Search engine optimization techniques, known as SEO, must always be considered each time you write a blog post. It's not difficult, but the game keeps changing. Here is Part 1 of our SEO series.
We started writing blogs before we figured out navigation and additional pages. Susan's background in digital marketing was helpful, but it was a very organic process. Besides, she just likes to write and take photos so we got started. We didn't really think too much about keywords. We knew we needed to have an "About Us" page but not much more. The idea for a "Start Here" page came from studying the competition. We decided to give our visitors more guidance when landing on the site. The goal was to make it as easy as possible to find the information with supporting photos. Travel blogs should have beautiful photos!
We then proceeded to register the site with Google Search Console and set up Google Analytics. Google Search Console is the webmaster tool that verifies your site ownership. It also provides you with many tools to see how your blog is performing on Google. Bing has a similar system. With Google Search Console you can:
For almost every blog, unless you buy an existing domain name, it's going to take time to rank on Google and other search engines. Unless you are paying for ads, you may not see significant ranking results for about 100 days. Susan, who worked in the digital marketing space for 20 years, knows that even if you get on page 1, your competition working for the same position. Everyone is using a version of the same SEO tools to outrank each other if they can. That's why SEO is never "set it and forget it". Here are some basic guidelines to get you started:
Optimize your site with keywords
With a travel blog, the main keywords are often baked-in because blog posts are location specific. Unique keywords should used in your post so that your readers can find what they came for. Use them in both the title tag and the body of your content. Subheadings are SEO-friendly and can help both bots and people further understand your post. Don't "stuff" keywords in just because you think you need them.
What are your readers looking for? The free tools we use are:
We also utilize a paid plan with SEMrush that helps us monitor our competition, their ranking and any keyword gaps. Once you monetize your blog, the ad platform you sign up with may offer tools. Ezoic offers multiple tools to increase web traffic.
Search engine friendly content
Bottom line: if you can answer the questions that your competition can't, you may rank better. Your post might be on the same topic, but the content can be unique. Link your blog post to other related posts and pages on your website. Heck, link it to information that leads off your page if you think its relevant. This related information helps the user deepen their understanding and they may stay longer on your site. Google also recommends this practice.
Article length is something to watch. Google does not rank based on article length, although AdSense may not accept you if your content is "thin". Why pay attention to article length? Once you start tracking analytics you will notice that certain posts perform better than others. It could be that your readers prefer 1000 words over 750, or 1500 words or more.
Social media helps and hurts
Although we will talk about this in a future post, social media can be extremely helpful...and a pit of vipers. We suggest you try everything and see what brings you the most traffic. We love Instagram but it doesn't do much for our traffic. It does, however, help build our brand. Pinterest brings some traffic to our travel blog. Reddit is a great place to find trends, keywords and answers. Redditors are generally pretty transparent with their opinions. YouTube content ranks very well. Facebook may or may not work well for you (the audience is typically older). TikTok is dominating the social media fight in 2022 but is it right for you?
Social media can be a big time-waster. It is almost a full-time job creating content for social media. Videos, posts, stories. It can be fun creating great visuals for your travel blog, but you can get lost in it. Sometimes it can be an avoidance tool, used to procrastinate instead of writing. That's why traffic analytics are helpful. Numbers don't lie. Don't waste time on what doesn't work!
Site speed and technical SEO
Site speed, core web vitals, mobile usability, yada, yada. We will discuss these in part 2 of this blog series. Having the right tools is the key to success with technical search engine optimization. Ezoic has site speed and SEO tools to make publisher life easier, once you get to that level.
Write your content for humans
Out of all the advice you will read for search engine optimization and keywords, this is the cornerstone: write content for humans. We'd like to insert the phrase, "to help humans". Laying a solid foundation of content, in your own voice, that actually helps people is what will last. Your blog is the beginning of a relationship, each post building trust with the reader. That's why keywords are not dead. Humans use keywords and so can you, but do it in a way that makes sense for people. Cutting corners to produce more content that is lower quality can sabotage that connection.
You are in control of SEO
These days if you have a question someone will say, "Google it!" But even Google has to build its index from information that publishers provide. As a content creator, you are telling Google (and Bing) what your blog site is about. You are in the driver's seat. Keywords, images, lists, charts and other media are parts of the vehicle...in our case it's a truck!
Freshness of your content (updating old content), unique content, frequent publishing and other technical aspects all work together to provide signals to search engines. It has to be a consistent effort to optimize your blog posts. Sometimes it feels like you're going nowhere with ranking, since it frequently goes up and down (kind of like the stock market). However, Google recognizes and rewards consistency. More to come on ranking in part 3 of this blog series. In the meantime, keep driving and keep on publishing.