Is your blog ready to take advantage of the massive surge in traffic over the holiday feasting period?
As a food blogger, you “know” that there are traffic surges for certain types of recipes for seasonal feasting. Thanksgiving in November, Christmas and New Years’ Eve, to name a few.
Have you ever wondered how much potential traffic there is during these holiday feasting periods? Well, here’s an indication. Search terms for the word “turkey” jumps from an average of 2 million searches a month to 10 million in November and 4 million in December.
(PS If you’re wondering where and how I got this chart, read this post here -> Best Google Keywords for your Recipes. And use it for your blog!)
Yes, this chart captures non-food related “turkey” search terms ie. the country! But I think we can all be confident that the search spike in November (and December – for Christmas) is for the eating kind, not for travelling.
And that’s just one search term. “Cranberry sauce” jumps to 1.5 million from about 20k average for other months, “stuffing” jumps from 100k a month to 2.5 million, “Thanksgiving recipes” jumps from 7k to 1.5 million – and so on.
I know I’m stating the obvious when I say that holiday seasons are a time when bloggers can enjoy a nice traffic bump. And in this post I want to cover 2 important things:
1. How to set yourself up to benefit from holiday traffic surges
2. How to capitalize on that holiday traffic to grow your blog readership base. Don’t let a traffic bump be a wasted opportunity!
How to capture holiday traffic surges
1. Share holiday recipes – duh! I know that’s obvious, right? But let me tell you, Thanksgiving last year completely passed by without a thought for me. 😝 I wasn’t prepared at all and did not share a single Thanksgiving recipe and I’m kicking myself for it.
Do an editorial calendar. Get organised and plan ahead. Read my post about getting organised here.
2. When to share – My advice is to start sharing holiday recipes around 3 to 6 weeks before the day in question. Any earlier, and you won’t get the attention of readers. Traffic surges happen closer to holidays, not months leading up to it. Ordinary people aren’t planning and researching Thanksgiving menus 2 months ahead. (BTW, us food bloggers are not “ordinary people”…:-) )
PS Don’t use my posting dates as a reference. I was super late with Thanksgiving this year because I was overseas until 18th November!
PPS Make sure you do 2 to 3 rounds of promoting your holiday posts on social media, especially Pinterest, leading up to the big day!
3. Timing can be everything – I had an interesting experience last year. Bit of an experiment that proved right. I had a theory that people would be so focussed on the Christmas feast leading up to Christmas Day, they would not focus their attention on recipes using leftovers.
So I made a Ham and Potato Chowder which I posted on Boxing Day (US time – 27 December Australia time). I did minimal social media and that recipe was viewed 15,000 times in 3 days. I was really happy with that – given where my blog was at that time.
That recipe has continued to perform consistently even after the post Christmas period because the initial traffic surge made it index well for Google (when I search “ham potato chowder”, it ranks 2nd in search results, 3rd for “ham chowder”).
The takeaway from this? Consider posting leftover recipes when people are looking for leftover recipes – i.e. right after the said holiday.
4. Be patient. There is a lead time. So here’s the thing that I experienced and I know other bloggers have experienced too. Holiday recipes posted last year can really take off the following year.
The reason for this is that one major source of traffic bumps for holiday recipes are publications like BuzzFeed, Pop Sugar, Huffington Post, even Yummly and FoodGawker. These publications have massive audiences and they do round ups of recipes from bloggers and can lead to huge traffic.
As publications – these are businesses, not blogs – they start researching and writing well ahead of when holiday posts are published. Which means – in all likelihood – they are going to find holiday recipes from last year or even prior to that to include in their round ups.
That’s not to say that if you posted a Thanksgiving recipe in August (really??) that it won’t get picked up. But remember this – publications search for recipes like normal people, using social media like Pinterest, FoodGawker and SEO. And recipes you posted in the previous year will have the advantage of the traffic it’s had all year, which means it will appear higher in search results than a recipe you posted recently that hasn’t been viewed or shared much on social.
5. Share holiday recipes on your blog that fit within your niche. Let me tell you know – if you are a healthy food blog and you share a deep fried turkey recipe (??? who has a fryer that big???), not only will your own readers be dubious about what on earth you know about deep frying, you’ll probably lose readers too. And even if you have a killer photo that does well on social media, you’ll have the same lack of confidence issue with drive through traffic.
Who in their right mind would risk their Thanksgiving centrepiece using a deep fried turkey recipe from a healthy food blog?
Stick with what you do best. Family friendly meals for busy mums? How about a foolproof shredded slow cooker turkey? Gourmet foodie blog? How about a “how to” for injecting turkeys?
6. It doesn’t matter where you are – in fact, it can benefit you if you aren’t in America. The vast majority of American / western bloggers are going to share fairly similar turkey recipes. They might have their own secret ingredient or secret technique, but fundamentally, they won’t look or sound massively different. (Says the girl who shared a Dry Brined Turkey just last week!)
