Embrace the Craft of Travel Blog Holism
I’ve spent most of my working life writing travel blogs, and my view on the process has evolved. Anyone who knows words can put them on a page, but creating engaging, meaningful, and useful travel content is another thing.
As I’ve developed the Thom Brown Travel blog, I’ve started to re-think how travel blogging works. I’ve realised that it’s more than just writing, so I’ve invented a new concept, which I call travel blog holism. Along with taking your time and being original and personal, I believe this is the key to writing amazing travel content.
Here’s my formula for putting together a travel blog post.
Think of Writing a Travel Blog as a Holistic Exercise
At my core, I’m a writer. So I’ve always thought about blog writing as merely putting words on a page. As I’ve grown in my career, however, I’ve realised that the words are just one component.
Words in a blog are like the meat in a sandwich. Perhaps the most important – and my favourite – element. But without the bread, butter, cheese, veg, and condiments, that ain’t no sandwich.
I now view writing a travel blog as a broad project. You have to take a step back, look at the post in total, and then decide how to go about putting it together. Beyond the words, here are the things to focus on:
- Images: They break up the text and help the reader visualise what is going on. As much as possible, they should have been taken specifically for the post in question. While working at Projects Abroad, I always carried a camera. Sometimes, a photo I took inspired a blog. Other times, I had the post ready and took a photo to match. And occasionally it was a happy coincidence that I had previously taken a photo which was perfect for an article.
- Video: Let’s be honest, few people want to sit and read 1000 words. We’re too busy. But a video is much more engaging. If you can make your own, great! But even just embedding a YouTube video can help your blog post stand out. That’s why I include YouTube clips of travel gear that I’m reviewing on my blog.
- Links: What is the purpose of your travel blog post? It’s probably either to inform readers or to convince them to stay on your website. If you want to inform, then link to articles that provide more information. If you want them to explore your site more, then internal links can help them to navigate to your other pages.
- SEO: The information on your blog is useless if no one can find it. Therefore, you have to write in a way that Google values. This means targeting a keyword and making sure it is used appropriately within your piece. It also means going into the back end of your website and filling in all the metadata to help your blog rank.
- User Experience: The final component of writing a travel blog relates to how pleasant a page is to use. Don’t just write an essay. Break text up with images, bullet points, and infographics. Use clear subheadings. Bold some text. Do what you gotta do to make reading your blog a high-quality experience.
You need to view all of these components as part of an overall whole, the sum of which is greater than its parts. That’s travel blogging holism. You can hire a different person to cover each part or cover them all yourself. All that matters is that every aspect is taken into account.
Give Yourself Enough Time
With all that in mind, you can’t write a decent blog post in an hour. Though a thousand words in an hour is doable, you’ll need extra time for formatting, linking, filling in metadata, selecting photos, and all the rest of it. This is why I dedicate a whole workday to a single travel blog post.
This gives me time to plan, write, edit, re-write, and optimise my post. In previous jobs I’ve worked, I’ve been expected to churn out several articles a day which resulted in, frankly, crap posts. They lacked any depth or useful information. So give yourself time to craft something that will be genuinely valuable to readers.
I write, edit, and publish two posts a week – on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I clear out my diary and use these days to create the best content I can. By writing fewer posts, but spending more time on them, I’m slowly building up a valuable travel blog that people will turn to for information on how to travel better.
Write an Original Travel Blog
There’s scarcely a blog topic that hasn’t been covered, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be original. There’s no point writing something that’s already ranking at the top of Google. For instance, the topic “how to write a travel blog” has definitely been covered.
Before writing this, though, I didn’t read any of those blogs. Though that can be a useful research method, it’s good not to consume too much competition. I write travel blogs for a living. I have done for many years. So everything I’m writing here is coming straight out of my own brain, from my own experience. That’s how I know it’s original.
For other pieces, like my article on flight shame, I was admittedly ignorant on the topic. So I read other articles about flight shame and used some of the information in my own piece. However, I made it original by adding my own opinion in the second half of the article; an opinion which I haven’t seen articulated elsewhere.
Make Your Blog Personal
To make a post truly original – and valuable – it must be unique to you as a storyteller. The author behind the words is as important as the information being shared. Your goal needs to be to escape the trap of creating yet another generic travel blog post.
To achieve this, draw on your own personal experiences. Fill your piece with anecdotes and examples that are specific to you. It makes you relatable, giving your piece credibility.
Also, use your own photos and videos where possible. For me right now, this has been a challenge. I’m still composing this blog under lockdown so I can’t exactly jump on a plane to Tallinn to take relevant photos for my article on Estonia. I’m limited to the area surrounding my house.
However, as far as possible, I’ve tried to use photos taken by me, resorting only to stock photos if I really have to and can fully justify doing so.
Writing a travel blog is a craft. It takes time, effort, and dedication. Because of this, it’s a brilliant and meaningful pursuit. Embrace travel blog holism and consider the overall project. Take your time, be original, make it personal, and have fun. Create something you’re really proud of!