Search engine optimization (SEO) is an important concept to understand as you grow your food blog. Many people understand the basic concept of SEO and are applying those basic ideas to their blog, so the challenge for bloggers is finding tips and tricks that are specific to their niche that other people aren't already doing. These niche specific SEO tips are what help give one blog an edge over another blog when it comes to ranking high in search engines.
Today I'd like to share one of those niche specific, high impact SEO tips with you. The content that I'm writing about today will be specific to food blogs, but the general process could be used by other types of blogs.
The screenshot below shows the point where we started using this SEO tip with Pinch of Yum (August 15th, 2013) and the growth of organic search traffic that has happened since that date.
The direct effect from one SEO change is hard to track, but I’m confident that the tip I’ll share today will positively impact the overall SEO of your food blog.
Before I share the tip I want to talk about a general business concept. In order to do so we’ll need to reflect back to the music scene in the year 2000.
Napster, in it’s original form, was a peer-to-peer file sharing software (usually music MP3s) that allowed people to send or receive files (usually illegally).
Drops of Jupiter by Train? Yes please. Kryptonite by 3 Doors Down? Sure! I Knew I Loved You by Savage Garden? Why not!
Napster exploded with popularity and grew to 25 million global users in less than two years.
As Napster grew so did the panic level in record labels around the world. Many record labels reacted by tightening their grip, creating restrictive CDs that didn’t allow people to download the music to their computer. These restrictive CDs enraged legions of loyal fans as well as the bands that recorded them.
But the worst part wasn’t that the record labels (and artists) lost fans. It’s that they missed an opportunity.
Was file sharing on Napster illegal? Yes. Undoubtedly so.
Was file sharing on Napster a bad thing for record labels. Not necessarily.
The problem was what the record labels were focusing on:
They could have been focusing on this:
Can you imagine how far ahead a record label would have been today if, instead of fighting to make CDs more secure, they would have tried to find ways to make their music easier to access while still creating a profit from it?
My point is this: Sometimes we’re looking at an opportunity but all that we see is a problem.
So how does this apply to my food blog?
Let’s go from general concept to specific example.
I often times see food bloggers that are frustrated with a site that is using their food photo or recipe without permission. Lindsay and I have been there. It’s maddening when you see someone that has posted your photo or your recipe on their blog. It’s especially maddening if they’re getting lots of social shares and traffic for it.
The feelings that I experience in a situation like this are probably very similar to the feelings that record labels would have felt when people were sharing music on Napster: angry…frustrated…vengeful.
At the same time it’s possible that, just like the record labels, I’m looking at an opportunity but seeing a problem.
Sharing is one of the most important and valuable things that happens on the internet, and yet the default tendency for many food bloggers that find a photo or recipe on another site is to send a note that looks something like this:
You stink and I don't like you. Take down my content now or I’ll send my lawyers after you.
And that’s that. The website owner either takes down the content of they get a note from a lawyer threatening a lawsuit.
However, with a subtle shift of focus the situation can change from a problem to an opportunity. The opportunity is that people are sharing our content, which is really, really good. The challenge now is to figure out how to leverage that sharing to benefit our blog.
SEO and the importance of links
If you’re a Food Blogger Pro member then you’ve probably been through the SEO for Food Bloggers course. In the course we talk about two types of SEO, on-page factors and off-page factors.
Off-page factors: SEO factors that you’re not able to change on your site. Examples include social media sites like Google+, social bookmarking sites like StumpleUpon, and links that point to your blog from other websites or blogs.
While on-page factors are important, off-page factors have the potential to have a bigger impact. Why? Because off-page SEO factors are harder for bloggers to manipulate, which means that these off-page factors have a higher probability of being trustyworthy information providers for Google.
And what’s one of the most important off-page SEO factors?
Links aren’t everything in SEO, but search professionals attribute a large portion of the engines’ algorithms to link-based factors. Through links, engines can not only analyze the popularity of a website and page based on the number and popularity of pages linking to them, but also metrics like trust, spam, and authority.
