A guest post by Stephanie Stiavetti
I’m sure you’re familiar with the term Search Engine Optimization (SEO), one of the biggest time sucks we food bloggers endure to get more people to our blogs.
There’s no way around doing this work, as all bloggers must bend the knee to Our Great Google Overlords, with the exception of a handful of folks who are so insanely popular that they transcend the realm of mortal blogging (*cough*Ree*cough*).
The problem with keeping our websites search engine-friendly, however, is that every so often, Google changes the rules. And inevitably, for months following these changes, my inbox is flooded with the doleful cries of bloggers who have lost a chunk of their traffic.
If you’re smart, though, it won’t matter how Google alters its algorithm. All you have to do is produce good content and avoid questionable SEO practices. There are countless finer points, a few of which I’ll get to in a moment, but the fact remains that you’ll need not fear even the most Machiavellian changes Google makes to its ranking methods.
Here are a few tips for maintaining your trusted liege status to The Goog. They’re easy enough so that even if you’re tech-averse, you can implement these changes in a single night, without having to bring on a consultant.
2.Own your shiz, yo! Google is arguably the most important search engine on the planet right now, and it’s the reason we do this little dance called SEO. Google giveth, and Google taketh away. One relatively new factor in search results ranking is attaching everything you write on the internet to your Google author profile, so that the search engine understands that you are an authority. Every piece you write, if linked back to your profile, is an endorsement of your expertise. Setting up Google Authorship is easy, but it’s beyond the scope of this post. Jean Layton, gluten-free doctor and Google aficionado, has developed a wonderful video tutorial on setting up authorship. This is one of the many reasons we love Jean.
3.Lock your doors, then lock them again. Or rather, make sure your site is secure. There are few things worse for your SEO than harboring the digital equivalent of chlamydia. Many services can help keep your site secure, including:
- Sucuri and VaultPress
- Food blogger Andrew Wilder offers special backup and security plans, where he does all the heavy lifting for you. His Sleep Soundly plan includes backups, security hardening, and malware monitoring. The best part? If you ever get hacked or accidentally destroy your site (hey, it happens) help fixing it is included. ¡Muy bueno!
4. Avoid the weakest link. Make sure all the links on your site are active. That may seem like a monumental task; who wants to check every link they’ve ever posted? Thankfully there’s a plugin that will do all the work for you. WordPress’ Broken Link Checker automatically checks all the links on your website and tells you which have gone the way of the pterodactyl. You can easily remove them or replace them with another URL. Very handy! Note: This plugin can be a bit of a resource hog, so consider only running it a few times a month, as opposed to letting it run 24-7. Your host will thank you.
5. Get the right tool for the job. There are a handful of tools that every person with a website needs. They’ll count your readers, tell you how people are finding your content, and tell you how healthy your overall website is. The best part? They’re all free!
- Google Analytics – For tracking how many users visit your site, where they come from, and what they do once they get there.
- Google Webmaster Tools – This is essentially the dashboard that tells Google how to interact with your website.
- GT Metrix – Free website speed and performance optimization.
5. Post smarter. I recently spoke at the IACP conference with Andrew Wilder, sharing how food folks can tighten up their SEO with just a few tweaks to their content. Your goal is to craft each post in such a way that Google will clearly understand what you’re trying to say, making it much easier for it to rank your site. And the less work you make for The Goog, the more merciful it will be when you inadvertently make a mistake somewhere along the way.
SEO can be overwhelming, but it’s mostly common sense. These tips will make your site more favorable to Google. In the end, they must come after the two most important cardinal rules: write good content, and practice ethical SEO techniques. All the SEO trickery in the world won’t get around those two core tenets!
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Stephanie Stiavetti is a food writer, food blogger, cookbook author, and culinary media consultant. She maintains the Fearless Fresh blog, where she teaches people to cook like a badass. Her first book, Melt: the Art of Macaroni and Cheese, was published in October 2013.
