Travel Blogging Basics

by Ant Stone on August 5, 2010

in Features

Once upon a time, creating a travel blog was the last thing on the mind’s of travellers. We used to be consumed with malaria jabs, and how many condoms to pack. We left our mobile phones at home with the laptop, and went in search of wild times and wilderness. Things appear to have changed.

Now we’re apparently concerned with which WordPress plugins we need. Which social network to massage, and which blogging platform to choose.

This time of year always sprouts a healthy number of new travel blogs, and 2010 has been no exception. In this blog-eat-blog world, I empathise with those brave enough to build a self-hosted travel blog.

It can be brutal.

Help is on its way

Bloggers have to contend with Facebook and Twitter; they need forty-eight Google accounts; they have to boost their subscribers, reward their readers, engage with their audience, monitor the competition, and please their mothers; not to mention, score quality backlinks and spot a spammer from a hundred paces.

Oh, and it’s a travel blog, therefore one must also find the time to travel.

It’s go-go-go in a 140-characters. Everyone must Like you, Digg you, not to mention Stumble over you a dozen times a week, while they guzzle Google Caffeine.

You could feel extremely inadequate, extremely fast. I know — I’ve been there.

My biggest and most terrifying concern, is that the travel blogs are taking over travel. Blogs used to be the cool alternative to a handwritten journal — now they’re an altogether different beast.

Turning Point

I believe the turning point was monetisation. People make money off travel blogging. Fact. Some even write eBooks about it; which saves you time, and makes them money. Fact.

But think about it. Your earnings are going to increase exponentially with the amount of time and effort you put into your travel blog. After twelve months, you would be fortunate to be earning £200 a month from your blog. Over eighteen months, you would be lucky (and I really mean that) to have earned more than £2,000 (US$3,200).

Now, think about it. Do you want to taint your trip of a lifetime, by sacrificing day after day of this amazing opportunity, to earn £2,000 — or £3.60 a day — over 18-months?

I wouldn’t either.

Work to travel, don’t travel to work (unless you’re a “digital nomad” or an air hostess). You’ve got the rest of your life to sit in front of a computer.

Travel blogs are ultimately a good thing; they encourage a positive attitude towards travel, and blogger’s tips and tricks can save you money along your journey. They can also develop valuable skills; such as interaction with people of different cultures, and writing for the web.

Focus on the Good Stuff

Here’s a few more things to help you focus on the right things, which will help enhance your blog, while not taking up too much of your time.

It’s written with new travel bloggers in mind, but there are lessons to be learned for the most seasoned among us.

After the bath... I like to scream


Five Things Not to Worry About



Number of readers. Number of pageviews. Number of comments. These are some of the most common quagmires; simply because bloggers are always talking about them. In my opinion, you do not need to worry about statistics unless you have decided to go hard and use your blog as a platform to sell advertising. Sure, take a look every now and then, but it is one of the least important elements for new bloggers. Don’t get obsessed.



“Everyone else is doing it, so I should too.” Running advertising campaigns on your blog might look great and make you feel a bit special; but as I’ve already touched on, you have to be semi-serious to make any money at all off it — especially for young, unremarkable blogs. The time you will spend trying to decipher the advertising process is much better spent elsewhere, and over time, decent advertisers may be attracted organically.



Rank goes hand-in-hand with statistics. Your Alexa and Compete rankings can become the source of obsession. It’s empowering to watch that little number rise, and rise, and rise — until you smash through Dahl’s glass roof — but let’s be honest, everyone’s is. It’s the tide of the Internet. The only people that care about rank are other web site owners, and some advertisers. If you’re writing good content, your rank will find a natural level. Just don’t sit there staring at it.

Other Blogs


I have a lot of good friends. They’re great. They each have their own quirks and personality, and they all make me smile in their own special way. Blogs are like people. In the same way that you wouldn’t want to actually be your friend, don’t try and emulate someone else’s blog. The reason the platform is so popular, is that it’s an extension of our personalities. Some are ugly but full of good intentions, some are beautiful but full of crap. Break the rules, and be yourself. You’ll find a lot of reward in this.



Everyone wants a good-looking blog. I respect good design, and it’s something I try to get across here on my own site. But let’s be honest, many of your readers aren’t even visiting your blog. They’re viewing them through RSS readers. In the beginning, just find a blog theme that isn’t fussy. Something that isn’t going to tie you up in forums. Something that isn’t going to break every five minutes. This site is built on K2 (although it will be changing soon) and it’s just about the most unfussy theme there is.

