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essential resources for new travel bloggers: photography and SEO

I have been so caught up in writing about our trip to Australia that I haven't had the time to finish up the series on essential resources for new travel bloggers (part 1, part 2).  The good news is that I have become much more comfortable managing this site as time goes on.  At the same time, I am still struggling to figure out how to travel and blog because we often find ourselves in places with poor or limited Internet or we don't have the time to devote to writing and uploading photography on the site.  Though I have been blogging for five months, I am still figuring a lot out and am very much a newbie.  Today, I am going to highlight the resources we have used to develop our photography skills and search engine optimization.

Note: When I list multiple resources, I try to order them in order of my preference on that particular topic though I think all of these resources are worth the read (otherwise they wouldn't be on this list!).

Add Great Photography

  • Gist: Take great pictures and add them to your site because blogging is a visual medium.  For food photographs, use a tripod, shoot in natural light, and get close.  For travel photography, take shots of people and places in angles and lights that reflect the personality of the people or the places.
  • Food photography resources: VeganYumYum's Food Photography for Bloggers; Still Life With (her entire blog is about food photography); Food Bloggers Unite on Food Photography; Living Room's How to Take Mouthwatering Food Photography; Simone Paddock on Tasteful Food Photography
  • Travel photography resources: Stuck in Customs on 10 principles of beautiful photography; Dan and Audrey's tips at the Uncornered Market for photographing street people; Traveler's Notebook A-B-C-D-E of Travel Photography
  • How we applied the advice: You have no idea how tickled pink we are when you compliment our photography.  Honestly, we don't know what we are doing and experiment A LOT.  For example, I have no idea how to use the controls on our DSLR and ask Patrick to set the white balance every single time I need to take a picture which annoys him to no end. 
  • Because Patrick doesn't like to take photographs when he is hungry, I handle the food photography.  I use a tripod, take photographs in natural light, and use a white foam board as background in most of our pictures.  Because I don't like to take photographs when I have the whole world to see (the new places, the new sights, the new smells!), Patrick handles the travel photography.  He concentrates on finding unique angles and great views and likes experimenting with all of the gizmos and gadgets on the camera. 
  • However, our number one trick to taking good pictures is to take LOTS of them.  I take about 75 pictures for one recipe even though I only end up using about 5 of the pictures.  When we travel, Patrick takes approximately 250 pictures per day, even though we only save about 10 pictures in our web albums.  As we take more pictures, we get better at identifying good lighting, and interesting pictures, angles, and objects.  We always shoot in RAW and I use Photoshop Elements to minimally edit our photos by cropping, brightening, and fixing the saturation of the pictures.  

Tree in Sydney

Don't Steal Other's Work: Photography and Recipe Attribution

  • Gist: Don't steal other people's content and attribute as much as possible.  Better be safe than sorry for violating someone else's copyright.
  • Resources: David Lebovitz on Recipe Attribution at the Food Blog Alliance; Wandering Chopsticks' Giving Credit the Right Way; Blog Herald on How to Provide Attribution in the Blogging World
  • How we applied the advice:  The lawyer in me screams out "careful, careful, careful" every time I use a picture or recipe that isn't my own.  I don't trust Google's "strict search" for images because I have found photographs on there mistakenly listed under the Creative Commons license.  (Just in case you don't know, a Creative Commons license allows others to use original photography, text, etc., after providing attribution to the original source.)  If I find a photograph I like, I go directly to the site and ensure that there isn't any copyright language on the site itself and then use the photograph and give credit.  For recipes, I liberally use "adapted from" or "inspired by" a particular recipe even if I have substantially changed the recipe.  I have heard too many horrible stories of people stealing web content and I certainly don't want to inadvertently steal someone else's work. 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

  • Gist: Include keywords in your titles and your content; use internal links; get external links; and place your title tags before your website name. 
  • Resources: Nomadic Matt's How to Make Money With Your Travel Blog e-book*; Bee on Title Tags at the Food Blog Alliance
  • How we applied the advice:  In June, we barely got any hits from Google.  Our first step was to optimize our title tags which was a simple and effective solution; in three days, we were getting about 3% of our total hits through Google.  I also began adding alternative descriptions (Alt tag) for photography so that all of our photography has a caption.  I try my best to write titles using descriptive keywords (i.e. instead of titling this "photography and SEO resources" or "more resources a new blogger has used," I titled this with the keywords "new travel bloggers," "photography," "SEO.")  I do not try intentionally adding keywords into my content because I don't like writing awkward posts.  As you can see, I haven't used many SEO tools; nonetheless, the few things we are doing seem to be working because we now get almost 15% of our site hits through Google.   

