Musings on the IFBC For Those of Us Stuck at Home: The Most Popular Anti Candida, Vegan, Sugar Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free Recipe Post EVER

Oh, and let’s not forget to throw in some cake, restaurants, Pizza Hut, coffee, and Food Network while I’m at it.

What the heck am I talking about, you ask?  Well, I’ve been following the shenanigans from the IFBC (International Food Bloggers Conference) both through the twitterstream (#IFBC to find it) and through some of the live videos and podcasts.  Reading the live tweets as they scrolled down my computer screen was a real hoot; as one tweeter referred to the process, it was like passing notes in school, everyone reading on the sly and giggling as they simultaneously attended to the speaker up at the front of the room.  Considering that I didn’t even know the IFBC existed until the middle of last week, I became a convert pretty quickly and have enjoyed eavesdropping on all the goings-on over the weekend (well, as much as one can from 3000 miles away).

The contents of the sessions were, from what I could tell, both incredibly professional and also incredibly useful to bloggers. I learned that Robin Goldstein spawned a thousand drooling crushes because of his supremely good looks and humor; that Wine Spectator magazine’s reputation has been severely tarnished (and deservedly so); that three ingredients does not a new recipe make; that food bloggers who want book deals must be stalkers and proffer lots of chocolate; that food photos need heart, good lighting, patience, and sometimes, a good-looking guy walking through a beam of sunlight; and that, to become popular, you must invoke the wisdom of SEO and Google bots.

SEO (search engine optimization) and Google botsWhat the–??

That’s right; one of the  sessions [Pizza Hut] focused on [anti-candida] Search Engine Optimization. And while I’ve read about this [recipe] concept before on other [gluten-free] websites and [sugar-free] blogs, I could never get entirely behind [restaurant] deliberately crafting one’s [vegan] words so that [coffee] sentences contain a smattering of [healthy] keywords, simply to draw Google searches to your blog. Seriously, what fun is that? And must blogging really be that calculated?

[This ain't no Pizza Hut pizza.]

Of course, anyone who blogs (myself included) would love it if their blog became as popular as Smitten Kitchen or The Pioneer Woman Cooks or Oh She Glows.  But surely there is more to it than deliberately crafting posts so that they attract the most hits possible?

When I began DDD in late 2007, I hardly knew what a blog was. As someone who’d written a journal basically since she knew how to write, it seemed a natural extension of something I did anyway—with the added bonus of food.

bakedoats.jpg

[The first food photo I posted on my blog, with recipe for Baked Oats. OUCH.]

 After that first comment appeared on my blog (thanks, Sally!), I was immediately hooked and went through a honeymoon phase during which I seemed to live, eat, sleep, and breathe blogging: I woke up each morning excited to check my blog stats and comments; topics for blog posts swirled in my head while I exercised, drove to the grocery store, or watched TV; I cooked constantly and snapped endless photos (eventually learning that camera flashes were evil) and I was easily able to churn out post after post, sometimes daily (though once per day did seem to be my limit, even at the best of times; I truly envy those bloggers who can write two, even three times a day).

I loved everything about blogging, and felt as if I’d discovered a truly magical realm where I could express myself freely and exchange ideas wtih others of like mind.  People began to read and react to the posts. The idea of slanting a blog post to increase traffic was as foreign to me as the idea of mugging a centenarian, stealing the Hope Diamond, or eating crab cakes. It would feel unethical, it would make my skin crawl a little bit, it just wouldn’t feel like “me.”

And yet.

There’s a certain frisson you get when you see that spike in the statistics graph; when you check your blog after a break and there are ten new comments since the last time you looked; when someone writes something laudatory about the particular story, or joke, or recipe.  And that’s when it becomes far too easy to begin writing posts that are skewed toward keeping those same responses coming.

In the early days, I never thought about who was reading my blog because, let’s face it, nobody was.  But once I realized there actually was an audience out there, the tone, or the structure, or the topics in my posts began to shift almost imperceptibly–and without my awareness of it.  If that silly post about edamame and haiku garnered such a a huge number of views, well, then, silliness and poetry suddenly feel like the right thing to write.  If people respond to funny stories from your adolescence, then you may just find yourself raking through teenaged memories attempting to unearth more of those anecdotes.  Is writing this way simply a different form of pandering to the search engines?  Or just an inherent desire to please people?

