Food Blogging

When I fell into blogging a while back, there were about ten people blogging about food. We were a fairly chummy bunch and met up for meals, swapped links, ideas, and technical tips as the medium continued to grow. It was all pretty small-scale until the whole thing blossomed into something that few likely would have predicted.

For years I’ve generally shied away from giving advice or offering opinion. After all, everyone’s blog is different and like lots of other things, it’s impossible to pinpoint what makes a blog click or even how to do it. What suits one person often doesn’t become another and people get into blogging for a myriad of reasons. But at the recent Food Blogger Camp, I compiled some thoughts for my presentation and wanted to share them here. Please note that although I do point out some things that have clicked for me, there’s plenty of terrific blogs out there that do the complete opposite of what I say and/or do, and work very well. There’s not a “right” or “wrong” way to blog and all points are certainly open to interpretation and discussion.

I wasn’t sure of the impact we’d had on the participants who came to the camp, since it was a hectic few days, until a few weeks afterward when I noticed almost all the bloggers who attended started radically changing their blogs; redesigning them, replacing hard-to-read fonts, getting rid of clutter, making them easier to read, and most of all, blogging with a renewed sense of fun and excitement.

The first things to ask yourself are “Why am I blogging?” and “What am I going to blog about?” Most people are blogging for fun rather than for professional reasons, and most just want to share recipes or food-related experiences. A while after I started my blog, I was talking to Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes and said “My blog isn’t a food blog” and she gave me a look of disbelief. But the more I think about it now, the more I realize that my site (or any food blog) isn’t just about food, cooking, and recipes. It’s thoughts and stories that we want to share, some involving food and recipes, but not always. To be a food blog (or writer) doesn’t mean you have to just recount recipes; often it’s the stories associated with cooking, shopping, or feeding others that are richer than lists of ingredients and putting together a batch of chocolate chip cookies.

The main thing you want to do is to find your niche and say something that people will enjoy reading or learning from you. We all have different personalities and highlighting yours in your blog is the most important thing you can do to differentiate yourself from others.

Getting traffic is a big goal for a lot of people, but that’s really not something anyone should focus on, especially when starting out. Instead work on giving people a reason to come back to your site. There’s an old saying that says “If you keep your eyes on the future, you can’t see the present.” If you’re just looking to get a pile of people leaving comments, you may as well just post recipes that include a cup of corn syrup or tell readers that you recommend running a cast iron skillet through the dishwasher. You’re not going to gain a following—or be happy—if it’s drudgery or you’re trying to merely use SEO (search engine optimization) tips to get the attention of Google. Write for readers, not algorithms.

Like professional writers, people write blogs for a variety of reasons. I would venture to say that a majority of writers (professional and non-professional) write because they have something to say. Blogging isn’t a popularity contest and I read a number of small, barely noticed blogs that I find interesting. But like professional cooking, which the media has created a bit of a frenzy by turning it into a series of ‘contests’, what only matters in the end is what’s on the plate. If you do what you love, the readers will (hopefully) come.

I’ve attempted to organize topics into some semblance of order, so please excuse any disparate elements as there’s a few places where ideas overlap. Some things I mention, a few will disagree with. But that’s what makes blogging so interesting, is the variety of styles and presentations. Blogging isn’t always easy, but it’s a lot of fun reading and participating in the discussion, and enjoying the diversity of styles and divergent opinions represented out there.



1. Develop your own style.

If you read blogs, you likely follow favorites that you go back to over and over again. That’s because you like the distinct voice and style of the author. Be yourself, don’t try to copy anyone. It won’t come off as genuine. Hank Shaw said something along the lines of “People should be able to read your writing without your byline (name) and know who wrote it.”

There are a lot of very good food writers, such as Julia Child, who could combine explaining a recipe along with certain turns that make the recipe hers. That was her voice. However blogs are more conversational than books and rules are a little more relaxed, so don’t be afraid to be more personal or do things different. If you stay in your comfort zone you’ll never change or proceed forward. Find a specific angle rather than describing just what’s on the plate. We all know soup is hot, rich, creamy, liquid, delicious, warming, comforting, and good with a dollop of crème fraîche. (And if yours isn’t, you might not want to be sharing it.) Think about what it is about that soup that will make it your story and why you like it so much, rather than the obvious.

For example, if you make squash soup…is it really that interesting that it’s your husband’s favorite soup? What is interesting about your husband? Did he grow up on a squash farm? Did he squash your mother’s favorite doll by accident? And why should readers care about him? Sure you love him. But even if you don’t, there’s likely a deeper story in there. Especially if you don’t. (In which case, you might not want to share that.)

Gertrude Stein told an artist, who later became a very famous impressionist: “Don’t paint what is there, paint what you see.”

So write what you see. I know there are lists of words that you’re not supposed to use when writing about food, so do think about using certain words like “delicious” and “unctuous” too much when writing. (Although some foods really are just delicious and unctuous, and it’s hard to avoid them.) But are there better words you can drum up?

The hardest thing I ever had to write was the headnote for the Vanilla Ice Cream recipe in my ice cream book. I mean, what hasn’t been said already about vanilla ice cream already? And is it really that interesting to write, “This refreshing vanilla ice cream is perfect with apple crisp or chocolate cake.” ZZzzzzzzzz. So it was an exercise in probing the depths of my shallow brain to find something else to say. (No one said writing was easy, folks.) Amber who attended Food Blog Camp, ended up not writing a description of the seminars, or the food (or the margaritas) but the event prompted memories of a best friend, so she ended up penning a heartfelt description of how the event transformed her and her writing.

Writing is as much about editing as it is about merely writing a bunch of stuff down. People like Matt Armendariz (who has a traditional media background, where word count matters) and Heidi Swanson, keep it short, concise, and neat, and don’t beat around the bush. I don’t know how much editing they do, but I’ve spent hours writing whole paragraphs, then re-read them the next day and deleted them. (You might think there’s a lot of endless rambling here on the site, but believe me, you should see what gets tossed into my trash folder before I publish it.)

“I try to leave out the parts that people skip.” -Elmore Leonard

Because bloggers can write as much as they want, we tend to overdo it. Check your statistics and see how long readers spend on your site, then tailor your posts so they can be read in about that length of time. If you’re not sure, two minutes is a good goal. Editing is probably fifty percent of writing and taking stuff off the page (or computer screen) means readers can focus more on what is on there. You don’t need to dumb anything down, but if you watch or read good comedy, you see the importance of a sharp, succinct punchline and not lot of extraneous matter.

Another thing you want to avoid are too many exclamation marks. F. Scott Fitzgerald said “An exclamation point is like laughing at your own jokes.” A good trick is to go through and limit yourself to one per entry. Or none. But there are no absolutes and rules should be taken with a proverbial grain of salt and we all be allowed to laugh at our own jokes once in a while. (I mean, if they’re not funny to us, how can we expect others to find them amusing?) Blogs are more about quick, off the cuff information, so bloggers tend to use more dashes and exclamation marks and parentheses because that’s how one might normally talk in a conversation. I’ve been making a concerted effort to use less in forums like Twitter because I’m not sure everything in my life is really all that funny. Well, at least to others. But I find some of the stuff that happens to me hilarious. (If I didn’t, I would have daily meltdowns.)

As Mel Brooks said: “If you’re quiet, you’re not living. You’ve got to be noisy, colorful, and lively.”

Same with blogging. So make some noise! (With or without that exclamation mark..)



2. Get those photos down.

I remember buying my first digital point-and-shoot camera eight or ten years ago. It was a little compact number and was wildly expensive, over $500. I recently upgraded to a better DSLR (digital single lens reflect), which cost less than what is now considered that outdated piece of crap. Good digital cameras have become a lot more affordable and if you can get your hands on one, even the cheapest model (like the Rebel that I have), your pictures will be a lot better.

People have become very, very visually oriented. People loved Gourmet magazine because it had an outstanding, stop-you-in-your-tracks photo on every cover and it was hard to resist not looking at those covers. People scooting around the web, if they land on an uninspired or out-of-focus photo, they likely won’t stay on your site. Never, ever put a bad or out-of-focus picture on your blog. (Unless you accompany it with a story noting that the photo was a dud, and then it can be funny.) People have very high standards these days about photos because so many people have digital single lens reflex cameras, which making taking a decent photograph relatively easy.

I used to say you need a DSLR but I’ve seen good pictures from point-and-shoots and iPhones. If using a point and shoot or smartphone:

1. Shoot outside, not in full sunlight.
2. Never use the flash.
3. Zoom in a bit; the most extreme position on those zoom lenses distort things.
4. Avoid extreme close ups, which makes food look goofy.
5. If using a smartphone, consider using an app like Instagram to make the photos more artful.

Use photos to tell the story. A nice picture is one thing, but your photos should augment the text, or vice-versa. Show the process, not just the end result. Use photos to show steps of a recipe that might be confusing or need clarification, like how to slice mangoes or boning a fish. Show the tree that grew that persimmon. Don’t let the props overwhelm the food.

Use photos to break up big blocks of text. People have a hard time reading lengthy paragraphs on a small screen, especially those of us with painfully short attention spans. I will curl up on the sofa with a New Yorker magazine but I don’t do that with my laptop. You don’t have to dumb down your text, but make it easier to read.



3. Find cheap ways to dial up your blog.

The most important thing I did for my site was to have it professionally designed. It was not inexpensive, and when I wrote the check, I was trembling. I cried when I sent it and it dashed my dreams of ever owning that black Yves Saint-Laurent suit that made me look like a million bucks. But it has paid off and I love my site and the fellow who redesigned it; it’s easy to navigate and has become an important part of my life.

Not everyone has a lot of time or money to fix up their blog and make it flashy. But the good news is that online, less is more. And if you don’t believe me, look at Google, which is the number-one most visited site on the internet. Other sites like Amazon and Ebay depend on relatively clean designs which makes them easy to use and navigate. Simple works.

How do you make your site look different than the others? If you’re on WordPress, there are thousands of themes to choose from. Lots of people are using Thesis, which is nice, but a lot of bloggers are using it now. So maybe find something else. I have zero technical ability but switching to WordPress this year made blogging a lot easier. (Although I had to write a few more checks for that.)

But you need to think about what your are hoping to achieve with your blog. If you really want more traffic, you need to spend time (and a little money) if you’re trying to make a go of it financially. One inexpensive trick you can do is hire someone to design a custom header or logo. Some people recommend hiring a design student who might be looking for extra work. However in my experience, you should only expect someone to give you back what you pay for and it’s worth investing in someone who will do a good job, not just the cheapest person out there.

I’m on the train for paying for stuff. When you work for yourself you see how much things cost and what they’re worth. Things like having a newsletter, blog maintenance, etc, aren’t free and paying provides a better user experience. If you have no budget, a pure white theme with block black letters works well.

Get rid of useless widgets and sidebar clutter and focus on content and pictures. Good examples of sites with very simple designs, which recede and highlight the compelling content are Sprouted Kitchen, A Life Worth Eating, deliciousdays, Zen Can Cook, and Lottie + Doof.



