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Episode 143: SEO Tips for Food Bloggers with Alina Ghost

In episode 143 we talk with Alina Ghost who is an SEO expert and the host of the podcast SEO With Mrs. Ghost, because she wanted to give back to the community that had taught her so much.

We cover the how to strategize through keyword research, optimization through headers and titles, external linking, featured snippets and so much more!

Listen on the player below or on iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast player. Or scroll down to read a full transcript.


Guest Details

Connect with Alina Ghost

Website | Instagram

Bio

Alina has a decade of SEO experience and has worked for the likes of Tesco, Debenhams, Carpetright and most recently the BBC. In 2014 Alina won Best Interiors Blog award @ Cosmopolitan Blog awards so shes a pro blogger too.

Takeaways

  • Google has their own keyword planner tool that you can be using for free to check. Another great option to use is Answer The Public. You can use this especially for building content strategies.
  • A mix of long tail and short tail key words is a great way to build up your ranking and authority.
  • One way to become an expert in an area is you should create variations of your popular recipes by having unique selling points of each version. I.e. chili is your top recipe, than focus on adding variations like healthy chili, meatless chili, etc.
  • Place your interlinked recipes and posts at the bottom of a recipe to increase user engagement.
  • Recipe snippets are important – they should be punchy, intriguing, or witty because your user scrolls through Google’s results and you want to catch their eye quickly. This is primarily done on a mobile phone.
  • Keep up to date with Google’s technical requirements – schema markup, site speed, storage space and resolution for your images, having your site cached, site maps and utilizing all the help from Google Console are important.
  • Resolve errors that Google brings to your attention so they aren’t hindering your growth.
  • Providing videos on your site keeps users there longer so that Google sees that interaction on your blog.
  • Having your own email list is important with calls to action for your audience.
  • Guest post or join a podcast as a guest to relevant sites to build up your own expertise and gain external links to your site as well.

Resources Mentioned

Answer The Public

Schema

Janet Murray Podcast – How To PR Your Press Coverage

Janet Murray Podcast – How To Get Big Press Coverage On A Small Budget

Want to learn more about User Experience (UX)?

Learning how to provide your audience a good UX with HEART and EAT is important to Google, so it should be to you too. Learn more about how to achieve this goal in episode 067 with Bethany Smith.


Transcript

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Intro:

Welcome to Eat Blog Talk where food bloggers come to get their fill of the latest tips, tricks, and insights into the world of food blogging. If you feel that hunger for information, we’ll provide you with the tools you need to add value to your blog. And we’ll also ensure you’re taking care of yourself because food blogging is a demanding job. Now, please welcome your host, Megan Porta.

Megan Porta:

Food bloggers. Hey, if you have not yet joined the new, amazing Eat Blog Talk community, you have to go do it. You will find so much value inside, including connecting with other food bloggers in a much deeper way and having access to all kinds of exclusive value, such as bonus podcast episodes and mastermind groups and resources and service providers directory, and so much more. Go to eatblogtalk.com for more information, and we cannot wait to see you inside.

Okay, food bloggers, have you heard of Flodesk, the new big email marketing rage? This is an amazing new option for managing your email subscriber list. It is super easy to use and it comes with gorgeous, intuitive drag and drop templates. And Flodesk does not charge based on number of subscribers. So your monthly rate will stay the same from month to month. Everyone pays $38 a month or use my affiliate link to get 50% off and pay only $19 a month. You guys, this is a fraction of the price of other email service providers, and you’ll be blown away by the beautiful and intuitive templates waiting for you inside. Visit eatblogtalk.com/resources to grab your link. Flodesk, the stunning new option for email marketing.

What’s up food bloggers? Welcome to Eat Blog Talk. This podcast is for you food bloggers, wanting value information, and also clarity that will help you find greater success in your business.

Today. I’m super excited to have a chat with Alina Ghost from Alinaghost.com. And we’re going to talk about search engine optimization for bloggers or SEO as we know it. Alina has a decade of SEO experience and she has worked for the likes of Tesco, Devinhams Carpet Rite and most recently the BBC. In 2014, Alina won best interiors blog award at cosmopolitan blog awards. So she is a pro blogger too. Alina, I am a super excited to chat about SEO with you today, but first give us a fun fact about yourself.

Alina Ghost:

Hi guys. So Megan, thanks so much for having me on. I’m actually Russian and I’ve lived in Israel for about six years before I came to London just before my eighth birthday.

Megan Porta:

Oh, wow. So all over the place, you told me before the interview that you were Russian, but your accent is clearly not Russian.

Alina Ghost:

So I’ve been in the UK for a very long time now and married to a British guy.

