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As an admin for Female Travel Bloggers, I have the privilege of reading and answering a lot of questions that are posted in our community. Questions that I see asked over and over again, are often those about SEO. More specifically, what are some great SEO tips, what are the SEO essentials for travel bloggers and how does one implement them successfully?
I’ve noticed that a lot of bloggers tend to focus on two areas: keywords (mostly things that Yoast SEO helps them identify) and guest posting, collabs or backlinking. I often see the confusion in bloggers who ask, “My Yoast plugin is all green, I don’t understand why I am not ranking well with Google?” or “I guest posted for a major blog or company last month, why haven’t I seen a boost in my SEO?” While both, keywords and linking are crucial to successful optimization, they just scratch the surface of what we travel bloggers should be doing to rank well and boost our organic reach.
It can be a daunting task, trying to sort through all the SEO information out there to figure out what is best for you and your travel blog, but once you sit down and get into the groove of things, it’s really not so bad. So, are you ready implement these tips and tricks to take your SEO basics to the next level with these 7 SEO essentials for travel bloggers?
** This post contains affiliate links. We may make some money from these links at no extra cost to you. This money helps keep our site and facebook group running!**
- 1 7 SEO Essentials for Travel Bloggers
- 2 1. Quality Content
- 3 2. Site Speed
- 4 3. Bounce Rate
- 5 4. Mobile Friendly Site
- 6 5. Indexing, Site Map and Search Console
- 7 6. Link Building
- 8 7. Keywords, Meta & Alt-Tags
- 9 Conclusions: SEO essentials for Travel Bloggers
When should you focus on SEO Essentials for your Travel Blog?
First, let’s answer the important question of when you should start focusing on SEO essentials in your travel blog career. The answer, if you ever plan on taking your travel blog public, is as soon as you start your blog. Going back and implementing all these essentials can be a very daunting task if you don’t start from day one. So the sooner the better, but don’t worry if you’ve had a travel blog for a while and this is the first time you’re thinking about SEO tactics. Just take one post at a time and every time you publish a new post, enhance an old post. Before you know it, your website will be optimized!
7 SEO Essentials for Travel Bloggers
1. Quality Content
I know this seems like an easy one, but it is the most important and most often overlooked. The thing that makes SEO so hard to grasp is that Google and other search engines are constantly changing their algorithms and keep the full details on how they rank sites secret, but the best way to crack their code is just to write genuine and helpful posts.
I think travel bloggers tend to feed into an SEO frenzy and they forget to focus on the most important thing, content. Search engine crawling isn’t as scary as it seems. As machine learning develops search engines actually can read your post like a real human would. If you’re writing genuine content as a human being for other human beings you’ll find it a whole lot easier to tick off the rest of these SEO essentials.
My greatest piece of advice to achieve this; find something that really sets you apart that you’re good at, and write about it. If you write about topics every other travel blogger writes about, and you’re not an expert in that area, you’re going to struggle. Going viral with hot topics is fun and can be great for your career in some aspects, but it’s not the key to good SEO, which is writing about helpful topics that will last.
Will someone still be googling your topic in a month from now? How about a year? Are you answering all their questions so they start to rely on you for information? Or are they disappointed in the vague content and leave to never return? Find content and a niche that can sustain your blog over the years, not just for a few days.
Questions to ask yourself before writing any post:
- Are people interested in my topic? Will someone actually search for it? Would you search for it?
- Have these questions already been answered? If yes, have they been answered by large companies that you would struggle to compete with? Have they been answered well?
- Can I provide my readers a better answer? How?
- Is this a topic that will still be relevant over time?
2. Site Speed
Did you know that studies show that 40% of people leave a site that takes longer than 3 seconds to load? Or that a one-second delay in page response can cause a 7% reduction in conversions? Think about that, if you can get your website to load in under 3 seconds you could potentially recoup 40% of your traffic that is being lost! A slow site creates a domino effect on your analytics. An example of this is that your bounce rate increases the more traffic you lose off your site.
Before we can fix your site speed, we need to test your site speed:
Testing your site speed
You can test your site at one of three main page speed testers. Always make sure to test your site from the same geographic server location, or your data will be skewed. A good rule of thumb here is to test your page from a server close to where you believe most of your readers will be. Take note of your scores and time and see you improve over time.
