Whether you are a seasoned travel blogger or just get started, the concept of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is one of the most important aspects to keep in mind as you build and grow your website. This guide will go through some of the most helpful travel blog SEO tips, tricks, strategies & best practices that I have learned over time, and how I successfully applied them into my content. So, if you want to develop an understanding about what SEO is all about and how to create the best content out there, read on!
1) What is Search Engine Optimization
Before diving into the travel SEO tips, tricks & best practices, I did just want to give a quick overview of what search engine optimization is all about.
There are really two sides of SEO – the “technical” component (everything that is set up on the backend of your website) and the “On Site” component (related more to the content you are writing, and how you write it).
This guide will solely focus towards on-site SEO, and many of the important aspects that should be considered as you begin to write content out for your website.
Technical SEO will be a super important aspect to learn about when building your site as well. I would recommend doing your homework on the technical side by reading through some guides that dive into that portion of SEO.
In general though, SEO is exactly what it sounds like – how do you optimize your site and your content for search engines (i.e. Google).
Your #1 goal when writing content should be focusing on getting your travel blog posts on the first search engine results page (aka SERP). The higher your content ranks, the more clicks you get to your website. The more clicks you receive, the more money you can ultimately receive from advertising, affiliates, sponsors, etc.
Google wants to rank the best content out there for whatever the searched keyword is. If you write with a purpose, understand the keyword universe, and put a high quality blog post out there, Google will recognize that.
This guide is going to dive a bit deeper than most of the generic posts about travel blog SEO. I want to show you and explain to you what to focus on and how to get the best content out there for Google.
I am hoping by the end of this article, you should be able to get started with writing and be on your way to growing a successful travel blog for yourself.
I am going to start off from the beginning here with Keyword Research. After understanding this concept, I will then go into a few more specifics of putting together the most wholistic blog post possible.
2) Understanding Keywords
Keyword research is one of the most important aspects of travel blogging and travel blog SEO. For those that are not familiar with the term, a “keyword” is essentially the main topic that you will focus on for a particular blog post.
This keyword can be one word or multiple words, and should be found in places like your blog post title, meta description, URL, headers, throughout the content itself, and within alt text for images. More on all of that later!
Now, you just don’t want to pick a random keyword out of the blue and just start writing about it. Instead, you will want to choose a keyword that you have a good chance to rank for on Google.
As an example, say you just came back from a trip to Iceland. For someone with no travel blogger experience, you may think to yourself – let me just write an article about “Iceland”. A general article about “Iceland” however, may never find its way to the first page of Google for any search term.
Instead, what if you wrote about a “One Week Iceland Itinerary”. This is a more focused and specific keyword rather than just writing an article about Iceland in general. You can see from the screenshots below, the differences in Google search result pages for the keyword “Iceland” and the keyword “One Week Iceland Itinerary”.
The former has some pretty well known websites on the first page of results – Wikipedia, National Geographic, Iceland Government site, Wikitravel, etc. The later has a few well known sites, but also a lot of lesser known travel blogs.
Which SERP do you think you have a better chance of getting onto – the “Iceland” page or the “One Week Iceland Itinerary” page? I can guarantee it’s the second one.
Now I will say, if you did have some very detailed sections in your general Iceland article, it is possible you will find yourself showing up in search results for some more detailed keywords. As a rule of thumb for me though, I like to have the main keyword and topic of the article as my ranking goal.
3) Long Tail Keywords
Another important concept to think about when choosing a keyword is how long tailed it will be. Essentially, the more words in a chosen keyword, the more long tailed it is. In our example above, it could look something like this:
2) Iceland Itinerary
3) One Week Iceland Itinerary
4) One Week Iceland itinerary in Winter
In general (but not always), the longer the keyword, the better chance you have to rank when someone types that keyword into the Google search bar.
Now, it is also important to note that the longer the keyword, the less people out there will be actually searching for that specific keyword (most likely).
So there could be 100,000 searches for “Iceland”, 10,000 searches for ‘Iceland Itinerary”, 5,000 searches for “One Week Iceland Itinerary”, and 1,000 searches for “One Week Iceland itinerary in Winter”.
While you may want to get greedy here and go after that 100,000 searches, you may very well never get a single click to your article if you don’t rank. But if you are able to rank for “One Week Iceland itinerary in Winter” and get a couple hundred clicks out of the 1,000, don’t you think you would be better off?
Sometimes I go after more aspirational keywords and other times I go after more attainable ones. But at the end of the day, you will just want to consider the feasibility of actually ranking for these chosen keywords.
I want to point out this concept once again – by going after a keyword like “One Week Iceland Itinerary”, you are not only going to rank for that specific keyword. If you end up ranking for that keyword, you are also likely to rank for variations of that search term.
