Writing fantastic content is important for many reasons; conversion, engagement, brand loyalty and SEO amongst them.
If you’ve been trying to get away with cheap and nasty content just for the sake of getting a particular number of words on a page then you need to start reassessing why you are creating content in the first place.
In the travel industry people want to be wowed and be drawn into a story that excites them and entices them. ‘Good’ won’t do if you want to be found by that person in the first place, and then engage them when they find your content.
In this post I am going to run through the exact process we use when writing new content for ourselves and clients that gives it the best possible chance of performing well and bringing in new visits and potential customers.
Nearly 30,000 Visits With One Page
Proof of the pudding is in the eating as they say, so to illustrate the success of this approach I’ll be using an example we created for our client Roma Experience around Palatine Hill, a particular attraction in Rome.
This piece of content attracted 29,072 visits through organic search to their site in 2018 alone, and ranks highly for a wide variety of competitive and well-searched for phrases.
This is also the process we’re following when creating the content for our Live Case Study site on pages like this. If you’re not already, you can sign up to follow along with exclusive updates and insights on that here.
So buckle up, make yourself a nice brew and get ready to make notes…
Start With Keyword Research
As with everything we do, the first job is always keyword research. If you don’t know what people are searching for, how do you know what to write about?
There are a variety of ways of coming up with ideas for keywords to target. My two favourites are:
- Analyse competitors to see what phrases they rank for
- Input head terms into a keyword tool and see which variations it suggests
I recently wrote about the process we use for keyword research so I won’t regurgitate that, but if you want to know more you can see that here.
These are also fantastic keyword research resources:
Backlinko – Keyword Research for SEO (see the Creating Niche Topic List section in particular)
Keyword Research with Ahrefs
Putting yourself into the mind of your audience and considering all the possible topics they might search for is a great way to get ideas outside the box that your competitors aren’t targeting.
For our Roma Experience example, we decided to think about all the individual attractions that users might be interested in visiting if they were going to Rome.
We then took those attractions and put them into a keyword tool to find out if they were well searched-for and, if so, which ones were searched for the most.
We ended up with a selection of great options, like Palatine Hill, St Peter’s Basilica and the Colosseum.
Which Phrase to Target?
Once you have decided on the topic you are going to target with your content you need to plug that into your favourite keyword tool to see which phrase people search for the most and what other variations people search for.
This will form the basis of many key elements on your page, like the URL, headings and general structure.
Pick Your URL
We found that the simplest variation, ‘palatine hill’, was the phrase variation with the most volume, so that is what we used as the URL for the page:
Your URL should reflect the most competitive phrase you want to target with the page as it is a key ranking factor and we consistently see a strong correlation between ranking performance and the URL of the page.
The most competitive phrase won’t always be the shortest one, so be aware of that when doing your research to avoid reaching the wrong conclusion for such an important element of the page.
Plan Your Structure
Whilst you are in the keyword tool and finding out what the phrases are with the most volume you should also be paying close attention to the modifiers of that main phrase.
These modifiers will tell you how you should structure your page, and what you should use for sub-headings throughout the content.
We found people were searching for phrases like ‘palatine hill tickets’, ‘palatine hill facts’ and ‘what is palatine hill’ so these all became sections of the page when we created it.
You can also use Google’s predictive search for ideas of sections you should include in your content. This is based on phrases it believes are semantically related and also commonly searched for, so is a strong indicator that including them will pass on the right signals.
You should also look at the pages that are already ranking highly for the phrase you are targeting and use those as a guide on what sections you should build into your structure.
Wikipedia is renowned as being extremely well-structured and so is an excellent place to look for ideas.
We looked at other high-ranking pages and found them using headers such as ‘What to See on Palatine Hill’ and ‘How to get to Palatine Hill’ so we also incorporated those sections into our page.
On Page Features
So we know what we are targeting, we know the sections we are going to use, it’s time to start writing.
But there’s more to a great page than just reams of prose.
To give your page the best chance of ranking you need to make sure you include certain features that illustrate to Google that the content is structured well and includes everything it would expect to find.
You should have a sensible header tag structure on the page that illustrates how the content is formatted.
Your main title should be an H1 tag, then your main sub-headers should be H2 tags, then any headings within those sections should be H3s.
Too often we see header structure all over the place, because headers are being used for styling instead of structure. That is bad habit that many web designers use and you need to get fixed if you have been lumbered with it.
