Travel blogging tips from the experts: yTravelBlog

Lake Ballard - Western Australia - 6 This weeks travel blogging tips interview features two awesome travellers: Caroline and Craig Makepeace, authors of travel site yTravelBlog.

Craig and Caz, originally from Australia, have spent oodles of time travelling, between them covering over 35 countries in ten years on the road.

Now they have returned to Australia, where they have a daughter, and are focusing their efforts on sharing their travelling experiences with the world, as well as providing great advice and tips to fledgling (and not so fledgling!) travellers.

As well as their main site, Caz and Craig have a very active and engaged community on their facebook page. Today I ask them for their travel blogging tips, including why they blog, what social media means to them, and what they think about monetizing their site.

Tell us a little bit about yourselves, and your site, yTravelBlog.
yTravelBlog - Caz and Craig
We both grew up on the East coast of Australia. Caroline's background is Primary School Teaching, and Craig’s is as a Professional Rugby League player and also in construction.

Caroline started travelling in 1997 when she moved to London for teaching, and when we got married in 2002 the journey continued together.

We have since lived in 5 countries and travelled extensively through 35. We now have a 3 year old daughter named Kalyra, and besides her travelling is our greatest passion. You can learn more at our About Us page.

Our site is aimed at independent travellers and backpackers, working holiday makers, gap travellers, and travelling families. We aim to inform and inspire on how to travel the world and live abroad and immerse yourself in different cultures. We believe life is all about creating great memories and making it a story to tell.

What drove you to start writing a travel blog?
Caroline has always loved writing, she kept a detailed journal where ever we went, we both love taking travel photos, and we love sharing and inspiring others so it was a natural progression for us.

We also look at it from a business perspective. We always wanted to do something we're passionate about, and something that was online and portable so we could live where ever we want. Whilst the travel industry is very competitive, we see travel blogging and the social media aspects attached to it as a new angle that can open many interesting doors.

How do you define success in terms of your travel blog?
That we are still doing it in 2 years time, lol. Success can mean many things to many people, but for us it's that we are happy and have done our absolute best. If we are providing helpful advice and inspiring others, people are subscribing to our blog because they want to hear more from us, and people are joining our facebook page and engaging with us then that's awesome.

From a business perspective, we see our site as a combination of a "personality blog" and a "resource blog" so obviously the more we build our brand, as well as traffic numbers, the more credibility we have with regards to partnering with tourism boards, travel companies, and advertisers.

So, if we can inspire others to get out there and create memories, as well as create an income stream to do this full-time, then that would make us VERY happy!

Which, if any, metrics do you follow in terms of traffic analysis / site ranking, and how important do you think these are?
From a branding and personality perspective, our social media platforms (facebook fanpage and twitter). Whilst we want to grow our follower numbers high, it's very important that you are actually engaging with your followers and they are engaging with you, hence the word "social". People follow people and want to be part of communities so we look at how much of a community we are building around our brand. There’s no point having a million facebook fans if no one is interacting.

From a traffic and income perspective, we look at Google Analytics. We also look at our newsletter and email subscribers: build your list they say!

How important do you think technical know-how and issues such as site design are for a travel blog?
Whilst technical know-how helps, it's not necessary. We built our site from scratch and you learn along the way.

But if you are serious and look at it as a business you need to invest in your business and the one critical element is design. We are 8 months into this now and at the point where we need to take this to another level, so we have acquired the services of a professional for a complete makeover.

Your site needs to be functional, user-friendly, un-cluttered, and branded. It's also important that it loads quickly. There are many ways to attract people to your site, but if you can't keep them there then what's the point?

If there was one thing you wish you could have known before you started writing your blog, what would it have been?
Don't worry about monetization and back links. Just worry about building your brand, your voice, your content, and network with others. If you get that right the rest will take care of itself and you can monetize later on.

Do you have any regrets in terms of your travel blog?
That we didn't get started YEARS ago.

How important is social media to your blog, and what approach do you take to this?
It's EXTREMELY important. Like I said, our blog is just as much a "personality blog" as anything, so having that social aspect is everything. Our focus is on facebook for building followers and engaging with the general public, and twitter for networking with industry folk.

It's no secret facebook is now the most visited site on the net, and we believe it will be the most important aspect of our business the next 12-24 months, and that's where most of our attention is going, more so than Google. As mentioned earlier people love to be part of communities, they love to look at peoples personal photos and videos, and facebook is GREAT for that. Plus, it's FREE, you can build your brand quickly and virally, and it's fun. SEO (search engine optimisation) just wrecks our head!!!

How do you see travel blogging developing over the next few years?
It's the new wave and will become an important part of the travel industry. Partnerships are already forming with tourism boards and travel companies, which is very encouraging for everyone. They obviously see they can get more bang for their buck, and realize that people want the first person account.

As travel bloggers we can get our message out to a highly targeted audience at a fraction of the cost, and through our social media platforms we can build communities and be a voice for brands and destinations. We have a voice that can be heard and by the right people.

People are now coming to blogs and facebook for their travel information as it's more current, more personal, they love the interaction, and they trust it more than a tourism website or guidebook.

We believe that those businesses and government departments that capitalize on this new online marketing wave, will be at the forefront in the coming years, and will be seen as visionary in their policies and marketing practices.

And finally, what key advice would you give to people running, or thinking about setting up, their own travel blog?
Don't quit. Tell yourself you’re still going to be here in 12-24 months. It's like any business, it takes time and effort. It takes time to build your brand, your content, and your traffic.

Get yourself a wordpress blog and don't wait till everything is in place before launching. Grow over time. The most important thing is to just get started and learn as you go.

Also, be yourself, find your niche, and bring out your personality. Don't hide behind the internet. We can't believe how many blogs we come across and we have no idea what the person's real name is, what they look like, where they come from, and how to contact them. How can you engage with this person? We can't and leave instantly. People follow people, not a blog.

Finally, network with others through twitter and the travel blogging groups. Learn from those who have been where you want to go.

As always, tremendous thanks to Caz and Craig for taking the time to answer my questions! You can find out more about their travels on their website, and you can also find them on both Facebook and Twitter.

Flower painting rockFor more travel blogging tips from the experts, have a look at the rest of the series. To keep up to date with upcoming posts you can subscribe to the RSS feed or join in on the site’s Facebook page.

Next week another lovely travelling couple take centre stage – Nathan and Sofia from aswetravel.com will be providing their travel blogging tips.

If you have an opinion on this article, please do comment below. And if you know a travel blogger who you’d like to see featured in the series, head on over to the contact page and drop me a line. Happy travels!




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