Professional travel bloggers roam around the world -- and get paid for doing it. On Thai websites, there are travellers who share their stories, such as on IRoamAlone.com, 9Mot.com, HotSia.com, as well as pantip.com. Yet, there is a whole other level of travel blogs that are more than just personal diaries, dedicated purely to travel writing within a specialised field, with the aim of drawing in advertisers.
Last month, Tourism Authority of Thailand organised the "Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX) Asia 2015" and invited a number of the world's foremost bloggers to share their experiences.
The key to starting a successful blog is to find "your own strength", said Evo Terra, who quit his job as a digital strategist and became a full-time traveller with his wife Sheila Dee this January. Their blog is TheOpportunisticTravelers.com.
"It's easy to figure out that you should be blogging about what you know, what kind of blogger you can be based on individual service," he said. For example, a personal trainer has his blog telling people about how to stay fit while travelling. Another blog shares experiences of two travellers who keep moving to new cities every 90 days, or a blog specialising in gay couples.
One can copy the tactics of those who are successful. "But will it work for you? No. Because they are not you," Terra said.
The first thing to do is to pick a medium. There are various digital mediums to use, including YouTube, Podcasting, internet TV or just text-based blogging, like WordPress.
The next thing to do is to pick your niche, said Terra, and that niche might focus on adventure, technology and gadgets, or housesitting. Housesitting was also what enabled Terra and his wife to successfully run their blog.
To find a niche, one needs to know what he or she is good at, said Terra. The simple tactics are to answer these basic questions. The first question is obvious: what you are good at? "List it out. They can be things that you are good at in school or at work, as well as things that people around you like your family and your friends keep telling you that you are good at," he said. "Another way to think about it is what comes naturally to you."
Growing your audience
It always takes time to be able to earn money from having a blog. Many of the popular ways travel bloggers make money from their blogs is by displaying advertising, doing affiliate marketing, selling products though e-commerce services or having sponsors.
But before reaching this stage, one needs to have an audience.
"The three most important things in blogging are audience, audience and audience. If you don't have an audience, you have nothing," said Gary Arndt, a multi-awarded American blogger and photographer who sold his house in 2007 to travel around the world. He has travelled to more than 100 countries and posted his photos on his Everything-Everywhere.com travel blog, which has more than 1.9 million subscribers.
"If you spend your time growing your audience, money will come to you because people will want to access to your audience once it's big enough," he said. For him, his major earnings cone from sponsorship and endorsements. He also plans to open online travel and photography courses within this year.
Arndt never puts watermarks on his photos as he said it degrades the quality of the images.
"I'm not worried about piracy. If some companies use my photos for commercial purposes, I can sue them on copyright terms and I can make more money than I would have made if they had asked for permission to use the photos," he said.
Content is king, but --
Quality content alone cannot grow an audience and bloggers also need marketing, according to Sharon Gourlay, a family travel blogger at WheresSharon.com, which gives advice about travelling with kids.
"I hate to hear people say 'content is king'. It drives me crazy because it's like you put very good content out there and many people want you to believe that that's all you need to do. But it is not. You need to spend more time in marketing than you do in content creation if you want success," she said.
Her technique is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), which improves the reach of targeted audiences who google for information about travel with kids.
"You should use at least 20 keywords for your article," she said, adding that keywords should be used in the title, URL, meta-description, a subheading and in text. The keywords must also be relevant to your article. She also uses software like the Long Tail Pro programme to help analyse and improve her keywords.
However, SEO takes time. "You need to be patient. It's going to take a while to get up the ranks," she said.
Next generation of blogging
Having a travel blog is not only about text, photos or podcasts. To attract new generation, video clips are key, said Anton Diaz, a travel blogger who quitted his CIO position in a multinational company to work on OurAwesomePlanet.com. The site also won the award from the Philippine's Department of Tourism for promoting Filipino cuisine and destinations.
"Gen X grows up with text and photos while the Millennium generation wants video," he said.
Started in 2005, Diaz wanted to blog about food and travel so that his kids could read it. He wanted them to remember what their childhood was like. "But my kids who are now ten, seven, five and one have never read the blog. But earlier this year when I made my first video, they watched it ten times immediately," he said. It came to his assumption that the number one website for this new generation is YouTube. His blog also has a TV channel called OAP TV.
One of his travel videos titled The Calagua: The Waling-Waling Eco Resort Experience, became a hit with more than 1.1 million views. The Calagua is the best kept secret beach destination in the Philippines, said Diaz, adding that the best way to present it is through the eyes of locals whom he interviewed in the video clips and also the beautiful images of the island.
His recommendation for anyone who wants to travel the world and become a successful blogger is: "do it now".
OurAwesomPlanet.com tells stories of cuisine and tourist attractions in the Philippines.
WheresSharon is a blog centred around travelling with kids, by Sharon Gourlay.
Sharon Gourlay and her family.
Evo Terra's blog at TheOpportunisticTravelers.com.