They don’t. Well, at least between 70-80% of travel blogs don’t make money.
I’m literally learning this as I write. I’ve never monetized a travel blog, including this one. This travel blog, ImperfectPlan.com has never earned a penny since I started it 3 years ago. In fact, I’ve sunk money into it (it’s cost me money). I write this blog simply because I love keeping the memories of my travels. Nobody has ever given me any money for any reason with regards to a blog. I can’t say this won’t change in the future, maybe it will, but I’ve been happy so far just having a fun blog.
As I mentioned before, I’m a programmer by trade. I make programs and applications for a living.
So, from my research online, here’s what I’ve learned about the different ways to make money from travel blogging. I’ll also include my opinions of each option.
Sponsored content: Someone pays you to write content about their product or service. Sometimes you’ll write on your own website and sometimes you’ll write on their website.
My opinion: If someone is legitimate in offering decent products, then Sponsored Content is a reasonable way to earn money from travel blogging. Granted, it would make me skeptical of the integrity of the blog if it was discovered that they were earning money without making it publicly known.
Affiliate Sales: Getting a kickback, a commission, for suggesting a product/service.
My opinion: I don’t mind affiliate sales as a way to monetize a travel blog, as long as the products are used by the reviewer (for real testing) and reviewed directly by the blogger. That is important, otherwise it’s just spam.
eBooks and Digital Products: Selling digital products on your website or blog.
My opinion: This is a tough one. I feel like there’s very few digital products that can be made by a travel blogger that can actually provide value. As I wrote in the past, selling the dream of traveling, in my opinion, is unethical.
Social Media & Blog Management: Getting paid to manage someone else’s blog, website, or social media content.
My opinion: Management can include content creation. I support that, as long as it’s legitimate and good quality reviews. I hate spam.
In-Content Ads: Text and image links to products that other people sell.
My Opinion: I don’t like in-content ads. It feels too spammy. People wanted to read about an experience, they probably didn’t want to buy something. In very rare cases, if ever, would I approve of in-content ads. Someone must really be a high-level authority figure in a travel space in order to get away with putting advertisements in content.
Hosted Twitter Chats: Brand companies pay you to host their twitter chats and conversations about their products.
My opinion: Honestly, this seems kinda stupid. I would question the integrity of a traveler that’s willing to go as far as to host a product “conversation”. It seems too obvious that the person is getting paid to “talk to other people” about a specific brand or product.
Sponsored social media: A company pays you to suggest, mention or review their products on your social media account.
My opinion: This makes sense and sounds reasonable as long it’s published that the advertisement is sponsored.
Press Trips: A government organization, tourist board or tourism company asks you to visit their country to write about your experience.
My opinion: I like this option the most. Granted, its obvious why…the writer is getting paid to do what they love. However, honest reviews are integral here. As long as the final write-up or review is legitimate and not just aimed at selling the destination then it sounds good to me.
My conclusion to making money from travel blogging
I don’t see any problem with a blogger making money. In fact, I believe that it’s necessary and deserved. However, when travel bloggers don’t disclose that a review or recommendation has been paid for, I believe that’s unethical.
From what I see online, the top travel bloggers are usually fair about disclosing when content is paid for or sponsored. I like that. For me, if I ever choose to monetize this blog, I would absolutely disclose any compensation I received for advertising.
Which option would I choose? I have no idea.
At this point, I don’t know which option I would choose for monetizing a travel blog. Honestly, I don’t really care. I’m more concerned with writing just to keep my memories of my experiences. I’m not in this to make money. And that’s probably clear, because this blog isn’t as fancy as the top travel blogs. But that’s ok for me.
For others reading this, I think it requires a lot of analysis regarding weighing the different options and seeing how feasible each option is for a specific blogger. Maybe one option is good for one blogger, but not good for another blogger.
Anyway, I’m off to sleep. Safe travels!