30 SEO tips for food bloggers

SEO for food blogs isn’t magic.

Long-lasting, needle-moving results are the product of consistent effort, good user experience design, quality WordPress support and helpful performance-boosting plugins.

So why is it so hard and confusing and time consuming?

Food blog SEO is dual in nature. You’re expected to do a thousand little things right each day while also keeping your eye on the big picture. Throw in life and consistently creating new amazing recipes into the mix, and it’s incredibly easy to de-prioritize SEO. 

To make our list of 30 SEO tips for food bloggers easy to comb through, we’ve split it two categories:

This way, once you master the beginner tip list, you’ve got a roadmap for what to tackle next.

A new approach to food blog SEO

A big, whopping, 65-page SEO site audit report in your inbox that tells you to put “this into this field” and “that into that field” is impossible to digest and even harder to implement. 

Intellectually you understand the contents of the SEO audit, but what’s really hard is applying the tactics at home alone behind your computer. Plus the time it takes to do the work. It’s even tougher (impossible?) with a toddler in your lap or a teenager texting you every two minutes.

Guided implementation is how we approach food blog SEO at Foodie Digital. We guide you toward improving your technical SEO and top posts with manageable monthly assignments.

Because like any recipe you test, food blog SEO requires time, effort and a commitment to see the process through before you can enjoy the fruits of your labour. 

Technical and editorial SEO is not a quick fix or a perfect science and your willingness to execute and test concepts, monitor and interpret data, plus your commitment to produce compelling food content that answers a searcher’s query, all matter a great deal. 

In the past, a lot of fuss has been made about keywords for food blogs. Today using the right long-and medium tail keywords for your food blog’s niche is only half the battle. 

A significant amount of food blog SEO happens off the post (or page) and under the hood making SEO tactics such as mobile site speed and page speed, user experience design, crawl accessibility, a great category structure, and properly configured plugins, powerful and important.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

17 beginner tips for food blog SEO

1. Install and configure Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO is gold standard and an easy and completely free way to begin basic SEO. Once you’ve installed the Yoast SEO plugin, pay special attention to the plugin’s configuration settings under:

  • Search appearance > general
  • Search appearance > taxonomies

The settings should be adapted to suit your site’s content and taxonomies. Auditing how Yoast SEO is configured is one of the very first SEO audit tasks we do for new Foodie Digital members.

A screen capture of WordPress’ back-end demonstrating how to navigate to Yoast SEO, Search Appearance, General and Taxonomy tabs.

2. Enable SSL (i.e., https)

A secure website address that begins with https is a must. Credible, professional web hosts hand out free SSL certificates like candy so don’t wait to make the change. If your web hosting provider has a dashboard or cpanel that you can access, it’s very likely you can enable SSL yourself. Otherwise, hop on live chat with you web host and ask that SSL is enabled.

Once SSL is enabled, log into WordPress > Settings > General and replace http with https in the WordPress Address and Site Address fields. Then, watch out for mixed content.

A screen capture of WordPress’ back-end demonstrating how to Settings, General.

3. Submit your sitemap in Google Search Console

Submitting your food blog’s sitemap to Google is a basic but important task for search engine optimization. It’s one of the first things we verify when a new member joins Foodie Digital because it’s a task that’s so easily overlooked.

Follow our instructions to set-up Google Search Console for your food blog in less than 10 minutes. Then, go to Index > Sitemap and submit your food blog’s sitemap. 

A screen capture of WordPress’ back-end demonstrating how to navigate to submit a site in Google Search Console.

4. Install and configure a credible recipe card plugin

Migrating your recipe content into a recipe card plugin grants you the keys to the Google kingdom. Structured data, more specifically JSON-LD Schema Markup, unlocks a long list of possibilities for your recipe content. Rich snippets for your recipes is just one of the many big wins.

Which recipe card plugin is the best and easiest to use?

We’ve broken down the pros and cons, costs and main benefits of the best WordPress recipe card plugins to help you make a decision about which option is the right one for your business.

In summary, we back:

They’re all very different, and we like working with each one for different reasons. (Note, we do not participate in affiliate programs for these recipe card plugins.)

5. Fill out the fields in your recipe card plugin

Consistency is key when it comes to success with structured data. The task of entering recipe ingredients, instructions and more into a recipe card plugin is admittedly a bit tedious but, in this case, short term pain is long term gain. Be thorough, it’ll pay off.

6. Fix broken internal and external links

Internal links are links from one post or page on your site to another. These are helpful to users and search engines since they help them discover more content on your site. External links are when you link to sources outside of your URL. 

