Traveling is easier now than ever before — you can go just about anywhere you want in a matter of hours.
Don't speak the local language? No problem, use Google Translate.
Don't know where to go? No problem, use Google Maps.
Don't have money to travel? No problem, start a blog! It's possible to make travel your full time job thanks to the internet.
Unfortunately, starting a successful blog that provides a full-time income online is harder than it looks, especially if you don't know where to start.
Even if you’re posting useful content, it may never be read unless you follow the right steps.
I’m going to break everything down, and by the end of this article, you’ll have the blueprint to create value-oozing, Google optimized blog posts.
If you follow these steps, your traffic will (hopefully) look something like this:
Using the strategies below, I grew my new blog’s traffic by 3711.4% in just 6 months.
Let’s dive in:
Part 1: Plan your Content
If you want to start a travel blog, it’s important to get a good web host, setup WordPress, and choose a theme. But before you publish a single word, you need a game plan.
Putting together the framework for your blog will determine:
- The organization of your blog (crucial for the user experience)
- Search terms you will rank for
- Google’s ability to understand what your content is about
- The purpose of each page on your website
- Your site's tone and direction (consistency is key)
- How efficiently you or your writer will create the content
The bottom line is that you’re wasting time, energy, value, and potential traffic by skipping over the planning stage. Having a content calendar is going to make or break your blog's organic traffic growth.
Even if you already have thousands of words written out, it’s best to organize and plan how this content will be published. Randomly publishing a bunch of blog posts without any structure or layout will be disastrous, both for your SEO and user experience.
In addition, without a solid roadmap for your blog, you'll have no way to measure your progress.
Stick to What You Know
If you’re creating a travel blog, sticking to places you've actually been is a good rule of thumb. Don’t plan content if you don’t have real, first-hand experience on the subject.
Both your readers and Google will be able to tell if you’re making things up, and it’s far easier to write about something you actually have done yourself.
If you do write about something that you don’t know much about, plan on investing at least 3-4 hours of your time on research before you write a thing. The more you research, the more natural your tone will be.
Your blog should be something you enjoy, not an annoyance — and your best writing will be about things you want to write about, when you want to write about them. Don't write a travel guide for Kyoto if you've never been there, just because it's a good keyword!
Find Topics That Readers Want
If you’re not sure what to write about specifically, forums and Facebook pages are filled with travelers asking a bunch of questions which you can answer on your blog!
The key is to find the most popular questions or problems — especially if the answer isn’t already established in a blog post elsewhere — that people are asking about.
These popular problems are called cracks and filling these cracks is a great way to rank quickly. Google will rank a well-designed blog with high-value information over a forum any day of the week.
Another way to start searching for keywords is the alphabet soup method.
The alphabet soup method is easy. Start by typing a subject into the search bar, and seeing what Google suggests to you below.
With any popular search, you can find additional phrases that are relevant to your original subject by fishing with additional letters before or after that phrase.
Each of these phrases will have a high search volume, which is why Google suggested them to you in the first place.
Using a Keyword Research Tool
There are multiple SEO tools that you can use to search keyword statistics, but I personally use Ahrefs.
Ahrefs shows you tons of data, but the two most important aspects are KD (keyword difficulty) and the keyword's monthly search volume.
Especially when you're starting out, you want to target keywords with a low KD, and ideally, a high level of traffic.
You shouldn’t focus entirely on the stats of a keyword, though. Understanding why users are searching for something will undoubtedly determine how well you rank. This is called understanding search intent and it's a HUGE part of SEO in 2020.
Think about it:
Google's main priority is serving the best result to the user. If someone asks a question, answer it as quickly and concisely as possible!
You also want to take a look at what’s already ranking for your target keyword.
If the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) is filled with authority websites all covering your desired topic, there’s not a chance in hell you’ll rank for it.
On the other hand, if the SERP is filled with irrelevant or low-quality blogs and forums, it’s much more likely you’ll be able to smoke the competition and steal the #1 spot.
No matter how informative your blog post is, sometimes, it will never rank #1 for certain terms because of user intent.
Google ranks posts that users want to see, and users don’t always want big blog posts.
For example, the search phrase: “Hotels in Munich Germany” will always have list style posts ranking above any blog posts.
This is the same with product searches. Unless you are content with being #5 at best, you should target keywords that blogs are already ranking for.
You should only create informative blog content for users that are going to value that information. Users need to intend on reading.
Before you create your blog content, think about what YOU would want to find if you searched your main keyword.
For example, if your main keyword is "what is it like in Krakow'' you'd want to write a blog post style travel guide about your stay in Krakow, Poland.
On the other hand, if your target keyword is "safest places to stay in Krakow," you'd write a list style post rounding up the top 5 safest places to stay in the city.
Although more specific keywords have less traffic, they are generally less competitive. Plus, you can target the intent of those users much more effectively.
Part 2: Outline Your Posts Before Writing Them
Instead of trying to dive in and write a huge 2,000-word blog post without any planning, we recommend you outline the blog post beforehand.
This way, you'll know exactly what you're writing about before you get cracking - try to break your post down with subheadings.
They're great for user experience because they make your post much more digestible. In addition, having a great post outline makes it easier to write.
If your 2,000 word blog post has 5 subheadings, it's almost like you're writing four mini blog posts that are 400 words each instead of one huge post.
Organize Subheadings and Refer Back to Community Research Notes
Create your subheadings with purpose. Not only are these headings going to highlight different sections of your blog, but they should also be targeting your LSI (latent semantic indexing) keywords and featured snippets.
LSI keywords are loosely related to your main search phrase. It's actually easy to find LSI keywords - they'll pop up in the suggested search bar, and at the bottom of the search results page.
