Recipe This One Year Birthday & A ProBlogger Blog Audit

How To Start A Food Blog | Blog post title

Welcome to Recipe This one year birthday and a Problogger Blog audit.

When you first start a blog, whether it is a food blog, fashion blog, travel blog or even a diet blog, you become inpatient and want to see results straight away. You don’t want to wait for things to happen you want everything now.

Because of this a year in a blogs lifespan feels like a long term and in that first year it is all about establishing yourself. Establishing yourself in the search engines, establishing yourself in social media, establishing your brand and best of all creating content that people will want to come and get more.

But also in that first year it can be hard to make money, to build traffic and many people often don’t have the dedication that comes with running a blog and will quit before it hits that one year anniversary mark.

Well after we have been working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week on our food blog over the last 12 months we decided it would be fun to do a site audit. In fact we discovered this blog post on ProBlogger back when our site was less than a month old and saved the article and decided that we would give it a go when we hit our first birthday. So here we are and we are ready to dig deep into our site and look at ways we could improve on what we have already achieved.

Our Content

The first thing that ProBlogger suggests is that you dive into your analytics and have a thorough look at what is going on thanks to your amazing content.

These are the questions that are asked:

Length of content – was there a variety of content length and what would you say was the best performer and what was your average content length?

On looking at this I was able to see that with us having a mixture of both long posts and recipe posts it really was a variety. Recipe posts would average 500 words including the actual recipe, yet cooking tips and food blogging tips would often go beyond 1500 words with some even reaching the 3000 word count. This is because you often have a lot more to say and you have a different point of view to express.

From looking at my posts these were the most popular posts from our first year:

https://recipethis.com/how-to-make-the-best-ever-air-fryer-fries/

Here is How To Make The Best Ever Air Fryer Fries

  • 1,100 social shares
  • Very popular on Pinterest
  • Ranks well in the search engines

https://recipethis.com//air-fryer-fish-chips/

"air fryer fish and chips"

  • 463 social shares
  • Often shows up on Pinterest
  • Popular with diet followers

https://recipethis.com/air-fryer-chicken-nuggets/

"chicken nuggets not mcdonalds but air fryer chicken nuggets"

  • 863 social shares
  • Our best performer on Tumblr
  • Appears in Google.com for a lot of different search terms

https://recipethis.com/the-ultimate-air-fryer-burgers/

"Burgers cooked in an air fryer"

  • 1,200 social shares
  • Very popular on Pinterest
  • Brings regular traffic to the site

https://recipethis.com/the-ultimate-airfryer-doughnuts/

"iced doughnuts"

  • 1,300 social shares
  • Very popular on Pinterest
  • Ranks for different spellings of doughnuts

Those are our top 5 posts and they are all from our recipes section. But the reason they are all so popular is because what they represent in my niche. My niche is kitchen gadget recipes for families; one of those kitchen gadgets is the Air Fryer and Air Fryer represents cooking favourite family meals just with less calories. Therefore of course chicken nuggets, doughnuts and burgers are all going to be super popular.

Then our highest traffic post away from our main recipes is our ultimate guide to pork shoulder. We notice a lot of round up posts doing the rounds but we find for a successful one you have to go all out on amazing content. Have a great introduction, talk more about the type of food, have a top 10 round up, have lots of graphics and if possible end it with an infographic. We also find that to get people to share it that are featured in the round up, the best way of doing this is to pin their recipe image and then send them the link as they love to repromote themselves.

What was a disaster?

This is something that we often will not talk about. We don’t want to talk about our disasters in the blogging world just our successes. But as I am doing an audit so I feel the need to share. I wouldn’t say we have had any disasters as such I would just say that I feel sometimes I have gone off niche more than I would have liked to.

When we started RecipeThis.com it was all about what we cooked using kitchen gadgets and kitchen aids. These included Air Fryers, Slow Cookers, Kebab Machines, Soup Makers and so on. But along the content road there have been recipes we have featured that have been gadget free and we feel like these shouldn’t have been on the site and plan to keep it clean from these in the future.

