*Disclaimer: All of my thoughts and advice are merely things I have personally learned from blogging and strategies that I’ve used to get to this point.
Welcome back to my Blogging Series!
New around these parts? Let me fill you in. To celebrate Sally’s Baking Addiction’s 1st birthday, I am throwing together a series of posts dedicated to my readers who are eager to start their own blog. It is also dedicated to readers who are looking to grow their own blogs and market themselves.
Ok, let’s do this.
How do I begin to write my posts?
I ask myself a few questions to get the fingers going. What are my selling points on this recipe? How can I describe this to someone who has never tasted it? If I can’t lure you in with a striking description, chances are you won’t stay committed to reading. While photography plays a huge role, I know my readers wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have anything to say.
A post should be like having an engaging conversation with someone. I want my readers to feel involved, so I try to make the posts inviting and enjoyable. Here’s how I do it.
1. Get To The Point, Sally!
When I launched Sally’s Baking Addiction in 2011, I merely posted 1 small picture of the recipe with 1 or 2 sentences why it was so “yummy.” Talk about boring. As I got more comfortable, I began typing long drawn out posts – posts that make me yawn when I go back and read them.
Let’s try to find a happy medium here.
I like to talk about food in my posts. I write a food blog after all. That is just my writing style; I know many other successful bloggers who go into personal stories and then touch on the recipe briefly at the bottom of the post. For me, that just did not work! I try to leave out paragraphs and paragraphs about my busy day in the office or my purse collection. That is why I began my Bites of Real Life posts – so I can share random pictures and tidbits in my real life every now and then, leaving my recipe posts solely about the recipe. I know the majority of my readers are here for the food, so each post is centered around… the food.
2. I get writer’s block.
The internet is full of beautiful blogs with beautiful writing and beautiful photographs. I have to be honest, sometimes I have NO idea what to say in order to catch my readers’ attention. Sometimes the writing is effortless and the ideas pour out of my head and my fingers get sore from typing so much so quickly. Other days… not so much.
If I’m having trouble coming up with a new recipe or a new blog post idea, I think of some things that I know and others may not. For example, do you know how to boil a perfect soft-boiled egg every time? I certainly don’t. Do you know how to make a killer homemade tomato sauce? Share your secrets!
Many readers may not know the correct way to measure flour – spoon & level instead of scooping it out of the bag with a measuring cup (don’t do that – you could end up with 150% of the correct measurement!) Likewise, many readers may not know the “tall cookie dough ball trick” either.
Just think of all the things you know how to do and share it!
Or what about going back into your archives and remaking a recipe – but better? I know there may be a few recipes in your archives that may not be as perfect as you’d like. Why not try them again and make some changes? Make them stellar and post them again! Explain to your readers the changes you made and why.
I explained why removing the extra egg yolk and chocolate chips in these cookies was so important the second time around. I got a lot of thankful feedback from curious bakers.
3. My Favorite Two Words to Use in Each Post.
Something I picked up earlier this year after reading this enlightening article. A very thought-provoking idea when it comes to blog writing that I began to implement in my posts.
“You are going to love this cookie recipe because it is easy and quick - saving you time for holiday shopping and wrapping presents.”
Both effective words appear in the sentence above. You and because.
Now, what if I simply said “I love this cookie recipe.” Not engaging or convincing at all, right? I’m marketing my recipes to my readers, so I try to focus on their wants and needs.
“When it comes to writing engaging content, ‘you’ is the most powerful word in the English language, because people are ultimately interested in fulfilling their own needs. It may sound harsh, but the fact is your readers won’t start to actually care about you at all until you’ve repeatedly offered them exceptional value with your blog.” – Brian Clark
As I sit down and type, I constantly ask myself “why” after each sentence. As the author, it is my job to specifically describe the processes, the ingredients, and the methods as precisely as possible. Why did I brown the butter? Why did I used frozen raspberries instead of fresh? Why did I use such a high oven temperature? Why are these cookies so soft?
“Start with a very high oven temperature for the muffins and lower it down after 5 minutes. You are doing this because the initial hot oven temperature will lift the muffin up quickly, creating a tall muffin domed top.”
Put your reader in the situation – make them imagine they are cooking the recipe and explain WHY they are doing what they are doing. We are all inquisitive souls.
4. My Least Two Favorite Words to Use in Each Post.
This sentence has appeared on my website before: “These cookies are so yummy!”
First of all, what does “yummy” actually tell you? It’s like the word “delicious” — neither of these will describe my recipe to a reader. Is the cookie soft? Is it chewy? Are the rolls doughy? Are they spiced with cinnamon flavor? I try to be very descriptive so my readers know exactly what to expect.
I am guilty of using both words in the past, but try hard to give my readers a little more detail about the texture of their muffins or the taste of their bundt cake.
