Best Google Keywords For Your Recipes

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Food Blogging Tips: How to find the best SEO keywords for your recipes. | Another Great Tip from Food Bloggers Central

Hey guys! So this is the FIRST official post I’m doing since the launch of the FBC website 2 days ago! Exciting!

So I thought I’d kick off with something a little different! Google and search engine indexing is a huge topic. I’m no techie and I rely on plug ins to ensure my site is SEO optimised. As for my recipes themselves, nowadays, I spend a couple of minutes doing some “Google keyword research” before settling on a recipe name and keywords.

To be honest, I stumbled upon this by accident, when my brother googled for baked wings and to his shock, a recipe of mine came up first. He googled a variation (not wanting to use one of my recipes!) and again to his shock, that same recipe came again. And again.

There are a lot of variables that impact indexing and I am by no means a tech head so I won’t cover the technical side. But what I do know, very simplistically, is this:

Site SEO Optimisation + Post / Site Popularity + Key Words

= SEO Optimisation

Let’s put aside the Site SEO Optimisation for now, because I don’t do anything other than use plug ins to ensure my site is SEO Optimised as I can make it, given my (very) limited technical capabilities (and I’ll do a separate post on what I use soon!).

Crispy Baked Wings-close-up_680px_square copy

My Crispy Baked Wings now ranks 1st or close to 1st for variations on the words “wings, oven, baked, crispy, recipe”.

In relation to post / site popularity, all it means is that all other things being equal (and I really mean all other things which is impossible in this real world!), the more traffic / visits a post has, the better it will index compared to other site with recipes using exactly the same key words.

But that’s not to say it’s impossible to appear at the top of google search results if you know how to find the best key word combinations!


1. More times a word a searched = Higher Competition.

2. Low Competition words = better chance of ranking highly in search results

3. No searches = not great (unless you plan on creating a groundbreaking new recipe and you “own”
that space :-) )

4. The more specific the words, the less competition, the higher chances of ranking highly. You need to exercise judgement to choose the balance.

5. Start small, aim high. Own your “niche” specific words, then your indexation will improve and you’ll start ranking higher for broader related search terms.


My theory is this: I would rather be first in google search results for a particular combination of keywords than buried amongst millions for yet another “Alfredo Pasta” recipe. It is tough to compete against the “power bloggers”, major food networks and recipe sites. So why not own your niche instead?

I use Google AdWords to determine how much competition there is for a particular combination of key words. The lower the competition there is, the better the chance you’ll appear higher in search results for those keywords. But I also use this tool to figure out words that people are not searching for. And the recipe I am writing up today is a great example to demonstrate how I choose my keywords for a recipe.

At this stage, it is worth noting that there is a difference between keywords for a recipe and the recipe or post name. I cover how to use these keywords towards the bottom of this post.

1. Create a Google AdWords account. It’s free.

You will need to go through the motions to set up a new ad just once and don’t worry, you can delete it immediately after setting it up so you don’t actually have to pay anything! Just insert random details into the fields to create a new campaign (and yes, you do need to provide payment details), but then as soon as it is set up, you will land on the dashboard and you just need to delete (or pause) the ad.

I know people aren’t comfortable providing payment details for random sites…but I figure a) it’s Google b) it’s worth it for the usefulness of this tool. :-)

Note: When I set up my account, I didn’t have to provide billing details. I know this because I keep getting a red flag saying my account isn’t active! So perhaps see if you can delete your payment details after setting up the account.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 8.13.47 am

2. Keyword Planner – open the Keyword Planner, under Tools.

Google Keywords 1

3. Click on Search for new keywords and ad group ideas

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 8.20.47 pm

4.  Keyword Search – the new recipe I’m writing up is a greek chicken and rice made in one pot.

A) Type in my idea for keywords

B) Type in your blog URL (I am not 100% sure this is required, I just do it just in case!)

C) Change product category to Food (I don’t do sub categories)

D) Change your target countries and language, if applicable

E) Change keyword options to “Only show closely related ideas”

F) Hit Ideas

Google Keywords_2

Google Keywords 3

5. ZERO Search Results! Which means NO ONE is searching that combination of key words! Or at least, not enough for Google to pick up. So it’s back to the drawing board. I retype in new keywords in the box I’ve outlined in red.

