The Basics of Food Blogging

Woman photographing food for her blog with professional DSLR camera.
Much of your success as a food blogger has to do with your photography skills. Get some!

This is the fifth step in the process of starting your own successful food blog. If you’re following along with us in our step-by-step series, you have already learned about starting a food blog, chosen a domain name, and you’ve just created your food blog with BlueHost hosting and the free blogging software – WordPress.

Now, the Fifth Step – The Basics of Food Blogging

This is an overview of what is involved in food blogging, and how you can begin to go about it. This covers the meat (no pun intended!) of what we do and have done for years on Joys Thai Food.

Choosing Your Food Blogging Niche

The niche you choose is really important. We chose a huge niche – Thai Food. It is working out for us, probably because we have over 300 posts and pages on our site, and a lot of good inbound links pointing to our site.

If you’re starting today, don’t be so ambitious. Choose a smaller niche. A smaller focus. If you’re keen on doing something with Thai food, choose a sub-level like, ‘desserts.’ Maybe make your blog something like, “45 Thai Iced-Tea Recipes to Die For.” Or, something like this. Maybe focus on Thai soups. Thai Curries. Thai noodle dishes. Thai Stir-fry recipes. See what I mean? Specialize in some area of a big niche for best results.

The big niches are dreadfully competitive. They are darn near impossible to break into. If you are set on owning a large niche and you have the drive, ambition, and money to do it – we don’t want to discourage you. It is possible that you could own a major niche like ‘Thai food’ in three to four years if you cooked, researched, and wrote like crazy during that time. If you wrote 1,500 word articles daily for the next couple years, you’d probably have a good showing and have decent traffic.

Probably.

Thing is, your competitors are already in the niche and have a lot of money to spend on advertising to increase their market presence. In big niches some business bloggers have already written hundreds and even thousands of articles. They’re going to be very hard to beat.

So, it isn’t impossible to dominate a huge niche, but highly unlikely even with constant effort for a couple or few years. Go for something you CAN own in a year, maybe less. The tighter your niche, your focus, the more quickly you will be able to dominate the space with hard work, time, and knowledge!

If you’re not sure if the niche you want to focus on is tight enough, send email and we’ll give you our opinion. Free advice!

Blog Posting Frequency

This is how often you post content (photos, articles, video, audio) to your blog. Because blogging has been around for years now, there is some updated information and recommendations for you because you’re starting in an era where certain things are crucial.

Food blogging schedule screenshot.
We use Google’s Calendar App to schedule all our Thai food blogging activities.

Many people teaching blogging will tell you that it doesn’t matter much about the frequency of content you’re putting up, as long as you only post great content. That’s true in a sense, and I think only for those blogs that have been up and running for a while and have some kind of following and Google rank. Because you’re just starting, I see it entirely differently.

You’ll need to aim to post daily – at least for a while.

Thirty days? Six months? Two years? The number of days is arbitrary and the real point is that you just put out amazing content that people want to see, that they learn from, than they might link to or share on some social media channel. My recommendation is that you, at a bare minimum, crank out thirty amazing posts, that’s one per day, for the first 30-days your blog is live.

Until you have a following, there is no point posting on a schedule. If there’s nobody there expecting it, then it doesn’t matter. Post when you can, once per day. Post twice or three times per day if you’re motivated. If you want to conquer a tough niche, you should be posting 2-3 times per day for a while. Some months. Probably over a year to really get a good start.

What if your niche is one that doesn’t lend itself to a year of posting 365 articles, once daily?

Then you chose the wrong niche. Your niche, must be tightly defined and focused, but it also must have the depth you can mine by churning out articles about different food topics – hundreds of them, without running out of topics quickly. Don’t worry, if a topic within the niche has a lot of info, you can cover it with 5-10 articles, or 20 or more. In fact, that is recommended. Find the big topics in your niche and write extensively about them. If your niche has a Wiki entry – go see what they’ve included, and you write your own information about those topics the author(s) thought was important enough to cover.

What else is crucial to know about your blogging frequency and the content you put online?

Treat your food blogging business like the business it is from the very start. Imagine you are already successful and earning a full-time living from your food blog. Imagine you are not working any other job. Your food blog is IT. It is your occupation. Imagine that you’re only making money from your blog and everything you do in that regard is very important. You want to put your absolute best foot forward.

Never, and I hate to be so forceful about this, but never, ever, post something that you know is junk. Don’t post about what you were watching on television last night. Don’t post about some argument you’re having with someone that is bringing you down.

