By Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox of MayIHaveThatRecipe.com
We get it. Many people who search for recipes online want food bloggers to stick to recipes. They don’t want a backstory, tips on how to make the dish — none of that “nonsense.”
We’ve all seen the tweets:
“Why does every recipe have to have a mini-essay preceding it? #justgivemetherecipe”
“If you blog an 8-page life story about a recipe that you have instead of getting straight to the point, then you deserve to be judo chopped in the neck and I will forever pray that a swarm of bees follow you around for the rest of your life. #justgivemetherecipe”
Apparently, no one has the time or patience to scroll for 30 seconds (unless they’re scrolling through their Facebook or Instagram feed), to find what they came for.
For food bloggers like us, it’s annoying. Sometimes it’s infuriating. Because it’s clear that most people have no clue how much thought and work goes into each and every one of our posts. These readers don’t give us enough credit. They don’t wonder if those backstories and tips might be there for a reason.
Chances are, those of us who write those long, annoying posts have little interest in sharing anything other than our recipes with readers. Actually, our lives would be easier if we could just develop a recipe, take a photo, and post it on our blog.
So why don’t we food bloggers just stick to recipes, and cut out all the “nonsense?”
1. Food blog posts are a ton of work.
Food blogging means more than cooking something, snapping a couple of pictures and posting them on a website and social media. Every single recipe at MayIHaveThatRecipe.com goes through a long process before being published.
For our blog, each recipe has to be researched and well thought out (we’ll get into that in a minute). It has to be tested (often quite a few times), measured, written down, and photographed. It also has to be shared on social media channels (sometimes that can be a full-time job!). Why?
2. We make a living from our food blog.
Both of us, Vicky and Ruth, work full time. We gave up our cushy, decent-paying jobs to research, create, prepare, photograph, write and share recipes, so our readers can have them for free. And since we want to keep giving them out for free, we need to find ways to make money.
One of the main sources of revenue for full-time food bloggers is advertisements. Yes, we’re talking about those pesky ads that pop up everywhere, and we are not particularly fond of them. But unfortunately, that’s the way it works (much like TV shows and other media, where viewers have to pay extra for premium channels to avoid ads).
Advertisements become a true source of revenue for full-time food bloggers through increased traffic. That means that the more views their website gets, the more income. How does a website reach high traffic? Mainly by snatching a spot on the first page of Google.
And for that to happen, food bloggers have to play by Google’s rules. One of them is that we should write long posts. But even so, the rules are ever-changing, maddening, bang-your-head-against-the-wall rules. They are also known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
3. The rule of SEO: Comprehensive, useful content
Simply put, this means those of us who make a living from blogging have to write about the recipe. We have to share tips. It’s because we have to show that what we’re writing is worthy of the first page of Google results.
No matter how simple the recipe is, that’s the formula. Because Google values content (AKA lengthy posts).
Before even thinking about creating a recipe, food bloggers must be strategic. They ask themselves:
- How many people are searching for this recipe?
- What words are they using to find it?
- What questions are they asking about it?
After gathering this information, creating the recipe, photographing it and writing about it, we put it all together in a nice little package and post it on our website. Every single word is there for a reason, from the title on the top, to the bullet points in the middle, to the call to action at the bottom.
And, we already have a solution
We food bloggers have already handled readers who want us to stick to recipes. At the top of every post, a little button says “Jump to recipe.” If people don’t want to read and scroll, they can click on it.
So that is why we don’t just stick to recipes. We hope readers will cut food bloggers some slack. We think they do, but every once in a while, tweets like these sends us into a rant. All we’re trying to do is make a living. Just like everyone else.
* * *
Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox are sisters raised in Barcelona by Syrian-Lebanese Jewish parents. The sisters now live in the U.S. They are the Chief Foodie Officers of May I Have That Recipe, an 8-year old vegan and vegetarian food blog that offers recipes from around the world. They are the authors of the cookbook Tahini and Tumeric: 101 Middle Eastern Classics – Made Irresistibly Vegan. Follow them on Instagram.
(Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link.)
