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Episode 155: SEO Tips and Tricks with HashtagJeff

In episode 155 we talk with Jeff Hawley, of Hashtag|Jeff to talk about the important topic of SEO, which is an umbrella for so many relevant and important areas within food blogging.

We cover information on when to update content, information about Google crawls and how to interpret them, how and where to do keyword research as well as best practices for Yoast.

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 HashtagJeff
Website | Instagram | Facebook

Bio
This is HashtagJeff — He’s involved with everything SEO for bloggers. He offers a course and do quite a few audits for bloggers, especially in the Food/Recipe space.

Takeaways

  • Don’t fear Google but instead see Google as giving you an opportunity.
  • A healthy approach to SEO should include sharing and updating your posts as needed because there’s value for your audience.
  • Even the unicorn posts that generate a lot of traffic will eventually move out of the top spaces within Google and Pinterest.
  • Focus on the 95% of your blog’s content because there’s opportunity for growth.
  • Really hone in on risk vs reward
  • There’s lower opportunity/reward for posts that are outside their seasonal time span. Post when its the right time to gain that traffic.
  • Google is constantly crawling the internet and our sites. Just because you post or update/tweak something doesn’t mean its the only thing triggering Google’s attention.
  • Keyword research is not SEO. It’s also not about Google. Keyword research IS about the user and intent.
  • Headings should be organic; don’t use the same word or phrase repetitively without adding value.
  • Google a keyword you’ve selected and check out where they line up on Google to help you understand your competition and what to focus on about a specific recipe.
  • Trust your own instinct and refer to commonsense.
  • Yoast is a guideline but don’t live for the green button when it doesn’t make sense.

Resources Mentioned

Join the Hashtag Jeff SEO Mastermind Course and use EATBLOGTALK to receive the annual price of $99!

Ready To Keep Working On Content Strategy?

Morgan Wieboldt shares on episode #034 how to use Google Search Console to create content your audience wants.


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:

Food bloggers. Hey, are you Looking for new ways to make money as a blogger? If so, we have got your back. We have launched an ebook called Conversations On Monetization. Inside this resource, we take your favorite podcast episodes about monetization, and we put them all in one easy accessible package. We threw a few exclusive interviews in as well. Friends, there are so many ways to monetize your food blog. Inside this ebook, we have interviews with success stories like Todd Bullock, Alyssa Brantley, Kelly McNelis, Jena Carlin, and more. All of these examples have become successful through completely different monetization strategies. Whether you are a brand new blogger and looking for your very first revenue stream, or you are a seasoned pro wanting to diversify, this ebook is for you. Go to eatblogtalk.com to grab your copy. And we can’t wait to hear your success story with monetization.

What’s up food bloggers? Welcome to Eat Blog Talk, the podcast for you. Food bloggers wanting value, information and clarity that will help you find greater success in your business. Today I will be having a chat with Jeff Hawley from hashtagjeff.com and we are going to chat about SEO. Hashtag Jeff is involved with everything SEO for bloggers. He offers a course and performs audits for bloggers, especially in the food and recipe space. Jeff, it is such a pleasure to have you here today. Before we dive into SEO, we want to hear your fun fact.

Jeff Hawley:

Thanks for having me on. Fun fact. So yeah, this one’s always kind of an interesting one just cause I feel like it’s so just wide open, but I would say the one thing, I have severe ADHD and so it makes it so I easily get distracted. Over the years I’ve learned how to manage and stuff. It also plays into just a lot of what we do with work and all that stuff. I would say that the biggest complaint I have about myself, even just like in working with clients is that sometimes we get behind and all that stuff. A lot of times that’s attributed to that, but the benefit that I’ve found with having that is I’m able to really hyper-focus and work on these things and borderline obsess about all this. Growing up, it was hard, but I feel like I’ve turned it into kind of a..

Megan:

Strong point.

Jeff:

Yeah, exactly.

Megan:

That’s really interesting. I was just talking to a blogger about this the other day. Not ADHD specifically, but how some people, especially entrepreneurs, get super hyper laser focused in one area. Then there are people like me where I don’t have a focus. I just like to do a little bit of everything. So that’s really interesting to see or to hear you talk about how ADHD plays into that. That makes me curious to know, what does that say about me? Because I want to be, I wish I were more like you and I wish I had just one area that I was super good at, but I just don’t.

Jeff:

Don’t get me wrong. It comes with its drawbacks. Managing lots of projects and I mean a wide range of things. That’s why I have an assistant, kind of like a business manager, essentially. They can help me with that because that’s where I’m very deficient. Because I get easily distracted, so I have to like to cut out everything. I mean, that’s the only way I get stuff done is if I’m able to hyper-focus.

