The first was on the value of comments like “Looks delicious.” It garnered my all-time highest response. I guess that’s not surprising, since that’s the response that often comes to mind when reading food blogs (or it should, if the blogger’s doing it right!). The second was on whether commenting on posts is a worthwhile strategy to build traffic.
I asked a lot of questions in those two posts, because I’m counting on you all to help me figure out the answers. This caused regular commenter Nate to ask me: “How do you structure a post or a question on a food blog post to cultivate signal and reduce noise?” Okay, I’ll give it a shot.
But first, a qualifier. My blog is a place where people discuss topics I’ve brought up, sometimes with each other! Maybe yours is not. Nevertheless, here’s my best shot at three tips:
1. Emit emotion. Readers want a connection. It’s not just about a recipe for Scottish shortbread, it’s about the time you went to the Highland Games and drank too much beer. If you’ve forgotten what all the emotions are, here’s the basic list and their polar opposites:
In the above fictional post idea about shortbread, which emotions apply? Let’s see: there’s joy in getting tipsy, trust that you would not make a fool of yourself, fear that you would, and surprise that you got home okay.
For more on emotion, see this list of the more complex emotions on Wikipedia.
You know who’s good at getting readers all emotional? Ree Drummond did a Valentine’s giveaway that resulted in more than 35,000 comments. She did it by asking questions that elicit immediate emotional responses. Take a look. They work even if you don’t know the answer, and even if the answer is only one word, which is all she asked for:
- What was your first love’s name?
- Have you ever had your heart broken?
- What’s your favorite love song of all time?
- Do you have a Valentine this year?
- Do you believe love rules or love stinks?
- Have you ever walked into a plate glass door in the dining hall on your first day of college?
2. Get people thinking. Readers like to look at an issue, ingredient or a technique in a new way. Write a longer piece so you you have more chance to engage people. Look for opportunities to discuss “the relevelation of something profound and important in something you may have once seen as ordinary or routine, or seeing a causal connection between important things and seemingly remote causes,” according to a New York Times article on what causes people to email their articles.
Now that sounds kind of cosmic, but it’s not. Food writing is such a perfect environment for making that connection between the routine and the important. I tried it myself: connecting chicken soup and cancer, in one of my most popular posts.
3. Don’t know everything. Put forth a passionate opinion and ask readers what they think. Try not to think of everything so there’s room for people to make their points. Or ask for suggestions because you need advice. People love to give advice.
For more ideas, see
- Problogger: Ten Techniques to Get More Comments on Your Blog
- Seth Godin: How to Get Traffic for Your Blog
- Performancing: Ten Tips for Attracting More Comments
I’m also wondering: Do you think there’s anything particular to the content or writing in food blogs that causes people respond? Ex. a luscious photo?