so, this will mean that when you one-click install WordPress, it will automatically have an HTTPs connection.
And also, HTTPs will give you a slight edge in SEO, which I will explain next.
SEO is an acronym which stands for Search Engine Optimisation. It is the process of making small and consistent improvements on your website, and its overall presence online to improve its ranking ability in Google and other Search Engines.
Yes, unfortunately, you do have to work on getting high in Google, you don’t just appear.
SEO is so broad and specialised, I will not go into too much detail, just a few tips to get you going. The great thing about WordPress is that it can easily work alongside great SEO, it is set up to handle the heavy work.
Here are my top tips to learn for SEO and get you on the right track:
- Install Yoast SEO plugin in WordPress
- Activate “post name” URL structure in WordPress Settings
- Install Smush plugin
- Activate XML sitemaps in the Yoast plugin
- Optimise all your title’s and meta descriptions through the Yoast plugin on each and every page/post you create
- Creation of Google Search Console and Google Analytics accounts. These are 2 great free tools that monitor the health of your website, while also providing insights into your website’s traffic.
If you wish to deep dive and learn as much as you can about SEO, I highly recommend this great resource from MOZ.
MOZ are a highly recommend company for learning all about SEO, they have compiled a great beginners guide to SEO.
The thing about blogging is that it gets tiresome, you always have to think about your next post, engage with people online, take constant photos while out and post them.
(Yes, you do have to get into the blogger mindset. Take photos of food and drink, and everything of interest. Not only that but you have to be artistic with it nowadays and enhance the photo. My partner just wants to eat while I am trying to get the perfect shot!)
You can and will feel tempted to let’s say, “leave the blogs” for this week, which then rolls over to next, and so on… (I’m not going to lie, I have been guilty of doing this exact thing!)
But keep at it! Consistency is what will define your blog and get you to the top. While you do not have to be churning out many blogs per day, having a schedule and sticking to it will be the key to having a successful blog.
Regularly blogging, pushing out meaningful content, while posting on Social media will all help towards your SEO, Search engines like to see consistency.
Also, each new piece of content you produce could potentially rank for new keywords and bring you more traffic.
Once again, these are my own accounts and thoughts on blogging. I only hope to enlighten and inspire.
Blogging is a rewarding hobby that could potentially turn into a career (if done correctly), but you should never start with this intention. Focus on what you enjoy and go from there, and one day, you will have your own successful lifestyle blog.
At first, blogging will seem like a huge learning curve. You will have to read, read, and read some more, but I promise you, it does get easier.
Now, you have heard my account of how I started a blog, go out there and start your own blogging journey.