If you haven’t already started thinking about optimizing your food blog for quarter four, don’t worry! Today I’m going to help you get caught up to speed and share four ways to prep your website and be ready for the biggest quarter of the year. If you are anything like most people I have been talking to recently, it is kind of shocking that yet again, we are at the end of the year, and we are starting to think about the last quarter of the year. With this comes making sure that our websites are ready for the inevitable spike of traffic that comes for most food bloggers during this season.
Most likely this is not the first Q4 that you have been food blogging and you know that it can be huge for food bloggers. It can be really the time of year that you see crazy high traffic, crazy high RPMs. It is the biggest opportunity for you to really make a huge impact with your blog because you will see more visitors to your site and it’s a great time to be able to convert a lot of those visitors into long-term fans. Today let’s dive into four specific ways that you can prep your website for Q4 as it relates to the functionality and structure of your website.
Checking Your Navigation, Footer, and Sidebar Links
The first thing you should do is start checking your navigation, your footer, and your sidebar for the links that are there and making sure that they work. It may seem like such a small thing, but I cannot tell you how many times I have stumbled across a website that has broken links all over the place. First thing you should do is open your website and ensure you are completely logged out of WordPress or that you are in an incognito window. Then you’re going to go through your navigation and click all of the links one by one. While doing this, you want to look for a few things.
- Does this link open into the website URL that it’s supposed to? If it’s your about page, does it actually go to your about page?
- Does it open in the same tab?
This is especially important for mobile and because so much of your traffic is likely coming from mobile, you want to make sure that those links are opening in the same window. When you’re on mobile, you do not want to be having a bunch of windows opening new tabs, as it’s just not the best user experience. So if it is an internal link that’s part of your website itself, make sure that it’s opening in the same tab. Do this for all of the links that are in your navigation, and I also recommend that you think about which links are there and if there is anything that needs to be added for Q4.
Please note this huge disclaimer here:
You do not want to remove links from your navigation, especially Q4.
Essentially what can happen, if you remove links from your navigation, you can cause internal links to break and that can have a huge impact in your SEO. This is something that you can experiment with another time of the year. But for this quarter specifically, I don’t recommend taking any links off of your navigation, but feel free to add new ones to your navigation if you see fit.
Follow this exact same process in your footer and in your sidebar. This is going to be probably less links than what your navigation has, but they might be things like posts or essential pages, like your recipe index or your contact page. Go through the same process of clicking all of the links in those places to make sure that they are working, opening in the same tab and that they are strategic and make sense for those content areas.
Display Popular Content on Your Sidebar
If this isn’t something that you already have on your website, then this is a great time to add this to a couple of places. This can be something that you also add onto your homepage, or even into the after- entry area, which most Genesis based food blogs will have that widget area. You can add your popular content to that so that in every blog post that people come to they can also see what your popular content is.
I recommend this being actually the most popular from Google’s eyes, not necessarily from Pinterest or another traffic source. You really want this to be your top SEO content as this is going to send a lot of positive internal linking juice, if you will, around all your content. So if you have a post that you’re ranking number one for and every single other blog post on your website is linking to that post, it is going to be really beneficial and can hopefully raise up all of your content overall. So, you can add a widget area or even just a text box with those links to your most popular content into either your sidebar, your footer, your after-entry widget area, or all the above. You can’t really go too far with adding these links in, especially in Q4, because you want it to be in so many places that people will see it.
Display Seasonal Content
This is very similar to adding your popular content, but in this case, you’re going to be adding seasonal content to those content areas. So instead of adding things that are just popular year round, you want to add some of those seasonal blog posts that people are coming to your site for. So, for example, if you know from the past that your pumpkin pie recipe is the most popular recipe on your site in Q4, you can highlight posts that are either like that pumpkin pie recipe or are going to be things that people might be looking for, if they have come to your blog posts for pumpkin pie specifically. This is going to be a widget area that you can remove after quarter four, or you can swap it out to be something else that is seasonal for Q1, when that comes around.
