• make your travel blog better

10 Fail-Proof Ways to Up Your Travel Blogging Game

While this is a travel blog, there are some newer travel bloggers who read it and ask for tips on blogging – something I actually LOVE to write about. This year, I have made some changes behind the scenes at Hippie in Heels to have helped my blog grow and earn money. I am going to share 10 ways you can make your travel blog better and actually do less work.

I’ve written about the plugins I use, how I stay motivated, blogging tools that I live by, my thoughts on blogging after four years, and even my daily blogging checklist. I explain how I earn money and how you can start your own blog. You can scroll through all my blogging posts here.

I’m not one to boast about my blog but feel I should say a bit of my stats here so you can decide if you want to trust my tips or not. I do make over six-figures a year and that I currently have around 1 million monthly page views on my blog. I’ve been blogging for over four years and my blog has had continuous growth (okay, let’s hope I’m not jinxed now).

1 Re-Focus on Affiliates

If you’ve been casually throwing in Amazon Affiliate links to your blog posts but aren’t really seeing any results you might have jumped to the conclusion that they don’t work and are not worth your time. They are! I currently earn over $3,000 a month from affiliate sales when I combine the programs that I use and less than 10% of that is from Amazon.

The best way to decide which affiliates to join is to think about what booking site you and your readers will want to use. Think about hotels, flights, travel insurance, ESL, blogging courses, visas, fashion, blogging software and hosts, and anything else you blog about.

You really should join these from the get-go and add them to posts when you first start blogging so that you don’t need to go back through and edit – BUT if you did not do that, this is the time to hire someone at an hourly rate to go back and edit all your top-performing posts to add in links that will help you get some passive income. I did this about a year ago and it paid off immensely.

When you earn passively, you no longer need to take as much sponsored content, pitch brands to promote them, and can slow down a bit on content creation. Start by joining Awin and seeing all the programs they let you join like Viator, Lonely Planet, Agoda, and more.

2 If You Need a Host Upgrade, Don’t Wait

When you first start out, it’s crazy to spend $60 a month on a host you don’t need when you can send $2.95 (with my link) to have a cheaper platform. Whether you use Bluehost, Siteground, or Hostgator there will come a time (hopefully) when you have too much traffic for their servers to handle your site and keep it live. When that time comes and you are struggling with downtime don’t delay – it’s inevitable that you’ll change hosts. I have changed hosts 4 times. It’s stressful but usually, the new host will help you with the switch.

Right now, I use Performance Foundry (PF). When you have 50,000 page views or less you are okay to stay on platforms like Bluehost which is what I recommend for new bloggers. Once you hit over 100,000 you sometimes need to upgrade to a new server or host. I was upgraded to Siteground ($15/mo at that time) and had a developer ($50/month) but my site was always down. I tried A2 and it was awful. I finally caved and did join PF. They are around $125 per month but include 1 hour of developer work each month and I canceled my arrangement with my current developer. So, it came out at about the same price. I had over 1 million page views most of this winter and my site never went down.

When you upgrade hosts it’s not just about keeping your site online but it helps with increasing load times which keeps people on your website.

3 Think About SEO

From the beginning, you should be reading about SEO. I recommend Sharon’s website, DNW. It was her speech on SEO at a conference I went to that made me think “okay, I need to do more than just use the Yoast plugin”. I bought Keysearch which I think is around $15/month and never looked back.

Let’s say you want to write about 10 things to do in Paris. You might get the “green light” from Yoast that you made it SEO-friendly but if you used the software in addition, you’d see that you will never rank for this keyword based on the statistics of who is currently ranking. You then can see some other keyword – perhaps a long-tail like “things to do in Paris with kids”.

You’ll also see how many people search that keyword each month so you know if it’s even worth bothering writing about. There’s nothing worse in blogging than when you write an awesome informative post and no one sees it.

4 Re-Design Your Blog

I had heard from other bloggers that when they did a re-design, they saw their traffic increase. This was due to people being able to click around more. Four years ago when I started my blog the style was to have all your recent posts on your homepage. Now, the normal style is different. The homepage has recent posts, popular posts, your email sign up, categories, and more. There’s a lot to scroll through and it’s organized so people reading are opening more tabs. This is going to help them find things and help you get more eyeballs on your articles.

