This blog post is a case study of actionable SEO strategies and tactics for a website to rank consistently for hundreds of terms on the first page of Google.
This site was a new domain with no history in a highly competitive niche - cooking - that went from nothing to one million impressions and 5,600 organic non-paid clicks per month.
If you're interested in the actionable takeaways that led to its SEO success that you can apply to your website, read on.
Background of The Website and Niche
This website specializes in cooking lessons for kids. It provides detailed cooking lessons that kids can follow. Each recipe has step-by-step video tutorials that kids teach for kids. In addition to the video lessons, there are hundreds of blogs written about many of the ingredients, along with blogs on kitchen safety and more.
The site is thus informational in intent but full of helpful content. We tried to maximize the website's rankings in multiple features within a Google search results page.
Cooking is a highly competitive space, and this website ranks ahead of some of the most authoritative sites on the web, including but not limited to, Masterclass, Target, Walmart, Wikipedia, and other cooking focused sites.
The Amazing Google Organic Results
Here’s a shortlist of the website’s Google organic accomplishments:
The SEO Factors Important to The Website's Success That You Can Use Now
Quality Content - Lots of Content
There is a full lineup of step-by-step recipes that are categorized into the following buckets:
- Snacks and appetizers
- Agua frescas
- Mexican Salsas
The website has dozens of blog posts about many of the ingredients that were used in each recipe. Overall, the site has hundreds of pages (here's a related post on content marketing and seo).
We also linked internally from each recipe post to each blog post about that particular ingredient.
And we linked each ingredient blog post back to each recipe that used that ingredient. Internal linking is an important on-page SEO tactic that can have a significant impact on rankings.
Here's a related blog post on how to update older existing content on your site to improve your rankings and continue to stay on the first page.
Embedded YouTube Video Content
While not necessary, embedded video content can help you rank and capture traffic.
All the recipe pages had embedded YouTube video instructions. Step-by-step cooking videos for kids. This keeps engagement high on the site. It also provides kids and parents with two types of content for a recipe. Not everyone wants to read, and conversely, not everyone wants to watch a video. I use this strategy on the 39 Celsius website too. A related blog post here on using YouTube video embeds to improve SEO and grow first page keyword rankings.
Site Organization - SEO Silos
Site organization is important for the human experience as well as for the search engines and Google. Internal linking strategies play a key role.
There needs to be a data-driven strategy in what content is produced and also how it is organized and linked internally. From an SEO perspective, this is referred to as a Silo strategy. Silos could be thought of as chapters and within each chapter are sub-topics.
For example, on this site, we have recipes and cooking lessons organized by breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc. Below are dinner recipe examples. This could be considered the "Dinner" silo. And as mentioned above, we link internally from each recipe ingredient to the blog post about that ingredient.
Then, the blog is organized by type of ingredient. Users can click through to each blog about that particular ingredient. We have hundreds of these ingredient lists. Below is the silo all about Herbs. And individual blog posts will link back to each recipe page that uses that ingredient.
But most importantly, throughout each content piece, we link where relevant to other blog posts or recipes - like a web of interconnected content that the user may be interested in reading about.
Here's a related blog post that goes into additional details about internal linking and silo strategies for SEO.
When a search engine crawls your site and its pages, it's essential to have the information on a page focused and consistent from top-to-bottom so it is clear what the page is about.
This means, that whatever keywords phrase or topic you're aiming for needs to be integrated into the page's Title tag, Meta Description, an H1 tag and perhaps a few times throughout the content depending on the length of the content. Thus, when the search engine scrolls through the page's html code from top to bottom, it sees your keyword in all these places used consistently and understands what the page is about.
What's important, though, is that you write for the human first, not search engines. Always seek to add value first for the searcher, then worry about the search engines. Long gone are the days of color-by-numbers SEO - there are no "correct" keyword densities and no keyword stuffing your way to success.
