Blogging has changed so much in the nearly 10 years since I started. Back then, readers really got to know the bloggers – food blogs were part personal journal, part recipe resource. Bloggers shared their lives through their recipes and photos, and readers ate it up – figuratively and literally. When you followed a food blogger, often it was to keep up with their lives, perhaps escape into a bit of lovely prose, and look at beautiful photos as much as it was to get new recipes.
Most successful bloggers wrote their posts memoir-style, with an intro – sometimes related to the recipe, often not – a few (or a lot of!) photos sprinkled in, and then finally, the recipe. It was a format that felt right at the time – title-story-photo-story-photo-recipe. Pretty much all food bloggers fell in line. This is how we wrote our blog posts because it’s how it was done. It’s also one of the reasons I got into food blogging. I love to write.
For better or worse, memoir-style is still how it’s still done.
Five or six years ago, things really began to change. Mobile views began to surpass desktop views – over 80% of my readers now read my website via phones or tablets. At the same time, more and more people turned to recipes online instead of phoning mom or flipping through cookbooks. Food bloggers flooded the space with their story-recipe posts, the readers followed, and the best recipes – fueled by ratings, reputation, viral videos, Pinterest, and/or Google juice – rose to the top.
At the same time, our readers became more task-oriented. Sure, we have our loyal readers who come to us via email lists or social media, but if they really have the time to want to get to know the story behind the writer or the recipe, they’ll follow us on Instagram.
Meanwhile, if they found us on Google or Pinterest, it’s true – most of the time, they just want the dang recipe. They didn’t type “Best blondie recipe and a touching golden retriever rescue story” into the search bar. The format that served food bloggers and their readers 10 years ago has become at best a distraction, at worse, a hugely annoying obstacle. Especially when having to scroll and scroll and scroll on a phone.
I surveyed my readers a couple of years ago and they were evenly split between wanting to read a story vs. just wanting to get to the recipe. I figured that if only 50% of my loyal readers wanted a story before the recipe, the average person who finds my blog via Google is probably much less likely to want it.
And you know what? Most of the time, when I’m in reader mode, I just want the dang recipe too! I don’t want to scroll and close pop-ups to get to it. I do get it. When people say “just get to the recipe” I nod and say “I know, I know.” I believe way, way more readers feel this way than food bloggers realize.
But dear readers, please just know that when a food blogger has poured heart and soul and hours and hours of their life into a recipe blog post, “just get to the recipe” stings a little. So take it easy on us, will you please? And for us food bloggers, we need to remind ourselves that it’s really not personal … this is just how things have evolved. And will, I’m pretty sure, continue to evolve.
Here’s the thing, though. There’s no solution – not yet. We can’t “just get to the recipe,” and here’s why.
1. Google doesn’t like it.
Earlier this year, I ran an experiment. On a handful of my well-performing recipe posts, I moved the recipe up to the top and the story down below. (Google likes more words rather than less, and many times there are some great recipe tips within my story, so deleting the story entirely isn’t an option.) So rearranging seems like an easy solution, right? Welp, within a few months, all of those recipes moved down in search results – and, of course, pageviews for those recipes, in turn, had gone down too.
2. My ad network doesn’t support it.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE my ad network. But their philosophy on this issue – which echoes that of many food bloggers – is that food blogs are different than your standard grab-and-go recipe website like AllRecipes. Their perspective is that food blogs have heart; a story; a person to get to know. We want people to settle in and stay awhile. Our goal as writers should be to make them want to. My ad network is my bread and butter, so I at least need to consider their perspective.
Also, those in-content ads? The ones that pop up in between paragraphs? If the paragraphs don’t exist, those ads don’t exist. And they need to load fully – not be skipped – in order for revenue to be made. For many of us these days, our food blogs are our full-time jobs – or at least, our side hustle. We need to make money in order to keep doing this. Would you like to know how much good, solid, fast web hosting costs for Kitchen Treaty? $2200 per year. I LOVE my food blog and I love that it’s my job, but it IS my job. It’s a business. And I need to make money in order for it to continue to exist.
My solution for the past few years to the “just get to the recipe” conundrum is a “Skip to recipe” button at the top of every post. It’s not a perfect fix, but it gives people an option to skip the fluff and just get to it. As far as the in-content ads go, I’m okay with sacrificing some income for a better user experience. (It’s a balance.) My ad network thinks those are a bad idea too, and here are some good reasons why, if you’d like a little inside perspective.
3. I don’t know what the solution is.
If I go back and edit all of my posts – delete the story, remove all but one photograph, and just post the recipe – as of right now, my blog will fail. And moving the recipe to the top of the post was a bust, too. So what’s the solution? I don’t know.
I do believe that food bloggers need to evolve when it comes to the format of their recipes. But evolve to what? That’s the million dollar question.
What do you think?
Are you a food blogger that’s tired of hearing “Just get to the recipe?!” Are you a reader frustrated with food bloggers’ mile-long preambles? I welcome your vents, thoughts, and especially your ideas in the comments below.
Update: I just learned of this very similar article written by Cadry’s Kitchen. YES! Great read on the subject.