A few examples could be “Iceland in 1 Week”, “One Week Iceland Road Trip”, “Iceland Itinerary One Week”. So it is not always paying attention to the exact exact keyword, but more so the opportunity around variations of that keyword too.
Over time, as you begin to rank and Google gets to know your content a bit more, then you can start veering away from the longer end keywords and more to the shorter keywords that most likely have more searches overall. There isn’t an exact science here but it will take time for your site to build up to a point where you will start ranking for more competitive shorter keywords.
I also need to mention that not all shorter worded keywords will be impossible to rank for. If there is a low competitive keyword that is only one single word, then you can try and go after those types of keywords as well. An example of this could be a lesser known waterfall in Iceland.
If there is not really content out there for that waterfall, feel free to write an article about it. Now, it may have a relatively low search volume but it goes to show you that not all shorter end keywords are difficult to rank for.
4) Keyword Research
Now that you understand what keywords are, you may be thinking “how do I know if I can rank for a keyword” or “how do I know how competitive a keyword is”. I have brought up this Iceland example a few times, so let’s dive into keyword research about a One Week Iceland Itinerary, and how difficult (or easy) it will be able to rank for it.
The first thing that I usually do when I have a keyword in mind is head over to a keyword tool called KeySearch. The tool does cost $12 per month but is known to be one of the best affordable keyword tools on the market today.
There are plenty of other keyword tools out there like Moz, Ahrefs, and SEMrush, but those all come with hefty price tags and are probably not made for the beginner travel blogger out there. If you are looking for a free keyword tool, you can give UberSuggest a try.
All of these keyword tools will have some sort of “score” when searching for a keyword. The higher the score, the more difficult it would be to rank on the first page of Google.
Below is a screenshot from KeySearch showing the score of a 28 for “One Week Iceland Itinerary”, as well as many other related keywords that you can choose from. “Iceland Itinerary” by the way has a score of 35 to give you some context.
As a travel blogger just starting out, you will want to attack those lower scores (below 25ish). As you continue to grow, you can start to reach higher.
That is not to say, you shouldn’t write articles for more competitive keywords at all. You always have the chance of ranking and it’s likely that sometime further out in the future, the article may eventually rank (once you are more established with Google). But at the end of the day, I would still focus most of your beginning writing on the keywords you can actually rank for.
There are a bunch of different metrics that go into calculating the score for particular keywords. Some of these metrics are shown by KeySearch in the grid below.
It shows the top 10 website results for the search term and then lists out the different metrics for each one of those sites. The more green you see, the more opportunity you have to rank, and the more red you see, the harder it will be to rank.
Remember though, this is just understanding the competition on the first page of results. If their content itself is not good, you can still rank higher with better quality content.
Another thing I want to note here is the “volume” metric. You can see that the keyword has a volume of 170 (which is calculated as a monthly number). These are very much so estimates, and should not be taken as your ultimate deciding factor.
I have written articles that came up with volumes of 0, but still brought in hundreds of visitors a month. There are other ways which I will speak of to understand if a keyword is relevant in Google searches.
One great feature of KeySearch is that you can actually see what the other keywords the article for a specific website is ranking for and estimated volumes for those keywords. Like I mentioned earlier, you can easily rank for many related keywords to your main keyword.
5) The Alphabet Method
Another great way to get keyword ideas is to use the alphabet method on Google. So, for example if you typed in “One Week in Iceland” into Google, you will begin to see that Google automatically shows you relevant search terms as you are typing.
You can see that One Week in Iceland itinerary pops up – clearly a keyword that Google would recommend. But you will also see other options “One Week in Iceland Cost” and “Is a Week in Iceland Enough”.
You can use these potential keywords in a variety of ways:
1) Choose one of them as a main keyword for you article (be sure to also check competition though as well).
2) Write multiple articles with each one focused on a different keyword. Your “One Week in Iceland itinerary” can be completely different content than your “One Week in Iceland Cost” article.
3) Use these as section ideas in your article. So if you are writing about the One Week in Iceland Itinerary, one of the sections in the article you can touch upon is “cost”, another can be “winter”, and so on.
If you don’t initially see any additional topics that can work here, then you simply can begin writing the letters of the alphabet after the words “One Week in Iceland”.
So below are a few ideas after I typed in the letter B. You can then delete the B and write in C, and so on (hence the alphabet method).
6) People Also Ask
In the middle of search pages you will see a “People Also Ask” section. This is another great way to either get keyword ideas or help with adding content to your article.
Once again, you can write an article solely answering a question here – clearly people are asking these questions so writing an article about it would surely be helpful in Google’s eyes. On the other hand, you can also just build these questions into your article about a “One Week Iceland Itinerary”.
A quick tip here – as you open up each one of these questions, new ones continue to appear below them. Eventually the questions will become more and more irrelevant, but just know there are more questions hidden here.
