How to Create Cornerstone Content for Your Local Travel Website

Not every piece of content on your travel website will attract the traffic you want. But it’s tough to keep up with the demands of a changing travel market and what your readers want. Plus, there’s something to be said about experimenting with your content and ideas and seeing what works. But you can give yourself some flexibility in your travel website by creating key pieces of cornerstone content.

If you’ve been following along the last few weeks, we’ve discussed:

  • How to Build Your Travel Website from Scratch
  • How to Decide Which Type of Travel Website to Launch (and How it Can Improve Your Quality of Life)
  • How to Come Up With Totally Unique Ideas for Your Local Travel Website

Now it’s time to focus the core of your content around a few pillar or cornerstone pieces of content. It’s the pieces you’re the proudest of that you might show advertisers, develop a social media campaign around or add to your professional portfolio. It doesn’t mean your other pieces aren’t worth promoting or being proud of, but not every piece can be cornerstone content. I also work as a professional freelance writer and some of my work are pieces I like well enough that pay the bills. But only a handful are the ones I send to prospective clients when I’m looking for work.

Some writers find it intuitive to figure out which posts are the cornerstone content for their travel website, but it’s not always clear. The first step in creating cornerstone content is deciding on the topic.

How to Brainstorm Cornerstone Content

If you’re brand new to travel blogging and aren’t sure what type of cornerstone content to create, look to see what your competitors are up to. The point isn’t to copy them but to see what’s popular on their blog and figure out how you can improve upon it and make it even better.

There’s also nothing wrong with creating cornerstone content around topics that you’re wildly passionate about, but it may not always be a subject people are searching for, or that your audience wnats to read. Take a few minutes to check your keywords in Google’s keyword planner to check. But use both long tail and short keywords.

  • Long tail keywords: Atlanta attractions for toddlers
  • Short keywords: Atlanta attractions

If you add keywords that reflect a medium to high volume of searches with low competition, then you’re likely to generate some organic SEO. The “competition” is what advertisers are willing to pay for those keywords in a PPC (pay-per-click) campaign. But it also means other websites are likely targeting those exact keywords to rank organically in Google.

In my experience, this tip doesn’t always fit into family travel blogging that neatly. After all, your best content could be a story about taking your child to Disney who has Sensory Processing Disorder. That may not rank that highly in Google’s keyword planner, but could be the perfect piece for your audience that goes viral. So like any other tip, you need to experiment to see what works and build on what’s working for you.

Focus on SEO

Building cornerstone content is an SEO strategy that helps your organic ranking and keyword density. That’s why I use the techniques in this article to do things like cross-link to my other content, focus on keywords and use Google Analytics.

I’m not going to pretend I’m an SEO expert or even care that much about becoming an expert. Instead, I look for ways to hack the process and make it easier for myself. I rely on little cheats to make sure my SEO is working like doing a quick search for short and long term keywords and using plugins like Yoast. Once you install it into WordPress, it prompts you to fill in a few fields or alerts you to issues in your copy once you’ve written up your post. Using an SEO plugin alone can really give your SEO a big boost without doing much else.

Using Google Analytics to Create Cornerstone Content

Once you’re generating a few hundred (or hopefully thousands) of hits a month to your travel blog, you can use Google Analytics to help with your cornerstone content approach. Look to see which posts and pages are receiving the most traffic and focus on those pieces and topics as cornerstone content.

It’s okay if you’re new to blogging and this step isn’t relevant to you. Save this tip for later and revisit it. Even if you’re not focused on creating cornerstone content for your travel blog, you can use this to create better content on an ongoing basis.

Give Your Posts a Content Upgrade

This is my favorite approach to building cornerstone content and works really well in combination with the Google Analytics step above. Once you’ve identified what type of cornerstone content you’re creating, or decide you want to edit an older popular post, you can give it a content upgrade to make it even better.

This really isn’t that hard to do. You can add videos of the travel attraction you’re reviewing, add some research to the post, include more photos or just add more length to the existing content. Now you have a brand spanking new post that even more people want to read.

I’ve had a few people ask how they can do this with their travel blogging content, especially when it’s geared to their family. Aside from possible videos or more images,  I would also suggest:

  • A comprehensive tip sheet
  • Interview with someone from the attraction (ie: someone at Disney can give tips for sensory processing disorder and managing kids at the theme park)
  • A sign-up sheet to a video series walking your audience through the ins and outs of planning the trip you took. This specific technique is also used by people looking for more sign-ups to an email list.

Make it Action-Packed and Long

It’s a good rule of thumb for just about all of your posts to be action-packed and long. But like anything in blogging, there are some exceptions to this. If you’re a video travel blogger or have a large social media following and you like to post lots of short, pithy content, then you don’t need super long posts.

But if your travel blog is mostly text driven, then the content needs to be lengthy to rank well. I always suggest a minimum of 1,000 words, though I don’t always follow my own advice. Some resources say a bare minimum of 300 words is needed to rank, though you will have a hard time standing out against your cmopetition. Other resources say 2,000 words is the only way to break through the online noise. But in my opinion, many of those 2,000 blog posts they’re discussing are focused towards online marketing content and highly competitive spaces. I’m not convinced my Atlanta travel readers would sit and read through a 2,000-word blog post on the zoo. That’s why I shoot for a nice balance and feel 1,000 words suits the criteria for length while keeping readers interested.

Give Your Cornerstone Content a Boost with Internal Cross-Links

Once you’ve created cornerstone content don’t let it get lost in a vacuum of content on your travel blog. You need to start cross-linking to it in your other posts and pages to give it a traffic boost. I take the opportunity to link to previous content whenever possible.

For example, your travel piece on area hotels could be cross-linked to a piece on camping outside of your city. Give your readers a reason to click through to your other posts to read more, not just to your cornerstone content.

This whole approach to travel blog building felt totally overwhelming when I first started. But once you go through the process a few times with each post you create, it really does become second nature. Just create a checklist for yourself to make sure you’re hitting the steps, and add new ones that are working for you. I certainly don’t corner the market on what to do to create a better travel website, but these steps work for me and are pretty easy to tackle once you get the hang of it.

 

What’s your favorite kind of cornerstone content on your travel blog (or someone else’s?) Let me know by leaving a comment below!

 

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