Seedlings Common chickweed


Five other things not to worry about — but are worth doing



Learning how to harness search engine optimisation (SEO) for your content, is well worth the time investment if you want to be found by curious strangers. It’s not rocket science, and can be quite interesting. In layman’s terms, SEO helps search engines understand what your content is about. If you run WordPress, install the All in One SEO Pack plugin (other plugins are available). A useful website for learning about SEO is

Social Media


There’s a high probability you found this post through social media (Facebook, Twitter etc.) Loyal readers will keep returning without prompts, but social media remains the quickest way to kickstart the buzz around your content. Signing up for Twitter account, or creating a Facebook page is not the end of the story however. It takes time, and it takes commitment to build up a quality following to support your blog content. You have to be prepared to give as much as you take, but blogs aside, it’s a decision that will enhance your journey. Sites like Mashable will keep you up to speed on tips, tools and trends.



I cannot stress this enough. Content is the number one thing you need to concentrate on. If you think of a good angle for a post, write it down, or scribble the context down as a draft (that’s how this post was born). Create a simple editorial plan and think a few posts ahead, by looking at your travel plans. Look at what’s trending across the entire Internet, and think about how you can turn this into a useful post. I believe all posts should be born of desire, not need. What makes you tick, not what makes me tick. Passion glows, apathy aches.

Learn HTML & CSS


This can be a veritable nightmare, not least because by the time you’ve learned it, it’s probably been superseded by a new version. Many bloggers don’t realise how much HTML is needed to create even the simplest of blog posts. Spend a little time learning HTML and CSS whenever you can, and it will ultimately save you time in the long run. The HTML, XHTML, and CSS All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies (affiliate link) is a useful book for beginners, while will encourage good coding skills.

Link Building


Rome wasn’t built in a day, but, by the time it was there were a hundred arrow-straight roads leading straight to Caesar’s bedroom. As you’re exploring other blogs (never, ever use the word blogosphere in my company) check to see if they accept link exchanges. They’re not the most powerful, but any link in the early stages is worth it if you want to improve your online presence, and support the online travel community. Once you’re in the swing of things, consider guest posting for other blogs to attract new readers (as I did, on this subject for

love balloon


Now you’ve read this, you should know that I have left myself wide open. I have tried to help you, but this will inevitably lead me to criticism. “Why didn’t you say this, do this, tell me this, do that yourself?”

I really don’t care. I just want to make sure travellers are getting the most out of their travels, and they are not getting blinded by less important matters.

Let us not forget, ten years ago we had no interest in “blogging”. And if you’re starting a blog today, you will still be considered one of the early adopters in one hundred years time.

Finally, if you’ve recently started a new travel blog, I applaud you.

You might feel that a lot of the work you’ve already put in “behind the scenes” has gone unnoticed. While that’s true in some respects, most seasoned bloggers do realise the amount of effort it’s taken for you to get those posts up, and those images in just the right place.

Keep things simple, and focus on the most important things — like making sure you’ve packed enough condoms.

Are you a travel blogger? What has your experience been like? What’s the best advice you could offer to new travel bloggers? Perhaps you could share what it is that you would do differently, if you started all over again?
Related Posts with Thumbnails

{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

Adventurous Kate August 5, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Ant, this is a great post. It covers the basics so well!

Another important note for new bloggers: you need to actually BLOG. It’s easy to think you’ll blog frequently without prompting yourself, but that’s rarely the case. You need to push yourself. You have no blog without actually blogging!

Gillian August 5, 2010 at 8:53 pm

Great advice! I set up my blog before I left with the intent of writing for family and friends and, thinking if i could find a few other people that would be great. I learned a lot about community, SEO, linking etc while I was away but i didn’t tinker with it at all. You’re right when you say it’s important not to let the blog take over the travel – remember why you’re out there! I always said I would quit if I didn’t like it…but I loved it and continue now that I’m home although now I am redesigning, SEO-optimizing and still writing, writing, writing.

I do think that the internet has fundamentally changed travel. Gone are the days of being out there figuring it out with no real way to connect back home. In some ways I think it’s a shame but in other ways it can’t be bad if it is helping people get out there.


Ryan August 5, 2010 at 9:15 pm


Thanks for writing this, it’s useful. We are definitely learning as we go along. I think if we were focused on trying to blog for money it would be extremely frustrating (Though I have nothing but respect for those that pull it off).

Sometimes it feels like a ton of work, but most of the time once we complete a big post we are really happy to have it–even just for ourselves to look back and be able to relive our adventures in greater detail.

Every once in a while we get an email or a comment from someone that says that we’ve inspired them to get out there and do something they were passionate about–that sort of thing does make it all seem worthwhile.

Thanks again!

Laurence Norah August 6, 2010 at 1:54 am

Another great post Ant. I’ve only been blogging for a few months, but I can already identify with your thoughts. From what I can tell, the most important thing is decent content, everything else falls into place from there.

Ant August 6, 2010 at 4:41 am

@Kate: Very true. It’s often hard when you’re on the road, I used to scribble them down on paper and as soon as I found an Internet café I’d run in an and scribble it up.

@Gillian: There are definitely more pluses than minuses. Like you’ve touched on there, it’s a fun hobby, or sometimes job. Especially for those of us who love to write.

