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How a Gluten-Free Food Blog Grew Traffic by 508% in 3 Months
SEO case study of


252.6K to 1.5M Monthly Visits


Food & Drink


Food Blog

Reporting Date

October 2023

In 2023, the global market for gluten-free food boasts a staggering value of 7.2 billion USD. Projections suggest this figure will nearly double by 2032.

But for certain entrepreneurs, tapping into the gluten-free industry isn’t driven by financial gains.

Meet Iowa Girl Eats, a food blogger whose gluten-free living was born out of necessity. Her journey unfolded on, which now attracts an incredible 1.5 million monthly visits.

We’ll reveal how she skyrocketed her blog’s organic traffic and tips for implementing those strategies on your website.

Let’s get started.

About Iowa Girl Eats

Kristin Porter started Iowa Girl Eats in 2008.

It started as a lifestyle blog, but Porter pivoted as her audience resonated with recipes. Iowa Girl Eats became a full-blown food blog focusing on family-friendly recipes.

Then, in 2013, Porter’s life changed with a diagnosis of Celiac disease. This diagnosis reshaped her personal relationship with food and marked a turning point for Iowa Girl Eats.

Ready to revolutionize her eating habits, Porter built the Iowa Girl Eats we know today: a go-to source for gluten-free eating.

Iowa Girl Eats homepage, a food blog for gluten-free recipes.

Today, the site features hundreds of gluten-free recipes.

Porter also offers meal plans and eBooks to help her audience learn the ropes of gluten-free eating and sharpen their culinary skills.

Overall, Iowa Girl Eats has carved a space in the gluten-free market with a loyal following.

Porter’s social media presence also contributes to the website’s success. She has 56.1K followers on Instagram, 129K on Facebook, and 250K on Pinterest.

Historical Performance

Iowa Girl Eats didn’t reach this level of popularity overnight.

Over 15 years of Porter’s efforts went into growing her food blog.

Semrush reveals how most of the monthly traffic stayed below 200K visits. Then, the site started teetering around the 400K range in recent years.

Then, in August 2023, it’s as if everything clicked.

Chart of's organic traffic growth over the last 10 years with a traffic spike in summer 2023.

Iowa Girl Eats gained almost 400K new organic visitors in weeks. This number grew in the following months, with October setting an all-time high.

Organic traffic at Iowa Girl Eats over the last 6 months with 1.5 million visits in October.

So, what exactly happened in the late summer of 2023 to finally catapult Iowa Girl Eats to its newfound success?

The answers exist on the search engine results page (SERP.)

The Catalyst: How Iowa Girl Eats Reached 1.5 Million Monthly Visits grew its organic traffic by performing the following:

  1. Implementing review and recipe schema
  2. Creating user-centric content for People Also Ask
  3. Optimizing images for Google Image search
  4. Obtaining more backlinks

Let’s look at each component to understand how it contributed to Iowa Girl Eats’ recent success.

1. Implementing Review and Recipe Schema

In October 2023, Iowa Girl Eats ranks for 316.2K keywords with review snippets.

Review snippets are a type of rich result on the SERP. These enhanced search listings display an average rating, typically as stars.

Here is what one looks like in search results:

Google SERP with a review snippet for the query "jennifer aniston salad."

Right now, Iowa Girl Eats is getting a lot of review snippets.

The chart below shows its growth to reach an incredible 319.2K keywords.

Growth chart of Iowa Girl Eats' new ranking keywords with review snippets.

Recipe snippets also mirror this remarkable growth.

Growth chart of Iowa Girl Eats' ranking keyword with recipe rich results.

The site ranks for 31.9K keywords with recipe rich results in October 2023.

And better yet, they’re showing in the recipe carousel at the top of the SERP.

Recipe carousel on the SERP for the query "one pot chicken pot pie" featuring a recipe by Iowa Girl Eats.

So, how did they get these search results?

That’s the power of schema markup.

Schema markup is a type of structured data that lives within the HTML code of a web page. It communicates details about your content and helps search engines categorize it.

For example, recipe schema is food-focused, while author schema says who wrote it.

Iowa Girl Eats is generous with its implementation of schema markup. They use various schema types on every page we analyzed.

Ultimately, website owners use schema markup to win rich results on the SERP.

Search engines can then translate this data into an enhanced search listing, like what we saw in the above recipe and review snippets.

Why this matters:

Rich results get more clicks and traffic than standard search listings. These enhanced elements are eye-catching and earn significant user attention. By implementing schema markup, you increase your chances of winning this type of search result.

How to implement schema markup on your site:

There are several ways to manually implement review and recipe schema markup on your food blog.

This article shows three methods for adding schema markup to WordPress without a plugin.

Each method involves a few steps and requires you to obtain and copy code snippets into your web page’s HTML.

Tools for implementing schema markup:

If the idea of touching code sends shivers down your spine, don’t fret. All in One SEO’s Schema Generator does the work for you. Choose your desired schema type, click the plus button, and we’ll format it for search engines. It really is that simple.

Below is our Schema Catalog, highlighting Recipe schema.

