They say it takes money to make money. Well, I’m no longer in denial. It’s time to upgrade some of the free plans I use to maintain Sarah L. Travels and go pro, since I’m expanding this venture as we speak. I’ve been doing tons of research to help me streamline my processes on my own travel blog, and I want to share the tools every travel blog should have!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase any of the services from the links below, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only recommend services I love!
1 // Siteground
I already love and use Siteground daily to make Sarah L. Travels what it is. Basically, when you switch from a WordPress.com, Blogger, or Wix site to your own self-hosted website, you need a web hosting plan. That way, you can use WordPress.org with your web host in order to create your own site, have complete control over your content, and make money from your travel blog.
I chose Siteground after hours of research because the price was in my millennial budget, and I heard from other bloggers that the support team was amazing. I also heard that Siteground’s competitors sometimes hold your content if you try to break your contract with them. Yikes!
Siteground has been an amazing service, and I will be extending my contract with them next year. Any time I need to amend the code of my website, I do it directly in my Siteground cPanel. Any problem I had before is solved when I do so! They also have the capability to host websites with shops, like mine.
That’s less than a cup of coffee. Seriously.
2 // Tailwind Plus
Pinterest has been a significant traffic driver for me. Now, I reach over 300K monthly views! But, I’d love to see more of the viewers to my Pinterest account come over to my blog. One of the tools that has helped me reach more pinners interested in travel is Tailwind.
Tailwind came highly recommended by travel bloggers who have been in the industry for upwards of 10 years, and have made hundreds of thousands from their travel blogs alone.
I was skeptical at first, because I usually schedule my pins directly through Pinterest. That’s about to change. Tailwind scheduling and having access to Tailwind Tribes will be a game-changer for Sarah L. Travels.
Right now, I utilize the free plan. However, this is about to change soon. I’ll be taking advantage of Cyber Monday sales to improve my reach on Sarah L. Travels.
Edit: Since this post was written, I’ve upgraded to Tailwind Plus. Best investment I’ve made in this blog to date! It saves me so much time and hassle.
If you’re like me, and you know that Pinterest is a huge, untapped source of blog traffic, then I’d recommend Tailwind.
You can get a free month of Tailwind using my referral link! It’s my gift to you for reading Sarah L. Travels!
I won’t lie to you. SEO is my least favorite aspect of blogging. I feel like I’m finally figuring it out after months of writing blog posts, but it’s definitely not second-nature to me. And I doubt it ever will be.
But, that doesn’t mean it’s not important. After all, how are people going to read your amazing travel blog if they can’t even find it?
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is designed to show you which keywords to use in order to rank well in Google and other search engines. For example, my top-performing post is “The 5 Best Vegan Restaurants in Kyiv.” It ranks on page one in search results! Without SEO knowledge, no one would see that post.
I’ve used several keyword research tools for this travel blog, two of which are KeySearch and Moz. I recommend either for finding relevant, low-competition keywords for your posts.
4 // Yoast SEO Premium
Yoast SEO is an absolute lifesaver for writers like me that aren’t interested in SEO. I’d rather write to my heart’s content and not worry about search results. But, that’s not the way the cookie crumbles.
If you take anything away from this post, let it be this: you need to write with SEO in mind. Your travel blog won’t survive without this tool. Yoast also provides SEO tips on their blog for newbies.
I’ve used the free, limited version of Yoast for several months. But, I think it’s time to upgrade to premium.
Because I’ll be able to include more than one keyword, Yoast will analyze more variations of my keywords, and it’ll just make my life easier.
5 // Canva Pro
I had Canva Pro earlier this year, mostly for freelancing and for Sarah L. Prints. But, I decided to deactivate my membership once I wasn’t using the paid features as often.
Now, I plan to re-up my old membership — and keep it for good.
When I was freelancing, one graphic design job paid for my monthly subscription six-fold. That alone made it worth it! Also, having access to premium features and graphics made my life way easier for graphic design jobs.
Now that I’ve returned to the free platform, I feel the difference. Having Canva Pro helped me so much as a professional, and I’m ready to make the investment for the long-term.
6 // Premium Theme
The theme I use to customize the look of Sarah L. Travels has served its purpose. But, as I expand, add more elements to this travel blog, and plan to purchase more websites in the future, I need access to more features.
It’s time to upgrade to a premium theme.
I have learned so much about web hosting and owning a website through troubleshooting with my free theme. I’ve learned to code, fix bugs on my site, and create HTML that makes Sarah L. Travels look the way you see it now.
But, that is all highly time-consuming. And it’s time I could spend writing.
Right now, the best in the business is Divi by Elegant Themes. I wasn’t sold on it at first, but I’ve worked with several freelance clients who exclusively use it. I’m excited to give it a try, and I’ll be taking advantage of Cyber Monday sales to get a sweet discount!
7 // Adobe Creative Cloud
Last, but certainly not least (or cheapest), is Adobe Creative Cloud. I’ve heard photographers, graphic designers, and videographers sing Adobe’s praises for ages now.
But that $600+ annual fee held me back every time!
I still haven’t purchased it, but it’s happening soon. I’m tired of holding myself back, and from making higher-quality content over the fear of a hefty investment. I’ve spent more on travel! Why not spend it on my own business that has the potential to make more money back?
Pro tip: sign up for Adobe emails. They send out alerts for 40% off sales. I’ve seen them at least 5 times since spring alone. If you’re not in a hurry to purchase Adobe Creative Cloud, then wait until they send that email showing it’s on sale again!
. . .
This list of 7 free tools you need for your travel blog is a list I’ll be following myself. At this point, blogging is so much more than writing. It includes photography, market research, SEO, affiliate marketing, advertising, graphic design, and entrepreneurship.
And since it takes money to make money, I’ll be investing some of my hard-earned cash to make Sarah L. Travels even better.
Are you ready to go all in, too? Then choose a few services to streamline your processes, and build a winning travel blog. Who knows what’s in store? Hosting and building a travel blog can bring success you can’t imagine!
If you’re starting your first self-hosted blog and are strapped for cash, I completely understand. That was me in April 2019. You can find my guide for free blog tools here!
*Cover photo by Ella Jardim. Thanks, Ella!
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