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Back when I started in 2010, my blog was little more than a glorified diary where I pondered over the highs and lows of a life abroad. At that time, a travel blog was merely a form of expression… but now, run correctly, a travel blog is a business.

Today, my blog is just one piece of my overarching brand. I found that having a consistent and influential social media presence was what really took me to the next level and led to more opportunities for assignments and free travel perks.

I’m not the Ghost of Christmas Past, and this isn’t the movie “Scrooge,” but if I could whisk myself back to my early days of blogging, here’s what I’d tell myself…

How to actually grow on Instagram

In the early days of Instagram, I took growth for granted. I posted without much thought or purpose behind the posts. At the time, I didn’t think of Instagram as an extension of my blog and brand, or something to showcase my photography skills to potential clients.

However, when my approach to Instagram became more professional, opportunities began flooding in.

If I could go back to when I was just starting a blog, I’d give myself the following important tips:

• First, think of Instagram as an ongoing portfolio of your work, not just a side project.
• Second, don’t post just landscapes… you want to ensure that people can relate to the person behind your photos and know who you are (Instagram stories are great for this).
• Lastly, it’s important to respond to your audience and engage on a consistent basis.

Twitter can be very useful

People have their own feelings about the usefulness of Twitter, but it’s had a very positive impact on my career, and I wish I had started sooner.

Twitter is an easy way to establish your brand and make connections—all of sudden, you start meeting people at conferences and your name sounds “familiar” to them, which is good for networking.

It’s also extremely useful for tagging brands and tourism boards that you’re working with, as well people you’ve met during your travels. Here are a few ways to effectively use Twitter:

• Tag tourism boards to let them know you’re in the region (if you’re not already working with them)—it’s a great way for you to get a foot in the door.
• Tag tourism boards you are currently working with as a thank you, and let them know how much you love their destination.
• Tag tourism boards after you return home if you post an article or blog post about their location—another great way to network
• Share travel quotes, articles from your hometown, or other interesting content, to connect with your readers.

One thing to note is that Tweets are very short-lived online. So, don’t be shy about posting at least 3-5 Tweets per day when you’re traveling.

Finding your audience

When I first started blogging, I wrote about my adventures, but I didn’t yet realize the importance of positioning my content to enable others to embark on the same adventures. When I made my blog posts more like manuals for how to explore, my traffic skyrocketed.

Ultimately, you need to think about what your readers want. Maybe they are like my readers and want to know how to set up the same trips for themselves. Or, maybe they’re armchair travelers and would rather live vicariously through the stories that you tell.

Don’t let this idea intimidate you—you don’t have to know all the answers before you start your blog. Basically, you can accomplish this through trial and error. Mix up your blog posts and see what gets the best response, especially which posts have comments or other engagement from your readers.

And remember to add your own personal perspective: write posts that everyone can use, but only you could have written.

Make it easy for editors and tourism boards to find you in search results

In 2010, I didn’t even know what Search Engine Optimization (SEO) was. Now, learning SEO is my favorite research subject.

Your study can go very in depth (mine has) but the most important thing to know about SEO is that the “keywords” you use in your blog posts are important.

They help other people find you online. Keywords are the phrases people type into an internet search in order to find information they need. Here’s the basic process…

Before you start writing about a topic, spend a few minutes thinking about which keywords are relevant to that topic. For example, if you specialize in writing about food when you travel, you will want to include content on keywords like “dinner in Toulouse,” or “the best kebab in Instanbul.”

If you want to learn more, there are a number of quality programs to help you find the right keywords (many of which are free), but my favorite is a paid service called Keysearch.

It will take time

I had some success in the beginning, but it’s been a long journey of trial and error to get where I am now. However, all the tools are out there for your success—it’s up to you to take them and run with it.

A travel blog is a great way to add more travel and adventure into your life (even around your hometown). In 2018, you have the benefit of learning from the mistakes and wisdom of others, so there’s no need to look to the past, but rather look forward to a promising future.

Stick with it, learn as much as you can, and you’ll get there, too.

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