Megan Porta:

Nice! Well, that’s great. So good to be diverse, I think, and experiencing places from all over the world. I love to hear that. So let’s dive into SEO because it is a super hot topic. It’s one of those topics that all food bloggers are digging into right now and not just right now, but really heavily in the past few years. And everyone wants more information about it all the time. I mean, people are always searching for more experts, more information on SEO. So it’s always great for me to get different points of view on the topic because obviously delivering value to those ears. So it’s great to have you here. You’ve been doing this for over a decade. So this is an awesome topic for you specifically to cover. Can you start by talking about just a few SEO basics and then that would kind of lead into strategizing, but let’s just start out with the basics and then we’ll cover the rest.

Alina Ghost:

Yeah. So I’ve actually listened to your other episodes on SEO. So I’m going to try and not to repeat anything that’s been in there apart from like the main fundamentals, perhaps. So I’m talking about the basics, um, essentially when it comes to that keyword research, I I’m going to share with you, uh, free tools that you can be using. So firstly, um, Google has their own keyword planner tool that you can be using for free to check. Um, how many people a month search for a particular key word, for example. Um, another one that I really like and actually gets missed a lot is called Answer The Public. So he is more around creating content strategies. You put in a, uh, let’s say key phrase or even just one key word and then see what kind of questions might come up for that particular term and keyword that you put in. So when it comes to that whole content strategy, you could be using those questions and perhaps even understand um, so if I use this key word, they’re going to be a lot of people searching for it, but then there are other key words that not a lot of people search for, but it’s more likely to convert or more likely to get people to create an action. So maybe sign up to your newsletter or, um, perhaps even read, um, sorry, buy a product that you’re selling. So it’s very interesting around how to create that holistic view and actually have a bit of both. So I would never recommend just sticking all of your eggs into one basket, but actually having a mix of that long tail, which is like more than three key words, and short tail, which is usually one or two key words. Um, and having that mix and the balance to ensure that you’ve got that whole content strategy in place.

Megan Porta:

Oh, that’s a great recommendation and something I’ve never heard before. So having a mixture because I was just noticing this in Yoast the other day at the bottom of our blog posts, you know, the focus key phrase, where that pops up, and there’s one recipe I was coming through where it was just like five words I think. And there was no way I could pare it down. And I can’t remember, I can’t even remember what it was to give you an example, but it recommended in Yoast saying, well, by words is maybe a little bit too long, so maybe make it smaller. And I was like, sorry Yoast, that is not going to happen because it just, it was like Instant Pot, something, something, something, or like, I just didn’t have the ability to do that. So I didn’t, I ignored it, but I think it’s such a great recommendation to do a mixture of really short key phrases and then longer ones.

Alina Ghost:

Yep. So, um, I think that’s something to, um, uh, think about is the fact that when you do have a long tail keyword, so let’s say there’s five key words, that’s a specific specific recipe. Um, that actually you’re tailoring to the short tail as well because Google understands that actually, although it’s a whole sentence, I can just pull out two words from that and push it towards, um, let’s say, uh, a high search volume a result, but at the same time I was going to say, have a think about the competition. So when it comes to those long tail keywords and you’ve got five or more key words that you are ranking for, the competition for that is going to be so much less, which means that if you’re starting out, that’s probably something that you should be focusing on as, as a first, like fundamental.

Megan Porta:

That’s a great point too, because, uh, sometimes those key phrases can get really competitive and that just makes it harder, but okay. Let’s say my key focus, key phrase was instant pot pork chops and gravy, or something like that. So it does Google see bits of that? Is that what you’re saying? So it would see like instant pot pork, or instant pot pork chops or pork chops and gravy. So it would see like options within, within that big long tail phrase?

Alina Ghost:

Yes. So at the end of the day Google was trying to find something the most relevant. So is that article most relevant for that particular um search? So if you have, let’s say, something generic that you are trying, no, sorry, you’ve got something specific, but at the same time, somebody’s searching for a more generic term. They don’t know what they’re looking for. So it could be that Google will be using your article to push towards that user to say, well, you haven’t actually specified how you want this cooked. So do you want it with pork chops? Do you want it with gravy? Because this article has a lot more information and we could talk about user behavior a little bit later on, um, which will actually help you get to the top of that as well.

Megan Porta:

Okay. That explains that a lot better. I think key words and key phrases are really confusing. They’ve been confusing for me. And I know that it’s, it’s a point of confusion for a lot of food bloggers. So it’s really good to just dig into it a little bit before we move beyond keyword research. Is there anything else, like any great takeaways that you feel like people would benefit from knowing specifically about keyword research? I like that you mentioned Answer The Public. I don’t always think to go there, but it is such a great resource every time I do. I think it’s very valuable. So I’m glad you mentioned that. Is there anything else?

