Ashley Segura (00:03:03):
Well, as everyone’s tuning in, we have a lot of new who have been joining us and watching the past few webinars. So wanted to take a minute and actually introduce who we all are and what our background is. So Arsen, if you can kick us off, share what it is you do and how you got into the SEO world.
Wait, you want me to say that?
Ashley Segura (00:03:24):
Well, no, I’m not going to say that, but I’m Arsen, founder of TopHatRank. We’re an SEO company out of Los Angeles, we’ve been doing SEO for 12 years now and we work with a lot of bloggers.
Ashley Segura (00:03:40):
Awesome. Short, sweet.
Short and sweet, take it.
Ashley Segura (00:03:43):
Andrew, what about you? How’d you get into the SEO industry and what exactly does NerdPress do?
Hi, I’m Andrew, I’m the founder and CEO of NerdPress. And we are an agency that provides website support and maintenance. 95% of our clients, I think are food bloggers, so best clients ever, as you all know. I got into it because I started a food blog as part of a career change for myself in 2010. I started my food site and then when other bloggers found out I knew what I was talking about with the tech stuff, people swarmed me, and asked for help. And within a couple of years I was spending a lot more time on that than on my blog and started doing a lot of maintenance and other security and support type things and then started some ongoing support subscriptions. And then in 2017 I hired Sergio, he was our first hire and we are now 13 people all across the United States in, I think, 10 different states. And we’re supporting almost 700 websites, I think it is.
Last couple years have been busy. So many of you, I think on the call are clients of ours or hopefully will be soon, and we love working with you.
Ashley Segura (00:04:50):
And Casey, what’s your story?
It’s a long arduous tell involving searches for rings and triggets, but no, my name is Casey Markee, I’m the owner of a consultancy called MediaWyse. I’ve been doing SEO for like two plus decades in the time of Hotfrog and Excite, and Dogpile, good times. Used to work with everything from magnetic mattresses to selling it, to marketing off short casinos in Cyprus. I’ve been working with food blogger since about 2015. I’m very, very fortunate to have worked with, well, several thousand sites, many of you on the call, so thanks for that. I like long walks to the refrigerator and back, and I believe that bacon and candy corn are gourmet foods, so that’s it in a nutshell.
Ashley Segura (00:05:46):
Perfect. And he’s very serious about the candy corn.
Thank you, very serious about the candy corn, underrepresented. It’s literally, we’re talking about it’s discriminated against, it should a candy corn support group, so that should be.
Ashley Segura (00:06:00):
The next site to come out. Well, and I’m everyone’s favorite host, Ashley Segura. I’m the VP of ops over at TopHatRank with Arsen. And we are also, I guess, partners co-founding in TopHat content and TopHat social content.
Ashley Segura (00:06:16):
Ashley Segura (00:06:19):
The terminology business professional corporate business words insert here.
Right, right, co-founders, we’re co-founders, co-creators.
Ashley Segura (00:06:29):
Co-creators 2022, I like that one better. Got into the industry from journalism and then switched over into social. And then that very organically went into content and have been doing that since 2012. So that is us in a nutshell, that is your blogger’s crew. And now we are going to get started talking about so many things, categories, roundups, and a very big word that has taxes in it, taxonomies.
Ashley Segura (00:06:59):
Yay, it’s going to be great.
Are you going to do this more? There’s going to be more of this joke?
Ashley Segura (00:07:04):
Yes. That’s text jokes.
At least three times. I saw that she’s put in the script.
If I could, I would hang up right now literally.
Ashley Segura (00:07:12):
Please do hold on, it will get. A couple of housekeeping things. Before we dive into the questions about categories, roundups and taxonomies, Casey, you had a Google analytics update you wanted to share?
I do. Google has released a little notification and update on their embracing of Google analytics for, it’s something that they’ve been pushing since 2019, so it is time for most bloggers to get that on their radar. They’ve basically said that they plan to sunset the existing universal analytics as of July 2023. So we still have a little bit of time, but it is something that all bloggers on the call need to be aware of. I’m going to go ahead and paste over the announcement from Google really quick. Here, you can take a look at that.
And I also want to go ahead and give you a tutorial here so that if you decide that you want to go in and set up Google analytics, it’s relatively pain free to do, the best advice is to run Google analytics for in parallel to your Google universal analytics right now, so that we still have access to both profiles and data. If you have any questions on this, definitely submit a question for us, we’re happy to answer that. Or if you have a support arrangement with someone other than Andrew, then they can certainly help you do that, setting that up because he doesn’t want to be inundated with all these requests set up, I totally get that. But I know Arsen loves it. So definitely feel free to bother him and pester him about that. But here’s a guide that’ll help you get through that, so definitely put that on your radar. As you enter the second quarter of 2022.
Ashley Segura (00:08:51):
And, Andrew, you wanted to drop a note about the mobile friendly update.
Yeah. So we’ve been some issues with Google’s mobile friendly testing tool where pages that should be mobile friendly are being flagged as not mobile friendly. And we’re not sure what the problem is, but I think it’s a technical one on Google’s end. So if you use the mobile friendly test tool and it says something’s not mobile friendly, try it again. I’ll send you a link if you haven’t been using it. And this is the same technology that’s in Google Search console. So if it flags something as not mobile friendly and search console under the hood, it’s all using the same stuff.
But we are seeing intermittent problems where basically the style sheets don’t load from the testing tool. And so the page doesn’t render properly and so it doesn’t look mobile friendly. We’ve been digging into this, I’ve been working with Lindsay Humes and she’s been testing stuff, I’ve been testing stuff and it’s just intermittent. And we’re not sure if it’s impacting rankings yet or not. It may just be a quirk of the tool, but it may also be that Google doesn’t think your site’s mobile friendly, which can of course impact your rankings. We’ve been in contact with Google, we met some folks at the TasteMaker conference and I’ve been talking to them, but so far we haven’t heard back on a definitive thing.
