What I’m sharing in this post is probably not something that the “power bloggers” of today have ever (consciously) thought about. Because they didn’t have to. The majority of them started prior to 2013, before the blogosphere really imploded. Which means they had a huge advantage to get ahead of the pack. And as with many things in life, once you get to a certain scale, continuing to grow is easier. The hardest thing is getting to that tipping point.
So forget all the advice you read about “working hard”, “making sacrifices” and “finding your voice”. If you are trying to grow your blog right now, this is what you need to know.
My #1 Tip For How To Grow Your Blog
Recently, I wrote about How to Stand Out from 227 million Other Blogs.
And today, I’m going to share my secret for how I believe I managed to grow my blog at the pace that I did. Despite the fact that I only started my blog in May 2014. (PS You can read about my blog growth here – How I Did It – Zero to 1 Million Monthly Views in 8 Months)
And no, it wasn’t about a handful of recipes going viral. “Food porn” might give you bursts of traffic every now and then. But that’s not a sustainable model.
If food porn and viral recipes was how I grew my blog, then my traffic would have tanked after September 2014 which is when I got my first huge traffic boost. But it didn’t. It kept growing.
So here’s my #1 tip.
SOLVE A PROBLEM
What the…..? What on earth do I mean???
Hear me out. When you understand what I mean, this is going to change your mindset forever. And it will change the way you blog forever.
Blogging Is Just Another Form of Marketing
Ultimately, attracting readers and keeping readers on your blog is no different to companies who sell products to consumers. It’s another form of marketing.
And when it comes to marketing, the two most successful ways to sell something are:
1. Inspire and create desire to want something. Whether it be a luxury watch, take a holiday or go to a big game; and
2. Solve a problem.
Think of all the ads you see – on TV, on your site. 99% of them will slot into one of those two categories. A car ad pitched at a growing family on a budget outgrowing their car. Or a BMW convertible ad, obviously pitched to create desire. OR….and this will hit home….an ad for a course to teach you how to grow your blog.
Food blogging is hard to fit into the “create desire” category. I’m sure there are an elite handful of bloggers in the world that are so cool / classy that they attract readers who are desperate to be like them. (I can’t think of any – can you?).
But more practical – and easier – is slotting into the second problem.
Create a food blog that solves problems.
How Can I Solve Problems with my Food Blog??!
I know, it sounds weird right? But it’s easy.
All you need to do is this: write your blog as though you are writing to help one person. Just one. Model your entire blog around that person. (Not yourself. Because you can’t be objective!)
(And PS I do explain how problem solving increases traffic in the next section, but you need to read this first to understand!)
My person is one of my close friends, Rach. She’s a super busy mother of 3, a big city lawyer, she loves great food, keeps it reasonably healthy (i.e. no deep frying), doesn’t have any dietary restrictions (e.g. gluten free), is very social and has guests around regularly. As busy as she is, doesn’t like take out or frozen meals. And she’s on a budget.
She’s my blog model reader. The reason I chose her is because she’s the most similar to me when it comes to food tastes and how much (or little!) effort she puts into cooking.
So I blog as though my entire blog is written just for her. I focus on solving her meal challenges by providing her with recipes tailored specifically for her. I have a very big focus on easy and fast midweek meals, but still with loads of flavour and without “trendy” ingredients like kale and chia seeds. There’s a focus on make ahead and freezable meals. I throw in party food and brunches so she has ideas for weekends. I make all my sweet recipes super simple because I know she doesn’t have time for fussy and she’s like me – I’ll spend 3 hours on savoury courses and 10 minutes preparing dessert (I do!). And I don’t use fancy ingredients because she’s on a budget.
So, what have I done?
I’ve solved a problem for her. I have an entire recipe collection which is dedicated to making her life easier. For example:
1. The classic 4pm dilemma – what should I make for dinner with the chicken I have in the freezer? (She goes to Recipes > Ingredients > Chicken on RecipeTin Eats)
2. The pre weekend madness – what to make for brunch for the in laws tomorrow? (She browses Recipes > Course > Breakfast / Brunch)
3. Kids birthday panic – crap, forgot I have to BYO a dish to that birthday party tomorrow. I have to make something, I’ll be judged if I bring a store bought dip!
Whatever recipe she’s looking for, she knows she’ll find something on my blog. Because I’ve written it entirely for her.
The thing is, she could find recipes she needs from anywhere on the internet. But the world wide web nowadays is so saturated, the problem readers have is finding what they are actually after.
But she always knows that she has a very good chance of finding something that appeals on my blog. Of course she does. Because I wrote the entire blog for her.