But if you are a Brazilian food blogger, or Greek – basically anywhere outside of the US (or a blog focussed on a particular cuisine) – you are uniquely positioned to share holiday recipes that really stand out. Anyone for a Greek Marinated Roast Chicken? Or Norwegian cured side of salmon as the Christmas centrepiece? Me, me, me!
People’s palettes all around the world are becoming more and more global. In Australia, Asian influence is becoming more prevalent in Christmas recipes as cooking shows start sharing fresh new takes rather than doing a classic turkey over and over and over again….. (think a side of salmon topped with a yummy lemongrass herb infused crust….oh my!).
And from personal experience? This Cuban Mojo Marinated Roast Pork which I actually posted for Easter got a nice traffic boost in November. Not everybody has turkey for Thanksgiving!
7. Worried that you won’t get much traffic for a Chinese Glazed Roast Chicken? You need to read my post about SEO Keywords: The Avalanche Effect. Start small, think big. It’s not just about Thanksgiving. Many people are shocked to hear that my Slow Cooked Beef Cheeks is usually in my top 30 recipes – sometimes even top 20. That’s a relatively obscure recipe that you probably won’t ever see mainstream popular American bloggers posting.
See? Being different is good.
1. Doing round ups? Make the effort to make a GRAPHIC that stands out! There are more round ups than ever on Pinterest. And let’s not forget that our Pinterest feeds are now flooded with long Pinterest pins….
2. Don’t forget to include autofilled descriptions in ALL your pinnable images in your posts! Follow my steps -> Exactly What I Do: Creating Posts.
3. Holiday Collections – My Christmas Collection is about to go live! I’m creating a cheerful graphic and I’m going to slap it in my sidebar. I might even experiment with a banner on my homepage or between posts. When readers click on it, they’re going to be taken to my recipe archives which displays all recipes tagged as “Christmas” recipes. As I mentioned, I haven’t launched it yet but I have a Party Collection recipe that works the same way – you can see it here.
So consider making holiday collections to inspire your readers and keep them on your blog for longer!
4. Start promoting existing holiday recipes on Pinterest 2+ months in advance. Why? Because Pinterest is like Google – the more popular a pin / URL (i.e. your post), the more it will be shown. So start pinning well in advance, get fresh repins on your post so that as the holiday approaches, it will have a better chance of being show by more people.
How to capitalise on holiday traffic
If you experience a traffic surge during holiday periods, you need to make sure you capitalise on this by:
a) converting as many of these new visitors into long term readers as you can; and
b) entice them to stay and read more of your blog rather than “drive through” and grab that single recipe.
I can’t stress this enough. I call this being “viral ready” and it means preparing your blog so you take advantage of traffic spikes so that your traffic after the madness dies down is higher than it was before.
Rather than traffic falling back to pre-viral levels.
That is such a come down.
I was lucky. I just happened to be “viral ready” when my Cheese and Garlic Crack Bread recipe went stupidly viral in September 2014. (I was with BlueHost and it crashed out at 150K daily views for a week or so with one Facebook post alone shared over 500k times within a few weeks). Here’s what I had done just before that recipe went stupidly viral:
a) Free e-cookbook to entice visitors to sign up to my mail list; and
b) I had casual references to another similar recipe in the post to encourage readers to keep reading. This recipe was my No Washing Up Ham, Egg and Cheese Bread Bowls – similar cheesy, easy recipe – which I posted a couple of weeks earlier.
And here is how I benefited out of these two things I did:
a) The free e-cookbook helped me collect 1,000 or so subscribers within a couple of weeks – not bad for someone who started their mail list only a few weeks before then. I didn’t even have Opt In Monster, just a sign up box in my sidebar (which is VERY ineffective);
b) Embedding the No Washing Up Ham, Egg and Cheese Bread Bowls within the Crack Bread post encouraged these visitors to stay on my blog and (I’m pretty sure) it was the catalyst for that recipe going pretty viral shortly after Crack Bread; and
c) Most importantly – people liked what they saw on my blog. By keeping them on my blog slightly longer, it increased my chances of them realising that it was a blog they wanted to keep bookmarked / saving recipes on Pinterest, Yummly or however they chose to collect recipes.
I know this because my return visitors jumped from around 18k in the month prior to Crack Bread going viral to 90k in the month after. Which doesn’t sound like much, but I’ve built on that month after month and 12 months later, I have over 300k return visitors each month who are key to contributing to the 2 million page views I had in November 2015. I know this because Google Analytics tells me my return visitors read almost 2 pages each on my blog (i.e. 600,000 of my page views), compared to around 1.4 pages for new visitors.
For Holiday Posts…
For holiday recipe posts, a great idea is to embed links to recipes to round out the menu, or even flesh out the post by adding suggested menus, linking through to your other recipes and adding images. So this way, readers are encouraged to keep checking out more of your recipes.
Plus, it’s authentic – and most importantly, helpful for your readers. People love helpful, relevant posts.
So those are my tips for taking advantage of holiday traffic bursts! And most importantly, to make sure you make the most of bursts of visitors to your blog.
If you found this useful, share it with your friends!
So tell me….are YOU and your blog ready to take advantage of holiday traffic??
Until next time! – Nagi xo