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed that my writing style and the types of posts I write have begun to lean toward what’s popular the way a ficus tree leans toward the light.  Rather than the initial stream-of-consciousness (mine or The Girls’) posts with which I began this blog, I’ve begun to rely more on the established persona who makes her habitual appearance here. Instead of using the blog as outlet for unfettered self expression, it’s become a platform for what I now see as a predictable type of recipe post, based on what has received reader approbation.

I think Shauna James Ahern summed up this phenomenon best when she discussed it in her own post about her “true” self versus her blog persona, in “Why I Write this Site.”   Ahern articulates beautifully and eloquently how the expectations of an audience can take over at some point, and the blog begins to shape you instead of the opposite being true:

When I write as the Gluten-Free Girl, there’s a pattern, a comfortable place, like the dent in Archie Bunker’s chair. My words sit there, and those of you reading might recognize them. Hopefully, you recognize something in yourself. But when I write to that pattern, when I write as the Gluten-Free Girl, I lose myself. Whoever that is.

And this brings me back to the topic of SEO and Google bots.  If we’re writing only for the search engines, only to fulfill the expectations of an established pattern of posts on the blog, then we’re like the child who’s been dancing with abandon in the back yard who stops abruptly when she notice that her brother is watching: we lose ourselves.  Of course we don’t ever want to disappoint our readers, and there is so much to love about writing a blog even when we do reinforce that comfortable dent in the armchair.  But we need to be true to ourselves at the same time.  And sometimes, those selves change over time. And sometimes, they don’t even wish to write about food.

In the end, I think the gist of that particular session at IFBC was saying the same thing. Molly (she of the iconic Orangette blog) tweeted, “SEO can’t be all about bots, right? You can optimize to death, but if a site doesn’t connect with people, it doesn’t work.”  In other words, a blog still needs to come from a place of authenticity, it needs to be genuine, it needs to be true to the writer, it needs to flow from the heart.  And to me, deliberately inserting keywords into my sentences, or structuring sentences and paragraphs to include the most popular keywords on Google Insights just doesn’t do it.

I agree with Molly.  People are drawn to stories; they’re drawn to authentic ideas and expressions; they’re drawn to real people behind the blogs.

 

So here’s the message I got from the SEO session at IFBC: be true to your real self.  It may not work in the way that you’d hoped, and your blog may not skyrocket to fame, a million hits a month, or a book deal.  But you’ll still be having fun.  I know there will be days when the snark muse doesn’t spur me on. There will be days when I don’t feel like posting a recipe.  Some days, I’ll feel like telling stories about my childhood, and others, I won’t.  Like me, this blog will continue to evolve and be shaped by what happens in my life.

Sure, I want my blog to be popular; who doesn’t?  But before anything else, blogging has to make me feel as if I’m still here, still–at the core–writing for myself, even if it’s also to thousands of readers at the same time.

Writing in my own inimitable restaurant, healthy, anti-candida, coffee, sugar free, cake, Pizza Hut, recipe, vegan, way.  ;)

How do you feel about this issue? What motivates your choice of post topics?  How much of the business of blogging makes its way into your blog writing? 

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Comments

  1. this blog post is so right on and well-written I hope it makes you fabulously popular.

  2. Hi Ricki,

    I agree!

    I think being true to yourself is the point of blogging. I know there are some people who blog just to make money, but I think most blog because they want to write. And write about something they love. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to do it very long. Although I noticed when I wrote a blog post the other day and decided to spice up the title, I got three times as many views as normal.

    I also missed IFBC, but I just himmed and hawed until it was too late to sign up. :( But, it looks like we will all be getting together next year. :) BTW, they also have videos of the sections, which is good for me. My toddler dictates whether or not I get to look at the computer, and he was having none of it this weekend. I get to watch after he goes to sleep.

    xoxo,
    Tia :P

    • I think that was the concensus at the session, too; blogging to become “popular” or “famous” won’t cut it and people will ultimately be turned off. Like you, I’ve already decided I need to get there next year! Just hoping it’s a little closer than Seattle. And so interesting about the increased traffic because of the title! (I’ll let you know whether this one has an impact). ;)

  3. Yes, it needs to come from you; that’s the only way like-minded people will have a chance to connect with you and your writing. Being found through the search engines is one thing, but it’s not the end of the story. You must then give the people who find you the opportunity to decide if they like you and want to stick around. If you want to connect with the ones that are a right fit for you and keep them coming back, you simply have to be yourself, let them see who you are. Try to be anything else and you’ll be left wondering why you feel like you share no affinities with your readers.
    I’ll stop here before drag this on too long. Get me started on that subject and I can go on for quite a while… If you want more, don’t hesitate to let me know; we could have a fun chat!

