10 Tips for Growing Your Food Blog

Top Ten Blogging Tips on sallysbakingaddiction.com

 

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.

How to make Black Forest Cake cake batter

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.

6) Pinterest

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

Q: Do you have any tips on growing a food blog?

189 Comments

  1. Fabulous post, Sally. And it’s a blessing in disguise for us that you had cloudy days (eek, not fun on your end though!). Working harder than anyone, being into Pinterest hugely, food photography, being engaging, all of that….yes, I totally agree and do my best with all those things too. As you said, content is king and so is hard work. With those two things, growth is bound to happen 🙂

  2. Great tips Sally! I don’t have a food blog myself but maybe someday after college. I love baking and photography so that could be a fun thing to run in my spare time 🙂

  3. I’m sure these are all great tips, Sally, but I have to say that the most important one (for me, as a reader) is the first…connecting with people! Sure, it takes consistent commenting from the readers, but your effort to respond to each comment is so valuable! It turns your readers into your friends, and your friends are much more likely to keep reading and also to talk about your blog to other potential readers 🙂 But in all respects, you do a fabulous job, and I love visiting your blog! 😀

    1. I love how you worded this Caley.. connecting with readers turns them into friends and friends (I just typed “fries”… I’m hungry) will keep coming back. So true! Thanks for always reading Caley. From day 1!

  4. Hi Sally, You do a better job than any other blogging out their connecting with your readers- I can’t believe you are able to respond to comments as you do! Must be your incredible work ethic, but I love that.

    As an ELA teacher, I love your writing voice, your style, how you don’t try to be all “Sweet Valley High” {remember those books?!?] You’re real. Your you. That’s why I like your blog……OKAY and your recipes =)

    I always think, if I can honestly say about my own writing….Hmmmm…interesting blog……I would read this if it wasn’t mine, than BINGO. Winning post. But when I bore myself, well. That’s a problem!

    1. HAHAHA yes I remember those books and I thought they were the coolest when I was growing up. I like what you said at the end of your comment Laura. “Would I read this if it wasn’t me?” I should start asking myself that before pressing publish. Great tip!

  5. Sally, thanks so much for posting this! I do consider you an expert, no matter what you say. And as someone who started blogging a few months ago along with doing my day job and raising kids, it can sure be hard and discouraging. But your post is very helpful, and I’ll keep plugging away! Because it might be hard, but it’s fun, too!
    Keep making me smile several times a week! Your writing voice and pictures are one of a kind.

    1. You are a rockstar. All bloggers who have kids are rockstars. I couldn’t imagine doing this and taking care of children! Maybe one day I’ll be supermom like you and will just be able to handle it all. 🙂

  6. I hope this doesn’t come out as creepy, but I must say that I simply adore your writing and the way you connect with your readers. It’s easy to realise that you genuinely care about us all and that’s so sweet Sally!! Thank you for writing such great post! These tips are certainly super helpful!
    Hope you have a marvelous day! xxxxx

  7. I completely relate to thinking of you as a friend. You respond to comments! And that’s so so important to me. I feel like if I ever see you out in public (I’m certain this will happen, since I know you’re closer now!), you’ll know who I am. Maybe you won’t, but I feel that way. My husband knows you as simply Sally. And knows that you (along with many other bloggers) are such inspirations to me. I appreciate this post so much, because you really do offer such rich advice. Thank you for being who you are and for encouraging “baby bloggers” like me to dream big.

    1. Hi Lynn! Thanks for the kind words and yes, continue to dream big. I know you’re passionate about what you do. I hope you can make it to a book signing in Philly this fall! I’ll post the dates and times when I secure them.

  8. This is a great post, Sally, and a good way to turn your frustration with cloudy days into a little sunshine by heading into a different, and valuable, direction.

    I had a real “a ha” moment last night because of our short “chat” about photography frustrations yesterday. A little voice inside my head chimed in and noted that YOUR hard work and beautiful photography and recipes ARE paying off because you have invested the time and energy to LEARN what you need to learn. I will never get anywhere if I don’t work harder at my passion instead of whining about how I have to work my day job and just don’t have the energy for anything else. You really helped me overcome a real mental block.

    Thank you for everything you share and all of your hard work. I know responding to comments must take you forever but I truly appreciate it. I also really appreciate when you take the time to explain why you choose certain ingredients – it empowers us all to make tweaks on our own. 🙂

    Ugh…cloudy this morning but maybe the sun will break through for you. Hugs and thank you!!

