227: 3 Travel Bloggers Share their Stories and Tips


3 Travel Bloggers Share Their Tips and Stories

Once again I’m handing the podcast over to you, our listeners, to share your stories and tips of starting and growing your blogs.

227 Three Travel Bloggers

I started this series towards the end of last year with episode 221: From 0 to 500,000 Page Views a Month – A DIY Blogger Shares Her Story

Today I’ve got three blogger stories for you. And like our ‘tech blogger’ episode 222, I’ve put together stories from three travel and tourism bloggers.

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Darren: Hi there, welcome to Episode 227 of the ProBlogger podcast. My name is Darren Rowse. I’m the founder of problogger.com – a blog, a podcast, event, job board, a series of ebooks, and a course all designed to help you to start an amazing blog, to create great content for the readers who come to it, find those readers, and to build a profit around that blog. You can learn more about ProBlogger over at problogger.com.

In today’s episode we’re continuing our series of blogger stories where I’m handing the podcast over to you, podcast listeners and blogger readers, to tell your stories and tips of starting and growing your blogs. We started this series back in episode 221. We’ve had six episodes since that time. They’ve all been from bloggers from different niches. In today’s episode, I’ve got three blogger stories for you. They’re all relatively short, one of them’s only 2 ½ minutes. Like in our tech bloggers episode last week, today’s three stories all come from bloggers from the travel or tourism space. I thought it would be nice to put them together because there are some similarities there. I know a lot of you do have the dream of becoming a travel blogger. I hope you find some ideas in today’s show.

This is all part of our series of podcast all to help you to get inspired to start a blog. If you haven’t started a blog yet, we encourage you to join our Start a Blog course, which starts from the 10th of January. You can head over to problogger.com/startablog and find out more about it. It’s completely free. There’s an opportunity there to put your email address in, and we’ll let you know when that course goes live on the 10th of January. More about that at the end of the show today. I want to hand over now to our three bloggers. I’m going to just jump in in between each of the stories just to pull out a few of the thoughts that I have about the stories, a few little tips, and a little bit of further listening for you today as well because I do mention some things that I find quite fascinating.

Let me hand over to our first blogger now who is blogging American accent but living in Turkey and blogging about Cappadocia.

Duke: Hi, my name is Duke Dillard. My blog is Captivating Cappadocia. It focuses on the amazing Cappadocia region of Turkey. The URL is www.captivatingcappadocia.com. Cappadocia is in the center of Turkey. It’s an ancient region mentioned a couple of times in the bible. We were living in Anchorage before. I just finished a master’s degree and then decided to move to Cappadocia. During my MBA, I have been researching blogging and started thinking about doing a blog for our visitors to Cappadocia. I thought it’d be a great way to meet lots of people and motivate me to get the most out of the area.

We moved here in July 2011. I started the blog in September. I’ve been reading all I could and gathering resources. I had a name, and a logo, and tagline, and I’ve written a few posts. One weekend I got away, put it all together, setting up the host, getting a theme, setting the parameters, and plugins, all the technical stuff. I’ve been anxious about it but once I got to work, the site came together nicely. I didn’t have much money so I did it all myself. In the end I was happy for the learning experience.

In doing research, I knew I couldn’t compete with the big travel sites like TripAdvisor and Booking.com. I tried to discern what advantages I would have as a resident. I also knew I wanted to spend time with other local residents and not tourists. As I thought about a niche, the idea came to me that what only I could offer would be the backstories of the Cappadocians who were serving the visitors. We write about hotels and restaurants and tourists and sites and activities, and have some list posts. But our bread and butter is telling the stories of the owners and managers and guides when you visit. How great is it to check into a small cave hotel already knowing the personal story of the owner who’s checking you in? How much easier is it to form friendships that can last a lifetime?

One of my best friends here owns a small hotel. He’s traveled to Australia, New Zealand, and America himself, and stayed with people who stayed in his hotel. That’s the kind of place Cappadocia is. Our blog helps make that happen more often. Recognizing this niche gave the blog a real focus and for that I’m grateful. It has allowed me to meet tons of people. It has opened the doors all over the region. I’m also glad I built the website myself since I love to learn and enjoy the process. Understanding how a blog works and forcing myself to learn some basic coding gave me more confidence when things went wrong. I didn’t have to call or write someone and be at their mercy.