Google Page Speed Insights will give you a score out of a 100 and some critical things you need to do to fix your site. This is great for beginners as it’s the easiest to read, but it tells you very specific things to fix, and doesn’t always find the overall problem. Most likely after you run this you’ll notice that the critical problems are image compression and script issues. We’ll come back to this later.
Pingdom has a great UI, is speedy and is my favorite to use for basic check-ups.
Webpagetest is great for the more technical data geeks and really digs deep into the analytics behind what is making your site slow.
Change Your Host
If your score on any of these tests were over 7-8 seconds, you might have an issue with your host. I spent a lot of time trying to optimize my site speed, but everything I did seemed to hardly matter and I could not get below 10 seconds. Then, I moved to Site Ground from Blue Host and my average load time went from 15 seconds down to just under three; my google site speed score went from 34/100 to 88/100.
A lot of posts I read about starting a blog, are outdated and recommend outdated hosts. Don’t lock yourself into a contract with any host until you’ve done your research. I did a lot of research and even decided to leave my old host early to move to Site Ground and I am so happy that I did. They fuel my personal website as well as the FTB site. They make migrating easy, exciting and you have nothing to lose, except seconds off your load time. Make the change to Site Ground, Today! You’ll thank us later!
Further Speed Optimization
So, now that we cut the huge chunk off-site latency, it’s time to look at the smaller details. These are the critical issues you probably saw when you ran the test for Google page speed, regarding images and script.
- Resize your images before you upload them to your site. You can use Photoshop, Preview, Paint, JPEG mini, TinyPNG, Smush It… Even on photo heavy posts I rarely have an image larger than 1000 pixels.
- Check your PNG images. If you use Canva to make your web graphics or images and you download in PNG, you may have a harder time optimizing. JPEG images are easier to optimize, where PNG tend to remain large and bulky. However, our Pinterest guru says that PNG images provide the best quality for your pins, so pick and choose how you use PNG wisely and use JPEG where you can.
- Install EWWW Image Optimizer and WP Smush. Run these to optimize your images even more. The first time you install these it will take you a while to go through your whole library, but after that, they will compress your images on upload. Your WordPress dashboard media tab also has its own optimization tab.
- Can’t get rid of those pesky Instagram images that need to be optimized, according to Google’s PSI? Any plugin or widget that pulls photos externally and then produces the image on your site cannot be optimized by WordPress. There is currently nothing that can optimize these images – so you just need to decide if you love your Instagram feed on your website or speed is more important. How many clicks do you get to your insta from your blog? Deactivate it, how much time do you save?
Think of this as the difference between printing and photocopying. If you aren’t caching, every time a new browser accesses your site they need a new copy printed out for them. A cache stores the last accessed version and allows you to quickly photocopy for new visitors if the content hasn’t changed.
- Install the WP Caching plugin, and set it up.
- Can’t Cache your gravatar? Try disabling it from your discussion menu or loading an image of your own?
- You can never cache Google Analytics, sorry, that’s just how it goes.
- Install Autoptmize and ensure that your settings are checked for Java, CSS and HTML. Make sure you test your site after installing this. Sometimes this plugin creates issues, so if it doesn’t work for your site, you might want to deactivate it and try a different one.
Other things to consider
- Maps or other complicated features on your site – If you have one of those fun travel maps on your site, try deactivating it and see how much time it cuts off your load time. You might want to consider not including this feature if the difference is dramatic. There are also some social share plugins that can create a lot of complicated lag.
- Take a look at your plugins – Do you need them all? Delete any that you don’t use.
- Update your site, if you’re not running the latest version of WordPress or plugins, there could be unnecessary lag.
3. Bounce Rate
I don’t really hear bounce rate talked about that much when it comes to SEO, but it’s an important indicator of your site’s desirability. With click-bait infesting the internet, it’s something that search engines are focusing on more and more. You can find your bounce rate in Google Analytics. The easiest way to describe this is the rate at which someone leaves or bounces off your site. The lower the rate the better your score. For travel bloggers, a good bounce rate is 75% or under, since our type of website tends to naturally have a higher bounce rate. However, we should always strive for lower rates in the 50s or 60s. Bounce rate is one of the most difficult things to directly control, in my opinion, but here are a few things to look at that should help you.
** Pro Tip: if your bounce rate is 5% or lower, you probably have a Google Analytics code in your site twice. Remove one and wait for the results to normalize.
