In our blogger interview series we cover the stories of our customers who run successful blogs to help you take your own website to the next level. Recently we interviewed Dustin Taylor who shared some insights on running his online magazine about Moscow. This time we've spoken with Chris who combines business & leisure travel while running his successful travel blog (Chris Travel Blog).
What is your background and how did you get involved with WordPress and blogging?
If I go back to my university study my background is in chemical engineering combined with IT, but that's study. I knew when doing a short internship that I would never be able to work for someone so I did an additional course in entrepreneurship. I started my company in 1999 when I was 18 years old.
The first years I did web development and marketing materials for companies; this was easy at that time to do by yourself but with technology growing you needed teams. I didn't want that so I turned another hobby of mine, coins, into a commercial thing. I design those.
This made traveling to conferences, trade shows and more possible. I started to add leisure trips to these travels but wanted to do something with the photographs and information I collected. In 2014 I started my online travel magazine CTB Global (ChrisTravelBlog).
As I didn't want to take care of the technical part by myself I started to use WordPress in combination with MH Themes. With my own background I could easily tweak a thing or two to have it work even better. So, in short, I combined all my hobbies into my company!
What should readers know about your travel blog? What are your goals?
My goal is to have at one day itineraries ready for all countries in the world written from own experience, trial and error. For each day of these itineraries there must be an underlying article which exactly shows what to expect including history and lots of photos.
I only include places of interest with lots of background information, I mention local restaurants and activities. I do this because places of interest are (mostly) guaranteed to exist in the future while restaurants and activity operators might change. That's the goal for my site. My personal goal is to visit every country, see its capital, see at least all UNESCO sites and one day go to space.
Can you share some insights about your workflow? How often do you publish posts?
I focus on itineraries with day trip articles where I add general history of the places too. All information comes from first hand experiences with history collected mainly when I'm at the sites, as explanations there are always good summarized.
I normally publish 2 or 3 long reads per week plus possible hotel reviews and other small articles. I start by putting the itinerary up first as that's the page I want to rank. Then I add day trip articles linking back to the corner stone. This way this corner stone gets more and more attention and priority. I don't add those day trip articles in one shot. If for example there are 10, I'll add 1 each month over a period of 10 months so that each month there is fresh content of that destination.
What challenges did you face when starting your travel blog?
Traffic is the biggest challenge together with ranking in search engines. When you start you don't have that many articles, so the traffic will be less. Ranking in search engines takes time too. Compare a site of 1,000 pages with 100,000 visitors with one of 100 pages and 10,000 visitors a month. If each page gets the same amount of visitors then they are, if looking purely at one topic / article, the same. I learned you have to keep going and after a year or two it really starts to grow.
How do you monetize your travel blog? Do you have some tips for other bloggers about monetization?
The easiest way to monetize a blog is to add affiliate links and get a commission on sales done. I could add links to travel related booking sites in all of my articles but I don't. Yes I miss lots of income this way, but personally I don't like affiliate links and I write the content to show people the world and inspire to travel to destinations. I see too many sites with articles about nothing but with dozens of affiliate links in it; it's not what I want to achieve.
I have chosen another way, but I also understand this is easier for me as I can combine two parts of my company. I cooperate with commercial partners, destinations and travel related businesses that sponsor my trips in return for exposure. They also pay a bit but it isn't enough of course.
I also sell my photos to companies who print them on canvas for example which gives a nice fee. Another way to get income is to write for 3rd parties, advise brands on how to get more exposure. It's all the combination that works for me. If you decide to do affiliate then only do that once your blog is bigger because with a few visitors you won't see any return, but you'll have your site full of links.
Have a good business plan ready, even if small, there will be parties interested to start working with you. Everyone can jump on a riding train but I value my partners from the start more as those who just want to jump on and profit (read: pay as less as possible) from it. Real partners know and will grow together.
What do you look for when choosing a WordPress theme? Why did you choose the MH Magazine theme? What do you like most?
I wanted to have a ready to go platform that was also customizable with either plugins or own coding. WordPress, hosted on my own server, was the best solution for me. MH Magazine was for me the best choice simply because it's clean. No frills, very customizable and easy to handle.
Even though there is a trend with sliders moving stuff (ok I have one), I wanted a site that on the first page you could immediately see where to go. Click, read, go further. No need to use the search option, which of course is there in case you want to use it.
What are your future plans with your travel blog?
I have big problems giving work to others, but I also understand that my time is limited. The idea is to grow my travel blog more of course and this will happen with more material being published. I might take in an intern that can help publishing, proof reading and that kind of things.
It will already save myself half of the time. I'm also looking at more options to monetize my blog, but as mentioned, without having the site lose its value with too many advertisements. There are plans, lots of things I'm working on so stay tuned to see what's happening at CTB Global.
Do you have some advice for other bloggers who want to start a blog?
If you start a blog, first decide what it's about! Don't try to cover everything; make a niche. Once you have a clear idea what your blog will be about, make a road map on where you want to be in 2 years (1 year is too early), 5 years and 10 years. Is the blog about you? Or is the blog about your experiences? If you like something, it doesn't necessarily mean that someone else likes it as you do.
Explain objectively what you did or what it's about and add a line or two if you liked the experience or not. For example if you do a helicopter flight over Palau then don't go like “Look at me, I’m in a helicopter over Palau” and don't add a dozen selfies. Make it about the islands and mention that it's a great experience on Palau. The content will last longer! Don't look at what others do, do what you want to do, and for the rest, keep publishing and don't give up!
We would like to thank Chris for this very interesting interview with helpful insights for other travel bloggers. CTB Global is definitely a fantastic travel blog with high quality content and beautiful images taken by Chris. If you're interested in traveling and sightseeing, we encourage you all to check it out! If you have any questions for Chris, please leave a comment below with your question.
Note: In case you're using the MH Magazine theme and would like to be interviewed as well, please feel free to reach out to us. We've planned to publish these kind of blogger interviews on a regular basis to help new bloggers learn from other bloggers. Become a part of our growing MH Themes community!