Apr 4

Top 10 Tips for New Bloggers + 5 Years of Blogging

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This is a list of the top 10 tips for new bloggers. From sharing on social media to photography, this post has a little something for everyone.
Top 10 Tips for New Bloggers | cookincanuck.com #bloggingtips #blogging

It’s been five years since I hit “Publish” on my first post on Cookin’ Canuck, and what a ride it’s been since then! Never in a million years could I have imagined that this blog would turn into a passion, a career…something I could truly call my own. Through blogging, I’ve met amazing people, traveled to various locations, met the farmers who grow our food, learned to use my camera and connected with you, my readers. I thank each and every one of you for sticking with me, for making my recipes and leaving wonderful comments for me.

I came into this knowing…well, nothing. All of a sudden, I was learning a foreign language. SEO, widgets, plug-ins…what are these strange things you speak of?

Thanks to generous fellow bloggers and many hours reading “how to” posts just like this one, I pieced it all together, learning a little more every day.

In this post, it’s tempting to cover it all…yes, there is a lot to talk. But I’m going to narrow it down to ten things. The top ten things that I hope will help you in your blogging journey.

While this list is geared mostly for beginning bloggers, I hope there will be some helpful reminders on here for some of you who have been blogging for several years.

#1 Love it…and focus

This may seem obvious, but bloggers tend to fall into the trap of, “What’s going to bring me the most traffic?” To paraphrase A Field of Dreams, “Write it well and they will come.” If you are half-heartedly writing content that you think will be popular, but aren’t really excited about it, your readers will see through it. They can only take so many “Ten Best ____” lists (ahem).

Treat your readers like the intelligent people they are.

Readers are going to come back to your blog because your recipes have become family favorites…or they are mesmerized by your gorgeous photos…or you provide them with a much-needed laugh.

When you first start blogging, the “focus” aspect might seem a little vague. When I first started out, my intention was merely to share my recipes and to be able to tell family and friends, “It’s on the blog” when they asked me to send them a recipe.

Things shifted over time, particularly when I went through my 30-pound weight loss journey. At that point, I started to blog with the intent of showing my readers that healthy recipes could be full of flavor, and I began to include the nutritional information and Weight Watchers points with each recipe.

So, what’s your thing? Gluten-free? Decadent desserts? Slow cooker favorites? It’s okay if you don’t know yet. And maybe you don’t want to have a certain focus. That’s okay, too. But I do urge you to find a way to make your blog stand out from the many others on the web.

#2 Blogging karma

When I first started blogging, I was lucky to have Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen sit down and share some great Blogging 101 information with me. One concept that she introduced me to has stuck in my mind every single day…blogging karma.

What does this mean?

It means to give back to the “blogging universe” in an authentic way. Comment on other blogs, share their content on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram…) and link to others in your blog posts.

Be generous with sharing others’ content and it will all come back to you in the end.


#3 Make sharing easy

If you are interested in increasing your traffic and getting your content “out there”, make it easy for your readers to share it. Put social media sharing buttons at the top or bottom (or both) of your post and consider using a recipe template plugin, such as ZipList that allows your readers to save your recipes to their personal virtual recipe boxes.


If readers see things they like, they’ll want to find an easy way to get news from your blog. Make it easy for them to find your social media accounts. For example, at the top of each page in the smile box (by the photo of me grinning at you), you can find my Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ and StumbleUpon links.

If you’re looking for advice on sharing plugins to use on your blog, Elegant Themes wrote a post on The Best Social Media Sharing Plugins for WordPress.

#4 Get on Pinterest!

When I first started blogging, the world had not yet been introduced to the brilliance that is Pinterest. But once Pinterest came on the scene, it took very little time for bloggers to see the benefits. Readers started following their favorite bloggers on Pinterest, pinning and re-pinning their content to their personal boards.

And blog traffic started to go up and up, with many people citing Pinterest as one of their top five traffic referrals (this information, along with all other interesting tidbits, can be found if you install Google Analytics on your site).