Don’t think it’s just about recipes. It’s not.
It’s broader than that. I haven’t delved past recipes yet but I fully intend to. It’s about providing inspiration, useful tips, and helping that model reader of yours to overcome challenges.
I want to do posts to help my readers shop smart and plan weekly menus efficiently. As Rach’s kids start school, I might do a big post on a stack of ideas for interesting kid-approved school lunches. Or maybe I’ll do round ups for dinner recipes that make great leftovers for the lunchbox.
But whatever I post about, it’s going to be aimed at helping my friend Rach overcome her challenges.
How Does Problem Solving Increase my Blog Traffic?
It’s basic human psychology. Solving a problem or challenge makes people buy things. Like a course to teach you how to blog.
So I figured this would work for attracting readers too.
And I figured if there is one Rach, there are probably millions just like her.
Turns out – I was right.
Around 35% of my readership are return visitors which I think, for my level of views each month, is strong. Put it another way – if this 35% didn’t like what they saw, they wouldn’t return and that would be a huge chunk out of my traffic.
And how many of the remaining 65% of my traffic is from shares or referrals related to the other 35%? I have no idea how to quantify that. I do, however, know that people talk…especially women!
And it’s not just about return visitors, it’s also about attracting new visitors. People like Rach (busy mums with full time jobs) who are on Pinterest and see a recipe for a One Sheet Pan dinner from my blog that they like the look of. They click through and land on my site for the first time ever. If they like that recipe, the next place most people go is the homepage. And if the homepage is filled with other recipes that appeals to that reader (because remember, they are just like Rach!), then they are not only more likely to bookmark your site, but also sign up as a mail subscriber. (Read more about why growing your mail list is more important than any social media).
Solving a problem ties in very closely to my other mantra of selecting a niche. Fundamentally, it is the same thing, it’s just a different way of approaching it. (You can read more about selecting a niche in this post.)
Writing For 1 Person = Writing For Millions
It sounds strange to dedicate to your entire blog to one person. But here’s the thing. No matter what niche your blog focusses on, no matter who that person is, there are millions of others out there just like that person.
Which means your blog is the perfect read for millions of other people. (Remember, there are 7 billion people in this world!)
Seriously, no matter how niche your blog is, there are millions of other people out there just like you who want to find your blog. And when they do, they’ll be stoked and you’ll have a loyal new follower!
I’m Worried my Niche is….too Niche..
I’m not going to lie to you. If your blog is focussed on Food of Satan or something like that, then your audience potential is probably….ahem….a little more restricted than others.
And it’s probably tempting to swing to the other extreme and go for the obvious – one pot meals, pastas, runny yolks, stretchy cheese, gooey chocolate, the usual suspects.
Yes, blogging recipes like that means you have a broader market to tap into. BUT it also means you’re competing against the “big guys”. Surely you’ve noticed? 😉
Besides, it goes to the soul of your blog. If that kind of food really does make you happy and keeps you challenged and interested, then that’s what you should focus on. Because to do anything else would not be keeping true to yourself. In all honesty, I could not model a blog like that on anyone that I know.
So however niche you think your niche is – think more broadly. Authentic Greek food blog. Bite size food blog. Seafood blog. Whatever it is, there are millions of people in this world who want the recipes you share.
And the tighter your niche, the easier it is for them to find you and become a loyal reader.
So don’t be too worried about how tight your niche is. Tight niche is good. At least, during growth stage. You can always expand later.
In a Nutshell..
Phew! That’s it! Blew my 1,500 word quota, so I’m going to be concise with the summary! In a nutshell:
1. The blogosphere is completely saturated. Which is making it harder and harder for people to find relevant content that they are after.
2. Readers are becoming more savvy and the focus is turning away from just “cool” content / food porn to “useful”.
3. Choose a friend or relative, or invent a fictitious model reader. Create a blog that provides solutions for that one reader by populating it with recipes, tips etc that your model reader will find useful. By doing that, you are creating a useful blog for millions of other people, just like that one reader you model the blog on. Because you are solving a problem for them.
Now, it’s YOUR turn!
Finish this sentence in relation to your blog and share it in the comments below!
“My model reader is _____________.
Here’s my homework submission!
“My model reader is a young mother who has kids and works a full or part time job. She loves food and is really social, but is always super busy. She is on a budget – though not overly tight, she doesn’t shop at gourmet stores. She loves to find new recipe inspiration because she gets bored of bolognaise every week. Because she has young children, she mostly makes food that is family friendly.”
– Nagi x
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