@Ryan: You’re so right. Do it for yourself, as much as for others. Others will appreciate it, but there are plenty of other things you could do with your time which benefits everyone — like volunteering.

@Laurence: Bang on. Ultimately; good, solid and knowledgeable content drives everything (and a dash of SEO). Never put out anything half-heartedly, spend an extra fifteen minutes, and make everything awesome.

Gourmantic August 6, 2010 at 7:12 am

Insightful post, Ant and very thorough.

I keep reading about various bloggers expressing concerns over maintaining a blog while travelling and it saddens me that their choice is tampering with the enjoyment of their travel. You’re spot on about stats and the monetisation adding another layer of complexity but again, if someone is willing to sacrifice the enjoyment of a trip just to blog about it, I have little sympathy.

There seems to be a common belief that a) if you’re travelling, you need to pack a blog and b) you must blog during the trip. There’s nothing wrong with collating all that information and writing quality posts after the fact than churning out daily updates which are better suited for tweets.

I echo the advice of a seasoned writer I know whose advice is to live first, write later. In this case, travel first, immerse yourself in the experience. Plenty of time to write a blog later.

Ant August 6, 2010 at 7:21 am

@Gourmantic: I agree with a lot of your points. Because there’s little distinction between professional, amateur and hobby bloggers many people starting out tend to get dragged into irrelevant practices, which I believe will have a negative impact on a person’s journey.

Like I said in the post, we have the rest of your lives to sit in front of a computer — and we shouldn’t be duped into sacrificing large chunks of our journeys, without very good reason.

Thanks for the comment.

Jools Stone August 6, 2010 at 7:22 am

Interesting points here about whether blogging about your travel gets in the way of enjoying the travel itself. Jenny Diski, one of my fave writers, covers this a lot. In Skating to the Antartic, she notes how on the cruise ship everyone is too busy filming everything on their camcorders and cameras to actually take it in and enjoy it.

There’s a similar danger with blogging I think. Whenever you have an interesting thought/experience you automatically think, ‘hmm, this could make a good post.’

Ant August 6, 2010 at 7:35 am

@Jools: That’s definitely similar. I remember being scolded by an elderly couple for photographing a sunset in Norway. I put the camera down and soon learned the lesson (who wants to see another sunset picture anyway!) In terms of automatic thinking; I don’t think that’s such a bad idea.

You just need to scribble it down, and expand upon it at a time when it isn’t going to detract from your experience. I dare say Jenny Diski took notes during her journey, and didn’t commit everything to memory.

Juno August 6, 2010 at 7:40 am

You my friend, is a genius. I mean well said!! Everything is in one page. Thumbs up!
HTML. always want to be good at it but end up just looking for hat I really need. Should learn it more.
Thanks for such a great read, again!!
Oh and I love your graphic sense.

Ant August 6, 2010 at 8:02 am

Thanks Juno — a wonderfully comment as always. Glad you liked the design too — I enjoyed pulling this one together.

Try and learn HTML, and once you’ve cracked that, step it up to CSS. That’s how I was able to create the design of the post you’ve seen here (and I stress, I am very much a beginner in CSS).

Roni Weiss August 6, 2010 at 8:50 am

Solidly done. Hats off.

But I think you mean ‘breathe’, no?

Ant August 6, 2010 at 8:59 am

@Roni: Red cheeks. Yes! For the record, I’m changing it in the post, but Roni is referring to the big blue plaque where I incorrectly wrote BREATH instead of BREATHE. Thanks!

[F]oxymoron August 6, 2010 at 9:31 am

Ant, I mostly agree with the entirety of this post, however, I think it is important to worry about design if it helps a blogger organize and create a narrative.

And content is crucial – which includes a blogger’s writing style and perspective.

Ant August 6, 2010 at 9:35 am

@[F]oxymoron: Two good points. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you’re referring to the overall design of an individual post. The structure of posts (and pages) is important for overall readability (which is a large chunk of writing for the web), I just feel people can get hung-up on the creative design of what some might consider to be their personal brand. This can be important later down the line, but in the early days of your blog, I wouldn’t consider it a priority.

“Writing style and perspective,” I completely agree. It’s crucial for successful blogs to find their voice. (Check out [F]oxymoron’s blog for an example of what a unique voice can do for a blog).

Cris Campos August 6, 2010 at 9:44 am

Unfortunately we can’t help it re worrying about the design. It would be unacceptable for a blog with two designers on the team! 😉
I just hope that our friends using RSS readers will sometimes click on the link and have a quick look at the post.

I’ll join the mass and say another great post, Ant! Perfect timing too, it’s insane how many new travel blogs appeared lately and I often find it sad to see that many of them are more concerned about monetizing than actually being authentic.

Ant August 6, 2010 at 9:56 am

@CrisCampos: “Authentic”. Ding ding ding. You uttered the magic word!

As you and Felipe are designers it’s a little different. You are playing to your existing strengths, which is exactly right. With this element of the post, I was perhaps talking to those that are not already designers. As I’m sure you will testify, it takes a lot of patience to develop good design skills.

