Tips from Bjork and Lindsay
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Welcome to episode 96 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week, Bjork talks about recipe plugins and why you should be using one on your food blog.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork interviewed Jillian Tohber Leslie from Catch My Party and MiloTree. They talked about making successful career changes by embracing the mess. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Regardless of where you are in your blogging journey (just starting out to full-time), chances are you’ve heard the words recipe plugin before. These plugins are incredibly important for food bloggers to be aware of because they not only make your recipes look beautiful, but they also help your blog communicate with search engines like Google and Pinterest.
There are so many elements to consider when choosing a recipe plugin for your blog, and it’s important to choose one that checks off “all of the SEO boxes.” So when Bjork noticed the recipe plugin Pinch of Yum was using wasn’t quite keeping up with the times, he decided it was time to build one in-house.
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Bjork Ostrom: In this episode, we are talking all about recipe plugins, specifically what they are and why you should be using one.
Hey, everybody, it is Bjork, and I am sitting in a room all by myself and talking to myself. These are always interesting episodes to do because they are solo episodes, so I’m not asking questions. I’m just talking. I’ll do my best to keep it entertaining and engaging, as it is just me having a conversation with you. It’s not actually technically a conversation. It’s just me talking, so I’ll try and keep it entertaining.
We’re going to be talking about recipe plugins today, and I want to give you kind of the quick back story of why we are talking about recipe plugins. One of the things that I’m not going to do for this podcast is talk about the positives and negatives of other recipe plugins. There’s lots of recipe plugins out there. I’m going to be talking more about recipe plugins in general, and then talking about what we’ve learned as we’ve developed our own recipe plugin called Tasty Recipes.
Now before I get into talking about Tasty Recipes, I want to explain this real quick. Tasty Recipes is a plugin that’s under the umbrella of a brand that we launched called WP Tasty. WP Tasty right now, the only thing you can get there is Tasty Recipes, the plugin, but eventually it’s going to have more food blog-related tools and plugins and themes and things like that, but right now, we are just focusing in on Tasty Recipes and really making sure that we’re optimizing that.
Le’s rewind a little bit and talk about recipe plugins in general as it relates to Pinch of Yum, our story. For those that aren’t familiar, Pinch of Yum is the food blog that is 95% run by Lindsay, my wife, Lindsay, and then 5% I kind of help out with behind the scenes and will occasionally jump on and do a post related to the business of blogging or something like that.
If we go back in time, we had been using a plugin, and it worked really well for a long time. One of the things I’m not going to do is mention other plugin names, like I talked about. We’re just going to talk in generalities here, but one of the things that we realized with that plugin is that it wasn’t being actively updated and wasn’t being actively maintained.
We kind of got to the point where we said, “You know what? We really want to have control of this,” because, really, the income that we make relies on the food blog, Pinch of Yum. That’s literally how we pay the bills, both for us as well as our staff and team, and so we knew that this was really critical that we had a plugin that we had control over, that we were familiar with, and that we could actively update and maintain. Came to this point where we were having frustrations because we wanted support or we wanted updates to happen with this plugin that we were using, and it just didn’t happen. We didn’t have the ability to do that because the plugin wasn’t ours.
What we did is we decided to take a step back and we decided, you know what, we have the time and ability and the team to jump in and create our own plugin. We said, “Let’s go ahead and jump in and do this,” and that’s where Tasty Recipes came about. Just within the last month, we’ve launched that publicly, so if you go to wptasty.com, you can see the download information and learn a little bit more about Tasty Recipes.
Today, what I wanted to do is talk about some of the things that we learned along the way. We’ve been doing this for six months, even though it’s only been open and able to download publicly for about a month now. We’ve been doing this for a really long time and developing it and learning a lot of stuff along the way, and I want to share that with you today.