Don't forget your image alt tags, captions, and image descriptions. Naming the image file is critical too - you don't want to load an image into a page that is named 488akha9.jpg. Instead, name your images with SEO in mind, for example, vegetarian-lasagna.jpg. (related post here on how to optimize images for SEO)
There are many aspects to the technical side of SEO. But two areas that will help you rank higher, and in our case study here, helped this site capture more search traffic include:
- FAQ and Video Schema Markup
- Mobile Responsiveness of your website
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) Schema Markup
FAQ schema is special code that is placed in the <head> section of the html of page that tells Google: Hey, I have questions and answers on this page and here they are. But make sure whatever Q&A you have in the schema is also visible on the page.
People ask Google questions often. If you provide answers to those questions, you have another opportunity to rank.
Here's an example.
The question, "how to use dried arbol chiles?" Google returned over 4 million results. But the site was featured at the top, ahead of some very competitive authoritative sites, in this case Masterclass.com is the next listing.
And here's another FAQ Featured Snippet - "what does Manchego cheese taste like."
Video Recipe Schema Markup
The video tutorials used recipe video schema markup. This was essential in letting Google know there was a video on the site and here's what it was about. Without this video schmea, our video content would have far less chance of being indexed, and less likely to show in certain video results.
Google uses a mobile-only index so if your site does not render well on mobile devices, it will be at a disadvantage to your competitors with a mobile-responsive website.
Google Search Console is one of the best sources of information to understand how Google perceives your site. (a related post here on how to get easy SEO wins using Google Search Console)
Rank In Many Different Places Within Google
There are many places within a Google Search Results Page where you can rank your site.
Your goal is to rank your site in as many places as possible. Think of the search results page as the shelf space at your local grocery store - there are only so many spots, and you want to own as many as possible.
The Different Places You Can Rank Within a Google Search Results Page
Locations That Are Within the Normal Search Results Page
Some locations in the search results require different SEO tactics to increase the likelihood of ranking there. But this is what separates the amateurs from the pros. And where you as a competitor can seize the upper hand with your lazy competitors.
And remember that Google controls these pages and can change the layout when it wants and often does change them.
In this Feature Snippet example, Google showed our site at the top and a second listing below. Featured snippets mostly show at the top of the page, so they are valuable.
People Also Ask
If you are answering questions on a page, you have the opportunity to show in the "people also ask" section of Google. Perhaps your FAQ doesn't make it to the top of the page in the Featured Snippet, but you still have an opportunity to grab these spots.
When a site is structured well with a clear taxonomy, Google will sometimes show site links to other pages within your site. These are deep links and help capture more traffic. In the example below, our site is highlighted, and the site links are right below the main text area and are shown as, Kid Recipes, About Us, Blog. Only two sites have site links in this list so the others are missing that opportunity.
Knowledge Panels appear to the right of Google's search results. These are often reserved for company and brand names, or products as in this case. This feature is significant as it takes up a large portion of Google's Search Results Page.
Rank On Other Google Tabs
Image Search Tab
If you're doing your SEO right, you are also ranking images. Image search has huge volume - right behind regular Google Search in volume.
Video Tab and Google Video Search
With video content, you can rank on the Video tab and within the normal search page, "All" results with your page.
But the most crucial aspect of this is that these are YouTube videos embedded on the site, not just a YouTube video living ONLY in YouTube.
The benefit of embedding videos on pages within your website is that any click traffic goes back to your website NOT back to YouTube. That's a critical distinction between embedding a YouTube video on a page or not and just leaving it on YouTube only. If that click and traffic goes back to YouTube, you have little chance of monetizing the traffic and instead you are making more money for Google and not YOU!
And here's the same video ranking in the "All" search results. So that's two tabs. And actually, there's a listing on the Image tab too that I'm not showing here. The website is then listed on 3 tabs for the same query.
Who has the highest chance of capturing the click, traffic, and creating the most brand awareness? The websites that rank the most content in the most places!
So if you have the resources to produce video content, I recommend you do and host it on YouTube and then embed it on your site. And, you never mind that you likely could rank in YouTube and capture more traffic there, too (video optimization is an entirely different blog post).
Case Study Summary and Key Takeaways
SEO can be hard and takes time. But quality content should be at the core of everything you do. If you satisfy the searcher, you are in the game at least. From here, these are some of the key points you need to focus on: