Thinking of launching your own hiking blog but just don’t know where to start? We know just how difficult and daunting it can be at first. That is why we have put together this step by step guide that will show you exactly how to start a hiking blog
Learn How to Start a Hiking Blog the Right Way
Hikers are traditionally more of an ‘analog’ group of people. One of the greatest pleasures of walking in the wild is the way it allows us to disconnect from our ‘plugged in’ lifestyles – but hiking is also an intrinsically social pastime. In our digital age, it’s easier than ever to share our personal adventures and stories with people all over the world, and a blog is one of the best ways to do this.
Starting a blog is one of the most rewarding, fulfilling, and exciting hobbies to take up. It inspires you to think about your experiences differently, helps you to become a better writer, puts you in contact with all kinds of wonderful people who share your interests, and can even make you money down the line.
But you already know this. That’s why you’re here. You’ve seen Roaming Spices, and probably a number of other hiking and travel blogs, you’ve enjoyed our/their content, and thought to yourself – “I could do that.” And you know what? You can. You just need to know how.
There are a lot of things to think about, and a myriad of factors you’ll need to think about both before and during your hiking blog adventure, and understanding what these are and how to approach them is a task in and of itself. Having started Roaming Spices, and experienced these first hand, we wanted to share the process with you., which is why we put together this guide.
It might be easy to get put off by the sheer volume of the ‘to do’ list, and the thought that no one will ever see/read your blog, but persevere! There’s plenty of space online for every hiker who wants to get blogging – and if you’re eager to discover how to start a hiking blog of your own, read on!
(NOTE: We’ll be developing many of these points into fully-fledged posts over the coming months, so stay tuned!)
1. Find Your Niche
This might seem like a redundant point from the off, but bear with us. ‘But my niche is hiking!’ we hear you cry, and while yes, this is true, the key to a really great blog is finding something to say (or a way to say something) that is unique to you. Yes, you could just write about ‘hiking’, but this is a huge topic, and if you want your blog to stand out, you need to inject it with something that’s special to you.
Think about your passions in hiking. Do you love long camping trips? Are you an expert on short walks? Do you have ‘gear acquisition syndrome’, and love learning about the new and best equipment to use? Whatever your particular interest, tap into that.
Grab a pen, and a notepad. Write down all of the things you love about hiking, and put a star next to those you can confidently write about. Even if you don’t consider yourself an expert, that’s fine, just write down a list of your favourite hikes – a personal, first-hand experience blog is just as valid as a blog helping others to plan walks.
Once you’ve settled on a few ideas, have a long hard think about which you could write a lot about. You’ll need to produce a fair bit of content, so it’s good not to be too specific (an entire blog about one walk might not be the most interesting, and you’ll run out of ideas pretty fast), but pick a niche element of hiking you love, and you’ll avoid running the risk of writing generic, unengaging articles.
Researching, choosing and then focusing on your niche as your site develops is so important in the ever more competitive blogging world. Spending a good deal of time getting this part right is a vital part of learning how to start a hiking blog the right way.
2. Planning & Time Management
Great, you’ve decided upon you’re niche – time to get writing, surely?! Woah there – hold those horses. If you dive in too early, without a game plan and at least a small level of organisation, you’re probably going to end up tripping over your own enthusiasm. Time for step 2 – getting organised.
One of the hardest things that most people find when they start a blog is simply finding the time to manage it. You’ll need to produce content, both for your blog itself and for your social media accounts, manage the website itself, sort everything from images to plugins, and eventually you’ll have to juggle this with engaging with and responding to your following. Blogging is wonderful, but boy is it a time sink!
Before you type your first word, start planning a schedule. Particularly if you work full time, the key is to fitting your blog in around your lifestyle.
It can be tempting to simply say ‘I’ll work on it with every free minute I have!’ when you’re first getting started and are a ball of enthusiasm, but there’s no need to put that much pressure on yourself; it’s unlikely you’ll be able to maintain this. (If you can, then we salute you.)
