I’m back. I have my Google search pictures back this morning. This has been a long battle. I have worked hard and learned a lot. (If you’re not a food blogger, you might want to just move on now.)
This is going to be a long post so hang with me here. This will be sprinkled with my opinion about what is important. I may or may not be right.
My blog moved from Blogger to WordPress last fall with 350 plus posts. While on Blogger, recipe snippet pictures appeared for a few months but then disappeared due to factors related to Blogger. So I moved to WordPress which was long overdue anyways.
After the move I re-wrote about 150 of the most recent posts to update the rich data but not all. In fact the old markup passed the testing tool and pictures appeared in search for them also. I burnt out and left about 2 1/2 years of post untouched except for a few of the most popular recipes. It’s my hobby not my day job. It takes 10 to 20 minutes to buff up one post.
Come June (I think or was it May?) Google unleashed Panda 4 and my recipe pictures disappeared but Google Plus authorship pictured replaced that. That disappeared a few weeks later for everyone.
We all though it was something to do with a plugin, theme or a box checked or not checked but we couldn’t zero in on anything. Now my page views were down about 40%. Plus I usually grow 10% per month.
Many others failed victim to the Panda also. Morgan at Host the Toast lead the way with Webmasters tools. There were what appeared to be issues with the Schema markup and the usual vague “quality” issues comment. That is Google talk for we don’t like you but won’t tell you why. I was able to fix all the reported Schema issues but still a “no go” on the pictures and I got the insulting “quality” response.
So I decided (eventually) that my definition of quality was not the same as Google’s. Theirs has to be something they can evaluate by scanning a website. They don’t know my Carrot Cake Cookies are to die for. They apparently just don’t care about my cookies. They care about site structure and boring things like that.
By looking at it from their view I had the following issues:
A. Too many out links. In the move to WordPress I had 2000 plus out links back to a Blogger server for all the images. They needed to go. In fact any out link that did not contribute to the ranking of the blog or helpful for readers of a post had to disappear
- All those pictures. I used a plugin but it crashed the site twice so I did it manually.
- The blog roll. Sorry fellow bloggers. I’m down to the minimum. Many blogs have eliminated this.
- Links within posts. I had used a Googlesite as a file server to link to for printing recipes. This can go away after I have completed the rewrite of the older posts. Other in-posts links needed to be the important ones for the readers and nothing else.
- Links that snuck into comments. I use spam control but it is not perfect and some from the Blogger comments. I have manually removed them.
B. My rich snippet mark up was all over the place in type. I used several online tools to create markup for the Blogger posts, I used a homemade Excel spreadsheet tool and I even hand coded some. They all passed the testing tool then and now but time to clean that up. They looked horrible.
C. Pictures had no Alt text and no title. They all were DC00345b or something like that. So all recipes pictures in posts got those issues fixed but the actual file name was not changed. Just too much work.
D. The formatting on the old posts did not do well in the transfer from blogger. Lots of black spaces inserted. I cleaned up the white space and improved the formatting.
E. SEO of old posts was poor. I rewrote some posts a bit. Changed a few names of the posts. Set a featured image. Added the Yoast SEO. Scanned for any spelling /grammar errors. Then I added a Last Updated to finish it off.
F. Duplicate content. I have a couple of posts I do yearly. A New Year health post, a Forth of July food safety and a Thanksgiving online reference post. I took out the duplication by just doing a short discussion and linking to the first post.
G. Duplicate content again. Be sure the XML site map doesn’t lead to issues. So do not crawl categories, tags or similar pages.
H. Speed. Google likes fast so I added a CDN.
I. No rating system. Time to go exclusively to Easy Recipe. So as I worked through the posts they will all be using ER+.
It seems that a site search in Google like site:101cookingfortwo.com can be used to measure progress on your “quality” to some extent. If you do this for your site you can get an idea of how much Google likes or dislikes you. I count the number of pictures in the first 100 listings. At one point I was down to one. Now I’m at 48 and rapidly increasing. A very nice feeling. I really didn’t think I would see my recipe pictures back until I was much higher if ever.
So at this point I still have about 70 posts to go on the total rewrites (about 170 done). I have 200 that need some work changing them all to ER+ and fixing the pictures. They will get finished in the next couple of weeks.
I’m looking forward to the feeling of have a “buffed up” blog. Hopefully bullet proof from future Google issues.
So what do I think did nothing.
- Changing plugin settings, plugins or themes just to do something unless they will help with the above (pay attention to the site map).
- Modifying the built-in Schema in Genesis. I did it but it did nothing and now I’m running “stock Genesis” Schema and it works.
- Blame Google. They could be a little more straight forward on what they want but it is their business to deliver the best results for their customers.
Google will continually change. Make your blog as “white hat” as you can. Don’t stuff keyword. Put them where they are natural. Never pay for links. And lastly if you have a mess clean it up before it bites you.
I had quite a few but really you only need one. This is Josh Bachynski at The Moral Concept. I just found this link last week but it covers what I have been working on for 6 weeks. Great read.
Have a good day
PS A special thanks to Grace at Webmasters Tools for keep going back to “quality”.
September 23 2014