The coronavirus pandemic has impacted people working in all industries, but the travel industry has been hit especially hard (and for obvious reasons…). While people on the ground—such as employees of the airline industry, Airbnb hosts, and cruise ship staff—are most visibly impacted, many travel bloggers are experiencing a significant loss in traffic and income.
So, what should travel bloggers be doing now, when people aren’t planning trips? How can you keep growing your blog when Pinterest and Google traffic have tanked? Should you be promoting travel articles and photos on your social media accounts?
Here are some thoughts and suggestions to keep developing your blog during these unusual circumstances.
Note: I absolutely don’t want to downplay the suffering that the coronavirus is causing, as many people’s health, safety, and economic stability are at risk. It might seem selfish or shallow to worry about blog traffic at this time, but keep in mind that travel blogging is some people’s main source of income. Even if blogging isn’t your main source of income, it’s upsetting to put in endless hours of work building up your blog only to see that progress disappear. So, I just wanted to share some ideas on how to keep creating meaningful content during this time, and hopefully still see growth.
What Should Travel Bloggers Do When People Aren’t Traveling?
1. Get to something you’ve been putting off.
We all have a blogging-related task we’ve been meaning to do, but never seem to have the time for. For me, that’s sending my monthly newsletter (which is more like every 3 months…oops). Now is a great time to tackle new endeavor that you may have kept in the back of your mind, but haven’t had the chance to get to.
Here are some ideas:
- Start a newsletter (or just actually send one haha, like me).
- Optimize old posts—we all have a those posts that need a little cleaning up, and now’s a great time to do just that.
- Update your theme/logo/branding—If you want some theme suggestions, I rounded up some lovely WordPress themes for under $50.
- Work on site speed—here’s a site speed tester; Make Traffic Happen also has a site speed course that’s supposed to be awesome (not an affiliate link, just a resource).
- Learn to batch create Pinterest pins, or improve your pin design—Pinterest strategist Julie Laundis has awesome Pinterest resources and live videos that share how to do just this in her free Guide to Pinterest for Travel Bloggers Facebook group.
- Develop a freebie—I’ve been meaning to do this forever, but it’s been hard as I didn’t want to pay $29/month for ConvertKit, the email management system that many bloggers use for their freebie opt-in forms. They luckily recently started offering a free version though, and you can sign up with my referral code to manage your first 100 subscribers for free!
- Sign up for Tailwind—Tailwind allows you to schedule Pinterest pins and participate in “tribes,” which are groups of people posting content in a specific niche (like travel or sustainability). In each tribe, you can share one of your pins and must reciprocate by resharing 1-2 pins by other people. It’s a great way to get your pins seen by more people; within a couple weeks of using Tailwind, my Pinterest traffic grew from about 5 daily clicks to 20-50 daily (and once even 100+ in one day). Sign up with my referral code to get your first month free, plus $15 off if you upgrade to a paid plan.
- Create a YouTube channel—I honestly believe that YouTube is the future of social media, and it’s a great way to share more of your personality in your content. The issue is that it takes TONS of time to plan, shoot, and edit a video, but being stuck at home gives you lots more time. Here’s my YouTube channel if you want to check it out for some travel and sustainability inspiration.
2. Keep writing travel posts to get them indexed and ranking.
It’s unclear how the coronavirus will continue to impact travel blog traffic, especially since we don’t know how long the pandemic will last. No one knows for sure what the best course of action is, but some blogging strategists have recommended continuing to publish travel posts to get them indexed by Google, and to promote them on Pinterest to get them ranking (there’s currently less competition on Pinterest, which is also helpful). That way, once the pandemic is over, people will see your pins in top results on Pinterest, and your traffic should pick back up again.
You could also try a different style of travel post. People aren’t searching for nitty-gritty travel details right now, but they may want to see beautiful travel images to inspire their wanderlust. You might try posts like “20 Beautiful Images to Inspire You to Visit Paris” instead of travel itineraries.
(This information in this section is from a couple Pinterest videos, again by Julie, in the Guide to Pinterest for Travel Bloggers Facebook group).
EDIT: Julie has since updated her stance to say that she doesn’t believe it’s a good time to launch travel pins, as we don’t know how long the lockdowns will last. If you continue putting pins out there and participating in threads, they’ll only have that artificial boost without real clicks, so they may not even rank. Without a good long-term timeline, it’s also impossible to have a smart strategy. She also emphasizes that *no one* knows what’s best to do now, as it’s an unprecedented situation, so it’s ultimately up to you on what to do.