After a lot of trial and error, most people discovered that portrait-style (i.e., vertical) photos are re-pinned most frequently on Pinterest, probably because they take up more “real estate” on the page, so catch your eye more easily. Consider this when taking the photos for your blog posts.

And pretty is good…nice styling, good lighting and sharp images are more likely to be re-pinned. You don’t have to be a pro photographer, but figuring out the basics really can help.

Jeni of The Blog Maven wrote a very helpful post on Creating Content Pinterest User will LOVE.

And back to the karma concept, pin and re-pin others’ photos. The general rule of thumb is to pin 10 posts from other bloggers for every 1 pin from your own blog. And please…PLEASE…make sure that you pin from the original source. For example, if you see a good-looking recipe on Foodgawker, click through to the blogger’s site and pin from there, rather than pinning from Foodgawker. It’s only fair to the blogger…their content, their blog traffic.

#5 Organize your time

Have you ever looked at the clock and realize that you just spent an hour flipping back and forth between Pinterest and Google Analytics? Not that I speak from personal experience or anything (ahem). It’s easy to get caught up reading other blogs, scrolling through Facebook, chatting on Twitter and re-pinning to your heart’s content. Before you know it, it’s 6pm and you still haven’t put the finishing touches on your next post.


I finally had to start using a timer. “Okay, I’m going to allow myself 15 minutes on Pinterest. GO!”

There’s nothing more satisfying than checking off your to-do list as you move through the day. If you have extra time left over, pop over to those other sites.

#6 Quality content

At the end of the day, most of us want to create content that is useful and/or inspiring for our readers. It’s such a fantastic feeling to receive an email or comment from a reader, telling me how much their family loved one of my recipes, and that it will become a regular in their menu rotation.

What do you want to give you to your readers? Maybe it’s recipes for a vegan diet, perhaps it’s tips on styling photos or it could be inspiration from something that you overcame in your life.

Don’t just post for the sake of posting. Create content that has some sort of take-away value for your readers.

#7 Open up a little

I am not one to air my dirty laundry on my blog, though some people are comfortable with getting into the nitty-gritty of their lives. How much you share is completely up to you.

However, do keep in mind that your readers probably want to get to know you beyond the face they see in your smilebox. Sharing funny anecdotes or thoughts on daily challenges, or sharing a journey that you traveled can be both entertaining and inspiring.

Let people relate to you. Let them see that your life is not always picture perfect.

#8 Build relationships

Never in a million years did I expect to meet so many wonderful people through blogging. As is the nature of “the biz”, I met most of the people online, reading their blogs and connecting through social media. And then I got lucky and starting meeting some of these people at conferences and on blogging trips. They are now friends…friends who understand the ins and outs of blogging and the challenges of working for yourself.

Top 10 Tips for New Bloggers + 5 Years of Blogging | cookincanuck.com #bloggingtips #blogging
Photo credit: Kevin & Amanda

At the end of the day, it is these relationships that mean the most. Far more than blog traffic, far more than gigs with sponsors and far more than the blogs themselves.

#9 Work on photography

Photography is a process and it’s going to take time. Go easy on yourself. I started with a point-and-shoot camera and gradually made my way to a DSLR camera. But I learned over time that it’s not about the gear you have. It’s about understanding light and figuring out how to use your camera…at least to start.

Top 10 Tips for New Bloggers | cookincanuck.com #bloggingtips #blogging

I’m not a pro by a long-shot, but what I can tell you is this:

Practice, practice and then practice some more.

I look back on some of my early photos like this one or this one, and cringe. But those poorly lit, blurry photos were part of the process.

In my opinion, putting some time into working on your photography is well worth the effort. As I mentioned above, Pinterest loves pretty photos. People eat with their eyes, and they will come back for more and will be inspired to try your recipes if the photos show something that looks appetizing, or even beautiful..

