Food bloggers understand the importance of optimizing recipe posts for search engines. If you don't nail your SEO, you'll have a hard time driving traffic to your site.
But SEO is a big topic. There’s a lot more to it than choosing the right keywords (though keyword target is a critical part of it). You probably don’t spend all of your time studying Google's algorithm, so there's a chance you're missing some opportunities to improve your site's performance.
In this post, we’re going to lay out some common (and entirely fixable) SEO mistakes we see recipe bloggers make all the time.
1. Poorly Optimized (or Absent) Structured Data
Structured data consists of little bits of code on each of your pages that pass information to Google. Visitors can’t see this information on your site, but Google uses it on their search results pages.
There are lots of potential structured data points, but you’re only concerned with the recipe-related ones: cooking time, calories, ingredients, steps, etc. And of course, you want to highlight a super quality image.
You’ve undoubtedly seen the result (called “rich results”) of structured data a million times.
These data points are critical to helping users decide where to click, which is why Google shows preference to recipe posts with all of the right structured data points.
How do you write structured data into your pages? You could do it by hand, sure, but that’s super tedious and you’d have to learn how to write code.
It's far easier to use a WordPress plugin that presents you with a simple form to input your recipe data. With Tasty Recipes, you can add a well-designed recipe card to your blog posts that's optimized for structured data.
2. Using Intrusive Interstitials
An intrusive interstitial is a fancy phrase for an element that hijacks a user’s attention and blocks access to the page. A popup overlay is the most common example, but there are others: welcome mats, slide outs, toaster popups, top or bottom bars, etc. They tend to block all or most of the page.
Image: Google Webmaster Central Blog
You probably use a popup somewhere on your site, like to capture email addresses, promote your cookbook, or funnel traffic to one of your affiliate partners. You may be suffering a penalty right now.
While intrusive interstitials are certainly effective, they damage the user experience. They are especially frustrating on mobile devices, which is why Google doesn’t like them and may penalize you for using them.
According to Google, an intrusive interstitial is a “soft negative ranking factor.” It doesn’t impact your entire site. Just the pages the interstitial appears on.
This doesn't mean that you can't use popups in your marketing. It just means you should avoid using popups that take over the page. Stick to callouts that leave the main content accessible.
There are some exceptions, of course. Google crawlers ignore legal interstitials, like cookie notifications and disclaimers.
3. Buying Shady Backlink Packages
Backlinks are an important component of good SEO. Google wants to see relevant, reputable sites linking to you. But building backlinks is tedious and fraught with failure. You have better ways to spend your time.
So you might be entranced by too-good-to-be-true backlink services that offer hundreds or thousands of high domain authority links. Sadly, these links are almost always no good, spun out by bots on irrelevant websites like forums, directories, or private blog networks.
These link building schemes are considered illegitimate by Google. If you get too many of these spammy, low-quality links, your site ranking will suffer.
If you purchased backlink packages in the past, use Google’s disavow tool to make Google ignore them. If you only have one or two bad links, reach out to the site owner directly and ask for removal.
4. Ignoring Broken Links (Error 404)
A broken link is clickable but doesn’t work. Maybe you deleted the arrival page or changed the page’s URL. When visitors click the link, they arrive on your 404 page.
Broken links are frustrating because they interrupt the user experience by blocking visitors from enjoying the content they want. These links also make it difficult for search engine crawlers to explore your site.
Furthermore, when a visitor lands on a 404 page, they usually hit the back button right away. To search engines, this is a signal that your content isn’t relevant to their search, which ultimately affects your rankings.
The easiest way to find broken links is to run them through a free tool like the Broken Link Checker (there are others).
Once you have a list of broken links, go through each one to correct the mistake. Fix misspellings or change the link to an active piece of content.
You also might notice other websites linking to broken pages. For instance, if a blogger misspells one of your page URLs (maybe they added an extra character by mistake), create a redirect for the misspelling so visitors end up on the intended page.
5. Non-Secure HTTP Website
This is a pretty basic mistake, but it’s so important we didn’t want to leave it out. Users and Google prefer secure websites. If you don’t have an “HTTPS” in your URL and the lock icon next to your domain, your rankings could be higher.
Fortunately, securing your website is simple. You just have to install an SSL Certificate. You can do this through your web host or a third party like Namecheap. They usually cost about $30/year.
6. Mixed HTTP/HTTPS Content
This is a relatively new SEO mistake that’s only become an issue since Google made HTTPS protocols one of the many SEO ranking factors.
For instance, if you embed an image on your page by linking to it (rather than uploading the file to your web host), and that image’s site is not secure, then you technically have a vulnerability.
To be fair, a single element sent over an unsecured connection isn’t a big SEO signal. But if you deliver a lot of on-page source code from unsecured sites, it could add up.
How do you protect yourself? Just make sure any URL you add to your website’s code has the “S” at the end of “HTTPS.”
7. Generic Anchor Text Links
If you create links that say things like “click here” or “learn more” or “check out my longer post,” you’re leaving some SEO opportunities on the table.
These kinds of phrases won’t hurt your site, but you can boost your SEO by mixing in some keywords. Descriptive anchor text helps users and search engines understand what you’re linking to. It adds value to the page you’re linking from and the page you’re linking to.
Bad link: “I also have the perfect squash soup for fall. Click to learn more.”
Good link: “I also have the perfect squash soup recipe for fall.”
8. Poor Page Load Speed
Page speed is a key factor when Google’s algorithm scores your website. Users like pages that load faster, so Google shows those results at the top.
And even if you manage to inch your pages onto the first page of Google’s results despite a slow load speed, users will quickly hit their back button when they realize your page takes forever to load. High bounce rate = Google drops your rank.
When Backlinko analyzed over one million search results pages, they discovered that page load speed is a huge factor. The top ranking pages load quickly.
The same study also found that those top-ranking sites had low bounce rates when compared to sites that appeared on the second and third results pages. The correlation between page speed and bounce rate was later supported by Google’s new PageSpeed industry benchmarks.
So how do you make your site load faster?
First, you have to discover what’s slowing your site down. Run your site through Google’s PageSpeed Insights. 100 is the best score a site can achieve (though realistically no one gets 100).
Next, address each of the problems in the “Opportunities” section of the insights page.
Furthermore, here are some page speed quick wins to help your site rank better:
- Optimize images (they should only be the size you display them at).
- Upgrade your hosting plan.
- Enable caching so your site loads quickly for repeat users.
- Use a content delivery network (CDN).
- Delete unused plugins.
Grab Your Quick Wins
Don’t beat yourself up if you find any of these SEO mistakes on your site. Address them quickly so you can spend your time doing what you do best: cooking savory dishes and creating amazing content for your site!