A food blog riddled with broken internal and external links can hurt the user experience, cause visitors to bounce, and impact SEO.

Pro tip: One hidden source of broken external links is reader comments. Be diligent when approving reader comments, and always check the URL in the comment body for a hidden or junk URL. 

A word of warning: broken link checker plugins are notoriously bloated and can impact site speed. Consider using a third party tool, such as Screaming Frog to stay on top of your broken links, or our team at Foodie Digital can generate broken link reports for you.

7. Handle re-directs with care

Mis-handled redirects are a big reason for broken links and 404 page errors, which impact SEO. The most commonly used redirect is 301, which means the page being redirected has moved permanently.

Before you remove the date from your URL, change a URL or delete a post, lean on a credible plugin to help you implement your redirects.

8. Test your mobile site speed

In the spring of 2018 Google announced that it was rolling out mobile-first indexing. A speedy, useful user experience on mobile is a must and an important ranking factor for Google. If you want to have a shot at ranking on Google’s first page your site needs to load in 3 seconds or less.

At best, performance optimization is a puzzle. If there’s one area of tech and SEO support that’s worth every penny, this is it.

We’re big believers that if you can measure it, you can improve it so test of your mobile site speed and learn where your opportunities are.

A screengrab of Foodie Digital's mobile page speed which is 1.6 seconds taken from Google's free Test My Site tool.

9. Hone in on your subject matter area of expertise

Do you have an area of expertise, such as gluten free, dairy free or vegan recipes? Maybe it’s meal planning or make-ahead meals. It’s important to send clear signals to Google about who you are, what you do, and what you’re a trustworthy authority in. 

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 desserts make it crystal clear.

E-A-T, which stands for expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness is real, and applies to the content that’s created as well as the person who creates the content. 

If you’re like “whoa, back-up, what’s E-A-T?” set aside 10 minutes and read this helpful post from Moz (a trusted source of all things SEO) about E-A-T and SEO.

10. Remove plugins you no longer use

We have yet to meet a new Foodie Digital member that isn’t hanging on to a few unused, deactivated plugins. Unused plugins can negatively affect your website’s loading speed, which is an important ranking factor for SEO.

It’s easy to forget about deactivated or unused plugins so audit your plugin list every few months and remove what’s unused.

11. Optimize and compress images

Optimized and compressed images impact site speed and performance significantly by reducing the size of each image in a post or on a page while still delivering high-quality images.

If you have a library of uncompressed images, install an image compression plugin right away. Not all image compression plugins are created equal though. To save you time, we’ve compiled a list of recommended WordPress plugins for food blogs.   

12. Use an H1 Tag

An H1 or heading 1 is an HTML tag that indicates to search engines that a heading on a webpage, or in a post, is the primary heading. Each page or post needs only one H1 tag. An H1 (as well, as an H2, H3 and so on) is a header that gives context to a page or post.

Good user experience site design will automatically include an H1, enhancing the user experience.

13. Use H2s tags

If your post’s body is missing additional headlines (i.e., H2s) you’re missing out on some key optimization opportunities. 

H2s are a great way to improve the reading experience on mobile. Remember, most mobile Internet users skim through content. H2s are a great way to break content into separate chunks, making sentences and paragraphs easier to read.

For example, the H2s in this post are:

  • A new approach to food blog SEO
  • 17 beginner tips for food blog SEO
  • 13 advanced tips for food blog SEO

Don’t pepper your content with too many H2s though, use them wisely. H2s are also a natural way to add additional, contextually relevant keywords in a post.

For example, for a ‘Vegan butternut squash pasta sauce’ recipe it’s perfectly natural and relevant to include the H2 ‘How to cut butternut squash’ plus a paragraph of supporting copy in your post. The reader will benefit.

Pro tip: It’s even better if you can include step-by-step video instructions for ‘How to cut butternut squash’ marked-up with HowTo schema.

14. Be selective about the number of images in a recipe post

For food blogs, images are one of the most important tools for communicating a recipe’s appeal. Using multiple images in a post is also a tactic for for increasing display ad impressions, and can help keep readers on your site longer.

But a food blog with too many images (and ads too!) or with images that are too large will have longer loading time.

Image compression is key. Also resizing full-width images from, say 4000px down to 1600px width is helpful, especially when image quality is the exact same.

Seconds really matter on mobile; be intentional with the number of finished recipe and process shots you use in a post. Aim for between 5 and 7 images, if possible.