I think social media is tipping the scales, and getting people out of their RSS readers and onto our sites, which is great — everyone benefits.

Dave from The Longest Way Home August 6, 2010 at 10:51 am

Ah, yes Mr. Ant bless your cotton socks you coupled several good things here.

Forgive me as I bypass the throng of how to’s and hit your nail on the head in regards to the most important element you write of here.

Travel to travel, not to write yet another travel blog.

All those cents earned on adsense will not pay for the extra time needed in slaving away in the wifi common room.

Ever notice how 90% of travel blogs vanish after 18 months. It’s not just because the trip is over. They’ve also stopped because of both the hard work involved, and the costs involved.

“Sorry, can’t go out tonight, I’ve got to write about that sunset!”


Your point on content is a valid one. However good content is becoming lost in the guise of gaining popularity for “commercial travel blog power”

Sadly, more people are likely to tweet you, like you, and comment you on a 150 word post about the “7 best ways to drink lama milk in a hostel shower” than about the struggles of an ethic fisherman in a small unknown lake you visited.

I think much like travel sites have forked and evolved into various sub categories. Travel Blogs are now doing the same.

– Mom & dad this is where I am

– I’m drinking lama milk – Will this go viral and make me famous

– I know everything – buy my ebook, click my ads too!

– I am sitting behind my office desk writing about travel because I write about my holidays and stretch it for all it’s worth.

– People that actually write original, quality driven, and interesting items.

And so on …

What’s good to see is clever, witty, insightful, and interesting content.

I tend to comment on posts or articles that have this.


Ant August 6, 2010 at 11:10 am

@Dave: Thanks for the comment. It’s sad, but true, and I think it’s born from this desire for micro-celebrity.

As a society, we’re being driven into a numbers game and it’s the diametric opposite of what travel means to me as an individual.

There’s a lot of great ideas out there, but if people want to really earn their mark, it will come from well-researched and engaging content.

Don’t get me wrong — I love the buzz that comes from writing and reading good content as much as the next person. I just hope people aren’t fooled into thinking that because it’s on the Internet, it’s somehow instant.

I think many of the pop-bloggers, in any genre, will testify that it can take several years of hard work to achieve the kind of monetary success that’s being touted as the norm.

I think if I were starting my own journey again, I wouldn’t start a travel blog. I’ve made most of the mistakes above. Instead, I would spend the time researching and writing articles for print magazines, and getting paid for it while developing a professional reputation.

As for drinking lama milk in the shower; I’ve always struggled with this. The lama’s tend to struggle too much for my liking.

Amanda August 6, 2010 at 1:27 pm

You make very, very good points, Ant. Too many people focus on the number of subscribers and comments and forget to just enjoy the travel that they’re doing.

I started my blog originally for myself; because I was already writing about my travels, and wanted somewhere pretty to keep everything. As I got a couple of readers and more ideas for posts, I moved to a self-hosted blog.

But I still blog largely for myself. I enjoy writing. And if someone else also decides they enjoy my writing, then that’s great. But I don’t obsess over it. I just like to write, and share my thoughts about travel with others.

Ant August 6, 2010 at 1:35 pm

@Amanda: A great attitude, sounds like you have the right idea — first and foremost you’re doing it for yourself.

Linda August 6, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Excellent post Ant ~

I worry, like a few above, about the time spent engaging with a screen instead of what surrounds you.
While I love the sharing opportunities a blog offers with up to the minute accounts for family and friends, and tips and tricks that can be passed onto fellow travellers, it does seem a drag that ‘strategy’ (for which market are you writing?) has to poke its structured nose into the wondrous travelling experience!

Am pleased to hear you jot down notes on the run ~ I hope you keep them, as I suspect it will be these tangible memory joggers, written in your fair hand whilst travelling in distant lands that will prove the optimum catalyst that’ll bridge the gap between you back home and your amazing experiences when that moment for nostalgia strikes 🙂

Ant August 6, 2010 at 2:30 pm

@Linda: Right: in many ways blogging is the antipode of travel, while at the same time being the perfect match. I guess that’s why it’s so popular — “everything in moderation,” so they say.

You’re completely right about the benefit of notes too; this is such an important — and wonderfully non-techy — element of my own travel adventures. They offer a short, sharp and raw portal to many of the places I’ve visited.

Emily August 6, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Very good article. I often find myself getting caught up in the numbers game, looking at my traffic stats, Alexa rank, etc. It’s frustrating because I do have a day job writing in the travel industry, so sometimes it’s hard to find the time for my own blog. Some days I love it and have so much fun with it, but other days I feel overwhelmed and in over my head. It’s hard to find the time to write and maintain a social media presence. I also worry about blogging detracting from travel experience instead of making it better. I try to blog after trips instead of during them so I can really enjoy the travel experience.

