Food Blogging Tips for Starters
“How to start a food blog and be successful with it”, “How to increase food blog traffic” or “How to increase reader base in my food blog”. Well all of those are catchy and very objective titles so I will be sticking with “Food Blogging Tips for Starters”.
Like I had said this subject is quite objective so it’s up to you whether you will agree with me or not but let me start this by telling you that what I am sharing here are my real experiences on how Ang Sarap made its way to where it is at right now.
Ask yourself first before starting to read this or starting a food blog. What is your primary goal? Is it to earn and make a living out of it? Well stop reading this article and do something else because if that’s your main goal then you will have a minimal chance of success.
To start a food blog is simple, all you need is passion, participation and a lot of patience.
You all need them to survive the blogging world, imagine how you will get noticed when there are hundreds of thousands of recipe blog writers out there. Few of them have 100,000+ followers but a lot of them have more than 10,000+ followers and you will start with probably 10 or 100 if you’re lucky.
Don’t expect too much at first as you will get frustrated with the stats, just build momentum on your first 6 months to 1 year and it all relies on your participation on your blog and other blogs as well.
You will cook a lot and post at least 3 to 5 times a week so you can build a library of recipes, Google will love this and your site will be indexed regularly.
You will take a lot of pictures and need a decent camera and lighting equipment if you don’t have access to natural light.
You will write a lot and plan a lot.
You need a lot of space to stage your food, you will need a lot of plates, bowls, glass, mats and other equipment.
Once you accepted this fact then you can start your blog.
I will be separating the strategies in stages and you will understand why as you read.
First Stage: Build your blog and recipe database.
- Choose a subject, cooking and recipes is very generic. You need to specialize in something like “Middle Eastern food”, “Paleo Recipes”, “Rice Cake Desserts”, choose whatever you think you will love. As a tip try to Google that subject and see how may results it will throw at you, lesser the results the more specific your subject hence you get noticed more.
- Choose a platform, WordPress is really good but you cannot advertise until you meet a certain criteria like brand safeness, family friendliness and most important of all do you have sufficient traffic? (BTW I use this). I also tried Blogger before, good for advertising but I just don’t like the platform I feel it’s not mature enough to be a full blown Blog Engine.
Now if you still wanted WordPress but want to advertise at the very beginning then I suggest you go self-hosted WordPress so you have the full control and add what ever you want There are lots of host providers out there but you need to be very careful in choosing one that is why it’s best to get the ones who are experts in their field. Based on my personal experience I recommend that you either get Site Ground or Bluehost, they are both experts in WordPress. Take note its not just me recommending their services lots of bloggers and even Wordrpess.com do.
Now I leave it up to you what to choose and if you want more information here are some comparisons
- Build your recipe database, I suggest start with the basic ones like pizza base, mayonnaise, white bread, hummus, etc. you get the idea. You will need this later and save you time in writing the recipe over and over again on related post. Since you are also starting, fancy recipes won’t be noticed at this stage, remember you started as no one in the blogging world.
- Make sure you practice in getting nice photos, look at food magazines and see how pros do it. Get a DSLR and a cheap but good lens, like the 50mm as it will give you a nice blurred background. You will also need light bouncers (white cloth will do) to reflect back that light coming from your window but if you’re not lucky to have a decent natural light in your dining area then lighting equipment will be needed. I also suggest you take a shot of your dish horizontally and vertically, this will make sure you cover every aspects of sharing your photo in “food porn sites”, Remember most of them accept square or horizontal orientation but if you have a vertical orientation this will give you a big footprint in Pinterest.
- Buy loose plates, glass, bowls, forks, spoon, place mats etc. in thrift shops or second hand shops you don’t want to use the same things again and again, you and audience will eventually get bored.
- Reserve the URL you want to use as well as usernames in Social Networking Sites, if you don’t do this and you get popular they will steal the name and sell you at a dear price.
- Reserve the username that you will use in social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Stumble Upon, Tumblr, Pinterest, You Tube (if you plan to video), etc.
Note: At this stage never ever advertise your blog yet. Imagine someone finds your ads and visited your site, they will definitely be disappointed because there is no content in your blog yet, I suggest that you need at least 100-150 recipes first before your first run of advertising.
Second Stage: Participate and get known with bloggers.
- Actively read other blogs and comment frequently, don’t just comment “I love it” or “Nom nom nom” as you will not gain their attention for long. You will gain a lot of blogger friends at this stage, you will start noticing they will comment on your recipes as well.
- You start receiving blogger made awards, accept them and follow the rules you will gain more blogger friends and audience.
