Liveblog: SEO for Food Bloggers

BlogHer Original Post

Welcome to the liveblog of the BlogHer Food '10 panel "Vocation -- SEO for Food Bloggers (Beginner Level)."

Here's the description:

In that ever-more-crowded food blogging world, SEO has become a critical component to stand out from the crowd and bring new visitors to your site and everything you have to offer. Publishing great food-related content that’s SEO-friendly (but not stilted or stuffed) doesn’t have to be complicated. SEO is all about understanding the details (and potential impact) of keywords, search engine semantics, why variants are important, and knowing what will work for your blog.Improving your SEO can have direct impact on your bottom line. Join Wasabimon, Stephanie Stiavetti, and Stephanie Manley for a straight-forward discussion about SEO that is specifically geared towards food bloggers and their particular needs and content.

Your liveblogger is Denise Tanton. Check back during the panel (3:00pm - 4:15pm October 8) for the liveblog!

Can't make it to BlogHer Food? Get the virtual conference pass and don't miss a thing!

SS: I blog at Wasabaimon and I am also an SEO consultant.
SM: I blog at CopyKat and have a book coming out.

You can find a copy of this presentation at SEO for Food Bloggers.

SS: What is SEO? Search Engine Optimization?

It's a way of writing so that search engines can find and classify your content. When people search, SEO is a way to make sure your site pops up when they search for something you write about.

People give SEO a hard time because they think you can't write good content and make it SEO friendly. There is a way to combine creative writing and make it findable by search engines.


SS: Keyword is a phrase or term that people search for.

"Gluten-free" is a short keyword.

"Quick & Easy Gluten-free recipes" is a long tail keyword.

People now search using three, four, eight word and longer keywords.

People more often use long tail key phrases/words because people are trying to avoid getting results for product sales etc.

Google says "try refining your search by adding more words" - 40%-60% of the search words on Google are long tail phrases.

SS: People say SEO is bad, you can't write for search engines and be compelling to readers - that's not true. David Leite is the king of writing good posts that are SEO friendly.

Keep your keyword phrase in mind while writing. If you write about pork chop recipes, keep it in mind as you write.

Synonym search terms are also important. Cooking, cooks, cooked - keep this in mind when you write your posts.

Keywords should appear in the post title. This is the most important thing on the page, according to Google.

Keywords should appear once in the first sentence of the post, and once in a primary header.

Keywords should be used several times throughout the post, in key locations.

SM: (All In One is a good plug-in)

SS: All platforms are a little different, the wysiwyg editor allows you to select different types of headers. Google is looking for the keywords in H1 or H2.

Question: I thought H1 is the title of the post. I'm titling recipes with H3.

SS: Title is title tag. Put title of recipes in H1 or H2.

Question: Some of us don't understand what H1 or H2 means.

SS: A header tag is a block of text that looks big and bold on the page. Look for a header drop down menu.

SM: I handcode, if you're in view mode and see big text then you're in header tag mode.

Question: Does it matter if you're in or

SM: Even before wysiwyg editors, header code was used.

Question: Is it possible to see that?

SM: Yes, we're going to go through an exercise later but you can come to us later.

All search engines work a little bit differently but most of your traffic is going to come from google and they all work similarly enough. The stuff we're talking about today is the most basic and you should go home and start doing this now.

Google weights stuff at the top of the post heavier than the stuff lower in the post. Heavy hitting sentences should come early in your post. Keep the good stuff at the top.

What is meta-data?

It's the info about the post that shows up on the search result page. Keyword phrase should appear in both the metatitle and the metadescription of your post. These fields might be different on different blogging services - in some you may not be able to change this.

The keyword phrase should also appear in the post url. Ex: Use - and not _ because Google prefers - over _ (for whatever magic Google reason.)

SS: A funny story when she first started, she got funny visits from people looking for Wookie Porn and it took her forever to figure out that she had written a Star Wars post and a Food Porn post. Once she figured out what was going on, she could tailor those descriptions to get search phrase visits she wanted.

SM: I change the title tag to add the word recipe so Google knows a recipe is in the post.

SS: Recipe, cooking, how to are important keywords in food blogging. SM: (Quick & Easy is another one.)

Food specific modifiers are important.

(Lots of very technical, individual questions coming in. Hard to answer individual tech questions during the presentation. If you go to the url above and leave a comment/question - we'll be happy to answer.)

Linking is important and secondary only to keywords. This is how google knows your content is valid. This is why it is important for you to link to your other posts within the post you're writing right now. Google will note that and more effectively classify your content.