Emphasis added by me. 🙂
While many of these sites are stealing your content without your permission, the reality is that it can actually be beneficial for your blog in the long run.
The Birds Links and the Bees
It’s kind of like this:
Imagine a bee taking pollen from a flower. The bee is “stealing” the pollen from the flower, but because of cross-pollination it’s actually helping the flower patch to grow stronger.
It’s similar with a blog:
A person might take a photo from your blog. This person is “stealing” the photo, but if you can get a link that points back to your blog it will help your blog to grow stronger.
So we know that links are incredibly important when it comes to SEO, but how do we go about getting these links to our blog?
Moz shares three ways that you can build links to your blog:
1. “Natural” Editorial Links: People naturally linking to your blog. These type of links are really good to have.
2. Manual “Outreach” Link Building: Reaching out and asking people to link to your blog. These are also good, as long as they’re not links that you’re paying for.
3. Self-Created, Non-Editorial: Posting in forums, guest books, etc… These are generally low quality links and don’t have a huge impact.
Right now we’re stuck between #1 and #2. Someone is naturally sharing our content but they’re not providing links. That means we need to figure out who they are and then reach out to them.
Google’s Reverse Image Search
The easiest way to find blogs and websites that are using your images is to use Google’s Search by Image.
How cool is that?
In a matter of seconds you get a list of sites that are using your image. There are a few ways you can use Search by Image, but I suggest using the Search by Image Extension for Chrome or the Search by Image Add-on for Firefox.
Thanks to our Search by Image results you now have a list of sites that are using your image. It’s time to reach out and request that these sites place proper links back to your blog.
When reaching out to these sites I’d suggest two things:
- Assume the best. People will be more likely to help if they don’t feel threatened.
- Provide an example. Here’s what we say for Pinch of Yum:
I noticed that you’ve shared an image from Pinch of Yum’s Crockpot Chicken Wild Rice Soup post on your website on this page: http://websiteaddress.com/crockpot-chicken-wild-rice-soup. We are so glad you liked the photo! However, we do not allow republication of photos without proper links back to the original post.
We ask for two links as a credit back to the original source:
1) A link to the Pinch of Yum homepage – http://pinchofyum.com, and
2) A link to the post – http://pinchofyum.com/crockpot-chicken-wild-rice-soup
There are a few places you can reach out to the site owner to send this message:
- Their contact page (on the website)
- Email (use http://whois.net/ if you can’t find it on their site)
- Social media sites (if they have links provided on their blog)
Online businesses spend an incredible amount of time and money trying to get people to link to their site. With a food blog it’s significantly easier, as you can use Search by Image to find people that are already using your content and simply ask them to add proper links back to your site.
What if they don’t get back to me and continue using my content?
I should clarify: It depends on your personality.
Some people are okay letting it go. Other people will have a hard time sleeping until they’ve taken action. If the latter describes you then it’s probably good to educate yourself on DMCA takedown requests and develop a system for submitting them.
My personal opinion is that your time is better spent creating new, awesome, original content for your blog. Spammy, low-quality sites never win in the long run, and chances are they’ll eventually die on their own.
What about my recipes?
Recipes are a little bit harder to find, but I’d suggest using Google Alerts to monitor the web for specific phrases from your instructions.
If you’re a Food Blogger Pro member you can check out the Google Alerts course to get step-by-step instructions for setting those up.
There are two things that I hope I’ve communicated in this post.
- An issue is often times an opportunity if you’re able to shift your focus.
- Food blogs have an opportunity to build quality links to their blog by using Search by Image and following up with the websites they find that are using their images.
You’ll be most successful with this if you’re able to build in a scheduled time each week to do it. This type of link building is a marathon, not a sprint.
I’m off to listen to some Savage Garden. But this time I’ll be using Spotify, not Napster. 🙂