How much and why Invest in your Travel Blog
Odds are that if you started a travel blog it means something to you. It can be a business, it can be a hobby, it can be a resume or it can be a a complex expression of who you are. At least that’s what it is for me. And as with any passions we have, they will only be worthwhile and meaningful if we invest in them.
And investment does not only refer to money but also time. The key is managing to balance the two. You can obviously not invest any money in your blog, but that will come at a cost. As there are so many dimensions to a blog nowadays, that go past the sole action of writing good content, not investing any money is simply impossible.
The amount of time you would have to spend perfecting all other dimensions apart from writing would take up all of your time and most definitely affect your main passion: writing. Many bloggers nowadays struggle with writing quality because they spend so much time in other areas of their blogs, such as design, SEO and marketing. And this only happens because they don’t invest in their blog.
So, below I will explain how much and why Invest in your Travel Blog:
Table of Contents
Web Hosting and Domains
Why invest in web hosting
Web hosting services are services that host your website. It’s basically just like paying rent for a space on the wide web where your site can reside. There are services that provide ‘free’ web hosting but trust me, nothing is free, no matter how much they try to convince you.
For example you can sign up with a website service that offers “free hosting” but you’ll be limited to using their subdomain ( e.g www.yourname.webservicename.com) , they will display ads on your site and you will not be able to monetise your website. You will also have limited storing capacity so if your website grows you will be forced to upgrade. So taking all these into consideration, the web-hosting service they offer is not really free. You just don’t pay money, but you do pay in other ways.
How much should you pay?
If you are a complete beginner and have no intention of learning about basic coding or website design, the best option for you is an all inclusive service. This offers hosting/domains/free support and you can start for as low as 8$/month and upgrade depending on your needs. My top recommendations (based on user-friendliness and ease of design/customisation, not price) are:
1. Wix.com (11$/month – 130$ a year)
2. WordPress.com (8$/month – 70$/year – you can go a bit lower but that
excludes premium themes you’d have to pay for otherwise)
3. Weebly.com (8$/month)
If you are just starting and you know a little bit about coding and design, and are interested in learning more as you go along, (just like myself atm) I would advise a middle way – that is also the cheapest way. The reason it is cheaper is because you do not choose an all inclusive service, but rather combine a few services. A great option I’ve been using is Bluehost, that you can get as low as 3.50 per month. (when you sign up for a 36 months period) Overall it amounts to 150 dollars upfront for 3 years. This also includes a free domain for one year (and then $12/year) so it’s a great deal. Bluehost comes with WordPress.org, a free website builder that WordPress.com uses so it’s guaranteed to save you lots of money.
If you are an advanced user (that gets or knows will get over 100k visitors a month) then it’s worth choosing a more advances service and here you could go with WP Engine. (30$/month) On WP engine you can also use the WordPress.org free website builder.
Why should I invest in domains?
Domains are basically your address on the web. If you want to build a credible brand, or appear more professional, then it is 100% recommendable to buy a custom domain. Plus what sounds better? alex.com or alex.home.blog ? Once you already build you brand, it might be worth investing in more domains – for example to also get .org , .me or other extensions so that you decrease the risk of competition. You might have different language versions for your website so then you’ll also want a .fr (if in french) for example.
How much should I pay for a domain?
If you go for an all inclusive service or a host provider they will be included for free as part of the package for the first year or more. (depending on the package you choose) Otherwise there are plenty of services that sell domains, such as Bluehost, Godaddy, Google domains and can go as low as 10$-15$/year. Still, my recommendation is going for the Bluehost package since that includes a free 1 year domain and 12$/months afterwards.
Themes, Plugins and Design for your Travel Blog
Why invest in a theme?
A theme is basically the layout of your website. If you cannot code or you do not have the time to code, then it is highly recommendable to invest into a worthy theme. There are plenty of free themes but the problem with them is that they are either badly coded (and your website can get errors as a result) or very limiting. (you can only add minor changes to the format and you are limited to only certain fonts, colours, etc) That is why investing in a theme is worthwhile: not only will you get a beautifully designed website layout but you will also have a lot of freedom to customise it to your liking.
How much should you pay for a theme?
Themes range between $10 – $300 depending on the range of tools they offer. I consider anything above $100 quite useless since there is only so much freedom a theme can offer. After buying a theme you can further customise it using plugins.
I would recommend spending between $50 – $70 on a theme from either Envato Market or Elegant Themes. They are clean coded, updated regularly and you get lifetime support on any basic troubleshooting. I currently use the Indie Journey theme that I bought from Envato for $50 and never had any problems with it. You can also opt in to subscribe to any of these services and have unlimited access to a variety of themes, but that is only worthwhile if you are an advanced user, and run multiple sites.
Also be on the lookout for giveaways as sometimes these premium themes have great deals on. For example Elegant Theme are giving away a Free iMac so make sure to enter their giveaway, all you have to do is subscribe to their newsletter. You can enter the giveaway here.
Why invest in plugins?