4. Create good content and provide answers.

A restaurant owner recently told me, “This business is all about solving problems.” Yes, owning a restaurant is about serving food, but it’s also about how to get the food to the restaurant in the first place, then to customers. Then how to take payment, how to hire (and fire) people, and a plethora of other issues that arise.

Having a food blog can also be about solving problems. Some readers are just looking to food blogs for recipes, of course. But people are also looking for solutions, like how to break down a duck, make bacon, discover a great lemon bar recipe, or what to make for dinner. They’re also looking for views to another culture, a laugh, to something about a new ingredient, or cooking tips. Think about what questions readers might have—What is a Parisian food market like? Where should we eat in Paris? How much should we tip in France? What do we do if we’re coming to Paris and we’re gluten-free? These are posts I’ve done, that are food-related but certainly aren’t recipes or cooking tips.

Long gone are the days when you could write a “How to” post and have it linked everywhere. (And from the “Be careful what you wish for” file; I once got Stumbled Upon for a “How to” post and for a one day surge of traffic, my server hit me with a $371 bill.) And while helpful and interesting for readers, the larger food sites and the content farms pretty much covered almost all of the general cooking topics by now. (More about SEO later.) So it’s best to try and gauge your readers, new and returning, and reel ‘em in with writing about what they’re looking for. Blogging is a conversation and providing interesting content is part of that, and something the content farms can’t do, but the other is reacting and responding to what you readers might like.

Many people try to make their blogs addictive by tackling controversial topics to generate conversation and get shared on social media. (In spite of those $371 server bills.) You can tackle a controversial topic, but steel yourself for any disagreements that might break out in the comments and elsewhere, and get ready to mitigate them. I worked in professional kitchens for almost three decades and people still think they can say something that will shock me. But man, the stuff I’ve seen, well…let’s just say I’ve seen it all. And I mean all of it in my days.

The other downside is that you’ll have first-time visitors who might not be familiar with your style and may invoke their unpleasant wrath upon you. One controversial post is great to have people come to your site, but you want them to keep coming back. And you want to build a network of quality readers, not one-time stopovers looking to stir things up.

There are a lot of threads going around about what to say and what not to say on your blog. Don’t say a recipe is ‘fast’ or ‘easy’—show readers that it is. Like ‘seasonal’ and ‘fresh’, everything is seasonal and fresh these days so show readers that it is, don’t just say it. Todd and Diane at White on Rice Couple don’t have to talk about how fresh their fruits are because they show the fruits still clinging on the trees in their backyard. Similarly Elise of Simply Recipes shows that she believes in home cooking only using fresh ingredients and presenting procedural shots and photos to show how they’re used.

I am a little surprised when people say (or write) “I have nothing to post about…I need to write up a post!” which came up when I spoke at the Blogherfood conference a few years back. (About every mouth in the room hit the beige carpet when I said that I think I had about fifty unfinished posts in a folder on my computer.) I always think, “Why have a blog unless you have something to post?” It’s not homework. If you don’t have anything to say, you’re not going to get penalized for not saying anything. But everyone has to cook or eat at least three times a day so no one has any excuse for not having something to write about. Find inspiration from worrying about what to make for dinner, about finding a hard block of cauliflower puree nestled in the back of your freezer that you tried to disguise as hummus by blending it with peanut butter (sorry, yuck..), or the caramels you found smushed at the bottom of your purse next to your chapstick that you forgot were in there. (Then maybe inventing salted butter caramel-flavored lip balm?)

The main thing to remember is that a blog is a conversation between you and your readers A good exercise is to speak your dialogue out loud and if it sounds like the way you talk, then you’re doing it right. And most important, find out what makes you special. That will help you stand out in the crowd. It isn’t always easy to find an answer to that, but it’s one that’s important if you’re interested in getting people’s attention.



5. Choose title words carefully to give your blog character.

There’s a lot of discussions about what words you should and shouldn’t use in food writing. As mentioned, one school of thought says that “delicious” is a big no-no, although anyone who tunes into Food Network will see that “delicious” isn’t going away anytime soon and if they stopped saying that word they wouldn’t have a network anymore.

Aside from words like “yummy”, “tasty” and “sublime” (which have their detractors, although I’m on the fence), folks should be careful using words like “family” “musings” “seasonal” “fare” and “fast”. All of those words are pretty subjective and I recently saw a “fast” recipe that called for “1 cup of grapes, halved”, which doesn’t sound like a task one would get done all that quickly. (At least they weren’t peeled!) A blog is a conversation and unless you’re writing the Encyclopedia Brittanica, if you normally pepper your chats with a word like “musings” and “yummy”, then feel free to use them. I don’t think I’ve ever used that word in any conversation but I’m not you.

(Backing up what I just said, I was once at a writer’s conference and the speaker said never use words like ‘opt’, and reinforced that by reading a sample of someone’s writing who used that word, following up by stating that “No one says opt.” I do, however, so I think it’s okay for me to use it. The point is to use words in your vocabulary, don’t reach for those that aren’t in there. I used the word “fare” recently because it seemed to fit. So there.)

When choosing a name for your site, or a tagline, try to give readers who land on your site an idea of what it’s about right off the bat. Anyone who has tried to sell a house or opted to buy a magazine because of the yummy, sublime, delicious fare on the cover, knows that first impressions matter.

Examples of blog titles that both give a clue about the content and the tone, and make you want to read more are My Kids Eat Squid, Hungry for Paris, 5 Second Rule, It’s Not You, It’s Brie, The Pioneer Woman, All That Splatters, 64 sq foot Kitchen, Three Many Cooks, Married…with Dinner, Matt Bites, and Shut Up Foodies!, which use action words—and a dash of humor, to tell you about the blog and the author in one concise phrase.

Add characters to your site. If you’re writing about your life, chances are there are interesting people that share your life, and table, as well. (If not, invite me over. I’m kind of interesting.) If you spend time with them, it’s likely others will want to as well. Some writers like to give others a bit of privacy, which is all well and good, but readers who are just joining your site for the first time don’t know who Q or X are, and I’ve found myself playing a little mental Scrabble trying to figure out who everyone is. (Tip: If you do that, perhaps put a glossary in your sidebar?) Readers may not comb your archives to look for where you introduced them. In my opinion, either use their real names, or just say “my husband”, or make up a pseudonym. Ree Drummond calls her cowboy husband “Marlboro Man”, Dorie Greenspan called her son “The Kid”, and Shauna James Ahern of Gluten-Free Girl nicknamed her husband “The Chef”. All gave their characters a moniker, making them an intergral part and character in their stories.



6. Stop thinking about SEO.

Some say that search engine optimization (SEO) is the “snake oil” of the Internet. Whose spam folder isn’t filled with pitches to “Take your site to the top of all search engines”? But think about it; would you rather open your home to a whole bunch of people coming to swill cheap beer, or have a great bunch of guests come for a nice glass of wine (or microbrewed beer) who you’ll want to return over and over again?

Do not write for search engines. If you are writing for search engines, you are cheating readers. People who come to your site want to read what a human being is writing; not a SEO machine. Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen shows up near the top of search engines, and arrives there because people consistently come back to her site not just for the recipes, but for her funny stories and sharp writing.

And if you’re still not convinced, personalities like Jason Kottke, The Oatmeal, and Wil Wheaton get boatloads of traffic but little of their material is based on subjects people are using search engines to find. I mean, when was the last time someone Googled—How to tell if your cat is trying to kill you?

Unless you are building a recipe database, readers may become bored just reading rote lists of recipes that you’re churning out. The top food blogs that are recipe databases have a personal touch and the recipes are invariably accompanied by a story that’s brief, but well-written, with a personal touch and a good photo.

A few years back you could write a post on a topic like peeling garlic or melting chocolate, and have a decent chance of getting to the top of the search engine pile. But some rather large sites and aggregators, and those “content farms” (sites that pay people $5-$15 to create brief posts based on popular search terms) have gotten into the game and it’s much harder to get to the top of that mountain anymore. And chasing that takes all the fun out of blogging, I think.

When I started blogging, I thought I would be near the top of Paris searches. But when I checked by searching for anything about Paris on the internet, I either got pages about Paris Hilton or the big hotel and travel sites selling stuff about my favorite city. Lil’ me doesn’t stand a chance. Since there was no way I’m going to get there, I started posting on topics that I felt would be of use to my readers, such as Tipping in Paris and Health Care Tips for Travelers Coming to France, along with restaurants and chocolate shops from time to time, because I have regular readers who either come to Paris or have friends coming, and they find that information useful.

When writing this up, I randomly thought of a post I did last year on French sugars, describing the differences and what they were since I was getting a lot of questions about them. It was an informative post (well, at least I thought it was…), and I just checked my statistics on my site and in the last 30 days, five people visited that post. Four left immediately (hrrmph!) and one stuck it out. So while it shows up as #1 when you search for “French Sugars” on Google, SEO ain’t everything.

My strategy, if you even call it that, is sometimes based on reading comments, following social media, or trying to deduce things others might be interested in. (However the phrase “Recipe…PLEASE!” is nails on a chalkboard.) So I hope that people use the site as a resource. I love my readers, especially those who share their favorite tips, resources, and places with me as well, and there’s a great interchange of ideas that happens in the comments and on social media. So we all win.

So think about it: Are you writing for fun, or just to get hits? If you’re writing just for hits, consider if that’s reason enough to be blogging.



7. Find a niche.

Hank Shaw writes about gutting squirrels and foraging for wild grass for salads. He won a Beard award, writes from the Atlantic website, and got a book contract. These topics may not yield monster traffic, but he’s writing sincerely and has a good core of devoted readers, so it works for him.

Small niches can be better than big ones. Let’s face it, there’s a plenty of cupcake blogs, or blogs about Paris. Why should anyone want to see your blog? Maybe a smaller idea is better than a big one? You might not want to hunt for fuzzy critters in the forest, but perhaps there’s a subject that you’d like to explore. Cupcakes and macarons have been covered, and although I like both, maybe you could start from zero—like Julie Powell did with her Julie and Julia blog—and tackle something new or interesting to you. Heidi Swanson took on her overflowing pile of cookbooks at 101 Cookbooks, you can head back in time like 18th Century Cuisine, Luisa Weiss went through the food sections of newspapers for The Wednesday Chef, or admit your status as a culinary novice, like Adam Roberts of The Amateur Gourmet confesses to several times a week.

Don’t post “Sorry I haven’t posted in a while but…” which makes people think you’re bored with your blog or aren’t interested. So why should they be interested in it if you aren’t? Ree of The Pioneer Woman is likely the busiest person in the world with life on a ranch, scooping up cow piles, homeschooling four kids, and writing books, but she posts a few times a week. She’s posting what she makes for dinner—but that’s what it’s all about sometimes and she makes even a simple dinner interesting. So do try integrating your life into posts, not just recipes, but food-related stories that you can post quickly. I’ve found that sometimes those are my best posts.

