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Episode 038: Improve Your SEO Strategy With Emma Christensen

In episode 038, we talk with Emma Christensen, from Simply Recipes, takes us through creating effective strategies for our blogs.

We cover information about how to understand Google’s EAT, thinking about Google as a bridge between you and your audience and figuring out how to express yourself while delivering great content!

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


Guest Details

Connect with Simply Recipes
Website | Instagram | Facebook

Bio
Emma Christensen is the Editor-in-Chief of Simply Recipes. She has over 10 years of experience creating food and cooking content for both web and print. She was formerly the recipe editor for The Kitchn and is the author of three books on home-brewing, True Brews, Brew Better Beer, and Modern Cider. Emma is a graduate of The Cambridge School for Culinary Arts and Bryn Mawr College. She lives in San Jose, California.

Takeaways

  • Think first in terms of the user + [your] site first and foremost. Then Google comes in second.

  • If your readers are having a good experience, Google is going to reward you. Google wants to connect readers with good content based on search terms they enter into the search engine.

  • Google began prioritizing what they wanted in an update a year ago. They released a super appropriate acronym – EAT (expertise, authority and trust).

  • Expertise is what you write about on your site and authority is how you’re seen across the internet. Authority backs it up.

  • Use SEO tools that Google wants but remember it’s a tool. Fill in the framework by bringing yourself and your personality into the middle.

  • Know your audience, think about them and how you’re writing.

  • Video can be helpful and does add value but its not the only key – there are 5.5 bajillion things that go into SEO. 

Keep SEO Momentum!

You can listen to episode 155 for more expert advice from Jeff Hawley!

Transcript

Click for full text.

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:

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 the Eat Blog Talk podcast made for you, food bloggers, who are seeking value for your blogs and for your lives. In today’s episode, I will be talking to Emma Christensen from Simply Recipes and we will be discussing search engine optimization or SEO for short. Emma Christensen is the Editor In Chief of Simply Recipes. She has over 10 years of experience creating food and cooking content for both web and print. She was formerly the Recipe Editor for the Kitchn and is the author of three books on home brewing. True Brews, Brew Better Beer and Modern Cider. Emma is a graduate of the Cambridge school for culinary arts and Bryn Mawr college. She lives in San Jose, California, and you are a Minnesota girl at heart, Emma, which is the very first thing I ever talked to you about. So that’s a little bonus fun fact for everyone.

Emma Christensen:

Yay, Midwest. Yay.

Megan:

I’m super excited to dive into SEO with you today, but before we do that, give us a quick fun fact about yourself.

Emma:

Well, first of all, thank you for having me. I am super excited to be here. A fun fact while I was actually going to share that I, in addition to writing about food and editing food and doing all things food, I’m a beer brewer and a cider maker, but I forgot that in my intro, you were going to mention that. That I have 3 books out, but I always feel like that’s kind of a random thing about me. That I have this whole other side project and side thing going on and experiments that are bubbling away in my kitchen all the time.

Megan:

Literally. You’re so multifaceted. I mean, you’ve got your Editor In Chief of Simply Recipes and you’ve got all this beer brewing background. I love watching your Instastories by the way about kind of what goes into that because I have no experience in that. But it’s so interesting and I love that you’ve written three books on the topic, so that’s really cool. Thanks for being here today, Emma, and let’s get to our main topic, which is SEO. I know that you are also an expert in SEO, so let’s dig in. As you know, SEO is a hot topic right now with all food bloggers. Every time I asked my listeners for feedback about which topics they want to learn more about, SEO is one of the main things that comes up over and over. We all want to be on Google’s good side because we want those higher rankings, but there seem to be more core updates and algorithm changes than ever before, which leaves some of us feeling like our heads are spinning a little bit and sometimes it makes us feel like our efforts are kind of fruitless. So to start Emma, talk to us about what Google wants from us as bloggers. What are some of those main things that we should be focusing on?

Emma:

Sure. Also, I’ll start off by saying that I am a super nerd and I actually love SEO. I know that’s kind of like super random and maybe I’m just a weirdo, I just get so into all this stuff. When I started out at the Kitchn, gosh, over 10 years ago, SEO wasn’t a thing. Google was just starting to have significance. We started seeing our stuff start to rank, but we literally had no idea why we were just shooting darts into the dark. The fact that there are so many tools now and so much knowledge and so much just like information out there now, it makes me so happy. I wish that I’d had this knowledge 10 years ago. I just love it all. Although it can be super overwhelming, right? Because you don’t know, whose advice do I follow? What’s best for me, what’s best for my blog? All that stuff is super hard to sort through. So I feel that myself and I am sympathetic to all my blogger friends out there who are also struggling with this. So in terms of what Google wants, I think this happened with the core update that was almost a year ago. They started really prioritizing what they called, EAT signals, EAT signals, which I think is super appropriate given the fact that we’re all food bloggers.

Megan:

I love that too.

Emma:

When I first heard that I was like, wait, what?

