So you read my guide on how to set up a travel blog, did all that work exactly as I described it, and now you would like people who are not your mom or significant other to read it? In that case, you’ll need a serious SEO overview and you’ve come to the right place.
SEO overview: What is SEO?
No one really knows what “SEO” stands for, but it’s probably along the lines of “Sadistic Exercise in O-something.” Scholars are divided on that last part.
Ideally, you’ll want to eventually master SEO. Unfortunately, mastering SEO is literally impossible, because even done perfectly it doesn’t matter. An SEO overview on the other hand is probably worth a read, so here we go.
SEO overview: How does SEO work?
SEO is how search engines like Ask Jeeves find the content you spent a week tweaking to perfection. Some “experts” will lead you to believe that if you work hard enough and choose your SEO keywords carefully, you can get one of the top positions in search results.
More realistically, you’ll probably be relegated to the eighth page of search results just below a 12-year-old Reddit thread. The good news is if you work at it long enough, you’ll rank higher than content farms that filtered their text through Google Translate from Tagalog to Chinese to English. It’s important to have realistic goals with SEO or you’ll go SEOychotic.
SEO overview: How it’s done
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. If you truly want monster visitor stats for your blog, you have to surrender to the concept that you will rarely, if ever, get to write about the stuff you want to write about. Interests? Doubtful. Hobbies? Forget about it. Passion projects? ROTFLMAO.
No Gomer, you have to write what the SEO robots tell you to write. Or write whatever you want, but don’t come crying to me when your posts get 11 views in two years.
Before you do anything, including opening a blank Word document, you need to figure out what search “keywords” (A.K.A. “Very important words”) people are using to find stuff on the Information Stupid Highway. You can do this with a number of paid keyword search tools or do it the zero-budget way with the marginally useful Google Keyword Planner or just type stuff into the Google search bar and see what auto-complete phrases pop up.
These keywords are the most important two or three words you write that week, so you really need to nail this part. If you don’t have a $100 monthly budget to nail this part, just winging it is only slightly less effective.
Ideally, you want to find keywords that have massive average monthly search numbers, but aren’t already being used by 500,000 websites that beat you to the SEO finish line for those keywords. Keywords are ranked as “low,” “medium” and “high” in terms of competition.
You want to focus on the low competition and don’t bother with the highs because even if you worked on it for the next 100 years, you’ll never win SEO ranking for something like “crypto mining,” but you might do well with, oh say, “SEO overview.”
If your first choice of keywords are all ranked as “high,” just scroll down the alternative keyword suggestions until you arrive at something ranked “low” that you never thought anyone would ever search for, but is still on the suggestions list for some reason. I mean, anyone searching for “cryptopanic” should probably stick with more reliable investments, like literal rolls of toilet paper, anyway.
This part of the process can be infuriatingly counter-intuitive. The “competition” rankings rarely seem to reflect reality. For example, “Kanye West” is ranked as having “low” competition, which is clearly not right. But something like “yeezy gap,” whatever the hell that is, is ranked as “high.” Honestly, it’s probably best to take the keyword competition rankings with a grain of salt. But, follow them exactly. Casually, but strictly, if you catch my drift. And if that previous sentence makes any sense to you, you’re going to be great at SEO.
Now that you’ve found a topic so unrelated to the interests that made you want to start blogging in the first place that it makes your eyes water, it’s finally time to start writing! In order for your keywords to have the most impact, you need to use those exact keywords in the title of your post, obviously, and a bunch of times in the body of your post.
Use your keywords too infrequently and the search engines won’t find your post. Use your keywords too much and the search engines will think you’re up to no good and knock you down to the 500th page of search results. You have to use your keywords just the right amount of times. How many is the right amount? No one knows! Welcome to monetized blogging!
After you’ve solved the unsolvable mystery of how many times to use your keywords, you still have work to do. You also need to find some pictures with no copyright restrictions to insert into your blog post and then shoehorn your keywords into the picture’s alt text. If you don’t know what “alt text” is, well join the damn club.
Finally, you need to write a pithy meta description for your blog post that also has your chosen keywords. If you don’t know how to do this, find a 13-year-old to do it for you. Always remember, you don’t necessarily need to do all of these steps, but if you skip any of them or do them lazily, your SEO success is going to take 217 years, instead of 117 years.
If you find yourself in the awkward position of having to write about a topic you know nothing about, just Google it and read everything on the first page of the search results. Don’t worry about the second, third and whatever pages of search results. Only losers and the unemployed have time to hit that “Next” button once or twice.
There’s a famous saying in SEO circles: “The best place to hide a dead body is on the second page of Google search results.” Don’t let that saying and the fact that your work will almost never appear on the first page of Google search results for anything dissuade you. If you do, the terrorists win.
Step 4: Profit
Now that you’ve done all that spirit-breaking work that you never signed up for, it’s time to hit “publish” and start the waiting game. If you’ve done everything perfectly, you should have to wait no longer than three or four years for your work to get traction on the search engines, so use that time to find a good job and claw your way up to middle management, all the while telling everyone who will listen about your blogging “side hustle,” that makes less money in a year than you’d make in two hours begging for change on the freeway entrance ramp.