What I want you to know is this is important information, and it doesn’t just have to be Tasty Recipes. You don’t have to use our plugin in order to get something from this podcast. This is generally good information to know. I just wanted to say that. It doesn’t mean that you have to download Tasty Recipes. This is universally applicable information if you run a food or recipe site. In general, we’re going to be talking about some things that are important even if you don’t run a food and recipe site.
Here are the things that we’re going to talk about today as it relates to recipe plugins. First, we’re going to talk about what a plugin is. I think it’s important to kind of lay that groundwork. We’re going to be talking about specifics, then of what a recipe plugin is. We’re going to be talking about this thing called structured data and why that’s important. We’re going to be talking about how you can get an inside peek from a machine’s point of view, from a robot’s point of view of what your site looks like, like a search engine like Google. We’re going to talk a little bit about the perfect search result in Google and how you can get that for your blog.
All of this stuff is so, so, so important because one of the primary ways that you’re going to get traffic to your site or probably already do is through search engines. All of this stuff ties in to search engines in one way, shape, or form. What I want to say is, before we get into it, search engines can be all different types of sites. It’s not just Google. In some ways, Pinterest is a search engine, so you can go and you can use Pinterest to search for things. It’s a search engine. Or YouTube is a really popular search engine. People go there and they try and find certain solutions or answers.
I heard a news story about an eight-year-old … We left a link to this in the show notes. … an eight-year-old recently who wanted to go to McDonald’s, and his parents weren’t there or they were sleeping or something like that. He went to YouTube and searched How Do You Drive a Car? He, that night, learned how to drive a car and went to McDonald’s with his four-year-old sister and got, I don’t know, cheeseburger or something.
So YouTube is a search engine. All of these things, all of those examples are search engines, but in general, we’re going to be talking about Google as the primary driver of traffic as a search engine. Pinterest, too, there’s some important things that we’re going to talk about as it relates to recipe plugins for search engines.
Let’s go ahead and jump in. Let’s talk first about what a plugin is. This is something that for those of you that have been blogging for a really long time, you might be like, “Oh, of course, I know this. I get this,” but if you’re first starting out and you haven’t given some thought to this, I think it’s important to point out what a plugin actually is. For those of you that don’t use WordPress, you might be a little bit confused by that term, the plugin.
I want to say this. If you use another site … maybe you use something like WIX or you use Squarespace or Blogger … the term plugin isn’t going to be something that you commonly see associated with those types of content management systems. That’s one of the primary issues that you’re going to run into if you don’t run your site on WordPress, is that you’re not going to be able to use plugins that are going to really have a big impact on the things that you can do with your site. We’re going to talk about some of the specifics of that when we look at the next question, what is a recipe plugin?
In general, what is a plugin? A plugin is something that you can use on your site that changes the way that WordPress behaves. Maybe it augments it, it adds features, it enhances certain things. These are really important to have on your site, because you can think of WordPress as something like a car. If you install WordPress on your site, it’s kind of like you have maybe the engine of the car and the frame, maybe you have the wheels as well. With the plain installation of WordPress, that’s all that you have.
How do you go about building out that car so not only it’s more functional, but also it looks better than just like an exposed frame and an engine? What you do is you would install a theme as well as plugins. You can think of a theme as kind of the skin of the car that gives it a look and a feel. Maybe it’s some of the interior design of the car. It’s what most people would see when they actually look at the car. It’s the colors, it’s the style. It’s things like that.
What is a plugin, then? Plugins would be the extra things above and beyond kind of the basic style that you’re looking at. I had a friend in high school who had … It was a Grand Prix, like a white Grand Prix, and so he would hit these … I don’t know if this was cool when you guys were in school or not, but he would get lights that would glow underneath the car when he would drive, and he would have these things called spinners. They’re the hubcaps, but they’re the cheap version, so it was just like hubcap spinners. When your car would stop, then the hubcaps would continue to spin on the car, or he had a really big muffler that made more noise when he drove, which was apparently cool.
All of those things could kind of be viewed as plugins. They’re things above and beyond the frame, they’re above and beyond the engine, and they’re kind of above and beyond the general style, which would be comparable to the theme. They’re things that are kind of add-ons that really change the behavior of the site. They don’t necessarily change the look and feel of it, although they could, but they enhance certain areas.
Plugins can do all sorts of different things. They can enhance security. There’s different plugins that make it harder for people to hack your site. They can make your site faster, so there’s different caching plugins that make your site load a lot faster. There’s plugins you can install that help with SEO and really open up areas of your site and allow you to edit in ways that normally you can’t with WordPress. We had a great interview with Yoast. Those of you that are familiar with the Yoast plugin and maybe use that for SEO, that’s a great example of a plugin.
There’s all these different types of plugins, and that’s one of the main advantages of using something like WordPress. Not only is it a really, really popular content management system, but the advantage of that, being a popular content management system, is that people create these plugins that you can use to augment or enhance the behavior of kind of the stock version of WordPress.
What do you do if you’re using something like Blogger or Squarespace or WIX or something like that? It really depends on what your long-term goal is for your site. With WordPress, it might take a little bit more in terms of the management side of it. You’ll usually have to take care of updates and keep an eye to make sure that your site is safe and secure. You might have to pay more attention to performance and things like that, but the advantage is it’s going to be a lot more customizable and you’re going to have the ability to augment the site in ways that you wouldn’t be able to do with some of those more restricted platforms like we mentioned before.
I’m not saying for sure it’s something that you want to switch to and use WordPress, but if you find yourself being restricted and wanting to do some things that you can’t do … Maybe it’s marking up your recipes in a way that Google understands, which is what we’re going to explain in a little bit, and you can’t do that, or maybe you want to add some functionality that you can’t right now, it might be worth considering switching to WordPress. I would say in general, my advice is that if you’re wanting to build a content-based site, meaning something that the primary motivation for it is driving traffic via search or social media, then WordPress is going to be a really strong competitor for a good solution for you.
If you’re more of like a media portfolio business where you want to really showcase your photography or you want to not use it necessarily to drive a bunch of traffic but to communicate a really strong brand presence, that would be a great example of something like Squarespace because their sites look so good and they require less maintenance than a WordPress site would.
What is a plugin? Simply put, it’s ways that you can augment and enhance a default WordPress installation. There’s all different types of content management systems, but we’re going to focus on plugins within the WordPress ecosystem.
Let’s go to stage two here and talk specifically, then, about a recipe plugin. We know plugins in general. What is a recipe plugin? There’s two different reasons why recipe plugins are important. First, recipe plugins allow designers and developers to create a style and a look and a feel for the recipe on your blog that kind of lets it stand out more than a normal paragraph would.
If you can imagine if you just typed into your site a list of ingredients and instructions, it would look like a normal paragraph or maybe it would look like a normal list within your site. That’s definitely okay, and, in fact, with Tasty Recipes, the default way for Tasty Recipes to look when you install it is a very basic version of the recipe. That’s because we wanted to match as closely as possible what the normal behavior of your site is.
Now it’s really easy to enhance that and change that and design around it, but that’s kind of a stock behavior for Tasty Recipes, is it’s going to look exactly like the design of your site. Usually what people want to do is they want to take that and then enhance it a little bit. Maybe they want to put the recipe in a box, or maybe they want to give it kind of a background color so it can stand out a little bit so people can see that this is the recipe area of the post.
It’s kind of like if you imagine being at a family dinner and somebody grabs their recipe box and they’re flipping through and they grab a card, it’s kind of similar to that. It’s the digital version of a recipe card. It’s the area on a post that stands out and says, “Here is the recipe.” That’s one reason why recipe plugins are important, is because they will allow designers and the developers you work with to style your recipe in a certain way that allows it to stand out so people can look and see and realize where the recipe is within your post.
The other reason that recipe plugins are really important is because of this thing called structured data. This is going to get a little bit nerdy, but it’s a really important concept to understand if you are working on building a content-based business, especially food blog or a recipe blog. Also, structured data is important even if you don’t have recipes on your blog. Structured data is important because … Let’s do this. Let’s define structured data. One of the things I love to do is just really break down a term and do that by just kind of rearranging it.
What is structured data? We all know what data is, right? It’s information that’s certain data points that we’ve collected, so it could be numbers, information, content. It’s data, right? We know what data is. Then it’s data that is structured. It sounds super obvious, but compare that to, let’s say, a block of text and within that text it’s a bunch of words. When a search engine looks at that, if there was a recipe within that block of text, if there’s a paragraph-long block of information and it was ingredients and instructions and it was all smashed into one big paragraph, a search engine or a robot would come and look at that and wouldn’t know that it’s a recipe. They’re not smart enough yet to really intuitively understand that.
As content creators, what we need to do is we need to come to the table. If you imagine yourself sitting down and across from you is a machine or a robot and you’re saying, “Here’s some information.” You’re coming to the table and you’re saying, “I’m going to structure this information, or this data, in a way that makes it easier for you to understand.” You’re structuring the information. You’re structuring the data.
There’s all different types of ways that you can do that, and we’re going to talk about two of the important ways in a little bit, but the reason that this is important is because that robot, the search engine, can then take it and it can look at it and say, "Oh, when I look at this information, I understand that this is a recipe, because you’re telling them this is a recipe.
Now imagine if you didn’t tell them it’s a recipe, you’re handing them that information and they’re not smart enough to know what it is, so they’re not going to communicate on the search engine as effectively that the content that they’re serving is a recipe. What our job is as content creators is to, as much as possible, give them as much information so they can take that and display it in a way that shows that it is a recipe.
A really easy way to see this in action is just to do a Google search and look at the information that’s presented within the search results. What you’ll see, especially if it’s a recipe, what you’ll see is you’ll see things like a photo or you’ll see ratings or sometimes you’ll see calories. We’re going to talk about at the end what a perfect search result would be for a recipe, but that’s all coming from this structured data that you’re providing to Google or Bing or Pinterest. These are all search engines. You’re providing them that information through structured data, and that structured data comes from your recipe plugin.
If we go back and we think about recipe plugins, why are they important, there’s two different ways. One is for humans, so humans come to your site and they look at the recipe and they say, “Where’s the recipe on this?” The recipe plugin allows you to craft that in a way where, from a design perspective, they say, “Okay, I totally get it. This is the recipe and I can interact with it in a way that is kind of like the recipe card that I’d get at a family event.”
The other reason recipe plugins are important is because of that conversation that you’re having with robots, the machines that are coming and looking through your site and trying to figure out what it is. We’ve communicated to humans, but now we need to communicate to the search engines, and we do that through structured data. Now the nice thing with a recipe plugin is that you don’t have to do any of that coding or the decision-making for the structured data.
The recipe plugin you use should be doing all of that for you, but if you don’t have a recipe plugin, that’s not going to be happening behind the scenes. The search engines aren’t going to be smart enough to know that something is a recipe or something isn’t a recipe unless you structure that data, unless you have the markup around the content that communicates that to them. Again, you don’t need to do any of that on your own. That’s not something you have to learn how to code or anything like that. A recipe plugin should make that really easy for you and take care of that.
We talked about what a plugin is. It’s these things that augment or enhance a WordPress site. We talked about specifically a recipe plugin, what it is and why it’s important. It makes the recipe visible and easy to understand, both for humans and for robots. One of the things that we talked about that that recipe plugin does is structured data, but with structured data, there’s actually a few different things that are important to understand with it. There’s different types of structured data, and right now, an interesting thing is there’s kind of this split where usually with structured data you would have just one type of structured data. You’d have one language. We think of languages and we think of French or Spanish or English, and it’s kind of similar with structured data. There’s different types of language when it comes to structured data.
One of the most popular types of structured data in the past was called microdata. This is data that if you had, let’s say, an ingredient item and it said one cup of flour, the microdata would be stuff that you wouldn’t see necessarily, but when a robot would come and look at it, it would be marked up around that content and it would have information for the search engine about what that was. If you were to look at the code of your site, you’d see, right next to it you’d see some stuff where the code is communicating what that little piece of text is about. It’s kind of the tiny little data, microdata.
What happened is … This is kind of interesting if you’re into the nerdier stuff, maybe not interesting, but it’s important to know, is that Google came along and they said, “We have a new language that we really want people to use, and it’s called JSON-LD, JSON.” This is a really important change, because Google has been really outright in saying, “This is an important type of structured data, and we really recommend that people use this moving forward.”
Why didn’t everybody just change from this one style, microdata, to JSON? Why didn’t everybody just kind of make this mass transition over? What happened is there’s other types of search engines that still use the microdata or the older type of structured data. There’s kind of this crossroads where if you want to use what Google recommends, you’d look into using JSON, but then there’s still some of these sites like Pinterest that require you to use microdata if you want a Rich Pin. We won’t get into what Rich Pins are, but essentially a Rich Pin is like if you are searching in Pinterest, it would show a lot of additional things with a Pin, like the ingredients that were in a certain recipe and it would show your favicon for your website, which is kind of a cool little branding thing.
That presented this kind of crossroads where for content creators, if they wanted both of those benefits, they had to use both of the types of structured data. Now it might happen down the line where Pinterest will eventually start using JSON and you can switch over and just use JSON instead of both of those at the same time, but as it stands right now, the best way to kind of serve both of those search engines is to use JSON, which is what Google recommends, as well as microdata, which is what Pinterest has come to the table and said, “This is the structured data that we use for recipe Rich Pins.” A really, really good way to test that is to use this awesome tool that Google has. We’ll jump into that in a little bit, but let’s review real quick.
We talked about what a plugin is. It’s those things that enhance or augment or improve on WordPress. We talked about a recipe plugin specifically, so that’s something that will mark up your site so humans can understand it better as well as robots. We talked about structured data, so that’s that part that robots come and they look at it and they say, “This is going to help me understand what it is.” There’s two important types, the microdata as well as JSON.
Now, we’re at the point where we say, "Okay, I understand these things, what a plugin is, specifically what a recipe plugin is, why it’s important, and also what structured data is and that there’s multiple different types of structured data. How do I know if structured data is on my site or if I’m doing it well or if it’s working? The great thing is Google, like they often do, has created a really great tool for that, and the URL for it is kind of long. It’s actually search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool. You can just search structured data testing tool, and we’ll link to it in the show notes as well.
What this does is it brings you to a site that allows you to put in a URL, and that will test your site for structured data. What I’m going to do is I’m going to go to a recent post here on Pinch of Yum, and I’m going to pull up the Pesto Asparagus Noodles. This is something that Lindsay posted on April 13. I’m going to drop it in here on the structured data test, and then all you have to do is click Run Test.
What you’ll see is on the left side, it’ll give you all the code, and that code is what Google sees when it goes and looks at it. That’s kind of the robot view of your post. If you look through it, it’s like, “Oh, my gosh, that looks terrible.” You would never want to see that or read that as is, but what Google is kind of saying here in the structured data testing tool is, “Hey, this is what we see, this is what I see … ” whatever Google is. Is it a “we” or is it an “I”? I don’t know. “ … when I come to your site.”
On the right side, you’ll see it says, “Here’s what we detected. These are the things that we detected that represent structured data.” In Pinch of Yum’s example, you’ll see one of those is recipe, and there’s a lot of different things that are presented. The one that’s most important for a recipe site or a food blog is the recipe category. If we click into that, you’ll see for us right now there’s two different areas. One, the top one, it represents the JSON. Then the one below represents the microdata.
