How To Make Your Food Blog Popular

October 8, 2007 | By | COMMENTS

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I received a touching e-mail this weekend from a reader who finds herself in the same situation I was in three and a half years ago: namely, she’s a third year law student, she hates the law, and she wants to be a writer. She’s just started a food blog and wants to know how to make it popular. “How did you become so widely read?” she asked.

I told her I would answer the question on the blog, and it’ll probably echo many of the points I’ve made previously in this post and this one. But it’s always good to re-explore a subject, and especially after this weekend’s coverage in The Wall Street Journal, it’s as good a time as any to offer advice. And so, without further ado, here’s my take on how to make your food blog popular.

Ok, let’s start with the basics. Here’s the criteria by which I judge a food blog:

1. Design. It’s the first thing you see when you go to a site. If there’s a really basic format, you better have REALLY incredible content to hold my interest. But those sites that have both great design and great content have a huge advantage. Check out MattBites for a great example. One look at his site and you never want to leave. And that’s true of all the great food blogs–they’re all wonderful to look at. So though looks aren’t everything, you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think they matter. For newbies, though, I’d say this:

- start your blog with a basic format (using a basic Typepad or Blogger template) and do it for a few weeks to see if you like blogging, to see if you attract any readers. When you do and you realize this is something you’re going to do for a long time, that’s when you hire a designer. How do you find a designer? Put a post on your blog, ask friends, ask your favorite bloggers who designed their site. And set aside some money for it. I spent $100 for the first design of my site (long time readers will remember that image of me in my red sweater with a pot and little things flying out of it). As your site gets more popular, you’ll be able to afford a nicer design. But, again, design matters a lot–so take it seriously.

2. Content. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: PLEASE DON’T BE BORING. Your content can be anything you want it to be–it can be effusive, it can be snarky, it can be elegant–just please, please, please make it entertaining. It’s THE most important component to winning an audience: you have to hook your readers.

Unfortunately, and this is very difficult to overcome, many boring people don’t realize they’re boring. You’ve met them at parties, droning on and on and on about the trip they took to Burma, and you stand there politely nodding your head, looking at your watch, praying for a bolt of lightning to hit you in the head. How do you know if you’re a boring blogger?

Read a post aloud. Is it exciting? Would it hold an audience’s attention? Does it sound like your normal speaking voice? Are you using words you would normally use? Nothing saddens me more in food writing (and I’m sometimes guilty of it myself) than a person who feels obligated to force adjectives that are completely unnatural. “The wine was gingery, with a hint of spruce, aflutter with the sad poetry of a summer’s day.” Don’t be pretentious! Don’t write the way you think you should write, just write in your NORMAL voice. A clear, compelling voice is essential for any kind of writing success.

Which is not to say that your posts should be casually tossed off, either. And that’s important too. Oftentimes I go to a food blog that someone sends me and the posts are duller than a day at the DMV. Why are you writing about what you’re writing about? Why should we care about what you have to say? Oh, so you made eggs for dinner? Why is that interesting? Why does that matter to you? Why should I care?

My most popular posts were all produced from a place of passion. Whether reacting to a bad restaurant experience (like this one or this one) or a really incredible evening out (like this one or this one) I was really worked up when I sat down to write. I had an all-consuming need to get these stories out into the blogosphere for people to read: there was urgency, there was fire in my belly. I promise you that if you get yourself really worked up about something before you sit down to write people will respond with similar energy. Not all of it will be positive (I’ve had to develop a thick skin here) but at least people will be reading you: and isn’t that what this post is about?

So form and content: those are essential. If you have a great design and the writing is great, your site will become popular, I promise.

But you may be wondering what else you can do to get a wider audience. Here are some additional tips:

- be a VIBRANT participant in the food blog community that already exists. That means visit lots of blogs, leave comments, link to posts you find and love on the web. Make your presence known, but do it in a lighthearted, genial way. Nothing is more unappealing than a desperate, shrill voice BEGGING for linkage. I only link to things that capture my interest, for better or for worse. When I choose not to link to something, it doesn’t mean it’s not good, it just means it didn’t capture my fancy at that moment. And that’s that. If you realize that it all comes down to the whimsy and caprice of various people at various moments, you’ll understand that the best strategy is to just keep on writing, to keep on reading, and to keep on commenting. Eventually something will happen.