But probably the most beneficial thing I did early on was connect with as many Turkey bloggers that I could find. There were a number of people around the country doing blogs about their regions similar to mine. I wrote to them and asked if they would go through Darren’s 31 Days to Building a Better Blog book with me. “We could do it all together,” I said. I think five agreed. We spent the next month doing the daily activities and reporting to each other about them. It built camaraderie, encouraged all of us and really helped our blogs. Building that community early on was very powerful.

But it didn’t save me from some early mistakes. Doing everything myself, man I messed up. I messed some things up sometimes. A few times I was making a change to the child theme and shut my whole site down. I made some changes, tried to open it on the browser, and got an error message. I freaked out, to say the least. Fortunately I was able to figure out what I did wrong but it was stressful for me.

The biggest mistake I made, however, was not putting my domain and hostname in auto-renew on my credit card. I thought I had but one day I went over to my site and got nothing. After running through the house, my hair was on fire, scaring my wife. After that I logged into GoDaddy and thank God that there was a grace period. Paid the bill, set up auto-renew, and then made a reminder to double check whenever my credit card expired. I still, sometimes, log in and double check that auto-renew’s on just to be safe.

Over all, the blog has been a huge boon. But it hasn’t made me financially rich but I have made a little money, made many friends, received lots of thanking emails from happy tourists, and I’ve enjoyed lots of free stuff in the region like hot air balloon rides, hotel stays, tours, meals, ATV rides, and on and on. Best thing to do in a tourist diary is to promote everyone and have no competitors. As I look back over the last six years of blogging, I’ve been blessed.

Here’s my very practical tip to those thinking of blogging. I was thinking of saying something like find your passion or do what you love or don’t do it for the money but those sounded way too cliché for me. The most helpful and practical step I took was to get a program called Mars Edit, which only works on Macs but there are equivalents for Windows. It allows me to manage my blog from my desktop, even offline. Having a way to write, publish and archive on my computer without needing to be in WordPress is quite handy. If you’re considering starting a blog, I pray it brings you as much joy as mine has.

Darren: That was Duke Dillard from captivatingcappradocia.com, beautiful part of the world. Spent some time there with Vanessa, probably 10 or so years ago now or even further back from that. I have vivid memories of our hot air ballooning experience we had there, which I’m sure Duke Dillard have written about.

I wanted to include Duke’s story today because it shows, I guess, some of the other opportunities that blogging can bring. We quite often talk about profitable blogging. Profitable blogging of course brings to mind money, which we certainly do some teaching about. But I love that this story, I guess, really illustrates the rewarding experience that it can be to have a blog that really is helping people.

I particularly love in Duke’s story the idea of storytelling being such a big part of what he does. I’ve seen this time and time again used with great effect in blogs from all kinds of niches, where people really tell the stories not only of themselves but of different people. I love that Duke’s blog really tells the story of the owners, and the guides of that particular area. I can imagine going to that particular region having read Duke’s blog. It would really bring a lot of the experience there and have a massive impact. It would be the type of blog I will want to read again and again. If you want to learn a little bit more about storytelling, we’ve got a great episode back in episode 81 where I go through 14 types of stories that you can tell on your blog. I’ll link to that in today’s show notes.

I also love the tip there from Duke of connecting with other bloggers in the niche. You could quite easily look at other Turkish travel bloggers as the competition. But Duke really has stumbled upon a very powerful thing, that is when you work and get to know other bloggers in your niche. The opportunities that come from that can be quite amazing. This is something I have experienced for myself.