    • Would love to hear more of what you think! And it’s so true; I may find a blog through searching but it’s the personality behind the blog that usually brings me back. And the recipes. ;)

  4. It depends on why you’re blogging.

    If you’re blogging for yourself, and don’t care if anyone reads your blog, then you don’t need SEO. There’s absolutely no reason to use it (or a blog in general).

    But if you want to make it easy for people to find you and your content, then you must use SEO, and yes, work with the bots that run the web. Ignoring this very basic and very established fact is the best way to see your traffic putter along slowly.

    Until search engines are displaced as the primary source of finding information online, “writing for the web” as its currently understood is a must. A talented online writer knows how to do this while still publishing a nicely crafted piece.

    BTW, thank you for keeping the snark out of your post. You immediately got my respect.

    • Joy, I absolutely think it depends on why you’re blogging. If blogging is your full-time job and you “need” to increase blog traffic, that is one thing. But I think that’s a different kind of blog from most food blogs. To some extent, food blogs have built-in keywords because of the titles of the recipes themselves, or the techniques that will make their way into the blog post. My posts often seem to write themselves and come from somewhere that isn’t connected to my conscious, deliberate thought patterns. Of course I edit and am aware of what I’m writing, but if it doesn’t fit organically into the writing, I’m not going to insert something deliberately.

      It reminds me of a story my mentor once told about a student of his who was desperate to be a novelist. He’d written a book that was pretty bad. When my mentor suggested that he might like to revise to make the writing more vivid, his answer was, “Oh, yeah, yeah, of course I still have to stick in all the metaphors, but basically, the book is done.” ;)

  5. I’m lame because I’m right here in Seattle, and I missed it! We were supposed to be on Bowen Island but cancelled. Now that I know how many people were there whom I know I realize I missed a big opportunity.

    I blog just to blog but there are some very calculated bloggers out there. Good for them. They just have different goals than I have. The worst are those who pretend it’s just a casual thing when they’ve had other motives all along. I do know a few of them. Such is life.

    • Tiffany, it’s true, the goal will determine the approach. But being disingenuous about it is what bothers most people, I’d guess. Such is life! ;)

  6. This is such a great post! I wrote something (albeit much more amateurish and far less eloquent) about a week ago, and couldn’t agree more. I think a bloggers voice shines through the content, and I can usually tell when a post is sincere or is written for the numbers. I rarely read the latter types of posts.

    • Katie, can you provide a link to your post? I would hope that people can tell when the real voice shines through. On those days when it’s been too long since I posted, my life is a mess and I throw something together just to have something on the blog–well, on those days, I hope they can’t. ;)

  7. Ricki, this was absolutely hysterical. And absolutely so true and so well said. We cannot lose sight of why we started our blogs in the first place. This should not be a popularity contest. This should be about us sharing our passion to help others. When we stop doing that and start catering to the google masses, then it stops being fun. Thank you for this post! ;)

    • Kim, thanks so much. I think that’s what got me started on this post–I’ve begun to feel, lately, that I may have lost sight a little bit of why I began all this and feeling as if I need to get in touch with that self again. And that is what will, indeed, make it all so much fun!

  8. Haha! I loved this, and I love the photos you used. Being true to myself is always a necessity. Actually, I’ve been working through some really difficult and life-changing things lately, that I know I am going to blog…but it is scary and I just don’t know when it will happen. When I’ll get the courage!

    I love this post, Ricki. Brilliant, as usual!

    • Tasha, you are one of the most genuine people/bloggers I know (well, I feel as if I know you through your blog–see what I mean?) ;) Sorry to hear about the tough times. I do hope you blog about them when you’re ready. You have a huge and loyal readership that feels connected to you and is more than willing to try to help! And that’s what it’s all about, in my opinion. :)

  9. As someone new to the whole health/food/lifestyle blogging world, I too am amazing at the inauthentic ways one can gain popularity on the web. I think what’s best in life is best in business is best in blogging – be authentic. Connect with others. Be yourself. Sure, be smart. Be strategic. But always be authentic.

    Thanks Ricki – great post!

