When you first start as a travel blogger it can be difficult to work out where to best invest your effort.  You can choose to invest your time in a whole range of issues including technical blog setup, writing content – good and bad, developing social media etc, at a time where everything is new and there is no way you can realistically do everything at once.

Also, in the beginning, you will have an initial vision of how you will position your blog, but as you progressively publish and see what is and isn’t working, you then adjust your strategy to further develop your blog, either as a hobby or as a business.

Search Engine Optimisation or SEO is an important topic which most new bloggers come across quite early in their journey, but in the early days there are a lot of gurus out there who each spruick the best way to do it – with the caveat being that you usually need to spend money to buy books and courses.  It can be difficult to work out whose advice to follow, and also not waste your precious energy, time and money.

The Pretraveller Travel Blog Story

I have personally been through this journey the hard way.  I started my Pretraveller blog as a hobby 7 ½ years ago, and in the early days followed heaps of different advice, and it was difficult to work out what worked and what did not work.  Over time I have experimented, and also found good sources of advice.

From early 2017 I decided to develop my blog into a part-time business.  By implementing detailed keyword research into every article that I write I am now on track to achieve a part-time income from my blog.  My blog is continuing to grow with my aim being to achieve a good full time income and more over the next few years.  In my case I am optimising my articles to earn affiliate income, which I have decided is my best strategy for this stage of my business development.

What are the End Results of Investing in Keyword Research?

Why Should You Invest Time, Effort and Money into Keyword Research?

An important initial question is why should you invest time, effort and money into keyword research?  Keywords are the words used when someone searches for a topic in Google Search.

Good keyword research and implementation of those keywords into your articles provides your article with the best chance of ranking highly in Google Search – which includes identification of competitiveness of those keywords against the other articles already ranking for those keywords.

Overall your aim is for your article to rank on the first page of Google search results, and to get as high up the page as you can.  The top few search results typically get the bulk of the traffic, so the higher you can get for good quality keywords the better.

If you get keyword research right and you implement them correctly into your articles, what you should see is that your blog traffic coming from organic Google Search should progressively increase over time.  If you also add link building to your articles into your blogging activities, you should see a much higher likelihood of ranking for your chosen keywords and increasing your number of visitors and page views.

How Many Keyword Combinations Should I Incorporate Into Each Article?

Another point to realise is that when we do keyword research, we do not just do research for a single keyword combination.

A good example is if I want to write an article about short cruises from Sydney.  I could write an article which is optimised for ‘short cruises from Sydney’, but when I do the keyword research I will find that there are actually ten different keyword combinations (including ‘3 day cruises from sydney’, sampler cruises from sydney’ etc) which people use to search on this topic in Google Search.

As I will show you below an important step is to first assess which keyword combination you will have a hope of being competitive for and which also has a reasonable volume of search traffic.  If neither of these goals are achievable then the next question to ask yourself is whether you should even bother to write the article you envisage – with limited time available you are better off searching for alternative article options for which you have a better chance of success.

You then build your article with the primary keyword combination, and then come up with a plan to incorporate the secondary keyword combinations.

For some of my articles I am initially writing to optimise for up to 100 keyword combinations, and for these articles, I typically end up ranking in Google Search for several hundred keyword combinations – even if only a proportion of those keywords result in traffic to my website.

Getting Started – Keyword Research Online Tools

The first step to getting started with keyword research is to have the right tools available to conduct this research.  Once upon a time you could get some of this information through Google for free, but in modern times the only way to get good keyword information quickly is to purchase a subscription to an online tool.

There are a few options out there, but I personally use a tool called Keysearch.  You can get an initial one month free trial, or purchase their Starter Plan for $US17/month or $US169 per year.  Note that each plan has a constrained number of searches you can do per day – the free trial only allows three searches per day whereas the Starter Plan allows you to do 200 searches per day which is more than adequate for a blogger.  To research any single article I would typically conduct around 5-20 Keysearch searches before deciding which keywords to use and also which article to write!  So the trial membership is likely to be very difficult to do the full keyword research process in a single session.


How to Use Keysearch

After you have set up your subscription, go to the ‘Keyword Research’ screen.  At the top you can enter your initial search keywords and also the location.  In this example I will constrain my search to Australian search results, as my expectation is that short cruises from Sydney will primarily have an Australian rather than an international audience who are interested in this topic. (Or maybe I am wrong and should do two searches, one from Australian audiences and one as a global search – maybe I will find that my assumption is incorrect!).  Use the ‘Keyword Planner’ option for your search.  Then press the ‘Search’ button and it will quickly come up with the results as per the screenshot below.

Initial Keyword Analysis

My first takeaway from this screenshot is that the primary keywords have a search volume of 1900 per month which is good, and that the competitiveness is rated at 18 which is quite low.  The rating has different colours depending on the tool’s assessment of how difficult it will be to rank for this keyword combination – the general principles are that blue and green are achievable for new bloggers, amber is more difficult but ok if you are an intermediate level blogger, and red is only worth it for experienced bloggers.

