More Blogging Advice

I hadn’t realized this until just now but if you Google “How To Start A Food Blog” the #1 result is the post I wrote on August 17, 2005 about, appropriately, how to start a food blog. Since more than a year has passed since that post, I have an archive in my brain of things I’d like to amend to it: further tips and pointers that I think could help food bloggers who want to get more out of their food blogging experience. So what follows is a sort of free-flowing supplement to the original essay: some of the points will be re-echoed, many points will be new–all of the points will be issues I feel strongly about.

The #1 one thing that I want to add to what I wrote before is this: if you are a food blogger (or any blogger, for that matter) the first thing I want to know when I click your site is: Who are you? What are you about? What makes you different from all the other food blogs? Your style? Your voice? Your perspective?

Too many food blogs just look like generic food blogs–and, usually, they are generic food blogs. Here’s what I do when I get to a food blog I haven’t seen before: I scan the main page and look for sparks of originality or fresh content. I scroll around and look at the cluster of posts. More often than not these posts contain pictures of food and for some weird reason the food on the most forgettable food blogs looks like the food on the other forgettable food blogs. Why is that? I’ll give you a hint: context.

Spending time on a blog is like spending time with a person. Imagine yourself at a party surrounded by people all of whom care about food. Would you rather talk to the sullen person with the digital camera who’s standing near the cheese and crackers and mumbling about the levels of flavor in raw milk cheese? Or would you rather stand next to the high-spirited, highly animated talker who’s telling a harrowing tale of a near-death experience with caramel? I know where I’d be.

Exuberance, energy, originality, flair—these are the qualities that make great food blogs great. You don’t have to be as over-the-top and unsubtle as I am to be successful. You can be snarky and spirited, like some. You can be polished and literary like others. You can be curious and informative, obsessive and dedicated, passionate and thorough, cheeky and charming. You can be worldly and wise and write about balls. But be something! Please, for the love of God, stop being boring!

I am sick of boring food blogs. There’s no excuse for putting boredom out on the web–it’s lazy and dispiriting. Surely you have something original to offer, something original to say. Start with the questions I asked earlier: who are you? What are you about? Don’t you have life experiences that are unique to you? Is the issue that you don’t want to share? Well sharing on the web is like sharing in real life: if you don’t share with others nobody will share with you. And believe me, there are many spoils the food world will share with you if your sharing gets noticed.

Here are some tips:

– Post your picture. That’s an instant reader-friendly answer to the “who are you?” question. I realize many of you out there may be self conscious about your looks (we are, after all, bloggers–how good looking can we be?) but I can’t express enough how much of a turn-off it is to read a faceless blog. Again, use the party metaphor: would you rather dance with the guy with a bag on his head or the one smiling a toothy smile? Blogs allow you to shape the face you show to the world. I’ve met many bloggers who look nothing like the pictures on their sites, but–for some crazy reason–their real-life persona almost always matches their online persona. That’s because the bloggers I meet are bloggers I admire: they pour themselves into their blogs and their personalities shine through. Their picture is part of their online persona which, in turn, fuses with their real life persona. So don’t underestimate the importance of a picture–it helps people connect with you. And if you’re hot, you can at least grow followers based on your looks. (That was my approach.)

– Be original. This is a biggie. Seriously, look at your blog. What about it stands out? There are two layers to this: form and content. Let’s take these one at a time.

Form. The form of your blog matters and by that I mean the visual. What does your blog look like? Design is huge. I paid my designer a lot of money to create the look of my site and I know, without question, that it was money well spent. I insisted on a playful masthead and we worked together on the concept. I knew that my masthead would immediately tell people what I was about: stabbing ducks.

I can’t emphasize this enough but blogs are a VISUAL medium. This isn’t The Wall Street Journal. Even the text-based blogs I read (some of them linked above) have a visual style that is unique. If you are using a basic Typepad or Blogger layout and you want to be taken seriously, forget about it. When your blog looks like every other blog people will pass it over as I often do when I look at a generic blog. So get working on your design! Impress us with graphics! Be funny, be unique. But please, I beg of you, don’t be drab.

Content. Last night Sheila came over and we made duck and OMG it was so delicious. Sheila had a wing and I had a leg–no wait, I had a wing and Sheila had a leg. She took two bites and then I took two bites and then Sheila took another leg. And I was like, “Sheila that’s my leg” and she laughed LOL.

Ok that’s an imaginary bad blog post. Bad blog posts are like bad journal entries–and I should know because my high school journals read just like that: insipid entries about every detail of my day without any sense of what I was feeling or why any of it mattered. I read my old journals and I’m like, “Adam! Don’t you get that ten years from now you’ll be reading this and you won’t care what kind of toothpaste you used or who you sat next to at lunch? You’ll want to know what you were feeling about your friends, your family, your life. You’ll want to know what fascinates you, what you obsess about. What do you think about politics? What are your plans for the future?”

Bad blog entries read like a captain’s log: “We made this then we ate this.” Even my blog suffers from that every now and then. I do my best when I’m doing a cooking post to make it amusing, to put it in some kind of personal context. Like when I had those pictures of food in threes and instead of writing a boring detailed post about what I cooked, I talked about cooking for my roommate and my boyfriend. That to me is far more interesting than what goes into a Martha Stewart brownie. And I think people are far more interested in the juicy details from my personal life than whatever details I may share about brownie batter.