If you don’t have time to post, do short posts. I have often been surprised at how much interest a short post that I put up quickly generates a lot more comments and attention than a long one with lots of photos and a recipe, which takes me oodles of time. Witness how that good comedian can make a big impression with just a couple of well-placed lines. Apply the same principle to writing about shopping or dinner. Find something interesting to say; make a cultural observation, present an unusual recipe (or give an old one your twist), show a technique, or write an opinion about something that you squarely believe in. Do it in sound bites.

Break up large blocks of text. When I want to read something long and involved, I will park myself on the sofa and dive in for a while. (Actually, I usually put on my pajamas and get in bed, even if it’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon.) But on the Internet people have a lot less time; many are at work (and would get funny looks if they slipped on their jammies at 3pm), or commuting on a subway, or simply roaming around online reading things here and there.

Break up text with those pictures, dashes, spaces, and paragraphs, much more so than you might normally. I have zero attention span and if I see extremely long paragraphs, I don’t read a post or I go back when I have the time. If you’re a very good writer, like Brooke of Food Wolfe, Melissa of Travelers Lunchbox, Alec Lobrano of Hungry for Paris, readers like me will take the time to read whatever they write because they are compelling storytellers.

Do something daring. I just posted about white wine being good with cheese, better than red, and people really responded to that. Much more than I thought. Or take on something like, say, why the hoopla against regular corn syrup is misguided, etc…but you have to be prepared to back it up and deal with whatever ensues. A while back I had a very long talk with an author friend about presenting less-controversial since you have to deal with the aftermath. But if we become afraid to raise controversial topics and disagree, then everything just gets vapid and governments run amuck. That’s not to say we should all get nasty, but that it’s simply okay to disagree. A good conversation presents a few points of view, and what follows should be a spirited but respectful interchange between the various viewpoints. Perhaps I’m optimistic, but in spite of cable news and virulent radio hosts, I know we as a collective whole are capable of having intelligent, respectful conversations with each other. I just know it.



8. Make sure your blog is usable.

A while back I was having a conversation with someone who worked on a food-related website that was making people click 3 to 4 times to get to the content they were looking for, presumably building clicks (impressions) for revenue-related purposes, which shows they were more concerned about racking up clicks than user experience. I advised that making their site easy to use and not frustrating for readers should be of utmost importance. Plus every time they give someone a chance to reach for the mouse, they’re giving them a chance to click away and leave. (Which I did whenever I went to their site and tried to find anything.) People nowadays want a clean, quick user experience. They want to find things fast. Don’t irk people and make them work harder than they have to.

Check your commenting process. Spammers have discovered blog comments, unfortunately, and there’s often no other way to get around those captchas where readers have to type in a code, I’m afraid. But I recently visited some blogs where one could only sign in and comment using Open ID or AIM, or jump through various other hoops. I don’t use either so I didn’t leave a comment when I really wanted to. (I may be dense, but I don’t even know what AIM is.)

Get rid of widgets that aren’t doing anything for you or that seriously increase the time it takes for your page to load. There are websites that will help you gauge how long your site takes to load, which you can find by doing an online search. Assess how badly your readers want to know what countries other readers come from, how’s the weather (which I had here for a while, but took off), your Twitter ramblings (which I have, and will keep, thank you very much), traffic conditions at your local airport (if you’re a travel blog…perhaps…), or what time it is where you are. Am not sure why anyone would care about that. But then again, I’m someone who had the local weather on my site for over a year. So what do I know?

On a similar note, I recently went to a blog and the sidebar widget identified not only where I was from, but a lot more about me than I cared to have shared. Thankfully it was a food blog, not necessarily something I needed to keep private. But still, it was unnerving to see my presence in the top position on their widget, so I won’t be returning to that site.

(On another similar note, folks may want to dial back notifying and thanking people immediately who follow them on Twitter. The first time it happened to me a while back, I got really startled. More about that in a bit.)

Another usability tip comes from Elise Bauer who recommends that people check for broken links on their blogs. If you’re on WordPress, Todd from White on Rice Couple pointed out that one can use the Broken Link Checker plug-in. (Do check the forums as it has some issues loading up servers while it’s trawling sites.) For other platforms, Elise recommends DeepTrawl.

I ran the WordPress plug-in and found over one thousand broken links, many from commenters who had left links to their sites that we no longer valid, or they’d shut down their sites and the links were dead. And I was actually surprised how many still-operating bloggers had misspelled the name of their own blogs when they left comments.

And while you’re checking comments and links, run a few cuss and naughty words used by spammers (ie: erectile dysfunction drugs, nubile Russian teenage cheerleaders, white underwear, etc) through your comment search field; I found a few smutty surprises in old posts as spammers and their ilk can escape detection. And it’s not too pleasant for readers to come across those, which I learned when a reader pointed out that a link I had that used to lead to a site about how dirty French sidewalks were had changed and was now something completely different. I won’t mention what it was now, but if people are looking for links to sites about women’s backsides, my site probably isn’t the right place. (Even though the backsides were, admittedly, pretty awesome.)

Everything on your site and in the sidebar should do something. Look at Google, Facebook, and Ebay. These are the top sites on the Internet and there’s little nothing on their pages that doesn’t perform some sort of task. (Well, on Facebook there’s all those odd groups and games and stuff, and I have no idea why they’re there.) The person who designed my site told me “Tag clouds are the mullets of the Internet.” Do you click on tag clouds? If not, consider if your readers find them useful.

Lastly, go through your blogroll and weed out dead links and sites. I can’t tell you how many links I’ve clicked on recently in the sidebars of other people’s blogs that led to sites that haven’t been updated since 2009, or the link didn’t work at all.



9. Be a great commenter.

I’ve made several good friends (real and virtual) because of bang-up comments they’ve left on my blogs. Comments make a blog lively and make them different than other forms of media that aren’t interactive. They can be the most lively, important part of a blog. I love my commenters (except for the dude who asked if I wore tight white underwear, which was a little personal). You don’t have to go to extremes, but do take time to interact with readers and in return they’ll continue to interact with you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been steered toward something interesting related to food or in my travels because locals have left valuable information in the comments. (Thanks guys!) As a blog author, it’s not always possible to answer every comment but jump in once in a while as best you can.

Of course, it’s fine and a-ok just to stop by and comment to say hello and say they you liked a post or recipe with a simple “I love Brownies too!”, but the comments that get the most notice are ones that are funny or that capture your attention in other ways. I should mention that folks might want to let go of the word “drool.” The only people over the age of two who drool live in assisted-care facilities. And the idea of saliva pooling on someone’s keyboard isn’t everyone’s idea of appetizing.

And if you’re a blogger leaving comments on other blogs, you’re more likely to get people to visit your site if you give them a reason to come by. Informative or humorous comments, I think, get the most notice. Good questions and astute observations are also welcome and can prompt interesting discussions in the comments. Those are usually when I pop in myself and participate.

If you want to get noticed, comment quickly so you’re near the top. You don’t have to be Hemingway, but do scan for typos and punctuation. Especially if you’re leaving a comment pointing out someone else’s typo or bad grammar. I’d say 100% of the rude messages I have received regarding typos or grammatical errors contain worse transgressions than mine. Just remember that people are going to read what you wrote and that the comment will represent you and the writing style of your blog. Some bloggers go through and edit comments left on their site for grammar and spelling, which I sometimes do, especially for people whose first language may not be English. Although I sometimes find those goofs kinda charming and leave them.

If you’re going to leave a link within the comment field of the blog, make sure it is properly hyperlinked. (There is an excellent article about commenting, and leaving URLs and such in comment fields and elsewhere at Design*Sponge Biz Ladies, as well as tips for dealing with comments.) Normally your blog is automatically hyperlinked when you add it to the field where it’s asked for. If leaving a link in a comment, it should be relating to something about the blog post, such as if you have a similar post, or tried the recipe too, or can shed some interesting or new information about the topic. Long URLs can blow out site designs, so you can find out about to easily hyperlink your URLs at this tutorial and do that. It also makes it easier for people to visit your site and see what you have to say.

A few bloggers don’t allow any outbound links and be aware that spam filters often flag comments with URLs in them since that’s a common thing found in spam comments, and your comment may go right into the spam folder and whisked away without anyone seeing it. I recently learned that some anti-spam programs will mark your address as that of a spammer and you’ll get blacklisted from other sites as well. Yikes.

I have a “show recent comments’ in my sidebar because the comments are a prominent part of the site and I like to give them more visibility. Remember that the comment that you leave is like leaving a calling card, as well as a way to say thanks or to offer additional information. In my opinion, comments are at least 75% of what makes a blog and blogging interesting.



10. Social networking.

Think of tools like Twitter and Facebook as big gatherings where people gather around to discuss topics, or parties where you interact with friends and aquantances. Everyone wants to be in a room with interesting people around them and both of those social media sites allow you to pick and choose who’s in your “room.”

Social media spots are fine places to disseminate information including new books or products, store openings, stories about you life, daily happenings, or whatever, but you should pass along information as you would to a group of friends and not just a convenient place to pitch things. “Social media is about giving, not getting”. So please do post when you update your site and let us know if you have a new project coming out or would like to announce an event. It’s great to spread the word to all, but be wary of going overboard. If that’s all you’re doing on your Twitterstream, it’s not likely to attract others. I like to follow people that have something to say themselves, who pass along things they genuinely find interesting.

Like that virtual party, if you’re just standing there promoting something or repeating things that others say (retweeting), folks will probably not gravitate toward you. Friends are interested in your participation in conferences, camps, blog events, and other things you’re doing, but be careful of going overboard because it may not be so interesting for non-participants whose Twitterstream gets filled up for hours (or days or weeks) by a topic they’re not interested in. There’s programs like Proxlet that let you mute users or block hashtags.

(There are some sites that are aggregators that I follow simply because they are set up as such, like Food News Journal, which are curating sites. A few people I follow often point out great sites and posts, but they don’t do it as a rule and is a adjunct to their regular comings and goings.)

Some bloggers set up a separate Twitter stream for their site updates because more and more people are using Twitter like an RSS feeder and they want to keep their regular Twitter stream open for everyday conversations. So if you’re running a special event, you might want to just set up a special Twitter stream for that so folks can join up and follow along there. I have just one stream, but denote when I update my blog as [newblogentry] before the Tweet. And I only post that once.

Who do I follow, and why? I think people that say something funny or interesting, or helpful. In my Twitterstream, there’s people in my line of work—cookbook authors, chefs, and folks in Paris, as well as food bloggers and a few food companies. Justin Timberlake is in there too, as is Andrew Zimmern. And Paris city hall is in that list, although how they have time to Twitter but can’t answer a simple question over the phone is beyond me.

Who don’t I follow, and why? Those who are just retweeting other people’s tweets all day long. People who link to old posts on their site constantly. People who pick on other people.

