If you’ve decided to add blogging as a side hustle, or even to start a travel blog as your main source of income, you probably have questions. One of those is how to monetize your travel blog. Last week I discussed travel blogging as one way to start your own location-independent business. There are many other possibilities, but this is what I know best and I want to share with you what I know so that you can begin to increase your income and/or replace the job that ties you down to one location and a small, fixed amount of travel during your vacations.
I started this blog 12 years ago, and for a long time I didn’t take it very seriously. Over the past two years, I’ve worked to improve it and monetize it. I still have room to grow, and you’ll see more of this coming later this quarter. But for those of you who want to do the same, here are some of the top ideas to monetize your travel blog and become a paid travel content creator.
Showing ads on your website is one of the easiest ways to bring in money from your blog. There’s no up-front cost, and very little ongoing work. Most bloggers start with Google Ads, because, well, everyone knows Google and they make sure of that! Google Ads is a great place to start, and lets you dabble in display advertising without a long commitment and without too much technical knowledge.
The income from Google Ads is usually lower than other networks, however, so many people move from Google to Ezoic pretty quick. Ezoic is another ad network with, typically, a higher payout per view. Why Ezoic? Because you don’t have to meet a minimum threshold of monthly visitors or pageviews in order to qualify. Any blog with any amount of traffic is eligible to apply. Ezoic can be a bit difficult technically, so you should expect to spend some time getting them up-and-running, but once you do, it pretty much goes on autopilot.
Once bloggers reach a higher threshold, they usually move on to other networks that pay even better. Some of the most popular ones are AdThrive, Mediavine, and SHE Media. The current thresholds for these programs are:
AdThrive: 100,000 pageviews per month
Mediavine: 50,000 sessions per month
SHE Media: 20,000 pageviews per month
Each one has additional requirements as well; traffic is only one component. But traffic is usually the biggest hurdle to move to one of these networks. Note that in the list above, different metrics are used. Your blog’s pageviews will always be equal to or higher than the number of sessions, because each session can have more than one pageview.
As soon as you hit all of the minimum requirements for a given network, you should give real consideration to moving.
An affiliate program is a referral system where you link to a product or service, and if a purchase is made, you get a small percentage paid to you in commission. When you link to them, you have to use a specially-coded link that includes your referrer ID, so the site can track which purchases come from you. Each affiliate program will help you build links in this manner. There are tons of affiliate programs out there, many of which are perfect for travel bloggers.
A good place to start here is the Amazon Associates program. But don’t join the minute you launch your blog. They’ll close your account if you don’t make a sale right away. (As will many other programs.) You can always reapply, but until you have enough traffic to actually send buyers their way, you’re wasting time. So wait until you have a decent amount of visitors to your blog before you add affiliate products.
There are affiliate networks that offer great programs: two are Commission Junction and ShareASale. Some affiliate programs are self-managed, too. Usually, if there’s a company you want to promote, you can find out if they have a program by searching Google for “[company name] affiliate program” and it will take you right to it.
As a travel blogger, there are tons of things to promote: hotel bookings, travel tours, gear and gadgets, and more. Consider your blog’s niche; if you focus on hiking, then a program for boots and one for hiking staffs is probably great. If you blog about international travel, then items that are commonly used on planes and trains would be good, as would items that help you travel lightly.
I also recommend you review your affiliate program performance regularly. If a particular product isn’t producing results, replace it. If the whole program isn’t producing results, consider if you should change or completely get rid of it in favor of a different program.
Post Sponsored Content
Lots of companies and websites are looking to get their name in front of a wider audience. As such, they may offer to provide you with sponsored content. Basically, this means they are writing an article for publication on your website in exchange for the visibility your site provides. (They may also do it just for a link; be careful about that because Google has strict policies about link schemes, and might demote your site as a result. To be safe, offer no-follow links instead of “do follow” ones, even if you have to turn away some of your opportunities.)
As a blogger, you will get tons of email spam about this. Most of it is junk: poorly written, thin content in exchange for a link to a possibly-questionable site. But there are some jewels among all the rubbish. Typically these will pay you some money for the post, and it can be a really good source of income! Since I don’t personally do a lot of this, I’m going to point you to an article that explains sponsored content in more detail.
Paid Training – eBooks, Courses, and Coaching
As you’ve grown as both a blogger and a traveler, you’ve gained experience. Some of that is information that can be useful to other people! You can offer your knowledge in the form of a paid eBook (easier) or training course (more work but higher potential payout).
Offer your paid product on your website and in your social media. Get it in front of as many people as you can!
Another possibility is to set up a paid newsletter on Substack where subscribers get your premium content for a recurring subscription fee.
You can also choose to teach people what you know in a more “live” environment. It can be online or in person. Think about how this might work – you can offer 1-hour one-on-one Zoom training sessions. You can create a paid group where you offer a certain amount of group training per month. You can hold in-person classes, perhaps through your local continuing education or business training facilities.
Don’t underestimate what you know and think everyone else knows the same. Chances are you have valuable information to share, and if you’re willing to put yourself out there, you can have this as a great income source.
Offer Travel Services – Planning, Tours, Etc.
The last suggestion I have is to use your blog to sell related services.
For me, a lot of my travel centers around birding. There are lots of birds in my area, I know where to find them, and I could sell my services as a local birding guide to people who want to come to Florida to see birds. Perhaps you’re into long-trek hiking and could sell guide services that way, or even packing and transportation for overnight hikers.
Guide services don’t have to be local to you, either, if you know enough about your offerings in other areas. Perhaps you know a ton about art, and where to see the best artwork at different museums in a large city. You could, for example, offer a guided trip within Paris or New York City to visit various museums where you could share what you know about various paintings and sculptures…you get a trip and you get paid at the same time.
Or if you’re really good at planning trips and booking travel, you could offer travel planning services. While some people like to “wing it”, others want a complete itinerary when they’re spending their hard-earned money on a trip somewhere. You could plan out different activities for each day, and even book tickets to the attractions. If you really want to go the extra mile, you could become a travel agent and offer your services through your blog. After all, people are already on your blog because they’re interested in travel, so you have an engaged audience.
In Conclusion: How to Monetize Your Travel Blog
There are other ways to use your travel blog to make money, and I’m sure you can come up with creative alternatives to the list above. But these are fairly standard and common practices that are already in use by other travel bloggers. If you’re early on in your travel blogging journey, and looking for small wins or sure successes, try these tried and true options. Good luck in your blogging journey!