10 Food Blog Posts That’ll Get You Traffic

January 29, 2013 | By | COMMENTS

This past weekend I gave a lecture at Food Blog South in Birmingham, Alabama. The title of my speech was “10 Food Blog Posts That’ll Get You Traffic” and though I was slightly nervous going in–this was my first time both attending and speaking at a food blog conference–I felt validated, after it was over, by the many people who thanked me for my presentation. Turns out, after nine years of food blogging, I have something to say on the subject. What follows, then, is basically the speech that I gave with images thrown in for good measure (I didn’t use PowerPoint when I spoke, so everyone just had to look at me and my colorful shoes). Hopefully the food bloggers among you will find this helpful.

So before I begin, it’s important to be clear: though I’m going to share the 10 Food Blog Posts That’ll Get You Traffic, not every food blog post needs to get you traffic. In fact, it’s more important that you just blog than that you carefully design each post to be a traffic-seeking missile. Having a food blog means having a pact with your readers, readers who are often bored at work or frustrated watching their kids at home and need some kind of escape. If you don’t offer up a few posts a week, you’re denying them the very thing they were seeking in the first place when they subscribed to you. So blog often, that’s the most important thing, and if your posts get you traffic in the process, even better.

The other thing that I want to say, before I begin, is that this post is about the micro-level of blogging: individual posts. What probably matters more is the macro-level: what’s the idea of your blog? The concept? The name? The hook? If you haven’t figured that stuff out, writing great posts may not be as effective. For more advice on that front, see the posts on my “How To” food blogging page.

And now, without further ado…

10 Food Blog Posts That’ll Get You Traffic

1. The Beautiful Recipe Post

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This is the bread-and-butter of the food blog industry, the kind of post 99% of food bloggers attempt when they start blogs. They buy fancy cameras, they set up fancy light equipment, and hope and pray that their beautiful version of blondies (like mine above) will bring them fame and fortune on the web.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. With so many food blog posts out there, your beautiful roast chicken is impossible to differentiate from the hundreds of other beautiful roast chickens that come up when you do a Google search. So the question becomes: how do you stand out?

My answer: style. Look at 101Cookbooks. Any time you go to Heidi’s blog, you know right away where you are on the web. No one else’s food blog looks like that and that’s the result of a carefully crafted design aesthetic, one that makes you feel like you’re visiting another world. And that’s key. The best food blogs (see also: Smitten Kitchen, Pioneer Woman, The Wednesday Chef) transport people away from their desks into another realm entirely.

You can achieve style with design (think font, graphics, banner, etc.); you can also achieve it with language. I think David Lebovitz is the perfect example of someone whose beautiful recipe posts are beautiful not only because of the pictures (which are great) but because of the words that surround those pictures. They’re totally his and his alone.

So if you want to get traffic the traditional way with the most typical of food blog posts, make sure you do it with style. Otherwise you’ll get lost in the shuffle.

2. The Novel Recipe Post

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This is something I’ve attempted but never really succeeded at (see, for example, my raw rhubarb daiquiri above). If you’re the kind of person who can come up with original recipes, who feels more confident in the kitchen than at your computer, it’s possible for you to design a recipe that’ll get you tons of traffic just by the concept alone.

The best example I’ve ever seen of this is the recipe for Slutty Brownies that comes from The Londoner, but which was then adapted by What’s Gaby Cooking. Here’s the concept: a layer of chocolate chip cookie, a layer of oreos, a layer of brownie. That’s it. But it’s just the kind of thing that goes viral on the web, the kind of thing anyone and everyone can flip out over. Bake sales? Check. Oscar party dessert? Check. A novel recipe will get you traffic; if you can come up with something like that (and not something like a raw rhubarb daiquiri) you’re in great shape.

3. The Pop Culture Recipe Post

As many of you know, my career began when Janet Jackson showed her breast at the Super Bowl. At the time, I was a floundering food blogger with about 4 to 5 readers (including my parents and my roommate). Then, on a whim, I made a Janet Jackson Breast Cupcake, put it up on my blog, and after coming home from school the next day, saw that I’d had 70,000 hits and an e-mail from CNN saying they wanted to come over to do a story.