Not everyone is going to ‘Like’ you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter and you’re not expected to like or follow everyone. Be cool with that. Follow people you want to follow and don’t worry about gaining or losing followers. Look, no one loves Andrew Zimmern more than me (and don’t even get me started on that Timberlake guy), but if they don’t follow me, the world will make another full turn tomorrow, and the next day and the next. If it doesn’t, we’re all got greater problems to worry about than if someone isn’t following you. The number of followers you have doesn’t really mean anything and some people follow anyone and everyone, and others don’t.

And the tribe has spoken about sending out tweets thanking people for following them; they’re not only not effective, but a majority of people find them unwelcome and automatically unfollow those people.

Don’t say things you wouldn’t say to someone in person. I’m constantly surprised at the things people say online to others. Or things I read in my Twitter or Facebook stream about others. I recently saw some comments on Facebook about a friend and former employer which were snarky and impolite and it just wasn’t very nice to read to see them. Bottom line: No one likes to read bad things about their friends, especially coming from other friends.

Like in comments, it’s fine to disagree, but I always wonder how some people behave in real life with family, friends, and co-workers. (I sometimes get a pass because I’ve worked with some wacky co-workers who would be surprised at nothing. And I encourage people not to follow me on Twitter, or to hold their peace.) As noted having worked in restaurant kitchens, there is nothing that shocks or surprises me anymore, and I’ve been called, and have called others, every name in the book. I’ve had people expose themselves to me, I’ve seen rampant drug use, and I’ve witnessed and experienced more harassment than Gloria Allred ever dreamed possible. I was that crazy person that threw frying pans at other cooks. Plus I live in France and have to deal with fonctionnaires at city hall. And I’d love to see anyone who think they’re so tough have to go and face one of those bureaucrats.

But now that I’m grown up and joined the “real world” (ie: one where insane people like me aren’t allowed to interact with others without supervision), it can be hard to not be snarky at times. However do resist the instinct to send off a nasty tweet or comment; even if you think it’s in jest, it may not be taken that way. So think before you act. Or if you’re the impulsive type, send an apology afterward, which is always appreciated. It’s really not that hard. I do it all the time.

People are busy or messaging on-the-go so you won’t always get a response if you write them a message. Like blogging, just be friendly, write something interesting that folks will want to read, and share things that are going on in your day-to-day life. Then hit the button to send it out. Because I’m busy, and work at home, I often pop into various social media outlets to check in with others, but sometimes stay in the sidelines. To keep my sanity, from the start, I’ve adopted what I call an “Exit Only” strategy of just doing what I can. Not everyone is comfortable with that and it’s hard to manage others expectations. But in the end, you have to think of how to best manage your own life. There are some people that will always want more than one can give, but in the words of Miss Diana Ross, “…there ain’t nothin’ you can do about it.”

We Americans are always trained to say “yes” and in France, the answer is often “non“, so I’m working on making that transition. Blogging (and social media) are a lot of “giving” and it’s great to give, and it’s great to get. However your ultimate responsibility is to yourself, so participate in whatever level works right for you and find the balance between the two.

In the end, social networking is not about numbers or collecting followers; it’s about communicating with others. I’m sure many of us have experienced the joys of overhearing someone’s cell phone chat so be wary of carrying on lengthy private conversations in a public forum unless you’re certain it’s going to be of interest to more than just the two of you. (I use the direct message feature on Twitter a lot.) Re-tweeting is fine but do make sure you contribute tweets about yourself as well. I follow people because I am interested in them and what they have to say.

It all comes down to balancing it all and finding out what works right for you, how you want to be perceived, and how you connect with others. No one can be all things to all people, but this big mix of us all is so exciting and I’m interested where we’re all going next.


A few other points:

-Let posts rest. I took a while with this one because I knew some of the points might raise eyebrows and wanted to explain things better. A few folks who were at my talk at Food Blog Camp recently told me that that advice was something they realized a few weeks later was really helpful to them, to let things brew. Most writers go back and edit, correct, explain, or delete.

-Consider adding metric conversions to your site. A majority of the world does not measure with cups and tablespoons and it’s nice to invite them to your site and to use your recipes.

-Don’t take content, including recipes and pictures, from other food blogs or media without asking for permission. Material online is copyrighted, just like books and printed media. Do not copy people’s posts or recipes word-for-word and the Geneva Act and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works extend internationally. Check out an article I wrote about Attribution for some guidelines when and how you should attribute recipes. Online images are protected as well and you can be substantially fined for using them.

If someone sends you a message about a post that you’ve written using their material without their consent, don’t take it as a personal affront or respond negatively, but take the time to rewrite or modify your post and send them an apology. People are simply protecting the hard work they’ve done creating recipes, photographs, and content.

-Do not take content, including recipes and pictures, for other food blogs without asking for permission. (Just in case some didn’t get it..)

-Don’t beat yourself up, or let anyone beat you up, for making some goofs. Yes, you’re going to upload a picture that isn’t perfect, get snarky, bungle some grammar, or publish a post with a typo. But we’re not curing cancer or sorting out the situation in the Middle East, we’re making pie and cookies. Sometimes it’s helpful just to relax, take a deep breath, and realize that it’s just about food and has no greater meaning than just that.

-Be a part of the community and link out. Food blogs are like antique stores and we thrive when we’re together.

-Post once a day. Or once a week. Or once a year. Gripe about something, or be angelic in your praise. Write in incomplete sentences, or go over your copy twenty times before posting it. Buy the best camera you can afford, or draw scribbles of your food, then scan and upload them. There’s no fixed rules, and even if there were, there’s none that apply to everyone and the medium changes so fast, what works today may be passé tomorrow.


After the most recent Food Blog Camp, I was excited when nearly every blogger who attended went home and made substantial changes to their sites, and they all look great. Some added logos, cleaned up their designs or theme, upgraded their photography gear, or started writing posts with a purpose.

The final day of the camp, I asked leaders; Matt Armendariz, Todd Porter & Diane Cu, Elise Bauer, Jaden Hair, and myself, some blitz-style questions reflecting on food blogging. Here are the responses:

Q: What was the single most important thing that you did to ‘dial up’ your blog?

Elise: Getting a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera.

Matt: Posting regularly.

Todd & Diane: Deciding to focus on storytelling. And to do what we wanted to do.

Jaden: Getting my own URL (moving from steamykitchen.worpress.com to www.steamykitchen.com) and having a professional logo designed.

Q: What was the turning point of your blog, when it became satisfying and you were happy with it?

Matt: When I realized I had met a lot of amazing people.

David: When my site was professionally redesigned a few years ago.

Q: What do you wish you could do better with your blog?

Matt: I wish I could understand the technical aspects better.

David: I wish I caught all the typos.

Elise: I find the challenge of telling the story and writing hard.

Todd and Diane: We wish we had more time to visit more blogs.

Jaden: I wish video and photos editing were more fun.

Q: What advice, in one word or sentence, would you give to people to improve their blogs?

Matt: Be yourself.

David: Find a niche, and try to fill it.

Elise: Be generous.

Jaden: Know what you stand for professionally and personally.

Todd and Diane: Put up your best content.


These are some posts that I’ve found that offer particularly excellent advice about blogging and social media. At the end, I’ve listed some resourceful sites for networking and learning more about food blogging:

An Open Letter to Marketers Who Abuse Social Media for Selfish Gain (Kissmetrics)

13 Steps for Establishing a Popular Writing Blog (Anne R. Allen)

Food Blogger David Lebovitz Interview (Dianne Jacob)

10 Mindful Ways to Use Social Media (Tricycle)

How to Manage Expectations with Your Blog Readers (Problogger)

Ten Things I Learned About Food Photography (The Pioneer Woman)

How to Handle Criticism (The Positivity Blog)

Massive Fail: The Anti-Social World of Social Media (The Punch)

The Do’s and Don’ts of Marketing to Bloggers (Elise Bauer)

My Food Photography Tips and Gear

Advertising 101 for Bloggers (Design*Sponge)

Ten Rules for Foodblogging (The Amateur Gourmet)

Foodblogging—Do’s and Don’ts (Delicious Days)

Copyblogger.com

Problogger.net

Will Write for Food

Food Blogger Camp

FoodBlogAlliance.com

FoodBlogForum.com

BlogTyrant.com

255 comments

  • i don’t have an intelligent comment to add but just wanted to let you know that i spent a good minute laughing my head off about the “drool” comment – so much so that i was crying while trying to read that paragraph out loud to my husband so he didn’t think i was a complete crazy person!

    thank you for this post and for the good chuckle. have a great weekend!

  • “Tag clouds are the mullets of the Internet.” LOL. Even if this wasn’t as informative as it is, that one line would have been worth the read. Great advice here, David. Thanks for the list of links at the end, too.

    One thing I’ve found that helps me in my own blogging is that I realized I had different “voices,” and routinely employ a different one (or maybe a careful mix of them), depending on what a post calls for. There’s the grumpy “get off my lawn” Adam, the goofy me, the erudite Adam (well, at least as much erudition as I can summon), and the plain ol’ Kansas boy “aw shucks” Adam. They’re all “me,” just different facets that I can amp up to bring home a point. It’s fun to put on the different hats and write in whatever voice is called for.

    Anyway, blah blah blah. Again, great post, sir!

  • David there is a reason why you are successful – you tell it like it is. You say it passionately and with conviction and yet you are not afraid to to be humbled. Your humor is uplifting. I laugh at all of your tweets (please never say anything depressing ’cause I will cry.)
    Still not gonna change my blog name – but I do agree it could be a heck of a lot more feisty. Hopefully I make up for that in cool pictures, fun recipes and pretty decent writing. Perhaps one day my blog name will be simply “Marla Meridith” ;) Maybe I need a few books under my belt for that.
    No more exclamation points over here. I mean really, I am not that funny.
    Thanks for taking the time to write this post. You really did capture the discussion at Food Blog Camp. I’ve been having a ball updating my blog and doing the job I love the most. xo

    • Hi Marla: Everyone, I think, has something to say. A lot of the stuff I talk about here (and at FBCamp) was stuff that I found clicked for me. You, and everyone is, are different and write about other things from another perspective. I do think nowadays with hundreds of thousands of food blogs, if people want more visibility, it’s helpful to find something about them that differentiates them from the pack. Like you have done, being so feisty and all…
      ; ) xx

  • I’m so glad I found this post! (Followed over from a tweet by Serious Eats.) Thank you so much for putting this wealth of information together into one place. I’m a big fan of yours (your ice cream book is THE bomb), and I appreciate and completely agree with your approach to blogging.

    P.S. I hope you eventually got that suit.

  • I am so sorry that I missed Food Blogger Camp, but am happy to have caught up on your thoughts here. This is incredibly helpful and I actually just went through some of this transformation over the last few months. I just had my site redesigned. Maybe I knew what you were going to say (I would used the exclamation mark here, but now I won’t).

    I have decided to do what I love the most and have fun with it. It is not always the quick recipes that are very popular and many of my posts take hours and days to write, but it’s what I love doing. I do think readers come as you find your niche and you quit worrying about your SEO and stats. I have already seen the difference.

