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How to Grow Your Hiking Blog Audience through Keyword Optimization in 2018

February 16, 2018

As a hiker, you face a lot of challenges on trips. Steep slopes, chilling water, sudden temperature changes, dirt, insects, – discomfort is at every turn. All of that lets you gain priceless experience that you can further share on your blog. Not only will you help rookies that way, but will also make up for your pains after monetizing it.

However, if the only readers you have are your parents and a few college friends, that much-anticipated moment of monetization will never come. It’s possible only with a large blog audience. And a surefire way to grow it is through keyword optimization.

There are probably zillion articles on keyword research strategies out there, but the problem is a lot of them don’t work anymore. A striking example is word-for-word keyword stuffing. That’s because Google never stands still. Their team is constantly trying to improve the search experience, thus changing the game of content optimization.

Learn what keyword research strategies can help you create Google-friendly content in 2018.

1. Figure out how to help your readership.

Results-driven keyword research starts with problem solutions. Your readers don’t care about affiliate products you’re desperately trying to sell to pay for your next trip. What they need is your practical advice on how to make their outdoor activities less stressful.

First, brainstorm problems people face in the wild and use them as your primary keywords. A how-to pattern is ideal in this case:

● how to hike on budget;
● how to dispose of waste while backpacking;
● how to treat camping injuries.

When you run out of ideas, visit Quora, forums, and social media communities. You’ll find a lot of hikers’ concerns there, that’s for sure. If you see the same question in many threads, the chances are no one has given a helpful answer yet. Take it as an opportunity to be the first.

Google also lifts the veil on keywords that users search for. The engine has two features for this – Autocomplete at the top and Related Searches at the bottom.

Autocomplete. With this feature, Google shows different variations of the phrase you are typing.

Related Searches. In this block, you can see more suggestions related to your target keyword.

Besides hikers’ problems, you can brainstorm your affiliate product features. Let’s take this hiking daypack as an example.

Here are its main features and purposes they serve, which you can turn into keywords.

● lightweight – how to pack light for long hikes;
● water-resistant – how to stay dry while hiking in the rain;
● tear-resistant – how to prevent scratches while hiking.

2. Make generic product names more specific.

Some hikers already know how your affiliate products can help and use their exact names in search. They usually expect to find an overview of similar items compared by features, prices, customer feedback, etc. If you write blog posts of this type, feel free to optimize them for product names.

As competition is too high for generic product names, focus on more specific terms. They are called long-tail keywords and get around 40-80 searches per month. Don’t let such a low search volume confuse you. When people look for the same content, they use different wording. And today, Google is smart enough to understand and equate synonyms. Check it out yourself. For a query “hiking equipment,” the engine returns results optimized for “hiking gear.”

The bottom line is you can optimize your post for one long-tail keyword, and it will rank for hundreds.

When you choose long-tail keywords, set a filter of up to 80 monthly searches, as shown below. For example, a generic phrase “hiking backpack” can have the following specific variations:

● hiking backpack with a laptop compartment;
● metal frame hiking backpack;
● best hiking backpack for photographers.

3. Use generic terms that are easy to compete for.

Being a hiker, you are most likely adventurous enough to take brave actions. One of such actions in SEO is the use of generic phrases that have a lot of monthly searches and naturally cut-throat competition. If you play it smart, you can drive traffic with them too. Use these metrics to make the right keyword choice.

Keyword Difficulty

This metric shows how difficult it is to reach the top 10 for a specific keyword. Obviously, you won’t outrank popular hiking blogs using terms with a sky-high difficulty score. Pick keywords that are relatively easy to rank for.

For example, “camping chairs” gets around 14K searches per month, but its difficulty score is only 8. It’s very low, so you should give this keyword a try.

Keyword Clickability

Next, check how many clicks your target keyword can generate. Not all searches become clicks in the end. That’s because users can see answers to some queries right on the results page. There’s no point in clicking on any result. It happens thanks to Google’s SERP features like Knowledge Graph.

Let’s say you want to find out the Grand Canyon depth. Here’s what you’ll see on the results page for such a query.

It’s pointless to scroll down and click on organic results. You can see the Grand Canyon depth at the very top. That’s why 82% of searches remain unclickable for this query.

Before you choose a promising keyword, double-check Google doesn’t give an instant answer for it. Type it into the search bar and see how the results page looks.