This is a great way to get a little sneak peek of all of the different elements that a robot will see or Google will see or a search engine will see when they come and they look at the structured data. I won’t go through all of this, but in general, the things that you’ll see is the important things. You’ll see the image that is being suggested as the important image. You’ll see the name for recipes. There’s Prep Time, Cook Time, and Total Time, so how long does it take to prep, how long does it take to cook, what is the total time. I won’t go through all of these because you can go ahead and look at it and check that out.
The nice thing about the structured data testing tool is that it will give you errors and it will give you warnings. The errors are really, really important to look at. If you have an error, those are things you’re going to want to fix right away. The warnings are a little bit less critical, but an example would be maybe there’s something that you didn’t include that you should or could include that would make the recipe card fully enhanced or it would include all of the different things that you could potentially include. For this example, the Pesto Asparagus Noodles, we could include a description for it, so that’s something that’s not included. Otherwise, everything else is included.
If you use that tool, that’s one of the best ways to get a sneak peek into what search engines will see when they look at your site and if you’re marking up your content correctly or if your recipe plugin that you’re using is marking up that content correctly. That’s one of the tools that we’ve been using a lot on Pinch of Yum as we’ve made the transition over to start using Tasty Recipes on our site, how we will use that. Jenna, who helps out with a ton of different things on Pinch of Yum, has been making that transition over. When she does that, one of the things that she’ll do is she’ll go in check and see like, okay, did everything transfer over correctly. Does everything look good here from the structured data perspective.
That’s structured data and how you can test for it. We’ve learned about what a plugin is. We’ve learned about specifically recipe plugins, why they’re important. We’ve learned about why structured data is important. Now, we’ve learned how to test it using the structured data testing tool. Where does that bring us? That brings us to the point where we want to figure out what is the ultimate search result for a recipe.
I would say there’s really a few different elements that are important for a recipe search result. Before I get into the specifics of that, one thing I wanted to point out is that when you’re using a recipe plugin or you publish a new post, one of the things you’re going to notice is that Google might not display exactly what you request it to display. An example is, for Pinch of Yum, one of the things that we’ve noticed is that we’ll publish something and within the first 24 to 48 hours, it won’t use the image that we recommend. It’ll grab something else from the post or sometimes from the sidebar, but within usually 48 hours, like two to three days, then it will start to catch up to itself and use the recommended image that we’re giving it in the structured data.
That can take a little bit of time for that to catch up. Google doesn’t update in real time, which is a common misconception from people, is they think that this stuff is all updating in real time, right as you enter it in, and then Google will update, but Google can kind of pick on its own what it wants to include, what it doesn’t. It’ll usually use your suggestions, but not always. Sometimes it won’t use those. That’s an important point to understand with Google, because sometimes people say, “Hey, why isn’t it using the photo?” or, “Why isn’t it updating right away or change photos?” It’s because it takes a long time, and sometimes Google doesn’t even update to what you suggest. It kind of picks its own thing.
Okay, SO let’s talk about the elements of a search result page. There’s a few different things that are important to point out here, and a fully enhanced recipe card will help you achieve these. The first is the actual image itself. That’s really an important thing to point out because if a search result has an image, that’s really going to help encourage people to click through and actually look at that post. They call it the click-through rate, what is the rate of clicks versus the amount of times that the search result is shown to people.
The more that people click through, then that’s a little clue to a search engine that this is a really good search result because a lot of people are clicking through. If more people click through, then the search engine says, “Hey, this is a pretty good match.” The idea, or the theory is that then that allows that to show up higher in the search results. If Google shows something a million times and nobody ever clicks on it, then that’s a pretty good clue to them that it’s maybe not a good search result.
As a content creator, you want to think about what are all the different things that I can do that makes it more enticing for people to click. One of those things is including an image, and the best way to encourage a search result to have an image is to make sure that that is marked up with the correct structured data. That’s the first thing, is an image.
