The successful have the courage to walk each day toward something;only after coming through something.
Hello Friends. It’s time to Meet the Blogger. Today we have an awesome travel blogger with us. Shalu Sharma is an well-known persona in the Indian travel industry. Her blog ShaluSharma.com is a must visit for everyone who is planning a trip to India in near future.
Shalu calls herself an ‘Indian Housewife’ who loves to write about travels and holidays in India. She does a lot of outdoors activities, site seeing, visits many places in India and around the world. Shalu is also passionate about her state Bihar, which motivated her to build an online community YouBihar – the biggest Bihar social networking site with 10,000+ members.
In this interview with WPB360, she has discussed about the techniques of SEO for travel blogs, the most effective strategy to drive traffic and her travel learning. She has also shared some handy tips for the newbies who are aspiring to become a travel bloggers. We are very much thankful to Shalu for taking time to answer all the questions. Let’s dive into the discussion now.
Manidipa: Hi Shalu, welcome to WPB360. Could you please share a bit about yourself and how did you start your first blog?
Shalu: My name is Shalu Sharma and I blog about travelling and holidaying in India. I am from Patna, the capital of Bihar. This is where I have spent most of my life – studying and living. I have done Masters in History and then completed Masters in Business Administration from the UK. I briefly worked for a company but then realised that it was not for me.
I started to look for something different to do. I started my first website and it become somewhat popular and added Adsense on it and got some revenue from it. I started to read about making money online and it all started. I then started a Bihar social networking site called YouBihar. I scraped the entire project and then started my travel blog on ShaluSharma.com.
Manidipa: What were your goals when you first started shalusharma.com? Did anything change over time?
Shalu: My aims were to provide no-fluff travel information on travelling to India. I got this idea when I was studying in the UK and people used to ask me about India. I realised that I should start a travel blog.
Nothing particularly changed over time other then comments. I was putting some valuable information and people seemed to like it. I was also commenting on other blogs and those bloggers were in return were commenting on mine. I thought this was a great trick to use.
Manidipa: Which was your most enjoyable trip so far? Could you share why you liked it the most?
Shalu: The most enjoyable trip was to Canada. I have relatives in Canada and I have visited the place (Calgary in particular) a few times. The country is very beautiful and the people are very nice. There are lots of Indians as well, so it feels like home. So far I have really liked this country to the extent of even considering moving there.
Manidipa: Shalu, What has your travel to different places taught you?
Shalu: It really has opened my eyes. I have got to know different kinds of people, different cultures, religions and foods. For instance, I have realised that there are lots of vegetarians and vegans in UK while if you try to find vegetarian food in Europe, it might be a little difficult. Another thing is that many countries consider fish and eggs as vegetarian while in India it’s not. So you get to know little things like that.
Manidipa: Did you face any beginner’s blogging mistakes/ challenges?
Shalu: Lots! One such mistake in blogging was getting backlinks from any website I can think off. I had a good website and all of a sudden during the Panda update lost ranking and traffic. So the best thing is to try to earn backlinks. Blogging is not an easy thing; you should be prepared to spend time writing articles, promoting it on social media, guest posting and so on. But at the end of the day, you can make a living out of it.
Manidipa: What is most effective strategy to bring traffic to your blog?
Shalu: In the past it was blog commenting on blogs that had commentluv plugin enabled on them. But now I don’t do it anywhere. The next best thing was driving traffic through social media via Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn and so on making sure to use the appropriate hashtags. Another way to drive traffic is to write good quality engaging content with appropriate keywords sprinkled in it.
Manidipa: How different are the techniques of SEO for travel blogs? How do you SEO your blog?
Shalu: The idea is to write a very good engaging article like any other blog. With travel blogging there is no shortage of photos and videos which seem to help SEO wise. You need to find keywords using your favourite keyword finder. I use Google Adwords and find out the keywords for the title and what I need to incorporate in the article. I try to add it in the H2 headings as well.
Also, I try to use a fresh image and add description and alt tags to it. I also try to add a video as well if I can find one. To be honest I don’t do anything beyond that. You must think of the reader and not worry too much about SEO otherwise you will end up spending a lot of time on this. I try to make sure that the theme is a premium theme, make sure you are using good web hosting and the website loads fast.
Manidipa: How & why did you think to come up with YouBihar?
Shalu: I decided to set up YouBihar as a social networking site for the people of Bihar. I managed to get about 10,000 plus members. I already had a few websites relating to Bihar and one day I came up with an idea to set a membership site where people would be able to upload photos, post matrimonial ads etc. About an year and half ago, I decided to let it go and do something else.
Manidipa: How did you plan about the services you offer? Shalu would you like to share some tips on effective planning?
Shalu: I looked at the things I was good at, some of which included blogging, writing articles, SEO, social media promotion and so on. I decided to offer some of these services to others thought my website. I don’t do much planning just simply do them as they come along.
You need to concentration on the things you can do best. If you are good at writing, then you can offer them to your readers and also on various freelance websites. There is a huge demand of these services and companies and individuals are looking for freelancers rather than employing people.
Manidipa: What are the non-monetary benefits you get from blogging?
Shalu: I get satisfaction when I get emails from people about how my website has helped them. I get emails from people asking me particular questions on India which I am happy to reply to. So, other then the money part, there is a lot of satisfaction factors, because you know you have helped someone.
Manidipa: What makes your site so unique and what people can expect to read here?
Shalu: What makes my site unique is that I offer advice about India only. I look at places to visit in India, Indian culture, language; I record Hindi for travellers making it a very unique blog. Many travel bloggers document their travels while I provide unique information on India which also includes travel information.
Manidipa: What is your best blogging moment so far Shalu?
Shalu: Let me start by saying the worst! I used to host my site on one of the major web hosting companies. They sent me an email that I was using a lot of their resources hence they have temporarily removed me from their hosting. They asked me to make changes to the website which I did. I eventually moved my site and that was my best blogging moment to see my blog back in action.
Manidipa: What do you love to do when you are not working online?
Shalu: I love to spend my spare time gardening. I love growing plants from seeds. To see them coming out of the ground into the sun gives me immense delight. I also love watching Hindi serials and movies.
Manidipa: Please share some tips for the newbies who are aspiring to become a travel blogger?
Shalu: First things first; get a good domain name, a good web hosting, install a good theme if you are using WordPress, install the necessary plugins and start blogging. Make sure your articles are of value, otherwise you will not be able to make it as a travel blogger. Promote using social media and engage with other bloggers. Make sure to have a blogging regime in the beginning and do not worry about making money from the day one. Thanks!
Thanks again Shalu for sharing your valuable inputs with the readers of WPB360. In case you have any question about her blogging journey or want to know any other tips on travel blogging, please feel free to ask in the comments below.