May 27, 2017

Lifestyle blogs are a highly professional lot, not personal blogs with a dose of fashion

'Lifestyle blogging' defined

Simply said, 'lifestyle' is how people live. Since living has individual, family and social dimensions, lifestyle naturally talks about these. 

Till a few years back, a blog had a definite niche or a mix of related niches, or it was a personal blog in which one could write whatever one wished. People with different interests had different blogs and those not sure of their focus mostly had a mumble jumble type of blog. 


Then emerged lifestyle blogging, and like all new things, this turned into a fad. You open a beauty blog or a food blog with a few fashion tips or a purely personal blog with a few product reviews and call it lifestyle blog. Lifestyle blog can have these elements but just having them does not make a blog a lifestyle blog.

So what really is a lifestyle blog?

A lifestyle blog is one that deals with a combination of the following subjects, with prominence of 'style', i.e. fashion, personality and urbane matters.
  • Beauty and fashion
  • Self improvement, personality development
  • Urban culture, socializing
  • Relationships
  • Home decor
  • DIY, life hacks, crafts
  • Health, food and nutrition
  • Parenting
  • Personal finance

Why is a personal blog with fashion and wellness not a lifestyle blog?

Personal blog is like a diary. You post your experiences, sundry ideas, events and achievements, an occasional poem, a piece of nostalgia and so on. 

Personal blog is often not 'focused'. It is like a river in the wild, which flows at its own pace and rhythm. Even if you write about the above-mentioned topics, you would be choosing them randomly - writing today on fashion, next week on food, a week later on how your yoga classes are going on... 

On the other hand, the lifestyle blog is highly focused on its goal as well as content. It is made with earning in mind; it is like a business. Its content is meant to give the reader information and advice based on one's analysis, experiences and expertise. In the river analogy, the lifestyle blog is like an irrigation canal - with regulated path and amount of water, and with the clear goal to irrigate fields.

In layout and design too, the lifestyle blog is expected to look more professional and organized. All its sections have to be distinct and updated regularly. 

ITB will, after release of the Directory of Best Indian Blogs on 1st June, come out with a detailed post on how to create and maintain a lifestyle blog. Research and consultations with successful bloggers are on.

May 24, 2017

Param and Shika share success mantras of travel blogging

Param and Shikha maintain a beautiful travel blog with an unseemly name, The Untourists. I asked them some straight questions about their blogging experience and advice to other bloggers. The answers that come from Paramvir are straight, intimate and useful. 

the Untourist travel blog
Read on, what the untouristy couple, always looking for that unknown untouristy place or look for untouristy things to do in a popular place, have to say on their blogging journey:

1. How did you start the blog? What prompted you do so? What was the inspiration?

We are both film makers and photographers, and love traveling. Over a period of time we had many stories to tell and photos to share. I have never been a fan of giving out your work for free. So we decided to share our stories and pictures on our own platform. Hence was born The Untourists.

2. What do you think as your biggest success in the blogging journey? Can you narrate one or two actions (or circumstances) that quickly pushed your blogging to a great height?

People writing in to seek travel advice. You feel very rewarded when you realize your stories are inspiring people and they want to re-live those journeys.

Unique content really pushes your blog's visibility. We wrote an article on Todgarh, perhaps the only article on a travel to this quaint place, and that itself has got us so much traffic and emails. Focus on creating something unique. One hears this all the time, but it's so true.

3. Any regrets about having chosen blogging?

No. Not at all. On the contrary, I find it somewhat therapeutic.

4. Any experience with travel blogging or a particular blogging platform or webhost or tourist place that you'd quickly share?

Blogging is almost a 360 degree activity. You travel, meet people, write a post, share it with the people you met, and stuff. As for us, we have also put remote and as yet un-marked places on Foursquare and Tripadvisor. That helps build long term relationships and bonds. We have people willing to open doors where it's generally not possible.

