Interview with Lauren Juliff: How to Start a Travel Blog
Lauren Juliff hit the headlines when she sold everything she owned and bought a one-way ticket to travel the world. From her travel experiences, Lauren has published her own book “How Not to Travel the World”, which chronicles how she conquered debilitating anxiety through being the unluckiest traveler in the world.
Her blog is a collection of witty and often hilarious accounts of mishaps, accidents and various unfortunate travel episodes. At the same time, it’s a great source of precious travel and destination advice.
We spoke to Lauren about managing a traffic-heavy travel blog, finding your niche and just staying afloat in the super-competitive world of travel blogging.
Do you need an advanced knowledge of WordPress or any other blogging platform when you’re first starting out?
Definitely not! I had never even heard of WordPress before I started blogging, but I figured it out as I went along. It’s fairly easy to understand after a week or so of playing around.
Do you maintain your travel blog on your own? If not, when did you reach that point where you realized you needed a team to help you?
I actually manage my site on my own, which is rare for site owners with similar traffic levels to me. I prefer to be in control of everything on my travel blog. This might change in the future, but for now, I don’t feel like I need somebody else to help out.
How did you choose the perfect niche for your blog?
I actually stumbled across it quite organically. I originally started my blog with the aim of providing useful resources for anybody who was dreaming of seeing the world. It wasn’t until I actually left to travel that I realized I kind of sucked at it.
My posts about my travel disasters always seemed to resonate with my audience, so I switched to writing about how not to travel the world.
Sometimes, you won’t know what your niche is going to be until you actually start blogging and experiment with different topics.
How do you keep the balance between too much advertising and earning enough money to make your travel blog profitable?
I’m not personally a fan of excessive advertising, so I limit the ads on my site quite a lot. I am fortunate in that affiliate sales make up the majority of my income, so I don’t need to place frequent ads on my blog in order to survive.
I’d recommend speaking to your readers and finding out how they feel about various revenue streams. In my case, affiliate marketing is one of the least intrusive income-generating streams, so that’s what I’ve focused on.
As always, diversification is key. If you’re releasing products, producing merch, taking sponsored posts, placing ads, and working on affiliate marketing, you can tone down the advertising without taking a huge hit to your income.
What plugins do you recommend for travel blogs?
I really like the Interactive World Maps plugin from Code Canyon. It adds a professional touch to destination-based pages.
What are your biggest challenges in maintaining a professional travel blog?
For me, it’s time management and procrastination.
I worked hard on my travel blog for many years, and I’m now very fortunate to be in a place where 100% of my income is passive in nature. What that means is that I don’t actively need to be working in order to make money.
What that also means is that it’s extremely tough to motivate myself every day when I’m not currently seeing results from those actions. If I pull in a good income regardless of whether I sit down and write a blog post today, it’s incredibly challenging to find the discipline to do so.
It’s my main focus at the moment, as I don’t want to let my readers down by not publishing frequently. I beat myself up about it a lot.
How do you make sure you have a continuous flow of publishing even when you have limited access to the Internet while traveling?
This kind of ties in with the last question, because I don’t.
I actually don’t work on my blog when I travel. I found that trying to explore a new place while also trying to run my site made me miserable. It usually resulted in me barely seeing the country I was in while producing sub-standard content at the same time.
Now, I work during the six months of the year that I spend at home, then take six months off to explore and fully immerse myself in the destinations I visit. The blog posts I write are higher in quality, and I’m getting to delve into new countries in greater depth.
What are the top 5 habits of successful travel bloggers?
- Read a ton of books. This is going to help improve your writing style over time.
- Work downtime into your schedule. Being a workaholic is great and all, but it’s also a surefire route to a breakdown. I’m speaking from experience.
- Don’t be afraid to regularly say no to opportunities. Some things just won’t benefit your blog in the long-term, so don’t feel as though you have to say yes to everything that comes your way. I always say no to podcasts, for example, because they make me anxious and have rarely improved my website traffic.
- Nurture your friendships with others in the industry. Networking is so important and having friends will help you reach greater heights with your blog.
- Stay authentic at all times. I love to imagine I’m a reader of my blog and always ask myself how I’d feel about certain posts or opinions I hold. If you’re not authentic, your readers will usually be able to tell.
What are the most important traffic sources for travel blog beginners and later for established travel blogs?
I’m going to go with Google for both cases.
In recent years, I’ve come to the conclusion that social media just isn’t that beneficial for traffic generation. Instead, concentrate on building strong links to your blog, make sure the content you’re producing is the best on the internet, and start learning about the more technical aspects of SEO.
When was the breaking point when you realized your blog was more than just a hobby?
For me, it was when I started regularly making $1,000 a month from my blog. It may not sound like much, but at the time I was backpacking through Southeast Asia, which is an inexpensive region of the world.
My expenses were usually less than that $1,000 a month, so suddenly, I could see a future in blogging. I started to consider the possibility that I wouldn’t have to go home after all. This was around a year after I started my travel blog, and six months after I began traveling.
We hope that you found this article to be helpful. If you liked it, please feel free to check out some of these interviews as well!
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