It’s been a while since I wrote a post on the subject of blogging, so I’m taking the opportunity of me-having-no-sunny-days-to-photograph-a-new-recipe-for-you to crack an egg of knowledge about growing a food blog.
For the record, I do not consider myself a blogging expert. God no. Not by any means! In fact, I learn something new everyday and there are still a billion things I don’t understand. I simply want to share a few things I’ve learned that have helped me gain and maintain readership.
Anyway. You have a food blog, you’re enjoying it, but you’ve reached a plateau. You aren’t seeing those numbers increase as you hoped. Today I’m sharing tips to engage your readers, keep them coming back, getting exposure, writing the best possible content, and how to turn your food blog into a fun, inviting community.
1) Connect with people. Isn’t that what blogging is all about? Making connections. I can’t tell you how many readers have emailed, tweeted, and messaged me saying that they feel I’m their friend. In a totally not-creepy way of course. I try to style my writing and social media posts in such a way that I am talking to a friend. What I type is exactly how I talk in real life. Run-on sentences, non sentences, and exclamation points. I try to talk to YOU.
Because “you” is one of the most powerful words in the English language.
Put your readers in the situation, make them imagine they can do exactly what you’re doing. Reply to comments, ask them questions, be interested, and encourage action. I like to frame my posts and recipes around starting a thought-provoking conversation. I had absolutely no idea how to do this when I first started a blog. I either (1) wrote way too much or (2) wrote 1 sentence and then left you with a recipe. Both types of posts even put me (the writer) to sleep, so I’ve tried to find a style of blogging that encourages conversation between me and you – while keeping everyone interested.
Think of your blog more as a community, not a website.
2) Be there for your readers. This idea bounces off #1. I wouldn’t have a blog without you, my readers. When you have a question, I try my hardest to answer it. (Though I am only 1 person and this is becoming difficult to manage – I try my best to get to you all.) Offer your readers alternatives to ingredients, take their suggestions, listen to them, offer giveaways. They take the time to read your blog, so take the time for them.
A good example of this tip: last year, I started receiving many comments and emails from non-US readers (who make up a huge percent of my traffic) about adding metric measurements to my recipes. Though it took quite awhile, I’ve slowly been adding gram measurements. I’ve received so many thank yous for this and nothing is sweeter than waking up to an email saying “thank you – I can now understand and make your recipe!”
To grow your food blog, show thanks to your readers.
3) Content is king. Produce the best quality content you can and write about what you love. Readers can tell the difference when someone writes about a topic because it’s their life and they love it, compared to someone who writes about a topic because it’s a chore. There’s no magic formula or trick here, just write about what you are passionate about. I genuinely love being in my kitchen, rainbow sprinkles, baking oatmeal cookies, and eating apple pie, so they’re easy to write about.
Also… try to say something new and different. Break the rules and differentiate yourself from other bloggers. Have your own style and stick to it. And don’t be afraid to get personal; a little vulnerability makes you human and makes connecting a little easier (see tip #8).
I always say this to myself before I sit down to write a blog post: “am I in the mood to write right now?” Because if I’m not, I’m sure as hell not going to write something interesting. Readers can tell if writing is transparent and empty. This is why my posting schedule can be random during the week. Though I post at least 4 times per week, the days vary. If I’m not in the mood to write something good on Wednesday, I won’t post on Wednesday. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forced myself to bake something and shoot it “just because I need a recipe for the blog.” And those posts are always so dull and forced!
I could go on and on about the importance of creating quality content, but for now you can read a lot more about it here. Always remember that the photography brings readers in (see tip #4), but the writing makes them stay.
4) Food photography. This bounces off of #3. We all eat with our eyes and I can say with 100% confidence that my blog did not start to grow until I saved my money, bought a fancy camera, and actually learned how to use it.
Photography is what draws in the crowd. Readers can’t touch, taste, or smell the recipes you are sharing. They can only see it. For this very reason, eye-catching photography is essential to growing a food blog. Bad lighting, bad set-up, bad composition are all turn-offs. And I write this knowing that I have some extremely ugly food photos on my blog (I cringe looking at them!). Big, bright, crisp, make-you-want-to-reach-through-the-screen photographs create the most visual appeal for my readers.