This is an example of tapping into the cultural zeitgeist at just the right moment. If I’d made that cupcake a year later, it would’ve produced a shrug; but because I made it just after it happened, with all kinds of people talking about it on TV, in magazines, on the radio, I hit the jackpot. What’s really cool about doing a pop culture recipe post is that it pulls in all kinds of readers from outside the food world; people came to my site from CollegeHumor.com, Instapundit.com, etc. Many of them stuck around even though they weren’t the kind of people who normally read food blogs. So it’s a good way to find a different kind of audience too.

4. The Carefully Researched Post

My friend Matthew Horovitz once wrote a guest post for me called The Science of Fressing. It remains the most carefully researched post ever to appear on this blog; it also generated lots of traffic, including a link from New York Magazine’s Grub Street.

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m not a researcher (I’m more of a breast cupcake kind of guy). So if you’re more left brained than right brained, consider writing a carefully researched post. The master of this was another one of the speakers at Food Blog South, Kenji Lopez-Alt of The Food Lab. His deconstruction of the In-N-Out Double Double Animal Style is a masterpiece of the form.

Doing a carefully researched post doesn’t necessarily mean having to be a scientist. You could also buy all the different canned tomatoes in the supermarket, make tomato sauce with each of them and reveal the results Cooks Illustrated style. It’s a good way to do a post if you need to give yourself an assignment to generate content.

5. The Eat Your Way, Cook Your Way Through Something Post

The grandmother of food blogs is, of course, the Julie/Julia Project which taught us that audiences love it when you give yourself a challenge and follow it through with emotionally forthcoming, entertainingly honest posts.

The form’s been embraced by Carol Blymire, whose French Laundry at Home morphed into Alinea at Home. What’s great about blogs like these is that there’s a beginning, a middle and an end. You know exactly what you’re going to get.

If you don’t want to dedicate your whole blog to cooking your way through something, you can eat your way through something when you travel. That’s why, when I go somewhere, I almost always ask my readers: Where Do I Eat In New Orleans? Where To Eat in Austin, Texas? This does several things: it allows me to connect with my readers, involving them in my day-to-day life because I really will use their advice when I travel. But also it creates an asset on the web: when people Google those questions, there’s a good chance my post will come up with all of your comments.

And then, of course, it provides fodder for my follow-up posts, after I’ve made the trip and taken lots of pictures, I can write a New Orleans Wrap-Up or a post like Where I Ate in Austin, Texas. Eating your way through something is food blogging gold.

6. The List Post

People love lists. Buzzfeed built an empire based on that concept.

If you can come up with a great list post, you’ve got something really valuable. For example, I did a post recently: 10 Signs You’re in A Good Restaurant. The post was picked up by Eater.com and tons of other sites. It was just a simple, straightforward take on what to look for when you eat out. But because of the format, it’s immediately appealing to people at work who want to know what to expect when they read something. When you have a list—10 things, 5 things, 11 things—you know: ok, I can scan this quickly and figure out if I want to read the whole thing.

Also: it’s an opportunity to put your archives to work. So if you have a lot of content buried underneath your blog, you can dig it back up as I do every year when I write my “Best Things I Cooked This Year” and “Best Things I Ate This Year” posts. Why, even this post is a list and you’re loving it. See?

7. The Creative Storytelling Post

In 2006, I started getting e-mails from Alain Ducasse, which was New York’s fanciest restaurant at the time, about their white truffle tasting menu. They kept sending me these P.R. e-mails about this $300 a person dinner and at some point I wrote back and said, “I can’t afford this, so the only way I can write about it is if I can come for free!” At the time, I was totally naïve. I had no idea that actually might happen. And then the P.R. person invited me and a guest to come and try it for free.

So Craig and I went and had the royal treatment. They put us in a VIP room near the kitchen and poured endless bottles of wine and shaved expensive white truffles over everything. At some point, Craig got so drunk, he sang “The Facts of Life” theme song and I made a video.

When it was all over, I had no idea how I was going to write about this. Would I write a formal review? Review it like a real restaurant critic while disclosing that it was free? How could I do that and not be unethical? And, really, what did I have to say on the subject?

