The website you’re reading now is my travel blog, where I live out my passion for chasing waterfalls and share my lived experiences by writing about these places. As implied in the title of this post, I will show you how to make money on a travel blog in 9 steps, which was the process that I followed with the World of Waterfalls (i.e. this travel blog or website).
By the way, this website has helped to subsidize my waterfall trips around the globe. While the money I make is not quit-my-day-job income yet, it’s steadily averaging about $1000 a month while still getting more traffic the more this website grows. There’s still more untapped potential that I haven’t pursued yet, and that’s why I’m confident that I will eventually fulfill my dream of spending most of my life exclusively on pursuits that I enjoy doing.
If you’ve come across this page, I’m betting that you’re also trying to figure out how you can make money doing what you love, especially if it’s related to earning an income off your travels.
In this instance, I started the World of Waterfalls because my wife and I love visiting waterfalls, but we also love to travel around the world in search of them. So naturally, we wanted to keep doing these things without breaking the bank. After all, travel is not cheap so we had to find a way to grow or supplement our current income without losing who we are in the process.
The bottom line is that there’s nothing extraordinary about me, my luck, or my circumstances. If I can do this, I’m pretty sure you can do it, too. Heck, you might even do better than me because I’m only doing this part time (there’s only so many hours in a day)!
That said, I’ve been operating like this for at least 14 years and counting. For something to last this long, you really have to love what you do to maintain the motivation to keep going.
Over these years, I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and I’ve learned a lot as a result. So in the rest of this article, I’m sharing the 9 steps to start and maintain a travel blog that makes money so you can get yours up and running (and earning income) more efficiently than my first go at this.
There are a lot of similarities in this process to other people who have successful income-earning travel blogs. And some of them have done so well that they’re living that dream of traveling for a living. In any case, the process that I’m sharing is pretty universal, especially if you’re thinking about pursuing it. Once you become proficient and know what you’re doing, then you can tailor this process to suit your particular needs…
Step 1: Be Honest With Yourself & Answer These Questions
Before even investing time and money, you must be honest with yourself and answer these questions that I’m posing below.
How Patient & Persistent Are You? Would You Be Willing To Wait Months Or Even Years Before Starting To Earn An Appreciable Income?
For example, it took me 8 months before I got my first $100 check off this travel blog.
It took me about 2.5 years before I started to get these $100 checks consistently every month.
Whether you make money faster or slower than this depends on a lot of factors, but you’re not even in the game if you’re not willing to exercise patience and stick it out.
Do You Have A Passion Or Know Something About A Topic Or Niche That Is Not Already Saturated?
In general, travel blogging is already saturated throughout the internet, and the number of travel blogs is growing every day.
We ended up picking a topic about chasing waterfalls around the world because we saw ourselves talking about the waterfalls we would visit no matter where they were.
If our niche was world travel or even just waterfalls, it would be way too broad and way too competitive.
In fact, you could even make the argument that our blog’s niche of chasing waterfalls around the world itself might be too broad if I started blogging about it now instead of back in late 2006.
Indeed, the playing field constantly changes, and right now, if you even want to enter the travel blog space, you’ll need to find a niche or angle that has fewer competitors.
For example, you could have a travel site about…
- traveling by campervan or RV
- wheelchair-friendly places
- cool places to go camping
- places to go kayaking
- best places to see endangered wildlife
…and the list goes on.
You can even limit the scope by focusing on particular regions if you don’t mind visiting those particular parts of the world over and over again. Rick Steves is an example of this as he chose to focus exclusively on Europe, and he wound up making a career out of it.
Nevertheless, even by the time you read this, some of these suggestions might already be saturated and would require even further specialization.
That gives you an idea of how things can change as well as how competitive travel blogging can get.
How Open-Minded & Willing To Learn Are You?
Being in business for yourself means you have to either do or at least be involved in everything about that business.
It’s not just blogging.
You also have to learn how to use the software you’re blogging on, how to keep track of your expenses, how to stay out of trouble, how to hire help, etc.
You also have to keep refining your skills as well as your knowledge about your chosen niche or topic.
Even if you love the topic that you’re blogging about, do you love it so much that you’re willing to learn about the other things to allow you to run the business in the first place?
Step 2: Make The Commitment & Pick An Integrated Web Marketing Solution
If you’re new to the world of travel blogging, you likely don’t have the patience and funds to get nickel-and-dimed by paying separately for things like hosting, DNS (domain name) registration, software installation, classes, etc.
I know because I’ve actually paid for these things on my own before, and there is definitely value in going with an integrated web marketing or business solution.