Megan:

I did the same. I was like EAT? Yes!

Emma:

You’re speaking to me directly? So that just stands for expertise, authority and trust. There are a lot of super technical ways to think about that. Especially when you get into trust, you’ll hear a lot of information about, make sure your security updates are up to date and that when people come to your site, they feel safe and they don’t think their information is going to get stolen and that kind of stuff. I also think about it just in terms of almost like the relationship that I’m trying to build with my readers, with my audience and just kind of my presence and reputation on the internet. That goes for me personally, Emma Christensen as well as for my site Simply Recipes. So just to kind of run down that list, I think of expertise as, do you know what you’re talking about? You’re talking about an Instapot recipe. Do you have authority in that? What gives you that authority? Do you have knowledge? Is it experiential knowledge? Is it that you went to the Instant Pot factory and got a tour? If you did, lucky you please call me. Everything that goes into why you have the expertise to talk about what you’re talking about. Then authority is kind of related and honestly, I sometimes struggle with figuring out the distinction myself, but it’s how do you know what you’re talking about? What else have you published? What else have you done? Do you have any credentials? Have you been to culinary school? Have you published cookbooks? Anything that kind of like improves your clout around the internet? That’s not just on your website, it’s the internet as a whole.

So you kind of have to step back and just think about, what is my reputation online and what does that look like? Again, not only your personal reputation, but also your website’s reputation. Also that’s where social comes into play. So if you have a really big social following, or if you have a big YouTube channel, anything like that kind of comes into play there. Then trust, like I said, there are some like the technical aspects of that of, do people feel safe on your site? Can they find what they’re looking for? If they come to your site and they want chicken recipes, maybe the recipe they land on, they’re not super into, but they want to look at other chicken recipes. Is it easy for them to find those other recipes on your site? Is it easy for them to discover other content that might be interesting or relevant to what they’re looking for?

But I also think about it in terms of building trust with your audience. That is a thing that takes time. If people are coming to your site, are they generally finding the information that they want? Are your recipes working? People build trust because they come to your site, they take a chance on one recipe. Oh, that recipe worked great. I’m going to come back to the site again. Oh, that recipe worked too. That is a trust relationship that builds over time, think about that being multiplied over all of the readers that are coming to your site and that’s how Google sees your trust or how I think anyway. Who knows exactly what Google thinks, but that’s how I interpret it.

Megan:

Or how the user sees your trust.

Emma:

Really this kind of goes back to something I maybe should’ve mentioned from the outset is I really think about SEO in terms of the user and the reader on my site. I think about Google second because I really think that ultimately what Google wants is for you to connect with your readers and to be providing a good experience for your readers. Not only the beautiful photos on your site and the experience of being on your site, but a good experience in terms of the recipes you create and the kind of voice that you bring to the internet and things like that. So I always think of the reader first. Then as long as your readers are having a good experience, Google is going to see that and should theoretically reward you for that experience.

Megan:

Yeah. I absolutely love what you just said. Seeing Google as a connection or a bridge almost between you and your user. I love that mindset because I think so many people get caught up in, I have to please Google and I do it too. I think I might’ve said it twice already in this conversation, but we should maybe stop seeing Google as the entity that we are trying to please and see them as the means of trying to please the user.

Emma:

I think that’s a really great way to put it because really, `that’s what Google is. Google is just trying to connect their users with good content that their users want. Google is super smart. They’re super smart at whatever algorithms and whatnot they’ve got working on back there. They are able to with increasing efficiency and reliability, connect our reader with whatever search term they search for, with information that they’re looking for. You just want to make sure that you’re on the receiving end of that.

Megan:

Absolutely. They are the smartest algorithm out there. I mean, even more so than Pinterest and I don’t know what other options there are.

Emma:

Google has been at this game for a long time and they see the internet and they see how connections work.

Megan:

Yeah, they’ve had awhile to perfect their games and they definitely have. So I love that you went through EAT. I had one question about authority because you’re right, that is very similar to expertise and it’s hard to differentiate. How do we define the difference between them? You mentioned how to know what you’re talking about. If someone doesn’t have a cookbook or anything published aside from what’s on their blog, how do we earn that authority? You mentioned social following too, but what if somebody doesn’t necessarily have that? Is that just something that they need to work toward or is there something else they can do to quickly gain that authority?

Emma:

Sure. So to delve into the expertise and authority again and again, I’ve been doing this for a long time and consider myself an SEO expert and it’s still kind of confusing to me. But I think when we talk about expertise, maybe think about it like the content that you’re actually producing on your site. I feel like expertise has to do with, are you an expert in the content that you’re putting up on your site? Do you have a certain amount of expertise too, I was going to say, do you have the expertise to write with authority?

Megan:

Perfect. That leads into the next one very well.

Emma:

Maybe the way to think about it is, expertise is what you write about on your site. Whereas authority is how you’re seen across the internet. Does that make sense?

