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Adam Roberts: “10 Food Blog Posts That’ll Get You Traffic”

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© 2013 Helana Brigman
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Only A Jerk Would Eat at Le Cirq | The Best Broccoli of Your Life | Janet Jackson Breast Cupcake

What do these seemingly random, but specifically titled articles have in common?

Adam Roberts.

Not just any Adam, but “Amateur Gourmet” Adam Roberts (of both the book and blog) as well as his new work, Secrets of the Best Chefs, a heavy and diverse tome of 50 American chefs that I believe will become one of the most accessible and diverse works out of which I’ve been lucky to cook (recipes coming soon for Butternut Squash Tortellini and Creamy Spinach-Stuffed Chicken!).

I realize this is a pretty heavy claim, and I’m definitely getting ahead of myself.

This past weekend, the Gumbo Goddess (Caroline Wolf) and I spent several days in Birmingham, AL, at the 2013 Food Blog South Conference.  It was both Caroline’s and my first time attending, and we could not have enjoyed the variety of panels, people, and stories more.  Everyone from Dianne Jacob of Will Write for Food fame to our keynote speaker, Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats, offered lively and interesting talks about working in the food blogging industry.

IMG_9785.2

Pictured: packed standing room at Food Blog South 2013 of Hélène Dujardin‘s “Advanced Food Photography & Styling” presentation. Shot with a 10-22mm wide-angle lens for Canon.

Adam’s talk, “10 Food Blog Posts That Will Get You Traffic,” kicked off Saturday’s panels, driving home a lot of the ideas many bloggers forget when publishing: not just the important role community plays in our final products, but also the ways quality content defines traffic and readership.

Plus, he’s a pretty snazzy dresser as seen here (and here):

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Pictured: Adam Roberts addressing Food Blog South 2013 attendees about the “10 Food Blog Posts That Will Get You Traffic.” Shot with a 24/70mm lens by Sigma.

The truth is, there’s a lot of conflicting advice out there, especially when it comes to food blogs and how we write or speak about food. On Friday, Lisa Ekus and Virginia Willis handed out a “Food Word Vocabulary” we could (no, should) feel free to use during TV/Radio Interviews and Cooking Demonstrations. On it–between the words “crunchy” and “earthy”—

“Delicious.”

The next evening, Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats quickly informed me that “delicious” was on the “Secret List of Banned Words” at his website (yes, a website that receives between 11-14 million unique visitors a month, and they are not using the word “delicious”).

[See note below on Ed Levine's philosophy for Serious Eats.]

Two seasoned critics with two conflicting pieces of advice.

One panicked food blogger (ahem, ahem) that happened to name her blog with the keyword, “delicious.”

So, what do we do with the word “delicious?” It’s hard for me to say.

But, what I do know, is that as of March 2013, Clearly Delicious will be answering Adam’s call for “tough love” (yes, his words to me exactly) and renaming herself,

Dances with Lobsters:

Clearly Delicious Recipes from the Coast of Rockland, Maine, to the Gulf of New Orleans..

[Adam, see what you made me do? My blog now has a sub-header!]

But I’m certainly not upset, and I say these comments with a smile, as I really do love the revamped title of this website, and I have Adam Roberts’s, “nobody’s gonna remember the name ‘Clearly Delicious’” comments to thank for this change.  But why not scrap the terminology “clearly delicious” altogether? Especially when I’ve been advised by both the keynote speaker of FBS2013 and the Amateur Gourmet himself to drop it?

I think it’s because Clearly Delicious—whatever her manifestation—originated with the same principles that drove Ed Levine to found Serious Eats: a passion for “seriously delicious food,” dubbing himself, “the missionary of the delicious.”

In a language with almost 200,000 words printed in the OED last year, English-speaking tongues sometimes only have the word “delicious” to fall back on…especially if their mouths are full of pizza.

Ultimately, my (and Adam’s) point is: this hazy idea of what food blog writing should be is forever growing increasingly complex and [if I may rant for a second] superficial—glamorous photography, beautifully-plated food, somewhat hollow stories about cats and husbands where professionally makeup-ed women have clean kitchens and manicured nails before, during, and after dinner.  Such images continue to enamor women readers like me and drive content trends (much to the chagrin of critics like Emily Matchar or Signe Rousseau).

In fact, there’s sort of a recipe for that kind of writing:

Recipe for a Blog Post copy

Pictured: a little something I put together that (I believe) encapsulates “bad” or “not great” food writing we often find online. I realize it’s a bit biting in its sarcasm, but I really believe we should be able to laugh at and identify these trends, especially when they begin to distract us from what food writing should really be.

And, I admit, I’ve fallen prey to these trends. In fact, I wasn’t originally planning on attending Adam’s talk because, during the car ride over, Caroline and I both agreed, “we know how to write good blog posts!” and thought the SEO / Maximizing Social Media / “App for That” presentation would be more worth our time.

But, happy accidents and good fortune have a way of changing whole experiences, and I was lucky enough to meet Adam the night before his talk while sharing drinks with Caroline and Kenji at the hotel bar. I, white wine in one hand and very little food in her belly, could not stop talking about lobsters, and he, immaculately matched between shirt and sweater, convinced me pretty immediately that his talk on “writing good blog posts” was something Caroline and I definitely needed to hear.