Keyword Seasonality

Some blog topics are in demand only during a specific period. As you can see, the interest for winter hikes starts growing in October and reaches its peak during Christmas holidays. With the coming of spring, the interest drops to a minimum and doesn’t increase until the next October.

High season is the only period when you’ll get a lot of visits to your blog. For the rest of the time, your traffic will be miserable. Always check your target keyword seasonality in Google Trends before writing an article around it.

4. Optimize your content for competitors’ keywords.

Top hiking bloggers already know all the niche goldmines and efficiently use them in their keyword strategies. The good news is there are SERP tools revealing this insider information. With their help, you can see the top 10 posts ranking for your target keyword, their traffic, and keywords that generate it. Choose phrases that are easy to rank for and optimize your content for them. It will give you an opportunity to drive competitors’ traffic to your blog.

5. Find keywords that none of your competitors use.

To become recognizable in your niche, you can’t be a clone of the top hiking bloggers. You must offer readers unique content. That’s an efficient way to keep your blog bookmarked in their browsers. You can find original keyword ideas using Answer The Public.

This free keyword generator shows the data in large, visualized groups. For example, the tool gives over 900 suggestions for the “hiking” keyword:

● 180 questions;
● 136 prepositional phrases;
● 100 comparisons;
● 500 alphabeticals;
● 20 related keywords.

On click, you’ll go to the results page for the chosen keyword. It will show you whether there are blog posts or only questions on forums. In the latter case, you can become the first blogger to write a detailed post on the given topic.

6. Get rid of very similar keywords.

As a result of in-depth research, you will get tons of keyword ideas. I got over 3K long-tail variations for a single search term “camping food.” That’s too much for your blog, even if it’s all about the food for campers.

The thing is a lot of phrases are pretty similar. They only differ in endings, prepositions, word order, and other minor issues Google doesn’t care about anymore. Today, the engine puts more focus on the user intent rather than exact keyword match. Here’s a list of things Google’s ranking algorithm equates.

Word Form: KEEP food cold while camping = KEEPING food cold while camping
Prepositions: how to keep food cold WHILE camping = how to keep food cold FOR camping
Pronouns: how to keep food cold while camping = how to keep YOUR food cold while camping
Synonyms: how to KEEP food cold while camping = how to STORE cold food while camping
Word Order: how to keep food cold CAMPING = CAMPING how to keep food cold
Question Words: HOW to keep food cold while camping = WHAT will keep food cold while camping

If Google treats these keywords equally, you should do the same.

7. Group keywords into categories.

Once you weed out all the similar phrases, start grouping the rest of keywords by categories. They can relate to hikers’ problems, product prices, quality, timing, anything. I got 15 categories for “camping food.” You may find even more for your topic.

Food Type canned food for camping, dry food camping meals, non-perishable camping food
Nutrition Facts gluten-free camping food, low-carb camping food, high-protein camping food
Special Diet vegetarian food for camping, diabetic camping food ideas
Cooking Method camping food just add water, food to grill while camping
Cuisine Indian food for camping, best Japan camping food, Mexican camping food
Quality delicious camping food menu, quick but healthy camping food
Weather camping food for hot weather, food to pack for camping winter
Location food to bring backcountry camping, desert camping food ideas
Type of Meal camping food for breakfast, dinner food to bring camping
Protection bear-proof food containers camping, rodent-proof food storage camping
Problem no heat camping food, camping food no refrigeration, food for camping no fire
Timing long-term camping food, camping food for a week, food for overnight camping
Consumer camping food for large groups, camping food for one person
Equipment portable food warmers camping, camping food gas stove, food barrels for camping
Cost camping food on a budget, cheap food for camping, average camping food cost

Afterword

Your hiking pains can be rewarding if you blog about the lessons learned on trips. Just make sure you take into account all the ins and outs of modern keyword research. Some random phrases won’t bring your blog to the top 10. Also, you’ll need to combine your keyword strategies with link building. Keywords and backlinks are the two major signals Google’s ranking algorithm reads.

P.S.: If you know some other tips on keyword research, feel free to drop a comment below. Your voice matters!

Nick Campbell is a content creator and marketer at Ahrefs with passion for technology, SEO, and copywriting. Work up every idea from chaos to clarity is his motto.

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