Google has provided insight into how its algorithms handle recipe website content, responding to a question on X (formerly Twitter) about whether the company prioritizes simpler, more streamlined recipes over those with additional commentary.
The Recipe Debate
Recipe formatting has become a contentious topic in recent years, as some sites have been accused of adding excessive fluff purely as a search engine optimization (SEO) tactic to rank higher in results.
With the recipe space getting more competitive, creators have looked for an edge – some by tapping into SEO techniques while others aim to differentiate through simplicity.
This has put Google in a delicate position. Recipe creators rely heavily on search traffic, but many users prize convenience and get frustrated by lengthy introductions before getting to the ingredients and instructions.
Google’s Nuanced Stance
X user @IntrovertedGeekUK asked Danny Sullivan, Google’s Search Liaison:
“Help me understand Danny! RE recipe sites: in theory, the user wants a recipe, and that’s it. No fluff. No tweaks. But will Google really rank (and know how to) a stripped back barebones list of ingredients and method?”
In a series of tweets, Sullivan explained that Google aims to serve diverse preferences, not just the simplest recipes.
“Some people want just a list of ingredients. Some people want recipes from people or places they might recognize. Some people might want a recipe along with some background about the recipe, what it means to the person who is sharing it and so on. All people don’t want the exact same things. Our systems try to show what seems generally helpful.”
However, Sullivan acknowledged complaints that some recipes include excessive commentary before getting to the ingredients and instructions:
“I think that’s something content producers might want to keep in mind. If you want to appeal to that audience, you might want to ensure your recipes are helpful in that way, easy access to the key parts.”
At the same time, he emphasized respecting creators’ preferences in how they present recipes.
“If someone wants to tell you more about their recipe because they want to, because it’s important to them, because they think that’s useful to them and their readers — that’s up to them. That should be respected.”
What’s “Generally Helpful” Content?
Google relies on advanced artificial intelligence (AI) to determine what constitutes “generally helpful” content to rank.
Algorithms like BERT and MUM incorporate machine learning to parse semantics, understand context and user intent, and overcome challenges like synonyms and sarcasm. This allows Google to match searches with useful results even when queries don’t contain exact keywords.
While recipes represent one content type optimized by these systems, Google also uses AI to understand and serve many other information queries, ranging from lyrics to product specs to coding issues.
Takeaways For Publishers
The exchange provides transparency into Google’s nuanced approach to recipe content, aiming to balance simplicity with author expression.
It underscores the importance of putting users first while avoiding overly formulaic content.
As Google’s systems continue advancing, it remains committed to informing creators on best organic search practices.
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