A Guest Post by Raquel Smith of Food Blogger Pro
Choosing a recipe plugin is an important decision for a food blogger. After all, your recipes are why you have traffic, why advertisers pay you, and why people subscribe to your email list.
It makes sense, then, that choosing a recipe plugin would take time. With all the options, how do you know which will serve you best for SEO, support, features and formatting?
I’ve been researching this topic, and today I’m sharing 5 tips for choosing a recipe plugin that will work best for you and your blog.
1. Get a recently updated plugin.
In the world of the internet, things change quickly. We’re talking month-to-month or even week-to-week.
Most the changes you’ll be worried about are about search engine optimization, or SEO. (We’ll get into SEO specifics in a bit.) Google changes its SEO guidelines all the time, and staying on top of these guidelines helps your recipes stay on top of search results.
Choose a recipe plugin that is keeping up with the times. Your first clue to this is the plugin’s last update. You want to find a recipe plugin that was updated at least within the last 3 months. The more recent, the better. A recently updated plugin does not mean that it is truly staying on top of all important changes, but it’s a good first sign to look for.
If you’re using a plugin from the WordPress Plugin Repository, for example, you can see the time it was last updated in the sidebar. If you’re using a premium plugin, ask the support team when they last updated the plugin.
2. Make sure the plugin has good support.
Because your recipes (and the plugin that helps you create them) are so important to your website and business, you want help when you need it. Free plugins on the WordPress Plugin Directory all have a support forum. Scroll through the most recent threads and see if anyone from the plugin team has responded and what type of help they gave. (Note: many plugins handle support off-site, so look for “how to get support” type posts at the top of the forum.)
If the plugin is a premium plugin, contact the support team to see what their general support structure is, and ask any questions that you have about the plugin. Gauge how long it takes them to respond (keep their business hours in mind) and the thoroughness of their response. Make sure this a support team you want to work with in the future.
3. Double-check the SEO.
Recipe plugins have three purposes: to make it easy to add a recipe, easy to display those recipes on your website, and to make it possible to mark up your recipe with structured data to improve your SEO.
This last one is really, really important. Having good SEO is paramount. Google tells food bloggers exactly what they want to see in a recipe’s structured data. Your recipe plugin should let you to fill out all those fields, and properly mark them up in the source code. How do you know if it’s doing this? Use Google’s nifty Structured Data Testing Tool. Enter your blog’s URL and make sure the “recipe” category has no errors and, ideally, no warnings.
But how do you know if a plugin will do this for you? Two options:
- If it’s free, upload the plugin, publish a recipe with it (you can back-date it so it doesn’t appear at the top of your website), then test it with the Structured Data Testing Tool. Fill out all the fields. No matter how cool a plugin is, it won’t make up information you don’t give it.
- If it’s a premium plugin, ask the support team how the plugin optimizes for SEO, if it fills out all fields in a structured data test, and if there are any live recipes you can test to be sure.
4. Avoid extra features you won’t use.
Some plugins boast tons of additional features, such as saving to a recipe box or converting to different units. Some of these you might actually use, while others will just sit there. Additional features in a plugin usually have a trade-off: you get the cool feature, but it adds bulk. And over time, that can slow site speed.
5. Try it out or ask your friends.
Even the most up-to-date, SEO-solid, feature-streamlined plugins can be a pain to use. At the end of the day, you want a plugin that is going to check all the items we already talked about, and be a joy to use.
If it’s a free plugin on the WordPress Plugin Repository, upload it to your site and give it a whirl. Is it annoying to use? Does it take you twice as long as it should? Is it the most streamlined recipe publishing experience you’ve ever had? Get a feel for what it will be like to use this plugin on a daily basis and definitely use that in your consideration.
If it’s a premium plugin, ask your friends (or post in a Facebook group) to see how others like using the plugin. Ask specific questions, such as “How easy is it to add ingredients? What about formatting?” Specific questions will get you better responses than the standard “It’s great!” or “I hated it!”
What do I recommend? The first is Tasty Recipes, the WordPress recipe plugin built by the Food Blogger Pro team (of which I am a member, so I’m biased). As bloggers ourselves, we had a really good idea of what a great recipe plugin would entail, but we couldn’t find one that exactly suited our needs. So we decided to build it. Tasty Recipes puts SEO and site speed at the forefront and offers recipe card templates or the option to create your own from scratch. Because it’s a premium plugin, your purchase guarantees priority support and regular updates.
If purchasing a premium plugin isn’t in your budget, Bootstrap Ventures offers WP Recipe Maker, a free plugin that’s easy to use if you’re just starting out. If you need additional features, a premium upgrade is also available.
Bonus tip: Love the look of your recipe plugin.
Finally, love how the recipes look on your site. Some plugins come with tons of formatting options, but beware that these fall into the “extra features” category that could ultimately contribute to slower site speed.
Other plugins are pretty bare bones and leave it up to you to do all the styling. That’s great if you’re a CSS geek, but not so great if you couldn’t care less about learning CSS. Other plugins fall somewhere between, with some easy templates or formatting options, and simple CSS classes that allow you to create your own styles if you want.
Keep in mind that while having a pretty recipe card is important, it’s not going to send your readers running if it’s rather plain. Your readers probably don’t care if the font color matches your site’s accent color. While the look is important, it’s probably not your top priority.
Choosing a recipe plugin is a big commitment. After all, no one wants to switch recipe plugins every few months, or even every few years. Knowing that a recipe plugin is going to be around and updated for a good long while will give you peace of mind and will help future-proof your blog.
Questions? Ask away in the comments. The founder of Food Blogger Pro, Bjork Olstrom, will answer, because Raquel is out on maternity leave.
Which reminds me: Today is the last day to sign up for Food Blogger Pro. Click on the link below to find out more. Otherwise you’ll be on a waiting list.
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(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.)