So TBD on this, but I wanted everybody to know I think it’s a technical problem. We have noticed it tends to be worse for sites that are using AdThrive ads. AdThrive does tend to load all lot more resources on the page than Mediavine does and that may be related, we’re not sure because it’s intermittent, it’s hard to tell. So anyway, I just wanted to mention it. So don’t freak out if you keep getting those things and maybe a technical problem, and hopefully we’re going to get to the right people at Google and get this actually fixed.
Ashley Segura (00:10:33):
Thank you, guys, both for those updates. So we’re going to dive in, if you have any questions throughout this entire webinar, please put them in the Q and A section that’s separate from the chat box. If you look on the bottom of your Zoom screen under the More buttons, there’s a thing that says Q and A click on that. You can put your question any time throughout the webinar, and even if we’re not able to get it in the open Q and A at the end, all of the panelists review the questions and they do go one by one and make sure that they’re answered and that’s published in the recap a week afterwards. So if you have any questions throughout, instead of putting them in chat, make sure you put them in the Q and A and that way they will for sure be addressed. So let’s first stop start talking about roundup post. Casey, can you share what a roundup post is and what the makeup of say a quality, a really good roundup post would look like?
Absolutely. A roundup is a collection of awesome content in a particular industry or topic area in the recipe niche, if that means select recipes organized around cuisine, holiday or topic. A good example would be if you were to go into Google right now and type in whole 30 chicken recipes, you’ll find that the dominant result return by Google are roundups and you’ll see that in many of the first several pages. I’m going to go ahead and paste in some examples into the chat for everyone to review. Some of the people behind these roundups are on the call, so thank you for that, you can always pester them for questions later.
But you can see that a roundup can be done very many different ways. You can have what’s called item list schema, which is a way to communicate to Google that this is a collection of content from the same site, including item list schema has some SEO benefits because it triggers Google possibly to serve that content in a carousel or a specific featured rich snippet basically at the top of the post, sometimes. You’ll find that the triggered carousel round ups are not as prominent as they are as they used to be, but they still exist. So these are good examples to review.
When we’re putting a roundup together our goal is to be complete. The days of just listing 50 recipes in a post and having no conclusion or no introductory paragraph, or at least telling someone why you’re chosen those items, that’s kind of over, those posts don’t tend to perform as well. So our goal for doing a roundup is to show why we chose these roundup items. I chose these 10 items because blah, blah, blah, blah. And you just go in and you tell why you’re choosing each of these items whenever you can. Now we’ve tested this personally over the last 18 and specifically.
And we found that, although it used to be that people wanted to do longer roundups, because as you can imagine, ad companies love that, so you could stuff them more with ads, we find that longer roundups, do not tend to perform as well as shorter roundups, they just don’t people off. So if you’re going to put together something that you would like to be shared widely and that you think is going to result in regular remedial traffic to you, maybe a 40, a 50 or a 100 item roundup is not the way to go, maybe 15, 20, maybe 30 at the most, but try to be succinct and be as detailed as you can.
Ashley Segura (00:13:49):
Perfect. And we’re going to dive into more about the content and structure to kind of expand on what Casey just pointed out. Arsen when it comes around at post, does Google treat them differently than a normal blog post? Are there specific ways that you need to optimize them versus just a standard, say recipe blog post?
Yeah. Google definitely treats them differently. So the first thing I’m going to say is that Google will select content type that best fits what it assumes, but Google assumes the intent behind the query. So think like plural versus singular, so vegan breakfast recipes, plural, so Google, most of the time, it doesn’t happen all the time, but most of the time will treat that as intent for someone to find or check out multiple recipes. They’re not refining their query, they’re not saying specifically what they’re looking for. So the best type of result most likely will be a roundup for that, because Google wants to make sure that the user will find what they’re looking for.
It’s not always the case. Sometimes you’ll have both a roundup posts and individual recipe posts. And Google is really good at understanding the difference between the two types of posts based on a few factors. One of them is schema, so you have recipe markup on an individual recipe post, and most of the time have done properly roundup post will have a list items came on them. So Google does a really good job at surfacing content that it feels will satisfy the user intent best.
Ashley Segura (00:15:29):
That makes sense. Andrew, is there a specific time or strategy that you have, or that you would recommend when it comes to publishing theme roundups? So say there’s a holiday roundup St. Patty’s.
So Patrick’s day roundup.
Ashley Segura (00:15:42):
Yeah, exactly, exactly. Should it be the week of St. Patty’s, the month before? Does it depend on the holiday? Is there kind of a rule to follow there?
I think it’s the same as any related content. If you’re going to post something that people need a lot of time to prepare, you might get it up there a little bit earlier. I think we talked about this in episode or two back where Google used to need weeks and weeks to index stuff. Now it’ll come in really quickly, so you don’t need that same long lead time, but you do need to… So it’s more about thinking about when it should be published your readers rather than giving Google that time to populate the search results. So for St. Patrick’s Day recipes doing at the beginning of February is probably a little early because nobody’s thinking about it yet. So early, early March might be a good time, for example.
Ashley Segura (00:16:27):
That makes sense. So per your usual response, what’s relevant to the user would fit here then?
Hey, what do you know?
Ashley Segura (00:16:35):
Casey, what other inbound content vehicles would work in their recipe and lifestyle niche?
Well, that’s a good question. And I’m provided a cross section of several of them today for you to review. For example, I’ve gone through a list of some recent clients and past clients and pulled out some of their better options here. And when we’re talking about recipe content, it runs the gamut. We could do a very detailed post on how to write a recipe roundup, which is what a very relatively new blogger her name is Zen from greedy girl gourmet has done here. And if you were to type in how to write a recipe roundup, you’ll see that she ranks the top of Google for.
So again, it’s very possible to rank, even if you’re a smaller blogger with not much authority or back links, for pretty good queries. You also have a lot of things like established options, like how to test yeast. This is a great example from Jessica in the kitchen, where she ranks for over 1,000 related keywords. And I’m going to go ahead and paste that over. Whenever you can think of something that you have expertise in, whether it’s a technique, maybe it’s a related topic, maybe it’s a refinement of something that you’re a noted authority on, that will help. You could also do something like fruits that start with various letters.