When I started ProBlogger, I began to reach out to other bloggers, pretty much anyone who’s writing on a similar topic. I would reach out and get to know them. Some people you connect with naturally and some people you don’t, but the ones that you connect with and the ones that you build a relationship can quite often become your collaborators. Many of the people that I reached out to in those early days or that reached out to me, we became friends, we’ve ended up being partners in many ways. I’ve promoted their blogs and their products an affiliate. They’ve promoted mine. Whilst you could see them as competition, actually everyone grows as a result of those relationships. I love the idea there of Duke joining with those other bloggers, and particularly doing something together. Doing the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog ebook is great. We’ve actually got another course coming up after the Start a Blog course that would be great to go through as a niche. I do encourage you to reach out whether that’s doing something at ProBlogger together or whether it’s just getting to know each other is a very powerful thing.

To that tip there of checking your domain name that it’s on automatic renew, please double check that. I had exactly the same problem. My first blog I never renewed. I didn’t get it back, it’s gone now, unfortunately. Luckily it wasn’t a profit blog but I do grieve the loss of all that content. I’ll also include in the show notes today at problogger.com/podcast/227 a link to Mars Edit. It’s a tool that I love and use everyday as well.

Okay, that was Duke’s story. Next I’m going to hand over to Dianne Bortoletto from Travelletto, who’s another Aussie blogger, a different accent again today. She’s going to tell you her story too.

Dianne: Hello, my name is Dianne Bortoletto from Travelletto, travelletto.com. Travelletto.com is a blog about delicious travel adventures with a bit of an emphasis on Western Australia or in Perth where I live, Margaret River where I love, and Italy that I’m just obsessed with.

I started the blog because I was living in Rome back in 2007. Yeah, it was more than 10 years ago. Blogging was pretty new back then. Not many people had a blog. I started it, I can’t believe it, on something called Microsoft Live, which is just horrible. But it’s a platform that doesn’t exist anymore. I started because the blog was a way of sharing my stories and adventures and things that had happened to me while living in Rome, without the need of sending lengthy emails with lots of attachments with photos and whatnot. That’s why I started the blog. I got such a big surprise when other people started reading the blog, people I didn’t know. They’re reading, they’re commenting. That was pretty cool.

It was probably only about a year after Microsoft Live that I moved everything across to WordPress. That was the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m grateful for WordPress. If you’re starting out blogging, don’t even consider anything else, WordPress is the way to go. It might take a little bit of time to learn it and get things set up. You can pay someone to do that for you. It’s not that complicated, a bit of trial and error. But nothing else compares.

A mistake I would suggest bloggers avoid, all bloggers not just new bloggers, is never ever change your permalinks. I changed my permalinks by some bad advice. It wasn’t even advice, someone commented on a Facebook post that I shared on the ProBlogger Facebook page a couple of years ago. This person said, “Change your permalink. Take the date out of your permalink, Google doesn’t like it and penalizes you for it.” I was like, “Oh.” I went into the back end and changed my permalink to remove the date. It broke my blog. My traffic went from 130 visitors per day to 3. It’s taken a huge effect, a major effect to reverse that. I’ve had to pay someone to help me get things back on track and build the audience up again. It’s happening, almost there, but never change your permalinks.

The good things that have happened since I started my blog is that my blog’s been discovered. Admittedly, I’m more of a hobby blogger. I don’t put in a huge amount of time or effort into my blog. I don’t really monetize my blog. I use my blog more as a marketing tool for what I do. My day job is public relations. But the good thing that’s happened since I started the blog is that my writing has been noticed. I’ve picked up some freelance writing jobs as a result to that. Now freelance writing is a new career stem if you like. It’s something that I love to do. I’m focusing a bit more of my efforts into building that side of my career. I filed for Broad Shape, they found me via my blog. I filed for redbull.com. I’ve got a regular writing gig with a magazine in Margaret River, that’s been going for two or three years now. There have been some good things that have happened. I’ve been invited to a few events. But like I said, I’m not positioning myself as an influencer. I’m not going to great lengths to build a huge following on social media or an audience. But still, there have been some good things that have happened since I started my blog.

