Interview| Become a better blogger with advice from Victoria of Pommie Travels
In order to get the inside scoop on what travel blogging is like, and how you can improve your blog, Borderless Travels caught up renowned travel blogger Victoria Brewood of Pommie Travels.
So Victoria, you were recently nominated as travel blogger of the year. What makes your travel blog unique and how do you attract readers?
I felt pretty honoured to be nominated for travel blogger of the year, there are so many good blogs out there. I’m a solo female traveling the world- I know there are a few solo female travel bloggers out there so I can’t claim to be ‘unique’ on that one. But unlike many bloggers who have saved up for round-the-world trips or quit their 9-5 jobs, I have actually never really had a ‘proper’ job. I’ve been traveling and doing the blogging thing since I graduated from university in 2008. I’ve had a couple of extra jobs on the road- I worked in Bali making event videos for this famous sunset venue called Ku De Ta, and I also worked as a bartender in Portugal for 7 months- but since about the end of 2010 I have made my money purely from online income- blogging, copywriting, travel writing and helping people maintain their blogs.
I guess when I write my blog posts I try to imagine your average traveler, and what they are looking for when they come to my website. I attract readers by sharing my content as much as I can, and helping them out if they have questions. I don’t claim to be a brilliant writer, I’m just trying to give people the information that I wish someone had given me.
Most people envision travel blogging as a hobby, but you’ve turned it into a job. How do you make a living from travel blogging?
To be honest I never started travel blogging as a hobby. I set it up with the mindset that I could showcase my work and maybe get some travel writing gigs.
Firstly, I make money from advertising on Pommie Travels. I run a Bali guide which is monetized with affiliates and google ads, and my new baby is a vacation style site called Fashion’s On Vacation. I’m hoping to eventually starting an online e-boutique for travel accessories on that one.
I’ve done a fair bit of freelance copywriting work, and I write travel articles for various online travel magazines and companies. I also help people with their WordPress blogs; for example they might ask me to design a header, customize their theme, or create a newsletter campaign.
Social media seems play a big part in travel blogging. What social media do you use and how do you use it?
I use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube, Google + and Instagram. There are always new social networks popping up, but you can’t manage them all, so I’m sticking to those for now. I would rather focus on a couple of social media networks and become a useful authority, than spread myself too thinly. I tried to get into Stumble Upon for ages because I heard that it generated high volumes of traffic, but my heart wasn’t in it and I wasn’t using it regularly enough. There’s a new app called Vine, which is like Instagram for video, but I haven’t really go into that one yet.
How do I use it? I use Twitter primarily like a text messaging service to communicate with other people in the industry. It’s always useful at conferences when we need to arrange to meet up! I find that my ‘normal’ friends aren’t really on Twitter.
I use Instagram for making photos look pretty and it’s the first social network I update when I’m doing something. I use Facebook to share pictures, ask my readers questions, and follow other blogs on the news feed. I feel like Facebook is quite image-based. I still can’t get into Pinterest and Google + that much, but it’s important to have your Google + account connected to your blog so you get that nice author image in the search engines. I’m trying to shoot more videos for Youtube as it’s the second biggest search engine after Google.
Many travel bloggers struggle to grow their readership. What are some strategies to increasing blog traffic and getting people interested in your site?
The million dollar question!
I have come to the conclusion that guest posting on all sorts of different websites is the best way to get people interested. It takes time and it’s not paid, but it gives you great exposure. Don’t just guest post on travel blogs, guest post on anything related to your area of expertise- perhaps finance, fashion, blogging or business. If you can get published on sites like Huffington Post or National Geographic, that will give you a huge boost!
Post regularly and optimise your posts for SEO using the Yoast plugin, as this will increase the number of people finding you through search engines. The more posts you write, the more your traffic should go up. Think about what people might search for in Google, and incorporate that into your title.
Make sure you have social media profiles set up for your site so you can share your posts. Put your social media links in your email signature. Comment on other blogs that you find interesting, as they might check out your site if you comment regularly. Interact with other bloggers and share their stuff too if you like it.