5. Take a Break.
One of the best thing you can do for post-writing is to… ignore your post writing. What? Yes.
More often than not, I find myself a little brain-dead after a long workday and most certainly before a workday. When I have trouble coming up with exactly what to say, I walk away. I go for a run, do a little yoga, online shop, make a snack, or drink some tea. When I come back to my desk, my mind is just a little more clear. Nothing new or revolutionary here, but taking a break to unwind as I write a post really works wonders. I’d rather have a post that I wrote over the course of a few days than to post something crappy and rushed.
6. Know how to write a recipe.
My website is about recipes. Writing recipes in a clear, professional format is important to me. I refer to this very useful post when I’m hung up on writing a recipe in the correct format.
A few key things I’ve picked up the past year:
- Write the ingredients in the order of which they are used in the recipe
- Specify the size of egg (large? medium) – this makes a difference
- Use “and” to break up fractional measurements. 1 1/2 cups may be hard to understand for the average reader. It may be easier for you to type 1 and 1/2 cups.
- BAKING PAN SIZE. I cannot stress this enough. If you do not specify the baking pan size for your readers, they could end up with very soggy, undercooked, overflowing brownies or very dry, burnt ones. I know I’ve baked items in the wrong baking pan before and it’s frustrating to waste so many ingredients.
- Include serving sizes.
- Include how to store an item and how long to store an item. I received a lot of inquiries about how long my cookies stay fresh until I began to include this at the bottom of each recipe. Now I am working on going back and including it for each one. Your readers like to know this! (ie: Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 7 days.)
7. The Importance of Being Original.
As I got my feet wet in the blogosphere, I quickly learned the importance of being original. It is perhaps the best lesson that I ever learned. I’m a blog reader myself and I am drawn to unique, new, and fresh recipes or content. As a blog writer, I try to provide the same for my own readers.
Blogging what everyone else has already blogged, in the exact same way, may guarantee you’ll be ignored. And if you don’t credit the source? Well, you’re surely going to piss someone off. It’s just bad etiquette!
8. Be Clear About Your Copyright Policy.
Sooner or later almost every food blogger finds his/her work being published somewhere else without permission. This is so frustrating. All of your hard work, your personal photography… stolen. It happens to me all of the time. Something I’ve recently began implementing in my posts and all over my website is that my material is under copyright. A clear copyright policy is crucial unless you want your content stolen right before your eyes. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want authorities knocking at my door for stealing material under copyright. That’s not funny business.
My entire website is protected under DMCA Protection & Takedown Services. A badge is clearly displayed in my website’s footer. It’s FREE to register. I’ve also recently begun to watermark my photos with my website’s name. I was hesitant with this at first because I do not like writing to take away from the photo, but a small faded watermark in the bottom corner doesn’t make much of a difference. I’m able to add watermark to my photos with Lightroom, my photo editing software.
I recommend having a clear statement as to whether you are OK with your photos and recipes being used on other sites. Beneath each recipe, you’ll find my copyright language. This is so internet users will know that (1) you must ask permission to use my photos and (2) the content may not be republished word-for-word. I note the source of the recipe (if it is not my own development) and I also include:
“© Sally’s Baking Addiction. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.”
9. Quality over Quantity.
I do not outsource any of my tasks because personally, it’s bad for my workflow. I develop, bake, test, style, photograph, edit, write, advertise, approve/respond to comments, emails, tweets, and facebook all on my own. And many of you do the same! I do not want anyone’s voice to represent my own, so I personally do what I can.
With two full time jobs, it is difficult to keep up at times, so I do not always focus on quantity, but more quality. I do not post on my blog everyday, but boy I wish I could! Find out the schedule that works best for you and concentrate on producing high quality posts rather than a ton of “average” posts. Think of your blog’s space and content as real estate – every corner of it and word in it is important!
Blogging isn’t always easy. In fact, it can be quite overwhelming at times. It’s not rocket science, but it does take time, drive, and effort. My blog’s content isn’t about complaints and whining, it’s about cookies and frosting and peanut butter. I have disaster recipes and cookies that bake flat. I’m a regular girl, learning, baking, and blogging my way through recipes.
Start small and let yourself learn. 1 year ago, I had NO idea how to write a successful blog post. I cringe looking back at old photos and old writing. What was I thinking? It’s a growing experience and it’s important to have fun along the way.
Of course, this is not the be all end all of blogging content and there are many other topics like SEO and spell check (do it!).
On the subject of writing or blog content, what do you feel is most important for your own blog?
Do you have any blog writing strategies?
Check out more posts from this series:
- Year One: How I Did It
- How to Start a Food Blog
- Blogging Strategies: Being Present and Personable
- Food Photography Basics
- How I Turned my Food Blog into a Career