The same is true for you, oh anonymous blogger. Believe it or not people want to know things about you. People want you to air your dirty laundry. People want to know if you’re happily married, if you like your job. People want to know if you’re dyslexic, if you used to be bulimic, if you’re a recovering Republican. People really want to know if you’re gay (believe me). Tell us who you’re dating, tell us who broke your heart, but do it in the context of food. Remember this is a food blog, not a confessional.

And that’s the tricky thing. Writing is like knitting: after you do a loop, you can pull the thread away but you always have to bring it back. (Ok, I don’t know anything about knitting but I think that made sense.) Keep it focused. That’s the biggest tip I got when I started: make your blog about something specific. Don’t ramble. Don’t be all over the place. People are here because you’re writing about food–if you can make it personal and funny by bringing in pieces of your life, then by all means do that. But make sure to bring it back.

You, Mr./Ms. Blogger, are the host of the party that is your blog. Be a good host and entertain. Decorate. Be generous with EVERYTHING. Don’t neglect your guests. Interact with them. If they have a grievance, engage them. If they’re bored, do a dance. Make a comic book post, shoot a video. But most importantly: be yourself. That, ultimately, is why people are staying at your party because they like the answers to the questions I raised at the top: Who are you? What are you about? When the answers to those questions are clear and clearly broadcast, the revelers will come and you’ll party non-stop until the end of blogging.

73 thoughts on “More Blogging Advice”

  1. This is a generous stream of consciousness Adam. I don’t have a food blog but there are a few reoccuring questions that run through my mind as I feed my addiction to reading food blogs. Maybe next time you can tackle a couple of them?? 1. I personally wouldn’t suggest spending a whole lot of money to work with a graphic designer right off the bat if someone wants to start a blog. You kindof have to gage whether you have that “it” factor to be that person at the party. Do you agree? If so, do you think you’re not giving yourself a fair shot if you do start out with blogger or typepad? How would someone get around this and find a happy medium? 2. How do you get your blog out there for people to read and see and develop a relationship (hopefully) of sorts with you? It gets kinda lonely writing to yourself after a while 3. Some people have a writing “voice” that attracts and some don’t or …might. How do you know when you just don’t have it? And how do you know if you have it but you need to get your blog out there in a better way. Any near magic formula? 4. We are at 4, right? lol I don’t think anyone should, or can, start a blog about food, or probably anything if they aren’t a savvy writer, have a genuine interest in what they will be writing about, don’t have the time to put into it, AND want to do it for the money – but, for the amount of time I feel some of these blogs take to maintain, I can’t imagine it be maintained if it isn’t going to monetarily pay off, so, how do you make money off a blog, aside from book deals which I see as winning the lottery. And, 5. I imagine you get requests for people to trade links with you all the time, but if I was you I wouldn’t want to trade links with anyone and if I just started a food blog with high hopes, I wouldn’t email you right off the bat and ask without you being able to see if i’m worth it…at what point, if ever, is it safe or a good idea to do this with somewhat known food bloggers. Or do you just let them find you…

    Thanks Adam. I left NYC a while ago but I haven’t been able to leave your blog:)

  2. Oh no, I think you’ve given me a complex.

    Is my blog one of the boring ones? What am I doing wrong? Am I bland? Is my party one of those that people feel obligated to go to, at least just for half an hour – really early in the evening, and then sneakily get out of there for a more exciting party?

    Only whisky can now blot out the voices of paranoia in my head. Thanks, Adam ;)

  3. Adam, AMEN!

    I am so glad to see this post, and as one who probably includes his own picture in his posts TOO often (sorry!) I have wondered why some bloggers go through great lengths to obscure their image. Is it because they have hopes of becoming restaurant reviewers and love the anonymity? Hee hee.


  4. Hi Adam

    I couldn’t agree with you more on the “dirty laundry” bit. I don’t read a blog because I want recipes – for that, there’s Epicurious. I want drama, I want personal issues (but preferably not bipolar-in-the-depressive-phase ones!), I want laughs and all against the backdrop of a meal. All of the bloggers I like best write about… themselves, but none are plain old journals. The pretty pretty patterns may be food, but the warp and weft that keep things together is the blogger’s personailty.

  5. wow, that was informative. just like bonnie mentioned above, it makes me question whether it’s worth it to start a food blog. after all, we all want to believe we have something to offer; at the first sign of failure, we want to say it’s our methodology that failed and it is by no means a reflection on our character.

  6. I think most of this is applicable to blogging in general. My blog isn’t about food, although sometimes I write about something I cooked or ate. My blog is about me, my thoughts, observations, hopes, et cetera. It’s Alison.

    Your advice here had me nodding my head, because you put into words all the things I look for when I find a new blog to read. I hope that my own blogging reflects these excellent points. Time for a reassessment, maybe.

  7. Bonnie, You make many excellent points. I’ll take them one by one:

    1. I totally agree. No one should spend a lot of money on site design until they know for sure that (a) they’re having some success, or (b) they want to keep blogging regardless of success. I waited a few months before I had someone design my site–I used basic Typepad software at the start. I’m addressing those who’ve been blogging for a long time with little recognition who don’t understand why their blog isn’t getting more acclaim. I think design is a great place to start.

