Part of startup life includes user testing--lots and lots of user testing. These can be done remotely or in person. For Chicory, we've brought in a bunch of people who have never heard of Chicory before and ask them to go through our user flow in order to give us unbiased feedback on our product.

After doing these tests over the past year and a half, we've noticed some consistencies in how home cooks look for what to cook and how they go from Googling "chicken recipe," to getting a roast on the table. Rather than keeping these insights to ourselves, we figured we'd share what we've learned. Take these tips and put 'em to use. Some feel like no-brainers, but it never hurts to go back to basics and keep in mind what keeps readers engaged!

Looking "Yummy"

It should come as no surprise that photos play a huge role in attracting readers. One of the leading factors that determines which recipe a user selects is the featured photo that accompanies a blog post. In almost every user test, we hear reasoning like "well, this looks delicious."

Remember that no matter how delicious your mac n cheese tastes, an up-close shot of a goopy portion on a messy plate won't be appealing. Think about lighting of your dish, but also food styling and table composition. Don't forget to upload a thumbnail image of your recipe into your recipe formatting plugin (EasyRecipe, Ultimate Recipe, etc.) so that it shows up in Google searches.

Recipe Name

The name of a recipe is one of the first few things that gets a user's attention. In a typical Google search, users tend to choose a recipe based off of the following:

  • the recipe's position in search results
  • recognition of a publisher's name
  • the name of the recipe

One might think that results are skewed toward well-known recipe publishers, but we see that people who are actively looking for recipes want to try recipes that sound interesting (or yummy!), even if they're by publishers they don't recognize.

So, how do you catch the eyes of those cooks? Make your titles literal (it helps with SEO), but also fun and snappy. Something like "Granny's Easy, Cheesy Vegetable Lasagna Recipe" should do the trick!

Length of Ingredients List

Once a recipe passes the initial tasty test, users then go straight to the ingredient list. When we conduct user testing, we ask folks to talk out loud so that we can hear their inner monologues. Common thoughts are: 

  • “Do I have these ingredients?”
  • “What don’t I have?”
  • “I do/don’t know how to prepare this ingredient.”

And we often hear users go through an out-loud check list; "I have to get chicken and parsley... oh, I have vegetable broth." All of this tells us that your list of ingredients is a major factor in your recipe's popularity.

If you’re aiming for a recipe that people want to cook, most of the time we'd recommend keeping your list under fifteen ingredients. But that's assuming that about half of the ingredients on the list are staples—too long of a shopping list and your recipe probably won't become a reader's weeknight go-to.

Recipe Difficulty

Users often associate the length of a recipe list with the difficulty level of the recipe. But surprisingly, after they read the list of ingredients, the description and instructions actually end up being more important than a listed prep time. Time spent cooking can vary radically depending on the cook. And for the average recipe viewer, we’ve seen that they scan the instructions to see how their skill set would fare before committing.

Make your instructions bite-sized and concise. This helps users quickly digest (pun intended!) the recipe content. Blogs that are laid out this way are viewed more favorably. And know your audience. If you're targeting newer cooks, rather than saying something like "deglaze pan," say "pour warm broth into your still-hot pan and scrape up the sticky bits from the pan's surface while the hot liquid sizzles."

Every blog has its flavor, and depending on how you want to be perceived, tweaking your content to consider the above four points will take you a long way in getting your blog viewers from browsing your site to cooking your recipes (and returning for more!).

Photo via Getty Images