When I started blogging in 2009, I had about 14 readers per day for a few months. It was 14 more than I thought I’d have.
On the first day I broke 100 views, I was ecstatic. On the first day I broke 1000 views, I truly couldn’t believe people found my site, read it, and some were even repeat readers. Wow.
Well time marches on and here we are 5 years later and while I don’t profess to have all the answers or the best blog, but there are a few things I’ve learned along the way that you may find useful or helpful if you’re trying to grow your blog.
1. Content is king. And so is quality of content. I used to blog 7 days a week, and some days I even wrote two posts per day. I have no idea how I did it or why I did it. My content wasn’t particularly special, unique, and I wasn’t saying anything important, new, or novel. But I was hitting Publish.
Today I prefer to write a few less posts per week and really focus on the content that I’m putting forth. I want my recipes to be worthwhile of making, my photography to shine, and for my writing to be something I can look back on and not cringe at 6 months later.
If you’re struggling with burnout, or just trying to build your readership, I recommend focusing on 3 or 4 really good quality recipes each week. Less may not be enough to get people coming back, and more, well, you turn into a machine and may not be able to put out high quality content and sustain that pace. Find what works for you and then stick to it.
Readers like consistency. I believe most readers would prefer 3 quality posts per week that they can count on, like M-W-F, than sporadic ones or lots of just mediocre posts. Put forth your best work.
Sure, there are days that I don’t love how the photos turned out, or the recipe isn’t the most original idea under the sun (how many ways can you actually make a chocolate chip cookie), but the longer I blog, the more I try to be as creative as possible and truly put forth my best work with every post. Readers will find you and will keep coming back for excellent content.
2. Work your social media like it’s your job. It is. I spend hours each day working Pinterest. It’s my favorite social media and the one I find that’s the wisest use of my time on the work-reward scale. But if you like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus, great. Find something you like, a way to interact with readers and potential readers, and then dive in. Respond to their comments, tweets, questions, or pose a question on your Facebook wall. Your readers will love the personal interaction and you’ll seem more approachable. I want to read blogs where the author seems approachable and down-to-earth.
Blogging is about grass roots marketing. You’re your own marketing committee so you need to get your name out there.
3. Improve your food photography. We eat with our eyes and I want to eat pretty food. I instantly click off blogs with tiny pics, dark pics, orange pics, or the ones that look like they were taken with an iPhone. Sure, everyone has to start somewhere, and my photography is a daily work in progress, but I practice my craft daily.
Summer 2011 Peanut Butter Cookies
Same recipe with chocolate chips added, January 2013 Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies
I don’t expect to run a sub 3-hour marathon without training, nor do I expect to take pictures that belong on the cover of a magazine without practicing. Get your camera out and stand in front of the food, next to the food, get on a chair and stand above the food. Move the food in relation to your light source, move your body in relation to the food and your light source. Try a whole lot of things and keep taking pictures until you know what you dislike and know what you love in the images. Then figure out why you don’t like that photo, or why you do, and then try to recreate it. Practice.
Buying a fancy new camera and lens is the last thing to do. The first thing to do is to really learn the camera and lens you do have, then work on your food styling. Those things are free.
And then when you decide to spend the big bucks on new equipment, you will have the basics and fundamentals down pat. I have a photography section for more detailed info.
4. Work with brands. If you want to turn your blog into your job, you need to get paid. No one can work for free forever. In the beginning, you have to. But as your blog grows, working with brands helps grow your audience and puts some money in your wallet. And once you start working with one, others have a way of finding you, but getting started working with brands can be intimidating.
In the beginning, I emailed companies I thought would be a good fit for my blog, and it was shocking that some even wrote back. They may send you a bag of sugar and you may need to develop a recipe for free and link to that sugar in your post, but in turn they’ll promote your post on their social media and readers will find you. One thing leads to another, and pretty soon you’ll be naming your price and the vendors you want to work with. It happens.
Keep in mind when working with brands you will need to be open-minded to opportunities. You may need to find an extremely creative way to use Greek yogurt or avocados or potatoes, when you really wanted to use chocolate, peanut butter, and salted caramel. All of life is a give and take, including blogging, and as long as you’re flexible and open-minded, things seem to work out.
Another option is to get started with a company like Markerly.com. They put bloggers in touch with brands and do the legwork so you don’t have to. It’s a great option because you don’t have to secure your own clients or the brands; they do it for you. If you’re a blogger and want to learn more, click here.