The World of Waterfalls currently uses a combination of education from Wealthy Affiliate and technical web-based services that I procured on my own. However, when I started this blog, I did it through Solo Build It (SBI).
The important thing about these integrated web marketing solutions is that they provide hosting, domain name registration, software, analytics, training, and support all in one place.
Imagine how much more of a daunting task figuring all these things out would be if you’re new to travel blogging. It’s a buyer-beware world, and you need guidance and support until you gain the skills and the confidence to do more.
I know the pain of procuring all those services on my own because I did precisely that when I migrated from SBI into a WordPress platform. So picking the right web marketing solution for your particular needs does matter.
In any case, if you’re serious about getting into travel blogging, you need to get over paralysis by analysis and take the plunge at some point.
Only then can you get your hands “dirty” and learn by doing, and hopefully your web marketing solution of choice will guide you enough to steer you towards your goals instead of dead-ends.
If you’re unsure which solution to pick, I’d recommend signing up with Wealthy Affiliate because you can get started for free.
Step 3: Do Preliminary Traffic Research On Your Niche Or Topic Of Choice
Assuming you’ve gone with a web marketing solution, they should make available tools for you to do research on how much traffic and how much competition is in your niche or topic of choice.
For example, with Solo Build It, they have the Brainstorm It! tool.
With Wealthy Affiliate, they partnered with Jaaxy.
Both of these tools bring up traffic numbers (or number of times related keywords have been searched for) as seen through the major search engines like Google or Bing.
They also quantify how many websites or blogs are competing for these keywords.
This is important information that you need to know in order to determine if your topic is a viable long-term business solution or not.
Step 4: Get In The Habit Of Documenting & Organizing Your Travel Experiences
This means you’d want to take notes on a journal, take lots of pictures, or capture lots of videos about your experiences as they happen.
Memory is faulty (it tends to fade like looking through a foggy mirror over time), but documenting things in real-time helps you return to that moment that otherwise would have been lost.
Heck, it’s even useful to document the steps or standard operating procedures (SOP) from running the travel blog business so you are consistent in your approach and not losing time trying to remember what you did.
You have to get in that mindset that everything can become content, and the more potential content you have available, the easier it becomes to organize them into a good user experience on your travel blog.
Step 5: Build The Travel Blog Or Website
The training from the web marketing solution should guide you through the mechanical steps necessary to set up the blog.
This is also when you write your travel blog content posts, which should be made easier if you’ve already gotten into the habit of documenting and organizing your travel experiences with notes, journals, photos, and videos.
The more you write content and publish it, the more the search engines will ultimately index and rank your site.
You also become more skilled at writing while also figuring out how better to engage your audience and provide them with a good experience so they’ll stay on your site and even keep coming back or spread the word.
Indeed, the most important thing about your blog is to have an audience because those are the people with whom you want to build trust.
From here on out, this step of always publishing new content is ongoing and never ends for as long as you continue to maintain the blog.
And the longer you stick around, the more authoritative your site becomes.
Don’t believe me?
Would you consider the World of Waterfalls an authoritative site about waterfalls?
If so, then it took over 14 years and counting to even get to that point!
Step 6: Set Up Tracking & Learn How To Read The Stats
As your website starts to get noticed, you’ll want to track the behavior of your visitors.
There are ways to tag links or create strategically-named redirects, but the most thorough tracking is with Google Analytics.
The insight gained from this is critical to understanding what your audience is looking for in your travel blog.
That said, Google Analytics can be a bit of a rabbit hole, and it’s easy to get lost in all the statistics that’s provided.
Fortunately, I learned from one of the Premium Classes in Wealthy Affiliate about how to not only set up Google Analytics for the website, but also which data that I should focus on.
This can then be leveraged to focus your efforts on meeting your audience’s needs, which will ultimately help you on the next step…
Step 7: Start Monetizing Your Travel Blog
Once your site has started to gain momentum in getting both the search engines and a human audience to trust you, then you can consider starting to make money off your work.
There are at least three main ways that I’m aware of to do this.
Method 1: Passive Income Through Ad Networks & Banners
Typically, the easiest way to monetize is by putting in Ad networks like Google Adsense or Mediavine, which automatically serves up ads on your real estate (i.e. your website).
That said, because it’s the easiest way to monetize, it can quickly reach an earnings ceiling.
I’ve experienced this myself, and that’s why it’s important to be creative and active about finding other ways to diversify the way your blog earns income.
It’s also possible to use your blog real-estate to accept targeted ads from sponsors or businesses wishing to use that space to pitch their products or services.
Method 2: Passive Income Through Affiliate Links
The next method of monetization involves earning commissions through people who have bought a product or service after clicking through affiliate links on your blog (with tracking codes and cookies to identify you as the referrer).