Ant August 7, 2010 at 5:31 am

@Emily: Great comment, it’s a common distraction. I think once you’re established, like yourself, it’s worth paying attention to certain stats to ensure the market is responding positively to your work. Great tip about blogging about trips after you’ve returned home. I think if you’ve made good notes, this can result in better articles too.

Matt August 7, 2010 at 9:25 am

Hi Ant,

Great post here. Interesting points and perspective. I chuckled about reading your post through an RSS reader, as I was.

I think much of this depends on your goals. As you said, earning money is not an easy goal to reach. Or at least, earning money that will pay the bills. Yet if this is your goal, worrying about stats and the like are hard to skip over.

The biggest thing I’d walk away from this post with is not letting travel blogging affect your travels. I worry keeping up with my blog does, at times taint my travels. It’s always on my mind in one way or another. Yet I question whether or not that is a bad thing. It’s a passion I’ve developed, a hobby I love, and if thats where I focus much of my time and energies – so be it.

Ant August 7, 2010 at 11:40 am

@Matt: Great comment. And glad to see you stepped outside of the pesky RSS reader to come on over! 😉

I think if you can find an equilibrium between blogging and travel, that’s great. Remember that this post is geared towards new bloggers, in the formative stages of creating a travel blog. It’s intended to steer people towards the things that will enhance travel blogging as a hobby, but not detract from their trip or prevent them blogging per se.

There’s an undertone of reality about blogging in my post too; so that people aren’t fooled into thinking blogging is a ‘get rich quick’ scheme. Like you said, for most of us it’s just an outlet for our passion and to make it pay you should expect to be putting in full-time hours while you’re figuring everything out.

Jenna August 7, 2010 at 9:56 pm

A great, helpful post. Thanks for the tips.
I totally agree with what you said about statistics and content. It is easy for us to want to get content up just to get numbers, but those numbers will quickly disappear if the content is not good or interesting. What is more important, and much more challenging, than instant stats is getting people to come back. I try to keep my blog what I wanted without worrying about numbers because otherwise it’s not coming from me, it’s not honest.

Ant August 7, 2010 at 9:57 pm

@Jenna: You make some great points, Jenna. You’re also on the right track in my eyes — there’s a place for trashy articles, and there’s a place for impassioned and informative articles. As a blogger, we just have to decide what we publish on our own blogs, and perhaps what we publish elsewhere. For me as an individual, integrity is absolutely vital.

Caz Makepeace August 8, 2010 at 4:19 am

Really great advice Ant. I love the simplicity and the truth to your message. The most important thing is great content. Once you have that down pat then the traffic will come, and when the traffic comes then you can start to think about monetization. Travel blogging is definitely hard work but I think if it is your passion then it becomes that much easier. My travel blog takes up so much time but I love it because then I am immersed in the travel world and with that comes really powerful energy.
I love the design of this post as well.

Ant August 8, 2010 at 4:30 am

@Caz: Thank you. There’s some really positive feedback for me, and it’s much appreciated. You’ve also hit on some core benefits of travel blogging as a platform — which is the personal reward that comes from the community.

I don’t believe in this day and age you actually need a blog to harness this, I think with Twitter this is entirely possible to tap into.

I think we’ll see a movement away from travel blogging over the next five years, but a simultaneous boom in the online community as a whole as community platforms tighten up. Places like BootsnAll, TravellersPoint, World Nomads etc. have a great opportunity right now to soak up an excess of tech-baffled travellers.

Suzy August 8, 2010 at 4:31 am

Great tips for new travel bloggers. When I first started my site, I obsessed about readers and statistics. That is an incredibly important point you bring up. Just let it go. If people are reading and enjoying your travels with you, it is rewarding, at least it is for me. I don’t check statistics too much at all these days. Being a part of the travel community is also key. I have been traveling a lot lately and I find it hard to keep up with my site. I have tried to just relax and not worry if a post doesn’t go up every other day. After all, as you point out, travel should be the focus.

Ant August 8, 2010 at 4:43 am

@Suzy: It is for me too, and a core driver of ToA. Also glad to hear you’re relaxing a bit with regards posts. Has anyone scolded you for it? No, I didn’t think so.

Ana O'Reilly August 8, 2010 at 4:52 am

This is the first time I read one of your posts and i liked it very much. Common sense and solid advice…nice!
And to prove that what you wrote is spot on: I found this through social media (Twitter).

I think I’ll follow you on Twitter, if you don’t mind.

Ant August 8, 2010 at 4:53 am

@Ana: Thanks for the kind comment, you’re welcome to follow me on Twitter. I enjoy engaging with new people such as yourself so be sure to say hi from time to time.

sana August 8, 2010 at 4:54 am

I didn’t like the idea of lugging a big lap top with me through my recent trip to Guatemala, so I left my tech and blackberry at home. I felt more liberated..wrote down my experiences in a journal and had an amazing fling. Then I remembered I forgot condoms too. Darn.

