Recently, I went looking around the internet for a particular recipe. I found a very common trait among all the recipe blogs I visited.
Strangely enough, the post that got me thinking about this was put on Reddit some time ago too. It was a link to a single gif:
If you’ve ever looked for recipes on the internet, chances are you’ve felt the exact same thing. You’ll search on Google, out comes a link to a recipe. You’ll open the page and expect to see the recipe. But it’s not there. The recipe is actually way down near the bottom of the page.
What fills the page is just paragraphs of useless text and pictures. The pictures are of the dish in slightly different angles. In fact, you could probably combine those pictures together and make a 3D picture because the angles are so similar.
I don’t know if anyone reads that junk at the top of the page, but I certainly don’t. But it seems to be something so common, almost everyone does it right now. I’m all for a short one-line introduction to a recipe, to give you an idea of what it is. But I certainly am not interested in reading walls of text and that provide me no information about what the recipe is.
I did a little bit of searching around and apparently, that bit of text is called a “headnote”. In fact, one blog actually had the audacity to recommend adding this crap to all recipes you produce. I’m not going to link to their page, because that would drive traffic there, and mean I support them, which I absolutely don’t.
Here’s the thing: When I look for a recipe, I’m looking for information. How do I produce this thing? I don’t care about the author. I don’t care about their life story. Simply put, I don’t care about them. I am looking for a bunch of ingredients and how to put them together to make said thing. Their life story can go on their blog so people can follow that if they care. It has no place in a recipe.
So why do people do it? There’s actually a very simple explanation for it, and surprisingly, I don’t think it’s ego. It’s something called “SEO”. “SEO” stands for “Search Engine Optimization”. As you can probably guess, Search Engine Optimization tries to optimize your website for search engines. When done properly, SEO allows search engines to more effectively index your pages. The result of this is that your website has a higher chance of not only appearing on a Google search, but also appearing higher.
Good SEO can be huge for a website. It drives traffic to that page. And if you have a page with ads, that ad revenue can quickly lead to big bucks. Of course, every search engine is different. And most search engines do not tell you how their search algorithms work to prevent abuse. An example of such abuse is a list of words at the bottom of a page that are seemingly irrelevant.
If you are interested in doing SEO for your page, you can follow Google’s SEO Guide which provides you with some guidelines on how to optimize your page. So why is this important? While it is not present on that guide, one of the things that makes page rank higher on search engines is word count. Pages below a certain word count get a penalty and will end up lower on the Google Search results. So, the recipe backstory provides a perfect way of inflating the word count without technically providing false SEO content.
And that is the reason I (and probably a lot of other people) have to suffer through this madness. In order to get viewership, recipe blog writers must include their life history in their posts. It’s a shame that such a thing exists, but that’s how it is. Personally, I think it’s a waste of time on the writer’s behalf, because I’m pretty sure no one ever reads that. But to each their own. I’m perfectly fine with skipping it.
However, if you are looking for a more automated approach, there is a Recipe Filter Chrome Add-on which you can download here. This will automatically find the recipe on a page, and display it at the top of the page so you have don’t have to sift through heaps of blabber on the page.
So what are your experiences with recipe blogs? Do you read the headnotes? What are your thoughts about them? Let me know in the comments!