At Fat Frog Media, we manage a successful food blog as a side project. And we’ve learned a lot from practical experiences about what works on food blogs. The techniques that get results are not the same as one would apply to a marketing blog, or a fitness blog, or pretty much any other genre. Food blog SEO is a particular case. And we will let you in on some secrets. SEO is a process. It’s not a quick fix solution for bad content. Here’s a guide to making sure that search engines love your food blog and that every recipe reaches its full potential.
We’ve learned a lot from practical experiences about what works on food blogs
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Long-Form Is The Best Form
Write recipe blog posts that hit 800-1200 words.
Despite what you might have heard, longer content still works well for recipe SEO.
Don’t pay attention to the haters that complain about long recipe posts. The trend for food bloggers is to write the story behind a recipe and give some background history. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s a good thing. Those complainers just want you to do the hard work but get nothing in return. Ignore those people.
If you publish a bare recipe, the likelihood is that nobody will see it. Instead, add context and life to a recipe so that google can understand what it’s about and who it’s for.
Add some context and life to a recipe so that google can understand what it’s about and who it’s for
And don’t forget about all the long-tail keywords that will help people find your blog.
Long-tail keywords? Here’s an example:
Let’s say someone is searching for a way to cut sugar but still eat a delicious chocolate cake, something that their grandmother used to eat. Well, there’s no perfect solution to this one but maybe you want to introduce people to your keto-based chocolate cake, a recipe inspired by your grandmother’s cooking. How would anyone find this recipe? Well, they might search for “sugar-free chocolate cake” or “cakes like they used to make them, but no sugar”. That’s actually how people search, especially in the days of voice search.
These are called long-tail keywords for reasons we won’t get into here but you can read more about this kind of keyword here.
Long-tail keywords will help people find your recipe
Embrace voice search SEO
Voice search is fast becoming one of the main ways people search for answers. If your recipes are not optimised for voice, you are missing out on a lot of traffic from Google.
Voice search results are short. So it makes sense to keep answers to important questions short and snappy.
You might wonder why you’d bother. “Nobody’s going to read your recipe when they just want a quick answer?”, you say. That’s a fair point. But by answering lots of different questions you will build up trust in Google, who will then push your page higher in the search results for the main keywords.
That’s the SEO theory, anyway.
If your recipes are not optimised for voice, you are missing out on a lot of traffic from Google.
But this doesn’t mean that your recipe should be short or your article should be just one line answers in 300 words.
The top-performing recipe posts in Google search are over 1000 words in length. What does that mean? All signs are that longer content ranks better. But that doesn’t mean you need to write 10,000-word novels. But you should to cover a topic fully. Maybe it takes 2000 words to write everything you know about baking rye bread. In that case, don’t stop until you’ve covered everything. Include a Frequently Asked Questions section at the end to capture some of those extra voice search phrases.
“The top-performing recipe posts in Google search are over 1000 words in length.”
How to know if your recipes and blog posts are being found for voice search? There are a few ways to track this.
Accuranker also wrote a great article on optimizing for voice search in 2019
Another way (albeit an imperfect one) is to use Google Search Console and under Performance > Search Results, filter for Mobile in the devices category.
This will show you how many queries your website received from mobile. Of course, not everyone searches using voice on mobile but until Google labels search queries as “voice” this is the best we’ve got.
Include Long tail keywords
Keywords that have fewer searches than the big (head) terms like “pasta recipe” are easier to rank in Google. It doesn't take as much work to get traffic to the keywords “vegetarian whole grain pasta recipe” because fewer people are looking for this. The main reason is there is less competition. (Not always true. Some long-tail keywords still get plenty of searches. But in general, these types of keywords are searched for less)
What’s the best way of telling if a keyword is easy to rank for?
Compete When It Makes Sense
I'll explain this tip using an example. Let’s say you have a great recipe for custard cakes that you know people would love to read. But let’s imagine that unfortunately nobody ever sees this recipe because it’s on page 5 of the search results for your keyword.
What do you do? The short answer is you improve the on-page SEO of the recipe page. How do you improve the on-page SEO? By analysing your competitors and understanding what kind of language, keywords, and structure are in their blog posts. Then you get to improving your content.
Use a keyword tool to find out which keywords are the best to focus on and then check the top 10 results for your keyword. Let’s say you are trying to rank for “lemon custard cake recipe”.