    2. Getting your blog out there is tough. I definitely went on a rampage when I started out where I e-mailed every food blogger I read and begged to be linked and if they didn’t link me I’d be pouty and obnoxious. That probably wasn’t the best tactic. The better tactic, from my own experience, is to think BIG and to do a post, right at the start, that’s wild and crazy and funny and terribly unique and exciting. I know that’s a tall order but that’s honestly what happened to me when I made a cupcake out of Janet Jackson’s breast. Obviously, I’ve traveled a long way from that initial stunt post but that stunt post got me out there. It doesn’t even have to be a funny or whacky “stunt” post–it doesn’t even need to be a stunt post: maybe you’ll do something really serious and informative like document abuses at your local cheese shop. Whatever you do, make your posts fascinating and people will come.

    3. This is the hardest truth about any kind of writing, not just blogging. When you say voice, I hear “talent.” Some people just don’t have any talent for writing and to those people I say: keep writing if you love it and don’t worry about success. The sadder cases are cases where untalented writers expect success and don’t get it and feel themselves frustrated over and over again. That’s a very personal journey and my only comment after a few years of doing this is that feedback is important. Listen to your feedback and by that I don’t mean take every insult and criticism to heart. I mean see how you’re landing: are people responding to your writing? Do your posts generate waves of reaction? Did you pour yourself into a huge post last night only to get a two word comment like “nice tits”? Feedback lets you know if you have talent, if your voice is being heard. The internet is a great place to find that out–nowhere else are your “statistics” so heavily documented. I’d say do it for half a year and if your hits after six months are the same as when you started and you expect more, then perhaps you’re in the wrong field.

    4. Money was never my goal when I started my blog. It’s been an excellent perk–and getting a book deal was certainly like winning the lottery. If money is your goal you probably won’t go far. Do it because you love it and the money will come later. As for time, if you have the passion you’ll find the time. I started this blog while in law school and I always found time to bake cakes and sing songs and make videos of anorexic Barbie dolls. So can you, if you want to.

    5. I don’t know. I get a lot of e-mails from bloggers wanting me to link to them (that’s actually what prompted this follow-up post, to be honest) and usually I’m not impressed. There are exceptions, of course. David Lebovitz e-mailed me a long time ago when he started out and he’s now one of my favorite bloggers (though he’s obsessed with my mom.) I think a better tactic than e-mailing bloggers is to leave comments on their sites. I almost always click through when someone leaves a comment on my site that has a link to their own blog. I’ve discovered many a great blog that way (Wednesday Chef comes to mind). And it makes sense to participate in the community that you want to join.

    Hope this helped!

  8. You made me wonder, maybe because you are on the same line of thoughts I am lately, or maybe because you just wrote about the truth…

    I recently began to write my blog in English (I’m Italian) and I didn’t yet throw myself out there, but what your post made me think about is: am I up to it? (I’m not writing this for a response, it’s only rhetoric)…

    The focus you put on design is absolutely right and I couldn’t agree more, even if we have different tastes…

    I do not perfectly agree about the picture of the author: I wouldn’t like to be recognised by the mean people that sometimes leave comments on my blog… And by the bloggers that live in my city and of whom blogs I don’t like…

    But I’m thinking about the “private life” part: I always introduce my recipes with some stupid episodes of my not-so-interesting life, but I had the biggest responses from silly post where I write about my food dependence, like the one about Nutella (and the other Ferrero products…) or the one about a cake that turned out very ugly, so I suppose that my thoughts and life sound more interesting than my recipes. But what if I do not agree with this? I mean, I personally think my recipes are far more interesting than my life… And my real life is about cooking, not writing… What do you suggest?

    The best part of your post is that it made me think a lot, far more that the 1000 post…

    Many thanks…

  9. Adam, the reasons some of us don’t have lots of photos of ourselves on our blogs are myriad. In my case, I have more bad angles than a broken protractor, and I’m in the Witness Protection Program.

    I am going to link to your post in the hopes that just ONE of the morose NaBloPoMo bloggers will stumble onto it and realize the error of their ways. (They aren’t all morose, but a disproportionate number of them have committed themselves to whining blogging every day for the month of November.)

    A universal theme of unappealing blogs is that dangerous blend of being: 1) a litany of bummers; 2) a litany of apologies for being pathetic or annoying; 3) a litany of posting that you have nothing to say. (Seriously. If you have nothing to say, step away from the keyboard. Go find something in life to DO, so that you might bring some life to your work. Because guess what? Blogging is like working in a kitchen: if you don’t have the chops, you can’t hide it.)

    Thanks for a most excellent and inspiring post.

  10. Good advice, mostly. Here are some thoughts from a nobody blogger:

    Pictures and graphics are overrated. I’ll happily read a blog that has few graphics or crappy pictures if the writing is good. One of my favorite food bloggers is the little-known Seasonal Cook, who uses a generic layout and almost no pix, but is an awesome writer. I also like the now-defunct The Hungry Tiger—almost no pictures, no recipes, but lots of stylish, evocative food vignettes that make me hungry. (Hungry for vegetarian food, no less!)