This is a great example from African Bites. She has fruits that start with H which is hilarious because I see this all the time. She has dozens of these that bring in tens of thousands of clicks every month, or maybe you’re an old school blogger that just has a PDF that is really blown up. Here is Brown-eyed Baker, she has a fantastic PDF that ranks the top of Google for how to measure butter. I’m pacing that over there as well. So this is something that she’s done nothing with, as you can see, it was uploaded in 2010, and to this day it is one of her top posts. So there’s lots of various options here, you can even look at conversions, US cups to ounces and grams is very popular, here’s ones from Aaron’s Kitchen.
So as you can see here, lots of different options with regards to food and lifestyle bloggers that you can focus in on your goal is to do a little bit of keyword research. Find out maybe some untapped options in your niche, maybe you survey your audience, maybe you start with looking through the questions that are being calculated in your analytics or your search console and seeing if there’s any way that you can put together a resource to answer those questions. But there is plenty of opportunity out there for every blogger on the call to provide non-recipe content that will not only generate traffic, but excel and be very popular long term.
Ashley Segura (00:19:15):
Kind of to dive a little bit deeper on what you’re saying, Casey, the example with the cups to ounces and grams is such a great example, but how would a blogger know necessarily that it would make sense for them to do that? Even though clearly here’s an example of one that’s published and is doing really great. So when would it make sense for another blogger to be like, “I need to put up something like this on my blog because my audience is missing out on this and maybe isn’t seen it from them.” How would a blogger correlate that this is a right move for them?
Well, you’d be looking specifically at what your existing traffic is. You know, for example, in Aaron’s case, she probably win into search console and realized that a lot of people were asking for conversions or maybe she surveyed her audience. And I do recommend that bloggers, especially on the call today, survey their audience at least twice a year. I usually recommend that you do a very big blog survey in the first quarter of the year and you do another even more detailed survey before the last quarter of the year, because the audiences during that of time changed dramatically. And that way you can pull in some data and find out what users are recommended, what they’re interested in, find any possible needs that you can address. But it really is for you to do the market research, I mean, we can do content brainstorming until the cows come home, but it’s going to be hard for you to unseat someone who’s already got an established resource that’s already ranking in the top three or five for most of the queries that I shared today.
Ashley Segura (00:20:41):
Okay. That makes sense, thanks for clarifying. Arsen. What percent of content should actually be focused on roundup posts?
But there’s no one specific number that you should follow, there’s no magic formula or percentage for how many roundup posts versus regular posts. There’s a few things you can do to determine what needs to be done if you need to create roundups, optimize your categories, do a better job at taxonomy, creating those actual category names. You need to pay attention to how your keywords are performing. So if you’re tracking your keywords and you see that certain keywords are slipping for certain posts, take a look at the result page, see that Google change its understanding of the query.
Is it now surfacing results that show multiple items instead of an individual recipe? And that’s the case, then that’s your kind of cue to create a roundup to support that query, if you still want to continue ranking for that, and obviously, if it makes sense, if there’s search volume. The second thing is you want to keep in mind again, when you’re doing your keyword research, if you’re not monitoring your keywords or you’re just considering what you’re going to create, you need to do essentially intent focused keyword or topic research. Again, and that’s simple stuff, you identify your keywords.
You try to add plural recipes at the end, you go to Google, you check just what kind of results Google is surfacing for those queries, then you take it back to whatever keyword research tool you have. If there’s search volume and everything is aligning. So Google is surfacing results that show multiple recipes, there’s search volume and you have enough content to create a roundup or create the category, then that’s your green light to create one.
Ashley Segura (00:22:31):
Okay. You just said something with content, Casey, let’s dive into that a little bit more, having enough content. So what makes a post roundup? How much content, how many posts or other recipes do you need to have in order to classify it as all right, this is enough to call it a roundup?”
Andrew and I were joking about this. I would say two, three, it’s hard, there is no specific number. I would say that based upon what we’ve seen in the wild and what we’ve seen perform successfully, I do believe the days of having these incredibly long roundups which are 50, 75, 100 plus, that’s over, no one wants to Wade through all that content. Now you’re going to hear people say, “Longer is always better because you’re going to get increased well time and time on side and think of all the ads that you can push in there.” No, people will abandon the page before they’re even scrolled down 20% of it and more than they’ll just be cost to you.
So I’m not a believer that we should ever write to a word count, that we should ever write for a specific limit. We want to have quality content, you can absolutely have a very successful roundup with 10 high quality examples. You provide the in embeds, you provide a nice photo of the dish and you talk very quickly about why you’re recommending this. That’s great, you can have a very successful post with just 10 items. Maybe you have a larger roundup that features external recipes from other sites, that’s fine. Maybe around Christmas, we do top 20 appetizers for your holiday party, something like that.
We just don’t need to do the 50, the 60, the other crazy stuff. I think you’re going to still see those a lot on the bigger sites like MSN and others, and that’s fine. They’re there to drive page views and link related content, but for the average food blogger, that’s just not going to be successful.
I do want to chime in quickly. So I completely agree with Casey about not overwhelming the user with information, at the same time, again, and you’ll hear me repeat this over and over, this is just like, it depends, but just for this webinar, look at Google first. Because if you look at like chicken dinner recipes, you’ll see that the first few results are 90, 100 they’re 63 plus. So it’s not always the best scenario, I would say 90% of the time it’s not, but you want to look at Google, you want to see.
Also what we’ve noticed, not specifically with these, but with other clients, e-commerce and all that, sometimes the number that they put in the title does not line up with what’s actually on the page. So we’ll do 73 plus shoes for women. And then you go to the page, there’s only 20, so it’s just playing with those titles. But definitely again, look at their search result, because again, it’s a machine learning process, the machine needs to learn from somewhere. Google is essentially, sorting around these results, telling you what it’s referencing, what it’s preferring. So there’s not one standard best practice that can be applied across all queries.
Yeah. And that’s very important. I think you ever hear any SEO saying, “You’ve got to have 50 plus or 75.” I wouldn’t walk, I would run in the opposite direction, that’s not how quality content works and that’s not how quality roundups work. So an FYI.