Did you ever see NIKE or BEST BUY or WALMART allow employees to talk about personal issues on their websites? Never! Don’t do it on yours. Treat your blog as a business, a thriving business. If you do, there will be less wait until it becomes true.

So, post quality content your readers will read eagerly and share with others. That’s it. Don’t post anything else.

Every photo must be as good as you can possibly make it.

If you are not a photographer already, and even if you are, you should quickly get up to speed on how to take amazing food photos. It doesn’t take that much knowledge to be able to take great photos of food, but it does take a number of very specific tools and tricks to consistently get great food shots.

Every article you write must be proofed by you over and over until you’re sure it’s your best work.

If you want to know the book we think will help most people get up and running with food photography quickly – this is it.

If you are not a writer and familiar with the English language to a high degree – get a proofreader to help. Hire an editor from Day 1 if you need to. If all you need is a good once-over, you might be able to find an editor at fiverr.com to proof each article before you release it. You might pay more. Give your writing ability an honest assessment early on and decide whether you need an editor, and start sourcing them immediately. You can use Elance.com, they have plenty of qualified editors.

If you’re starting a blog today, you’re going to be competing with 90% of the people in your niche that can write well enough to fool most people. You also need to write at least at that same level. When I say fool people, I mean that few of us have an English Literature degree from Penn State. Luckily, my sister does! haha! But, no really. Most of what we write here, we go over and over to make sure it is as good as it can be. You must too! Most people that read your blog won’t notice mistakes like omitting commas or other punctuation. Most won’t know when to use a dash vs. a colon. Most won’t recognize spelling mistakes of large words.

Most WILL recognize improper grammar. 🙂

So, your writing will have to be of a high standard. Shoot for it and take your food blog business seriously from the start.

What Is the Anatomy of a Great Blog Article?

#1 – Use Pages, not blog Posts. WordPress allows both. The difference is, that Google treats pages as permanent and timeless. Blog posts are treated as having a half-life. Posts are usually just quick notes you want to get out to your followers. Maybe the information is of a timely nature, and you just want to throw it out there so nobody missed it. You might write 150 words on a post, you might write 600. You wouldn’t write 1,500 or 6,000 words on a blog post. Use Pages for all your serious writing and content you share.

#2 – Aim for 1,500 words. Make 1,500 words your average article length. Why? There are many reasons! One is that 1,500 words seems to be a sweet spot with readers of blogs looking for information. Any longer and some people start getting bored. Any shorter and you’re probably leaving something out. Learn how to fit complete thoughts into 1,500 word articles, and learn how to develop seemingly small ideas into 1,500 words. This is a skill that will serve you incredibly well over your food blogging career.

Ideally you will have a mix of different length articles – but not many under 1,000 words. You’re just hurting yourself if you do. Nobody knows exactly what factors into Google’s quality assessments of great content, but word length is definitely one of them. Outdo your competitors by a healthy margin for best results.

We’re lucky in the most food niches. Content articles are usually under 1,000 words. Few food bloggers are going over 1,000 continuously. When you DO go over 1,000 often, you’re setting yourself up as one of the top in the niche. You’re separating yourself from the group by producing more content

If you can’t seem to write 3,000 coherent words in one article, find someone you can pay to do it. I know a guy who has written books that will write 3,000 word articles for $60. Good articles about many topics. You will also need to find someone you can pay to write for you that can crank out amazing quality content, if you find it difficult to produce enough. All great bloggers do this. Well, heaps of them anyway. Don’t feel bad about doing it. After all, you can control the topics that are written about. Make sure they fit your food blog niche perfectly.

#3 – Use small paragraphs. Many visitors to your new food blog will be using mobile and tablet devices. They are not easy to read when the paragraphs are 150 words at a time. Look at this entire article, the paragraphs are about the right length. A few sentences, and separate even slightly different things you want to say into separate paragraphs.

Pad Thai food blog post at JoysThaiFood.com
This food blog post did extremely well, though the image isn’t perfect!

#4 – Add photos to every article. If your article is 1,500 words, add a minimum of two photos, probably three is ideal. For every 500-750 words in your article, add a photo. If you write a 3,000 word article you should have at least four to five photos to break up the information and give the reader a break. I’ve noticed my pages with more photos rank higher and bring more traffic to our sites.

We cover the importance of food photography for your food blog in Step 7 in-depth.

#5 – Use high definition photos. 144 dpi is the new 72 dpi. For years the best advice was to use photos that were 72 dots per inch because that is all most desktop monitors could handle. Today we have iPhones and other screens that can use 400 dpi images. There is no reason to go up that high though because the human eye has a max resolution limit. 144 DPI is the ideal resolution to post your food blogging photos because they look great on all screens and the file-size of the image doesn’t get too large.

The photo at the top of this page of the woman photographing food in a professional kitchen is at 144 dpi. We bought the royalty free rights to it at Dreamstime.com, an excellent source of photos. Total cost? Seven dollars to use indefinitely. Using online stock agencies is highly recommended because the variety of styles of images makes your blog look more professional.

#6 – Use large photos. I typically use photos that stretch across the entire column of content – at least once in a long article, and usually at the top. This is around 700 pixels wide.

Needless to say, one of the first skills you will need to acquire in addition to food photography, is image editing. You’ll need to know how to change images to a certain resolution and size. You’ll need to know how to tweak the colors, contrast, dim the highlights, and straighten photos that are just slightly off-perfect. Invest some time in learning these skills, or, if you have the money, farm it out to others to handle, but you’ll be facing delays and scheduling issues. Your decision.

Thai Jasmine tea with jasmine flowers.
Professionally done photos will make your food blog look stunning. This is another stock photo. 400 pixels wide and 144 dpi. Size? About 110 Kb.

#7 – Add title, description, and ALT information to your photos. One easy and strong way to differentiate your food blog business from the rest is by consistently adding this information to ALL graphics you use on your blog. Though many people know they should do it, only a small number of bloggers do this.

The advantages of really optimizing your images like suggested above are many. Not only will your content article be treated as higher level content, but Google will probably start sending you traffic through image searches. All the tips above optimize your images for the image search function and will bring you perhaps tons of traffic to your website before long. This can be a nice boost to your business early-on when you need it most. Over time I notice few drops in image search traffic, so this is an incredible long-term traffic generation strategy as well as short-term.

#8 – Pull in other media. Add a map if it fits. Add quotes from experts in your niche about the subject you’re writing about. Add a video. Add a screenshot of a Twitter tweet you saw that was appropriate to the subject. Add a sound file. In short, add anything that adds to your article and makes it better and different from what others in your food blog niche are producing!

#9 – Break up the formatting.  Use heading tags, bold, big, italicized text, bullets, and different size fonts. A 1,500 word article can be a long read, or, if properly formatted, could be just right. With longer length articles, proper formatting to break up huge blocks of normal text is crucial to hold the interest of your readers.

#10 – Keep your tone friendly and helpful. Once you know who your readers are, you can try to write to connect with them. One thing you definitely need to do is be yourself. Be your best self. Try to keep a good tone, a consistent tone of voice across all of your content.

#11 – Link to other content pages you’ve already written. Look at the top of this page – we linked out to the other steps in the series. This is a powerful way to create groups of articles to entice readers to read more than just one article. It is also a great habit to keep your best content linked to many times. Google counts links to each article. They figure you’ll link often to the posts that are the most important to your food blog. At the bottom of this post we’ve also linked out to all the other pages in the series. Do this too!

#12 – Edit like crazy!

#13 – Links! It doesn’t stop when the article is done. Figure out some ways to link to your article. Sometimes we put links in our YouTube videos to new Thai food articles. We also link using Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook. If we have written some great articles in the past that get a lot of daily readers, we add a link from those pages to our new page so it is found quickly. One thing we’re experimenting with lately is Reddit. We added two articles there and one of them brought an additional 750 visitors to our blog the first day. That’s pretty powerful if you can duplicate it with any sort of consistency. We’re working on it! You should try there too, Reddit is a very powerful platform we cannot wait to master.

#14 – Updates. There has been a lot of talk recently about the importance of updating old articles. Don’t go back and update all of your old posts, just those that are still getting eyeballs. A good update can revitalize the page and crank up traffic even further. For your most important pages, go back as often as every 1-2 months and review to see if you might add something of value.

 

10-Part Series: How to Start a Food Blog

  1. Creating Your Food Blog
  2. Choosing Your Domain Name
  3. Your Food Blog Business Hosting
  4. Choosing a Great WordPress theme
  5. The Basics of Food Blogging
  6. Bringing Visitors to Your Food Blog – Traffic
  7. 25 Solid Food Photography Tips
  8. Making Money from Your Food Blog – Monetizing
  9. Creating Food eBooks
  10. Gathering Email Addresses – Leads

 

 

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