You see everyone talking about SEO, but what exactly is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and what’s the big deal about it? More importantly, how does that translate to more page views and traffic leads as a travel content creator?

Hi! I’m Isabel, full-time travel blogger at Bel Around The World and SEO coach roaming the world at a whim. I draw energy from being outdoors. An explorer at heart, the world is my playground. I help aspiring bloggers and brands achieve traffic goals and financial freedom with online content and expose millennial travellers to experiences beyond their imaginations.

It’s all thanks to appearing at the top of search engine result pages that I was able to increase my traffic to my travel blog, grow my readers and even earn a passive income solely from travel blogging, all without selling a single product or paying a single dime for ads!

Are you new to travel blogging?

Start your journey off right with Wanderful’s Free Blogging Course: 8 Steps to Start Your Travel Blog

What is SEO?

An easy illustration is this: when you type in a certain search term on Google, you get a list of search results from various websites. Pages ranking on the first few positions are the result of SEO being done right.

SEO is thus all about optimizing your pages for search engines so that your content is ranked on Google search pages for the keywords that you’re using on your page.

Essentially, SEO techniques help you reach your target audience based on the keywords that they’re searching for on Google. It helps bridge the gap between what your audience wants to know and what you can offer. 

You can have a million articles, but without SEO, all the valuable information you’re sharing online will just be buried in the millions of web pages online.

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Why is SEO important

One study analyzed over 80 million keywords and billions of search results to understand how users engage with Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). 

The study showed that the first result that you see in Google Search has an average click-through rate of 28.5%. Thus, if you’re not ranking on the first, second or third result on SERP, the chances of your page being clicked on is almost none.

Given the competitiveness of the internet world, with around 3.5 billion searches worldwide made on Google daily, this study illustrates why it’s so important to be ranking at the top of your targeted keywords.

SEO is the way to go if you’re looking to grow your audience and acquire leads steadily in the long term.

Related: 5 Reasons Why SEO Matters for Your Site’s Success (in 2020 and Beyond)

In line with the latest SEO practices, Google announced a while back that they would be making an update focusing on page experience. In order to ensure your site meets Google’s best practices for this latest update, read on.

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SEO in 2021

Now that we’ve established the importance of SEO, here are some key factors in 2021 that you should know if you want to be on top of the SEO game in 2021.

Beyond proper keyword research and growing backlinks, an important metric that Google is now taking into consideration as of their June update is USER EXPERIENCE.

User experience takes into account how the user interacts when they land on your page. 

A good user experience is when a user lands on your page, spends some time scrolling through your posts and actually reading them. Better yet, if the links that they click on that page direct them to a similar topic that they’re interested in reading about, that’s bonus points for you. 

A bad user experience can constitute a page that loads so slowly that users get frustrated and leave the page. It can be when a user lands on a page, skims through the text, doesn’t find what they’re looking for, and leaves. It can also be a bad user experience if your page is inundated with ads or intrusive pop-ups asking users to sign up for a newsletter that doesn’t interest them.

Google uses such behavior signals to tell if a site is serving its audience well or not, and ranks them on SERPs accordingly. Its primary aim is to show the best and most relevant results to users first.

As you can imagine, with the gargantuan amount of information online now, this space is a competitive one. 

How then can you outrank your competitors and rank at the top?

5 Actionable Tips To Improve Your Site’s User Experience

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1. Is your site mobile-friendly?

In this day and age, mobile is king.

Don’t believe me? Go to your Google Analytics and study the breakdown of devices used by your viewers that interact with your page. Chances are, mobile users precede desktop or even tablet users.

How to find your mobile users in Google Analytics | Image from Isabel Leong

One way to check your site’s mobile-friendliness is by putting it through Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. From there, Google offers suggestions for you to improve your site’s mobile experience.

2. Are you running ads? If so, are you giving a good ad experience?

Ad Experience rates whether a site uses advertising techniques that are distracting, interrupting, or otherwise not conducive to a good user experience. If users are encountering ads at every scroll, or if you have ads that pop up in the middle of scrolling, or if you have ads that block the screen, this all contributes to a poor ad experience.

You should also be mindful that running ads can slow down your site to a certain degree, so if you run ads, do so moderately. Don’t compromise user experience over earning a couple more cents.

3. Are you resizing your images properly?

The width of each blog post doesn’t usually take more than 1000 pixels; most often, they are only around 800 pixels. As such, uploading a full-sized image is going to make little difference except take up space and increase page load time.

Always manually resize your images (and save for web if relevant) to the maximum width your blog posts serve.

Also, avoid PNG images as they tend to take up a large size.

4. Remove unnecessary images

While pictures illustrate the beauty of a destination, too many images can hurt your site.

I’m sure we’re all guilty of sharing more images than we should because of how picturesque our travel destinations are. However, the more images you upload, the larger the page size and requests, and that slows down your site speed.

Remove any images you don’t really need from your posts and pages in order to serve a better user experience.

5. Remove the featured image

Under Google’s Core Web Vitals focus, there are 3 primary factors: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).

You can look at how your site is performing on these 3 factors in Google Search Console, under Experience > Core Web Vitals.

Where to find your Core Web Vitals on Google Search Console | Image courtesy of Isabel Leong

While it may sound technical and complicated, a large reason why your LCP may be poor is that your Featured Image at the top of your blog posts is slowing your LCP down. Simply disabling your featured image from showing in each blog post can drastically improve your LCP score.

While there are countless other factors affecting SEO and site speed, as long as you get these 5 fundamental settings locked down, you could see your site speed and user experience improve dramatically.

Read next: How to Build a Brilliant Blog Community & Grow from “Me to We”

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