Alina Ghost:

Yep. So to go back to Answer The Public, it’s the questions that people might put into, um, Google, for example, around the same topic. So let’s say we’re just going to take those pots, um, or pork chops. So what else are people putting in alongside pork chops? Um, and that’s when you can create a content strategy. So you can create a selection of articles and recipes let’s say, to actually fulfill their need, for example. But the other thing that I was going to mention is the fact that a lot of recipe bloggers and food bloggers forget to actually even include the word recipe. And that is so essential. If you want to be relevant for recipes and food, you need to ensure that you’re using that terminology. So, when you are creating, let’s say a title or a head of a particular recipe, just make sure that you’re including recipe at the end of that.

Megan Porta:

Okay. I don’t always do that. I think I did. And then I started getting confused by the focus key phrase in Yoast telling me that my phrases were too long. So I started taking recipe off. So we should always include recipe in the title no matter what, if it is a recipe post.

Alina Ghost:

Yes. Just to include that contextualization, to help those bots understand that yes, it’s a recipe. A hundred percent. Another thing I was going to mention is the fact that when it comes to Yoast, at the end of the day, take it with a pinch of salt. Sometimes it needs to be taken as a guideline. So yes, we should be following what it’s saying, but sometimes do remember that actually it is just a robot and you should be doing what’s best for you and your readers.

Megan Porta:

I completely understand that. And I know I hear people say that all the time and I get it, but it’s like the green light, you like that green smiley. And I just worked so hard to get that dang green, smiley green. When it’s orange, and even if it’s orange and I’m happy with the post, I still feel like I need to get it green. But it is so good to hear an expert tell me that Yoast is a guideline. Take it with a pinch of salt and do what is best for you and do what is best for your users. I think that is the main thing to keep in mind. You mentioned content strategies and building a content strategy around something like Answer The Public that provides information about what content people are wanting and kind of as a support for other recipes. Right? So if you have say a really popular chili recipe, you can use something like Answer The Public to figure out what other content will support Chili. Is that kind of what you were saying?

Alina Ghost:

Yeah. So in your previous episode, you’ve actually mentioned around that whole EAT factor. So expertise, authority, trust. So when that comes into play, you need to be thinking around not only creating one article, let’s say for a particular recipe, but perhaps a hub for a recipe that’s really popular with variations to it. Um, so it’s not necessary of course not, but then you’re showing Google that you have an authority for a particular recipe, that you are food blogger, um, and perhaps even gives you the ability to categorize your content in a particular way.

Megan Porta:

Okay. That makes sense. So do you recommend going through maybe top posts and creating hubs surrounding those since they’re already at the top and getting traction?

Alina Ghost:

That could be a really good view. Definitely. Um, I just, um, a word of caution would, uh, say that you need to be careful not to cannibalize your content. So if it’s doing well, make sure that the next article is, uh, definitely different and like, has a unique selling point rather than it’s just the article so that there’s no conflict so that Google doesn’t get confused and say, hold on a second, you’ve got one. So I don’t know which one to show up.

Megan Porta:

Hmm. I’ve heard that before too. And I’ve not really sorted through that in my mind completely because I have a handful of chili recipes on my site. So does Google get confused? The more chili recipes I add?

Alina Ghost:

No. So for example, I would say it’s a matter of how you link internally on your blog. So for example, if you’ve got lots of chili recipes, make sure that you have a hub of, let’s say a category of chili recipes that link out to all of the chili recipes that you have. So it’s like listing all of the articles. Um, and then you’ve got a great, let’s say introduction to your Chili’s at the top. So saying this is a page full of chili con carne recipes that you can do from this and that, but make sure that you are linking to the articles that you have and then using your titles, giving them a specific, um, USP. So unique selling point. So for example, this is a chili, uh, for, uh, you can even say for vegans, for example, by, by using non-meat products. Um, so it could be a vegan chili recipe. And I’m just thinking from the way.

Megan Porta:

Types of like healthy, it looked for example, mine, I have just like your standard chili, I have healthy chili. And then I also have an easy chili that only requires five ingredients.

Alina Ghost:

Exactly.

Megan Porta:

Yeah. So for the chili example, we would need to create a specific category for that. And then you say linking to it. Do we just inter linking, internally linking or how do you mean?

Alina Ghost:

Yeah. So internal linking is really important. Obviously if you create a whole category around it, it means that you are, um, an authority on it, which means that you’re more likely to show up for all of these chili recipes. Um, and linking to other, um, articles is just internally linking. So hyperlink to the title. Um, if you’re using WordPress. So a lot of the time it can even do that for you. So you can create a category linking to your posts. So latest posts or first, for example. Um, so that could be done really easily. Um, but then, yeah, as you mentioned in your previous podcast episode as well, make sure that you link between the two, if it’s relevant. Don’t spam it, but if it’s relevant. And especially at the bottom of the articles, because you can increase that user engagement. So you can get more page views from somebody who is searching from Chili, for chili recipes, and then adding three links, let’s say three links to at the bottom of that article, to your other chili recipes, saying, if you’re interested in this chili recipe, you might be interested in these other chili recipes that are a little bit different.