    I’m also more likely to read blogs that help me become a better cook. That’s why I love Beyond Salmon, with its technique of the week posts, and Tigers and Strawberries (check out the step-by-step guide to stir-frying).

    Your most useful tip is about having a blog theme. I see far too many blogs that have great photography and nice writing about random food that just about everyone makes—-pasta, cookies, risotto, roast chicken, blah, blah, zzzzz. Pick a theme and stick to it. Pick something unusual.

    Unless your blog dedicated to a certain city or an international destination like Paris or New York, don’t bother with restaurant reviews. I don’t really care about that cute little French bistro in the middle of nowhere.

    Don’t overwrite. Don’t get all purple prosy about food. Don’t write stuff like “My life changed the minute I took my first bite of whatever at my villa in Tuscany…” Take writing lessons from the Wednesday Chef: stylish, succinct and to the point.

  11. Luisa at Wednesday Chef is giving writing lessons? Sign me up!

    When I started my site way-back-when, it was normal to send emails requesting link exchanges. That’s so far back that you were still wearing short pants, hence the error of my ways.

    But speaking of peeves…I’m finding people writing to me for advice about food blogging, or requesting help with their blogs. I’ve given out advice several times to bloggers who’ve asked, and sometimes never even get a response. Not even a brief note of ‘thanks’. And I don’t expect to be on anyone’s blogroll (except Adam’s…) but if you’re going to ask for advice, perhaps it’s a good idea to check on that too. I guess they obviously didn’t have the fine upbringing that the extraordinary, and very attractive, Mrs. Roberts bestowed upon her son.

    By the way, I’m not obsessed with your mother. I’m actually obsessed with your father, but he always looks kinda unhappy. And besides, that’d be kinda weird if I was. Wouldn’t it?

    But let me know if it’s not…

  12. HAHAHA David! Que malo eres!

    To piggyback on what David said, I’m all for exchanging info and I do get quite a bit of questions about photography which I’m always willing to share tips. But for pete’s sake people, SAY THANK YOU!

    I was raised in the south.

    Ok, back to The Amateur Gourmet…

  13. This is a great post with some great advice. It’s funny though because I find some people won’t read my posts because I tend to go on a bit (because I’m verbose in general, and when I get started, well… yeah, and then I bring my personal life into things and it just gets to the point where… yeah). Anyway, I mostly post for myself but I guess this is why some people don’t visit my blog a 2nd time- my standard layout. I tried hiring a web designer but couldn’t find anyone. Got a referral? Thanks!

  14. How about if I just aim to party every time I post? Lots of liquor, lots of laughs, I share to much, make a fool out of myself and BAM: great blogging.

    BTW—thanks for this post, I always love reading opinions on food blogging and what works and what doesn’t. So far I am probably just writing to myself:), bad sign eh?

    Boring, boring, blah. Perhaps I dance too close to that ledge. Thanks for the reminder, I will keep party-talk at the forefront of my blogging brain. Maybe even put on some sexy heels…

  15. Very good post Adam and thanks for all the tips. My blog is only a couple of moths old so I am still playing with my design and my voice. I have asked several questions of numerous people and they have all responded with more than I could want, Matt from, Aun from and Robert from

    Thanks for the informative post and keep up the good work. And thank you to everyone else that helps out with the newbie bloggers.

  16. Interesting post. I like the stream of consciousness. A couple of comments from another Nobody Food Blogger —

    My picture? Really???!! I read food mags and cookbooks and that last thing I care about is what the pple who wrote what I read look like. Perhaps if one has a very chatty and dishy (no pun intended) sort of blog, or if the blog is as much about them as it is about food, OK. But much as I’d like to gain more readers I have a hard time believing adding my photo to the blog is gonna do it.

    Personal info – yes, for some blogs. Again, the dishy, chatty ones. Restaurant Whore – yes, she’s a huge part of her blog so it’s appropriate to know her most intimate personal details (and it’s her style). But I’m trying to write about food, food culture, and food traditions in a particular part of the world. Do you really want to know my life history, what my marriage is like, how often and hard I work out to counteract the effects of my face-stuffing lifestyle? (OK, yes, recently I have been trying to peddle a puppy on my blog but that’s an aberration, a sheer act of desperation — generally you won’t find alot of personal stuff on my blog). And what does that have to do with what people on Sumatra eat for breakfast? I maintain that inclusion of overt personal details is necessary to some blogs, not to others. And for the latter, bits and pieces sneak into posts anyway, and readers who stay with the blog will begin to get an idea of the blogger’s personals from those.

    At any rate — yes to the visual. I wouldn’t hire a designer but quite frankly I wouldn’t even have started the blog if I didn’t have an excellent photographer at hand to provide my pics.


  17. Hmm, I liked some of your suggestions, and like Bonnie above, at first I had doubts – I use a Typepad template, albeit with a banner I made myself, and I do hate most Blogger templates – I think Typepad gives you a little more freedom to not look like everyone else, but I think many of your guidelines were written for food bloggers who primarily write for other food bloggers. There seem to be 2 people out there – those writing for the blogging world and those writing for the “real” world. I know many of my readers don’t read any food blogs, and never did before they read my site, they just found me while searching for a restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, where I live & write.

