Randomly select any two blogs, and chances are that their traffic statistics are going to look completely different. Some bloggers strike gold in their social media strategies, others know how to leverage their relationships to get links and referrals from larger blogs. As for The Wandering Blonde? It’s always been about organic search.
Organic search has consistently been my largest source of blog traffic, currently making up 45.9% of all sessions and bringing around 5,000 new users to my site each month. At the beginning, this was nothing more than a happy accident. As a newbie blogger, I didn’t know the first thing about search engine optimization (SEO), and the fact that this of all things was bringing the most readers to my site was a huge surprise for me.
These days, I’m no longer leaving my organic search results up to fate. Now, my SEO strategy is as deliberate as it can be…and it’s working! Today I’m sharing my top organic search tips and insights to help you boost your blog’s organic search rankings.
But first, what is organic search?
Have you ever used Google to search for a word or phrase, and then clicked on one of the websites that popped up on Google’s search results page?
If so, congratulations! You’re familiar with organic search.
As Wikipedia puts it, “Organic search results are listings on search engine results pages that appear because of their relevance to the search terms, as opposed to their being advertisements. ”
What is search engine optimization (SEO)?
Assuming you’re familiar with the above scenario, let’s take it one step further. When you decide to click on one of those websites on the search results page, how do you choose which one to click? If you’re like most people, it’s highly likely that you’ll choose to click one of the top results on page 1, and significantly less likely that you’ll click on anything that doesn’t appear on that first page.
Naturally, bloggers want search engine users to click on their website on the results page, rather than any of those other results. That means it’s in their best interest to try to get their web page to rank as close as possible to the top of page 1 on Google’s search results page.
This practice of trying to get your web page to rank higher is called “search engine optimization.” Boom! Easy concept, right?
Okay, let’s dive into some strategies.
Be strategic in choosing your post titles and keywords.
My all-time most popular blog post, The Ultimate Guide to 2 Weeks in Thailand, gets around 200 hits per day (approximately 6,000 per month).
Yes, a single post that I wrote more than a year ago still brings that much traffic to my site! This post also has one of my highest “average time on page” ratings at five and a half minutes, meaning that people are actually sticking around and reading it.
Some recent keywords that have brought readers to my site (and specifically this post) include:
- 2 week backpacking thailand
- 2 weeks in thailand
- 2 week thailand itinerary
- 2 weeks backpacking thailand
- thailand backpacking route
- thailand in 2 weeks blog
- 2 week trip in thailand
…Well, you get the idea.
Is two weeks really the optimal amount of time to spend in Thailand? While that’s certainly up for debate, 2 weeks is an extremely popular amount of time for people to actually spend in Thailand…and yes, I did know that when I structured my post and titled it that way.
In fact, if you search for any set of words related to “2 weeks in Thailand,” you’ll see that my post consistently comes up near the top of the results, usually in 1st or 2nd place. But why?
For one thing, it’s in the title of my post…duh! It also happens to be in the URL slug, the focus keyword, the meta description, my blog keywords, and I also made sure to repeat variations of the phrase on multiple occasions in the text. Let’s just say that this isn’t a coincidence!
When I wrote this post, I wrote it 100% with my readers in mind. What will they be searching for that brings them here? What keywords and phrases will they put into Google? What information will they want? What problem is this going to solve for them? Why will they come to this page?
Answering those questions helped me position my overall topic, title, and keywords in a strategic way.
Use ALL of these keyword best practices.
Once you’ve strategically chosen a blog post topic, title, and keyword, make sure that you’re making the most of your efforts by following these keyword best practices:
- Use the keyword in the post title.
- Use the keyword in any headers where possible (H2, H3, etc.).
- Optimize your keyword density; i.e. the number of times you use your keyword in the text. Somewhere around 1.5 to 4.5% is usually recommended.
- Use the keyword in your image alt tags.
- Use the keyword early, within the first paragraph of your post.
Install (and actually USE) the Yoast SEO Plugin.
These best practices shouldn’t be too hard to keep up with, but if you want to make it even easier on yourself, learn to get super friendly with the Yoast SEO plugin. (Note: there ARE other SEO plugins out there, but I highly recommend this one!)
Every single time I publish a post, I made sure I’m relying on Yoast to be my SEO guide. If my finished blog post has a poor (red or orange colored) rating, I don’t just ignore it and hit publish anyways…I read the suggestions and make changes until my SEO rating improves!
All of the factors I mentioned in the section above (page title, URL slug, keywords) are factored into Yoast’s content analysis, but the plugin also analyzes Flesch Reading Ease test score, keyword density, outbound links, and other attributes that Google actually uses to evaluate your blog posts and assign search rankings.
Yes, that’s right: Yoast is literally telling you what Google’s search algorithm is looking for, and handing you your results on a silver platter. This information is gold; don’t ignore it!
Make your post title and meta description catchy.
While making your post SEO-friendly should be your first priority, making it catchy should be a close second. Let’s use my “2 weeks in Thailand” blog post as an example.
I could have written the title in a variety of ways, such as:
- Itinerary for 2 Weeks in Thailand
- 2 Week Thailand Travel Guide
- How to Travel in Thailand for 2 Weeks
Are these posts optimized for search? Yep! But are they as exciting as “The Ultimate Guide to 2 Weeks in Thailand“? I don’t think so! Once you’ve got your SEO best practices covered, make sure you’re also thinking about what is going to inspire someone to click on your post, rather than the thousands of other results Google is showing them.
This also extends to meta descriptions (the short paragraph that shows up under your title on the search results page). Below, I’ve included examples of two of my meta descriptions that I consider to be pretty good (i.e. they inspire people to click on the link) and one that’s pretty bad.
Your meta descriptions should tell people what your blog post is about, why it’s unique information, and why they need to read it. Love it or hate it, but click-bait tactics DO work here!
Remember: the more specific you get with your keywords, the more likely you are to rank highly.
Looking for a way to become the number one search result for “Italy”? If you figure it out, let me know!
It’s near impossible to shoot to the top of the rankings for these types of super broad and generic search terms. However, you could become the number one result for “coolest hostel in Madrid” or “4 day itinerary in chiang mai” (I did!).
Pro tip: you’re more likely to be successful in your rankings when that keyword/post is in some way tied to your niche or area of expertise. For instance, I’ve written a lot on this blog about travel in Thailand, so it makes sense that my top 4 landing pages for organic search are all Thailand-related posts. The next few after that are all related to travel in Central America.
No surprises there!
The bottom line is this: It can take time to figure out how to make organic search pull in new traffic for your blog, especially if you’re just starting out with blogging or learning about SEO. But eventually, optimizing your blog for organic search will feel like a small amount of work for a significant payout. And there’s nothing more rewarding than that!
Have you leveraged organic search to bring more traffic to your blog? Do you have any tips to share?