* Matt's e-book How to Make Money With Your Travel Blog is the only resource listed here that is for sale.  FoxNomad, Nerdy Nomad, Travel and the World, Asian Ramblings, Travel Blissful, and Travel Happy all have reviews of it on their blogs.  I previously said that I would not add my tiny voice to the masses, but, in the interests of full disclosure, I now participate in his affiliate sales program and want to give you a brief overview of why you should (or should not) buy his e-book. 

The upsides: The e-book is useful --- especially for content on SEO and monetization.  SEO and monetization are confusing and Matt helpfully includes the basics all in one place.  In addition, he offers to connect you to ad salesmen (I have not taken advantage of this offer).  He also reviews social marketing tools like StumbleUpon and Twitter.  The downsides: At only 33 pages, the e-book is an expensive $27.00.  In addition, though written as a stand alone guide for travel bloggers, I think you still need to look at other sources to get a complete picture on how to build a travel blog.  Matt glances over a number of initial issues that new bloggers face such as how to develop a niche, how to develop content and photography, and how to attribute to other sources. 

All in all, I think it is worth buying if you want to get good advice on SEO and monetization from someone who is making money by travel blogging (a rare achievement) but I would not rely on it to the exclusion of all other sources.  If you've stuck with me this long and want to buy it, here is the link to the e-book.

So, what are your favorite travel blogging resources out there?  Any other tips for a new travel blogger on photography, attribution, or search engine optimization?

Stay tuned for the last part of this series --- resources I have used to create a community.

Related posts:
essential resources for new travel bloggers: setting up

essential resources for new travel bloggers: creating content

11/05/2009 08:30
I also have read Matt's ebook and I think it's a great start for beginner. I found that it's easy to follow with links and examples.

I subscribe to Pro Blogger feed which always has a great tips on blogging. Their information is very valuable.
Amy @ The Q Family's recent blog post: Sugar Overload
11/06/2009 01:07
Thanks Akila!
I'm going to follow some of your recommendations for the photography since I am really challenged by that!
Mary R's recent blog post: Shanghai Surprise
11/06/2009 22:39
Thanks Amy and Mary! ProBlogger is a fantastic resource. Mary, Stuck in Customs site is SO beautiful. Even if you don't use his tips, it is well worth heading to his site just for the images.
11/07/2009 18:29
Thanks for compiling these resources, Akila. I was not much of a photography when I started travelling and though it has been fun to learn along the way, it's great to have some guides to help me with the more technical information. I especially love the food photo roundup! - Jodi
11/10/2009 15:18
Hi Akila,
Thank you for the helpful post. We too have benefited greatly from SEO - it is amazing what results a small textual change to page headers and titles can yield! We use a combination of sources to help us including Google AdWords Keyword tool and Google Insights to Search - great resources.
Jennifer @ ApproachGuides's recent blog post: Cultural Insight: Buddhist Prayer Beads
11/18/2009 09:48
Hi Akila-
Thanks for this post. Still contemplating buying the e book.
I too LOVE food and travel...and have been combining the 2 over the last few years on my world travels here: www.llworldtour.com.
Keep it up!
LL
11/21/2009 14:26
Business in a Backpack eBook ($20) as well as Travel and Make Money (free) are also good sources to build up your SEO, monetizing, and travel blogging knowledge.

http://ebooks.escapeartist.com/products/overseas-employment/business-in-a-backpack/

http://www.retireyoungandwealthy.com/make-money-with-travel-websites-free-ebook-download/
12/01/2009 13:02
Thanks all for pointing out these great resources. Jennifer and Anil, I didn't know about either of these resources so I am looking forward to checking them out.

Lisa, if you are worried about spending the money, then I wouldn't buy the e-book because you can get a lot of the information from other free sources but it just takes a little more effort to pull everything together (although, hopefully, these posts on resources will help gather some of the free info out there).
Akila's recent blog post: sweet potatoes, three ways
02/10/2010 00:13
I've just spent an hour reading through your article, the links, their links... and would like to thank you. I've learned alot and feel very motivated to buy a SLR camera and improve the visuals on my site and in my blogs.
Leigh McAdam's recent blog post: Vancouver in the Limelight
02/15/2010 20:43
Thanks Leigh! The SLR camera makes a big difference but spending the time to take photography is, I think, the most important step. Good luck!
Akila's recent blog post: trained by elephants

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