How and Where Recipes “Go Viral”

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Recipes going viral is not within your control. But you can increase your chances.

How and where recipes go Viral | Another great tip from Food Bloggers Central

The formula for Viral Recipes is like finding a pill for weight loss: whoever breaks the code is going to be a gazillionaire.

Until that happens, here is the fact: there is no formula. There is no rhyme or reason for why or where a recipe will go viral. It is not within your control. It takes luck – being in the right place at the right time, seen and shared by the right person at the right time.

How many times have you made an extra effort for a recipe you thought had “popular potential”, only for it to go no where? And for your most popular recipes to be ones without the best photos because you had no idea it would be so popular?

We can’t control out luck. BUT you can create more opportunities for luck.

Cinnamon-French-Toast-Bites_Action_680pxIt was really interesting to hear from FBC members who shared their most popular recipes and how it “took off”. You can read the thread here and it clearly demonstrates that there is no pattern or logic or any specific thing that bloggers did to “make” the recipe popular. (Note: You need to be a member of the FBC Facebook group to read the thread. Join here if you aren’t already a member. Anyone can join, as long as you are a food blogger!)

In this post today, I’m going to cover:

1. How and where some of my recipes went viral;

2. Other places where recipes go viral; and

3. Ways to create more opportunities for recipes to go viral.

How and where my recipes went viral

I’ve had a handful of recipes going “viral”. I use the term viral quite loosely. I’ve had one recipe (Cheese and Garlic Crack Bread) go insanely viral – being 100k – 150k views daily for a week or so (before Blue Host crashed out), with one Facebook post alone shared 750k times, pinned over 500k times. And I’ve had a handful of other recipes that did well which I consider “going viral” but on a lessor scale. The recipes I put into that category had 20k+ views daily.

I thought it would be useful to share some of my popular recipes and describe as best I can how and where they went viral. I’ve selected a range so I can show various examples of where the recipes went viral.

Crack-Bread-1_680px#1 Cheese and Garlic Crack Bread – This went viral via a recipe sharing site called Recipe Chart in September 2014. This site is like Yummly in that it picks up ingredients only and requires readers to click through to RecipeTin Eats (my site) to get the directions. Recipe Chart then shared it on their Facebook page and that’s where it went viral. Last time I checked, which was probably in Q1 2015, it had 750k shares. Facebook isn’t very search friendly so it’s proven impossible to track down the original share so I can check the latest stats!

So the way it worked, the post that went viral linked through to Recipe Chart and then people had to click through from there to get to my site.

The day this started going viral back in September 2014 was the exhilarating and stressful. There is no way I was prepared for it, I was plugging along with 3,000 views daily when this happened and my hosting provider, Blue Host, did not cope at all. My site was down for the better part of every day for about 1 1/2 weeks and averaged about 130k views daily over that period which was the maximum that Blue Host could cope with.

I prefer not to think about all the people who were unable to get to my site during that period. :-)

This recipe has done pretty well on Pinterest too, with around 560k shares to date. This was direct from my site, not via Recipe Chart.

About Recipe Chart: Recipe Chart is a recipe sharing site with a large real Facebook following of 550k. Apply here to join the site. If approved, you no longer have to do anything. Recipe Chart will sign up to your blog and select which of your recipes they want to share.

No-Washing-Up-Ham-Egg-Cheese-Bread-Bowl-1_680px#2 No Washing Up Ham, Egg and Cheese Bread Bowls – The share counts for this recipe in no way reflects how often it’s been viewed. So this is a completely different example to the Crack Bread. This went viral because it’s been shared on BuzzFeed a couple of times, including being the featured image on BuzzFeed’s site. It’s also been shared on a handful of other popular round up sites, like Huffington Post, Pop Sugar, MSN, to name a few.

The other unique thing about this recipe is that the click throughs from Pinterest has been quite high from some pins. I noticed a handful of pins for this recipe which were clicked through over 50% of the number of repins! (PS I think it helped that I had a step by step collage for Pinterest).

#3 Pork Carnitas – Another completely different example, this recipe first went viral on Pinterest thanks to a “power pinner” (being a pinner with millions of active followers) pinning my image back in August 2014 which was a few months after I started my blog.

