For 34% of you this post will of be no use. For 15% of you the information might be interesting but for the rest of you (all 51%) I hope this will be an informational and useful post. Please let me know in the comments what you think!

Oh yes, this post is going to be a little different. Today I am bringing out the stats and the graphs, after months of procrastination I am going to publish the first results of the Food Blog Questionnaire.

The point of the questionnaire was to gain information into how technology can improve your blog. Which features do people love? Which features should you highlight? And which you should remove altogether.

Whatever metrics you use to measure success – page views, readers, subscribers, commenters, ad revenue, whatever – your website needs to work in your favour. There are so many food blogs, so many people covering the same area, that you have to give people reasons to stay, not excuses to leave.

I have loads of opinions on what makes a good websites (and especially what makes a bad one), but these are based on my gut feelings not always on evidence. The aim of the questionnaire was to test my hypotheses and get some feedback.

This first post goes over the first questions those that wanted to find out about why and how you read food blogs. Understanding your audience is half the battle to improving your food blog.

Are you a food blogger?

It has long been my opinion that a large percentage of people who read food blogs are in fact food bloggers themselves. If you look at the number of comments your blog gets how many fill in the website field, versus those that don’t?

The question “Are you a food blogger?” is interesting in getting a baseline for the results of future questions – over 51% of people who responded to the questionnaire had food blogs themselves.

Pie chart, 51% are food bloggers, 34% not bloggers at all, 15% have a different type of blog

Improve your food blog by:

Writing posts that appeal to food bloggers. If you want to diverge from the food straight and narrow, you can always branch out. There are any number of topics that are interesting to food bloggers but that aren’t about food. Food styling and photography are two of the most obvious.

Hopefully this is also true of a food blog that wants to talk about how to improve your website ;)


How do you keep up to date with food blogs?

One of the “widgets” I added to my website first was the “Subscribe” section, at time of writing the questionnaire it contained links to my “rss feed”, “subscribe by email”, “follow me on twitter” and an “add to google reader” link.

However I was interested if people actually used these methods to keep up to date with other food blogs, and if they used other ones which? The results were different to how I imagined…

Pie chart outlining percentages of up take of different technologies.

How to improve your food blog:

RSS is big, but less than 50% use it. RSS is a technology that is built for keeping up to date with the latest posts from your favourite blogs, and yet while it is probably the best tool for the job many people still don’t use it! However with 49% usage you should make it easy for people to access your feed, the easiest way is to provide a prominent link to it. For an example see my Subscribe section at the top right of the page.

Have a Twitter presence. 15% use twitter to get updates on your latest content, I expect this will increase in the future as Twitter becomes even more prominent. Having a twitter account is not only a great way to get people to read your latest content but it is a fun way to engage with your readers on more a personal level. For more ideas on how to use it read my post on the best way to engage with your followers on twitter.

There are many different services you can use to keep your twitter followers up to date on your latest posts. I use feedburner, which will tweet (once) each time I publish a new post.

20% of people use bookmarks to read their favourite blogs. Unlike with twitter or RSS helping people to bookmark your blog in their browser is difficult.

However you could add a textual reminder to people to bookmark your blog – it couldn’t hurt! (You will see that I have recently updated my Subscribe section to include this).

What makes you return to a food blog?

Try and think about your favourite food blogs, what is about them that makes you read again? Think about your food blog what do you think makes people come back? If you are trying to increase readership, and lets face it – who isn’t, look at the other categories to see what areas can you move into.

Bar chart show relative importance of different features on food blogs

Improve your food blog:

Interesting recipes, likeable personalities, fantastic writing and food porn photographs made up the top 4 reasons to return to a food blog. No real surprises there, this could be true of almost any type of blog: great content, personality (and it doesn’t always have to be a nice one) and writing skills are going to be important for any blog.

Plus you don’t need to be a food blogger for long to realise that hunger-inducing photos are going to win you readership.

Hints and Tips are an easy way to get repeat business. I already touched on this earlier but there are many different types of content on food blogs, it doesn’t all have to be recipes. If you have got making meringues down to a fine art or french macarons or even just boiling an egg, people want to know about it. Likewise if you take awesome photos talk about how you do it.

Giveaways aren’t the be all end all. The numbers here just don’t look great for giveaways, considering just how prevalent they are. However I should point out that most blog giveaways are on American blogs, while around half of the responders of the questionnaire were from the rest of the world. Since giveaways only tend to deliver to the country of origin this can leave a bad taste in the mouth for international readers, and be partly responsible for the low turn out in this questionnaire.

While I am sure giveaways give a surge in number of views for a post, you should remember to not put off readers from other countries.

CommentLuv may be a good way of increasing readership. Ok so I will level with you, I am extrapolating here, one person said they liked it. However CommentLuv wasn’t one of the options I provided, so that someone typed it into the Other field. The fact that anyone took the time to think of this WordPress plugin at all can only be a good sign for it. Plus I happen to agree, CommentLuv is great!

For those of you who don’t know CommentLuv is a WordPress plugin which allows commenters on your blog to link to their latest blog post from yours.

I’ve used it on my blog for a while now (you should see the heart shaped icon on many of the comments on my blog), and have found that it gives me a easy way to read blog posts from my readers and to increase the community spirit.

*****

I think that as a food blogger understanding your audience is half the battle – play the numbers. I spend a lot more time on my Twitter presence than my Facebook one. Why? Because more people are interested in following me on Twitter than Facebook. The links in my subscribe section are ordered to make the most popular ones top. It is all about making it easy for people to interact with me and my blog.

When making changes to your blog you should keep in mind:

  • How does this help my readers?
  • How can I make it easier for my readers to engage?

What do you think of the results so far? Are you surprised? Interested to see more? Please leave me a comment – I’d love to hear your opinions, especially if you disagree :)

Read more hints and tips for Improving Your Food Blog or follow me on twitter.