There are so many fantastic blog posts and books out there that can help you learn what you need to know to improve your photography. Here’s a list of my favorite food photography books and helpful posts from successful food bloggers.

If you are interested in what cameras and lenses I have used along the way, the answer is in my Frequently Asked Questions.

Look through photo sharing sites, such as Foodgawker and Tastespotting for inspiration. Try to pinpoint why you like a certain photo. Is it the lighting? The styling? The props? Then try to emulate.

#10 Don’t play the comparison game

This is easier said than done. It’s tempting to compare yourself to other bloggers. Is their photography better? Do they get more traffic than me? How many Twitter followers do they have?

You can drive yourself crazy.

Embrace what you have and what you have accomplished with your blog. It’s your space and no one else’s. Set goals for yourself…weekly, monthly, annually…and rejoice as you meet each one along the way.

There’s always going to be someone who has a “bigger and better” blog. But it’s not your blog, is it? Love what you have created and be proud of it.

I hope these tips are helpful for many of you. Feel free to add your own tips in the comments below.

Here’s to another 5 years!

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{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Taylor @ Food Faith Fitness April 4, 2014 at 5:23 am

Dara, thank you for this post! All the tips are so great…I know I struggle with time management and the comparison game so it was nice to read that I am not alone! Thank you again!


2 Liz @ The Lemon Bowl April 4, 2014 at 6:37 am

I love this post Dara!! Thank you for all of the blogging karma you’ve given me over the years!! And if I ever find a job that pays me to drink wine while on Pinterest, you’ll be the first person I call. ;-)


3 Maria April 4, 2014 at 7:11 am

Congrats on 5 years! So happy we met through this crazy world of blogging! xo


4 Aimee @ Simple Bites April 4, 2014 at 7:20 am

Incredible tips!! Good reminders, even for those of use who have been blogging a while. ;)


5 Katrina @ In Katrina's Kitchen April 4, 2014 at 7:30 am

Dara congrats on FIVE years!! You are an inspiration to so so many of us.


6 Miss @ Miss in the Kitchen April 4, 2014 at 7:46 am

Congratulations! Your blog is always inspiring and a wonderful source for the most flavorful food. Great tips and you are so generous to share your experiences.


7 April | Food n' Focus April 4, 2014 at 7:48 am

Great tips, thanks for sharing!


8 Joanie @ ZagLeft April 4, 2014 at 7:50 am

Congratulations on 5 years! I loved reading these tips. Time management is one I really struggle with and I use a timer too. Thanks for the great reminders!


9 danielle April 4, 2014 at 8:01 am

Congrats on 5 years and thank you so much for these great tips!


10 Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) April 4, 2014 at 8:04 am

Congratulations on five years, and thanks for sharing so many wonderful recipes.


11 Christine April 4, 2014 at 9:08 am

Congratulations on a successful 5 years! And thank you for this post, as a new blogger, posts like these are so helpful and encouraging!


12 Mimi April 4, 2014 at 9:20 am

Congratulations, Dara! Your blog is one of my “top ten”, and a model for anyone who wants to blog successfully. Thanks for sharing your tips!


13 Jennifer April 4, 2014 at 9:34 am

Thanks Dara! Great tips :)


14 Norma | Allspice and Nutmeg April 4, 2014 at 9:53 am

Congratulations on 5 years! Thank you for these great tips. Here’s to another 5.


15 Anna @ Crunchy Creamy Sweet April 4, 2014 at 9:54 am

Congratulations, Dara!!! So many great tips! Sharing!


16 Trish @infinebalance April 4, 2014 at 10:14 am

Great Tips Dara! Congrats on 5 years.


17 Stacey | Kitchen Serendipity April 4, 2014 at 10:23 am

That was awesome Dara!! What a great post.


18 Holly April 4, 2014 at 10:42 am

Congrats on 5 years! And thanks for the helpful tips- great advice!