Can I throw in a think of your reader? I mean the whole thing about these roundups is you are a trusted resource curating content for your readers. You’re not building this to game SEO, which is of course the approach we’re talking about here. I mean, you are supposed to be providing something of value for your reader. So if you are an expert in recipes, you’re going to pick 20 chicken recipes that are really good. You’ve vetted these recipes, people trust you to give them good advice. And so that’s the point of roundup, it’s not just a game of the system. And also keep in mind, if you don’t do a good job of it, people are going to click through and then they’re going to hit the back button, which isn’t any good either. So once again, think of your readers, please.
Quality over quantity, always.
And you don’t want to overwhelm people. It’s better to give them like 15 really good recipes than yogurt recipe.
You’re guiding their experience that way.
As Amy says 10 best potato soup recipes, it’s got Arsen written all over. I mean, there’s no reason.
There could be only one.
There might be only one good recipe in that 10, why make him leaf through these other 40 non-sped optionistic options, so terrible.
Thank you, Amy. Thanks for thinking of me.
Ashley Segura (00:27:11):
Arsen, to wrap up on the roundup portion of this, have you ever seen any instances to where a roundup post will actually compete with an original blog post and instead of helping actually hurts traffic?
Okay, so there’s competition where there’s like confusion where Google’s like, “Which page is the best one? And then there’s competition where both pages are ranking, and I’ve seen that happen even though very rarely Google has said that it will try its best to not show two results from the same domain on page one for some of these queries, but in recipes and some of those queries, well recipe and I think travel also, I’ve seen this happen, I do see where Google is not clear on the intent behind the query and it’s giving you more of a kitchen sink result where it’s mixing things up.
So it’s giving you like people also searched for there’s some videos, there’s a few roundups, there’s individual recipes. And I’ve seen a roundup or a category plus an individual post rank there again, this usually doesn’t stick around. And again, it depends on query popularity, if it’s a very low demand query, then probably it will stick around because there’s not enough activity for Google to do the shuffle for queries that are more in demand, more popular queries. It’s not ever green strategy, it’s not a long term strategy. At one point, Google will solidify on its understanding of what the intent behind the query is.
And it will say, “These are the type of do documents or content types that I will show.” So if you’re doing your reviews and I think Casey did a very good job at showing how to look at this on our Google Search console webinar. When you look at your performance inside of search console and you see that your rankings are jumping up and down, and then you look at which pages are ranking during those moves up and down and you’ll see the Google is either selecting your roundup or your individual recipe, not both, one after the other, and it’s constantly moving up and down. That’s the kind of competition that you want to fix, you want to adjust specifically for that.
Ashley Segura (00:29:35):
Andrew, going into taxonomies and going to make the great joke, it’s tax season, so let’s dive into taxonomies.
Is anybody able to mute Ashley?
Ashley Segura (00:29:49):
You can’t mute the host, it’s not possible.
I thought I deleted this out of the notes, you did.
Ashley Segura (00:29:56):
It’s in here.
Ashley Segura (00:29:59):
I’ve been waiting to use it all day.
We’re doomed. Look at the attendee number is just dropping off right now, people are literally hanging up.
Ashley Segura (00:30:06):
Sorry, it’ll get better. Please stick around.
Ashley Segura (00:30:11):
Other than filing for April on April 18th, Andrew, what should bloggers know about taxonomies and what are they?
Thanks for that, great question. So taxonomy is kind of a scary word to a lot of people and it’s really not that complicated. And I actually pulled it up on Wikipedia, I was curious to see their definition. And taxonomy is just the practice and science of categorization or classification. So it’s basically just organizing information. Some of you might remember from high school Aristotle when they started taxonomy. I was going to paste the link to Wikipedia in case you’re interested to learn more. So basically taxonomy is just organizing the information on your site.
Ashley Segura (00:30:54):
Simple, love it. So diving deeper into the organization part. Arsen, when you do information architecture audits over at top by rank, is there a common issue that you see bloggers do when trying to figure out the proper organization? Especially compared to like different types of client, like e-commerce, whatnot, is there a pattern that you see with bloggers in particular when they’re organizing their content?
Right. So the first thing I’m going to say is we’re still seeing a lot of tag pages that are open for indexing, thousands. I talked to a blogger yesterday who had 200 something posts and 3,800 tag pages. So that’s the first major thing. Look, you got to get rid of these tag page ages, we’ve been saying this, we’ve been hammering this for two plus years now and I think we bring this up on every single webinar. But as far as taxonomies or categories, so let’s call this category, your recipe categories. What I’m noticing is that people are naturally not because they’re making this mistake, it’s just there’s no clear understanding of what to do with them.
They’re creating these categories purely for organization, they’re not keeping keyword and intent mapping and keyword to content mapping in mind when they do this. And for those of you who were in Chicago with us, I quickly showed when Casey and I were on stage. I quickly showed how to do keyword research, what I do with keyword research. And it’s really simple, you just basically combining all of the categories that you have, like your organizational, you might have categories that are only diets. So like keto, gluten free, then you have meal types, breakfast, dinner, lunch, then you have primary ingredient, chicken, beef, fish. Then you have preparation method, cuisine.
So you can really create these like hybrid categories or longer tail keywords by creating, instead of just having a category for chicken and dumping all of your chicken recipes in there. But if you have chicken and you have dinner and you have keto, now you can create a hybrid category that’s keto chicken dinner recipes. Now, your category, your taxonomy is being used for what it’s intended to be used for to show Google and search engines and especially your readers that you have content on these specific refined topics. Look, I have 80 posts for you to look at on my keto chicken dinner, make sure you add the word recipes plural to it. Go ahead, Casey.
Yeah, very good points as always. One of the things with regards to the tag pages specifically is it’s not just tag pages, sometimes we get, and I know that we’ve got a couple questions already submitted about this, is that people are always think, well it makes sense for us, we need to have categories for course, and cuisine and ingredient meal type and whatever. And frankly, that’s not necessarily the best way to go because you’re basically putting the same recipe in eight different categories. Now that by itself is not a bad thing if you have the content to justify it, but ingredients is a great example of where it could go horribly wrong.
