Travel blogging is a brutal profession. Most never make any money at it, even though some certainly should.
I strongly believe that the number one rule to being a travel blogger, is that you have to travel a lot.
Unfortunately there are some awesome travellers out there, running some great blogs and sharing their adventures with the world, but sadly no one sees their content. My goal for this article is to show newbie bloggers, and maybe even some veterans, a few of the ways that I promote my articles and consistently get high traffic each month.
NUMBER ONE – WRITE GREAT CONTENT
This goes without saying, but I’m including it none the less because writing great content is the key to success.
Great content gets shared on social media, that’s the obvious benefit. But another, maybe even bigger benefit is that other sites like to link to great content, which in the long run, is a much better incentive. Having a direct link to your article from another blog’s relevant article, can provide a consistent and steady stream of traffic.
Not only that, but as we all know, building links to your blog is probably one of the most important things you can do to elevate your Google search rankings.
Many of the links to your content will come naturally, as people see it, appreciate it, and want to use it as a source on their own site. Other links will come much less naturally, and I’ll delve into that a little later in strategy eight.
Here are some top tips to increase your chances of receiving backlinks to your articles, and being credited as a valuable resource by other websites:
- Use a very catchy title, but more importantly one that your readers will search for. I try to balance my titles between something people would search directly for on Google, and something that looks interesting to click on. Although some topics will never be searched for, so then just focus on something catchy in that case.
- List posts. People love lists for some reason, and love to both share them and link to them. But be original. Instead of the usual “10 Things to do in America”, why not use “America’s Top Natural Wonders“. If you’re using a number, research shows that odd numbers are more memorable. Think searchable AND catchy.
- Make it long and comprehensive. Studies show that an article with over 2000 words has a much higher chance of getting linked to by other sites, as well as looking more important to Google. Not only that, but people appreciate a more in-depth article, and will share it more often. Having a longer article also gives you more chances to use key phrases, to show Google what the article is about, and hopefully get to the top of related search results.
- Pretty pictures. What would make “27 Things I love about Ethiopia” better? Answer? A visual aid. Big, high quality photos are very popular and help keep the limited attention span of online readers. Also, if you label the photos correctly, they will show up in Google image searches, and bring even more traffic to your article.
The strategy here is to write a really epic article, and then have other websites link to it as a resource. They will both find it organically and with your help, which I will talk about in section eight. Don’t just have an interesting story, have an in-depth, informative article that people will love sharing and linking to.
NUMBER TWO – SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
Even with 42k followers on Twitter and 12k on Facebook, Google search traffic is by far my biggest traffic source. So I believe it’s the most important thing to leverage (though you should utilize all potential traffic sources wherever possible). Optimizing your on-page SEO will get you to the top of Google search results, which is where you will get tons of traffic.
Here’s a crash course in SEO, in case you need it.
First start with a title and topic that people will search for. Take in to account 2 factors:
- Would someone search this term on Google?
- Is there a lot of sites out there already covering this same topic/key phrase?
Would someone search this term on Google? Since there isn’t a free keyword research tool out there, just think about what you would Google to find the information you plan to provide in your article. Is it about Romania? Do you think people would search for “Things to do in Romania”? Of course. Would they search for “All the fun I had in Romania”? No.
Is there a lot of sites out there already covering this same topic/key phrase? You need to research exactly how much content covering your intended subject already exists. For example, if you wrote the most awesome and perfect post titled “Top Places to Eat in Rome”, you will never get close to the top of the search results because the major travel brands will dominate page one of this popular search term. And unless you are on page one, there’s no point.
The reason you will never get your article to the number one spot is because there are so many people out there writing about Rome. A huge blog like Lonely Planet, Viator, or The Planet D can have an article with the same title and key words, and even if it’s a far inferior article, it’ll rank above yours.
On the other hand, if you find a topic the big sites haven’t covered, you’re set. I have an article titled 19 Things I Learnt About Bulgaria that gets thousands of searches a month. Sure Rome has way more searches than Bulgaria each month, but there’s no competition! Would you rather have 30% of 5000 searches a month, or 0% of 1 million? Dominate the off the wall/niche/unique search terms.
