Blogging

How to Monetize Your Travel Blog and Get Your First Paid Sponsorship Deal

In the early 2000s, when blogging was first becoming popular, monetizing blogs wasn’t on many people’s to-do lists. People were simply in awe of how quickly they could share their favorite songs, outfits, and images across the internet. But now blogging is seen as something completely different — a viable career, and one that’s insanely desirable. As such, everyone wants to know how they can make money from their blog (and travel the world while they’re at it).

We can’t really blame them. After all, if you could swing an all-expenses-paid trip to the Bahamas and a postal box filled with press products, why wouldn’t you? That’s why travel blogging is such a popular niche.

In this blog post, we’re going to show you how to monetize your travel blog from the beginning. Ultimately, this advice — if followed correctly — should snag you your first paid sponsorship deal with a real, legitimate brand. So what are you waiting for? 

Affiliate Links (For Beginner Bloggers)

Affiliate links are unique links to a website or product page that can be inserted into articles, email marketing campaigns and more, and reward the blogger for conversions gained via that link. In short, affiliate linking is an online commission system. It’s the equivalent of your Avon representative earning a tiny percentage of the sale every time they sell a lipstick.

This is widely accepted as the easiest way to monetize your travel blog (or any blog, for that matter). The reason it’s so easy is that you don’t have to be sponsored by a brand to gain access to affiliate links. Anyone can access Amazon product affiliate links or Airbnb affiliate links, for example. While Amazon will give you a cut of the sale, Airbnb rewards you with site credit to spend on a future stay. Contrary to what people might think, you don’t have to have a huge following or reputation to start making money from blogging — this approach allows you to monetize your blog from the start.

Both Amazon and Airbnb are incredibly relevant to travel blogging. Don’t see how? You could insert Amazon links into blogs, such as “45 of the Best Lightweight Cameras for Backpacking”, or insert relevant Airbnb links into a post titled “The Ultimate Guide to Barcelona – Where to Stay, Eat and Drink”.

Live Like It’s the Weekend shows how a personal blog uses affiliate links to gain Airbnb credit and offers a discount to readers in exchange.

Just be aware that when you use affiliate links in an article, you should always write a clear disclaimer so that your audience understands the implication of clicking on your link. It isn’t that the reader will be worse off if they buy an item through their link — in fact, it won’t cost them a single extra cent — but it’s important that they understand the intent behind the link and that you may make some profit off the click. This is advised by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) in its new guidance for social influencers. 

Sponsored Content (For Intermediate Bloggers) 

If you’re bored of only interacting with brands via automatically generated links, sponsored content is the next natural step. Sponsored content is a broad term that isn’t easily defined. The American Press Institute describes this well, saying “there is no single form, but rather a continuum from banner ads to social media content to large microsites with articles and videos.”

While sponsored content can easily take different forms, the one thing it does have in common is the inclusion of promotional material.

In this article, we’re referring to sponsored content as blog content centered on promoting a certain brand, product or service.

Let’s look at an example. In terms of your travel blog, a hotel might pay you to write an article reviewing your experience staying in one of their suites. Alternatively, a credit card with major travel perks might pay for a guest posting spot so that they can publish their latest press release to your website. With that said, sponsored content can be written either by you or the company involved.

If you already have an idea for a content series or standalone article, it’s worth signing up for free database services like Help a Reporter (HARO), where you can post an article brief and ask for expert commentary. For example, you might develop an article idea based on a discussion and the perceptions of different travel topics.

Image from Rough Maps shows an example of a collaborative blog post.

The travel blog pictured above took this approach when it published an article on the worst experiences backpackers have ever had. In total, the post featured 45 personal anecdotes, giving the content material a super shareable factor and high level of relatability.

You can also use source databases for the opposite purpose — to be a source. This is where you might bag yourself your first legitimate sponsorship deal. You’ll be able to browse daily source requests categorized by niche and make a pitch for any relevant ideas.