Next we look at the ‘Search Trends’ box – in this case you can see that there is usually a dip in search traffic over the Australian winter and just after Christmas.  The main thing you are looking for is that this keyword has a steady level of traffic across a year – not just a one month peak and then nothing…

We then go to the ‘URL’ box – in here you can see the top 10 sites which rank for these keywords the Page Authority (PA) and Domain Authority (DA) of each page, as well as how many links are built to each webpage.  It also has information about whether those specific keywords are contained in either the URL or title of the article.

This is important – you can look up the PA and DA of your blog using the free Open Site Explorer tool.  A brand new blog will have a PA of 1 and a DA of 1, with the maximum possible value being 100 for each metric.  Of note is that most new bloggers who focus on early link building activities should be able to grow their DA to around 20 quite quickly, and from there it takes more time to develop the links required to progressively increase your DA.  High level travel bloggers typically have DAs of 50 to 70, mid range bloggers have DAs of 30-50 and newer bloggers have DAs up to 30.

Just be aware that PA and DA do not directly correlate to website traffic, they are just an approximation of how Moz thinks the Google search algorithm works.  They are still useful metrics to help guide the development of your blog.

If you are using a platform such as wordpress.com or Blogger to operate your site, be aware that the PA and DA which shows will not be an accurate assessment of your blog – you can only see your true DA and PA when you have a self-hosted blog.

To have success in targeting keywords you will need to look for keywords where your DA gives you a chance against other established sites.  In this case, on my Pretraveller blog which currently has a DA of 40 I could more easily compete for these keywords – except that most of the top websites already have the main keyword ‘cruise’ in their primary domain name.  As a result I would start with a big disadvantage, noting that I also have no other cruise related articles on my blog – if it is a topic which I write about regularly on my blog I would have a higher chance of ranking for these keywords.

You will regularly find this issue with the higher traffic keywords – it is a saturated market out there in some areas, particularly for buying keywords which are most likely to generate sales.  As a result we now need to look for the second tier keywords to see if a new blogger would have a chance to rank.

Keyword Sorting

I therefore now go to the box on the right hand side which shows 608 keyword combinations – many of which are not relevant.  My first step is to filter these keywords.  At the top is a ‘Filter’ word – click on this and the filter box opens.

In this case I only want cruises from Sydney, so in the ‘Keywords’ box I enter ‘cruise’.  In volume I set the minimum search volume to 50, then press the ‘Filter’ button and the number of keywords in the list reduces to 141.  At the top I have the option to export the filtered list as a CSV file.  Click on the export button.

I now open up this list using a spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel, and then do a manual sort of the keywords.  I first sort them by total search volume from top to bottom, I delete the CPC and PPC columns (which only become relevant once you want to start paying for advertising for your blog on Google) and delete any keyword combinations which are not relevant to short cruises from Sydney.  I then work through the list and group similar keywords.

Often when I do this process I come across some unexpected keywords, and I may then do second and third searches on those keywords to get the full set of keyword options, or it may inspire a different or additional article topic!  In this case you can see a short list below of the results of this sorting, with 10 different keyword combinations and the associated search traffic volume.

Keyword Combinations Average Monthly Search Traffic from Australia
short cruises from sydney 1900
3 day cruises from sydney 880
weekend cruises from sydney 590
3 day cruise sydney 390
3 day cruises from sydney 2017 390
sampler cruises from sydney 390
3 night cruises from sydney 320
2 night cruises from sydney 260
three day cruises from sydney 70
3 night cruises from sydney 70


If I search again in Keysearch for ‘3 day cruises from sydney’, the search results are quite interesting.  There is one result with the site having a PA of 1 and a DA of 1 ‘although they have ‘cruise’ in their domain name), and many others for which a new blogger is unlikely to rank.  I keep searching progressively down the list.

When I get to ‘sampler cruises from sydney’, I finally get to a keyword combination where I think a new blogger could rank.  At the lower end of the list are three lower DA web pages, and in the top 10 only a few use the term ‘sampler’ in their page URL.

After going through this process and on reflection, this was a bad topic to choose for a beginner travel blogger – cruises are big business so there are quite a few dedicated sites to selling cruises, so my chances of ranking for these keywords was always going to be low.  A key tip is to write about things which are not highly competitive and you will have a better chance of ranking on Google search.  For a new blogger I would search for topics with search volume of at least 500 per month to make it worth the effort to write the article.

How to Embed Keywords into Your Blog Article

If I did decide to go ahead and write this article, I would choose to use ‘sampler cruises from sydney’ as my primary keyword combination, and work in all of the other keywords on the list as secondary keywords.

