April 10, 2013 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
I still remember the first time I discovered The Pioneer Woman’s blog many years ago. I spent an entire day reading her posts.
Today, she has several best-selling cookbooks and her own TV show, as well as being one of the most recognizable and adored food bloggers.
Watching her transform from a home cook to a celebrity food personality, I realized she didn’t rise to fame merely through culinary exceptionalism. She paired her passion for food with her strengths as an amazing storyteller, relationship builder and photographer to attract and grow a loyal audience.
I’ve seen many other food blogs take a similar trajectory, from humble beginnings to stardom (I’ve seen more book deals happen than I can count). The secrets to their success aren’t unique to food blogs, but are relevant to anyone trying to create content that resonates with a particular audience. Content marketers, listen up, because food bloggers can teach you about way more than what to make for dinner tonight.
If someone wants to find a great recipe, they can visit one of many strictly recipe sites. People visit food blogs because they’re entertaining and relatable in addition to being full of delicious recipes. The best food bloggers make people want to stay awhile.
Ree Drummond, a.k.a. The Pioneer Woman, has infused her blog with her “story” since she wrote her first post. On her about page, she sums up her story in one sentence:
I write daily about my long transition from spoiled city girl to domestic country wife.
Whether she begins a post with a funny anecdote about a cow that hangs out in the front yard or by sharing pictures of her kids on horses, she weaves her story of city-girl-turned-cattle-rancher into everything she writes.
You should be able to sum up your brand’s “story” in 1-2 sentences. It should be simple enough that it’s easily remembered, but also distinct from your competitors. Most importantly, stay true to this story and incorporate it into your content often.
Before food blogging became popular, there were already countless well-known recipe sites. Food blogs took off because of the people behind them.
One of my favorite blogs is called How Sweet It Is. Jessica’s writing grabs readers by talking to them directly like a close friend. Not only is she hilarious, but she’s self-deprecating. Here’s a recent excerpt from her blog:
You’re also the best because it’s Monday and I’m stereotypically bringing you a salad, but it’s only because I want pizza. Buffalo chicken pizza, to be exact. Shocker. We’ve still been eating it pretty much every single weekend so the whole thing is just overflowing into every other dish I make.
You know me and my phases. I’m sure this too will pass. (But hopefully not.)
It doesn’t hurt that her recipes are insanely decadent and her photos are gorgeous, but it’s her distinct voice that’s helped her stand out among a sea of similar blogs.
When there are countless others in your niche, it can seem futile to try and compete. Your unique perspective and voice can you apart from the pack.
Get specific. While it’s good to cast a wide net in order to attract the widest possible audience, focusing on a smaller niche within your target audience can make content creation easier (less topics to tackle) and breed a more loyal readership.
There are food blogs that serve certain dietary needs: vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, diabetic, kosher, low carb, etc. Some food blogs only feature recipes for picky kids. Then there are food blogs dedicated to nothing other than bacon.
These niche-focused blogs exist because someone recognized a specific audience’s needs were unmet. Don’t be discouraged that your vertical has already been beaten to death. There is unlimited potential to write about the same topic in countless ways, and this potential keeps growing. For example, for every new diet trend that pops up, so do thousands of food blogs.
Make your content hyper-focused on a certain aspect of your vertical. Find where there’s a need for information among a niche, and strive to become the top resource for that niche.
Images are an essential part of food blogs. They tell a part of the story words often can’t capture and make readers want to jump through the screen and devour the food. Most food bloggers are self-taught photographers. But those who aren’t great behind the camera pair up with someone who is.
Sprouted Kitchen is a husband and wife team. She’s a cook, he’s a photographer. By combining one another’s strengths, they landed a cookbook deal.
Visual media isn’t important for just food blogs. Images and videos paired with great writing are essential to any content marketing campaign.
Supplement your written content with high quality visual media. If you don’t have time to learn photography, videography and/or graphic design — team up with someone who does it well.
The universal attribute in all successful food bloggers is their dedication. It took years for many to gather a following, but the payoff has been huge for those who stuck with it.
While there isn’t a surefire formula for content marketing success, food bloggers have certainly developed a pattern for attracting huge audiences. What do you think marketers can learn from food bloggers or bloggers in general?
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