Here is a lengthy (um, super lengthy) food photography page, including all the equipment I am currently using. And I try to break it down in everyday language because all that fancy razzmatazz and verbiage is confusing.
5) Let people follow you in their own ways. Give your readers lots of easy options for following your blog the way they want to. Whether that’s via email subscription, on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, etc. Include links to all of your social medias in an easy-to-spot location. Mine’s in my header. With an arrow. Hard to miss. However… this can get a little tricky because you don’t want to desperately bombard your readers with ways to follow you.
6) Pinterest. If you follow me on Pinterest, you know I’m obsessed with Pinterest. Maybe a little too obsessed. Anyway. Pinterest is the easiest way to get your content out on the internet. Facebook has recently changed its means of sharing and your content is not being shown to a majority of your readers. It sucks. I’ve run many charts examining this and I’ve found that only 5% of my Facebook fans actually see my posts. Isn’t that horrendous?! If I want that percentage to increase, I’ll have to pay some big bucks for my content to be shared. We’re talking over $1,000 per day. Ludicrous.
While I still share my recipes with my Facebook fans, I know that my time is much better spent sharing my recipes on Pinterest. Join group boards, share each others’ pins, and just have fun. I’ve even had companies find my blog through Pinterest. Crazy, right? So don’t underestimate this jackpot at your fingertips! It’s a wonderful way to share your amazing blog content.
I love this incredibly informative article from Love Grows Design Blog on how to increase Pinterest following. So many helpful tips.
7) Be clean and consistent. By this I mean have a clean, sleek website design. (Purr Design designed my blog.) A design that is easy to read, navigate, and explore. Clutter detracts from your content. If your food blog is your career, then there is really no way around displaying advertisements. But try to keep them off to the side and avoid pop-ups if you can control it (sometimes you can’t)– those ruin a reader’s experience.
As for consistency? Get on a posting schedule. Whether that’s posting everyday, 3 times per week, once per week. I’m an avid blog reader myself and knowing when to expect a new blog post from my favorite blogs makes it easy to follow along.
8) Be a real person, not a robot. Can you relate to a robot? And as a blog reader myself, I don’t really find interest in reading something without personality. Enthusiasm is infectious, after all. So don’t be afraid to get a little jazzy! Show your readers that you’re human, just like them. We tend to gravitate towards those who are like us.
Sometimes you need to share your vulnerability. Rather than only sharing the ups, be honest about mistakes you’ve made. What are your lovable traits and individual quirks? Illustrate them on your blog through your writing and make your readers feel as if they really know you. People are curious by nature and by allowing readers to get even a small glimpse of the author behind the blog, I feel as though we can all really connect.
Of course, it is not in everyone’s blogging style to get personal and there are some things I am extra cautious about when mentioning my home and loved ones.
Just do what comes naturally to you.
9) Time management. Something I’m absolutely horrible at, but have been forced to improve. Keep a tight calendar. List everything you need to do to stay on top of your schedule and then spend the most time on what is most important.
Do not sit down at your computer without a plan.
For me? Creating new content is the most important, then keeping readers engaged, then social media sharing, then side projects like freelance, and then admin (updating posts, making sure things are running smoothly). Determine what is most important and then spend the most time on that. Without neglecting the rest, of course.
10) Work harder than anyone you know. If you’re looking for one simple way to increase your blog following – I’m sorry to say that there is no shortcut. You have to implement all of these tips and you have to do it by working your butt off.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Blogging is hard work. You are a one-person-show. A writer, a cook, a photographer, an editor, a question answerer, a social media mastermind, a computer whiz, a fast typer, and you have to be this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Food blogging is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Blog growth is slow, but when you start to see your readership increase, the momentum will build and the writing/interaction becomes easier. So stick with it and don’t lose hope. Make sure you are doing it for the right reasons, which will help you stay focused. Don’t be a sellout – it’s easy to spot those who are only in it for the money. Sort of like what I was saying in tip #8. Be enthusiastic, be passionate, be real.
My dad always told me that no matter what I do, work hard and be irreplaceable. Stand out from others and show your worth. I know it sounds so cliche, but if you can dream it you can do it.
Thanks for reading, I tend to ramble… a lot.
Q: Do you have any tips on growing a food blog?
Be sure to check out my other blogging pages.