Behind the scenes of Two Wandering Soles, I (Katie) do most of the writing, and Ben does most of the nitty-gritty work: SEO, website optimization, and all that jazz…
Tomorrow, Ben is going to delve into the nerdy (but SUPER IMPORTANT!) side of SEO, but for today, I’m your teacher!
My background: I have loved writing for as long as I can remember. I have a degree in journalism, so I know the craft well. Or so I thought…
But as it turns out, writing for a blog is much, much different than any type of writing I learned in university.
I discovered that you can be the best writer in the world, but if you are not writing in a certain format, you will NOT rank in Google searches. As hard as you try, your audience will not grow.
I spent many months wondering why my articles were not ranking, even though I thought I was a good writer. I had no clue what I was doing wrong. I was frustrated and thought about quitting.
But finally, I figured out what my problem was.
Learn from my mistake… I’m going to share exactly what NOT to do when writing blog posts. Plus, I’m going to share a formula you can steal and use to create blog posts that rank in Google.
What NOT to write…
When we first started blogging, I wrote about whatever came to mind. I told stories; shared opinions and frustrations along our travels. I was proud of my writing. I created vivid descriptions of the places we visited, and shared the emotional ups and downs of our travels.
The words came easily, as I was simply sharing a part of myself with the world.
But it turns out the “world” I was sharing to was just my mom. And a handful of family and friends who basically just wanted to keep tabs on where in the world we were.
I would always get compliments from these “readers” saying how good my writing was, and how they felt like they were right there with us on our travels. It made me feel good, until one day I came to a disturbing epiphany:
These people aren’t my audience. (If you haven’t opened yesterday’s email, definitely do so because we go over how to find your audience.)
These so-called “readers” weren’t using our stories to plan their own trips. They weren’t going to purchase the backpack we recommended or book hotels through our affiliate links. I appreciated their support (and still do!), but I needed to reach more people. MY people.
Here is the super simple piece of advice that that shifted the way I write for Two Wandering Soles:
Write in a way that solves a problem.
It doesn’t need to be anything earth-shattering, like solving the problem of gun violence in America or of climate change.
Think smaller. Think about the problems your audience has.
Here’s what I mean:
I don’t know what to do when I travel to New York City.
I don’t know what to pack when traveling with children.
I don’t know what to expect when hiking to Everest Base Camp.
I don’t know how much traveling to New Zealand costs.
These gaps in knowledge are “problems” that you can answer. You can educate people by sharing your expertise.
Writing about the struggles of getting my washing machine to work when I moved to Korea, was in no way solving anyone’s problem. It might have been entertaining for my mom and 3 of my friends to read. But only because they know me. They care about me and want to know about my day-to-day life.
And when you build an audience that cares about you and feels like they know you, you can write whatever you want, and your loyal audience will read.
But when you’re starting out and your main focus is to BUILD an audience, you need to write differently.
What about “Going viral”?
This is a strategy that used to be quite popular. And we tried it for a while. The goal was to write something so catchy that people would feel the need to click on it, and thus, it would explode on social media, sending thousands of people to your site.
“Going viral” is much harder than it used to be. Certainly not impossible, but social media is so saturated today that even if you write a killer piece, it might just never get the buzz it deserves.
We had a couple articles “go viral”, but we found that the traffic stopped after a couple weeks when it was no longer trending on social media. We decided this strategy wasn’t worthwhile for us, because it just gave us a spike in traffic, rather than the long-term traffic that you can get through writing to solve someone’s problem.
Types of Articles Google Likes
These are a few types of articles that perform really well in Google:
This could be a step-by-step article that helps a reader figure out how to do something.
Ultimate Guide Articles
Organize an article around all the questions a reader might have on a topic.
To be honest, these articles are the hardest for us to write, but if done correctly, they can be super helpful to your readers and bring in a ton of traffic:
Make some sort of list. Putting a number in the title can help, as can a descriptive word like “cheap” or “fun”!
Here are some examples:
Thing to do in _______: “32 Free (and cheap!) Things to do in Prague”
Top Places to _______: “10 Best Countries to Teach English Overseas”
Best of _______: “16 Must Try Korean Foods”
Things you should know about ________: “4 Things to know Before Visiting Dubrovnik” / “16 Things Nobody tells you about being a Travel Blogger”
List of ______: “29 Digital Nomad Jobs”
Reasons why you should (not) _______: “8 Reasons Why You Should Housesit”
Packing List: “Long Term Travel Packing List”
Pro Tip: Putting a number in the title is great, but DON’T put the number in the URL, as you might add to your article in the future or take away tips. For instance, we have an article called “32 Cheap Things to do in Prague”, but the URL is https://www.twowanderingsoles.com/blog/fun-and-cheap-things-to-do-in-prague
These are the types of articles you should focus on writing when you’re first starting out.
Write these down. Bookmark this page. Screenshot this text. Memorize them. These are the types of articles that you will want to write when you are first beginning your blogging journey. This will be your bread and butter for gaining traffic.
And you can make just about any article fit into this mold.
