Deciding to start a travel blog for your long-term trip is a big one. Whether you blog to keep friends and family updated, or open a site to run professionally, blogging your journey adds a new assortment of topics you must plan for in addition to your every day travels.
But before we get to that, we have to start at the beginning. To start, we have to ask one of the first questions you may find yourself facing: where are you going to blog?
Blogger for Personal Travel Blogs
There are many people out there who would say to never use Blogger for your travel blog, and if you have any dreams of being more than a personal blog for your friends and family, then I would agree with that statement. But if you have no intention of going public, and only want to blog periodically while traveling, Blogger may be a good choice for you.
We would know. For the first six years of running this blog we operated on Blogger. I started for the simplicity and lack of instructions for WordPress at the time, and stayed mostly because I was worried about the migration process breaking our site (it didn't).
Overall, Blogger is an incredibly easy service to use. Register a blog, install a theme (many free one's exist for download or you can use one of their standard formats which are not as pretty), and off you go.
The downsides to Blogger are many, yet only those who operate professionally may run into them. So let's talk about them:
- There are no plug-ins, which means customization work is manual via HTML.
- Some services are now offering plug-in like installation, but customization is still poor.
- Theme choices are mostly generic, so HTML modifications are likely if you want a custom look. Rather than using a customizable CSS box like most WordPress themes offer, you'll probably have to go straight into your site's main code which can get dangerous if you screw things up.
- If you register with a Gmail account, your blog and email are tied together. When I got locked out of my Gmail from a “suspect log-in” abroad, which was me on public wifi, our blog disappeared altogether. Seriously. It was replaced with a white screen until we got our account unlocked and it returned like nothing happened.
- Google. (Those who get it need no explanation other than that.)
Overall, Blogger is easy to use but has significant limitations in how far you can take your blog. Customization is not easy, optimization capabilities for search engines is poor (which is funny considering it is owned by Google), and the biggest selling point is that the service is really useful for those who don't care about all of that anyway and just want an easy blogging experience.
WordPress for Professional Travel Blogs
The popular choice for many professional bloggers is WordPress.org, the premium service that allows for significant customization and individuality.
We quite like WordPress because there are premium themes available that allow easy customization, many free plug-ins which help with the user experience, and numerous other services available which help increase traffic. Needless to say, WordPress has been the gold standard for many years.
Like Blogger, there are many downsides to WordPress, and those who do not have technical knowledge may be turned off at first:
- You will need to purchase server space and set up your blog yourself. This is expensive ($75/year or more) and is another layer of complexity for those who are not into the technical side of things.
- We use Bluehost for our server which has an easy WordPress install option, is a bit cheaper, but is also not the fastest out there.
- Many free themes exist, but you may want to consider buying a premium theme for better customization.
- Themes typically do not install the way their demos look and require substantial customization through CSS programming (your browser's Inspect Element feature will be quite important here).
- It is easy to break your theme if you don't know what you're doing- be it from a mistake in coding or a poor plug-in match to your theme, so you'll probably want to pay for the premium back-up services through your host (or find one that includes it in the base price). On BlueHost this was an extra upgrade at around $20/year. In most cases one click will take you to a recent back-up and fix the mistake you made.
- Finally, setting up a blog on WordPress is not that difficult if you know a bit of what you're doing, but migrating an existing blog on Blogger is painful and is best done with a developer.
- We paid around $200 for our Blogger to WordPress migration with significant work needed on our part, so avoiding this by using WordPress at the start is highly recommended.
Tasks to Do Regardless of Your Choice
If you are still deciding which service to use for your travel blog, you have many options. Blogger and WordPress are just two of dozens of blogging platforms out there, although they are the most popular.
If deciding between these two, a clear distinction is present. For those who do not care about taking their blogs public for professional growth under any circumstances, Blogger is probably for you. If you want to have more modification capabilities have your blog be seen by others, and to be able to improve your travel blog in the future, WordPress is your only option. In this case, it is worth spending a bit of extra money upfront to do it right.
Unfortunately, regardless of your choice, there are many tasks you will need to do when setting up your blog. So whether you blog personally or professionally, we highly encourage you to do the following:
- Buy Your Domain Name: I don't care if you are going to blog personally with no plans of being professional, buy your domain name. You never know what the future may bring and buying your domain name later will reset all of the critical gains your blog has made up until that point- such as visible social media shares, linking from other blogs, search engine placements, and more (unless you pay a developer to help minimize the damages). At $10/year or less for a domain name, and an easy install on all platforms, you really have no excuse.
- Open Up Social Media Profiles: Likewise, social media growth for most occurs slowly over time. If you are opening a blog a year before your trip, don't wait until you leave to open up your profiles. Open them at launch and start bringing in followers with regular updates.
- Put Out a Call for Subscribers: Whether you want to run a newsletter or have your RSS Feed sent out to users as your articles get published, put out a call for subscribers to start building your followers list. (For more newsletter tips, click the previous link.)
- Explore, Discover, Share, and Write!
Okay, my list of things you must do is pretty simple. It shouldn't be surprising that they all follow the same theme (except for #4) – you never know where you're going to end up and many keys to blogging success come from building your site and following over time.
If you told me in my first year (or three) of blogging that I was going to do it professionally and try and make a career out of it, I would have laughed at you. Seriously! I never considered it even being an option at the time and I made many mistakes. I didn't buy my domain name until my blog was about two-years old, I waited to start most social media profiles until it was convenient for me (I just opened Instagram at the start of Year 7), I never had a newsletter until my fourth year, and I just migrated to WordPress a month before publishing this post.
I don't want you to have that same problem as me. So while we do receive great traffic, have nearly 40,000 followers on social media, and a thriving community, think of how much larger we could have been if we did it right from the start.
I don't want you to make that mistake.
Looking for more information on how to promote your blog? Click the previous link to learn all of our secrets!
Grab a Domain and Start a New Blog Today
Looking to start a blog? Find a domain name and grab a server on Bluehost today!
If you are looking for tips, be sure to read our detailed guide on how to start a travel blog!
Looking to Improve Your Existing Blog?
Have an existing blog that is in need of an upgrade? Check out the following services we personally use on our sites!
- Performance Foundry - Premium hosting.
- Elegant Themes - Customized site themes.
- Tailwind - Pinterest scheduling tool.
- Mailerlite - Cost effective newsletter.
- Super Star Blogging - Travel blogging course.
- Social Warfare - Social share bar.
- Keysearch - Keyword research tool for SEO.
- Interact - Quiz software for email sign-ups.
If you are looking for tips, check out our Blog Your Trip series!