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This is a guest post by Shannon O’Donnell who uses freelance SEO as a way to fund continued travels.

Some of the top advice you read all over the Internet for good SEO practice is the idea of guest posting on other sites. This advice is solid at every level and works not only for SEO and Google link juice, but also for your site’s visibility within your community. New bloggers don’t traditionally come with a built-in audience unless you’ve been active on social media before your site launched, so with that in mind, you need people to see your name, your message, and your brand.

shaking hands

That’s one of the more obvious strengths to guest posting, you build your brand and funnel new and relevant SEO to your website.

On the other side of this equation though, is that Google juice I mentioned–this is where a lot of people begin to go a bit gray in their understanding. Everyone tells you links help your website’s Page Rank. But what about search engine rankings? How do we go from Page Rank (PR) to relevant search engine traffic?

google speakerWhat you Need to Know about the Google Algorithm

Knowing which sites consistently provide value is the core magic of the Google search algorithm, and to properly understand how you should be leveraging your guest posts, let’s start at the Google algorithm. Google returns some of the most relevant and accurate search results of any of the search engines out there and the company hands-down dominates the search market. Bing is the runner up (and Bing’s search algorithm fully powers Yahoo too), so that’s really the only other game in town.

Google’s algorithm is complex and no one outside of Google (and likely only a few people there) know the exact components. The algorithm is a formula that takes into consideration dozens of factors about your website, gives them different weights within the formula, and then combines those components to form the basis of search results.

These are a handful of the things Google considers when evaluating a website or blog post:

  • The age of your domain
  • Frequent keywords used within the site and those keywords other sites use to reference the site.
  • The freshness of the content on the website and relevancy (is there enough content, are people staying on the page when they click onto your site from the search results?
  • Page Rank: i.e. a numeric value assigned to your site ranking its value to the world wide web, mostly based on incoming links from other websites.

Those are the core basic components of the Google search algorithm and should give you a general understanding of how your site is found and placed within the search engine pages by Google.

authority sweatshirtHow Incoming Links Effect Your Page Rank

We’ve analyzed the algorithm, now let’s look at the incoming link your guest blog post will be sending to your website from the website you’re guest posting on.

Your site’s PR is nearly entirely dependent on a variety of incoming links from websites with a higher PR than yours (to find a site’s PR, a quick and easy option is Page Rank Checker). Websites with a PR 4 and higher (sometimes arguably PR 5 and higher is optimal) are great target guest posting sites. These websites with higher PR will lend you some of their PR juice through Google when they link to you.

Basically, when a website links to you it is giving you a vote of confidence from their domain – they are giving you some of the Google trust they’ve earned over time. Get enough of these votes, from a variety of sites and sources, and you’ll see your PR increase over time. Be forewarned though, Google only updates PR a couple times a year, so it may take time for incoming links to effect your officially shown PR.

How Incoming Links Effect Your Search Engine Results

Now we’ve come to the meat of the SEO reasons for guest posting, the keyword link juice (remember it’s about sharing audiences and spreading your message as much or more than for SEO). When you’re guest posting, you nearly always have the opportunity to include a personal bio either at the beginning or the end of the post. This bio is where you link back to your website, your projects, and your social media information. It’s also your main chance to send yourself a targeted, keyword link.

Traditionally, you’d link to your site with your blog’s name. That is one option, particularly if your site has a great keyword within the name. If it doesn’t though, consider alternative descriptions that target your site’s niche keyword.

Another option is to link to your site with its name, but then also build backlinks to a specific cornerstone piece of content on your site. If there is one invaluable resource you’ve put a lot of work into, include it! Add that to the bio, if you’re doing an honest bio and you’re writing related to your niche the site your guest posting for won’t mind a link back to your site that includes specific keywords.

As an example, let’s consider this fake bio as a perfect way to use guest posting to raise your site’s profile:

ìSuzie Q blogs about deep-sea trout fishing and wrote a wonderful, free resource for fish-loving travelers, the ultimate list of trout fishing travel tips. If you love trout fishing too, why not follow her on Twitter and Facebook?!î

In this bio example, Suzie Q is ensuring she now has relevant incoming links for keywords related to her niche. The link itself will help her siteís PR and the keywords within the link tell Google what her siteís about when itís calculating her place in the search engine results pages.

