After working with numerous food bloggers – from those launching a new food blog to those redesigning a food blog which has been running for over ten years – here are my top 12 tips:
1. Invest in photography
Purchase quality equipment (DSLR camera, lenses, lighting, tripod) and take classes to learn composition, light and post-processing. Quality photography makes the world of difference in presenting food to people. Poorly-lit photos of food can make them unappealing to your readers before they’ve even read a single word you’ve written.
Learn how to correctly size and optimize your photos for your site and social media – especially Pinterest (one of the biggest drivers of traffics to food blogs).
Have well-organized backups of the original photos.
2. Optimize for Google Recipe search results
If you structure your recipe code in a certain way, Google may use this to show rich snippets in recipe search results, and include your recipes in Google recipe view. Learn more »
For example, when I searched in Google for “Dairy-free chocolate chip cookies” the results included some recipes in rich snippet format, and some in plain format:
As I scrolled down the page looking at recipe options, the ones which stood out to me were the ones with the pictures and star ratings.
The best way to optimize for Google Recipe search results is by using a recipe plugin. Two popular WordPress plugins are: Ziplist and Easy Recipe. These plugins do the necessary coding work behind the scenes, and offer many other useful features too. Our preference is for the Ziplist plugin.
3. Organize your recipes carefully
When you start your blog, you may only have a handful of recipes. If you post five recipes a week, after a couple of years you’ll have about 500 recipes. Recipes are wonderful content which don’t age, so making it easy for people to explore past recipes is essential.
There’s no one correct way to organize recipes and it’ll partly depend on your content.
Here are some common ways people organize their recipes:
Breakfast, Lunch, Snacks, Dinner, Dessert, Drinks…
This can be broken down further, for example:
Dinner: Chicken, Beef, Turkey, Pork, Fish, Vegetarian…
Bars, Cakes, Cookies, Cupcakes…
By main ingredients
Almond, Anchovy, Apple, Apricot, Artichoke, Asparagus, Avocado…
By dietary requirement
Dairy-free, Egg-free, Gluten-free, Nut-free, Vegan, Vegetarian…
Chinese, French, German, Italian, Mexican…
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter (this is very handy for people like me in the Southern Hemisphere looking at American recipe sites!)
Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, Master…
Less than half an hour, Half an hour to an hour, An hour or more
By special occasion
New Year’s, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween, Wedding, Birthday…
And so on! Don’t get overly complex and use all these. Consider the types of recipes you’ll be adding, how readers may wish to filter through these in the future when there’s a lot of them.
Make sure you correctly categorize each recipe as you go, and regularly audit past recipes and the categories you’re using to make sure there’s no duplicate or unnecessary ones. Categories can get very unruly and end up making things more difficult for your readers.
Correctly set these up as tags, categories and custom taxonomies.
4. Get a professional custom-made design for your site
Yes, I’m biased when I write this as I earn a living from designing blogs. However, I struggle to find a generic pre-existing theme designed for food bloggers which accomplishes the following:
- Matches the unique point of difference that the blogger has: personality, passion or style.
- Ensures the food photography pops and is the center of attention at just the right size; and the colors and design don’t detract or clash with the photography.
- Has beautifully organized, easy-to-use recipe archives tailored to the various ways the food blogger has chosen to organize their recipes.
- Optimizes content for social media sharing on the right platforms (particularly Pinterest hovers on photos).
- Has well-integrated newsletter subscription and social media buttons.
- Provides the advertising slots the blogger requires.
- Has well-designed printable recipes which are also optimized for Google recipe search.
- Is responsive (works well no matter the screen size).
5. Have beautiful printable recipes
Another advantage of using a recipe plugin is the ability to have printable recipes, rather than printing out the entire blog post which may have non-recipe parts to it. While people are cooking along to recipes on their tablets and phones, printing out recipes is still incredibly popular.
Print out a recipe from your site and check it’s easy to read, contains all the information which is needed – including your site’s name and a link back to your site in case they share it with others.
6. Be prepared to answer questions, and lots of them!
Promptly answer questions on your blog relating to recipes: people are often in the midst of making the recipe when they have questions, or they may be in the process of planning to make it. It’s incredibly frustrating for a reader to not have their recipe question answered!
Use questions as a way to refine your recipe – and future ones – so that you potentially reduce further similar questions. Carefully note common threads in the questions.
7. Have a clear copyright/content re-use policy
People will want to share your recipes elsewhere. How would you prefer they do that? Make it extremely clear as to what you find acceptable and what you don’t.
Here’s a helpful example from Clotilde of Chocolate and Zucchini:
“All photos, content and recipes on Chocolate & Zucchini are protected. Please don’t steal my content. If you’d like to repost one of my photos, you are welcome to provided that (1) you remain within the realm of fair use, and (2) that you give credit to Chocolate & Zucchini and link back to the original post. Failure to do so is a copyright violation.
If you’d like to share one of my recipes, please refrain from copying and pasting the content directly, and instead link back to the original post on my blog. Duplicate content hurts the Google rankings for your site and mine. If you make a variation on, or a substantially different version of, one of my recipes, feel free to share it; a link back would be much appreciated.”
8. Take the lead on social media
Food bloggers have long been concerned about people stealing their work, republishing it elsewhere and even taking credit for the recipe and photography themselves! Some food bloggers try watermarks. I don’t like these, they become very repetitive for those who are exploring your blog. Others try disabling right-clicking. This doesn’t stop experts, nor queries via Google Image search. Others spend a lot of time chasing down people who are republishing their work. This is important at times, but can detract from real work and can be time-consuming and endless.
Instead of being fearful of sites like Pinterest, I recommend taking the lead. Build up a big following on Pinterest. Be the first to post all new recipes on there which link back to your site so that it’s your pins which go viral, rather than someone else’s copy of your recipes.
9. Build a newsletter
Start a mailing list from the outset. Provide incentives for people to subscribe such as exclusive recipes, competitions and discounts.
10. Have a point of difference
There’s so many food blogs out there that it’s useful to have something unique to help people connect with your blog in particular, especially while you’re building up a name for yourself. Think of all the famous cooks and chefs and there’s something memorable about their personality, passion or style.
It might be the type of food you cook: e.g. vegan, dairy-free, quick family meals, authentic Chinese dishes, etc. It might be related to your personality: you could be a storyteller and the origins of the recipe is what sets you apart. It may be your style: visual step-by-step recipes which clearly explain everything.
11. Let people get to know you
Have a high quality photo of yourself on your site, and a detailed FAQ which you refine over time. People will want to know about your cooking background, what inspires you, your other interests and the equipment you use. If you’re cooking meals for families: be open about your own family – it’ll help people better connect to your work:
“Ahh, she’s just like me: juggling three kids and work commitments. She’ll understand that I don’t have time for three hours in the kitchen making dinner, that I have one fussy eater and one allergic to dairy! I’ll give her recipes a try.”
12. Get your own domain name
Even if you decide to use WordPress.com, Blogger, SquareSpace or Typepad to run your blog (rather than self-hosting with WordPress), make sure you have purchased your own domain name. Your blog will feel much more professional. If you ever wish to change blogging tools later on, you’ll have less problems too.