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Is that just the way it is now?
when you travel by yourself and share very unique personal experience...This suggests the important of a unique approach, and I can't emphasize that enough. If you're writing the same old travel articles everybody else wrote, just with more keywords and different phrasing... or with stock photos that everybody else has seen, that's not going to do it for you. In a way, you've got to understand your audience more than they understand themselves, and have a feeling for creating the kind of content they want to see.
Here's the rub: at some stage over the last couple of years Google decided it did not want to rank any independent destination websites anymore.
That hasn't been my experience. Quite the opposite, at least for our major topics.
There's a lot more competition today, so it makes sense that ranking is going to be harder than it was 10 or 15 years ago. Back in the day, Joe Generalist could have written an article about Outer Widgetonia, and it would have ranked easily simply because there wasn't much online content about Outer Widgetonia. Today, Joe would be competing with many other sites, including comprehensive specialist sites that deserve to rank high for queries about Outer Widgetonia.
Can I ask where you are based - or where your market is based?
I disagree with the argument that websites are 'not allowed' to rank for phrases. Every website that has a base level of links and content will rank for something, even if it is not the particular phrase you are aiming at.
In the old days, a niche destination website could rank very well for the name of that destination, however nowadays, web pages on mega-websites (e.g. wikipedia, TA, articles from major newspapers etc) will nearly always rank above the specialist website.
Perhaps because none of us link to each other anymore, we have successfully shut each other out of the top 10.
Well, Wikipedia are still number one for all of the parallel destinations that I watch (in Google.co.uk) with no exceptions.