In this part of the digital marketing series, we look at the best tips and strategies in SEO for travel bloggers.
They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. In that case, during my first six months of travel blogging, I was completely insane.
I was consistently creating great content; putting a lot of effort into my posts, photography and planning. But, time and time again, I was getting the same result: a few measly pages views per day means a whole lot of hard work, and not a lot to show for it.
If you’re anything like me, you will have endlessly stalked other successful travel bloggers’ sites to find out exactly how they do what they do. Many of them talk about using social media, exchanging links with other bloggers, and commenting on websites and forums as means of gaining hits. A few mention dabbling into link-building and other digital marketing techniques, but many come to the same, frustrating conclusion:
“Just consistently create great content!”
When you look at what other well-known travel bloggers have achieved, you get the sense that a large dose of luck must have fallen into the mixture of ‘consistently great content‘. Surely that can’t be the only ingredient in cooking up a big batch of website traffic?
Whether big-name travel bloggers know it or not, SEO – that’s Search Engine Optimisation for the uninitiated – plays a huge role in their success.
You can now see the second part of this series, how to make your travel blog number one on Google, here.
Google is a temperamental beast, constantly changing its preferences for tags and keywords, moving up web pages in its rankings before mysteriously casting them aside, doomed to be lost amongst the search engine dregs.
When you think about it, achieving great SEO is really just like pleasing an extremely fussy child. You’ve got to learn what it likes, and stick to it.
In the following posts in this series, we will delve deeper into some SEO strategies, but for now let’s look at the most basic set of steps: and the ones that seem to work, every time.
The simplest trick to generate positive SEO for travel bloggers
Ok, you’re not quite ready to get into the deep stuff. So let’s start with the quick fix: a basic, speedy way to make sure all your SEO is in check.
Step One: Keywords 101
Keyword is probably the most common term that comes up when you read into SEO, but there seems to be a bit of confusion about exactly what it means.
The trick with keywords is to put yourself in the readers’ seat. If you were looking for your blog post, what would you search?
Let’s use the example of this very article. Chances are, if you arrived here via Google, you’ve typed in something along the lines of ‘SEO for travel bloggers’.
How do I know this? Simple: keywords.
The words ‘SEO’ and ‘travel bloggers’ have already appeared about half a dozen times up to this point; so much so that even blind Freddy could figure what it’s about… Which means that Google bot can, too.
When Google’s pesky little robot crawls through your site, keyword repetition is the one thing it picks up on. A little bit of ‘SEO’ there, a big dash of ‘travel bloggers’ here and voila! You’ve cooked up Google’s favourite dish, and it gradually moves up the pages of that proverbial search engine menu.
TIP: Don’t write posts purely with keywords in mind. Why do I say this? It doesn’t come from a digital marketing point of view, but rather, a creative one. Constantly trying to work specific words into my text puts a big, fat brain fog between my head and my fingers. Instead, I prefer to churn out the content, and re-work the keywords in later. Don’t let SEO get in the way of great writing.
Step Two: Consistency
So you’ve picked out a few keywords to focus on in your article, and spread them throughout your writing accordingly. Now it’s time to make sure everything matches up.
In the fashion world, wearing the same coloured shoes, pants, shirt and eye shadow is a huge no-no – but in the world of Google, it’s a winning combination.
When Google crawls through your blog post, it not only picks up on the main keywords, but also checks to see if everything else matches up. So, for me, including ‘SEO’ and ‘travel bloggers’ in my title, sub-heading and URL makes it bleedingly obvious to Google that this article is, in fact, about SEO and travel bloggers.
While there are several rumours going around that Google actually ignores your tags, it’s always good to add about ten relevant words in anyway. Then, file it under a category: I’ve stored this post under Blogging; Digital Marketing.
Step Three: The Tools
If you’re using WordPress.org to manage your content (and if you’re not, well – you should), you’ll be well aware of all the plugins available. If you only download one plugin for your SEO, make it Yoast.
Once you write a post, Yoast analyses it, tells you what you could improve, and gives you an SEO score: poor, OK, and good.
To use Yoast SEO, you first have to enter a focus keyword. While your blog should have a variety of relevant keywords spread throughout, it’s important to pick one that will extend from your title, to your subtitle, your URL and meta description.
So which focus keyword did I choose? Yep, you guessed it:
At the top we can see a preview for how your post will appear in search results, and below, you can edit it. The SEO tool makes sure your focus keyword matches up in all areas – if you don’t have a bright green ‘yes’ in every line, you won’t get a ‘good’ SEO score.
Once you fill out all the sections and save your post as a draft, you can see the next page:
Here, Yoast tells you everything you’re doing right – and everything you’re doing wrong.
Don’t stress too much over all these little green dots; as long as you’ve got about three quarters of them right, it’ll be smooth sailing.
From a more creative point of view, I’ve decided to ignore the first two criteria on my Yoast score: this post is already littered with the words “SEO for travel bloggers” (there it is again! Are you happy now, Yoast?), and I’m not going to call my post “SEO travel bloggers” just to remove the ‘stop’ word, “for”.
Beyond WordPress, there are a number of other online tools you can use to improve SEO. One of my favourite ones is Ahrefs, a tool that allows you to check out the traffic, backlinks and keywords from other blogs.
Once again, using this tool is about putting yourself behind the reader’s screen. I do a quick Google search of my post’s topic (in this case, “SEO for travel bloggers”), and pick out a few of the top ranked links.
Then, I enter them into the Ahrefs site explorer (making sure I’ve selected “exact URL” in the drop down – if you accidentally leave it as “domain” you may be in for a deflating shock!).
Immediately, I can see how many external sites link to the post, how many people visit it on a daily basis, and the most common keywords that lead people to it.
Take the example below, for instance:
As you can see, the the major “anchor terms” (a.k.a keywords) are literally “SEO”, “for”, “travel” and “bloggers”. “101” and “writing” follow closely behind. So, I add the terms “101” and “writing” into my tags and text.
The top results bar on Ahrefs, however, is the most interesting, because it tells you exactly how many backlinks the page has received, and how many social shares it has.
This is where a little bit of “skyscraping” comes in. If you can attract more backlinks, social shares and traffic than the top Google result, then, slowly but surely, you’ll eventually move up in the rankings.
And that’s just the basic stuff! In the next part of this series, I’ll be looking at some of the best strategies to make your blog number one on Google.
Like what you’ve read? Have any questions? Leave me a comment below, or get in touch on social media – I’d love to hear from you!