Features & guest posts
10 practical steps you can take to improve your food blog
Like most delegates to Food Blogger Connect, I'm sure, I came away full of ideas about how to improve my website. You might think as an established writer I’d have it all sussed by now but not at all. You can - and should - always learn.
I’ve already touched on some of the points in my previous post on What makes a great food blog - that blogging should be about storytelling, for example. And I wouldn’t hold myself up as any kind of expert on design, branding or photography though I did last year hire a local Bristol designer Miller Design to give my site a makeover.
But what the two days I spent at FBC5 reminded me is that - in the corny old phrase - content is king. Forget the stats, the SEO tips and tricks and concentrate on giving people a good reason to visit and return to your blog. They’ll come.
How does this translate into practical steps you can take to improve your blogging? Here are a few you might want to bear in mind:
Take your time
As a professional journalist used to having to turn round features to a tight deadline I was really impressed by the time and trouble some of the bloggers took with their posts. Days rather than hours. Regula Ysewijn of Miss Foodwise (right), for instance, blogs on British food traditions, well-researched posts which can take 3 weeks to put together (particularly impressive as she’s Belgian-born.).
You might not have either the time or inclination to spend that long or even to do it for every post but putting that extra care and attention into your blog undoubtedly pays off. Don't post for the sake of posting.
Create original content
A point emphasised by photo-journalist Penny de los Santos. Initiate stories, don’t react to them. Look out for the quirky, the unusual. Niamh Shields of Eat Like a Girl is particularly good at this, always finding a home cook on her travels who will teach her an authentic recipe.
Alright for Niamh, I hear you mutter, but I can’t afford to go on foreign trips and no-one’s offering to take me.
There are stories everywhere. Somebody is doing something interesting with food and drink right on your doorstep. Or think of an original angle like Jenny Hammerton’s brilliant Silver Screen Suppers. Don’t let your blog be hijacked!
Edit more rigorously
A point well made by David Lebovitz. Not just for typos but for sentences that are unclear or which repeat a point you made earlier. These things are sometimes hard to spot if you’ve been gazing at a piece for some time (which is why newspapers and magazines have sub-editors) so ask a housemate or your other half to read a post through before you click the publish button. (See also Blog Buddy below)
Break your text up
Not necessarily with huuuuge photos but in easy-to-read chunks. Like this post, hopefully ;-)
Test your recipes - and retest them, several times if necessary.
My notes from the conference say David tests his up to 17 or 18 times which is a bit much for us mere mortals. Emma Gardner of Poires au Chocolat, three or four.
Again those of us who have written cookery books are lucky enough to have editors who ask probing questions. Like ‘Where are the tomatoes in that tomato soup? (I managed - believe it or not - to leave them out of the ingredients list in one book I was writing. So you can’t be too careful.)
Improve your English (unless, obviously, you’re blogging in French, Italian, Spanish etc)
Especially if you’re not a native speaker. Again I was massively impressed by Regula who told me she learnt to write better English by reading Jane Austen.
Which brings me to . . .
Read, read, read...
The route to writing - and blogging - better is to read a lot. Not to copy other people’s blogs but to absorb different styles and find the one that best suits you. And not just articles about food and cookery books. Biographies, chicklit . . . anything.
Write as you speak
The best piece of advice I’ve been given about writing. OK, there are people who craft their posts in beautiful flowing prose but if writing doesn’t come easy to you imagine telling a friend about the subject you’re writing about then just type those thoughts as fast as you can. You can refine them later. Reading your post out loud can also help.
Be less self-centred
The whole point about a blog is that it’s about you, right? Yes, but . . .
If your reader has to wade through paragraphs of unfocussed waffle about what it was like when the in-laws came for the weekend they’re not necessarily going to stick around for the brilliant barbecue marinade you invented. Don't leave it too long to get to the point.
Knackered Mother Helen McGinn has this off to a tee. A bit about herself (usually very funny). Some genuinely useful tips about wine. Perfect for her audience (knackered mums).
Find a blog buddy
I know from freelancing that writing can be lonely and that sometimes you just get stuck with a piece and can’t see the way forward. It undoubtedly helps to have someone sympathetic to talk to about it. (My husband is a good, if fierce, critic.)
It’s also useful to have a fresh pair of eyes on your blog. I won 5 minutes with David Lebovitz at Food Blogger Connect and he came up with a really useful couple of things I hadn’t thought of. (An FAQ section and an email subscription box, if you’re wondering. I know. THAT obvious. We all need help.)
I've discovered how useful having a diet buddy has been while doing the 5:2. Find someone you like and trust who'll be your blog buddy. You support them. They support you.
The message of this post, of course, is that a blog requires work if you're in it for the long haul. But don’t let it put you off blogging, just see it as a possible way out of problems you might be encountering. I hope it helps.
What do you find most difficult about food blogging and what ways have you found round it? And what ways do you think I can improve my own site and make it a better visitor experience?
If you enjoyed this post you might like to read my two other posts from Food Blogger Connect:
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