Thursday, February 7, 2013

SEO for Food Bloggers | Part IV: Recipe Format

seo for food bloggers

Are you all ready for this?  Grab a fresh cup of coffee and let’s dig in.  Today we are discussing Recipe Formatting as it relates to search engine optimization.  You will often hear this referred to as rich snippets and also as structured data.  As we have mentioned before, all we are doing when we optimize our sites for search engines is helping them to know what kind of data is on our sites.

And wouldn’t you know it – they are picky about how they read recipes.  They want to know that specific information is included before they’ll bring it up in search results.  So let’s start with a few simple steps that you can take.

1. Use at least two of the following fields: prep time; cook time; total time; nutritional information; yield

2. Use a recipe plugin (like ZipList, EasyRecipe or a custom format)

3. Just make it a habit.  Again – this strategy is a long-term strategy that will need to become part of your post-writing process.  Don’t feel like you have to go back to every one of your recipes and update it right away, just start somewhere and do a handful per week.

4. Always title your recipe the same as your post title.

5. Use Google’s Structured Data Testing tool to see if your posts are “marked up” correctly.

it looks like this: you can see that the author is verified and a preview of what it looks like in a search result; you can then scroll down and you’ll see what Google can read as part of the recipe (time, ingredients, instructions, etc.)

Homework: start this week with your five most popular recipes on Pinterest and update the Rich Snippets that go along with that recipe and post.

recipe format


After I started this series, Jacob of MyUntangled Life reached out to me – he is a SEO guy and offered to help explain some of this stuff to us.  Take it away, Jacob!


If you’ve ever wondered how all the incredibly cool and organized information about people or companies started popping up in your Google searches:

rich snippets

Or how those images, ratings, or cooking times appear when you’re searching for recipes:

search results

The answer is rich snippets, also called markup, sometimes referred to as structured data. Still with me? As Cassie explained in her previous posts, search engines and their crawling little spiders don’t see things the way we do, so we need to help them. There are a few different ways to accomplish this, but most search engines love microdata. (And though I usually talk in terms of Google, this is a widely accepted format for all search engines now.)

Let’s take the search above as an example to better illustrate what’s going on. You’re looking for red velvet cake recipes and are presented with some options with ratings and a picture and everything a foodie blogger has ever dreamed of! All that information is there because of the underlying microdata.

Let’s break it down even more…you then click and land on the Food Network page for the Southern Red Velvet Cake, you may see a beautiful slice of red velvet cake…mmmm….but search engines only eat code, and what they gobble up is the underlying data from the

structured data

By marking up the data, the Food Network website has spoken to the search engines in a language they understand and told them, “hey search engines, this webpage is a recipe so put it in that category, and here’s the title of the recipe, here’s a picture of the recipe, here are ingredients for this recipe”, and on and on. With a slight change in code, search engines could just as easily take this slice of cake for a photo of Brad Pitt, crazy huh!?

Still with me? It’s at this point that the geeks of the world (like me) become the coolest people to have in your circles! But don’t despair, it’s not as bad as it seems and these days there are lots of tools and resources to get you going. Start by trying out the Structured Data Testing Tool (as mentioned and pictured above) and evaluating your own blog posts simply by entering a URL. Once you have an idea of where you’re at, your options are coding each line of your recipes manually (not my recommendation), or implementing a strategy like a plugin.

For WordPress blogs, I love the Easy Recipe Plugin, in fact that’s what we use. Schema Creator is another great plugin if you’re looking to go beyond recipes. I’m sorry Blogger bloggers, I haven’t yet found similar solutions for you. More detailed information on recipe markup is available from Google Webmaster Tools and if you love infographics as much as I do, don’t miss this one on How to Add Rich Snippets to your website or blog.

