SEO 101 for Travel Bloggers

  • March 3, 2014
  • SEO
6 Comments

Before I start, let me tell you that this post has originally been written by Rand Fishkin in 2011 but a lot of things have changed in the industry since then, so this post is actually an updated version of the original article.

Travel industry is pretty big not only in the United States but in other parts of the world too. According to one of the reports I was reading, travel industry of U.S. is alone worth more than US$ .03 trillion.

Travel industry, like every other industry, has almost shifted online. Today you rarely see people calling or standing in queues to book a flight or hotel rooms, as almost all hotels, airlines and travel planners allow their customers to book their services with the click of a button.

Doesn’t matter if you are a big brand or a mediocre level travel blogger, in order to increase traffic and engage with them you need to have a great blog with fresh, quality content and an unbeatable marketing strategy.

In this post, I will try to cover almost every part that Rand covered in his original post and update the tactics and tools if necessary. I will also try to add techniques that I have used in the past with my travel clients which helped me improve the traffic and conversion rate.

Setting up a blog

In order to start a successful blog one should make some right decisions initially; otherwise later down the road these small mistakes may prove to be fatal to your blog. Here are some important things you should consider while setting up your travel blog:

  • Before you actually start, you should know what blogging platform you are going to use for your blog. WordPress is considered to be the first and most recommended choice as it is easy to use and is SEO friendly. You can always use other blogging platforms like Blogger or any other custom platform, whatever your choice maybe make sure the platform is SEO friendly and renders the pages quickly.
  • If you already have a commercial website and your plan is to start your blog as part of the website, in that case it is important to decide if you want your blog to be on a subdomain or a subdirectory. It is widely recommended to have a blog on a sub directory because this way Google will consider your blog as part of your main domain, but since September 2011 Google classified sub domain as part of the domain, you can go for any option that best fits you.

If you are planning to start the blog independently then you have two options, either to setup a free blog or to start a custom blog with personal domain and hosting. Each option has their own advantages and disadvantages but this graph (Rand shows in his original post) will help you decide if you should setup a free blog or invest time and effort in setting up your own custom blog.

If you are still planning to go with a free WP domain then all you have to do is to go to the WordPress website and signup for a free blog.

If you are planning to go with a personal blog with personal domain, hosting and design then here are few of the steps you should consider:

  • Get your own domain name from a certified registrar. When I usually register my domains, I go to Godaddy’s website, search the domain and buy it instantly.
  • Select the WP friendly hosting for your blog. You have options available like Godaddy, 1 & 1 Hosting and Page.ly, who are experts in this area. Try to buy the starter hosting package as it will be cost effective and then with the time (based on your traffic and content) you can always change your hosting plan to meet your hosting needs. There are some discounts coupons available, so do not forget to look in to it and you may receive a great discount on your hosting and domains. While searching, I found this hosting coupon website for Godaddy hosting.
  • Hire a designer to design your blog or learn the skill by yourself. You can find some great designers from Zillion Designs, 99 Designs, Them Forest, etc. You can also purchase some custom themes from websites like Woo Themes, Theme Trust, etc.

If you already own a free WordPress blog, then all you need to do is write and cater as many people as you can ((I will tell you how in this post) but if you want your blog to do more than just attract visitors and you want it to help you make some money from ads and convert your readers in to your customers, then you probably need a personal domain for your blog.

If you are ready with the WP blog with your own domain name, hosting and custom theme now you need to add few more plugins to your WP website in order to make it SEO friendly.

  • Install Yoast SEO Plugin as you step one so that you can always include SEO details of your page and help Google to know what the page is all about.
  • Install Google Analytics for WordPress and authenticate with Google Analytics so that Google Analytics can track each visitor on your blog and report accordingly.
  • Install XML sitemap plugin so that your posts can quickly crawled by Google.
  • Install sociable so that your readers can share your content easily on social platforms.

These are some of the most common and important plugins that you should install in the beginning, as this will not only technically help you but also help your visitors to get a better user experience.

Also, consider disallowing tags and categories as this will help avoid the duplicate content problem.