Megan:

Yeah. I kind of get what you’re saying. Expertise is more like the content that goes directly onto your blog and authority kind of backs it up. What gives you the basis to be an authority figure? Be an expert in any realm?

Emma:

I think they’re really intertwined. They’re two sides of the same coin. In some ways I think, why’d you make it so hard Google? Did you just want a clever acronym there?

Megan:

Yes, that has to be part of it.

Emma:

If you’re just starting off and you feel like you don’t have super strong signals, say you want to write Instant Pot recipes, but you’ve never written an Instant Pot recipe before. First of all, you have to just start somewhere. You don’t become an expert in something overnight. You just have to kind of like choose the thing that you are interested in and that you want to become an expert in and gain authority in and just go for it. Take that first step. Then the other side of that is it does take time. There are ways that you can accelerate things if you focus on improving your social following or churning out a ton of content, as quickly as possible. If you go and get that book deal, there are ways that you can accelerate the process, but at the end of the day, it just takes time.

Megan:

Absolutely. Consistency and persistence are one of my personal mantras because I have been doing this too for a very, very long time. I feel like that’s one of the things that I’ve done right, is that I have never given up, I have been consistent and I have week after week continued to do those things that I am passionate about and that I love and that I want to be an expert and I want to have authority in those areas. So that is a key point just to being consistent and persistent and never stopping and learning. Like you said, if you want to know about the Instant Pot and you have no experience whatsoever in dealing with it, just dive into it. Week after week make a video, write posts about how it works, do tons of recipes that are made in the Instant Pot. Just keep at it.

Emma:

Take the reader with you. Sometimes people think, I’m going to start writing about the Instant Pot or I’m going to start writing Mexican cuisine recipes, or whatever it is that that is their particular passion. They feel like they have to be an expert from day one or they have to present as an expert. I don’t think you do. I think part of it is being, Hey, I’m a total newbie at this Instant Pot, but I got one and I’m going to dive into it. I’m going to bring you along with me. Your first series of posts is how to take it out of the box and the first things you make in it. Then it’s like, oops, here’s my first time that something went wrong. Here’s why I think it went wrong. You kind of like grow with your audience and that’s another way to form trust.

Megan:

Absolutely. I love that. Bringing the reader with you and letting them experience your fails and the-not-so-pretty side of things.

Emma:

This is nothing necessarily to do with SEO, but I’m a big fan of just being real. Talk about the things that fail, talk about the things that didn’t work. Have it be pretty, sure, take your pretty final shot and everything. But that’s where I think social media really comes into. You can show how messy your kitchen is after a day of testing or whatever you want to do.

Megan:

People are more likely to want to be with you on your journey if you are real, I feel like.

Emma:

You come across as more approachable and just something that they can do too.

Megan:

That’s all great stuff. Thank you, Emma. So can we talk a little bit about how things have evolved over the years? Because blogging used to be very journalistic in nature, including details about our lives and not necessarily including information about the tater tot hotdish we’re creating the post for. So at that former way of blogging kind of allowed for us to showcase our personalities and our voices more. But now there are days when I feel like I could hire a robot, literally to do all of my writing for me. So what are your thoughts on this? Do we have to sacrifice our voice in order for Google to recognize us?

Emma:

The evolution of SEO over the last five to 10 years, especially the last five years, I say that is fascinating. Because you’re totally right. When I first started out, it was, Hey, I went to the park today with my dog and then I came home and made this cookie recipe. It was way more just about sharing what I’m cooking in my kitchen and it’s evolved into a business. I think that a lot of us are business women and business people, not just women and it’s super different. What people want is different. I think when we first started, it really was like our friends and coworkers and families. They were the only ones that came to our websites. Now you’ve got this international audience of people that come and they want recipes.

They want to know what to cook for dinner. They want to know how to cook this particular thing that you are an expert at doing. You’re sharing your knowledge. So I think the other big thing that changed blogging was the introduction of social media. Now I almost feel like the blog or the website is the repository of information. I’m going to get into this in a second, but it’s not so much where you share your personal story or what is going on in your life? That’s on Instagram. I feel like Instagram is where our communities are or Facebook or wherever it is that you find that you’re actually connecting with your people. So on the website itself, when you’re writing up your recipe for tater tot hotdish, which I love by the way, it’s hard to not be from the Midwest and not love a good hot dish.

No, you don’t have to sacrifice story, but you also have to think about what we mean by story. Story isn’t just, I went to the park with my dog. I went on this vacation with my family. Story is also how we talk about a thing. It’s our voice. It’s the personality that we bring. For instance, maybe you’re doing a recipe for a hotdish and you’ve done all your SEO research. One of the big things you’re noticing is that people want to know, can I freeze this hot dish? The answer is, yes, you can freeze this hot dish. So you can answer it like that. You can just say, yes, you can freeze it. Or you can say yes, in order to freeze it, wrap it in aluminum foil and put it in the freezer and it’s good for three months, you can give more information. Or you can add your own, like sassy cool personality and say, you can totes freeze this thing.

