In this post I will provide detailed information about setting up a WordPress Travel Blog, including whether to go for a self hosted installation or hosting on WordPress.com, a suggestion on who you should host your site with, picking a domain, a little bit about themes, plugin recommendations based on what I use, and finally setting up a mailing list. Most “Ultimate WordPress Guides” just go into what you need to click to get started, but that’s the easy part. This guide is designed to give you more technical information, which is what you should know before you even start clicking buttons. Hopefully after reading my ultimate guide you will have a good idea on setting up your own WordPress Travel Blog.

Before I start I want to tell you a little bit about how I started. Well I started blogging over a year ago now and have had ups and downs. I have tried many solutions some of which include:

  • Creating each page from scratch – I initially started creating a blog on my photography website which wasn’t designed for blogging and it took ages to create each page and make it look good. After a short time I decided against this.
  • Google Blogger – I then tried Google Blogger which I wasn’t a fan of. I found the layout options limited and simple.
  • WordPress – I then decided to try WordPress which ended up being the best solution. This site you are on is built on WordPress.

You can use this menu below to navigate quickly to the different sections of this guide.

Menu
Why Choose WordPress? (below)
Self Hosted or Wordress.com?
Which Host Provider
Picking a Domain
Choosing your Theme
Plugin recommendations
Setting up a mailing list

Why Choose WordPress?

Well to start with WordPress now powers around 27% of the worlds websites (if that doesn’t say something). The software is built on a content management system and is free to use.

Here are some of the features of WordPress:

  • An extremely friendly and intuitive user interface
  • You can create posts and pages using an easy to use visual editor, or can use a html editor instead
  • Categories and tags can be added allowing you to organise your content
  • Ability to customise the look and feel of your site according to your vision
  • Huge number of plugins available for advanced customisation and more (wordpress.org read more below)
  • Multiple users can be created for the site with different roles
  • Lots of background options and settings on how your site will operate

And so much more.

Self Hosted or WordPress.com?

This will probably be your first major decision with WordPress. I imagine most people initially host their website through WordPress.com and then later decide to switch to a self hosted provider and install the WordPress.org app (which is easier than it sounds).

Here are some of the reasons I decided to go Self Hosted.

  • Plugin limitations – You are limited as to what plugins you can install if hosted by WordPress.com – Most bloggers use plugins to add endless functionality to their site. WordPress.com prevent you from installing many plugins as a security measure but this will also severely limit your site to many cool and useful features.
  • Themes limitations – You can’t use custom themes on WordPress.com – Having a nice theme is extremely important and you definitely don’t want this restriction. Again WordPress.com put this down to security, but it may infact be that they don’t want it to be on them if something goes wrong.
  • Ads – On free accounts they will occasionally show adds on your posts, which you have no control of unless you have a paid package.
  • Less storage space – Having your site hosted on WordPress.com will only provide 3GB of storage (on the free plan) which would be fine initially but if you have a lot of images and other media you will quickly eat this up. You can pay for the paid packages for more storage though.
  • You can place your own ads – This includes things such as Google Adwords and other types of promotion. If you use WordPress.com you will be limited to only showing ads that they deliver, or opting into their WordAds option once you are big enough.
  • WordPress branding – On the free plan you will have WordPress branding on your site which is removable on the paid plans.
  • Custom Domain – You will have a WordPress.com subdomain unless you have a paid plan, or pay a little extra for the custom domain on the free plan. If you want your blog to look professional then a custom domain is vital.
  • More control of backend services and resources – By being self hosted you will have more control of the server and resource management which could in tern allow you to deliver a fast site. Resources include such things as increasing the amount of ram available and IO connections.

So which should you go with? Well if you are just wanting to give blogging a go, but are unsure on how serious you want to take it, then WordPress.com may still be ok as a starting point. If you intend to grow a huge and professional blog you should probably start with a self hosted WordPress.org package. Many host providers (see the next section) will have  a click and install option available making self hosted very easy.

Which host provider

Picking the right host provider is extremely important. In the past I have used 1and1.co.uk, GoDaddy.com and now I use FastComet.com and trust me when I say FastComet is easily the best provider out of all of them. When I was using GoDaddy.com my website would often go down and was quite simply unreliable despite implementing every optimisation technique I could and paying for extra server resources.

Why choose FastComet?

I am recommending FastComet.com based on my own experience and this website is hosted with them, therefore test this website and see the speed for yourself. Here these are the reasons I rate them as a good host provider.

  • Incredible speed – I choose the Speedup Rocketbooster package which comes packed with high performance features, allowing your site to load extremely fast and improves viewers experience. When I initially contacted FastComet the sales guy said that this package should make my website almost appear instantly in a viewers browser, and often that is the case.
  • PHP7 – As new PHP version are released it’s good to have one of the latest versions. They tend to be more secure and a lot faster. This FastComet package came with PHP7 and the performance increase has been incredible.
  • Excellent customer service – You can easily contact the technicians and they are very knowledgeable and helpful and will provide lots of tips. I have only used the ticketing system so far, but it has been extremely quick and easy.
  • Transfer your website – They will transfer your website for you which makes moving across to them easy. My website was several gigabytes and the transition was smooth and painless.
  • Professional and well designed client area – The client area has a nice clean design and easy to find your way to what you’re looking for.
  • cPanel – The cPanel provides huge amounts of options and information such as resource usage, email setups, server options. The list would go on and on. I think the cPanel provided is again clean and well organised.