Plugins are powerful tools for your website that offer you the freedom to add new elements or feature without the need of coding. Most of the plugins available are free, with an option of getting the premium version. I would definitely recommend buying premium versions of the plugins if you find the free versions useful, as they will give you so much more freedom and you will also get advanced support. Moreover, you will be also supporting the developer of such plugins, which will in turn be able to produce and optimise more tools.
What are some recommended plugins to use?
The only answer to that question resides within you. Since there are so many plugins out there, it’s difficult to say what would fit you best without a good understanding of your needs. However, I can recommend 2 plugins that I paid for that I find indispensable for my website.
Smart Slider 3 is, as the title implies a plugin that helps you create responsive and beautifully designed slides. And that is not to say that slides only mean picture slides. Slides can mean anything, from photo galleries to entire landing pages. For example, my landing page is one big slide! And it looks amazing! You can have a look at the pages I’m using the Smart Slider and you will understand how powerful this is.
I would definitely recommend buying this as it will make your life so much easier! And at only $35, it is a small price to pay for a lifetime ultra powerful tool.
Interactive maps is an amazing tool that allows you to showcase the countries you’ve travelled to and also map your related content to them. Below you can see an example on how I’ve used it to map my travel. This integrated perfectly with Smart Slider 3, as you can see on my homepage. At only $22 I consider this a must have for your travel blog.
Design and Media
Why invest in design and media?
If you are not a graphic designer and if you want a professional-looking banner or logo you will most definitely need to invest in design. A logo and a banner will help you build your image and will partly define how your readers will remember your blog. Remember the saying that goes : “A picture is worth 1000 words”? The same reason goes for investing in professional media (stock photos or videos) as well. In order for your posts to be captivating, good imagery is needed, and if you do not have amazing photography skills, then it is most recommended that you invest.
How much should you invest in design and media?
The answer to this question really depends on your time and willing to learn design and photography. If you don’t have the time or inclination to learn how to design yourself (using help) or choose photographs then you can pay for an all inclusive service that can go anywhere between $200 – $600. This would include a logo and banner, additional website design as well as a social media pack. Keep in mind that while this is the most expensive option, this would virtually require 0 effort on your behalf as someone else will be designing for you.
The service I would recommend in this case is 99 Designs. 99 Designs is a professional design company that can tailor prices to fit your needs. Below you can see a snip of their packages and you can click here to have a look at their website and other offers.
Alternatively you can also hire someone on Fiverr for potentially cheaper options but quality is a bit harder to monitor on there as the reviews are not always trustworthy.
If you want to choose a middle way, the way I’ve chosen, the best option in that case would be using a royalty free image provider. This way not only do you get to save money but you also learn how to design and personalise logos or banners that you can use for various purposes. What I did initially was buy a few logos and then modified them exactly how I wanted them in Inkscape, a free and easy to use design tool. And when it came to photos or videos from my post I bought them from a royalty free image provider.
The best quality and most affordable option for me was Shutterstock, which I would highly recommend. Shutterstock can provide you with both vectors (for logos or banners) and images/videos (for posts) so it’s a great deal you get. You can either go for a monthly subscription or a package option (which can include both vectors and images). The annual subscription includes a number of free monthly downloads an also includes a free powerful Editor that allows you to easily modify and customise the vectors or images you get. So, overall it’s a fantastic deal and way cheaper than other products like Adobe.
In case you don’t want to pay for an annual subscription (which I would highly recommend to consider though) you can go for a one off pre-paid package that allows you complete freedom within one year to download the images in the package you pay for. However, this option is a bit pricier, as you can see in the below snip.
Furthermore, another amazing feature that Shutterstock offers is that if you get good enough with your editing skills, you can actually sell the vectors your modify (or pictures you take) on the Shutterstock contributor page, essentially getting your money back. Visit the Shutterstock official page here for more information.
SEO – Search Engine Optimisation and Domain Authority
Why Invest in SEO and DA?
SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is something everybody is talking about today. Because without it your website will not grow. As the title implies, if you don’t have a good SEO strategy, search engines will not find your content when displaying search results. So for example, if you don’t have a good SEO for your blog, people will not find you when searching for content on Google or Bing. In order to have a good SEO you must write every post with a keyword in mind and ‘instruct’ search engines on how to find your content. There are many services that can assist you with your SEO strategy so it is very important to consider investing in this, as this will be the only way you’ll be able to substantially grow your audience.
Domain Authority is a measurement of your website’s quality that takes into account a variety of factors such as quality of content, traffic, popularity, etc. It is basically a score your website receives by Search Engines. There are several ways of increasing your Domain Authority through writing content, and obtaining links to your website. On the other hand, if your website looks spammy or contains dodgy ads, it will be penalised and your Domain Authority score will decrease.
How much should you invest in SEO and DA?
Again, this highly depends on your needs. There are several tools and services you can use from as little as $2 to $100 a month.
For starters, I would recommend installing the free Yoast SEO plugin. This automatically analyses your content, keyword, and posts’ meta-descriptions, giving you advice and suggestions in real-time. If you find the free version useful, then the premium version which has extra add ons comes at around $80 only. (one time payment) A more advanced paid service is the Semper SEO tools that will cost you around $57 yearly.