Outbound links are important - they're the community. Add two-three links to good bloggers. Go to Elise Bauer for info. Link to other food bloggers. (SM: I hope there are no recipe mill sites in here - they're number one in recipe searches though they've taken my recipes. Don't link to All Recipes, link to your friends' blogs in the community instead.)

SM: If you link to me, I'll find it and come and leave a comment. This is another opportunity to use keywords in those links without feeling spammy. Don't link to spam sites, Google will downgrade your site.

Question: What is your feeling about target=_blank tags or forcing people to open a new window/tab?

SM: Ugh.

When linking, don't use "click here" or "click this" - use the keyword instead. Bad link "click here" good link "grilled pork loin".

Practice: Lemon Meringue Pie

Keyword: What are you writing about? (lemon meringue pie is the keyword.)

Title: How to make a quick & easy lemon meringue pie - Lemon Meringue Recipe by - Secrets to a great lemon meringue pie.

First Sentence: Here's how to bake a lemon meringue pie! If you like a great lemon meringue pie...., Fast, easy and simple. Secret to a never fail lemon meringue pie. Would you like to know the secret to a great lemon meringue pie recipe?

Primary Header: (right above the recipe, it needs to include the keyword phrase but shouldn't be exactly the keyword)

Name of Photo: Don't use image200 or dsc001.jpg - rename your image to reflect your keywords (lemonmeringuepie.jpg). Use an alt tag as well. alt="Lemon Meringue Pie Recipe". Alt tag and title tag for images are pretty much the same thing. Caption is not the same thing - if you put something in the caption spot, it will appear on the page and help you with keyword count.

Meta Data - title and description.

Question: What's better, photo or keyword or text first?

SS: Google knows an image is not text.

Question: Do I always have to have a Header/subheading? I always thought it was redundant.

Answer from SM and SS: You don't have to but I recommend it because it really does help you with SEO ranking. It works for me (us).

Question: If you have a number of photos on the post that are similar do you get more bang for your buck to name them the same (or very similar)?

SM: I'd name them just a little differently to help with long tail searches.

SS: You can get a lot of traffic from google image search if you do this.

Why exploit the long tail?

Easy crockpot recipes for ground beef (long tail) and Recipes (traditional)

Low competition for the long tail descriptor, much higher for the traditional.

You can get a bump in traffic over months for long tail vs years for traditional.

Long tail gives you a more natural feel and a lot of variety and lots of synonyms which help. Shows depth and well distributed content.

It's really hard to crawl to the top with traditional keywords, much easier with long tail keywords.

Long tail is important, 90% of your traffic comes from long tail search.

(Keyword) Shoes: Competition is fierce. Men's shoes easier. Red Nike Men's running shoes even easier.

Use Google Analytics.

SM left Go Daddy. Moving away increased her traffic.

SM: Hooters fried pickle recipe and how to make fried pickles recipes were big long tail phrases for her blog. 664 people came with a variety of hooters fried pickle long tail phrases.

She might go back to her post and add another paragraph with some of those longtail keyword phrases to help increase the traffic to that post even more.

Keyword research

Scribe - Monthly cost but you can use it for a few months to learn how to better SEO your posts.

Traffic Travis? (Editor's Note: I'm not sure whether this is the tool mentioned. DT)

Market Samurai - If you're going to buy something buy this $100 one time and it's awesome. Put keyword in will give you your competition, traffic, etc. It logs everything and helps you see your post going up or down so you can track how changes influenced your traffic.

Strategizer - Wordtracker - like market samurai, how many visits you got and your percentage of traffic from google on a keyword search.

Google Adsense tool (free!) this tool was designed for ad customers but give it to everyone. Plug in a word and it will give you variations that you can use for your keywords. It will show you how many people are searching for it, what the competition for the keywords are. Surprisingly low competition for fried chicken recipe! (that's a secret!)

Market Samurai and Strategizer are using some of the google ad sense data. These are good investments if you are trying to earn money (or make a living) with your blog.

(We aren't getting a commission for recommending these)

Question: How long are typical post?

SS: 500-1000 google likes to see over 500 words. A recipe can easily help you get 500 words.

SM: Struggles to get that many words but it is important.

Question: Should you bold your keywords?

SS: Using bold to help you highlight something is good but google will ding you if you keyword stuff (bold your keyword every time.)

Question: What does it mean when you say google dings you?

SS: Say you have 100 points for each post - google will give you 10 for your title, 10 for your header, 10 for keywords etc... say you've got 80 points and it sees you've used the keyword too many times, it will ding you (take away some points), if you link to spam site it will take away points.

