I just got off the phone with my dad. I often times use the 10-minute commute to the office to call home and check in with my mom and dad. We usually chat about the news or things that we have planned for the day, which is exactly how the conversation went today.
Dad: “What do you have planned for today?”
Bjork: “I’m writing a post about SEO for food blogs.”
Bjork: “Yeah, it stands for search engine optimization…”
…commence Bjork oversharing with dad about what SEO is and how it works, why it’s beneficial to bloggers, and how we go about doing it for our two sites, Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro.
That little SEO soap box moment made me realize how excited I get when I talk about SEO.
It makes sense, as search engine traffic is one of the most common ways that people discover Pinch of Yum and/or Food Blogger Pro. As the screenshots below show, SEO is an important part of for our businesses.
Pinch of Yum traffic from Google in January 2015
Food Blogger Pro traffic from Google in January 2015
But I have a long way to go before I can claim to be an expert on SEO, which is why I still make a point to review content that is created for people that are just getting started with SEO.
One of my favorite resources is Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO. I recently revisited that guide and pulled out 10 things that I learned after reading it. If you have an hour or so I’d recommend that you read through the entire guide.
After reading this post, of course. 🙂
While the content in this post applies to all types of blogs and websites, I’ve crafted the 10 points below so they speak specifically to food bloggers, ’cause those are my people.
1. “It is both relevance and popularity that the process of SEO is meant to influence.”
I had to read that sentence a few times before it really sank in.
Said differently, SEO is the art (and science) of creating content that actually meets the need of the reader and is shared a lot.
Said differently again, good SEO is creating content that is helpful and sharable.
The basic ingredients for a helpful and shareable food blog recipe post is a (1) a really good recipe with (2) beautiful photos.
If you’d like to take it a step further you can add in tips, tricks, or things that make people go “hey, that’s cool, I’m going to share this.”
Think about the food related content that you see online and share. Why is that you share that content? How can you reverse engineer that post and figure out what it is that makes it shareable?
Here is another thought to ponder: Are you creating content that might connect with and help other bloggers or content creators?
Creating content that is aimed at other content creators can be one of the best ways to build your blog’s SEO, as content creators are also content sharers.
These are the types of questions you should be asking yourself as you think about creating content that is both relevant and popular.
Helpful doesn’t have to be “how-to” type content. Sometimes people just want to do something (like be entertained) versus know something, which brings me to point #2.
2. People use search engines to DO, KNOW, or GO.
Do: These are transactional queries. For a food blogger, an example would be someone searching for your YouTube channel because they want to watch a video you created for entertainment purposes.
A “do” type search could also mean someone searching for a recipe on your blog, going to the blog post, and printing off that recipe.
Know: These are information queries. An example would be someone searching for how to make hummus.
This person isn’t necessarily looking for a hummus recipe that they’ll print out (although they might end up doing that). The first thing they’re looking for is information that will show them how to make hummus.
I think the “know” type content is often overlooked by food bloggers. There are lots of recipes out there, but not as many resources that are instructional in nature.
Can you imagine if there was a blog dedicated purely to food and kitchen tips and tricks? If the content was well done there could be huge potential for creating a site that has extremely relevant and popular content (and lots of potential for brand partnership as well).
Search Result for Pinch of Yum
Search Result for Food Blogger Pro
These people are using the search engine to go somewhere on the web.
There’s good news and bad news with this.
Bad News: We don’t know why people are searching for your blog instead of just typing the URL into their browser.
Good News: We don’t need to know why. Because if people are doing it then people are doing it. 🙂
If people are navigating to your blog using search engines then that means you (the blogger) need to be intentional about presenting your blog in the best possible way.
3. “The point of using keywords is not to rank highly for all keywords, but to rank highly for the keywords that people are searching for when they want what your site provides.”
I think we all understand this in concept, but applying it to your SEO strategy is easier said than done.
For instance, the working title for this post was originally “10 Things I Learned from Reading Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO.”
