Make your food blog as addictive as your mac n’ cheese recipe with these five tips.
Food blogs remain incredibly popular for bloggers and readers; no wonder, as we all eat multiple times per day! Food is omnipresent and eating together is a powerful way to connect, which makes writing about food rich with possibility.
A great food blog is more than just a collection of recipes, though — these five guidelines will get yours off to a five-star start.
Define your schtick
There are hundreds of food and recipe search sites, not to mention print magazines and cookbooks. How do you get readers to pay attention to your chocolate cake recipe? Perspective! Blogs live and die on point of view, so find and highlight yours.
Maybe your perspective is part and parcel of your food. Bloggers like Chef in Disguise, who focuses on Middle Eastern recipes, or Burp! Appetit, who blogs to share the breath and depth of Malaysian cuisine, have a clear niche.
If you don’t focus on a particular cuisine, you still have your own take on food and how to talk about it, so play that up to highlight what makes you (and your recipes) unique. Cookin’ Five Square Meters dishes up an impressive range of foods from a teeny-tiny kitchen. Food on Fifth focuses on meals accessible to novice cooks. Gourmandistan looks at the larger systems that underlie the food we eat. All three sites have apple pie recipes, but all three bring their own angles. (And even the niche bloggers need to have distinct voices; there’s no shortage of hummus or congee recipes on the internet.)
What are the hallmarks of your food? How does your personality influence your cooking? Use your point of view to shape recipes and posts, in your header, title and tagline, and on social networks to carve out a clear spot for yourself in the food blogging world.
Photos! (But not too many)
“We eat with our eyes” is a cliché for a reason. The visual aspect of food is incredibly important. On the internet, where we can’t smell or taste your dishes, we depend on photos to pique our interest and explain a dish’s preparation.
This doesn’t mean you need a $2,000 camera and a photography studio. You can do just fine with a point-and-shoot or a cameraphone! Take some time to read the advice and tips of some brilliant WordPress.com food bloggers and photographers, who can help with everything from understanding how to work with the light in your home to picking the right dishes to set off your beef stroganoff perfectly.
We’ll want to see the finished dish, any steps in your recipe that may be confusing, and a few other shots, especially if there are unusual or particularly beautiful ingredients. Beyond that, think about what additional photos add to your post — we want to see your finished chocolate chip cookies, but we don’t necessarily need to see the bowl of flour from step one. Readers on phones or with slower internet connections will appreciate your focus!
Activate our senses
Since we can’t taste your food, you’ll have to help us do that in your descriptions. We want to feel what you feel when you’re eating a dish.
I grew up eating it in small grey cardboard cups which had a flip lid. You flip away the lid and a couple of chubby brown raisins stared at you on top of blushing pink with soft bits of cashews scattered in. I always used my nails to pick the raisins out first and then the paddle shaped wooden spoon to scoop the rest. One cup disappeared after another in no time, sitting under the shade of a kumquat tree in blazing Indian summer heat, sweaty foreheads, dripping cream on our dresses and white foamy mustaches, oh to be a child again!
When Tanvi from Sinfully Spicy tells us about her ice cream, we’re sitting under that tree with her. Maybe we’re taken back to a childhood memory of our own. We get excited not just about ice cream, but about an experience — which is part of the power of food.
If you feel like your descriptions could use a boost, take a look at our primer on descriptive writing.
To draw us into your dish, avoid words that don’t communicate much. “Tasty,” “yummy,” and “delicious” don’t actually say a whole lot about what something tastes like. Instead, go for specifics and details about color, texture, smell, and, of course, flavor, and augment that with descriptions of how you felt while eating.
Don’t stop at the recipes
When we find a blog that we return to again and again, it’s because the blogger moved us in some way. Made us laugh. Provoked us. Helped us think about something in a new light. Made us feel less alone.
The best food blogs do that, too. They share personal stories, take us on vicarious trips around the globe, teach us about other traditions and cultures, and help us connect to our food, to one another, and to the world. Don’t just share your recipes: share your stories, and yourself.
If you’re not sure how to write about food in a broader way, spend some time reading Eggton or Rachel Eats, two blogs that brilliantly meld suppertime and storytime. Rachel could have written “I first had pesto with a old boyfriend in St. Albans,” or should could have told the story this way:
I can still remember him, wearing blue acrylic Adidas shorts, scraping the contents of a small jar into flat spaghetti called Lin-gwee-knee. The stuff coming out of the jar was darkish green and smelt like dried herbs, cheese and mothballs. It wasn’t entirely unpleasant. ‘It’s pesto‘ he said. I was given the job of mixing the pasta and pesto, which clumped into a large ball. It would be another 18 years until I learned the secret of pasta cooking water. Undeterred, we untangled the ball in two, then ate our supper listening to David Sandbourne’s 1980’s smooth sax. Even with the mustiness, I thought it was one of the best things I had ever eaten. As it got dark, I balanced on the cogs on the back of his BMX and he rode me up a very steep hill to the train station, a feat I read like tea leaves. It was meant to be. When we kissed goodbye, he tasted of pesto.
I know which post I’d rather read, and which blog I’d visit again.
Indexes, widgets, and categories, oh my!
Once you’ve published a few recipes, make it easy for reader to find the ones they’re looking for. Start with an obviously-placed search bar and, think about adding a “recipe index” that compiles and links to all your recipes, either as a list or as a more structured index.
Take it a step farther and draw readers in with image widgets that take advantage of your photos to highlight favorite recipes or categories, like Things We Make does — check out a sample of one of their widgets at left, and visit our tutorial and learn to make your own custom images. Or for a simpler version of the same idea, use the Top Posts and Pages widget and set it to display thumbnail images for each post, the way The Patterned Plate does.
Food blogs will be popular as long as people have to eat, so they’re not going anywhere any time soon! Make sure yours stands out from the crowd, and helps your recipes stand the test of time.