Once I gained some traction on this recipe from Pinterest, it started indexing well for SEO and now that’s where most of the traffic for this recipe comes from. It’s a fairly well searched recipe!

Truly Crispy Oven Baked Wings#4 Truly Crispy Oven Baked Wings with Honey Garlic Sauce – I posted this back in late November 2014. It got a bit of traction on Pinterest straight away, but nothing significant and it hasn’t really gone anywhere since then.

The unique thing with this recipe is that the initial views it got from Pinterest, FoodGawker, Facebook etc was enough to start pushing it up the SEO ranks throughout the month of December. Then in January, it went nuts via SEO for Superbowl Sunday.

#5 Pad See Ew (Thai Stir Fried Noodles) – This is another different example. It was viewed 10k times on FoodGawker – which nowadays is pretty darn good and got a great burst of traffic straight away. It was then picked up by a “power pinner” and for a few weeks I had great traffic from this.

Because of this, the recipe is indexed quite well so it remains as one of my most popular recipes.

#6 Magic Broccoli – This had a viral patch on Pinterest via an ordinary user. It was really weird seeing a pin with tens of thousands of repins of a Pinterest user with 130 followers!

Pumpkin Soup - FINAL - Version 2#7 Pumpkin Soup – This came out of nowhere. A simple, classic recipe with a “nothing special” photo. It landed on the front page of Yummly during October (America goes pumpkin mad) and it kinda stuck there for a couple of weeks. So during that patch, the traffic for this recipe was rather good!

#8 Chicken Shawarma – This went viral on reddit.com a few times. People complaining about how it wasn’t authentic! I thought that was quite funny. :-)

#9 Link Party – I can’t remember which recipe it was or even which Link Party! But I definitely remember one recipe “taking off” from a Link Party which was quite unexpected!

Other places where recipes go viral

FINAL One Pot Greek Chicken and Rice - PSHere are some examples of other places where recipes can go viral:

  • Kevin from Kevin Is Cooking had a recipe take off on Twitter when a Tweeter with over 1 million followers shared a recipe of his
  • I know some bloggers, including Kathleen from Hapa Nom Nom, have had recipes take off on Stumble Upon
  • I’m sure there has to be someone who’s had a recipe go viral on G+!
  • There are plenty of cooking hacks that I’ve seen go viral on You Tube. I haven’t actually seen any recipes go viral, though I know there are a handful of very popular cooking channels
  • Other recipe round up online publications, like Daily Meal, Yahoo, Life Hacker.

I’ve had a few recipes that were quite popular (30k+ Likes) on Instagram when they were shared by Instagrammers with large followings (1 million +) but I have no way of telling how many of them actually clicked through to my site. Also at the time they were taking off on Instagram they were also popular on other channels (like this One Pot Greek Chicken & Lemon Rice) so I can’t even make an educated guess as to how much traffic might have been due to Instagram.

Ways to create more opportunities for recipes to go viral

I’ve stressed how there is no “formula” for a recipe going viral. It is largely down to luck. But here’s the thing – there are some specific things you can do to increase your chances. I know this to be true because I’ve had more than my fair share of recipes going viral. 

1. Invest time improving your photography. Good photos = standing out on recipe sharing sites + social media = greater chances of being picked up by social media accounts with large followings + online publications like BuzzFeed Food.

I know this sounds obvious, but photography was my number 1 focus area in the early days (because cooking came naturally). And I know it was instrumental to how I got to where I am today, where I am so fortunate to be making a living doing what I love.

PS My photography book where I spill my guts and share all my secrets, the meaty tips that make all the difference (that I don’t understand why other books don’t cover them) and easy step-by-step “how tos” is launching next month. There – I’ve said it. Now I’m committed to meet that deadline!

Ad---Facebook-Teaser

Quiche-Toast-Cups-1_680px2. Be creative. Be brave and do something difference. Never in a million years did I think that my Quiche Toast Cups (right) made out of sandwich bread would be as popular as they were. I thought people would think that was weird.

Read more about sharing Creative Recipes and “Selling” Your Recipes.

3. Picking Popular Recipes – there’s no denying it, there are certain types of foods that are more popular than others. Pasta, Mexican, stretchy cheese, oozing egg, dripping Nutella.