This can be done through doing product roundups, product comparisons, product recommendations, and even in-depth how-to articles involving that product.
It’s analogous to how you might recommend to friends and family about taking your kids to Legoland instead of Disneyland because of time spent waiting in line as well as expenses.
Of course, none of these recommendations work if your audience doesn’t trust you.
That’s why it’s important to establish that trust by writing good content that your audience finds to be helpful.
Method 3: Selling Your Own Product / Service Or Working Directly With Partners
You can get pretty creative with other means of monetization, especially if you’re willing to provide your own products or services.
For example, you could run our own hiking tours, photography classes, classes on how to blog successfully, etc.
You could also actively reach out to partners who may wish to work with you in some special way.
Sometimes, vendors reach out to you in an attempt to develop a working relationship or partnership involving your blog (in fact, I got this email below just as I was composing this write-up).
For example, I saw this when I was learning the ropes at SBI where the daughter of the company’s founder managed to score real-estate partnerships since she was blogging about the beaches of Anguilla.
There really is no limit here other than your own imagination.
Anyways, as you can see, the earning potential can be as little or as much as you want, and it all depends on how much effort as well as creativity that you apply. Therefore, this step is never ending.
By the way, with all these methods of monetization, you’ll want to tread lightly on how much sales content you provide because if you shill too much, then that undermines the credibility and trust you’ve worked hard to establish with your audience.
The right mix of content versus sales stuff comes down to personal preference and understanding your audience.
If you want to know my personal preference, I’d like to have a content-to-sales ratio of at least 19:1 (or 95%).
Step 8: Never Stop Learning
Travel blogging (or blogging in general) is ever-evolving.
As a result, you must continue to hone your craft and never stop learning.
Failure to do so means that you’ll be unable to adapt to the changes that inevitably occur, which will leave you behind your competitors.
For example, to keep up, I’ve been reading books during my mass transit commute to my day job.
The kind of books I’ve been reading as a captive audience include learning languages, Travel Writing, WordPress, SEO, Marketing, Travel Photography, Taxes, and more.
I’ve also been reading history and science books to better understand the places I’ve been to as well as the places I’m going to.
In addition to self-reading, I’ve been consistently attending classes in Wealthy Affiliate because there’s so much to learn, and this keeps me in the loop, so to speak.
Therefore, this step also never ends.
Step 9: Don’t Give Up
I guess you can say that this isn’t really a step, but I threw this in here to remind you that working towards your life’s dreams is not easy.
After all, if it was so easy, then everyone would be doing it.
The thing is that while everyone wants to do it, not everyone has the will, the mindset, and the habits to get there.
That’s why I’ve created this article to pay it forward to those interested in taking on this pursuit of travel blogging (or blogging in general).
As a matter of fact, there will be difficult times when you may be asking yourself whether all this effort is worth it.
I’ve had those existential moments, especially when there was a period of about 4-5 years when this blog stagnated and started to slowly decline after reaching a peak of earnings and traffic.
It was especially bleak when I struggled with a major overhaul and migration of the World of Waterfalls website during that time before I finally got over this hump after 3 years of struggle.
That’s why it’s important to be part of a thriving community (which I’ve found in Wealthy Affiliate), but you also need to have enough mental fortitude to keep pushing towards your goals regardless of the setbacks you may face.
Final Thoughts / Conclusion
While I’ve highlighted the steps to create a successful travel blog (or any blog for that matter), doing these steps take time and a lot of hard work.
That said, you don’t have to go through some of the growing pains and guesswork that I’ve suffered through and shared in this post.
Indeed, with the right all-in-one affiliate marketing solution, going through these steps will be much more focused.
Had I known about working with WordPress combined with the education that I got from Solo Build It when I got started, perhaps this travel blog might be in even better shape now than it currently is.
However, hindsight is 20/20, and you could argue that without my ordeals and low points, I wouldn’t have had the perspective and wisdom to even come up with a post like this.
So given what I know now, if I had to do it all over again, then I wished to have started in WordPress, especially with a service like Wealthy Affiliate.
After all, in almost all of the steps outlined above, WA had tools and a community that would have helped me along the way.
But even as a grizzled veteran at this stage of my travel blogging career, I’ve still found things to learn, things to improve upon, and more ways to get more out of the World of Waterfalls.
That’s why I recommend Wealthy Affiliate if you’re considering getting into blogging, especially since it’s free to sign up and try them out.
And if you’d like to read more about my experiences with the web marketing solutions that I’ve used so far, I’ve written a review for Solo Build It (SBI) as well as a separate one for Wealthy Affiliate (WA).