If you’ve never created a blog before then the whole process might seem very mystifying. If you want to start a travel blog, you might wonder where to even start with URLs, hosting, CMS and plugins. Fortunately, because I’ve created many websites, I [Chloe] know many of the common pitfalls and frustrations and have discovered the easiest possible way to get up and running online.
If you’d like to, or have recently become a digital nomad, then you may have even more reason to start a travel blog.
I had the bones of our blog up and running in under an hour (minus content of course) and I’m going to help you do the same.
Fun fact: I create websites as part of my job, so if even after reading this you decide that starting a travel blog by yourself isn’t your jam, feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for a quote to build your site for you.
Here’s how to start a travel blog in less than an hour.
Start a Travel Blog:
- Secure your URL
- Lock down web hosting
- Set up using WordPress
- Choose a theme
1. Secure your URL
What is a URL?
A URL (Uniform Resource Locator) or web address is the address used to locate a site.
How to do it:
The first and most important step of this whole process – secure your URL. The best and least expensive way I’ve found to register a URL is through Siteground (I’m not sponsored by these guys, I just think they’re awesome). Their cost includes SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) which is essential security technology. If you don’t have SSL Google will actively flag your site as insecure, so some users may not be able to view your site. If you go through a site like Godaddy they’ll attempt to charge you an arm and a leg to have SSL. Godaddy love a good hidden cost, as do iPage, so I really recommend doing your research before hitting the pay button, otherwise in a few years time you might notice your costs skyrocket.
- To secure your URL simply go to https://www.siteground.com/domain_names.php (or whichever domain registering service you prefer to use).
- Confirm that your domain name is available.
- Select your preferred plan. I recommend the Startup Plan unless you’re planning to grow incredibly quickly.
- At this point you’ll be prompted to fill in your personal information and confirm hosting.
2. Lock down web hosting
What is web hosting?
Hosting is an essential part of building a website. To explain it better I’ll use the analogy of a cafe. To get people to come to your cafe you need a physical address – that’s your URL. But you also need to rent a space at that address – you can’t just start selling coffee in any old spot, you need a space that’s yours. Hosting is very much like the plot of land that you’ll have your cafe (website) on.
How to do it:
To keep things simple I recommend hosting your website through the same company you’ve registered your domain with. Registering things separately can cause things to get much more complicated than they need to be. I speak from experience here.
- Siteground will prompt you to select website hosting after filling in your personal information. I recommend selecting just 12 months when starting out to reduce too many fees upfront.
For the first year you’re looking a $63 USD including the domain registration cost. That’ll go up to around $140 for hosting each year.
- Confirm everything and pay.
- You’ll now be granted a Siteground account and receive some confirmation emails. Congrats!
3. Set up using WordPress
What is a CMS?
A CMS (Content Management System) is like, to continue the cafe analogy, the structure of your establishment, it houses everything within your website. This is where you design and create content to share with the world.
How to do it:
WordPress is the easiest, most user friendly CMS (content management system) I’ve ever used and it’s perfect for bloggers, therefore that’s what I recommend you go with.
- Within your Siteground hosting account select ‘setup with WordPress’.
- You’ll receive a confirmation email from Siteground.
- Create a WordPress account once prompted by Siteground.
- You’ll then be redirected to WordPress (you’ll also receive an email with your WordPress login details – make sure you file this somewhere handy).
- A set-up pop-up will appear, feel free to skip this if none of the themes take your fancy.
- Now you’ll be located at the backend of your site. It’ll look something like this:
4. Choose a theme
This is where the fun begins. Unless you want to code your website from scratch, then you’ll need to use a WordPress theme (that someone else has already coded for you) and populate it with your content. There are two options when it comes to themes:
- Use a free theme – the benefit here is obvious; it’s free!
- Buy a paid theme from somewhere like Themeforest – they normally cost somewhere in the region of $60 USD, but they are much more elaborate and specific, so if there is a look you really want then you might consider paying for a theme.
Ideate your content plan and layout before or as you select a theme. There is nothing worse than paying for a theme or getting half way through set-up and then realising the layout isn’t actually going to work for your content.
Activating a free theme
- Within your WordPress dashboard in the left-hand column list navigate to Appearance > Themes.
- Select the “Add New” button.
- Here you’ll find a range of different free themes. Use the preview function to look around themes you like the look of to check whether that theme is right for your content.
- Once you find one you like select “Activate” then go to “Customise” to begin personalising your site.
Activating a purchased theme
- If you’ve found and purchased a theme on the likes of Themeforest, you’ll be prompted to download the theme zip file.
- After doing so follow steps 1 and 2 above.
- Once you’re on the “Add Theme” page select the “Upload Theme” button.
- The upload theme module will appear. Select the “Choose file” button and select your zip file.
- Once the theme is uploaded to WordPress you’ll be able to preview and activate it. Select “Customise” to begin personalising your site.
There, that’s it – you’ve done it! And (hopefully) all in less than an hour.
Read the theme documentation
To populate your theme with your own content I recommend reading the documentation that will most likely accompany your theme to help you with the set up. For specific theme issues it’s a good idea to get in touch with your theme owner directly – most of them have forums where you can post questions or raise tickets.
Learn how to use WordPress
WordPress has a tonne of support documents to help you get up and running with the platform. If you’ve never used a CMS before, let alone WordPress, it may take you some time to get used to it. Be patient with yourself, it’s like any new skill, but the time spent will certainly pay off. A good starting point is here: https://wordpress.org/support/category/basic-usage/
Now you know how to start a travel blog. It’s time to get back to what you do best – writing and taking epic photos. Congratulations.