19 Marilyn Foster April 4, 2014 at 10:58 am

Congratulations on 5 years! After the day I had trying to figure out how to put social media buttons on my blog and still not figuring it out, your blog gives me hope and that is by not comparing myself to others. You are so right about karma too. I have experienced it. So happy to have found you! Marilyn


20 Kari April 4, 2014 at 11:45 am

Congrats on 5 years! I’ve enjoyed your recipes and following the active, healthy lifestyle your family lives is an inspiration to me to help lead my own young family in that direction. Thanks. Also, I’m not a blogger but I loved the links to your old posts with early days photography :)


21 Kath April 4, 2014 at 11:46 am

Great points! I’m not a “newby” but I learned a thing or two from your post. I didn’t know that vertical pictures were better for Pinterest. And I love the idea of setting a timer so you don’t get lost in the Pinterest rabbit hole. :)


22 cheri April 4, 2014 at 11:51 am

Congrats! 5 years that’s amazing. Thanks for sharing such great tips, appreciate any and all help. Started pinterest a couple of months ago, Thanks Dara!


23 Laura (Tutti Dolci) April 4, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Congrats on 5 years, these tips are great! One more – if you have a great post buried in the archives that could use a photo makeover, it’s worth taking the time to update and share on Pinterest!


24 Marlys (This and That) April 4, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Every time I think that I may be understanding what I am doing blogging, I find an article like this and find out there is so much more that I still have to learn. These are wonderful great tips that I think everyone can learn from. Pinning so that I have it.


25 Kristen April 4, 2014 at 8:31 pm

I’m so happy to call you friend and thankful blogging brought us together! Congrats!!


26 Stephanie @ Girl Versus Dough April 4, 2014 at 8:57 pm

This is such a great post, Dara, filled with so much great advice (even for longtime bloggers)! Happy five year blog birthday and cheers to many more. :)


27 Amy @Very Culinary April 4, 2014 at 9:20 pm

Perfect tips, Dara! Happy blogiversary!


28 Kalyn April 4, 2014 at 10:17 pm

What a great post and how far you have come since that day we had lunch at Cafe Med! So glad you started blogging so we could get to know each other. Can’t wait to see what’s coming up in the next 5 years for your blog!


29 Tieghan April 4, 2014 at 10:42 pm

Congrats! Five years is such a big milestone. Yay!

Love this post and all these tips. Thanks for sharing!


30 Katie | Healthy Seasonal Recipes April 5, 2014 at 5:46 am

I love this list, and to be honest a lot of it is super helpful to an old blogger too :) Yes I just called myself old ;) I love the way you distilled so much down here. I’ll have to pin this one to my “business smarts” board!


31 Julia @Vikalinka April 5, 2014 at 6:39 am

Such wonderful and inspirational tips. I especially love “blogging karma” and “no comparison”. Like you said it’s easier said than done, especially for newer bloggers like myself but so worthwhile to take on board. Thank you for inspiring me and congratulations on 5 years!! :-)


32 SeattleDee April 5, 2014 at 7:57 am

Congratulations on the five-year mark, your enthusiasm and joy continue to shine through on every post. The tip list is a help;flu reminder to set goals and revisit them occasionally… I’m working on it. :>)


33 SeattleDee April 5, 2014 at 7:58 am

oops, that would be “helpful” reminder.


34 Donalyn@The Creekside Cook April 5, 2014 at 8:38 am

Great post Dara – I think you have hit on some of the best advice for a new blogger. You have definitely hit the goal of offering great value! Congrats on 5 years!


35 Irvin April 5, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Yay! Congrats on 5 years! This is all sage advice! I love the blogging karma one! What a great term. Happy anniversary!


36 Mimi April 5, 2014 at 1:48 pm

Great tips! I’ll bet Kalyn has helped a lot of us.

Congratulations on five years of blogging. You have a truly quality blog here!


