it’s been about a year from when
1: find reasons to do your blog that aren’t income related at first
growing an audience is A SLOW BUILD. see the above for my traffic in the past year – it is just a slow, slow build.
you just aren’t going to get sponsor content deals right off the bat, and you aren’t going to get ad revenue of any meaningful amount for a while. so do it for you – do it for your creativity, for your intellectual growth, for teaching yourself remedial chemistry/biology, for the fun of it, anything but $$. because money isn’t happening for a while.
2: good photography is the best strategy
Nobody knows how much traffic you’re getting, but if your photography is A+, then you will seem much further along than you may be. See bloggers like Yoga of Cooking or Butternut Bakery – their photography quality has fueled success for them.
One of the best investments I’ve made is a DSLR camera, a few good backdrops, and a tripod. I use a Fuji XT10 with a 50mm lens most often, but also have a 27mm lens for more wide angle shots. I get the best light in my apartment about 2 hrs before sunset, so I def need a tripod so my pics aren’t blurry. I use this cheapo one from Amazon and also use this iPhone attachment, which I use for shooting video.
I find it easier to shoot on a table than on the floor – my back doesn’t love craning over – so I got this cheap table which doubles a white backdrop and also
I also really learned a lot from Sarah Fennel’s Foodtography School.
You can also go on Foodgawker and search for a recipe and see how other people shot it, and play with staging/styling/lighting from there– just don’t outright copy anyone’s lighting style + l
3: use wordpress right from the start
I started out my blog on Squarespace, and while Squarespace is easy to work with and they do all the domain/hosting/front end work for you, they do not have the functionalities in terms of structured data for Google to crawl your blog posts and parse out what recipe data is there.
So, I had to do a whole transfer over to WordPress – don’t make my mistakes – just start on WordPress. I use Bluehost for hosting, which is totally fine if you’re not that big yet. Start with the Genesis framework, use a template from Feast Design while you’re getting comfortable, and just dive into WordPress.
4: invest in the right SEO and recipe plugins from the get-go
While you’re starting out, social media and referral traffic will be your primary traffic sources, but you want to get to a place where Google is a top 3 traffic referrer. It’s a more sustainable and passive way to drive traffic to your content. To do this, you want to invest in good SEO from the beginning. Pay for Yoast premium and identify 1-3 synonymous search terms per recipe- think about how *you* search for recipes on Google – and naturally bring them up in your content a few times. Try to get all your posts “green” on Yoast, and then over time as you build domain authority you will set yourself up for success.
in the same vein, you need to use a recipe plugin or else Google won’t read your recipes as recipes. I use WP Tasty, and I also recommend their Pinterest and Affiliate Link plugins. Do your recipes in the recipe plugin template from day 1 so you don’t have to go back and re-do your work.
5: find a niche and research your SEO terms in order to actually rank for your recipes
I still mostly develop recipes that speak to my soul rather than letting SEO define me, but when you’re starting out, try to develop recipes that have about 500 searches a month that way you stand a chance of ranking.
Download on Chrome the Keywords Everywhere browser extension so that you can see what kind of volume each search query gets.
6: get in a rhythm for each recipe/post’s content creation and promotion
For each blog post, get in a rhythm with a) writing the recipe b) writing the content + shooting and editing pics + choosing 4-5 per post c) SEO optimizing d) developing your Pinterest hero image (I use Canva) d) developing your Instagram pic/copy/hashtags e) promoting the recipe in Facebook groups, Reddit groups, or food blogger groups if that’s your swag. A mini checklist super helps.
I definitely recommend using Tailwind to schedule your Pinterest posts (aim for 30 posts a day with 80% being your own content a day and use Tribes!) and Later for your Instagrams — it really streamlines scheduling and makes you a little less anxious about how a post is performing if you have it all automated.
7: a few recipes will drive the majority of your traffic
I got this idea from Bjork at Food Blogger Pro, but it’s funny how the majority of traffice comes from like 3-5 posts. But in order to get that “hit recipe” (like a hit song), you just have to keep on making recipes. so just keep on doing your thing, and a few recipes will stick.
8: social media matters but
facebook isn’t a priority
With how many people are #deletingfacebook and how Facebook has changed its algorithm to prioritize friends’ content over pages’ content, you just won’t see the organic reach on Facebook that some food bloggers got 3-5 years ago. Sorry! If I had known that Facebook wasn’t going to be a huge traffic driver for me, I would not have stressed so much over my facebook pixel or number of likes on my FB page.
Pinterest is definitely the most impactful channel for your traffic. Instagram is important for your brand and presence, but for me at least isn’t a traffic driver.
Twitter isn’t really a trafic driver for me, although I still waste the majority of my time on it. haha.
9: pinterest ads are worth the investment; Instagram ads are not
If you have the $$ resources, I definitely recommend putting $5 for 5-10 days behind a recipe’s pin on Pinterest. It is a very good return on investment and you will get a decent amount of traffic from it. Similar to SEO, set the search terms for how *you* search for recipes.
Conversely, Instagram ads don’t yield that much ROI for me at least. I don’t see any uptick in followers, it doesn’t convert to traffic, and just isn’t worth it. Same with Facebook ads – low ROI.
Foodgawker is also helpful for getting backlinks / a little traffic boost.
10: most food blog courses aren’t worth it
I’ve paid a few hundred bucks total in the past year for a few food blogger courses, and most are not worth it.
About 1/4 of the conversations on facebook food blogger groups is of any value, haha.
If you are questioning in your gut whether a course is worth it, it probably isn’t.
Trust that you can google things to figure it all out, and trial and error is really where it’s at. Also, make some Instagra friends in the food blogger world and DM with them when you want to commiserate or ask for advice.
11: do a monthly google analytics report on yourself to see what’s working and what’s not
At the end of the month, I do a month over month comparison on Google Analytics of how much traffic I got, where it came from, what pages are doing well, etc. I just take screenshots of
Treating yourself like a client helps you emotionally detach from the highs and lows of blogging, and lets you be more rational/dispassionate in your growth strategy.
12: email lists are a slow grind but worth having them if only for the lower bounce rate
my email list is taking FOREVER to grow, but one upside
(PS if you want to sign up for my emails, do so here. lol thanks)