When you’re just getting started with your food blog, getting the content strategy right is essential. And then it’s time to figure out how the content will be discovered. Here I’ll share the basics of Food Blog SEO that are important for Google, and other crawlers, to find your recipes.
A Brief History of SEO
I say basics, because SEO is an evolving space. It’s all based on the elusive, closely guarded secret that is the “Google Algorithm” which determines where your page shows up on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
At one time, this was purely based on keywords and authoritative links. If you had all of the right keywords and enough web sites were pointing to your content, then Google scored you well. Those days are long behind us.
It was quite easy to game this system in the early 2000’s by simply stuffing invisible text on your page with every possible keyword variation and working with link farms to scatter your URL across cyberspace.
In the past two decades, the algorithm has become fascinatingly complex and keeps seo specialists around the world with seo marketing companies employed chasing the latest updates. What they do is help define your content strategy, plan your keywords and do ongoing optimization for your site.
If you’re a brand that relies on search engine traffic for revenue, this is the cost of doing business. But if you’re just a part-time blogger, and don’t have the resources to hire a freelance SEO specialist, then how do you get started?
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Your 3 Step Plan to Get Started
The good news is that there are enough online tools (both seo research sites and plugins for your blog) and search engine optimization articles where you can get started and arm yourself enough to be your own SEO specialist.
Here’s my 3 step plan to build the SEO basics for food blogs
- Create a Site Structure for Food Blog SEO
- Build your Food Blog Marketing Kit
- Publish to, and Update, your Food Blog Often
Step 1: Create a Site Structure for Food Blog SEO
In the days before tools like Blogger and WordPress, and the amazing number of templates that are available, bloggers needed to have working knowledge of HTML to make sure they are setting up the right page structure. This meant knowing when to use <H1>’s over <H2>’s and the right place to load scripts.
And then came microdata and rich text formats for recipes, which also live in your source code, and give search engines even more clues as to what is on your page. Now these formats exist for blog posts as well.
It’s no longer a challenge to keep up with these advances in SEO because most of this complexity is hidden behind the CMS. Your page template (and the framework behind it) handle all of the complexity of ensuring your HTML is valid and properly formatted.
For Food Blogs on WordPress, it has become even easier with the introduction of recipe plugins that ensure the search engines see all of the right metadata.
Recipe plugins keep track of all of the Required and Suggested fields that are needed for Google to consider your recipe worthy of being featured as you see above, and not merely another page.
How are you doing? You can visit your Google Search Console and click on Recipes (left hand menu) to get a report on which recipes have errors, which have warnings (these will still show up) and which are complete (which takes some work).
- Install an SEO Plugin: For WordPress, Yoast rules.
- Use a Recipe Plugin: I’ve been quite happy with WP Recipe Maker
- Purchase an SEO Focused Theme: I’m using a food blog focused theme from WPZOOM, which also has their own framework.
Step 2: Build your Food Blog Marketing Kit
Over time, your marketing plan and approach is going to evolve and grow as your blog grows. For now, start simple and focus on the areas which will improve your SEO scores: keywords, engagement and promotion.
Blog Marketing Part 1: Keywords
There are an endless number of articles online about the process of doing keyword research as well supporting tools. There are also many SEO experts far smarter than me that can explain it better.
The basics all apply to food blogs, especially about finding the Long Tail Keywords. And the best free tool out there for SEO research is the Google search box.
Basically, you don’t want to compete on keywords that are already widely in use. Look for the niche variation that brings the results down to almost zero, but is still relevant to your recipe.
To use an example from my blog, one of my very first recipes was for beef jerky. Searching for “beef jerky recipe” gives 27,000,000 results. That’ll be hard to cut into….
However, my recipe is garlicky and it’s spicy. So I called it Spicy Garlic Beef Jerky. That variation wasn’t, and still isn’t, used by any other bloggers. So I’ve ranked #1 for that phrase and it remains one of my Top 3 articles for search referrals.
Blog Marketing Part 2: Engagement
Plan on being active both on and off your blog, talking about the space for which you’re an expert.
On your blog is simple. Encourage people to post comments and respond to every one of them. When other bloggers visit your site and take the time to comment, then you should return the favor.
I try to avoid the perfunctory “Looks great!” comment to simply get my URL on the comments. Be authentic and take the time to create a genuine comment.
There are also a variety of great subreddits dedicated to food, cooking, recipe, blogging and more. While self-promotion is strongly discouraged, these are great places to share your passion and earn traffic in return.
Blog Marketing Part 3: Promotion
This is one of the most tedious, repetitive and time consuming aspects of the food blog world. But it’s also one of the most essential. You need to be actively promoting your content in social media.
Pinterest is one of the best generators of social traffic. It’s also becoming harder and harder to break through the noise. You only need to scroll a few pages to find dozens of “World’s Best….” and “Best Ever….” recipes.
Because Pinterest is extremely visual and you’ll need some art direction skills to create a Pin, in the right size, that will stand out. Crack the code and you will be rewarded.
Step 3: Publish to, and Update, your Food Blog Often
Finally, you have to keep your content fresh. This has been one of my biggest mistakes over the years. Having a full time job, 2 kids and lots of competing interests, makes it nearly impossible to dedicate the time I’d love to on my blog.
Many people will say they post 2 to 3 times a day. Some say 2 to 3 times a week is the minimum. I’m lucky to get 2 to 3 recipes up a month! Sometimes I’ll go dark for months….
But it’s true, when I start posting regularly, Google starts to slowly open the spigot and send more traffic my way.
You also need to focus on revising your older content. Going back to posts from 5 or 6 years ago, I’m a bit embarrassed at my writing and photography! And looking at my Yoast SEO scorecard for those old posts shows that I need to do some housekeeping.
One nice feature of Yoast is that you can filter on posts with low SEO scores. I’ll then sort by the highest social shares to see where I should prioritize. Every couple of weeks I’ll jump in and update some old posts. Sometimes doing a full rewrite, sometimes just tweaking subheading. It pays off though.
Get Started Right Now!
I hope this helps! Most of all, I hope others can learn from my mistakes and understand how they can best drive traffic to their site.
And if you’re still on Blogger, you’ll find that you’re quite limited. Google just hasn’t invested in R&D on Blogger to any degree. I’d recommend migrating your food blog to WordPress so you can start improving your SEO immediately.