Sure, it was a descriptive title, but it was a terrible decision for SEO. Why? Because the person that I hope to attract to Food Blogger Pro isn’t any ’ole blogger, I want to focus on food bloggers.
My target market is food bloggers, not bloggers, and therefore my keywords should focus on food blogging, not blogging in general.
So, after applying tip #3 to this post, I changed the title to “10 Food Blog SEO tips from Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO.”
Do you see how big of a difference that makes?
A recipe post is pretty straight forward when it comes to SEO, as you’re usually wanting to rank high for the name of the recipe, so there probably isn’t much tweaking that you’d need to do, especially if you’re already following the basics that we outline in the SEO for food blogs course on FBP.
But I’m guessing you might have some products you sell or affiliate marketing relationships where this SEO tip could really come in handy. When you’re crafting content to promote those products be sure that you’re focusing on the keywords that people are searching for when they want what your site provides.
4. “Use dashes in your web address.”
Aesthetically speaking I like dashes (-) more than underscores (_), but I didn’t understand that using dashes in your URL instead of underscores, plus signs (+), or spaces (%20) could be considered a strategic SEO move.
Using dashes in your URL won’t necessarily help your site rank higher in search engines, but it’ll help ensure that different web applications don’t have trouble reading the URL, as the other symbols can sometimes cause applications to get confused. Needless-to-say, having easy-to-understand URLs is always better than more confusing URLs.
If you’re following this piece of advice you’d want to make sure that your URLs look like this:
…and not like this:
Chances are that you don’t need to worry about this, as the default behavior for most content management systems (like WordPress) is to use dashes. None-the-less I thought it was an interesting tip.
If nothing else it can be a fun conversation starter at your next cocktail party.
5. “70% of search is the long-tail.”
Thank goodness for the long-tail.
Long-tail keyword traffic is the best concrete example of why the one percent infinity concept is almost guaranteed to work when building a blog or a website.
When it comes to search traffic, the chances are much greater that you’ll have thousands of keywords that result in a few clicks versus having a few keywords that result in thousands of clicks.
That’s been true for both Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro, as you can see in these screenshots from Google Analytics
Total Keywords with clicks for Pinch of Yum (January 2015)
Total Keywords with clicks for Food Blogger Pro (January 2015)
The part I want you to notice with those screenshots is the bottom right corner with the red box around it. That number represents the number of keywords that have resulted in at least one visitor to the site (in the month of January).
For Food Blogger Pro, it’s 274. For Pinch of Yum, it’s 7,719.
7,719. That’s a lot of different keyword combinations.
So why the drastic difference between Food Blogger Pro and Pinch of Yum?
There are numerous reasons, but the most important differences are (1) time and (2) total content. Lindsay has been building Pinch of Yum for over five years, and it has over 650 posts, while Food Blogger Pro has been around for two years and has just around 120 posts, half of which are low quality posts (in the eyes of Google) like member interviews or news about Food Blogger Pro.
Long-tail keyword traffic is one of the reasons why we often preach about the importance of long-term commitment to blogging (with small daily improvements along the way), because, as we mentioned, 70% of search traffic is long-tail, and the best way to build long-tail search traffic is to have lots of awesome content that you’ve been producing for an extended period of time.
Keep in mind that long-tail traffic refers to search traffic, not social traffic. A spike in social traffic often times happens quickly and sporadically, not slowly over time. With Pinch of Yum we’ve had posts go viral on Pinterest, Facebook, or Twitter. It’s awesome. And short lived.
Pinch of Yum social traffic over time
Pinch of Yum search traffic over time
Food Blogger Pro social traffic over time
Food Blogger Pro search traffic over time
The advantage with the long-tail is that it’s usually a slow and steady climb upwards, as opposed to social traffic which is usually sporadic and unpredictable (albeit powerful).
6. Good site design can positively impact your blog’s SEO.
This one always confused me a bit. I had heard people talk about how good design is important for SEO, but I never really understood how Google, a robot, could “get” what good design is.