(If you’re interested in web design which avoids those bad habits we might be able to help ;))
You should start your page with a quick summary of the topic and what the page is about.
This allows Google to immediately see relevant phrases high on the page, as well as being an important factor in trying to gain featured snippets in the position 0 spot.
It shouldn’t be too long, but should include the phrase you are targeting with the page somewhere (if anything ours is a little long on the Palatine Hill page).
Internal Page Menu
When you are creating in-depth pages like this they will generally be quite long and have a high word count, so including a table of contents is good for user experience as well as giving Google a clear signal as to the structure of the page.
This table of contents is essentially made up of links that jump to the relevant section on the page. As well as reinforcing the structure they can also help you gain sitelinks in your search result that help attract the users attention in improve click through rate.
Images and Other Media
Good content is not just made up of text, it relates to everything that makes up the page, such as images, video, tables, bullet points and more.
Including as many different types of media and formatting will make the page richer and more appealing to the user. This leads to all kinds of positive signals, such as visitors staying on the page longer, which then results in a page ranking better too.
This comes with the caveat of ensuring that using images and video doesn’t slow the page down too much. Images should be compressed and optimised for the place they are being used and used to a reasonable extent without overdoing it.
Videos should be hosted in a way that allows them to load quickly (usually embedding from Vimeo, YouTube or other third-party platforms).
You should always link to other relevant pages on your site from your content.
This shows that you have a site with other relevant information and creates a strong silo that also helps towards ranking performance. When Google is looking for experts on the topic it can see you are not just a one-trick pony and cover the variety of topics that would be expected of an authority in the area.
As above, it makes sense that if you are an authority on a topic then you will reference other good quality sources and authorities.
Google uses links as its key way of indexing the internet, so it follows that it will like pages which help it carry out that job in an effective way.
We often use a further reading section to incorporate this, which also brings with it an added bonus of providing outreach opportunities to tell those people they featured on your page (which may lead to shares and links coming your way).
Once you’ve written your content, created the page, uploaded media and have the page ready to go you want to check the page loads quickly.
All that effort will be in vain if it takes ten seconds to load. Users won’t hang around and search engines won’t be interested in delivering it to their users.
Compress images, host video in the right way, get the relevant caching in place and do everything you can to create a quick page. If you’re not happy with it then remove some images or dial back some of the formatting on the page to help make it quicker.
But What About Keyword Density?
You’ll notice I haven’t talked about keyword density, TF:IDF, LSI or anything else related to how many times you should include particular phrases in your text. And with good reason.
When you are writing content you should write it for users and aim to create something that reads brilliantly, gives the user all the information they need and is presented beautifully.
If you do that, combined with the guidance in this post, you will naturally end up with a page that has the right phrases included a sufficient amount of times.
There is no magic number that will suddenly make you rank fantastically. If Google sees the right phrases on the page and it is surrounded by semantically relevant words and phrases then you will be in a fantastic place to rank well (and for a wide variety of phrases, not just one or two).
That’s not to say there won’t be some tweaks and honing to do once the page is live, but you’ll be 95% of the way there by following the tips above, without needing to get too technical or aggressive with keyword placement.
There are no guarantees in SEO, so even if you follow all the advice above it’s almost certain some of the content you create will struggle to reach page 1 at best, and flop at worst.
Different keywords have different levels of difficulty, sometimes you need other content to attract links and sometimes there are just things going on in the search results that we can’t understand, even as experts who spend every day analysing them.
But if you follow this process time after time you will undoubtedly end up with some pages that do hit the mark, and it only takes one or two to bring you a significant amount of visits from your target audience and gain top rankings.
As you can see with this example, a small independent tour operator has had 30,000 more people become aware of their brand in 2018 because of one piece of content.
The best bit is that the St Peter’s Basilica page got more than 18,000 visits, the Colosseum page more than 14,000 and there are various others that continue to drive visibility upwards. This isn’t an isolated occasion or fluke. If you follow the process here for enough pieces of content it will drive more visitors to your site who are interested in what you offer.
It takes a bit more time and a bit more effort, but if you do it right there is no doubt you can grow your business significantly and sustainably with this approach.
So next time you’re thinking about rushing out a 500-word blog post about the first topic you think of (because you haven’t published something for a week) nip that thought in the bud and turn to the keyword research table, start some proper planning and take a strategic approach that can deliver you thousands of eyeballs from the people who will buy from you.
You can read the full case study of how we combined this activity with other approaches to increase Roma Experience’s organic traffic by 2,800% here.