Today marks a special milestone for me. 300 blog posts. Almost 300 recipes. I think when I started blogging I had a rotating menu of two weeks worth of meals. The kids were so tired of eating the same thing over and over. Now they’ve been introduced to a whole world of new foods that are much better for them than their preservative filled friends. They eat anything from veggie burgers to revamped Hostess cupcakes.
Although it’s a huge milestone for my family and I, there is still one aspect of blogging that frustrates me the most. Increasing my blog traffic. Everytime I have a little extra time and money to improve my website traffic, someone gets sick, needs something that requires money, or generally I find the bank account isn’t able to support focusing on the website. So how can you increase your blog traffic and do it for free? The great thing about the food community is that there are some great, unique ways to increase traffic that are specific to food bloggers. Here are some of the ways that you can increase your food blog traffic for free:
One of the best ways to get traffic to your site is to get noticed by large food sites like FoodGawker,TasteSpotting, and Photograzing. These sites can help stats, but are very picky about the submissions they accept. Keep trying though, as they can be a great resource for your site stats.
Posting your recipes on sites like Tasty Kitchen, FoodBuzz and Yahoo! Shine can also be productive for helping your traffic. There are times that I get many hits from these sites. I also like Pinterest. Many people are having great luck with Pinterest.
This one is generally overlooked, but one that is important! Any food community, forum, or comment link should be branded! If you don’t brand yourself, how can people begin to recognize your name? Make sure you also take the time when you comment to fill in your website address! I hate when people comment and I can’t click back on their blog. I want to be interested in your material just as much as you are in mine.
There are times that I grow a little frustrated with this one. I usually comment on about 20-40 blogs a day. In return, sometimes I get a lot of comments back but generally I grow a little agitated at the fact that I put in so much work with so little return. Commenting really is a great way to grow your blog – if it’s reciprocated. It’s nice to be noticed and it’s nice to feel that people actually listen to what you spend your heart and soul writing. It can also be frustrating when you spend time commenting and it’s not acknowledged. I always try to take the time to check out your blog and make a comment if you take the time to comment on my blog. Also do the same for those that visit your blog. Repeat commenters can be gold in building your blog. If you find someone is coming back consistently to your blog, get email or RSS updates so you can visit them and continue to be a regular on their site as well as have them be one on yours. Also make sure that you have a program like Feedburner and an RSS feed installed so people can easily subscribe and follow your blog.
A lot of debate is made as to whether smaller, growing blogs like myself should even take the time to comment on larger blogs that are getting 100 or more comments every post they make. Do they really even notice or help you out when it comes to your stats? My answer is mixed. I have had some success on this. One of the larger bloggers I visit frequently linked to one of my recipes. I regularly get a couple of people visiting my blog per day from this one link. Randomly, I also get a few people visiting my blog from comments I left on larger blogs. So it brings in traffic, but I wouldn’t say it’s the best way to get traffic to my site.
The more content you write, the greater your chances of having someone come across your blog. You also want to make sure that you have a blog that people want to visit. Appealing graphics, large pictures, and clear titles are important. Make sure that you have a page where people can access your recipes. .;
Making your content print friendly is also important too. People don’t want to have to cut and paste your recipes. Make sure you include a way to make your recipes print friendly. The program Print Friendly is simple, easy and free to install. Others prefer to make free Google pages out of their recipes and claim that it helps their stats by allowing people to search and find their site.
When labeling and tagging, make sure that you tag and label your photos as well as your article. This will allow people to find your content as well. One other thing that has worked well is to have a “Related Links” tab at the bottom of every one of my posts. I connect my content to three other bloggers with similar content and allows me to leave trackbacks. Also make sure that you link to some of your other posts too. This keeps people on your blog!
One other thing that is helpful to do is to occasionally write articles like “Top 10 Uses for Flour” or How-To articles. These can be very popular articles for readers. My how to on making baby food and the top kid friendly fruits and vegetables continue to top the list in popularity each month – even though I wrote them two years ago.
FOOD BLOGGING EVENTS
These food blogging events help provide link ups and a chance to get to know other bloggers within the community. There are many different types of events both large and small. Some of the more popular ones are Tuesdays with Dorie and Daring Kitchen. These require that you take part in a particular monthly challenge and post them on your blog as well as the host’s blog. They are set up a lot like clubs with membership requirements and participation. Most are free, but will have certain requirements in order to stay active within the community.
This is one that I love to do over the summer when I’m not in school. Do your homework and research other blogs that may be getting more traffic than you. You probably don’t want to immediately reach out to some of the largest food bloggers. Start with ones generating steady traffic and comments and offer to guest post for them. Many of us vacation, have kids at home, and generally have hectic schedules outside of the computer. Volunteering to guest blog or having others guest blog for you on your site may bring in traffic and help make new friends in the blogging community.
In addition to guest blogging on other food blogger sites, I’ve been able to guest post for companies like Whole Foods Market and Bob’s Red Mill. These sites generate traffic for me, and get new followers. Sometimes they even offer some free product or a gift card in return for my time. I also volunteer on parenting or diabetes sites too to branch out.
Keep your eyes and ears to the ground. As a food blogger, you always have an excess of food laying around. Use that food for good use. I regularly participate by making food for baby and wedding showers, bake sales, church events and birthdays. Using a site like Vistaprint, I can print out free cards that I attach to bake sale products so people can come back to my site. I regularly have people asking me where I got that recipe for a cookie I made at an event. I direct them to the blog. This is a fantastic, low budget way of getting your name out there (and keeping the extra calories lying around the house away from your own waistline!)
NICHE YOUR BLOG
Focus your blog on what you really want to talk about and be known for. My niche has become a place that you can find recipes that have become “healthified.” (Although I do splurge at times). I want my readers to know that they can come to my site and find traditionally unhealthy recipes that I have revamped to be healthier for their family without compromising taste and glares from the picky palates in their family. I try these recipes on my own picky eaters and along the way I share my struggles with my husband who has Type 1 diabetes, my parenting struggles, and life as a work from home Mom who is also in school part time. But my main focus on the blog is the food. The rest of the things I share enhance my blog and who I am as a person, but don’t define it.
These are gold to a blogger. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Google+ are vital to growing your blog. Make sure that you regularly visit, update and share your interests (both food and outside of food). I love P90X and Insanity and stay active with those online communities. I’m also active within the diabetes online communities. All of these sites will draw visitors to your content. But don’t just post content. Like I said, make sure that you are also posting outside of your niche to draw in new visitors to your site.
People really don’t like when you leave links to your own recipes in their comments section. It’s a bit taboo. I learned this the hard way unfortunately. If you are link happy and want to share those great links to your posts, consider posting them for people who are looking for answers at Yahoo! Answers. Honestly, there are many times that I have a question that I find by doing a google search. Guess what appears most often? Yahoo! Answers is one of the top search results that comes up.
If you find any other great ideas that you want to share, please feel free to leave a comment. Helping one another builds everyone up and helps everyone improve!