March 13, 2014

Making money from a food blog

ITB sent a detailed questionnaire to a dozen food bloggers whose food blogs have found place in the Directory of Best Indian Blogs and also to a couple of foreign food bloggers. Some kindly responded, three gave some information in confidence, one wanted only an audio session, two promised but failed to reply to specific questions and some ignored us. 
The present post is based on our research of the web on food blogging and the responses we received.

We tried to find how food bloggers make blogs, how much money they make from the blog, and what good practices they adopt. We’ve also tried to assess whether globally food bloggers have as many avenues to make money as their US / European counterparts.

HOW DO FOOD BLOGGERS MAKE AND MAINTAIN THE BLOG?

Well-known food bloggers all build blogs as independent websites and put them on an independent web host. Yes, some bloggers on wordpress.com and blogspot.com do have well maintained blogs, but their growth seems to have remained subdued due to constraints of free blogging. 

IS MONEY THE PRIMARY CONCERN OF FOOD BLOGGERS?

Almost all food bloggers do monetize the blog to different degrees, but almost most seem to have started it as a hobby, or when a housewife was looking for an engaging activity, or when someone wanted to show to the world her culinary skills. A few established food blog were also started by professional dietitians and chefs as supplements to their profession or to their main website.

Interestingly, many food bloggers prefer to call themselves hobby bloggers even though they are well established and earn good money. Some have told us, blogging has added to their popularity, self-esteem and social recognition, and they value these more than dollars that they earn from the blog.

WHETHER FOOD BLOGGERS MAKE ENOUGH MONEY?

In highly developed countries, food blogs seem to earn good money rather fast, perhaps because advertisers find value in putting advertisements on such blogs. In India, where food is still mainly cooked at home, this does not seem to be the case at present but things are turning better for food bloggers. And that is happening very fast!

About well-established food bloggers, we hear of earnings in the range of a hundred thousand dollars a year.

Till one is 'established' [This would include building the blog with application of mind and running it  ceaselessly for at least 2-3 years, having at least 200 high-quality posts, good social networking and good back-links], a food blogger generally does NOT go beyond a few dollars a month. This does not mean there are no exceptions. 

WHAT SHOULD ONE DO TO MONETIZE ONE’S FOOD BLOG?

In general, there are many ways by which food bloggers can monetize their blog. These include: AdSense advertisements; affiliate ads; direct ads; using blog to sell a recipe book [ebooks: not very paying, but one big food blogger makes big money out of telling you how to make food ebooks!] or cooking classes or diet consultations or some product; product / restaurant reviews. 

For getting relevant traffic to the blog, people have found social networking of good use whereas being in blogrolls is not reported to help much.

WHAT GOOD PRACTICES HELP FOOD BLOGGERS?

Long back, we carried on the Indian Top Blogs a detailed post on food blogging that covered many technical and blogging aspects. These remain fully relevant. Let us share with you some more insight based on our first-hand interaction with established food bloggers:


  • Be a food blogger if cooking is your passion or if you are an expert in one or more aspects of food business. Opening a food blog without passion or expertise but just to earn money is likely to fail badly.
  • If you are a food blogger in a developing country and not a well-known chef or expert or one with contacts with advertisers, food blogging will not earn you big money quickly. 
  • Even if your blog gets very popular, it is no guarantee you will generate income – unless people buy your product / service or advertisers pay you.
  • But if you are a genuine food blogger with lots of passion, you maintain your blog well (in terms of content, design and regularity), and you have patience, there are chances that you will make handsome money.
  • There is competition, but many areas of food blogging have not been fully explored yet, even in saturated markets. Even for a generic food blog, there is enough scope for getting popular and making money if the blog is properly maintained. But the chances of success increase when you go specific: food photography, local dishes, dishes or drinks made from a specific item (e.g. pork/ tapioca/blueberry/bitter gourd).
  • That takes us to another important aspect: micro-niche (=focusing on a very specific subject). One global biggie blogger deals exclusively with 'food trucks', another with dishes without salt. Blogs can be built around health issues that have a positive or negative relation with diet.
  • Whether making a generic blog or a niche one, estimate beforehand what your target audience is and how big it is. Is it the people in search of new, experimental recipes? Foreigners looking for local, traditional flavors? People wanting tips on  good cooking? Drinkers in the lookout for rice beer available in South Africa? People searching for the source of best Indian spices? People looking for tasty food with low calories? Those in need to know about food suited to diabetics?...
  • Place advertisements on the blog but do not clutter it. Review advts after every six month. 
  • Monetize the blog in more than one way. Only depending on one source  (e.g. AdSense) may be frustrating, especially due to very high competition for search among websites.
  • Take expert help in building the website (blog). Have it designed professionally so that it stands out in the crowd.
  • Do offline and online promotion of your blog. Tell about it to your friends and send them email or WhatsApp or some other form of notification when you post a new recipe. Link it closely with social network accounts (e.g. Facebook, Google+, Twitter). Pinterest is especially good to showcase good cuisine photos.
  •  Some bloggers have told us, going hyper-local (=getting it talked about in local communities; getting interviewed by local papers; etc) helps build a good community around the blog.

TWO FOOD BLOGGERS’ QUOTES WE’D LIKE TO SHARE

Lubna karim is an Indian food blogger who is an enormous food photographer too. She maintains Yummy Food blog, which finds place in our Directory of Best Indian Blogs. In reply to our question, ‘Has the blog contributed to your life in any way other than getting you money and making you popular?’, she says: ‘My blog is my e-cooking dairy, my kitchen flavors are trapped in this blog…my gift to my daughter who is 3 now…I just want her to know what her mamma did when she was keeping her on toes…’

Shailaja, a food blogger par excellence, whose blog Sailu’s Kitchen figures in our Platinum Ranked Blogs’ list, gives this advice to budding food bloggers:
‘Focus on high quality content, good food pictures and give a LOT of importance to recipe writing. People are going to be trying the recipes and if they are happy with the outcome they will come back again and again and make your blog a cooking bible. They begin to trust you and bond with you like family.’