Megan Porta:

Yeah. I liked that you pointed out specifically at the bottom, putting those links at the bottom because people, if people are scrolling through and reading your post, that’s where they’re going to be like, Oh, well that sounds interesting. Maybe I do want to check out the healthy chili recipe. Is there a limit, do you think to internal linking, I know everyone has a different opinion on that. What is your opinion?

Alina Ghost:

I personally don’t think that there is a limit. Um, I’ve worked with very large sites, as you said at the beginning, uh, from like Debenhams and Tesco. In the UK it’s basically a supermarket in case you don’t know. Um, who has a variety of things from groceries to, uh, back when I worked with them even had homewares and, um, um, electrical goods. Um, so essentially, as a blog, you’re very unlikely to, let’s say, spam your site with internal linking. But at the same time, you need to ensure that it’s relevant, only if it’s relevant should you be including it because you don’t want a navigation full of links. You don’t want an article that looks really ugly because you’re linking left right and center.

Megan Porta:

Right. That is true. We’ve all been to those websites where you can’t even move your mouse around the page without accidentally clicking on something. You’re like, Oh, I didn’t mean to do that.

Alina Ghost:

Exactly. The thing is take yourself as an example. If you don’t like it, then your users won’t either.

Megan Porta:

Right. Yes. Relevancy is such a key thing, I think for SEO and user experience. So just keeping that at the forefront of our minds, I kind of feel like I could just go off on many tangents with you because this is so great, but I should bring us back to kind of our outline here. So we talked about keyword research, Answer The Public or something that can give you ideas for content strategies. Um, supporting other recipes, thinking through your categories. What are some other ways that we can optimize our content, aside from keyword research?

Alina Ghost:

Yeah. Well, this one I love. So, uh, let’s get the basics out of the way first. So it’s obviously titles, subtitles, um, and actually using the keywords in your content. So when, I mean titles and subtitles, so firstly optimize your title with the keyword research that you do. Um, we’ve already spoken about the long tail and short tail, but a set and using recipe at the end of those. Um, but essentially have a think about what will entice people to click on that on Google. So when it comes to the title and the meta-description, which is a little snippet that comes up on Google that, um, people can see, but not on your actual page, then it’s something that you need to ensure that you’ve got like a call to action. You’ve got those key words and your enticing people to click through. Then, when it comes to your headers, and this is what I was going to mention, is the fact that recent research, uh, not surprising, that it’s come out to say that the way people read is mostly from across the world, from left to right. So when it off from left to right, then people go down using on the left hand side and they skim read. People are likely to skim read, especially if using social media and if they’re using a device. So for example, a mobile phone. So what that means to you, how you going to create really punchy articles and food recipes that’s really easy to consume. So I’ve seen this in the past. I’ve seen things like bullet points. I’ve seen things, um giving things subsections. So when I say headers, making sure that not only are you using things like H1 and H2, but you’re also making sure that they’re really punchy, really easy to read and understand so that people understand the context of that content.

Megan Porta:

So punchy and easy to read by punchy, do you just mean like a little clever, like stands out a little bit, a little bit unique, not just dry, like how to make chili?

Alina Ghost:

Um, I’d say have a mix of both. The SEO in me is saying, yes, make sure you to use how to, um, create a, uh, a recipe, a particular recipe, but at the same time, if you’ve got that in your title or other content, then you don’t necessarily need to have that in your header. Um, uh, the editorial in me says that yes, have fun with it at the end of the day, if you capture a user’s interest and they like the way you’ve written, they’ll come back to you. It means that you’re getting more users and more readership that way.

Megan Porta:

You do have to show your personality. You have to show that you’re human, even though a lot of robots are reading your content and analyzing your content, you still have to show that you’re a human being and that’s, what’s going to get the user to like you in the end. So you have to keep kind of both in mind and it’s such a hard balance. I think this is what we all struggle with. We try to please the robots, please Google. But then we also need to please our reader or our user, which is actually more important than anything, right?

Alina Ghost:

Mm. At the end of the day, you’ve got to think about the user first, Google always says it’s the user first, so you can actually see if the user stays on your content as well. So the robot sees the fact that a person stayed there for, let’s say five minutes to actually read your content before they moved on. So that’s really key as well.

Megan Porta:

Okay. You mentioned before, just making sure that we have things that will entice our users to click because they see very little snippets of information when they’re typing in key phrases in Google, and then they see our content, they see a tiny little thumbnail, a title and maybe our blog name, and then what we write in for our recipes snippet. Am I saying that right? It’s the recipe snippet, right?

Alina Ghost:

Yeah. So you can, um, uh, it’s the carousel for like the recipes. It’s uh, definitely it’s like those features snippets. Definitely.

Megan Porta:

Sure. Yeah. So how do we make sure that we entice people? Do you have any tips for that?