    So, for Yulinka who said above s/he doesn’t care about a French bistro in the middle of nowhere, you might not, but the people who live near it might. I guess that’s what I’m saying about the difference. Not everyone is looking for food porn – Columbus has, in general, terrible food writers who are being paid for their opinion, and I wanted to give people another option for reading about food in my city. I guess if it isn’t helpful to someone in New York, then that’s fine. I write about local, seasonal products and restaurants, and I’m fine if only local people read my website.

    I’ve also made the decision not to display my picture because my Husband and I have jobs where we encounter a lot of people and I didn’t want people to associate me with my job or his job and be thinking the whole time – “it’s written by that girl who works at…” I think that’s distracting.

    And, while I haven’t received a book deal, I receive about 4-5 times the hits I had this time last year, and I have received some good freelance work – unsolicited – from local newspaper publishers who read my website, as well as e-mails from chefs, authors, and company owners whose products/books/restaurants I’ve written about, so I know people are reading, even without a “schtick” or a well-paid web designer. I love the fact that 60% of my readers live in and around Columbus, and I am glad I provide them a service.

    There is little about other food blogs which interests me, in fact; I work with and know many chefs who are always around to answer my food questions, but not everyone has that luxury. AG is one of the only food blogs I read regularly because it is funny. Other than that, I only regularly read other Columbus food blogs.

    Sorry to be long-winded, but in conclusion I would tell anyone if you want to start a food blog, start it! My main advice is to post often. Nothing bothers me more than a blog neglected with no explanation.

  18. I am so touched by your description of me which is everything I aspire to be, I hardly know what to say.

    maybe I finally made it?

    I think I will link to this post on Food Blog S’cool, after I have done my Menu for Hope Homework, that is.

  19. That was interesting, obviously thought-provoking, and it’s nice of you to give advice. However, the thought it provoked in me is “Different strokes for different folks”.

    Some of the things I like about food blogging are the connections I have made to certain people, the excange of recipes and information, and the way it has made me think about why and what I cook.

    I do not feel at all guilty about the fact that my blog may be boring to others, because they are not obliged to read it. So I will blog until I am the one bored with it.

  20. Excellent post! Many of the things you brought up were things I wrestled with before finally deciding to launch my own food blog. Including that biggest question: Do I have anything to add to all the noise that’s already out there?

    To your point of “be yourself” I would add “have fun.” If you’re having fun with your blog, chances are, so will others.

  21. Thanks for sharing tips for others. Some were really helpful and interesting. YOUR writing is always top notch good and most of all I think I come back because of your humor. BUT, I read other bloggers for other reasons…and most of them aren’t funny at all. Some of the are because of where they live, that they share similar hobbies with me, or travel a lot and I want travel ideas, and so on. Actually, I think I first stumbled onto your blog when I was researching restaurants for an upcoming trip to New York a couple of years ago. You did really good and honest restaurant reviews and I loved your pics. However, like some have said, your tips are more about “how to have a blog like mine” and less about blogging in general. Writing well, of course. Great photos (I find so difficult to do), very important. But….pictures of self? I find those distracting to the topic at hand. Revelations about personal life? When I’ve tried a few times, I’ve gotten in trouble with my family and had to delete. So…there is most likely a personal style that fits everyone and their blog purpose. You are a very entertaining food blogger, no question. But we all can’t be you, nor should we try.

  22. Because I heart the ever so witty David, I think a big thanks is in order to you Adam for answering every one of my questions. hehe. I would have thanked you anyway…way cool:)

    It’s interesting to note that even though everyone has their own variations, the core group of regular go-to sites for addicts like me tend to be very similar. Many of the people you mention above are my regulars also…

    Oh, and by the way, i’m not Bonnie but Lisa. I think Bonnie asked something else.

  23. If I can interject my .02 about the photo…

    It’s kind of a tough balance I have thought about too. I have come across blogs that have the writers photo posted while POSING with an eggroll stuffed in their mouth, or at some weird angle shot and it isn’t flattering (no mean comments, it’s just my opinion). But still, for me, I have noticed that I connect to sites that have come up with a “sigature photo/look” where I connect to the writers life with food, but still holds a sort of air of mystery. If you don’t want your picture on your site, I respect that, but I would agree with Adam in that readers want to feel like they know you and you have to give them some “look” to relate too in a human and natural way. Good luck coming up with that;)

  24. Very good advice, Adam. One other thing that turns me on to a blog and keeps me reading is evidence of good editing. When something like “hor durves” shows up in the first paragraph, I immediately lose interest and click away. People take time out of their busy days to read my writing; I strive to make it legible for them.

    Not everyone can be a good writer, and I don’t expect fireworks (except from certain bloggers who always deliver, like Wednesday!), but everyone can spell-check and reread before posting.

  25. just another nobody blogger–who reads a damn lot of food blogs and has a thing or two to say about them.

    one, blog to please yourself, not some (largely imaginary) audience or even your friends in the blogging world. if it’s not *you* to pull stunts and post pictures, then don’t do it. if you can’t spell, so what? (though he’s not a food blogger, gabriel garcia marquez admits that he can’t spell either.)

    two, if you do want to blog to please your largely imaginary audience, please don’t blog about your cats. as far as i’m concerned, nothing ruins good food porn faster than a half dozen pictures of your pet. not interested.

    no use being a snob about blogging, even food blogging. not everyone’s going for an expanding readership and a book deal. me? i just like to read about food.