37 Aggie April 5, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Yay for five years! And yay for our friendship, I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed and cherished our time together over the years. You are the best Dara!
Ps…such a great post, lots of wonderful tips. Blogging karma – yes!! :)


38 Liren April 5, 2014 at 7:45 pm

Hooray for 5 Years and all the good things blogging has brought to you! Love this post, for the tips and the reminders. You make it look so easy, Dara! Xo


39 Laura (Blogging Over Thyme) April 5, 2014 at 8:15 pm

Congratulations on 5 years! I’m in love with the idea of blogging karma, I love that so much.

Great tips!


40 Helen @ Scrummy Lane April 6, 2014 at 1:18 am

Hello! I came to this post via Twitter and I’m so glad I found it! I always want to hug bloggers that publish these kinds of posts. Especially ones specifically for new bloggers … you get an extra big hug! I know there is more blogging ‘noise’ these days, but we newbies are very fortunate indeed to have the benefit of all this hindsight advice. Thank you so much!


41 Barbara @ Barbara Bakes April 6, 2014 at 10:50 am

Congrats on 5 years! I feel fortunate to call you my friend.


42 Rachel Cooks April 6, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Such a great post! Passing this on to a friend who is considering starting a blog. Congrats on five years! Hope to meet you in person some day soon :)


43 Liz April 6, 2014 at 12:44 pm

Happy anniversary!!! Your blog is an inspiration!! xo


44 Deborah April 6, 2014 at 1:37 pm

First of all, congrats on 5 years!! I’m so glad that the blogging world introduced me to you. And I love your list – so many great things to remember, even for veteran bloggers!


45 Olena@iFOODreal April 6, 2014 at 9:42 pm

Congratulations, Dara! Great post and tips! You are one of those bloggers who stays true to yourself and are honest, and friendly, despite the fact being a veteran of the food blogging industry. All the best to you!


46 Laura @ My Friend's Bakery April 7, 2014 at 9:15 pm

Congratulations Dara on 5 years! I’ve been blogging for less than 2 years and I always look to the veterans, such as yourself, for inspiration. You do not disappoint. Thank you!


47 Grace @ Earthy Feast April 8, 2014 at 8:11 am

Congratulations on 5 years! Thank you for sharing these wonderful tips. I’m coming up on my one year blogiversary and still have so much to learn!


48 Lisa@Cluttercafe April 8, 2014 at 10:41 am

Thank you for sharing your helpful tips and congratulations on 5 years! Your blog is very inspirational to me in so many ways!


49 Kim @ Kim's Healthy Eats April 14, 2014 at 9:10 am

Great read! Thanks for sharing and happy 5 years! Cheers!


50 Karen Petersen April 16, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Thanks for posting! These are all great tips and reminders. congrats on 5 years!


51 Jen April 17, 2014 at 9:58 am

I would say find your voice, whatever it is, and be true to it. That’s what makes you unique and what makes people read and follow along.


52 Fabiola@notjustbaked April 19, 2014 at 11:13 am

Happy belated blog birthday! I’m late to the party but I wanted to say thank you. I love this post so very much. It’s true, encouraging, inspiring, and i am grateful that you wrote it! Cheers to the next five!


53 Rosemary@anitalianinmykitchen April 30, 2014 at 3:28 am

Happy 5th to you, thanks for the great advice, I am a new blogger and I am always looking for any and all help. Thank you fellow canuck.


54 Kirsten June 7, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Happy Blog Anniversary, Dara–and thanks for the excellent tips!


55 Sheryl July 16, 2014 at 2:43 am

Thanks for sharing such a great post. I’m only a month old in blogging and was looking for good tips for new bloggers. You made my day with your excellent tips. With all the social net one seem to loss track on what one should be doing at a particular moment.


56 Sandhya August 13, 2014 at 8:15 pm

Thank you for sharing your tips on blogging. I am very enthusiastic and passionate about my recent blog Indfused and want to learn the ropes on successful blogging. This was a very helpful article. Thank you! Wishing you all the best!


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