Food Blog Methodology

I’ve been known to write essays about the art of food blogging, most notably: How To Start a Food Blog and More Blogging Advice.

For those of you who enjoyed those essays and are working on food blogs of your own, I’d like to tell you a story. Monday morning I woke up and I looked at my site. At the top of the page was a picture of a giant pancake called a Dutch Baby from my post, Weekend Breakfasts. I was about to do a post about a new technique for making Amanda Hesser’s almond cake, suggested by Amanda Hesser herself (it involves a food processor), when I realized that a picture of a powdered-sugar covered almond cake on top of a picture of a powdered-sugar covered pancake might be redundant. So I decided to write about broccoli.

I put up that post, The Best Broccoli of Your Life, at 10:45 am, precisely. At the end of day, around 6 or 7 or so, I checked my traffic. Normally my site gets approximately 8,000 visits a day; suddenly, the bar graph that shows me my daily traffic was shooting to the top of my screen: that day I’d had 33,000 hits.

What was going on? It ends up that the broccoli post was favorited on Stumbleupon, a site that lets readers flag notable pages on the web that then, in turn, get spread to other users. Someone flagged my broccoli; and others followed suit. Now it has 23 Stumbleupon reviews and it’s been saved 365 times on Delicious. It was consequently featured on popurls, a site that tracks the most popular links on the web. My broccoli was a hit.

I’m not here to examine why it was a hit–I’ve had a small handful of hits in my five-year food blogging career, and I’m never sure what makes a particular post pop–but, instead, I’m here to tell you about the methodology that led to that post.

What do I mean by methodology? I mean the process by which I blog.

It sounds like a silly premise–don’t you just load up your blogging software and type? How much methodology can there be to food blogging?

Well if you want to have big traffic, if you want grow a significant readership, the answer is: a lot!

It all comes down to a camera. If you have a camera, you’re golden and here’s why: by taking pictures of everything you eat, every meal at home, every meal out at a restaurant, you are creating an arsenal of content for tackling a week of posts. That broccoli picture was just one of many pictures I uploaded to Flickr that Monday morning. I could’ve written about cream scones (which I plan to do soon), I could’ve written about Esca (which I plan to do tonight), but because the site was calling out for something green, I chose broccoli.

By taking pictures of everything you eat, you give yourself options. You don’t have to write about everything, but on Monday morning when you’re staring at that fearsome blank page you don’t have to invent something out of nothing; you have a camera full of choices. That puts you way ahead of the game.

Then it just comes down to choosing from those choices. As I mentioned, I chose the broccoli post because all the posts on the page at that time were pretty brown and not very vegetal. I like to break up the page with variety; a cooking post, then an outside eating post, and then maybe an essay. Sometimes a video, sometimes a song. I always try to keep it interesting; the rule is: if I’m not bored, you won’t be bored.

Breaking it up, though, is key: both on a macro and a micro level. I mentioned the macro level (the style of post) and on the micro level, you don’t want two desserts in a row or two fancy meals in a row; you don’t want two pretentious essays in a row. Keep breaking it up and readers will be grateful.

Finally, try to update your site throughout the workweek. I say the workweek because it’s my firm belief that 99% of people who read blogs are reading blogs at work. I posted that broccoli post on Monday morning; bleary-eyed readers sitting at desks were probably glad to have something new and relatively healthy to make for dinner. If I’d posted that same post on a Saturday, it would barely have registered: I’m almost sure of it.

So buy a camera, take it everywhere, photograph your food, update throughout the workweek, and keep yourself interested. You’ll have a hit in no time.

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