But, I agree with your advice the obsession of documenting travels with while traveling for me just takes the fun out of the experience. But, at the same time I feel like I do more outrageous things since creating my blog, because of the interesting stories. But, then I realize I hv to keep things pg 13. Anyways, good tips and thanx!

Ant August 8, 2010 at 5:05 am

@Sana: Ha! The first reference to the condoms — good for you! There’s no rulebook which says you should keep things PG13 — in fact I’d say there is a gap in the market for more risqué travel blogs.

Interesting, and valid point about your blog being the catalyst for more outrageous travel experiences. I can see what you mean, and I’m sure others will too. This is another reason travel blogs are a good thing.

Jen August 8, 2010 at 5:05 am

Thanks for this. Obviously it’s a great post but that’s not what Im thanking you for. I’m thanking you because as a noob at all this and a closet writer I often times find myself incredibly discouraged. I ask myself a lot, “why should I write? Nobody likes or cares about what I have to say anyway?” The thoughts are just reconfirmed and the weight of failure is multiplied by millions when I see I’ve gotten no feedback on something I thought was good enough to share. Then I’m bummed until I have to write again, but then the whole episode repeats itself. What am I doing wrong? I’ve cried myself silly because of this.

Maybe, and I hope I gathered what you meant to convey here accurately, you’re right. I’m depending on the validation of others. Maybe I care too much about what others think. I should just be writing for me and doing this for me.

I’ll breathe one more sigh of relief here and say thank you once again. Excellent post.

Ant August 8, 2010 at 9:51 am

@Jen: Thanks for your comment, it’s really powerful. Your situation is exactly what I’m trying to discourage — false hopes. Firstly, there’s no such thing as a closet writer. Brush yourself down — you’re a writer.

Secondly, this is exactly the sort of situation I’m trying to discourage. You’ve obviously got some very high expectations, and these have undoubtedly been developed by seeing and reading about other people’s success. How rich they’ve got. How many readers they get.

Take a step back and we’ll look at things logically. Your blog is just a few months old, and it’s in a genre flooded with travel blogs. Some are soaring higher and higher, some are sinking uncontrollably, some are staying steady. I’ve had a look at your blog and here’s a few suggestions I’d give you:

  • Use headings to break up your content. It’s a sad fact, but most readers soar over your content, so you need to give them little platforms to rest their eyes on. Look at my post above, see how I’ve used headers, images, and colour to keep you engaged? Remember, you’re writing on the web — not print. Check out this site for more information:
  • Learn about SEO: I can see from most of your posts and pages that your META tags are very unspecific. I know your theme Thesis is excellent in providing simple SEO control (under the post box where it says “SEO Details and Additional Style”. Look at your META keywords, descriptions and title tags and get in good habits early on. I didn’t, and I have a lot of dead content in my archives which could have really boosted by site.
  • Get some links. While this is good from an SEO perspective, the real power of it is that it sends you readers from within the travel community. I know you’re already in my T-Bag Directory, but spend some time and find other blogs which would be suitable to display your URL.
  • Keep commenting on other blogs. Comments usually offer a link back — make sure your comments are good and add to the conversation (like your one here) and intrigue might lead readers to you.
  • Consider guest posting. I’ve started doing this recently, and it’s had some positive results. Many of the most popular bloggers welcome guest posts from quality writers.
  • Consider joining a community. If you’re not involved with I hear there’s some good stuff going on there to boost interaction between bloggers, and one that I feel is a good community is Lonely Planet’s BlogSherpa. A large faction of the BlogSherpa members are even publishing a book! You do need to be accepted, and LP will use your blog as a feed but it’s definitely got some pluses for new bloggers.

Finally — what advice would other’s give Jen?

Linda August 8, 2010 at 10:25 am

I’ve just added the SEO Pack as you suggested ~ But how/where do you go to see other bloggers meta data (you mention above you can see Jen’s!)? 😉

Ant August 8, 2010 at 10:32 am

@Linda: There are a few tools out there to make it easier, I like the browser add on called SEO for Firefox:

Alternatively you can view the Page Source (on Firefox it’s under View > Page Source) and it’s usually somewhere near the top.

Stephanie August 8, 2010 at 10:51 am

Great post – and great advice taken by a beginner travel blogger. While not a beginner to blogging, this is my first real attempt at developing relationships with those interested in what I am saying. Instead of shooting posts out into the darkness of cyber space, I’m hoping to network so in that sense I do care about who’s commenting and sticking around.

This is also my first domain name – thus my first design attempt. I think you are dead on about the design aspect. I am so glad I started my blog and blog design prior to my traveling. It has taken so long to get a look and feel that I’m excited about and even then there is always something I want to tweak. What time would be wasted had I decided to start a blog while on my travels!

Ant August 8, 2010 at 10:59 am

@Stephanie: You’ll find a lot of benefits from networking. It took me a long time to break out of my shell. Blogging can be so personal, but it’s really about what you make it.