The AIOSEO Schema Catalog offers various schema types, including recipe.

Next, we’ll look at another area on the SERP where Iowa Girl Eats shines: People Also Ask.

2. Creating User-Centric Content for People Also Ask

Besides appealing to search engines with technical SEO (schema markup), Iowa Girl Eats keeps users at the forefront of its content creation.

This simply means Porter writes for humans—not bots.

And it shows in her articles.

Porter writes in a friendly, conversational tone, making it simple for her audience to replicate her recipes. As an avid cook and mother of three, she also has a knack for answering questions before commenters even need to ask.

For example, the website’s top traffic-driving article features an FAQ section under the recipe.

Here are just the first two questions that appear:

Screenshot of two FAQs on an Iowa Girl Eat's recipe article about baked chicken thighs.

Now, not only is this information helpful for the person following the recipe, but this format is also incredibly effective for winning rich results in the People Also Ask section of Google.

And that’s exactly what the first question did.

Below is a screenshot of this FAQ’s rich result on the SERP:

Google's People Also Ask section for the query. "how long to bake chicken thighs" and the FAQ rich result from Iowa Girl Eats.

Iowa Girl Eats is getting PAA results for 10K keywords in October.

The chart below demonstrates this impressive growth.

Growth chart of People Also Ask results for with a spike in October.

Why this matters:

Like our earlier review and recipe snippets, PAA results are also compelling for users to visit your site. A listing in the PAA section can grow your site’s visibility and boost clickthrough rates (CTR). They’re also a great way of establishing authority in your niche since users often trust these results.

How to optimize for PAA on your site:

Iowa Girl Eats is doing several things right to win these PAA results. Let’s review the strategies you can use on your website:

  1. They’re using question-based subheaders. They formulate subheadings with words like what/can/should/how.
  2. They answer the question directly below the header. There’s no fluffy introduction or making users wait. It’s direct and concise.
  3. Content follows a people-first approach. While these optimizations work well for search engines, they’re more importantly made for humans. Iowa Girl Eats selects questions that aid the user’s cooking experience.

For more tips, here’s a guide on how to optimize for Google’s PAA section.

Tools for optimizing for PAA:

AIOSEO helps you optimize for PAA results by checking content readability and implementing FAQ schema.

Let’s look at the tools for each.

Checking content readability: TruSEO analyzes your content optimizations and formatting for an optimal user experience. This tool produces a checklist of items that show you what you’re doing well and areas for improvement.

Below is a screenshot of TruSEO’s readability checklist.

TruSEO Readability Checklist shows items that meet optimization standards and areas for improvement.

Implementing FAQ schema: Our Schema Generator also offers FAQ schema. This schema type lets search engines know you’re answering a question, a vital component of winning a PAA result.

AIOSEO Schema Catalog with various schema options, including FAQ.

Iowa Girl Eats isn’t only dominating the traditional SERP. They’re also serving up a strong presence in Google Images.

At the beginning of the year (January 2023), they ranked in Google image search results for 3.2K keywords.

Now, in October, they rank for 145.2K keywords.

This growth is their most impressive yet.

Chart of Iowa GIrl Eats' rankings in Google Images.

Here’s an example of one of these results in Google Images:

Google image search results for the query "buffalo chicken dip" and the first result is a recipe from Iowa Girl Eats.

As for how they’re getting these image rankings, Iowa Girl Eats uses image SEO.

Image SEO is the optimization of certain elements of your image. This process helps search engines understand the photo and plays an important role in user accessibility, too.

Here’s how Iowa Girl Eats uses image SEO to rank (plus examples of the above image’s optimizations):

  • Setting an SEO-friendly image file name
    • crock-pot-buffalo-chicken-dip-new-iowagirleats.jpg
  • Optimizing alt text with the primary keyword
    • “chip dipping into crock pot buffalo chicken dip”
  • Implementing image schema
    • Caption: “overhead photo of bowl of buffalo chicken dip made in a crock pot”

Why this matters:

There are approximately 1 billion Google image searches every day. And every search is an opportunity to drive traffic to your website. Applying image SEO best practices increases your chances of ranking in this powerful search tool.

How to do image SEO on your site:

Follow Iowa Girl Eats’ lead and optimize your images with strategic keyword placement.

For example, you’ll want to include your primary keyword in the following areas:

  • Image file name
  • Alt text
  • Title tag

You’ll also want to pay attention to elements like:

  • File size
  • Image dimensions
  • Captions

For a full list of items, our image SEO tutorial shows you where and how to optimize for each.

And don’t forget image schema markup!

Tools for image SEO:

Image SEO can be labor-intensive when you don’t have the right tools.

At AIOSEO, our Image SEO feature eliminates the manual work of image optimizations. You can customize smart tags to automate optimizations in a single click.

Use smart tags to generate SEO-friendly image titles automatically.

As for schema markup, our Schema Generator can implement image schema for you. It’s as simple as uploading your image in the schema settings, answering a few easy questions, and we’ll take care of the rest.

Screenshot of AIOSEO's schema catalog that lets you upload your image for image schema markup.