All I will say is what ever you do don’t make the mistake of going with GoDaddy. When I was with them my site performance was dreadful and would often go down which caused lots of unnecessary and embarrassing frustration.

FastComet Extras

There are lots of extras you can purchase from FastComet. Below you will find a few of them with recommendations as to whether you should get them.

  • Search Engine Submission – I think this is definitely worth it, although you should only do this once you have some content on your blog and it’s all up and running. This is because you don’t want the search engines to start analysing and ranking an incomplete site. I would recommending requesting this service to be run once you have at least 10 pages of content and you have optimised the layout for both mobile, tablet and desktop viewing. When I requested this service my site was submitted to Google AOL, Excite, Entireweb, Gigablast, Dogpile, WebCrawler, ExactSeek, ixQuick, Mamma and Bing (which includes Yahoo!, Altavista, Lycos, Hotbot, GO.com). Assuming this brings traffic to your site then this is definitely a good add-on.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Audit – I purchased this but was disappointed as it wasn’t as detailed and helpful as I hoped. It only gave me a report on my landing page. I was hoping to get some analysis on all my pages on my website, such as pages with low word counts, maybe an analysis on which keywords pages might get ranked for etc. For this reason I advise against this add-on and download Yoast SEO instead, plus do some reading on their blog posts which are very detailed and thorough. If FastComet improve this add-on then it may be worth it in the future.
  • Google SiteMap – I think this is more relevant to none WordPress blogs. The Yoast SEO plugin will generate and submit the sitemap for you so I wouldn’t advise getting this add-on. The Fastcomet add-on also doesn’t make it clear if this sitemap gets updated every time you make updates to your website, which is also very important for Search Engine updates.
  • Domain privacy (ID Protect) – I didn’t purchase this but it’s designed to protect your personal information from spam and other annoying attacks, as well as various other things. This is personal choice.

Picking a Domain

Once you have decided on how you’re going to host your WordPress site you should then register for a Domain Name. You can do this through your hosting company such as FastComet.com which I use. If you are transferring your website and hosting to FastComet you will also be able to switch your domain across to them also.

Choosing your Theme

Picking a theme is important. If you don’t like your theme them you probably won’t be as dedicated to your website. A theme is also important so that your site is visually attractive and nice to use. A good theme will also be optimised for mobile, desktop and tablets and will provide lots of customisation options to make it your own.

Within the WordPress theme module are lots of free and paid themes for you to choose from, or you can go on a site such as Envato and purchase other themes. Note: Installing custom themes is applicable to self hosted.

Wordpress Themes
WordPress Themes

Plugin recommendations

Plugins are mainly available for self hosted blogs, and allow you to install upgrades to your WordPress site such as things that improve the visual user experience on the front end, or provide services on the back end, such as security, statistics, backup scheduling etc (the list goes on). At time of writing there are over 49,000 plugins available and there is a plugin for almost every bit of functionality you may want.

When deciding which plugins to install I often check the reviews and the rating. I also check when the plugin was last updated. Ie a plugin that was updated 3 years ago is probably not up to date with any new security features in the latest WordPress updates. As well as looking at the information available on the plugin page I also look online for reviews. For example I may search for “The Best SEO plugins for WordPress” which brings several sites reviewing various plugins available. I often trust sites like this.

After having my WordPress blog up and running for a while now, these are some of the main plugins that I have stuck with and now recommend. Some of them are available as free or paid versions. Often I use the free version to test it out, and if I like it I then upgrade.

Yoast SEO

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is how search engines (such as Google, Yahoo etc) will find your website and rank your pages, so that people searching for specific keywords will be directed to your content. The plugin comes with lots of useful features including XML Sitemaps, social settings, such as enabling Twitter Cards (very important) and so much more.

One of my favourite features about Yoast SEO is the post analysis box, which allows you to set a keyword and then the plugin checks that you have optimised for that plugin. As well as this it tells you the word count, readability analysis, allows you to set meta data and much more. I also recommend reading the Yoast SEO blog and signing up for their mailing list, especially in the early stages of your site to learn a bit more about SEO techniques.

Available as: Free or paid. I use free.
Website: wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-seo

Yoast SEO analysis screenshot
Yoast SEO analysis

Jetpack

Jetpack offers a whole load of functionality to your site and they offer free or paid plans. The free plan provides site stats, an Image CDN called Photon (which speeds up image delivery on your site), XML sitemaps, downtime monitoring and lots more. They then offer paid versions that offer more features, but check their pricing to decide if you need these features or not.