Now that you have your topic, title, and key phrase, it’s time to maximize their exposure and optimize the rest of the article for SEO.
Let’s use this key phrase as an example- ‘where to play golf in Bosnia’. This is where to use it:
- The title, obviously.
- In the first paragraph, or what Google likes to call “before the fold”.
- In an H1 or H2 title. I usually do an intro paragraph or two (with the key phrase in the first), then use an H2 tag with the key phrase again before starting the article.
- In the alt tag and title of every picture.
- In the URL.- where-to-golf-in-Bosnia.
- In the body of the article. This can look spammy if the article is short, but if you can get it in, it’s good. Using just “golf” and “Bosnia” in main body of the article is good too.
- In the Meta description. If you set a different meta description than just the first paragraph, use the key phrase there too.
If you do all of the above there will be no confusion as to the topic of the article, and when someone in the world Googles “Where to play golf in Bosnia”, your article will definitely show in the results. It’s just a matter of who else you’re competing with for a first page ranking. Since that’s kind of a rare topic, you would rank very high.
Before I move on, I should tell you that it is possible for your article to rank well in more than one search term.
If the article is informative, covers the subject in-depth, and you use other searchable phrases, it could also show up in results for say- “best golfing in Bosnia” or “nicest golf courses in Bosnia”. So start writing with your intended search term in mind, and then look for ways to expand on the searchability as you format and edit before publication.
I also use the Yoast SEO plugin. It’s free, it tells you what you are doing wrong, and helps you make the article better for SEO. Tell it what key phrase you are going for and it will help you optimize the article for best results.
NUMBER THREE – SOCIAL MEDIA
Many of you already know the basics of points one and two, and maybe this one as well, but it also needs mentioning before I move on.
Good writing and format, SEO, and social media, might be the basics of growing a site and getting traffic, but it should be done right.
Social media is an important source of traffic for your articles for a number of reasons, but in my mind it is beneficial so that you aren’t just relying on search traffic alone. I have heard about million dollar companies going out of business overnight because Google hit them with a penalty, so it’s important not to have all your eggs in one basket.
Here are my highest sources of social media traffic:
Facebook is tough to grow for free and everyone complains that it doesn’t show every post to all your fans. Despite this, Facebook pulls past Twitter most months just because one or two articles go viral.
On another note, if you have an article with affiliate links or something you’re selling, it is really smart to post it on Facebook and then pay to promote that post. I know people that make a living this way, but the key is to do direct advertising to people that would are already interested in what you’re selling. So definitely hone down the focus on who you want to see it. Do split testing and target your intended audience for the ads. You can also do this if you don’t have monetized posts to promote and just want to build your following. It’s an investment, but sometimes you have to spend money to make money. I think this paid feature is actually good, and separates hobby bloggers and ones that want to go pro.
Twitter is great because I can post many times a day and not get complaints, where as on Facebook I can only post once or twice a day. Twitter is also starting to offer paid promotions, so that might be a good avenue as well, if you have a marketing budget or want to promote a monetized post.
It is easier to grow Twitter followers than Facebook fans, so you can get more eyes on your links. I know that a lot of people don’t have the budget for things like social media advertising, but I think these options exist for the bloggers that want to get to the next level and move away from being a hobbyist. That said, it is still a great free traffic building source too.
I have not fully utilized Pinterest but I still get a few referrals a day. Obviously the key here is to pin awesome photos that are linked to your blog and make people want to see more.
Using good titles to make people want to see more, and to click the link is key I’m sure. I’ll have to get back to you on this one when I learn more, but I know people who have Pintrest as their main traffic source.
In the mean time check out this post from the Travel Tester covering the best Pintrest tactics.
Another platform I haven’t really started on yet but still gets me traffic. I’m sure by submitting every post and also building up the followers there, I could get more out of it.
I don’t really get traffic from Instagram, and I don’t even try. What I do use it for is building my brand and getting noticed. The only link to my blog is in the description, but as people start following and liking my photos, they take notice of my brand this equates to referrals to my blog.
It’s one of my new favourites.
I only use this for one reason: When you post your link on there, it is automatically indexed to Google and crawled sooner.
I don’t build a following on my G+, as there are rumours that soon it will be defunct, I just get my articles noticed by Google. In fact, for many articles, the link in my G+ profile ranks higher than the one to my blog in search results. I guess that’s ok. Hmm, I guess maybe in this case, G+ actually brings more traffic than the other social media streams.
This is really a one time set-and-forget kind of thing for me, but I find that it helps.
What I’ve done is set up accounts/profiles on sites like delicious.com (more of a article sharing directory), wordpress.com, blogspot.com, blogger.com, linkedin, and more, then connect them. I’ll explain how later. If I had the time to build a small following on each of these platforms it would surely help further, but I don’t, so followers come naturally, as do clicks throughs and shares.
Now it goes without saying that building up the fans and followers on all of these platforms and then posting links will increase your traffic, but it’s also important not to be spammy, especially on platforms like Twitter and Facebook that are a recognizable part of your brand.
HOW TO MANAGE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS
I know what you’re thinking: “How the Hell do I manage all those accounts??”. I’ll show you. The key here is lots of automation.
Hootsuite is an automation tool that is essential for Facebook. Yes, I only said Facebook. I have other scheduling programs for Twitter etc. Actually I do use it on the rare occasion for Twitter when I want to promote something and might forget, or am not going to have internet. But rarely.
I use it for Facebook because I believe if you want to build your fans organically, and for free, then you have to engage a lot and post shiny photos regularly. So I will schedule a great photo to be posted once a day, and maybe one of my articles every other day. I don’t spam my Facebook page to get traffic. I just post to get more fans.
This is an easy and automated way to keep my old posts circulating on my Twitter feed. It allows you to choose certain categories to never tweet out, which is nice, and also let’s you set the frequency of how often to share. At present I tweet every four hours, but when I wanted more traffic it was every hour, and I have it set so that the application goes through all my posts before repeating the tweets it has already sent.
This plugin allows you to automatically post new content onto a number of profiles. I have my new posts set to go to Twitter, Stumbleupon and Delicious.
With these few tools I have my articles going out to my top social media profiles on their own, and bringing traffic and engagement day and night.
Now here’s what I do with the Web 2.0 sites.
IFTTT.com is an automation tool that I use, that allows me to connect all of my social media accounts. I made a number of “recipes” long ago, and can now forget about it and let the system promote my content for me.
This is how I set it up:
Any article or post that goes to my delicious.com profile (and remember all my new posts do automatically), go to the following:
So basically when I post a new article, it automatically goes to my Delicious.com profile (where I have followers), and from there it also goes to all of the other profiles and directories above. None of it is considered dual content either, since only the link and maybe a photo is posted on the other profiles, not the whole article.
All the profiles have their own readers, so by simply posting the article once on my main site, the link also posts on all these other sites as well, bringing in at least some traffic. (Some of these sites offer do-follow links too). The amount of traffic you get with this strategy will depend on how much time you spend building up fans/followers on of each of these sites. But for me, I don’t build them up at all. Instead I rely on people finding my links organically through one of those sites.
It seems to work well for me.
I also use IFTTT to share my Instagram images on Twitter. At present the share facility on Instagram itself only tweets the title and a link to the Instagram photo. But the IFTTT option Tweets the actual photo and title, which gets way more favourites, shares and comments, and is also permanent in the photos on my twitter profile. When people see a big photo on their Twitter feed they are much more likely to favourite or retweet it, bringing much needed engagement.
This all sounds like a lot of hard work, but it’s mostly a set and forget sort of thing, so not much work after the start. Maybe I’ll only get one referral for each article a day from my Web 2.0 sites, but considering I have 250 or more articles, it adds up. Plus if you want to hire an assistant or have the time to invest yourself, you can build up the following on each and every profile and really capitalize on this traffic source.
Now on to my next strategy for promoting an article to get traffic. (See what I did there with the keyword 😉 )
NUMBER FOUR – TRIBERR.COM
I debated on whether this should be in the last category or not. But in the end I think it requires it’s own section, because it’s such a great tool.
Triberr is a site for bloggers and web masters to share engaging content from other websites with their Twitter followers. What you do is join tribes that fit your niche, and click “share” on any posts that look good to you or that you feel would be of interest to your audience. Then triberr will automatically share those posts to your twitter feed (which you sync to), at predetermined intervals. I set mine to share about every four hours.
Once you start sharing other blogger’s posts, they start noticing and will reciprocate by sharing yours as well. When I first started I had about 5k Twitter followers, and I remember how excited I was when a blogger with 50k followers shared my article. All the articles have your twitter handle attached so you can see who shares/tweets your article.
You can join as many tribes as you want and trade shares. I end up sharing way more articles/links on Twitter from other people than mine, but it is reciprocated 10 fold. I’ve even started a few of my own tribes and invited top bloggers, and my reach is around 42 million now. It’s definitely something to take a look at. Working together with other bloggers can only help.
NUMBER FIVE – GUEST POSTING
Guest posting is important for increasing your reach and promoting your brand, as well as building those important links back to your blog. It’s a lot of work, but it is the best way to build links.
The key to guest posting is to pitch successful blogs, preferably with a higher domain authority than your own. Most of the time these top bloggers like Nomadic Matt and Gary Arndt from Everything-Everywhere get hundreds of guest post requests, so you must either stand out from the crowd, or pitch someone more likely to accept.
Luckily I have found ways to get posts on much bigger sites than the two mentioned before. Here are some of the sites that will usually take a good guest post from a travel blogger, and always have very high domain authorities.
Tourism board websites. Out of the blue the Estonia Tourism Board asked me to submit an article to their website. I almost ignored it until I noticed it had a page rank of 8 and a domain authority of 80+. With that in mind I started to search online, and I found that every country has at least one website of this kind that would possibly accept a well constructed article covering their destination.
University sites and .edu. These sites seem to have a blog section more often that not, and I have been successful when asking to guest post or be interviewed on them. The good part? Huge domain authorities and traffic.
Tour operators. The other day I found a small time tour company, that was relatively unknown. It had a blog, and when I checked it had a domain authority of about 60 and decent traffic! They were a small business but their site had been around long enough to get a high rank. It turns out that they would love to take articles they don’t have to pay for!
Flight bookers. Did you know that Skyscanner and Orbits have blogs? And guess what? They have serious authority in the eyes of Google. They often take guest posts and those are great links to have, both for SEO and traffic.
Hotel bookers. Almost all booking sites I’ve seen have travel blogs, and would take guest posts. Maybe even regularly. I’ve even heard of people getting paid to write for them. Sites like Hotelscombined and Hostelworld have huge ranks and traffic, much more than the best travel blogs out there.
Tips for guest posting:
- Ask nicely. Many blogs gets tons of requests and it would be best to talk to them on Twitter first before asking to post on their site.
- Make sure they know you’re not putting commercial links in your post and that it’ll contain unique content.
- Scan their site to see if they already have similar articles. Pitch them a title that they haven’t covered yet.
- Link back to specific articles. It is much better to have links going to every article on your blog, than a bunch going to your home page. It also looks more natural. So when you link back to your blog from a guest post, link to a relevant, useful article, not the home page.
- Link to THEIR relevant articles from your guest post. A blogger will appreciate it when you use a good key term to link to a similar article on their own blog. It looks good and having internal links in a site is just good SEO practice.
- After your article is published, subscribe to the comments and reply to each one as they come. You might have written about something the site owner doesn’t know about, and it would be embarrassing for them to try to answer questions. So do that for them.
NUMBER SIX – COMMENT LUV
Some sites use a plugin called Commentluv, that allows you to leave a link to your most recent article when you leave a comment on one of their posts.
If you have time to go and comment on a lot of similar blogs, then this might add up for you, especially when the post is new and at it’s peak.
Don’t be spammy though. Find a blog you like that has Commentluv, then go leave real, useful comments on articles you like. Readers may then click on the link to your blog that the plugin shows for you next to your insightful comment.
NUMBER SEVEN – GUERRILLA MARKETING
This is pretty time consuming and doesn’t provide great results unless you do a ton. This is just where you leave your article link everywhere. Here are some good options:
Lonely planet and other travel forums. They look out for spammers, but I have managed to leave a few comments, answering travel questions, leaving my link behind as a resource for anyone researching that destination. Moderators tend to leave your link in if you are providing useful information, so leaving helpful links to other sites looks good too.
