10 (fixable) mistakes food bloggers make

You pour your heart and soul into your food blog. You spend days testing recipes, long nights writing SEO-optimized posts, and hours shooting, reshooting and editing recipe images.

You also spend time promoting each new post on social media and in your newsletter, and engaging with readers in more than one comment section. But there are some fundamental technical things you should also be doing to help your food blog grow.

Over the years, we’ve audited and provided technical WordPress support for hundreds of sites and cleaned-up a lot of technical missteps.

Based on what we’ve seen, here are 10 (fixable) mistakes food bloggers make:

  1. Choosing a web host on a whim
  2. Acting on all-purpose advice
  3. Relying on a single source of traffic
  4. Thinking desktop first, rather than mobile first
  5. Not knowing if tags are indexed with Google
  6. Using too many tags
  7. Overlooking Google Search Console
  8. Watering down your subject matter area of expertise
  9. Not tracking your returning reader percentage
  10. Relying on inconsistent WordPress support

1. Choosing a web host on a whim

Choosing a WordPress web host is hands down one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a food blogger. The choice has an effect on your site speed, security, your sanity, and more. 

First, the responsiveness of a web host cannot be overstated and should be a factor in your decision making. Online chat is a must, and the friendliness and expertise of front-line support personnel should be tested too. Before you commit to a web host, go on live chat and ask a few curve ball questions and see how support unfolds. Example questions to ask include:

  • How often do you conduct malware/virus scans?
  • What’s your downtime history? Or, what’s your uptime score?
  • What is your back-up policy?
  • How many customers are on a shared server?
  • How easy it is to scale up/down?

The answers will be very revealing.

Also, while some web hosts are proactive and using the latest technologies, such as the latest version of PHP (an open source programming language), free SSL certificates, and the most secure version of FTP, others drag their heels and are priced accordingly (we’re looking at you Bluehost).

As a general rule, a food blog with more than 25,000 sessions per month is going to require more expensive web hosting because of the increased load.

The fix

Read our hand-picked list of the best web hosts for food blogs.

2. Acting on all-purpose advice

Acting on well-intentioned but all-purpose advice that doesn’t take your current technical infrastructure, goals and circumstances into account can have unintended effects.

The advice of an online marketing expert, developer or a blogging colleague who doesn’t know:

… can fall flat. Or worse, impact your site speed, overall performance, structured data, and SEO efforts.

The fix

Work with Foodie Digital or seek the advice of a WordPress expert with experience in the food blog niche. You’ll avoid costly and timely mistakes and be better positioned to compete in the increasingly competitive food blog marketplace.

3. Relying on a single source of traffic

The best way to hedge yourself against algorithm changes and other updates that are outside of your control is to earn traffic from a range of sources, such as:

  • social (i.e., Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook)
  • organic (i.e., Google and Bing)
  • referral traffic (i.e., Buzzfeed Food and mindbodygreen)

The fix

Start by establishing a baseline.

In Google Analytics (Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels) start to track your pages per session by channel. Once you know this information put your time and effort behind the channel(s) that really move the dial for you.

A screen capture of Google Analytics demonstrating how to navigate to Acquisition, all traffic, channels.

In our experience, referral traffic is one of the most overlooked opportunities when it comes to consistently generating new visitors.

Reach out to a local food reporter or two (or 10!) and ask how you can help make their life easier. One of the most common instances of referral traffic that we see is when a recipe is included in a round-up. (i.e., 20 Ridiculously Easy Soup Recipes You Should Make This Fall.)

4. Thinking desktop first

It’s easy to default to desktop; it’s the screen format that you work in. But in the spring of 2018 Google announced that it was rolling out mobile-first indexing. Google now predominantly uses the mobile version of your site for indexing and ranking.

The fix

Start by tracking your monthly mobile, desktop and tablet traffic using the data provided by Google Analytics (Audience > Mobile > Overview). It’s rare to see a Foodie Digital member whose mobile traffic is less than 65% of their overall monthly traffic.