- Be scoopy! Seriously. If you have a unique scoop on something food-related–you worked at a world famous restaurant and were severely abused by the chef; you saw a famous food critic and his favorite restauranteur doing it in an airport bathroom–write it up. That’s the kind of stuff that gets wide coverage. My post on the taping I attended of Iron Chef America got linked all over the place and with good reason: it offered unique insight into the process by which the show is taped and executed. When I have a unique opportunity to write about something, I grab it. And if you’re sitting on a hot food story, you’re crazy not to write about it. Write it now!

- Use all media. The internet is unique in that it allows you to produce all kinds of content for your blog. Sure, you can write regular “print” journalism-style posts, but you’re missing a great opportunity to create videos, songs, comic books, slideshows, interactive maps, etc etc. The more creative you can be in creating your content, the more likely your readers will be impressed and the more likely they’ll come back. Plus it makes it more interesting for you: part of the reason I’m doing weekly videos now is that it’s a whole new frontier, the idea of producing and editing my own weekly videos excites me. Keep yourself stimulated and your readers will be stimulated too.

- Take risks! In my archives you will find some truly embarrassing posts. Ear-shattering songs, bizarre attempts at humor (my Keith Richards dead grandma cake really didn’t cut it), and even outrageous episodes of Jackass like bravado (in particular: me eating cat food). Those posts were dismal failures but they were done in the same spirit as my biggest successes. So the lesson is you’ve gotta take huge risks and see what happens: sometimes you’ll cringe at the lack of response, other times you’ll come home and find 60 e-mails in your inbox, including one from CNN (as happened to me when I created the Janet Jackson Breast Cupcake). Be bold, be daring, and be willing to fail and you will succeed.

Ok, this post is getting too long, but hopefully I answered the original question. And the truth is if you’re meant to do this, you’ll take to it naturally. If not, there’s probably another form of writing that you’re better suited for and there’s no shame in that. Many “professional” writers don’t take so well to blogging–it suits manic personalities (like mine) more than careful, deliberate souls–so perhaps you fall into the latter category. In any case, you should just blog because blogging is fun. And if you’re having fun, it doesn’t matter if you’re popular. That’s true in high school and it’s true here on the web too. Only here on the web, they don’t flush your head down the toilet.

Happy blogging!

Tags: , ,

Categories: Food Blogging, How-To

  • http://kellytheculinarian.blogspot.com Kelly Mahoney

    Thanks for the tips!

  • Juree

    Adam,

    What a happy coincidence that I came across your advice on how to attract a readership. I am launching a food blog next month and was very much in need of guidance! It is lovely of you to share your successes and failures with all of us.

    Congrats on your new book! Juree

  • http://thefoodieblog.blogspot.com jaye joseph

    Adam, thanks so much for the tips. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for a while now and appreciate the advice for other food bloggers.

    -j.

  • http://katek.wordpress.com/ Kate

    As meta as it is to comment saying so, I particularly agree with the “get involved in the food blog community” tip. In addition to pulling in readers, the most rewarding thing for me has been to develop friendships with far-flung people who would otherwise never have crossed my path. I get a kick out of watching these new friends’ blogs and hearing what they think of whatever I’m cooking.

  • http://www.badhomecooking.com bad home cook

    You’ve pretty much written the gold standard for food blogs here (or any blog, really). Lots of info chopped up into articulate, easily digestible bits. I stumbled onto it about a year ago, devoured it, digested…and inevitably, it’s now come out the other end. But all for the good! Nobody likes to be creatively constipated.

    Big congrats on the new book. You’re a real inspiration. I blame you, however, for making me think I should take up piano again.

  • http://cocoamademoiselle.blogspot.com/ Becky

    As someone who’s slowly learning the ropes of foodblogging, I have to say this was a godsend. Thanks!