Secondly, I would recommend using the free service SEO Review Tools. This is a great SEO tool that measures the quality of your website, including DA, the quality of your content, keywords etc. It even has an idea content generator alongside 30 other tools. Once you play around and try out the free tools you will get a better understanding of what your SEO strategy you might like to choose and invest in. And afterwards you can look for a paid service to help you achieve it.
Fiverr is a great and cheap place to start. I would recommend that once you get some basic knowledge of how SEO works, to get on Fiverr and order a few gigs and then test out their efficiency on your website. I would not recommend spending more than $15-$25 on a gig.
Once you do this, you are ready for the next step, that is the big investment. Once you have a complete knowledge of what your website needs in terms of SEO then you can look for a professional SEO company to help you develop. That would cost anywhere between $300 to $3000, based on your needs so be prepared!
Targeted Ads Campaigns
Why invest in Ads Campaigns
Traditional marketing methods such as posters, leaflets, newspaper and radio ads are becoming less and less relevant in nowadays’ era of technology. Hence-wise, the most effective advertising strategy for your blog would be targeted ads campaigns.
Targeted Ads Campaigns can be done by multiple means but I would recommend them done either via Google Ads (you pay Google anytime someone clicks on the Ad of your blog they have set up for you) or Facebook Ads .(you pay Facebook anytime a user hovers over or clicks on your promoted link on both Facebook and Instagram) Google and Facebook basically dominate the internet in terms of audience so they are definitely your best best when using Ads Campaigns.
How much should you invest in Ads Campaigns?
I would recommend starting with either Google or Facebook Ads and invest initially $10 to $20 and then analyse the results. You can repeat the exercise every 3 months or so and then you can compare trends, the audiences you use and the end results. This way you will invest minimally and you will also learn more advertising and about your audience.
Alternatively, if you don’t have the time to invest in learning, you can hire someone on Fiverr to do this for your. There are plenty of marketers on there that can help you out for around $50-$100 but I would recommend that when you first choose someone to start with the lowest price and most basic campaign they offer. And then if you like their work, hire them for more complex/more expensive campaigns. This way you can guarantee your own satisfaction and return on your investment. You can look for target ads marketers by following this link to Fiverr.
Travel Blogging Courses
Investing in education is always beneficial in everything you do. So you should consider courses when it comes to your travel blog as well. An all inclusive Travel Blogging course really worth investing in is Nomadic Matt’s Superstar Blogging Course. Nomadic Matt is one of the most successful travel bloggers in the world so his course is definitely worth investing in, as it contains all the information you need to successfully run your blog. The Travel Blogging course only costs $99 and you will have access to it permanently. He also has other courses that are worth considering, if you can invest a bit more than the above-mentioned $99 one. You can read more about the courses he offers here.
Alternatively, if you are looking for more specific courses around WordPress then I would highly recommend WP101. WP101 specialises in tutorials, courses and guides to turn you into a WordPress expert. This is definitely highly recommendable if you are a WordPress user with limited coding ability. You can check the range of courses WP101 offers here.
There are also a range of travel blogging and SEO courses on Udemy, one of the best learning platforms out there. A lot of them are quite cheap but you should keep in mind that the price most often reflects the service you will receive so make sure you read the reviews of the courses and only go for the high-rated ones. You can view a list of Udemy‘s courses by clicking on this link.
Bottom Line and Advice
The moral of this article is that if you want a successful travel blog you will need to invest in it. Whether it’s your time or money is your choice.
If you can afford to dedicate 100% of your time to travel blogging, then by all means I would suggest that you invest as much as possible in learning how to do things yourself: writing, coding, advertising, SEO etc. If you are able to do that, that means you are in the top 1% of the people of the world and should consider yourself lucky to have the freedom to do what you are really passionate about without any other responsibility.
However, if you are part of the rest of the 99% (like I am) you will need to invest at least a tiny bit in travel blogging. And below I will present 2 scenarios: the minimal invester (like myself) and the serious investor:
You have a decent amount of time to invest in your travel blog and are prepared to develop your skills, as you go, with minimal investment. (like I did over the course of 10 years) Bear in mind that my learning process was not a continuous one, and sometimes took long breaks before learning additional steps.
Total one off:
Total Time :
5 years +
150 hours +
100 hours +
So, as you can see the less money I invested in one aspect, the more time I had to invest to in it. And that is because I could not afford more than invested. If I had, however, the table would be slightly different:
$200 – $500
Total one off:
In this more serious investor case you must understand that the return on your travel blog will be at least $5000 a month so the costs will be justified. Plus you have to also think about the fact that you will have so much more time to focus on quality content instead of other secondary aspects. Some of the most successful travel bloggers (NomadicMatt, ExpertVagabond, PoorTraveller etc) out there boast of cashing in over $10000 per month from their travel blogs but their annual investment in their blogs is also considerably high.
So perhaps a middle way between the two would be an ideal approach to investing in your blog. But, as I’ve mentioned it initially, it really depends on what your ambitions are. Hopefully, this article has provided you with an insight on how much and why Invest in your Travel Blog . If you have any comments or suggestions please feel free to comment below. Would love to hear your thoughts on this!
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