A tip I would give to new bloggers is to find your voice. Don’t try to be someone else. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Be you. Find that voice. Think about how you want to talk and communicate with your audience. What sort of language are you going to use? Will it be quite formal in structure? Is it going to be very chatty and informal? Find the things you’re passionate about. Write about those. Blog about those. I’m sure a million people say that passion is key. Blogging is a huge time investment, huge. It’s never a five-minute job to put a blog together. If anyone tells you otherwise, they’re lying. It takes time. It’s a commitment. Be passionate about what you’re doing. If you don’t really care about what you’re writing about, no one’s really going to care enough to write it. Find your voice, find your passion, and blog about that.

That’s all I’ve got. Thanks very much. Enjoy the blogging journey. I’m sure you’ll make friends along the way online, and then hopefully in real life. Thanks, bye.

Darren: That was Dianne from travelletto.com. I like Dianne’s story, partly because of the Aussie accent, of course love to support Aussie bloggers. But I love the idea of bringing together a blog about delicious travel adventures. I guess the first thing that stood out to me as I listened to her story is that really it’s bringing together of two other niches, we have travel bloggers and we have food bloggers. Dianne brought those together. That’s one way of making your blog stand out a little bit from all the other blogs in the niche. I’m sure there are a lot of other blogs out there that do write about Perth, where Dianne’s from, and Italy. But bringing together the food aspect of it is one way to just, I guess, add a little more flavor to what you’re doing. I’ve seen that used many times over. If you’re struggling and thinking about should I do this topic or that topic, is there a way you could bring them together in some way to make you more distinct?

Her story there about changing the permalinks on a blog, that is something you definitely want to be careful about. If you’re starting a blog, this is a really good time to make that decision about your permalinks. I, too, would encourage you to not have dates in your permalinks if you are starting a blog. Set it up that way so that you just got the keywords that you’re trying to rank for. That’s something that we can talk about in the Start a Blog course. But if you do want to make that change, it is possible to do but just don’t make the change straight away. Do the research and really what you’re wanting to do is to redirect all the old links to the new ones. If you are getting the dates out of your permalinks, that’s fine. Just research how to do 301 redirects to get from the old ones to the new ones. Double check it and get someone else involved if you’re not confident in doing that.

I also love Dianne’s story. This is something we’ve heard a number of times in this series of how blogs open up other opportunities. Whilst Dianne’s not making a lot of money as a blogger directly, she’s used her blog to open up opportunities for her other work in PR but also in writing services. This idea of using your blog to open up freelance writing opportunities is what I want to hammer home because this is a big stepping stone for many bloggers. This is probably more for those of you who already started your blog. But if you are looking for a new income stream for your blog and you’re in those early days, this is one that I see many people are using. That is almost their writing regime that then I would use to get other writing jobs and to get attention from other potential employees.

They do that freelance writing, sometimes forever. In fact I’ve met a blogger recently who’s making over $100,000 a year from freelance writing work. He’s barely blogging anymore because he’s become so well-known in his niche. But often bloggers do use this freelance writing as a stepping stone to other full-time work from their blog. They might do some freelance writing to supplement the income while they’re also building up their traffic on their blog to get it to a point where it’s able to make a full-time living. Be open to that as you go along.

Lastly, that advice from Dianne to find your voice, don’t be someone else. You’ve got to find your own, unique, distinct writing voice. That really comes through experimenting with different writing styles. But it also just comes with practice. You’ve got to be at this for a while to really feel comfortable with your voice. I really do encourage you to build up that archive of content, experiment with different styles of writing. Watch to see what connects well with your audience but also watch to see what gives you energy as a writer as well.

Our last story today is a really short one, just goes for 2 ½ minutes. I’m just going to hand over to Chris to tell his story now.

Chris: This is Chris Christensen from the Amateur Traveler Blog and podcast at amateurtraveler.com. I started the podcast in July of 2005. Within the first year of podcasting, ironically, I thought I was late getting into podcasting at the time. Then I started the blog a while later. One of the reasons I started the blog is, even today where my podcast numbers are over 100,000 downloads a month and my blog numbers are 45,000 page views a month, some people in my industry still just don’t get podcasting and blogging as easier to explain to them. I think what I hoped for was more travel. I hoped that somehow I’d be leveraged this into either more income for travel or more travel opportunities. The first is happening, although slowly in the second which is definitely happening in a big way.