A couple years ago I wrote a 5-part series called Blogging 1o1. It was much more in-depth than today’s tips.
This post is brought to you by Markerly and they’re going to reward one lucky reader with a $250 American Express gift card. You don’t have to have a blog to enter the giveaway. Follow the Facebook prompt below. Good luck!
Very good and practical tips!
Thanks so much for posting this. I’m really impressed by people who have been blogging for several years. I’ve been blogging for a few months, and I’ve been struggling with getting a consistent readership. It’s inspiring to know that the hard work pays off. By the way, I love your photography – it’s so bright and cheerful!
Thank U Averie! It’s easy to start a blog but to make it running is quiet challenging. This post is really motivational.
Thank you Averie, this was very motivational. Starting to feel discouraged!
The Cheap Chef
Hi Averie! It’s like you read my mind – I’m seriously thinking of starting a food blog and these tips will come in handy! Thanks!
Without a doubt sponsered content
I’d prefer sponsored posts because they allow a greater opportunity for bloggers to post about things without having to spend their own money. Also, sponsors frequently give discounts and host giveaways for readers!
I love the idea about writing to companies to promote their product! There are plenty of products I’m promoting already because I believe in them. Never thought to see if they’d support me.
Avery, thank you for always being ready to share thoughts.
I learn a lot from you!
reading this was such an inspirational experience.
All the best!
I like sponsored posts. Pop ups interrupt too much and they block what you’re trying to read, which seems rude. I do like ads in the side bar.
Great post! Enjoyed the tips.
great tips great ideas. Lots to think aobut
I have wanted to start a blog but not knowing how to start.thank you
Great tips Averie! I don’t mind sponsored posts when there’s a story behind it.
This is an amazing post!!! Love all the tips.
I remember when you started, Avery! You were Love Veggies and Yoga back then and I found your blog through the raw food community. Lots of yoga poses! I started my blog about the same time as you, I think. Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed watching you and your blog grow and change over time and wish you the best going forward with it :).
Averie, what an incredible informative post! I love reading about other food bloggers’ workflow and strategies, what they find challenging, what they think is most important. I have to agree that content is king. Quality over quantity. Absolutely! The photography is the hardest part for me. Mostly the food styling. More recently – the lighting! But that is easily manageable. I find food styling to be challenging and often feel lost and like I style each shoot the same. Working on some variety. Other challenges are clearly time management and overworking. Taking some nice long breaks recently keeps me refreshed and grounded. Anyway, love this post!
Like Carole, I’m looking forward to 1,000 visits per day. I now realize I have to step up my Pinterest game. Thanks for the tips, Averie.
I’ve had my blog for about two years. But I’m really just now getting into recipes and food blogging. I really like it. I like cooking and baking. So now I’m actually enjoying it more. Thanks for these tips. I love your food! And your photography is just awesome!
I’ll definitely be back!
Thanks for the tips!
Thanks for the tips. Sponsored content hands down….will leave website depending on pop-ups…very annoying.
I am bookmarking this post, thank you for all the great tips and advice!!!
Thanks for the tips! That is one thing I love about you is you reply to comments and you also comment on other blogs and support others. P.S. you were blowing up Pinterest last night. I saw a ton of your recipes in just a quick few minute browsing session.
Thanks for noticing, Jenn, & LMK – about Pinterest and for noticing that I do try to be a team player & support others! :)
As a reader, I would MUCH rather see sponsored content than pop-ups. Pop-ups drive me crazy! I’m vegan, so sometimes I have no interest in that sponsored content, but it can inspire me to create my own version.
Also, thanks for creating so many yummy vegan recipes, and vegan variations for many more!
Great post Averie. I especially agree with “1. Content is king.” I’m drawn to blogs with quality posts, not quantity. Thanks for sharing!
Lately, I’ve really been wanting to devote more time and energy to my blog in the hopes of growing it. Sigh, between work, renovations and getting over the flu, I haven’t been able to do much blogging. This is a great set of tips, Averie! If I had even a tenth of your success, I’d be thrilled. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!
Such an incredible post, Averie!! If anyone knows what they are talking about it is you!! You gave amazing tips and incredibly valuable info. Thanks for sharing!
I wish I understood what to do with Pinterest and how to grow a following…Any helpful links, Averie? Thanks – Liz
Get active on it! Pin, pin, pin. Your stuff, other people’s stuff, get involved! That’s my #1 tip!