How to make this work for you…
Here’s an example of what this looks like in the simplest form.
Just a month after starting our blog, I wrote a long and descriptive piece about my time in Quito, Ecuador, and titled it something like “Capital City with a Colonial Heart”. If you were to read it, you’d feel like you were in Quito with me.
My writing may have been good, but there were several problems with this article:
1) My title isn’t something anyone would search for, and it didn’t explain what the article was about. (It didn’t even mention Quito!)
Solution: Change it to something that my reader will search for AND tell them what they’ll get when they read it. Avoid super creative titles that don’t include main keywords.
“Best Things to do in Quito, Ecuador”
“Quito, Ecuador: Ultimate City Guide”
“3 Days in Quito: Perfect Itinerary for Ecuador’s Capital City”
2) I wasn’t helping my reader solve their problem.
My reader’s problem is they don’t know how to plan a trip to Quito. And this article I wrote wasn’t helping them at all. I just told my story.
Google would therefore determine this article was not helpful, and it wouldn’t rank. And guess what? NOBODY would discover it. Even if the writing was good.
Solution: I should have thought about all the questions my reader would have on this topic:
What should I do in Quito?
Where should I stay in Quito?
What should I pack for Quito?
Where should I eat in Quito?
Is Quito safe?
How much does Quito cost?
As I answer these questions, I will give my article structure. And Google will see that this is a helpful article for anyone planning a trip to Quito. It doesn’t matter if this person knows me or not – they will like this article because I am SOLVING THEIR PROBLEM by helping them plan their trip.
I can certainly weave my own stories and experiences throughout the article (and I should, so it stands out from the rest of the search results!), but my ultimate goal should be to solve my readers’ problems.
Basic Anatomy of a Successful Article
This is the basic outline you should use when crafting an article. In our full course, we’re going to get more detailed and share even more components you need to be familiar with to make your article rank in Google search results.
But as you’re starting out, this should be a good outline to follow:
a) Specific Title:
Make sure it is something that your reader would search and it tells them what they will get out of reading your article.
Explain your connection with the “problem”. Why are you someone they should listen to? For instance:
“While planning a 3-day trip to Quito, I did tons of research on Ecuador’s capital city and figured out the best things to do, where to eat and the safest neighborhood to stay. I’m sharing everything I learned, as well as my personal experiences so you can plan a trip to Quito filled with culture, good food and adventure effortlessly.”
c) Body of the article:
Now, use the questions your reader has to determine how you will lay out your article. You can use these as headers to format your article. Or if you are doing a list article, like 15 Things to do in Quito, you can lay it out so each suggestion is it’s own section.
This is where you can direct your reader to other related content on your website that might be helpful to them. For instance, if someone is reading my article on Quito, it’s likely that a South America packing list would be helpful. You can also encourage them to comment below if they have more questions.
How long should my article be?
Long enough to answer all the questions your reader could have on the topic you’re writing about!
Remember in our How to Start a Blog article, we showed you that the optimal word count for ranking in Google search is 1,700 words? Google LOVES super helpful content. If you just skim the surface and write 500 words on a topic, don’t be surprised if nobody ever reads it.
We’ve already told you that being a successful blogger is hard work, so you should already be on board with the whole writing long-form content thing.
Put yourself in the shoes of your reader and think about things that they might type into Google.
Write anything that comes to mind.
Now, circle the things in this list that YOU have experience with and can write about. Make sure you have at least 3.
It is at this intersection of what your reader wants to know and what you can teach that you will start to grow a following.
Now, for each of the 3 topics, make an outline of how you’d format the article by following the basic formula above.
Takeaway from today’s lesson:
If there are more “personal” type articles that you just want to write, by all means GO FOR IT. Sometimes it’s therapeutic. And having these articles on your website will help people connect with you as a person.
But here’s the important thing you need to know:
People will NOT find you through these articles. (99 times out of 100)
They will discover you when they Google “what to pack for a cruise”. And they will fall in love with your personality and your style of writing (which we talked about in yesterday’s lesson). Then, they will explore your page and get to know you more through your personal posts.
When you are trying to grow your traffic, follow this rule:
For every 10 articles, aim for only 1 to be a “fluffy” personal piece.
And look at each article you write with a critical eye: Does this solve my reader’s problem?
What did you think of today’s lesson?
What did you learn today? Do you still have questions or need clarification? Hit “reply” to today’s email and we’ll do our best to help you out!
Tomorrow’s Lesson: SEO Basics
Today, we actually learned a bit about SEO without really talking about it. And this is something you’re really going to have to delve into if you want to be a successful blogger.
SEO = Search Engine Optimization (aka this basically means you are writing an article that is optimized for Google to say “Hey, this is helpful, I should put it on page #1′.” — yay!)
Tomorrow, we’ll go a bit deeper, so make sure you have today’s assignment finished because we’ll be using it for tomorrow’s lesson.
Things you should know by now from this course:
- Know WHO your audience is, and know how to write for them (Day 1).
- Understand the structure of articles Google likes (Day 2).