I have to say I’m most grateful actually that I started the podcast because even though that’s been harder to explain, it’s an area where I have been able to stand out, part because I started so much earlier. When people go to the Amateur Traveler, we talk about a destination a week. We’ve talked about just hundreds and hundreds, almost 600 different destinations by now because we started so long ago.

The first mistake I made and the most obvious one, besides the name Amateur Traveler, was that when I started I thought I was going to be talking about my travels even though I was podcasting 48 weeks a year and traveling 4 weeks a year. That math just didn’t work. The show turned into an interview show and if it hadn’t, it would’ve stopped. One thing I would say is make sure you have content going forward. Make sure you have a plan for where you’re going to get ideas for more content because my plan just didn’t make sense.

I mentioned it’s led to some interesting opportunities. It’s led to some strange opportunities. I got invited to the Obama White House for the Travel Bloggers Summit. I was invited to be paparazzi for the Pope with an official press pass in Jordan for a day. If you want to get a job with the foreign ministry of Thailand, you’d be required to listen to two episodes of Amateur Traveler and graded on your understanding of the English in them. On top of that, lots of trip invitations like, “Would you like to come on this cruise?” Or, “Would you like to come to the Yukon and land on a glacier?” Some amazing opportunities have come from the blog and podcast.

In terms of a tip for new bloggers, I would say it’s probably as important to figure out who you are not for, who is not your audience, and just not worrying about doing content for that audience. In the travel space for instance, I just don’t talk about the fly and flop vacation, we’re talking about culturally deep kind of travel. That means we’re not the right podcast for some people, we’re not the right blog for some people, and that’s okay. Sometimes it’s as important to understand who is not your audience.

Darren: That was Chris Christensen from amateurtraveler.com. The mistake he mentioned, I think, is well worth mentioning again. Make sure you have enough content going forward. I love the fact that he pivoted really quickly there when he realized that the schedule that he’d set himself and the type of content that he wanted to create just wasn’t possible. He was able to pivot there. But this really reminds me of that exercise that was recommended in yesterday’s podcast of really brainstorming those topics that you’re going to write about before you start your blog. You want to really do that work to work out whether you are able to sustain it. Such an important tip that was given yesterday and reinforced, I guess, today. I guess the other thing I’d say about that is as you’re blogging, and as you realize that maybe what you have thought isn’t quite working, it’s okay to pivot, it’s okay to make those changes. I love that Chris was able to do that too.

That tip that he gave of working out who you’re not writing for is just as brilliant as well. This is something that a lot of bloggers do struggle with. We want to please everyone. We want a large audience. We want anyone to read our blog. But when you try to cater for everyone, you end up with very vague and diluted content. But when you work out that I’m just writing for this type of person and I’m not writing for that person, I’m not writing for the other person over there, I’m just writing for the one type of person, you’re able to really serve that one type of person so much better rather than trying to please everyone. This idea of really narrowing your focus to a certain type of content, to a certain topic can be a very powerful thing. You’ve heard this time and time again over this series, their blog is really taking off when they narrow their focus down and really just concentrate on serving a particular audience and not everyone. Such a powerful thing.

Thanks so much to Chris, Dianne, and Duke for sharing their stories today. We’ve got five more episodes coming in this series over the coming week. I do encourage you to look out for those. Also if you are thinking of starting a blog, and all these blogs started by someone who didn’t have an audience, they didn’t really know what they’re doing, and they started out many years ago now. We designed this course to really shortcut that process and help you, as a blogger, to start a blog with good foundation.

I encourage you to head over to problogger.com/startablog. Pop in your name and email address. We will reserve a spot for you in this course and let you know when it goes live on the 10th of January. Over the coming few weeks after that, we encourage you to consume the content. We’ve got seven modules there for you to work through. Once you’ve done that, we’re going to give you an opportunity to highlight your blog to our audience as well to let the world know what you started, and hopefully to help you find a few readers, and to celebrate all of the new blogs that start as a result of this. There are hundreds of people who have already signed up for that free course, problogger.com/startablog.

Thanks for listening. Chat with you tomorrow with another story from an amazing blogger.

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