Optimize your food blog for search engines
The default WordPress setup isn't optimal for search engine crawling and indexing. This leaves a lot of bloggers - especially new ones - unable to compete with sites who have spent the time to properly optimize their site.
Below is a list of changes we recommend making:
- Change date-based URLs to post-name in Admin > Settings > Permalinks
- Note: for existing blogs with a history, you'll want to do this carefully, and set up 301s - or not at all
- See this overview from Yoast
- If changing to non-date-based URLs, make sure to use this service from iMark Interactive to fix your redirects.
Change category base from /categories to /recipes in Admin > Settings > Permalinks
- Update 2019/05/05 - we recommend removing the prefix entirely - see below for notes.
EnableDisable breadcrumbs in Genesis > Theme Settings > Breadcrumbs > Single Posts, Pages
- Updated 2019/06/07 - Genesis breadcrumbs should be disabled, and you should only use the Yoast breadcrumbs.
- See Breadcrumbs section in Yoast SEO Plugin, below
- Add content to your category pages
- Set up Google Analytics
- Set up Google Search Console
Set your preferred domain to non-www
- As of July 2019, Google has merged these all together
- Enable SSL (via your web hosting company) and enable forceful redirect to HTTPS
- Forcefully redirect all pages to non-www for shorter URLs, which help with click-through-rates in Google
- This is more important for new bloggers than established bloggers, but existing bloggers should be forcing people from one version or the other to avoid spreading links and content across two subdomains
- Disable pingbacks in Admin > Settings > Discussion > Attempt to notify any blogs linked to from the article
- Pingbacks are nofollow, which provide no value to you
- Disable pingbacks in Admin > Settings > Discussion > Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks) on new articles
- Pingbacks are nofollow and provide no value to readers, and are mostly spam
- Disable avatars in Admin > Settings > Discussion > Show Avatars (unchecked)
- Avatars provide no reader value, and slow down pagespeed by loading third-party images (gravatar)
Yoast SEO Plugin
We recommend using at minimum the free version of Yoast, which handles a lot of the configuration and automatically applies best practices to your site and posts. We recommend making the following settings are enabled:
- Yoast > Search Appearance > Taxonomies > Categories > Show Archives in Search > Yes
- Yoast > Search Appearance > Taxonomies > Categories > Show Tags in Search > No
- Note: Check WMT to make sure tags pages aren't currently driving traffic
- Yoast > Search Appearance > Taxonomies > Categories > Format Based Archives > Disabled
- Yoast > Search Appearance > Taxonomies > Category URLs > Remove the Categories prefix > Remove
- Note: Check WMT to make sure these aren't currently driving a lot of traffic. Yoast will handle the redirects.
- Yoast > Search Appearance > Archives > Author Archives > Disabled
- Yoast > Search Appearance > Archives > Date Archives > Disabled
- Yoast > Search Appearance > Breadcrumbs > Enabled
- If not displaying, enable the "Add Yoast Breadcrumbs" setting in the Feast Plugin.
- Yoast > Search Appearance > Breadcrumbs > Taxonomy to show in breadcrumbs for content types > Posts > Category
Note: if your blog has been active for a while, make sure to check in webmaster tools that these pages are not driving significant traffic.
We're also fans of purchasing the premium version of Yoast, which auto-handles 301'ing URLs when they're deleted or changed.
Here are some great articles from Yoast:
- How to Avoid Common SEO Mistakes
- Site Structure Mistakes to Avoid
- Copywriting Mistakes to Avoid
- Why Breadcrumbs are Important for SEO
WP Rocket Plugin
WP Rocket is another premium plugin that's worth the investment. Pagespeed is one of the top ranking factors for blogs in 2019.
- Settings > WP Rocket > Media > Lazy Load > Enable for mages
- Settings > WP Rocket > Media > Lazy Load > Enable for iframes and videos
- Note: If you're running MediaVine or AdThrive: don't enable this.
- Settings > WP Rocket > Media > Lazy Load > Replace youtube iframe with preview image
- Settings > WP Rocket > File Optimization > Optimize CSS delivery
- Settings > WP Rocket > File Optimization > Safe Mode for jquery
- Settings > WP Rocket > Cache > Enable caching for mobile devices
- Note: only use this if you don't have caching built in to your hosting
- Settings > WP Rocket > Preload > Activate Preloading + Activate sitemap-based cache preloading + Yoast SEO XML sitemap
- It shouldn't be necessary to specify the Yoast sitemap index in the box, but you can if you'd like
- Settings > WP Rocket > Preload > Prefetch DNS Requests > URLs to prefetch
- Add the recommend DNS prefetches from this source, removing any services/plugins that you don't use
Use the Google Pagespeed Insights tool to benchmark your pagespeed - check both your homepage and posts.
You want to achieve:
- First Contentful Paint (FCP) = 2.0 secs or faster
- Speed Index (SI) = 3 secs or faster
- Time To Interactive (TTI) = 5 secs or faster
- FCP = 2.2 secs or faster
- SI = 4.3 secs or faster
- TTI = 9 secs or faster (minimum) -- usually, we can get 7-8 with optimizations
Your server response time should be under 400ms. If it's not, contact your host. If they're unable to fix this, change your host.
A key part of pagespeed is ensuring your website and links are properly configured. See this post on how 301s, redirects and canonical affect your pagespeed.
The Feast Plugin has a number of SEO-centric optimizations built in:
- Modern Mobile Menu to display more content above-the-fold
- Enabled, with mobile-specific logo and retina logo specified
- feast-modern-mobile-menu menu, built with mobile traffic in mind
- Comments - Enable:
- Edit Post Info
- Include "Last Modified" info
- Include post_author_link
- Simple Category Index to improve internal linking to your category pages
Review the Google SEO Starter Guide.
- Use alt text to describe the image for screen readers on every time
- Describe what's in the image + provide context
- Use headings as headings - not as text
- We generally recommend restricting your tags to h2 - use h3 if absolutely necessary, but never h4, h5, h6 unless it's a technical document
- Headings are used by Google and
- Avoid abbreviations and industry-specific jargon
- Use an 8th-grade reading level for your content
- Use correct anchor text - concise and description
- Do not use "Read More" or "Click Here"
- Link to the page title or text you want to draw attention to
Food-Blog Specific Configurations
"categories" and "tags" are general WordPress functions, which can be co-opted for additional functionality in food blogs.
The category pages should be thought of as a sort of "recipe index", grouping similar recipes together.
Tags are often used as ingredients, and can be used to sort other recipes by major ingredients. Because the quantity of tags tends to blow up (with a dozen+ ingredients per recipe), tags should be noindexed in Yoast per the instructions below. The links should also be nofollowed, so that search engines don't waste time on pages that shouldn't show up in search results.
We advise against putting absolutely every ingredient into tags - keep it limited to the major ingredients (eg. not spices) and ingredients that are highly relevant to your niche. Unless your blog is Indian food - then spices are relevant.
Evaluating Food Blog Recipe Quality
Head over to our Recipe Quality Guidelines for Food Bloggers post to learn about the different facets of your blog that search engines find valuable.
SEO Articles for Food Bloggers
We recommend following the advice in the following resources:
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