15. Look at your competition for the keywords you want to target

Keyword research is a necessary and important part of editorial SEO for food blogs, a specialty of ours at Foodie Digital. But far too many food bloggers stop after doing initial keyword research.

Go a step further and look at the content your competition has already created. The food blogs that show up on the first page of Google for the keywords you’d like to target are the competition.

If Bon Apetit, Allrecipes, Delish, The Food Network, The Kitchn, and other big name publishers own the first page, consider chasing another keyword opportunity.

If you think you can compete, and potentially outrank another food blog for a keyword opportunity over time, inspect the contents and structure of their post.

Your post and recipe will need to be as technically sound, comprehensive, informative, and closely match search intent to earn a top spot.

16. Include 1-2 external links in a post

When you link out to another food blog or a helpful resource, it creates a signal to other sites and food content creators that you’re a willing participant in the web’s natural linking system.

As a general rule, only link out to a site that’s secure (i.e., https), and a site that isn’t riddled with displays ads and pop-ups.

No-follow tags can also easily be applied to specific links if you want to be selective about the food blogs that earn or don’t earn a backlink from you.

17. Comply with industry regulations by using no-follow on specific links

Compliance isn’t the sexiest top, but it’s an important one. According to Federal Trade Commission and Competition Bureau of Canada regulations, if you:

  • Create sponsored content for companies
  • Use affiliate links
  • Review free products

You’re required to apply a no-follow sponsored tag to external links that link back to the sponsor company’s website, products and social media accounts.

Wisely, the recipe card plugins Tasty Recipes by WP Tasty, Create by Mediavine and WP Recipe Maker have added the no-follow tag functionality to their product offering, though the experience of applying a no-follow tag is a little different in each plugin. This is so helpful if you create a lot of sponsored content!

If you use WordPress’ new block editor (formerly known as Gutenberg) a no-follow tag needs to be applied manually in the HTML.

13 advanced tips for food blog SEO

1. Use a fast WordPress web hosting provider

We’ve said it before and we’ll keep saying it. Your choice of WordPress web hosting provider will have a big effect on your site speed, up-time, security, your sanity, and much more.

Take extra time and do research on the best web hosts for food blogs. The extra due diligence will pay-off in the long run. We back:

2. Invest in advanced performance optimization

Again, if you want to have a shot at ranking on the first page of Google your site needs to load in 3 seconds or less. Food blog SEO includes page speed and performance optimization.

Performance tuning is a big part of what we do at Foodie Digital, and in our opinion, requires expert-level understanding of the niche.

3. Check for mixed content

Enabling SSL (i.e., https) can cause a cascade effect, known as mixed content. Mixed content is when you have both http and https on site.

Once you switch to https, everything, including pages, posts, images and ad network tags, needs to be running over https. To resolve mixed content, lean on a useful plugin such as Really Simple SSL.

4. Clean-up your category structure

Is your category structure long, jumbled and all over the map? Unfortunately, a messy category structure impacts SEO in several ways.

Unclear or cluttered site categories confuse the reader, and results in a negative user experience. This affects how long a reader stays, or dwells, on your site and their desire to clickthrough to more content. It also hurts your crawl accessibility.

A site with great category structure, does the opposite. Readers can quickly and easily find what they want, which improves dwell time and (hopefully) pages per session if your internal linking strategy is strong.

Also, the better your category structure, the easier Google can access, crawl and index your content. Plus, to power a dynamic recipe index your category structure needs to be in tip top shape.

5. Apply 3-4 internal links in a post

Internal links establish a hierarchy of information on your site. With a solid internal linking strategy in place, you’ll proactively show Google the posts and pages on your site that are related, as well as which articles are the most informative and valuable to your audience and ideally those most closely tied to your subject matter area(s) of expertise. 

And while links with the anchor “read more” “related” or “click here” are okay once in a while, it is better to have relevant words in your anchor text. For example, if you’re adding a link to a post about easy bread recipes, hyperlink ‘easy bread recipes’ in a sentence, rather than saying ‘click here.’

6. Watch your use of tags

Hands down, tags are one of the most misunderstood features on food blogs. Tags are use most commonly used to support reader navigation and to help a visitor move around your site based on a subject they’re interested in.

The goal with tags is to tag posts in WordPress with keyword terms that are repeatable topics for you. The ideal result is a substantial numbers of blog entries using the same tag. 

Tags should also not overlap or be duplicates of categories. For example, if a post is assigned to the Recipe sub-category “Breakfast” it does not need the tag “Breakfast” but instead tags such as ‘plant protein’ and ‘healthy fats’.

To access your tag list, log into 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 for your food blog.