Did you branch out in your niche?

Yes you could say that. The plan was for general recipes or traditional ones, featuring kitchen gadgets but we have found that we have changed our plans based on the readers that we have on our site. Because kitchen gadget recipes are often associated with a healthy lifestyle this means that a lot of our readers are on a diet and as such we now have a lot more Paleo content and also a few vegan recipes.

We have also branched out to have more cooking tips content on our site that appeals more to the working and busy family.

What posts got the most attention?

Well for us this was recipes that offered something original that you simply can’t find anywhere else that got people really thinking about the way that they cook and the way that they enjoy food.

The top ones were:

What was shared the most on your site?

Well for us it was well and truly our infographic where we talk about the Air Fryer and its benefits.

You can see the infographic below:

"the ultimate guide to the air fryer"

We keep finding more and more people sharing this on our blog. We have seen the same infographic on about 30 different Pinterest boards all with different amounts of Pinterest shares. There has been some with 2000 shares some with 1000 shares and some with 3000 shares. Because Pinterest can move so fast it is hard to tell exactly how many shares it has had, we just know that we don’t have any content that has had more shares.

What did you enjoy the most?

For me personally I enjoy the diary content the most. It allows me to bring some of ME to the content and it gives me the chance to do a running commentary of what is going on. We did the frugal grocery shopping challenge early in 2016 with full diary content and now more recently we have done a 4 week Paleo challenge showing how to get healthy and do so with kitchen gadgets as family after the arrival of a new baby.

What is the image situation?

For us and our images we get the bulk of them thanks to our monthly subscription at ShutterStock. We pay 125€ a month and get to pick 350 images of our choice. We have been using them for a year now and feel that we are not getting the value for money that we wanted. Well it’s the best value for money package but as we only really need 150 a month at the most, it seems like a waste. So now we have started looking for more of them and are storing some for a future time.

We also have graphic designers working for us that make our graphics better, allow them to stand out, create our ecovers for us and much more.

How I Used #ProBlogger To Improve My Food Blog Via @recipe_thisClick To Tweet

We have a few images that we are not as proud of compared to others but on the whole we are happy.

What day of the week do you post and are these your high traffic days?

Well the truth is that these two rules don’t go hand in hand with our traffic. We get a good percentage of our traffic from the search engines and it tends to depend on what are people’s busy days of the week for our niche. We always do best on weekends and Fridays tends to be our quietest day.

We also post daily and our recipe posts go out during the week and other content is aimed towards the weekend. But with us often having monthly themes this can change slightly from month to month. For example today would have been a recipe day but because we wanted to celebrate our year old blog anniversary there is no recipes on the blog this week!

What search terms do the best on your blog and are you providing content for them?

Yes we are. We love our top performing keywords and this is the backbone of a recipe blog. But what we have found is that what is popular now on our blog in November is not going to be our high keywords in the summer.

Our flourless cheese sauce is our top runner in the search engines with multiple keywords used to get to it, but in the winter our second best is all our soups as it is winter soup season, yet in summer it was our doughnuts and our ice cream recipes.

Here are our top 10 keyword positions for the winter season:

How To Start A Food Blog | Here is the top 10 keywords for our winter SEO season at recipethis.com

Then when people land on these posts we have calls of action for example they could buy products that would help with the recipe and also download our recipe ebooks.

Is your blog post in good shape?

Yes it is. It features fantastic images, but not too many of them that it slows them down. It also has a great headline, is easy to digest and calls of action in the right places.

Are your pages and blog categories working?

This is the time to think whether or not they are all successful or not, which ones you want to ditch, which ones you want to expand on and which ones will really improve your site.

For us for example we want to tone ours down, but we haven’t quite decided yet how we plan on doing it, so watch this space for category changes!!!

