How to Write a Travel Guide That Will Actually Rank

Writing an engaging and informative travel guide that ranks well in search engines is crucial to travel bloggers who depend on affiliate links and ad networks to make money. Here’s a simple guide on crafting a destination guide that captivates your audience and performs well in terms of SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

[This article contains affiliate links to trusted partners.]

1. Understand Your Audience

Before you start writing, identify your target audience. Are they luxury travelers, backpackers, families, or solo travelers? Understanding your audience helps tailor the content to their interests, needs, and search behaviors.

For example, luxury travelers might want information about high-end accommodations and exclusive experiences, while backpackers may prioritize budget tips and off-the-beaten-path destinations. Families often look for activities suitable for all ages and tips on traveling with children, whereas solo travelers might be more interested in safety advice and opportunities for social interaction.

2. Keyword Research

Conduct thorough keyword research. Use tools like Moz Keyword Explorer, SEMrush, or Ahrefs to find relevant keywords. These should include both broad and long-tail keywords that potential travelers might use when searching for information about the destination.

Broad keywords might include general terms related to the destination, such as “Paris vacation” or “Thailand beaches.” These are often highly competitive but can attract a large volume of traffic.

On the other hand, long-tail keywords are more specific and less competitive, like “best boutique hotels in Paris” or “hidden beaches in Thailand.” These long-tail phrases cater to more targeted searches and can attract a niche audience with specific interests or needs.

3. Engaging Title and Meta Description

Craft a title that is both informative and enticing. Include primary keywords while making it compelling. Your meta description should briefly summarize the guide’s content, including key phrases.

For example, a title like “Discover the Hidden Gems of Bali: A Complete Traveler’s Guide” not only incorporates keywords like ‘Bali’ and ‘Traveler’s Guide’ but also piques curiosity by promising insider knowledge.

Meta descriptions also play an important role. This brief summary, which appears under the title in search engine results, should encapsulate the essence of the guide’s content, weaving in key phrases naturally. A well-crafted meta description like “Explore Bali’s untouched beaches, secret temples, and vibrant culture with our comprehensive guide” offers a snapshot of what the reader can expect, highlighting the guide’s unique insights and encouraging clicks.

Many travel bloggers use SEO plugins like RankMath or Yoast to help with this. Utilizing these tools lets your post have a title that differs from your SERP (search engine results page) title. Make your post title enticing while making sure to use keywords in your SEO title.

4. Structured and Detailed Content

Organizing your travel guide into clear, manageable sections is critical to creating easily navigable and engaging content.

Readers expect typical sections to include transportation, accommodation, food, attractions, and cultural tips. Each of these categories should be distinctly marked using H2 and H3 tags, which serve a dual purpose.

First, they improve readability by breaking the content into digestible chunks, allowing readers to quickly find the information they need or jump to sections of particular interest. For example, based on their current planning stage, someone may wish to skip directly to ‘Accommodation’ or ‘Food.’

Second, these tags are vital for search engine optimization (SEO), as they help search engines understand your content’s structure and key points. An example:

  • H1: Title
    • H2: History and Culture
    • H2: Weather and Best Time to Visit
    • H2: Transportation
      • H3: How to Get There
      • H3: How to Get Around
    • H2: Accommodations
    • H2:Things to Do
      • H3: 1st Thing to Do
      • H3: 2nd Thing To Do
      • H3: …
    • H2: Restuarant Recommendations
    • H2: Day Trips
      • H3: Option 1
      • H3: Option 2
      • H3: …
    • H2: Conclusion

Tip: Avoiding large blocks of unformatted text is also crucial. Such text can be overwhelming and off-putting, causing readers to lose interest quickly.

5. High-Quality, Original Images

Incorporating high-quality images is an important aspect of enhancing your travel guide, making it more visually appealing and engaging for your audience.

Original photos generally have a greater impact on SEO compared to stock images, as they offer unique, authentic views of destinations and experiences that readers are unlikely to find elsewhere.

Optimizing the file sizes of these images is essential for maintaining quick page loading times, a factor that significantly affects user experience. Large, unoptimized image files can slow down your page, potentially deterring readers due to long wait times. By resizing and compressing your images, you can maintain visual quality while ensuring that your travel guide loads efficiently, offering a seamless experience for readers on any device. I use the ShortPixel plugin for WordPress.

6. Local Insights and Personal Experiences

Incorporating local insights and personal anecdotes is a powerful way to differentiate your travel guide and deeply engage your readers.

Sharing your firsthand experiences, such as discovering a hidden alleyway café in Rome or a lesser-known hiking trail in the Rockies, adds a unique and personal touch that can’t be found in generic travel content.

These personal stories and tips, like recommending a small, family-run eatery known only to locals or advising on cultural etiquette in a Japanese onsen, enrich the guide and provide value to readers seeking an authentic experience.

7. Internal and External Linking

Internal and external linking strategies are essential for enhancing both user engagement and SEO performance in your posts.

Internal links to other relevant content on your site encourage readers to explore further, increasing their time spent on your website and reducing bounce rates. For example, linking to a detailed article about “The Best Street Food in Bangkok” within a broader Thailand travel guide adds depth to your content and keeps readers engaged with your site’s resources.

External links to credible sources, like official tourism websites or cultural reference materials, add authority and depth to your content. These outbound links to reliable sources enhance the trustworthiness and credibility of your guide, demonstrating that it is well-researched and informative.

Search engines favor internal and external linking practices, as they help establish a network of relevant and authoritative content, improving your guide’s overall SEO performance.

Tip: If you use affiliate links, ensure your article includes a disclosure statement (required by the FTC) and the link is marked as no-follow and sponsored (required by search engines). 

8. Social Media Integration

Ensure your travel guide is optimized for sharing on social media platforms to maximize its impact and reach. This means designing it to encourage and facilitate easy sharing. By doing so, you enhance the user experience and leverage the power of social signals.

Although social signals — likes, shares, comments, and overall social media visibility — are not direct ranking factors for search engines, they can indirectly impact your guide’s search rankings. When your guide is widely shared and discussed on social media, it increases visibility and the likelihood of attracting backlinks, a significant factor in search engine optimization (SEO).

Tip: Integrate social share buttons into your article and include Facebook, X, Reddit, Flipboard, Email, and any other networks you are on.

9. Update Regularly

Destination information can change rapidly. Regularly update your guide to ensure it remains accurate and relevant.

By keeping your travel guide current, you provide value to your readers and signal to search engines that your content is fresh and up-to-date. Search engines favor regularly refreshed content, which is more likely to be relevant and helpful to users. Consequently, by diligently updating your guide, you improve its chances of ranking higher in search results.

Tip: If you make significant updates to the article, republish it with the new date and manually resubmit your post for re-indexing to Google Search Console.

10. User-Friendly Layout

Creating a visually appealing and user-friendly guide is crucial for effectively engaging your audience. To achieve this, focus on a clean and organized layout that enhances readability and ease of navigation.

Utilizing bullet points is an excellent way to break down information into digestible chunks, making it easier for readers to quickly scan and comprehend the content.

Similarly, short paragraphs prevent the overwhelming wall-of-text effect, encouraging readers to spend more time engaging with your travel guide.

This thoughtful use of design elements makes the guide more aesthetically pleasing and significantly improves the user experience. When your guide is informative and easy to read, readers are likelier to stay engaged, benefit from the content, and return for future information needs.

11. Monitor Performance and Adapt

Leveraging analytics tools is essential for understanding and enhancing the performance of your travel guide. By monitoring metrics such as page views, time on page, and bounce rate, you gain valuable insights into how users interact with your content.

  • Page views indicate the guide’s popularity, indicating how many times it has been accessed.
  • Time on page provides insight into how engaging your content is; longer durations suggest that readers find the information valuable and are spending time absorbing it.
  • The bounce rate can be particularly revealing; a high bounce rate might indicate that visitors are not finding what they expected or that the content isn’t sufficiently engaging, prompting them to leave quickly.

Analyzing these metrics lets you pinpoint areas where your travel guide needs improvement. Perhaps the content needs more engaging, the layout more user-friendly, or specific topics need more depth.

Free Tools: Set up Google Search Console and Google Analytics for your site. This can be quickly done on a WordPress site with the Google Site Kit plugin.

12. Encourage Engagement

End your guide with a call to action. Encourage readers to leave comments, share their experiences, or ask questions. This increases engagement and can provide insights for further content.

This fosters a sense of community around your content and transforms passive readers into active participants. Such interactions can be incredibly insightful, providing firsthand perspectives and ideas that can inform and inspire future content.

Additionally, engaging readers in this manner increases the guide’s visibility and appeal to other potential readers, as user-generated content often adds a layer of authenticity and relatability.

How to Write a Travel Guide

A well-crafted destination guide blends thorough research, SEO best practices, engaging content, and regular updates. By focusing on the needs and interests of your target audience and following these guidelines, you can create a destination guide that not only ranks well in search engines but also provides valuable information to other travelers.

Photo Credit: [@kchungtw/DepositPhotos]


Alexandrea Sumuel

Alexandrea Sumuel is a nationally syndicated travel writer and founder of the Wander With Alex travel blog. With 16 years of digital marketing and SEO experience, a business management and information technology degree, and a profitable travel blog, she can help you start a travel blog or accelerate your existing blog with one-on-one coaching.