You know what I mean? There are so many ways that you can actually answer that question and with varying degrees of putting your own personality into it. Personally, I really believe that if what you’re doing is you’re doing your SEO research, you’re doing everything you’re supposed to be doing. You’re figuring out what questions you want to answer in your post in order to hit these SEO markers. Then you’re just going down the list and answering each question, personally, this might be controversial, but I think it’s kind of a short-term game because eventually all of our posts start to look exactly like each other’s. There’s nothing distinguishing them. So I think down the road, our individual personalities are going to matter a lot more. It’s going to be a way that our audiences interact with us and identify with us.

I think it’s going to be something that Google will pick up on. Basically use the SEO tools and use the information, you know about what Google is looking for, use it like a tool. Then use that tool to form the structure of your posts and help refine the angle and what you’re talking about in that post. But then that’s just your framework. When you fill in that framework, when you answer the question about how do I freeze this, or what are the best substitutes or whatever questions your readers are interested in, that’s where you bring yourself and your personality into it. Does that make sense?

Megan:

I love that so much; everything you said I wanted to comment on. So yes, that does make sense. I love that you put that kind of visual, use the SEO tips that you are getting from everywhere as a framework and fill in the gaps with your personality and your voice. I think that a lot of us kind of unknowingly do that, but then we do get caught up in feeling like, Oh, I’m just being a robot and I have to do the same thing. Then we get the advice. Like if you’re looking for a way to boost a certain post on a tater tot hotdish, to Google that and look at what your, the first five entries are doing. So click over to their posts and kind of emulate that. But then we’re copying what they’re doing. So I feel like using your voice, like you said, Emma is a great way to differentiate yourself and that eventually down the road that is going to carry weight and Google is going to be able to see Oh, that’s Megan talking about tater tot hotdish, not X blogger. You know? So I love that.

Emma:

This is where it’s really important to know your audience and think about your audience. When you’re writing that recipe for tater tot hotdish, there might be information that your audience is interested in, that the audience from blogger X isn’t. It’s not just a matter of, kind of straight up copying. It’s kind of like, huh. You know, that post went into the history of the tater tot hotdish. That’s interesting. But think about it, is my audience really interested in the history of the tater tot hotdish? Or do they just want to know, can I freeze this? Or do they just want the recipe for the hot dish?

Megan:

That’s a great point.

Emma:

Doing all your research, doing everything, finding it all, but then bringing kind of a layer of your own humanness into it and your own ideas and beliefs for how you want to connect with your audience.

Megan:

And experiences. If you’re from Minnesota and you’re creating a tater tot hotdish that your grandma made, then of course you’re probably going to want to dive into the history of it and why your grandma started making it. But let’s say you’re from California and nobody knows about tater tot hotdish, and you really don’t have a history, but you know that it’s a great comfort food, you might not want to. I love that. Okay. I wanted to touch on one more thing that you said a little bit earlier, which was talking about how the old style of blogging was very journal-like and how it’s changed so much in the past five years. You conjured up this image for me that I have never thought about before. So I’m going to try to explain it. So back then, it was writing in my journal.

I’m talking about food. I’m talking about my dog. I’m talking about my husband and my kids. Then Facebook came along and Instagram came along and those became avenues for us to talk about the personal side. So it’s almost like blogging branched out in a way. We can still do all those things, but in different ways. So now Facebook and Instagram are our means of expressing our personalities, our voices, and a lot of areas of our lives. But blogging is more about, we need to get to the nitty-gritty. What do people want here? They want to know how to freeze this dish. They want to know X, Y, Z about it. So I really like that. It’s actually more informative for readers and our users than before, because there are different places for them to go, to get aspects of each of us, if that makes sense. I’m going to have a new, new perspective on that because I think we just get frustrated. It’s not the same. We can’t write about ourselves anymore, but that’s actually not true. We can write about ourselves, even more so, because Insta Stories and everything else that’s been introduced recently.

Emma:

Exactly. It is interesting how that’s all changed and basically we’re doing the same stuff and we’re sharing things. It’s just choosing the outlet and in a way it’s better because we’ve all heard it, the people that come to our websites. Great recipe, but I didn’t want him to read three pages of blah-blah-blah about your family before I got to the recipe and you think noooo. Well, I’m going to deliver that person the experience that they want and the people who love my family and want to see how crazy it is at my house or my last vacation or whatever, find me over on Instagram. We can connect there and in a way, to loop it back to Google and SEO, that’s awesome for Google. To them it’s awesome. That’s perfect because your readers are getting exactly what they want in each of their interactions. No matter how they’re coming to you, they’re getting the experience that they want.

Megan:

They can pick and choose how they do that. You don’t need to complain about all the stuff that we write about.

Emma:

Although I think the complainers also just, Oh gosh, yeah…

Megan:

They just need something. So that is great stuff. Give us your best recommendations, Emma, for tools that we can utilize to help out with SEO.