  • http://fluttercrafts.typepad.com flutter

    I just adore you, Adam.

  • http://www.syrupandtang.com/ Duncan | Syrup&Tang

    At the risk of sounding sucky… one of the things Adam really does well is to explain the ups, downs, ins and outs of foodblogging (just check out his other posts on these issues as well!).

  • http://www.eatingwithjack.blogspot.com Jack

    What a great list, cheers!

    Its definately reassured me that I need to get my finger out and find someone to help with my design… this type of fancy computer stuff doesn’t come as naturally to me as my love of food.

    Thanks

    Jack

  • http://www.danispies.com Dani

    Great tips…thanks:)

  • Amy

    Congrats Adam on becoming the official Next Iron Chef blogger! You’ve come a long way and your success is definitely well deserved. Just wanted to say that I think your readers love you because you are no nonsense when it comes to reviews and recipes. If you had a bad experience at a restaurant, you’re not afraid to say so. When you burn something you’re cooking, you share that along with pictures and exclamation marks, awesome! Great work, thanks for being you:)

  • http://www.zenkimchi.com/FoodJournal ZenKimchi

    I’d also add these two things:

    - Don’t get yourself stuck in something where you have to post something on a regular schedule (something like “The Daily Dessert”) unless you are sure you can keep up with it.

    - Survive. Most blogs die within a year. If a year goes by and you’re still standing you are doing pretty well and are on your way to serious bloggerdom.

  • http://cookiebakerlynn.blogspot.com Lynn

    Wonderful words of wisdom. Thanks!

  • http://www.bretstable.com Bret Bannon

    Hi Adam -

    I read an article concerning your blog in one of those airline mags while flying to Louisville recently. I started a website about a year ago, but keep thinking I want to start a blog as well. I keep coming back to your blog for inspiration.

    Thanks so much for all the information. I would welcome any comments you have concerning my website.

    Thanks so much!

    Bret Bannon @ Bret’s Table

  • danny

    very useful, like the other posts on this topic. the one question i have is if you think it’s possible to be a part-time blogger? you mentions a lot of great things, and it just seems like it’s very all-encompassing and time consuming.

  • http://www.restaurantreviewworld.com foodette

    Congrats on your successes. You are someone we newbie food-bloggers can all look up to. I enjoyed this article – particularly the emphasis on content. I think too many people forget that it’s all about the writing – it’s a blog, after all. I strive to make each article I write interesting, informative, and honest. I hope I succeed in this each and every time, but it’s a challenge. I think I will start using your advice to get my blogs out there as soon as I have had the experience that ignites it. Too many times, I wait until a few days after eating at a restaurant to write about it. (Usually because I have had a glass of wine or two at dinner – hello typos!!) However, I think I will switch things up a bit – get to hammering out at least a rough draft right away.

    Thanks for the tips!

    And, PS – who is Bill and why is he so jealous?

  • http://michelleamurao.blogspot.com/ Michelle

    Hi Adam,

    Financially, I’m not exactly in a position where I can spend money on design for my blog just yet. I was wondering if using Blogger will hinder the design aspect of my blog being successful.

    Michelle

  • Brian

    I think I started visiting your site when you moved to New York. I never found your webdesign to be brilliant, your writing particularly brilliant or capitivating. I also never cared for ‘scoop’. Why the hell do I keep coming back? I think it’s because you are a genuine oddball. I do not mean this with malice because I find it endearing. Seriously, you have a pretty funny story to tell and do it with pictures of food and restaurants. I keep coming back because, after awhile, I just wanted to know WTF would happen to you next. What would you do after dropping the, I quit law school bomb. How would a Jewish kid from Florida fair in the Big Apple. Will Brooklyn and a new roomate get the best of him? You continued to share stories about your family, friends and post picture upon picture. You even took a leap out of the internet closet, albeit reluctantly at first. Congrats on sitting down and actually grinding out a book, I’m going to buy a copy and keep coming back.

  • charlotte s

    Thanks for the tips! as usual, very well written and a pleasure to read! I visit your website often and love your writing style!

  • http://drbehavior.gather.com drbehavior

    Let’s see – well, I started reading you when I was a mere child and my mother used the site to help me sound out words. Then, when she finally agreed with me that I would never make it as a gynecologist, she took me into the kitchen and started teaching me how to cook. So, immediately I had two big deals going in my favor toward becoming a blogging chef – that is, I had your blog which I can and do read by myself every night just before bed and my mother’s ethereal patience which taught me the basics of kasha 101 and farfel 302 along with a list of other items I can now cook which are far too numerous to name.

    So thanks for everything and especially the new TV thingy which means I can now look at moving pictures

    (the movie starring David Lebovitz is a real prize)

    as well as the pictures of your prepared food along with your finely worded entries.

    What else could a blogger of the future ever have hoped for. Thanks again for the lessons and the fun.

  • http://www.YummyMummyCooks.com The Yummy Mummy

    OMG! Was that MY shrill voice you heard desperately begging for linkage?… Okay, maybe not, but you could’ve been reading my mind.

    Just a word out there to newbies like myself – The food blogging community, in general, is very open and welcoming. As soon as I started reaching out to other bloggers, I received mail and comments and links and Ann at A Good American Wife even posted about my blog. I’ve met some terrific people and there are plans for get-togethers. If you feel shy, then, give me a shout. At the very least, I’ll read your blog and return your e-mail.

    And one other thing… Julie from Bad Home Cooking was one of the first food blogs I ever read. I’m still a fan! You rock!

  • http://shelbsandcheese.blogspot.com Shelby

    I really appreciated your response to my e-mail – this is certainly helpful. These are all great tips! I would have commmented earlier, but I had a memo (ugh) due last night. It is glaringly evident that your readers are the focus of your posts and that blogging brings you an incredible amount of joy – I think those features are the biggest things in keeping people coming back. Thanks so much!

  • http://thyme2.typepad.com Katie

    How did I miss the Jane Jackson Breast Cupcake? Am I always going to be a day late/doller short?

    Thanks for the list of tips – but it’s hard to be ‘scoopy’ out here in the French hinterland… maybe I can scoop the neighbor butchering her Christmas chickens….

    Hmmmm, needs work!

  • http://www.afoodieslife.com/ Ron

    Sounds like great advice. Just got your book in the mail from Amazon. Looking forward to reading it.

    Thanks again!

    Ron

  • http://itinerantwriter.blogspot.com Karyn

    Great advice, Adam, for any type of genre blogging, really…not just food blogging. I’m a travel blogger, and I found your post useful. Thanks.

  • http://www.recipe4living.com Nancy

    Great advice for anyone who wants to start a blog on any subject. Thanks for the great tips, especially about writing like you speak. I assume this works well even if you are pretentious.

  • http://becksposhnosh.blogspot.com/ sam

    I am currently working on making my blog unpopular so I can have a little bit of peace and quiet and time to myself. So I look forward to ignoring all your advice ;)

  • http://www.kimberlybelle.com Kimberly Belle

    Your generosity in the blogging community is unmatched. Many thanks!

  • http://www.bringingdownthecool.blogspot.com Rebecca

    Adam,

    Thanks for the heartfelt advice! I’m a professional screenwriter with a food blog, and it can be hard to juggle so much writing every day. Hopefully with your suggestions, I’ll have a much easier time updating the blog from now on.

    (And that blog, in case anyone is interested, can be found at http://www.bringingdownthecool.blogspot.com)

  • http://www.mangoandlime.net Paula

    Thanks for the tips! I’ve been blogging for a year but still working on making my blog better every day.

  • http://www.mangoandlime.net Paula

    Thanks for the tips! I’ve been blogging for a year but still working on making my blog better every day.

  • http://www.wickedgooddinner.com Wicked Good Dinner

    Excellent info!! I’m really enjoying your blog :-)

    -Dawn

  • http://www.glnd.k12.va.us Bea

    All I know about food is that I eat it, but I love your advice on making blogs interesting.

    Teachers at my school are required to blog weekly. Many of the blogs are, well, not to be rude or anything, but I wouldn’t read them unless I had to. I’ll point them in this direction now that we’re having a “blog hit” contest.

