Structured data for recipes is quite advanced. In this article, we dive into one piece of a rich result: the rich image.

The recipe niche is competitive. You need every advantage to rise to the top of Google’s rankings and entice searchers to click on your site.

Nowadays, page titles and meta descriptions aren’t enough to stand out on search pages. You need to turn your result listings into rich results with extra information that invite searchers to click on your blog. 

Rich results come from special code in the source of each page called structured data. The person viewing the page doesn’t see this information, but Google (along with other search engines, social media platforms, and other services) can read it as easily as anything else on the page. 

Basically, structured data is a secret message you leave for robots to learn more about your content. Ultimately, if you have robust and optimized structured data, you’ll most likely get more organic traffic. 

Structured data for recipes is quite advanced. It can include the image, average rating, number of reviews, cooking time, calories, and more.

In this article, we'll dive into one piece of a rich result: the rich image. 

Purpose of the Rich Image 

As you know, quality imagery is a critical part of running a successful food blog. Readers won’t be able to connect with your recipes if you don’t give them something visual to connect with. 

Rich results have a simple purpose: to entice the searcher to click on the page. The image is a big part of this. A search result with a captivating photo of the recipe is more likely to receive a click than a result without an image.

Pages don’t receive an SEO boost for having rich images, but having that extra information creates “visual confidence.” It’s when the searcher feels confident that their click will lead to a pleasant outcome. 

You see, people don’t want to browse multiple recipes. They want to find a good one and start cooking. By giving them more information on the search results page, you streamline their search and create a better overall user experience. 

Rich Image Optimizations

Since rich images increase the likelihood of searchers clicking to your recipe content, it’s important to optimize your food images as much as you can. In many cases, the image of your food is the first thing they see, so it’s important to get this detail right. 

You can create structured data manually on each page if you like, but that’s tedious and time-consuming. It’s smarter to use a plugin that creates all the structured data for you. 

Size and Ratio

Like most bloggers, your food images are probably large, vertically orientated, and cropped to your camera’s aspect ratio — usually 4:3 or 16:9. These dimensions look great in the narrow content area of a blog post. They are also appealing on Pinterest.

It would be super convenient if Google preferred that size as well for rich results, but we aren’t that lucky. In rich results, Google will display your image small, horizontal, and cropped to a specific dimension. Exhausting, we know.

In order to make your rich images look great on a Google search page, you have to meet both sets of criteria. Your image should look good when it’s vertical and large and when it’s small and horizontal. 

How small is “small”? Sadly, Google has to reduce images to a fraction of its original value to make them fit into the search results pages. Scrolling through the results would be tedious if every image were massive. 

The actual size of the image is different on various devices, but they usually display around 100 pixels by 100 pixels or less. Sometimes they’re wider, like when Google displays multiple rich snippets in a carousel. 

Google search results with horizontal images

In other cases, they’re square, like when they are displayed to the left of a traditional search result list item. 

Google search results with square images

When Google resizes your photo, it takes a slice right out of the center. If the center of your photo doesn’t show the meaningful part of your dish, the user won’t recognize the photo. That’s a missed opportunity to connect with a recipe searcher. 

When you take or create an image, make sure the focus of the image – the part you really want the searcher to see – is right in the center. Notice how Pinch of Yum puts its chocolate pie bite in the middle. It will still look great when Google crops it down. 

Vegan Chocolate

How do you know if your image will crop appropriately? The quickest way to check is with the Tasty Recipes plugin. When you create a recipe, you’ll see a preview of the image in a square format. If you like the way this image looks, your image should look fine in Google’s rich results.

Tasty Recipes image preview

Design and Appeal

Centering the important part of your image isn’t enough, however. You still have to make sure what’s left after cropping is meaningful. 

A great image should be clear and recognizable. Searchers should be able to distinguish the individual components of the dish at a glance. That sounds easy, but it’s quite tough at the size Google shrinks your images down to.

For example, look at this great macaroni and cheese dish. At this size, it’s a powerful image. 

Image design

Now, look at what happens when the image is shrunk and cropped to fit the size of a rich image.

Cropped images

Yikes! The details from the original photo that give it context – like the table and bowl – are gone. All that’s left is the uniform color of the pasta. In fact, the user may not be sure it’s pasta. Is it corn? Squash? Couscous?

This isn’t a smart image to use for the rich image. It’s fine to post this image to your recipe page and to Pinterest (in fact, it’s a great image for both of those purposes). But it would be better to point your structured data at a different image that’s more suited for rich images.

Here's a better image to use for the rich image. Notice how the perspective makes it clear that we're looking at macaroni. The contrast between the pasta and the background prevents it from looking too uniform. By separating the spoonful from the bowl, the searcher has enough context to understand the image. 

Mac and cheese


Your final step to optimizing your rich results images is to make sure they are relevant to the recipe they’re linked to. That may sound like a silly requirement (who would add an irrelevant picture?), but there’s more room for error than you think.

For instance, let’s say you have a recipe for Thanksgiving stuffing. You want to make sure your photo captures the essence of Thanksgiving, so you snap a picture of the whole Thanksgiving table spread. Sure, your stuffing is there somewhere, but the relationship between stuffing and your photo is indirect. 

Now imagine you’re a recipe searcher hunting for a good stuffing dish. You see several results with closeup images of stuffing — crumbles of bacon, savory sausage and wild mushrooms. Then there’s a wide shot of a table that makes you think, “Where’s the stuffing?”

Relevance is important here. It helps people engage with the photo. Remember, you aren’t just trying to be helpful. You’re competing with all of the other food blogs. 

Test Your Rich Results

Once you’ve optimized your rich result images as best you can, it’s important to check them for errors. Google is serious about its guidelines. If you don’t follow them properly, your recipe won’t show with an image and someone else will get your click. 

Visit Google’s Rich Results Test page. Simply enter your page’s URL and Google will analyze it for compliance. Hopefully, you get a message that looks like this:

Google rich results

If you don’t see that, Google will point you toward the errors in your structured data. Make sure to expand the “Guided recipes” and “Recipes” categories and check that Google is using the images you intend as part of the rich results.

Google rich results, images

Going Forward

If you want your rich images to attract as much organic traffic as possible, you need to size them correctly, design them well, and keep them relevant. Most importantly, you’ll need to add structured data to your pages so Google can display them properly. 

Tasty Recipes can help with all of this! This easy to use WordPress recipe plugin will add all the appropriate structured data to your page so Google knows which images you want displayed for the rich result. It follows all structured-data guidelines set forth by Google to make sure your recipes are attractive in search. Learn more.