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Top Ten Tips for a Successful Food Blog

Guest Blog from Deborah Smith

How is Food Blogging different from other forms of blogging?
We asked one of The Food Channel’s Twitter followers to give us her tips.
Deborah Smith blogs at www.jerseybites.com.

How is Food Blogging different from other forms of blogging? The main differences are that good pictures are key and finding a way to stand out from the thousands of other Food Blogs is a huge challenge.

There are approximately 33,000 food blogs out there, according to Technorati, and that number is growing every day. So, how do you set your food blog apart and get your little piece of the food blog pie? Here are my tips for building and growing a successful Food blog. Many of these tips are applicable to all forms of blogging.

1. Purchase a Dot Com: If you are just setting out on your blogging journey, select a blog name that is available as a .com and purchase your domain name. On Blogger it costs as little as $10 per year and you can have it instantly redirected. Select a name that is memorable, not difficult to spell, and the shorter the better. It is a whole lot easier to tell someone at a dinner party that my website is JerseyBites.com than JerseyBites.blogspot.com. Trust me, it gets old really fast and the average “non-blogger” does not get the whole .blogspot thing anyway. They understand one thing; dot com.

2. Visit Other Blogs: Subscribe to about ten different food blogs that you enjoy and contribute in the conversation. It takes a lot of time to visit, read and participate in the blogosphere but it is essential. You will not only gain a wealth of knowledge and ideas for your own blog, but by leaving thoughtful comments on those blogs, you will gain readers. If a fellow blogger visits your blog and leaves a comment, it is good etiquette to pay that blogger a visit and leave a comment. At very least, post a reply under their comment on your blog. Blogging is about community, your participation in the community is vital to your blog’s vitality.

3. Pick a Niche: Food blogs are a dime a dozen these days. You’re going to need to stand out from the crowd. Instead of general, all over the place cooking, select a region or style of cooking and blog about that. Just be sure you choose something with a lot of content potential. A Year of Crockpotting landed Stephanie on the Rachel Ray show. The same is true for 5 Dollar Dinners. My niche for Jersey Bites is obviously New Jersey. I talk about restaurants, Jersey centric food products and events in New Jersey as well as recipes. My tone or “my voice” is also very much my own. I like to use humor and a slightly caustic tone in my writing because I’m incredibly funny and it can’t be helped. See? This is a way to stand out from the crowd as well. If your style of writing is distinct that can be your niche. Find your voice and stay true to it.

4. Tighten Your Posts: Readers have little time and even less patience. Learn to be a good editor. I’m not suggesting posting a recipe without a story behind it; just remember less is more when it comes to effective blogging. And always take a second look for spelling and grammatical errors.

5. Take good pictures: You’ll notice that many of the top food blogs are owned by professional food photographers. This is not a coincidence. Successful food blogs have beautiful pictures. Study the way these pictures are shot. I cringe when I look at the photos I posted in the early days of Jersey Bites. I’ve since bought a better camera and use Picassa to edit my photos before posting. I’m no pro by any means, but I’ve certainly made a lot progress. Deb from SmittenKitchen.com is known for her beautiful photography and she’s not a professional photographer, which really irks me. She has written an article on food photography that I think is very helpful to the fledgling food blogger. For more fabulous food photography, check out TasteSpotting.com.

6. Title your posts for the search engines: Your Post Titles play a big part in how the search engines rank your posts. Clever post titles may be clever, but they won’t get you anywhere on Google. Use Google’s Keyword tool to discover what people are searching for and name your posts with these keywords in mind.

7. Mix it up: In addition to your favorite recipes, offer “Best of” lists, seasonal suggestions, road trips to the farmer’s market, product reviews and more. Come up with a weekly challenge or giveaway. My biggest day of the week on Jersey Bites is “Win It Wednesday” where I announce our giveaway for the week. My most popular blog posts are always the “best of” round ups and Menu suggestions.

8. Be Consistent: I don’t post every day but I make an effort to post at least four times per week. The more frequently you post, the better. Vanessa, of Chefdruck’s Musings, saw a significant increase in readers when she committed to posting every day. The search engines will also start to trust your blog. Your blog will gain authority and your posts will start to rank higher and higher in the search engines.

9. Track Your Progress: Install Google Analytics on your blog and study what works. What are your most popular blog posts? What days of the week are you getting the most traffic? If Monday is a popular day on your blog, be sure to have something noteworthy and hopefully “social bookmark”- worthy posted every Monday. If your decadent deserts get the most play, cook up some more decadent deserts.

10. Get Out There: Don’t sit back and wait for readers to come to you. Offer to write a guest blog post for a blog you enjoy. Join the Foodie Blogroll and other forums like Bakespace and our new Food Bloggers Club. Get involved with a charity that you can support through your blog. When I spearheaded the “Blogging Out Hunger” campaign for the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, it introduced me to hundreds of bloggers all over the state who are now linking back to JerseyBites.com. Reach out to PR firms and tell them you are interested in reviewing products. Have business cards printed with your blog address and have them ready when you’re out and about. And of course, do the basics like submitting your blog to Technorati and Blog Catalog.

Follow these tips and follow me @JerseyBites on Twitter and you will be on your way to rising above the Food Blog Fog to become a unique and much read resource online. Did I miss something? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment with your tips for a successful food blog.

For 50 tips on taking your blog to the next level, Deborah also recommends Chris Brogan’s site.

Deborah Smith is the Owner/Editor of JerseyBites.com where she has been dishing out recipes and restaurant reviews since 2007. Her blogging adventures have led her to spearheading the ‘Blogging Out Hunger’ campaign on behalf of the Community Foodbank of New Jersey and a Board position on the newly formed Jersey Shore Restaurant Week. For the past ten years, Deborah has owned her own Ecommerce business where she helps families locate in home childcare and now consults small businesses on the use of Blogging and Social Media. You can find her on Twitter @JerseyBites.