    • Jen, like so many things today, I think it can become a commodity and the focus is too much on what the blog can do for you instead of what you can do for the blog. . . not to get all presidential on you, or anything. ;)

  10. Excellent post, Ricki – and something all of us (especially us newer bloggers) should remember.

    • Thanks, Deanna. Sometimes, I think it’s more important for us older (as in “established”–even though I fit the other meaning, too!) bloggers, in fact. ;)

  11. Thanks so much for your post, Ricki. I always enjoy your insightful commentary, photos, and recipes.

    When I first started my Here and There blog in 2005, I did it so that I could stop annoying my family by filling their email boxes with photos. They could visit the blog to read about my doings and see photos at their leisure.

    Like you, when I received my first “other” visitor, I started writing a little differently because I had an audience other than my family and friends — I spent more time thinking about what I had to say and how to say it.

    While I’ve been out in Utah this summer, I’ve temporarily refocused Here and There to document the work I’ve been doing. Now, the wee collection of posts is a reference on my CV. It also remains a way to explain to my Mom exactly what I’ve been up to out here in the desert (I’ve subscribed her to email updates of my posts).

    Thanks again for providing food for thought. :)

  12. That cake scares me – there’s no repair shop on Earth that’s going to be able to fix it. : )

    Seriously, though: I think we all care if we are being read, whether to self express and resonate w/ a few, or to drive traffic stats for revenue purposes; otherwise, we would all keep private journals for our own pleasure. Reasons for blogging may evolve over time, and balancing editorial content can therefore become challenging. I do believe that you can keep your voice and keep your readership while exploring other avenues, but care must be taken to finesse it.

    • I know–I did a search on “cake photos” and when that came up, I thought there had been a mistake at first! And I suppose you are absolutely right (hadn’t quite thought of it in those terms, for some strange reason)–I made the switch to blogging versus my old paper journals for a reason (beyond the fact that I type faster than I write). ;) But as my own reasons evolve and I’m faced with new challenges in writing, I’m beginning to assess what I’m doing differently, too. I like your last line in particular, since I think that’s exactly what’s been happening to me on this blog ever since I started the ACD–much exploring of other avenues, and some are making their way into these pages. A topic for yet another blog post, I think!

  13. Rita signed me up to write about our recipe experiments and the search for satisfying gluten free food as a way to share with others. Along the way we found other bloggers doing the same thing and those are the ones that I read as often as possible. It really makes my day when someone leaves a comment or especially a tip when I have a problem. I greatly appreciate DD&D creativity – especially writing and recipe chemistry. And let’s not forget the Elsie-and-Chaser perspective with their helpful comments and sweet faces!

    • That’s one of the things about blogging that I like the best, too–the back-and-forth of ideas and suggestions. And The Girls are very grateful for your attention (well, any attention, I guess) ;)

  14. Interesting to hear your thoughts on this – am sure the conference is v v v fascinating. it is a bit like online dating – we want to link up with others but at the end of the day we want to be loved for who we are!

    Love seeing some of your old photos – that bowl of oatmeal shows just how much you have improved your photography – your photos now are just so amazing and that one is not quite that amazing :-)

    • I really got taken by the conference proceedings even though I’m here at home! Seemed like just the kind of thing I love to participate in. And yes, that old photo is, um, “not quite that amazing”! ;)

  15. Great article, ha loved the paragraph with random keywords in it! Working with SEO can be a little bit more discreet than that, but I loved your execution of a point :)
    I like to subscribe to the “content is king” philosophy around blogging success. All the SEO in the world can’t replace good old fashioned well-written original content. While SEO is great for getting views from people who may not have otherwise found your blog, it’s great content that will get them to come back.

    • Jenn, I had fun with that paragraph! I prefer that philosophy, too. And frankly, I think the most popular blogs (those I mentioned or others) are all about the content, in fact. But you’re right, SEO can bring over some people who might otherwise not find you.

  16. Great post & very interesting to hear your take on things. I attended the conference- it was great fun & the sessions were, as you mentioned, for the most part professionally delivered and worthwhile. It’s funny, while I have always been concerned w/ monetizing my blog to its full potential, I have never worried so much about SEO and key words, etc. I write, I photograph, and I hope that my readers will visit and enjoy my recipes. Fortunately, that has all worked out. I think we’re all in it for different reasons, and we’re certainly all going to grow at a different pace. Being yourself is what you’ve gotta hope that most bloggers strive for.

    • Lori, it seems that you’ve mastered the art of blogging, so for you SEO is more of an added bonus. It’s that human connection that Molly mentioned that draws me the most to other blogs–and that can be achieved in so many ways.