I’ve audited a site just recently very big blogger and we’re talking that they literally had, I think it was at four or 500 pages just devoted to ingredients. And the traffic shows that no one was using these pages and yet they’re linked repeatedly throughout the site. They’re on a recipe index, they’re very thin content pages, it’s the epitome of topical dilution and content cannibalization, we just don’t need to do that. So sometimes you might think, it makes sense that my users would like to navigate my site by searching for ingredients, until you actually look at the data and find out that most users don’t do that. Maybe they’re searching my keyword in your search box, that’s fine. They could still pull up ingredients that way, just by means of the content that’s in indexable across your site.
But we just don’t need for examples, you to set up these huge taxonomy search pages, these faceted navigations, so to speak, where we have these huge recipe indexes that we can search by every nugget you can possibly think of. So if you’re on the call and you’re concerned about being useful and being mobile friendly and making sure that you’re providing a good experience, less is more in many cases. I certainly do not personally suggest that we for example, use ingredients as a prominent mode of means of searching a site. I just can count on one hand where I’ve seen that it’s been successful for.
Right. You’re always going to have a hard time ranking for just chicken, there’s really no point.
Chicken, marshmallows, now that doesn’t mean that some of those individual ingredients don’t rank, but if I’m doing a search and you’ve got 500 ingredient pages and only three pages have generated 25 clicks in the last six months, we’re going to lose those 25 clicks that we can just no index to all of them.
The weight is on the wrong side.
The weight is on the wrong side, you don’t want to do that.
Keep it concise, keep it tight, don’t overdo it, it’s better to have fewer categories that are actually driving traffic than to have a gazillion categories where they’re creating… I mean, it really can’t call it index bloat, but it’s just useless pages basically that nobody cares about.
Yeah, and that’s a good point. For those of you on the call, you’re never going to really have to worry much about crawl budget, you’re just not big enough, but there is a topic called crawl prioritization and crawl negligence and other little fancy terms that we can get into, but we want to optimize your crawl budget as much as possible. Why would we have Google crawl 500 ingredient pages when we can have them crawl, spend those resources and expend those on your actual category pages, your actual recipe pages? We wouldn’t do that, we wouldn’t make it hard for Google. They’re basically walking through a forest and they keep knocking into ingredient trees and they’re trying to find the path of your content. We just don’t need that. So less is more in that regard.
Ashley Segura (00:37:04):
Yeah. And something that both Arsen and Casey just touched on briefly was tags. And so, Andrew, can you go into explaining the differences between categories and tags? Because very clearly there’s confusion here.
So from a technical perspective, they’re almost identical. Both of them are a built in default feature of WordPress. Actually with plugins or themes, you can create additional taxonomies that function either like categories or tags. Basically the only functional difference is that categories can be nested. So you can have a parent category and a child category and then another child category, whereas tags are flat only. So if you only have one level of categories or tags, functionally, it’s actually the same, the word is different, but otherwise it works exactly the same.
And so the reason that we’re always against tags is because people misuse them. It’s not like they’re actually intrinsically evil, but what happens is every time you create a category, you create it a tag either way, WordPress will automatically generate an archive page for that. So it’ll be category/recipe/chicken, or it will be tag/tuna or whatever. Right? And so as soon as you create that category tag, boom, WordPress will automatically generate a URL and a most likely a thin content page. So we’re constantly pushing for all of you to do is make the pages that are generated actually worthwhile for your readers and make them organized so that Google can understand them and that they could actually work as landing pages to help guide that experience.
Ashley Segura (00:38:31):
That’s a great way to think about it is landing pages. Casey, if we were to think about this from using imagery or some kind of easier structure than just kind of talking through this, do you have any recommendations on how to think of the category hierarchy? Is there a specific structure of here’s your top level categories? Here’s the categories? How many should you have of each that? And of course this is going to be very specific to what content is on there, but do you kind of have like a broad overview of, imagine this structure when you’re thinking of categories?
Well, definitely. And we have talked about this in detail and I believe that we have already pasted over, Andrew did the episode on informational architecture. But when we’re talking about categories and I know Jennifer, you just had a really nice question there, do you recommend flat categories or parent categories? Well, we recommend what’s called a taxonomical or pyramid site structure. And this is very common and it divides the site according to topic categories, then we subdivide down based upon those topic categories as we get more specific.
So if we’re doing a post, if we’re doing recipes and let’s say that you’ve decided to set up a main category of recipes, honestly, I don’t think that’s necessary in this day and age, but let’s say that you set up your main category as recipe, and then you decided to put dinner, breakfast, dessert, whatever, under those. Then under dessert, you even went down further and you decided to put cakes, cupcakes, and cookies under those, that’s a tax astronomical or pyramid structure, and that’s totally fine. Google actually recommends that repeatedly in every resource they’ve published for many, many years where users get concerned is that they’re going too far in depth.
And remember that for every level that we’re adding with nested categories, we’re pushing the content further away from the root page. So that sometimes can be bad because it causes a dissolution of page rank and link equity as it flows through the site. There’s nothing wrong with that, we want to do that. So it’s not that we’re against nested categories, we’re against needless nested categories. So we don’t necessarily need to have a pie category broken down by apple peach and cherry as an example, or we don’t necessarily need to have a cookies category broken down by no bake and baked.
That’s the kind of needless individualization that can dilute the ability of those individual category pages to rank competitively. So our goal is to really come up with something that is going to be useful for users, but is also not going to provide so much nonsense or nuisance to Google as it crawls your site that it’s just annoying. And I think we’ve got some great resources on that, we’re going to share them later. But my advice to this is that less is more with descending levels. Google does not want to through a dozen levels to get to your content. And we always want to deal, I know that Arsen has covered this repeatedly with the reasonable surfer model.
