Update January 2020: we'll be releasing an updated homepage setup through the Feast Plugin that will replace the "Recipe Index", rendering the recipe index page obsolete. Subscribe to the newsletter to be notified when this is released.
Recipe indexes are a core part of food blogging. Your food blog is the best thing ever invented visitors are going to spend minutes and hours going over every inch of your website and looking at each recipe that you made
Well, that's the theory anyways.
It was the theory.
Back in 2012.
The days of typing in "yahoo.com" and browsing their pages, diving into their categories to find articles are long-dead, and so are those companies - yet that's the behaviour most food bloggers think is normal.
Normal visitors are going to use a search engine like Google or DuckDuckGo, or Pinterest (a visual search engine) to find a recipe. They're going to follow the link they find on those channels to your website for that specific recipe.
Think about it: one of the most successful lifestyle and cooking bloggers ever is Martha Stewart. I think it's safe to say that she's a million times better known than 99% of food bloggers. Literally a million times. A successful food blog might have a thousand people who know them by name (I'm not talking visitors or -ick- impressions), I'm talking about people who could name you off the top of their head. Would a billion people worldwide know who Martha Stewart is? I'd say yes.
And yet, when was the last time you started looking for a recipe by visiting MarthaStewart.com? Probably months? Years? Never?
And why would you, when you could find a wider variety, or conversely, more nuanced and niched recipes using a search engine.
Recipes indexes? Good.
Image sliders? Good.
Link exchanges? Good.
Wrong - none of these are good.
Here's a simple way to check what your visitors are doing on your website: Log in to Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools, and look at your top entry pages - those are the pages your visitors land on. I'm willing to bet $10 that anyone getting more than 1000 visitors/month to their food blog is seeing a minimum 80% of their visitors landing on recipe pages. Seriously - take me up on this - send me a screenshot showing more than 20% of visitors landing on pages other than recipe pages, and I'll send you $10.
Now take a look at where those visitors head to next in Google Analytics - it's not your recipe index or category pages is it? 80%+ will bounce. 10% will head to your home page. The other 10% are split between various links on your page.
The Purpose of Recipe Indexes
Recipe indexes do have a purpose, but it's not what you think. Someone landing on your website looking for halloumi and egg on toast isn't going to browse your breakfast section. They're going make that recipe if it matches what they're looking for - or - they're going to bounce back to the search engine they came from to find another recipe.
If you're really good, you'll have set up links to your other halloumi breakfast recipes from that post - direct links, curated links, links you personally think are important - not links to a recipe index.
The recipe index is actually a tool for categorizing your website for search engines. It tells them "this is what I'm an authority in, this is what my website is about, and here is a bunch of related content that you can use for your multi-billion-dollar AI driven search algorithm".
The 80/20 Rule
Most of you will be familiar with the pareto principle, and some of you will have learned that in the digital era, it's closer to 95/5 or even 99/1. For most of you, 5% of your pages will drive 95% of your traffic, and those 5% are freaky successful recipe posts.
The converse to this principle is that you'll spend 95% of your time working on things that will drive 5% of your success. Recipe indexes are part of that 5% that isn't worth wasting your time on.
Our focus at Feast over the next few months and years will be to help you identify why those 5% of posts are driving 95% of your success, and how to replicate them so that you have a more diverse . There's very simple principles behind it, and following it can diversify your traffic and help solidify your blog traffic.