April 8, 2017

Travel blogging: don't ever ignore support activities

This is 2nd post in the series on travel blogging. You can visit the 1st one here: basics for new travel bloggers

Well, professional travel blogging requires time, energy, some investment, passion. You also need to identify your weak areas and take outside help or learn the tricks of the trade yourself. You need proper gear. Well, you have taken care of all that. You have an appealing blog, which is updated regularly with good content. What next?

Blogging alone does not make full-time profession, so don't ignore supplementary activities


As for other types of blogging, blogging alone is often not enough when you take up travel blogging as your full-time profession. 
 
The core blogging (writing blog posts and maintaining the blog) alone is like planting a single tree in the barren land. For creating a living forest, you need a variety of small and big plants which support each other, even the tallest tree. In the same way, a number of related works have to be undertaken to support the blog and in turn be supported by it. 

We have already made a list of such works for you in the accompanying infographic. What you need to do is to copy them down and examine each one carefully. Then choose the best ones, not more than 4-5.


Travel blogging income streams

Let's make it slightly easy for you to take the decision about which ones to choose.
 
SPONSORED TRIPS: In the initial days of travel blogging, many travel bloggers look for sponsored trips from tour and travel firms. 

When you are not well known, you have to introduce yourself to them. Such trips help you to meet similarly placed bloggers, learn what all to ask and get, and how to write according to a given time-frame. But once you have one or two such trips, you;ll need to assess whether continuing such trips would help you in the long run. Most established bloggers find sponsored trips not worth, because you work according to others' schedule and end up wasting time. 

When your blog is well-established, you might get sponsored trip offers that might pay you handsomely. 

SPONSORED POSTS: When you approach travel and tour firms (that would include hotels, sellers of travel kits; and big brands as well as small local ones), they may want you to write about them on your blog. As a budding blogger, writing posts about individual products and services looks tempting especially when the firm pays you well, but you must be very careful. Any indiscretion might mar your reputation and hurt you in the long run.

Do not jump at the offer even if it comes on your approaching them; say, you'd like to see the product first. Look deep at the product; research on the web; ask local people if it is a local business; ask them to show it to you. Accept the offer only when you are satisfied that the product is worth writing good about.

Tell the firm beforehand that you'd carry a disclaimer in the blog that it is a sponsored post. Don't ignore this aspect. You lose credibility (and not many things are worse than that) when readers find that you are not honest about your dealings.

REVIEWS: Many travel blogs make good money out of reviews only. But for that, you must establish yourself as a genuine, trust-worthy reviewer. 

On a Twitter chat in which we recently participated, a number of travel bloggers shared that they were earning good money from reviewing small hotels and guest houses in tourist locations. But it might not be true for all locations.

When people plan a travel and look for places or deals, they'd Google it rather than looking for blogs. On Google, what they see first are ads and websites of big tourism/ travel firms. You as a small review-blogger cannot compete with them, but if you build reputation as a reliable blogger, whosover comes to your blog by chance or through your promotion will become your loyal visitor. That is one more reason that you choose a narrow niche (=area of activity) and be expert on it. Respond quickly when someone seeks further advice in blog comments. 

ARTICLES IN OTHER PLACES: You can think of writing for travel or family magazines, online mags, newspaper supplements and in-house mags of airlines and hotels. Write only for reputed publications even if they don't pay you well. Post these on your blog for gaining reputation fast. Give a link to your blog in your byline of the article, to the extent the publication agrees to it. If you succeed in this area, you can have a section on the blog on 'My articles in the press'.

Some reputed publications also accept photo-features on remote but fascinating places. Make a list of such publications and target them. Don't be disheartened if initially their response is not good.

Avoid guest blogging unless it is on highly reputed sites (or sometimes on your friends' sites). If you have time for article writing beyond your own blog, you can ask reputed blogs and websites if they would accept your guest post. Approach them with an outline of your proposed article and why it would interest their visitors.

Avoid writing for article submission sites.

You can accept freelance writing and ghost writing (=writing for someone who will claim the article as his own) assignments if you get good compensation. You do not get a long-term gain out of such writing.

ADVERTISEMENTS ON THE BLOG: This is one of the first things that comes to a blogger's mind but new bloggers must not rush to add advts on the blog. 

Advertisements should not be too many. They should not irritate the visitor. They should not be sub-standard in message and looks. 

As is obvious, visitors will click on an ad only when they find it giving the information or tip they were looking for. So, the ads must be relevant. The ad will be relevant if it is related to the topic of discussion (e.g. ads of flight/ hotel booking companies on a travel blog) or if it is related to the search behavior of the viewer (e.g. if a person had been searching for toys, Google will likely serve him ads relating to toys irrespective of whether he's reading a blog on horticulture or dance or tourism).

If you are a new blogger, you can start with CPC ads - these are the ads that, when clicked by visitors, get the blogger a few cents in commission. Google AdSense is the daddy of this ad format. (You can visit this post on AdSense if you are not exposed to it.)

Another such format, used mostly when businesses want to create a buzz about their brand or product, and not necessarily want them to immediately buy the product, is CPM ads. The advertiser pays you by the traffic your blog gets. PropellerAds is one popular site paying by CPM (Cost Per Mille = cost per thousand impressions).

Affiliate ads are a more paying variety of ads. It suits travel blogs quite well, but the visitor must buy using the ad on your blog. You get a commission when someone clicks on the ad and then makes a purchase, otherwise you get nothing. Commission Junction (CJ) and Amazon run two of the biggest affiliation schemes.

Direct advertisements are the best paying ads. You approach a firm to pay you for displaying its ad and negotiate the best possible rate. But you would be able to get such ads only when you have established yourself as a popular blogger.


SELLING YOUR OWN PRODUCTS: Most big brands use blogs to support their main business. They use it as one another means of engagement and for giving updates on their activities, product launches and so on. On the other hand, many people who started as bloggers have turned into businessmen/ women by first proving their worth and then branching out to business.

Your business need not be selling tour packages or hotel rooms. Bloggers seldom do that. There are many other options for travel bloggers: selling photos, being on the roll of travel agencies for advisory or creative works, running a travel advisory service, serving as local tourist guide for foreigners, etc.

You could write a travel book or open an advisory  service - these do not involve the hassle that goes with selling of merchandise. You can use the blog to promote these. There are myriad freelancing jobs that you might get when you are an established blogger, and you also get offers for lectures, seminars, workshops etc.

We'd discuss more on travel blogging in another post in which we'd also bring you first-hand experiences of established bloggers.

If you find the advice worth sharing with others, pl. share it: 

Disclaimer: We don't have commercial relationship with firms mentioned here, except for AdSense.

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