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.

28 comments

  1. Amen. I don’t blog exclusively about food, but I carry my camera everywhere and always have something to write about. Plus I often find that a photo I took months ago can come in handy for illustrating.

    Interesting photos keep me coming back to my favorite blogs, so I try to make sure my own posts always have pictures.

  2. Well written! Having started my very own little food blog, I am finding the key to good posts are good pictures. One of the thousand reasons why I love your blog so much is because you post so many pictures.

  3. isn’t it all the more amazing, then, that when julie powell wrote the julie/julia project, she was able to command such a huge readership and garner so many invitations to do interviews all over the world, just from the strength of her writing? she never posted a single photograph that entire year.

    can’t wait to see the new almond cake method — i make that one too.

  4. wait… i want the amanda hesser tip!!!!! randomly, that’s one of my favorite blog posts you’ve ever written. it cracks me up. and the cake will save your soul.

  5. Re: the Amanda Hesser cake — remember how after you posted that, the intrepid “Johnny G.” guest-blogged for you about his high school bake-off? Well, small world that it is, Johnny G. is now a college freshman at my university and coincidentally went to high school with my best friend here. We actually met about a week ago and immediately bonded over our love for AG! I was jealous of him blogging for you, he was jealous that I got my book signed when you were in B-more last month .. good times all around. See? The Amateur Gourmet, bringing people together since 2003. =)

  6. I think it’s funny you pointed out the broccoli article. I read your blog through Google Reader, and threw that article on my shared list so I could come back and copy down the recipe later. A few hours later, a friend of mine, who normally only shares technology stuff or funny articles, had also shared the broccoli article. I guess we all just wanted some vegetables this week…

  7. I agree with you all the way. I take my camera with me everywhere I go. My camera is very basic and I aspire to buy a better one once we have better news about this economic slump we’re in. In the meantime I made do with the camera I have and blog on.

  8. I agree with you all the way. I now take my camera with me everywhere I go. My camera is very basic and I aspire to buy a better one once we have better news about this economic slump we’re in. In the meantime, I make do with the camera I have and blog on.

  9. I have been a lurker on your blog for months and love all of your helpful advice for fellow food bloggers. Many bloggers are tight-lipped and are very competitive. But you seem to be just the opposite.

    As a newbie to the already crowded food blogging arena, I am trying to find ways to distinguish myself and build a brand.

  10. I have been a lurker on your blog for months and love all of your helpful advice for fellow food bloggers. Many bloggers are tight-lipped and are very competitive. But you seem to be just the opposite.

    As a newbie to the already crowded food blogging arena, I am trying to find ways to distinguish myself and build a brand.

  11. If my sweet, foodie blog got 33K hits in one day I think I’d have a heart attack.

    (quietly praying for 32K, non-lethal hits)

    I think you’re right, it’s all about switching it up but sticking to your “brand”. Thanks for the inspiration and ideas!

  12. I agree with several of the posts here… if my blog got 33 hits in a day I’d be excited. Variety is the spice of life, and blogs, so thanks for the advice here!

  13. I agree with several of the posts here… if my blog got 33 hits in a day I’d be excited. Variety is the spice of life, and blogs, so thanks for the advice here!

  14. You are the bomb. Really, I’ve been reading since you wrote those first posts on how to start a blog and your success is simply amazing. And well deserved. P.S. I made the broccoli and I feel certain the Littles would have enjoyed their veggies if I had only shared. I didn’t bother slicing the garlic and tossed in about 20 cloves to roast alongside the broccoli. It was truly divine. I heart Ina.

  15. Hi!

    I started blogging at the end of September and have really been enjoying it a great deal. It has brought focus to all of the things I love to do and of course expanded my food knowledge immensely! I am posting regularly but don’t seem to be getting much traffic yet. I’m doing the social networking sites and trying to take good photos to get on the food porn sites. Is it just a need for perseverence? I’d love your thoughts. Thanks for all the great info!

  16. Hi!

    I started blogging at the end of September and have really been enjoying it a great deal. It has brought focus to all of the things I love to do and of course expanded my food knowledge immensely! I am posting regularly but don’t seem to be getting much traffic yet. I’m doing the social networking sites and trying to take good photos to get on the food porn sites. Is it just a need for perseverence? I’d love your thoughts. Thanks for all the great info!

  17. Love your blog and your inclusive, sharing attitude. I take my camera everywhere too. Needed a photo of a barn last week and after checking some stock footage I remembered I had one of my own from a trip to Vancouver. Much more satisfying using my own work.

  18. Hey Adam, what kind of camera do you use? I extrapolate my blog content from my camera too but somehow my pictures are never good. I’ve tried all the different settings but can never manage to have good pictures! I have a Canon SD400 which I didn’t think was that terrible. Guess it’s a bit outdated though. Thanks for this essay!

  19. Thanks, Adam–super useful advice. Since I decided to start blogging, I’ve definitely found that readers appreciate frequency and variety…and pictures always jazz everything up. Thanks for the tips–very much appreciated by a fellow food blogger.

  20. I have recently begun carrying my camera around and it’s really quite a fun experience! Btw, I also bought a copy of your book and I’m hooked! :) This sounds silly but I had a dream I was making the tomato sauce from the book.

  21. Greta post mister “broccoli” :-) May be you will help circuit city not to fill chapter 11 by asking all you readers to carry their camera everywhere (first they need to buy one hahahha)

  22. Greta post mister “broccoli” :-) May be you will help circuit city not to fill chapter 11 by asking all you readers to carry their camera everywhere (first they need to buy one hahahha)

  23. Thank You for this post.

    I am beginning to realize that the images are just as important as the writing (well, almost)…

    Great Post! Also great for stimulating the economy, because I am about to go out and buy a new Camera.

    Thanks so much!

%d bloggers like this: