My blog is 3 months old this week (aka January 2016) – did someone say partyyyy?!? – and I’m starting to come to a point where I know which direction I want to go with it. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait to find out, because that’s not what this article is about… 🙂
If you want a hint, read this article or this one.
But first, keep on reading this one, it’s gonna be funny, I promise!
I decided to start a travel blog because I wanted to write down my stories, share my passion for travel with others and connect with like-minded people. And to make lots of money, of course!
No, seriously, I obviously wouldn’t mind making some money with my blog, but I’m not quitting my day job just yet… And mostly, I’m not willing to do NO MATTER WHAT just for money. I don’t care if you’re blogging just for fun, to try and make a bit of money to help pay your travels, or because you want to make it your job. Certainly, your approach might be different for any of these situations, but as long as you stay true to yourself and don’t become a sellout, I can respect your choice. Unfortunately, the number of bloggers that only seem to want to satisfy the masses in order to grow as fast as possible is huge…
Does this mean I’ll never try out new things just to see for myself? Of course not. As always when you start a new thing, launching a travel blog involves a learning process. It’s about testing things and finding out what works best for you and your readers, and of course it comes with changing approaches and a few ‘mistakes’. There’s so many things to learn: the technical part, the design, the writing in a language that’s only your 3rd language, the networking, the part where you try to get readers, etc… I’m the curious type who wants to know everything right away, so before even starting I spent hours checking out ‘successful’ travel blogs and articles full of ‘useful tips’ about travel blogging.
Wanna know what I found?
A helluvalotta crap!!!
“Follow these 5 easy steps and gain 10 000 readers by tomorrow morning.”
“Pay 578 USD right now to take my blogging course and you’ll be able
to quit your job by the end of the month.”
“Learn all my secrets about…” wrote the guy with 458 769 monthly readers,
which makes it hard to still call it a secret, right?!?
I mean puh-lease… Who believes those things?!?
If it were THAT easy, wouldn’t we all be putting down our asses on a tropical beach, drink Mojito’s all day, post some pictures on instagram every once in a while and never come home again? OK I must admit putting pictures on instagram actually IS hard work with all those filters you have to add – because apparently nobody wants to see a normal looking picture anymore… Plus, after a whole day of drinking Mojito’s…
Tulum, Mexico, the view from our cabaña on the beach. Believe me, I wouldn’t have come home if it were THAT simple…
Anyway, let me share the ‘best’ trends and pieces of advice I’ve came across on the internet with you and tell you why I’m not going to follow them. But first, let me start with a tip I actually AM going to follow but which still is worth mentioning. It’s like the number 1 on every list of blogging tips. Every. Single. One of them.
Ready??? Here it comes…
“Write good content about interesting things”
REALLY?!? Can’t I just sit in my couch all day and write a load of crap about it??? Damn, I’m gonna have to change my strategy…
1. Start EVERY post title with “how to” or “10 tips/reasons/ways/…”
OK the fact that you’re reading this article kinda proves (sadly) that strategy actually works… And I’m not saying you should NEVER use titles like this. I’ve done it myself a few times too, like when I wrote my 34 reasons why I travel for my 34th birthday. But what’s wrong with a bit of originality?
I could have called it “How to spend 2 days in Rhodes town” but instead I chose “Getting lost in the cobbled maze of Rhodes town“. It’s one of my most shared and most read articles since the beginning of my blog and I doubt that’s because Rhodes is the number 1 on everybody’s bucketlist…
If you can’t even come up with a decent title, how
are you going to write the rest of the article?
2. Write lists and keep it short
Of course, you have to live up to the promise of your “10 ways to…” title, which kinda asks for a list of 10 points…
“Remove the superfluous details of what really happened, 99% of them don’t interest the reader. Stick to the facts.”
No, I did not make that up…
Let’s look at an example from my “The slow boat to Cambodia – How the Mekong broke my heart” post (which by the way I should have called “10 Things the Mekong taught me” if I wanted it to be really successful).
“Slowly we glide over the Mekong river, rocked by the water for hours, getting tired but refusing to fall asleep. It’s too beautiful and too ugly at the same time to miss even a minute of it. Lush tropical vegetation in stark contrast to tiny rickety houses. A woman using her ‘toilet’ (read board with a hole in it and some panels fixed around it, not even high enough to cover up her upper body) right above the river as we pass, a man washing his cows in it a bit further down the stream.
People are working like animals on the fields, each and every one of them looking up to wave at us. They have the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen. Children dressed in rags running along the shore in an attempt to follow our boat, probably still too young to be dreaming of jumping on it and sailing with us to better places.
After 2,5 hours we arrive at a building in the middle of the river…”
Following the precious advice about ‘sticking to the facts’, this would have been something like:
“We sit in a boat for 2,5 hours. There’s children along the shore and a woman peeing in the river.”
You’re right, that’s waaaaaaaaaay more interesting…
PLEASE people, can we get a bit of emotion and a hint of passion, too?
