You love to cook and you know you have great recipes; but for some reason most of your food blog traffic is of the one hit wonder variety. As in, you get one hit, and your left wondering why that reader never comes back again. What’s on Earth is going on here, and more importantly how do you fix it?
There are really two major mistakes that bloggers make when writing posts:
- Their posts are boring.
- Their writing isn’t readable.
Let’s be honest, people don’t have a lot of time to spare; and there are a lot of blogs in that big ole’ sea that is the internet. Here’s the hard truth: People don’t waste their valuable time reading blogs that aren’t interesting or useful. It’s all about what’s in it for me (the reader). If you can’t entertain me, teach me something I want to know, or fix my problem, I’m out of here. You might be the greatest cook in the world, but if you’re not putting together posts that entertain, teach, or fix a problem, you’re not going to keep your readers.
The other big mistake bloggers make is un-readable writing. They ramble on and on. There might be tons of grammatical errors or heinous spelling mistakes. There may even be an interesting nugget buried in the mess, but heck if anyone can find it. The other truth? No one is going to bother to try. Again, people aren’t going to waste their valuable time hunting through your mess of words to find that hidden gem in the midst of your uninteresting rambling. It might sound harsh, but it is true.
The good news, is that if you’re writing a blog in the first place, you’re doing it because you do have something to share. That mean means you probably already have something entertaining to say, something to teach, or know how to fix some problem. And un-readable writing can be made readable if you’re willing to put in the time to polish. You too can write blog posts that keep readers coming back for more. Best of all you can do it in five straightforward steps.
Step One: Decide what type of post you’re going to write.
At least for a food blog there are only a few different types of posts one can write:
- A recipe based post- is just that. A post where the main focus is going to be on sharing a recipe.
- A round up- a collection of something. Think, Best Vegetarian Restaurants in Denver, food links I’m loving, etc…
- A review- Your opinion about a great wine, cookbook, restaurant, etc.
- Industry news piece- A newspaper like story about something related to food, cooking, etc.
- Interview- An interview with someone, or a write up about an interview.
(Check out the above links to see examples of each type of post.)
Step Two: Before you start writing, decide what you have to offer in each particular post.
Are you going to entertain your audience? Can you tell a goofy story about the first time you made a particular recipe and make them laugh or talk about a food curiosity you’ve discovered? Maybe you want to talk about fascinating piece of celebrity chef gossip, or can you give your readers a peak into another way of life (think David Lebovitz)? Just be sure that story, tidbit, or peak into your life is actually interesting, to other people. As Jon Morrow notes in his article 20 Ways to Be Just Another Mediocre Blogger Nobody Gives A Crap About, “People love stories, but that doesn’t mean you should tell any. Here’s why: telling a boring story is worse than not telling any stories at all…”
The Art of Doing Stuff is a great example of an entertaining blog. While Karen’s actual main article focus is usually teaching you how to do something (it is a DIY blog), I rarely run across articles anywhere else that are near as amusing as hers. She tells stories, talks about her life, but has a very humorous point of view on almost everything, and often makes me chuckle out loud. Other then cooking, I am the exact opposite of a DIYer. I don’t like hard physical work, I don’t like building things, I’d just as soon buy something as make it, and I will certainly never own chickens (You’ll just have to read her blog to find out about that one). Yet, I keep coming to Karen’s blog, over and over again. It’s because she entertains me.
Maybe you’re going to teach your audience how to do something. This one is probably the easiest to pull of for a food blog, after all, we’re probably trying to teach our readers how to cook something, right? I’d estimate that 95% of food related blogs are focused on publishing recipes. So, write a great recipe and get ready to teach me, preferable step by step, how to have amazing results.
Or maybe you can fix something your audience has a problem with. Do you know how to get that pie dough to roll out perfectly every time? Can you get that horrible red spaghetti sauce stain out of plastic? Do you know the perfect red wine to bring to dinner, that will impress, but not break the budget? Get ready to shout it from the rooftops. It might seem little but people want to know how to fix this this stuff; assuming your trick really works. Of course, you’ve got to be sure your answer actually fixes the problem, or you’ll never see those readers again.
Food 52 is a great example of a very successful website and blog, that not only teaches people how to cook things, but solves those weird little cooking problems that we all encounter. They’ve set themselves up as an authority on the little things. I don’t know about you, but I go back to them again, and again, and again, every time I have a cooking question I can’t answer.
Don’t forget to consider that you may be able to do more then one then one thing in each post. You might teach them how to make a great batch of refried beans, but you can also tell the story about the the first time you made that same recipe with a pressure cooker and managed to splat beans all over your freshly painted kitchen celling. (Yes, unfortunately I really did do that.)
Step Three: Structure your post properly.
Like a well written class paper, a well written blog post has some kind of structure. It flows. Also like a class paper there’s usually a title (heading), an introduction, some kind of body, a conclusion, and in the case of a food blog a recipe.