Faith Kramer says
The only thing I’d add is that sometimes we have a story to tell and that we want to share. Also there is difference between well written intros and something slapped together just for SEO
Ruth & Vicky says
Absolutely!! We agree, 100%. Sharing back stories is often what gives a blog its personality. Doing it while following SEO rules, is what’s time consuming, in our opinion.
Okay, I was searching for a recipe and got frustrated and decided to google “why add food bloggers telling their life stories instead of giving the recipe” and your website came up.
See this is where you are wrong.
1. We readers don’t mind tips for the recipe – that’s not “nonesense”
2. You the blogger need to remember most of the time people are searching for a recipe usually means we already burned something for dinner and need to find a recipe ASAP.
3. The whole “this is free” crap. Oh please. This is a two way street. You scratch my back and I will scratch yours.
4. You can be personable and still give the recipe but remember – your goal is to make money off your recipes / not your stories.
5. Oops this should be #2, but..
we do mind however when we can’t just scroll or “jump to the recipe” like you all suggest because ads redirects to us to these spammy looking facebook websites that are not facebook. We are not stupid; we know ads pay the bills but if you have ads on your site that take me to websites that look like fake face book pages or I am redirected to me another spammy website that said a virus was on my phone, guess what?! Your website is manually entered on my black list. Too much competition out there.
6. You quit your job to research and develop recipe?! Okay, but gonna be honest here – there is nothing here that I can’t find anywhere else.
7. You can talk hurt feelings al you want, but I can’t imagine chiding my boss for telling me my assignment was not up to par. No, we are not your boss, but you depend on us to come here so you make money,
Let me give you an example of one time I was looking for a roast recipe (gross) that I needed a couple years ago before the “Jump To Recipe” became popular, this is by memory, nonetheless what I was greeted with;
“ Roast.. I love chuck roast. My childhood memories of my mother making toast are still with me. I remember coming home from school cold and tired from the haul in the snow, you see dear reader, back in them days we had to walk. Even if it was snowing!!!! (Can you tell I’m an old bag? wink. haha.) We didn’t have school buses back then. The other day I got on google maps and measured the distance between my home and school and it was a whopping whole 1 mile. I can’t believe my little leggies could handle that because my little leggies are now big laggies. Haha. Oh where was I? Back to the roast. Oh yes. Coming home school and smelling tbd rosemary and sage through the house and mom telling me to change my school clothes in to play clothes and do my chores…”
And the post goes on and on and on. There is no “Jump To Recipe” button either like I said. Don’t give me you need a long post for SEO. All Recipes website comes up first a ton and there is no life story. I just wish they had every recipe I needed.
Oh the roast recipe website??Shocker: the website isn’t up anymore. Or how about a “tough cookie” website for ermine frosting. 10 minutes long and we can’t even cheat by the URL on Just The Recipe website. Yep, that’s a thing. Go look at the website!. “No Life Story, Just The Recipe”
Yep, while you food bloggers who want us to feel bad for your quitting job by hoping to be the next Pioneer Woman or whoever, remember: they did it by staying on point. Not by writing ridiculously long posts like my comment. See what I did there?? I purposely made this comment long, all over the place and annoying so you know what it feels like.
Marisa Franca Stewart says
I agree and there are loyal readers who signed up for our posts because the LIKE the backstory. They like the personality of the author. For those who don’t like the story, the tips, the process shots (thank you for forcing this Google), and the FAQ’s they can jump to the recipe.
Ruth & Vicky says
That is exactly our point. People are very quick to criticize and point out how annoying long posts are, when the solution is right there in front of them.
Veronica Hendrix says
Great post. I’ve made some modifications as well in my posts, some are shorter, word choices are different, some posts I just cut to the chase and yes some I tell my readers that the recipe follows. But it is true, for some (and in my case many like one of your commenters said), it is the personality and writing style of of the author. I think we all strive to be unique and consistent in presenting a writing style that our audiences look forward too. When many of my readers see my posts and emails, they say to themselves, ” I wonder what she’s up and what’s she cooking.” I really appreciate that.