That’s when I had the idea to tell the full story of the experience in a comic book format. That way I could be upfront about what had happened in my exchange with Ducasse’s P.R. team; I could also embed the video of Craig singing which has since had over 12,000 views. Here’s the post: Chutzpah, Truffles and Alain Ducasse. And here’s the video:

Guy Kawasaki called it “one of the cleverest blog postings I’ve ever seen.” And the post won a food blog humor award that year for funniest post.

So: be creative with your storytelling! I’ve since used the comic book format to describe our trip to El Bulli, Diana’s surprise birthday dinner at The French Laundry, etc. But you could be creative in different ways: illustrate your post with drawings. Animate your post. Recite your post aloud. The possibilities are endless.

8. The negative rant post

Now here’s the thing: when I started my blog, I was happy to go negative. If I was riled up, I thought of my blog as the perfect outlet for that. So when I went to Le Cirque with my parents a few years ago, and we were treated really poorly and the food was mediocre and the service worse, I wrote a post called “Only A Jerk Would Eat at Le Cirque.” It caused quite a scandal; Sirio sent a package to my mom begging us to come back. The Wall Street Journal wrote about it. It was kind of crazy.

But now, in retrospect, I’m not sure if I would do that again. Because when you go negative, you attract a lot of negativity to your blog. The comments on that post were really vicious and there was a whole climate of vicious readers who’d write me nasty e-mails and say nasty things on their blogs.

At some point, I decided to go mostly positive. If I ranted about something, it had to be something that really got me worked up in a way that felt universal… less about a specific meal at a restaurant and more about something everyone might be feeling. Like I did two rants recently: one about small plates, one about communal tables.

The thing about doing a negative rant post is that it’s exciting, it gets people’s attention, it feels like you’re being provocative, because you are. And those are all good things. Just be sure to be artful in your rant… don’t just rant for the sake of ranting. Work on your language, think about what you’re trying to say and make sure you can stand behind it when you’re attacked.

9. The food TV recap post

A simple way to bring attention to your blog is to commit to recapping one of the many, many food competition shows that are out there. For a year, I was hired to do this for the Food Network on their site for Next Iron Chef… in fact, that’s how they became aware of me when I hosted a web show for them.

But even if you decide to recap every episode of Top Chef or The Taste or Hell’s Kitchen, you immediately join a community of other people doing the same. Ideally your posts will be listed with others as a resource for people who want to find out what they missed on those shows.

Mostly, though, it’s a chance to show off your voice. Eddie Huang wrote Top Chef recaps for Eater; now he has a book that’s getting tons of great press, a TV show etc.

The wittier you are in your recaps, the more likely they’ll do something for you. It’s an easy subject if you’re looking for something to write about.

10. The emotional bear-your-soul post

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For me, this is what food blogging is all about: putting yourself out there and forging a connection with readers.

The post I’m proudest of writing happened during the It Gets Better Campaign. At the time, gay teen suicides were occurring on an almost weekly basis and Dan Savage encouraged gay adults to tell their stories to inspire gay kids that things really do get better. So I wrote a post called “It Gets Better (Cooking For My Boyfriend and our Families)” that’s probably the scariest thing I’ve ever published on my blog. It felt too emotional, too real. But that’s just the kind of feeling you want when you hit “publish”; my readers rewarded me with the kindest, most enthusiastic comments I’ve gotten to date.

And then something unique happened: I saw an anonymous comment from someone saying they were still in the closet and struggling. There was an e-mail address so I wrote an e-mail saying I was here to help. And we began a correspondence that lasted several months, during which he came out to his friends and family. He kept gushing about how helpful I was, but I felt lucky to have been able to play this role for somebody else.

I know this post is about traffic, but this last item isn’t really about traffic. Yes, being emotionally forthcoming will earn you hearts and minds in ways that being closed-off won’t (see: Orangette and Gluten-Free Girl for excellent examples of deeply honest, emotional food blogs that generate lots of traffic). The larger lesson, though, is that if you forget about traffic and open up to your readers, the results are far more profound than anything traffic will bring you. You may actually connect with a person whose life you might change.

That, more than anything else, is food blogging’s greatest reward.

Tags: , , , ,

Categories: Food Blogging, How-To

  • http://twitter.com/TheHungryNomad1 The Hungry Nomad

    Great post. Thanks for the great advice. Although I don’t know if I could ever be clever enough to do a comic post (as much as I love Tintin and grew up on comics)!