Google Keywords_4

6. Irrelevant keywords – so next, I try “greek chicken rice”. The search results show that those words are searched an average of 620 times per month. And when I drilled down  i.e. clicked on Greek Soup, it showed me that the words “greek chicken rice” are searched with the word “soup”.

In the context of my particular recipe, which is not a soup, that is no good to find out that the majority of times the words “greek chicken rice” are searched is for soup!

So again, I search another keyword combination.

Google Keywords_5

Google Keywords_6

7. Drilling Down and Choosing the Words – so the next combination I try is just “greek chicken”. And I knew there would be a lot more searches! But I was pretty happy to see that the competition is still LOW. The words “greek chicken” were searched 58,000 times in March 2015. I’d be pretty happy if my recipe ranked first for all those searches! :-)

Now I could choose to stop here and use “greek chicken” as my key words. OR I can increase my chances of a higher ranking by making my words more specific.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 9.08.19 pm

To make the words mores specific, just open up some of the Ad groups (leftmost column) to see the kind of words people are search in conjunction with the words “greek chicken”. I opened up the “Greek Recipes” Ad group and here, you can see that people are searching the words “greek chicken recipe” 2,900 a month.

Adding the word “recipe” makes the keywords more specific and reduces the search numbers quite a bit. I do a quick scan of other Ad groups as well and note the same thing.

This is where you need to exercise some judgement. I could choose to go with more specific words and reduce the search frequency and increase the odds of ranking higher, faster. But I am pretty happy with the LOW competition of the search terms “greek chicken” so I settle on that.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 9.25.55 pm


I use Keyword Planner to help me decide on the best words for a recipe I have already created. You could also use it to figure out low competition search words to determine what recipes to make! Though I would urge you to use this with caution – don’t let AdWords rule you!

For example, the word “pasta” was searched 2.3 million times last month. But the words “italian sausage pasta” were only search 2,400 times. That number might not rock your boat. But if you have an iron-fist hold on the entire Italian Sausage Pasta market (and what a market to rule! :-) ), you will start indexing higher for all related combinations – like “sausage pasta” (search 8,100 times) and “sausage pasta recipe” (searched 5,400 times) and so on. There’s an avalanche effect! It happened for me with my Truly Crispy Oven Baked Wings. :-)

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 9.35.08 pm

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The keywords I want to use for a recipe may not be the best to use as the recipe name. To improve indexing strength, I do like to try to ensure that the keywords are in the recipe name as well, which usually occurs naturally anyway.

For the recipe I’m using as an example, my One Pot Greek Chicken & Lemon Rice, the keywords I chose to use – “greek chicken” – are already in the recipe name. If it wasn’t, I would have added it.

The other place I add the keywords is in the SEO section of the recipe. I use WordPress SEO by Yoast which is free and by far the industry leader for WordPress SEO optimisation. Once you install that plugin, you will have this box at the bottom of every recipe. Then all I do is insert the keywords I selected into the Focus Keyword box and ensure those keywords are in the recipe name, page URL, in the content itself and in the meta description (which I also complete in the box below – the description that appears in search results). The plug in even provides a useful little check list to make sure you’ve got the keywords in all those places (the green “YES” under the Focus Keyword box).

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 9.44.47 pm


Phew! Are you daunted? Trust me, after you’ve done it a few times, it becomes second nature. And even if you don’t use Google Keywords, you could just take 5 seconds to open a new tab, and Google the recipe name you’re about to use and you’ll bet an indication of what you’re up against. :-)

I’ll be honest, I don’t always use it. In fact, I usually only use it for things I invent from scratch that I know aren’t common. If I didn’t do it, no one would find my crazy inventions!

Remember to ask yourself this:

Is it better to rank at the top of search results for a lesser searched recipe, or lost amongst millions for a highly searched recipe?

I choose to go with the former. :-)

It’s only fair to share…

If you found this useful, share it with your friends!

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The Food Photography Book by Nagi from RecipeTin Eats


  1. says

    Hello Nagi, this is such great content for me, I am new to blogging and trying to figure out what focus word to use in a recipe post. However, I got a little lost, is it possible Ad Words updated their site for doing the keyword planner? When I click on keyword planner, it only gives me the option to provide a keyword idea, there aren’t the options you indicated above, so I’m a bit lost. Any information you could provide woudl be helpful. Thank you!