But that actually has a notation on it involving a reasonable number of clicks too. And a reasonable number of clicks per Google’s words is three to four from the root domain, that’s actually in the patent. Right? So if you want to think about it if you’re putting your categories together, a click depth of three to four from the homepage should always be something that you have right there at the forefront of your thought process.
Yeah. They’re saying that interest diminishes the more clicks, the person that makes, so they’re limiting the authority that’s being passed or page ranked that’s being passed, the more clicks you are away from the target.
And this is where we get into a lot of problems because I know Sean hasn’t has a question here about recipe indexes instead of using tags for ingredients filtering, what do you do? Well, basically we don’t, we don’t allow that, we just push them to use keywords. If you’re going to have a nice recipe index, maybe you could get them to actually look at ignoring the ingredients completely. And instead the recipe index focuses on categories and maybe courses and maybe cuisines and something along those meal types, which are a lot better taxonomy optimized for than ingredients, which is a problem.
Because you’re just going to cause more problems in the future or just push them to use, hey, haven’t forget about it and recipe index completely and just install Slickstream. Andrew’s head just exploded, Andrew’s head just exploded. Maybe you just install Slickstream or something like that, very robust.
It’d be fair what Sean’s asking, it is possible to use tags in this way. It’s just you have to be really careful to do it correctly. So it’s something we don’t generally advise because it’s complicated to do right. And if you don’t do it right, it causes more problems than it helps.
Yeah. And Andrew’s writing, I would just interject and say that I can literal count on one hand the times that users have employed tags correctly, and I think that’s why we don’t recommend it for the average blogger on this call. The benefit does not outweigh the detriments that come into all of you trying to compete in what is literally the hardest niche online other than long term insurance.
I think SEO, ranking for SEO, I think is probably the most competitive.
Probably even easier, actually it’s all good.
Ashley Segura (00:43:43):
I do want to point out that we have 51 questions in the Q and A, you guys awesome.
Great job, guys.
Ashley Segura (00:43:51):
That’s probably the most questions we’ve ever gotten. We still have a handful of questions for the panelists before we go into the Q and A section, so don’t run away yet, Arsen. But if you haven’t had a chance to ask your question or we haven’t addressed it yet, make sure you’re dropping it into the Q and A. Arsen, still on the subject of category pages, is there a specific content link that you’d recommend? Obviously there needs to be some bit of content to explain what the category is representing, but should this be looked at like a normal blog post and should it still be a long form or is a couple sentences good enough?
Right. It’s not so much about content, it’s about context. You want to contextualize the page for Google, you want to tell Google what this page is about. So you’re dropping hints and like I said, we’re going to be putting out an infographic on how to properly optimize and structure your category pages from the recipe index all the way down into category and subcategory and all that, we’re finalizing it. But look, it’s all about helping Google understand what this page is about. And the more of that you do, Google will translate that into a better user experience.
I’m going to again share our SEO resources for bloggers page, so you can take a look. So here we’re with breadcrumbs, with our title, with our H1 with the way we’re structuring the page with the H2s for every title. And we’re bringing in excerpts, essentially the first I want to say this is 200 characters of the first paragraph of every post. This is enough for Google to understand what’s happening in the speech, what the speech is about and then there’s also list items came on here and all of that.
Now, if you are not bringing in excerpts and you’re competing in a tougher niche, we definitely would recommend a quick sentence or paragraph at the top to explain what this category is, again, provide some context if you’re not actually bringing in excerpts from posts. We also use this opportunity to link laterally in content. So in that paragraph, so let’s say you have a soup category, we all know where this is heading a soup category and now you have a subcategory for potato soups, different kinds of potato soups.
So in your soup category page, if you have that paragraph at the top, it’s a good idea, and there are to link to your subcategories. Check out our potato soup recipes, plural, and that links to a subcategory. And you’re essentially with that linking showing Google the relationships there too. So you definitely want to add some sort of content to that page, it will definitely help, especially if you’re trying to compete with that category page against roundups, which are definitely much more content heavy than your category pages. But, look, at the end of the day, it’s work, it’s not easy to do, but you can definitely optimize your category pages to be treated like roundups applicable.
Ashley Segura (00:47:10):
Yes, which is a whole thing.
Right. And that’s where the whole infographic that we’re going to be doing.
Ashley Segura (00:47:17):
Yes. Casey, is there such thing as having too many category pages? You definitely touched on the structure of them, but is there a safe number of, okay, if you have 50 category pages, it’s probably not necessary, no matter how much content you have or what would you recommend, Casey?
I think the record I’ve seen on his site is 179 categories and they are a very big blogger and they’re doing extremely well. But understand that that is not the case for the majority of you on the call. We never put together a category until we have the content to fill out those categories in many cases. So, okay, maybe when you’re launching to start out with maybe 10, 15 categories and slowly fill those in, I don’t think it’s a big deal, but as you go through and you decide, okay, I’m going to really dial in my category structure.
I’m not putting a category on for pies until I have 15 pies or something like that or something that’s related. That’s what we’re looking to do where I get to see a lot of blogs get into trouble as they just start setting up just categories for everything and they never get around to filling those categories out with content. So we have a thin content issue, a sitewide thin content issue that topical effectiveness delusive full of ping through the site, it’s just not effective for users.
So I don’t think that there’s any suggested number here that will work. We have some bloggers that really dial in their categories and they might only have 20, they got 800 recipes and we’ve got other bloggers who have 200 recipes and they have 50 categories. So the answer is, it depends and I know that we should take a drink and I’m already out, I’ve already drank my beer. But that’s an it depends question, unfortunately.
Ashley Segura (00:49:01):
So what would you do in the case of the example that you just gave that you intended to originally create 15 different pie recipes, but then you took a completely different direction? Now you’re no carb and you don’t even want to write about pies. How can you go back and delete those categories? Or should you just lead those category pages as they are, even though you’re not adding to them, what do you recommend there,
That’s a lot of pies that they’d have to delete, that’s a lot of categories that they would have to delete. I mean, if you really wanted to just, hey, maybe you’ve decided to move gluten free. We’ve had that happen on other sites. We would just no index those categories, maybe we would just go in and we would no index some of that older content. A great example is a site that I audit today, she had a lot of travel content, but she doesn’t do any travel content anymore and she has multiple categories of travel content.