Megan:

Yeah, there are pros and cons I suppose to each side, but I can see your point. Well, you’re here to talk about SEO. You are the SEO guru and one who is very respected within our food blogging space. So speaking for everybody listening, we’re just so grateful for your time today and expertise you are bringing to the table. So thank you again for being here. The topic of SEO has exploded, as you know, Jeff in recent years for food bloggers, especially. A lot of us are really trying to dig into it in a new way. You have tons of knowledge to share. I brought a few, kind of random, specific questions for you that fall under this category that I’ve noticed food bloggers asking within our community and inside the forums. So thank you for tackling this very random list and let’s just get started with that.

The first question I sent over to you is one that I’ve seen repeatedly pop up. Can you shed light on when we should update old content? When we should not. There’s a collective fear, I’ve been sensing in the world of food blogging about when our posts are crawled by Google and how that’s tied to updating content. Is there ever a time we should avoid updating content? Maybe when a post is ranked one through five in Google, and even if it is in positions one through five, is it okay to make small adjustments to a post? So give me your thoughts on that.

Jeff:

Yeah. So this one is obviously a big topic just in general. I do get a lot of specific questions related to this. So I would say before I dive into that specific question, I would just say that I think it’s important to kind of share my attitude around SEO in general. In general I would say that I don’t fear Google. When I first came into this space and working with bloggers and all this stuff, I felt like there was a lack of knowledge or awareness of SEO and Google and all that stuff. Over the last couple of years, that awareness has obviously gone up, as the topic of SEO has grown and interest in it has grown.

I think that naturally, as people have become more aware of Google and become more familiar and even confident with SEO and all that stuff, I think that’s where the fear creeps in. Personally, my attitude with it is, I have less of a fear. I have more of a fluid approach to SEO in general. I would say that, in general, I think it’s better to have a strategy around constant improvement and just understanding that there’s going to be ebbs and flows. The problem with having a fear of it is that, let’s say that I create a post today and over the course of the next couple of months or weeks or whatever, I’m able to get that post to rank and it gets substantial traffic.

Let’s say that I hold a top three or top five position position pretty consistently for a pretty good keyword there. That’s obviously a really good scenario. But if we fast forward to a year from now, two years, five years from now, we have to understand that eventually that post is going to fall off or start to decline. Even though food in general and recipes doesn’t really get outdated, it still kind of stagnates. So the reason I have this fluid or constant improvement is, in an ideal world, again, if you didn’t have this fear of Google, you would be constantly touching and sharing and improving your posts. Replacing an image here or there, especially as those images get older and things are not up to your standards.

So in general I would say that that’s a healthier approach to SEO. That being said, let me just produce a few caveats is, posts that produce a good portion or percentage of your traffic, those I’m probably just going to kind of set aside. In general, I’m not going to touch these. So that’s where I would have this safe space. It’s kind of out in the wilderness. There’s wild animals in Yellowstone for instance and you can approach them if you really want. You just want to keep your space, you wanna understand that doing certain things can instigate…

Megan:

Sacred space, keeping it kind of sacred.

Jeff:

So if you have like a couple of posts that have substantial organic traffic, I would say again, that’s where I have this safe space, just so I don’t hurt those ones. You can focus on 90, 95, 99% of your site that you can still touch. It’s just those few that bring in a substantial percentage of your traffic, if that makes sense.

Megan:

Not necessarily in the top three of Google ranking, but more just looking at which ones are the top for your blogs specifically, in bringing in traffic.

Jeff:

Correct. You have to assess your own risk. For some sites, 5,000 organic page views per month, could be substantial risk. For some larger sites, 5,000 organic page views might not be as much. So the risk is much lower to them. They’re able to approach that with a little less fear. Yes, I would say that it’s less about ranking and it’s more about traffic, because there’s a bunch of other factors that come in. So don’t just look at, Oh, this is ranked top three, don’t touch it. Look at the organic traffic that has gotten over the course of the last few months or last year or so, especially if it’s more seasonal, just because you might not be in the season that it’s in.

I would look at it as organic traffic. The other thing is a ranking for a smaller keyword versus a bigger keyword. It’s all risk assessment. So it’s risk versus reward. If you’re ranked three for a lower keyword, but you have a higher keyword that it’s also relevant for that has a lot of reward potentially, I mean, that’s where it might be worthwhile to take a smaller risk to do that. Then you also have to look at the opportunities. If it’s a newer post, so if it’s only a few months old and it has substantial content and it’s well-written, a lot of keyword research, then the opportunity is a lot smaller in that case. If it’s a post that’s a few years old, so let’s say it’s two or three years old, it has a lot of content, but maybe only has one image and no headings, to me, the opportunity for improvement there is, Oh, I can, I can include a few headings.

I can break up that content, making it easier to read. I could add a few images, maybe a few process shots to make it so that the recipe’s easier to follow. So right there, the opportunity for improvement was much more obvious. Also, bringing something that’s three years old forward and making it 2020 or 2021. I mean, the opportunity there is higher, my opportunity for success, I would say. Does that make sense how I explained it?