SM: Her site got hacked and linked to spam and google totally took her out. It took her three months to get back in.

SS: Elise Bauer's entire site was copied and google booted her entirely because it assumed she wasn't the real site. She had to fight to get back.

Question: Keywords and long tail keywords - how does google understand what your keywords are?

SS: That's what google won't tell you. Sites will charge you $300 to give you the secret and IT ISN'T TRUE! Google keeps this a secret so don't pay for the secret.

I wrote a post about Modernist Cuisine - used it 8 times, used 4 instances of modernist and 4 of cuisine.

Google looks at your post and makes assumptions - if you do the things we've suggested, you've told google that this keyword is important to you. Sometimes google gets it wrong but if you do these things, you're increasing the odds in your favor.

Question when you talk about google rank, what does that mean?

SS: If you search for a keyword you can see where you land in search results

SM: You can use google webmaster tools to tell you where you rank.

SS: Because google is god you need to use their free tools because they'll give you more info than paid tools.

Question: How important are post categories/tags?

SM: I think it's important and I try to use categories and tags because it tells google that this is important to you.

SS: Don't over tag, 3-6 no more.

SM: If you write a lot of posts on a similar vein then create a post category and that will help.

Question: Does Bing have any weight?

SS: Bing is moving up.

SM: My traffic from Bing is much more sticky. Might be more sophisticated in sending the people to content they really do want.

Question: How does video effect SEO?

SM: If you want to do video put it on youtube but it's not necessarily good for SEO perspective. It will give you a small boost but you want to do it because it will open you up to a bigger audience. Indirectly - if more people come to your site, and you get more backlinks then that will give you better ranking.

SS: You want to tag the video as you normally would because it will show in google video search.

Google will ding you if your site loads slowly so host your video elsewhere. Make sure your images are optimized to speed things up.

Question: Migrating - switch from typepad to wordpress, will that effect my google ranking?

SS: If anyone asks you, please tell them to start their site on stand alone wordpress.

SM: Moving platforms will hurt you because you will lose your backlinks.

SS: There's something called 301 redirect but that's a huge pain and doesn't always work.


If you have decent traffic, don't make drastic, sweeping changes! You'll lose traffic.

Results don't come overnight, growth is always slow.

Avoid overuse of keywords, this is called stuffing.

When in doubt, ask:

Question: Do you recommend being self-hosted?

Answer: YES. You have tech support from a hosting service. You have more control. On you can't run ads or some plugins aren't available.

Question: I blog Italian food and would like to post in both English and Italian. What do you do when you want to operate in two different languages?

Answer: SM - Add a language conversion plug in instead of posting twice.

Things that help:

Post regularly, 2-3 times a week. Don't go weeks without posting.

Backlinking - comments! Leave comments you get to add your name and your blog. I try to make it a priority to comment on 3-5 posts a day because that's a backlink. Try to leave a good comment that will entice others to come to you, and the blog owner to come to you. Pick people with higher page rank because those links help your page rank more.

Question: If you don't recommend godaddy, what should you use?

Dreamhost, liquid web etc... ask others what they use.

Question: Are you allowed to include your own link?

SM: Yes you can add those in name/url box rather than in the comment field because some nofollow links don't count or feel spammy. You can use market samurai to find out who allows follow links. I also edit my comments if someone is spammy I get rid of those links.

Question: When you do an outbound link, how do you do it properly?

SS: There's the url, and then there's a title tag you can use and the anchor text which is visible on the page - you want those to be keyword relative. In the link description, use their blog name.

Question: I blog about gluten-free, but I don't want to use gluten-free a lot because I want to invite others. Can I hide gluten-free keywords?

SS: NO DON'T HIDE KEYWORDS! Google will get you so fast.

SM: No put them in, you want them to come there for your content. You're not going to scare people away by using gluten-free keywords.


If your site is about gluten-free, don't write about bicycles. Keep to your content.

Question: Do you have to stick to specific content? My title of my blog doesn't refer to my content?

SS: Your site has meta title/data if you're a gluten-free blogger then you want those keyword terms for your overall metadata and your posts really need to reflect the meta title and meta data for your entire blog.

Question: The SEO plugin for wordpress will they use that for the meta title and metadescription?

SS: Yes, 150 character limit. Don't cut it off - put keyword in first couple words.

Question: Meta title vs meta description.

Answer meta title is keyword. Description is expanding on that and should be appealing to the reader. (150 characters!)