The reality is that Google can’t tell what good design is, but people can, and most people (at least the people I know) really enjoy things that are designed well.
If people really enjoy something then their more likely to link to it in a blog post or on social media, and having high quality links pointing back to your blog is one of the most important elements in building the strength of your blog’s SEO.
And therein lies the beauty of SEO. It’s both art and science, engineering and psychology. You’re creating content that’s easy to understand for robots yet highly engaging for humans.
7. Search engines track engagement by seeing if you come back and continue searching.
I knew that a website could rank higher in search engines if it was more engaging, but I never knew how search engines would track how engaging a site was.
I had this weird (and way off) assumption that Google search would hook into a website’s Google Analytics stats to see if it was engaging, but that would create a reverse inventive for websites to use Google Analytics, at least if the site wasn’t an engaging one, so that theory of mine didn’t make much sense.
In reality, search engines can tell how engaged someone is with a certain page by tracking to see if that person comes back to the search page after clicking on a link.
For instance, let’s say you Google red lentil curry recipe. You’re presented with a list of potential recipes and you click on the first one. It’s not quite what you’re looking for, so you press the back button to go back to the search results page.
What you’ve just done is communicated to Google that this page isn’t exactly what you’re looking for. If enough people go back to that search results page after clicking on a certain link then it’s possible that Google would notice a trend and assume that the page it’s showing isn’t actually a good match for people that are searching for “red lentil curry.”
8. The (not provided) keyword result is a result of people using Google with a secure SSL (https://google.com) and/or from people that are signed in to their Google account.
What a bummer this screenshot is:
Do you see that top row? The one that says (not provided)? It represents 90% of the keyword data that we have for organic search results in that screenshot. That’s a lot of data that isn’t provided.
The (not provided) result happens because of a change that Google made in 2011 that blocked Google Analytics from reporting on keywords from users that were logged into a Google account or that were using Google from a secure URL (like https://google.com).
There are ways that you can combat the (not provided) results, but we haven’t prioritized doing that for Pinch of Yum.
Right now we just use the 10% of results that do have keywords provided as a sample group. It’s not entirely accurately, but it provides a decent rough estimate for what the most popular keywords are.
9. “Just knowing the numbers won’t help unless you can effectively interpret and apply changes to course-correct.”
This concept is incredibly important.
So many people use analytics and traffic numbers as “huh, that’s nice to know” type information. We check our stats, see that the numbers have gone up (raise the roof emoji!) or down (tear on the face emoji!), and then go back to our normal routine.
But numbers and analytics are useless unless we use them to take action. That’s why I recommend that bloggers focus on user controlled analytics in their first year of blogging instead of traditional analytics.
If you’re convinced that you want to check your numbers consistently then be sure that you’re using those numbers to help you better understand and improve the type of content that you’re creating.
10. The Beginner’s Guide to SEO is a great example of good SEO.
Check out the [search results for the term “SEO.](http://www.google.com/search?q=seo)”
There’s the Beginner’s Guide to SEO from Moz at the #2 spot, right under Wikipedia.
That’s what I call proof of concept!
This is especially true considering the fact that the keyword “SEO” is an incredibly competitive keyword to rank for. Just think about it: the companies that are trying to rank for that keyword are all companies that are experts in the field of ranking high on search engines. That’s some stiff competition.
My point? If you’re wanting to see an example of content that is crafted in a way that helps it rank high in search engines, and learn about SEO in the process, be sure to check out the Beginner’s Guide to SEO.
The bottom line: Good SEO is less about tips, tricks and SEO tactics and more about creating high-quality, engaging, well-designed, human first content.
This post was is no way sponsored or connected with Moz. We’re not affiliates and there’s no incentive for us in creating this post. If you have some time I’d recommend that you poor a cup of coffee and sit down and read through the entire guide.
What other SEO tips do you think are important for food bloggers to know? Are there things you learned from this post (or the Moz guide) that you didn’t know before? What are some questions you have about SEO?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.