It's been exactly 2 years since I started blogging already. Happy Birthday to Del's cooking twist! What an incredible journey it has been! When I look back, it's funny to see how all this started.
Back then, I remember that I just had a simple idea in mind: starting a food blog to entertain my friends who were encouraging me to share my recipes. I have always loved cooking, baking, and spending time in the kitchen, licking the bowl of chocolate cake batter as often as I could (I loooove chocolate cakes), or spending quality time with my friends around good food.
Within two years, I worked like crazy and had so much fun in the process. My style and my photography evolved a lot, while my presence on social media literally exploded with tens of thousands of followers on Facebook and readers every month. I also took part in many different and exciting projects related to the blog, from being published in several magazines in the US, UK, and France, shooting some cooking videos, taking part in the fantastic adventure of the French food blogging fair and even being selected for MasterChef France!
I would now love to share with you my experience as a food blogger and give you some helpful tips and tricks to have a successful blog (PART I). In a second article that I will publish within a few days, I will explain how I turned my food blog into my career, nine months ago already (PART II)! I hope you will find these two articles very inspiring whatever you have/are about to have a food blog or wonder how and whether you can turn your food blog into your career.
This article is going to be long, so I suggest you start with a cup of coffee and a little cookie, as I'm doing right now!
From the love for food to the digital food sphere
Start your blog – I started my food blog from scratch on May the 15th 2013, taking up the challenge of writing my blog in both English and French. I had some basic knowledge as a webmaster but this entire blog wouldn't have been possible without the priceless help and unconditional support of my boyfriend, David, whom I rarely mention in my articles. Being himself an IT guy, he helped me out building and designing the entire blog, which evolved quite a lot during these two years, according to my taste changes and experience of blogging. In return, I did my best to feed him with some delicious homemade dishes. We had a deal and it turned out he tried about 95% of the recipes published on this blog!
Food photography and styling – Having a food blog is not only being passionate about food and sharing random recipes with others. It's really demanding and it implies many other things we don't really think about at first when looking for a couple of seconds at a mouthwatering picture which just popped up on our Facebook feed. A recipe also implies recipe development, food styling, food photography which also implies how to use a DSLR camera, photography editing, and recipe writing. If you want to learn more about the real life of a food blogger, I invite you to read this article that I wrote a year ago and that has been one of my most popular posts among my readers so far.
Social media and marketing – Social media shares and other marketing and communication aspects are keys to a successful blog and represent countless hours and a daily routine to keep your readers entertained. There are many specific social media tools to share your recipes and food photography and it's important to know some of them (like Food Gawker or Tastespotting for instance) because they will drive a lot of traffic to your blog. You basically brand your own blog and as a result of this it's also important to have an idea of how to use Google Analytics as it gives you some interesting statistics about your blog visits and the profile of your readers. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is also something you need to have in mind, although it's a very complex science and I'm still having a basic use of it. To make it simple, SEO helps you to get better rankings in search engine like Google and ensure you a much better visibility of your blog.
If you ever wanted to start a food blog or if you want to boost yours, here are some tips I highly recommend you read and have in mind!
Key Number 1 – Find your niche.
#1: What makes your blog so special. There are countless food blogs on the web and this phenomenon increases every day as food has become a new trend with all the TV shows, movies and other success stories we all heard about those last years. For all this reasons, it's important for you to find your niche and define what kind of food blog you want to create. Whatever your decision, avoid as much as possible a generalist blog where you would share all kind of recipes. Try instead to stick to something very specific, being aware – and even avant-gardist – of the new foodie trends.
#2: Define who you want to talk to. Writing a food blog implies having a public of readers. Think ahead which kind of readers you are targeting, depending on the niche you agreed on (see #1).