  2. says

    This post is now largely irrelevant because Google has completely changed the keyword planner. You cant even search for a keyword or search volumes as of today :( I have used the tips in this post with much success earlier and I came over to check if any updates were made here on how do we plan keywords now, with Google pulling away the service

  3. says

    So I have been using this method for almost a year now, and I’m sorry to say that it seems Google AdWords has changed the game. You can no longer see specifics for each keyword, just general details (and by “general” I mean it will say “1000-100K searches” which is completely unhelpful). The only way you can see specifics is if you set up and run an actual Google Adwords ad it looks like. With this change, do you have any tips for getting around this and using the resource still without having to pay, or do you know of any similar sites that may offer this type of data? I’m super bummed about this – I used Google AdWords for every post after I read this SEO post :(

  4. says

    Hi Nagi,

    Great article. Just wanted to give you a teeny heads up though on this post. It’s not 100% accurate with the “competition” ranking…I thought this forever and was so frustrated with it! The reason being what google is showing you the competition for in this tool is not how competitive it is to rank for this keyword but rather how competitive it would be to rank for buying an ad for this keyword. There is a HUGE difference.

    Not very many people are going to pay to put an ad up for greek chicken….thus the keyword competition for a google adwords ad is quite low. That being said the phrase greek chicken generates 83,400,000 results in google for the search. I can see that you have managed to rank for the phrase which is awesome but just wanted to give a little insight in case you see that it’s not 100% accurate for you or your readers all the time.

    There are paid keyword tools that will attempt to do a better job at this and I have a few friends who use them but I’ve yet to find a really accurate way to do this. The biggest thing I have seen is to pick keywords that have good traffic to them but generally not the most #1 most popular term (though sometimes that really does work like you have shown!), optimize post and then grow your popularity. You obviously do a great job at all of those which is why this is working for you…but a new blogger no matter how well optimized their post is will not rank for even moderately competitive keywords.

    The key is to lay the foundation of properly SEO optimized posts so that when google establishes you as an authority it knows what posts to bump you up to the top with.

  5. says

    Hi there! This is my first time on your site and I stumbled across this post and love it. Such a clear and easy to follow outline of how to use the Adwords Keyword tool! One question though, is there a reason you use the “Ad Group Ideas” tab instead of the “Keyword Ideas” tab next to it? I always use the Keyword Ideas and pretty much ignore the ad group tab. Maybe I’m missing something! =)

  6. says

    Having our morning coffee together again, discussing how I need to change my site’s SEO info. Love this article. :) I would also like to read a good (in a nutshell) article about how to use YOAST for WP. I installed it but I’m not really sure I have it set up the best. For example, within my posts it always says about my SEO title, Warning: Title display in Google is limited to a fixed width, yours is too long. Some how it always adds the name of my web site to this part after my title and I for the life of my can’t figure out how to get it to stop adding this so I can create a longer title with more key words. Or, do I want my blog title in every recipe title? Anyway, a post that helps me understand how to use YOAST better would be great.

    • Nagi says

      Glad you found this useful! I don’t use YOAST other than as described in this post, and I find my recipes index pretty well :) I’ll add YOAST to the (lengthy) list of post requests. :)

  7. says

    Oh wow Nagi, I didn’t realise FBC was a website, too! I thought t was just a Facebook group. How do you manage to do so much, lady? Oh my goodness, you’re talking about SEO and I think I understand! I am going to start tomorrow!

  8. says

    Nagi, how important is it to have the exact phrasing of keywords in your post title? For instance, I have a post titled Butternut Mac. After a little playing around with the adwords tool, it looks like I would be better off using ‘butternut squash mac and cheese’ for my keywords. I don’t want to change my title though. Is that a problem??

    • Nagi says

      Hi Jen! YOAST recommends having the keywords in the title and URL, they say it is stronger. But I don’t do that all the time. It simply isn’t practical for food bloggers. Instead, I make sure I repeat the keywords in the description box (under the keywords box) and to use the words within the post AND within the recipe itself (because the recipe is SEO friendly too, if you are using Easy Recipes plug in). Hope that helps!

