This is exactly how I create new posts to ensure they are optimised for SEO, Social Media and displaying/layout on my blog (plus more). Lots of little things I specifically do which I believe add up and collectively help give my recipes the best chance possible to reach new audience and enjoyed by my existing readers!
This post is the first in an ongoing series called “Exactly What I Do (and why)” where I will share…well, exactly what I do for a particular aspect of blogging! It might sound like a strange series, but in all honesty, there is a reason behind everything that I do – or I wouldn’t do it.
So this post is the first in the series. A good place to start I thought!
EXACTLY WHAT I DO FOR EVERY POST
When I started writing down everything I for for every post I write, I realised there were lots of little things that I do for a specific reason. It might not all be completely relevant to you and your site, but I thought it could be useful to at least understand my thought process.
This post is quite long so I know “everything I do” will seem like a LOT of effort, especially if you are starting out. But honestly, once you get into the groove, it becomes second nature. I timed myself last night when I wrote the No Bowl Chocolate Nut Bar post that I published last night – starting from the moment I transferred the photos to my camera – and it was bang on 2 hours. Including editing photos and all the steps below.
So here is everything I do when I create a new post, starting with the photos I have edited (I use PhotoShop).
1. Prepare my photos
Before I start any post, I select and web optimise the photos that I want to use in the post. The reason is because I often find that I write around the photos I have so I want them in the post when I start writing. So, for example, if I want to describe the incredible sauce in a dish, I make sure the post flows so that I have a photo that “shows off” the sauce right before or after the paragraph where I describe it.
Here’s an example – for this Chinese Beef with Honey Black Pepper Sauce. (OMG seriously, the sauce is SO GOOD!)
This is what I always do for my photos. Note – I only use portrait photos on my blog (except for some step-by-step photos) because they display far better (because they are bigger) on both my blog and on social media.
- Resize the photos to 680 pixels wide which is the width of the body of posts for my theme (Foodie Theme). I do this in Photoshop.
- Then I save a web optimised file (File > Save for Web) and save them in a Dropbox Folder where I have all my food photos (so I can access them from anywhere, especially handy for doing social media wherever I am!).
- I make sure the file name contains the recipe name because it helps with SEO. I also append text and numbers to help with file identification. So for the Honey Pepper Beef photos, the file names were “Honey-Pepper-Beef_680px_1.JPEG”, or variations thereof. That’s the typical naming convention I use (because I also have full size versions of each photo).
- I create a Pinterest pin for the recipe (i.e. a long one with text). And I save that to the same folder. Here’s a post for how to How to Hide Pinterest Image Collages (Long Pins).
- I create a 600 pixel wide photo of my “hero shot” (my best shot) for the purpose of the Featured Image. This is the photo that is picked up by MailChimp when new post notifications go out and is the thumbnail in recipe indexes. I resize the photo because images in MailChimp emails can only be 600 pixels wide – any wider and they appear stretched when the email is viewed in some browsers. (See point 6 for more information).
- I create a landscape photo which I upload to the post for nicer display for Facebook sharing purposes (more details below).
- I create a square photo because that’s what I like to use for Facebook when I upload the photo onto my Facebook page and drop the URL in (as opposed clicking the Facebook sharing button from my site). The photo is larger so I feel it looks better.
Here’s a snapshot of the folder containing the photos for the Honey Pepper Beef.
2. Choose a recipe name
Usually I go with whatever name I want that best describes the dish. But sometimes I will do a bit of SEO research before settling on a name. Here’s a post on how to do that – Best Google Keywords for SEO. It does take time when you first start out, but nowadays I spend all of 3 minutes – at most – on SEO.
See below for more information on SEO keywords. It strengthens the SEO to have the keywords in the recipe name.
3. Insert the Photos and optimise for SEO and Pinterest
Before I start writing, I like to insert the photos into the post because, as I mention in #1, I like to write “around” the photos I use in the posts.
Two key things that I do for every single photo I upload to my blog (at least, I hope so!) are the following:
a) Make the photo name the recipe name – This helps with SEO. Here are the Images search results when I google “Chinese Beef with Honey and Black Pepper Sauce”. Refer to the field marked “A” in the media upload step-by-step below for how to do this.
I don’t know about you, but every single person I know who Googles for recipes pretty much always goes to the Images tab when they are searching for something in particular. Myself included. So don’t waste this opportunity!
b) Insert Alternate Text (Default Description) – This is quite important and it’s a little trick that I think really helps with Pinterest in particular. By filling in the Alternate Text field for each photo, when a reader pins your recipes, the text in the Alternate Text box appears as the default description in Pinterest.
This is really important because it gives you an opportunity to insert words to “sell” your recipe (read more about that in this post – “Sell” Your Recipes). I think it is rare for people to amend that text when they pin your recipe – I know I very rarely do.