Interested in learning more about SEO and how to use it to build a better travel blog? Get Traffic Now is a free resource I co-authored with Andy Hayes that breaks down the complexities of SEO into a do-it-yourself handbook ideal for both new and established travel bloggers!

Shannon travels around the world using freelance SEO as a way to fund continued travels. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter for travel stories and advice, and feel free to ping her if you have any SEO travel questions!

[photos by: Nicolay Corboy (shaking hands), Daniel Morris (Google speaker), YAIAGIFT (authority sweatshirt)]


Earlier this year, I asked you what your most pressing travel blogging questions were. LI asked how and where to best promote a blog contest, especially if your blog is fresh out of the Internet womb.

question mark

Floating In The Extremes

A blog contest has the potential to excite your readers, encourage participation, and draw new audiences to your site. Conversely, a contest can also make you feel like you’ve fallen flat on your face in a public display of disappointment. Running a successful contest – that is with more than mom participating – is a tricky prospect, no matter how large or small your audience is.

simple mathEase And Eas(ier)ness Of Entry

A critical component in running a successful contest is making things simple. That starts laying out the basics – what the person will win and how they enter.

Make entry into your contest as easy as possible, especially if you’ve got an audience on the smaller side. When LI asked whether to post a blog contest on Facebook or her actual site, I’d say do both if you’re just starting out.

While every contest is different and can go a number of ways, they tend to build momentum over time. When people are online they’re lazy – you’ve got generally under a minute to get their attention so make the most of it. With a larger audience you’ve got more people to funnel to a blog post or a Facebook page but for newer sites you’ll need to cast your contest net wider.

snowball on a hillGive Yourself A Lead But Not Too Long

Travelers tend to neglect the places that are close to home partially because of the mentality that they’re so close, “I’ll get their eventually.” Well, we all know how that goes and a blog contest is the same way. Give people 6 weeks to enter and chances are you won’t get much more participation than a contest with a 1 week entry deadline.

People are consistently dumping emails, calendar tasks, and interesting articles into “to do” lists which are the digital equivalent of black holes. Never to be seen or heard of again your contest announcement should get people to enter on first read; because it will be gone by the time they get back around to it (if they ever do). That’s also where a simple entry comes in – your readers will be more inclined to do something that takes 3 seconds to understand and even less time to do.

I’ve got a few more solid pieces of advice for running a successful contest on your travel blog but do feel free to ask any questions you might have in the comments below.

[photos by: FrozenCapybara (question mark), Jer Kunz (simple math), redjar (snowball)]


Dave Lee’s Travel Blog Success program, which I reviewed last year, has been updated and recently relaunched. Travel Blog Success is designed to help travel bloggers improve their sites on many fronts from monetizing to building an audience. Here’s a look inside the improved program that has its host of success stories to back it up the second time around.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Dave Lee, who writes Go Backpacking and Medellin Living, several times over the past few years. He’s been blogging for the past 4 years with 3 years of traveling under his belt; and is someone passionate enough about both to take an ambitious project like Travel Blog Success and make it work. There are two tiers of membership to Travel Blog Success, with Basic membership giving you access to 27 written lessons and Premium including 12 expert audio interviews (one of them with yours truly) and more.

travel blog success

(Travel Blog Success) Stories

Since launching last February, Travel Blog Success has helped build and benefit many popular travel blogs including Johnny Vagabond, yTravelBlog, and LandLopers. You can read theirs and other testimonials on the Travel Blog Success homepage which really highlight the main benefit of the program – the community. The private forums are filled with other travel bloggers with various backgrounds and strengths, who are serious enough about improving their sites to invest the $99 (for Basic) or $129 (for Premium) memberships.

Included in the Premium membership are also coaching calls from Dave, which can give you an extraordinary head start and advantage to others working through blogging alone. As I mentioned last time, while you can learn everything in Travel Blog Success on your own, ideas build upon other ideas. Travel Blog Success can help you learn the nuts and bolts so you can focus on the more creative end of travel blogging.

travel blog success dave leeMoney Back Guarantee

Travel Blog Success also comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied. In my opinion, the Premium membership fee of $129 (the extra $30 is worth the coaching calls and more) is a reasonable investment for those looking to make more of their travel blog. Travel Blog Success has a slant on making your travel blog work for you with advertising money and press trips, though this second incarnation looks to beef up the site’s content creation and marketing lessons.