  • http://lunchmaniac.blogspot.com jamezu

    Whoa, i really needed these tips… i’m starting up a food blog also, i’ll come back here more often, by the way, here’s my blog

    http://lunchmaniac.blogspot.com

    please visit and tell me what you think, i’ll integrate your tips in there

  • sahmnsays

    This is just the encouragement I need to get blogging. I really enjoy your writing and sense of humor:) Oh and btw thank you for sharing the Mattbites link, I am now an official fan.

  • http://www.beatitudesinneworleans.blogspot.com Lyn LeJeune

    Hi, and I love this site. I just posted some of my Country Cajun Recipes on my blog and wanted to let you know. I’m doing this in conjunction with my project, The Beatitudes Network-Rebuilding the Public Libraries of New Orleans. I am donating all of the royalties from the sale of my book, The Beatitudes, directly to the New Orleans Public Library Foundation. I’m 100% Cajun and food brings people to the table to eat and talk about books! Enjoy the recipes, like Pain Perdu (Lost Bread) that kept the Acadians alive during their trek from Canada to Louisiana. Merci mille fois- thanks a million. Lyn LeJeune

    http://www.beatitudesinneworleans.blogspot.com

  • http://hiphostess.wordpress.com/ Hip Hostess

    Just started my own food blog this week – thanks so much for this post! I am an attorney but my real passion is food. In law school cooking/ baking was the best way for me to clear my mind and de-stress (I was known as The Law School Martha – only that wasn’t such a compliment at the time seeing as she was in JAIL). Anyway, glad to come across other people with similar passions. Love your blog!

  • http://www.boscoethecookiedoctor.com Mark Boxshus

    Adam,

    I’m so glad I came across this post. As you know, I am new to this whole blogging thing and really feel this forum is perfect for what I want to say and accomplish. And your advice about appearance and content is pretty much what I surmised, but nonetheless I needed to hear for myself.

    Thanks for sharing

    Mark

  • http://thriftycupcake.blogspot.com/ Veronica

    I return to this article nearly daily to see if I’m doing everything I can. Thanks ever so much for the tips. I truly hope I am not one of those secret boring folks that don’t know it! Anyway Adam, thank you again. It is wonderful advice.

  • http://canarygirl.com canarygirl

    Great post! Thanks so much for the tips and inspiration. :) And…heeee! How can we tell whether we’re one of the boring folk? lol

  • http://www.avissoftware.com/ Avis Software

    This is a really great post. I have started blog just few days back and I was looking for such kind of info. Really appericiated. Thanks.

  • http://www.avissoftware.com/ Avis Software

    This is a really great post. I have started blog just few days back and I was looking for such kind of info. Really appericiated. Thanks.

  • The Mad Eater

    Adam,

    Thanks sooooo much for this posting! I decided today to start a food blog and I needed the extra motivation.

    Thanks again. Hope you’ll be catching my blog soon.

    The Mad Eater

  • http://www.savory-bites.com Jessie Yoh

    Hi,

    First time reader and found this post very helpful. I think the problem with most people is that we’re all impatient. But your thoughts and inputs are extremely encouraging and your blog is a pleasure to read!

  • http://www.miriamleigh.com miriam leigh

    Hi Adam,

    I’m two months into my new career as America’s sexiest new food blogger and can’t thank you enough for this post. Someday, when I, too, find myself on CNN, I will credit you!

  • http://www.miriamleigh.com miriam leigh

    Hi Adam,

    I’m two months into my new career as America’s sexiest new food blogger and can’t thank you enough for this post. Someday, when I, too, find myself on CNN, I will credit you!

  • http://www.miriamleigh.com miriam leigh

    Hi Adam,

    I’m two months into my new career as America’s sexiest new food blogger and can’t thank you enough for this post. Someday, when I, too, find myself on CNN, I will credit you!

  • http://www.miriamleigh.com miriam leigh

    Hi Adam,

    I’m two months into my new career as America’s sexiest new food blogger and just wanted to say thanks for this practical and enlightening post. Love your blog!

  • http://dancingintherain.org Monica

    The boring part is the most important thing on any blog, not just a food one. Great tips!

  • http://www.cookingbroke.com lauren

    Adam, Thanks so much for this post! I started a food blog last week, and already took a post down b/c it was creating a community atmosphere I didn’t like or want for my blog. This was totally my fault anyway. I really admire the community you’ve created here, and the interesting blog you’ve created as an example. Thanks!

  • http://www.yummydietfood.com Juliet

    Thank you for all the wonderful tips. This is exactly what I was looking for. I really appreciate you taking time to post this.

  • http://wannabegourmet.blogspot.com Jen

    Thanks so much for these tips! They’re definitely going to help me grow my readership – I’ve only got a few days of food blogging under my belt but already I’m addicted!

  • http://homewithmandy.blogspot.com/ Mandy

    This is wonderful advice. Thank you very much for taking the time to share with us newbies!

    Mandy

  • http://www.foodieindisguise.com FoodieInDisguise

    Adam, thank you so much for taking the time to write this. I recently started my food blog 2 weeks ago and I have been enjoying it so far. This is my second blog as “Foodie In Disguise” is an offshoot of my personal blog. So many of my readers migrated from there, but I’m looking to attract more readers.

    MattBites was an inspiration to me and that’s about the same time I decided to come out with my own. Wish me luck!

  • http://bytheseason.blogspot.com Chelsea

    Hi Adam,

    Thank you for taking the time to share! I’ve finally taken the plunge and entered the blogosphere as well after spending years being inspired by the likes of you:)

  • http://ladolcebacon.blogspot.com Dana

    Adam, thank you for the excellent food blog how-to’s. I just started my own last night (eek!), after over a year of reading amazing ones like yours, Molly’s, Heidi’s, etc. Like many readers of this site, I’m a frustrated law student who yearns for a culinary outlet and hope that having my own blog will force me out of my laziness and comfort zones. That’s the plan, at least! Thank you again for your writing and all the inspiration you give to your readers.

    Cheers,

    Dana

  • http://dogfoose.com/?page_id=259 michael kline

    Hi Adam,

    I really like the info you’re handing out and thought you might find this link of interest. I’m a freelance illustrator who occasionally finds inspiration in the produce section of his local grocery store (I refer to it as See Food). Let me know what you think. Keep up the good work!

  • http://www.recessionipes.com Rec(ession)ipes

    Thank you for this and your other posts on this topic: very generous of you! Thanks again! [runs off to go implement sage advice]

  • http://www.rosiedequattro.com Rosie DeQuattro

    I got to you through the blog, Orangette. Very clear, helpful info, especially for us blogging newbies and tech-challenged (read: “older citizens!”). Thank you!

  • Mercedes

    Hi,
    Great post, thanks. I would love to get feedback from you about my new blog, would you be so kind?
    http://theartiscooking.blogspot.com/2013/05/improvisation-with-berries.html

    Thank you so much!!!!!!

    Best wishes,
    Mercedes

  • jancen78

    Adam, why do you have a picture of beauty queen Lara Quigaman?

  • Talib Hassan

  • Talib Hassan
  • riccardo

    thanks!! a tip for you now. open the links in a new tab :P
    cheers!

  • Kate Volker

    Thanks… That’s all great advice. I think you have to start blogging just for the fun of it but it is nice if people do read what you have written …!

  • http://www.italicanakitchen.com Cindy Swain italicana kitchen

    I just came across this post–what great advice, especially about staying true to your voice and to not be boring. Thanks Adam!

  • priya

    Nice tip! thanks for sharing…

    http://www.hireexpertdeveloper.com/

  • http://www.eatwithchelsea.com Chelsea

    Hi Adam,

    I just saw this post and the one you shared in 2005 (your 1000th post) and I’m sorry for asking all those questions in my email, when you’ve already answered them perfectly right here. Thanks for the thoughtful advice!

    Chelsea

  • Amita Bhalerao

    I came across this writing today when I was searching for advice on how to make my blog more visible. Sound advice even for today.