Hi Blogging Friends!
Are you using a recipe plugin to format the recipes on your blog? If not, you’re missing out on some useful goodies for your website.
On the surface, recipe plugins seem to do little more than provide a decorative format for your recipes — as well as that built-in print button, which visitors love — but come with the added inconvenience of an extra step or two while creating your post.
If you’ve rejected recipe plugins because they just don’t seem worth it, I’m here today to convince you otherwise.
And my argument starts with two words: schema markup.
Google loves blogs that use schema markup. As does Pinterest (and y’all know how I loves da Pinterest). And Bing and Yahoo. And other service providers for foodies, like ZipList. All of the big food web sites, like FoodNetwork.com, Martha, AllRecipes.com, use schema markup on their recipes. It’s the cool-kid thing to do.
So, what the heck is schema markup?
Schema markup is a specialized set of HTML tags developed by Schema.org that identify parts of a website. To systems that are set-up to look for schema markup — such as Google and Pinterest — these tags provide organization and focus.
Let’s say you have a post where you talk about your weekend activities along with the day’s recipe. You’re sharing your adventures to provide connection to your readers, not because you want Google to document your family trip to the zoo. As a food blogger, you want Google to pay attention to your recipe for homemade caramel gelato, rather than the anecdote of how your kids got adorably theatrical and pretended to pass out from the smell in the monkey house.
Schema markup is one way you tell Google … and Pinterest … and Bing … that your recipe is more important to the overall jive of your blog than monkey odors. And it specifically identifies things like recipe title, photo, ingredients, instructions, prep time, and servings.
So, what exactly, are the advantages of schema markup? Here are some of my own experiences.
The Search Engines
For us food bloggers, the most important result of schema markup is that you can assign a photo to your recipe that will show in Google (and Bing and Yahoo) search results (it also shows recipe preparation time, if you’ve indicated one). Compare:
One of my recipes without schema markup (search “mini cuban sandwiches” on Google):
And one of my recipes with schema markup (search “vegetarian cobb salad” on Google):
An attractive photo gives your link a competitive edge (or, when your recipe lands next to entries from FoodNetwork.com, or AllRecipes.com, it at least levels the playing field).
You’ve probably noticed that some accounts on Pinterest display pin information differently from other accounts.
Pinterest has what are called business accounts. And once Pinterest gives you thumbs-up and you complete the sign-up, Pinterest adds extra niceties to your account, such as a check mark next to your account name to indicate trustworthiness, plus a few display extras.
Compare the two pins below. Notice how a pin from my web site includes my favicon, my site name, and the pin title is bold.
This formatting helps your pins stand out from the others.
Now, any Pinner can apply for a business account — your site does not have to contain schema markup.
Where schema markup comes into play is with “recipe pins” — if your recipes contain schema markup, Pinterest can display the ingredients from your recipe along with your pin (they do not show the directions):
Want to have a business account on Pinterest, but don’t want to display your schema marked-up recipes? Don’t worry — setting up “recipe pins” is an extra step (here) and doesn’t happen automagically with a business account. You do, however, have to have a business account before you can apply for recipe pins.
As a side note, if you run an ecommerce store, schema marked-up pins are extra cool on Pinterest: you can display not only price, but also stock status and product description directly from your store.
Last year, the folks at ZipList contacted me to become a recipe partner in their network. Food blogs that have schema markup on their recipes work seamlessly with recipe saving services like ZipList. Because most of the recipes on my site already had schema tags, I had nothing to do other than add a link to ZipList’s recipe box on my site’s navigation.
Now, not only can folks save my recipes to ZipList, but, as a partner, I also get ad revenue share from ads that are displayed on the ZipList interface when folks view my recipes in their recipe box.
Bringing It All Together: Schema Markup and Recipe plugins
Schema markup has been around for a while, but recipe plugins haven’t. In fact, I used to manually add schema tags to my recipes. I’m a coder, so HTML is second nature. But here’s what the raw HTML code looks like. See all the purple, brown and blue text? That’s schema markup (I highlighted one line in yellow so your eyes have somewhere to land):
Ugh, right? This is why blogging software goes out of its way so that bloggers never have to deal with advanced HTML if they don’t want to. If you’re not a coder, advanced HTML is ughhhgly. Folks with food blogs just want to post about the food, right?
Here’s the awesome part about recipe plugins: they do all of the coding for you.
That’s right. You don’t need to know one lick of HTML to get the benefits of schema markup on your food blog. From recipe title to recipe photo to ingredients and instructions, the plugin handles it all.
And you can enter your recipe directly into the plugin, or, as I do, type out your recipe in your post, select the full text with your mouse, hit one button in your blog admin, and done!
There are many good recipe plugins out there. I use Easy Recipe Plus (a paid version; there is also a free lite version for WordPress, called Easy Recipe). ZipList has its own plugin, and a quick search on WordPress’s plugins library show others with interesting functionality. Just make sure the one you pick that uses schema markup (sometimes called microdata).
Most of the more popular plugins have a way to convert data from one plugin to another, so you can start off using one plugin and switch to another later.
So what do you do if you have a huge collection of recipes on your site? No problem! It’s not an all-or-nothing situation. Install the plugin, then begin converting your recipes a handful at a time. Find your most highly-trafficked recipes using your stats program, and go from there. If your recipe formatting is already neat and clean, then adding it to the plugin will likely be a select-text-push-button process.
Don’t worry if Google doesn’t immediately begin using your recipe photos in search results — it might take a couple of weeks for reasons that Google doesn’t make clear. But it will happen.
That’s all for today! If you have thoughts on this weekly feature — good or bad — feel free to share them either in the comments below, or contact me directly.