For the first time ever, this past week I attended a food blogging conference: Mediavine’s Everything Food Conference. It was held in Davis Conference Center in Layton, Utah.
Prior to deciding whether I should go or not, I asked a few blogger friends and got a lot of conflicting answers. Some said, it is not worth your time, while others said it would be the best investment a blogger could make.
I knew that I should give it a try at least once so I decided to go.
I am glad I did, because I think if you are in the food blogging niche you should definitely attend one of these food blogging conferences. Lucky for us, nowadays there are so many of them. Though I have only been to one, from what I understand they are pretty similar to one another so my recommendation is to pick one and go.
I thought today I could share a few of my big takeaways from the conference. My goals here are to (1) share my new knowledge with you and (2) record my learnings for future reference for myself.
1. Content Creation in Batches:
Since I started blogging 5 years ago, I always tested, photographed, and wrote blog posts on separate days. And it was always one recipe at a time.
After meeting several successful bloggers at the conference, I learned that most of them batch test and batch photograph recipes. In other words, they spend a whole day of testing several recipes and another day on photographing them.
I even met a blogger whose mom cooks the food and brings them over to her house to photograph them. She said, that way she is able to photograph 7-8 recipes in one day.
While I am not sure if I ever will be able to photograph more than 2-3 recipes on a day, I really liked the idea of batch testing and batch photographing. As I listened to some of these big bloggers explain their processes, it made so much sense to produce in big batches and have a set schedule to photograph and write.
2. The Concept of Writing a Cookbook:
You probably know how important it is to have a particular niche and create your content based on that niche. Since I heard about this concept a few years ago, I have been intentionally focusing on the niche of “Healthy and seasonal recipes without the use of refined sugars.” However, I always felt like it was too large of a niche and needed it to be a little more specific. The issue with that was that I didn’t know how to niche down without losing readers.
My answer came from Nagi of Recipe Tin Eats. In her session, she talked about the concept of thinking of your blog as a Cookbook.
Think about how you pick a cookbook when you go to the store or to your local library. If you are like most people, you probably pick one based on the subject you are looking to improve on or get inspired by.
Nagi’s concept was similar: You basically pick a topic, create an index of recipes around that topic, and start writing your own cookbook (in this case your blog).
Doing so will:
1- Save you time on thinking on to what to create
2- Train your readers as to what to expect when they come to your blog
3- Make your readers think about you when they need more information on the content of your “cookbook”
And the best part is that even in a small niche, you can write several cookbooks. In my case, I plan on strictly focusing on healthy weeknight focused dinners that can be made with everyday ingredients for my first cookbook and see where it goes from there.
To me, this was a shift in thinking. Now, as I work on my editorial content and decide on what recipes to make, I find this mindset to be so helpful, freeing, and time saving.
3. You Can’t Do It All – Hire Help As Soon As You Can:
One of the big messages in the conference was to hire help for the things you don’t like to do. The idea is simple. You hire help to open up room for the things you like to work on to grow your business while someone else is taking care of those things you don’t like to do. Because at the end of the day, whether you like it or not, all these tasks have to be done.
Most bloggers I met got some sort of a help from someone to help them run their businesses. Prior to the conference, I knew that bloggers hired virtual assistants, but I had no idea that there were other ways a blogger could get help. Things like bookkeeping, writing, video editing, regular SEO audits, etc.
The truth is that I have been feeling overwhelmed for a very long time and finding out that I can get help in specific areas was such a relief. Therefore since I came back, I have been working on identifying which areas I can get hire out and what I can do with the additional time to grow my website and business.
And if you are thinking that it is too expensive to hire someone, you are not alone. I used to feel the same way. However, during the conference I met some people who hires help in very affordable ways that will make big impacts in your overall business. I am currently in the process of identifying these areas for myself and plan on sharing my experience in the months to come.
4. Google’s Algorithms Does Not Change Like Social Media Channels’ Algorithms:
The SEO class with Jeff Sauer was one of my favorite classes. I have been taking his online class for a few months now and have already learned so much from him.
In his class, he talked about what we do versus what Google wants. Most of the points he touched on were familiar, but one thing he mentioned stuck with me.
He said that he has been in SEO business for over 10 years and based on his experience Google’s main goal has not changed much like it has with social media channels.
This doesn’t mean that Google does not change its algorithm. Rather it means that Google’s goal has always been to fulfill the request of its user as fast and as efficient as it can. That is why, as long as you create helpful content with the intent of the user in mind in a consistent basis, the possibility of you achieving success is much higher than finding success through social media.
I know that this is not a new concept, but I have been feeling so beat down with social media that it was a sigh of relief to know that Google’s demands are more clear than the others.
5. Set Blogging Hours & Parameters Around Your Work Schedule:
If you are a blogger who is making a living from his/her blog, you know that work never ends. There are times that I don’t take breaks. No weekends, no evenings, and sometimes no time to shower.
In one of the panels, somebody asked about the best way to manage time while blogging. There were 5 bloggers on the panel and their answer was all the same.
Set blogging hours and stick to them.
Admittedly, this is an area I struggle a lot. Even though I am always working, I constantly feel like I am behind on everything and whatever I do, it is not enough.
Are those feelings familiar?
If so, you are not alone. It seemed like these successful bloggers were very good at setting parameters around their blogging schedule and protecting those times by regularly prioritizing their tasks throughout the day.
6. How to Compete with Big Websites in Recipe Niche:
I think at this point we can all agree on the fact that every recipe has already been created. Sadly, most of them are also been done by big recipe websites like All Recipes, Martha Stewart, Jamie Oliver, NY Times, etc.
So how can small bloggers like us can compete with these big sites?
The answer came from Jeff in his SEO class. Here are 4 ways we can differentiate ourselves with our content:
Do a thorough research to understand the user intent before you decide on what to make and create content based on your learnings. You have to have a crystal clear understanding of what user is looking for when they are looking for a recipe.
In every recipe you share, your goal should be to answer more questions and cover more keywords than other website. The more questions you answer the more helpful you will be. Doing so, you will also provide Google with more surface area (more keywords, more quality content, more questions answered, etc.)
Remember that you are the brand. People are coming to your blog because of you. It is more important than ever now to show who you are to people and create a better experience for them when they come to your website.
To sum it up, creating a more personal and informative user experience is the only way we can compete with these websites.
Even though I only mentioned these 6 points, there were so many more. Overall, it was a great learning experience that helped me see things differently.
Beyond everything, it was a great opportunity to meet with other bloggers (and other people in the business) and network.
Now onto you, have you ever been to one of these conferences? What were your biggest takeaways?