7) Related Searches
Another helpful trick here to get keyword / content ideas is to head to the bottom of a search results page. Here you will find the “Related Searches” section. Similar to the alphabet method in some regards, but here you will find other related searches to the one you have put into Google.
Once again, this can be used by focusing an entire article around one of these searches or these terms can be built into your current keyword article.
Remember, you should still always understand the competition for the main keyword you are writing about. You just don’t want to continue writing content for super competitive keywords that wont give you a solid chance to be found on Google.
Once you have a main keyword in mind (and any other related keywords, phrases, questions, etc) it is time to start writing. Below are a couple helpful tips and tricks when it comes to travel blog SEO in terms of actual content.
8) Google Search Results
By now you should have a solid idea of the keyword you want to write about and the competition level of the keyword. So now it’s time to type that keyword into Google and take a look at what the page results are.
There is a reason why Google is ranking certain websites in certain positions on the search result page so it is time to find out why that may be the case.
I would open up each article on the first page (at least several of them) and begin to understand what each article is writing about. Take a look at the different sections of the posts to see the different topics they are covering.
When putting together your article, you surely will want to touch on many of the overlapping topics that are showing up in many of these first page articles. From there you may want to also include some additional topics that we covered in the previous few sections.
It is also very possible that many of the articles just have poor content altogether, and by just writing a more in depth and encompassing article, you will be able to outrank many of the first page articles.
9) LSI Keywords
LSI keywords, also known as Latent Semantic Indexing keywords, are used by Google to understand the content on a webpage. So, even if you focus on a “One Week Iceland Itinerary” as your main keyword, Google also expects other related keywords to pop up throughout your article so they are more confident the article is really relevant to a One Week Iceland Itinerary.
As you go through the first page search results, you will probably find a lot of the same keywords popping up in the articles. For the One Week Iceland Itinerary search term, check out the LSI keyword list below.
You should be sure to include many of these relevant keywords in your article so Google’s confidence level increases when ranking your article vs. others.
10) In Content Best Practices
As you begin to put together your blog post, you should keep in mind some of the best SEO practices that will better your chance of ranking on Google.
Title – URL – Meta Description
If you are writing an article about a “One Week in Iceland Itinerary” you will want to make sure that keyword is found in the main three parts of a Google preview. This includes the titles, the URL (or slug), and in the meta description.
Below is an example from one the posts on my site about the “Kongma La Pass”. You can see I included that keyword in all three sections. You can also see in my title that I included some other relevant keywords such as “hiking”, “map”, “difficulty”.
All of these words were used because they were frequently searched with the phrase “Kongma La Pass” (using some of the methodologies mentioned earlier).
You will want to keep your keyword at the beginning of the title, with other relevant keywords closer to the end. This way Google has a better understanding off the bat what the main topic is.
The slug or URL can simply be the keyword itself but you can add a word or two if relevant. One helpful tip here is to never use dates within your URL (triptins.com/2020-01-21/kongma-la-pass). As you update the post in the future, you don’t want to be stuck with an old date in the URL. Just stick with your keyword here.
Lastly, you have the meta description, which is the short overview of what the article is about. You should be sure to include you keyword here but also include some action words that grab the readers’ attentions. Sometimes a meta description can be all the difference between someone clicking on your article vs the one right above or below yours on Google.
Throughout an article you will want to break down your content into various sections. And sometimes even within those sections you will have different sections.
These sections should all be dictated by headers tags, also known as H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, H6 tags. Now I usually don’t go past an H2/H3 tag but if you continuously wanted to dive deeper and deeper into certain topics, you certainly can use more of them.
You should only have one H1 tag in your article and that is also known as your article’s main header. You should see this on the backend of WordPress, where you can input your main header for the article.
I usually take the SEO title in the previous section and simplify it down a bit. So for the Kongma La Pass example, I used “Hiking the Kongma La Pass Trek of the Himalayas”. Again, I am making sure to include the main keyword in the H1.
H2, H3, etc. will be used as the outline of your article in general. So, in the Kongma La post I have several H2 tags. I didn’t include any H3s in this particular article but if I wanted to get more detailed about one of the subjects, I could have always used H3s:
1) How to Take Part of the Trek
2) Kongma La Pass Details
3) Kongma La Pass Map
4) Elevation Profile
5) Kongma La Pass Trek
6) Kongma La Pass Difficulty
You can see that I used the main keyword in several of the H2’s but not all of them. Ideally the keyword should be found in a few of them but you do not want to overdo it. Honestly, I probably used one too many here.
But it is also important to note that most of these H2 tags were written with SEO in mind. I used related searches, the alphabet method, etc., to come up with these H2 tags.
When people searched for the Kongma La Pass, they also were searching for the map of the trek, the elevation profile, and the difficulty level. I was sure to include these in the titles here.
This not only helps Google understand that the article is clearly relevant to the Kongma La Pass, but I also now have a better chance of ranking for other keyword search terms like “Kongma La Pass Difficulty”.