  • Anne

    I’ve said this many times before, but must say it again- I adore your blog. This post was like taking a trip through The Amateur Gourmet Memory Lane; I loved each post you referenced back when you wrote them and love them today. The writing on your blog has always been so sincere, honest, funny without seeming like you’re avoiding something important, self-deprecating yet confident…a perfect combination of entertainment, heart, storytelling and instruction. The Craig video is classic!

  • http://www.confessionsofachocoholic.com/ Bianca Garcia

    What a great post, Adam. I love all the tips, and especially how you ended. Thanks for sharing!

  • Katie

    This is truly wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing your insights. It really means the world to those just starting out (like me!) You rock.

  • Trish

    This is an awesome read – thank you

  • Karen

    The facts of life…ha ha. Good one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/christy.turnipseed Christy Turnipseed

    Wonderful to meet you Saturday in Birmingham! Glad you posted this to share! Come back to the ‘ham anytime!

  • Mary B

    I love your funny posts and your recipes, but I didn’t become a regular reader until your “It Gets Better” post. There are lots of sites with good recipes and pretty pictures out there, but that deeper connection, and the feeling that you’re reading about someone that you’d actually want to hang out with in real life, is what keeps me coming back to blogs like yours, Molly’s, Shauna’s and Joy the Baker’s!

  • Deb

    dude thanks so much for deciding to write this. I know you were vacillating on whether to do it, possibly giving up the content for future speeches but I think you can still use it for that. I’d read all the posts you referred to here and had the same summarizing thoughts about them and how they hit their individual storytelling marks but its very helpful to see them laid in a structured outline like this. Just another reason, another example of why this is one of my all time favorite blogs.

  • Anonymous

    Very inspiring. Just discovered your blog and cookbook and I’m devouring both!

  • ATG

    I love that you emphasize the importance of regular posting. I find it really annoying that certain bloggers, who have now gotten cookbook deals and notoriety, no longer post more than once a week. I wonder what you think about this? I know they are busy, but I almost feel like you should remove your blog from the web if you think weekly blogging is blogging

    The one thing I disagree with in this post is your choice of refrain from going negative. Granted, I dont embrace negativity. But I think it’s only fair to inform your readers about bad experiences. That’s beneficial knowledge we’d like to hear about.

  • sammckinnoneats

    Thank you so much for this advice! Studying up to start my own blog and this post provides great first hand experience.

  • Amanda McInerney

    Great post & very useful, thanks. I recall your “It gets better” post and was very moved by it. So glad you had such a positive outcome with it.

  • Jerry (cbsop)

    Wonderful post as always. I’ve had great results from TV related posts in the past as well and you’re definitely correct about the heartfelt posts. Engaging. Really engaging with your readers, even if for a moment, is the most rewarding thing about this gig

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been recapping Top Chef since season 4. While my hits go up a bit on Thursdays, I can’t say it’s gotten me any real attention. BUT, my restaurant review posts got me a book deal, so all I can say is that if you write well, and are consistent with posting, then something good may very well happen.

  • http://twitter.com/FoodStoriesBlog Food Stories

    Great post – wish I could’ve been there to see you deliver in person :-)

  • April

    This is a really generous, helpful, thoughtful post. Thank you very much for sharing your insights and experience.

  • thehumidity.blogspot.com

    I was one of the ones studiously taking notes while you spoke at FoodBlogSouth last weekend…and I have to say I’ve already started planning and writing with some of your points in mind. I’m not surprised to find this as informative and entertaining in print as it was in person.Thanks again :) –Michal

  • Julia Al Arab

    Such a grea

  • Pam Rauber

    Here is yet another way to get traffic. Go to Food Blog South Conference to speak, one of the bloggers writes a post about the conference and shares with Southern Food Bloggers FB page and in said post, links your blogsite as one of the great speakers. I, never hearing of you, clicked on your site and enjoyed this post and “liked” you on FB for future updates.

  • http://twitter.com/piesandplots Laura Dembowski

    Really interesting! I wish there was a magic bullet to make my blog more successful, but I think consistently good content is the key. And hoping for something to go viral like the posts you mention.