7. Know if your tags are indexed or not

In Yoast SEO > Search Appearance > Taxonomies check and see if your tags and paginated content are indexed. As a general rule, tags should only be indexed with Google if your tag category archives are full of high-quality content.

If your tag list is random and not helpful your tags should not be indexed.

Leaving these site elements open, infringes on the ability for your post and category archives to rank well. You’re allotted a crawl budget, use it wisely.

Pro tip: If you choose to no-index tags, make sure that any existing internal links to tag archives are updated so that the links lead to relevant and related content, rather than dead ends. When you no-index tags search engines can no longer crawl through those tag archives to discover other content. That might mean that key recipes posts and pages don’t get discovered.

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

8. Write alt text for each image in a post

Alt text is an important ranking factor for SEO. It’s leaned on by Google in situations where an image isn’t displayed to a reader or isn’t visible to a reader (i.e., the visitor is using a screen reader for accessibility).

In an image’s alt text field, describe in sentence form exactly what’s in the image so that search engines and people can make sense of it. Be diligent and write alt text for each image in a post.

A screenshot of the back-end of Foodie Digital's WordPress site, showing where to fill-in the alt text field

9. Write an SEO title for each post

Do not leave a post’s SEO title empty!

You apply a post’s SEO title in your SEO plugin (i.e., Yoast SEO). Where possible, include keywords in your SEO title as well as your brand/company name (i.e., | Foodie Digital) at the end of the SEO title. Your SEO title does not need to be the exact same as your article title. 

The SEO title appears in the web browser tab. It plays a significant role in search and also appears on Google’s search engine results page. The length of your SEO title should not exceed 75 characters, fewer than 40 characters is ideal.

A screen capture of Yoast SEO in WordPress’ back-end demonstrating how to complete SEO title field for a food blog.

10. Write a meta description for each post

Do not leave a post’s meta description field empty!

Like the SEO title, you apply a post’s meta description in your SEO plugin (i.e., Yoast SEO). A meta description should summarize a page’s content but above all entice a reader to clickthrough. As a general rule, the length of a meta description shouldn’t exceed 156 characters. 

Also, a post’s meta description can be re-written after a post has been published. If you notice that a particular post is highly ranked in Google’s search results, but that the clickthrough rate isn’t great, consider rewriting your meta description to attract more conversions and clickthroughs over time.

A screen capture of Yoast SEO in WordPress’ back-end demonstrating how to complete the meta description field for a food blog.

11. Optimize URLs

You don’t have to use the default URL (aka permalink) that’s automatically created for a post in WordPress. You can edit the URL of a post before it’s published, preferably to include keywords.

Where possible, keep your URL length to fewer than 90 characters—between 58 and 60 characters is ideal. It’s also best to create an evergreen URL so that it never has to change, even if one day you update the article title or the article information.

For example, look at the URL for this post:

foodiedigital.com/seo-tips-for-food-bloggers

Though this post includes 30 SEO tips for food bloggers, we may add a few down the road so we’ve intentionally left the number ’30’ out of the post’s URL.

12. Know a post’s clickthrough rate

Improving the clickthrough rate of a recipe post or article by even a percentage point or two has the potential to significantly boost your organic traffic over time. 

In Google Analytics, under Acquisition > Search Console > Landing Pages, look at the clickthrough rate (CTR) percentage for a post. There are a number of different advanced tactics for improving a post’s clickthrough rate, the most simple is to re-write the post’s meta description so that it’s more enticing and click-worthy. Understanding the searcher’s intent is another. 

Link building, which is when you earn links from other sites to your own, is one of the biggest factors associated with higher rankings in Google.

In the absence of a financial partnership or receiving free product from a company in exchange for exposure, you can earn a do-follow backlink for your food blog.

A do-follow backlink passes the SEO strength of the site that’s linking out on to the page or post that it’s linking to. No-follow backlinks do not pass on SEO strength. No-follow backlinks are great to increase exposure, but they have no SEO effect.

The goal with backlinks is to have diversity in the domains linking to you.

Earning a backlink from the same site over and over is nice, and may send you referral traffic—which is good too!—but when it comes to straight up SEO, it’s better to acquire links from lots of different credible sites in your niche.

This post was updated by Liane Walker on Oct 23, 2019 to provide food bloggers with the best, most relevant SEO tips available, and will continue to be updated over time.

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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 Managing Director of Foodie Digital. Heaven to her is meal planning on a Saturday morning at her kitchen table while her kids run free in the backyard.
Banner Photo Credit: Tara Hurst

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