While this is a great way to raise the profile of your blog, build a strong backlink profile, and meet valuable industry connections, you will need to make sure your existing blog is up to standard. To be seriously considered for viable content opportunities, make sure that your blog is formatted well and has relevant contact information and a clear content focus. At this point in your blogging career, it might be worth investing in a virtual landline number so that you can feature business contact details on your website. This is a simple yet effective way of showing editors, publishers and potential sponsorship companies that you’re the real deal.

Influencer Trips and Product Outreach (For Expert Bloggers) 

We’ve bunched these two categories together, as they can be seen as a bit of a gray area when it comes to blogging. Put simply, if you’re looking to make money from your blog, these activities might not prove a steady source of income. Rather, product outreach and influencer trips are job perks that don’t always include payment — unless you’re an expert blogger.

 Unlike using affiliate links, product outreach is often reserved for bloggers with a consistently engaged following or solid status in a given niche. For that reason, you might not be approached about product outreach until your website meets certain criteria — such as having a high domain authority, respectable follower count and good organic traffic figures. These are often stipulated as requirements in Twitter call-outs, where a brand or Public Relations (PR) manager will openly ask for suitable bloggers interested in reviewing products.

Image sourced from Twitter shows a typical product outreach call-out with a specific demographic in mind.

We can see in the above example that the PR manager is looking to send US-based bloggers designer girls dresses — but only if they have a Domain Authority of thirty or above.

With that said, this doesn’t mean that you’ll need a verified status before you’ll ever get sent freebies, but you will need to be considered influential for brands to see the collaboration as economical.

In the same vein, influencer trips are far and few between unless you’ve been on a brand’s ideal influencer list for a while.

Indeed, the influencer world isn’t all it seems, as this viral Buzzfeed post reveals. The article focuses on a German influencer couple who recently divulged some important information about their globetrotting lifestyle — their parents pay for it. In fact, one of their parents works two jobs to be able to pay for travel expenses so that the pair can continue to make fresh and exciting content.

Unfortunately, if you want to be one of the few travel influencers who get swept away with no hidden fees, you’ll likely need to already have a brand deal with a company. This article created by Later shows how some companies, such as Revolve, select a group of “highly curated” influencers to take on frequent press trips. Revolve is an LA-based clothing company that even created the hashtag #revolvearoundtheworld for such trips. But its influencer group isn’t made up of part-time bloggers. In fact, it more closely resembles a VIP celebrity guest list — the brand has notably partnered with the likes of Shay Mitchell, former Pretty Little Liars cast member and owner of the luggage company Beis.

Needless to say, the biggest leap will be taking your blog from intermediate to expert — and you might have to possess a few more credentials than just simply blogging to get there.

Other Media (For Blogger Empires)  

To become the ultimate blogger, you’ll need more than just a singular blog. Most full-time bloggers also have YouTube channels and use other forms of social media as secondary income streams.

At this point, your blog really does become an empire, as you’ll often need a team of people to keep the party going.

Take fashion blogger Lydia Elise Millen, for example, whose self-named blog focuses on fashion, beauty, and lifestyle. If you were to click on this domain five years ago, chances are that the homepage would have been very straightforward — a grid of blog posts and an author bio (like most standard blogs). Nowadays, Lydia uses a rolling homepage featuring a blog sponsored by Selfridges, a full-sized Instagram grid, and a reel of her latest YouTube videos. Lydia works with a team of people to produce content on multiple platforms and even employs her best friend, Carrie, as her personal assistant.

Image from Lydia Elise Millen shows how professional blogger Lydia has taken a social-media-first approach with her website.

To get to this level of success, you’ll need a lot of dedication and commitment. At this stage in your journey, blogging will become a business and full-time role, and it’s likely that you’ll eventually have to outsource work to other trusted individuals.

One thing is for sure: no matter what progress you’ve made so far on your personal blog, there’s always a way to monetize your content. Whether you’re just starting out using affiliate links or you’re selling your wardrobe in conjunction with designer department stores like Selfridges, blogging is full of opportunities for those of all abilities.

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