We just no index, the travel categories, and then we make sure that we don’t link to those travel categories internally. Same thing with the travel content, we’re going to no index the travel content because she wants to keep the memories. We’re not going to unpublish them and create unnecessary 404s, we’re just going to no index that and then we’re just going to make sure that we don’t link to that no index content in the future. People can still search her side and find them, she has people, she has family members who still want to access to those posts, that’s what we do.
And we organize it as we can. But we just think of a user whenever we can, in that regard, if we want to have posts that fill up the categories, we want to make sure that every one of our category pages as an H1, we want to make sure that every subcategory, everything that’s on the other page has H2s, we want to fill out content at the top. We’re going to get into this in a minute on how to optimize a category, so we’ll cover that in the next question or so.
Right. I want to quickly jump in. Casey, you posted the link to well played it, that’s a beautiful example. Take a look at this, I’m going to post a link in here, a screenshot of the document outline for that page. And this is what we talk about when we say you creating an experience around a topic. I’m sure there’s many reasons this category page is ranking, but one of the reasons is that they’re showing how much information they have on this topic through this category, they’re providing an experience.
Look how the page is organized, look at the headings, look how things are structured. There’s content, there’s calls to action, they’re predicting and addressing primary and secondary intent. I’m here for slow cooker recipes, but maybe I’m also interested in stews or the ones with chicken or the ones with beef. They’re providing a full experience, and this is why it’s working so well.
And that should answer your question. I know Katie asked the question on it, but let’s code it in. Sometimes I think that is a custom site. Is that a one of Bill sites actually, Bill Erickson’s site, I believe. Right, Andrew? That’s-
Yeah, Well Plated.
And he’s very good about that, he’s discussed it with myself and others at length, so they know what they’re doing. They’re very good when they code in this stuff, semantically sitewide.
And to be fair to most people, so cultivatewp.com, they’re some of the best in the business and they are premium websites that are custom designed.
Premium, those are all custom coded websites.
It’s hard to get this stuff, and one of the things that is there, Bill actually called it their special sauce, they know how to build these category pages. So it’s-
… some serious skill on this and experience.
Now, does that mean that you’re out of luck if you’re running Feast or somewhere else? Not at all, you just have to do a little bit more better internal linking with them and making sure that you’ve actually put the appropriate content and optimization in on that. And we’re coming up on that, we’ll provide some tips on how to optimize category pages.
Ashley Segura (00:52:49):
Good. Speaking of that, Andrew, do you have any plugins that you can recommend to help organize categories or even optimize category pages?
Yeah. I think most sites you don’t need a plugin, whatever you have built in is going to work. The one thing I’d suggest though, is if you’re using the Feast Plugin, Skylar recently updated the categories functions, it’s called the Modern Categories and there were a couple reasons to do this. One is it gives you more control, it also solves a layout shift problem we were seeing that was hurting core web vitals. So this sort of feeds two birds with one stone. And if you haven’t implemented the Modern Categories yet, I definitely recommend it.
And the other thing is, you don’t have to have super fancy dropdown links like we’re seeing on Well Plated, it looks pretty and that’s great and it, but it’s also expensive. So the thing you want to be doing, though, is using the description field at the top and putting in an introductory sentence, putting in links to your best content. You can link to subcategories directly in there and they can just be linked saying see more of appetizers or cookies or desserts or whatever. And you can link to other subcategories directly there, it doesn’t have to be something that’s automatically generated. So I wouldn’t overthink this one, you just want to make it intuitive and easy to use for your users.
Ashley Segura (00:54:08):
And Casey, to wrap things up, how would you create a well optimized taxonomy page and where can borders find more information about taxonomies and just overall site arch architecture as a whole? Oh, you’re muted.
Let me undo that there, good. Can you guys hear me okay?
So when we’re putting together, when we’re optimizing a category page, we want to make sure that we add custom above the fold archive intro text whenever possible. Most themes now have this coded in. Usually we add anywhere from 50 to 100 plus words, we’ve provided some examples on the screen already, so you can go in and kind of take a look and see what it looks like. We also want to add custom on page H1s. Now this gets a little trickier because I’m surprised at how many custom coded sites I still see per design that does not provide a customizable H1 on the category pages. That absolutely should be there, so that if I change the H1, I’m not changing the breadcrumb filled for example, which is annoying.
So we want to be able to add a custom on page H1. Maybe we decide that we have a gluten free dessert, I’m a gluten free site. Maybe I want to have my dessert page say gluten free dessert recipes, but I don’t want to have a huge long breadcrumb because of that. So we want to have the ability to put in a custom H1, built in with Feast built in with other themes pretty easily. We also want to add custom page titles and descriptions, just common sense for Yoast. We go down and make sure that archives is not in our page title, no value to do that.
And we also want to link to these pages repeatedly from internal pages. These category pages are the windows into the house that is our blog. We want to link to them. We want to make it easy for all of our users to find our category pages, they will generate traffic. I think that we talked in our last webinar about some truly horrific advice that was going around about how you should know index your category page is, and I just had to laugh my ass off because that is literally the worst thing that you can do for the average site.
So please do not do that, category pages are very valuable. They provide a topical discovery signal, they provide increased crawlability signals, they actually provide easy ways for users to access your content in bulk. We would never no index, it’s terrible advice. Now benefits of doing this is the reasons that we want to have categories open, the reason we want to optimize them is that well organized category pages do increase well time, not 50 plus page roundups category pages can be some of the longer visited pages on a site if they’re very content rich.
We also want to understand the category pages, drive context to users as they navigate from your site. They go again, talk about the windows into your blog that is your house, and category pages drive traffic. I actually use an example last month on a bigger blogger showing how much traffic their category pages were driving. And that’s very common. So with regards to resources, I’m going to go ahead and paste over not only our SEO for publishers’ webinar from last week, but I’m also going to paste over resource from crawl, and I’ll also paste over the source from our colleague Skylar, over at Feast, he’s done a very good job putting together information on categories. And those three resources should answer most questions you have, so I definitely recommend those.
Ashley Segura (00:57:36):
Thank you. So we are opening up to Q and A, there’s 58 questions that we’re clearly not going to get through all of them, but we will get through a few of them. So, first one, and this has been uploaded by quite a few of you is from Tara, question is, “I am working on category hierarchy, should top level start at categories like meal type cuisine, ingredients, et cetera, with subcategories, for dinner, breakfast, Mexican, et cetera, or is it better if the top level starts at the more specific dinner breakfast, Mexican? Planning to stick to eight to 10 top level categories, what do you guys recommend?” And feel free, anyone can jump in on this one. As in anyone.
Again, I think that this is just a personal opinion, honestly, but I am absolutely completely against ingredients. As Arsen has said, there is a way to do this with kind of a Faucet WP and some filtering so that you don’t link to or see any of these tags specifically on the page itself. But most bloggers just won’t implement it correctly, so I’m against tag pages completely. If you want to sort by meal type cuisine, even meal type cuisine, category, even diet, I could see that because we could go in and individually optimize the stages.
But when we get into the beast, that is individual ingredients, it’s a whole nother ballgame and the amount of low quality thin content that you’ll generate sitewide we’ll seek any website ship, so I’m not a fan of that. I would say that with the main categories, you could certainly start with recipes and go from what you’re saying. But when we say flatter, we don’t necessarily mean that we’re against nesting, that’s not the case at all. You just want to make sure that it’s easier for users to navigate your content as much as possible.
I think it’s important also to think about your actual content on the site. Hopefully you’re not trying to be all recipes and have every single recipe, you are going to have a topic for your site. If you are all about international cuisine, let’s say then your top categories might be different countries, different cuisines. But you’re very focused on healthy eating, it’s going to have a different category, different taxonomy. So you want your structure to be chosen, that makes sense for your existing content and your future content.
One other technical thing to mention is if you are nesting categories, you could, you’ll still let you, if you put things multiple categories, you also to let you choose a primary category and make sure you’re choosing the most appropriate one and usually that’s the most granular category. So if it’s recipes, desserts, cookies, choose cookies as the primary, because that’ll actually impact what the breadcrumb is. And that makes a big difference for Google understanding how you’re organizing these things.
That’s one thing we didn’t touch on is breadcrumbs on this talk.
Yeah, and that’s very important. And this is also something where for those of you on the call who are thinking of switching to Trellis, understand that you are in for a rude awakening because their ability to handle breadcrumbs is almost nonexistent, I have run into the problem repeatedly. So understand that’s something that they’re trying to work out. And it’s funny because we’re waiting, I have bloggers suffer through Trellis, asking them to put out these new features, which have been available on Feast or whatever months. And they just they’re waiting, apparently they’re waiting for WordPress to make some announcements regarding blogs, which I think is pretty funny. But regardless, that’s something to be aware of, you have limited ability on Trellis to do a lot of the stuff that we’re talking about today.
Ashley Segura (01:01:03):
Moving into next question from Jennifer for roundups, is it okay to use the media, create roundup feature?
Absolutely, there’s nothing wrong with it. It exports out Google compliant item schema. Some people like the presentation of them, some people don’t. Just understand that a roundup is not just including this item schema and calling it a day. A roundup is you providing your thoughts on why you chose the recipe, a roundup is you putting in attention to a custom introductory paragraph or paragraphs and then summing up everything with nice conclusions at the bottom with links. Maybe you’re going to tell everyone why you’re choosing each of these individual recipes, that all goes into a quality roundup these days.
Ashley Segura (01:01:48):
Okay. Next question from Rosa, is there a number of recipes in a category that is too many and that’s something that we didn’t directly touch on when should categories be broken down into subcategories?
I don’t think…
So if the category makes sense, if it’s a logical category, it’s not just meat or potato, it really doesn’t matter. If you feel that there’s subsets of topics from this main category, feel free to break it apart, but you still should not remove posts from the parent category because you’re showing Google, I have content on this topic and I have content on the subtopic of the main topic, which is the category. Subcategory or what we like to do is the hybrid categories.
Actually, if you put something in a child category, WordPress automatically knows it’s in the parent category, doesn’t actually matter if it’s checked or not. You don’t want to go to a flat structure where you’re pulling something out that should be in child category. So when we say flat, we don’t mean fully flat, we mean minimally depth, one or two steps. We see a lot of people nest things four layers deep and that’s usually too much.
Ashley Segura (01:03:15):
And last question, because we are already over, by Sandra, is it a good practice to have a separate category for roundups and collections and should the roundup posts fall in that category? And in the… I think that’s supposed to say category that the recipe falls in as well.
So if it’s a slow cooker roundup, just can we put it in the round ups category and the slow cooker category? And the answer to that is yes. That’s not a problem at all. Most bloggers tend to organize their round ups by means of a roundup category, so it’s easy for them to find and organize that content. And then of course, if the category is Christmas related, maybe we have a Christmas category that we use, we can also put it in there, totally fine. The days of you having… Personally, I never believed in it anyway, but there’s some people who believe that you should only have one post per one category and that’s just horrible advice.
We’re going to jump into that.
Yeah. You don’t want to do that. I know that was a big thing several years ago, horrible advice, so we would never do that. So don’t worry about that, it’s okay to have a round post in multiple categories, could be seasonal, could be cuisine related or could just be the fact that this is a specific type of post.
If you’re curating content for your readers and you’re doing it on a certain topic every week, let’s say, it would make perfect sense for that to be a category of your curated content because you’re an expert in that thing. So if it’s a one off roundup and you don’t do this often, it wouldn’t make sense to create a roundup category.
Ashley Segura (01:04:45):
That’s perfect. Well, that wraps us up for today. Thank you everyone for tuning in from all over the world as usual, it always blows us away to see where you guys are tuning in from. Give us a week and we’ll make sure all of those questions are answered and we’ll publish the recap on the link that Arsen shared. So once again, thank you panelists and thank you attendees, we will see you guys next time.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone.