's Sites We Love Saveur Magazine has listed The Skinny Gourmet among its "Sites We Love"

I've been having a great time checking out Nashville's high end dining on the cheap thanks to Groupon. Have you tried it yet? Its awesome. I don't know why I ever hesitated.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Skinny Gourmet Celebrates its 1000th visitor!

Last night the Skinny Gourmet was visited by its 1000th unique visitor. I have been watching this count-up to 1000 like a kid waiting for Christmas. So this morning I did a little happy dance around the kitchen. As a new blogger myself, I have often looked around for thoughts on more established food blogs about what they did when they were new. Things they found out the hard way. So although I am new as the driven snow (as we say in my native land of Wisconsin) I'm going to use this occasion to point out a few things I've learned in the last two months of food blogging: it takes a little hubris to get into this, its very addictive, you have to wear way too many hats, you can't please everybody, and nobody licks the screen.

The last two months have been a wild ride. When I started this blog, it was essentially for three reasons. First, I was in an Internet cafe, stuck on an academic problem, and I needed a semi-productive way to entertain myself while my brain worked away on what was stumping me. Second, I had over time accumulated what I thought was a pretty decent collection of my own original recipes. Third, my friends kept asking for me to share my recipes, which somehow had me convinced that maybe I had something to offer.

If I had known at the time the absolute universe of food blogs out there, I'm not sure I would have had the hubris to start one myself. The array of truly impressive blogs is just stunning, although thankfully I didn't know that at the time. When I first got it into my head to do a food blog, I did a quick Google search. I think I turned up some Forbes article about the five best food sites. I looked at them, was duly impressed, and then some voice in my head said "you can do that."

Since then, here's what I've realized:

Many hats, but no licking the screen. Over time as I kept blogging, I discovered a truly startling fact: nobody licks the screen. I know. It's upsetting. Because in my kitchen as I'm merrily cooking away and feeding my friends food, the success is almost entirely determined by how good it tastes. This is why my friends who tried the asparagus and blue cheese bruschetta raved about it and still keep mentioning it to me, but online the photo doesn't look great and the recipe got largely ignored by my visitors. Because for all the wonders of the Internet, it does not convey taste. People first experience how good it looks. This means a good camera, flattering lighting, and the ability to imitate a food stylist/photographer helps a lot.

Its not just how your food looks. Of course, that wasn't all. I noticed eventually that all the best blogs seemed to have customized designs, and I got to wondering why that was. Eventually I decided that taking the time to put out a customized design was a good sign that you were serious about what you were doing. After I changed the look of my site, people spent more time looking at it.

On the tyranny of alphabetical ordering. Another thing I noticed is that a lot of people get traffic by placing themselves on one or another blog catalogs. However, blog catalogs tend to be ordered in one of two ways: by popularity or alphabetical. For a new blog just starting out, you don't have hope of cracking the top in popularity. But you can be listed prominently in alphabetical ordering. Cynically, a new blogger would get a lot more attention if their blog were titled "101 ABC" which would put them near the top of every list. Being called "The Skinny Gourmet" puts me on the 65th page of the Blogher listings for food blogs, so I get most of my referring traffic from sites that list based on who last updated. But then I realized I wouldn't have wanted my blog to be named like the driver's education schools listed in my home yellowpages (AA1 narrowly bests ABC). So I decided to quit being cynical and focus on producing good quality writing and recipes.

Write on less conventional things. Speaking of search traffic, I discovered the benefits of writing on less conventional things. My first post was an original recipe for espinacas con garbanzo, a tapas dish I fell in love with while traveling in Spain. Turns out there aren't many recipes for it listed on the Internet, so my first week as a blog I got one search hit. Without really intending to, I went on to write searched-for entries on Puttanesca sauce, Aebleskivers, and whole wheat pizza dough. By far the most searched for item on my blog is for gourmet picnics to take to Chicago's Ravinia festival grounds.

You can't please everyone. I have site trackers where I monitor traffic patterns to my blog. Don't worry, its nothing creepy. But it does let me look at which search terms take people to my blog and then how long they stay on the blog. I get really excited about search terms taking people to my blog. Lots of times they like what they find. Other times their disinterest baffles me. This is how it looks (actual reenactment of something that happened yesterday): "Me, logging in to sitemeter. Oh yes! This person searched for chocolate orange meringues. They are going to love me, because I'm one of the only people who has a recipe for this out there. They are just going to love love love me [mini happy dance]. Click. [dramatic pause] What?! What the heck. They spent 0 seconds on my site?"


rob taylor said...

congrats! and fyi: sitecounters are creepy. creepy fun!

oh, and often "0" doesnt actually mean "0", just that it couldn't track the length. so keep your hopes alive!

The Skinny Gourmet said...

Ahh Rob. Thanks for holding out the hope that 0 isnt really 0. I will now secretly believe that all those folks were immediately smitten and bookmarked me to return regularly :)

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