Best Practices without an Advanced Degree in SEO

By Martha Bakerjian

Most people arrive at a page on a web site through search (primarily Google) so having good SEO is essential. According to an article Kim posted on Facebook, about 60% of searches are done on mobile devices (and that will probably increase) and 35% are voice searches, usually asking a question. The articles that come up in those kinds of search have the key words in the first or second sentence as well as the meta description.

So one way to look at SEO is to think about what questions people might ask that would get them to your itinerary. For example if I have an itinerary about where to find the best gelato in Rome, a question someone might ask is, “where’s the best gelato in Rome?” So I need to have best gelato and Rome in my opening sentence and meta description as well as in the title and SEO (meta) title.  Think about the words or phrases you use when you’re searching on Google.

Here’s a good example of a strong opening sentence: “This Côte d’Azur road trip explores arguably the most scenic and exotic parts of France’s coast which lie between Nice and Italy.”

Another change is that Google used to always pull the opening paragraph of an article if there was no meta description, but that’s not always the case now. So it’s important to optimize both.

If you’d like me to check the SEO on any of your itineraries, please email me (Martha) at [email protected]

Good SEO Practices for Itineraries:

IMPORTANT REMINDER: Don’t change the slug (url) once your itinerary has been published even though Yoast suggests it!

* Before starting to write, ask your RAE for help in identifying most-searched topics to your destination.

* Identify your key words or phrases (usually 2-5 words). These are words you will actually use in your title, SEO title, meta description, and within the itinerary itself, especially in the first sentence. So ask yourself, what is the specific thrust of your itinerary? Phrases like travel itinerary or Bindu Trips are not key words. Although they can be used in your meta data, it’s unlikely that you will use those phrases in your title or in the opening sentence of your itinerary. Choose words that tell the reader (and Google) specifically what your itinerary covers.

* Include the neighborhood or city name. In most cases it’s good to also include the state or country (except for obvious places like New York). Think of how someone who has never been to your state or country might search. They might not know that Boston is in New England, Seattle is in Washington, or that Dordogne is in France. Including as many place identifiers is a good idea. Don’t use place nicknames that locals use that probably aren’t universally known. If your place name has periods (like St. Louis) you can write it either with or without the periods.

* Key words or phrases and place names should be in title, SEO title, meta description, and opening sentences. Adding them in the subtitle and at least on H3 heading is also a good idea.

* SEO titles and meta descriptions (the “snippet” on Yoast) are not examples of your best writing. Their purpose is to get readers to your itinerary, so it’s important to use words readers will search for and leave out overly descriptive words.  They should highlight the main thrust of your whole itinerary, not just one part of it.

* SEO titles can now be up to 70 characters long. If you’re using Yoast, write until the bar turns green, then add | Bindu Trips.

IMPORTANT: Add | Bindu Trips to the end of your SEO title. It should stay within the green so if it goes into the red, shorten your meta title a bit.

* Recommended meta description length is 110 – 120 characters for mobile (but can be much longer for desktop). It should not be under 100 characters. Since we’re writing for both devices, keeping it around 120 characters is probably best – 120 is when the Yoast bar turns green. While Yoast is great for helping determine your meta description length, remember that it’s quantitative (it’s just counting characters), not qualitative.

* Add words like ‘best’ or ‘top’ and phrases like ‘top places to go’, ‘points of interest’, ‘activities’, or ‘best things to see and do’ (since these are common search phrases for travel articles). Also, words like ‘travel’, ‘tips’ and ‘itinerary’ are good. Use verbs and action words (like ‘visit’ or ‘explore’) in subtitles and meta descriptions. Google likes numbers in titles, like 5 things to do (the number, not the word, without a hyphen so use 2 day not 2-day itinerary). To get ideas, search for your topic (like Rome gelato) in Google, look at words used in SEO of the top things that come up, and scroll to the bottom of the page to see other suggestions.

* Since you have a limited number of characters, make the most of the words you use. Take out the extra words that people aren’t likely to use in search and avoid using superfluous words that don’t add anything to search.

* It is not absolutely necessary to have the key word at the start of the SEO title (if it would sound awkward) but it should be as near the beginning as possible. The same is true of the meta description.

* ADDED IN MARCH: Consider adding an external link to your itinerary. An easy way to do this is if you have something you would put in a POI but it would only be a couple of sentences, just add an external link instead. (this can be helpful with Google placement)

* ADDED MARCH 12: Don’t repeat a key word or your city/place name too many times. If you’re adding more itineraries at the bottom, it’s a good idea to not use the exact itinerary title but change the wording a little. Google doesn’t like too many internal links on one page (and doesn’t like all the links to have the same name as the page they’re linking to) and since you probably already have many POIs on the page, it’s probably best to limit additional itineraries in your list to 3 or 4.  Don’t include your city/place name in the heading and each itinerary name. Example: If you say “more Boston itineraries”, take out the word Boston from itinerary names (since you’ve already said they’re Boston itineraries) like Explore the North End Neighborhood, Family Itinerary, Spend a Day on Beacon Hill.

Tip: I often do my meta data before I finish or even start an article because it helps me focus on what the article should cover.

Key Word Search (ADDED IN MARCH)

See “How to Find the Perfect Key Word” in Yoast. To access the doc from any page you’re editing, click on the ? next to Focus Keyword, then click the link for “Learn More About the Focus Keyword”.

Or go directly to Yoast Suggests

Auto-populating choices:

Other popular searches appear at the bottom of page one:

Itinerary Examples:

itinerary title: Siena in a Day
subtitle: Visit one of Tuscany’s top hill towns
opening sentence: Siena is one of Tuscany’s most popular hill towns and also its biggest, although it’s still possible to see the top sights in one day.
meta (SEO) title: Siena in a Day: What to See and Do in the Tuscany Hill Town | Bindu Trips
meta description: Explore the Tuscany hill town of Siena with this one day self-guided Italy travel itinerary of best things to see and do and top points of interest.

itinerary title: Puglia: Alberobello and the Trulli in 48 Hours
subtitle: See unique stone houses in Puglia’s Itria Valley
opening sentences: Trulli, unique stone houses with conical roofs, are one of the sights most associated with the Puglia region. The Itria Valley, especially in and around the town of Alberobello, has the largest concentration of trulli.
meta title: Alberobello and Trulli in 48 Hours: Puglia Italy Travel Itinerary | Bindu Trips
meta description: Visit Alberobello to see trulli, unique stone houses in Puglia, with this 48 hour Italy travel itinerary of top places to go in 2 days and trulli lodging.

Useful Links for a Deeper Dive

T/K … (Ask Kim for a list of links, as we don’t want to overwhelm you at the start.)


Watch this Yoast video.

See Also:

Author Documentation
Facebook Sharing
Facebook & Twitter: Prepping Posts
Great Writing
Itinerary Ideas (T/K)
Other Marketing

Comments, Tips & Hints