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.
Side note: I do not consider myself a blogging expert. Gosh no. Not by any means! In fact, I learn something new each day and there are still a billion things I don’t understand! It’s a journey.
So, 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) Make a Connection
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. Think of your blog more as a community, not a website.
2) Be Present
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. Offer your readers alternatives to ingredients, take their suggestions, listen to them, offer giveaways, start a Facebook group and participate in the conversations. They take the time to read your blog, so take the time for them. I remember one email I received the other week: a reader emailed me about a specific recipe and I replied with my answer. She said she was so impressed with my timely and in-depth reply that she would visit my blog more often now that we made a connection. To grow your food blog, show appreciation 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 that’s why I write about each.
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 not going to write something interesting. Readers can tell if writing is transparent and empty. 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!
4) Food Photography
This bounces off of #3. We all eat with our eyes and I can say with 100% honesty 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 internet users.
Here is a lengthy food photography page, including all the equipment I’m 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, etc. Include links to all of your social medias in an easy-to-spot location.
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.
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– 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.
My website has gotten many facelifts over the years. I began with sweet Lindsay from Purr Design in 2013. She’s made several design updates over the years and I highly recommend her talent and services. She designed my logo! In 2018, I launched a major redesign with Southern Web, who is also my monthly tech support. There are so many talented website designers and helpful tech support teams. Do your research to find a good match.
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, in today’s world, privacy is important to protect ourselves and loved ones. Share whatever you are most comfortable with– you can still be relatable even if you don’t share pictures of your children or home. 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, not consuming other content out there. I try to avoid getting lost on Instagram because it’s not healthy for my productivity. Determine what is most important and then spend the most time on that.
10) Work Harder Than Everyone 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.
Thank you so much for being here! xo
More Food Blogging Advice
- How to Start a Food Blog
- How I Turned My Food Blog into a Career
- Quality Content
- Food Photography Basics
Q: Do you have any tips on growing a food blog?