Getting Started Travel Blogging: Nicole from Bitten by the Travel Bug

getting started travel blogging - Nicole_HongKong1

Woop! Today I’m (Will) pretty happy to introduce you to the lovely Nicole, a delightful feminine presence that I myself have had the pleasure of buying a few sangrias and getting drunk with out in Madrid. Besides from being incredibly light-weight but a good watchman for my public pee outings, Nicole is one hell of a travel blogger, having firmly established her site, Bitten by the Travel Bug, and turned it into one of the most popular sites out there.

Check out what she has to say about getting started travel blogging. Prepare yourselves, this one is long and in-depth!

1. Hi Nicole! Could you briefly introduce yourself, your site and you’re why you wanted to write a travel blog?

Hey! My name is Nicole (uhrm.. but I guess you already knew that…) and I am an Australian set on taking over the world creating a fabulous travel blog called Bitten by the Travel Bug.

Originally I created a travel blog because I was heading off on my first solo round-the-world trip to work in the US at an American summer camp and then live in the UK. When researching information on summer camps I found that there was no quality information online as everything was pre-fabricated “Best summer of your life!”-type thing. All I wanted was something real something telling me “Yeah, it’s going to be a fantastic summer but…” or “Don’t do it!!! Run away now!!”

I also started the blog for two other reasons;

1. My grammar is appalling and I work in Media (thankfully not print or online… yet!) and I wanted to bring it up to scratch a little bit.

2. I wanted to take lots of pretty photos and then have a bit of brag about the cool places I’d visited. ;)

2. Who were/are your major influences when you decided to create your own blog?

When I started my blog in December 2009 there were no-where near as many travel bloggers around as there are today so I wasn’t majorly influenced by anyone. I just bought a domain, some hosting and then got my tech friend to put it altogether for me.

I do remember seeing Nomadic Matt’s site and thinking, “This is good but I can do a whole lot better.” – one day Matt, one day.

getting started travel blogging - Nicole_in Pamplona

Getting interviewed before running with the bulls

3. How tricky was it to design your site? What did you find most easy? Most challenging?

I am a sucker for design; if I weren’t studying Journalism I would probably be a graphic designer so it has been the part of the blogging process that has irked me most!

I spent hours pouring over sites and theme sites trying to find something I liked and when I finally found it, it didn’t work.

Graduating onto using the Thesis theme I’ve found it was a steep learning curve, and something I still haven’t mastered, but it was able to do what I wanted – a cleaner, no clutter site. I also got someone to design my header for me.

But I now feel that I’ve outgrown this version of the site and planning on launching a new design at the end of the year –shhh…

The planning process is definitely the easiest bit when designing a site. You can use your imagination and let it run wild. Perhaps add a few flying unicorns and a rainbow to the header, and a pot of gold to the footer; it’s all-good!

On the flip side, for me, the hardest part was getting over that learning curve using thesis. It involved me learning CSS and brushing up on some very rusty HTML skills; a lot of crashing my site and having my tech friend scold me for forgetting something simple resulting in the crash, and a lot of down time. But it’s been fun!

4. The wide world of SEO, what does it mean to you? And how do you go about it?

Bitten by the Travel Bug’s SEO is probably horrible as I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. That said I get about 50% of my daily traffic from search engines so I must be doing something right!

One thing that I have noticed has helped with my SEO is adding details to all of the photos that I feature on my site.

As I have quite a photo heavy site by adding search engine friendly titles, hence why it’s separated by the dashes, and some alternative text, which helps search engines filter further when people search.

I’m still not 100% sure if I’m doing it right but since beginning to add alternative text to my photos my Google Image traffic has risen to about 20% a day (maybe it’s time to stop neglecting the other engines!)

getting started travel blogging - Nicole_Guinness

Learning to pull the perfect pint

5. What time of day do you find best to write? Do you have any particular styles of getting your ideas down? Do you have a notepad or is everything digital?