Keyword – Why you should consider this as important?

No rocket science here, online users open up Google to search for something and the website presents the most relevant search results.  The reason keyword research is important because if you write something users are searching for, Google will tend to consider your piece and show it in the top search results. If you get the 1st page ranking for any particular keyword you are likely to receive more organic traffic. Being on the first page is not enough but you need to gain as many high rankings as possible. This picture roughly defines how much increase in clicks you can expect as you move up in rankings on the first page of Google.

If you can craft your content on the most popular search topics, you will not only get more traffic but your blog will also get more recognition.

In order to find what people are searching for and what keywords you should target in your content, there are several different tools available for free and also there are some you need to pay for.

Google’s Adword keyword tool is gone and keyword planner (new tool from Google) is not really user friendly so here are few paid and free alternatives to find keywords that you should target in your posts.

As Google’s Adword tool is not present, I will go for the alternative tool that I personally use. SEMRush is a paid tool but I think it’s worth investing in.

The data shows some of the keywords with their search volume and CPC rates. This will help you understand how much traffic increase you can expect if you rank organically for any of the keywords. Paid version of SEMRush also tells you the details of where your competitors are ranking, you can use the data to optimize your website accordingly and outrank your competitors.

Now that you know how to find the keywords that people are using for conducting searches, the question is what to do with these keywords?

  • Try to add your keywords within the title but make sure it looks organic; do not add the keyword that looks you’ve forced it in or unnatural.
  • Use alternate and partial keywords within the body.
  • Although it is not really important technically but still it is good if the heading tag matches the title tag (it’s great to present something what the visitors are expecting).
  • Try to make the URL SEO friendly, which means the keywords should be included in the URL.

If possible try to add the keyword within the description. Remember, you are writing the description to encourage users to click and not to target search engine rankings.

If you are using all in one SEO pack, leave the keyword section empty and if you are using Yoast SEO plugin, then try your best to turn the light green.

These are some of the important points that one should consider when including keyword within the content.

Write for SEO or write for audience?

Writing great content is your primary job as a blogger. If you write on topics loved by the audience or if your content helps audience find what they are looking for, you will gradually see that your readers will turn in to your fans, and they’ll be the ones to help you spread word in different circles.

If you think writing for audience and search engine are two different things then you are absolutely wrong because Google and other search engines have become smarter. Today, if someone visits your blog and they bounce back by clicking on another link (this usually happens when you ignore your audience while writing), Google will track this and you may see a drop in your rankings.

Writing for audience does not only have search engine related benefits but if you will write keeping your audience in mind they will convert in to your fans and help you get more traffic from multiple inbound channels.

When writing for travel industry, here are few of the things that you should consider:

  • It is wise to focus your content on topics that quickly helps people when they are planning their trips and tours. Writing guides dos and don’ts and things to consider type of posts usually works well

  • If you need a fan following on your blog, writing guides and similar kind of posts are not enough but you need to share your personal experiences with the audience, like what events took place on your trip and your take on the whole experience. In this digital world , where a buyer looks for consumers reviews before purchasing, reading posts that have a personal touch connects with them on a different level.

This post may not be a perfect fit from the SEO point of view, but it has the power to attract audience towards the blog and retain them.

Another thing that travel bloggers should do in order to create unfading content is to update few of their pieces annually. For instance, you visit blog post that covers top 10 places to visit in New York, as the things change with the time so you should at least annually update it to add and subtract places ,so that people on blog finds the latest content.

Link Building: How to deal with it?

Search engines have a set of formula that they use to determine the relevancy of website against the query, which includes your content within the body, your title tag, technical details but this is not it, they do reply on external factors which includes social data, links and more.

Links are very important to any travel blogger because Google will find that blog more relevant, authoritative and engaging that contains more relevant links pointing to it. More quality and relevant links from diversified sources will give Google a hint that the blog is more powerful and as a result Google might give better rankings.