[I also think Kenji's insistence that we attend was pretty convincing too...I can't say, "no" to people who know what they're talking about, nor should I.]

So, let’s get to it.

Going into Food Blog South, I had a clear vision of what I wanted to hear and see and what I didn’t. I couldn’t have anticipated my uber-fascination with technology trends would be pushed aside by an adorably interesting food blogger who has made his work out of his “amateur” status. The questions, “What is a food blog?” and, more importantly, “What makes it good?” have resonated with me since Adam’s talk and since the trip.

I’ve always prioritized quality when it comes to my writing (heck, I know I can cook, no question there, but can I write about food?).  And what’s the “line in the flour” between a post someone will want to stop and read and a post someone will flip to the end of looking for pretty pictures?

I’m not sure if I quite know how to answer all of these questions yet, but I hope to return to them in future posts as Clearly Delicious goes through a series of necessary and exciting face lifts (make that a face lift, first botox injection, and tummy tuck plus thigh reduction).

Let’s trim the fat (if you will) and add some lean protein, antioxidants, and good, quality “fats” (like the kinds you eat in avocados). Let’s make Clearly Delicious a place where quality content is the mission statement of every post and not what’s “trending on Pinterest.”

It’s kind of like my relationship to running. As I was telling Russ Turley last night in our recording of Fat2Fit Radio (episode #142), I’m a long-time runner, but have sort of turned to the sport as a “lazy” exercise. I no longer burst with guns as seen here, but have become one of those, “Where my spanx at?!” girls since I stopped lifting weights. Quality (“trimming the fat”) at a blog, or anywhere, requires work.

my guns

Pictured: me last spring, making homemade pasta for my friend Michael. I miss these arms…who said food bloggers can’t be buff?

Enough postulating and reflective thinking.

For a man with a plan (as well as a bulleted list), please read the very informative post on “10 Food Blog Posts That’ll Get You Traffic” at Adam’s website, Amateur Gourmet. For the bulleted breakdown (plus some examples) from my notes during his talk, then see below.

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Pictured: Adam Roberts addressing Food Blog South 2013 attendees about the “10 Food Blog Posts That Will Get You Traffic.” Shot with a 24/70mm lens by Sigma.

“10 Food Blog Posts That’ll Get You Traffic” by Adam Roberts

Food Blog South, 2013, 9:00 a.m. – Saturday, January 26th, 2013

1.) The Beautiful Recipe Post

  • 99% of people are trying to do this
  • which means…it’s hard to stand out (“they’re impossible to differentiate”)
  • You can stand out! Think about style and voice.
  • Example: Look at quality bloggers like Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks. She has an identifiable font, unique filters on her pictures, and it’s (quote), “Less about the specific post, but the world you’re sent to.”
  • So, “create a world” for your readers.
  • If you want to keep it beautiful, that’s great. But, make sure that once they get there, you’ve made something special for them.
  • (Other) Example: “The Best Broccoli of Your Life Post”

2.) Novel Post

  • Something that’s truly “new” or “unusual” (“novel”)
  • Example: What’s Gabby Cooking blog and “Slutty Brownies” post
  • This recipe is particularly “novel” because it’s more than a brownie–it’s a brownie with a regular brownie layer, plus an Oreo cookie layer, plus a regular cookie dough layer. (Adam seemed to salivate as he communicated just what made these “brownies” so special to the audience.)

3.) Pop Culture Post

  • Take advantage of what’s happening now and what people are searching for, but don’t confuse this tip (or post idea) with a spam-tactic to drive people to your blog.
  • Rather, what’s trending socially (say, Manti Te’o's girlfriend debacle would be appropriate so long as you can figure out a way to turn it into your post or food).
  • Example:Janet Jackson Breast Cupcake”

4.) Carefully Researched Post

  • A post that takes itself seriously and is interested in answering hypothetical questions with concrete answers.
  • Example: pretty much anything from Serious Eats in which Kenji does a test and proves his hypothesis, but the post on “The Ins-n-Outs of an In-N-Out Double, Double, Animal Style” is particularly emblematic of this idea.

5.) “Eat Your Way / Cook Your Way through Something” Post

  • Great way to give you a subject for your blog and posts.
  • Example: Julie & Julia Project made this a pop-culture idea
  • Useful for when you’re visiting cities and trying to generate new content: “What should I eat when I visit…say…Austin, TX?” (so, another way to play with the “eat your way / cook your way through something” post idea is to focus it on a city or place, not just a book.)

6.) List Post

  • Buzzfeed made this kind of post very popular
  • Example: “21 Best Chocolates to Give Your Valentine” (Adam didn’t mention this one, but I think it’s interesting…mmm…chocolate.)
  • Basically, a list of things, bulleted, like this one, that itemizes the “10 signs…” or “10 things…” or ____(insert # + subject)___.
  • Easy for readers to sift through.