And even more important, if you do not insert default text, then the photo name will appear in the pin description field by default. And if you have not inserted a proper recipe name, it just appears as the file name which can be something like “DSC9127.jpeg”. If that is what appears in the Pinterest pin description field, it’s meaningless – and a wasted opportunity to promote your fabulous recipe!
Also, in the Google search results above, notice how there is description text under the recipe name. That is also from the Alternate Text field for each photo.
Step by step
i) Upload your photos onto your blog. The photo Title (A) will default to the name of the JPEG file.
ii) Change the Title (A) to be the recipe name (to optimise to SEO) and change the Alt Text (B) to be your “sell” about the recipe that you want to appear as the default text in Pinterest.
PS The reason why I repeat the recipe name in the description field is because the Pinterest search is a bit clunky and it seems to me that text in the description field is picked up better than the bold recipe name that is automatically picked up by Pinterest from my blog.
If you do not add Alt Text and if you do not change the photo file name to the recipe name, this is what happens to your Pinterest pins which you do not want!! The photo file name becomes the Photo name AND it is used as the auto filled description field in Pinterest pins because the Alt Text field is left blank. Wasted opportunity!
As a friend so succinctly put it – I’d have to like someone A LOT to go to the effort of completing the pin description. So make it easy for your readers and put a meaningful default description in the Al Text field for them!
Here’s a tip for an efficient workflow – get all your photos ready and in one place. Upload them all in one go. Change the Title and Alt Text for one photo and copy that same text over to all the photos.
4. Write the post and recipe
Then I do my verbal dump and write the post. I know there is a lot of chatter about tone and content, and I think that it’s very personal. Everyone should write in the way that flows naturally rather than trying to force it. It takes time – I think it was over 6 months before I found my natural tone. So don’t stress, just be yourself. You want readers to follow you by being you, not copying the tone of other bloggers!
For my recipes, I use the Easy Recipe Plug In because I know it is SEO optimised and I like the neat, classic design. The free basic version is a good one to start with but I bet you upgrade to the paid version fairly quickly ($25 one off) because the little extras you get (including more layout designs) are very handy! For example, my readers love it when I include small step-by-step graphics within the recipe. It helps them to have it on hand when they print out the recipe. And you need the pro version to insert images.
5. Post Layout
The way I lay out posts is a personal preference though I do have logic for it. My typical post layouts go like this:
a) Short (max 3 lines) intro text above the Hero shot. It’s where I put my “sell” of the recipe. I do this to catch the attention of the reader, especially for those who are “drive through” readers, popping in from Pinterest (or wherever) to grab a recipe. Take every chance to engage with readers!
And here’s the other reason I am very specific about putting a “sell” in the first lines of each post – because it is what gets picked up by Google in the search results under the recipe name. You can see in the snippet below they are the exact same words I use for the intro text in the post snippet above.
I have always been very open that I’m not a tech guru and SEO is something that actually does baffle me. I just figured things out by trial and error. I use the YOAST SEO Plug In to ensure my posts are SEO optimised. But I can sure tell you that the “meta description” that I complete religiously for every post (see box below) which I expected to be picked up as the snippets in Google search results is NOT what is appearing in the Google search results, it’s the first lines within the post!
Here’s the YOAST SEO field for this post. You can see at the bottom the description I put in and the Snippet Preview provided which I expected to see in the Google search results. I fill out the Meta description field anyway – just in case it does start getting picked up!
b) The Hero Shot – After the introduction / “sell” text, I insert my Hero Shot. My best shot because it’s the photo people see first.
c) Few paragraphs of writing. No rules here, whatever I want!
d) Photo #2.
e) More writing and sign off.
f) Photo #3 – I like to finish with a photo before getting to more words with the recipe. I just feel it breaks up the layout of the post. That’s a personal preference.
g) Recipe (Easy Recipe plug in)
h) Nutrition table (I use caloriecount.com and insert a screen grab).
I typically only use 3 photos in a post. I’ve gotten into a routine of aiming to get 3 shots for every dish I shoot, and I feel like it’s a good number in that it is enough to show the dish in various states / angles without creating too much pressure on myself to get lots and lots of shots for every recipe. To much editing!
6. FEATURED IMAGE
Insert your Featured Image. This is the photo that will appear as the thumbnail in recipe indexes. Don’t forget to rename the photo and insert the Alt Text!
Here’s a tip for anyone who uses MailChimp for their newsletters – the default image size is 600 pixels wide. So for anyone like me using a theme that caters for wider images (I use the Foodie theme which uses 680px wide photos), make sure you resize your Featured Image photo to 600 pixels otherwise it will appear stretched in your newsletter emails in certain browsers and email apps. I had that problem for months and months – no one told me!