Excellent post, Averie! We, too, were so excited to reach that first 100 page views, 100 followers, etc. We are still waiting to get to the next milestone of 1,000, but we are well on our way! Thanks for inspiring readers everywhere with excellent content and beautiful photography!
Thank you, Averie. I’m a newbie and this post is very helpful.
So very helpful and inspirational, Averie. Thank you!
This is such an awesome post Averie!
Hi. I would much rather have sponsored content on a post. I HATE pop ups. They are so annoying. I love your blog though. Great tips. I’m trying to study a lot about making our blog successful. I need some money rolling in soon. Thanks tons!
GREAT tips! I love reading your blog. I think you have some great advice to share. I hate pops. I have a family blog but have stopped writing cause I have 3 ones under 5 but I am hoping to get back to it soon. Mad props to all the mommy bloggers. Great job!
I definitely appreciate the “less is more” and “quality over quantity.” About a year ago I switched from 5 recipes a week to 2-3 that I was actually proud of. And in turn I’m a lot happier with my recipes and my photography. I don’t like looking back and cringing and wishing I could redo past posts, so I’m glad I made that choice (and I’m sure my readers are too)
Wow. Fantastic post. I wish I was a blogger but I think I would be terrible at it. Still, as a blog reader, all the things you said that make a blog worth reading I concur with. Especially the approachable blogger/personal interaction/good pics. All of which, my friend, you excel at! ;-)
Sponsored content. I strongly dislike pop ups more than anything. If it is sponsored content, I can choose whether or not I want to read it. IMHO, pop ups are annoying and I feel are forced on you regardless.
I have watched you grow and appreciate your hard work. The information behind the blog itself was almost as interesting as the recipes and tips that you provide. Thank you for your dedication to your blog as we all gain something from it.
My wife reads your blog consistently and will highlight it if she thinks it is something I would enjoy so I am very familiar with your blog and even though we do not have a blog ourselves, appreciated the information should we ever decide to do a blog
what a wonderful blog post! it is so great to hear what others have experience both good and bad – what works and what doesn’t! i have always admired your darling blog and love your words of wisdom!
This is a wonderful post. I love your blog. But I have a different POV on some of this stuff. Ultimately I’d say. If your blog isn’t you. It ain’t nothin’. This blog is all you and it’s somethin’. XOGREG
My favorite part about your blog is that I know if I follow your recipe, it’ll work and be worth my time. :-)
When I, ahem, take some liberties, well, all bets are ff.
I’m not seeing a way to submit.. is this facebook only?
This is a really great post with some fantastic tips. Thanks Averie!
Great tips! Love your blog
I’d like to enter the contest, but will not allow access to my email & info.
Thank you so much for posting this! These tips are just the thing I’ve been looking for someone to share. Your website and recipes are amazing so I know that I’m getting great advice!
You are doing everything right when it comes to blogging. I’ve been real impressed and always look forward to your recipes. Thanks for all the yumminess.
I’ve started and stopped blogging several times in the last three years. Your tips are awesome and I am going to read it first then I’m going to follow the advice you shared and see if I can make changes for the better. I agree that 3 quality posts a week is plenty. A bonus post is great on a random event in your life but what you have going is great. I follow your blog above most.
Great tips, Averie!
I don’t have a blog, though I wish I did….there are SO many out there these days. It is hard to get started! I envy those of you who can take it on. Love all your tips!
Great post, Averie! I completely agree that quality content is key to growing a blog!
thanks so much for this post! Your tips are great. I have loved following along for a few years :)
I also think quality is key, much more then quantity. Love your photography too!
I LOVED this post! We are new-ish bloggers over at Layers of Happiness and these tips are so helpful… I have been trying to focus on quality over quantity lately and it has really paid off! I feel so much more proud of each post that goes out now.
I prefer quality over quantity. The one thing I hate are post that should be on your personal page and not your blog page. Keep it professional. That is not directed at Averie Cooks who come across as professional but other pages.
I always appreciate your advice because you are my food blogging role model. You make it sound so easy :)
Those are some great tips. I’ve been trying to keep up consistently with 2 posts a week, but sometimes it’s hard when regular life is constantly in the way. You know you’re not going to get good food photos at night in the kitchen, yet that’s the only time available. Conundrums, for sure!
Thank you for posting this! I think this is useful for any kind of blog.
This is a really helpful post. Thanks!