Links are absolutely important but there are a few things that you should know before you get started with it:

  • Links from relevant websites are important; links coming from irrelevant websites may hurt you instead of helping you get better rankings and more traffic.
  • While getting an opportunity to build a link, make sure the website is following majority of (if not all) Google’s quality guidelines. Spam and low quality website may hurt your reputation in search engines.
  • Make sure the links are not coming from spammy and poor quality websites, if you see links coming from websites that you think is not trustworthy; it is safe to tell Google about it in advance by creating and uploading Google Disavow File.

So now you know what kind of links that you should target and what links you should avoid. Travel bloggers should note that getting links which includekeywords in the anchor text are more important and valuable than general anchor text link “click here”.

Google is very strict about link building so when building links, here are the following things you should consider as far as the anchor text policy is concerned.

  • Google is very keen about building links the natural way and one of the indicators of natural link is that the highest percentage of links that point to your website should contain your brand name.
  • Your anchor text should be natural, too many links targeting the same keyword in an anchor text seems fishy to Google.
  • It is also important to have few non keyword anchor text, which means few links which anchor text like “click here” are always helpful in building a natural link profile.

Also keep this thing in mind that when building links your link profile should be natural and one of the ways you can make it natural is by building quality links from diversified sources.

Ways you can make it natural is by building quality links from diversified sources.

How to build quality links?

I am not going to get in to too much technicality here but I will try and touch the baseline of some of the link building tactics that travel bloggers can use without putting in much effort.

  • Guest Posts

This is one of the tactics that you can use to build quality links as well as your reputation with the audience. All you need to do is to find quality blogs within your industry build strong communication and relationships with them and see if they can allow you to write guest posts on their blog.

Remember, guest posting is not the way to build links but you can build authority through this which later can bring you natural links, and also traffic back to your website.

  • Interviews

This is another thing that you can do without the help of any SEO experts helping you and charging you their consultation fee. When it comes to travel industry there are big names like Abigail King and Derek Earl Baron that you should consider interviewing. Once you make the interview live, email them and request them to share the interview with their circles.

These people have a big fan following which will help you get quality links as well as good amount of traffic to your blog.

There are other techniques you can use but I have given a basic idea of how you can go with links without being too much technical. Should I be on social media platforms?

Certainly yes! There are multiple reasons why you should be active on atleast major social media platforms that include Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram.

  • Twitter is one of the fastest social media networks where people talk in maximum 140c. If you are active on Twitter, you will be able to build quick connections with your fans and other bloggers within the industry.
  • Facebook is also important because travel industry has a lot to do with photos, discussions and personal chats. If you are active on Facebook, you will be able to easily manage your fan base.
  • Google+ is the official social network of Google and they are putting in solid effort to make its significance evident, so it is important for every blogger to be active on Google+. The best way to build interaction on Google+ is by writing micro blogs.
  • Instagram is important because travel industry and travel blogging is incomplete without photos and videos, which are the currency of Instagram.

There are other social media networks but having an entity is not enough, you have to be very active and inspirable, so it is better to stick with few important social media networks and interact with your fan base there.

These pointers and tips will help you to build a community around your blog within some time and this will not only help you grow as a figure within the community, but also help you make good money by selling travel packages or travel services that your company has to offer.

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6 Comments
    • AvatarSEO Doctor
    • March 4, 2014
    Reply

    Good post Moosa, needs part 2 now ‘how to monetize your travel blog’ 🙂

      • Avatarjuliejoyce
      • March 4, 2014
      Reply

      Are there any travel blogs that aren’t monetized?? Good post, as always!

    • AvatarSEO Doctor
    • March 4, 2014
    Reply

    Good post Moosa, needs part 2 now ‘how to monetize your travel blog’ 🙂

      • Avatarjuliejoyce
      • March 4, 2014
      Reply

      Are there any travel blogs that aren’t monetized?? Good post, as always!

    • AvatarSEO Doctor
    • March 4, 2014
    Reply

    Good post Moosa, needs part 2 now ‘how to monetize your travel blog’ 🙂

      • Avatarjuliejoyce
      • March 4, 2014
      Reply

      Are there any travel blogs that aren’t monetized?? Good post, as always!

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