Now with images, it’s important to point out that one of the biggest changes with search results is, or one of the most important things to point out, it’s always been there, but there’s a shift happening in that there’s square images and there’s horizontal images as well. One thing I would encourage you to do just as kind of a test is to do a site-specific search for your site. You can do that by going to Google and typing in Site and then colon and your domain name. In our case, that’s Site:pinchofyum.com. Then, when you do that, you can then search the specific recipe. I’m going to search in this case Pesto Asparagus Noodles. What that should do is that should show you some of the results or the results from your site. You can see exactly what that looks like in the structured data that’s there.
Now in this case, what we can see is the recipe image, which is great. I’m doing it on the desktop in this live example, but what’s interesting is the search results very likely will look different if I do that same search on a mobile device. The big trend, the biggest trend in almost all of the content-based websites and businesses is that there’s a trend from going from desktop computers, a laptop or a desktop, to a mobile device, like a phone or a tablet, and usually phone.
If I do that same search on a phone here, what I’ll find is that the search results might look … It depends on where you are and how you search. It might look a little bit different, and guessing what you’ll see when you do that is at the top, you’ll see horizontal images instead of the typical search result. Some of those might not even have a description along with them. It might just be the image, the blog name, and then some of the additional structured data that we talked about, like the rating or the reviews or the time that it takes you to create it or the calories.
Now down below that, there might be the typical search result with the square image and things like that, but what we’re seeing is Google is starting to get pretty smart about serving up these different search results or this different style of search results. Instead of the standard search results box, what you see is more of a carousel where you can flip through it and scroll through it. It’s really important to know that even though you as a blogger probably spend most of your time on a desktop computer and that’s how you do searching and that’s what you see your site as. Probably, this isn’t true across the board, but probably most of your users are seeing what you see when you do a search result or when you search on your phone.
It’s important to keep in mind that you are not your target market. You don’t want to optimize necessarily for a desktop or not only for desktop. You also want to be thinking about mobile. Mobile, as you’ll see when you do this little test here, looks different than it does with desktop. That’s important to remember as we talk about the perfect search results here, that it’s going to be different. There’s different types of search results. It’s not just one that you see when you’re on the desktop computer.
What are the other elements of a really good search result or a perfect search result? It’s some of those things that I mentioned before. It’s the image that’s present. It looks good both horizontally and with a square. There’s the rating, and the rating is really nice because it has those stars next to it. You can imagine if you’re doing a search result and you see something, and maybe even you personally have done this before. If you see something that has some stars next to it, it kind of catches our eye. It’s a different color. Those are orange, so it stands out, so it kind of draws us in, and especially if there’s high ratings.
The example that we’re using here, it has a 4.8 rating out of five reviews. It’s like, okay, there’s a few people that have rated this, and in general, they’re rating this well. That encourages me to click through and learn a little bit more about that recipe, which, as we talked about before, is really helpful because the more people that are clicking through, the more of a clue that is to the search engine that this is a really good result. This is something that people are interested in, especially if they stick around and don’t go back to try and find a different recipe.
There’s the image, there’s the ratings and reviews. There’s the time total, so when you look at some recipes, it’ll have the total time that it takes to create the recipe. Then the last thing that’s really nice to include is the total calorie amount. All of these are things that you can include if you use a recipe plugin or just things that you fill out that would then be part of the structured data and part of the content that is on your recipe and presented to your users.
What is the perfect search result? I would say it has those elements as well as some of the basic SEO stuff that we’ve talked about before in other podcast episodes, which we won’t get into, but the description would be an example of one that would be really important, so making sure that you’ve taken time within the Yoast SEO plugin, if that’s the one that you use, to write a really good description of what the recipe is about and the content on the page. Otherwise, it’s the image, it’s the rating and reviews, it’s total time, and then it’s calories as well.
