Search engine optimisation (SEO) is key to ensuring your website is found online, whether you’re a travel blogger just starting out or a travel marketer tasked with growing your organic traffic. There are plenty of resources out there to help you optimise your site, but many of the best SEO tools come with hefty subscription fees, meaning that they remain frustratingly out of reach for many bloggers and small businesses. However, there are also some fantastic free SEO tools that can help take your search engine marketing to the next level – if you know where to find them, and how to use them.

It’s important to remember that there is no such thing as a silver bullet when it comes to SEO. Each of the tools I’m going to show you works best if you have a clear SEO strategy; used in isolation, none of these tools is going to catapult your site to page one of Google overnight.

In this blog post I’m going to run through five of my favourite free tools, with practical examples of how to use each one in a travel context, whether you’re a blogger, a marketer or an entrepreneur looking to grow your start-up fast.

1. CoSchedule Headline Analyzer

CoSchedule Headline Analyzer tool

What is it?

CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer is a great little tool that rates your headlines out of 100, based on a number of criteria that have been proven to influence clicks and social shares.

The analysis will look at whether your headline contains emotive or ‘powerful’ words, what sort of sentiment it conveys and things like the length and syntax of your headline. The score it produces is based on analysis that CoSchedule carried out on a whole bunch of blog posts, and it can be quite addictive trying to hit a high score.

The tool is completely free to use, but it does ask you for some contact details first.

How will it help me?

Page titles are an important factor in how your website ranks on Google. Your headline is one of the things that tells Google what each web page is about, and a well crafted headline will encourage more people to click through to your page.

The Headline Analyzer is a great tool for polishing your headlines, and squeezing as much value as possible out of the limited real estate you have on Google. For maximum impact you should make sure that your headline contains the principal keyword you want your page to rank for, in a way that sounds natural.

For example, let’s say you’ve written an article about honeymoon destinations in the Caribbean, and you’ve decided that you want to rank for the keyword ‘caribbean honeymoon destinations’. You’ve provisionally given it the title ‘Our favourite Caribbean honeymoon destinations’. Not the most inspiring headline, but it does the job. Then you put it in to the Headline Analyzer, and it comes back with a score of 33. That’s pretty poor, and CoSchedule’s research suggests there’s a good chance your carefully crafted article will sink without a trace.

After a bit of playing around with different ideas, we come up with ’10 of the best Caribbean honeymoon destinations’, which scores 77. Much better!

Using CoSchedule's Headline Analyzer for travel marketing

There are several reasons why this headline scores better. First, it conveys a positive sentiment – these aren’t just any Caribbean honeymoon destinations, they’re the best. The word ‘best’ can elicit a strong emotional impact; if I’m planning my honeymoon, I don’t want to risk choosing the wrong destination. Finally, the headline is a list (’10 of the best…’), proven to be one of the most effective headline formulas for online articles.

CoSchedule’s research has shown that list posts, questions and How to… headlines tend to perform best in terms of clicks and social shares. It’s no coincidence that so many articles online follow one of these three templates.

However, I would always advise that you don’t get too hung up on achieving a perfect score on the Headline Analyzer every time. Using the same three headline formulas all the time can quickly become boring, and risks making your blog seem like clickbait if you overdo it.

It can often be just as effective to use a headline that breaks all of the conventions I’ve just discussed, and you should always remember that ultimately you’re writing for humans, not simply to satisfy an algorithm.

The important thing to remember is the end goal: crafting a headline that provokes an emotional response and draws people in to read your content. It’s also important to make sure your headline doesn’t promise something that the article can’t deliver; if your readers click on ‘How to take incredible travel photographs’ and land on a page filled with blurry iPhone pictures of sunsets, they’re unlikely to stick around long.

2. Google Trends

Google Trends analysis of holiday destination searches in the UK

What is it?

Google Trends is a free tool that gives you an insight into search trends on Google, showing you how often any given search has been carried out over time in a given geographical location.

How will it help me?

Google Trends has a number of uses for travel marketers and bloggers, allowing you to compare different keywords, identify seasonality and identify trends in search behaviour. This information can then feed into your keyword strategy, planning an editorial calendar or even product development.

For example, in the above screenshot, I’ve asked Google Trends to compare three different keywords over the last five years in the UK: ‘spain holidays’, ‘iceland holidays’ and ‘turkey holidays’. There are three different trends we can instantly identify from the resulting graph. Firstly, we can see that there are two clear spikes in searches for holidays to Spain and Turkey every year, one in summer and one in January, which tends to be peak booking season for most travel companies. This tells us that, if we’re selling holidays to Spain, we need to make sure our marketing is focused on these periods of peak demand, and we might want to plan our content calendar accordingly.

The second trend we can see is the decline in searches for holidays to Turkey over the last couple of years. This is perhaps not surprising given Turkey’s recent political turmoil and the war in neighbouring Syria, but sometimes it is useful to see the relationship between real world events and search behaviour laid out clearly in front of us using data. If I was a tour operator specialising in holidays to Turkey, I might look at this data and decide I need to diversify my portfolio. Equally I might decide that I need to use a different angle for my content marketing; perhaps I would decide to create some content highlighting ‘the best beaches in the Mediterranean’ or ‘5 amazing Ancient Greek sites that aren’t in Greece’, as a way of luring people in and reminding them what Turkey has to offer.

The third trend we can see is the contrasting fortunes of Iceland, which has enjoyed steady growth in search traffic over the last few years. The surge in popularity of Iceland as a holiday destination is perhaps not news to anyone in the travel industry in 2018, but Google Trends gives you the opportunity to identify trends early, and to determine whether they signify a steady growth in demand or merely a flash in the pan. Again, this could inform your decisions on product development and content planning, while bloggers could use this tool to spot opportunities to establish themselves as experts on a destination that is about to hit the mainstream.

3. Ubersuggest

Ubersuggest keyword research tool

What is it?

Ubersuggest is a free tool that allows you to generate a list of keywords based on an initial ‘seed’ keyword, which works by aggregating all the suggested searches and related terms provided by Google for your chosen search term.

How will it help me?

The beauty of Ubersuggest is that it allows you to quickly compile a list of related keywords for any given topic, and gives you lots of ideas for long tail keywords that you have more chance of ranking for on Google. To go back to our example of holidays to Spain, while most small brands and bloggers are unlikely to be able to rank on Google for a generic keyword like ‘spain holidays’, you may be able to find more niche terms that are relevant to your brand, such as ‘spain holidays off the beaten track’.

It’s also important to identify multiple keywords for each topic you’re covering because of the way Google has changed over the years. If you stuff your copy full of the same keyword over and over again, Google will penalise you for trying to manipulate its algorithms. Also, your copy will read like a spammy website from 10 years ago. What you should be doing is skilfully weaving several different related keywords into your copy in a natural way. So in paragraph one you might talk about ‘off the beaten track holidays in Spain’, in paragraph two you could refer to ‘lesser known Spanish resorts’, and so on. The key is to make sure your copy is still natural; if your page just reads like a list of keywords thinly disguised as a blog post, you’re doing it wrong.

4. HubSpot blog topic generator

 HubSpot blog topic generator

 

What is it?

This simple tool is a fun way to come up with new ideas for blog posts. Simply enter up to three topics that you’d like to write about, and the Blog Topic Generator will give you five ideas for a new blog post.

How will it help me?

We all hit a creative brick wall sometimes, and it can be hard to get past that blinking cursor and start writing. While the topic generator won’t always give you workable ideas, it’s can be really useful as a way of coming up with a fresh angle on a topic you’ve written about before. Equally, if you’ve got a lot to say about a topic but you’re not sure how to say it, then this tool can help you to come up with a structure for your article.

As an example, I put in the following three topics: ‘luxury hotels’, ‘Icelandic cuisine’ and ‘business class upgrades’. The generator came up with the following ideas:

  • How To Solve The Biggest Problems With Luxury Hotels
  • 20 Myths About Icelandic Cuisine
  • 14 Common Misconceptions About Business Class Upgrades
  • The History Of Luxury Hotels
  • What Will Icelandic Cuisine Be Like In 100 Years?

I’m pretty sure all of these could be turned into interesting articles, although admittedly the last one would be quite niche! You may also notice that these headlines use some of the formulas I talked about earlier when I was discussing CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer, and you can use both tools in combination to really turbo-charge your headlines.

5. Answer The Public

 Answer The Public keyword research tool

 

What is it?

Answer The Public is another free keyword tool, similar to Ubersuggest, which generates keyword lists based on Google’s ‘auto-suggest’ function.

How will it help me?

The best thing about Answer The Public is the way it groups keywords into different categories. For example, when I type in ‘all inclusive holidays’ it gives me a group of search terms using question words such as  ‘what should i pack for an all-inclusive holiday’ and ‘why are all inclusive holidays so popular’. Long tail keywords in the form of questions are particularly useful, and are a great source of new content ideas. You can identify potential problems and pain points for your target market – for example, if you find that a lot of people are searching for ‘is camping in the alps safe’ or ‘can disabled people go on a cruise’ then you might decide that you need to do something to address the concerns of your potential clients.

Making the most of these tools

Hopefully I have introduced you to some useful new tools that will help you with your SEO efforts, and you can see some practical applications for your own business or blog. As I explained at the outset, none of those tools is going to magically transform your website overnight if used in isolation, but they can be pretty powerful when used together as part of a well thought-out SEO strategy.

By using tools like Ubersuggest and Answer The Public to build a list of relevant keywords, brainstorming blog ideas with the help of HubSpot, crafting killer headlines with CoSchedule and calling on insight from Google Trends to push your content out at exactly the right moment, you’ll give yourself a fighting chance of making an impact on Google and on social media. But remember, good writing is the key to knitting everything together and delivering valuable and compelling content.

Do you have any favourite free SEO tools that I haven’t mentioned? Leave me a comment and let me know…