Available as: Free or paid. I use the free version.
Website: wordpress.org/plugins/jetpack

Wordfence

Wordfence will provide you with lots of security options for your blog such as a Firewall, login security, scans etc, and it’s easy to get lost with the amount of options available. I tend to just have the default options set myself which seem to work fine with no problems. As well as this you can get email updates showing how many IP’s have been blocked and alerts when you have plugins or the WordPress core has updates available (which can be important for security).

Available as: Free or paid. I use the free version.
Website: wordpress.org/plugins/wordfence

W3 Cache

W3 Cache contains bucketloads of options allowing you to optimise your website and improve the speed. This combined with FastComet as your hosting provider will make your website super fast. FastComet technical support also advised on how to integrate the server settings with this plugin. I’m not going to say much, except install this plugin and you should see good results.

Available as: Free or paid. I use the free version.
Website: wordpress.org/plugins/w3-total-cache

Social Pug

When deciding which social sharing plugin to use I tried so many different options. I found Social Pug to be my favourite by far. This plugin provides sharing buttons for many social sites as well as plenty of themes and customisation options. With the paid version you get access to more social networks and more advanced customisation features.

Available as: Free or paid. I use the paid version.
Website: wordpress.org/plugins/social-pug

Social Pug Screenshot
Social Pug Screenshot

AccessPress Social Counter

The Access Press Social Pro counter is a great plugin allowing you to show off your social media followers/counts in a variety of styles. With the paid version you have access to more social networks, 20 themes and can also add a total followers count. The plugin looks professional and is a great addition to any blog.

Available as: Free or paid. I use the paid version.
Website: wordpress.org/plugins/accesspress-social-counter

Access Press Social Counts
Access Press Social Counts

Instagram Feed

Instagram Feed allows you to embed your Instagram feed into your site. I used to use this plugin and do recommend it, although I turned it off as part of a design change. The plugin is easy to setup and has various settings allowing you to customise the appearance.

Available as: Free or paid. I’m currently not using this plugin, although I do recommend it.
Website: wordpress.org/plugins/instagram-feed

Instagram Feed - WordPress Plugin
Instagram Feed – WordPress Plugin

Box Zilla

Box Zilla is good for adding popups to your site. Popups can be seriously annoying, but if you set it up nicely (like I hopefully have), then it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. This particular plugin has various customisation options, such as where the box should appear, when it should appear, and if someone closes it, then how long before it next appears.

Available as: Free or paid. I use the free version.
Website: wordpress.org/plugins/boxzilla

Boxzilla
Boxzilla

EU Cookie Law

By law in Europe you have to notify users that you are storing cookie information. Cookies are stored on a visitors computer when they visit your website and are designed to remember certain visitor information. This may be from shopping cart options, authentication info and more.

Available as: Free
Website: https://wordpress.org/plugins/eu-cookie-law/

EWWW Image optimisation

The EWWW Image optimisation plugin can be used to compress and optimise your images. This in turn should allow faster loading of your pages and help your website to use less bandwidth. Having a fast website and image optimisation is extremely important for rankings, because if you have a slow loading site then Google will not rate your site as high. Also consider that your website may be viewed in destinations that have slow connections or on mobile, if the website is slow then visitors may leave without viewing your page, and for sites that are sales based then this could cost you money.

Available as: Free or paid. I use the free version.
Website: wordpress.org/plugins/ewww-image-optimizer

Setting up a mailing list

One of the top recommendations from the big bloggers is to build a mailing list, and to do this from the early stages of your blog. There are large number of mail list providers available but I decided to go with MailChimp. The reason I went with them is because they provide a free package, which is perfect when you start out and are building your list. Once your mail list grows to over 2000 subscribers you will then need to pay for a bigger package.

MailChimp also makes your life easier when writing the emails, as it has a drag and drop visual type editor which saves a lot of time and provides heaps of other functionality. If you want to see some of my previous emails and potentially sign up click here.

Mail Chimp example screenshot
MailChimp Drag and Drop interface

Conclusion

I hope this provides you with lots of information to get you started creating your own WordPress Travel Blog. Do you have any other suggestions on plugins, themes or tips? Please leave a comment below.

<<Pin it
The Ultimate Guide to Setting up a WordPress Travel Blog

Need some help building your WordPress Travel Blog?

If you would like help getting started, or you aren’t very technical I offer these services:

  • WordPress site installation – This service includes installing WordPress on your host provider. Including installing themes and plugins, assistance with setting up your website address(domain name) and a Skype call to get you started. Priced at €249.
  • WordPress site administration – This service includes setting up your website, themes, plugins and domain name. I then create a user account for you, so you can create your posts. You will also get a Skype Call where I can help you get started. Priced at €49 per month.
  • Complete WordPress site management – For this service I manage everything, from setting everything up backend and even posting your posts. For this service you simply provide me with your content and images and I will do the rest. Priced at €99 per month (up to 8 posts per month).
  • WordPress tutorial – This service includes a Skype call where we will go through together the various sections of WordPress. From creating and publishing posts and pages (including adding content links, bolding, highlighting, headers etc, basic html), making appearance changes, moderating comments and more. The price for this is €50 per hour.

Are you interested in any of these services, then please get in touch using the contact form.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Weekly blog and travel updates!

Share with your friends...

Leave a comment