Blog Article Title Development using Keywords

First, I want to come up with a title which includes the exact phrase ‘sampler cruises from sydney’ – I also want the title to be interesting so that someone looking in Google Search is attracted to the title and chooses to click it ahead of the other options on the search result list.  In this case I would open an incognito window in Google Chrome and type this search term in to see an unbiased search result (if you do this search in your standard browser be aware that the result will be tailored based on your interests and past searches…).

In this case, I first see 4 ads, then an excerpt box, then the search results – which include some pretty poor headings and snippets, so there is an opportunity to write something more ‘zingy’ to stand out to try to get more click-throughs.

Example titles include the following (depending on your angle):

  • Ultimate Guide to Sampler Cruises from Sydney
  • Independent Travel Blogger Review: Sampler Cruises from Sydney
  • Food, Fun and Freedom: Guide to Sampler Cruises from Sydney
  • Etc

Blog Article URL Name using Keywords

I then need to set my URL for the article – to the exact primary keywords:

  • com/sampler-cruises-from-sydney/

Blog Article Heading Plan Using Keywords

I then need to build my heading plan for the article, in this case using both the primary and secondary keywords as follows:

  • Heading 1 (H1): The Ultimate Guide to Short 3 Day 2 Night Sampler Cruises from Sydney
  • Heading 2 (H2): Why You Should Book a Short Sampler Cruise From Sydney
  • H2: How Long Are Sampler Cruises from Sydney?  3 Day, 2 Night and Weekend Cruise Options
  • H2: My Experience on a Three Day, Two Night Short Sampler Cruise from Sydney
  • H2: Short Sampler Cruise options from Sydney in 2018 and 2019

Writing your Article Using Keywords

Once you have the heading plan, then write each section of the article, ensuring you are sprinkling the keywords regularly, but not to the point that they are un-natural.

Often this means you should write the paragraph first, and then review – for example in the text you may have used the term ‘when you go on your cruise’ – make sure you add words to talk about ‘when you go on your short sampler cruise from Sydney’, and mix the primary and secondary keywords up a bit.  As long as you do not go overboard your readers will not really notice these inclusions.

Creating Images Using Your Keywords

Create the featured image and social media images for the article, and ensure you also name them with the primary keywords, when loading add an alt with the keywords as well.  Load your Facebook and Twitter images and snippets using the Yoast plugin.  Load your other images using your normal process, but where you can include the keywords in the image file name, description, alt and captions.

Create a search snippet using Yoast which also includes the keywords, has a good level of zing, and also has a call to action for a reader seeing it in search.  Eg. ‘Everything you need to know about short sampler cruises from Sydney. Check out my independent review of a 3 day 2 night cruise from Sydney and pro tips.’ (note that the Google Search snippet is now longer, and Yoast has recently been updated to reflect the longer length – make the most of it!).

Building Authority for Your Article

After you have pressed publish your job is not yet finished.  The next step is to promote through your social media channels.  You may also want to participate in some social sharing groups to maximise the social exposure of your article.

You also want to build some authoritative links to the article.  Options to build links include participating in collaborative posts, guest posting and participating in link swaps.  Options for all of these activities can be found across quite a few travel blogger Facebook Groups.  An important point is that the link you want to build is a dofollow deep link directly to your specific article, not to your blog home page.  A good approach is to plan to build 5-10 good quality links to each article you write.

As a newer blogger, you then need to wait – it can take around six months for the article to rise to its natural level in Google – more mature bloggers may see Google search results for new articles within a few weeks.

Tracking the Performance of Your Keyword Research Optimised Article in Google Search

You can track the performance of your article using the Google Search Console tool (which is a totally separate tool from Google Analytics).  Ensure that you have it set up for your blog, which includes installing some tracking codes and setting up the blog properties.  Once it is up and running you should be able to log in, go to ‘Search Analytics’ , click the check boxes to display ‘Impressions’, ‘Click Through Rate (CTR)’ and ‘Position’ data.  You can then select the ‘Pages’ toggle.  Scroll down to see the Google Search performance for each of your articles, including all 4 metrics.  Click on that specific article, then toggle back to ‘Queries’ – and you will now be able to see all of the keywords for which that article is performing.

Review this data monthly to see how the article is performing.  Keep building links in the meantime, and you should see the article eventually reach its natural level!

Keyword Research

Keyword Research Conclusion

By consistently using a keyword research and optimisation approach you should see each article you write performing to their full potential, rather than writing an article and never seeing any consistent search traffic to it.  You should also see a progressive increase in your blog pageviews by consistently applying this process when you write your articles.

While the process itself is quite formulaic, your blogging personality and voice can still shine through in terms of your writing style – this approach just enhances what you were already doing to get the best chance of success in your blogging endeavours.


DISCLOSURE Some of the links in articles may be affiliate links where we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. We only link to products and services we recommend.

All the best, there is a lot to learn to succeed in blogging and perseverance is key – but it can definitely pay off!

By Anne Sutherland-Smith

Get to know more about Pretraveller on her brand page


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