Be realistic, and plan a little time into your schedule here and there – as much as you can realistically spare – to work on the blog. The key is consistency: commit to spending x amount of time writing for the blog and x amount of time doing other admin & work for it every week, and stick to this.
One post a week is fine if that’s all you can manage, but if you can create 5, brilliant. The most important thing is finding a way to make blogging a regular part of your weekly schedule. Be consistent. Be disciplined. Be fearless.
Discovering all the aspects of how to start a hiking blog will at times be daunting. There is a huge amount to learn but if you try and work on everything at once you will literally fry your brain! Therefore, planning your time effectively is imperative if you want to maintain your enthusiasm and reduce the chances of burn out.
3. Figure Out Your Brand
Once you have a plan in place for the time you’re going to spend working on your blog, the next thing you’ll need to do is start ‘building your brand’. This might sound like a load of business buzzword jargon, but it’s actually a really important part of a successful blog.
The first thing you’ll need to think of is your name, as this will probably influence all the other aspects of your identity. Choosing a name can be a daunting task, as you’ll pretty much be stuck with it once you’ve made your choice, but it doesn’t need to be as frightening an ordeal as it first seems. A couple of central tenets to choosing a great name are:
- Make it memorable – short, catchy, and easy to say & understand.
- Make it original – don’t pick something similar to/the same as someone else’s, including brands, companies, and trademarked terms.
Other than that, go wild! Anything can work as a name, just make it personal to you, and you’re set.
Once you have your name, it’s a good idea to decide on the ‘persona’ your blogging self will take on. This will influence both the way you write your content, and the way you interact with your followers. More often than not, the best bet is to simply be yourself, but it’s good to think about the tone you plan to use. Are you going to be funny? Matter of fact? Quirky? Have a think about the way you’d like to come across to a new visitor.
4. Create Your Website
Having picked a niche and name, written out your schedule, and had a think about how you’re going to portray yourself in your blog, it’s time to get down to business and create your website.
If you’re not particularly tech-savvy, this can pretty scary, and there are books and books of information on all the different elements. Rather than get caught up in this, we’re going to keep things simple (we’ll be writing a more in-depth guide to this soon!).
To get a website live, you essentially need five things:
- You need a domain (the www.whateveryourblogwillbecalled.com bit), that acts as your online address that people will visit.
- You also need hosting, which is paid to an organisation that actually ‘host’ your website on the internet.
- A Content Management System, or ‘CMS’, such as WordPress, which acts as the control centre of your website.
- Google Analytics, to keep track of how many people are visiting your site, what they’re looking at, how long they’re reading it etc.
All of these things might sound quite complicated, but they’re actually really easy to organise. You’ll need to purchase your domain name, and pay for hosting, but these can usually be done at the same time through providers (such as BlueHost or GoDaddy), and these services will also often let you install and set up WordPress at the same time, saving you the extra hassle.
Once you’ve chosen your package, paid up for the year (hosting is usually paid for monthly or annually), if you’re using WordPress you’ll need to pick a ‘theme’. This is basically a template that makes your website look the way it looks, and provides an overarching structure to the pages.
If you’re planning to start a hiking blog, you’ll probably only need a simple template, with pages for ‘home’, ‘contact us’, ‘about us’ and ‘blog’ – possibly with a gallery too (just take a look at ours for an example!).
Pick a theme that looks good to you – there are always plenty of reviews, for both free and paid themes, and installing them is really simple to do through WordPress.
With all of this out of the way, there are all kinds of other elements to think about, including Search Engine Optimisation (explained later in this post), plugins, and integrations with other elements such as social media, but these aren’t essentials.
5. Write Some Content!
You’ve done it, you’re live! Your website is up, and your blog is officially blogging its way into the history books. Or at least it will be, once it actually has some posts on it… The holy grail of any blog, no matter what niche it focuses on, is the content it offers users.