Nowadays, I have a pretty good feel for the recipes I think will be popular. Like the Nutella Pancakes (below right). BUT it wasn’t just another Nutella Pancake. I made it unique because I made it in a way to get a neat layer of Nutella inside the pancake by plonking on a frozen disc of Nutella. (i.e. #2 above)

Nutella-Stuffed-Pancakes_collageI was pretty confident that this would go well and it hasn’t failed me. Less than one month since posting, it’s been shared 70k times on social. The photo showing the inside of the Nutella + the step by steps showing how I did the Nutella discs was pretty key to the  “sales” package. :-)

My point is that we all know that there are recipes that have more “popular potential” than others. I really don’t recommend focussing on such recipes because then your blog is going to end up being a soulless “food porn” attempt, rather than a true food blog. But throwing one in occasionally will certainly help. :-)

4. Cast a wide net. What do you do for every new recipe you post? Pin it, Facebook share it, tweet it, yum it, Stumble Upon it, Instragram it, send it out in your newsletter. Submit it to FoodGawker and TasteSpotting.

Then what? What else do you do?

There is so much more you can do. And the more you do to pound the virtual pavement, promoting your amazing kitchen creations, the more opportunities you are creating for yourself.

Join in social sharing groups, like we do on the FBC Facebook page. Join up Link Parties. Find blogs you like and make “friends” with them by reading their posts, leaving comments and chatting with them on social media. Repin your recipes, repost them on Facebook. Do recipe collections on your blog, add “You Might Also Like” sections to your weekly newsletters.

We all have limited time. But the more time you do invest on promoting your amazing content and yourself, the greater your chance for a run in with Lady Luck.

PS I have to stop here because this is going to be another post on FBC. :-)

4. Everything Else – What the…? What do I mean?

I mean “everything else” about blogging – doing it professionally, to a high standard and working it hard. Because it goes without saying that the harder you work, the higher the quality of your content (get someone to proof read every single post!!), the easier your blog is to navigate, the more you connect with your readers….all of that leads to more readers and traffic which means more people sharing your posts which means a higher prospect of something going viral.

To put it bluntly – if a super power blogger and I both posted the Nutella Stuffed Pancakes at the same time, mine would probably have never gone anywhere and it probably would have gone almost instantly viral for the super power blogger. You know what I mean. :-)

Be Patient….

Going viral never happened for me overnight. Crack Bread took several weeks. The Chicken Wings took almost 2 months. Right now I’m starting to see traction on a recipe I posted almost 3 months ago. And a recipe I posted way back in August 2014 is only now starting to take off. So be patient! You never know when it will be your turn. :-)

****************

I truly believe that good things happen to good people.

If you have the passion, you work hard to become a better blogger and you are a good person, it will happen to you.

****************

I’m sure I missed many things in this post for other places that recipes have gone viral! I’d love hear more stories.

And as always, these are just my views based on my experience and my research. Let me know what you think! – Nagi

PS If you found this helpful, share it with your friends!

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The Food Photography Book by Nagi from RecipeTin Eats

Comments

  1. says

    Well you have confirmed my theory on how there is no rhyme or reason! haha! I have a post that went viral that I wrote last summer. All of a sudden a couple months ago it took off. I have no idea how or even who shared it. The image–not by best work! It’s crazy, it’s still my number one viewed post. That being said, I do find this post SO helpful on finding ways to increase the potential. Thanks Nagi!!

  2. says

    Nagi thanks for all the amazing suggestions. I can’t jot them down fast enough. That one viral recipe is on its way to the social universe, I can feel it! I just need one break. I know my recipes are great and photos are good quality (work in progress trying to get better). Wish me luck!!

    • Nagi says

      GOOD LUCK!! Just a little bit of luck is all you need :) Lots of hard work and a little bit of luck – that’s my motto! N x

  3. says

    Nagi, you mentioned Blue Host eventually crashed out with your Cheese and Garlic Crack Bread. Were you on shared hosting at that time? I am assuming you either switched hosting companies or upgraded your account to VPS or dedicated hosting. It seems like you fixed the problem quickly, I don’t recall noticing a problem with your site. Do you have a recommendation for hosting companies and services?