Megan:

So an older post let’s say I have something deep in my archives that has potential, but it’s got maybe one image and the copy inside is pretty thin content. If I go in and add value to the post and add some new images, there’s more opportunity there as opposed to a newer post that you put up today, you put all that content in, but it’s brand new. Is that kinda what you’re saying? So the opportunity is greater with that older content that you can refurbish.

Jeff:

Yeah. Then the opportunity of time is where it is now versus how much improvement you can make on it. Adding content, improving readability with headings and bullets and other things like that, improving user experience. So images, video, whatever that might be. Things like that are all opportunities. Another opportunity that seems kind of weird, but refreshing something from older to bringing it forward so it’s current. That date or that published time, is also an opportunity as well. So the more opportunities that that’s where I am much more willing to take on more risk, because I’m increasing my chances because there’s all these opportunities that I have and so that’s going to decrease the amount of risk because of how much opportunity there is.

Megan:

Okay. That finally clicked with me. That makes sense now.

Jeff:

And the other opportunity I didn’t mention was also seasonality or trends. So during the summer, if I did a Christmas cookie, that’s a lower opportunity because it’s not seasonal, like the traction I’m going to get from that isn’t quite as high. Whereas if I do that November, December, that’s something like a cookie, that’s more like Christmas, popular on Christmas. That’s another opportunity too that’s going to decrease that risk associated with it.

Megan:

People like me who have thousands or around a thousand old blog posts sitting in the archives, we really do have a lot of opportunity there because there’s so much to improve on. I always see it as a detriment because it’s collecting dust and I have all this stuff that is not current, photos that need to be retaken, but I should see it more as an opportunity to really let my content shine through Google.

Jeff:

Do you have a lot of older content that’s relevant that could be improved, especially, you’re sitting on a goldmine. My favorite SEO strategy is working on existing content.

Megan:

Well, that’s all I’ve been doing for six months. I finally got to the point this year where I was done with new content. I cannot keep adding to this massive collection of recipes. So for six months, that’s all I’ve been doing is going back and taking the gems out, dusting them off, making them better. So I’m hoping that the fruits of my labor start to grow from that. Okay. So you highlighted gauging opportunity is a great place to start, and I love how you framed that. I think we can all think through our content in that way. How do we dive into the question I asked about if there’s one specific post that needs a new pin graphic. I’ve seen this issue exactly come up in our community and people are hesitant to even put a new pin graphic inside of a post because they’re afraid of being re-crawled and then all of the stuff we already talked about, so should we be afraid to do little things like that? Make little tiny tweaks inside of our posts, whether they are getting the most traffic or not?

Jeff:

So this fear stems from the reality that any changes we make can, let me step back. One further. Google is constantly crawling and indexing our content. So even if we don’t make changes, they’re still going to crawl. They’re still going to index. They’re still gonna do all that stuff. A lot of times the changes that we make, even though we talk about it as triggering a re crawl because of an update and things like that. Really where that stems from is that when we do that, that’s also changing the updated date in our site map and stuff. So I would personally, I would say that I don’t have that fear in general. I try not to live in fear.

I would say that 99 times out of a hundred, that’s not going to do anything, adding a pin or something on the backend like that. Like I said, where the fear stems from is basically any time we make a change, it can trigger a reaction of some sort. That being said, even without making changes, it can trigger a reaction. So yes, you have to realize that there may be an effect, but I would say that 99 times out of a hundred, and maybe even 999 times out of a thousand, you’re not gonna see any sort of reaction there, especially with something like a pin and things like that.

Megan:

Okay. I tend to live, kind of like you do, not in fear when it comes to my blog. I do keep an eye on those posts that generate a lot of traffic. I try not to touch those much, but if there’s something little that really needs to be updated, I do just go in. I don’t update anything huge, but I have always kind of lived under that rule too. If a pin graphic needs to be updated, I’m going to go in and do it. I haven’t seen any hugely negative effects from it, but I get caught up in other people’s fear and people are Oh my gosh, I can’t change my pin graphic because I’m going to get re-crawled. Then I started thinking, well, should I be worried about this too? So I’m really glad that you’re talking about this because it helps me feel like I’m doing the right thing. Well, not that anyone’s doing the wrong thing. You know what I’m saying? It gives me permission to continue doing what I’ve been doing.

Jeff:

So if it helps, maybe instead of referring to the fear, it’s talking about the opportunity cost of not doing that because if you have an old pin or don’t even have a pin, I mean, you’re going to diminish the authority that you can build through Pinterest and other strategies outside of outside of your site itself, which is what also impacts SEO. So if having a pin on there or even having an updated pin image is going to improve how you do socially, on Pinterest and Facebook and all that stuff, if that’s going to improve there, then I would say that the opportunity is far outweighing the risk associated with it. It’s thinking about basically what the positives are rather than the fear. Because there’s always going to be fear. You get into a car, there’s, there’s always going to be a fear of a car accident, but the odds are much smaller than the opportunity of getting from point A to point B here or whatever that might be, you know.