Emma:

Sure. So the number one tool that I use is SEMrush or SEMrush. I’d have never known how they actually pronounce it, but it’s a pretty well-known tool. The upside I should say is that it’s super powerful. I feel like I’m only using it at about 15% of its capacity to give me information. I use it a lot to look up my own URLs. So I look up my recipe for, let’s just stick with the Instant Pot theme, for Instant Pot Chicken and Rice Casserole. I’ll look it up and see where it’s ranking. Sometimes you can see just interesting keywords that you didn’t realize this recipe was ranking for. Maybe you want to tweak that recipe to emphasize that keyword a little more, to try to get a little more traffic from people searching for that particular thing.

So I used it a lot for that and I also use it for the, what do they call it? The magic keyword tool, that is so useful. Just using that to see the top keywords. Then the search engine results pages that they provide you. When you look at the search engine results pages, it’s a little bit tailored to your search history, but through SEMrush you can see it from an objective standpoint. So that’s useful. So I use SEMrush a lot, but the downside is that it is expensive. I know a lot of people, maybe I shouldn’t say this out loud, hopefully SEMrush isn’t listening, but I know a lot of people share logins and I think that’s a great way to go. So SEMrush, super powerful. But on the free side, I use Google trends all the time.

I use Google trends a lot for researching titles. When I want to kind of refine a thing. For instance, I’ll never forget. One of my first huge revelations was researching a recipe for macaroni and cheese versus Mac and cheese. I found that mac and cheese has a ton more hits than macaroni and cheese. So I’m like, all right, I’m titling my Mac and cheese, that kind of thing. Then also using Google trends to research seasonality. Say I want to make a recipe for a hotdish. Should I post that recipe in February? Or should I post it in August? I usually look back five years so you can kind of see how the trends happen over time. So that’s super useful. Answer The Public, which is just literally www.answerthepublic.com. It’s actually somewhat similar to the keyword search and SEMrush where you can look up a keyword and it’ll give you back a lot of the questions that people search for.

So you type in a hotdish and then you can see a lot of the questions are, how do I freeze a hotdish? How many calories are in hotdish? Where does hot dish come from? You can get a sense of what questions people might be looking for around the particular topic that you want to write about. Then last but not least google.com. I mean, go in, look at the search results for a recipe that you are hoping to compete for. Look at the top results there, use the prediction tool. So typing in into the search bar, hot dish, and then seeing what comes up. My guess is it’s going to be hot dish chicken. That can help you start to think about what angle on the hot dish do I want to take? Or what ingredients may be do I want to think about using? So those are my suggestions.

Megan:

I like those. I like your free recommendations to Answer The Public is free. Google, obviously free SEMrush holds tons of power. I agree with you, Emma, that I use like a small percentage of what is actually offered there because I feel overwhelmed. I know there’s so much more I could be utilizing, but I’m not. But what I do use is very helpful, but again, very extensive. Then Google trends. I love that you use that for title, research, macaroni and cheese versus Mac and cheese. Yeah. Like that’s something that you just, you would normally just type that into your title and assume that you knew what was best, but it’s worth it. Just typing that in and seeing, and then also setting it to the five-year mark is really smart too, because it’s not defaulted to that.

Emma:

I think it defaults to a year or 12 months.

Megan:

I like too, being able to see like over a span of five years, how trendy is this? Like you said, is it more reasonable to post something in February versus August? That is super valuable to know. So I’m just reiterating some of the stuff you’ve said, because I loved it. Great stuff. Google is easy and free, go there when in doubt. Type in those questions or keywords, and you can actually get a lot of information out of that. So let’s talk about best practices. What are some things that we should have kind of at the forefront of our minds every time we sit down to write a new post or to revise old content.

Emma:

So at the Uber level, I think of it almost like a funnel or a pyramid, or kind of however you want it structured in your brain or visualize it in your brain. Use the SEO tools, whatever SEO tools you have available to you, the ones that we just talked about, to first refine your topic and just figure out what the heck you want to write about. Okay, you want to write about hotdish. You’re pretty sure you wanna write about chicken hot dish, but maybe you want to add mushrooms, like just go use the SEO tools, see what starts ranking, see where you think you could be competitive. If you look at the search engine results pages for chicken hot dish, and you see that the first page is filled with some of those juggernaut sex, like all recipes, food network, you know, all those top ones, you might not like have a lot of luck really ranking for a chicken hot dish. But then if you dial down a little bit or dial into it and you find something that’s a little more niche, chicken tater tot hot dish with wild rice, something like that.

It still gets good search results. There’s still a lot of potential for traffic there, but the space is a little less crowded with those top players. So that is maybe how you want to start honing that in. Then from there, once you’ve got your basic topic, then do research on what questions are people asking about this? What information do I want to provide in my post in addition to the recipe, which you will no doubt go back to your kitchen and develop until it’s perfect and beautiful and all that kind of stuff. That’s important too, don’t get me wrong.

Megan:

Take beautiful photos and all of that.

Emma:

So then use the SEO tools to figure out, you’ve got your topic. Now let’s figure out the depth of the topic and what else you want to cover in your post about this topic. Then from there, when you actually kind of are all done and you’re ready to go into WordPress or whatever you use for publishing, think about formatting your story for the best engagement. So think about adding bulleted lists. Think about images, think about how you write engaging content. This is kind of a controversial thing too. I guess I’m kind of drawn to controversial things.

Megan:

You’re so controversial today.

Emma:

But personally I avoid too many things that are going to break up your text. I really don’t like it when I go onto a website and I see an image and add an H2 header that says, how do I freeze this? One line of text that says, yes, you can freeze up to three months. Another big image, another ad. The text, the actual information that your reader is looking for. I think it just gets squashed and lost in the middle there. We’re all told that images are super engaging and people love looking at images, but just think judiciously and think about a reader coming to your site and the images are important, but they also want that information. How do you make sure that the information is popping out at them?

Remember, they’re just scrolling quickly down the page. They’re not reading it from top to bottom, generally. They’re kind of scrolling through, they’re scrolling through to find the recipe, they’re scrolling through to find the answer to the question they’re looking for. You just want to make sure that they can find it and that it’s engaging. I think that’s another aspect of how you build trust on your website. Can I find what I’m looking for? Then the other thing is, and this is also kind of at the Uber level, but think about creating ecosystems of content. This goes back to how you build expertise and authority, if you don’t have it yet. One way to kind of do that a little more quickly is to deep dive into one topic or just a handful of topics. Don’t spread yourself too thin in terms of today I’m going to write about hotdish, and tomorrow I’m going to write about the Instant Pot.

Then I’m going to write about a super weird niche recipe for something I ate on vacation. That’s fun. If that’s what you want to do, then that’s totally fine. No judgment, but if you really want to start ranking in Google, Google will see that she wrote 10 recipes about the Instant Pot last month. Now she’s writing 10 recipes about the slow cooker. Now she’s writing 10 recipes about hotdish. Doesn’t have to be 10 recipes. That’s a lot of recipes to develop. You wanna develop a recipe for chicken hot dish. So develop it for a casserole dish and then develop another recipe for the Instant Pot and then develop it for the slow cooker. That starts to create these little ecosystems that are related to each other.

You can link in between all of these recipes so that you kind of create a bit of a virtual web. Google sees this and they say, oh, she’s paying attention to hotdish right now. Next time somebody searches for hotdish. I’m going to give her a chance and boost this one up to the top and see what people think about it. I think that’s a smart way to go about it. Even me, I run this pretty big website with a lot of recipes. We’ve got a lot of archives. As I think about how I’m planning new content that I want to bring to the site and updating our older content, I think in terms of that ecosystem. I think in terms of, wow, we’ve got a bunch of chicken wing recipes. I’m going to make sure that ecosystem is really strong. I’m going to update all those posts. I’m going to get a couple of new recipes on the site. I’m going to do a Roundup post that rounds up all of our chicken wing recipes, that kind of stuff.

Megan:

Different components of recipes too. So maybe something that’s not necessarily a recipe, but can support certain ecosystems,

Emma:

How do you shop for chicken wings or how to bread down chicken? You could do a standalone post that”s how to freeze chicken wings. I’m really obsessed with the freezer.

Megan:

Yeah, exactly. I love your phrase, ecosystems of content. That’s amazing. I love it. The visual of tha. Creating things in groups, batching things together, so that Google starts recognizing you as that expert, an authority figure on certain different food topics. So that is a great way of thinking of it. Then I thought too, as you were talking, this is one of the benefits of really niching down when it comes to food blogging, is that you can really talk about very specific topics and very specific recipes. Whereas if you’re really general and you’re all over the place, one week posting a salad and meatball, if you’re doing just everything all at once, then you may not be as specific as you should be. Google may not see that you are an authority on a certain topic.

Emma:

Yeah, exactly. Again, go back to what your readers want and what they’re interested in. If your top recipe is an Instant Pot Chicken recipe, your readers like that, and Google likes that. So develop more Instant Pot Chicken recipes and see how they do. They did great? Awesome. Now develop some more just basic Instant Pot recipes. That’s how you can start to think about it or even just ask your readers. We put up free survey monkey surveys all the time. I’m asking them everything from, do you like this feature to, what do you want to hear about that?Engaging with them in the comments doing on Instagram, asking them what they want, just talk to them and they will tell you what they want to hear.

Megan:

Yes they will. For sure. We’ve established what Google wants from us for now, but how do we know that they aren’t going to do a 180 tomorrow and ask us for something completely different? Is this where we have that trust that the user design experience is the most important factor and that hopefully this will remain constant throughout time? What are your thoughts on that?

Emma:

Oh man. As somebody who has been through a lot of Google ups and downs, this is tough, man. I really have to believe at the end of the day that yes, if you are creating a good user experience on your website, if you’re creating good content, that you know, your readers are interested in, you just have to stick with that. I think if you try to change your whole strategy, every single time Google does an update and you see your traffic go up or down, then you’re always playing catch up. Whereas I think if you find a strategy that you are happy with and that you can sustain for the long term, just stick with it, maybe little adjustments here or there, it’s kind of like leading a boat, you know, you aim toward the coast. I don’t know why I’m using this analogy cause I’m not a boater person, I’m not a captain. I don’t even know the right words. Anyways, you aim your boat towards something and then you make little adjustments to the course as you go, as opposed to first you aim for Greece and then you aim for Antarctica and then you aim for over here and then you end up just running in circles. Not only do I actually believe, but I also feel like I have to believe or else I will go insane that that strategy is going to play out over time. With Google you’re going to experience ups and downs. Google, it’s so big and so smart at what it does, but it does make mistakes. Even last year, the core update that they did, it penalized websites like ours that have really good evergreen content. We suffered that on Simply Recipes. It was a huge bummer. But then when they did the core update in March, they corrected for that. Then we got a boost. Stay the course. I think when you should start worrying and actually think about changing direction is if something takes longer than six months to recover. It’s a long slow game. So take deep breaths,

Megan:

Take a deep breath. I like it.

Emma:

Have a bottle of emergency wine on hand

Megan:

Because it was going to happen, but also try not to panic too much. It’s tough. Especially those of us who rely on the indirect traffic revenue that comes in for our ads. It’s tough when your traffic starts to affect your bottom dollar, but try to play the long game and weather through it.

Megan:

I like to honestly keep my eyes off of analytics during times when I got hit really hard in March. After that algorithm change. It was so depressing that I just couldn’t look anymore because I’ve been doing this for so long. I just feel, Oh my gosh, I poured my heart, every ounce of my love for food into this blog. It just literally tanked. So during that time I didn’t look at all. That helped me because I kept my focus on what I was doing, the content that I was creating and also my user and keeping all of that in mind and not focusing on panicking, like you said, don’t panic. It’s hard not to panic when that happens.

Emma:

It’s hard, you get sucked into the microcosm of the day to day and you lose track of the big picture. For instance, I know a lot of people that did get hit by the March update, but their traffic was still up year over year. So in a way it’s, Hey, pull out a little bit and realize that you’re still doing great. You doubled your traffic since last year and okay, maybe you didn’t maintain this high level, the traffic that you were enjoying, but you know, you’re still doing really good. If you’re able to kind of pull out and look at that big picture, I think that helps too.

Megan:

I love that Emma. Pull out and realize that you’re still doing really great.

Emma:

The whole joke is unless you pull out and you’ve not been doing great for a long time, which is honestly what was happening to us for awhile. That was just super depressing.

Megan:

It can be. It can be really hard, especially since we all pour so much heart and work into this, when we get hit hard, it’s just like, Oh my gosh, you feel like someone just punched you in the stomach.

Emma:

It feels really personal. It’s hard to remember that Google is just an algorithm and they’re just trying to connect readers with your content. It’s not personal, but your human reaction is very different.

Megan:

Yes, exactly. The human reaction. I like that. I have just a few other questions for you before we say goodbye, but what are your thoughts on video as that relates to SEO? Do you think that producing either hands only videos or now it’s more trending to do the face videos where you’re actually talking through your recipe, either way, one or the other, do you think that those benefit SEO?

Emma:

I mean, yes and no. I feel like the thing with SEO is that there are about five and a half, bajillion factors that influence your SEO and some of them have influenced it more than others. As long as you’re on the target, you’re probably doing okay. So what we have found is that if we have a post that’s kind of hovering, maybe on the top of page two or the top of page three of Google, if we produce a video and put a video out and then republish that post and spiff up the post, because every post can always use a spiff up. You look at it a year later and you say, Oh my God, how did we write that? So spiff it up, put a new video in it, republish it to the homepage. That’s often enough to give it a little bit of a boost onto the first page or onto the second page, wherever we want it to be. Simply Recipes , we are not right now producing regular video content for our new content. So a lot of bloggers out there, I know, produce a video with every single new recipe they put out. More power to you guys. That’s amazing. I mean, it’s hard to make it, it’s super ambitious, especially if you’re churning out recipes with any kind of regularity. I would say that probably is good. I don’t think you have to do video with every single new recipe, but it probably does help. But it’s not a deal breaker. I think you can absolutely go back. What we like to do, because we have to be a little bit choosy about, we have a budget and we can’t just throw money, unfortunately at every single piece of content we produce.

So for us, it was helpful to put a new recipe out into the world and see how it does in six months to a year. Then if there’s a post, like I said, that’s hovering on the second page of Google or we just ,think it should be doing better than it is, then that’s when we are like, okay, let’s, let’s put a little more money behind this and make a video for it. Or do a social push or anything we want to do for it. Take some new photos. Sometimes that helps too. Especially if it’s an older recipe that doesn’t have great photos. That’s kind of how we’ve been playing it.

Megan:

Also if someone is trying to increase their maybe Facebook following, I think video might be more important there as well, but I kind of agree with you that creating video and putting it on your blog is not a deal breaker. It does add value, but if you’re holding back because of video, just do the photos, just create a new recipe.

Emma:

It’s not worth making yourself crazy. If you are burning out because you’re making a video with every single recipe or your budget is just scraped every month, then don’t do it. Pick a couple recipes to make videos for, or go on IG live and make the recipe on IG live and then post that to IGTV. There are a lot of ways that you can get in on it. I don’t necessarily think that super beautiful high quality produced videos are absolutely essential. I also think you can go back and forth with the hands and pans videos versus the in-person videos. I don’t know if that’s necessarily an SEO thing, but I think it is. I kind of feel like readers are getting a little tired of the hands and pans video. They’re not as entertaining as I feel like they once were.

I do think that bringing your personality to these things and to letting people see your face, I think that’s a part of building your authority and the trust and all those EAT signals we talked about. That’s not for everybody, not everyone loves being in front of the video or in front of the camera, but maybe you can figure out something new. I mean, figure out the new hands and pans videos. Just try stuff. I think we all think we can only do these things in these certain parameters because that’s what successful people do. But you know, it’s not necessarily true. I think there’s a lot of room.

Megan:

Thinking outside the box a little bit and just doing something a little bit different, that’s not on anyone’s radar. I don’t know what that is. If you know what that is, let me know. Cause I feel like it’s one or the other right now.

Emma:

That’s where I spend a lot of my evenings. I sit and watch my stories, watch my shows. Then I go on Instagram and I see what people are doing on stories. I see what kind of things people are posting. Sometimes that can take you down a rabbit hole and I get really depressed because I’m like, Oh my God, that’s so good. I’m not doing that thing. Then I think, okay, turn it off. But as long as it still feels exciting and inspirational, yes. Then I’d stay with it.

Megan:

You can grab little bits and pieces from each story and profile that you look at and compile your own creative spin, which is what I love about Instagram in particular. So that is one benefit of Instagram. If you do it too much, you can be like, Oh, I’m not good enough. I suck. So you have to be careful. Well, Emma, I know you have to run. So I just want to check with you. Is there anything we’ve missed that you absolutely wanted to discuss today on the topic of SEO?

Emma:

I don’t think so. I think mostly don’t be scared. Like we talked about at the top of the show, like it can get so overwhelming and so intimidating and so scary and it feels like so much is at stake and you have to do every single thing perfectly, exactly right. You really don’t. It’s about hitting the target, not the bullseye, a lot of time and you need to be a human being and connect with your readers and do what feels right to you. Do what feels right for your users. If you’re writing a blog where you’re talking about your family vacation and then sharing a recipe for what you ate on that vacation or whatever, if that’s working for you and you get good feedback from your readers, then by all means, keep doing that. There’s no reason that you have to necessarily switch over and start having bolded lists about how to freeze things. Or try it, try some posts where you are doing a longer story. Then other posts where it’s a little more SEO focused and see which ones seem to get more traffic or generate more engagement with your readers, just don’t get stuck in a rut. Don’t get stuck feeling like there’s only one way to do it. Just do your thing, do your own thing.

Megan:

I love it. Well, Emma, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge on SEO with us today. I really appreciate it. I know that other food bloggers will as well. So thanks for taking the time out of your day to be here.

Emma:

You are very welcome. Happy to. Like I said, I’m a nerd. So I’m happy to talk about SEO anytime.

Megan:

Well, me too. I love talking with other nerds. So before you go, I know you already shared tons of wisdom, but do you have any additional favorite quotes or words of inspiration for our fellow food bloggers?

Emma:

I do have a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote that I put up on my computer. It’s just on a post-it note and I stuck it to this side of my computer. The first line is really what I focus on. It’s just “finish each day and be done with it.” Basically do your best. Do what you can. You probably did not get to the bottom of your to-do list, but just to finish your day, shut off the computer and then be done with it. Start again tomorrow. Go look up the whole poem because the whole poem is quite nice or I can email it to you and you can share it on your page.

Megan:

Oh, that would be amazing. Yes. Which leads me into your resources. So Emma will have a list of favorite resources relating to SEO and everything she’s talked about today. These can be found on her show notes page at eatblogtalk.com/ Emmasimply recipes. Emma, tell my listeners the best place to find you online.

Emma:

At simplyrecipes.com.

Megan:

Perfect. Thanks again for being here, Emma, and thank you for listening today, food bloggers. I will see you next time.

Outro:

We’re glad you could join us on this episode of Eat Blog Talk. For more resources based on today’s discussion, as well as show notes and an opportunity to be on a future episode of the show, be sure to head to eatblogtalk.com. If you feel that hunger for information, we’ll be here to feed you on Eat Blog Talk.


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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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