I chose my theme Avada because I could customize it to exactly what I wanted. I got to have a countries page and a categories page with boxes that explain what type of posts you’ll read when you click through. I bought the theme, hired a designer, and hired a developer to put it all together. I did see an increase in traffic and brands have actually made it a point to tell me they chose to work with me in part because of how good the branding on my website was.

Below is my first blog theme compared to my new theme, on the right.

5 Start That Monthly Newsletter You’ve Been Putting Off

This year, I had a goal to start a monthly newsletter. I previously sent out a weekly email with my blog posts from the week, but nothing personalized. I was on Mailchimp but to upgrade to send out more emails, it was quite expensive. I changed over to Mailterlite in January and they let you import all your MailChimp subscribers. It was easy and it’s cheaper.

Now, I send out a monthly newsletter which I designed in an hour on Mailerlite as well as my weekly RSS feed. When I have special news, I can do an additional email as it’s unlimited. This is a way for you to stay more connected to the people who like your site so much they signed up for emails. You can use this to let them feel like they can get to know you more – and you can also use it for marketing, although I’m not there yet.

6 Create a Product

A year ago, I created my first e-book. It is my guide to Goa. Does it earn me a fortune? No. If I had to guess, I think it earned around $8,000 USD for the first year. It took me two months to write it and it costs money to have someone edit it, design it, and make marketing material for it. I had to redesign parts of my blog to include images for it and links to it. I have an affiliate program for other bloggers to sell it (through Gumroad).

I run sales throughout the year, I have a pop-up on my Goa posts on my blog to give people 30% off and I update it regularly to include new and changing content in Goa. You have to make a product that is FANTASTIC. It has to be something that you aren’t embarrassed to promote and shout about from the rooftops.

I am so proud of my book and know there isn’t anything else out there with this kind of insider knowledge on Goa and that is why I price my book what I do ($19). This is a case study for just one product, but imagine if you had two or three ebooks, a course, or sold a retreat? With my ebook, it is passive income that I wish I hadn’t waited four years to create.

Insiders Guide to Goa Ebook

7 Pitch: Reach Out to Brands You Already Use

I have pitching templates in my e-mail drafts: apps, fashion, booking sites, luggage, and more. Each one has an introduction about me and a closing with relevant links to similar work, a link to my media kit, and is short and sweet. When I am traveling and put on my favorite shoes and think, “wait – I wonder if this shoe company would want to work with me?”

I pull up my “shoes” draft and in between my intro and my closing (which would have links to other shoe companies and fashion companies I’ve worked with so they can see my style and similar work), I would put a paragraph about how I use their shoe when I travel. I could even link to some Instagram posts with the shoe on, showing engagement and comments from readers who say “omg I love those shoes!”.

When you get to work with companies you already know and love, it’s a win-win. Most often, it’s kind of hard to pitch the huge companies. I have written about Clinique on here 700x but they have never replied to my emails. Don’t get discouraged; they get thousands! Start small and remember that there is nothing wrong with sending a personalized, professional, well-researched pitch to a brand you love.

8 Don’t Give Up on Freelance Writing

Many bloggers start out doing cheap freelance writing for other websites because their blog isn’t making money. Instead of putting an end to the low-paying freelance jobs and focusing solely on your blog – look for freelance opportunities that pay better. Pitch to bigger websites and publications. Did you know some people pay $1/word aka $500 for a 500-word article? This article is already 1600 words. That’s not very long!

My freelance writing is something I have outside of my blog and like everyone says “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. You should try to diversify where your income is coming from (blogging, products, affiliate sales, freelance writing, products, ads, and more). It’s also good to try to stay a bit relevant in magazines and local newspaper.

9 Invest in Software and an Assistant

When you realize that you are doing so much behind the scenes that you are not getting any real writing done, then you are not keeping your readers happy. They want new content and want to feel like they are keeping up with your real-time travels.

When this happens, you should see what you can automate first. Examples of this would be buying Tailwind to automate your Pinterest, using Grammarly so you aren’t worrying about editing your blog posts without help, using Hootesuite to schedule tweets, using the scheduling tool on Facebook to schedule posts to your Facebook page.

Invest in editing tools to up your game like the paid version of Canva which allows you to import your customs fonts or buy Adobe Lightroom so you can edit your Instagram images better.

Once you automate what you can, and you still find yourself spread too thin – it’s time to get at VA (virtual assistant). You don’t have to hire someone to just “be your assistant”. First, start by hiring for specific jobs. Try multiple people. You can find them on Upwork or in Facebook groups for digital nomads. Once you find people you like working with and who do a great job, you can then start giving them more work and even monthly tasks.

