In Feb 2020, our food blog Wandercooks was at 75,000 monthly views. We spent six months updating all of our content through deep keyword search analysis. As a result, our organic traffic has now grown to over 600,000 monthly views in just two years. Our keyword research paid off.
Keyword research is an essential part of getting traffic to a food blog. Yet it’s often overlooked in the development and research stage of a recipe. If done correctly, however, keyword research can save you hours on a post that will never rank, and help you build organic traffic with the content already on your site.
Here are my tips for keyword research:
1. Writing for humans is still number 1.
Do keyword research alongside your writing. It’s not the only thing driving your content creation.
Use keywords to find recipe ideas you can actually rank for, and help build out your topic with useful information for the average home cook.
By talking about the topic as a whole and providing things like tips, substitutions and variations in a recipe, you’ll be able to help your readers and naturally build in your keywords as you go.
For example, our recent recipe for Worcestershire sauce is a more Australian style recipe base that doesn’t use anchovies. By talking about making it without them, we might pick up new keywords for people looking for vegan Worcestershire sauce or Worcestershire without anchovies. We also discussed the types of spices we used, so our recipe might pop up if someone was looking for Worcestershire sauce made using cardamom or cloves specifically.
Never keyword stuff. Always write as if you’re talking with a friend (an actual human) and not Google. A good way around this is to read your post out loud. You’ll find the sentences that don’t work, get you tongue tied or just don’t make sense.
2. Update posts versus post new content.
Many food bloggers drive themselves to burnout, posting new recipes constantly to build their traffic. The truth is, they’re probably sitting on hundreds of recipes that can be updated to receive double, triple or more traffic in some cases.
Why is this? A recipe that’s five years old has five years worth of “Google juice” behind it. It’s probably getting impressions and ranking for great keywords, but just isn’t on the first page of results. This is probably due to a combination of bad photography, your life story and a badly written recipe. We all know how bad our posts were when we first started, and how much we’ve improved since then.
By implementing keyword research (and your current food blogging knowledge), you’re much better equipped to update the recipe with the content it needs to really make it shine.
So don’t start from scratch. Use what you’ve got and put your magic touch on it. You’ll be surprised! Find a balance that works for you with updating posts versus creating new posts, and you’ll also be able to compare the growth you get from both types.
3. Restrain your new ideas.
It can feel addictive to look for new keywords that will help your ranking. You can easily fall down the rabbit hole, filling your content plan with hundreds of ideas. This is where you need to reign yourself in.
When planning content and keyword ideas, only plan as far out as 90 days. Keyword rankings continuously change, from the search volume, difficulty and even trending topics.
You want the best ideas, and the right information to succeed. There’s nothing worse than an idea with a keyword that’s really easy. Then a year later you post it, only to find it’s no longer trending, or it’s now too difficult to rank.
Work smarter, not harder!
4. Track your keywords.
If you’ve just published a new post or updated a recipe, make sure you’re tracking the keyword for them. This is an essential and easily forgotten step.
To track keywords you keep a record of your main keyword positions on Google for a particular recipe. Tracking keywords through tools like Google Search Console or KeySearch allows you to collect data on the post over time, which can be invaluable in many ways:
- It allows you to compare the post’s performance. Three months down the road, is it now ranking for the keywords you selected? Are they in top positions? Is there still room for improvement? There are many questions you can ask yourself to gauge the post’s current performance and see if you need to touch it up or leave it be.
- It can help you find drops in traffic. Look at your top posts. Have any of their keywords dropped in position? Look at the keyword trend. Is it no longer strawberry season, for example? You can start to pinpoint changes so you’re not stressing about what’s going on with your traffic. You’ll be informed with the right information.
- For new posts, tracking keywords shows you how quickly posts climb up the ranks. Or in some cases, if the post drops off Google entirely, you can quickly reindex the post so you don’t lose valuable time in the search results.
5. Set yourself up with the right knowledge and tools.
Keyword knowledge is power! Organic traffic power that is. We seriously can’t emphasise this enough: Teach yourself and learn everything you can about SEO and keyword research.
Doing so will help you
- Build better, more informed content around a topic
- Reduce your reliance on social media and other third party traffic sources
- And help you stress less when you know and understand what’s going on with the traffic and analytics side of your blog.
Many free and paid resources exist online to learn about keyword research. Just make sure the information is specifically for food blogging, so you can cut out a lot of the information you don’t need. Eat Your Words is our own ebook course for food bloggers who want keyword research to come to them as easily as writing a recipe.
For specific tools, we recommend KeySearch, which is a lot more affordable and easy to use than some of the other tools like Ahrefs and SemRush. Keywords Everywhere is another inexpensive tool with some free inclusions if you’re just starting out. For analysing your own data, make sure you know your way around both Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
No matter where you are in your keyword journey, remember that food blogging is a long game. Persistence is key. Write for the reader, always. Don’t overplan your content. Update your existing knowledge. Track your progress. And finally, arm yourself with the right knowledge to truly harness the power of keyword research.
Got a question about keyword research? Drop it in the comments below and let’s chat!
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Sarah Lawrie is a recipe developer, writer and designer. She runs Wandercooks alongside her wife, Laura, and is the author of Eat Your Words, a book teaching food bloggers keyword research. Find out more at Wandercooks.com.
Wayne Christensen says
I’ve never heard of key words. Thanks to you, however, I’ve got even more to think about! And I do mean it, sincerely . . . .
Hi Wayne! You don’t need them in the Substack newsletter, because it is subscriber based. But it is essential to learn for blogs and websites that rely on Google searches.
What a timely post Sarah! Thank you bunches. I am in the process of doing what you did with your blog – updating, keywording, republishing older content with tweaks and fresh photos. It’s a bit painful at the moment, but if I gain anywhere near your traffic I would be over the moon. How I wish I had known about KW’s years ago. Ugh. I took a class a few months ago and what an eye-opener. I learned a lot, but I still struggle with the tracking part. I also just rolled to Feast so I am a bit crazy, but I know it will get better. Thanks again for your encouragement and experience.
Sarah from Wandercooks says
Hey Sally! It’s definitely a long slog and a painful process, but SO worth it. I look forward to hearing where you are in a year’s time, and I’m sure your hard work will pay off. Good luck and do shout out if you have questions along the way in your journey. 🙂
JENNIFER R OSBORN says
Laughing my rear off at your line–“This is probably due to a combination of bad photography, your life story and a badly written recipe” you’re talking to me right there!
Thanks for these great tips.
Sarah from Wandercooks says
Haha! You’re welcome Jennifer. I think that’s what I love about blogging, going back shows just how much you’ve improved over time, even if it is cringeworthy!
Misty Scarborough says
Might you at any point kindly let me know the ideal word count per blog entry for SEO purposes? Likewise, would it be advisable for us to advance our blog entries utilizing virtual entertainment stages?
I’m no expert but I Googled your question and lots of others have tackled it. Here’s a post I found: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/how-long-should-your-blog-posts-be-faq
Re the second question, I don’t know what a virtual entertainment stage is! Sorry.