  17. I love this post. I think about things like that often but never get it down on my blog eloquently.

    I remember I got into a bit of a fight with a very dear friend when I first started blogging over what is actually this issue. She called me and said “Valerie, your posts are too long – you should make them shorter if you want people to read your blog” – she said it more nicely, but that’s what it came down to. And I remember I told her “I don’t write this blog for you, I write it for me” {I started to blog specifically as a way to write, since at the time I was at a very non-creative, non-writing based legal job, as opposed to my job now which involves much more writing). It really upset her that I was so blunt, and I was surprised at myself too.

    My blog has had many different topics and themes – I used to think it was because I wasn’t finding my true writing voice, but honestly, it was because I love trying on different approaches to blogging. Right now I am loving the idea of writing more and having more day-to-day type posts – am I being influenced by other bloggers – yes in that I love the idea of capturing my life more closely the way they do, but no in that I don’t really expect to get more traffic, nor is that why I am doing it.

    All that said, I do respond to reader comments very keenly – i.e. if a post garners a lot of interest, I try to write more like it – so yes, I do get the frisson and the loving the traffic too. I just try very hard to not let it dictate totally how I blog, i.e. I stopped having a very planned blogging schedule and just try to write what comes to me when it comes to me.

    Thank you again for another great post.

    • Valerie, that’s so interesting about how your friend reacted–as if there is a set “right” way to blog! But I’ve heard the same thing, that posts should be short and direct for people to read them (seems I’ve broken that rule on far too many occasions, too). I used to plan my blog posts, too, and have now moved toward a more organic structure, posting when the urge hits me. (Okay, more like when I can carve out the time–life has gotten much busier since I started blogging!) ;)

      • You would be amazed at how many rules people have for blogging – amongst non-bloggers as much as bloggers. People have all these opinions about making blogs easier to read, short posts versus long posts, lots of pictures versus less pictures, posting at the same time of day versus not – I try to go for a more organic approach. Sometimes I want to write a long post, sometimes not. There’s times I really care about writing often and people reading often, because I love connecting with readers, and then there’s time where life gets busy and while I feel bad about disappearing from blogging (you know, the cardinal rule never to leave readers hanging) I figure that readers will understand. And as for those that don’t, well, I can’t please everyone. I don’t mean to sound selfish, because a huge part of blogging is connecting with readers, but I also can’t deal with too many rules. As a practicing attorney, while I do get to write lots more at this current job, I already have plenty of should’s and rules.

        • Not so amazed, I guess! Again, it seems to boil down to what you want from the blog. I was aware of some of these rules, not others. If I feel like it and it seems to fit naturally with what I’d be writing anyway, I might consider them. But otherwise, I’m like you–the blog is my respite from my “real” work and if it feels too much like work, I probably won’t keep up with it.

  18. I think being true to yourself is so important, yes, but I think that every writer, actor, artist, etc. develops a persona that is an exaggerated caricature of his or herself. For example, do I think the Pioneer Woman eats as much butter as she claims to? No, or Marlboro Man would have to roll her around the ranch.

    I think it’s easy for bloggers who have been financially and professionally successful (and by success I do not mean popular!) to preach staying true to yourself but in any profession, I think sometimes you have to give a little bit to get ahead. For example, I work in public relations and at my first job the clients I worked on were not in my dream field, but once I put in my two years there and gained some experience I was able to move to a new company and work on accounts that I believed in.

    I think it’s all a matter of personal preference and abiding by your own comfort level.

    • That’s a really good point, Maris. I suppose the “me” that is on this blog is my writer-persona more than anything else. I am pretty much the same in person, but not exactly so (don’t edit what I say as I do what I write–can be a problem sometimes!) ;) And I don’t think your example about going with “non-dream clients” disproves the need to be true to yourself. Presumably you were dealing with these clients as you would your dream clients–they didn’t see a different, or inauthentic, Maris, I’m guessing.

  19. PS – I loved the stream of consciousness posts with lots of The Girls’ talking, but I also really love your stories about growing up/life etc. One of my all-time favorite posts is the New Age Vegan Carbonara because of how you capture Lydia/Leora/Lydia. We’ve all known someone like her growing up. That said, I find both types of posts very “you” :)

    • Valerie, thanks! I think I tend to write in ways that appeal to me at the moment, and when I do that, it clicks. When I try too hard to invoke the snarky, or the silly, or the poetic or whatever version of “me,” then the voice just doesn’t work, and I think the readers can feel that as much as I can. But I suppose, in the end, they are both still coming from “me,” aren’t they?

