I just got off the phone with my dad. I often use the 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 soapbox 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 our businesses.
Pinch of Yum traffic from Google in July 2020
Food Blogger Pro traffic from Google in July 2020
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. “A big part of determining where your page will rank for a given query is how well the content on your page matches the query’s intent.”
Said differently, SEO is the art (and science) of creating content that actually meets the needs of the readers.
Said differently again, good SEO is creating content that’s helpful.
The basic ingredients for a helpful food blog recipe post are (1) a really good recipe that is (2) easy to follow and has (3) 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 it that you find that content so helpful? How can you reverse-engineer that post and figure out what it is that makes it an awesome piece of content?
It doesn’t really matter how long your post is or how many times you use a specific keyword in your post; at the end of the day, you need to ask yourself if your post is high-quality and if it’s meeting your readers’ needs.
2. Links Establish Authority
There are a ton of different “ranking signals” (aka. factors in Google’s algorithm that determines how content should be ranked in search results). We already talked about a major ranking factor: high-quality content. But another is links.
“Links” can be broken into two different, equally important categories: inbound (also known as backlinks) and internal.
Both kinds of links help you establish your authority, as well as your blog’s place amongst all of the other blogs on the World Wide Web. Not only that, Google’s crawlers can actually discover your content from these links on other sites!
Say you have an incredible chocolate chip cookie recipe on your site. If you link to that chocolate chip cookie recipe on another recipe post on your site (say, an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie you developed based on your popular chocolate chip cookie recipe), that would be considered an internal link.
Backlinks, on the other hand, come from external sources. So if another blogger links to “this really awesome chocolate chip cookie recipe [they] made over the weekend,” that mention would “tell” Google that your content was helpful and high-quality.
Another example is if a news outlet like Buzzfeed or HuffPost links to your recipes. They’re already a well-established source of information for the rest of the internet; linking to your recipe tells Google that your content is too.
Now, it’s important to note that not every backlink is helpful. In fact, links from low-quality sources can even hinder your blog’s SEO. But natural backlinks from high-quality sources can help establish your content as important, trustworthy, and relevant.
Here’s a real-world example for ya. Look how many sessions have come from referrals to this Lo Mein recipe on Pinch of Yum:
The above Google Analytics screenshot is showing the clicks that are coming over from backlinks to the Lo Mein recipe on Pinch of Yum, which is one benefit of backlinks.
But in my opinion, the biggest benefit from those backlinks is the signal it sends to Google that this specific recipe is authoritative. It showcases the double benefit you get from backlinks: traffic from the clicks PLUS signals sent to Google that the specific post that is being linked to is authoritative.
3. Create 10x Content
I love Moz’s concept of creating 10x content –– it’s the idea of making your content stand out amongst all of the other search results by making it 10x better than those other results.
Of course, there isn’t a “formula” you can follow to make your content 10x better than other search results. That said, the next time you go and write a recipe post, do a little research, look at which articles are ranking for the keywords you want to rank for, and see what makes those search results so helpful.
4. URL Structure is Used by Readers and Search Engines
How much time do you spend thinking about the URL structure on your site?
I’m guessing not a lot.
But things like the way you name and organize your pages, the URL length, and use of special characters can all impact your site’s SEO.
And it’s pretty easy to see why. If you were searching for a brownie recipe, would you want to click on a URL that looks like this?
Or like this?
Probably not. Not only do those URLs look a little spammy, they’re tough to read, so you don’t really know if you’re getting a recipe for a brownie if you click on that link.
Something like this is short, concise, and natural. It also contains important keywords like “salted caramel” and “brownies.”
5. 75% of Search is Long-Tail
Thank goodness for the long-tail.
Long-tail keyword traffic is the best concrete example of why the 1% Infinity concept is nearly 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 Search Console:
Total Keywords with clicks for Pinch of Yum (in the last seven days)
Total Keywords with clicks for Food Blogger Pro (in the last seven days)
The part I want you to notice with those screenshots is the bottom right corner with the orange 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 July).
For Food Blogger Pro, it’s 157. For Pinch of Yum, it’s over 1000 (the report only goes to 1000 results).
Over 1000. That’s a lot of different keyword combinations in just seven days!
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 ten years, and it has over 1,000 posts, while Food Blogger Pro has been around for seven years and has just around 150 posts, half of which are low-quality posts (in the eyes of Google), like 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, 75% 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 oftentimes happens quickly and sporadically, not slowly over time. With Pinch of Yum, we’ve had posts go viral on Pinterest, Facebook, or Instagram. It’s awesome, but short-lived.
Pinch of Yum social sessions over time
Pinch of Yum search sessions over time
Food Blogger Pro social sessions over time
Food Blogger Pro search sessions 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 “understand” what good design is.
The reality is that Google can’t tell what good design is (although it’s getting better at it), 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 they’re more likely to link to it in a blog post or on social media, and, as we talked about previously, 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.
Formatting like headings, bullet points, short paragraphs, bolds, italics, and text size can all contribute to a better reading experience and affect your post’s ability to show up in featured snippets that appear above organic search results:
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. “You are what you E-A-T”
The concept of E-A-T is very “on-brand” for food bloggers, don’t you think? 😉
E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, and sites that have high levels of E-A-T are seen as high-quality resources and create a more well-rounded, future-proofed site.
What helps you build your food blog’s expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness? Things like:
- Links back to your site from high-quality, credible sources
- Comprehensive, easy-to-follow, and well-written recipes
- Links to helpful, high-quality resources where your readers can go to learn more
- Proof of your recipe development process and reasons why you chose the ingredients for the final recipe
- Meaningful, high reviews from people who have made your recipes
If you check it out, you’ll see that it shows she’s done extensive research and experimentation on baking chocolate chip cookies. She shows how different ingredients can affect the outcome of the recipe, offers guidance on tools that will make the cookie-making process easier, and talks about the specific brands of ingredients she likes to use.
E-A-T at its finest!
8. “Google wants you to earn links, not build them.”
We’ve talked about the importance of links a few times in this article, but link-building can go awry if you do it in a spammy way.
It can be tempting to buy links back to your site or participate in a bunch of link exchanges to quickly build backlinks, but Google sees those as low-quality links. Worst-case scenario: Google can penalize you for these types of link-building schemes. 😔
Moz has a ton of advice for earning high-quality backlinks here, but here’s a quick overview:
9. “Measuring the impact of your work and ongoing refinement is critical to your SEO success, client retention, and perceived value.”
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 (🥳) or down (😭), and then go back to our normal routine.
But SEO isn’t a “one and done” kind of thing. Earning links, high amounts of E-A-T, and search rankings takes constant effort that needs to be monitored, measured, and adjusted over time.
10. The Beginner’s Guide to SEO is a great example of good SEO.
Check out the search results for the term “SEO.”
There’s the Beginner’s Guide to SEO from Moz at the #1 spot.
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 in 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 pour 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 from 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.