Sally // Words to Live By says
Thanks for this Stephanie, so many great tips! I am very intimidated by SEO but people like you help me get my head around it 🙂
Jennie Schacht says
Thanks, Stephanie and Dianne — this is priceless!
Amanda (@lambsearshoney) says
Gold ladies, pure gold – many thanks!
movita beaucoup says
This is the first time I haven’t fallen asleep after the first line of an article on SEO. Stephanie is made out of awesome.
Stephanie Stiavetti says
Ha! That’s awesome to hear. Thanks for the kind words – you made me smile. 🙂
Thank you Stephanie (and Dianne). This is great information!
90210 Farmgirl says
Dianne, your generous wisdom has helped me grow my website and my community. Thank you so much for sharing Stephanie’s post. Her tips are invaluable to helping foster this symbiotic relationship we have with our readers. Infinite gratitude!
You are most welcome. Stephanie is a font of knowledge on many subjects, particularly tech stuff. I have relied on her many times.
Stephanie Stiavetti says
You guys are making me blush!
La Torontoise says
Dianne, Stephanie, unvaluable list of good practices. Wow! This sounds of a simple yet powerful system to maintain a good SEO-compliance level:-)
Thank you a million!
Great stuff Stephanie and Dianne, thank-you! I keep coming back to page speed lately. How fast should your site be, and how do you best check that? How many plugins are too many plugins? (I know this depends on the site obviously).
We’ve tested website speed on sites like kingdom and website optimization, but we’re not entirely clear if our score is where it should be or not.
Stephanie Stiavetti says
It depends. You want your page to load as quickly as possible, and I personally shoot for less than three seconds. In reality, with ads, a lot of pages take up to six. If your site is slow despite removing superfluous ads and widgets, this is a great plugin that will scan your installed plugins and tell you which are seriously slowing down your load time: https://wordpress.org/plugins/p3-profiler/
This post comes at a time when I was seriously thinking that there is some problem with my site! Thank you Dianne!
Another question Dianne, the plug ins that you have mentioned here aren’t applicable for WordPress.com sites, right? How do I link a WordPress.com site to a Google profile?
Stephanie Stiavetti says
WordPress.com won’t give you the control of allowing plugins, which is why I heartily encourage folks to start a blog on their own domain, on a standalone WordPress installation. That said, WordPress.com does have a lot of functionality already built into it: http://en.support.wordpress.com/plugins/
You are most welcome, Ishita, but the credit goes to Stephanie. I have some work to do as well, particularly with image size. I got a D in that when I took the test!
Wonderful and useful. Thank you very much for posting this information.
Excellent article, Stephanie! Really good info and terrific links–thank you!
Kristin Nicole says
Thanks Stephanie and Diane. I follow Stephanie’s website and I absolutely love her recipes and ideas, it’s nice to see her on your blog.
On a side note: It was so great seeing you and meeting you at blogherfood. Thank you for being a speaker, I love your advice and insight. xo
Hi Kristin, great to meet you at BlogHer Food and I’m so pleased you enjoyed the session.
Yes, I follow Stephanie’s website too. We have known each other for years and I am always learning from her.
Louise Rhodes says
Many thanks – this is simple and easy enough that even I can implement the tips! Wish me luck!
Thanks so much for having me! 🙂
Susan Cooper says
Great post. Great info. Thanks for making it easy to understand!
this is fantastic! thanks for this article, useful especially as i am re-designingmy site!
Tandy | Lavender and Lime says
This post is brilliant and perfect for people who do not understand the first step to SEA. Thank you!
Thanks for the post Dianne, and Stephanie, thanks a million for these tips! Some I do, but more I really need to do. Plan to work through every tip to implement. And thanks for the IACP slides. Could not make it to Chicago this year.
Stephanie, on your website and the post SEO for the Food Business, you mention Google Keyword Planner. I loved the old keyword tool and used it daily. I have a terrible time with this new tool. Just can’t get the info I want to help me decide what to call posts and recipes. Any suggestions? Feel like I am shooting in the dark now.
Actually, after not using it for awhile, as it bewildered me at first, I spent more time on it and did find the area that provided search volume. Never fails that as soon as you ask, you find what you were asking about!
Good article and informative post for http://www.seotraininghyderabad.org/. thanks for sharing
Very interesting article Stephanie!
I had a big SERP ranking decline in my food blog since last February and I have tried to do what you mention so I focused on improving my site speed but it didn’t work as I expected…
Do you know if I’m missing something?? You can take a look to my site (http://www.thespanishcuisine.com)
Great article. I’d like to recommend SEO Post Content Links Plugin. It’s an automatic SEO for websites and fully supports internal linking for all languages.
Thanks for the tip, Dave.
Blossom Smith says
Valuable information. A blog can be the most powerful web marketing. Doing the SEO means raking the website in the top search engine page. Thanks for this explanation.
Thanks for your comment Blossom.
Mouni chef says
Just to make me as intelligent as you in food blogging. Thank you for this..
Hah! Yes, Stephanie is brilliant at this sort of thing. Thanks Mouni. Hope you got some good tips for your blog.
Annie @ World Recipes says
Some great SEO tips. Thanks.. But I believe it is very hard for new food bloggers to get some real traffic from search engines. The competition is just crazy to say the least. I believe that all newbies should start somewhere else, for example food photo submission websites.. you can get some traffic without a lot of effort there.. What do you think?
Worth a try, Annie. Many food bloggers used those to drive traffic in the early days. I’m not sure if they still do, but you don’t have much to lose if your photo is selected.
Karl Söderman says
It is true as you say that it will take time for new food bloggers to gain traffic from search.
The two most common sources of traffic these days for food bloggers are Pinterest and SEO. So my tip #1 would be to bet on Pinterest rather than the photo submission sites.
#2 is to choose a niche you have a fair chance to compete in instead of the very broad (or no niche?) you seem to have
#3 is to work smart with SEO choosing to write content you actually have a good chance to rank for on page 1
#4 is to improve more on your food photography (it is necessary both for Pinterest and food submission sites). Submitting your photos to foodgawker can actually help you understand what you should improve on 🙂
You can read more on growing your food blog here: http://blog.ingredientmatcher.com/the-ultimate-growth-guide-for-food-bloggers/
Rahul Yadav says
Thank you so much for this. I want to have a food section for my blog and this really helped me.
Karl Söderman says
Thanks Diane and Stephanie! Some great SEO tips here 🙂
If you want to give your readers the next steps on SEO for food bloggers I just published this comprehensive, yet easy to understand guide:
The main traffic source for food blogs comes from picture traffic. So Pictures is no1 priority. Thank’s for the great tips!
I did not know that. I thought it was keyword searches for recipes. Thanks, Virgis.
Thank you for the tips .
You’re most welcome, Jack. I’ll have another post on this subject soon. Stay tuned!
For WordPress security I’d just like to suggest the iThemes Security plugin. I use it on all of my sites and it’s very good – and free! It does like a zillion things, too many for me to list lol, but I think it provides more than enough security for the average site. Cloudflare can be helpful too because it lets you block entire countries from accessing your site, which is super handy when you have lots of bots/hackers from China or Russia/Ukraine trying to break into your site (like I did).
Sagar Birangal says
Thanks for the post! I have been using Ahrefs that the best one to me. its better than Moz and Semrush.
Wow really excellent article, Stephanie, Really good info and thanks for that
Thank u so much Diane and Stephanie! Some great SEO tips here
Really helpful information which is hard to find for a specific niche like this. SEO for food bloggers really helps for food blogs. Thanks for the info 🙂
Thank you, on behalf of Stephanie. It’s good to read that this older post holds up.