I’ve been running my travel blog now for three years. Here are some of the things I’ve learned on the way.
1. Content is not king.
You often hear the phrase, “content is king”. This is simply not true. Content is not king. It is true your content can’t be bad, but simply being a great writer will not mean that anyone will discover you. There millions of people vying for attention on the internet and the odds that you will be discovered and gain popularity because of your talent is slim. If you want to get people’s attention you have to work at marketing yourself because no one is going to do it for you. In the words of Gary Vaynerchuk, “Content is king, but marketing is queen….and the queen runs the house”.
2. Your story is more important than your stories.
No one cares if you are a writer. Writers are a dime a dozen. What make YOU special? I’ve been traveling around the world for almost three years now. When I tell that to people, it is an instant conversation starter. People have tons of questions they want to ask and are curious about my life. That has nothing to do with my writing or photography. If you don’t want to be just another writer, you have to have some story that makes people want to hear what you have to say. Have an interesting personal story and if you don’t have that, go and make a good story through your adventures. The title on my business card simply says “traveler”, not writer, blogger or photographer. The reason is because it makes for a better conversation starter.
3. Blogging isn’t the same as writing
Look at any travel magazine. For a feature article, you’ll see more space on a page devoted to photography than to text. A magazine can afford to have different people to the writing and photography. You probably can’t hire a photographer. Take your own photos even if you don’t have a good camera. Your photos are far more personal and interesting than a better quality photo you grab off of Flickr. You have to do more than just write text. You have to incorporate photos, video, maybe even audio. Use whatever you can to tell your story. A page of nothing but text is like eating meal of crackers with no water; very dry.
4. Personality trumps everything
Editors and publishers care about the craft of writing. Readers…. not so much. Why do celebrity biographies sell so well? It isn’t because of their ability to write prose. Your personality is what will bring and keep readers. Feel free to be yourself, have opinions and don’t worry about a few negative comments. If you don’t get some negative comments, you aren’t doing something right. See #2.
5. Its a job even if it isn’t a job
If you want to be successful at blogging you have to spend a lot of time at it. That doesn’t just mean writing. It means networking, building links, working on the layout of your site and working on social media. Any business requires an investment and the investment you are making is one of time and effort. If you just throw a few articles up every week and hope for the best, you almost certainly will fail. This is especially difficult to do for many people because you need to put in the time before you have money coming in.
Success in blogging will not come overnight. It takes time. It takes time to build up a readership, time to get indexed and gain authority with Google, and time figure out what works best for you. The days of quickly becoming a big deal online are long gone. Blogging is now mature and it takes as much time to build a blog as it does. Add this together with #5 and you have to be prepared to spend at least a year toiling away without much money coming in. It might take less time, but you need to mentally prepared be in it for the long haul.
7. Read voraciously and experiment
I subscribe to the RSS feeds from over 150 blogs from a variety of niches, including travel. Most of the advice I read from blogging “authorities” either doesn’t apply or are just fluff pieces. Nonetheless, you should read as much as you can as you will find the occasional nugget of wisdom. You can also find good ideas from other bloggers in therms of how they market and present their content. Don’t be afraid to try new things out and to quickly abandon them if they don’t work.
8. Get to know people
I talk to many popular travel bloggers on a regular basis. We don’t talk on Twitter or Facebook, it is usually via instant messaging. Social media isn’t the end of being social. Attend conferences when you can. Arrange meet ups when you travel to a different city. Pay attention to when other bloggers are passing through your town. I tend to trust people and am more willing to do them favors after I meet them in person. Most people are the same way.