But before you start cooking, snapping photos, and writing content, you have to find valuable keywords. What does a good recipe keyword look like?

If you want your food blog to be successful (and who doesn’t?), it’s important to write content that creates the most impact for your website. There’s no sense spending the time and energy creating content that no one’s looking for. 

Each recipe blog post you publish should be optimized for a keyword. Keywords are words and phrases searchers input into Google to find content. Google matches the search query with the top pages that rank for that term to help searchers find what they need. 

As a food blogger, it’s critical that you create content around keywords your audience searches for. But before you start cooking, snapping photos, and writing content, you have to find valuable keywords that are worth your time. 

That begs the question: What does a good keyword look like? How do you know if you’ve found a keyword you can invest in?

What Makes a Good Keyword?

Good recipe keywords meet five criteria: Reasonable search intent, high volume, low competition, long-tail demand, and – if possible – trendiness. Let’s go over each. 

Reasonable Search Intent

This quality refers to the searcher’s intent when they plug a keyword into Google. We want their intent to match the context of the page. 

Let’s say a searcher inputs “cherry pie” into Google. They could be looking for a recipe. But they could also be looking for pictures of cherry pie, trying to buy a pie at a nearby store, or looking up the lyrics of the glam metal song “Cherry Pie.” The intent of this keyword is unclear. 

“Cherry pie recipe,” however, has a lot more intent. Intent is generally clearer in longer keywords, so it makes sense to optimize a page for “cherry pie recipe” over just “cherry pie.” Keep in mind that Google will index your site for both keywords, so by targeting the longer one, you actually get both. 

How do you know if a keyword has good intent? The simplest way to check for intent is to just Google it. Use your browser’s private browsing mode so your results aren’t influenced by what Google knows about you. Then ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do other recipe pages appear? If so, that’s a sign of good intent. 
  • Do those pages use a longer keyword that clarifies the intent? For instance, if you search “cherry pie recipe” but come across a page optimized for “Thanksgiving cherry pie recipe,” might that keyword better match the page you intend to create?
  • Is the keyword the name of a business? If so, that’s a bad sign. The business’ website and branded pages (LinkedIn, Facebook, BBB.org, Yelp, etc.) might occupy the top three to five spots already. 

High Search Volume

Search volume refers to the frequency people search for a particular term, typically presented as a monthly average. If a keyword has a search volume of 2,000, it means it’s searched for 2,000 times each month averaged over the course of a year.

Search volume numbers aren’t perfect, but they’re useful to compare the value of a keyword against other keywords. A keyword with 10,000 monthly searches is more valuable than a keyword with 30 monthly searches, obviously.

WordStream is a great free tool to check out search volume. Just enter your keyword and this tool will show you the search volume for that phrase and related phrases. 

Is there a “good” or “ideal” search volume? No. It’s not that simple. 

You’ll want to choose keywords with enough search volume to be worth your time (no sense creating a recipe page for a keyword with 10 monthly searches). That said, super high volume keywords often have lots of competition, which makes it harder to rank (more on this in a moment). So it’s somewhat of a balancing act. 

Low Competition

Competition refers to the competitiveness of a particular keyword. Anyone who currently ranks for that keyword is your competition. 

Competition is sometimes expressed as a value between 0 and 100 or as low/medium/high. A low competition value means an easier fight for a top spot. A high competition value means competing pages are tough opponents. SEMrush refers to competition as “Keyword Difficulty.”

Generally speaking, it’s smarter to go after low competition keywords because you’ll rank for them faster. Be wary of keywords with too low competition, however. If no one is targeting a keyword, it’s important to ask yourself why. Perhaps there’s no search intent or the search volume is too low. 

Admittedly, this component of a recipe keyword (or any keyword) is hard to judge. Different SEO tools will evaluate competition differently, but they typically measure these qualities:

1. Domain Authority

This refers to the value of a website based on the quality and quantity of backlinks. You can check the Domain Authority of any site by adding the MozBar to your browser, typing the recipe keyword into Google, and reviewing the DA value of all the sites on page one. 

It also helps to check your site’s DA using a DA checker. If your DA is far below a competitor’s site, the competition is probably too tough. 

2. Title Tags

A page’s headline (H1) is one of the most significant ranking factors. It serves as the page’s link on a search result page and tells readers and bots what the page is all about. Pages that use the keyword in their title are bigger competitors. 

3. Page Quality

Page quality is another nebulous criteria, but it refers to a page’s effectiveness of answering a searcher’s query. Is the content robust and well-written? Does the content relate to the user’s intent? Does it have lots of rich media (videos, images, or embedded elements)?

Long Tail Demand

Long-tail keywords are phrases that are more specific than general keywords. They generally focus on a sub-concept or a niche question. 

Short-tail keyword (general): cherry pie

Long-tail keyword (specific): homemade cherry pie with crumb topping

The “long” in “long-tail” doesn’t refer to the length of a keyword (though long-tail keywords are typically three to seven words). It refers to the keyword’s placement on a search demand curve. Long-tail keywords have lower search volume, but higher conversion value. 

Image: Neil Patel

Why should you focus on long-tail keywords? 

  • There’s often a lot more opportunity to be competitive because fewer bloggers are going after these terms. 
  • Specific keywords almost always signal better search intent because the searcher had to think carefully about what they’re looking for. In fact, searchers often input long-tail keywords after trying other keywords and narrowing their search. 
  • You can rank for the short-tail keyword as well. If you optimize for “cherry pie with frozen cherries,” Google indexes you for “cherry pie” as well. 

Trendiness

A great keyword isn’t necessarily good right now, but might be in the future. You can position yourself to take advantage of an upcoming keyword with a little foresight and planning. This is a powerful way to beat your competitors!

Holidays are the most obvious example of this phenomenon. It’s smart to publish a holiday-themed recipe well before the actual holiday so Google has time to index it. You might even get some backlinks in this time, which would be a big boost. (Plus, lots of people plan their holiday meals weeks ahead of the big day.)

Google Trends is a great way to find trending keywords. Take the keyword “thanksgiving dessert recipes” for example. As you would expect, this keyword spiked last November and then dropped to nothing. Now that we’re in November again, the keyword’s usage is rising again. 

That said, don’t get hung up on trendiness. Most recipe keywords won’t fit this criteria. But if you can capitalize on it, all the better. 

Do Your Research!

Where do you find keywords? In our opinion, the best tools are Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Moz Pro, but they cost money. They all have free trials, however. If you prefer free tools, check out KeywordTool.io, Wordtracker, and WordStream. Brain Dean of Backlinko has a big list of SEO tools you should review. 

Some food bloggers prefer to cook and blog about what they know. That’s a fine strategy, but you’ll grow your blog faster if you hunt for valuable keywords to create content around. Now that you understand the anatomy of a great recipe keyword, you should be able to find phrases that grow your blog quickly.