- Start answering recipe related questions in “Yahoo Answers“, “Quora” or “Seasoned Advice“, make sure you add photos as it can get you more attention.
- Join smaller food blogger circles like
To name some, I know you can find more. Note: don’t join the big ones yet like I said if they find out your blog they will be disappointed as there is not enough content yet, you missed an opportunity to keep an audience.
- Now you have friends start asking these bloggers to guest post in your site this will give you an avenue to share audiences because it will be announced in their blog that they had guest posted in your site. Before you do this you should be in constant communication already with the blogger via comments for quite some time.
- Continue blogging at least 3 to 5 times a week.
Third Stage – Advertise
- At this stage you might have 200-300 recipes posted and receiving at least 5 comments per post, you are now ready to showcase your work. Continue posting 3 to 5 recipes a week.
- Activate the social networking sites you created on the first stage, start posting on it and invite your friends, family and subscribers. Take note WordPress is good in auto posting whatever you write in your blog, which saves you time in posting them individually.
- Now at this stage you are getting noticed, because of that Facebook and Google might give you some free advertising credit use. Use them wisely and see how advertising pumps up the stats. Once your credit is depleted you can continue if you want to, if you opted to continue put a limit to avoid overspending.
- Join bigger food circles like the following:
- Food Porn Daily
- Grub Snapper
- Food Epix
- Dessert Stalker
- Kitchen Artistry
- Serious Eats
At this stage you need more time as you will post the photos manually on those sites, you need to take good photos so it gets approved easily. Take note most of these sites accept 1:1 aspect ratio photos. Once your photos start rolling into those sites so is your traffic, these sites generate a lot for you. Look at the image below, those are my top traffic contributors as of October 2013.
- At this stage you might be getting 15 comments per post and some are totally random people not within your circle, reply to those on your site and read their blog as well and comment there, you will gain more blogger friends and more work.
- This stage you will start to get sponsorship, accept them specially reviews. You will eat a lot.
Fourth Stage – Have fun and be smart.
- At this stage you might be running out of ideas, imagine you already have an arsenal of 300+ recipes what are you going to post next?
- Recycle old unnoticed posts, start with the ones with an ugly photo or any writing that does not make sense, trust me you have them.
- Try sharing your restaurant experiences, that’s a new idea for a post and write only good experiences and not the bad ones, why? Does anyone search for a bad experience online? Avoid bad reviews, if it you really have a bad experience let the restaurant know and end it there do not vent that experience online you might get sued in the future.
- Try making fun lists, i.e. “Best Burgers you tried”, “Most disgusting food”, etc.
- Try adhering posts with seasonal themes like Halloween make cook something spooky and Christmas make something festive, be creative.
- Communicate not just with your blog use your Social Networks as a communication tool as well, this will draw more reader. For example post a really nice food porn photo on Facebook you will be surprised on how many new likes you will get, how about post a tweet and tag popular accounts in the process. Look again at the image below, how a simple egg and tomato salad picture from a mobile phone drew attention (just keep in mind what your reader wants of course)
- Start writing in advance, schedule it and auto post it. This will make your life easier, you will not feel you are posting on a daily basis. Cook lots, take picture of it and then keep it for future posts. Write a lot on you free time when everything is quiet, like me I do write 10 articles in one shot on Sunday and Monday night then I schedule them. Imagine if you want to relax or have an emergency on a future date, your post for that day is covered.
- Now that you are partly popular invent something you haven’t seen or heard of this might be the start of something big. These food ideas should entice a very wide audience and have that wow factor like Cronuts, Cake Pops and Bacon Ice Cream. I gave this a shot before and made some Ferrero Rocher Cheese Cake.
- Try getting some sponsors and run competitions on your site, this can gather more followers. You also have the chance to enjoy this freebies as well.
- Use analytics tool and analyse them, WordPress gives you stats read them and you will know when is the best time to post, what to post and which categories get more hits. You can use third party ones like Alexa so you see where you are standing against your favourite blogs, compare your ranking with them and be surprised.
I haven’t been here and still thinking better ways for my blog to get noticed but I am proud of my stats so far hence I am sharing my experience. To give you an idea here is the stats I get from WordPress since I started my food blog nearly 4 years ago.
As a final note: Don’t overdo a month so you will maintain a nice steady increasing graph, when you see its going down it will be frustrating so when you see it getting way too much high stats on that month decrease your online activity and reserve all that efforts for next month.
Exercise a lot as you have eaten a lot as well at this stage, have fun.
And if everything else fails you can still continue because you have the passion.