If you want hundreds of comments and readers, you have to be prepared to read and comment on hundreds of blogs. Things can be so reciprocal, especially in the early days of your blog.

Your site looks fantastic, keep up the great work — looking forward to seeing where you take things both on, and off line.

pam August 8, 2010 at 11:37 am

I’m a curmudgeon of an old blogger, and I like a lot of what you’re saying here. There are a few things I disagree with, but not because you’re wrong, it’s because I’m a contrarian.

I don’t think new bloggers should dive right in to SEO. While it’s good to get infrastructure in place and to learn basic tagging, it’s about 97 billion times more important to write good work.

I also don’t think focusing on link building is a great idea unless it’s outward facing — “I link to YOU” — rather than inward facing — “You link to ME.” I get so many pesky emails from total stranger asking for link exchanges and I delete them ALL. But I also do big chunks of guest posts, there’s a GREAT way for a blogger to do something for me (write me a post) and for me to do something for them (give them a link).

If you use a good theme, you don’t have to know CSS or HTML, you can get by without those skills. They’re handy, I love being able to hack my CSS or code bits by hand, but I’m a nerd. Lots of people are downright terrified of their code, and you know what? That’s okay. Blogging doesn’t require you know code, you really can do just fine without.

That said, I LOVE your list of things not to worry about. And in general, I’d say your spot on with so much you’re saying here. (And, I’d admit that my opinion matters not one whit. ) And even though I’m an old curmudgeon of a blogger, I’ll tell you that I still worry about shots and pack for fun. I just pack all that other blogging crap too.

Well done, Ant, well done.

Ant August 8, 2010 at 12:33 pm

@Pam: Great comment, thanks for sharing your thoughts; contarianism is one of the things that drives blogging, so it’s always welcome here on ToA.

For new bloggers, take note of Pam’s comment:

…it’s about 97 billion times more important to write good work.

You will see and hear this a lot (“content is king”) throughout your online explorations.

With regards link building, I think there are definite benefits for inward facing links, as they drive good traffic to your blog. I think an awesome comment (like we’ve seen here) is worth a lot more in terms of driving traffic, not least because it gives readers an idea of the sort of person you are. Note, I am talking about driving traffic for engagement, not statistics.

You will get a lot more out of attracting 10 people to one quality piece, that you ever will from bringing 10,000 people to one crap post.

I also think basic HTML is useful, purely as a time saver. Just a single quotation mark missing from some code can take up so much time. I think learning basic HTML is a good investment of your time, but like you say it is entirely possible to get by without it.

Pam has done something quite useful here which some of you may have noticed. Something I was hesitant to do in the post proper. She’s reduced down my START list, to what I perceive as the two most important areas for new bloggers:

  • Content: Your readers portal to you.
  • Social Media: Your portal to the community.

Well done, Pam, well done.

Anil August 8, 2010 at 3:25 pm

@Jen: Don’t be discouraged, I was blogging for a good two years before I got more than a comment or two a week and often not even that. Write because you love it, find a topic or an angle you know well, and keep at it. Depending on what your desires are set yourself some *very* specific and obtainable goals.

It’s easy to say “I want to make money” – rather, give yourself a figure, 1 dollar a month, week, whatever, then you can come up with a strategy to accomplish that goal. The same comes with your writing, what are your specific goals? Do you want comments, or RSS subscribers, or links? Start small and work hard – and be patient, your blog is still young and developing a voice and audience takes a long time in most cases.

islandmomma August 8, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Hmmmm. I wonder what I would have thought of this a couple of months back? You seem to have confirmed here lots the things I have learned and decided in recent months! Wonder if I would still have spent the time (which I could have put to better use) in figuring out much of this, or if I would have taken your word for it?

My blog (ok – corny, yep) began as a way to keep in touch with friends, (I’m an “ex-pat”), when emailing became the same chore letter-writing had once been. That said, my life was really pretty boring, taken up mainly with work (ugh) and volunteering, and there wasn’t much time for anything else, so it was very sporadic. Then there was less and less necessity for the volunteer work I was doing, and then, in January, I was laid off. Time, suddenly, on my hands.

I’d always wanted to write. Always, but never had the confidence, so I began to blog more, had more contact with other bloggers, and began to get a lot of compliments from friends and acquaintances. I began to think in terms of monetizing yadda yadda yadda. I bought books. I angsted over my style being wrong, about not being true to myself or what I want to say, about people knowing too much about me. I’ve been surprised about the amount of feedback on some things, and disappointed on the lack of it on others. Recently I came to the conclusion that the way I do it, and want to do it, is old-fashioned. That was quickly followed the realization that I don’t want to write it like a series of travel articles. It’s just me, my opinions, experiences, and if no-one else other than the people now reading it, read it, then fine. I enjoy it.

Hopefully, I will be travelling soon, and I’ll remember what you said. I likely will get my own domain and maybe adsense or something, but what is important to me now is how and what I write.