Once you have your keyword and outline in place, the rest should come more natural to you. Write in a style that works best for you and how you want to connect with your readers. Be sure to include your keyword throughout the article but don’t force it in and overstuff the keyword.
Also, be sure to include those LSI keywords and cover relevant topics that competitors are writing all about. Using all the above should put you in a stronger SEO position and get you going in the right direction.
Alt Text for Images
One additional aspect of SEO to think about will be the images that you end up inserting throughout the article. When you are inserting these images into WordPress, you will see a place to insert “Alt Text”. Alt text (alternative text) is used to describe what the image is.
Since Google does not know what an image is by just looking at it, it is up to the content creators to name the images. Below is an example of this for the Kongma La Pass article. By writing “Kongma La Pass” in the alt text section, now Google understands what this particular photo pertains to.
Alt text is also used from a web accessibility standpoint so visually impaired users also understand what is on a webpage.
Not only is alt text good practice for the article’s SEO in general, but also you now have a better chance of showing up for the alt text keyword in Google Images.
Some of my articles that don’t even rank on the first couple pages of Google still receive a good amount of traffic solely because people are clicking on the images within Google Images.
While not known for certain whether it is relevant for SEO, it is also good practice to appropriately name the actual file that you upload (Kongma-La-Pass.jpeg vs. Image123.jpeg).
11) Linking Strategy
Another SEO aspect I wanted to touch upon in this article is the idea of internal links, external links, and backlinks. For more in depth info here, take a look at this great Mediavine article about linking.
Internal links are links that go from one page on your website to another page on your website. So for example, the Kongma La Pass article is very relevant to other articles I have written about hiking in Nepal.
So, what I would do here is link from one article to the next. That way Google understands that there is a relationship between the content. I would try to avoid linking between two unrelated posts, since that can confuse Google to an extent and question what your content is truly about.
A great example for internal linking can be shown in round up posts – top 10 waterfalls to visit in Iceland. Not only can you write a round up article about the 10 waterfalls, but you can also write individual articles about each particular waterfall. Once you have that done, you can then link from your round up post to each of the 10 articles.
Also, as good practice you should always have relevant anchor text (the text that you link on). So, if you are linking to your Skogafoss Waterfall article from your top 10 round up article, you will want to insert the link on the words “Skogafoss Waterfall”, and not something like “Read More”.
External links are those links that go from your website to an external website. So for example, a few paragraphs prior, I linked to the Mediavine linking article. This would be an external link since it is pointing towards a different website.
I can see why people may be hesitant to insert these types of links on their articles since you are essentially pointing your readers off the page. If you use them in the appropriate places, and don’t overdo it, I would recommend using them from time to time.
External links can also be affiliate links – links that send my readers to Booking.com for example. These are a different type of external link since I could potentially make money off of the sale. In these situations I would need to tag these as Sponsored or No Follow links.
The last type of link here would be the backlink. This is essentially a link you get from another website to your website (basically the receiving end of an external link). Now, there is nothing you can do on your website itself to get backlinks. Here you need to rely on other websites to link to your content.
As you can imagine, backlinks are not easy to come by. But by receiving backlinks (especially from high ranking sites), you can really boast your SEO and ranking performance.
Backlinks are a big part of Domain Authority – one of the metrics used to rank websites. The more backlinks you have, the more authority and trustworthiness Google sees in your site. But remember too – quality over quantity.
Backlinking strategies really deserve a whole article on their own, but in simple terms you can get them organically or by reaching out to other websites. Some of the main ways to go about getting backlinks from other sites include HARO (help a reporter out), guest posting on other blogs, reaching out to website owners and ask to swap in your link for someone else’s, among other strategies.
12) Yoast SEO Plugin
The last part in this travel blog SEO article that I wanted to go over is the Yoast SEO plugin. This plugin is one of the most popular SEO plugins out there that can be added to your WordPress site. The plugin has a free and premium version to suit various SEO needs.
The idea here is that you can insert your main chosen keyword into their keyword box, and the plugin will give you a list of items that you have done correctly, that need improvement, and that have done poorly.
Below you can see a screenshot of the Kongma La Pass article to get an idea of what the SEO checklist looks like. You don’t need to check off every single box. But by getting most of the way there, you will have a solid understanding whether you really took SEO into account when writing up your article.
With all that said, I hope you now can go about tackling the travel blogging SEO world for yourself! While I certainly did not cover every topic out there, this should give you a basic understanding of what SEO is all about.
If you are looking for some additional resources, check out Mediavine’s SEO Like a CEO blog series (the prior article linked was from there), and also the Theory of Content podcast. Feel free to also read through Google’s SEO guidelines that give you a good overview of their best practices.
Be sure to write in any comments or questions below. Have fun out there and safe travels!