Feller started Yummly in 2010, mostly because that’s when he realized, “I couldn’t find a way to search for recipes and exclude anything with mustard.” Today, citing their 10 million users and 7.5 million monthly unique visitors, the recipe search engine bills itself as “the fastest growing food site in the world.” Feller described some of the problems they had to overcome to reach that position.
“When Amazon and Pandora started, they could seed their verticals with metadata from sites like IMDb. We had to create a structured data set and match it up with the content.” Feller said that’s still at the core of everything they do. Now with it in place, Feller can imagine a time in the near future when a user would log into the site and be greeted with the message, “Today is the first cold day in the northeast. Based on your history, here are some soups and stews you may like other people in the area are making now,” complete with lists of local, seasonal ingredients that match the user’s taste.
Another of his biggest challenges was finding the right way social media can enhance the user experience. He sees food as one of the most natural entry points, but he said, “We’re not going to do social for the sake of social. We want social with utility.” No one needs “another Instagram just for food.”
Not that Yummly discourages taking pictures of the food its users make, of course. Ideally users would take pictures of their own creations that follow the recipes they find on the site, share the pictures, and link back to the recipes’ pages. Feller believes that “The utility Yummly has is that it establishes your credibility when you make something (from our site). The way we think about social is helping to find authority.”
And on a branding side for marketers, Yummly also has a clear advantage over sites like Pinterest that could be considered its competitors. According to Flightpath, Yummly’s “Promoted Recipes” and semantic search engine affords users the ability to make queries that elicit intelligent, highly relevant responses, as well as results that highlight sponsors’ recipes, too. And while conspicuously lacking in Pinterest, Yummly is now providing brand analytics for its sponsors.
Feller thinks it’s this combination of a brand-friendly website with a naturally shareable theme that will continue to drive Yummly’s success. “Whether it’s helping people plan dinner parties or just helping to cook for a family,” he said, “food is incredibly social.”