Somewhere along the line if you want to make your travel blog a business, you’ll have to invest in it and regularly. Travel Blog Success is certainly a good place to put your money if that’s the intention; with the added incentive that’s it’s only a one-time fee.


Earlier this year, I asked you what your most pressing travel blogging questions were. The first was brought up by David Robert Hogg – is attending the Travel Blog Exchange Conference worth it?

balancing act

So, Is TBEX Worth It?

That’s a question that depends on how you evaluate the worth of such conferences. To be honest, you’re unlikely to feel like the (roughly) $50-80 is worth the expense – plus the added travel costs – if you’re expecting to be enlightened by conference talks on social media and SEO. As conferences tend to go, some talks are better or simply more relevant than others; along with an higher-than-normal level of disorganization. Talks running late and a lack of wi-fi certainly left a bad taste in many participants’ mouth, but where hardly anyone held much complaint was where the real benefit of TBEX lies.

bar at nightNetworking, Networking, (Drinking), Networking

The days leading up to TBEX and before, after, and in between the talks of the conference is where you’re going to make more personal connections in the travel blogosphere than you could by being online for months. Not to mention that TBEX is one of the most lighthearted and fun conferences you’ll come across – travel or otherwise.

You can read more about TBEX on my review of the conference from last year. I hope this helps answer your question David – those of you who attended TBEX last year, what were your thoughts? Did you feel the conference was worth it? Sound off in the comments below.

[photo by: Digitalnative (balancing act)]


There are several ways to reduce your travel blog’s loading time; many of which will have a measurable (if not human-noticeable) impact on how fast a given page on your site loads. How fast your pages load completely is not only important for getting indexed in search engines like Google, but more importantly a significant factor in how many people stick around your travel blog when it first loads.


A Simple Explanation Of Redirects

Whenever you go to a specific URL, your browser begins to read the HTML behind it. That code tells your browser what exactly it should be doing and a line of code or two can cause your browser to jump from one page to another. There are many different types of redirect and each of them reducing loading time to varying degrees.

Redirects however, don’t have to be to separate pages.

Broken links or those that are malformed slightly can cause your browser to have to “auto-correct” the minor mistakes, denting your loading times ever so slightly. Trailing slashes also have an impact on how your pages are indexed by search engines, making consistency a appreciable factor in how well your travel blog is mapped by Google and others.

Finding The Culprits

Using the W3C Link Checker, you can find broken external and interlinks within your site that might be anchoring your pages to a slightly slower crawl. On top of that the free W3C Link Checker can help you find broken connections throughout your travel blog that readers might be getting stuck (and giving up) on.

Getting To Those Trailing Links

Notice at the end of your travel blog’s URL that there is a trailing slash, like http://foxnomad.com/ for example. When you add links (homepage and to individual posts) to your header, footer, or other static parts of your travel blog without one, it forces your browser to make a slight adjustment. W3C Link Check will alert you to any links that could potentially cause this problem.

There are long discussions online and many more details that about adding or removing slashes; consider this a basic start to a much larger topic.

Granted, you’ll likely only find a single link or two if any that are malformed in this way, but correcting them does nothing but improve your site’s overall efficiency.

[photos by: Edvill (Slash)]

{ 1 comment }

thinking manFrom monetizing to Godfather Google, there seem to be a multitude of travel blog queries and gray areas people want to clear up in regard to their blogs. Across Twitter and Facebook there are some thoughtful and detailed concerns being brought up and I’d like to tackle some of your most pressing questions in a series of upcoming posts.

  • Specifically, what is your burning question about your travel blog or travel blogging in general?

Over the next few weeks I’ll take your questions and give you my best answer and opinions – while inviting you to do the same. I look forward to hearing what’s on your mind from the nuts and bolts of a blog to less tangible things like article content and photography.