Thank you, Jacob.  We hope this gives you a good place to start with Rich Snippets.  Bottom line – if you are using WordPress, use a recipe plugin – they do all the coding for you and all you have to do is fill in all the fields with your recipe information!  And don’t forget the photo…

The most-asked question I received when starting this series was “how do I get my food photo to show up in a search?”  At first, I thought there was something magical to it.  And after research, and more research, and pulling my hair out, I have found that the answer is so plainly simple.  You must have a featured image in your recipe post – which is part of the Rich Snippet for the recipe.  Taking this step lets search engines know which specific photo should be used for the recipe.  When you start doing this, don’t worry if it takes a couple of weeks for them to start showing up!

If you want more, check out these links on Rich Snippets:

Recipe View Rich Snippets
About Rich Snippets and Structured Data
Structured Data Testing Tool
Google Webmaster Tools

And if you have any questions for Jacob or me, please email me (bakeyourdayblog (at) gmail (dot) com).

Next week it’s some more tips, tools, info about SEO plugins and how to set up Google+ Authorship.  Send your questions my way or leave them in the comments below! 


45 Responses to “SEO for Food Bloggers | Part IV: Recipe Format”

  1. #
    danielle — February 7, 2013 @ 7:20 am

    Once again – thanks for these great tips – I have been following along and learning so much!

  2. #
    sally @ sallys baking addiction — February 7, 2013 @ 7:59 am

    This is all so helpful Cassie! When I have a blog makeover done this year (i’m on a wait list!), I’m going to have ziplist installed and I can’t wait. 🙂 I’m in need of a good recipe format for my website.

  3. #
    Erin | The Law Student's Wife — February 7, 2013 @ 8:07 am

    SO much great information in here Cassie. I’m using ZipList, but had been choosing the fields a bit haphazardly. No longer! I feel like I have “blog homework”, but in a very good, exciting way. Thanks!!

  4. #
    Laurie {Simply Scratch} — February 7, 2013 @ 8:45 am

    I love these posts Cassie! They’re so informative and helpful! Keep’em coming!

  5. #
    Heidi @foodiecrush — February 7, 2013 @ 9:10 am

    love the series Cassie, thanks for sharing and cool that others are reaching out to join in the consulting.

  6. #
    Mercedes@Satisfy My Sweet Tooth — February 7, 2013 @ 9:31 am

    So helpful once again Cassie! I had the same question about the photo in your search showing up! Thanks!

  7. #
    Mercedes@Satisfy My Sweet Tooth — February 7, 2013 @ 9:42 am

    Hello again! I still cannot figure out how to get a photo to appear with a search even though I have set a Featured Image in the post itself? Also, did you say that you would be going over some of the specifics of how you set up your SEO Plugin, what you changed from the settings, etc? That you would be so helpful if you have time! Thanks and I am finding these posts so helpful!

    • Cassie replied: — February 7th, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

      I think that you have to have a featured image set with the recipe – not just for the post itself. Does your recipe format allow you to specify a photo? Yes, next week will talk about the plugins.

  8. #
    Miss @ Miss in the Kitchen — February 7, 2013 @ 9:49 am

    I will be reading this several times for it to soak in, thanks so much for sharing this.

  9. #
    Stephanie @ — February 7, 2013 @ 9:58 am

    I can’t tell you how incredibly helpful this information is! I started blogging a couple months ago and I couldn’t begin count how many online articles I’ve read pertaining to this topic. None are as informative and concise as yours, thank you both for sharing!! I haven’t posted many recipes yet because I’m focusing on demonstrating techniques and providing food information we learned in culinary school. Do you have any advice for titling blog posts that don’t have recipes? For example, one of my earlier posts was about Food Safety & Sanitation and one of the topics was the Food Temperature Danger Zone. Is it possible to move my post up the virtual totem pole in searches related to food temperatures?

    • Cassie replied: — February 7th, 2013 @ 1:59 pm

      Hi Stephanie, you will find the most benefit when you use strong keywords through the post and the title. Have you gone back to read my prior SEO posts? The keywords and titles post will be helpful. Let me know if you have any questions!

  10. #
    Meghan {For the Love of Dessert} — February 7, 2013 @ 11:20 am

    I’m with Stephanie. I love how concise your information is! This is so helpful. Thank you!

  11. #
    Averie @ Averie Cooks — February 7, 2013 @ 12:17 pm

    Thanks for the info as always. Still trying to figure out how to get an image to show up in google search results for me like yours does with the black bean hummus. I keep re-reading this and have tried so many things…and not sure where my snag is coming. Thanks Cassie for this series!

    • Cassie replied: — February 7th, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

      Using the Structured Data testing tool will help out – it gives you the places where you can improve for search results.

  12. #
    Jamie @ Thrifty Veggie Mama — February 7, 2013 @ 12:49 pm

    Another great post Cassie! Thanks for this. I was doing featured images but then got out of the habit. Bummer! Add that to the to-do list!

  13. #
    Sheila — February 7, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

    Apparently I have some catching up to do! I was just talking about how SEO clueless I am this morning with Liz (lemon bowl) So I can’t wait to get filled in! TY so much! xoox

    • Cassie replied: — February 7th, 2013 @ 1:59 pm

      You two are awesome! Wish I could have chatted with you this morning!

  14. #
    Liz @ The Lemon Bowl — February 7, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

    haha – Sheila beat me to it!!! We are both SEO clueless – you are the best!!!! xo

    • Cassie replied: — February 7th, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

      You two are the best! I so wish I could have chatted with you both. Email me if you have any questions!

  15. #
    Julia — February 7, 2013 @ 2:26 pm

    Ohhh I KNEW you were going to tell me to fill in the prep time, cook time fields…sigh….I have been so lazy when it comes to this but I know it’s helpful to people making the recipe and didn’t realize it would have an effect on my SEO. Pretty cool! Thanks for another awesome SEO post!

  16. #
    Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious — February 7, 2013 @ 2:34 pm

    Another great post! I have so much work to do! And it’s such a shame that Tumblr doesn’t have those kinds of plug-ins. Ugh.

  17. #
    Liz — February 7, 2013 @ 5:55 pm

    Superb post, Cassie! So much I didn’t know!

  18. #
    Laura (Tutti Dolci) — February 7, 2013 @ 6:08 pm

    So many great tips, Cassie! I have some homework to do…

  19. #
    Loretta | A Finn In The Kitchen — February 7, 2013 @ 9:06 pm

    Wow! Most of this was over my head, but it’s a kick in my butt to switch over to WordPress and soon!

    Thanks for this!

  20. #
    Jess — February 7, 2013 @ 10:28 pm

    Cassie – so helpful, as always! Thanks for demystifying some of this stuff. AND PS. You are amazing – doing all this and getting moved in to the new house!

    • Cassie replied: — February 9th, 2013 @ 1:51 pm

      Thanks, Jess! I do it because I love it and that helps 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  21. #
    Tracey — February 8, 2013 @ 2:15 pm

    I have seriously learned so much from these posts Cassie! i am beyond grateful to you for sharing your knowledge 🙂

  22. #
    Jacob — February 8, 2013 @ 3:01 pm

    Cassie – I agree with all your readers, another fantastic post in a series that I am honored to be a part of.

    @Mercedes – Cassie is correct, one additional step I believe you need is to associate an image with the snippet. Your plugin can handle that for you, have a look at this post and follow the steps to specify what they call a “Recipe Image”. Hope that helps!

  23. #
    Anna {Herbivore Triathlete} — February 8, 2013 @ 6:56 pm

    Thanks for explaining something that seems to be in another language in layman’s terms. When I eventually move over to self-hosted WordPress this series will be super helpful. Even now, I’ve began to use some of your SEO tips, helps me form the habit now.

  24. #
    Jennifer | Mother Thyme — February 8, 2013 @ 9:43 pm

    Thanks Cassie for all these tips! I am clueless when it comes to this stuff so I need all the help I can get. Quick question- do you need the schema plugin if you use a recipe plugin like Ziplist? I downloaded it but it is just duplicating the recipe again on the post. And how did you get verified under author? Is that something via Google + you need to do?

    • Cassie replied: — February 9th, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

      Hey Jennifer, ZipList does all of that for you (so amazing!) All you have to do is make sure and fill in the fields (even though they tell you they are optional) so you don’t need the plugin if you are using ZL code.

      For G+ authorship – I’m going to cover it next week but essentially you have to connect your blog to your G+ profile and your G+ profile to your blog. In your WP dashboard, go to “users” and click “edit” on yours, scroll down, and where it says Google +, enter the URL for your G+ profile there. And then go to your G+ profile, edit profile, scroll down and add your blog where it says “Contributor to”.

      Also, if you have a link to your Google_ profile on your site, include this code to link to it: a href=”[profile_url]?rel=author” rel=”nofollow”>Google (Where [profile_url] is the URL to your G+ profile.)

      Let me know if you have any questions!

  25. #
    JP — February 9, 2013 @ 11:23 am

    This is so helpful – thanks so much fo sharing your expertise! I’d never even heard of EasyRecipe before this

  26. #
    Cookie and Kate — February 10, 2013 @ 1:32 pm

    This series is such a great resource, Cassie. I’m a geek myself and I must say you’ve done a fantastic job of explaining how microsnippets work! Brava.

  27. #
    Stacy | Wicked Good Kitchen — February 13, 2013 @ 9:33 am

    Thank you for these great tips, Cassie! I’m such a total newb to SEO. (Plus, Google kinda scares me. LOL!) Your tips should really help! xo

  28. #
    Paul (GetMeCooking) — March 26, 2013 @ 9:45 am

    Hi Cassie,

    Really good information!

    Have you seen the GetMeCooking recipe plugin for WordPress?

    It has many features that other plugin’s don’t have, was the first (by over 6 months) to use the Recipe format (see, also promotes SEM and is one of the most downloaded plugins of its type.

    Maybe you could write an article comparing the plugins in the future?

    Full disclosure – I am one of the owners and developers.


  29. #
    Bri McKoy — May 23, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

    Wow! I am so grateful I stumlbed upon this blog! Absolutely amazing! Thank you so much for this post! I do have a question, I use Easy Recipe and I love it! I enter all hte fields, specify an image and still nothing seems to appear. According to the Google Structure Data I am missing: Warning: Missing required field “entry-title”.
    Warning: Missing required field “updated”.
    Warning: Missing required hCard “author”. But I am not actually sure what that means? The author makes sense…but nothing else. Do you have any insight? Here is the post I am referencing:
    Right now, my Google+ image appears. But I want my recipe images to appear 🙂 I would be so grateful for any help you can provide! Thanks again. LOVE your site!!

  30. #
    Liz @ Virtually Homemade — November 5, 2013 @ 12:23 am

    For blogger users check out She gives a good format you can use to structure recipes with rich snippets. Add your recipe info and then click for the HTML version you can paste into your post. Thanks for these posts Cassie. I keep learning more and more!

  31. #
    Garcia — November 18, 2013 @ 9:18 pm

    Great Post! Many food bloggers don’t understand the power of schema and what it can do to help get your post discovered. Very well structured post with high res image files. Thank you for this!

  32. #
    Becky @ A Calculated Whisk — December 26, 2013 @ 8:32 pm

    This is an awesome post! Is there a way to set a certain image as the “featured image” while using Blogger, even though there are no recipe plug-ins?

  33. #
    Lia D — April 9, 2014 @ 8:22 pm

    Thank you, this is super helpful. I am brand new to this but I found it really easy to understand. I am going to get to work on it right now. Thank you to both of you!

    • Cassie replied: — April 9th, 2014 @ 8:28 pm

      Glad it was helpful, Lia. Let me know if you have any questions!


  34. #
    Bellybytes — May 11, 2016 @ 12:00 am

    A really useful and informative post. Finally I found someone to answer my questions. Thanks a million

  35. #
    fattykeo — October 13, 2017 @ 3:25 pm

    Hi Cassie,

    Thank you so much – your posts have been super helpful! The issue I have is I’m on a Personal WordPress plan which doesn’t allow plugins 🙁 If you’ve got any suggestions on how I can get the most out of the Personal WordPress plan that I’m currently on, that would be great.

    Cheers and keep up the great work 🙂


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