Although travel blogging is an amazing “journey” if you’re brave enough to make it, the one consistent challenge is funding your trip. Many people will give generic statements like “you should use affiliate links” or “try adsense”, but those are nothing more than generic fluff.
Unless you know how and where to properly implement a monetization strategy specifically for travel blogging, you could be missing out on real ways to keep yourself on the road and visiting new destinations.
Below you’ll find 7 strategies that you can use to make money, get free or discounted hotel stays, press passes to entertainment and everything you need so that you can keep on your adventure.
You’re probably already talking about specific countries that require a visa to enter. If you’re creating to do guides, where to stay, eat or play, you’re probably also attracting people who will be traveling there (instead of just living vicariously through you).
The thing to think about here is that the requirements are different depending on which country your reader’s passport is from and where they have a green card or permanent residence at. This opens up two great options for you to add value and make money.
- VisaHQ white label – This is an awesome tool (I used to actually work with them and know they have awesome support). Their affiliate program offers you a white labeled version of their system.The white label wraps their database and widgets (updated regularly) into your website’s template giving you everything your visitors need to find out visa requirements in real time.If the person needs a visa and is located in any country where VisaHQ has an office, you have now provided them with what they need and a solution to get the visa for their trip. You’ve also created a way to earn commissions by adding value to them.This is great to link to from resource posts, travel guides and anywhere you write about visa nightmares and why you may want to plan ahead, even if you can buy it upon entry. Because it is white labeled, you also keep your brand in front of your visitors the entire time.
- CIBT widget – I have not worked with this company but did check out their copy and paste widget a couple years ago. It has a very clean and nice interface which is awesome and easy for consumers to use. I always prefer a white label and branded version for my websites when it comes to these tools, but if you want a widget without the co-branding, the CIBT widget that pays referral fees could be a good option for you.
2. Use Your Social Sharing Icons to Sell Space to Follow XYZ
If you have social sharing icons on your blog, checkout which plugins allow you to recommend following another account. Twitter has this on almost every version I’ve seen. By knowing how many people click on your icons each week/month as opposed to using autosharing tools from your feed, you can now barter this space for money or free hotel.
The reason autosharing and feed shares don’t work is that the recommendation to follow won’t show. That is why you need to know how many clicks occur from your site so the follow XY account can give an accurate estimate to the company or person you are pitching.
If you look at the screen shot below, you’ll see where the Twitter plugin lets you add a recommended follow name. Take the amount of shares you get and pitch some of the larger hotel or hostel chains. Once one or two of them go live with the offer, ask them for the average increase in followers they get. Now take that and put it into a case study to show why others should trade you a room at their hotel for this space.
Remember, building an audience the hotel, B&B or hostel can market too over and over is much more valuable than a simply thank you or mention. Especially if they have multiple locations. They can now build brand loyalty and hopefully get their past guests to try new properties.
3. Sell Your Photos
This sounds obvious, but many travel bloggers do not do this. You also might not want to do it from your own blog for SEO reasons. Instead use a service like SmugMug or an alternate photography hosting and selling solution that is built for and to display high res images.
There are a few reasons this is important:
- You don’t want to slow your own site or pages down with high res images. Use quicker loading versions on your site and then drive them to the photography hosting version built for quick loading and properly displaying photographs.
- By having your images on these services, you create multiple professional portfolios (this is what I talk about in point 4).
- Each template on photography sites like these give you the ability to sell shots (fine art for exclusives to collectors or prints to individuals for less money). SmugMug in particular has trusted partnerships all over the world meaning that your UK customers can shop in the UK and not pay large international shipping fees. The same goes for the US, etc… Each printing partner is also vetted by the company to ensure print quality.
- You control the markup on each item to make what you want and also don’t have to stock inventory or pay for storage and overhead.
- You can schedule shares to your social media profiles of new shots and prints when you’re offline to keep traffic and sales flowing around the clock. This is especially important if you’re traveling somewhere without good internet and during important seasonal times when you want to be offline.
4. Galleries to Attract Free Stays and Food
Once you have your quick loading and secure photo site set up, you can now create galleries to try and get free hotel, food and entertainment.
Start by setting up galleries call what to do, hotels, wedding venues, food, etc… If you want to get more detailed you can add modifiers like cities and countries, especially if your travel blog is country, city or niche focused.
Now it’s time to put meat behind the galleries.
- Gather the shots that you love the most and the ones that have the most engagement. Then load them to the niche gallery.
- Gather how many comments, likes and shares each one gets and keep track of them each month. (create a doc to the specific one so you can more easily access them).
- If you can, measure the traffic that has come through from each by checking out sales numbers, Google Analytics and other tools you use.
- If you’ve sold them as prints, talk about the revenue coming through from each, total volume by price, etc… If you’re pitching a luxury hotel, high price points can show an affluent audience and the same goes for lower price options.
The more information about each shot the more leverage you have to get free hotel, food and entertainment. Large chains and even governments do press junkets and mom and pop stores need quality photography. By having these stats you can offer to give them XYZ photos in exchange for room/board/entertainment. If you can show engagement, you may get a full press junket including flight, food, hotel and fun.
Create a media kit or 1 page PDF talking about these and update the stats each month to the descriptions under each shot. If one continues to grow, highlight the growth and long term benefits the potential client could have from giving you room/board for a photo shoot.