    I hope I get to meet you next year at camp or are you coming to Atlanta for BHF? Thank you for this great, informative and heartfelt post.

    Gwen

  • Yay, blog Titles! My life is instantly improved! Love your writings! Only just skimmed this one, looking forward to reading in depth tomorrow.

  • David, Love your blog and lol many times while reading it. Would you suggest an equally informative and fun Italian blog? l
    Looking forward to Paris in the fall as well as Italy……..
    Suzan

  • David Lebovitz! You just made me turn off the Jersey Shore for 15 minutes while I read your amazing post. So there you go — you’re way hotter, more juiced and far more buff then the entire Jersey Shore cast. When you getting your own show?

    And thank you for getting me to turn off that damn show.

  • Thank you so much David. Here I sit at my computer and I am reading your entry with a pad and paper, making notes. I feel invigorated after reading it. You have covered so many points that are really valuable, which hopefully will steer me in the direction I wish to head as a blogger, so again, thank you. x

  • I am SO glad I junked the tag cloud. I thought it was a strange thing to have floating about on the side, and it annoyed my sensibilities – too much junk in one space. I’m glad to know I wasn’t alone. ::snicker:: (mullets). Thanks for sharing this.

    • Hi Lisa: I think folks should just look at their sites and sidebars and see if what’s in there is useful or not. I’ve never once clicked on a tag cloud on a blog and I’m not all that interested in where other readers are coming from. But if those are things that are important to bloggers or they find that information useful, they should certainly keep them. Maybe I should have kept that weather icon, but I kind of realized that what the weather is elsewhere isn’t all that exciting to me, as a reader.

  • I feel like I went to camp! And I always felt deprived because I never did go to camp – so you filled that niche and I can move on with my life. I appreciate so much the nod to forget about SEO’s and not play the numbers game. I am also appreciative of the reminder (note to self) to be more succinct … be more succinct. And while “yummy” is not in my vocabulary, musings is. I managed to forgive myself for typos on comments and vow to do better. I think I just went into blog therapy and in this case the results were so much more than the costs. (I received a lot more than I paid for). Many thanks for an in-depth, well-thought-out post that I will refer to again and again. I know. I should have been more succinct.

  • Having just spent the last week having a post I really wanted to “get right” edited by an art critic friend, it is so refreshing to hear these words again, David! I know I’ve made huge strides since FBC, so thank you for sharing again your wisdom and experience with the newbies among us. You are welcome to couchsurf with me in NYC any time!

  • You’ve thrown frying pans? How is your aim?

  • David, I enjoy your writings about food and your life. This particular blog is amazing. The effort and your passion to compose such point to your skill to contemplate with focus, organize your thoughts and compose from both your heart and mind. I do not blog, but my writing has been published through features and columns in newspapers, magazines and books. I have been do so for thirty years. I follow few blogs, but as long as you continue to write I will read with relish. Thank you.

  • David, this was a joy to read (I still have a way to go but need more time to digest the contents) I was born 40-50 years too early to really be “hip” about the internet and will never, ever even make an attempt at blogging but I read as many as I come across – most of them entertaining, some not so but I give credit to all bloggers for what they do and the information I receive. And yours is one of the greatest. Many thanks.

  • This is a fabulous post, and what resonated with me most was letting a post sit for a bit—I do this all the time now and I think that I produce much better work as a result. This is thoughtful advice for any blogger (regardless if newbie or old-timer) because we should always be challenging ourselves to stay fresh, though not necessarily “on-trend” but keeping our eyes and hearts open to things, if that makes sense.

    I will admit that you always intimidated me with your gorgeous photography and your incredible writing prowess that puts me to shame…but also makes me want to push myself harder as a result, and I should follow you because reading great writing makes me a better writer (if that jumble makes sense). To put it simply: this post has made you much more accessible to us lowly blogger folk (speaking for myself only) and I’ll be around to say hello much more often than I might have before I read it.

  • Do you realize how hard it is to read this entire post when you are in bed with the flu and your Blackberry is the only link to civilization?Not easy, but I got so entangled I had to keep going. I have just finished reading one of the hot books on creating a blog. Your post had much more pertinent information for creative people who really don’t want to be consumed with being #1 on google. Thanks for sharing and that apple pie a few months back was a keeper! (Exclamation mark intended)
    Barbara

  • Awww, why did cupcakes have to get mentioned? I had to stop reading lest I also see Red Velvet Cake. I spend my work life with a couple hundred people who think these are the best two things since sliced bread.
    Is there a way to exclude certain terms in a search? The cupcake people make my skin crawl.

    • Hi JW: I think these things go in waves-cupcakes, macarons, no-knead bread, bacon, etc…and you just have to ride them out and they’ll soon settle back into their rightful place as part of our cooking repertoire rather than obsessions. Maybe because I don’t live in the states, I still don’t mind a good cupcake every once in a while. But like the macaron thing simmered down, I suspect cupcakes will at some point as well. At least I hope so…for the sake of your skin!

  • David, Thank you for this wonderful post. I with all the other people out there appreciate your thoughts and efforts in your blogging. Plus your willingness to share with us alot of secrets. Thank you again, Now I’m off to work on working on my blog cleaning it up etc. Thank you again,

    Michael’s Kitchen

  • David, I went to the sites you recommended as being good blog layouts, easy to read. In the first one, Sprouted Kitchen, the printing was so dim gray as to be very difficult to read. I would not add this to my list. Another, Zen Can Cook, was even worse–dim white print on a black background. When will people realize how hard it is to read light print on a dark background on a computer?

    I would suggest computer readability as up there near the top in requirements. People won’t read a blog that’s tiring to the eyes. Edgy is not good if people can’t read it.

  • Wow! My time is limited and precious (mom of 4 ;) but I read this twice. Not only because of the genuine good advice and the obvious time and thought that went into it, but for the honesty, humor and wonderful flow of words.
    Thank you so much for reminding me why I started blogging in the first place David.
    Most sincerely,
    G

  • Great post David. I too like to set things aside for awhile. Helps with finding those pesky typos and, to be honest, I think my subconscious writes better than my conscious. Especially true when I’ve had that extra martini – always a fog lifter.

    I will say that I’ve made some on-line friends by thanking them for following my tweets. But, I always look over their stream before I comment and I try to keep it light, friendly, and flattering. If I flatter someone for their 140 character panache, they seem less likely to “unfollow” me! (there’s my one exclamation point;)

    What drives me nuts is the guy who tweets my post updates before my own twitter stream posts them. I’d love to know how he does that. I use tweetfeed but he beats me every time. I grind my teeth over that one.

    • Hi Nan: I don’t know how those re-tweet tweetfeeders work but they sure are fast. I did come across once a way to block programs that re-tweet content with the “The _________ Daily is Out!”, but am not sure where I saw it. Some people find them irksome but I don’t mind them.

      I would say that rather than thanking people for following you, you tweet them something to let them know that you noticed them. Even as “Wow, I never knew cauliflower and white chocolate stew could look so good!” (if you saw that on their site) would work. As I mentioned, there are a bunch of people I’d like to follow but I don’t because I don’t want them to be upset if I decide to unfollow them in the future. Which I think is too bad, but so be it.

  • Your writing is so well done that even this entry on blogging gave me warm and fuzzy feelings.

  • This entry gave me warm and fuzzy feelings too! This is why you’ll always be the best food blogger out there.

    Thanks for the link, David!

  • In case you are checking your blog stats, I stayed far longer than two minutes. I read every word of this insightful, helpful post.

  • Well that was an amazing amount of work. Thank you. I’m re-motivated. Lately I’ve been thinking that Twitter has become the new blogging and seriously wondering whether or not I should keep blogging. Yes, I should.

    • Hi Sam: Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook have certainly replaced some of what blogs used to do by making it easier to post short thoughts and ideas. But for those interested in sharing more comprehensive content, blogging is still the way to go. The downside is that it takes more time and effort, but you’re building something more stable and sustainable with a blog.

  • I know for sure that I use way too many exclamation points! :) (I also use too many smiley faces; I’m compelled.) Thanks for all the useful information. I need all the help I can get. I feel a bit overwhelmed, but I ‘ll start by cleaning up my blog. Thanks again. I actually have your chocolate bread recipe printed out, and I’m going to try it this weekend. Can’t wait!

  • Thanks for this post! I think this is useful even to those who just want to be good, readable and interesting writers.

  • David,

    I want to thank you for writing this blog. I got so emotional and inspirational while reading this quite lengthy post (and I absorbed every word of it), that I could not get myself writing a comment immediately. This post needs much more than a comment and I am going to respond to it on my blog. I think it should be a mandatory read by anyone interested to start a blog, just started one or simply any blogger.

    I wish you could be cloned, because we need more of you. Someone that is willing to teach and guide others (that actually can become your competitors) with such honesty is as rare as an honest politician; and should be nurtured.

    Thanks again for this post; I have saved it already in a safe place.

    Georgette

    • Hi Georgette: I’ve actually been quite inspired by Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes, who frequently shares her amazing knowledge with others, in the spirit of ‘If we all raise the bar together, it helps everyone out.’ I want everyone to have a great blog and be happy with it, and it sometimes is sad when people fret over their blog or say “I don’t have anything to say.” I don’t want to discourage anyone from blogging but it can be quite a commitment of time (and sometimes money) and since very few people are blogging as their full-time jobs to support a family or whatever, people need to find the fun in doing it. Sometimes it’s good to take a deep breath, relax, then revisit your blog and find out why you are blogging and what you are looking to get out of it. (Whether it be sharing recipes, ranting, writing about your kids meals, etc…) Then put that plan into action.

  • Amazing post. Thanks for the mention. Really appreciate it.

    Required reading for all new bloggers.

    Tyrant

  • Your blog is fantastic David. I haven’t been by in a while and I miss it. I could read your blog for days. Thanks for the tips – they are much needed. My blog is still blooming!

  • love your positive spirit in addition to your blog. and here’s to hoping to see you in sf soon!!!!

  • David, I wish this post had been posted 2years ago when I first started getting into blogging! This is precious! I am going to keep this and reread it….

  • Wow, I am impressed with your latest post, thank you very much. You manage to come across your blog like Nurejev at his best! (Sorry for the exclamation mark)

    Fairly new at blogging and after having studied so many different blogs your essay on food blogging is the synthesis of it all.

    Love your biting sense of humour and your description of cultural differences, and, please, get yourself that Yves Saint-Laurent black suit.

  • Thank you, David, for the great advice and reality check. I hope to make some tweaks to my blog soon.
    One technical question: I enjoy reading your Twitter feed from your website, but in the last week or so, when I click on an entry, Twitter tells me that page doesn’t exist. Is this my fault for not having a Twitter account, or a small bug?
    And I read your French sugar post thoroughly and with interest. If you had been there 20-odd years ago when I first tried to bake in Europe, you could have saved me a lot of disasters :-). Thanks for all you do for your readers.

