Many bloggers want to increase their website traffic and at one point we were doing the same thing that you are doing right now. Reading an article that possibly held the key to increasing our website traffic. Sam and I read dozens of those posts and they all had a little take away that left me feeling like all we needed to do was practice and be patient. But Sam is not patient and that means I was mostly just anxious and we were constantly asking the question “How can we get people to come visit us here?” Honestly, it’s most likely one of those things we will never stop researching – because, well, we want traffic!
Today I want to share with you How We Tripled Our Blog Traffic. Everyone may have a different viewpoint on how it all “worked out” for them, but this is mine.
When we first started the PancakeWarriors blog on health, fitness, and clean eating, we wanted to put forth the minimal amount of upfront costs because we didn’t know where it would lead us. Perhaps it was the lack of research on our part or perhaps no one actually spelled it out for us in giant bold letters… but, starting a blog can be expensive. Now that we’ve been doing this 6 months, we realize that a few costs were needed to get things done the right way. If we would have done these things in the beginning, we may have saved ourselves some time, frustration, and me cursing FoodGawker – sorry FoodGawker. But hey, everyone has to learn somehow, right?
If you’re going to be a food blogger, then you’re going to need to take pictures – good pictures – AMAZING pictures. Pictures that make people say WOW that looks pretty, or WOW that looks absolutely delicious. Scan this site and you’ll see some of our beginning pictures, and you’ll see how we started – not so good or amazing I’m afraid (thanks to everyone that kept coming back though – we love you).
I was talking with Payton from SimpleRootsWellness.com and he observed the same. Most bloggers, if you go back far enough have some pretty bad pictures! You’ll find off color, poor angles, bad lighting, you name it. I mean seriously – just check out some of our older posts – PancakeWarriors old posts. Figuring these things out comes with experience and just doing it. But that experience can get a jump start with the right equipment.
If you’re a food blogger I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of Foodgawker and Tastespotting. If you’ve submitted to these sites with no luck – you’re not alone (see my cursing above)! There are SO many bloggers that have this same issue. Understand that their pickiness is a good thing – high standards means more traffic once you do get accepted! And you will get accepted – just keep working at it. Hopefully my below tips will help fill in some of the blanks for you. These are the tools of any blogger.
IPS or Retina Monitor
What you are looking at on your computer monitor may not be what others see on their monitors! I’m not talking about website design here. I am talking about color – rich color.
Most computer monitors have a basic LCD screen. Understand that LCD screens colors change based on lighting, power (plugged in or running off battery), and the angle of the view. On top of that, computer screens dim over time. Basic screens don’t have the rich color displays that IPS or Retina display monitors are known for,and are therefore not the best for editing pictures that you will submit to food websites.
My story goes, that things would display great on my laptop… we would publish and then I’d see the post on my iPhone or Android phone… or even Sam’s laptop and everything would be yellow or super blue – the temperature would be way off. Ugh!
Apple is known for it’s Retina displays and if you have a Mac, chances are you’re already set. I am not a Mac user so I went with an IPS display on a new laptop. If you don’t want to spend the cash on a new laptop you can buy a new monitor and connect up with an HDMI cable (that’s what Sam does). Pick yourself up an IPS monitor, they range from $100 to $400 depending on size and brand – here’s what Sam has.
If you have some basic Photoshop skills you can rework any poor quality photo into a beautiful masterpiece.
In the beginning I used Gimp. It is a free graphics editor and was nice to get started in photo editing. I didn’t do much with it other than resize my photos. Learning to do anything more was difficult because there just weren’t any tutorials out there.
Adobe Photoshop isn’t free, but its affordable and comes with some nice features like Vibrance, which in my opinion makes the $10.00 a month subscription worth every penny. Photoshop can seem intimidating but it’s really not that hard. There are so many tutorials out there that can have you fixing photos in a day! Invest in Photoshop and watch a few tutorials on resizing, cropping, and fill/adjustment layers to get you started.
RAW! No, you guessed wrong – I’m not being a monster. This is actually picture format.
We started off with a little Nikon point and shoot that Sam’s mom loaned to us – we’re so grateful for that. That camera got us to where we are today and on the cheap (free). But we decided that an upgrade in equipment was the next step for us. DSLR cameras (or digital single-lens reflex camera) comes with a lot of features and different modes. Changing ISO, white balance, aperture vs. shutter priority… great… lovely… at this point we use very little of these features, we are still learning. But it’s great to know we have these features available in the future with more practice. What I like most about the DSLR is the RAW photo that can be taken.
A normal camera will take a picture and compress it to JPEG. A DSLR on the other hand can take whats called a RAW photo, which will allow you to make adjustments to the file that just aren’t possible with JPEG. For example, if you accidentally shoot your food with the florescent light white balance instead of daylight, you can change this filter on the RAW photo. If you only had a JPEG of this picture you would be stuck just trying to “fix” that in Photoshop, ending up with a less than desirable picture.
On top of getting a better camera, start reviewing your favorite food bloggers pictures. Check out the angles, lighting, composure, and accessories they include in their pictures – take notes to better your shots.
We’ve found that the Nikon DSLR 3200 meets all our needs at this point. With that being said, I know of a few bloggers that still shoot amazing pictures with their iPhones, and do all their editing on their phone. That however was not us unfortunately. I would say make the best out of the equipment you have now, but know that as you upgrade your equipment, things will become easier.
So Now What?
I realize the above purchases are no small feat. You’ve most likely entered in this journey thinking you would incur little upfront costs, and now here I am telling you that you might need to spend somewhere between $120 and possibly $1000.00 – who is this maniac? Baby steps, we didn’t start out with ANY of these things. I won’t tell you which priority to get them in, as they all pretty much work hand in hand for that great final picture. (This is Sam and I will tell you – get Photoshop, they have a 1 free month trial). Over the course of time work towards these purchases. Once you’ve mastered the camera, the software, and have the proper display – then what?
FoodGawker, Tastespotting, etc
We started out talking about Foodgawker and Tastespotting and how difficult they can be to get your pictures accepted. Food bloggers have released entire books talking about it. Luckily for some, alternative food websites with less strict photo standards started popping up because individuals couldn’t get accepted! With the above tools and the right pictures, your food pics should have no problem getting accepted to these sites. If one picture gets denied, try some adjustments based on their declines and resubmit, or try a completely different picture. Need some examples? Check out PancakeWarriors on FoodGawker and Tastespotting.
Pinterest, StumbleUpon, etc
FoodGawker and TasteSpotting aren’t the only traffic generators. If you’re not on Pinterest or StumbleUpon (yes people still use that) I’m not sure what you’re waiting for. Join, send invites to group boards, and start mingling with other bloggers. Send us an invite to join our Pinterest Board Healthy Intentions.
Start stumbling! StumbleUpon is a different kind of beast, but with good activity you can really generate some great traffic – share your content as well as others to get more user engagement. Follow us on StumbleUpon and we will follow back!
Food Blogger Pro
If you really feel like you don’t know where to start with food blogging, may I suggest joining us on Food Blogger Pro (affiliate link). This has been an invaluable resource for us. Here you can ask specific questions about photo composition, plug-ins, increasing traffic, website design, help with web development, you name it. It’s a community forum where you can ask other bloggers for their help. There are also a ton of great videos that can help you answer any of the questions you might have. Blogging is about building a community of people that you can generate ideas and improve with. FBP is a great resource for that!
What About You?!
- What kind of camera do you use?
- Do you use photoshop or another software for photo editing?
- Ever see one of you photos on a different monitor and say OMG?
- Care to share your biggest traffic referral site with us?