  • Rachel Brady (well worn whisk)

    Really really great advice, so much so I may even print it out and stick it to my fridge.

  • Anonymous

    I clicked on the link to your It Gets Better post and it was so heartwarming and beautiful. I also laughed out loud during your Chinatown post with the soup dumplings. Love your blog.

  • Stephanie saltisyourfriend.com

    I recently found your blog (yes, I apparently live under a rock) and I’m loving it. I started a blog just a few months ago in attempt to share my culinary experiences and while I’d love to grow it, I’m not about to follow the generic “10-step process to get traffic” that I see all over the internet. Your honest approach is a refreshing change. For example, this post is about tips for helping people generate traffic but the overall theme is to find your own voice instead of copying others’. I’m so tired of all the food blogs who are clearly trying to be the next Pioneer Woman. Instead of trying to copy her success, I wish more people would just be themselves and be okay with what comes of it. Anyway, I’ve already bookmarked several pages here. Thanks for the great advice and I can’t wait to read more.

  • Robert Mann-Thompson

    Hello: I just come across your blog an your helpful tips and guidance. Like probally ten thousand commenters, I have a food blog infant and trying to sort all this out. I’m new or renew to social media and it can be discouraging at times, but I’m going to tough it out. I just wanted to say thank you.

  • Heather Santos

    Bravo for #10 on your list, you may have saved that young man’s life! I have a friend who named one of her goats Ryan Gosling, he’s brought her so much traffic ;) I might have to name a goldfish after someone and write about it.

  • Claudia

    I found this via Will Write for Food. I work amazingly not-hard at generating traffic but I always love “how-to’s.” Which I always read and then always think “I’m never going to do that.” And while I am likely to continue on my merry way of not generating traffic – I have to say – this was just a lovely posting. Honest, funny – from the heart. I write plays and turn to food blogging when I am stuck (you know – 9 times a day – good thing one has to eat). I so love the last personal story. And thought bingo! The best possible reason for being in the public eye. You can be there for someone. The best thing for me about blogging has been community. I love your community.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alexandra.sauer.963 Alexandra Sauer

    Five Reasons Why I Love This Article:
    1. I just started my own food blog and am already bored with the form; this gave me some great ideas to make it more interesting and fun. Comic strips = brilliantly original.
    2. I’ve been trying not to make it too personal because I thought it would be boring for other people, which in turn means I think of myself as uninteresting, but I’m now inspired to “bear my soul”, or at least touch on the “Who am I?” subject a bit more. Baby steps.
    3. I love making lists and am a Buzzfeed addict. How did I never think of incorporating lists into my blog before??
    4. I’m a sucker for pop culture. Your Janet Jackson Breast Cupcakes sent my mind reeling! Now I have an excuse to read People magazine and watch Jersey Shore: all in the name of research.
    5. Because of this well-written article and links to more posts scattered throughout, I immediately subscribed, signed up for the newsletter, and liked the facebook page. I’m looking forward to reading more and continuing to be inspired. Thank you!

  • travelmorocco.com.au

    wow! what a great list of food blogs and while reading this post, it makes me smile. I don’t know why but I enjoyed reading this. :)

  • Abbe @ Abbe’s Cooking Antics

    I found you because of the title of this post – I’ve been looking for ways to increase traffic to my food blog. I’ve read through the entire post and it’s all really sound advice and I was ready to go away and implement as much of it as I was able… then the last paragraph and bottom two sentences made me change my mind. I feel as though you’ve found the button on my head that reads “Aaaaaand Relax”, and pressed it. Thankyou :)

  • Miss Kim

    Awesome post! Thanks for sharing. I came across your blog while googling food blogging tips, as I am new to blogging (just hit one month). I really admire your style.

  • http://www.facebook.com/varun.nanda.336 Varun Nanda

    Agreed to your post The Hungry Nomad. The post is funky…

  • Belle Monde

    Watch out my recipe McDonald’s Cheese Burger here

  • Amani

    New to blogging. Love this post will take all tips and apply to my blog.

    Do pass by and say hi

    Much love

    Amani

    http://biblefoodfashion.blogspot.ca/

  • http://www.ticklemytastebuds.com/ Daniel Graziano

    There are very few bloggers whom completely intrigue me into reading each and every word of a blog post, before I trail off to discover more exciting facets of life; that is. However, you sir have talent! I must admit I fell in love with your writing style; and your creativity is astounding. Not the usual ‘generate traffic’ blog post you stumble across; this is gold – and will be adapted to my site; which will no doubt greatly benefit from it.

    Thank-you!

  • Thiago

    I definitely agree. I’m trying to promote some of the local restaurants in Kingston, and I can easily think of a few things they can do to incorporate these awesome ideas. The cupcakes…genius on the cupcakes.

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  • Christina | simplyyum.com

    This is such a great blog post. Definitely unique and was pleasantly surprised it wasn’t like all the other blogs on how to increase blog traffic.

    I’m a new blogger and I just was wondering how you get people to see your blog in the very beginning? For example – if I thought up some awesome culinary pop culture creation like your breast cupcake how would anyone even know it was on my blog? Social media? Or if I did a list or review how would people know to read it? Or is the key just making content that one person sees and hope its good enough for people to keep sharing?

    Thanks :)

  • Adam Amateur Gourmet

    Hi Christina,
    If it’s a quality, attention-grabbing post, it’ll catch on by itself (once you promote it the best you can). That’s pretty much what happened to me and the breast cake… I put it out there and the next day it was everywhere. Good luck!

  • Alexandra V. Jones

    Great post…especially the last paragraph brings things back into perspective.

  • Dawn P

    Ok, i’m a TOTAL freaking dork now… I totally cried at the last two paragraphs. I LOVE your writing, I adore your site and I thank you IMMENSELY for the words on this page which have now given me the motivational (and informational) kick I needed to get back to my cooking blog, which isn’t going to be all about cooking now, but will be awesome thanks to your wisdom!

  • Dawn P

    As Thiago said below, I completely agree. Most blog posts are so long, ho hum and boring that I scan instead of read. I actually read this entire post and it was great!

  • Angela Roberts

    Love this. I’ve posted my story about my brother dying from AIDS and do a Red to Remember (world aids day) round up in December. Readers click to a page and read my story. I was so nervous to put it out there, as it’s uncomfortable, but it’s real and it’s me and my blog is dedicated to my cousin and brother who died 13 months apart both under my help. It crushed me, but they would be so proud of my blog. Honesty helps someone somewhere. Thank you for this great article. I like your vim and vigor.

  • http://itsnoteasyeatinggreen.com/ Rebecca Richmond

    Great ideas. Of course, you (and others like you) have done them all so well, that even these ideas are now no longer fresh. I LOVED the comic strip truffle meal. Covering free meals at a restaurant really is one the hardest things I’ve done as a blogger. I’m afraid I failed miserably compared to your comic strip idea.

  • Ashley Dingeman

    So happy to have stumbled upon this article. As a food writer who’s only
    been in the game for a little over a year now
    (www.saratogafoodfanatic.com), it’s so inspiring to find another writer
    who’s passionate about the world of food and is so successful in
    pursuing their dreams. Thanks for the amazing tips – can’t wait to read
    more of your writing!

  • Shalga @ Queen Bee’s Kitchen

    Brilliant post and great advice. Thanks Adam

  • MuffinsandMeat

    My husband and I started MuffinsandMeat last winter, and I’ve been looking for ways to generate more viewers. Your post was so helpful, thank you for the advice!

  • theswindian.com

    Amazing post – I took your advice and wrote a ‘list’ post – the 10 kitchen items I can’t live without! http://wp.me/p3iYfc-cC

    Thanks :) And I love your blog, particularly the cartoon-style El Bulli review..

  • http://www.butterfry.me/ Joanna

    great article.. i just started a food blog and have the great photo dream buy i know that doesn’t cut it. so funny that you mentioned the roast chicken because I’m one of those people who think mine is amazing but have no way to get people to click! you gave me some ideas for the future posts! fyi http://www.butterfry.me wink wink

  • Wholesale Nuts

    Wonder full post.. Thanks for sharing this wonder full advice..

  • Philippines Food

    Such a great post thanks for sharing..

  • Philippines Food

    Such a great post thanks for sharing..

  • Philippines Food

    Such a great post thanks for sharing..