I remember once we had gone visiting a small advertising agency for some work. When they found out we blogged here, word spread in the company and soon we were surrounded by a small but passionate group wanting to hear stories and ask questions. Needless to say, it makes you feel you are doing something special.

5. How do you keep balance between travel, profession and home?

It's tough. We would like to travel more often, see more places, do more stuff. But someone needs to pay for that! We are full time film makers and that takes away a lot of time, since work is unpredictable. We are often unable to go on journeys that take time. But we keep trying and seeing if we could fit a 10 day trip here or there. As a result, we end up booking at the last moment which is generally more expensive. But on the happier side, we can avoid travel on long weekends and tourist seasons, and hence avoid the crowds.

6. What would you advise new travel bloggers?

Being a blogger means being a thought leader. You must know as much as possible about your domain. Expose yourself to what's current and happening in your field. Read as much as you can. Follow other 'thought leaders' in your domain and keep abreast of trends, changes and new conversations. The most important thing to do is discover your tone of voice. Within your own niche, what is it that differentiates you from other bloggers. It's the way you write, what you write etc. But unless you have a tone of voice, it's very difficult to stand out.

Do spend time on social media, building your audience base. I have noticed, on an average, each post on Instagram gets you at least, at the very least, one new follower. The deeper your social network roots are, the wider your reach.

And do take out time to have fun and do nothing. It's very important for the mind to be free.

7. What should travel bloggers NOT do if they want to succeed in the long run?

Do not dilute your equity. You must create a positioning statement for yourself and stay true to that. In the early stages of blogging you will get a lot of freebie offers and deals, but you must be careful about which ones you choose and how they affect your brand. 

8. Any advice on niches within travel field that you find are evergreen or highly paying or good for budding bloggers?

Param, Shikha: the Untourists
Weekend Getaways from cities are always some of the most searched in travel, but they are also a very crowded space to be in.

I guess honeymoon and romantic destinations for couples should be a popular search not very well serviced. People travel a lot to be together, but not many bloggers are covering this particular segment. Offbeat and adventure travel is glamorous, but it's not for everyone. Most people just want to go to a beautiful place to unwind!

9. Any blogging-related actions you think are worthless or a waste of time?

Perhaps adding your link to substandard directories? And content sharing. It makes your blog look silly.

10. How much importance do you give to these: quality of content, use of SEO, engagement with others, look & feel, passion for travel, or anything else?

Quality of content is the single most important thing. This is the reason people collect magazines like National Geographic. Don't you want people to bookmark your site?

I am not sure about SEO. I haven't done what is called an 'SEO exercise'. I feel modern search engines are good enough to read your blog and index it. I don't want my blog to look like it's written for search engines and not humans.

Engagement with users is important. People like friendly blogs.

Look and feel is important too. So's how well your theme is coded that it loads very quickly. Does your user interface confuse audiences? Are your readers able to search for and discover information quickly? Will your old posts be buried under archives never to be discovered again? These are areas that need to be worked on.

Passion for travel, of course, is important. Else how will you inspire your own readers?

However, one of the most important things is developing your own tone of voice. Finding your own niche. Why would someone want to read your blog? Is your writing witty, soulful, light, heavy, adventure laden, story driven etc. Find your tone of voice and stick to it. Pretty much like how large brands do it. You will find your own unique audience with it.

11. How paying is travel blogging? Anything you'd like to disclose about your blog's earnings?

We haven't made much money through the blog. Perhaps enough to buy a couple of pairs of jeans and that too through Google Ads. We have received offers for guest posts and sponsored posts but as of now we have declined because it hasn't fit into the blog's tone. 

For budding bloggers, I would advise to keep alternate sources of earnings open while you build your audiences. Spend a good deal of time on social media (Twitter, FB, Instagram, whatever you can). Numbers result into worthwhile financial results. Build audiences. See what works for you. try hashtags and images that work. Engage. Be very very visible.

Everyone has a different definition of how much money works for them. But be assured that it is only going to come when you have a large enough readership.

Start here, if you are interested in browsing our series on travel blogging.