According to the Chicago Tribune, a year ago Google started asking big food websites to add code to their recipes so search results would reveal time and servings info, plus reader reviews and other information. What the article didn’t mention is that food bloggers weren’t involved.
Now it’s up to you to add the code to be part of Google’s new recipe search.
Google, you see, gets 10 million searches per day for recipes. In an effort to become more efficient, the company wants people to be able to search more narrowly for everything from ingredients to cook time. That means you, as a food blogger, will have to hand edit your recipes, until a new editor or templates show up to make it easier.
How much coding are we talking about? Google has added a term called “itemprop,” where the HTML must specify property values for each part of the recipe. There are 14 different values.
Here’s an excerpt from Google’s example for an ingredients list. The first box shows what the ingredients list of a recipe currently looks like in HTML. The second is how Google wants it to look.
Ingredients: Thinly-sliced apples: 6 cups White sugar: 3/4 cup
Ingredients: <span itemprop="ingredient" itemscope itemtype="http://data-vocabulary.org/RecipeIngredient"> Thinly-sliced <span itemprop="name">apples</span>: <span itemprop="amount">6 cups</span> </span> <span itemprop="ingredient" itemscope itemtype="http://data-vocabulary.org/RecipeIngredient"> <span itemprop="name">White sugar</span>: <span itemprop="amount">3/4 cup</span> </span> ...
All this code for just the first two ingredients! This example looks pretty scary for a non–programmer like me. As you can see, you must tag each item with these new properties.
Laura Pazzaglia, who blogs Hip Pressure Cooking, contacted me about this new coding on Twitter. “Let’s say food bloggers figure out how to convert their recipes so that they show up on Google recipe search results,” she continued in an email. “Other than adding the obvious information to standardize a recipe (prep time, cook time, total time, yield), the ingredient list is a nightmare.”
“The worst part is that, in HTML, bloggers have to add six tags for each ingredient in the ingredients list (one set of tags for the quantity and one set of tags for the ingredient name). Multiply this by a modest amount of ingredients and dozens of recipes,” continues Pazzaglia, “and you get the idea why a food blogger manually entering recipes simply cannot compete with large, database driven recipe websites with programmers who can type a few line of codes and updated thousands of recipes at once!”
I don’t think programmers have it that easy, but I get her point. “Google runs one of the most popular blogging platforms (which I also use),” she says, “and there hasn’t been a peep about providing any templates or forms to input recipes to fit the new format.”
So, do I have this right? Are you willing to use this new format, plus go back and re-code all your recipes? Or are you waiting for someone to automate it with some kind of tool? What will happen to your recipes in the search results in the meantime?
Update: For more specifics, see Elise Bauer of Simply Recipe’s post on Food Blog Alliance, this post on the Food Blog Forum: Making Micro Formats Manageable, and this post by Amanda Hesser on Food52.