Alina Ghost:

Um, yep. So dependent on the key word that people have put in, your, like your key words are actually emboldened. So they go bold if they’re relevant. So if you already, let’s say, use the keyword in your title, then you’re more likely to show up and it’s more likely to be bold because of that. But then when it comes to like getting people to click through, when it comes to an eCommerce, I always say, I’ll just use something like buy now or get your free delivery here. But when it comes to a publisher site, that’s where you can be more creative. Um a site that I very much like, and going back to having like a whole, your own personality, the site is called, I think it’s swaddle bags. Essentially. They make leather goods like wallets and bags, but their tagline for all of their features snippets usually or used to be, saying, they’ll fight over it when you’re dead. As if to say that the product is so good, that it will out last you. And secondly, it’s so nice that other people want it as well. So it’s about being clever and actually getting people to, yes, see your personality.

Megan Porta:

You can definitely see that when you do a search on Google, for me, when I’m searching for a recipe, maybe doing research or something, or looking for something to make myself, I tend to click over to the ones where a little bit of personality shines through. But when it’s just like a little ingredient list that pops up or something very straightforward or bullets or something like that, I am not inclined to click over. But when it’s like a little teaser of who’s behind the blog, I’m much more inclined to click and see what’s going on. I think there is something huge to be said for that.

Alina Ghost:

The other thing is questions are really easy. So, uh, like, is it tasty? See for yourself?

Megan Porta:

Yes. Intrigued, creating entry, right. Or curiosity. Like getting people to be curious about what’s on the other side in different ways. And food is great for that because you can create so much intrigue with food. And there’s so much to talk about. Like, what’s the secret ingredient or what’s the copycat recipe for the, you know, like you can just do so many things that can cause curiosity.

Alina Ghost:

Keep in mind the fact that people like to look at two or three recipes before they even decide which one to go for. So, if you do add that something special, then you’re more likely to get chosen, right?

Megan Porta:

Yes, absolutely. Completely agree with that. Can you talk a little bit about recipes schema markup? I know this has been huge in recent years and kind of a change. Like I feel like each year it changes a little bit and gets stricter, like as far as what the requirements are for getting Google to recognize your recipe card. Can you talk to us a little bit about that?

Alina Ghost:

You’ve mentioned this in the past, but essentially having schema markup doesn’t just allow you to be on there. Like it’s, it’s a fundamental, basically. So although it might not be a “ranking factor”, it is definitely a ranking factor if you’re going to be against your competitors who do have schema markup. So, that’s how people consume content. Now that’s how Google shows content now. So you need to have it to show up, basically, and to show up well against your competitors. So to get it, obviously when you’re talking about, um, having new schema, schema changes, just check schema.org, um, that will always have the updated versions for you so that people use the same, let’s say coding and language to ensure that is marked up correctly.

Megan Porta:

There are recipe card plugins that are very commonly used and popular in the food blogging realm. Um, that do adhere to a lot of that schema markup or all of it, I should say.

Alina Ghost:

That’s, that’s a really good point. No, to say that you don’t even have to code it yourself. You can just add a good plugin onto WordPress, especially if you’re using WordPress. And actually it will update itself if you’ve got a good one. Um, and it will do it for you.

Megan Porta:

Exactly. I use a double WP recipe maker and I know there’s another one. I think it’s, um, tasty recipe maker or something like that. But yes, if you have a good plugin, there are a handful, so research at first, then you don’t even have to think about schema markup. Those main ones really stay on top of adhering to all the guidelines and giving Google exactly what they need. It’s really nice not to have to think about that. I was on Squarespace for a lot of years and we did not have recipe cards. So we had to create our own code in order to have recipe card. And then even when we did that, we weren’t adhering to all of the standards. So like you said earlier, Alina, I could have the same content or even better content than a competitor, but I would not be as favored. I don’t know if that’s the right word, by Google because of it because my recipe markup was not good. It wasn’t what they wanted.

Alina Ghost:

Yeah. Well, it’s not a matter of what they wanted or not. What they want is the fact that they automate this process to make, to make it basically something that is easy for users to consume. So to make it as easy as possible for Google, we need to adhere to some of the structures that they’ve asked for.

Megan Porta:

Yes. Well said. So aside from recipe schema markup, what are some of the other technical things that we should keep in mind for SEO?

Alina Ghost:

Yeah. So site speed is always a factor. Obviously when you’re on your mobile phone, I think there’s a stat of something like, uh, users are unlikely to wait more than three seconds because we basically don’t want to wait that long. We don’t like it. And, um, I know that I myself also get frustrated. So in, to do that, you can actually check your site speed using Google’s free tool. So make sure go into Google, type in Google site speed checker, and you can check for free what you need to do. A lot of the time, the things that come up is make sure that your imagery is optimized. So ensuring that your imagery is high quality, but will blow, um, storage space, which you can do on things online. So there are platforms that can do online for you, or you could change the resolution on things like Photoshop, even paint, if you need to.

Megan Porta:

And there are plugins also that optimize images for you. Short pixel, I think is the one that I use. So it’s again like the recipe card, something that you just don’t really have to think about if you go that route and that definitely improves site speed. Um, is site speed, do you think more important when people view on mobile versus desktop?

Alina Ghost:

Yeah, 100%, And the other thing you’ve got to think about is that actually more than 80% is probably uh, where people are looking at with your mobile phones. So whether you like it or not, you need to be focusing on your site speed. And not only that, but actually Google looks at your mobile first, hence the mobile first indexing a couple of years ago. Um, so you need to ensure that actually your site speed is on point and the quicker you get it sorted, the better. And actually one tip for WordPress users. There’s a plugin that’s called cache. I think it’s cache. Um, so C A C H E. But basically any plugin that helps you cache something. What it helps is actually, um, ensures I’m going to try and say this so there’s easily understood, so that when somebody comes onto your webpage, it’s quickly shown up and that’s because it’s already saved in a particular way. So that’s easily shown up rather than it taking time to load all of the other factors. So you at least have some content for them to read, um, before everything loads on that page.

Megan Porta:

So it’s not like the super slow load that takes forever. And then people click off right away, right?

Alina Ghost:

Mmm, exactl.

Megan Porta:

Yes. What about site maps? Can you explain site maps and what should we, what we should be doing regarding those?

Alina Ghost:

Yeah, so I included site maps because I think it’s one of the fundamentals. Luckily, if you’ve got Yoast, um, it does that for you, but essentially what it shows, it gives Google a whole document of all of the articles that you have on your webpage so that they can take it in, consume it and then show it to the user when they search for something in particular.

Megan Porta:

Okay. And you mentioned that if you do have Yoast, that’s not something you have to think about, but if you don’t, there are ways to do that.

Alina Ghost:

There’s other plugins.

Megan Porta:

I think most food bloggers do use Yoast. So I think most would be covered there. Do you have any other technically related issues that should be on our radar?

Alina Ghost:

Um, something quickly is actually analytics. So not only Google analytics, but if you are serious about, uh, SEO, go and look at uh Google search console. So that’s where you can actually import your site maps to Google directly. So it’s a way of your communication to Google. So you are able to see your top articles, your top keywords and the traffic that you’ve had in the past year. Um, and what errors you might have on your web pages as well.

Megan Porta:

Oh, those days when I wake up and I see like 800 new errors on Google search console, I’m like, no, close it down.

Alina Ghost:

Yeah. Well sometimes obviously it’s errors with a purpose, I’d say. Um, if, if you know what you’re doing, I guess, uh, but sometimes it’s actually helps you figure out, Oh, you’ve got an error. I can do something about it. I know about it rather than you’ve been oblivious for like a year and being frustrated that your content isn’t showing up.

Megan Porta:

Absolutely. I know it’s hard to see those errors. I love errors for the purpose. That’s hilarious. But it’s so important to know what’s going on. If there’s a major issue, then yes, you are going to want to know and take care of it because the sooner you take care of it, the better everything is. Right. So technical issues, we kind of covered that. I was wondering, so we have a great thumbnail and we have great text that’s going to captivate people and pull them in, entice them to click over. And they actually do click over to our blog post and they start browsing our article and reading it. Do you have any strategies for getting users to stay on our content as long as possible?

Alina Ghost:

Something that I quickly mentioned was internal linking. So if you ensure that you link to previous articles, that’s a great way to show to Google Analytics as a first, in the sense that they can see that it’s a session. So if somebody clicks onto another page, that creates a session for you without you needing to create an events or goal on Google analytics. So without getting too techie, um, it’s a way to get more page views, uh, and show to Google that people are reading your website, not just that article. Um, and then I’d say a big factor is duration on the page. So how long are they staying on that page? And creating videos is actually a really good way. And videos are just really fantastic to increase the amount of time that somebody spends on your site. But it’s also a great way to show up twice potentially if, uh, for a particular recipe. So not only are you going to be, uh, on the results, just because of your article, but perhaps if you’ve got a video on YouTube as well, maybe somebody will find you through your YouTube.

Megan Porta:

I have noticed lately, in the past year or so that if I type in a, uh, one of my more popular recipes from my blog into Google, that a little thumbnail from YouTube will pop up on top of the articles. So having video, I think is great for getting people to stay on your page, but it’s also good to have things cross platform, right? So that Google is recognizing, yes, you’re here on Google, but Oh, you’re also on YouTube, right? Is that correct?

Alina Ghost:

Yeah. It’s going back to that whole EAT factor. Expertise, authority, trust. If you are there on multiple platforms and you have great engagement on your social media, YouTube and your website, you’re showing that you’ve got comments and things, that you are an authority and you should be actually trusted and therefore they will show you so much more.

Megan Porta:

Google knows all of that. Like, Oh, there it is. She’s on YouTube. Oh, she gets great engagement on Instagram. Oh, Pinterest is good. Kind of creeps me out. But yeah, it is good. And it shows that you are trusted like that whole EAT again. You have authority and all of those things are so important to build up. So it’s not just about those technical SEO pieces of our blog posts. It has to do with the huge, big picture of all of that and building all of that trust up over time.

Alina Ghost:

And use the behavior. Um, I’d say it’s really important to have your own mailing list. So, um, it’s important to have a call to action and actually help people understand what you want them to do on the page. Um, a lot of the time people come onto recipes to just do the recipe and leave. But is there a way that you can ask them to actually, um, join up to your newsletter for example, and actually stay, read more, um, have more like, get them to sign up to your email so that you’ve got a relationship with these people so that if any of those other platforms do go down, that you still actually have a base that is yours.

Megan Porta:

Yeah. That’s so important. And something that gets neglected, unfortunately by a lot of us. But very important as well. What do you think about adding external links into our posts? And if you like that, how many do you think we should put and what?

Alina Ghost:

Oh, so, um, it’s not a matter of how many. Uh, let’s rewind this back a bit in the sense that, um, a search engine was first started as a university document program. Uh, where two things were very important. Firstly, keywords. So how many key words are in a particular article? Therefore I will rank it. And the second one is how many links are going to this particular article? The more, the better. So luckily it’s been, uh, or maybe not so lucky, that it’s been so many decades since that time. And Google has evolved a lot. So, links are still important. So external links are still very important to get that trust factor, expertise, so EAT. Um, because we still need those votes of trust towards our content to explain to Google that yes, people not, not only am I writing a lot about it, but actually other people externally think that I’m good at it. Um, and I am still an authority on other sites too. So if you want to do relevant guest posting on other people’s site, and get a link back from that, say another recipe bloggers to your blog. Then that’s also a very good way of getting those external links.

Megan Porta:

And that builds trust. So getting back links to your blog, but also including links within your blog post to link externally is good as well.

Alina Ghost:

Well, if it’s relevant. So going back to, let’s say you are talking about the history of a particular recipe. Let’s say I’m going to be focusing on a Russian recipe and saying, this is something my grandmother used to make. And she called it this, uh, this is a definition of this. And then I link back to that definition, for example. That’s also a relevant way to show that actually, you, um, know what you’re talking about and you’re linking to other people. Um, and then at the same time, um, you, you create, um, an interesting article about what you are doing. So I guess it’s getting that balance as well. You don’t have to do that in every article when you’re pointing outwards, but in terms of getting in those links can be done via let’s something press worthy. Um, you can, if you want a huge boost, than getting like a link from the BBC is obviously the goal or like the best kind of like sites that you think about. But actually, instead of just listening to me, somebody who’s an expert in, um, digital press, uh, I’d say, listen to a podcast by Janet Murray. That’s J A N E T Murray M U R R A Y. Um, she is fantastic, in the sense that she can help you understand how a journalist might think and how to get links that are press worthy, not just like guest posts here and there, but actually creating something big, a campaign that will get you noteworthy.

Megan Porta:

That is great information. I, again, it’s not something that we all have on our radar. There’s so much going on in our world and to dig into SEO, it’s really overwhelming. I think for a lot of people, especially newer bloggers. So to get really into this and talking about like finding someone who’s press worthy and external link, backlinks is just like, Oh really? But I do, I do want to say this. That SEO and the whole user experience, all of it wrapped up is a long game, right? I mean, it’s not something you can start blogging this month and expect to just nail it within a couple of months. I mean, this is like a couple year game. You’ve got to stick with it to really build that trust that we’re talking about and the authority, and to have that social proof across networks and all of that.

Alina Ghost:

Get a feel for your priorities. Um, obviously start with the basics first, when you’re starting out. Never compare your beginning with someone else’s middle is a quote I love, and I probably should have included it as my favorite quote. Um, but essentially it’s, have a think about your priorities. So go back and understand, okay, so what do I need right now in order to rank. Once you’ve got a stable ranking position that you’re happy with, whether you’ve got a stable slow, but stable traffic, then think about how you can grow it. If you want a big, huge boost, think about something press worthy. If you want something small, one at a time, then think about like guest posting, think about how you can keep your user by doing those videos, by doing great content, um, continuing different content and categorizing it. Um, yeah.

Megan Porta:

Oh, okay. This is really good. I am wondering if you can talk a little bit about featured snippets on Google. Because that’s kind of a big question mark for a lot of people too. Like, what are they, should I be paying attention to them? What do you have for us?