10 Create Case Studies

One task I gave my VA (who knows my site well and knows who I’ve worked with) was to make case studies for me. Now, when a brand reached out to me to work with them, I can share my media kit (with my demographics and other information about my blog), my rates, and a case study specific to their type of company to show them the kind of results I get.

A case study will help a brand see that you can give them ROI (something that is hard to show with blogging), show them the type of work you do, the comments and likes you get, and how much work you put into the campaigns you run. They will only help you make sales!

So, that’s it for this post on how to make your travel blog better and take it to the next level. Pin it for later!

make your travel blog better

2018-05-09T18:51:07+00:00

About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing to live on the beaches of Goa, India almost four years ago where she is now a travel writer. Her website gives advice on the 35+ countries she's been to but has become the go-to site for India travel, focusing on offbeat places & “glamorous travel”. Hippie in Heels has been featured in ELLE magazine, Tripadvisor, and Thomas Cook. Her blog is one of the top 50 travel blogs in the world based on traffic. She also enjoys writing for BravoTV.

19 Comments

  1. Anna May 7, 2018 at 7:38 pm - Reply

    I’ve been blogging for a couple of months now and this is one of the most helpful articles I’ve read so far. Thank you for laying it all out in such a simple and comprehensive way!

    • Rachel Jones May 9, 2018 at 11:11 am - Reply

      Thank you Anna! I try to be totally open about how to earn money and set up a blog as a business. You can always email me if you have any questions, too :)

      • Anna May 10, 2018 at 8:34 pm - Reply

        That is so refreshing, and thank you I will :)

  2. Nanaco | Nano Yoga May 8, 2018 at 4:30 am - Reply

    Really great post! So simple too. I find some many Blog related posts, a little confusing (because it is of course). Thank you for writing this!

  3. Nadya May 9, 2018 at 4:35 pm - Reply

    Wow! I think my head just exploded :) So many things to think about. Thank you for putting it in layman’s terms! I actually understood most of what you said, and the rest is groundwork for when I get there! Thank you!

    • Rachel Jones May 9, 2018 at 7:05 pm - Reply

      Hi Nadya, I’m so glad this article helped you! You can always let me know if you need any clarifications later on as you start trying out some new things!

  4. Sangeeta May 10, 2018 at 2:39 pm - Reply

    I am just starting off with my travel blog and these are very useful tips for me.

  5. Hicinko May 11, 2018 at 6:40 pm - Reply

    It was quite an insightful blog post. Thank you for sharing such an amazing work.

  6. monalisa borkakoty! May 11, 2018 at 10:54 pm - Reply

    You are my favourite. I live in Goa too and write too but I guess the knowledge is limited. This piece gives me so much hope and now I know how to at least start.
    I would love to assist you somewhere someday.

  7. Tiffany @ LavenderVines May 12, 2018 at 4:53 am - Reply

    Rachel thank you so much for all of this information! Your blog is one of my favorites and you do a FANTASTIC job!! Love all the info!!

  8. This is SO helpful Rachel, thank you!!!

  9. Blake Weaver May 15, 2018 at 8:51 pm - Reply

    great article. I’m definitely signing up for keysearch with your referral code. Do you also recommend paying for the premium version of Yoast so you can use more than 1 keyword / page? Also, what plugin are you using for comments? Not a fan of the default one.

    • Rachel Jones May 16, 2018 at 11:59 am - Reply

      I do not use the paid version of Yoast as with secondary and more keywords they just need to be used once, not “stuffed”. I just add them in naturally. For comments, I am pretty sure it’s through my jetpack – i use replyme which is when I reply to a comment, my reply is emailed to the commenter.

  10. Bangali Backpackers May 18, 2018 at 5:12 am - Reply

    Thanks for these great tips, Rachel. We are newbies in the travel blogging world and your blogging tips have been so helpful in the past.

  11. Wanderlust by Jona May 18, 2018 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for this post! So many good tips that I’ll totally consider following!

  12. Rebecca May 18, 2018 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    SUCH a helpful post! There are so many things here that I’ve had on my list forever and this is just the push I need to get moving on them! Do you have any tips on how do you find your freelance opportunities?

  13. Mihaela May 22, 2018 at 3:53 am - Reply

    Love your direct clean writing, will definitely be reading through the blog in detail while deciding how to focus my interests in one of my own :)

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