Again, we could write thousands of words on how to put together a great blog post (in fact, we’re going to!), but this is a very subjective topic, and it would be silly to try and condense this into one paragraph. There are, however, a few great tips we can share when writing content for your blog, that apply pretty much across the board:
- Write content you would want to read – when putting together a post, don’t try to pander to your perceived audience (until you’ve built one up), just write content you would enjoy reading. It’ll be more authentic, and you’ll enjoy writing it!
- Carry a notebook at all times – Often the best ideas strike us when we’re out and about, at work, or nowhere near a computer. Rather than relying on memory, carry a notepad and write any and every idea that comes into your head.
- Write like you speak – we’re not going to claim to be world-leading experts in writing, but as a broad rule, if you write the way you would talk, posts tend to flow better. It’s your blog: your rules. No need to be formal, just be you!
- Write what you know – Fundamentally, it’s important to write what you actually know or have experienced first hand. Honest, first-hand experiences are the pillar of every successful blog – plus, people will be able to tell if you write about something or somewhere you’ve never actually visited or tried!
There are no rules about length, formatting, or style, so try out a few – but stick to your ‘brand’ and follow a general pattern. As a rule, short paragraphs, simple sentences, and posts that are broken down into sections all make for easy and enjoyable reading.
Try to include photos in your blogs too, as these are a lovely way to break up the text, and makes reading one of your posts feel a bit less like reading an essay. Photos you’ve taken yourself are almost always best (unless they’re a bit rubbish, but we’ll talk about that another time…), but you can use free image sites like pexels.com or pixabay.com if you need to.
Try to commit to writing at least one article every week, fortnight, or month – whatever you can manage, be consistent (we know, we’re repeating ourselves, but it’s pretty important!). Your audience will get used to you posting at a regular pace, and they’ll eventually start tuning in when they know a new article will be live on your site.
6. Create Social Media Profiles
Once you’ve got your first article on the site, and you’ve got a few ideas in the bag for the next handful, it’s a good idea to start setting up your social media profiles. Social media is the medium through which many people interact and follow their favourite bloggers, and it’s important to be active on these platforms.
Which platforms you choose is entirely up to personal taste, but we recommend Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram, as these are five of the biggest players in the social media sphere and have the potential to generate some great traffic to your blog. Our advice is to only take on a social media account if you have the time to use it correctly. It is better to have just a Facebook account that you post to regularly, than 5 social media accounts that hardly ever get used. You can always add more as time becomes available to you.
Come up with an easy-to-find username (usually just your blog name), make a bio, set your profile picture, and you’re off!
Don’t forget to put a link to your hiking blog in the bio/description of your profile too, so people can click right through to your blog easily.
In terms of content, you should at the very least post to update your followers every time you publish a new blog post. Images are a good idea (particularly for Instagram, which is entirely image and video based), and video – if you can manage it – is also a great source of content.
Early on, you should invest the vast majority of your time working on your actual blog, not your social media profiles, but it’s important to set them up as and when you have time. Once you have a steady stream of content published to your site and have started to build an audience, you can focus more time on cultivating this aspect – which we’ll cover in a separate post.
7. Building a Following
As the classic saying goes, ‘if you build it, they will come’, and in the case of starting a hiking blog this is… sort of true. Fundamentally, you should build your blog and work on it as though you had a loyal following right from the get go, but actually cultivating that audience takes time and a whole lot of effort.
There are lots of ways you can encourage visitors to your site, and when you’re very new, you’ll need to do some legwork to tempt people in – if they like what they see, they’ll come back of their own accord!
Some things you should try include:
- Visit other blogs and engage – A great way to build your following is to become an active and engaged member of the community of other travel and hiking blogs. Comment on their posts, talk to their followers, and get in touch with the bloggers themselves (just steer clear of rampant self-promotion)
- Joining social media groups – Whatever your niche, there are plenty of social media groups across various platforms to join, many of which offer active and engaged communities you can become a part of. Get chatting to people and let them know about your site!
