Confession: My name is Amanda and I am NOT a food blogger and I am definitely no Iron Chef. But since I began working at Chicory, my life now revolves around food blogs. My job as Marketing Associate requires me to chat with so many awesome food bloggers and look at hundreds (I’m not exaggerating) of food blogs every day.
In that time, not only have I developed tastes for the food blogs or photos that I love (and, er, don't love as much), but I've also read tons of articles, listened to lots of podcasts, and chatted with some of you about how to get more traffic and what you can do to improve your blogs. Since I've painstakingly reviewed over 10,000 food blogs in the past few months, I figured it might be helpful for me to share my blog “pet peeves.”
I know what you're thinking, why should I care what bothers Amanda's pet peeves? If they get on my nerves, they might be turning off readers! Take a look and give your site a little checklist for 2016--it could make your blog that much more user-friendly!
Before I start, I need to acknowledge that I know ads help you monetize your site and I know not every blogger is thrilled about packing their page with ads. But try to think about how your user is seeing your ads--is it interrupting their experience or is that weight loss ad negatively affecting your brand?
Since I look at so many blogs, I had a few close friends take a look at some sites with fresh eyes. They threw around words like “spammy” and “cluttered”. Ads that distract the reader from your content may turn the reader off and they may not return to your site or worse, feel that the content is not trustworthy. That said, not all ads are evil. Some are even helpful. Here's how I draw the line:
- Not so awesome: Header ads, pre-header ads and pop up ads. I know these ad may make you a ton of money, as they lay ATF or in a reader's face, but it distracts from what you want your readers to be looking at: the name of your blog! Own your site and make sure YOUR logo appears first, not some other brand's.
- So awesome: Sidebar ads, relevant in-content ads and in-image ads. The trend in ads is moving toward the hyper-native. As long as you work with ad companies that you trust, ads in sidebars, or even within your content don't feel totally invasive--especially if they relate to your content. Imagine writing a recipe about cookies and an ad for a great stand mixer appears above the recipe. That feels like a win-win to me!
Some bloggers have no instructions for contacting them on their sites, meaning I often resort to a never-viewed Twitter DM or Facebook message, ugh! As a marketer, I can find this frustrating, but as a human person, I totally get not wanting to have all of my personal information out in the world. Think about your readers, though. If you don't want to display your email address publicly, use a contact me form or create a separate email account just for blog-related inquiries. Worried about spam? Quickly adding a CAPCHA to your contact me page you will avoid bots and fake users.
Social Media: Let Your Readers Help!
FACT: good social media can help a blog explode. What’s better than free promo? NOTHING. Installing social share buttons for your blog is a must-do. There have been so many times when I find a great recipe and want to tweet it or email it to a friend, but social share buttons are nowhere to be found. Building your audience through word of mouth is the most surefire way to obtain loyal readers who won't drop off as soon as they get a glance of the pretty photo they saw on Pinterest. Enable your readers to quickly and simply share your content with their friends.
Additionally, put links to your social accounts somewhere that every visitor is going to see. I follow tons of new accounts a day and not just on Chicory’s social media, but my own. If I land on a site that has interesting content or even just beautiful photos, I give them a follow. Just like that, +1. When social media follow buttons after placed at the bottom of the recipe or even too far down the page, they tend to get lost. I recommend putting them right below your headshot. It feels like a friendly “hello” and an invitation to become friends across the web.
Some food blogs are dedicated strictly to making food and other explore other areas: restaurant reviews, product reviews and stories about life. Having a clear structure on your blog makes things easy for your readers. In an ideal situation, readers come to your blog for one thing--maybe a recipe they found on Facebook--and ends up searching around your site for other articles. If all goes well, they leave feeling like they just struck gold (and hopefully they come back again). Have a search bar, drop down menus that break down your recipes into different categories and let your bloggers know that they can conquer any kitchen skills with your awesome, organized instructions (do things like list ingredients in the order that they're used).
I declare 2016 the year of formatting! Every blogger should familiarize themselves with HTML basics and clean up their content on the back-end for a tidy reading (and SEO) experience. A great place to start is with formatting recipes according to Schema.org markup. Not only does this keep your recipes looking clean and everything looking uniform from page to page, but formatting (or using a plugin to do it for you) helps boost your SEO and Pinterest performance.
Tools like RecipeSEO make formatting your recipes super simple when you use platforms like Blogger or Squarespace. For those of you using Wordpress, a plugin like EasyRecipe is the perfect choice. Afraid it won’t play nice with the rest of your blog? Again, EasyRecipe has tons of customization options between layouts, colors, and designs.
I hope you read this post and take a step back to look at your own blog. I write this post not to get things off of my chest, but to try and help our current partners, future partners or anyone just looking for advice make their blogs better every day! Rome wasn't built overnight and neither was Smitten Kitchen.
Photo via Milennial Magazine