To celebrate the upcoming launch of Travel Blog Success, a new membership site and community dedicated to travel bloggers, I will be sharing a few of my recent revelations to help you build a better travel blog.
Our travel blogs are our digital homes on the web. And their design and content reflects upon us as a resume reflects upon a job candidate. And if you've ever worked in management or human resources, then you know how little time it takes to size up a resume.
The same goes for websites, and if you want visitors to stick around, you're going to need a clear, easy-to-navigate design.
When I got started with Go Backpacking in January 2007, I shopped around for free WordPress themes and didn't even consider the idea of spending money to buy one. I was planning to quit my job and travel the world, and not keen to spend money on things I could get for free online. That was a BIG mistake in thinking.
Fast forward 2 1/2 years later, and I arrive back home from my trip, and flip the mental switch in my mind. My travel blog is now a business, not a hobby. Scheduling posts 6 times a week, negotiating with advertisers, and tracking income vs. expenses had become habit a long time ago. As with any business that hopes to grow, I loosened the purse strings to make wise investments from time to time.
Here are 5 reasons why investing in a premium WordPress theme is a smart decision in 2010:
High Quality Designs – Many of the most talented individual theme designers have banded together and built successful businesses by offering WordPress users high quality themes which look professional right out of the box. I opted for Woo Themes after shopping around on other popular sites such as StudioPress, Theme Forest, and Elegant Themes. As a result of adopting Woo's Gazette theme on Go Backpacking last Fall, I've received numerous compliments on my blog's design from readers and sponsors.
Competition – In terms of back-end usability and functionality, WordPress has improved so much in the last three years that everyone and their mothers are jumping on board. If other bloggers are willing to spend $50 – $70 to present themselves well, you're at an immediate disadvantage by trying to get by on the cheap.
Customer Support – Companies offering premium themes offer customer support through forums. This is a rarity for free themes, because most free themes are designed by hobbyists who don't have the time to answer user questions. The support in the Woo Themes forum has far exceeded my expectations, and I wish I'd had such help 3 years ago when I was just getting started. Unless you are seriously comfortable with hand coding HTML and CSS, buying a premium theme will save you a lot of time.
Affiliate Programs – Most premium theme companies will offer an affiliate program. Simply update the “Design by XYZ” link in your theme's footer to utilize your affiliate link, and begin earning a new passive income. Quality themes will literally sell themselves. For example, my $70 Woo Theme paid for itself last month when a bunch of people clicked through the link and bought a Woo Theme for themselves. The commission is $14 on a $70 theme. Not bad!
Free Upgrades – I can only speak for Woo Themes here, but they continue to update their themes' coding to fix bugs and improve the overall design to keep up with current web trends. I didn't update the theme I used on my trip around the world for over 1 1/2 years (and I'm not sure I could've even if I had thought of it at the time). As a result, my site seemed terribly dated in comparison to all the new travel blogs that had sprouted up since I left home.
Do you use a premium theme? If yes, by which company and would you recommend them to others?
If you found this post useful, be sure to check out Travel Blog Success, my new members-only site.