Ruth & Vicky says
We really appreciate that too. As we mentioned earlier on a previous comment, what’s time consuming and often frustrating is being able to tell the story, while following the rules. We had a lot more fun writing when we didn’t have to worry about them!
Jean | Delightful Repast says
Ruth, Vicky and Dianne, I have somehow escaped, for the most part, the “shut up and give me the recipe” comments. My readers seem to appreciate my preambles. I wouldn’t even respond to people who are so self-important as to make such comments. If they can’t be bothered to scroll (I do not have a “jump to recipe” button) a few seconds for the recipe I am giving them at no cost, they don’t have to! On the other hand, I have found myself irritated at ridiculously long posts that are clearly what Dianne calls “bloated.”
Ruth & Vicky says
We haven’t had a lot of “shut up and give me the recipe” comments personally either. But we’ve seen the tweets & IG posts many, many times. And it’s infuriating, given the amount time and effort we dedicate to every blog post, like you said, at no cost!!
I love the back stories! And the photos! Very inspirational…I usually don’t even look at the actual recipe.
Ruth & Vicky says
That’s so nice to hear Nina. We need more readers like you! 🙂
Hello, thank you for this post. I was raised in Rome and I’ve been sharing Italian family recipes for over a decade on my blog. Very few of these were signature creations, most were classics whose versions are widely available online. The blog started as a journal where the authentic recipes of my mom and grandmother were the “excuse” for the preamble. I mostly wrote long-form essays that ended with the recipe. Because of life’s curves, work engagements and also being ‘new’ at the blogging game, I went through different phases, experimenting both approaches: continuing with the very personal, heartfelt back story, and the straight-to-the-recipe style (in 2011 there was no option to add ”jump to recipe“ and other widgets of the sort—which I still don’t have). The response of my readers was clear, and the metrics were unmistakable: the bare recipe posts had a tenth of the traffic and engagement the long-form essays did. People wanted me in the post, the recipe was a bonus.
Taking the time to write, photograph, adhere somewhat to SEO, share on social media and (not so much now) answer reader comments is a commitment. But also a labor of love.
I post much more sparsely now. But I will always share a recipe preceded by what that recipe means to ME. Ciao!
Ruth & Vicky says
Love that Eleonora!! It’s such a great feeling knowing your readers are there for you, and not just your recipe. And you have the metrics to prove it! We have experimented with both formats, too. And putting traffic and engagement aside, we find that sharing personal stories makes writing a lot easier and fun. It also makes the recipe a little more special.
that’s ridiculous. All recipes doesn’t have novels before a recipe.
This was a great read. Thanks!
Ruth & Vicky says
Thank you so much Debbie!
Ghulam Mohyudin says
It was perfect the first time. I learn so much from you as well! Keep it up great post.
Kate McDermott says
I usually do write a little story to go with my recipe…and sometimes I write a story and no recipe. But, I can’t resist posting this one today. I hope the words preceding the recipe aren’t too many. https://artofthepie.com/we-need-brownies/
Very tempting recipe, Kate. I am hoarding the bit of flour I have left. Haven’t been able to find it on the shelves either, like your commenter in San Jose.. I might have to get to my neighborhood grocery store at 6 a.m. to see if they have it stocked it when they open.
I think it’s kind of narcisstic to force your audience to scroll through something that 70% of them don’t enjoy. What happened to creating for the people? Or being user-friendly? The ‘jump to recipe button’ is a great idea but most bloggers don’t have it. A simple an elegant solution would be to put the recipe first and then the story after… After all the recipe is the main thing, right? Long blog post are terrible especially for people who have poor internet connection (Having to scroll through ads and long stories was a nightmare when I lived in africa). The vibe feel just like vloggers who indulge in long rambling intros about themselves… All I see in the post is ‘me, me, me.’ I just wish content creators care more about giving streamline, accesible and useful information instead of being so selfish about their ‘personal story.’ not everyone cares as much as you do… We’re just trying to put dinner on the table on time. Ugh!
You are not obligated to get free recipes from bloggers, especially if doing so offends you. Sites like Allrecipes.com might be a better choice, as they are just impersonal free recipe databases, with no or few stories or headnotes.