On Food Blogs, Search Engines, Frames, and Permission
Lately, I’ve had a lot of questions from food bloggers about our new recipe search engine. Some of them found out about our site from us, others saw Feastie as a referral in their traffic logs, others may have noticed it through Google Alerts, others may have heard about it from other bloggers.
I’ve received a full spectrum of reactions! Some bloggers have linked back to us or have written blog posts about how happy they are to be included. Some bloggers have sent emails and asked to be added to the index. Others have emailed me with questions about how the site works and why we didn’t ask permission. And some have expressed their displeasure publicly.
I guess it’s no surprise that we’ve had such a wide variety of reactions. Anytime something totally new appears out of the clear blue sky, it’s natural to wonder “Are you a Good Witch, or a Bad Witch?”
If you recently noticed that your site was indexed in Feastie, and were pleasantly surprised, I’m happy that you’re happy! Let me know in the comments. Be sure to take a look at the Goodies page to find cool recipe tools for your blog. If you aren’t in the index, and would like to be, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you recently noticed that your site was indexed in Feastie, and the surprise was not so pleasant, then I apologize. I want you to know that my intention is to create a site that benefits food blogs by making them searchable, driving traffic, and adding interactivity for your readers. I understand how hard you work on your food blog (we write one too). I also know how much recipe sites have been targeted for copying. I understand how some of you are on high alert for sites that are scraping and republishing the content that you worked so hard to create.
I want to assure you that Feastie is not one of those sites.
So let me answer some of the most frequently asked questions I’ve been hearing.
Are you mirroring / copying / ripping off my recipes?
I am not. In our search results, we show a thumbnail picture of a recipe, a title for the recipe, and the title of the blog. When someone using our site clicks on one of these snippets, we take them to a page where they see the original blog post, coming from the blogger’s server, with our tools in a sidebar. We use an iframe to show the actual page coming from the food blogger. It is not a mirror or a copy of the food blogger’s site. The blogger gets a page view (it will show up in google analytics or wordpress logs as referral traffic coming from feastie.com) and all ad or referral revenues go to the blogger. We make it clear that the recipe comes from the blogger, not Feastie, and we provide links that remove the sidebar to show the original blog page without it.
Why do you use frames?
I wanted to show the complete recipe alongside our tools for bookmarking, shopping lists, and exploring other recipes. Another approach would have been to use a doorway page — a page about the recipe that doesn’t show the original blog post at all. To get the complete recipe, the user has to click a link that goes to the source. This tends to be frustrating to a person searching for recipes. They clicked on a link that promised a recipe from an awesome food blog and they didn’t get it. Often they don’t bother to click again for the instructions. When that happens, the blogger doesn’t get a page view (but the search engine does). I thought that guaranteeing a page view for the blogger and offering a better experience for the recipe reader was a win-win.
Are you giving me Google Juice or taking it away?
Feastie provides a lot of links to food bloggers, all of which are accessible to the GoogleBot and contribute to the number of inbound links that Google counts for each website. This should, in principle, add to the food blogger’s PageRank. However, it’s important to note that Google is going through some major changes in their algorithm right now. The new algorithm is called the Panda algorithm, and it means that PageRank is becoming a lot less important. (Read Six Revisions’ article for information on optimizing your site for the Panda algorithm.) Regardless, we aren’t doing anything to hurt your ranking in Google. Chances are that we have very little effect either way.
How does Feastie benefit food bloggers?
Back in March, there was a lot of talk about the new Google Recipe View which requires microformats to be included in the index. I thought it was really unfair to require food bloggers to recode every blog post in order to make life easier for the GoogleBot. After all, search-bots are supposed to work for humans, not the other way around! That’s why I built the technology to index recipes from food blogs without requiring microformats.
I also thought there should be a place where people who love quality recipes could do advanced searches of recipes from just food blogs, not mega-sites. And that the ideal recipe search engine would give the home cook more than a link to a recipe. It would also make it easier to take the next step in cooking by building the shopping list and finding coupons.
I think food bloggers have the best recipes on the net, and I think it’s a shame that most people are still searching for recipes at AllRecipes.com or Google Recipe View (which still doesn’t include many food blogs almost a year after launch) when there’s such a wealth and variety of wonderful, creative recipes in food blogs. The problem was that there are thousands of food blogs scattered across the internet, and there was no good way to do advanced searches on them. I thought that if I could bring them all together in one easy to use recipe search index, I could bring a whole new audience of home cooks to the food blogging community.
Feastie is still a work in progress, to be sure. I do have a lot of really awesome features planned for the future. And Feastie may not drive a ton of traffic to the food blogs in our index right now. But imagine where it could be in a year, or five years, or ten years.
Why didn’t you ask my permission?
This is probably the biggest question that we get. If you were surprised to find that I have indexed your recipes, and are not happy that I didn’t ask your permission, I apologize. Of the hundreds of millions of sites on the web, tens of thousands of them are food blogs. We have hundreds in our index right now and we want to include as many as possible in the future. While it might be ideal for a search engine to personally ask each site owner's permission before indexing their site, it’s simply not practical. It’s hardly practical if you’re a big company like Google and it’s definitely not practical if you’re just two girls in a garage. That’s why there is a de-facto web standard called robots.txt that every well behaved search spider, including ours, obeys.
I do believe that showing thumbnail images (that link to the source), recipe titles, and ingredients are Fair Use. And that there is nothing wrong with using frames as long as clear attribution is given to the content owner and the framing site adds something of value. I believe that our bookmarking, exploration, and especially the one-click shopping list tools add significant value and interactivity for home cooks. Based on this, my reasoning for not asking permission was that there was no legal requirement to do so. But I do sincerely apologize if seeing your recipes indexed in our site came as an unpleasant shock. Since I recognize that there may be some differences of opinion on this matter, I'm interested in starting a dialogue about it. See my questions for food bloggers below and sound off in the comments or on your own blog.
So now that I’ve explained how Feastie is not a mirror site and that our intention is to benefit food bloggers, if we have indexed your food blog and you are certain that you want to have your recipes removed from our index, I’ll be more than happy to remove them. Just send an email to email@example.com, and I’ll do it.
And now that I have answered some of our most frequently asked questions, here are some questions that I have for food bloggers, food blog readers, and anyone who searches for recipes online.
Do you think a search engine should ask permission from the owner of each site that they index? Why or why not?
Do you think there are any downsides, in terms of market effects, to being included in a search engine?
What features would you like to see in a recipe search engine?
What other online tools would you like to see that foster connections between food blogs and home cooks?
Any other suggestions for Feastie?
Please share your thoughts in the comments or on your own blog.