  20. Blogging is such a funny thing! But I think in the end you have to stay true to yourself. If I don’t like the writing and photography, I am not going to stick around.
    Luckily I like everything you post!

    • Lauren, yep, pretty funny! But exciting, invigorating, challenging, comforting, satisfying, fun too. Or else none of us would stick around, I reckon! ;)

  21. Man, I wish I could have gone to the IFBC! We should really start our own IVFBC (that v is for vegan, of course!). BTW, I STILL (even three years after launching Vegan Crunk) dream of blog posts and obsess over new comments. Reading my comments is seriously the highlight of my day. I know that makes me super-nerd…but you understand. :-)

    • Bianca, that’s a fabulous idea. We could all eat everything with abandon–whheeee! ;) And I know exactly what you mean. After almost three years, I still feel the same way. I guess I’m a super-nerd, then, too. ;)

  22. I am a food blogger and I own a web development company and food bloggers are a large part of my client base. Many of them want to monetize their blogs and see income produced so it’s important that they pay attention to SEO practices but the truth is…if you do write from the heart, if your content speaks of what your readers need or want to hear from you; you will in turn create the content that is also SEO friendly; I do not see the two as disparate or polar opposites.

    I don’t think making sure your Title tag has keywords means you have fallen prey to the traffic gods…I think it’s smart. I also don’t think just inherently being aware of good SEO practices means that you can not speak from the heart when writing content.

    I counsel clients that do want to make their blog also their business of being like the tortoise and not the hare. Slow and steady should be their course while making sure to always have integrity in what they write and mean it. I do believe that whatever your end goal is…a combination of multiple attributes will see you achieve the results you want…a qualified and interested readership.

    • Thanks for your perspective, Barbara! It’s interesting to hear from the “other” side as well. I didn’t want to come across as entirely anti-SEO, either. I do think it makes for good practice and need not be entirely disparate from the “real” you behind the blog. It’s when the impulse to meet the SEO criteria takes over and begins to influence the content, well, that’s where I have a problem. And of course I’d like to monetize the blog as best I can (seems I haven’t even scratched the surface on that one yet!), but I still struggle with what will or will not feel genuine if I do embrace such things more seriously.

  23. Just read your post, all comments and thoroughly enjoyed them. IFBC was my first conference. All sessions were fantastic in their own way.

    When I started contributing to the blog for my now partner, I hadn’t a concern for rankings, hits, etc., just hoped people would read and enjoy content. Didn’t know about SEO until 4 months ago when I started getting serious. While I now think SEO is important, it really boils down to your purpose and what you want out of your blog. If you want/need to make $$, SEO is necessary unless you’ve managed as RecipeGirl above.

    The business of blogging has entered our blog, as with topic selection. And I find myself backing up and asking the question, what is important to me. I tend to agree with Maris above, you have to give a little bit to get ahead. Working on finding a balance now!

    • Thanks for chiming in, Lynn! I think I may be going through much the same self- and blog-examination as you at the moment. Of course I want to post about things that are of interest to my readers (or why am I here?), as per your comment about topic selection. But also like you, I am always wondering about what is important to me. And balance is always such a tricky business, isn’t it? ;)

  24. I love this post Ricki. I haven’t had a chance to watch any of the IFBC talks, but I do plan to (though I am definitely skipping the SEO one).
    I have to say that I don’t give much, if any, thought to the SEO stuff when writing my posts. I do try to think of keywords and phrases that people may use to find the recipe and work them in, but I never add words that have no relevance, or that make my writing sound weird.
    I do want people to find my blog (I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit obsessed with making sure my traffic is always on the rise), but I want them to return because they like my content, or feel they can learn something, etc.
    I choose post topics based on what I feel like posting, never because of trends, etc. I try to eat seasonally, so my posts basically follow what’s good to eat when. Every now and then I will do a post that about a holiday dish or whatever, but for the most part, I post what I want when I want. While I suspect lots of other bloggers are currently planning their “Best Labor Day Menu Ideas” or the like (and I have nothing against that at all), I am just not one of them ;)

    • Thanks, Winnie. Re-reading your comment, I’m wondering how you do make sure traffic is on the rise, then? It’s a funny thing, isn’t it: we are interested in who’s reading (and how many are reading), but at the same time don’t want to feel as if we’re contorting our natural selves to accommodate the blog “machine.” What’s the solution? I really have no idea, which is why I opt for basically continuing to write whatever appeals to me at the moment. I am hoping that if I find it interesting, then like-minded readers will, too. So since I myself love those compilation posts of holiday-specific recipes, I tend to do them, too. Something about this particular session at IFBC hit a chord with me, and I wanted to write about it. Hmm! Who knows what may come next–?? ;)