#3: Define a goal and stick to it. You're blogging for fun to share around your food experiment, or maybe to become famous, to have the possibility to write an e-book or a cookbook in the future… Blogging means having a community of readers. We don't blog for ourselves, it's pointless to do so. You are talented, good at cooking and baking, so try to define what is your goal with your blog, even if this goal will evolve with time. As I said, I started blogging for my friends only and didn't even think about sharing my recipes on Facebook at first (which makes me smile now). My ambitious has evolved with time as my blog started to engage more readers while getting bigger.
#4: Believe in yourself (and stay humble). Through your blog, people want to engage with the person behind, not only the content, otherwise they would pick up a random recipe on a food magazine website. Be confident about who you are and what you want to show us through your blog. You love cooking, that makes you amazing already! Try to keep your head cool though, and focus on what really matters.
Key Number 2 – Persistence is king!
#1: Keep an eye on your content. Even if it's a food blog and the most important thing seems to be sharing some tasty recipes, you still need to care about your content. The readers need to make themselves an idea about who you are, and they want to be virtual friends with you somehow. Don't hesitate to share some personal details about your life, without giving too much if you don't want to. For me, this is the most difficult part about blogging. However, my favorite blogger Sally from Sally's Baking Addiction really became a good virtual friend, someone I could identify myself with by reading her blog posts, just because of our similar life paths and stages in life. Many of her fans experience the same phenomenon!
#2: Publish regularly. Blogging take time. It implies developing the recipe, taking pictures, edit them and write the article on the blog. Even if you are very busy (most of us work full time in parallel of the blog), it's important to publish regularly on the blog. Some very popular blogs will tell you that you need to publish between 2 and 4 times a week to get more traffic to your blog. This is probably true, but don't feel any pressure, if you like to publish from time to time because it takes you time to combine quality and quantity – quality being king to me! – allow yourself to publish maybe once a week or even less often. Just find your cadence. The most important is feel happy when blogging (blogging must not feel like an obligation, never ever) and publish regularly so that your readers expect news from you from time to time.
#3: Interact with the others. To keep an eye on your content and publish regularly is great but not enough. You also need to “play the game” and interact with the others via your blog and social media. This takes time, a lot of time and even more than that, but it is worth it! Be thankful to your readers who leave you a comment on your blog by showing them some interest. Visit their blog and let them a comment in return. You might also discover some very inspiring new blogs to follow. I'm trying to answer to every comment on my blog and engage with some communities of bloggers regularly.
#4: Show the world that you exist. You will probably think here: Ok, I get it, I need to share my recipes on all the social media I know. Well yes, you get it, even if sometimes it's a bit tough not to be lost in all the social media that exist in the food blogging sphere. Make your market and choose the ones that really matter to you, usually the ones that bring you the most of traffic on your blog (use Google Analytics to check this out). Beyond this aspect, don't hesitate to contact some food magazines to get published and even some TV channels. You might have the chance to be the star of a cooking show for a few minutes or even longer. Food is trendy among media, be smart and use it at your advantage!
Key Number 3 – Keep learning!
#1: Learn food blogging basics. Blogging is a never-ending process. You learn a lot by yourself, spend hours to understand WordPress or Blogger for instance, working on your blog design, your editing programs and so on. Be curious: spend some time to read books and other tutorials. “Food Blogging for Dummies” written by the very popular Kelly Senyei from the blog Just A Taste is never far away from me and I keep opening it from time to time, among many other books and plenty of tutorials I'm looking at almost everyday.
#2: Improve your food photography. One of the biggest challenges of a food blogger is food photography. This aspect would need an entire article by itself, but let's keep it simple here. Food photography is key in food blogging (and I disagree with everyone who argue that only recipe content matters. Both must go together!). If the food often tastes good, it's quite a challenge to make it look good on the pictures. For this, you need to work with many different aspect: food styling, playing with (if possible natural) light, learn how to use your camera and use a good editing program. You don't need to be equipped like a pro in the beginning. Most important is to learn how you can style your food (spend some time looking at the beautiful galleries on Food Gawker for instance), and which angle is best for your pictures. I usually shoot my pictures in a portrait layout, which emphasizes the depth effect and enables to make the focus on the food in the foreground while blurring the background a little bit. This requires that you read some good tutorials about how to use your camera. Above all, it requires hours and hours of practicing, there is no secret!
