I haven’t bothered Googling to find out for sure – because who has time? – but on the strength of mounting evidence, a post on this topic apparently doesn’t exist and is long overdue.
According to figures that I just made up now, 826,936 new travel blogs are started each year and many of them give off that distinct reinventing-the-wheel odor that we old timers know all too well. What these new bloggers need is an easy to follow, chronological list on hand while they’re setting up their blogs, so as not to repeat these totally avoidable blunders. As always, my selfless, crippling empathy and generosity has inspired me to provide assistance.
So without further adieu, here’s the definitive, surefire task list for setting up a wildly popular travel blog that everyone will read forever.
1. Remove pants. One assumes you’re setting up your blog while at home, so why not get comfortable? If you’re setting up your blog while temping at a law firm, you should probably omit this step.
2. Pick a name. These few words may be the most important words you ever write for your blog. The name must be catchy, at least hint at the general theme of the blog and not be clichéd. Unfortunately, every combination and permutation of the words ‘traveler,’ ‘nomad,’ ‘chronicles,’ ‘virtual,’ ‘gypsy,’ ‘wanderer,’ ‘digital,’ ‘vagabond’ and words ending in ‘logue’ in the universe have already been used. So, you’re going to have to dig down to the deepest parts of your brain holes to find a name that doesn’t sound like 10 other blogs that already exist. Honestly, at this stage, if you really want a memorable blog name, your only viable option is to just grab two or three random words, never mind their meanings, and stick them together. Here are a few examples:
• Galloping Penguin
• Peanut Butter Shovel
• Deafening Toe Cheese
• Hum Gadling Jaunted
• Paris Hilton Nude
3. Pick a niche. This is really step 2.5, because settling on a niche and picking a name should be done at pretty much the same time. Or you can pick a niche after years of meandering from topic to topic. I don’t care. For example, I’ve selected the highly lucrative niche of writing-about-writing-and-travel-with-occasional-tangents-like-lists-and-book-reviews-and-minimalist-lifestyles-and-politics-and-ranting-about-stuff-that-I-have-almost-no-control-over-with-some-mandatory-etiquette-tips-and-videos-and-shit-thrown-in-there. (Incidentally, I’m available for public speaking on this topic at your next corporate event. Call me.)
4. Go make a sandwich. You look peckish.
5. Pick a design. There are a squillion free blog designs out there and two or three of them aren’t that bad. Once you monetize your blog (next week), you can go out and pay someone to create a custom design, preferably one that prominently features a cartoon version of you, wearing a backpack, walking down a winding road that disappears into the distance. No one has done this yet. You can be the first.
6. Start blogging! It’s finally time to start writing some words about stuff. This is what it’s all about. Since 87% of travel bloggers are only semi-literate – occasionally featuring worrying grammar bonks in the same paragraph explaining how they left a high-paying corporate gig to travel the world – this is your big chance to stand out. Conjure up the most articulate, witty, evocative words that you know and then arrange them in a creative way. But don’t go crazy. If you want to have double digit visitor stats most days, you’re gonna need to crank out like four posts a week, which means that you really only have enough time to be a little articulate, kind of witty and vaguely evocative. Also, italicize frequently. Shows you’re passionate.
7. Self-promote the bejesus out of your blog on social media. Actual travel blogging is only about 20% of travel blogging. For example, you’re going to spend a huge chunk of time building and maintaining a social media presence so you can drive traffic to your travel blog, otherwise what’s the point? Make a Facebook fan page and then spam everyone to ‘like’ it. Then get on Twitter, taking special care to mention in your bio that you are CEO, editor-in-chief and pope of your blog, as this will give you instantaneous, totally plausible credibility that no one will see through. For the first month, follow like 1,000 new people every day. If the people you follow don’t follow you back, just unfollow then follow them again as many times as necessary until they go batshit crazy from seeing the repeated email alerts about you following them and they finally follow you back just so they can get on with their lives. Once you have a strong Twitter following, send out at least one tweet a week asking your followers to ‘like’ you on Facebook. Double goes for when you’re approaching a round number of ‘likes’ and/or Twitter followers. See the genius?
8. Set up a bunch of pop-up windows on your blog. This shows your readers that you’re serious about blogging because you’re engaging your audience with offers to subscribe to your newsletter, take a survey and buy your latest ebook about utilizing newsletters and surveys. Besides, every pop-up window is like a little surprise and who doesn’t like surprises? Masturbating socialists, that’s who.
9. Build an editorial calendar. May 12th, 2008 was a somber day in travel blogging history. It was on that day that the very last, original travel blog post topic was hatched and written about (except this one, obviously, but now I’ve written about it so you’re too late). We’ve just been rehashing the same stuff over and over ever since, sometimes adding a desperate twist to give the appearance of originality. Say, instead of posts titled “How to pack for a round-the-world trip,” you’ll probably see a clever variant like “How to pack for a round-the-world donkey.” I’m not telling you this to discourage you, I just want to save you the time of agonizing over new topic ideas. Also, since most of you just started traveling or aren’t able to travel often, you’ll have to squeeze out like 15-30 blog posts on every destination you visit so there aren’t any periods of dead air on your blog. If you routinely go, say, 24 days without a new blog post, no one’s ever going to invite you to be a keynote speaker. As such, don’t be afraid to devote entire blog posts to the most mundane subjects like cupcakes, shopping and drunken hitchhikers that you abandon at a gas station in the Romanian countryside.
10. Get a book deal. The big kahuna. Validation overload. They like you, they really like you. Most people spend months researching and crafting a book proposal with sample chapters, promotion, competition, and market analysis. But since you’re a travel blogger and your story of leaving your job to travel the world is so gripping, you don’t need to bother with any of that. Just send a generic email blast to every agent you can find, regardless if they only work with sci-fi fantasy writers, describing in, oh, say 5,000 words, why you and your back-story are so special. In lieu of sample chapters, simply add “Just read my blog.” Agents love doing this.
That’s it! If you follow these steps to the letter, you’ll be hosting your own travel TV show in no time, adored by fans, drinking truffle juice and so distended with success and respect that you’ll have to take two extra poops a day just to relieve the pressure.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go poop.