  25. Ricki, your blog was one of the first ones I started reading (I lurked for quite a while, lol) and I cannot imagine that it is not wildly popular…how can it not be?!? Your recipes are amazing and your posts are hilarious and you are ALWAYS true to yourself. I wouldn’t read your blog so religiously if all of those things were not true :-)

    Courtney

  26. Hmm…so where do I start? Somehow you conveyed all of my thoughts about blogging. Doing it for myself, for self-expression, for the love of it. But also loving the thrill of having a spike in my daily views. Wanting to fit a niche, but knowing I don’t quite fit neatly somewhere because my blog is about me and food, and that’s a big barrel of contradictions. Wanting to be able to post about dessert recipes every day, because those get the most interest, but not wanting to sacrifice my own well-being with my history of bingeing. Wanting to talk about bingeing, weight, self-esteem, but not wanting to get mired down or turn off my readers who come for recipes.

    Like you, when I first started blogging, I barely knew what I was doing, and I didn’t tell anyone about it. I even used a pseudonym because I wasn’t sure I wanted anyone to read my inner musings. But of course I quickly realized a blog that no one reads is simply a journal and I might as well just write that on paper. Now, I think I write because I’ve realized that it’s a platform where I can be outgoing, confident, and make my voice heard. I’ve always been pretty shy, and my blog is an outlet for the side of me that doesn’t want to sit back and quietly watch. There are days that I think more about the “popularity” of it all, and those are the days I feel more bogged down by it. But then I remember that it’s a choice to blog, and I choose to do it because I love it, not because I need to get a certain number of page views.

    • Iris, wow–you have summed it all up so beautifully! Coming back to the love of writing seems to be what grounds me, ultimately, as well. Thanks for this!

    • Iris – I am really connecting what what you said here. I struggle with the desire to increase my popularity (and yet balance the time I spend on my blog with a full-time job, family, obligations…you know, LIFE) and still staying true to myself. I would love to post more dessert recipes, but I too can’t have that stuff lying around! Daring Bakers alone kills me – LOL.
      Ricki – I loved your example of SEO – made me laugh! I think this post is popular and I loved it because it was the real you – which is the whole point of blogging, yes?
      While I hope to gain popularity and one day have someone grant me a book deal and all that, I’m not going to “pimp” myself out to do so. Gonna post what I want, when I want. End of story!

      • Alta, I go through the same struggle all the time. I envy those bloggers who can put it together in one place, generating masses of readers while still doing what differentiates them as individuals. But life does beckon, doesn’t it? I do tend to blog about dessert more than I should, but my chest freezer is a good friend. ;)

  27. Ricki,

    So honestly, eloquently and beautifully said(written). Period.

    Stephanie

  28. Ricki, regardless of whether or not you have a million page views, you will always be wildly popular in my book. Your posts are authentic and always enjoyable to read. Keep doing what you’re doing.

  29. I am not so sure I understand search bots or any of that – I do blog because I love the interaction with others, the e-mail from a reader that says my recipes in her in-box brighten her day and help her get thorough another meal.

    I have to disagree with some of the fanatical recipe ‘owners’ – no one can copywrite a recipe because it’s impossible to tell where it came from. And if you change 3 ingredients, the recipe is usually so very different. I’m all for giving credit where credit is due but I really believe that one recipe inspires another, which inspires another. That’s the beauty of sharing recipes and food. Quite often I see my recipes that have been modified and 9 times out of 10 they improve the dish. It’s wonderful to know that somehow, something I did sparked a change.

    • I’m not so sure I understand them, either, but I can grasp the concept of keywords. I’m with you on this one–it’s the individual interactions that I love. And as for recipes, I’m torn on that one. It’s true that changing a recipe does create a new recipe, but as KitchenMage said, “recipes are like children. I ‘own’ mine while they live at home in my cookbook or blog, but once they mature and move out on their own…not so much. . . .I’d appreciate it if there was a shoutout to me – sort of like keeping the family name after marriage.” I really appreciate it when someone who makes my recipe includes an acknowlegement and link back to me, just as I do when I “re-create” other recipes.