It sounds obvious, but write useful, engaging content. You have to really step up your game here as there are so many blogs all over the Internet. Write detailed posts broken up with subheadings, and include links to any relevant websites. If another blogger has written something really useful about that topic, include a link to that post too. Link between other posts you have written to increase the time visitors spend on your site. Perfect your craft, and try to improve your writing/photography/video skills.
Lastly, make sure your site looks pretty! It’s your shop window after all.
A lot of travel bloggers participate in travel blogging conferences and I noticed you recently attended TBEX. What do they offer and how can blogging conferences help travel bloggers?
Travel blogging conferences are brilliant for networking. If you want to succeed in travel blogging, other travel bloggers have to know you exist. It’s a community, and if people are friends with you, they are more likely to promote and share your stuff. Travel blogging conferences are a fantastic platform to introduce yourself to other bloggers, swap business cards and bounce some ideas back and forth. Really they can be a lot of fun, especially when there’s a free bar! I usually go for the parties, the socialising and catching up with my blogging friends.
As for the seminars and talks, however, I have to be honest…I don’t really find them useful. I am an information addict, so I read lots and lots of online blogs for blogging tips. I never really hear anything I haven’t heard or read about before. The seminars are probably useful for beginners, but not someone who has been doing it a while.
I did so many conferences last year and unless you sign up to be a speaker they cost a lot of money, so this year I’m trying to take a break.
Established travel writers and bloggers can often find themselves on press trips. Are press trips fun and how do you get them?
I got most of my press trips through World Travel Market in London, which is a global travel industry event that takes place in London every year. It’s a great place to arrange meetings with all the top dogs from the PR companies and Tourism Boards. I look at where I might like to go, and which tourism boards are open to working with bloggers, then I find out if they are running any press trips in the future. I swap business cards, then send them a follow-up email a few days after the conference.
More often than not I just randomly receive an email in my inbox inviting me on a trip. Sometimes I have no idea how they even found me! Press trips can be great fun because you get to do some incredible things, although I find them to be very exhausting. They are usually quite short, and jam-packed with activities. Often you have to get up early in the morning, you’re out all day, and then there’s dinner and a nightlife tour! There isn’t much opportunity for sleeping, blogging or doing your own thing, although I think PR companies are discovering that it is better to give bloggers more free time.
In the future I would like to see travel bloggers paid for their work. It can be so tempting to snap up these opportunities, but it’s no good taking free trips if you can’t afford to put food on the table. The way I see it- I have to take time out of my schedule when I could be working on things that would make me money. Yes I get to do something fabulous, but it’s not FREE because I am writing about it and providing all sorts of social media coverage in return. I know bloggers who would rather just pay for their own travel because it means they don’t have the pressure of having to deliver.
Finally, if you could give two tips on how to improve a travel blog what would they be?
Tip # 1: If you’re trying to make money from blogging, then I really think you need to have a product. Whether it’s an e-book or something else, I think this is what will make you some cash. If you create your own product to sell, you can make money while you sleep. If your blog is the shop window, you need to make sure it looks attractive, so invest in your web design. There are a lot of ugly blogs out there…make sure yours isn’t one of them! Remember, the simpler, the better. I experiment all the time with different
Tip # 2: Improve your content, and your brand. I know this has been said a million times before. I think the key is to put yourself in the reader’s position, and ask yourself if you are giving them anything useful. Don’t be afraid to reference other websites around the Internet to help illustrate your article. Ignore what you have read elsewhere and give your honest thoughts. Show your face in pictures, so you readers know your were there. The thing that differentiates you from other blogs is your own personality, so let it shine through! And one more thing…make it easy for people to navigate your website and find your content, so your old posts don’t go unseen!
Victoria is originally from Manchester in the UK but has visited 32 countries on 5 different continents since 2008. After graduating from university, she decided there was more to life than the hours between 9 and 5, so she packed her bags to travel the world as a digital nomad. Pommie Travels is a solo female travel blog featuring travel tales, photos, videos and practical tips for the various destinations she has visited. You can Tweet Victoria @pommietravels and follow her adventures on Facebook.