    • Nagi says

      You know, hosting is a problem I continue to grapple with. I moved from Blue Host to Media Temple on their WordPress plan which was only $29 pm but that plan no longer exists. But above 750k that plan is no good. Media Temple is good for up to 400k – good value and reliable – but above that, I recommend looking for alternatives because going to VPS or dedicated with Media Temple is expensive and to be honest, their service is poor for the price you pay. I am with Wired Tree which is boutique. I actually think boutique is the way to go because service quality is so important when things go wrong! WP Engine is also one I seriously considered.

      • says

        I won’t say I am happy that you have grappled with web hosting but I it is a relief to know that I am not the only one. I am happy to hear your suggestion on boutique hosting, I had not thought of looking beyond the big name companies

  4. says

    Thanks for this post Nagi on your experience. It is very inspiring and to me underscores the importance of being thorough. I am newer to food blogging (my blog is only 6 months old at this point), so I do not have tons of post yet, I think making the most of every post is really important. Thanks again!

    • Nagi says

      Hi Sara! I’m so glad you found this useful! :) Don’t stress about not having tons of posts, post in your own time. And I’m glad you agree that making the most of every post is important! N x

  5. April @ Girl Gone Gourmet says

    Great post, Nagi — Stumbleupon has always been a mystery, but I started up with it again in the FBC yummly + stumbleupon sharing threads. I’m glad I did because I woke up this morning to a lot of traffic from SU on a post I shared in the thread last week. 1700 SU visitors so far today with several more hours left in the day. Going viral is so random, but I agree there are steps (all of which you mention in this article) that folks can take to increase their chances! Thanks so much for everything you’re doing on this blog and the FB group!!

  6. Deb @ Cookingonthefrontburner says

    Such a great post. I recently joined the Facebook page and excited about your book!

  7. says

    Nagi, you are such a good person. You’ve shared so much, and each post is full of good stuff. Stuff that teaches us new things and not recycled material that is found all over the internet.

    I’m learning so much for you, thank you dear friend!!!

    p.s can’t wait for your food photography book!

  8. Pug @ Pug's Modern Life says

    My version of ‘viral’ was receiving a whopping 479 hits in one day (I know, that’s peanuts to big bloggers but it had me, a 2-hits-a-day blogger, leaping for joy) and I got that from Facebook– if I’ve made a recipe using a branded product (ie, not fruit and veg and standards like that) I’ll post a link to my recipe on the brand’s wall and tell them how much I enjoyed using their product. Sometimes they’ll feature it on their page!

    • Nagi says

      Hey! No talking yourself down please! I was super chuffed on my first day when everyone in my family went on my blog and I had 4 visitors!!! And that much traffic from Facebook is darn impressive!

  9. sprinklesandsprouts says

    Oh I can’t wait for your book. I have so many photography books, and I think my photos have come along way, but I still have hit and miss photo shots.

  10. says

    I truly love all of your posts, Nagi. Not just on your food blog, but here on FBC. They are always well thought out, informative, and incredibly interesting. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing :)

  11. Aena says

    Your post has made believe in dreaming of success even more – that if you work hard enough, nothing is impossible. Thank you Nagi x.

    • Nagi says

      You’re most welcome Aena!! And it’s true. My blog isn’t massive compared to the power bloggers but I am still able to make a living from it – independently too, I don’t have a husband or anyone else supporting me. Plus I live in one of the most expensive cities in the world! If I can do it, anyone can. I really believe that. :) N x

      • Aena says

        You are definitely the most positive and uplifting person I’ve come across in the blogosphere – and I promise I’m not just saying that! Such an inspiration :). Sending loads of virtual hugs your way!

        P.s. I have family in Sydney and I know exactly what you mean!

  12. meaghanlamm says

    I love Pinch of Yums food photography book but her book still confuses me. I can’t wait to read yours!

    • Nagi says

      And I can’t wait for you to read it too!! Promise me you’ll send me a before and after 😉 I’ll bleed it all over FBC!

  13. says

    Nagi, I cannot express it enough how amazing post this is…. All I can say is there is hope for me and thank you for making me feel that.

    • Nagi says

      Of course there is! I’m no different to anybody else, I don’t cook any better, and just like you I started with a blank slate, no powerful connections. And I had never used a DSLR before. If I can do it, anybody can. Honestly. I really believe that. N x

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