  26. Well, I am guilty of posting cat pictures, so I guess you’re one reader I won’t have. For awhile, I decided the cat pictures weren’t food-related and made me look unprofessional, but I got so many e-mails about them I put them back. That’s the first complaint I’ve heard.

    By the way, our nice host has also posted many cat pictures, cat videos, cat comics, etc. so it’s interesting you would complain about that on his own site.

  27. I think many of you are right—much of my advice is based on my own taste. And I am specifically writing to people who want to have more success with their blog, who want to grow their audience, not those who are doing it for their own pleasure. As far as the picture goes, of course it’s not necessary–there are many successful food bloggers who don’t have their picture posted–but the fact is that the large majority do. Looking at my bookmark list, I know what almost all of those bloggers look like. And for whatever reason I think it’s important.

    As for not posting pictures of your cat, my cat, Lolita, says: “Hsssssssssssss!”

  28. Yes it would be nice to have more readers (actually more readers willing to comment) but I if I start thinking “Why am I doing this anyway?” I remember that I have always kept journals of the food I eat. They are fun to look back on. This one just happens to be public.

    To Robyn and Lisa- Don’t worry! I read you both even though you don’t post your picture and I’ll probably never eat at the places you talk about.

    What I really wish is that there were more food bloggers in Madison, WI because I’m jealous of all the tastings and potlucks in other parts of the country. To me, blogging is about community.

  29. Very well written! I agree with you on the topic of boring blogs. I hate going to a blog to only find recipes of some dish. I’m not into looking for recipes, I look for inspiration. I love reading about how you came up with a recipe, the story behind it and how it inspired you. that’s the kind of posts I enjoy reading.

    These days, we see a new blog popping up everyday. some of them have tons of potential, most others lack in any creativity whatsoever.

  30. If some of the best food bloggers (you included) wouldn’t post recipes once in awhile, then we wouldn’t have fun things going on like people making your simple bread recipe. Come on, yes there are a thousand bread recipes, but trying to make YOURS is fun! Speaking of, I’ve got to print out your recipe so I can try to make that today. I think below-zero temps outside call for a homemade loaf baking in the oven.

  31. This is great! I love this conversation. It’s really interesting to see what everyone has to say about what makes for a great food blog. Style, voice, story telling, images.

    After reading your post Adam, I feel like Bonnie at Daydream Delicious…but I think it is always a good thing to try to approach your own writing with a critical eye.

    My own two cents? I think that if someone enjoys writing and creating a food blog what harm can be done? Being creative can be so much fun. But if the goal is to gain readers and become very good–then I think the advice in your post and the comments are spot on.

    Happy posting and eating!

  32. Adam, while I completely agree with most of what you say if you want to start a POPULAR food blog (apart from the photograph of yourself – what is this narcissitic (sp!) culture in which we live? – how about if you don’t CARE about being popular.

    And, reading all the comments, it is obvious that most of them all have different issues (I like/don’t like recipes, I like/don’t like reviews, I like/don’t like instruction).

    The beauty of blogging is that it is NOT one size fits all.

    For those that seek the attention or will cater to it if they attract it, your advice is excellent and you speak with the voice of experience.

    But blogging in particular fits ‘the long tail’. There are more people by far reading the literally thousands of UNpopular food blogs than there are reading the tens of popular food blogs. Food blogging is a broad church so to speak. Incidentally, I actually think that your original post on the subject was close to perfect – I’d almost say this one merely detracts from it.

    Anyway, keep up the great work.

  33. So inspiration is in and cat pictures are out (about bloody time). No one cares if you are gay or not though; unless they are gay themselves I guess.

  34. PS–(on the topic of graphics) would anyone be able to help me out with html code? I want to change the very boring blogger header to a jpg image I created.


  35. I really support Owen’s comments. People blog for a wide variety of reasons. I wasn’t even sure of my motives when I began, and it took some time for me to hit my stride and develop a voice that I felt was truly reflective of me. It’s an evolutionary process.

    As Owen says, it’s not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. I follow several blogs that are little-read but I find enormously engaging. There are hugely successful blogs that I find tedious and pedantic (and shall remain nameless). It’s always a question of personal taste.

    I don’t always know why my readers read me, but I am always grateful that they do. But the most important thing to me is to create a product I am happy with and proud of. It is, after all, basically a hobby. Success is measured in many ways.

  36. I can personally attest to the fact that a redesign makes a big difference. My readership doubled shortly after my redesign from a standard blogger template. If you are looking for a designer referral, I would suggest checking out other food blogs, finding a few designs that you like, and finding out from the author who their designer was. That’s how I found the designer for mine.

    Adam – it took me freaking forever to get through your post because I kept looking back at my blog while wringing my hands and trying to figure out if I was implementing your suggestions! Thanks for all the information.

  37. I think having a solid niche or angle is key. The people who just write about “food” (rather a broad topic) are going to have to work really hard to differentiate themselves from the many others doing the same.

