Part 4 - How to Ensure Your Travel Blog Goes Viral

How to Ensure Your Travel Blog Goes Viral is the fourth segment in our How to Build a Successful Travel Blog workshop. Take a look at the previous segments first:

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There’s so much content online competing for your readers’ eyes. You can’t just post something (even if it’s epic) and wait for people to find it. They won’t. To maximize your article’s success, you need a multi-pronged approach consisting of search engine optimization and strategic social media promotion.

Social media can be useful early on, bringing some love (and hopefully readers) to your article shortly after it’s posted. And don’t underestimate the value of social proof – people love what other people love. On the other hand, organic traffic through search engines can bring consistent traffic with little to no maintenance, but can take awhile to pickup. Depending on the competitiveness of our keywords, it can take up to a year to be ranked on Google’s first page. Both strategies are necessary to get more eyes on your content and that your travel blog goes viral.

How to Ensure Your Travel Blog Goes Viral

Start with Your Content

Good content will always win, so start there. Publishing content that connects with readers, whether that be personal, inspiring, or engaging will bring in more readers than bland writing. Lists and infographics tend to do extremely well on social media, as people are intrigued to read more. In depth guides do better in search, when people are looking for that exact topic.

We’ve had success at Departful writing about very popular topics that have a lot of competition (ie. German Beer Festivals) as well as locations that aren’t as prevalent in travel blogs (ie. Utrecht and Stuttgart). It’s harder to rank on the former, though if you do, the payoffs are huge.

Even if you’re relying more on search, ensure that your content is worthy of being shared. Is it visually appealing? Does it contain a unique perspective? A healthy dose of your personality? Content that resonates with readers has a much better chance of being shared, which can have dramatic effects on your page views.

Create Intriguing Headlines

Coming up with a good title is a bit of a mission. You need to balance what sounds great with what ranks well, which can sometimes be at opposite ends of the spectrum. Sure, your site’s content may be top notch but if you’ve got a boring tittle, nobody’s going to give it a chance. On the other hand, focusing exclusively on a snazzy sounding title might inhibit your article’s search engine ranking  – having keywords in the title is something that Google likes a lot.

Some sage advice:

  • Think about a title before you begin writing but be flexible about changing it later on
  • Don’t go with your first title – brainstorm a few (no judgments in brainstorming!)
  • Picture yourself coming across your article – would you read it?
  • Google your topic and see what titles can up first – can you do better?

If you need some headline inspiration, head on over to CopyBlogger or Smartblogger, both amazing at creating captivating blog titles.

Effective SEO for Travel Blogs

Most likely, Google is driving the majority of your traffic from search engines. So I’m talking about it exclusively. Google’s algorithm for ranking content is notoriously mysterious (and constantly evolving), but there is a core set of principles that most travel blogs follow to maximize their organic traffic

Get the right tools

First, download Yoast SEO – a WordPress plug in that automatically tracks your SEO progress as you write your articles. It ensures you have the basics to ensure your article is optimized: keyword usage, alt text for images, meta description, and many other metrics. It’s basically a no-brainer for bloggers. I follow Yoast SEO’s advice for every single article and never publish unless my post gets a ‘green’ SEO rating. A more advanced tool is Screaming Monkey’s SEO Spider. This is a downloadable program that scours your entire site and provides opportunities for SEO improvement.

Be strategic with your keyword

While you’re getting into your article, think about what your keyword will be. This will make it easier to pepper it in naturally throughout your content and save you time at the end. A top resources that all travel bloggers should use is Google Adwords Keyword Planner. Search on several keywords to find out how much search volume and competition they have. Google’s Keyword Planner brings in similarly worded options, which can give you better keywords that you weren’t even thinking of. The goal is to find a keyword that has decent traffic with low competition to maximize your chances of ranking on Google’s first page.

Layer content

When you want to cover a topic in detail, you need to decide whether to write one mega post or break it up into pieces. Both have their pros and cons, but segmenting allows you to layer your content generating increased page views. Including internal links to other articles you’ve published helps from an SEO perspective but also points readers to additional, relevant content.


The time it takes your site to load can make or break you. While Google ranks this, many users will simply give up if they have to wait too long. Keep an eye on your loading time through Google Analytics. Ways to increase your loading time include reducing the size of your images or using fewer photos in your article, and as a last resort: upgrading your hosting plan to include a CDN (Content Delivery Network), which we did last year when we moved to WP-Engine. We also use – a Word Press plug in that compresses images. Here’s a great article with more suggestions on how to improve your site’s speed.

Mobile friendly

This has never been more critical than it is right now. There’s been a massive shift in how people access content with mobile browsing exceeding desktop. We’ve seen this firsthand with our own audience data. Where the vast majority of our content was read on a computer when we launched Departful in 2012, mobile and tablet now make up more than half of our sessions. Having a mobile friendly site is not only important for Google rankings – it’s also necessary so that a sizeable segment of your audience can actually read your content.


Have the proper SSL security (essentially https:// instead of http://) is an increasingly important aspect of any website. Having it not only protects your blog’s visitors, it also sends a signal to readers that you’re legit. And Google really likes sites that have this.


Back in the day, backlinks were seen as one of the best ways to improve you site in the eyes of Google. New bloggers would flock to popular blogs and manually leave comments that linked back to their blog, hoping to get a kickback in rankings. Subsequently, there has been a lot of debate on whether this still works. Google has smartened up by prioritizing the quality of the site linking to yours, so your best bet if pursuing this strategy is to focus on sites that Google deems high quality.

Don’t overdo your keyword

Every version of Google’s search algorithm becomes better at understanding the searcher’s intent and bridging the gap between what they want and the best content for what they’re looking for. So if you want to rank well, you need to offer valuable content. Bloggers no longer need to insert keywords in every sentence in order for an article to do well. Nowadays, it’s better to pepper it in here and there, but also focus on other relevant keywords that you may be able to rank on as well.

Don’t be concise

Long form posts, which is typically defined as over 1,500 words, do better in search engine rankings than shorter articles. Writing a longer article also allows you to incorporate more than one keyword, so that you can take advantage of readers finding your site through other phrases than the one your focusing on.

Focus on high quality

If you’re focused on providing high quality, useful content then you don’t have much to worry about (just make sure you consider speed and mobile optimization). Google has come a long way in understanding content, and luckily gives priority to what it deems as quality content over what’s crap masquerading as useful by an aggressive SEO strategy.

Leverage Social Media

Social media can help bring in page views soon after publishing. A high social count also impacts your Google ranking, so getting your new content out there can help in both the short and long run.

Create a social media checklist for each new post

Create a standard process for social media when you publish a new post to maximize results and ensure consistency. For example:

  • Create 2-3 pins and add them to your Pinterest scheduler
  • Create 1-2 instagram posts and add the link of your latest article to your bio
  • Create 5-10 tweets to go out periodically
  • Create and schedule a Facebook post
  • Write an email to your subscribers with a personal message linking to your new article

Tag relevant accounts

Are you writing about a city or country? Tag the local tourism board. Are you mentioning a specific hotel, tour, restaurant or experience? Tag them too! Think through any group who would be interested in seeing your content as they’re the most likely to share it. Tagging the tourism board in a post on Utrecht paid off when they subsequently shared it resulting in 5,000 page views in 24 hours.

Tap into your network of fellow travel bloggers

You’ve forged relationships with likeminded bloggers, now it’s time to leverage that. Tag them in relevant social media posts or send them a quick note that your new article (that you think they’ll love) is live. This isn’t a one-way street, though. Be a good blogger buddy and consistently share their content in return.

Another strategy that’s worked well for us is to include a link to compatible content of travel bloggers your friendly with (or aspire to be) and let them know that you mentioned them. It’s highly likely that they’ll share your article via their social networks and perhaps return the favour with a valuable link in the future.

Once Your Content Goes Viral:

  • Create a notification on Google Analytics to notify you if your traffic spikes to alert you that one of your articles is gaining traction. This allows you to ride that wave even further.
  • Find out where it’s coming from – and if it’s being shared, engage with those who are spreading the word
  • Add in links within that article to other relevant content – make them large and clickable!
  • Insert a clear call to action and large social buttons at the bottom of the article to promote further sharing
  • Look for opportunities to turn those visitors into subscribers – do you have a pop-up on that landing page? (If no, you better get on that!)
  • Rejoice!

How to Ensure Your Travel Blog Goes Viral photo courtesy of Unsplash