Techy

Next on the agenda on this blog audit is the technical side of things. The back end of a site that no one really wants to think about and most of us ignore. But if the technical side of your site is not up to scratch then it will ruin the rest of it!

Are your Plugins up to the job?

Yes they are. We don’t have too many as plugins can slow down a site and if we are not using one, then we will delete it.

Right now we currently have the following plugins active on RecipeThis.com:

  • 404 To Start Page – this Plugin just quickly and easily allows you to send people that end on an error page to your home page.
  • All In One SEO Pack – in my opinion the best SEO plugin for your blog.
  • AMP – a new HTML code that Google has brought out that helps the mobile experience for your readers.
  • Avatars – these produce those cute pictures in the about the authors section below your posts.
  • Backup By Blog Vault – this is the back up service we use to safeguard our site.
  • Blubrry Powerpress – for the delivery of our Podcast.
  • Contact Form 7 – this is the contact form that we have on our blog.
  • Easy Recipe Plus – this is the Plugin that gives us those lovely recipe formatting on our recipe posts.
  • Genesis Simple Edits – this is all to do with us running on the Genesis Framework on our site.
  • Google XML Sitemaps – it is important that you have an up to date sitemap on your site and this is the popular Plugin that we use.
  • Kraken Image Optimiser – this is how to keep your site loading fast when you have lots of images.
  • Pinterest Pin It Button – it is a good idea to have one of these in order to encourage people to pin your content.
  • Redirection – this does the 301 redirects and is perfect for changing affiliate links.
  • Schema Creator – Inserts structured data into Google Webmaster Tools.
  • Simple Social Icons – these place cute little social icons on your site to encourage social media sharing.
  • Simple Tags – this is what we use for tag clouds and other such things so that people can search our site by tag.
  • Social Warfare – this is what we use for a whole range of social media tasks as well as social share buttons on our blog posts.
  • WP Advertise It – for putting Adsense code onto your blog posts and pages.
  • WP Rocket – the best cache in Plugin on the internet!

What is on your 404 page?

We like to keep people on the site and to increase the reading of each visitor. Therefore our 404 page takes people back to the homepage of our site.

Do you have a lot of broken links?

No we don’t as we are really careful about this and if a broken link happens, thanks to our 404 page the reader would just be redirected to the homepage of our site.

What is your SEO Plan?

SEO growth at recipethis for year 1

We insert keywords at all relevant places and use the popular plugin (all in one SEO) for us to be able to enter all the relevant details such as title of post, description and tags.

You can see it in action here:

"seo set up"

We also make sure we follow a lot of the SEO rules. We don’t keyword stuff and we present our readers with a lot of unique content. Because our recipes are personally tested and we add our own quirky personality this means that our posts are as original as they could possibly get!

We follow our own SEO strategy that we have followed for many years, we have our own three step SEO plan and always work on increasing our SEO traffic each and every month so that we can have steady growth.

Our images on our blog posts are also SEO friendly with the image being named after a keyword, the url, title, alt and description areas all filled out correctly.

How do you track traffic results?

We use Google Analytics and each day we check the traffic from the day before. It is a great way to see who is visiting your site, what is working, what needs improving and so on.

Here is our traffic over the last 12 months:

recipe this traffic year 1

This is also a breakdown of the types of traffic we have right now:

How To Start A Food Blog | Here is the different sources of traffic we had in our first year

We also recommend (as we do this ourselves) that you check out the top 100 traffic sources every month that is coming into your blog. That way you can see what new traffic sources are happening and look at what ways you can improve the traffic to your site.

I also follow the idea that traffic is often hard work and to stay on the ball you should follow the plan that make this months traffic better than last months. Then over a year you will see great results.

The Design

We love a cute little site that gives us a great reader experience and it is important that you think of the site design from the point of view of your readers, not from what you prefer.

