You can build a food blog easily and maintain it with just a little effort. It can also earn you some dollars. But to make a food blog successful and to make good money from it, you need to take care of something extra.
What's that extra that differentiates a great food blog from the ordinary? Before discussing that, let us recapitulate the food blogging scene.
What is a food blog? How do food bloggers maintain blogs?
A food blog is a blog that deals with human food. That is too simplistic a definition of food blog, because food blogging covers a vast area including
- maintaining a kitchen garden
- picking up the best veggies and fruits
- ingredients: their types, usage
- recipes/ cuisines: differnent types according to location (English/ Scottish, Continental, Asian, Indian, Chinese), ingredients (vegan, non-veg), base (mutton, pasta, gluten free, dairy), cooking style (baked, fried), serving time (breakfast, lunch), taste (spicy food, sweetmeats/ desserts), etc
- foods for special needs: food for diabetics, food for infants, fat free, etc
- drinks and topics associated with them
- food arrangement, food & drink etiquette
- restaurant business
- review/ comparison of foods, restaurants, bakeries, home delivery services
- food photography, videography
- interviews of chefs, food bloggers, celebrities who love cooking, dieticians
- food as supplementary topic to culture and travel topics
- and more
The food blog need not be a standard blog in which text is the main type of content and photos are used for further explaining the textual information. Bloggers can express themselves in predominantly photo-based posts (photo blogs), podcasts (audio blogs) and video blogs. Further, for these audio-visual mediums, the blogger has the choice of photo sharing platforms (e.g. Instagram) and video sharing platforms (e.g. YouTube). In a sense, these all are different forms of blog.
blogs are mostly written and maintained as personal blogs by cooking
enthusiasts. Experts / chefs also maintain food blogs. Some dietitians and nutrition experts also maintain food
As said above, food blogs can have a number of sub-topics based on location, base ingredient, taste preferences, occasion and so on. Their combinations can give rise to thousands of topics. For example, you could have posts on dishes from Europe or America; for lunch or breakfast; vegan or non-vegetarian; dry or with gravy; for a special occasion; for persons with special needs; etc.
Food blogs usually become quite popular over time. They also often join one or more communities of food-bloggers. Most food bloggers are good networkers, even if among family-members and friends. This takes them naturally to social networking on the net.
How to make a food blog successful?
Answers to the following specific questions will give you enough ideas to make your blog successful in terms of popularity, relevant traffic, reputation and earning:
How broad or narrow should be the niche of my food blog?
You need to decide beforehand whether you want the blog to focus on one narrow subject [e.g. Coorg cuisine, baking, table manners, food trucks] or a slightly bigger theme [e.g. South American cooking, spicy food], or to talk of everything relating to food / cooking. This is very important, because many other decisions depend on this.
Generally speaking, keep the niche moderately broad (not a city but a region; not a special diet/ specific cuisine but a mix of some; not just recipes but also about ingredients/ personal insights etc). Do not make it too broad.
Concentrate on topics on which you have expertise/ experience.
Which language should I choose for my food blog?
One problem we've found with many good English food blogs is poor English. If you have a problem with English language but you must have the blog in English, write less and write in short, simple sentences; compensate with pictures and videos. For text, get the posts proof-read by someone proficient in English.
If you are good at a local language, it would be better if you write in that language. If you choose to maintain the blog in your native language and your visitors include English knowing people, give English equivalent in bracket when talking about local recipes and ingredients. If you use some English expressions for which there is no proper equivalent in local language, do the same in the opposite way: give the English expression and give its local equivalent in bracket.
How can I get loyal followers? What should I do to increase my food blog's appeal?
To make your food blog outstanding and reputed, you need to ensure that
- the content is of top class;
- the blog looks beautiful; and
- readers get the information in presentable form.
To improve your blog's reach, you should also ensure that
Whatever you give on the blog should be authoritative. When you give something experimental or you depend on others’ inputs, say so in clear terms. Do not fake expertise when you don’t have it [e.g. on nutritional / medical aspects].
Food blogs tend to be resource rich, and it is a challenge to keep them clean. One good way is categorization. You can keep the main categories on the home page and sub-categories either on the linked page or as drop-down menu. A menu bar under the title, and a category/ tag list on the sidebar suit standard format blogs well. Don't forget to give your contact details and terms of collaboration as one of the menu items.
Talking of maintaining blog's resources well and making them easy to navigate, we are reminded of ‘catalogue’ in libraries. Like books in a library, you must categorise all your stuff into user-friendly categories and keep the catalogue handy for visitors. You can choose to have sub-categories [e.g. seasonings> spices, herbs; bakery>cakes, pastries,…]. For learning the best practices on applying categories and tags to blog posts, you may like to visit this post: Using labels and blogs effectively in blogs
When maintaining an account on YouTube, you can have different playlists and even more than one channel if the posts are becoming too many and too varied.
People don't visit food blogs for reading a commentary but to learn about a dish or something related to food. So, the advice that on blogs sentences and paragraphs should be short is even more relevant for food blogs.
All types of themes do not suit food blogs, because recipes need a number of photos in each post. Though a design with photos tiled all over the blog-space looks picturesque, it is usually not a functional design. On the homepage or archive pages, each post should show just one photo that represents that subject/ recipe (=featured image). You can also think of having a slide show of latest or selected photos prominently on the blog.
Give as many photos on each post as are required but don't put any photo that does not serve a purpose. If you post recipes, give photos of main steps [but don’t put too many and too big photos as they will slow down the blog]. If you review restaurants, take photos to show ambiance as well as the table / meals, with prior permission.
Reduce the pixel size of photos (small photos not more than 100 kb, bigger ones not beyond 300 kb) before putting them but don't let them become pixelated. Keep photos of same aspect ratio on a post, even on the whole blog (i.e. do not have photos in vertical, horizontal, square - all types of shapes but stick to one shape). To the extent possible, keep them of one size. As more people now read blogs on mobile devices, chose picture width accordingly (better to make them 'responsive' so that they adjust according to the device width).
Use grams and ml for measurements and give their approximate value in commonly used terms [e.g. 100 ml (about half tea-cup) water]. If other units (e.g. pint, ounce) are used in your target area, use them but give the metric equivalent in bracket.
At the end of posts, give precautions which might otherwise go unnoticed [e.g. if some step in cooking might lead to oil catching fire] or health warnings [e.g. if a dish contains high quantities of salt].
Separate different segments of a post [e.g. steps of a recipe; different aspects of a restaurant] by giving them separate sub-titles or bullet points or numbers.
Once in a while, create big - well-researched articles - on the main subject/ focus area of the blog. That will highly improve the blog's value, improve your expertise quotient and also help in SEO of the blog.
Which is better to have on a food blog: information or advice?
Food blogs are visited more for tips than information. So, make advice your main content. Since most blogs give tips, you should come up with a new way of helping visitors in what they are looking for. For example, even with thousands of articles and videos, new cooks or housewives still struggle with preparing dough for eggless cakes. Do you have an easy trick to solve this problem? Can you present this in a way that the users understand better? Is there something that people don't know about that lets the cake marvelously spongy?
While advice is the bread and butter of most food blogs, a good library of informational material is a MUST. Your blog must have content that supports your posts. For example, types of glasses for drinks, ingredients of standard spice-mixtures, restaurant list, table manners, measurement converter]. You can even make a page with glossary that will help visitors not conversant with special terms (e.g. names and ingredients of ethnic dishes and herbs. These information pages/ posts should be linked in the menu bar or a standalone page or a tag list. In addition, you should keep linking these pages/ posts on new posts when relevant.
How to monetize the food blog the best way?
While a highly popular food blog can get direct advertisements, anyone can get ads through affiliate networks. Food blogs are also excellent platforms for promoting one’s own books / ebooks on culinary subjects.
Need I spend much money so as to earn from the food blog?
Not much money, but - yes - investing some money on the blog will get you much better returns.
If you open the blog on a popular free platforms such as Wordpress or Blogger, you don't have to spend a penny. However, I would advise you to go for a self-hosted blog, perhaps using wordpress.org CMS. We have given a number of articles on ITB on how to go about hosting your blog which will help you in choosing the right web host and the best plan.
When you go for an independent (=self-hosted) blog, you need to buy a domain name for the blog. It costs, but it pays well in the long run.
On blog theme, you need not spend any money if you use the wordpress.com CMS. Though there may be fantastic themes available on payment, those available free are good enough. If you use another CMS or website builder, you might need to buy a theme based on the platform and plan you choose.
For photography, you should have a smart phone with good camera. You can consider buying a stand to fix the camera. Nothing more is needed unless you want to specialize in food photography.
SEO should not cost you a dime if you can do some tweaking. There are a number of posts on ITB that can help you in search engine optimization. However, if you hate doing even the basic SEO yourself, consider spending some money on an SEO expert. I will not advise you to hire unknown 'experts' available on cheap hiring/ freelancing sites such as Fiverr.
You need not spend money on promotion of blog. You also need not spend money in making network in real life and on online social networks. However, if you are in a hurry to beat the competition, you can think of promoting the blog through AdWords or Facebook/ Instagram advertisements.
Is it necessary for a food blogger to have a video blog on Instagram or YouTube channel?
In today's world, yes if your blogging is focused on preparing food. As said above, too many people are posting their videos of cooking food on social networks and video/ photo sharing sites and this has crowded the niche. So, unless you are present in these places, your blog will have a low chance of showing up before internet users. If you are not prepared to be on these video/ image platforms, you will have to do a lot of promotion through networking or putting ads on the web and social networks.
If your blogging is absolutely on recipes, you can even think of just opening a channel on YouTube. In fact, many video bloggers are reported to be making more money than established bloggers by regularly posting videos on short video sharing sites such as TikTok and ShareIt. The irony is that majority of 'bloggers' on these platforms do not know the cooking basics or have experience in cooking those dishes.
If your blog has much more than just recipes, your first preference should be a standard blog. Of course, you should also think of opening an account on Instagram or Pinterest and on YouTube.
It is tempting to have accounts on as many social media entities as possible. However, be sure whether you will be able to constantly post images and videos on these accounts; if not, keep only one or two out of (i) standard blog, (ii) Instagram or Pinterest account, (iii) channel on YouTube or other video sharing site.
Please note that preparing video can take a lot of time and practice. Also be sure that you can speak very coherently while preparing a dish or explaining something relating to cooking. As shared above, thousands of videos on video sharing sites are amateurish and sub-standard; but if you want to establish yourself as a top-class blogger, don't indulge in mediocrity. Put the best possible videos, even if less in number.
Do not host videos directly on your main blog because videos take a lot of space. YouTube keeps all your videos free and also allows any website to play a video by embedding a YouTube video player on it.
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