How I grew my food blog 10x in 1 year
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Actionable steps to grow your food blog that you can start implementing today. This is not get-rich-fast approach. However, with persistence and hard work, you will taste the fruit of your labor in less than a year.
Let me guess, you’re passionate about food. You love cooking, photographing, writing. I get it you love food blogging. Me too. And like any blogger, we all want to be heard, seen and acknowledged, right? But here is what usually happens.
You finally nailed the recipe after many trials. You took photos of your delicious dish. You enthusiastically wrote a blog post and hit “Publish”. And you wait, and wait, and wait for people to show up. Instead, all you get is crickets. Believe me, I get it. I’ve been there many times myself.
In January 2014, when I decided to start blogging seriously (become a professional blogger? a full-time blogger? whatever you wanna call it), I was off to a rocky start. I say a “rocky start” because I’ve been blogging for a full year by that point, but there wasn’t much to brag about (nor did I put much effort into it). After yearlong of hard work, I was able to grow my traffic 10x. Yes, from 10K monthly page views in January to 100K+ in December. And today I want to share with you how I did it.
Before I reached 100K page views, I had no idea what was considered a high traffic. So instead of focusing on the numbers, I just focused on continuous growth. Then I learned that some popular ad networks require minimum of 80-100K page views, from which I learned I had reached an important milestone.
This is not, by any means, to brag or anything like that. I couldn’t have done this without many helpful blogging resources from other bloggers, and I feel like I owe it to the blogging community to contribute my findings.
Grab a cup of coffee now, we’ll be here for a bit. 🙂
My #1 blogging goal for 2014 was to build readership and increase the traffic to my blog. That’s it. I didn’t have any particular number in mind, but all I wanted to see was an increase in numbers from one month to another. And here are the steps I took to achieve that.
Make a Posting Schedule
Prior to 2014, I was not blogging consistently. One month I’d post 4 recipes, the next month 10, or some months went by without a single post. This had to be fixed, if I wanted to grow my traffic. So I decided on Mon-Wed-Fri posting schedule. This seemed to be doable for me and I was quite comfortable with that. However, you’ll need to decide what works best for you. Don’t feel bad if you can only publish one recipe a week, because the quality is more important than quantity. You might have a full-time job, or other responsibilities, so make the schedule that works for you. Making a schedule holds you accountable, and your readers will know what to expect.
Focus on Quality Content/Photography
As I just mentioned above, quality is more important than quantity. In fact, quality content is crucial for blog growth. And that applies to both recipes and photography. Let’s be honest, we eat with our eyes first. Great photos tickle our appetite and motivate us to try the recipe. On top of that, beautiful clear photos drive lots of traffic from various social media sites. Pinterest is my #1 traffic source, and I credit that to my photography. Do put energy into improving your photography skills. This doesn’t mean you have to invest in expensive camera. Yes, DSLR camera helps, but it’s not everything. (Photography is such a huge topic. I can write a separate post about it, if you want me to. Just let me know in the comments, if you’re interested.)
Back to quality content… For every recipe I publish, I ask myself, “Is there anything new I learn from this post? What is the take away?“ Therefore, I try to include something useful in every post, even if it’s a tiny tip, small information about certain product, a cool technique, etc. I believe my step-by-step photo tutorials are also valuable part of my content. Every time I get an e-mail, or a comment that my detailed photo directions helped them to achieve a perfect result, I feel like I’ve done my job. Remember, improving quality of your work is always work in progress though. Today, I might think a certain photo is perfect, but a month later, I might find something that could have been better. As long as you’re doing your best today, you’re on the right track. Quality photos are magnet for traffic, but the quality recipes are the reason those visitors stay.
SEO is Important
Another major source of traffic to my site is search engine and organic search. If you’re not optimizing your blog posts, how people will find your wonderful recipes? Make it easy for Google to find your content and present it to millions of people who search for that recipe. I’m no SEO guru, but my trusted WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin helps to keep my posts optimized for search engines. If you’re not using this plugin, it’s high time to download it now. It’s FREE.
There are so many blogging resources online on various topics of blogging. I encourage you to set aside half an hour to an hour every day to read and learn from other bloggers (this is a great place to start), from books on blogging, and/or from various blogger forums. I’ve read countless articles about blogging and photography over the year, but things change rather quickly (social media algorithm changes, Google updates, etc), so keep your eyes and ears open for these new information. To keep up with news, join various Facebook groups of food bloggers. (Simply type in “food bloggers” in Facebook search field and request to join the appropriate groups.)