  38. OMG! Robyn’s comment about Restaurant Girl (calling her Restaurant Whore) made me spit my milk out all over my computer keyboard.

    But it’s funny because it’s true.

  39. I’m sure I needed to read this, but it’s making my head hurt. But you are right about the design being important. It’s still early days, but after my redesign my traffic has nearly doubled with me writing the same old stuff. It’s funny though, I was just telling a mate that my writing didn’t feel like it matches the new design. But when I look back at earlier posts I can see that changes are going on, so with you giving me pause to think, maybe some more will happen, hopefully in an organic, natural manner.

  40. I find your writing tremendously funny (esp like the truffle post), but can I stand another “how to write your food blog successfully” advice post? Originality and community are important, but different folks like different posts, so I think there’s a lot of room for variety. That said, a catchy lead rarely goes astray. While food is a sensual subject, I read food blogs because I’m interested in the food, not someone’s private life. So do what you will with the whipped cream, but no obligation to share. I like food blogs that convey a certain personality, take an original angle, talk about complimentary flavors, and, yes, they have to have photos!

  41. Adam, thanks for this post. I must admit that, as I spend more and more time perusing food blogs, I relish the ones with (1) a distinctive point of view; (2) a readable style not peppered with expletives and meaningless abbreviations; (3) information I wouldn’t find elsewhere; and (4) something other than the day-to-day details of the author’s private life (“first we went here, then I ate that…”). I’ve been asked a number of times for link exchanges, and I always go right to the blog to check it out if I’m not familiar with it. I think about my readers, or who I perceive them to be, and try to decide if I think they would find the blog interesting. And I do make choices: no profanity (because I know that the kids in my cooking classes read the blog, and because I don’t think profanity necessarily makes for good writing), no pornography, and no whining stream-of-consciousness if that’s the only content.

    That said, I try to make sure my own blog, though simple in design and lacking the stunning and inspired photography featured in so many food blogs, offers what I look for in others: content with a point of view, a sharp focus, good writing, and a reason to come back and read another day. In that way I contribute to the body of good blog writing out in the universe, and that helps elevate us all.

    Also, folks, if someone takes the time to email to you, whether asking for or giving advice, sharing a recipe, questioning something you’ve blogged or just making contact, be courteous and respond. Every email is a moment of someone’s time freely given.

  42. This is the first time I’ve mentioned something on this blog; my blog is a bit sexy and not so food oriented but I love food blogs and am starting to feel like the blogging community should not always be limited to his or her particular genre.

    In any case, bravo Adam and everyone else, I’m glad your blog has worked out so well for you and I look forward to seeing more of you in the future.

  43. Dear Adam–

    This is great! Another tip that really paid off for me was to offer anybody who read my blog a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Unfortunately, the offer expired 20 minutes ago, but stay tuned for the next exciting offer!

  44. I have a crush on you, your cat, and your blog.

    Thanks for all the suggestions! I’ve discovered that it is incredibly difficult to keep up what was incredibly easy to start…

  45. This has been a fascinating thread. I’ve learned a lot and appreciate the experiences shared. It’s great to read things from people who are “in the know”.

  46. I couldn’t agree with you more about bloggers posting their photos, at least in the “About” section; some folks seem perversely mysterious about their own images.

    One thing you didn’t mention, in addition to Lisa’s advice about posting often, is to keep entries a reasonable length. There’s one popular blog whose author tends to be extremely long-winded; the posts are whole, dense pages with few paragraph breaks. But she’s so sweet, and posts such good recipes, that I keep going back.

  47. I guess you think your blog is not boring then… well, I have to say that it was in my list of blogs I read daily, but after a few weeks I just deleted your link.

    Your blog was boring to me…

    Does it mean I don’t understand much? Or maybe that certain things are subjective?

    I agree with the fact that a blog should be made with a certain amount of passion, but being ‘funny’ or ‘witty’ is not all there is.

    P.S. you might wonder why I read this post, since I do not read your blog anymore… well, I have to say that this post gave you quite a lot of publicity (good or bad, I would not know) and I was curios to see.

    But still, you are not back in my list.

  48. Great thoughts Adam. I am late to reply. Also, I am not too sure if you have ever visited My Dhaba which is a small food blog.

    Of late, we have embarked on a life-saving mission – feed a hungry child campaign. By participating in our group book project ‘You Can Cook’, the food lovers and food bloggers are creating new ways to motivate individuals and organizations across the world to expand their mission and join the fight against global poverty.

    Would you like to join us in some way?

  49. A couple of things. Just as not all people write blogs for the same reason, not all people read them for the same reason either. While I agree that getting a sense of a personality behind the writing makes a blog less flat / more “rounded”, I for one would not be in the least tempted to read a blog that was centered around a personality and “juicy details” from their lives. Please! For drama and action, there’s life and all the real people one comes in contact with everyday – sitting in front of a computer screen and reading hardly qualifies as exciting. Writing on the other hand can be exciting – but to reduce good writing to personality, form, and content is a huge oversimplification, especially when “personality” seems to mean “the private person”, as it does here, and form, a very-expensive visual layout. (Btw, not to be offensive or anything, but I don’t like yours. It’s too busy.) One needs to consider nuances – “context”, “personality”, “content”, “form” etc. can all be interpreted in such different ways! – and the kind of readership one wants when doing so.

    Context can be (1) personal, (2) impersonal, or (3) very subtly personal, and of the three options, (3) is most appealing across reader types. Just for the record, the “high-spirited, highly animated talker who’s telling a harrowing tale of a near-death experience with caramel” would simply strike me as desperate for attention and rather pathetic. I prefer style, sophistication, and subtlety as a reader / audience, and would want to appeal to such a reader / audience as a writer / performer. Others may disagree with me (and they’re welcome to, as this debate is about “standards”, and whether they are necessary, and who defines them in something as subjective as blogging), but I find reading about a stranger’s melodramatic interpretations of their life distasteful (“please – spare me the exhibitionism” / “please, these matters are private, keep them private!”), or just plain boring (why would I even want to know?). But then, and this I think is most important, once I realize that a blog doesn’t suit my taste, I would simply not visit it (without leaving any comments or other such traces of my sojourn). I would simply exercise my power to choose… What I would not do is rant about how what I think is “good blogging” is the ultimate definition of good blogging and tell the world’s bloggers they must conform or forever be branded as bad. That is ridiculous, not to say offensive – and not just “unsubtle”, as you choose to put it.

    And finally: solipsistic points of view don’t bother me, except when they start to claim that what is true for them is an absolute truth and upset a number of perfectly nice people. And photos of authors are NOT necessary. Good writing in itself is sufficient.

  50. Hi V, thank you for sharing your feelings but I think you may be over-reacting. My essay was based on my experiences as a blog reader and writer and one who, over time, has built a large audience. When I go back to examine why that’s happened, I think all the points I made factor in. That’s been my own experience and I wanted to share that with my readers since, presumably, my readers like my blog. I totally concur that it’s subjective: of course it is. I was writing this to those who admire what I do and want tips on how to have a similar kind of success. At the very least I think it’s safe to assume no one wants to read a boring blog and my tips were just that–suggestions–for making a food blog more interesting. One can do that with personality, one can do that with talent, one can do that with humor. However you do it, though, make sure that it’s done: I still stand by my contention that there’s nothing worse than a boring food blog.

  51. Haha, you’re YET another case in point for the american obsession with ‘standing out’…you guys need, crave, beg for, cant live without attention…its a cultural thing…no offense meant here…I apologise if any is taken…but this whole…you’ve-gotta-peddle-your-personality-or-atleast-that-of-your-blog thing is quite ridiculous in my opinion…!!

  52. Standing out? Yes, bloggers like to stand out, and to know you’re being read and well-liked is not only American, I am guessing it’s human.

    I think the best blogs, no matter the content or subject matter, feature passionate writers who care about their interest. Not all are the best writers, but their passion for their subject matter can leap off the page.

    I agree with our Amateur Gourmet – I like to know a little about the blogger I’m reading. I’m not coming here to learn about Adam, per se, but a picture, or a bio of the author humanizes the site, and let’s us feel as if the writing has personality. A agree with you Adam.

    I also agree with the comment that says good writing is what’s really needed… yes, but with so many blogs to read now, having one with good visual design, and some personality, doesn’t hurt in choosing which ones we add to our daily reading lists or RSS news aggregators!

    Thanks for sharing.

  53. Hello Adam,

    Thanks for your comment on my blog. Thank You for being so gracious and for saying nice things about the article. It means a lot to me!

    I can see the new ‘meme’ starting here about ‘boring lunch meal recipes’. I wanted to address it. That was the only intention behind my post. My sincere apologies, if anything that I’ve written caused any offense or pain.

    Peace and cheers,


  54. Perfect. Just perfect. Now I’m all excited. And the whole afternoon lies prone in front of me.


    Seriously, thank you for putting it all down. And literate-like.

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  56. Great advice Adam!

    I started a food blog a couple of months ago, and at the moment I think I fall into the drab and boring category.

    I’m going to apply some of your helpful hints and hopefully that will make my project a whole lot more interesting to the reader.

    Great blog you have, and keep up the good work!!

  57. I’ve come to your site via a link on David Lebovitz’s blog and it’s interesting that you wrote this post some 7 years ago. I wonder if your advice would change given the passage of time?? In the past 7 years, the food blogging scene has just exploded and it seems that every second person I meet has a food blog of some kind, myself included.

    When I look at some of the successful food blogs today, I’m not sure they really apply your advice in this post. Take, for example, the über-successful Katie Quinn Davies of What Katie Ate. I started following her blog right back in the early days and it has been rather interesting to see the evolution of her photography and styling skills. But as stunning as her food photography is, I think she is a terrible blogger (sorry!). Her busy schedule means that she posts very infrequently and, when she does, it is usually a massive post to apologise for her absence and which takes forever to load because there are so many photos. And her writing is rather boring, to be honest. But besides these points, I love her blog and so do thousands of others. I’m sure most of us visit her blog just to salivate over her photos – I don’t even bother reading what she writes anymore. But perhaps she is the exception? That her photos are so beautiful that nothing else matters?

  58. I’m only now getting into the world of blogging and I’m finding it difficult to navigate how personal I should be. It makes me feel better when you say to share but bring it back- I read a lot of popular blogs that are extremely personal but I think I’m going to stick to what feels right.

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