Now, let’s look at the final contributing factor to Iowa Girl Eats’ explosive growth: backlinks.

Backlinks are considered one of the top two ranking factors. And in October 2023, Iowa Girl Eats’ backlink profile shot through the roof.

They reached over half a million backlinks.

Growth chart of Iowa Girl Eats' backlink profile with over half a million backlinks in October 2023.

The one caveat to this influx of new backlinks? Semrush reveals that many share IP addresses, which can look suspicious to search engines.

Why this matters:

Backlinks are a proven ranking factor, making them a powerful traffic driver. However, quality over quantity is the best approach when link building. Quick results from thousands of new backlinks can take a turn for the worse if they turn out to be spam. Instead, focus on links from credible sources and relevant websites.

This backlinking guide explains how to identify and obtain high-quality backlinks.

It’s also important to note that an effective linking strategy goes beyond backlinks. You should also optimize for the following:

  • Internal links (from one page on your site to another page on your site)
  • Outbound links (from your site to another external site)

This link-building guide has everything you need to know to optimize for each.

Link Assistant can help you find internal linking opportunities quickly. With linking suggestions that populate directly in the WordPress editor, it’s as simple as clicking Add Link.

Internal linking suggestions from Link Assistant in AIOSEO.

Standout SEO Wins

Before we conclude, there’s an additional technique we’d like to highlight at

1. They cross-promote across social media platforms.

Iowa Girl Eats has cultivated a strong presence across various social media platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest. Porter actively promotes her content across all these channels.

This cross-promotion amplifies content discovery, driving traffic to her website and other channels. In addition to increasing visibility, it’s also about meeting her audience where they are.

By staying connected to her followers across multiple platforms, Porter keeps her audience engaged, regardless of their preferred online space.

Tool: AIOSEO makes promoting your latest post or page easy on social media. We offer social media integration, allowing you to share your content immediately on any or all of your favorite social platforms.

List of social networks available to link with your AIOSEO account.


In our analysis of, we’ve discovered the main factors contributing to its organic growth.

Now, let’s recap which strategies you should implement on your site and which to reconsider.

Top 3 Strategies to Emulate

  1. Implement schema markup to win rich results on the SERP. Iowa Girl Eats uses various schema types to win enhanced search listings. These rich results are proven to improve metrics like CTR and traffic. Whether you’re running a food blog or starting an eCommerce, choose the best schema type for your business.
  2. Optimize images to rank in Google image search. A holistic SEO strategy requires image optimizations. By implementing image SEO best practices, you can rank in Google Image search and drive significant organic traffic to your site.
  3. Craft user-centric content that ranks in People Also Ask. Writing for humans first and bots second is at the core of high-quality content. Keep your users at the forefront of your content creation process while keeping search engines in mind. FAQs are a great way to serve both parties and win coveted positions in Google’s PAA section.

Bottom 3 Strategies to Reconsider

  1. Neglecting image title tags. Iowa Girl Eats is a hit or miss for image title tags. Sometimes they have them; sometimes they don’t. Image titles appear when users click or hover over an image. They also help search engines understand the image’s content. AIOSEO image SEO feature can help you generate image title tags automatically.
  2. Missing meta descriptions. Some important pages do not have meta descriptions, like the blog and product categories. Every indexable page should have a unique meta description. An AI meta description generator can even write them for you.
  3. Not using FAQ schema. Despite Iowa Girl Eats’ schema implementations, there is one type curiously missing from the list: FAQ. Even though they still win many PAA results, using FAQ schema could skyrocket this number even higher. Our Schema Generator makes this process easy. Just click the plus button by FAQ, and you’re done!

Steal Our SEO Winning Strategy: A Checklist for Your Website

Are you ready to leverage Iowa Girl Eats’ growth strategies and our recipe for success?

We’ve got you covered with 50 SEO items to grow your online visibility.

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Serve Up Success: Conquer the SERP With AIOSEO

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All in One SEO homepage, the best WordPress SEO plugin.

Trusted by over 3 million savvy bloggers and marketers, AIOSEO offers a robust tool kit that makes it easy to do SEO and get results. We’ll help you drive targeted traffic to your site and make optimizations like a pro.

Here are a few of our favorite features:

  • Rich Snippets Schema: AIOSEO offers several schema types to help you win more rich results on the SERP. It’s as simple as choosing the schema you want; then, we’ll format the structured data for Google.
  • TruSEO On-Page Analysis: Get comprehensive but easy-to-understand feedback on your content optimizations. We’ll let you know which elements meet SEO and readability standards and give you actionable insights for those that need tweaking.
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  • Social Media Integration: Connect with your audience and share content across all your social media platforms. Some integrations include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and more.
author avatar
Gabriela Jhean SEO Specialist
Gabriela is a creative and results-driven SEO specialist dedicated to helping small businesses stand out online. She contributes in-depth SEO case studies at AIOSEO Trends to reveal the winning strategies of top-ranking websites. In her downtime, Gabriela enjoys treasure hunting for antique jewelry.