Now send the person/company you’re pitching to the appropriate gallery. They now see the quality of your work, the benefits they may receive in exchange for their services and can either respond to you or use the contact form available on the website. This information and professional appearance may give you an advantage over the other travel bloggers they continuously get pitches from.
5. Your Newsletter
The first and trickiest thing to do with your newsletter is to segment it out into groups. You want to know who are fellow travelers (and travel bloggers), who likes to live vicariously through you, who buys your photos and who is all of the above. There are a few ways to do this. I’ll walk you through the easier and quicker one and then go into monetizing your segmented list.
note: read this post on places to monetize your newsletters. It’s old and not well formatted, but it’s still very good and has tips to help you monetize your list you may not have thought of.
Start by creating multiple optin options for your subscribers.
Ask would you like tips about traveling for vacations, tips about travel blogging or traveling as a career or updates on your latest adventures or offer each of them. Almost every email service provider I’ve worked with offers these as drag and drop or easy to create form fields. Now you know if the person is a fellow traveler, a blogger like yourself or someone who is a fan of yours, but might not be a traveler or blogger. You also know how to monetize your newsletters so they’re more relevant for the subscriber.
You can share and sell prints to your shoppers during the holidays, blogging tools to the bloggers and stories about what you’re up to with your fans.
One other way to help segment your subscribers is to offer specific free things for subscribing. Wall papers images for fans, ebooks about how to get XYZ rooms or how to travel blog guides for bloggers. Now group your subscribers into the right lists so you know how to market to them later based on what they wanted for free.
6. How to Know Where to Use What Types of Ads & What to Sell Space For
I wrote this guide about how to charge for ad space on your blog. There is information buried in the post that is important for travel bloggers to know if they want to maximize their revenue. That is how to know where to use which types of ads.
Here is the quick and easy breakdown:
- Affiliate Links – Use these where you have engagement, clicks and have pre-sold the product or service. If there is no engagement with the links, you don’t make money. Don’t assume there is, test with the tool I mention in the other post. Pre-selling the product or service can also make a huge difference in how much you make as an affiliate. Without giving a benefit to buying it, there is not as much incentive to buy or way to picture how it will help your reader.
- CPM ads – Use these where you have eyeballs (look at scroll maps) but little to no engagement. You still get paid when people see them even if they don’t click or interact with the ads.
- CPC ads – Use these where you haven’t pre-sold a product or service. You may get some commissions if the person clicks through with an affiliate link, but without saying how the product/service after the click will benefit from clicking through, your chances at converting are much lower. Use the spaces where there is engagement but no preselling to make money with CPC ads. If you make affiliate sales during a specific time of day but none at others, change them out using a rotation plugin to maximize your revenue in these spaces.
You can get a lot more advanced with these, but that would take up more space and will need a separate post.
This may sound crazy or like something you cannot do if you’re not an artist, but infographics are actually easy to make and can be the boost you need to drive solid streams of revenue for your blog. Here is one simple solution to do them.
After I go through it, I’ll talk about how they can be used to drive revenue from your site.
- Create a base template that can be used multiple times by tweaking your photos and the wording.
- Figure out the issue or an interesting solution for the topic and then look through your photos for the topic that help describe the solution. These can be landmarks, you enjoying yourself or examples of things you mention.
- Add the title to the infographic and place your original photos throughout it.
- Add in the steps to each photo to generate the solution for the topic.
- Add in an embed code to the bottom and social sharing to the top and bottom of the page you’re hosting it on.
Now think about how to apply this to your own travel blog.
If you want to guide people how to get through all of the activities at a park, tourist trap, city or town, because you’ve been there you can create a unique visual guide (a map) and actual examples (to build trust) for your reader. If it’s how to see a country and what not to miss, tie in the specifics of what and where you stayed (especially if they have a website or blog). These add value and help create a resource from your site.
Another option for topics is to think about how the infographic can either explain a complex issue, provide a solution to a problem or generate a reaction from anger to laughter or even empowerment (this is what causes sharing and helps backlinks to come). You can talk about the politics of a region, history or something that generates a feeling or emotion.
Now start promoting it.
First share it with your fans and followers to see if it can gain some exposure. Next, if you mention specific restaurants, stores or places that are active on social media or have a website, send it to them to share or see if they’ll link to your post since you mention them. Now pay attention to where the traffic is coming from.
If you’re getting a lot of shares from a specific channel, see if you can boost it with ads. If it’s from a specific city, contact their media outlets and local blogs and let them see it’s trending. If you know it’s a specific demographic of people, see if there are blogs that cater to the same topic or demographic and share the infographic with them and why they may want to share your work as well.
How and why will this help you make money?
- It gets you exposure for your artwork and photos (you can sell prints and build a following of fans/buyers).
- You build backlinks to help boost your SEO (you have to know how to use these to pass authority and rank specific pages).
- This traffic increases your CPMs which can mean more ad space for sale.
- You can now try to gain more newsletter subscribers to grow your list.
- Your increase in traffic also increases your ability to show larger stats and also why companies should sponsor you.
Infographics are simple and easy to make. You only need a template and can then start to create a series that people can love and be excited to share. It could easily take 20 or more to have one that starts to take off, so keep trying and testing new things with it.
There are a ton of other ways to make money with a travel blog. However this post is already really long. If you’re a travel blogger and want me to work on a custom strategy with you, fill out my contact form and we’ll set up some time to talk.