The first questions to as yourself is:

Is it functional? Is it reader friendly? Is it mobile friendly? Is it easy on the eye? Does it describe you and your brand? Do the colours and fonts match what you’re about? Are the widgets well planned? Is the sidebar good? Is your call of action at the end of posts good? Is your design good enough for monetising? Do you have easy access to people following you on social media? Can people easily sign up for your mailing list?

From our point of view we are happy with it from 1 to 10 at a rate of 7. That is why we are moving it onto a new theme this week. We find that people move their sites to new themes way too often and decided to use the time of our first anniversary to finish this off and to make a few changes.

We didn’t do this when we first started the site and we felt like we needed lots of content to fill it out, but now we have we are really happy!

The main reasons we are moving to a better theme is for reader experience and better options for a call of action. But its all worth a move from time to time as we notice some sites can be stuck in the dark ages and don’t move with the times. This is especially so in this era of mobile friendly sites.

Is your pop up worth it?

Now this is something that we should all be considering at length at the moment. We personally don’t have any pop ups on our site right now as it ruins the reader experience BUT many other blogs do and I often leave sites because of an annoying pop up. Thankfully Google is rolling out changes and those sites with full size pop ups that ruins the reader experience will disappear from the SERPS.

For those of you that are crying over it, then think of it like this. What percentage of readers were really signing up from your pop up and how many were leaving!

Do your social sharing buttons rock your site?

It is important that you have the social sharing buttons that get you shares, so if you feel that the ones you have are not good enough then get better.

We personally use social warfare and love them for the style of buttons and the fact it gets us a good amount of social shares.

Social Media

We are social media crazy on Recipe This and feel like it has made a HUGE impact on our traffic. If you think about it a social share = a backlink, lots of backlinks to a post = better SEO positions. Better SEO = better traffic!

What social media sites rock your world?

For us at RecipeThis.com we have the biggest following on Instagram, the highest traffic on Pinterest, the best engagement on Twitter & the best viral traffic from Facebook.

I must admit I love Pinterest the most though Twitter comes in at a very close second. We were using Twitter back in 2008 and remember its early growth and it feels like our first in the social media family.

I would say that for the effort put in you get the quickest return on your time from Pinterest. But at the same time you need to understand what you’re doing. My podcast on Tailwind for example should help you get started.

What are your profiles like?

Well they have recently been updated with better recipe pictures as they were last changed not long after starting the site.

It also features our tagline, what our brand is about and links to our website.

What is next on social media?

For us we want to focus more on the smaller social media networks so that we can have even more traffic growth. Such as Reddit, Stumbleupon, LinkedIn & Medium. At the same time we want to continue our growth on our main social media channels. We love Pinterest and we want to get more traffic from there and have a lot more pins go viral. We are very pleased that in our first year our blog already has a lot of pins with over 1000 repins and this is often unheard of in such a young blog.

Promotions

I always say that whenever you have a blog you have to get out there and tell the world about your blog; otherwise the only people reading it will be you and your mother. You have to spread the word so that you can have people reading your content on a regular business.

Problogger Asks a few questions that could be summed up with my outline below:

We got our content in front of new readers by constantly promoting it wherever possible. We always shared our content on social media, we promoted it through a lot of different sites such as Stumbleupon, Yummly, recipe sharing sites and so much more. We created a 75 point promotional plan that we shared on our blog and we do the majority of those on a regular basis.

We found that some of the traffic methods were not as successful as we would have liked. Namely Reddit, some recipe sharing sites and some elements of Facebook. But during our second year we plan to come back with Reddit and Facebook and try new things. As the way we see it they are very high traffic sites and well worth pursuing.

For the next 12 months we plan to work more on the PR side of things, Reddit in a lot more depth, daily plan of action for Facebook groups and looking at being featured in more round ups and looking at guest posting as a traffic model.

With our mailing list we are just about to launch our new subscriber products with full sales funnels so it will be interesting to see how that comes along. Right now we have been heavily focused on content and our mailing list has been on the backburner but now we have the time to focus our attention on it.