7. FACEBOOK PHOTO
This is a personal preference. And it is a pain. It is something I started doing recently because I’m a control freak. I invest time and effort into my photos so when someone shares a post to Facebook, I want it to look nice!
Before I started doing this, when someone clicked the Facebook share button on a post, one of 3 things would happen:
i) One of the photos (not always the Featured Image) is auto selected and cropped into landscape. Because I always use portrait photos on my blog, that means the centre cropped photo is usually not very flattering! Here is an example – and this is one of my most popular posts. See how the top of the copped up Rotolo is cropped? That’s because Facebook just centre crops the photo.
ii) An odd photo is selected, not the Featured image. Like for this recipe. Sometimes it even picks up an ad from the sidebar!
iii) The 3rd scenario is not as bad but it is not a preferred option for me. What happens is that the image is displayed as a small portrait photo, like this. While the photo doesn’t display badly per se, it is certainly NOT optimised for Facebook by having full width images.
Also, I haven’t tested how Facebook shares are displayed on different mobile devices and browsers.
So to take some control over what is shared on Facebook, what I do is upload a landscape photo for each recipe especially for the purpose of Facebook sharing.
A pain. Yes, for sure. But I’m a big believer in diversifying and while my Facebook traffic is still very small, I am committed to trying to grow it and one way to do that is to ensure my posts are optimised for Facebook sharing. So I do this extra step.
By uploading a landscape photo, this is how the image looks when it is shared from my blog.
To Upload an image for Facebook Sharing:
I use the Simple Share Buttons plug in for my social sharing buttons. At the bottom of every post, there is a Share Image field and I simply upload the landscape photo I want shared on Facebook into my Media Library then select it as the Share Image. Here’s a snippet.
This is how the photo appears using the Chinese Beef example I’m using in this post when shared to Facebook. Much happier with this rather than Facebook just auto cropping the Featured Image into landscape.
Note: Sometimes when the Facebook share button is clicked, it will show a preview like the above photo where there is a small portrait photo on the left and text on the right. But on Facebook, it will switch over to the auto landscape cropped image.
8. “READ MORE” Break
I always forget this. Always! By inserting a “Read More” break in my posts, this is how I ensure that the latest post is not displayed in its entirety at the top of my homepage. I am fairly sure that this is a Genesis specific thing, so if you don’t use Genesis as your framework then you might not have a problem.
See how there is a “Read More” button under the photo where the text is cut off? I do that by inserting the Read More break into my post where i want the preview to stop.
The “Read More” break is this button here on the WordPress toolbar. Just insert it where you want to cut off the words that display on the homepage. Note: This is only relevant to my latest post.
9. CATEGORISE AND TAGS
Don’t forget to categorise and tag your recipes! Make it easy for your readers to browse and find recipes on you site!
This might be down the bottom of this post but only because I do it last! But this is one of the most important things that you must ALWAYS remember to do for your posts – SEO Optimise them.
I use YOAST which is a plug in for WordPress for SEO Optimisation. It is as simple as choosing and inserting the SEO keywords into the YOAST SEO field which is under every post.
You can read more about choosing SEO keywords for your post in this post here: Best Google Keywords for your Recipes.
11. PROOF READ!!
I am lucky, I usually have family members available who I call upon to proof read most of the posts I do for my blog (not FBC – they aren’t interested!!). If no one is around, I come back to the post later and do a clean read.
I am really convinced that quality content that is written well makes a huge difference to make blogs stand out. I’ll be honest with you and tell you that I’ve had quite a number of comments from readers who have specifically made mention of the writing on my blog, thanking me for writing “well”.
Believe me, I have made plenty of errors though – hey, I’m only human! But I really try to make my posts as “clean” as possible.
That includes the recipes. Especially the recipes. I am extra careful to triple check typos in recipes. It gutted me when I made a major mistake and a reader had a disaster with one of my recipes. I felt so bad.
Phew! That is WAY MORE than I expected to write! Sorry for the information dump but I thought it was useful to put everything into one post. Social sharing and promoting is a whole separate post!
Just to reiterate, I know this is overwhelming, especially if you are new to blogging. But I promise you, it becomes second nature. The more posts you do, the more practice you get, the easier it becomes. Everything I’ve explained in this post I do almost mechanically nowadays!
THE KEY TAKEAWAYS
In order of priority, here are the key takeaways from this post:
1. Never forget your SEO keywords for every post.
2. Always SEO optimise your photos by changing the title to the recipe name.
3. Always add a description of your recipe in the Alt Text field for each photo.
4. PROOF READ!!
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Thanks for reading! Any questions, ask below so others can benefit from the response!
– Nagi x