Ask.com and other question forums. Just like the other forums, go and answer travel questions and leave your link as a source. Leave other links as well, and sometimes just answer questions without leaving any link, so then you less like a spammer to the moderators.
Facebook groups. Again, provide useful commentary along with your link, but check that self promotion is allowed in the group prior to leaving your link in a thread.
Just be creative with it. I once heard about a guy going into his university library after hours and setting over 100 computer’s home pages to his blog. Every time a student got on the computer his blog popped up. Most clicked away but some browsed around. Genius. He also did it at computer stores to the computers and iPhones on display.
NUMBER EIGHT – REACH OUT
In strategy one I mentioned that I would show you how I get other sites to link to me as a source. Here’s how:
After I’ve written an informative article that I think would be a good resource for other articles on the same subject, I will then Google and find those other articles with similar topics. For example if I write “The Ultimate Travel Guide to Dahab, Egypt” (I did actually), I will go find high ranking sites that list travel resources for Egypt, or Dahab, or diving. Not just resource pages, but similar articles.
Once I find a good article or resource page that I would like my article linked to, then I reach out to the owner. My email to them might read something like this:
“Hi there, great site! I was checking out the resource page you have covering Egypt, and wanted to show you my guide on the subject, which I believe is the most comprehensive and detailed guide on Dahab out there. If you would like to include the link in your page, I would be very happy. Also, let me know of any ways we can work together or if you would like a social media shout out for your time!”
To get a bigger percentage of positive responses I might even go through the resource page or article and look for broken links. If I find one it’s gold! Then my pitch might sound like this:
“Hi there, I love the site! This article has been a great read and I’m an admirer of your work. I just wanted to reach out and let you know that you have a broken link at _____. I also wanted to point out that I have an excellent guide to Dahab that would be a perfect replacement. I believe it is the most comprehensive guide to Dahab there is, and I would love to have it linked to your great site.”
The latter has a higher percentage of positive replies as I have already provided them with a useful service, and in doing so they are more likely to reciprocate the favour.
Another way to get links to an article, is to reach out to bloggers and offer to swap links.
Maybe they want to get a link to their article about Luxembourg and you want a link to yours about Monaco. You each find a good place and key term to put your link in each others blog, and your set. You’re both trustworthy sites with good traffic, and don’t mind linking to relevant quality content, so then you get a little extra traffic yourself.
Ok imagine you only get 3 views a day from this site on an article. That’s not too bad if you do it 100 times! That’s 300 views a day and you don’t have to do anything after it’s done.
NUMBER NINE – NEWS SITES
Each time I write a country or city specific article, I will send out an email to all the news sites of that city/country, letting them know that they can use the article or excerpt, or link, on their sites. I’ve been getting about 2/10 positive responses, and those are great links to have that also provide me with a constant stream of traffic.
It’s easier than guest posting, yet you still get a link on a huge site as well as their traffic.
There you have it. These are some of my strategies for promoting an article to get more blog traffic. I’m sure you are wishing you had a virtual assistant right about now, and yes I can assure you that they are invaluable. Having one or more people to help you build your blog will speed up the process exponentially.
These things work for me (I’m consistently getting about 4000 visits a day), and I think it’ll work for you too. Some people will tell you that content is king and you should just keep writing and posting articles and forgetting them. But I say you already have gold. Go and tell everyone how awesome your content is!
You don’t have to keep cranking out decent articles and then forgetting them, getting no traffic. Go help the existing ones.
I did a small experiment a while back:
I called it my “5 posts, 5 link” campaign. What I did was choose 5 good posts of mine that weren’t getting any traffic. The goal was to get each one 5 new links to it, all being high quality (PR 40 or more), and all had to be different. Eventually I succeeded, and each and every link brought a steady (still consistant) stream of traffic. Having 25 new high quality links also helped build a better domain authority, and in turn that got me to higher search ranks and brought even more traffic! Imagine if I made it my “20 posts, 5 link” campaign? Food for thought.
It’s a no-lose situation.
If you have any other tips on getting traffic, post them in the comments below I would also love to hear from you if this post has helped you in any way, or if you have questions. Good luck!