A screen capture of Google Analytics demonstrating how to navigate to Audience, Mobile, Overview.

More typically, especially if the member is active on Pinterest and Instagram, monthly mobile traffic makes up 75% or more of their overall traffic. Desktop traffic isn’t dead yet, but it’s declining so always think ‘mobile first’ before you push publish.

5. Not knowing if tags are indexed

Tags are hands down one of the most misunderstood features on food blogs. To make things even more confusing, a lot of design themes treat tags in different ways. Tags are most commonly used to support reader navigation and to help a visitor move around your site based on a subject they’re interested in.

As a general rule, tags should only be indexed with Google if your tag category archives are full of high-quality content. You want to avoid Google crawling and indexing thin or light pages on your site that don’t provide a top-notch experience for the user and that don’t serve a strong purpose on your site. Tags that rank, but on clickthrough only have a handful of posts, fail on both fronts. 

The fix

If you use Yoast SEO, it’s quick and easy to find out if your tags are indexed. Log into WordPress. In the left hand menu navigate to Yoast SEO > Search Appearance. Click on the taxonomies tab and expand the menu for tags. There you can check to see if your tags are indexed or not.

A screen capture of WordPress’ back-end demonstrating how to navigate to Yoast SEO, search appearance, taxonomy tab.

6. Using too many tags

The goal with tags is to tag posts with keyword terms that are repeatable topics for you. The ideal result is a substantial numbers of blog entries using the same tag. As a general rule, tags should not overlap or be duplicates of categories, which is why they need to be carefully considered.

The fix

To access your tag list, log in to WordPress. Go to Posts > Tags and filter by count to see how frequently (or infrequently!) you use the same tags. (Example account has no tags.)

A screen capture of WordPress’ back-end demonstrating how to navigate to tags and how to see tag count.

7. Overlooking Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a powerful tool for food blog SEO. It does require registration and set-up, but once it’s in place you’ll have access to a significant amount of helpful data.

The fix

Learn which keywords are sending traffic to your food blog, and much more, by registering for Google Search Console right away.

8. Watering down your subject matter expertise

What’s your subject matter area of expertise? Gluten free, dairy free or vegan recipes? Maybe it’s meal planning or make-ahead meals, or baking? It’s important to send clear signals to Google about who you are, what you do, and what you’re an authority in.

The fix

Work with Foodie Digital or seek the advice of a WordPress pro with experience in the food blog niche to help bake your subject matter expertise into your category structure, your editorial calendar and your site’s user experience. Google wants to offer the best possible answers and results to user queries, so if you’re an authority in plant-based diets or dessert make it crystal clear.

9. Not tracking your returning reader percentage

How loyal are your readers? Calculating your monthly returning reader percentage will tell you. It’s one of the key success metrics that we track for Foodie Digital members each month.

The fix

To calculate your returning reader percentage, use Google Analytics. For example, in the month of July, if you had 100,000 total visitors (new + returning visitors = total visitors) and 20,000 were returning visitors, your returning reader percentage is 20% (20,000/100,000 = 20%).

Though there aren’t really comprehensive benchmarks out there on the ideal returning reader percentage, we generally believe that if your rate is under 18%, your content strategy probably needs a refresh. If it’s 25% or higher, bravo—you’re publishing highly engaging food content.

10. Inconsistent WordPress support

This fixable mistake probably comes as no surprise to you. Inconsistent WordPress support is a part of life for a lot of food bloggers—but it doesn’t have to be.

The fix

Free up precious time and breathe easier by working with WordPress professionals—like the team at Foodie Digital—that have experience in the food blog niche and who can provide the kind of consistent, forward-thinking tech and SEO support you need to grow your business on your own terms.

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Liane Walker
Liane Walker
Liane is a mom of 3, committed meal planner, wannabe saucier chef, a seasoned systems analyst and content strategist, and CEO of Foodie Digital. Heaven to her is meal planning on a Saturday morning at the kitchen table while watching her kids run free in the backyard.
Banner Photo Credit: Ali Harper

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