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!