I am a perpetual night owl. I think it’s something to do with the absolute silence that comes with the night that helps me concentrate with minimal distractions. It also helps that there’s nothing on TV to watch!

I do use a moleskine notebook when I travel but not so much when I’m at home. Most of my work is digital

6. Have you tried video blogging? What are your opinions of any video blogs you have seen?

I have tried video blogging but haven’t put anything up yet because I’m worried I’ll let lots of thumb downs! Haha – silly I know.

Video is such a flexible medium that allows you… whilst a photograph may tell a 1000 words, video can transport into the destination… I can’t accurately describe it but we all feel it – how many hours have you lost to the square box in the corner of your living room?

Television or video has always been a love of mine but I haven’t translated that into my travel blog yet, mainly because learning to ‘write good’ was my top priority. I do hope to be bringing video to Bitten by the Travel Bug in late-2012 though.

getting started travel blogging - Nicole_phone booth

Bloggers in a booth

7. What are your thoughts on Travel Podcasting?

I haven’t really looked into travel podcasting much. I know that there are some fantastic podcasters in the travel community, including Indie Travel Podcast, but I’ve never been a fan of listening to anything except music. I’d much rather actively read or watch something.

8. How do you build your audience?

The age old question with a hundred answers.

The greatest success in building a community for me has been to get others to share the information. I recently wrote a post about flying with Cathay Pacific so I shared it with their Twitter and Facebook profiles across Australia, the UK, the USA and Hong Kong and they helped me. Companies like to show off that they’ve done something good and my article was fairly balanced so they were happy to share it amongst their community meaning huge numbers visiting and some even translating into subscribing for my newsletter or to my social media accounts.

As soon as I have their interest I can email or message them inviting them to join the discussion or to check out another post that they might enjoy.

I also join in chats on Twitter, most notably #TTOT (Travel Talk on Tuesday) in which I am a co-host. Not everyone who take part in these are travel bloggers so it’s a great chance to not only meet others who love travel but to share your content around and hopefully find some new friends!

getting started travel blogging - Nicole_phone booth

9. Tell us about your most popular post.

My most popular post is the ‘First Time in Hong Kong? 5 Must See Sites’. I purposely chose the title so that it would target two sub-groups of people – those searching for articles on visiting Hong Kong for the first time, and those seeking must see sites in Hong Kong. So far this has worked as I get a good amount of search traffic to this post each day.

My second and third most popular posts would be a seasonal post about J-dag, or the release of the Christmas beer, in Copenhagen and then a post about taking a Black Taxi tour of the Belfast political murals.

10. And lastly, what would be your top 3 tips to a new blogger starting out?

1. Network – Meet people and mention your blog. If they’re curious they will check it out (and most of them will be curious!) They don’t have to be part of the travel community. I met some fantastic family bloggers at an Australian blogging conference and regularly read and comment on their site and they often reciprocate.

Tell your work colleagues, friends, your parents, dog. Most likely they’ll share it because they are interested or proud that they know someone doing something on the Internet!

2. Just write – I spent the first two years of having a blog tiptoeing around the actual writing part because I was so scared someone was going to get upset that I said that I hate London, or that Sydney is overrated and should check-out Melbourne. I got over it, finally, but now I’m two-years behind where I could have been if I just sucked it up and didn’t care what people thought. There is no one right opinion and if you can argue why you believe something – do it!

3. Enjoy it! – Blogging is meant to be enjoyed. Perhaps it’s an escape from work, a way to create a career change or perhaps you want to be the next Planet D with sponsors and ‘free’ travel coming out of your ears. No matter what path you take in blogging make sure you enjoy it and if you don’t take a step back and evaluate where you’re going wrong and fix it.

What a smashing interview jam-packed with super travel tips from a pretty downright cool Aussie girl killing it in the travel blogging world. Thanks Nicole! Make sure you check out her site here and say hi on Twitter too.

If you have a blog you’d like to share or some advice to offer, contact us for an interview.

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