Headline– This is the title of your post. If you are writing a recipe based post your headline will likely be the same as the name of the dish your writing about. Otherwise, you want to come up with a headline that will intrigue your reader, and make them curious to find out what the rest of your post is about. (For more help writing must read headlines check out Headline Hacks and How To Write Magnetic Headlines.)
Introduction– The introductory paragraph (or possibly first two paragraphs) is about grabbing your readers attention, getting the main idea of your post out there, and letting your reader know what they can expect in the rest of your post. (For more help check out 11 Ways to Write and Irresistible Intro to Your Blog Post or How To Write Blog Post Introductions That Hook Readers.)
Common wisdom around the web states you have somewhere around 10 seconds to grab a new reader before they bounce. It might be slightly more, it’s probably slightly less. Either way, if you don’t start by saying something interesting pretty darn quickly, you aren’t going to retain many readers. You want to hold on to the interest you generated with your clever title. So break out that funny story, or get right into discussing that pesky problem your going to help your readers fix.
Other then grabbing and retaining your readers attention, that first paragraph (or two) needs to give your reader a direction. Be sure to let the readers know what the main point or focus of your post will be so they know what to expect from the rest of your article.
Body– This is the bulk of your blog post, the rest of the story, the information you’re going to share, the list, etc. Keep it flowing, organized, and tell your story.
Conclusion– This is the place to recap what you’ve been talking about, pull together everything into one neat little package for the reader, and say bye bye. Also, if there’s something you want your reader to do as a result of reading your blog post, like comment, try your recipe, or sign up for your email list, don’t forget to include a call to action! (Check out 8 Tips for Writing More Powerful Conclusions)
Recipe– Of course on a food blog you’re going to frequently be sharing recipes. Most often you’ll find the recipe somewhere near the bottom of the post, which will hopefully encourage readers to, well, read more of your post instead of jumping right to the recipe, pressing print, and closing the browser window. Think of it as the Easter egg at the end of your post. The most important thing to think about when writing your recipe is making it easy for the reader to follow. Directions should be as straight forward to follow as humanly possible. The recipe also should be formatted in such a way as to make it as readable as possible. To this end a lot of bloggers use a plug in to format their recipes for them. I’m a big fan of the Easy Recipe Plug In for Word Press.
Step Four: Edit, edit, and edit again!
Remember that bit about the un-readbale writing. Well this is the time to fix it. After you write that post, edit and edit ruthlessly. And then edit again. Be sure to ask yourself these questions when you edit:
- Do you ramble? (I’m guilty of this one too guys!) Well, cut it. Figure out how to get to the point as efficiently as possible.
- Do you tell stories that aren’t interesting to anyone but your mom? You know what to do …
- How’s your grammar and spelling? (Again I’m guilty sometimes too, but it’s still a big no-no.) Do you have run on sentences? Do you skip capitals? Forget punctuation? Fix it! It’s annoying and people will stop reading if you don’t.
- Does your post flow? Is the main point you want to make clear? Don’t let clever phrases or fancy words get in the way of making your point.
- Possibly most important, did you actually manage to entertain, teach, or fix a problem? If not go back and figure out how to make it the focus of your post!
After you’ve ruthlessly edited your post, put it away for a while, at least over night. Come back to it in the morning and edit it again.
By the way, don’t be afraid to have others help you edit. Other people are especially good at giving you perspective on how well you’ve done at entertaining, teaching, or fixing a problem.
Step Five: Add the extras.
There is more to a blog post then just the writing. (Though I can’t resist pointing out one more time, that if your writing stinks, no one is going to hang around for long.) The number one thing you can do to enhance your post is add photos, other graphics, or video. People are very visual and a great photograph can really grab attention in the way words often don’t. Food bloggers have a major advantage, in that it’s easy to know what photographs to include in their posts. (Obviously, pictures of the food!) Photos can only enhance a readers experience, and make them more likely to stick around.
The other “extra” that pays off a log in retaining readers is… drum roll please, formatting. It doesn’t sound like a big deal but a long, long, blog post that isn’t broken up in any way isn’t getting read. Adding subheadings, bullet points, italics, underlining, and more make your post significantly more readable. Even if you have a short post don’t forget to format.
Pretty straightforward right?
See? You can do this! It’s time to start constructing your posts to showcase the great content you’re offering. Follow the five steps:
- Decide what type of post you’re going to write.
- Before you start writing, decide what you have to offer in each particular post.
- Structure your post properly.
- Edit, edit, and edit again!
- Add the extras.
And I guarantee no more one hit wonders for you baby. Your readers are going to be coming back, again, and again, and again….
Did I miss something? Is there a trick to writing great posts that have kept your readers coming back? If so, please take a moment to comment and let me know!