We did just 1 guest post (that we were asked to do) a few months ago and the traffic was great from it. We now want to find the time to work on more of them.

We also did our first giveaways in the last few months of the year and we were rather impressed by how fun they were and how many new followers it helped us get. They are certainly something we want to work on, but we find that its finding the products that are available worldwide that is the problem area.

Monetisation

If there is anything that is one of my favourite topics for my food blog it has to be monetisation. I am all for multiple streams of income and getting the most out of the traffic you have. You can earn a good living off a site with 100,000 page views a month, but some bloggers earn the same off a site with 500,000 page views. It is all about getting you the best RPM (revenue per mile) for the site that you have worked very hard to build up.

Problogger asks what my strategy has been this year and it is best explained as follows:

To have as many multiple income streams as possible but without ruining the experience for the reader. At the same time avoiding income streams that will damage my SEO or make me look like I am just a money machine.

At the moment we are monetising through:

  • Ebook sales
  • Affiliate sales
  • Advertising Networks
  • Private Advertising Sales
  • Sponsored Content
  • Consulting

Of course the best income stream to have is the consulting as it pays so well. BUT and it’s a big BUT it is time consuming. I love ebook sales and sponsored content the most as I get to freely write without worrying about anything else.

I have also found a lot of advertising networks that pay peanuts or give you a very small return on investment or are very spammy, so it can be very hit and miss from this point of view.

Next year on the blog, the time will be spent more on working on ebook sales and increasing our traffic so that advertising networks and sponsored opportunities will be worth more money.

From an audience point of view they have enjoyed the sponsored reviews the most and this has kept site engagement high.

You can read all our past income reports just to see how we earned money throughout our first year at recipethis.com.

Future Goals, Plans & Feelings

My goal for the first year for RecipeThis.com was for it to have a blog post everyday for the first year. The first year of a blog should always be about great content and this was thoroughly achieved. Actually, early on with the blog when I wanted growth we even managed some days with 2 posts a day. Of course this was hard work like you wouldn’t believe and often our kitchen felt like it was a factory as we created 2-3 recipes in one afternoon.

But we loved it and it was great fun and well worth the effort.

For next year we would love to see our traffic hit 100,000 page views a month. As we are nearly there I don’t think this will be too much of a challenge and we are looking forward to being at that level.

From a mistakes point of view we plan to work harder on content that is very niche specific and sticking to our goals of content that is based around the kitchen gadgets. We also plan to work more closely with seasonal content in order to grab the imagination of our readers.

I felt (like with previous sites that we have owned) that we have really excelled at our social media and SEO and this is showing great growth already.

For example this is our traffic growth over the last 12 months:

12 months traffic month by month on recipethis.com

It is often an issue of not enough hours in the day, therefore we want to finally get off the ground everything else we had focused on. Or wanted to but didn’t have the time. For example we want to work on our mailing list, new traffic sources and best of all guest posting. I am sure eventually all this will come together and be a main part of the traffic growth in year 2.

Do you enjoy it?

This is one of the last main questions that Problogger asks and in my mind the best one of all. I remember writing some articles for a car site many years ago as I needed the money for a deposit for a flat. It was a horrible job and it took me ages because I hated it so much.

But with blogging and blogging about food I am in my element. I love every single part of it and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I dream about food, I watch cookery shows whenever I can, I spend my evenings searching about food and doing my social media.

If I didn’t like it then I wouldn’t get as excited by it as I do!

I imagine that I will be running this food blog for many years. I will probably expand more into new things but the content and the ideas behind the site will stay the same. I am sure in a few years I will have more ebooks, more podcasts and a lot more recipes!

Now that the Audit is done, it is time to say a big THANKYOU to Stacey Roberts at ProBlogger.net for putting together a great audit list that has certainly given me food for thought!

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Meet the Author

Samantha and Dominic
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Dominic & Samantha Milner are the founders of Recipe This. They love cooking, blogging and being full time parents to their three kids. Learn more about them here.

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