New Google Recipe Search Means Extra Coding for Food Bloggers

by diannejacob on February 28, 2011

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.

    Thinly-sliced apples: 6 cups
    White sugar: 3/4 cup

Now becomes:

 <span itemprop="ingredient" itemscope itemtype="">
      Thinly-sliced <span itemprop="name">apples</span>:
      <span itemprop="amount">6 cups</span>
   <span itemprop="ingredient" itemscope itemtype="">
      <span itemprop="name">White sugar</span>:
      <span itemprop="amount">3/4 cup</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.


Meathead March 17, 2011 at 8:00 am

For more info, I have posted a discussion of Google’s recipe search, the hRecipe CSS tags, examples, and other related info in an article on HuffPost. A more complete version is here:

diannejacob March 17, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Thank you so much. I linked to your post in my next post about the Huffington Post, but this is a better place for it.

Nate @ House of Annie March 17, 2011 at 7:44 pm

Besides rich snippets for recipes, Google also reads (and presumably favors) rich snippets for reviews. This can have an effect on food bloggers who do restaurant or food establishment reviews on their sites. Similar to the hrecipe microformat, there is also the hreview microformat. And similar to the RecipeSEO tool that helps format the code, there is an hreview creator to help you format your review:

diannejacob March 17, 2011 at 9:10 pm

Wow, I had no idea, Nate, that there is a rich snippet for other than recipes. Thanks for passing this on.

Dave March 23, 2011 at 9:41 am

I’m a little late to this thread, but have a related question. How do most of you have your recipes stored? Are they in files and you copy/paste them into a blog post or you you enter them by hand?

Sasa March 24, 2011 at 1:48 am

@Dave I have my recipes (and posts and photos) in a file on my computer in case something happens to my site and I cut and paste…Why?

By the way, there is another free WP plug-in called Recipe SEO here (you can access it through the plugins page in the backend of your blog too if you’re on self-hosted WP).

Jenn (JennCuisine) mentioned she wasn’t certain all the values were covered but it sounds like a few of you think you only need two or three of the values anyway?

Dave March 24, 2011 at 8:53 am

@Sasa I want to build something that helps add the rich snippet information for everyone. But I also want to make sure it works with how people might use it. Would love to chat with you more about that. You can email me here: dave [at] yummly [dot] com

Cathy March 25, 2011 at 11:26 am

Has anyone tried the wordpress plug-in mentioned in the Food Blog Forum article?

Jennifer (Delicieux) March 27, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Cathy, I tried the RecipeSEO plugin and it didn’t work for me and wouldn’t generate the rich snippet due to insufficient data or errors. I also found problems with the plugin in that initially you couldn’t edit a recipe, which has now been fixed, and then while you could edit the recipe sometimes it didn’t save the whole recipe. You also can’t format the recipe such as bolding headings etc. In the end I gave up and have gone back to simply typing out my recipes in my posts.

Maureen August 23, 2011 at 4:59 pm

EasyRecipe handles the rich snippets really well and also offers recipe printing, formatting – background colors, borders, fonts, all languages around the world, links in the recipes, photos in the recipes and all formatting changes are viewable in the live demo. for a quick video or free download.

Mireille May 14, 2012 at 5:20 pm

now if they would only make one of these cool tools on the blogger platform..WP has all these great plug ins but the process of switching over (and I have been contemplating it for several months now) seems so difficult to transfer previous posts

diannejacob May 15, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Yes, it’s a big investment. But it may be better to do it sooner than later.

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