Allrecipes.com Reboot Demonstrates Union Between Search and Social

Allrecipes.com’s brand new redesign illustrates the increasing confluence of search and social.

With its extremely visual layout topped by a search bar, the site looks very similar to Pinterest. And like Pinterest, it’s somewhat of a search engine in disguise: Allrecipes.com generates 1.3 billion visits a year, many of which come from people searching for recipes, ingredients, and inspiration.

“We pay tons of attention to search because it is critical to matching people with the right sort of content and community needs,” says Esmee Williams, vice president of brand strategy for Allrecipes.com. “What differentiates us from search engines is that content is our own, so we have a really rich collection of data, recipes, and reviews. We also have a very guided experience that start with inspiration, as people ask, ‘What can I make with what I have right now?'”

When people search for recipes, the results they find are posted by other users, making Allrecipes.com inherently social and community-based. Born of an Internet cookie exchange, the site was started in 1997 by a group of friends pursuing Master’s degrees in Anthropology at the University of Washington. Though social media as we now know it was still several years away, Allrecipes.com was an early adopter of the community aspects. The site introduced ratings and reviews in 2000, around the same time as Amazon.

“One thing [the founders] did was require you to be a member in order to submit a review, because they wanted to attribute reviews to individuals and they also wanted people to take ownership of that review,” Williams explains. “Rather than a review that says, ‘This looks good’ or ‘Wow!’ what you’ll find is that they all have something like, ‘This is really great, but my husband doesn’t like cilantro so I used this instead.'”

The redesign will take Allrecipes.com from being inherently and community-based to being a full-out social network, complete with individual user profiles. And like every other social media platform, Allrecipes.com is focusing on mobile, video, and local.

Video is mostly for the benefit of millennial users, many of which are still learning to cook and like the guided aspect of video instructions. The local aspects will include showing users which ingredients and products are on sale within a certain radius, opening up more sponsorship opportunities for brands. The site will also be mobile-first, not only because two-thirds of its users log on from mobile devices, but because of Google.

“Google is looking towards brands that provide superior cross-screen experiences. We’re pretty confident that the changes we’re making enhance our search footprint,” Williams says. “We want to make sure we’re highly discoverable, but many changes we’re making enhance that social discovery as well.”

Allrecipes.com will also incorporate the use of a predictive cooking graph algorithm, suggesting recipes and ingredients based on previous site activity. Williams points out that she may “Like” a picture of a gluttonous bacon cheeseburger with a bun made out of mac-and-cheese, but she’s not actually going to cook it for her family because her refrigerator and pantry are generally stocked with the same things all the time.

“Knowing the type of food I typically make is a smart way to make recommendations for cooks, because we can recommend things that are really actionable,” she says. “Our search gives people the ability to search for recipes based on what they have on-hand or if they want to omit a certain ingredient, because they have an allergy or really hate cilantro.”

Whether users have certain allergies or hate cilantro, the idea behind the site redesign is that everyone who logs on can connect with other users, based on tastes and styles in common.

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