[photo by: sobriquet.net (thinking man)]


The search engine Google is fairly adept at indexing most travel blogs whether they are search-engine optimized (SEO) or not. You can however help the Google bot along so that it discovers new content you post quickly, which is especially important when publishing articles that are time-sensitive.

ticking clock

Having A Clear Code Road

Much of Google’s indexing is based on link-jumping, that is to say that the Google bot follows the path of links on your site to new content. The higher the Pagerank of a given site, the more value Google places on following links from it. If your new posts appear on your homepage, which likely will have some Pagerank after a few months, that’s a vote of confidence.

  • Having A Ranked Blog Or Category Page Can Help – Now, let’s say your new posts pop up on a ranked “blog” page as well, for example, http://yoursite.com/blog, then you’ve got two votes which can result in speedier indexing.

steel linksThe theme you’re running is also very important to how quickly your site is indexed. Google favors Blogspot users of course, but if you’re self-hosted on WordPress, look for themes that were designed with SEO in mind (e.g. Thesis). Your travel blog may look pretty to humans, but it’s the code that Google cares about.

Links are the road map to your travel blog and what Google uses to navigate your site. Sometimes though you might want to give Google a nudge, especially if it seems to be particularly neglecting your newer posts.

  • Google XML Sitemaps – One of 13 recommended WordPress plugins, it, and those like it can create easily search-engine digestible sitemaps and automatically submit them to Google. Sitemaps can also be manually generated and submitted using this plugin, which can help speed up the indexing process and notify Google of a new post.

Finally, to find out if Google has already indexed a particular page on your site, just Google your site in this format: “site:yoursite.com” or “site:yoursite.com/blog”.

google lego logoHave Links Ready

Although increasing Pagerank, site age, and good code will help improve how fast your travel blog is indexed over time, you can give particular help to time-sensitive posts by pre-linking to them. Incoming external links (i.e. links from other websites) to a particular post cue Google to how quickly it should index a given post.

  • Ask Blogging Buddies – Get in touch with other travel bloggers you have a rapport with and see if they might be interested in linking to that particular post of yours. Don’t forget to return the favor!
  • Link Out – When your posts seem to be a bit stale or slow in Google’s eyes, you might need to link out to external sites more. Only linking inward can ding your reputation with the giant search engine.
  • Watch The Keywords – Be sure that you’re not stuffing your posts (or image alt tags) with an over-abundant amount of keywords.
  • Increase Crawl RateGoogle’s Webmaster Tools is extremely versatile and gives you a number of Google-centric options, including increasing the frequency at which your site is crawled.

Using the Google Webmaster Tools, you can also create a “www” preference for your links. When possible, it’s good practice to be consistent when interlinking and to let Google know if you’re a with-www linker (e.g. http://www.yoursite.com) or not (e.g. http://yoursite.com).

No Guarantee, Only Guidance

Unfortunately, you can only build the path for Google but not take them down the road. Crawl time and indexing are based primarily on automated algorithms and while it helps to provide a good map, ultimately it’s up to Google as to when they’ll decide to take a look. Try posting articles that are time-sensitive (around holidays for example) a few hours earlier than you might otherwise, stay within Google’s guidelines, and occasionally check your site for crawl errors to get under the clock.

[photos by: delphaber (ticking clock), gsbrown99 (steel links), rustybrick (Google Lego logo)]


Compared with your 2010 travel blogging goals, this year your focus seems to be balancing work, travel, and play. Many of you were able to accomplish your goals to varying degrees and often in unforeseen ways.

new year resolution coaster

A Look Back At Your 2010 Accomplishments

  • Andrea (Inspiring Travellers): Because we’re travelers/expats who have been stuck in one place for too long, this year was about creating the blog and getting some solid posts under our belts ahead of our next round of long-term travel. It’s difficult to fix bugs and work out kinks while you’re traveling full-time – we thought best to work those out ahead of time. I think we probably exceeded our expectations this year.
  • Heather Cowper (My Blogging Journey): I did hope that I would have achieved more in monetizing my blog and although I’ve made some good steps in that direction, I still have some way to go before my blog can provide any meaningful financial return for all the hours I put in.
  • Nora (The Professional Hobo): My goal for 2010 was to reduce my working hours without reducing my income accordingly. It worked! I now work between 14-28 hours per week on average, and my income has actually gone up!

