Travel blogging tips from the experts: Go, See, Write

Lake Ballard - Western Australia - 9 This week’s travel blogging tips article features Michael Hodson, author of travel blog Go, See, Write.

Michael has been blogging for nearly four years – practically forever in blogging terms. When not blogging or travelling, he splits his time carefully between smoking cigars, watching Casablanca and playing Bocce on his full size court.

Michael’s site is focused on round the world adventuring, and he writes his stories in an inimitable style accompanied by wonderful photography.

As well as his own travel blog, Michael has recently launched the Ultimate Train Challenge – which looks like it’s going to be a hell of a ride. Today Michael shares his tips for improving your travel blogging.

Tell us a little bit about Michael, and your site, Go, See, Write.

namibia-200x300I have had two careers so far in life, first politics and then law. I was a lawyer in Northwest Arkansas for about ten years, before I decided to shut down my practice at the end of the year and take a round-the-world (RTW) trip with two rules: no reservations and no airplanes.

Sixteen months and forty-four countries later I made it back without leaving the ground, although I did have to make a couple of reservations. My website is the chronicle of those travels and the continued overland travel I am currently engaged in.

Why did you start writing a travel blog?

I started in 2007 on Blogger. Until I got serious and moved to a self-hosted site in the middle of 2010, my blog was just a way to keep family and friends in touch with my trips and also as a note keeping function for the book that I'd like to do. Looking back, the biggest mistake I made was not being self-hosted earlier on.

How do you define success in terms of your travel blog?

Success is having lots of people reading, commenting and following. I don't have any particular numbers in my head, but I'm most happy when people take the time to read my stuff (some of it can be much longer than normal blog posts) and make comments that reflect that they've read the whole thing -- and liked it, of course.

What aspirations do you have for your travel blog?

Until about six months ago, I had no idea that people were making money blogging or that it might lead to anything at all, so this whole world is a bit new to me. I'd like to have one of the better blogs out there based on content, written and photographic, although that might not ever be reflected in numbers. At some point, I aspire to making a living writing, but frankly, I don't know if that is going to be through the blog or some other forum.

How would you describe your level of technical know-how, and how has this helped or hindered your site?

I am not a techie. I paid someone to set up my self-hosted site and do my header and buttons and such. It was some of the best money I have spent in a long time. Over the past few months, from reading and tweaking a bit, I have become slightly more knowledgeable, but I am never going to be a really good programmer.

Luckily, you don't really need to have that much expertise to have a quality site. It shouldn't discourage anyone from doing it, if they are worried about lack of knowledge -- if I can do it, almost anyone can.

Do you follow any metrics in terms of traffic analysis / site ranking, and how important do you think these are?

I have Google Analytics installed, of course, and check my traffic and what is working and not that way most often. I also look at Alexa, Compete, and Quantcast. I try to keep track occasionally of my RSS subscribers, Klout number, and some various Twitter stats. You can get obsessed with looking at your numbers to much. I certainly was that way for a while, but now have backed off worrying that much.

What would be your number one tip for increasing site traffic?

Post regularly. I did a short post on tips for beginning bloggers and that would probably be the one tip in there that matters the most. I think any travel blogger, which is the area that I am in, should be posting at least three times a week.

What have you found to be the hardest thing about running a travel blog, and how do you overcome this?

Finding the time. The flip side to posting regularly is that you need to be creating content, which does take some time. Even if you are knocking out a fairly easy 700 word post, you need to write it, edit it a couple times, find photos to go with it, and make sure the final product is framed up and looks right. That takes a good bit of time, multiplied by multiple posts a week.

What sort of time commitment do you put in to your travel blog on a weekly basis?

I probably put in 20-30 hours a week, writing, editing photos, tweaking the site, working on link exchanges and such, and the other things you need to do to make a site work properly.

If there was one thing you wish you could have known before you started writing your blog, what would it have been?

Self-hosting. If I'd have done that back in 2008, I'd most likely be one of the bigger blogs out there today. My traffic numbers are fine now, but I would have been far ahead of the curve if I'd have done it a longer time ago.

What have you found to be the best way to go about generating an income from your blog?

That is one nut that I haven't cracked. I still have no Google Page Rank, because my blog is too new to be ranked, so I really am not getting as much advertising interest as I hope to a few months down the road.

How do you go about promoting your travel blog?

Nothing particularly unusual. I comment on a lot of people's posts, which does make a difference. Twitter isn't good for traffic, but I am on there frequently. I have started guest posting more in recent weeks. I am also a big StumbleUpon believer and wrote a guide to driving website traffic with StumbleUpon also.

How do you see travel blogging developing over the next few years?

More, more, more. There are already hundreds more travel blogs out there from when I got serious about it a half year ago. The community is really good and helpful, but it is probably going to be more difficult to differentiate yourself going forward.

And finally, what key advice would you give to people running, or thinking about setting up, their own travel blog?

It certainly isn't an easy way to make money. There are a lot of bloggers that start one up, thinking it is going to be a quick route to making money. It might be for some, but it certainly hasn't been for me. If you love travel, love writing, and love photography and are in it for the long haul (think 2-3 years minimum), then go for it.

If you aren't sure about any of that, then start one up that is a more geared towards keeping family and friends informed about your travels -- there isn't anything wrong with that route either.

As always, tremendous thanks to Michael for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find out more about Michael on his website, plus you can keep track of his adventures on both twitter and facebook.

Clouds over sand dunes - New South Wales - Australia

For 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’s interview features Cameron and Nicole Wears, author of travel blog The Traveling Canucks In the meantime, if you have any questions or thoughts on this post or the series thus far, the comments box awaits!

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  1. thanks for the opportunity to be able to prattle on here! ;)

  2. As a friend of Michael's it was always fun early on to watch where he was going and how he arrived at his destination. His photos are great and his posts humorous and informative. My son who is 11 loves his photos and I think his blog has helped my son realize how big this old world is and how adverturesome it can be.

  3. Great tips Michael. I hadn't heard of Quantcast before so we will check it out. I am going to have to put in my two cents and say that Twitter is quite good for us for traffic. Many people feel the same way that you do, but we seem to have a different audience than others. Twitter is a large referrer to our site. Great point about posting regularly. There are some blogs out there that I loved, but they didn't post a lot and I found myself not going back regularly. Eventually I stopped following completely just because whenever I checked they didn't have anything new. Keep up the great work.


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