  • We keep rooting for our buddy Hank Shaw to win a James Beard; he has been a finalist twice and should be again this year. Here’s hoping he’ll be summoned to NYC this May–and this time have a medal to set off TSA alarms on his flight back to Sacto!

  • Gosh, I never usually read long blogs but I was riveted to this. I think I break all the “rules” so I need to do some soul searching about why I am blogging. I think I started a blog as a place to show my photos and then add text so perhaps I should just have a picture blog. Thank you for the excellent pointers – I am off to remove some (!) marks….

  • Searching for an appropriate adjective to describe your very funny and informative post. Got to say David, sometimes I just dream of hopping the channel and spending days in Paris on the look out for you. Don’t worry, I’m not a crazy stalker, but if I was you would definately be on my list. I love your posts, they really make me laugh. My children just popped their heads round the corner to have a look at why mummy was crying. Crying with laughter, a new concept for them.

  • Just a note that this non-”food blogger” loved this post. I think ANY blogger can take away a lot of value from this incredible “how-to” piece. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve clicked away from a blog because it was personality-less or used small, blurry, dark photographs to illustrate its points.

    Heartfelt thanks from an old fan and a very new blogger.

  • I don’t know if someone has already mentioned this above so forgive me for repeating, if this is the case. (I didn’t read all the comments above.)

    Your topics certainly apply across the board, not just for food blogs. I love what you posted today and I thank you for sharing!

  • hi David

    I think ultimately it’s personal why people come back to your blog.

    You can make as many changes as you think but if someone doesn’t feel a connection with the blogger in some way, be it liking the personality that comes across or loving their style of food they won’t be a regular visitor, if a visitor at all.

    Yes, I feel the same about busy blogs or blogs I can’t find my way around their recipes which is why I like mine simple and clean but that’s not enough.

    There are slick blogs out there which don’t appeal for whatever other reason…and equally others will feel the same about mine.

    Liking a food blog is like buying clothes some suit you some don’t.

    For this reason it’s important to blog about what you’re passionate about, not to be following others because they appear to have it sorted. I think that will come through on the screen.

    I started blogging for a different reason that I now carry on doing it for…spending all of my spare time on it.

    I never thought my blog would take me on the journey it has. It has forced me to learn about things I never thought about before with food, why things go wrong, what works, what doesn’t, and sharing that experience of learning.

    It has pushed me to become a sourdough baker, learning to make my own style of no-knead bread for my allergy daughter, understand why durum wheat acts differently from bread flour, what liquid glucose does to your frozen desserts and ice-creams.

    None of this I think I would have bothered to learn about had I not been blogging.

    And yes you go through a short phase of blogging fatigue now and again but you soon get the bug back when you find something that excites you.

    There are different things you can do to make your blog better but as you’ve mentioned David in the beginning of your post, there are blogs who will brake the rules and are very successful.

    It should be fun. I think there will some other bloggers out there who feel like me, that your blog is never good enough….it’s always work-in-progress…

  • Like an angel!

    I am (at this very moment) working out launching a blog for our design business and am particularly happy to get this post. I love your site (it has been a great companion in my own journey in moving from San Francisco to Paris, from restaurants to the ‘real’ world, in keeping food adventures fresh). Your perspectives go beyond food writing – they have big value for anyone looking for their www voice …

    Cheers

  • Thank you for such an informative and detailed post. I have bookmarked it and will share it.

    Regarding comment spam, I use a plugin called NoSpamNX which cut my spam comments to virtually nil without the use of CAPTCHAs. I wrote about the results on our site:

    http://www.houseofannie.com/defeating-comment-spam-bots/

    • Hi Nate: Thanks for the plug-in info. It was disconcerting to find that Akismet had put a few legitimate comments into my spam folder, and with over 3000 spam messages in there a day, I couldn’t go through them and pluck the real ones out. But it made me feel bad that people took the time to comment and their thoughts didn’t get published.

      Since I disabled comments on older posts recently, there’s only a pageful of spam comments in there now and any real comments I can quickly approve. But that plug-in sounds like a good idea and am glad it’s working well. The spam comments have really gotten out of control, and it’s so pesky to have to deal with them.

  • THANK YOU David!
    An amazing post that has taken up most of the morning to read – I’ve already made some changes and now have a to-do list to take up the rest of the day.
    YOU ROCK!!!

  • David; this is so amazing … thank you – although I had to stop reading at point 4 because i was exhausted by the wealth of info and my head started to throb because I was nodding so intensely…
    Shall read the rest later but boy, you’re not only a gifted cook, a talented photographer but you can write too in an intelligent, informative and concise style; you are definitely what I call an attractive man, you rock indeed :)
    My so far best loved quote is
    “I try to leave out the parts that people skip.” -Elmore Leonard – my new credo! (oh szut alors, un point d’exclamation…)

  • Best way to start a morning- sipping coffee at sunrise on the veranda on Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman whilst reading this post. Thank you.

    I recently realized that I had- somewhat unknowingly- chosen davidlebovitz.com as my mentor. I started blogging to demystify and teach what happens in my kitchen to other parents. As a mother of 4 little kids who just upended her life for the fourth time in 10 years to move yet again- this time to NY- I have little time to read other’s blogs. However, a new post from David can mean that mommy has to walk shamefully into the principal’s office grousing about “traffic on the Hutch Parkway” because her kids were the last to be picked up from school.

    I read because of your confidence. You know what you want to write about. You’re delighted by your subject. Your photography is gorgeous and doesn’t try to replicate someone else’s style. Importantly, you’re not trying to drive traffic with some stupid giveaway. Gag.

    Missed Food Blogger camp this year because of the move but have forewarned the family that I’ll be bailing on them next January…

  • Ok I did NOT make my comment first (just not quick enough), I am thinking about all the FF tweets (but they ARE good people to follow), looking now at my sidebar through the lens of ‘are these tsotchkes or mission critical’. I can’t imagine my 158th comment on your blog will be that unique but had to thank you for the meat of this article. For those of us watching misty eyed as you all enjoyed margaritas by the pool, sifting all possible locations for some conference crumbs, this article was a huge gift. You provide such great guidance, food for thought/reflection/re-engineering and solid resources for those of us studying our craft at home and not at conferences. It’s always great to have other eyes and perspective though I also appreciate your reminder to be true to oneself, one’s voice, one’s point of view and that we are not practicing brain surgery (let’s enjoy and not take ourselves too seriously). Thanks for all of this! (Now did I get all the spelling correct and punctuation marks in place….)

  • Thank you. Thank you for providing the content that makes me question why I blog.

    I have now read this twice and plan on reading it a third time. I plan on clicking on each and every link that you have provided because I devour great content(and because if you say it is worth it, I believe you). These are the exact questions that swirl around in my head when ever I am in a room(i.e. blogher food or food blog camp) with speakers like yourself. When you or Elise speak, these are the notes that I want to write down, but fail to do so. In the past 6 months (since I attented my first conference; BHF), I have questioned, a lot, what I want to achieve by writing this little blog. I have struggled with trying to keep up with the SEO, the ad networks(of which I have none), the desire to get oodles of comments and it wasn’t until Food Blog Camp that I realized that I don’t really need for the blog to be my next big career(because I have had 2 really, really big careers). What my blog is, is my journey; my journey with food told via my experiences with my children, family, and friends. And I say to myself, isnt’ that enough? I think so!

    At times I feel as thought the only people reading it are my best friend and her mother. But then when I am stopped at the front of my child’s school and 10 people stop me to say, “I loved your post today”, or “I love the way you write” or “you make me want to be a better cook”, it is here that I feel I have acoomplished something. I have become a better writer, a better photographer, and I have found a place to share all of these passions, including food, cooking, and celebrating.

    So, for me, I feel if I continue to follow my passion, do what I love, and do it solely for me, all the other stuff may(or may not come); the ads, the recognition, the “fame”. But if it doesn’t, I am a-okay. And the bonus in doing this just for me, is that I get to meet intelligent, witty, and interesting people like you, Elise, Matt, and several other wonderful people whom span the globe. And that may be just enough for me to keep on doing what I look forward to do each day. So, again, I say thank you. Thank you for always writing something that resonates within me, thank you for always “tweeting” humorous tweets, that always make me “lol”, thank you for beings so incredibly honest, and lastly, thank you for creating the best butterscotch pecan ice cream recipe known to mankind!

  • David ,You are so generous,sharing all your knowledge of everything what you know,thank you so much. You are a person who shines! ;)

  • David,
    So a little over a year ago I found myself unemployed after working for a retail food company 29 days shy of my five year anniversary with the company. In my online search for another job I stumbled upon your food blog. It entertained, informed, and inspired me. I liked it and kept coming back. Now I’m employed at a better paying, much more fulfilling, purposeful job and I have grown to LOVE your blog.
    Keep doing what you are doing. You do an amazing job at doing what you obviously love. Thanks for taking the time to “give”.

  • Hello David:

    Thank you for a most enlightening post. We are still trying to figure out the world of food blogging and your work and guidelines are most helpful. I certainly will be digesting this for awhile. Oddly enough I was just told that “long” blog posts are never read and that I should try to be under 500 words. Your work certainly proves that wrong. Not only have I read the post and will pass it on. It is one that I plan to book mark and refer to again and again.

    I must admit to still being confused about #FF. I often feel that I should thank the fantastic people who mentioned me; however, I too find it annoying to see a lot of #ff’s. It just seems polite. I must confess that I did it this week but not the last three. I’m also confused as to whether to comment back on comments on my post or comment on the blog of the person who wrote them. If the “commentator” doesn’t click that they wish to see follow up posts how will they ever know? What do most people do? I try to only comment when I have something to say. As has been mentioned before, “looks delicious” should be excised from the comment stream.

    Thank you for all of your great tips.
    Cordially,

    Lael Hazan

  • Merci beaucoup David for this well written and well thought out post.

    You’ve reminded me of many of the things I’ve learned from belonging to writer’s groups and participating in critique sessions. I was so inspired that I went over my next post with a fine tooth comb and cut out all of the unnecessary chatter and clutter.
    Sam

  • Hysterical laughter overcame hubby and me when I checked my personal profile on Facebook and found that over 5,600 people had “liked” my self-employment page in my profile. There is no information there. That’s what was so funny.

  • Thank you David for this post! I feel like I went to a food bloggers camp/school/convention after reading this…:)) great, sooo helpful post!

  • Thank you, David, for generously offering these invaluable guidelines. I have been a cooking instructor for three years, but I am brand new to the web. I have never hesitated to give other people advice about how to get started in teaching, but I am surprised at how many competitive people there are who won’t reciprocate. Thank you for reinforcing the idea that blogging is about sharing and community.

  • Thank you so much for this post. I contemplated starting a blog, one of the requirements for participating in the cook-along, Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan. I didn’t do it because I realize I like to cook but don’t want to take a bunch of pictures and spend lots of time writing, editing, posting, etc. I just want to cook.
    Reading your post about blogging confirms my reluctance to start yet another mediocre blog. It also helps me be a good blog-reader and commenter. What you say should be required reading for anyone who wants to publish on the WWW, not just food writers.
    You are so generous with your knowledge and such a high-energy communicator, I always look forward to your blog and have enjoyed making many of your recipes.