(My keyword difficulty tools tell me this keyword gets around 1000 searches a month worldwide. However, it’s not an easy keyword to rank for. We’ll still use it for the purpose of this exercise.)
The next thing to do is discover the wording and phrases the top results use and see if there are similarities among them. Check the headings and title tags. Examine the image tags.
Alternatively, you could fire up a tool like Surfer SEO and let the software do the heavy lifting for you. Surfer SEO checks your competitors and audits your blog post or recipe post based on the recommendations. Google already knows what people want. Google puts the pages that best serve its customers (users of the search engine) first. If you craft your recipe content to be more in line with what Google expects, you can improve your rankings. Improved rankings equal more traffic.
Of course, if your website is not built on a strong domain (you can check that here) or you’re just getting started, it might be better to not waste too much time on difficult keywords. Look for easier ways to get to the top.
Have a fast website
Build a fast website or have someone optimise it for you. In the last few years, the Search team at Google has been pushing for website owners to improve the speed of your site (how quickly pages load for the reader). Speed is now considered a major ranking factor.
Simply put, slower pages don’t make the top 10. And websites that are not in the first 10 results on Google get very few visitors.
Fast website = more eyeballs on your content = more successful food blog.
Speed is now considered a major ranking factor
How to make your site faster? I can’t answer this in a few lines but the first place to start is with an audit to see where the problems lie.
Use this tool to check for problems.
Or this tool to get a full analysis of your website.
Looking for a free audit. Check this free audit tool.
Another issue we see with food blogs is huge images. This niche is image-heavy. People want to show off the fine photography that accompanies their food creations. But uploading 5MB images directly from your DSLR camera will kill your website.
Optimize your photos by reducing the image dimensions and reducing the quality to a level where they still look amazing but they don’t eat up all your server bandwidth. Photoshop and Affinity Photo are perfectly capable of doing the work of reducing image size. For a free online alternative check out Pixlr.
Reduce image load times even further with ShortPixel, a WordPress plugin that automatically optimizes your images for the web.
Mobile phone connections are slower than desktop or laptop connection sin the home or office. This is even more true for mobile phones not using a wifi network. Think about the people having to wait to download your recipe that’s weighed down with heavy images, a clunky WordPress theme, and slow web hosting server.
Use Structured Data
What is structured data?
Simply put, structured data is a way of organising the text and layout of your recipe so that Google understands all the features. Components like directions, ingredients, nutritional information, video, and images are important for search engines to understand your content. The easier you make it for search engines to read your content, the more love they will give it.
Structured data sounds complicated. Admittedly, it can be a pain to implement. But it’s been getting easier to add structured data to your site. There’s no longer an excuse for not having it. And the improvements in traffic and exposure that a structured data implementation can deliver makes it all worth it.
How to start?
One way is to add the code manually to every page on your website. This is the cleanest way to do it but it’s time-consuming. If you have a VA, this might be a job for them. (By the way, if you’re looking for a Virtual Assistant, I recommend OnlineJobs.ph).
Structured data is a way of organising the text and layout of your recipe so that Google understands all the features
Easier than adding code is to use a tool that adds structured data to your content. There are many ways to do this and it can get quite confusing but a good plugin will do a lot of the work.
You can also use recipe plugins that format your content properly.
Use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to see if your post, recipe, or website conforms to the standards and best practises.
Video is the way to go. You’d better get “visual” if you want to keep up with the growing trend of video content.
Some people just don’t like to read recipe instructions. Podcasts for cooking content don’t really work. So in order to please everyone and, of course, get more traffic, you should create videos to go along with your recipe. Not only will it keep people on your site for longer (a great signal to Google) but it helps get a spot in the video results on YouTube and Google search.
Video may turn out to be your most valuable asset in the future.
Some tools to help you improve your video game:
- Wave.Video – Create amazing videos for YouTube or social media
- Filmora – A more advanced video editing suite than Wave, at a fraction of the cost of Adobe Premiere (the industry standard)
- VooPlayer – Host and stream your own videos exactly as you prefer. Add security and remove ads.
- TubeBuddy – Beat the competition in YouTube with insider information on keywords and tags.
- InVideo – Create rapid social media and full length videos. Build fancy looking clips with transitions, graphics, and text in minutes.
Titles and Meta Descriptions
Add compelling meta descriptions and make your title click-worthy.
The title is probably the trickiest part here. You don’t want to get too clever and witty or too focused on clickbait as that might lead you to ignore keywords in the title.