Achieving My Personal Goals In Unexpected Ways

Taking a look back on what I set out to accomplish I learned that less can be more and though a bit late, came through on a special goal I had set my sights on.

man looking through binoculars
  • Continue my blogging schedule (a good failure) – Although I had thought about maintaining my foXnoMad schedule of 5 posts a week, when I asked, most of you wanted less. This change significantly boosted my subscriber numbers and the new schedule gave me more time to edit and expand upon my ideas. As for my other sites, including this one, the once per week for Travel Blog Advice and the Tech Guide For Travel, and once a month for How To Travel With Pets has been mostly consistent. Despite this, I’m still looking to rearrange the schedule so I have some weeks with a reduced writing load.
  • the ultimate tech guide for travelersWrite another eBook – I wanted to create another eBook, but this time one that was alive and more than the sum of its pages. The Ultimate Tech Guide For Travelers not only comes with 6 months of free personal tech support from yours truly, but a year of free updates that will make it worth much more than the price. Comment on this post before January 5th, 2011 and I’ll give you 35% off the price to see for yourself.
  • The usual suspects – As I mentioned last year, I’m very superstitious about announcing my specific metric goals but happy to say all of them were met much earlier in the year than I expected, forcing me to set much higher goals over the summer.

Goals Forward And Back

As important as setting goals is, looking back and evaluating the ones you’ve set previously is equally as valuable. It not only helps you gauge where to set your sights on for the future, but can give you a sense of accomplishment in a medium where it can be hard to find.

[photos by: BaazarBizarreSF (New Year’s resolution coaster), CarbonNYC (man looking through binoculars)]


The end of the year has a way of slowing things down for many travel blogs, not to mention the travel bloggers behind them. With all of the holidays, New Year, and distractions that follow, you might be wondering if it’s worth posting anything to your travel blog during the last few weeks of the year. The keys to figuring out whether or not to take a break require determining what you’re trying to accomplish and what value you’ll save with the time off.

rubber ducky with glasses

Putting Worth In A Post

When trying to decide whether a posting is “worth it” you should define how you view that worth. For most, it’s a matter of traffic, so not posting is thought to maximize the publication of a new article when your readers are likely to be online. Useful posts tend to have a good shelf life though and exactly when they’re posted isn’t as important as the content itself. Whether or not to hold off on hitting publish depends on your readers more than anything.

feet on work deskWhere Is Your Primary Audience?

Using Alexa, you can get a rough idea of which countries your travel blog is most popular in. Combined with Google Analytics, you can gather information about trends around holidays in those particular places.

For example, American audiences tend to be very active right before (but not on) major holidays and Swedes celebrate Christmas on the 24th. Those small details about your specific audience can help you time your posts just when people are looking to read (or waste time at work as it were) without leaving them a cluttered inbox of RSS feed after an offline break.

Don’t Post For Posting’s Sake

While the holidays do have special peak moments for many travel blogs; don’t simply post something just for the sake of having new content up. If you’re really struggling to come up with something (holiday-related material works well) perhaps you can direct your readers to something older you’ve written. That gives new life to your older posts that are still a good read rather than giving a wide-eyed audience lackluster content.

Have Posts Reflect Your Moods

Around the end of the year (or whenever holiday time happens to be for you), things can get personally hectic – having you look for a bit of light entertainment for a breath of fresh air. A good segment of your audience is likely to be feeling the same way and by easing up for a bit, you might be doing them and yourself a favor.

[photos by: Jessica Bee (rubber ducky with glasses), Peter Baer (feet on work desk)]


doll thinkingLast year about this time I asked you – what are your travel blog goals for 2010 – and many of you responded with aims at monetization, maintaining a blog around hectic travels, and I even chimed in with a few of my own. Now that a full year as gone by, before we start looking at 2011, I’d like to find out how far you’ve come.

  • Whether you replied to the original post or not, tell us, did you accomplish your travel blogging goals for 2011?

Let me know how things went across the board if you were successful, fell short in a few places, or had some unexpected accomplishments. I’ll round up your responses as well as my own in an upcoming post before looking at the year ahead.

[photo by: betsyjean79 (doll thinking)]