  30. Thank you for this amazing blog post. I have actually felt bad about not posting as much “emotional stuff” as I feel like I should be posting, when what I am really drawn to writing about and doing is testing and tweaking other chefs’ and bloggers’ vegan recipes and photographing the results. Thank you for making me realize that creating blog posts about what I am drawn to is ultimately the most genuine thing that I can do!

    • Wendy, I think you’ve summed it up very nicely. Whatever you “feel” you should be blogging probably won’t work as well as what you are drawn to blogging. If you pursue what interests you, you’ll develop skills in that area and ultimately shine. And we’re all drawn to the light! ;)

  31. I was your first commenter? That really warms my heart. :D

  32. well said :) it’s funny, i feel i’ve had alot of these thoughts, but never quite consisely or even coherently over the course of my blogging! i don’t know how long i’ve been reading, but i’ve always been a fan ricki!! :)

    • I think many of us go through this, don’t you? There seems to be a fairly common course that bloggers follow, before the point at which they branch out, either moving to professional blogging (for money, etc.) or not, or perhaps leaving it all together. . . that happens all too often!

  33. Thank you so much for this post. As a (very) new blog writer, I found it particularly insightful. For now, writing the blog is about reconnecting with myself as a writer. I haven’t begun tracking stats; my “site meter” is the thrill i get from putting my words and thoughts down and then clicking “publish.” I’ve found it is detrimental to my sleep to post too close to bed time. You’ve given me some food for thought, so thank you.

    • Amanda, welcome to the wonderful world of blogging (and I can say that sincerely–I do still think it’s wonderful!). Your motivation sounds like the very best reason to begin, to me. But I’m confused about why posting near bedtime is a bad thing? Because you stay awake thinking about it?

  34. Brilliant, and much needed. Thank you for this post!

    My co-blogger and I have talked about this quite a bit, and Donna (I’m the Anne half) actually attended the conference in question. She filled me in on a lot of the talk about optimizing according to SEO, Google Insights and such. Apparently one of the speakers talked about deciding what your blog objective is: do you want to make money, or do you want to archive your recipes, or do you want something for your friends and family to read, etc. It seems that it was presented in a black and white way, like you have to choose ONE of the above and then tailor your every word to that end, and I personally balk at that idea. I can see making one of the stated objectives a PRIORITY, but my GOD, what a soulless blog it would be to post nothing but Pizza Hut recipe gluten-free Food Networkre vegan recipe weight loss sugar-free recipe buzzword content.

    We definitely learned some things that will be useful, and I have nothing against trying to increase hits and make a bit more in ad revenue, for SURE, but I don’t think it has to be one objective only.

    Optimizing your content in such a way reminds me of a mommy blogger I used to follow (different subject, same mechanics, really). I actually find her POV on parenting very compatible with mine, but I found her style to be a huge turnoff. Basically every other word she posts is prefaced by a hashtag, linked to another site, connected to a Carnival, reviewing a product, using all the hottest terms. Not that there is anything wrong with ANY of the above – we do them too – but it eventually seems to be all style and zero substance. I just can’t stomach it. I might have arrived on her blog the first time due to her careful demographic strategizing, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stick around if I find it totally inauthentic.

    Anyway, again, thanks for verbalizing this.

  35. One of my favorite tweets was a mock-post title projected on the screen by a clever attendee during the conference SEO session that went something like this:

    “Naked Vegan Bicyclists and Angelina Jolie and her Boobs Love this Gluten Free Sustainable Recipe”

    I blog because I love being part of the World Wide Web food dialogue that is going on, and love having exchanges like the above with all of you!

    Thanks, Ricki. And cheers, everyone!

  36. Great post Ricki. Though my blog is not one of the really popular ones, I still am always wondering when I’m writing how people will interpret things and whether they’ll like it. And I end up writing things that probably sound awkward sometimes because I’m trying to put things together in a way I think people might like instead of just being myself. Which is a bit different from what you were saying but that’s kind of what it made me think of.

  37. Ricki, thanks for the link. It was what initially drew me here but then I read the whole post and clicked on some of the links. This is the age-old question, about content vs. SEO, but I don’t think it’s either/or. You can have great content and great SEO. I just haven’t figured out the latter yet.

    Also, I also want to mention that I am so impressed by all these comments. You have wonderful rapport with your readers.

    • Thanks so much, Dianne! Not sure whether this comment is new, or just popped up because of the new site design? In either case, I still feel the same way about SEO and what I wrote about it when I published this blog post! :)

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