Check your Google Analytics under your referral data. Are you getting a ton of traffic from Stumble Upon (or something similar), but average time on your page around 0.1 seconds, with a 99% bounce rate? Think about whether those page views are worth maintaining a high bounce rate.
My conclusion is, it’s not. It can be exciting to see lots of traffic in terms of page views to your site, but search engines care more about that quality content and answering your audiences’ questions. Recently I removed my Stumble Upon share icon in hopes no one shares my page to that site. It will take some time to “clear out” traffic from pages already stumbled, but I am already noticing a difference. Not all social media is good media.
Linking to Relevant Content
Link to relevant content in your site. For narratives, reference a previous story you wrote and for destinations, link to other articles you have on that location. Ensure the links you choose are relevant, or people will feel misled and possibly leave your site. You can also install a related posts plugins or widgets to encourage readers to click to another part of your site.
Enhance Your User Experience
I see a lot of blogs that don’t provide a seamless experience for the visitors. Offer to buy your friends pizza and have them sit down and use your site on mobile and desktop. Where do they bet bogged down? Where would they exit? What makes them want to click for more? Do they hate your pop-ups, or your ads? Listen to them and take their advice critically.
4. Mobile Friendly Site
When was the last time you used your site on a mobile device? You probably always look at your site on your desktop, but in this day and age, more and more people use phones to browse and search for content. Pick up your smartphone or tablet and visit your site. Does it look and feel ok? If not, you need to change it as soon as possible.
The best way to ensure you have a mobile-friendly blog, is to look at your theme. If it’s not mobile friendly, choose one that is mobile friendly, ASAP. Perhaps, it’s just a plugin or widget that is making things look funny. Try uninstalling them one-by-one to see if that fixes the little things. You test how mobile friendly your site is here.
5. Indexing, Site Map and Search Console
You’ve heard of Google Analytics, but how about Google Search Console (previously known as Webmaster Tools)? This is an essentially registering your site to put it on Google’s radar and give you some in-depth search analytics. Just go to Search Console register your site and follow the instructions. You then want to install the plugin Google XLM sitemap. This creates an XML sitemap for search engines like Bing and Google and helps them map out the structure of your site more quickly and efficiently.
This is also a great place to find out what people are googling to find your site, your click conversions and other data analytics does not show you. I often use the search terms to enhance my already published sites with key terms people are googling to find my pages.
6. Link Building
I mentioned at the beginning that a lot of bloggers already confidently do this, but I want to emphasize the importance, while highlighting some common errors. Link building is something that can be done well, or it can be completely overdone, thus creating a high spam score for your site.
The most important part of link building is getting larger sites to link back to your content. This brings me back to point one, write GOOD content that people want to reference and link to. Some of the best examples are info charts or helpful resources.
Travel bloggers have a hard uphill battle to get people to link to their content, especially when it comes to narratives or personal experiences, so go outside your comfort zone and create something informative and visual that someone will want to reference. It also helps to reach out to any company or business that you blog about. I tend to mention local restaurants and shops in my city roundups. These aren’t sponsored in any way, so if I shoot the business and email saying, “I featured you, check it out!” They may link back to my article on their website.
Carefully choose who you guest post and link build with. Instead of looking for any old guest post opportunity just based on the topic, delve a bit deeper. Try running a google search on them, check their MOZ DA score and check their user interface on their website. Look for things like low spam score, mobile friendly site, higher DA than yours, their share options…. I’ve made the mistake of guest posting for someone with a high spam score and someone who had no comment box or share options on their page. My guest post just sat in dead space, after I worked so hard to write it!
When you’re link swapping, try and do a three way link up. So, no two people are linking back and forth with each other. Ask how the link will appear, you want it to be presented in a catchy and meaningful manner, instead of a measly “click here” lost in the post.
7. Keywords, Meta & Alt-Tags
Now, this is where your Yoast plugin comes in handy if you’re dying to use it, but you need to pick a good key word or phrase first! You can do this the old fashion way, like I do, and Google the heck out of your topic, scope out your competition, generate a list of key phrases people would search for your topic by asking your friends or family for help, use the related terms at the bottom of the google search page, infuse your post with a strong key phrases from this research and edit your post after search console date comes in. Or you can sign up to something like KeySearch and have some data nerds do all the work for you!
After you pick your phrases, make sure to get that keyphrase in all the right places: update your meta data, alt tags for images, URL, headings and title.
