Personal Recipe Blogs and their problems

I keep hearing on the various podcasts I listen to about complaints with recipe sites and how awful they are. This is a problem that needs to be solved.

The issue is that if it’s a big site like Allrecipes, Epicurious or even a food manufacturer’s site like Pillsbury, the recipe is close to the top of the page. There might be a line or two describing the food but for the most part, the recipe is right there. The only scrolling you have to do is if it’s a particularly lengthy recipe. This is good, it gets the visitor what they want super quick.

Personal recipe and cooking blogs are not that convenient. The blogs have names like “Country Cooking Victorian Mom”, “Simple Pioneer Home Woman”, “Pig Heaven: Rick’s Porktastic Quadruple Bypass Backyard Barbecue Pit Smokehouse of Bacon” and so forth. We’ve all seen them, and their recipes are usually amazing and often times better and easier than the bigger sites. However, to get to the recipe you have to scroll through nine pages or more of life story, how the recipe was discovered on a trip to Terra Del Fuego, what each of the author’s seven kids personally think of it, and what specific brands of organic fennel seed you need to make a totally different dish. Then, they will sometimes link to another seventeen page recipe for some special spice blend they’ve created that’s really just salt, pepper and coriander in equal proportions.

The problem is so bad, someone wrote an app that strips everything but the recipe out of these sites. You just paste the URL in and it finds the actual recipe and just displays that. One would think that this would be a sign that something needs to change.

I run a seldom updated how-to blog for IT problems. I understand why they do this. I found that if I put a one or two paragraph description of the problem and how it occurred, I got better hits. No description, less hits. The paragraph added information about the problem that would aid search engines pointing them to my site. Same thing with the recipe sites, the story gets users there. Google also takes headings, images and other stuff into account.

The autobiography also makes the page super long, which means more ads get displayed. I have ads on my sites, and I try to keep them to a minimum so the reading experience isn’t messed up. These cooking blogs do not seem to give two craps about how readable the page is, especially on mobile, just so long as you see the ads. The recipe is almost an afterthought.

I propose that if you run a cooking blog, keep the story text at the beginning of the page to a minimum and put your story below the recipe. The actual recipe should begin before the user has to scroll down on a 15” laptop monitor or preferably a standard iPad. Google probably doesn’t care where all that content actually is on the page, and I’m sure your readers will thank you.

This might affect ad revenue, but I kind of doubt it. A lot of people use ad-blockers or ad-reducers, so unless you have a clever site manager, you aren’t getting all the revenue anyway. I’m not so sure one of those banner ads that kind of pops up at the bottom of the page wouldn’t be better anyway at least in this context.

And for the love of Christ, make sure your blog is usable on an iPhone.

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