Revisiting after 3 months (a Hugo based website)

Just today, on the 23rd of July Yummy Recipes UK is celebrating the third month from the lunch of the website. We (me, from the development side, and my friend, from the content) didn’t see what was coming.

At the lunch the ambitions were high, but also reality brings us down a bit, as we saw plenty of cooking websites around that we will need to compete with.

During the first two months social media, mainly Facebook, dominates in popularity. Over 1000 people on average viewed each recipe that we shared, whereas our website got only a portion of visits.

Facebook and Instagram Insights of Yummy Recipes UK over 3 months

I thought that Instagram will take a greater role in shaping popularity, but Facebook showed a different story. Surprise, surprise.

Yummy Recipes UK initial visits chart from Google Analytics

From the initial hype in the number of website visits, the search (through Google) was growing slowly. The new domain hasn’t got an authority but I knew that the website was constructed well using all possible SEO aspects, so we keep concentrating on publishing regularly (every Tuesday and Friday) new content hoping to find its audience.

We have tested a couple of variants with the first weeks, looking at the day of the week and times to when to publish on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter until we settled with Tuesdays and Fridays around 10 am.

Yummy Recipes UK in ahrefs

I have been monitoring the website through various tools like ahrefs, but mainly Google Search Console. You can say whatever you want but Google is the biggest influencer if is going for the existence of your website.

Through Google Search Console I have been looking at the performance in Google Search, which was slowly growing.

Apart from search performance, Google is displaying something called Discover.

Google Discover is for me one of the most mysterious things that are there.

The main difference between Search and Discover is the fact that search appearance is based on what the user is searching (typing in the search box). Discover is based on algorithms that analyse user history (tracking through it) and present what they think (their algorithm) that the user may like. Because of that, there is no golden rule on how to highlight your presence there.

Even the best SEO techniques will not help if users are not interested in it.

You may do a lot of recommendations towards Google Discover but you may never appear there. I got a couple of the websites (that are here for years) and none of them getting any or almost any traffic through Discover.

First hit in Google Discover for Yummy Recipes UK

On Yummy Recipes I saw one day hit in there. I thought, maybe this website will use this feature. After days all goes flat again so haven’t been too optimistic.

Yummy Recipes UK performance in Google Search over last 3 months

We have been concentrating further (the author of the content) on publishing regularly and the search for it has been growing steadily (the Discover remained flat). I forget about that until I saw a higher than a normal number of visits in Google Analytics (anomaly) that had been reported as Direct traffic. This happens just before we hit the second month from the lunch of the website.

It was unusual and see that one recipe was suddenly more popular and performed in search better than others. Once I looked for that anomaly in Google Search Console I found that Discover start to spike again. That was a surprise but I haven’t been too excited until I saw the growth over the following days.

I keep my head cool and waited to see if that was permanent or just another, this time a bit longer, an anomaly.

We quickly hit over 1000 impressions in Discover from which 5% account for clicks.

It didn’t stop there.

Yummy Recipes first impression in Google Discover

The next step was over 2000 impressions and roughly 3% of clicks.

The website, from a couple of visits a day (more on the day when we publish more content) reached 40 new users on average.

Yummy Recipes visits chart in Google Analytics after hits in Google Discover

That’s how the new month (July) started for us.

Quickly we hit the peak of slightly over 2500 impressions to drop a bit on the following day but still keep in above 1000.

Admiring what is happening we keep our heads on our shoulders.

I keep looking at the performance of the website and implementing needed changes when my friend keeps working on new recipes.

The reason why we lunch Yummy Recipes UK in such form as it is was the fact, that searching for recipes is a pain in the ass (let’s say this straight).

The recipe shall contain a very short introduction, ingredients and method of how to prepare it.

The majority of high-traffic recipe websites forget about it putting their whole life story before they will come back and present their “simple” recipe.

It’s mostly because they not creating recipes for their readers, but fulfilling them with unnecessary content only for SEO and positioning over search engines through plenty of keywords.

Some recipes are simple and this is how they need to be.

We may read them on our mobile phone or ask our smart speaker or smart display to read them for us. This is why we need to concentrate on what’s important for our readers first.

When analysing other websites with recipes I noticed that most of them lack structured data (Schema) for recipes or if it is, they are with plenty of errors or empty bits. Even so, their recipes are promoted through Google Search (more than ours).

We tried to make everything neat and follow all the requirements for structured data (we don’t publish a video for guided recipes, hence here we will report a warning in the schema validator). As we noticed, Google Discover is like that and we quickly stay there for longer.

Yummy Recipes after 3 months – chart from Google Discover

But… (there is always “but”).

It’s not like, that all recipes are promoted all the time. Peaks are showing that feeding website with fresh content on a timely basis is crucial for maintaining the trend.

Let’s look at that a bit more…

Top pages of Yummy Recipes in Google Discover

Here are some of the top pages that are promoted well through Google Discover.

Chart for Yummy Recipes recipe for Chinese Style BBQ Chicken in Google Discover

Most of them are peaking a couple of days after they are published, like this recipe for Chinese Style BBQ Chicken. After a couple of days, we fed the website with new content and the past one slowly fades.

But that’s not only the case.

Chart for Yummy Recipes recipe for Beef Casserole (Goulash) in Google Discover

Our most surprising content was Beef Casserole (Goulash). This single recipe starts with good passion in Google Discover. Through its initial peak, it drops down like the other recipes but quickly regains popularity over the following days.

Yummy Recipes chart in Google Analytics after first 3 months

And so on, three months later social media become an addition to our website and finally we start seen better traffic through Google Analytics for our website (of course we using minimal approach). Traffic in the range of 70-90 new users on daily basis was something that we expect (our target for now).

Yummy Recipes performance in Google Search Console after 3 months

Going back to Google Search Console, we noticed that mobile users are dominant on the website and they are the most important visitors on which we should concentrate.

Good job that we designed our website with this principle – to be responsive and good look good on mobile as in desktop view.

Using Hugo as a base gives us the necessary speed. The easiest way to adopt what things we need allows us to thrive in Core Web Vitals.

Yummy Recipes Core Web Vitals for Mobiles after 3 months

Form random analysis, if I see anything below green it’s a sign for me to act. Recently noticed that LCP (Large Content Paint) so quickly implemented responsive images. With Hugo build-in Image Processing and WebP support, we start to be shown in green in Mobile Core Web Vitals in Google Search Console.

There is a lot in front of us.

Currently, I am just using Visual Studio Code to edit not only the layout of the website but also prepare markdown files for publishing. In future, I am planning to take from my shoulders the time-consuming part of playing with markdown files and replace it with CMS for the static site (starting with Netlify CMS). Will need to have a look at how this will go, but from what I see and learn, my personal decision to use Hugo over other solutions (like WordPress) was the right one.

I would never expect that in 3 months, the new website to become as popular as it’s now. It was a great success for me from the development part and definitely for an author of the content, seening that it is appreciated by many.