Now, the caveat with these last two items is that when you add extra content to your sidebar, when you’re running ads, it’s potentially going to decrease the number of times that a sticky sidebar ad is going to be seen. So a lot of the times ad networks specifically recommend having a really short sidebar. So you need to take this with a grain of salt and really think about your goals for this quarter. You know that in Q4, you’re already going to see higher RPMs and higher ad revenue, so it may be worth it in this quarter, to have a longer sidebar, as it’s going to translate into higher RPMs and higher traffic.
Generally it is recommended to have a shorter sidebar, but I have found that in this last quarter of the year, if you can really help your readers to find the content that they’re looking for with a longer sidebar, you have a much higher chance of them becoming more long-term readers and wanting to stick around. This is of course because you’ve really helped them and made your website user-friendly for them to find what they’re looking for.
Review Your Top Content
So, there are two sides to this review: the first is that you’re going to look at any content that is popular during the last quarter of the year. Depending on how long your blog has been around for, you can go through the last three to five years and look at what content has been popular over that time. The second set of content that you’re going to look over, is any content that you published last year, that wouldn’t have had a chance to rank in that time. So you might find that you publish a pumpkin pie recipe last year November, and it didn’t have time to rank on Google, but maybe this year it’s going to potentially rank and hopefully be one of your highest traffic driver posts for the quarter.
Once you have a list of 10 to 20 of those posts, review all of this content and go through it from top to bottom. The first review is to look and make sure that everything is working: click all links in the post and make sure they are still working. Make sure that your images are all there and they look good and if there’s any other type of content that you have within those posts, ensure that it looks good and it is relevant.
Next, you want to look and make sure if there is anything else that you need to add to the post. You have to be super careful with this because you don’t want to risk damaging any rankings that you have, especially if it is something within the top three results for Google. However, if you’re not in the top three, then it’s a good opportunity for you to improve these posts by adding things like FAQ’s or extra information about substitutions, or anything that you’ve had questions on in these posts over the years. You may not have time to go back and update these posts, but whatever optimizations that you can do to these posts, will benefit your blog in the long run.
You also need to make sure that they’re optimized for ads. So, you want to look at things like how long or short are your paragraphs. If your paragraphs are four to five sentences long, try to break those up because with shorter paragraphs, you are able to have more ad placements in between these paragraphs, which will make those posts more profitable.
Finally make sure that you have linked to other relevant or related recipes in those posts themselves. So again, if it’s an older post, you can link to some of your newer content that is going to be related and relevant to somebody who is looking at that post. If you don’t have internal links within your posts, it’s a great time to add these links to your posts.
I’m going to talk a lot more about that in next week’s episode, when I talk about content itself. You’re going to find that when you’re adding content to these posts, you’re going to be in much better shape of not messing up any rankings as opposed to deleting the entire post and trying to rewrite it, especially at this time in the year.
So, to review the four ways that you can prep your food blog for Q4 is first by:
- Checking your navigation, footer, and sidebar links.
- Displaying popular content on your sidebar, your footer, or in that after-entry area.
- Display seasonal content in those same areas
- Review your top content and make sure that everything is working correctly and everything looks great within those posts.
Now your action steps for this episode are to carve out time when you are going to do either each of these things, or when you are going to spend a half a day or a full day prepping your website for quarter four. Find a convenient day where you can focus on this, as this is something that can feel really overwhelming, so we never do it. Put it on your calendar and prioritize it because so often we get to the end of the year and wish we had done more to prepare for quarter four. I promise you, if you block off even 30 minutes of time a few times a week between now and the end of the month, you’re going to be able to update all these things and really have your website in good shape for Q4.
If you are finding that doing these things to your website is impossible, or you do not have a website that is ready to help you grow and serve you in the future, then it is time to start thinking about redesigning your website either at the end of this year or in early 2022. We would love to partner with you in that process and you can always learn more about how we work with clients here. Reach out so we can get the priority date for you and get you onboarded before the end of the year. If you have any questions about anything that’s in this episode or what to do, please reach out. You can always head over to Instagram and reach me over there @graceandvine.
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