Here are some search phrases related to the main search phrase “best hostels in london:”
LSI keywords help Google better understand your page’s topic, which in-turn results in better rankings.
The best way to organize giant blocks of information is to have the main subject of that section in the form of an H2, while the individual aspects are divided into H3s.
Optimize for Featured Snippets: Answer Headings
The rules of featured snippets:
- Always answer the snippet immediately - Google will have the easiest time finding “snippet worthy” content on your page if you make it easy for them to spot it
- Make sure to match the type of featured snippet you're targeting (some snippets feature a paragraph answer, list response, or a table)
For example, InterNations holds the featured snippet for “Safest Cities in Germany,” and they rank #3 for this term.
At this point, you should have the following:
- One primary search phrase - this will be the main focus of your post
- A list of LSI keywords - these are keyword phrases that are related to your main search phrase
Keep this list close — whether you have this information in a spreadsheet, notepad, or document — you’re going to need this info for your outline and throughout your writing process.
Now that you’ve done proper research on your subject, you can start to build your post outline.
Make sure to answer the user intent right away, at the top of your post. The rest of the blog post should contain helpful, relevant information that the people searching your primary keyword would be interested in reading.
Maximizing CTR (Click Through Rate)
Your title and description should include your main search phrase while being attractive to users.
Between these two titles, which is more likely to grab your attention?
The second option is more confident, specific, and has a meta description that is much more relatable.
Just remember to keep your titles below 60 characters, otherwise, they will cut off like this:
Good titles have the main keyword pulled to the left and entice the user to click. I love using parentheses with my titles, as well as the current year (if applicable).
Part 3: Creating the Best Content
Now that you have your keywords and headings planned out, it’s time to start writing value-oozing content based on your experiences.
When writing your content, always think about helping your users above all else.
No matter how many little tricks and tactics you use, Google won’t rank your stuff if people don’t find it valuable.
Always keep your readers in mind when you write your content because their experience will determine how well you rank and, of course, how much traffic you're pulling in.
How to Provide the Most Value to Your Users
If you are sharing more helpful information than everyone else, people will notice. That doesn't mean you should just slap 50,000 words on a page and expect to rank, however.
Blog readers like to find the most informative posts, and Google likes that too.
As you look through other sites ranking for your target topics, ask yourself:
Do you have more to say than them?
If so, be sure to share every detail in your post!
Information is valuable, but the way that you write it is also very important.
On the flip side, don't make the mistake of writing a 6,000-word monster that nobody is going to read just for the sake of having the longest blog post on the net.
The most important thing is user experience - answer your users' questions in the most efficient way possible, and you'll be ranking in no time at all.
Create Content That is Easy to Read
Can somebody without prior experience understand and learn from your post? If so, you’re on the right track.
However, if your writing isn’t easily digested by the average reader, you should probably simplify.
Which of these examples do you find easier to read?
It has been shown that users hate to see bulky paragraphs. Generally, you want to keep your paragraphs to one or two sentences.
Google monitors how users interact with their page using their machine learning algorithm called "RankBrain."
It monitors things like session duration and bounce rate to gauge user experience, which is why you need to make your website user friendly and easy to read.
Use Images Appropriately
This is going to sound obvious, but readers like to see pictures of the places you’re blogging about.
That being said, make sure to include the best pictures you've got. You can also utilize one of the many free places online that curate photos.
If you don’t have your own pictures, you can always use a stock photo site. Check out the ultimate list of sites to download free photos for blogs and social media for more information.
Or, here’s a trick I like to use:
Using Google images, click “Tools” and select “Labeled for reuse” under the “Usage rights” drop down.
These Bali pictures are all legal to reuse, and won’t cost a dime.
However, having too many pictures can be a common mistake as well.
If people wanted to see 50 pictures of the place you’re talking about, they would’ve used Google images.
Again, it's all about the user. Don't overwhelm them with endless pics of you on the beach, but don't leave everything to their imagination either. Pictures are really helpful when you want to show the user what you're talking about.
For example, if you wrote a series of blog posts about your international road trip, it isn't necessary to post a bunch of selfies of you in your car - people would much rather see pictures of the cool places you visited along the way!
Think about it this way:
Would you like to see a picture there if you were searching for your post?
Most of the time, image files are much larger than they need to be.
The problem with high-resolution images is that they are usually large files that slow your page speed dramatically.
I’ve seen some sites get outranked only because their page loaded slowly.
I compress all of my images, and anyone wanting to rank on Google should do the same.
Triple Edit your Content
Nothing is worse than checking up on a page you’ve had up for a couple of months, just to see a mistake or grammatical error at the top of your post.
Make sure you proofread not once, not twice, but three times!
First, I read my new post silently to myself, another time using a text to speech tool, and a third time to myself out loud.
This might sound excessive, but I see it as an investment to produce the best content possible.
A second pair of eyes to read over your work always helps as well. I’ve had someone catch things that I had glossed over multiple times.
I also use Grammarly.
The premium version makes you sound like a pro, but if you’d rather not spend the cash, the free basic version still catches more errors than your average spell-checker.
If you outsource your writing, Grammarly also has a plagiarism checker.
Part 4: Internally Link to Your Other Blog Pages
Once you have a few blogs posted, be sure to link to a couple of them in every other post, where it makes sense.
Linking from one page that gets tons of traffic to another brand-new page will help that new page rank in Google much faster. It passes authority, relevance, and even new visitors (if they click the link).
Ideally, you should have a web of pages in your site linking to each other. This distributes the authority across your site and can boost your rankings, as long as you internally link properly. Google likes to know you’re an authority on a certain topic, meaning their users will find a hub of great information related to their query.
The trick is making sure you keep your internal links relevant, but if you planned your content effectively beforehand, you should know exactly how you're going to internally link off the bat anyway.