It’s important to learn fundamentals though. I want to mention two books that helped me tremendously when I decided to become a full-time blogger. I highly recommend for you to read these books.
- Food Blogging for Dummies by Kelly Senyei. Kelly is a blogger at Just a Taste. Her brilliant book is full of helpful information about all aspects of blogging, from finding your niche to marketing to monetization, and everything in between. I think it’s one of the most comprehensive food blogging books out there.
- Will Write for Food by Dianne Jacob. Truth to be told, writing is my least favorite part of blogging. I genuinely believed I’m not meant to be a writer, but just like everything else in life, it can be learned. This book has seriously amazing tips on how to write about food. I continue working on my writing skills with the help of this book.
Another great resource, I want to share, is CreativeLive. Last year, I watched “Story on a Plate: Food Photography & Styling” course with Todd Porter and Diane Cu, a talented duo from White On Rice Couple. I’ve learned so much about lighting, composition, styling from this course. It was invaluable experience. If you catch the live classes on CreativeLive, it’s free. But you can also purchase the course to watch at your own time. They offer so many fun and informative courses all the time, so definitely check it out.
Again, in this information-loaded era, it’s important to stay current. Always be curious and willing to learn.
One thing I learned over the last year is that food blogging community is full of talented, creative, open-minded people. It’s a great pleasure to be a part of such community. To get to know other bloggers, go out and explore other food blogs. Make a list of your favorite blogs (about 10 at a time), follow them on social media, read their blog posts, comment and share the love. Through this process, you’ll get a chance to learn more about the blogger and build a friendship. (I say, 10 at a time, only because more than that might be hard to keep up.)
Another way to network is to join various groups and forums for food bloggers (like FB groups I mentioned above), where you can ask questions, advice and recommendations. Last year, I joined FoodBloggerPro community, ran by Bjork and Lindsay from Pinch of Yum. It’s actually more than a community. They have a huge library of videos on all aspects of food blogging (photography, food styling, google analytics, webmaster, SEO, you name it). And the best part is the community, where bloggers of all levels share information, answer questions, lend advice and simply offer support to each other. The best investment I’ve made to date! Start and grow your food blog with Food Blogger Pro (affiliate link).
There are also many FB groups where you cross-promote each other’s content, which is very beneficial to get the word out about your new content. Again, do a search on Facebook to find the group you like.
This is sort of an extension to my previous advice. Did you know there are ton of food blogging conferences held throughout the year? I certainly didn’t know that. Unfortunately, not everyone has time and/or resources to attend blogging conferences in person. But lucky for us, there is one amazing blogging conference held online, Online BlogCon. I was fortunate enough to attend it last year in September, which really helped me to reach that 100K page views a month. Without Online BlogCon, I don’t think I’d be where I am now. I’m not even exaggerating, you guys. Not only did I learn ton of new things about blogging, but I also connected with fellow bloggers, we stayed in touch even after the conference to exchange information and learn from each other. I’m excited to let you know that the tickets for this year’s conference are available now. You can get your ticket here.
I’m also excited to attend couple of other conferences this year and network in person. 🙂
Contribute to Another Blog
Through Online BlogCon, I’ve been introduced to Julie from White Lights on Wednesday, who is also managing editor for Real Housemoms. Late last year, she asked me if I wanted to be a contributor to Real Housemoms blog. I had never considered such a thing, nor did I know anything about it, but I agreed to do it and had a huge success. This is another major reason I was able to increase my traffic 10x last year. See how powerful networking is? You never know who you gonna meet, and what opportunities are waiting for you around the corner. Again, be open-minded and willing to try new things.
Whew, are you still with me? We’re almost done here.
Last but not least, be patient. Don’t focus too much on numbers, instead focus on quality of your content, continuously learn and develop your skills, network and be open-minded. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t check my Google Analytics stats every 2 minutes. In fact, I still compulsively check my stats couple times a day. I simply can’t help it, but I don’t let my numbers dictate my mood. I never get discouraged if I see low numbers. Instead I put a little more effort in sharing my posts on social media. Stay positive and be grateful for those people who DID visit your site.
One last thing. I noticed the more my blog grows, the faster it grows. It’s called a snowball effect, a truly fascinating thing! Don’t give up and keep improving your content. Soon your traffic will double, triple and grow beyond your imagination. And don’t forget to have fun!
I hope this post was helpful. If you have any questions, or want me to elaborate on any of these steps, feel free to leave a comment. Thank you for reading!