  • I thoroughly enjoyed reading your thoughtful, concise and extremely useful post on food blogging. Food is the driving force of my life and occupies my mind an inordinate amount of my time every day. What I struggle with is putting what I want to say about my life with food into words. Too frequently the blog posts I’ve conceived in my head get abandoned due to writers block (no, not writer block….I’m not a writer, alas).
    You mentioned the “Will Write for Food” blog. I purchased Dianne Jacob’s excellent book with the same title and highly recommend it to anyone doing any kind of food writing.

  • Addendum: Anyone who happens to read this (and my preceding comment) who knows how to make my name link to my blog is kindly requested to email me with the answer. I see this has been accomplished by a number of others who have left comments.

  • Thank you so much David for sharing all this information with your readers! I think the most important thing is to get started and to start sharing our life and experiences. At the beginning it will never be perfect…but it’s important to start and to learn by doing. I also think it’s very important what you said about not wasting our time thinking about SEO. I am the one who first gets annoyed when I read content written for SEO. However, my question is….when your blog is pretty new and you have very few links back …..how do you avoid getting frustrated when your blog does not show up at all in search engine results, after all the time you spent trying to write good content and taking pictures?

  • Aloha David,
    So much content-thank you for your effort and selflessness. I feel like I just got a free enrollment for a semester at Blogger University. The somewhat freaky coincidence-although I didn’t delete my cloud, just this morning I went through and eliminated all but 10 or so key categories. It looks much better. I happen to be someone who does click on them on other blogs.

    I’ll be making a “to do” list from your post.

    BTW-Wendy-on your second post, clicking on your name takes me to a Nov 2010 post on “Flavor of Italy”. Whatever link/url you type in the “website” box in comment sections is where readers will be directed if they click.

  • This is such a helpful post – thank you. I’ll surely read and re-read it many times over.

  • David–Thank you so much for this post! I will refer to this again and again. And especially thank you for your kind words about my camp story–and for linking to it. Made my day so much brighter! :)

  • What a generous gift of time and energy. Thank you . I read it printed it out and saved it.

  • The BEST summary of food blogging i have seen to date! Thank you for taking the time to put this inot a post! The question is where do i go from here. . .so many things i should/could change, any advice? It’s hard to balance regular full time life with job and life and have a food blog during your spare time. What should one prioritize? Lots of thinking to do.

  • Thank You, Thank You, Thank You for spending so much time to writing this and for sharing your knowledge/opinions/experiences/humor.

  • wow thanks so much for this post, its so kind of you to take the time and share your thoughts I agree with all of it really this is a gift to the blogging community

    enjoy the rest of your weekend

    Rebecc

  • A great post that seems to require quiet time on the sofa. Much food for thought here and it makes me think about choices I have made for my blog. I confess that I notice the difference in quality of blog posts when I am stretched for time compared to when I have lots of head space to mull over posts – but I still want to write and to post recipes that interest me.

    I love your advice about finding something to say because when I go to posts that just have a recipe and a blurry photo I often walk away (or click away) because I know I can get much more elsewhere

  • I guess I need to spend a little time thinking about what I’m doing. I love to cook, and to share recipes. On the other hand, a $500 camera, or a dedicated server? I can’t afford a stockpot. Not that there’s room for it in my itsy little kitchen. Then again, I wouldn’t even consider going to a food blogging camp. I guess I’m stuck in total amateur mode. I’m okay with that.

    It shocks me that more bloggers don’t have half a million ideas stashed around just waiting to go out. I cook once or twice a day, and even given the repeats that happen in my kitchen (If I make one more peanut butter pudding my cholesterol is going to gain sentience) there are still a lot of recipes to go around.My cheap old camera doesn’t add more than a minute or two to cooking time, and writing it up is probably a better use of internet time than captioned cats.

    My main concern at the moment is to avoid becoming obsessed. I’m actually worried about spending a week with my family and no laptop because I’m going to miss it, even though I’ll still be cooking plenty. I’ll have to, since no one else in my family keeps kosher anymore. How does one keep from thinking more about the blog than the food it’s about?

    Thank you for all the advice, it certainly gives me a lot to keep in mind as I go forward. My photography definitely needs work.

  • Alright, alright, I will go purchase a better camera (or use this as a reason to upgrade my phone to a “smarter” one)! Half the time my lack of photog abilities stymie my ability to post. Since I walk the line between food & business it’s sometimes tough to figure out what’s going to make a compelling shot for a post. (What does go well with rant, btw?)

    David, thanks for downloading your thoughts on how you’ve grown and survived in the past years.

    @educatedpalates, you have a great blog – I always read the new posts when you tweet about them!

  • Juanita: Blogging can be a lot of work and effort, but there are things like Tumblr and even Facebook, which offer ways to share information without a big commitment of time and resources. The only drawback is at some point if you want to actually blog, or archive your information somewhere of your own (like on a server or whatever), it’s not that easy to move things around, from what I hear.

    A lot of bloggers start with Typepad and Blogger which are free and they’re very happy..for a while. Then they decide they want more control over their content and switching takes a bit more effort.

    Amber: Your story was a terrific example of how a food blog can break away from the “picture-story-recipe” format and still be a food blog, since it was food (or the food blog camp) that prompted your memories to surface and to share them.

    KosherCorvid: Luckily there’s plenty of ways of getting around spending any money, such as using a service like Blogger or Tumblr, although as I mentioned above, once you build something, it’s quite likely that later on, you might want to “own” all that stuff. (You can get space on a shared server for as little as $4.99/month, which gives you the option of moving it to a larger server later, if you want/need to.) Also when you don’t have the information stored somewhere yourself, you risk getting shut down, like Yahoo! recently did with MyBlogLog.com and Geocities, which were pretty popular back in their day.

    As for spending a lot on a camera, I just uploaded the app for the iPhone Instamatic and I’ve noticed a few bloggers, including a professional photographer (Penny De Los Santos), using that application on their sites. I think the pictures are fun and can be modified and given a certain feel, which can be just as effective (or more so) than “professional quality” photographs from a DSLR. Molly from Orangette also switched from digital to Polaroid-style photos very effectively.

    Lael: Follow Friday (#FF) I think initially was a good idea, but turned a bit into massive tweets and retweets. The Oatmeal did a pretty funny cartoon about it: How Follow Friday is SUPPOSED to work.

    I think it’s a bit like when food blogs were starting out, there were a lot of events and “memes” where folks passed around information and “tagged” each other. So word got out and people discovered new blogs. However when things feel like obligations or “homework”, interest wanes, which is when all those memes stopped.

    At this point, I think if you want to point people to a Twitterer you like, or whatever, it’s best just to tweet that anytime you see fit. Otherwise as that cartoon pointed out, the Twitterverse on Friday just looks like a lot of names and links and hashtags and the whole thing gets diluted. And am not sure it’s really effective and if it’s stressing people out to have to thank or retweet everything, it starts to sound more like that homework and an obligation rather than something you want to do.

    Also I think it’s hard to thank everyone, and people should just send out links (like folks do on their blogs) without expecting anything in return. I link out when I think that information will be useful or interesting to readers (like that link to The Oatmeal), not because I’m expecting him to write me back for linking to him.

    However I’d be interested in people saying something otherwise about #FF…

    Pamela: I think a lot of people with blogs are quite generous. Even Darren Rowse who has the blog Problogger, which is huge, freely gives a lot of valuable information out. He has another blog that makes a lot of money & even though I don’t know him at all, much of the stuff he shares is helpful. Now that the medium of blogging has grown, it’s much harder to stay on top of it all, but sites like Food Blog Alliance and Food Blog Forum (linked at the end of the post) are excellent resources to find and share information amongst experienced food bloggers and people just starting out.

    Susan: When I started writing cookbooks, I was surprised that it wasn’t more..um, lucrative. True, some people do well. But the majority of cookbooks sell reasonably well, but the renumeration usually isn’t equal to the amount of work that goes into it. So I always tell people (and others say this too), “You write a book because you have something to say.”

    Same with blogging. It’s pretty hard to jump into a crowded field and stand out. And it’s certainly possible, but first you have to love (or like) what you’re doing. And if it becomes successful—great. If not, well, at least you’re doing something you like to do.

    Amongst people who collect art and other collectibles, there’s an expression “Buy what you like”…because even if you think it might later be a good investment, sometimes you’re stuck with something that isn’t. But if you like it, that’s all that matters.

  • I was one of the lucky people to get this from the horse’s, I mean David’s, mouth at food blogger camp. It was great to read your points here again David and to realise that without even referring to my notes that I have remembered a lot of the key points you made in your seminar at FBC and that I have tried to implement them in my blog. You are a voice talking in the back of my head, reminding me how to do things the ‘right’ way. Its a strange and unknown path you tread when you first start a blog and you have helped me to find my way (is that a violin in the background?) Thank you.

  • Amen for “sitting” on a post until it is done. Amen for using different forms of social media in the right Context. Amen for usable content and smart titles. (It’s Sunday, so I guess it’s Amen time.)
    And thank you for such a thorough post. Looking forward to seeing you at next year’s Food Blogger Camp!

  • Perfect timing David. I had set aside the next few weeks to revamp my blog and have made some mental notes from your post for that process. I agree, blog because you love it or feel you have something to share. The friendships I’ve formed from blogging are ones I never would have been able to form. I also love that I push myself to learn more about the technical and creative parts of blogging and am often inspired by others (including you.) My Strunk and White and camera manual sit beside my laptop like a smart older sibling at the ready to inform.

    If we are lucky/smart, we will continue to learn, evolve and smile as we all connect.

    Thank you for this post, I will refer back often.

  • Thank you so much for this very detailed post, David. I’m going to take a print of this and read on my way to class tomorrow morning. It’s very thoughtful of you to have taken the time to put down your opinion and advice for all of us to learn from. Thank you.

  • Wow! You have a lot of good info here and I find myself with a post with some of your “don’ts”. I first posted it without then thought, well they want to know why I was missing I should acknowledge that…then changed it (don’t). Some of the “don’ts” are part of what I am or makes it a little more….me. I also have a lot of you “dos”. :D so that is good to know.

    I always break up my writing with photos and more smaller paragraphs, because I feel the same way about reading long stretches or oceans of words. I also don’t enjoy going to site that don’t have anything, but just the recipe. It might be the greatest recipe, but I won’t spend any time there and probably won’t return.

    I don’t consider myself a writer so it’s hard for me, but I do have a good sense of humor and hope people pick that up…or they just find me to be a doof! I am definitely doing it for fun and family and am completely myself. I want to thank you for all this info, I read all of it (I can’t believe I did that). This is my first visit and I will be back!

