Don’t worry it’s not just you, the world of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can be confusing and hard to navigate. With ever-changing algorithms and thousands of pieces of content flooding search engines every day, it’s probably never been so challenging (or so important) to wrap your head around this rewarding marketing strategy.
Even a small amount of basic SEO knowledge will make a big difference in the success of your blog and will ensure that your content is visible among the masses of other travel blogs competing in the same space. While you might spend five hours planning, designing, and writing your blog posts, that half an hour you spend optimizing your content is arguably the most important.
Understanding The Value Of SEO
In the world of SEO, the three big players are you, the search engine, and the searcher. To make sure that search engines are more likely to show your content in the top search results, you’ll need to work some of that SEO magic. And yes, this is a pretty important thing to achieve because while paid traffic and social media will drive traffic onto your site, there’s a huge opportunity that lies in the organic traffic that is powered by search engines.
Think about it, if people are searching for ‘Top 10 things to do in Sydney’ and your article is high up on the search engine results page (SERP) they will be infinitely more likely to click on and read your article as opposed to articles hidden in the deep depths of endless search results. Basically, if you want organic traffic to your blog the first page of Google results is very hot property.
Unfortunately, there’s no secret recipe to get your content to show up among this prime real estate. Google uses a ranking system to determine how relevant a page is and will then show the pages it determines to be the best sources to satisfy the searcher’s topic. With today’s search engine algorithms, it’s no longer enough to ensure that your page isn’t spammy, broken, or packed with relevant keywords to show up in SERPs. So without further ado, let’s dive into some of the strategies you can implement to ensure that your website or blog is delivering that all-important objective SEO is driving—traffic.
Optimizing Your Website
On-page SEO is one of the vital pieces of the SEO puzzle. This process involves optimizing all of the Google ranking factors that search engine algorithms use to determine the quality and ranking of your website.
These factors include anything from headlines, content, page structure and meta tags. If your website or blog is hosted on WordPress, Squarespace, or any other good website hosting platform, your site will have a bunch of SEO friendly features built-in and will automatically be built for clean indexing by search engines (yay!). While there’s a lot of other different factors that come into play during the on-page SEO process, optimizing the content on your site is the best place to start.
As a travel writer, you’ll already know the importance of creating an endearing and engaging title. Google considers page and post titles an important factor when determining your ranking, so make sure that you have clear and keyword-driven titles for each of the posts and pages on your website. As I mentioned, you’ll ideally do some pretty extensive keyword research (more on this later) to ensure you’re hitting the nail on the head with your titles.
Your page’s web address should have your main keyword in the URL. Ideally, you’ll want something short, simple, and to the point. Ensuring you have a short and sweet URL doesn’t just impress algorithms, it’s also good for foot traffic to your website. Imagine being presented with the following two URLs:https://www.yourwebsite.com/top-10-sydney
I think it’s pretty obvious which one most people would be more inclined to click on.
Google uses meta-descriptions to display snippets of your content to users so that they can see what it’s all about. Basically, think of meta-descriptions like your own little blurb or ad for your page. This is the best place to summarize what your content is about, and why the reader should click on it.
There are many best practices for meta-descriptions but they key things to remember are to keep your description within the character limit, follow the formatting your web host provides, and incorporate those all-important keywords in some compelling copy.
Page load speed is one of the biggest factors that impact a website’s performance in search results, so it’s time to start optimizing the imagery on your site if you’re not already. Of course, as travel bloggers, we all want to show off our amazing photography and the beautiful locations we visit in our content. What many travel bloggers don’t get is that resizing their images for online use is very important. I’m definitely not saying you have to become one of those blogs that have irregular sized and bad quality images, but what’s worse is having all of this great content and users clicking away after having to wait 10 seconds for the page to load, which is what happens when your images are too large.
The use of images and video in your content, as well as quick and efficient page load speeds, both have a positive effect on the amount of time people spend on your site.
So how do you marry the two and find that perfect middle ground where your site is filled with beautiful visuals but also loads fast? Many bloggers use online compressing tools such as compressjpeg to compress larger images without disrupting the quality of the image. You can also use Google’s Page Speed Insights Tool for suggestions on how to improve your pages’ load speeds.
Finally, make sure you have an effective naming convention for your images. Search engines see graphics on pages by reading their file names, so ideally you’ll want to make sure that your image file name is clean, succinct and includes a keyword.
When done properly, linking through your site internally can help Google to understand what your site is all about. With multiple and relevant (don’t go linking every other page on your site) internal links present throughout your site, Google will be able to see when two pages are topically related and better understand the contents of your website.
Internal link building is also a good way to entice your readers to stay on your site for longer by offering other relevant content they might be interested in. For example, if you have a blog post about the best hikes around the Dolomites, and you also have a blog post on hiking gear, linking the two will create the opportunity for people to keep clicking through to other pages on your site.
Tip: Use an SEO Plugin
If all of this seems to be going over your head, don’t stress. Using an SEO plugin such as Yoast means that you don’t even have to be an SEO expert to nail your SEO strategy. Yoast is a great tool that will help you with keyword optimization, technical figurations such as sitemaps and permalink URLs, as well as linking suggestions and content insights.
Using SEO in Your Content Strategy
You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again – content is king. All good content starts with one thing: a great idea. While you might have a billion great ideas swimming around in your head, you can’t truly optimize your content without knowing what your audience is interested in. When you’re approaching your content strategy it’s important to create quality and unique content that’s driven by purpose.
Undertaking some keyword research is going to help you understand what your audience is looking for, what other information they might want, and the volume of searches around your topic.
Basically, the power of keyword research lies in better understanding who your audience is and what they want.
Google’s Keyword Planner will shortly become your new best friend when you start the process of keyword research. This free tool from Google is a great resource to help you discover the keywords that are being searched for by your potential audience.
Searching for the keywords that you want your page to rank for is also a great way to identify what pages are actually ranked highly for that topic. You’ll be able to see what sort of content they are producing and use it as a benchmark for your content creation. Using keyword research as a starting point for your writing will ensure that you are able to align your content and create value around what people are actually interested in.
Google recommends that you incorporate your keyword within the first 100 words in the first paragraph of your content. The algorithm likes to see this so that it is assured that your content is in fact about the topic the user has searched for. Let’s just clear one thing up though, you need to incorporate keywords naturally and organically into your content. You shouldn’t be pushy or spammy and overcrowd your content with keywords as this is actually going to be counterproductive.
While this one isn’t a direct factor that Google will use to rank your website in SERPs, it’s definitely a must for every blogger. Including a social share button somewhere on your blog post will allow your readers to share your content to their own social networks. This simple act can really help to grow your blog, as well as drive outbound links. The good news is that these social share buttons will already be on most templates in the backend of your site so they are very easy to include.
Promoting Your Blog Organically
As I mentioned previously, on-page SEO is one of the vital steps in mastering SEO. The other one? Off-page SEO. These two strategies work hand in hand to improve the ranking of your website in SERPs.
Off-page SEO refers to all of the strategies you implement outside of your website to improve your pages’ search engine rankings. For the most part, this will include promoting your content on other platforms and link building.
These organic referrals linking back to your website (backlinks) can come from anyone who might want to reference your content within their own.
Acquiring new backlinks will show Google that you’re highly regarded and that your content is valuable, establishing domain authority and improving your search engine ranking.
Obviously the more sites that link back to your own the better. However, it’s also important to establish credible and authentic backlinks. Back when marketers and bloggers first began to realize the power of backlinking, they were doing anything they could to gain backlinks and ended up just generating a bunch of artificial links. In today’s world, it’s pretty hard to fool a search engine and Google will automatically recognize an unauthentic link profile. So how do you create healthy links back to your website?
Creating and sharing high-quality and unique content should be your main focus because after all, that’s the stuff that people will genuinely want to reference and share. If you can provide the highest quality and most useful resource online for your topic, people are naturally going to link to it.
Guest posting is a popular link building strategy within the blogging community as it gives you the chance to showcase your flare and share your expertise on a platform other than your own.
Guest posting involves getting your blog post published on a third-party website where you will be credited for the content in an author bio where you’ll be able to link back to your site.
If you are going to pursue guest posting, it’s important to find a website that hosts a community who shares the same interests as your own, not only so that you can reach a new audience and potentially gain new followers, but also because links from websites that have a similar topic to your own are generally rated higher than those from irrelevant websites.
Now that you understand the power of adopting an SEO strategy and are better equipped with the tools you’ll need for SEO success it’s time to go out and conquer!
By consciously and purposefully creating content based around your audience’s searches and interests, as well as optimizing your website’s back-end, you’ll be well on your way to improving your visibility on search engines.