    • Nagi says

      Low search volumes IS good for ranking higher faster! What you need to do is ask yourself whether 9 searches a month is enough for you as a starting off point. Then as you index better, Google (should) pick up more words in the URL and recipe name. :)

  9. says

    This is the first article on SEO I’ve ever read where my eyes didn’t glaze over after about 5 seconds. I’ve never been able to figure it out and thought just having Yoast SEO was enough!
    So helpful, Nagi. You’ve also made me realise that I’ve been filling the ‘Focus Key Word’ box in totally wrong!! I’ve just been copying the post title in there. Oh my goodness, seems totally obvious that that was wrong now.
    Do you think I should go back through my posts and change them all? I suspose that will take effect retrospectively? :-)

  10. says

    The other day I was reading this, I was totally blew away. I read it carefully again today, and I’m starting a project to change all my focused key word for my older posts this week. Will let you know how it goes and hopefully I will see some growth of search traffic in the following weeks :)

  11. says

    This is really great info! I’ve been a food blogger for a year and while I have a large following, I’ve been trying to figure out the Google search. This is very helpful and I will be taking a stab at it for my next recipe post. One question I have for you. Do you add the word “recipe” to the end of your blog post? I’ve read that you should, but I never do.

    • Nagi says

      Hi Megan! I actually just responded to this same question from Meggan! Have a read of the thread below about this – it’s a good question! :)

  12. says

    Hi Nagi,

    Thank you so much for this great information! I have already learned so much from this website and Facebook group!

    I have always wondered something about SEO and keywords. Sometimes the best keywords are not exactly the same as my recipe and post titles. Then, the Yoast plug in will alert me to correct it, and I always do.

    For example, I have a recipe and and blog post titled Peach Pie Smoothie. Adsense keywords indicates that the words ‘peach smoothie’ are best. When I type peach smoothie into the Yoast focus keyword box, it alerts me that the keywords don’t match since I didn’t include the word pie.

    So, in your opinion, is it ok to leave the Yoast recipe SEO unoptimized in order to have better Google keywords?

  13. says

    I have pretty good luck ranking in Google … but it’s just luck. I’ll investigate this plug in to see if it’s something that could help me (probably can!)
    Thanks for sharing your tips!

  14. says

    This is brilliant Nagi – thank you! Question – does it hurt if you add more keywords and are you supposed to add keywords separate and together like “Greek, “Chicken” and then also add “Greek chicken.” ?? Thank you!

    • Nagi says

      Hi Jen! Sorry, I don’t know the answer to that question. From what I have seen with my wings though, which indexed really well, it’s picking up on any combination of the keywords I selected as well as words in the title and URL :) So I don’t think repeating with an without a comma is necessary. I’ve wondered the same thing with FoodGawker tags and the like :)

  15. says

    I love that you went through the steps with a “real” recipe – helps me understand it SO much better. I’ve heard of using AdWords for keywords before, but once I got there and couldn’t really figure out how to improve the keyword I’d already chosen. Now I know what to look for 😀

    • Nagi says

      No worries! It really does make a difference, I am pretty shocked how well some of my recipes rank, and they are some of my all time most popular recipes :)

    • Nagi says

      Thanks Marissa! Honestly, you hit the nail on the head, maybe I should do a post about taking the plunge and doing just ONE post and working through it step by step to make the most of it (including keywords, social media etc) instead of doing 2 or 3 which most people seem to do. Is that too bullish?

    • Nagi says

      According to YOAST, SEO is optimised if the keywords are in the URL of the post AND name of the post (and in the keywords box + meta description + SEO description box! All those items in the SEO screenshot image I provide at the bottom of the post) :)

    • Nagi says

      Honestly Allie, I have a handful of recipes that rank 1st on most word combinations and it’s been a major contributor to traffic. Think of it this way – if there are VERY specific keywords that are searched only 5,000 times a month, it will be easy for a blog of your size to rank 1st almost immediately, especially with your social media reach. 5,000 times isn’t much….but if you post twice a week, 8 times a month, you will have 8 x 5,000 = 40,000 searches each month which you rank first for. Do this for a year and you have 4.8 million searches EVERY MONTH that you rank first for. And BOOM! 😉 I like this way of looking at this. I’m going to put it on FBC!!

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