You will not become a successful blogger unless you learn about search engine optimisation. Sounds harsh, right? I strongly believe that I can attribute the growth of my blog last year because I took some time to learn about SEO. So much so that I wanted to share what I learned with you.
In January 2018, I reached 29,732 pageviews from search traffic alone! That’s a jump, in leaps and bounds, from where I started in January 2017 with just 1,614 pageviews.
*UPDATE: As of July 2018, That Travel Blog has reached 70,000 monthly pageviews from search traffic.
I didn’t pay for anything, I didn’t do any link swaps or black-hat strategies. Everything I did, you can do for free and without too much effort.
If you don’t know where to start, then this blog post will give you good foundations on your way to mastering SEO for your travel blog. I’m including my favourite tools and resources, screenshots, and detailed but beginner-friendly guides on how to succeed.
My SEO strategy for blog posts
- Search traffic > referral traffic
- Work smarter, not harder!
How I heighten my chances of ranking on the first page of a Google Search query:
- Method 1. Hack Google AdWords for free keyword research
- Method 2. Keyword positioning
- Method 3. Evergreen content
- Method 4. Quality, over quantity
- Method 5. Competitor analysis
My SEO strategy for blog posts
My search traffic counts for 80.54% of my overall pageviews!
With that much of my audience coming from search traffic alone, you might argue that I could do more in terms of referral traffic. Last year, I’d be tempted to agree with you. However, I make a point to not inundate my audience with external links on their favourite social media platforms and in turn, I’m rewarded for it.
Search traffic > referral traffic
For me, social media is about delivering maximum value and enjoyment for my audience. It’s about creating and maintaining communities online. I would rather have 5 loyal readers who choose to read more about me and how I can assist their endeavours, than have 50 random people land on my site from a clickbait link – that’ll forget about me tomorrow.
As a reader, especially on mobile, I rarely want to leave the social media app I am using so why would it be different from my audience?
For those who decide to dig deeper and discover more about me, and my blog, that’s an engaged audience member. This person is a warm lead that will be open to any products or services I might be selling. Not someone who clicked on a random link.
Work smarter, not harder!
I must admit, focusing on search traffic can be the easier (or lazier) route. For example, an evergreen blog post (more on these later) will continue to reward you for months, even years to come. While I love the fast-paced nature of social media, I try not to concern myself with driving traffic to my blog on these platforms otherwise I can run the risk of spoiling the fun for both myself and my audience.
When you work hard to improve your search traffic and focus on high-value content on social media, rather than self-promotion and click-through rates, you’ll see an increase in social engagement and lower bounce rates on your website.
This encourages contributors to:
- Construct detailed posts, and ask questions, that benefit the group
- It sparks conversation, versus self-serving promotions
- Not to mention, a rewarding boost from Facebook’s algorithm for keeping content and engagement on-site
Put simply, the main reason I focus on search traffic for my website is that it gives me a consistent stream of traffic, with the added bonus of not doing anything that would annoy anyone.
Sure, I’m not getting 200K visits to my website (yet), but I’m growing my blog in a way that suits me and it doesn’t require having to share something online every 5 minutes.
Step-by-step: How I heighten my chances of ranking on the first page of a Google Search query
When it comes to writing blog posts that people find organically, it’s important to address the search intent of your target audience.
Well, what does that mean?
It means, what search terms are your audience typing into Google to find answers to their questions?
You can increase your chances of ranking on the first page by discovering “long tail keywords” and “niche search terms” that your potential readers are searching for.
“Long tail keywords” are three words and above phrases that your target audience may be using. And “long tail SEO” is the technique of discovering these specific keywords and targetting them in order to find easier to rank keywords due to low competition.
“Niche search terms” are unique keywords that aren’t as competitive but still relevant to your topic. Similar to how we use niche Instagram travel hashtags with less than 100,000 posts because it’s easier to rank as a top post!
Method 1. Hack Google AdWords for free keyword research
Long-tail keywords and niche search terms will be easier for new bloggers who want to rank organically and see quicker results. Of course, there will be less traffic to your post than if you were to use rank well in more popular search terms. However, I have found that keywords with less competitive search terms will provide small to medium sized blogs with the best results.
Here, you will find free resources and tools to help you discover the most appropriate keywords for your next blog post.
Take a look at “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category”. This is where Google delivers you an SEO superpower, for free.
It’s a great place to start when you are looking for some inspiration, just copy and paste a larger website that is very similar to yours (or your own) and you will receive a list of keywords that Google recommends.
Pay attention to the suggested keywords by relevance, average monthly searches, and competition.