Alina Ghost:

So featured snippets aren’t always relevant for everybody. But essentially, they usually are round informational searches. So how to, so and so, so how to boil an egg. How to, um, do I dunno, like create, uh, you, how do you use a pot? I don’t know something simple. Uh, but essentially, um, it’s something that pops up at the very top of Google that is above the 10 classic links. And it’s, uh, helping users find out the answer without them even clinking to a different site. So some websites don’t like that because it doesn’t actually provide traffic to their website, but it is great share, it’s great brand awareness. And the other thing that is really great, is the fact that a lot of people started using voice search. So people using things like Alexa and uh Google home, I believe. So it’s a matter of knowing that you soon will be showing up in those voice search positions. Only if you’ve got that featured snippet. It’s currently evolving a year after year, so it’s worth to keep an eye out on, but it’s worth knowing that it’s there and actually, um, understanding it more and more so that you don’t fall behind your competitors basically.

Megan Porta:

It’s good to be well rounded, I think. And to keep those things on our radar, like the voice, what did you call it? The voice…

Alina Ghost:

The voice search.

Megan Porta:

The voice search, yes. I had heard from a different SEO expert, inside of a recipe card under the categories where it says keywords, to put whatever you would say into a voice search in that area. For example, I use WP recipe maker, and then under categories. You put the course, the cuisine and then the keyword I always put like, how do I make pumpkin cookies? Because that’s something that somebody would say. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Alina Ghost:

Yeah. So that’s a little bit different. So it’s not featured snippets. It’s a way to code your site for accessibility. So let’s say for example, a user comes onto your site and can’t actually read. What they use is, um, a robot that will read out that content for them. Uh, but then, also, um, it could be used for different sections of voice search. So let’s say, um, an Alexa skill is something that you can create for an Alexa specifically. But, uh, eventually where we see it going, is them picking up those key words and seeing which one’s the most relevant to then say, well, this website, um, so, and so book, says that you could do this recipe via X, Y, and Z.

Megan Porta:

Okay. So there’s a lot of gray area in crossover, but basically you should try to cover all of your bases and be accessible for all of that.

Alina Ghost:

This one’s, this one’s definitely one of the newer ones and one to watch because it’s ever changing. Um, so if it’s not, uh, uh, something that you’re trying to grow, I would say it’s, it’s lower down the priority.

Megan Porta:

Well, Alina, we have covered so much. Is there anything you feel like we did not touch on that we should absolutely cover before we say goodbye?

Alina Ghost:

No, I think we’ve covered quite a lot and it’s just a matter of delving into each one and making sure that, um, somebody prioritizes it correctly and knows which one to delve into, basically.

Megan Porta:

Yes. And there’s a lot, I mean, this is a lot of information and it is a long game. Like we mentioned. Don’t expect to get results right away and to be ranked on the first page. It’s something that you have to play with, I’ve found. With my food blog, you just have to experiment a little bit and see what your user likes. And then once you find that out, you can start fulfilling that. Alina did a great job of breaking everything down and making it seem super easy and awesome.

Alina Ghost:

I’m glad. Thanks very much for having me.

Megan Porta:

Yes. It was so fun to have you here. And before you go, I like to ask my guests if they have either a favorite quote or words of inspiration to share with food bloggers.

Alina Ghost:

Yeah. So mine is always quite a cheesy one, but Emma Watson, um, essentially is, “If not now, when? If not me, who?” I think it’s really punchy and it’s really effective, especially for me to motivate myself to do something that I want to do, because at the end of the day, if, if you don’t start with you as in like that central person, why should anybody do any differently?

Megan Porta:

I don’t think that’s cheesy. I think that’s great. Great way to end. And then before I talk about your show notes page, I was just gonna mention, um, you had talked about an SEO episode. Did you want to talk about somewhere else people could go to listen to you talk about SEO?

Megan Porta:

Yeah, sure thing. So I, I’m actually a podcast host of my own. I’m over at SEO With Mrs. Ghost. Um, I have done an episode specifically for bloggers, which is, uh, number 15, episode 15. Um, essentially I have over 65 episodes already. So it’s, uh, about delving into different areas of SEO, if you are interested. And at the end of the day, if you want to ask me a question, you don’t even have to listen to my podcast. Just go onto Twitter type in @ uh, mrsalinaghost, and I’ll be happy to answer any of your questions. Um, I’m on maternity leave at the moment. So I’m having a lot of fun, just chatting to people.

Megan Porta:

Nice. Well, yeah, we will link to that episode in our show notes for you, Alina. But I love that you offered that. Thank you. And we will put those eatblogtalk.com/alinaghost. And Alina is spelled A L I N A. And you kind of already alluded to this, but real quick again, where can people find you online Alina?

Alina Ghost:

Yep. So go to aghost.co.uk or go on Twitter. I’m using @mrsAlinaghost.

Megan Porta:

Great. Well, thank you again so much for being here and thank you for listening today, Food bloggers. I will see you next time.

Intro:

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Megan
Megan

Megan started her food blog Pip and Ebby in 2010 and food blogging has been her full-time career since 2013. Her passion for blogging has grown into an intense desire to help fellow food bloggers find the information, insight, and community they need in order to find success.

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