3. Expand to a new niche for more immediate traffic.
If you want more immediate results, and don’t want to wait for the uncertain end of the coronavirus, consider trying a new niche. Conventional wisdom tells us that we should stick to a single niche, but that can be tough when that entire industry has taken a hit.
I personally blog about travel, running, and sustainability, and I actually haven’t lost a *ton* of traffic because my most popular posts are about running. I’ve also noticed that my sustainability-related pins are still doing relatively decently on Pinterest. (EDIT: I actually doubled my traffic in April because my running posts are doing really well).
This might not be a great long-term solution if you don’t want to keep creating content in this new niche, but if you were wanting to write about other topics anyways, this is the perfect opportunity to do so. If you want to keep the different niches on separate blogs, you could also just start a new blog. Just be sure that whatever you do is something you’ll continue to do after the pandemic, as otherwise it’s only a distraction, and not a long-term strategy.
4. Exercise caution on social media.
I think it’s perfectly okay to post travel photos and promote your travel articles, as long as you’ve addressed the issue of the coronavirus, and it’s clear that you’re not traveling now, nor encouraging people to travel.
I’m always posting latergrams on Instagram, but my captions are in real-time, so I think it’s pretty clear to my followers at this point that I’m almost never where my photos are haha.
To make it clear that you’re not traveling, you can always start your posts off with the time the photo was taken (i.e. “Summer 2019”). To emphasize that you’re not encouraging people to travel, you might also talk about daily quarantine life in the caption of your photos, memories of the place where the photo was taken, or where you want to go once you can travel again.
If you’re sharing travel articles on Facebook or Twitter, a disclaimer might be helpful, along the lines of “It’s not a responsible idea to travel now with the coronavirus, so it’s a great time to write all the posts I’ve been meaning to get to. Here’s a post I just published about Rome to inspire your wanderlust while we’re staying safe at home.”
Here’s one of my Instagram posts about canceling my trip due to the pandemic.
View this post on Instagram
Canceled a trip to New Orleans next weekend because of the coronavirus. Was looking forward to it for a couple months now, but it just didn’t seem like a responsible thing to travel. I might be young and probably could put up a good fight against the virus, but don’t want to risk spreading it to people who are immunocompromised (and just because you feel fine doesn’t mean you aren’t carrying the virus!) . I know plane tickets are super cheap now, but I encourage you to stay home if you don’t absolutely need to travel. If you’re itching to take advantage of those low prices, you can always book a trip a couple months out and play things by ear, as some airlines now allow no-fee cancellations or changes until the fall (like JetBlue). I got a full refund for my Airbnb, and credit for the canceled flight, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to explore someplace new when this is over. In the meantime, here’s a snowy Quebec scene from my February trip. . French word of the day: devotion/dedication—dévouement
5. Build your DA through link swaps and collabs.
Now is a great time to build your domain authority (DA), which is a number out of 100 that is kind of like the “prestige” of a website. The higher the DA of a blog, the better chance it has of ranking. DA is calculated on many factors, including the age of a website and number of quality backlinks.
To build your DA, and increase your potential for traffic as a result, try to get your homepage and specific blog posts linked on higher-authority sites. A great way to do this is to participate in link swaps among other bloggers, or to do a collab. In most collabs, you contribute a small section to a larger post in exchange for a link to one of your posts (for example, you might write about one particular place in the post “Secret Spots in Paris”). The best place to find these collabs are in travel blogger Facebook groups (there are also entire groups just for link swaps and guest posts).
6. Join blogging communities and make a new friend.
I started blogging 10 years ago (this makes me sound old, but I’m actually a recent college grad and just decided to make the very wonderful decision as a middle schooler to be a ~fashion blogger~ AKA embarrass myself on the internet). Jokes aside, I was a blogger in the “golden era” of personal blogs and making blogger friends. I used to have a little community of bloggers who would comment regularly on each other’s posts. Nowadays, it seems that most interactions I have with other bloggers are one-time reciprocation, like from Pinterest threads or Blog Post Saturday engagement.
Community can make blogging more meaningful, and is especially important during a time where we’re all isolated at home. Leave a few genuine comments on blog posts just because you enjoyed them, and not because you expect to get a comment in return (and truly make an effort to leave a personal comment; this is what sparks great blogging friendships!). Join a couple blogging or travel Facebook groups—I especially love Wandering Women Travel Bloggers. You can meet cool people in your niche, participate in engagement threads, and have real discussions about travel and blogging.
Hopefully this gives you some ideas to build your blog during this travel slump, and keeps you motivated to create content. Stay safe and healthy, keep being creative, and we’ll be just as strong as ever once we get through this craziness.