Amar, the travel blogger turned entrepreneur, started blogging about his travels back in 2009 on his site Gap Year Escape. Since then his career as a full-time blogger has taken him across all seven continents. He has written a Gap Year Travel Guide, is a contributor to Huffington Post and has been featured on the likes of Lonely Planet, BBC, TIME and Entrepreneur. Using the skills he’s learnt as a blogger he then went on to establish the men’s grooming brand Suave Grooming.
We recently spoke to him about advice on travel blogging and tips on producing content for new bloggers. If you'd like some hints and tips from an expert, you're in the right place...
What advice would you give to travel bloggers who are trying to get 'on the map' online?
Don’t be discouraged! The path to success is paved with people who gave up. Getting ‘on the map’ as you call it is a long process that requires hard work and focus. It can be overwhelming when you start blogging with all the different aspects you have to master from content marketing and social media to SEO and e-mail marketing. It’s enough to give any newbie pause. Focus on mastering a couple of areas first and make sure they are done right consistently before adding more to your plate. Doing things confidently and competently will come across to your audience and partners you may want to work with.
How can travel bloggers ensure their content’s different from everything else out there?
This is achieved by staying true to your own writing style and blogging about your personal experiences. How can anyone else replicate the experience that you had? It’s unique to you. If you’re going to write content like “ten things to do in London” then your content will look indistinguishable from all the other articles out there. If you write an article about “that one time you hitchhiked across Peru with a three legged llama” it’s going to be pretty unique.
Would you say that social media’s a vital tool for bloggers?
Social media is incredibly vital for a blogger’s growth. Having additional networks to share content will help you diversify your traffic sources getting you more eyes on your content. However, a lot of bloggers make the mistake of thinking that social media is purely for pumping out content. Some of the best connections I’ve ever made have been through social media. They are called social networks for a reason so don’t forget the kind of global reach you have at your finger tips and the connections you can make.
Which articles/stories did far better than you expected?
Sometimes it’s the super personal or the really practical that does really well. For example, this post on backpacks is useful yes but probably not the most exciting article you could read. Nevertheless it did well! I also wrote this piece which is a personal story about an accident I had. I was hesitant to publish it to be honest given the content but I think the vulnerability struck a chord with people.
Have you ever been surprised by a lack of interest in a piece which you thought would do really well?
All the time. You can have a rough idea about how popular a piece might be but you never really know until you publish and start sharing it. I wrote a pretty in depth Airbnb review that got zero traction. My hunch is that I produced it later than was ideal and by this point people were well aware of the service and what it was about. It is good to set benchmarks for content e.g. it should get this many shares or that many views. Then each month review what type of content did well and which didn’t. By constantly re-evaluating you can be sure that you are putting out content that your audience wants to see.
How often should a blogger be posting new content online, and should most of it be written content? Can video content be just as popular?
There isn’t really a magic answer for this other than post as much you are able. The caveat to this is that it needs to be consistent. If you are going to post once a week, commit to that so your audience knows what to expect and when. You also need to write high quality content that is detailed and useful. If that takes you two weeks, it takes you two weeks. Make sure you put out content that you are proud of.
Content doesn’t always have to be written articles either. Video content, photo essays or infographics can be just as popular. Varying up the type of content you provide is never a bad thing.
Any other tips?
Just have fun with it! When I meet a lot of bloggers they are worried about what everyone else is doing or how far “behind” they are. Just enjoy it! Blogging is supposed to be fun regardless of whether you are doing it as a hobby or a full-time occupation. Keep focused on what you are doing and celebrate the wins, however small they may be.