I hate reading travel blogs. There, I said it and it’s out in the open. My hatred boils down to a loathing where some of the shit makes me cringe. Go forth and bring your pitchforks and torches but I’m not backing down so hear me out. Why do travel blogs suck these days? Well, I’ll give you reasons why they suck, potential mistakes you could be making, and how to pown your suckage to stand out from the rest.
If you’re interested in my travel blogging series, check out these dates for more awesome sauce to come. I’m having a festa in March which I will now lovingly refer to as Blarch because 1) it sounds funny and 2) I’m a female with bad dad jokes.
March 17: How to take Badass Travel Photography
Great cameras are affordable so what’s your excuse? I use a Cannon Kiss DSLR on my Instagram and believe me, my photos reflect more professionalism than a smartphone photo. In a world that’s becoming more visual with less time, you want to stand out. I also don’t want to see a million photos of the same thing. Two or three great photos are enough to leave me wanting more. When a blog post is exploding with crappy pictures, it makes it difficult to read. I want to see photos in high definition, with great color and amazing angles and then check your writing later.
What You Should do Instead: There’s really no way to be good at photography unless you go out and practice. Take a million photos of the same thing and play with angles, lighting and settings. Once you look at your photos, you begin realizing what works and what doesn’t. Invest in a good camera and photo editing software. I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CC. Both come in a package that’s $9.99 per month and this will be the best decision you make this year. They even help you to resize your photos because photos with loads of MB make it hell for page speed.
Writing About Your Day
I was as guilty as OJ Simpson of writing about my day when I was Gina Bear in Japan. I would recount the people I met and the shenanigans my friends and I would cause. Back when it was actually cool to do this (or was it?), the first power bloggers got loads of viewership because they were there first. Unfortunately, the market has expanded and you better have something good to say or you’re going down to the bottom Google search where you belong. The bottom line: I don’t care to read the details of “We woke up on a Saturday morning and ventured out to the beach. Then, we had a delicious lobster lunch.” That kind of writing makes me want to gouge my eyeballs out and slam my head on the desk until I get a nose bleed. If you’re reading a stranger’s blog and they’re just yammering about their holiday to Cabo San Lucas, you’re gonna say, “Fuck this shit” and peace out. I hate to give ya’ll some tough love on this, but it’s true. I know this is vague, but how do you remedy this?
What You Should Do Instead: Think about it, people come to blogs for certain information. They want a real account of what to actually expect. For instance, female solo travelers traveling to Asia will seek advice on What to Pack for Southeast Asia. They search a female blogger who backpacked or traveled throughout the region to see what they packed and get first hand tips. They’re not looking for an entire blog post about how you went shopping for your clothes. That’s not what they need.
Now, let’s go back to the example I had about your trip to Cabo San Lucas where you woke up in the morning, went to the beach and ate lobster. You know what people would rather read? They’d rather indulge in materials making their trip better. If you had an awesome stay at X hotel, you should write about it. If you enjoyed the beach, you should also write about it, but give relevant data to your audience. If the lobster lunch made you hear orange and taste purple because it was that darn good, write about your culinary experience and why going there would benefit your reader.
You know what makes me crazy? People who write about everything on one blog. They offer, “DIY, travel, and a little something here and there.” Having a niche is so important because you want to establish yourself as an authority on x topic. If I want to know about traveling in Seoul, I’m going to find a blog that recommends awesome things to do in Seoul. Maybe I want to take a side trip to a cultural village, but instead I see articles in DIY. Chances are, I won’t be a long term fan and find another blog and won’t come back.
What You Should Do Instead: If you look at my blog, it’s very obvious I’m a travel blogger. Make who you are crystal clear. You should blog about everything at first. Yes, you read correctly. Write about what interests you until you find the one thing you truly enjoy writing about constantly. If you like writing about other topics like DIY, why not start another blog for those endeavors and have it separate from your main topic?
I hate being unable to connect with the person whose blog I’m reading. I want to stare at the computer and know the human behind it. I’m going to send the message loud and clear. You don’t have to be funny, witty, sarcastic, (insert desirable trait here) to have a kick ass blog. What makes an impressive blog? Someone whose personality is clearly emulated in their writing. Maybe this person is kinda goofy and makes you chuckle with their subtle humor. Droning on about your day doesn’t show me your personality or make me engage with you. In fact, I don’t want to know you or care about what you say.
What You Should Do Instead: Practice many different writing styles. Look at your favorite bloggers and see what they do. For instance, I’m a huge fan of Gloria Antanmo from The Blog Abroad and Alyssa Ramos from My Life’s a Movie. Glo is known for her sassy and witty style and Alyssa is known for taking life with a pinch or more of sarcasm. Both ladies have unique writing techniques, but what do they have in common? They have a voice and it’s loud and clear. Even in my own writing, I showcase my awkward sense of humor. Observe shameless self promotion from my blog post Flawless Skin Hacks for Kick Ass Female Travelers:
“Travel mornings are for waking up and being flawless and refreshed like Beyoncé. You start dancing to Drunk in Love and wait for it… You know those high pitched farts that happen to squeak out no matter how hard you clench your cheeks? Yup, I just went there because let’s be real, we’ve all been there with a dreaded acne breakout.”
Let’s break this down. I’m already relevant because who doesn’t know how flawless Beyonce is? Within the opening sentence, I’m already reeling you in with a pop culture reference. You have no idea how important your opening sentence is. In ten seconds, a reader is deciding whether or not to invest their precious time in you.
Going on, most have danced in front of the mirror and executed an embarrassing fart. During first three sentences, I’m making you chuckle or feel like you’re my longtime friend and I possess information to help you quell your acne struggles. Whatever the case is, my personality has still shown through and will tempt you to read how to fight acne while traveling.
Have you ever heard of faking it until you make it? Learn from top examples, study their writing, or write until your eyes cross and your uniqueness shines through.
When I read blogs I wonder, who the hell are they writing for? Think of your audience as just one person. This person can be your best friend, a colleague, or a person who really loves to travel. Whoever they are, write for them. Since I’m in the travel blogging niche, what does a traveler want from me? They probably want itineraries, suggestions on what to eat and where to stay. Maybe they’re interested in the culture and want to know a bit about it. Cater to their needs and make them feel like you’re the expert. I guarantee that’s a start into getting long term fans.
Broaden Your Vocabulary
What the fuck does this mean? You may be thinking, “I went to college, of course I have a huge vocabulary.” Well, even though you went to college, do you realize how many words are in the English language? People lose more words every year and we don’t use all the language available to us. It’s sad, but true. There’s loads of free websites out there that are for the taking. Use a thesaurus or synonym website to help you channel words.
What You Should do Instead: When you proof your work, stay on the lookout for words repeating words such as: like, that, and, etc. Those words literally make you sound like you didn’t make it past 8th grade English… Not to mention your teacher may come back and bitch slap you for sleeping during class…
My favorite online resource is thesaurus.com. Use big words and wow your audience. How do you write without sounding like a pretentious twat with all your fancy words? You don’t use all your extensive words but inject them into your writing for humor or to make a point. Since you’re a big kid, avoid repeating the same word in a sentence. I guarantee it will make your writing more engaging and give your brain the exercise it deserves. Here’s an example in case you don’t know what’s up.
In my 10 things to do in Vang Vieng post, the opening paragraph starts off like so:
“Gone are the days of sloshed, sunburnt foreigners sporting body paint and stumbling about the roads unable to define the planet they’re on…If you’re looking to get plastered, there’s still a party, but it ends at 12 a.m. (Oh damn.)”
The original sentence read: “Gone are the days of drunk, sunburnt foreigners sporting body paint and…If you’re looking to get drunk, there’s still a party, but it ends at 12 a.m. (Oh damn.)”
Do yourself a favor and don’t use the same word within the same paragraph. A quick input into a synonym finder would yield so many more words for drunk and believe me, there’s a bunch.
This is shit I wish I had years ago when I first started blogging. Believe me, I wouldn’t have taught on the JET Program or GEPIK for long if I knew how to make my blog work. The point is, I want you to succeed. I want you to be able to go forth with your blogging dreams and achieve them. Stop making common mistakes and learn from someone who has been there. Some people are born with natural talents like an eye for photography or the brain for writing, but rest assured, these are skills that can be learned and refined. I’ll be doing a Travel Blogging series for the rest of the month so be sure to subscribe to my email list and don’t miss a post!