Now there’s some other things that you can do within structured data to kind of future-proof your recipe in case there’s a time down the line where Google or another search engine starts to include other types of structured data. We’re trying to do this with Pinch of Yum by including the nutrition information. You’ll see if you do a structured data test on, we’ll keep using this Pesto Asparagus Noodles post, that with the nutrition, there’s also information about sugar, sodium, fat, carbohydrates, and protein and cholesterol. Those are all in the little nutrition area within the recipe card itself. You can see it says Nutrition Facts.
That’s actually something that we’re using called Nutrifox, which is a embeddable nutrition label that we include within our posts. What that does is not only does it present it to the people that are looking at our site. It presents the information in kind of a user-friendly way. It also, if we’re using it with Tasty Recipes, it also will mark that content up. Let’s say down the line, there’s a search engine that starts to allow people to search based on things that have less than 10 grams of sugar. Then we’ve future-proofed, meaning we’ve included that content within the structured data in case that ever becomes something that is used down the line.
Now is it used right now? Not in any way that I can think of or with any search engine or with any tool that I know of, but it’s nice to have that in there in case it ever does come down the line. We wouldn’t have to go back and update all of our content. It’s already there, it’s already marked up. Now some people will have a theory or philosophy that they don’t want to include nutrition information, which is totally valid and makes sense. I would say it’s hard to know for sure exactly how all of the search stuff works, but I really, really doubt that by not including calories within the structured data that you’re going to get dinged or that it’s going to have a negative impact on your site.
Is it good to have that in there? I think in general, if you’re okay with displaying that information, yes, but I don’t think it’s going to long-term have a negative impact. If you’re worried about not including it because it goes against your philosophy of recipes or cooking, but then you hear me talk about it and you’re like, “Oh, maybe I should just so I don’t get dinged with search engine traffic,” I would say it’s not something that you need to worry about and you don’t need to freak out about it. I just want to point that out.
How about that? That’s a lot of content, and that’s a lot of me talking to you and, hopefully, communicating some of this stuff. Let’s do a quick review here of some of the things that we talked about. What is a plugin? A plugin is something that you can use to augment or enhance your WordPress site, kind of like my friend’s car, those lights that he put underneath. Makes it a little bit cooler, makes it more … It adds functionality. It adds features.
It’s really important to think strategically about which plugins you want to use. You don’t want to use a ton of plugins, but you do want to use ones that make your site better and enhance it, and you want to use ones that are actively maintained and updated. That was kind of the reason that we got into this in the first place, is because we had some issues and we knew that we wanted to actively maintain and update.
What is a recipe plugin? Specific to food blogs, a recipe plugin allows people to mark up their site so humans can see and understand that it’s a recipe as well as robots like search engines, and it helps to communicate both to humans and to robots. When it communicates to robots, it communicates structured data, JSON and the microdata, which is really important for different types of search engines. You can test that by using the Google structured data testing tool. Then we talked about the perfect search result and the different elements that are included within that.
A lot of content, and it’s kind of heavy stuff, heady stuff. It’s heavy as well. Hopefully, that helped to communicate some of these important concepts for you as you build a food or a recipe site.
How about that? That’s a lot of stuff. I’ll say this. If you have any questions about Tasty Recipes, the plugin that we created, or just any of this stuff in general, I’d really encourage you to check out the show notes for this and leave a comment, and we’ll see if we can jump in there and answer any of those questions that you have. The easiest way to do that is just to go to foodbloggerpro.com/blog and you can look through the list of all of the different podcast episodes that we have there as well as other posts that we’ve done. You can find this episode and leave a comment, and we will follow up and answer any of those questions. If you’re interested in Tasty Recipes, you can learn more about it by going to wptasty.com.
That’s a wrap. Hope you guys are doing well wherever you are, and we will see you back here same time, same place, in exactly seven days. Until then, make it a great week. Thanks, guys.
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