    1. Thanks Christine and I actually had a sunny day today to shoot a couple new recipes! I’m usually never this behind; moving and traveling really set me back on my schedule! Anyway, just power through it! I never took any photography classes, but I own a few photography books and read many articles on how to use my camera. So maybe you can find some other sources online or in print that can help you learn a little more about taking pictures of the jewelry!

  9. This is a great post, Sally! So much information and very encouraging. I just started a food and fitness blog (www.justjfaye.com) and found that it is a lot more work than I initially thought, but it all revolves around learning and doing things that I love – win! Thanks for all the tips. I am going to bookmark this post for future reference.

  10. Thanks so much Sally for this great post! I have reached the “plateau” but now, with these tips, I can try to make my blog shine again. I feel I can relate to you as a friend, definitely! You love peanut-butter and sprinkles and always respond to my comments!
    Thanks again!

  11. Sally this is such a great post and I loved absolutely everything you had to say! You truly are such a great example on building a blog and connecting with readers! Thanks for sharing your advice – always love these posts of yours! 🙂

  12. Sally, thanks so much for this post. I enjoy your writing and do love your photos and recipes. When I read a post from you, it sounds like you’re speaking as a friend. You’ve given great blogging tips and I agree that connection with your readers is so important.

  13. These are great tips…and not just for food bloggers. I think anyone with a blog can take away something valuable from this post. So, thank you!

  14. I love your blog and and drooling over all of the desserts, but I really love these posts about blogging! Thanks for the great tips! Looking forward to reading the article you linked to regarding Pinterest because I haven’t had much success using Pinterest.

    I’m curious how you handle the Facebook “reach”. If you let people follow you in their own way, and they choose Facebook, they may think they’re going to be updated on all your recent posts but most likely won’t see the posts, and just assume you’re not posting. It’s so frustrating! Makes me want to discourage followers on Facebook.

    1. Great point Dee. And with that… I really just hope that readers choose to follow me in more than 1 way. Like subscribing to my email updates AND Facebook or something. If they only follow me on Facebook, I hope they visit my blog regularly anyway! Facebook is just all sorts of screwy these days and I may begin to try to discourage FB as the only means of following.

  15. Hi Sally, this is such an encouraging blog post. Thank you so much for sharing your tips. Being a UK blogger means than I always post recipes in metric measurements but I’m now thinking I need to consider cup measurements for my US followers. I adore you food styling, the photos always look beautiful. Thanks. Julie

  16. Thank you so much for this post! I’m very much new to blogging and really appreciate it when successful bloggers such as yourself take the time to give us newbies guidance and hope. I definitely need to focus on #9 (Time Management) especially when #6 (Pinterest) is involved. It’s so easy to get stuck on there for hours!

    1. Thanks Meggan! And I appreciate all your tweets about my recipes on twitter. You’re a twitter mastermind. I need to get better at it.

  17. Sally,

    I wanted to let you know I really appreciate your “how to food blog” style posts. Even if you don’t consider yourself a blogging expert, I certainly do! Your site is chock full of intriguing recipes, gorgeous photos, and interesting stories. I really enjoy hearing about an experts ideas on blogging better.

    I study these posts carefully and have picked up a number of great ideas! Some ideas have been simple, but I still would have never thought of them. For example: how to write out measurement amounts in your recipes ( i.e. 1 and 1/2 cups rather then 11/2cups) to keep the recipe from becoming confusing.

    Also totally agree with you about Pintrest/Facebook. I feel like I get nowhere fast with Facebook, but a lot of people see my pins on pintrest despite not having a ton of followers. I have to admit Pintrest is waaay more fun to play on anyway!

    Thanks agin for the great stuff,
    Michelle

    1. Thanks Michelle – and it’s funny you mentioned that about writing out recipes. I had so many readers contact me when I first started because they couldn’t understand 1 1/2 was 1 and 1/2. Heck, it’s even confusing for me sometimes too! It’s these little things that really help the reader’s experience. Anyway, thanks for reading and yes… Pinterest is my favorite part about blogging these days!

  18. Fantastic post, Sally! I’ve been slowly growing my blog, but the hardest thing I deal with is time management. I feel like I’ve been struggling with it a lot recently! I totally need to buy a planner. But I loved reading all of your tips! Such wonderful advice!

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