I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but for this avid blog reader, the sponsored content across the blogosphere — esp the food/home blogosphere — has gotten to the point of ridiculous. I’d just as soon go back to popups — at least they’re more honest. And as long as I’m ranting, Rafflecopter makes me nuts. Do a giveaway, don’t do a giveaway, but the incessant shilling is getting annoying.
None of this applies to you, Averie, I’m just talking in general about what I’ve noticed of late on my bloglovin feed. I have to echo the comment just above, your calm and sensible tone is always appreciated!
What a great post with wonderful advice! One thing I love and admire about your blog is not just the stunning photos or wonderful recipes, but you have just a calm, happy, down-to-earth tone that comes across in your writing! It’s obvious that you work hard and put so much effort into this great blog, I hope one day my blog, as like so many other readers on here, will build a solid readership and find success! Thanks for a great post Averie :)
Excellent post Av!
OK to share this on my friday links?
Good solid advice, in which I need to partake in too!
Yes of course – please share away! :)
Great post Averie, very informative. I’ve never heard of that site Markerly and I’m definitely going to give it a try in the future.
Averie, these are awesome tips! Thank you so much for sharing! I’ve been a “silent” reader of yours for the last year, and I just think you and your blog are amazing. Your photos are consistently stunning, your recipes are delectable, and your writing is witty and warm. You are truly a food blogging inspiration.
Thanks for your wise words Averie!!! :) Very helpful advice for new bloggers like myself :D
Great tips Averie, and you obviously know what you’re talking about. Happy National Peanut Butter Day!
Thanks for the reminder about Natl PB Day and the tweets earlier! Have a great weekend, Heidi! :)
Thanks for sharing your knowledge, Averie. You are spot on with your recommendations. I already work with a few brands, but will definitely look into Markerly. Thanks again. Kirsten
Averie, thank you so much for these awesome tips! I have loved seeing your blog evolve over the years and your hard work totally shows in every post :) I especially liked your thoughts on social media–it was a push I needed to hear since that is the most overwhelming part of blogging to me. But you are right, you just have to go for it on whatever platform speaks to you!
Thank you for the fabulous tips, Averie! Blogging is a lot of work, but it’s so worth the effort. :)
These are such helpful and unique tips! I need to remember these when I’ve already posted for the day, and feel like there’s nothing more I can do for my blog – wrong! Thanks so much. :)
I love this post- so many good tips to keep in mind as I continue to grow my blog. Social media and photography are definitely the toughest part for me, but hey, in blogging you learn and improve on the job!
Encouraging! Maybe I will hit public soon :)
Know what I love? When someone who has had blogging success wants to share some of that know-how with other people. It’s generous. And generosity makes me want to kick my legs up really high.
This is a fabulous post, Averie! Thanks for sharing your tips AND your always-great content here!
Great post, Averie. I’ve watched you grow over the years and it’s been both fun and inspirational to see.
I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said here, especially #1. I promised myself a long time ago that I would never post just to post, but only if I had something useful or interesting for my readers.
The photography part has been a long, hard process for me. I look back and know I’ve made huge strides, but there’s so much to learn that it can be overwhelming.
Have a great day and keep doing what you’re doing as it’s working well for you!
After reading your blog for several years now and seeing how you’ve changed things since the beginning, it’s clear you know what it takes to be successful!! I’m sure a lot of people don’t realize how much time, effort, (and probably frustration) can go along with the process. As a reader, I think your comments about content and photography are spot on, but one of the coolest things about you is the time you take to personally respond to your readers:)
Thanks for the tips, Averie!
I have an itty bitty blog that’s only two months old. Right now I’m just writing it because I’m having the best time ever doing so! Well, except for the dishes. If a penny or two trickles in down the line, well, I wouldn’t mind that either…..but I do like sharing what I have.
Great tips Averie. I’m going to love telling my husband that Pinterest is my job. Ha ha. I particularly love what you said about being consistent about posting frequency. I really struggle with that, and can only fit in time for two a week at this point. It is good to hear that three may be worth it. Thanks so much for sharing all of this!
I love the content and that you always have innovative recipes
Yea! Thanks for sharing your knowledge. As a reader I definitely prefer fewer posts that are good. I like a lot of blogs and actually the post-every-day ones sorta stress me out because I get major FOMO, haha.
These are some awesome recommendations, lady. Looking back I would have definitely done some things differently if I could, but it’s a learning process and so much fun to do. I think each blogger who get’s serious could take over the online-marketing of a medium sized firm. It’s amazing how much you can learn in this process.