The higher the average monthly searches, the more often your blog post will be seen if you rank for this particular keyword. However, take note of how competitive the keywords are as they are generally a good indication of how successful you will be.
When you create blog posts based on the suggested keywords, you are also telling Google what your website is about. Try to keep them as close to your theme as possible.
Method 2. Keyword positioning
You may have mastered the art of discovering the most appropriate keywords for your blog post, but are you positioning them in the right places?
Here’s a checklist to tick off when you have completed a new blog post:
- Try to use identifying keywords in the headline such as the subject or location
- Use your keywords in the main body of the post
- Include keywords in the URL e.g. https://www.thattravelblog.com/…….
- Include keywords in meta tags
- Include keywords in alt text for images (where appropriate)
- Use your keywords in at least 1% of your copy (1 keyword used 10 times, for a 1000 word blog post)
Remember, for the best results, your audience should be targeted so try to stick to your theme as much possible!
Method 3. Evergreen content
Evergreen content can refer to blog posts that are a sustainable source of traffic. These are articles that do not involve one-off news stories, current trends, or other temporal events.
I am no stranger to stagnant growth. When That Travel Blog launched, I focused all of my time and energy on “Nomad Interviews”. Every week, I interviewed an online entrepreneur who would reveal how they were making money while they travel. This was fantastic for building a community and networking with like-minded individuals. However, I was blinded by the initial boost in referral traffic. I soon realised that the interviews were losing traction after the first month and most of them would eventually stop bringing in any traffic at all.
Now, I focus on creating just one killer blog post per month that is the definitive source to a valuable and long-lasting question.
However, if I was to share something along the lines of “January’s Top 10 Influencer Marketing Campaigns for Travel Bloggers”. The traffic is likely to drop significantly after the event. If I continued to write similar temporal blog posts, I wouldn’t have consistent search traffic to rely on and I would have to work twice as hard to generate traffic from other sources (such as referral traffic).
Month by month, some of my more successful blog posts receive over 2,000 pageviews each! Admittedly, with a high percentage of traffic coming from just a handful of blog posts, this success doesn’t reflect well on my overall performance. But I’m just getting started! Imagine what I could do with 100 of these high-performing blog posts.
Ask yourself, would you prefer to be a content mill with a high turnover of readers, or a valued resource with an engaged audience?
It’s frustrating when you have to read multiple articles to find what you are looking for. I try hard to make sure my blog content is a one-stop shop for my readers. If they want to find the most effective affiliate marketing networks for travel bloggers, or the best places to visit in Taiwan, they will (hopefully) find answers to all of their questions on one page.
Method 4. Quality, over quantity
Google rewards long-form content. “Long-form content” being higher value articles that contain over 2000+ words.
For That Travel Blog, I’m writing about what I love and what I’m learning. For example, how to navigate a city I’ve never been to or learning a new way to make money online in order to pay for my travels. I am always looking to write in-depth articles that become the definitive source for that topic.
You should always ask yourself when writing a new article:
- Does this blog post solve a problem?
- Can you imagine someone entering your headline into Google Search?
- Is this article the best that’s ever been written on the topic?
If you aren’t answering “yes” to these questions, then you need to make improvements in order to stay on top of your SEO game and blog content.
Method 5. Competitor analysis
You’ve probably heard of this term before. It’s usually used as part of a business marketing plan. But it’s also a useful thing to do when writing blog posts.
Before you start writing a blog post, Google Search your chosen keywords and headline.
If you want to write a guide to Barcelona, read all of the guides on the first page of Google. These are what you will be competing against to grab a seat on page 1! When writing your guide, make sure that you can provide the most valuable information, with much more detail than your competition.
When you put in the extra work and provide more in-depth information than any other article out there – your blog post is more likely to stay ranked on the first page of Google (every company and bloggers SEO dream).
NOTE: When blog posts rank well, they tend to stay there until something better comes along to replace it. That could be from a week to a year, sometimes longer!
Here are a few screenshots of my blog posts that are listed on Google search as the 2nd result, on the 1st page for their keywords. “Alishan national scenic area”, “travel hashtags”, and “sun moon lake Taiwan”.
It’s ALWAYS worth putting in the extra effort to make sure your blog post is better than your competitors. If you’re writing “X Ways to Make Money While You Travel” and someone has already shared 20, make yours 50.
There’s a lot of noise out there about the best SEO practices from self-proclaimed gurus and the like. If you are struggling to come to terms with the best SEO strategy for your website, it’s really quite simple. Think about your readers first, ask yourself, “what’s the best solution for them?”. Essentially, search engines just want you to create maximum value for your audience so that their users have the best experience and continue using their service.
Now get out there and create valuable content so you can drive search traffic to your blog while you sleep!