7.) Creative Story-Telling Post

  • Something that’s new, different, and tells a story with a distinct beginning, middle, and end.
  • Example: “Chutzpah, Truffles, and Alain Ducasse”
  • Why is this an example? In it, Adam admits to being honest about how a $350 meal is just way too expensive, and, as an “amateur” food blogger, he couldn’t afford a fancy restaurant.  He was then rewarded with a special dinner for his honesty. Sigh. Karma.**
  • **Grey area: see Signe Rousseau’s remarks on Josh Ozersky and Adam Roberts, pg. 53 of her book, Food and Social Media: You are What You Tweet)
  • This post is particularly creative and narrative in nature because it uses a Comic Book-style layout to guide and engage the reader.

8.) Negative Rant Post

  • When appropriate, it’s “ok” to write a rant-style post, but have some ethical guidelines: Adam suggests “ranting” about things “everyone can relate to” like communal-style tables at restaurants (yuck?! or yay?!)
  • Blogs shouldn’t be spaces of negativity, but a source of entertainment and escape for your readers. Thus, keep the ranting low, but feel free to pull out this pocketed ace when appropriate.
  • Example: Only A Jerk Would Eat at Le Cirq
  • Adam emphasized that, “Ultimately, the truth matters.”

9.) Food TV Recap Post

  • Recap of episodes for a popular TV show is a great way to drive audiences who are already interested in the show to your website. Your shared interest gives them access to your community while keeping your blog informative and fun.
  • Example: Eddie Wong at Eater.com’s review of episodes (food-specific) is an interesting example of this post idea (see his review of Taste)

10.) Emotional, Bare-Your-Soul Post

  • According to Adam, this is the *most important* one.
  • Why? Well, it forces you to connect with your community in a way that’s authentic and autobiographical.
  • I perhaps got the most out of this particular post idea, because it made me take a hard look at what I share and what I don’t share at CD. Adam said he was “trembling” or nervous when he hit, “publish” on the post example I’ve listed below, because he had never been so honest with his community of readers.
  • But, the best part? His “Emotional, Bare Your Soul Post” is very possibly the “best thing” he’s ever written.
  • Example: “It Gets Better (Cooking for My Boyfriend and Our Families)”
  • (Other) Example: I found this post by a female blogger named Kate, “The One That’s Hard to Write,” a particularly compelling illustration of this idea. She discusses her hardships in trying to conceive with her husband in the past year. I can always remember the title of the post (it’s catchy, honest, and biographical), but the content she discusses was eye-opening to me as a reader of her blog, and probably the main reason I feel I can comment or return to her website, The Small Things Blog.

Phew! Got that guys? I hope so. I know I’ll be taking names and taking numbers in the next few posts to follow. Expect great things from Clearly Delicious, and if you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out Adam’s book, blog, and other book. He is a gem.

-

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Adam Roberts: "10 Food Blog Posts That’ll Get You Traffic", 5.0 out of 5 based on 3 ratings
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4 Comments

  1. Posted January 30, 2013 at 8:56 pm | #

    Wow, Helana, thanks for such a thorough review and such a flattering post. I feel like the best-dressed food blog speaker ever! Looking forward to seeing how you incorporate some of my tips into your own blog; not that you need to, but it’s nice to know you found what I said inspiring. Lots of luck and great meeting you! Adam

  2. Posted January 30, 2013 at 10:28 pm | #

    Thanks so much Adam! The talk was a real pleasure! I can’t wait to try a few list posts…and definitely some of the creative storytelling ones (and maybe even the emotional one if I can polish my wording and generate some gumption!). I’ll be sure to let you know what I come up with. Also, I’m going to e-mail you the pictures from your talk and a couple of other things. Thank you for reading! And let me know if you think something’s missing/should be added :). Wooo, Amateur Gourmet!

  3. Posted January 31, 2013 at 3:44 pm | #

    Great list and I love the blog posting recipe. I don’t have cats, but a rabbit features quite a lot in my posts. I suppose that will be my point of difference? I like the words “easy” and “best” when dealing with recipe posts. Also “Top 5″ or “Top 10″ are good. “Tips” seems to be a winner too. I love the idea of secretly banned words. I’m not sure what words I’d never show on my blog. Definitely food for thought.

  4. Posted February 3, 2013 at 1:53 am | #

    This was definitely one of my favorite posts to write Genie–Adam is such a wealth of knowledge and such an engaging speaker, that it seemed easy to put it all into perspective. As for the “recipe” for blog posts, that felt REALLY GOOD to come up with! I’m sure you know the ones I’m talking about, but a rabbit? Heck, that deserves a gold star! I love rabbits! And so does my greyhound, but that’s for different reasons.

3 Trackbacks

  1. [...] Amateur Gourmet Adam Roberts spoke that morning on the “10 Food Blog Posts That’ll Get You Traffic,” he referenced his “Best Broccoli of Your Life” if only coincidentally: his [...]

  2. [...] Amateur Gourmet Adam Roberts sat down with old New York Times restaurant critic Ruth Reichl in the mid-2000s (2006, I believe), [...]

  3. [...] Gourmet Adam Roberts explained the “Beautiful Recipe Post” in his “10 Posts that Will Get You Traffic” talk at this year’s Food Blog South 2013.  It was smart and clever, with plenty of [...]

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