Are we really resuming the magnificent experience that is traveling to a bunch of lists and facts? What are we, a guide book? Of course I’ll give you the practical details behind my stories, but what’s the use in giving them if I don’t make you WANT to travel, first? So pleeeeeaaase let’s not give in to this whole top 10 trend, please let’s not loose our passion!
3. Place random Google advertising on your blog in order to make money
Really, ANYTHING seems to do the trick… Not long ago, I saw one for sex toys. Sex toys!! Now I can understand one’s sexual desires don’t suddenly go away when starting to travel, but that doesn’t mean I’d go to a travel blog if I were looking for sex toys, nor would I suddenly decide to buy a few because the article I just read about ‘The 10 best spicy foods in Thailand’ made me hungry.
Maybe it would be time to redefine the words ‘travel related’.
It’s not because you cut your toe nails while you travel that all of a sudden toe nail cutting becomes travel related, is it? Well at least I hope so because if I’m gonna have to start reading articles about people cutting their toe nails, I think I’ll run away and never come back! Hmmm, runing away and never comming back… actually that doesn’t sound bad at all… Can somebody write an article about toe nail cutting please???
On top of that, you really have to be naieve to think this actually works if you don’t have 400 000 monthly readers. Nicole from The adventures of Lil Nicki wrote a post about it that’s so hilarious I actually have tears in my eyes every time I read it. It’s called “How I’ve made $0,21 as a travel blogger“. Check it out here!
4. Post loads of sexy pictures of yourself. If possible looking perfect wearing a tiny bikini.
What is this? America’s next top model?? Are we writing about travel or about how to have perfect skin, hair and measurements? Are my stories less good because I’m not a size 0? Is my advice less valuable because I’m actually wearing clothes in my pictures?
Can we please stop being fake???
Can we please show the real side of travel instead of spending 3 hours getting ready for the perfect selfie? I mean who looks like that when it’s 37°C outside with 95% of humidity?!? Who wears heels for a visit to an aercheological site? Who takes a curling iron on a trip to the Mekong?
What about emotions? Aren’t we allowed to look like we’re having fun instead of doing everything we can to look perfect for the picture? To cry when something breaks our heart? To sweat and have our hair sticking to our face when it’s hot and to look like shit after spending 15 hours on a night bus?
I’ll show you what a girl having fun in a swimsuit really looks like. There! Am I looking super skinny, perfect or even a tiny bit elegant? No I’m not! Am I having a blast? You bet I am!
Update 19th April 2016: if you want to keep on laughing, check out this recent article I wrote about all my (not so) glamourous moments on the road !
5. Be in your twenties
I guess the reason why I’m not following this one is obvious. At 34, I shouldn’t be traveling anymore, and definitely not writing about it. I should be growing up and getting a real life instead!
6. Write about yourself in the 3rd person
“Liesbeth is a part-time travel blogger from Belgium. She loves traveling, it’s her greatest passion. She wants to share it with you but she didn’t have time today to tell you herself…”
Does this need further commenting? I guess not…
7. Hire people to help you
Well I actually have to start with another tip: “Be on social media 27 hours a day”.
And once you’re finished with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Bloglovin’, StumbleUpon, Google+, YouTube and all the others, you’re not ready to go to bed yet! Of course not, you still have to write your great content!
Nobody explains where you’re supposed to find the time to actually travel anymore, so I guess that has to be secondary? Can anyone confirm? Are we supposed to look for the information for our top 10 lists on google or what?
But I don’t really want to discuss about social media presence here. Yes, blogging is a lot of work and people are not going to find out about your blog if you don’t show them the way. Everyone has to decide for themselves what they want from their blog and how much time they want to put into it. It’s a personal choice, a passion, and I’m not judging it in any way. So let’s skip that discussion.
But, if you’re still awake, you must have noticed something was wrong. That’s right: there are no days with 27 hours in them! So it’s obvious you can’t do this alone! But luckily our dear superstar travel bloggers have a solution: hire people!
You can pay them with the 21 cents you made from your advertising.
Why I’m not doing this? Because I haven’t set up Google Adsense yet, I’m still looking for the one promoting the sex toys.
8. Set up an email list to get lots of trafic
OK don’t misunderstand me: I get why you would want to have an email list. But I do need some explaining on how to get thousands of people on it BEFORE having lots of traffic… Maybe we’re just supposed to subscribe random people?? Are there lists? If anybody can enlighten me… I’ll be forever grateful!
So that’s it, you’re all set now to become the best and richest travel blogger of all times! And don’t worry, the secret’s safe, I don’t have 458 768 other readers you’ll have to share it with. Of course not, I’m refusing to follow the guidelines for getting more traffic!
Now guys, don’t get me wrong: I’m not judging anybody and I have been finding my way in the travel blogging world myself over the past couple of months. I might have done some stupid things but I know exactly where I’m going now. So if you’re looking for quick articles you could have found on google instead, fake pictures and lists without any emotions, this will probably never become your favorite travel blog.
On the other hand, if you want to hear real stories from a girl with a genuine passion for every single aspect of travel, please stick around and follow me, the adventure has only just begun.