There are a lot of resources out there on how to start a food blog, but not a ton that tell you how to grow your food blog. I don’t claim to be an expert in this, but these are the things that have worked for me and things I wish I had know about from the start. I’ve seen steady growth and have been able to double my traffic every 2 months since I officially relaunched Liv for Cake in January 2015. I’ve been blogging off and on for over 5 years and I have two other blogs besides this one. Liv for Cake has been around for over 5 years (with a long 4 year break) but it really wasn’t until January of this year that I focused my efforts to try to get my content out there and gain a following.
Here is a snapshot of my traffic over the past few months.
I know these numbers are small potatoes compared to the pageviews that some blogs get, but I think they are awesome and the increase in traffic over the past 7 months is dramatic considering I only post once or twice a week.
I wanted to share some insights with my food blogger friends and especially those just starting out. For these tips to be effective, you need to make sure you have high quality content (photos and writing) on your blog, but that’s a separate topic that I’ll get into eventually! The focus of Part 1 will be on sharing your content and optimizing your site to bring in more visitors.
This is a BIG one. 50% of my traffic comes directly from Social media. You need to be promoting your content, and social media is the way to do it! There are soooo many different platforms available that it’s hard to give them all an equal amount of attention. Here are the ones I use, in order of preference and the attention they get from me.
PINTEREST – This is actually my biggest source of traffic BY FAR. Over 10x the traffic of the next highest source. There’s so much to say about Pinterest strategies that it was too much to include in this section (I tried). So stay tuned for a detailed post on that next week!
INSTAGRAM – I love, love, LOVE Instagram. It’s no surprise that I have the most followers on it out of all my social media platforms. I love that I’m able to follow a ton of people/brands and see amazing pictures of food, cities, nature, etc. I love that I can share pictures of my food and get feedback and comments from others. I love that I can easily find people to follow by searching #hashtags. Really there is very little, if anything, that I don’t like about this app. I don’t know that I actually get *any* traffic to my blog from Instagram, but I love it nonetheless.
A note on #hashtags: In order to make your content visible to people that are not already following you, you should use hashtags in your posts. How many you use is really up to you, but I wouldn’t use more than 20 or you could be considered a spammer. Make sure you use hashtags that relate to your content!! Using #table with the picture of your cake because it happens to be on a table is really a bit of a stretch, no? Keep the hashtags relevant and don’t overuse them. I like to put my hashtags in the comments section rather than the post itself so that they don’t clutter the status.
FACEBOOK – I see a decent amount of traffic from Facebook… IF I can actually get people to see my posts, which is something Facebook has totally nerfed because they want you to *pay* to promote your posts, and I am not about to do that. That being said, I actually like to use Facebook. Even though my page doesn’t have a huge following, I like the engagement I get from it, and I like that others can share my posts and vice versa.
YUMMLY – I wrote about Yummly in this post, so you can check that out for more details if it’s new to you. It’s a great platform and yields a lot of traffic for many food bloggers. Kinda like Pinterest but for recipes only.
TWITTER – I don’t find a lot of value in Twitter. I try to use it daily, though not as actively as I probably should. I think I just don’t *get* Twitter, and I find the feed to be overwhelming and spammy. People say to use the “Lists” feature, but I can’t be bothered (yet).
STUMBLEUPON – Stumbleupon is actually a really cool site. You set your interests when you create an account and “Stumble” through various pages on the internet. It’s a great way to discover new websites and can easily be a time sink. I’m fairly new to SU and still trying to figure out the best way to use it, but some bloggers have had their recipes go viral through it!
GOOGLE+ – Sigh. I hate Google+, but for some reason it’s HUGE for food blogs. Who knew. I’m not very active here at all and don’t see this changing, but if you currently have a large following on Google+ then you should be focusing your efforts here.
SNAPCHAT – I have yet to actually use Snapchat. It’s the new kid on the block, but many bloggers have started using it. I’ve created an account, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten. You can find me there as livforcake!
Really, your choice of Social Media platforms is up to you and based on your preferences. I’d say you need to be very active on at least 3 of these mediums, and somewhat active on all of them, to reap the benefits.
There are a bunch of groups on Facebook for bloggers, and joining these can help give your content more exposure. My favourite ones are Social Promotion groups where bloggers share each other’s content. There are various ways of sharing content, so the exact method depends on the group.
The first one I joined (and still my favourite) is Social Promotion for Food Bloggers. I think they’re closed to new members currently, but the way it works is that each day a post goes up in this FB group and everyone can post a link to one of their recipe blog posts. Then they have to pick 5 others in the chain and share each one on 3 separate social media platforms. It’s quick, simple, and helps get you more exposure.
Another one I’m part of, Food Bloggers Central, has a variety of different sharing methods you can choose to participate in or not. Some are pretty intense — like, post a link and pin ALL other links in the thread (which is always over 100). Others are easier — post a link and tweet 5, or something similar.
I’m part of a few other groups, but they are mostly for dessert recipe sharing or blogger support groups. Being part of all these groups not only helps you promote your content, but you also get to meet some awesome people and grow your network!
I hesitate including this section, as these sites seem to be going to way of the dodo. I clearly missed the boat on these, and wish I had been around during their heyday. I hear tales of tens of thousands of visitors in one day because your picture got published – that is no longer the case. Not even close.
The best of these, and the one that yields the highest traffic (for me) is FoodGawker, but it’s also the most difficult one in terms of getting your picture approved and onto their site. Once you are approved, traffic depends on when your picture will appear and where it will be on the feed. If it’s anywhere in the top row, that will yield a pretty good amount of traffic (maybe 500 or so pageviews). If you’re not in the top row, but still on the front page, you’re looking at maybe a few hundred pageviews from it. Anywhere past that and it really varies, but it won’t be a ton. But it’s still *something* and it does add up, and you never know who could be perusing FoodGawker that day. I’ve heard that BuzzFeed and HuffPost reps look through that for content.
I’ve all but stopped submitting to the other food sharing sites such as Tastespotting, Dessertstalking, Tasteologie, etc. Though getting published on those was easier than FoodGawker, the traffic was so minimal that it really isn’t worth the effort (for me) to submit to them anymore. If you’re just starting out though, definitely give them a go!
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Making sure that your blog and your posts are properly optimized so that search engines can actually find your stuff. This includes things like keywords and metadata. I use a plugin called Yoast for this, and it’s incredibly user friendly.
When you install the plugin, each of your posts in the Edit view will have a section like this at the bottom:
Here you’ll want to fill out the Focus Keyword/Keyphrase and the Meta description. The important thing is that your Focus Keyword/Keyphrase appears in every single area (Article Heading, Page Title, URL, Content, and the Meta Description). The more often it appears in the content, the better (apparently), but don’t change your post so much that you keep repeating the entire title over and over again. It will sound forced and unnatural.
If the Focus Keyword/Keyphrase is missing from an area, it will show up as red in the Focus Keyword Usage list. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but as much as possible, you want to ensure that your SEO is “Good”. This is indicated by a nice little green dot at the top right in your post editor.
I hope this information has been helpful and that you’ve taken away some tips on how to grow your food blog. I may update this post in the future as I discover new helpful tips. If you have any of your own that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them!
Next week’s post will be all about Pinterest and how I was able to take my referral traffic from a measly few hundred to well over 10,000 in just a few months. Stay tuned!