- Tell people about your blog! A simple one, that many people forget about, is to tell people you know that you’re now a fully fledged blogger! Friends, family, colleagues – they’re all potentially valuable visitors, so don’t be shy about letting them know about your site and encouraging them to take a look.
It’s worth also noting that even a following of 1 is a following, and any time someone engages with your blog – be it in the comments section, your social media profiles, or by emailing you, you should get back to them as soon as possible. Thank them for visiting, be friendly, and they’ll be sure to return.
8. Create a Newsletter
Once you have a following, even a small one, it’s a great idea to create a newsletter to keep them regularly informed about what you’re up to, and what’s coming up for your blog. This is particularly important if you plan to sell products down the line, too.
Email is one of the most effective direct ways to communicate, as it requires a bit more effort to sign up to than social media, and while your tweets and other posts can get lost in the mountain of social content, your newsletter will be delivered straight to your followers inbox.
Simply sign up to a free piece of mailing software such as mailchimp, pick a template, and you’re good to go. Some nice things to include in your hiking blog newsletter are:
- Upcoming articles
- An update on the hiking you’ve been doing
- A review of a piece of equipment
- A ‘comment of the week/month’ or similar
- Info and links to products, such as e-books, that you’re selling (eventually!)
There are a few rules you’ll need to comply with such as data protection if you’re marketing commercially, which you’ll need to read into (check out this great guide from Nomipalony on this topic!), but if you’re just keeping your followers up to date you won’t have to worry about the same legal ramifications.
You should only think about setting up your newsletter when you have enough of a following to make it worth your time – and don’t commit to sending out more newsletters than you can create content for. Once a month is fine to start with.
You may well have heard the saying, “the money is in the list”. The list that they are talking about is your list of email subscribers. In simple terms, the bigger the list, the bigger your potential income. All hugely successful blogs typically have large subscriber lists. Setting up a newsletter and developing your own subscriber list is another key aspect of learning how to start a hiking blog.
9. Do Some SEO
Once all of the above balls are rolling, you can think about doing a bit of on-site Search Engine Optimisation, or ‘SEO’ for short. If we’re honest, this isn’t very exciting stuff, and SEO is an entire career-field in its own right, and it would be impossible to come even close to covering all the basics in a short section.
Despite this, if you want your blog to appear in Google (and other search engines) for the topics you’re writing about, it’s an important thing to think about.
Instead of boring you to death, we’ll briefly describe what it is, how it applies to your blog, and what you can do to start thinking about it.
Essentially, if you’re writing about a very personal experience, it’s unlikely anyone is going to be Googling your blog title. It’s more likely they’ll read the article having seen a social media post about it, or because they’re already reading your blog.
If you do want people to be able to find your blog in the search engines, then doing some SEO can make this happen. This basically involves doing some ‘keyword research’ (finding out the phrases people are Googling, and how hard it would be to appear on the first page of results for these terms) related to the topics you want to write about.
Once you have some ‘search terms’ in mind, you can tailor your content towards these so that your articles appear when people Google them. It’s not, unfortunately, quite that simple, but the ins and outs of it are rather complex, but that’s a topic for another time.
The main thing is knowing that if you want people to be able to find your blog in the search engines, you’ll need to do some specific work to make sure this is possible. You can read some guides online, and download plugins such as ‘Yoast SEO’ which can provide some useful tips. If you want to know how to start a hiking blog and grow it into a search engine visitor magnet, then getting to grips with the subject of SEO is so important! It is a fascinating but deeply complex subject but one that is well worth spending a good deal of time on.
10. Make Money
Ultimately, one of the goals for many bloggers is to turn their blog not only into a project of passion, but one that can make them some money, too. Disclaimer: many bloggers dream that within a short while they’ll be able to quit their job, and travel the world living on the fruits of their blog alone. Achieving this takes a very long time, and a lot of hard work.
It won’t happen overnight, it won’t even necessarily start to happen in the first year or two, but with the right effort and input and the right strategy, it is possible to start making money from your blog eventually.
There are a few ways you can do this, but first it’s important to build your audience. If you don’t have enough visitors, the chance of making any money using various strategies is low. Once you have a following, a few things you can do try include:
- Affiliate marketing: By taking part in an affiliate marketing program, you can direct your visitors to buy products from sites you partner with, and receive a profit if they make a purchase. It’s important to disclaim if you do this, and don’t just become a salesperson – review products yourself, and only include products relevant to your hiking audience, such as equipment.
- Advertising: You can allow advertising to be hosted on your site through Google and various other platforms, which can pay you per x amount of views/clicks. There are a number of ways this can work, and it’s important not to turn your website into an irritating online billboard, so be careful if this is your plan.
- Sell content: Many bloggers create valuable content in the form of e-books or guides (such as the ones we’ll be creating, except those will be free. You’re welcome!), and then make this available for purchase on their site.
- Allow sponsored posts: You can allow other bloggers and businesses to contribute to your blog for a nominal fee, in exchange for a link as well as exposure on your site. Provided their content is of top quality, and the topics they write on are relevant and valuable to your audience, this can be a viable option. Publishing content in exchange for a payment and a return website link is a popular practice but not something we or Google would endorse.
The important thing is to remember is why you’re starting your blog in the first place. If you want to successfully monetise your website, be prepared to spend a long time building an audience, and creating a blog that people love to visit. Cultivating this trust should be your first priority.
Discovering exactly how to start a hiking blog and growing it into a fantastic resource that people love to visit takes a huge amount of time and a great deal of effort. Making money from your blog in the short term is extremely unlikely and we would discourage you from even starting the process if this is your intention.
11. Growing Your Blog
Hopefully, by following this advice and that of others, over time you’ll be able to build a successful and original hiking blog. Once you’ve done so, there are other ways you can go about growing your following, and the presence of your blog in the industry.
You can try:
- Networking: Networking can involve everything from going to meetups with other bloggers to simply chatting to people in your local outdoor supply shop. Often the best opportunities come from the people we meet, so setting aside some time specifically to put yourself out there in both the physical and digital world and do some networking is a great way to keep the ball rolling.
- Attending Events: There are all kinds of events that are invaluable to a hiking blogger. Talks, conferences, book signings, anything and everything to do with the world of hiking and blogging – attend as many as you can. Meet people, talk to them about your blog – it’s a great idea to print off some business cards too!
- Advertising: If you want to pull in some visitors quickly, you can always pay to play yourself. This isn’t always a viable option, but with so many different placements available for ads now, if you want to get your site in front of as many people as possible, paid advertising is there. It’s not always conducive to building a loyal following, however.
How to Start a Hiking Blog – Conclusions
So there you have it! Or at least, there you have some of it. Creating and running a hiking blog is a wonderfully enriching experience, but there are simply so many things to think about, it would be unrealistic to cover them all in one article. We hope, however, that this post has at least given you a little bit of a starting point, by covering the first (and most important) steps on how to start a hiking blog.
We’ll be posting more in depth articles, as mentioned, over the coming months, so bookmark this page and check in every once in a while to see what we’ve added. All in all, we’ll leave you with one thing to think about: starting a hiking blog is something we would wholeheartedly encourage, but just like a puppy, a blog is for life, not just for Christmas.
If you’re hoping for overnight commercial success, a blog isn’t the way forward. If you’ve got the passion, the drive, and the commitment however, it’s one of the best ways of turning a hobby into an enterprise of your own – Let us know if you’ve started your own hiking blog, we’d love to connect; we look forward to reading all about your hiking adventures!