I could well be a big travel blogger one day, and by big I mean fat. But I doubt I’d ever break into the ranks of the ‘elite’. It’s not as difficult as people make out. All you need is to have a lot of time, plenty of stuff to talk about, and to not spend too much time on the road.
You may be thinking ‘Jim, you write like a dyslexic 1 year old and your photos look like vomit, that’s why you’ll never be famous.’
You may also be right.
The fact is, most travel blogs are pretty much the same. There are certain rules that ‘should’ be followed in order to be ‘successful’.
For example, overly personal blogs don’t work. No one wants to read about your life, unless they’re your friends and family, supposedly. Obviously you will make reference to your life and what you did on a particular journey, and that’s encouraged to some degree so that your readers can build a level of trust with you, but articles should generally follow the format of ’5 great things to do in ……..’ or something equally exciting.
Because these titles are search engine friendly. It’s the type of thing people search for in google. And as website owners, that’s our first priority – SEO management.
Secondly, personal blogs are seen as less desirable by potential advertisers. They often want someone who is speaking from a point of expertise on a particular topic; not some fella dribbling on about God knows what, like I do on my daily journal.
The guys at travelllll.com back this up in the Open Letter to Travel Bloggers by saying:
“This is important because you need to be considered an expert in whatever topic you decide.”
I Suppose I am an expert. Few people know how to talk as much utter nonsense as me. Everything I write is true, and I guess I’m an expert at being me. I’m just not sure how many companies want to invest in the non-existent Jimmy McIntyre industry.
Another golden rule of blogging is that one must ‘get in’ with the blogging community. The main technique encouraged by the experts is to leave meaningful comments regularly on blogs in your area. This will help you get recognised and may attract a few visitors through your comments.
I’ll give you an example of this:
I wrote a guest post for a travel blogger who I actually like (one of only two). The article attracted some 40 comments. The vast majority said ‘cool photos’, and almost all of them attributed the article to the blogger and not me, even though it was clearly stated that I’d written the post. Essentially they’d clicked onto the post, scanned the images, and left a comment.
This particular blogger uses CommentLuv, which means that if you leave a comment, some of that page’s authority in google search engines will go towards your site too. This is a very common method to encourage comments. I imagine that is why every single comment was by a website owner. Not one single non-blogger commented.
I actually used to use CommentLuv, but got tired of the empty comments other bloggers would leave. What’s the point in a comment if it’s based on nothing? Essentially, more comments is ‘evidence’ to potential clients that you do indeed have a large readership, even if that isn’t the case.
I simply refuse to comment on posts that I haven’t read, and since I’d rather be travelling, taking pictures, learning languages, and interacting with my readers, there’s simply no way I can find the time to read posts I’m not interested in. I also can’t find any pleasure in it.
The last point actually leads us onto another important/entertaining point. Did you know there’s an underground travel blogging community, kind of like Fight Club? Not only have we been invited to these things, we’ve also spoken to other bloggers who actually participate.
Basically, the agreement is that all of the members will comment, retweet, and share each others facebook comments but it can’t be made public that this is happening, of course. There are also schemes that you can pay for where your article will get x amount of retweets. All of this is to give off an illusion of success.
I like that bloggers are willing to help each other, but we are competitors. This can only work to some degree, and for me, there’s no fun in it.
I know, I know, business isn’t all about fun. Sometimes you have to get your hands dirty. I just choose not to, and will continue to choose not to until I’m eaten by a shark.
I also can’t subscribe to the ‘everything-is-awesome’ rule. This is one of the biggest factors for advertisers. Why would they send you to some unknown destination if you’re going to tell the truth? The world, according to most travel blogs I’ve encountered, is amazing. Every journey is awesome.
That most certainly hasn’t been my experience and I enjoy admitting it.
The other unspoken rule of travel blogging seems to be ‘Don’t Travel’. Easily the majority of travel bloggers I know are not on the road, and a huge amount of these haven’t been travelling for a good long time. They’re either writing stories from way-back-when or reflecting quite a lot. They benefit from this because many have the free time to market their site, while those of us who are out living weird/nomadic lives simply don’t have the time for that. We suffer in terms of readership because we are travel bloggers who actually travel.
Despite never becoming a big name travel blogger, at some point, and through some unknown avenue, we actually gained a decent readership. Only the gods know why these people read my dribble. And, against all odds, Rachel and I are actually make a living on the net (not just with strange-lands.com) that supports our lifestyle.
One thing I know for sure, and that I believe has helped me in some ways, is that blogging and photography are my life. Sitting down each day to write my daily journal is my meditation time. I usually have no idea what I’m going to write about and just let if flow. Sometimes I wonder if it’s appropriate to talk about a particular subject, and as soon as I ask myself that question I know the answer is yes, because this is my project, and while all are invited, all are equally free not to participate. And I refuse to limit myself by following the rules of others.
Maybe it won’t lead Rachel and I to a wonderful life journey, but I bloody well enjoy it. And I hope someone else out there does too.