When I attend food blogging conferences, optimizing recipe SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the subject of at least one session. Food bloggers always need to be up on the latest strategies of how to get more readers to their recipes.
Fortunately, there are experts who know this and who specialize in getting readers to your recipe blog. Casey Markee, the founder of digital marketing agency Media Wyse, speaks at dozens of conferences. He consults to the food, DIY, and lifestyle blogging community. He has audited hundreds of food blogs and trained SEO teams on five continents. And he is the on-staff SEO expert for Food Blogger Pro and Search Engine News. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.
Not only has Casey graciously answered my interview questions in detail, but he has linked to some of his presentations so you can further explore and learn. In addition, I have a discounted offer at the end of this interview, so keep reading.
Here’s Casey on optimizing recipe SEO, giving Google what it wants and other issues:
Q. What is the number one thing food bloggers can do to optimize their recipes for Google?
A. Write for users. User intent is the Number 1 ranking factor in Google. How well can you, as a blogger, meet the needs of users on the page? Do you make it easy for them to find and access your recipe card? Do you write detailed content that asks and answers questions they may have? Most importantly, do users have everything they need to make this recipe perfectly the first time and the one hundredth time?
Q. What’s new in recipe blogging? Many top food bloggers, for example, now add a description of their dish above the photo.
A. It used to be that recipe writing contained a lot of unrelated content and storytelling. Many bloggers felt this was necessary to further a connection to the user and because they felt users wanted the “why” behind the recipe.
However, that approach hasn’t been rewarded by Google. And many users do not want to wade through paragraphs of personal history or superfluous content just to get to the recipe. A focus on the actual recipe process, including detailed preparation steps and troubleshooting, though, is something users DO want. And that is now becoming the norm.
Next, as you said, a description above the recipe is becoming more common. This is because bloggers need to SELL THE CLICK to potential visitors. Many visitors, especially on mobile, are looking to make a split-second decision as to whether this recipe is worth their time. An above-the-photo description meets that need. It’s also why food bloggers now use a JUMP/PRINT recipe button at the top. These two techniques exist to fully meet user intent.
Q. Must recipes on blogs have star ratings?
A. You will certainly do better with star ratings. Star ratings are a type of rich snippet, a visual representation of structured data in the search results. The MORE rich snippets a recipe can generate in search, the higher its average CTR (click-through rate). Star ratings are particularly valuable because they provide a visual reinforcement of the overall quality of the recipe. Users trust recipes that have more ratings. Having them is a smart SEO practice for the average recipe blogger.
Q. Must steps be numbered in the method of the recipe?
A. The more CLEARLY you can present your method to users, the better. Providing visible numbering or steps is an easy way to do that. Further, Google programs Featured Snippets or Position Zero content based on HTML markup like ordered and unordered lists in your recipe. As such, numbering only helps you, it doesn’t hurt you.
Q. Which is the best recipe plug-in for optimizing recipe SEO?
A. Two recipe plugins are head and shoulders above the crowd: WP Recipe Maker and WP Tasty. Both are actively maintained, very quick with support requests, and have superior features and functionality when compared to other competitors. WP Recipe Maker, in particular, was very fast to update to Google recipe schema best practices and was the first plugin to fully comply with Google’s recent Virtual Assistant Recipe Schema Properties update.
Q. How important are process (step-by-step) shots, and how many do food bloggers need?
A. Process shots are incredibly important in a user-first, highly-competitive niche like food blogging. To meet users’ highest needs, make sure they have a clear roadmap to make your recipe perfectly.
A recipe with multiple shots of the finished dish from different angles does not meet a user’s needs. But a recipe with process shots lets users quickly scroll through on their phones or tablets — with one hand — does meet that standard.
As to how many shots is enough, recipes with an average of two to three process shots can be just fine. More detailed recipes, like Tiramisu, might need 10 to15. Every recipe is unique. Find a process that works for you, but always think of first-time users accessing your content. Have you made their recipe prep as easy as possible? Will process shots help?
Q. What are the best sites to find which foods and dishes people are eating now?
A. Good question. First off, every year the National Restaurant Association surveys the American Culinary Association for hot trends for the coming year. Here’s the report for 2018. It’s always an interesting read.
Next, keep an eye out for content from Business Insider. Its recent report on 2018 Food Trends is great reading. There are some fantastic takeaways as bloggers consider their editorial calendars for the remainder of the year (spoiler: Poke and edible flowers are hot).
Finally, bloggers can set up Google Alerts around the topic of “food trends” and other niche-related keywords germane to their site. They can use these alerts to find and refine a “swipe file” for recipe ideas to implement later in the year.
Q. Okay then, let’s say that poke is a trend. If dozens of food bloggers publish recipes for poke, then won’t they all be competing with each other to get on the first page of Google search results?
A. Yes, all of them will be competing against each other for limited spots on Google Page One. But that is the case with every keyword phrase. There are only 10 spots on Google Page One for Desktop. Be it “poke recipe” or any other keyword, there will always be more quality results than spaces to be filled.
That being said, this is where keyword research comes into play. Instead of targeting something very general like “poke recipe,” you target something more qualified and less competitive, such as “salmon poke recipe.” Creating a complete recipe around this lower-keyword-volume phrase and landing on Google Page One would result in hundreds of possible clicks each month. And it would require less effort on the part of the blogger.
Q. What is the best way to write recipes for mobile devices?
A. Short snippets are much easier to digest on small screens. You don’t need to make EVERY sentence a new paragraph. That’s ridiculous. But shorter paragraphs of 2 to 3 sentences should be the norm. Bloggers should also draw attention to their most important recipe tips or takeaways by using bold or italic text. Make it easy for users to pull out your most important recipe content.
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Want to work with Casey? Here’s an offer:
If you would like Casey to conduct a full site audit, there’s a long wait. But you can book a mini audit, a smaller live auditing package that includes a 90-minute recorded Skype call and detailed email checklist. These mini audits start at $750. If you mention this interview, he’ll reduce the fee by 10 percent.
Also, you can create your own “jump to recipe” button. Read this post.