I found your blog via Twitter (FoXnoMmad) just today, and other than this article have only had time to read a couple. However, I love your style, over the weeks I have read such a lot of rubbish, some of it ungrammatical and inarticulate. Yours is so original and refreshing!

Ant August 9, 2010 at 6:10 am

@IslandMomma: Interesting points, I think a lot of people will relate to what you’ve said. What’s really coming across to me in this comment thread, is that we all feel the same way, but that there is a sense of enlightenment. I liken it to running; if your goal is to run a marathon, you first need to learn how to tie your shoe laces.

Akila August 9, 2010 at 5:50 am

First, great post, Ant. These are actually a lot of things that I have been thinking about, too. You’ve been blogging longer than me and it’s good to hear you echoing my own thoughts. For me, it still is about writing and photography and, happily, some people like what I’m doing. I use our blog as an exercise in creativity as well as a way to keep track of what we are doing for our own benefit as well as others.

I totally want to echo what Pam said about link exchanges. I am so tired of random people emailing me and saying, “Hey! Want to trade links?” It is particularly annoying if these people have never left a comment on my site, don’t even put my name in the email, and make it clear that they are trying to use our site to boost their page rank. Aargh. I link to bloggers who have made an effort to get to know me or whose work I think is really good. Otherwise, we are just creating a lousy internet based on links that we don’t believe in.

Ant August 9, 2010 at 6:16 am

@Akila: I can understand that, though I do run a popular travel blog directory so I’ll fall short of mindless hypocrisy. Your point about spontaneous link requests is also valid — and something I hold my hand up to about having done in moderation — I can definitely see your point. I have stopped this practise.

I hasten to add, I do inspect all of the links in the T-Bag directory to ensure quality — and many have failed to gain submission. I think if you do it right, it doesn’t detract from the internet, I think there are great community benefits from link building, if it’s done right. But as with all things, there are two sides to it. Some people do it purely for the SEO benefit, some people for exposure.

Bo August 9, 2010 at 6:08 am

Awesome post. I’d say I’m guilty of worrying so much about the little things (themes, coding, seo, etc.) that I put off my blog launch months & months.

Finally I just said screw it & hit the publish button. It’s not perfect, but it’s getting better and I’m trying a few new things every day. Most of all, I’m focusing much more on the *content* than all the odds & ends that don’t matter.

Ant August 9, 2010 at 6:21 am

@Bo: You did the right thing. Long-time readers of ToA will testify the look and feel of this blog has gone through its fair share of changes over the years! You will never stop tinkering, but like you eventually realised — get your priorities straight.

[F]oxymoron August 9, 2010 at 9:03 am

@Ant(follow up)

You’re quite right that early on, people tend to get hung up on design when they should be focusing on content. I agree 100 percent!

I was actually referring to the long term organization of a blog’s posts (or certain types of posts within a blog) that might create a narrative within a narrative. Sure, we have categories and tags, but they typically don’t organize in a way that might read like a serialized narrative. I would argue that, for the writer and long term blogger, this might be something to think about.

… Loving the conversation Ant!

(Any intention to enable nested comments so that I [we] can comment on other’s comments? I’m looking at Jen’s, Anil’s, Pam’s comments, in particular.)

Ant August 9, 2010 at 9:51 am

@[F]ox: I understand where you’re coming from: the information architecture of your posts, to promote your writing as an episodic body of work.

Good point, yes, I think this can have huge benefits for keeping readers engaged with your blog, and it’s something I have never mastered. It would be something you need to think about early on though, and you would need a certain type of brain to get it right.

ps. The new theme will have nested comments — it hadn’t really been a problem, until now.

Andi August 9, 2010 at 10:11 am

Fantastic post! One I will return to over and over. 🙂

Ant August 9, 2010 at 10:25 am

@Andi: And you’ll be more than welcome 🙂

Manali and Terry August 9, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Awesome post and even better comments! Thanks for taking the time to answer questions and respond to comments, reading all this definitely helps. I think our biggest problem is finding the time to post quality articles in a timely basis while we are on the road. We try to avoid posting just to post something. Our pics and video editing take a while too. We’ve noticed a lot of photo heavy blogs lately. Do you have tips for balancing pics/videos versus prose? What’s a good ratio? What do most readers prefer?

Ant August 10, 2010 at 4:05 am

@Manali & Terry: It’s such a personal thing, and for me it depends on my own circumstances.

I love photography but I rarely respond to links inviting me to look at the Pic of the Week etc. Most of these are queued up well in advance of the published date, to keep content rolling. It’s a valid way to get relevant, and relatively easy content to put up. If labelled with the right meta data, good images can also bring in visitors.

But remember, many of your readers are sitting in mosquito-infested internet cafés with excruciatingly slow connections. My preferences change with the season, as long as its good content, I’ll read it. Note, you can queue up any content (written, videos, photography). If you’re finding consistency hard, five or six articles in the bag can keep you covered for a long stretch of low productivity.

Previous post:

Next post: