Over the past few years, long recipe posts where you have to “scroll forever” to get to the recipe, have been the subject of scorn and derision.
Some of my friends were lamenting about all the scrolling they were having to do…until I told them the other side of the story.
There is a reason you have to repeatedly move your thumb up and down on your phone screen.
And believe me, even though I’m a food blogger, I don’t like scrolling for the recipe any more than you do.
But I can honestly say that…
Google made me do it.
Back in the early days of blogging, we all told the stories of our lives. Modeling ourselves after The Pioneer Woman, we tried to be witty and entertaining as we regaled you with everyday occurrences, or recounted funny stories from our past. (Like in this post for Banana Cream Ice Cream).
This was just what everybody did. It was “blogging.”
After a while, Google decided they really needed to help people find relevant, helpful content (which is a good idea).
Over the years, they have changed their algorithm multiple times to really try to improve “user experience.”
Basically, Google wants you to be able to quickly find exactly what you’re looking for, and get the best, most valuable, helpful content.
This means that as bloggers, we have to know what Google considers “valuable, helpful content,” and provide it to you in our posts.
Nowadays, very few bloggers have continued with the daily narrative of their lives. Most of us have turned into nearly full-time researchers in order to make our posts relevant in the eyes of Google.
In fact, each time I make a recipe and post it on my site, it’s more like doing a science experiment (sometimes repeatedly) and then writing a research paper with the goal of getting the highest grade in the class.
Let me walk you through the creation of a recipe post.
This is my process, and other food bloggers may have a different process. But I would suspect that at least many, if not all of these elements are part of most food bloggers’ efforts.
- Think about a recipe I would like to make.
- Do keyword research either using Google or a paid keyword research tool. Decide if I want to try to go for a highly-searched keyword, or a lesser-searched keyword that I’ll have a greater chance of ranking for.
- Decide what to title my post based on keyword research.
- Shop for ingredients to make the recipe.
- Decide which backgrounds, bowls, utensils, etc. to use for pictures as I make the recipe. Figure out the type of styling I want to do for pictures.
- Make the recipe, taking pictures and notes the whole time. I have to make sure to cook during the time when the lighting is best in my kitchen so I can get good pictures. Sometimes this means that dinner is ready at 2:00 p.m.
- Clean up and put away all the backgrounds and props.
- Download the pictures onto my computer. If I don’t like the pictures, I’ll re-make the whole recipe on another day and try different styling or backgrounds. Also, if the recipe didn’t turn out exactly right, I’ll tweak it and remake it on another day.
- Choose the best pictures, edit, and resize for the blog.
- Write the blog post. Insert the pictures. Add notes.
- After the rough draft is done, I’ll go to a site like Answer the Public to find out what people are asking on the internet about my subject.
- Choose which questions are most relevant to my post, and answer them. Everything from “can you freeze Zuppa Toscana” to “how can I make Creme Brulee dairy-free?”
- Make sure there are headlines and lots of spaces in my post to make it easier to read on mobile devices.
- Add descriptions to each of my pictures.
- Make several pins for Pinterest both in Photoshop and Canva for the post. Add descriptions to those.
- Add a description for Google.
- Finally publish.
All of this easily takes 10 hours. For just one post.
And for food bloggers, about one in ten of our recipes ever “makes it” (i.e. gets traffic). That’s a lot of work, just in the hopes that people will be see our post.
In the early days of blogging, most of us got a lot of traffic from Pinterest. But now that Pinterest has changed so dramatically, most of us have lost nearly all our traffic from that source, and so it’s even more important to be ranked on page one or two in the Google search results.
And this means that you (as the reader) have to do a lot of scrolling.
It means that we (as the online business owner) have to answer every possible question that could be asked about our recipe for Lemon Yellow Squash Bread in order to gain favor with the Google gods.
It means that we have to take copious notes with every recipe we make and give you all the tips and tricks we learn along the way.
It means we have to seriously research every recipe before even starting a post, and make sure we’re using all the terms that Google likes.
All this, with the hopes of beating each other out for the top spots on page one or two of Google.
Why is ranking on page one or two of Google so important?
One word: traffic.
Traffic refers to the number of visits a particular post gets.
The post in the top spot in the Google search results gets the most traffic.
The post in second place gets roughly half that traffic, and the post in third place gets about half the traffic of the second post.
Basically, anything after page two in the Google search results is getting very little, if any traffic.
Why is traffic so important?
Traffic equals income, plain and simple.
Most bloggers get money by having ads on our websites. And trust me–NOBODY likes ads. I would bet that every single food blogger (and other type of blogger) would get rid of ads on their site if they could.
But here’s the truth: I pay over $250 a month for the privilege of having an online business and offering you recipes and other resources FOR FREE.
These business expenses are such things as an email service provider, hosting, domain name purchases and renewals, online education (like learning how to do Facebook ads), website audits, SEO tool (search engine optimization), course hosting platform, etc. Many online bloggers and business owners spend much more than me.
So all that scrolling you’re doing, and all those ads you’re seeing, are helping me pay my business expenses and have a little extra left over.
And lest you think that food bloggers (and most bloggers in general) are raking in the bucks, I will tell you that I have been blogging for nearly eight years, and have just barely started making minimum wage for my efforts.
Yes, there are many super successful bloggers who make a full-time income from their blogs. But in my opinion, the vast majority of us are making a pittance in relation to the time and effort we are putting into our blogs.
What’s the difference between ranking 1 and 3 on Google?
As mentioned before, the post in the top spot in any Google search result will get the most traffic, and therefore, the most money from ads.
The post in the second spot will get roughly half the amount of traffic, and thus half the ad revenue.
The post in the third spot is getting between one third and one fourth the amount of the traffic of the post in the first spot, and therefore, one third or one fourth the amount of revenue.
(Revenue models and amounts vary between bloggers and ad networks. Please understand that what I’m stating here are just estimates based on my own research and may not accurately reflect your own experience. If you want to further explore these numbers, just go to Ubersuggest and type in any search term and hit “search.” Then click on the top search term and then look at the search volume for the posts in the top three positions.)
When I searched for term “chocolate chip cookies“, the Ubersuggest results told me that Allrecipes has the top spot and gets 136,799 monthly visits.
Sally’s Baking Addiction has the second spot and gets 72,900 visits.
Betty Crocker takes third and gets 43,785 visits.
Every time Google makes a major update to its algorithm, rankings get shaken up. If a post that was in first place falls only slightly to third place, the revenue that same post generates is now only about one-fourth of what it used to generate.
Food blogging (and blogging in general) is a very unsteady business where things out of our control are always changing. Many food bloggers are constantly changing, updating, researching, rewriting, and re-photographing their posts to keep up with all the changes constantly being thrown at us.
While many things affect rankings (such as backlinks, domain authority, etc.), making sure that you have the most helpful, thorough post is almost a necessity these days if we ever want to beat out the likes of Martha Stewart and Allrecipes.
How do I get to the recipe faster?
Still, I know that many of you would like to just get to the recipe already.
Please consider the following:
If you have landed on a post that is really long and full of a personal story that may or may not have anything to do with the recipe, consider that you may be on a really old post (from the early days of blogging), or on a site where the blogger has chosen to maintain that style of writing. Some people have very fond memories and feelings related to a particular recipe, and they are opening their heart to you by sharing their stories. Please respect that.
If you have landed on a post that is really long and full of tips and tricks and answers every question under the sun, please appreciate all the time and effort the blogger put into researching this topic for you. Most of us really DO want you to have success in making our recipes, and we go out of our way to test our recipes and give you all the information you will need to be successful. We’ve also done this to please Google so that we will have a chance to be found in the search results.
Look at the top of the post for a “jump to recipe” button. Some food bloggers use this, while others do not. If you use this button, you’re skipping a bunch of ads–which is good for you, but bad for the blogger’s bottom line. Consider just scrolling instead to help the blogger out. Those few little swipes with your thumb may be helping them buy dinner, or pay for electricity, or get school supplies for their kids.
Skip to page 3 or 4 (or beyond) in the Google search results. Nowadays, the posts on page one of Google will typically be the most thorough (i.e. longest). If you’re making a recipe for the first time and really need step-by-step instructions and all the tips and tricks you can get (like Homemade Filled Chocolates), then your best bet is a recipe from page one of Google.
If, however, you already know how to make the food, but you just need a recipe to give you specific ingredients and quantities, go ahead and skip to pages 3, 4, and beyond. You’ll still get a good recipe, but usually without as much text to scroll through. This also helps those bloggers who don’t make it onto page one of Google to get a little more traffic and income.
Remember the old days. There was a time when the internet didn’t exist. We’d have to buy recipe books, or check them out from the library, or call Aunt Fran to get a recipe we wanted. Many of us spent time poring through magazines and newspapers, cutting out recipes and putting them in recipe binders. Then we’d have to try to remember which binder the recipe was in, and look through every page of the binder to find the recipe.
All of this took WAY more time and effort than it takes now. With just a few swipes of your thumb, you can get a recipe FOR FREE! Isn’t that amazing!
Scrolling is serving. Each ad you see on a post is adding a few cents (or fractions of cents) to the blogger’s bank account. Scrolling is your tiny way of repaying them for all the effort they put into creating all of this free content for you. You can feel good about yourself for supporting an industry of super hard-working people who do what they do because they love it, and because they honestly want you to have a good dinner tonight.
Do you have friends who also hate scrolling for the recipe? Be sure to share this post with them!
Thanks for taking the time to do this information filled write-up. It’s a very interesting read to understand what is behind the scenes. Many thanks for your recipes too.
Melissa Howell says
Thanks for commenting, Tanya! I appreciate you!