#3: Keep yourself updated with new food trends. Being a food blogger implies that people see you as a food expert. I mean it! They will expect you to be aware of the latest foodie trends or diets, whether you follow them or not. If you publish a recipe involving some superfoods like spirulina for instance, youd better know what spirulina is. Try to have a broad approach of food in general and ask yourself regularly about food marketing issues or sustainability of food, while reading some scientific articles, even if it's pure vulgarization to make things easier to understand. As a food blogger, your voice is powerful. Be smart and use it wisely!
#4: Trying is learning. Don't ever feel that you will never be as good as your favorite blogger. Everyone had to start somewhere and we all learn by trying. Be patient, try and try again, and eventually you will get there. Your pictures will get better and your style will improve. I always feel a little bit surprise and happy when I visit some food blogs that I used to see like the unreachable ones when I see that two years into my project, I can now do as well as them or almost. I keep looking up then and find other inspiring blogs, to improve my skills again and again.
Key Number 4 – Blog with passion!
#1: The love for food is a must. This is obvious, right? However, when you're going through all the process until the recipe is published on the blog, you can feel a little bit tired and still need to express your love for food in your blog post. Yes, you must love food for real, a lot! I like to play with the ingredients, their textures, their smells, and try to associate them together. Sometimes it works, sometime it doesn't. Be a little bit crazy in your kitchen, make some experiments and let your love for food bring you some inspiration!
#2: Share a bit of yourself. As I said earlier (Key Number 2 – #1: Content), it is really important that you give a little bit of yourself when blogging. This is the best way to engage your readers and also what will make you love the food blogging sphere even more. When writing some factual content you feel a bit schizophrenic, not being the real you behind your blog. You can keep some privacy even when sharing some personal details of your life, way of thinking or other things that define you. Find your own editorial line and be confident with your style!
#3: Meet other food bloggers. This is not a must in reality of course, but a must in your virtual world! If you have some favorite bloggers with whom you interact regularly via comments and social media, feel free to write to them and share a little bit of yourself. They will love to answer back! The best part for me is to meet food bloggers in real life, and I have been very lucky to meet quite a few now, either in Stockholm, in Paris or in other places depending on the occasions. Each time I travel to France or almost, I meet a new blogger friend, and since we all share the same passion for food, it always ends up in a very close relationship. I remembered that I was worried a couple of times, wondering whether we would like each others in real life as much as we do in virtual life. But each time it ended up in very nice encounters in which we shared some useful tips to improve our food skills or food blogging skills.
#4: Play the game 200%. At this point of this article (if you managed to read until here), you understood that blogging about food is far much more than sharing a simple recipe. Be curious, with a genuine will to learn and grow. Eat well, keep aware of the foodie world, discover new ingredients and spices, and travel often. The food world is an incredible journey, I tell you. Just a simple anecdote: I met by accident a week ago in Stockholm Saransh Goila, an Indian chef who was here for a couple of days only. He appeared to be one of India's top celebrity chef, known for an Indian food travelogue show in which he took part, traveling 20,000 km of India by road in 100 days! We spent some time together and I even invited them to take part in one of my professional project. You will never believe me: I met him on Twitter the day before meeting him. True story!
I hope this article brought you some inspiration and all the energy you need to start or grow your blog. If you are interested in knowing more on one specific aspect of the article, just let me know and I will do my best to answer your question and maybe publish an article about it if it's a huge topic that could be of interest for many of you.
In a few days, I will publish the second part of this serie (PART II) in which I will tell you how I turned my passion for food blogging into my career. Stay tuned!
NB: all the images in this article are mine and I created them especially for this post. Feel free to share them on Pinterest if you wish!