  • I blog for fun and absolutely love it. The last few months my day job has gotten very stressful, which in turn has made posting difficult. Photographing recipes and writing meaningful content takes so much time it is like having a second job (as everyone here knows). I recently decided to put the blog on hold to alleviate some pressure but now I feel like I’m missing an arm! Blog ideas keep popping into my head and then I think “Oh, right….I’m not blogging anymore”.

    This post is insightful and inspiring, especially the simple advice to write shorter posts if you don’t have the time. It’s an obvious solution but one I wasn’t considering because I had created my own standard of what I should and shouldn’t be doing that is ridiculous at this point in time. Hearing a fellow blogger say it’s okay makes a difference and I thank you for that. Also, thank you for your outstanding, hilarious tweets that make me laugh out loud in the middle of the day at my stressful job. It’s is true what they say – “Laughter is the best medicine”.

  • I found this link through Chow and Chatter. Thank you for all the great suggestions; this is a post I’ll come back to more than once. Your ideas about blog names were particularly interesting. Being both writer and baker, I thought mine was perfect, but having read your comments about ‘musings’ I’m not so sure! Thanks for all the advice.

  • This is such an insightful post. You are right everyone has its own style in blogging, but I feel that quite a few food bloggers have the mentality of following the style of the “big” blogs, which is not appropriate and does not reflect who they are. I see even some are “struggling” with their blog as if they are forced to blog like every 2-3 days.

    I see food blogging as something fun to do if I have some free time to spare. I considered myself as a very busy person as I work over 50 hours/week since I love my job as a physicist.

    My blogging style has been consistent since I started my blog in December 2008: teach viewers how to cook/bake with step-by-step pictures. I guess that’s how I get a solid fan based on my blog. I have been using a point-and-shoot camera since the beginning, and mostly I cook at night. I take pictures with a decent lighting about 3-4 lamps and then edit my pictures with Photoshop Lightroom. I’m pretty happy with my camera.

  • Saludos from Spain. Thanks for your very insightful comments about food blogging, so helpful for those of us who don’t get to camp.

    I blog for fun, yes, but mainly to keep a hand in, get me out there poking around in markets, tasting stuff, talking to food people around the country. I love that and the blog gives me an excuse to write about it. But, I sympathize with commenter, Cinzia, above, about the frustration of not generating readership or attracting links to the site. Is there some SEO that’s good?

  • Thanks, David! I’ve had a blog for 1 year and have just began more regular postings and I think I’ve found both my niche and my voice, and I love to write, as well as cook. I’ve already made a few changes to my site based on your suggestions and will spend some time implementing others. Thanks for being so generous, honest and funny. Looking forward to reading more of your posts and hopefully attending a boot camp someday.

  • Bloody good of you really to spend so much time ruminating on all that and then sharing it. Personally I don’t think of myself as a real blogger – what I have is, like it says on the tin, a sort of open diary whose only raison d’être is to keep family and friends scattered about the world more or less up to date with what’s going on in our lives over here in Ole Yurrup. Food comes into it a lot, but that’s because we love food, and it’s an important part of our lives.

    Maybe one of these days, if I ever get around to opening that gîte gastronomique somewhere down a bit further south-west from Savoie, that will change …

    Thanks for your time, the good advice, and your own clear, distinguishable and always interesting voice.

  • I just ditched my tag cloud – thanks for the suggestion. Your post was very helpful, and while I think my blog falls more or less within the (tasty) parameters you mention, I know there are still things for me to work on, which is precisely what makes blogging fun: the whole work-in-progress aspect of it. It’s a project that’s never ‘done’. I love that.

    Btw, glad I’m not a drooler; no afternoon pills and pudding for me (yet).

  • Hi David – your Gloria Allred comment cracked me up!

    I missed the Boot Camp but feel well informed now. I found many of your insights very useful. Thank you and best wishes for continued good luck with your terrific blog.
    Lori Lynn

  • I just found your blog because so many readers were coming over to my blog from this address. Thanks a bunch for the link!

    What a comprehensive post on food blogging! I’ve got it bookmarked. I write mostly for fiction writers, but food writing isn’t that different from other writing (except that you need more visuals–I’m not a big fan of lots of graphics and video for fiction writers. No need to slow or upstage your own content.)

    The most important thing is just what you said–it’s all about connecting with people. Great post.

  • I hope you got the suit, too. Keep us updated.

    I’m on the verge of shelling out the big bucks for my new food site. Site or shamefully $$$$ designer everyday handbag?

    Defense of purse: it would make people take me seriously–despite my occasional bad mommy fashion day. And, purse is also the soft/chalky/camel pink color that I use for my brand.

    If your site and it’s improvements helped you with business (or self-image), I’d love to know it.

    So much good information. You’re a star.

    Elizabeth

  • David, I was going to attend the Yucatan Camp. My husband gave me the green light. I just felt bad using up all this time and money to myself. We travel annually as a family to Mexico. After reading your post, I really regret it. It is bookmarked and it looks like I am on the right track with a few things, but need a lot of improvement in other areas. I keep cleaning up my blog, but somehow clutter collects so easily. It is like a home, just happens over night. My new camera was a great investment. I would never go back. But I would also recommend spending some money in good lighting for all the people that don’t have the opportunity to use day light. I cook in the evenings, so my alienbee strobe lights have done wonders! Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge.
    I enjoy your blog a lot and look forward to your posts.
    Greetings from Colorado.
    Kirsten

  • Hi David,

    Long-time reader, first-time commenter here. Thanks so much for this post! I started my own food blog just over a year ago, and I’m still trying to find my footing. Reading this inspired me to rethink how I write and what I want my blog to be (and also my use of “yummy” and “delicious” — though I’m not sure what it says about me that I use both quite often in regular conversations…)

    Thanks again,
    Ishita S.

  • Thank you for the wealth of information from your perspective and real life experience. I love how you don’t seem to take a hard and fast rule stance on some things that are hot buttons today including cupcakes and whether or not I can call a good one delicious! I take those directives pretty lightly and in response have come up with a couple of my own words…including my most popular which is yummlummadingdong.

    Kirsten from My Kitchen in the Rockies is a member of a new group I’ve started called Front Range Foodies and we meet once a month for people along the Rocky Mountain Front Range which is mostly Denver and those within an hour north or south. Yesterday we discussed cameras and lighting and while there was not one professional in sight I believe everyone left here with new knowledge and it’s that sharing, that synergy of spirit that has been most helpful to me in my blogging journey.So I thank you for sharing with us, it’s much appreciated and we’ll be linking this article from the Meetup group so that all of our members can benefit. Of course if you’re ever inclined to come Colorado way; I could create an audience for you easily!

    I’ve actually been putting recipes online for 16 years but for many of those years they were just that, recipes. A storage place where I could share with my friends and family…now that effort has evolved into my blog, that family has grown and I include among it a growing population of food blogging clients so your information is valuable not only to me but to people I work with too…thanks again.

  • David, what an awesome and useful post. I really appreciate the tips you’ve listed here. It was refreshing to read and remind myself why I blog. I’m a professional writer and an amateur blogger (full time writer, but just blogging for family/friends) but the advice really rang true for me as well.

    I think the blogosphere could be a happier and cleaner place if we all tried to follow even just a few of these ideas and tips.

    On another note, I hate content farms. Abhor them.

  • Good Lord, it’s generous of you to post this. By the time I finished reading, my face was completely screwed up with the effort of concentration trying to absorb it all. I’ll have to bookmark this, and I know I’ll come back to it again and again. I barely understand what Twitter is, yikes. Though I’m told I must get on there post haste for the sake of my blog.
    Thank you David!

  • Thanks for this advice David. Your comprehensive tips will help many. :)

  • My Kitchen in the Rockies: I try to use natural light as much as possible, which I sometimes fill in by using a piece of white styrofoam to fill in shadows, but I do have a Canon speedlight which I didn’t think I would use as much as I do. But because Paris is awfully dark in the winter, it really opened up the window to what times I could shoot food in my apartment. They have a version that costs around $150 and I think they’re pretty worthwhile. (If using one, the light should be pointed straight up at the ceiling, for best results.)

    Some people, like Jaden of Steamy Kitchen, swear by the Lowel EGO light or table top light boxes, although I haven’t used one.

    Barbara: It’s true that people can hook up and share with like-minded people, and blogging events and get-togethers are popping up all over the place. And thank you for the tip about retitling my Feedburner e-mail headers!

    Ishita: I think it’s okay to use words like “Yummy” and “delicious” if that’s how you talk (I do, sometimes.) It’s just that the overuse of any word can be repetitive for readers and writers. It is a challenge that food writers face – to come up with new or interesting words other than standards.

  • Damn (yes, thats what I would say in real life) this has been a great article. If my boss knows that I spent all the time to read this fantastic article he would have killed me (no reason to make himself dirty).
    Its great advice. Thank you so much.

  • Such a great and thorough blog, David! Thanks for the tips and the time you took to write it.

    Re typos, I copy the text into my mail (yahoo, gmail, work email, etc) and spellcheck it there. Problem solved.

  • “Ree of The Pioneer Woman is likely the busiest person in the world with life on a ranch, scooping up cow piles, homeschooling four kids, and writing books, but she posts a few times a week.”

    I think The Pioneer Woman has help, that’s why she’s able to post almost everyday on each of her topics. I thought it was a little unfair to use her as an example of someone who’s busy but still manages to post regularly.

    Perhaps Smitten Kitchen would have been a better example. I don’t know much about her but have noticed that she does get too busy to post every single day, and she doesn’t have a gazillion topics on her site.

  • How the heck do I write in my own voice and not use too many exclamation points!!!
    If you could view my words as they exit my mouth they would be followed by multiple exclamation points, …..umm?, and ????. Now if I could only figure out what punctuation denotes hand movements, then I could write so you’d have a clear vision of how I am.

  • Ulrika: Because I need to write in HMTL code, spellcheck goes haywire if I use it. And I’ve even tried using one of the proofreading plug-ins but it doesn’t catch common goofs. I’ve decided there’s other things to worry about and I’m happier posting more frequently, but stressing out about it less : )

  • David-
    Great post with really valuable information. It’s food blogging 101 for the wanna be savvy and sexy. I actually changed the side bar on my blog after reading this post.
    Thanks for the advice.

  • Thank you so much for this blog post! I’m trying to start a food/cooking blog and these tips have helped a lot. Been reading your blog for a while now, and I bought your “Ready for Dessert” book. Love it!
    I was wondering what your feelings are on anonymity in blogging. I’m not sure how much I want to reveal about myself and my location, and I’ve seen all those TV specials on “the dangers of the internet’ and whatnot, but I know having a name (and maybe a face) on a blog makes it a lot more personal. What do you think?

  • You’re absolutely right, you shouldn’t write for search engines alone. There is, however, a way to write your posts so that they are informative to the reader while being search engine friendly at the same time. And let’s face it, visibility leads to more visitors coming to your blog and some of those visitors just may turn into the “wine-drinkers” you hope to have stopping by :)