Meta Data– this should be a short sweet attention grabbing summary of your post. Ensure you use your keyphrase and make readers want to click on it.
Alt Image Tags – Every image you upload to your site should have this alt image information. It should describe the image and not just be loaded with keywords. Google and crawlers can identify your image and they look for an accurate description. Keep it short sweet and to the point. This will help you show up in image search.
URL- Cut the fluff and remove all filler words like, and, or but. This is where you should just say summer-iceland-roadtrip-tips instead of tips-for-a-summer-roadtrip-in-iceland.
Title – Google puts the most weight on the first and second (non-filler) word, so make sure your key words are at the begining.
If you are using Yoast, remember that often times you’re not going to be all green and that’s ok. Google doesn’t use the Keyphrase or work you insert into Yoast, nor does Google pay attention to filler words. So, if you insert Roadtrip to Iceland in the Summer as your keyphrase and put that in Yoast, Google will only be searching for Roadtrip Iceland Summer, but that doesn’t sound natural. So keep writing naturally and don’t worry about what Yoast says too much. In fact, I ignore their Keyword option all together and just use it for its more indepth tools.
Things to Avoid
Pop-ups: If there ever was a year to get rid of your pop ups, it’s 2017. Google is said to be dinging websites that have popups now more than ever. Think your annoying banner is benefiting your mailing list? Chances are it’s hurting you. Stick to a subtle way to get people to sign up for your site.
301 re-directs: There’s been a lot of back and forth info on this. First 301s really hurt you, then google said you can have as many as you want, but now there is some data proving they still may inadvertently be hurting you. Stay on the safe side and don’t use this as a crutch. If you recently migrated from http to https don’t worry, you’ll be fine. If you had your URLs all generating with the date and no keywords, you should switch. You just don’t want to decide one day to go and edit all your URLs because you want a different title. Choose your titles and URLs carefully from the begining, so you don’t need to go edit. This is all about finding the right balance. If you need to update and change for better SEO in the future, it is more important to make the change, you just don’t want to be changing your URLs every day. S
404 or other broken links: If your users can’t find the content that they’re looking for, you’re going to get dinged for it. Use this as your yardstick, if users will be disappointed, then it’s likely that a Search Engine will down-rank you for it.
Too many unnecessary links: Think about every link, is it really needed? If you have a lot of link that don’t relate to your post it can look spammy. Is there a magic number of links? No, there is not. The key to successful linking in your post is to ensure every link is necessary to the post and will help your readers. Also, when you’re commenting on blogs in comment style threads and you’re leaving 10+ links per day and only writing one blog post her month, chances are you’re going to be that small site with too many links. So, pick and choose where you leave your link. You can check your spam score here.
Take Your SEO to the Next Level
Start thinking about voice optimization. This comes in handy if you want your site to show up when someone uses a natural language query such as, “Ok Google, how do I get to Neuschwanstein Castle from Munich?” To do this you will need to get into long tail keyword research. Start thinking of common questions regarding your topic and create a juicy bit in your post to specifically answer this question, you might show up in an answer panel in Google, which are used in voice search results. You can create a table of contents or ensure you have clear numbered headers.
Conclusions: SEO essentials for Travel Bloggers
As machine learning continues to grow, search engines are starting to read more like humans every day. I think bloggers tend to complicate SEO basics, when in reality, it’s not so bad. If you feel like you don’t have a good grasp on SEO, just write genuine content you’re an expert on and things will start to fall into place.
Good luck taking your SEO essentials further to enhance your travel blog, and remember that if this feels overwhelming, pick one post or one topic and become an expert in that topic or make that post shine. Do this and eventually you’ll be an SEO rock star! Let us know in the comments if you have any other tips for our bloggers, or if you have any questions!
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Admin & Instagram Manager
Susanna Kelly is an adrenaline junkie from Alaska, on a quest to explore the great outdoors.
However, she openly admits to being a total geek at heart. Her blog, the Wandering Chocobo, focuses on adventure travel and eco-tourism, while hitting pause for what she’s defining as hipster city travel. Her hipster city guides explore craft cocktail bars, boutique hotels, markets, local businesses, and geek hideouts.
When she’s not creating content for her travel blog or freelance ventures, she likes to work on her fiction novel, LARPing and gaming, volunteering and getting to level 99 in life. She currently lives in Munich, Germany.
Connect with Susanna at her site Wandering Chocobo.