The Meta Description is ignored by Google and other search engines. However, it’s vitally important because people read the description and base a lot of their decision to click on whatever you’ve written there.
Keep in mind, that Google can change the Meta description whenever it feels like a different on will serve the users better. Just hope that it’s a good one.
If you need some help penning the perfect post title, use one of these free headline generator tools:
- Title Generator
- Title Maker
- Headline Analyzer
- Sharethrough's Headlines tool
- SEOPressor headline generator
Frequently Asked Questions
A little known SEO hack, that will soon be commonplace (so get on it before everyone else does) is to find and answer FAQs in your own style and then add these questions and answers to your blog post or recipe.
People frequently want to know the answer to these questions and if they relate to your topic, why not be the blog that answers their queries?
Where to find the questions people ask?
The easiest way is to go directly to Google and type your keyword or recipe name. Check in the results for the People also ask section. This is a gold mine of questions and answers that Google has created based on user queries. You can be sure that someone has already asked these questions, most likely through voice search.
Click on the most relevant topics and more questions will appear. If you find that the questions begin to go off-topic, click entries higher in the list to get back on track. Once you have a good collection of 5 or 6 questions, answer them in your own words and add them to your post. Make sure the answers are short and concise. If you’re using WordPress, there are several plugins that can help add FAQ structured data to your posts. Yoast, the “SEO” plugin is one. The FAQ Block For Gutenberg is another.
Use a WordPress Recipe Plugin
Obviously, this only applies to WordPress users, but the vast majority of food bloggers are using the world’s most popular content management system. And why not? It’s perfect for the job and there’s a huge community of other WordPress food bloggers. WordPress is a great platform to build a good search engine optimisation strategy and many recipe plugins are designed with SEO in mind.
Two of the best plugins for WordPress are
WP Recipe Maker is our weapon of choice for optimizing recipes. The plugin comes with a bewildering array of settings and options but you don’t have to use them all. But you don’t have to be an expert. The basic, default settings will present your recipes in the recommended format for recipe SEO.
Created by the professional food bloggers over at Food Blogger Pro, WP Tasty is a premium plugin that has one focus, implementing the best format for your recipe so that it can be found in search.
Keep your URLs tidy
Every experienced SEO will tell you that long URLs don’t perform as well as short ones. Why is that? it might have something to do with how search engines parse the URL when crawling the site.
Here’s an example of a long URL
Here’s an example of a short URL for the same recipe
There are several reasons why the second URL is better.
- It’s easy to understand what the post is about quickly (for humans and robots)
- There are no categories or stop words cluttering up the URL. While categories CAN be good for SEO, there’s no real need to keep them in your URLs.
Optimize your images
Food bloggers know better than most people the benefits of including great photos and images in their recipes. Nobody will spend time on a post with terrible images. The photo that appears in Google Search will also represent your blog post and if it’s not click-worthy, don’t expect traffic.
With image search gaining ground thanks to mobile phones and better AI for understanding images, it’s even more important to perform image SEO.
Here’s how to do it
- Create images that people love and want to click on.
- Reduce the size (dimensions) and weight (kb) of images so they load faster. Use a compression plugin to reduce the images in weight even further.
- Apply descriptive filenames, descriptions, and Alt Tags to images. Uploading IMG_003.jpg is just lazy.
- Create Pinterest images and reap the benefits of Pinterest SEO
- Create images that people will share and make it easy for them to share (Pinterest pin it plugins are a great way to do this)
Final Food Blogger SEO tips
- Make sure your site has an SSL layer. Using HTTPS instead of the unsecure HTTP has become vital. Expect your blog to lose rankings over time if it doesn’t follow the recommended web standards.
- Use a solid WordPress theme or have a theme professionally built. In fact, even with a great theme, it’s a lot of work to get it to a stage where it’s fully optimized for your readers. The Foodie Pro theme by StudioPress and the Astra Theme range are the best food content focused themes in 2019. Both themes are regularly updated and maintained to the highest standards.
Of course, SEO improvements don’t stop there. and we can go further into the weeds until, well, it gets complicated. If you have questions about SEO for food bloggers or Recipe SEO, get in touch. We love answering hard questions. Let us know what you think about this post in the comments.
Keith is the founder of Fat Frog Media. He has worked in the tech, fitness, food, and hospitality industries. Keith helps businesses improve their marketing and conversion rates.