Megan:

Well said, I love the opportunity of not doing it versus fearing it. That’s such a good way to look at it. You have to think outside of Google too. If it’s putting a Pinterest pin in your posts, that’s going to add massive value on Pinterest. Then it’s probably good to do that, right? I mean, you shouldn’t, like you started this whole conversation with, we shouldn’t fear Google, and I think the word fear in itself, if you’re fearing anything to me that just implies desperation and a whole host of negative things. Especially with a blog that you’re thinking about all the time, if you attach fear to it, then for me, I think only bad things can come of that. So releasing that word fear and looking more at opportunity. You’ve said the word opportunity, a handful of times. I love that Jeff. That was very well said. Okay. Is there anything else on that topic?

Jeff:

I mean, there’s going to be lots of questions around that. Even people listening are going to kind of have  scenarios to consider. So, that one has a bunch of connecting points, but I think that’s a good foundation to have. I mean, they can always reach out, if they have a question about this, but my answer is going to be the same. The fear is based on truth, but really you have to like to look at the opportunities and you have to look at what you’re missing out on by not doing it.

Megan:

Perfect. So another thing that I personally struggle with, and I know a lot of people listening are with me on this, because again, I see this being talked about constantly in our community and on the forums, is how to do keyword research. I know this too is like a topic in itself that you could probably talk endlessly about, but in a nutshell, talk us through the best way to do keyword research.

Jeff:

So again, the big topic. So if I was just going to put this simply, I mean, it’s going to be first and foremost that keyword research is not about SEO. It’s not about Google. Keyword research is about the user and it’s about intent. So when you’re doing keyword research. Forget keywords in and of themselves. You’re looking for topic and intent. So, if I’m looking to do a banana bread recipe, I’m, I’m looking at the intent of that. Technically if I was just looking at the information ecosystem of banana bread, I could go down the Wikipedia route, but really that’s not what this is about. This is about somebody looking to make banana bread and having the tools and information that they need to make banana bread. So, it’s going to be determining first and foremost, what do I need to address for people to make this?

I need to also look to see what the level of these users are. So are they experts in making recipes? So do I need to talk about it a little bit more in detail in mixing flour and ingredients? Or are they higher level, lower level? What kind of level are they? Then there’s also certain types of audience. So banana bread, if you’re going after a US-based audience, you don’t need to have much information about ingredients. Cause I would say that those are probably mostly common ingredients for most American English speaking audiences. Whereas if I’m going after Asian cuisine or I mean Mediterranean or something like that, where it has other things, that’s where I have to determine how far down that rabbit hole goes based on my readers understanding, and then what they need to accomplish the task at hand.

So the intent behind it. First and foremost, keyword research is all about intent. It’s about knowing our readers and getting them from point A to point B, as quickly and easily as possible. So when I’m doing keyword research, the tools that I use first are Google. I jump into Google and I do a search for that keyword or similar keywords. I look to see what the intent is. When Google shows us these knowledge graphs and other information, that helps us to see what users are looking for. If I look up pizza, I may be thinking of a pizza recipe, but if I look up pizza, I’m also going to get local Pizza Hut and Domino’s and all that search results and some other things. Whereas if I searched banana bread, I’m probably gonna get just more recipe based information and so what we take from that is basically Google is understanding users. So if we see that mixed search result, that helps us to see that, okay, a lot of people are looking for local places. They’re also looking for recipes and other things like that. But we’ll also see questions. If you don’t have any paid tools, Google is honestly more than enough, to do your keyword research, starting out. That being said, you get to a point where if you can’t afford certain tools, I would definitely recommend them, because they do make your job easier and it allows you to do things a lot quicker.

So my go-to for keyword research is SEMrush. I still use Google first and foremost. That’s the first place I go to, but then I’ll use SEMrush for keyword research because again, it just kind of helps me see other things, such as, volume of searches, how many people might be searching for it. I mean, you have to understand that that’s all, I don’t want to say made up numbers, but they’re predicted based on just information that we have. So you have to take the numbers with a grain of salt, but that really just kind of gives you some context as to how big the term is and a bunch of other information around that. Then when I’m doing keyword research, I use those tools and I just have an Excel doc or a Google sheets open. Rather than putting the specific keywords, I’m putting topics and things like that and intent behind it. So I might write down spicy and the way that I interpret that when I’m actually writing the post is controlling how much spice is in it or ingredients that control that spice by helping you versus something else. So when I’m doing that, I’m basically just downloading the list in a Google sheet, and I’m just writing down these words that are based around questions and other things that I’m seeing in Google and SEMrush. So then when I’m done with my keyword research, I just have this list of 10, 15, 20, 30, however many topics or keywords that I go down.

And then, from there I organize those into headings and topics. Basically just outline my post from there. If you have somebody writing, a lot of times you can actually just outline your posts that way and then send them the outline. Then they don’t even have to do the keyword research because they have this outline. But that also kind of jumps right into kind of the next part, which we were talking about, headings, which a lot of people write these headings or they try to write these headings based on these keywords. Keywords are important to users as well as Google, but we don’t need to write them verbatim. Really the goal of headings is to help readers understand what our post is about without having to read everything word for word. Because we’re in a digital age where they’re coming on their phone or whatever, and they’re just scanning the post. So those headings stand out so that they’re just bullet items so that I understand, okay, this recipe is to my level or I didn’t realize that. Or in a few seconds, I’m able to determine whether this post is relevant and qualified for what I’m looking for, essentially. I know that was a mouthful, so I apologize. It’s a big topic.

Megan:

No, that was all great stuff. It is a big topic. So I was wondering if you would run through an example with me since you used banana bread earlier, I opened up Uber suggest because I know that’s a free tool to a certain limit. I also opened up Google and I typed in banana bread into each. So with your method that you talked us through, are you saying that you look at the keyword ideas that come up and you try to incorporate the ones that stand out for you within the post? So what I’m seeing is banana bread, banana bread recipe, banana bread with chocolate chips, banana bread easy, banana bread healthy. And then on the Google side, favorite banana bread. So taking all of those other keywords outside of banana bread and trying to incorporate those into your posts, is that what you were kind of saying?

Jeff:

A lot of people do best or easy, or things like that, but really we have to determine what the intent is behind that. Certain recipes, if I see the word easy, there’s certain recipes that are just they’re easy, no matter what, even the classic way is easy. But there’s some recipes where, I mean the classic way is not necessarily the easy way. That’s where easy will sometimes stand out to me. Then I determined, is this recipe easy or is it more thorough? Maybe it’s like all fresh ingredients, whereas easy might connotate some boxed mix or out of a can or something like that for some of the ingredients. More than that, first and foremost, I mean, it’s a recipe, so it’s how to make it.

Then as I’m going down, I see people also ask and I see is banana bread a healthy snack? How to make banana bread from scratch. How do you keep banana bread moist? So now I’m starting to venture down, first and foremost, it’s the recipe how to make it, so I need to kind of focus on that. Okay. For food bloggers you kind of have your internal template where Ingredients, steps, that sort of thing, that all connotes recipe. But then, as I’m going through, people also ask, I see why is banana bread that bad for you? That probably isn’t one that I’m going to tackle. It’s not relevant. Is it a healthy snack?

I might touch on that. But if I’m not a healthy food blogger, again, I’m just going to overlook that, um, how to make banana bread from scratch. This might be where I start to figure out, okay this is a classic banana bread recipe, but if there’s a right way to do it and an easy way to do it, that might be something to address in here. From scratch, I might use a few additional ingredients, whereas if I want to cut a corner, if you don’t have time, I may just include a tip. Like biscuits and gravy, instead of making the biscuits from scratch, you can go and buy just the can of biscuits if you’d prefer. So I could add that step to, again, tackle the easy part versus the from scratch part. How to keep banana bread moist. That might be relevant because there’s leftovers with banana bread.It’s meant to sit, it’s meant to kind of be this snack or whatever. So answer how do I keep it moist. Then the nice thing about the people also ask is if you see a question, you can click on it, to open it up. So I always click on it, open it up and then close it back up, but it adds a couple more questions every time you do that. So I click on the relevant ones and I just kinda go down this rabbit hole. So I see, should I use baking soda or baking powder in banana bread? I’m not the expert here, so you kind of have to determine, can bananas be too right for banana bread?

Okay. So I’m going to maybe put one of my notes, ripeness, because that might be something to address in there. Then should you refrigerate banana bread? How long should you let banana bread cool. Why is my banana bread so dry, right here, without even starting my post, I’m getting some of these questions that I’m probably gonna get as soon as I post it, in the comments. You guys are experts. The other part that I struggle with is, I’m not the expert here, so I kind of am just spitballing. One thing I always tell my clients is, trust your instinct. You’re an expert, you’re in a position, trust that. I mean, do the research, but you also have to kind of trust these instincts and know what is going to be popular or not.

Should I use baking soda or baking powder in banana bread? I mean, if that one’s a smaller question that only a few people are asking, maybe you don’t address it in the main part of it, but banana ripeness. Again, if you have more of a mainstream audience or ones that maybe they don’t cook all day, every day and they’re not as handy in the kitchen, I mean, addressing the ripeness is going to be important here. Can you refrigerate it? How to keep it moist? These are all things, these are all notes that I’m writing down, in my Google sheet as I’m doing it. So that I can then decide if it’s something you’re gonna address, and you can determine that later.

Megan:

That helps a lot. So basically it all comes back to what you said earlier about knowing what the intent is of your recipe. In answering that question, it seems like this huge open question. What’s the intent? Well, making banana bread isn’t the same for every food blogger. It’s going to be different for a health food blogger, than it is for someone like me who does not focus on health food at all. So keeping your brand in mind as you go through that question is helpful, right? If you see a question in Google, one of the people also asks questions and it kind of stands out to you as something that would align with your brand, then it’s probably something that you should include. So that helps a lot. So really, I mean, Google is more of a help than anything, I think, as I’m looking through Uber Suggest on banana bread. Google was way more enlightening for me as you kind of talked through that. But I know places like SEMrush and Uber Suggest also include volume, keyword volume, and also it’s SEO difficulty. Is that also keyword difficulty, right? So SD and KD, is that the same thing?

Yeah. So KD is keyword difficulty. I don’t know what the other one is in Uber Suggests. I don’t use Ubersuggest, I’m not a big Neil Patel fan.

Megan:

Oh, Sorry.

Jeff:

It’s fine. I mean, it’s one of those tools that hit the mainstream, but in my opinion if I had the choice of using a free tool versus just Google, I would just use Google. As soon as I could hit a point to where I could pay for one, it might not be SEMrush. It might be something cheaper that’s more specific to just keyword research because that SEMrush has a lot more features, but if it’s just keyword research and I’m just looking for just kind of an entry level tool, I mean keywordtool.io, there’s a couple of others in there, they’re like 20 or $30 a month maybe. I would probably start out with one of these first. But SEMrush, Ahrefs is another one. Those are kind of the tools that I recommend for anybody that’s growing and has room to pay for it.

Megan:

So no matter where you’re at, whichever tool you’re looking at, the metrics you want to look at would be volume and keyword difficulty, is that correct?

Jeff:

Don’t really look at keyword difficulty. I just look at keywords and I look at volume. The only reason I look at volume is just to kind of help me determine, how to make banana bread or banana bread recipe, which one has more volume. So if it’s a banana bread recipe, I might use that because more people are using it. So that’s what I use volume for really. If I’m trying to figure out if I want to do things like chocolate chip banana bread or chocolate banana bread or some other version, it might help me determine what’s more popular in general. So that’s where I use volume. Keyword difficulty, to be totally honest, if I do like gluten-free bread, that probably has a high difficulty, but you have a lot of smaller or mid-sized blogs killing it there because that’s their niche.

I don’t look at keyword difficulty. You want to base that off of whether it’s your focus. If I have a food blog that’s all about just cookie recipes, I absolutely should have chocolate chip cookies on my site because I’m all about cookies and I mean, that’s a classic cookie. So if I don’t have that, I’m doing my audience a disservice. Again, this also goes back to what you said earlier. It’s not all about SEO. There’s other things. Also, at some point, if you grow your authority on this cookie site, you could find yourself just starting to rank at a certain point because you’ve grown your authority. So I don’t look at keyword difficulty. I based that off of how relevant is that to my audience and things like that. Then also, I base it off of, if I have this food site and I start to do better in cookies, that tells me that my authority in cookies is actually growing. So I could probably push that envelope forward a little bit more in certain areas.

Megan:

That actually simplifies my life. So I’m really glad that you said that. Okay, so volume, you obviously don’t want to go to the highest volume, unless it’s an example, like you were talking about Jeff, where you are a cookie site and you kind of need to cover all the bases with all the cookies. If you’re more of a generic blogger and you cover a lot of different types of recipes, do we try to stay away from those really high volume keywords?

Jeff:

So the better way to do keyword difficulty, rather than looking at that KD and any of the tools is when you do this in Google, you guys are smart. You guys know who your competitors are, you know what the sites are in your industry. So when I go to banana bread and I see that All Recipes and Simply Recipes and Food Network in the kitchen are all in the top five, okay, this is getting pretty competitive. That being said, I do see Sally’s baking addiction and I see Salty Marshmallow in there. Those are not small sites by any means, but they’re not like the big behemoth necessarily either. That’s a better radar than using the KD score. Again, banana bread is obviously a competitive term, but the search for something that you’re thinking about making, and you see that there are other sites that seem like they’re in a similar range as you, go for it.

Megan:

I love that that’s a great tool. It’s so easy because we do all know those sites that are bigger food blogs, but they’re not All Recipes. They’re not Food Network. So I love that. I think we underutilized Google, we underestimate it. I used to use it all the time and I need to get back to doing that a little bit more because it’s so easy.

Jeff:

I thought you were going to say, we under utilize our common sense;

Megan:

That too!

Jeff:

I don’t mean this as a dig on anybody. I do think that we overlook that and I deal with it all the time with clients. I ask, what do you think? A lot of times, they’ll ask a question and I’ll turn the question back on them. I would say that 90% of the time they answer the question right. We just have to trust our own instincts.

Megan:

Hmm. I love that too. So you’re touched on headings. Is that what we call them? The like H2 headers inside of our blog posts.

Jeff:

So there’s titles and titles and headings. So your headings are the ones you see on the page, the title or the SEO title is sometimes where we get that confused. That’s the page title that we optimize in Yoast, and it shows up in Google search and all that stuff.

Megan:

Define that for me. So what we type as the focus key phrase, is that right in Yoast, should that reflect exactly what’s in the title of our blog post? Or does it matter?

Jeff:

So I have thoughts on that Yoast key phrase. I think it’s a good starting point. Like they’re starting out, like, it just kind of helps you to see the basics of keywords. The problem with it is that in Yoast, it’s about keyword density. I always use the example of a spicy bean dip. If I do a search for spicy bean dip, I have a lot of sites that show up for spicy bean dip, but then there’s a few in here that there’s a couple in here that haven’t even optimized themselves for spicy bean dip. They’ve got like a homemade bean dip or jalapeno bean dip. Google interprets jalapeno bean dip as spicy bean dip because they understand that jalapenos are spicy or that jalapenos are common ingredients in spicy bean dips.

So the problem with Yoast is that if I put spicy bean dip, it’s going to try to tell me to put that phrase in there a lot more. The reality of it is, I don’t need to do that. So I would much rather you understand the concept. So it’s a good starting point if you want to do it starting out. Even if you want to do it to where it’s just this checklist, just understand that you don’t have to get those green lights, like if it’s a yellow light or even a red light, like, but then you review the checklist items and you’re like, this still looks good. Trust that, and keep going forward. Google understands it a lot better than Yoast does.

So I don’t use that for that. That being said, I still trust Yoast. I love Yoast. I recommend Yoast. Because of sitemaps and robots.TXT and a bunch of technical elements and other things like that. So I don’t put that in there. But in regards to your original question, which was, should I put that in the heading? Again, when I’m in Google or when I’m coming from social media and I click on something, the heading should reaffirm what I clicked on. So you don’t want it too long. You want it to be just kind of punchy. So if I clicked on spicy bean dip, then the heading should be something that basically is spicy bean dip.

Megan:

Okay. So it could be a variation, delicious, spicy bean dip recipe.

Jeff:

Typically I put more identifiers in the SEO title where I have a little bit more space. In my heading, my main heading, I try to keep that a little bit more to the point, because that should be easy to read. Also, you don’t want to get too long with it. The other part is, you also have areas underneath your heading to include identifiers such as easy or gluten-free or whatever those might be. Cause you have, you can add a description and other things right there above the fold. So, I usually try to just keep it simple, when we’re on the page itself.

Megan:

Okay. So simple as best within the title and for H2 that is basically just a way to let your user understand and Google understand the gist of the post, correct?

Jeff:

Correct.

Megan:

Okay. And I think food bloggers have gotten really good at that. I think even a couple of years ago, we were a little bit confused about how to use those, but every post I look at that’s on the first page of Google, for whatever the topic is, I think people do that really well. You can scroll through and see right away what it’s about, what they’re covering. Are they getting into the details about why banana bread is moist when it’s in the fridge or whatever. But it’s a topic that a lot of food bloggers question, but I feel like collectively, we’re kind of getting that a little bit more, thanks to experts like you.

Jeff:

The biggest critique I have of it is really just a lot of people do it repetitively to where they are trying to input that keyword or keyword phrase, like spicy bean dip. They’ll include in all or most of their H2s. Like you want to make it flow. You don’t want people to feel it’s robotic and stuff like that. Again, we’re going after understanding and intent so that people scan and stuff. But yeah, I think the general consensus behind headings is that people are better understanding them.

Megan:

So when Yoast doesn’t give me a green light and it says you need to have another keyword in your H2 headings or whatever, however it says that, I don’t necessarily need to listen if I feel like I’ve covered it enough. Correct?

Jeff:

Correct.

Megan:

Okay. Because dang it, that green light, we all want that green light.

Jeff:

Yep. No, and that’s a perfectionist sort of thing. You just have to learn that Yoast might actually be leading you astray. We did a training on this a while ago where I actually took two posts and I took one that was in the red that was actually ranking and I optimized it to get green. When we asked users, which one felt better, the non Yoast optimized one felt better because the other one felt so robotic.

Megan:

Oh, see, that’s good to hear. You just gave me permission and many other people permission to not rely on that so heavily. We’re condensing all of these massive topics into just a few minutes.

Jeff:

I know. Right. We are giving a 101 course on SEO in 45 minutes.

Megan:

Yes, exactly. But categories is another thing that I’ve seen tossed around in the forums lately because as we build our content up, we’ve got all of this stuff and we don’t know how to categorize them. Myself included. I started out with appetizers, salads, soup, breakfast, maybe 10 categories. I still have those 10 categories and I have 800 and some recipes squeezed into those categories. So before I dig in, I just want to know, is this the right way to do it? Should I leave it alone? Should I add more categories? How do I go about that?

Jeff:

I get questions about categories and tags all the time. In general, I would say I don’t have a lot of specifics there. You have a lot of flexibility. For food bloggers, however, I always tell people, honestly, if I were a food blogger setting it up today, I would set up my topics and subtopics as categories and even sub categories. Then I would have my tags all ingredient based. That seems to be a really good way to set things up, but also makes for a really good recipe index if you customize it. But to your question about categories and expanding. Yes, absolutely. If you have like the 10 categories that you started with, you don’t need to expand those, but you want to look at appetizers, for instance. If appetizers have a couple hundred recipes in it, then that’s too big. If there’s no other way to break that up, that’s really too big for somebody to see what’s in there. So you want to figure out, how can I break this up. Surface my content so that it’s easier to find. So within appetizers, you can either do sub categories or you can just do other categories and then just organize them so that they are in drop-downs and things like that. Healthy appetizers versus finger foods versus dips. If you have within your appetizers, you have a bunch of dips and salsas or something like that, you can create another category specifically for dips or salsas or finger foods. Again, that’s just helping you to break that content up and it helps the user find specifics within that content. I always use Amazon as an example.

In the blogging world, we’re told that we should only have 15 categories and we should only have X amount of whatever. That’s all BS. It depends on how big and intricate our topics and content is, because amazon.com, like if they were limited to how many categories and topics they had, nobody would use the site. They literally have hundreds of thousands of categories because of how many products and topics they have. We need to do the same. We don’t want to do it too early. So if I only have five dips on my site within appetizers, I probably shouldn’t create a dips category at that point. But if I have, I don’t know, more than a dozen or 15, that’s when I can probably start to. There’s no real number.That’s just kind of my number. If I have more than 12 or 15, then I’m probably considering it.

Megan:

Okay. That helps clear things up. I have a ton of chili recipes so I’ve been considering creating a chili category.

Jeff:

You could have soups. Is that what it’s under right now?

Megan:

Yes. It’s under soups right now.

Jeff:

Yeah. And that’s where you can break up soup, especially if the soup is big, break it up into chilis. If you only have a couple of stews, maybe you don’t do stews yet, but yeah, that’s exactly how you should do it.

Megan:

Thank you. That helped a lot. Let’s see what else in just a minute or two, can we cover about categories? Do you feel like you covered everything you wanted to say?

Jeff:

Without going too far down a rabbit hole? That’s probably a good kind of on the surface explanation. All these topics really can get deep.

Megan:

Okay. And you said tags are good to keep more ingredients based. What about diet based, do recommend using tags for that as well?

Jeff:

Really? I mean, it’s all up to you and how as best organized. If I was doing it today, I would have dietary stuff as categories, just because that’s more topical. Then my ingredients are purely tags, but you don’t have to set up that way. I see a lot of people doing different things. Because ingredients can grow and so that can be a pretty big list. So if you just designated that to tags, then it’s an easy way to segment those.

Megan:

All right, Jeff. Well, wow, we’ve scratched the surface on many really big SEO food blogging topics, and this has helped me a lot, I’m hoping that it helps other food bloggers as well. I really think it will. Well, thanks again, Jeff. Your insight has been much appreciated today. Thank you for sharing all of this value. We will put together a show notes page for you. If anyone wants to go look at that, you can find it at eatblogtalk.com/hashtagjeff. Jeff, I know that you have a new version of your course and a bunch of other tools that you are launching soon. So why don’t you tell us about that?

Jeff:

Yeah, we’re getting ready to relaunch our community. Just the SEO course and things like that. We’re gonna have our own platform, but we’re also gonna be able to kind of separate some things a little bit easier. So you’ll have the kind of just digest content and work through it, through the community and more of a forum based, but we’re also, shortly after launching, we’re actually going to be putting together more formal courses, that you’ll as a member you’ll have access to. There’ll be more teachable courses where you go through like A to Z sort of modules. We have a lot of people that want to learn that way. We’re expanding our audits right now. So we do a lot of audits for clients.

We have been for a while, but we’re also building tools to help people kind of keep an eye on their content a whole lot more and more regular. So it’s going to be kind of an ongoing audit. We’ll be launching those, sending here in the next month. As far as our course or membership, we did create a discount code for your community. So we’re going to be launching an annual version of our community up to this point. We’ve only done monthly just because of a bunch of other things, but, you can use the discount code, eatblogtalk, all one word. We’ll include that in the show notes as well, eatblogtalk, and that’ll get you the Hashtag Jeff Course Community, for $99 for the whole year.

Megan:

Awesome. Thank you so much for offering that. I hope people take you up on that and I’m excited to check it out myself. So thank you for putting up with my questions today. I am not by any means an SEO girl, so thank you for answering everything.

Jeff:

Most people aren’t.

Megan:

Well that’s good to know. That’s why we have people like you, right?

Jeff:

That’s why I have a job.

Megan:

Yeah, exactly. I think we all know where to find you, but why don’t you reiterate where we can find you online, Jeff?

Jeff:

Yeah. Just hashtagjeff.com is our website, all spelled out. They can’t get to the domain with the hashtag symbol, email just [email protected] On Instagram, a lot of people reach out to me on Hashtag Jeff. We’re also on Facebook as well. So you can search us there, but email is probably the best or our website for information and sign up for the course and all that stuff.

Megan:

Awesome. Well, thank you again, Jeff, 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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