Have you ever wondered why food blog posts are so long? Ever stumbled upon a recipe online only to have to scroll for what seems like forever to get to the actual recipe? Ever been dismayed at the inclusion of a backstory of where the recipe came from when all you want are the ingredients?
Do you think food bloggers should just “get to the point?” Have you ever shared or laughed at a meme making fun of food bloggers writing too much in their posts?
Honestly, as an online recipe creator, this stuff really bothers me. Not the length of recipe posts, but the shaming of food bloggers for writing long content. But food blogging and website creation are complicated businesses that not many people know much about.
So I’m going to explain why food bloggers write such long posts, to help people understand more. It is my hope that with more understanding, there will be less shaming (I’m looking at you, Mindy).
Why do all online recipes have endless pages of the chef’s whole life story about the recipe and then on the 12th page is the actual recipe? I just want the recipe! I don’t need the Modern Love essay on how you came up with it!— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) March 29, 2020
“Back when Tim and I were living in Denver, we always wanted a heart healthy way to start our day before a brisk Colorado morning! This was before I was diagnosed with GERD, and just after we adopted Pepper our black lab.” JUST GIVE ME THE FRITTATA RECIPE GODDAMNIT— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) March 29, 2020
1. It’s how we make money.
This is perhaps the most important point- my website is my job, my career, my business, and my livelihood. It’s how I feed my family. I’m quite transparent about how I make money and how much I earn. And the longer the content is, the more advertisements can be inserted into the post.
Advertisements are the biggest way I make an income from blogging. My recipes are free to access for everybody with internet access, and this is important to me, as I believe healthy home cooking should be experienced by all.
Advertisements annoy some people, which I understand. For those people who truly cannot stand ads, I recommend buying a cookbook or subscribing to an online recipe subscription service, such as New York Times Cooking or Cook’s Illustrated.
But if you expect free content online, you should expect to “pay” for it in some way, and in the case of most food blogs, that payment is through scrolling for a couple of seconds through some ads.
(Note: Some bloggers choose to run more ads on their site, and some choose to run fewer. I’m somewhere in-between. This is often a well thought out business strategy decision on the part of the website owner, of how to balance a pleasant user experience with generating revenue. Some bloggers make money in other ways, or have TONS of traffic, so they are able to run fewer ads. Other bloggers don’t get enough traffic to be able to afford taking away some ads. Some bloggers may be going through a tough financial time and add another ad here or there to make a little more money. So next time you come across a website and you notice advertisements, please consider the website owner’s bottom line and that their site is a business.)
2. It helps with SEO.
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the way in which website creators run their sites with the goal of Google searches ranking them highly.
Google traffic is where the majority of my traffic comes from. If I didn’t focus on SEO, I would have far less traffic. Fewer people would be able to find my recipes, and with less traffic, I’d make less money. Ranking highly on Google is the thing I work the hardest on within the scope of my blog.
Long content on its own doesn’t help with SEO, but more relevant content does. So if I’m posting a recipe for gnocchi, for example, and I write about the different kinds of gnocchi, how to pronounce it, what kinds of sauces go with it, etc., that may help me rank higher if people search for “gnocchi recipe” on Google.
3. It’s creative content.
Bloggers are creative content creators. Each post involves lots of creative work- recipe creation and testing, photography and plating, and of course the writing itself. And each recipe writer works in a different way.
Personally, I may include a sentence or two of a back story about the recipe. Or maybe a quick personal update within a recipe post that may have nothing to do with the recipe itself.
But some other bloggers may share more stories. About their personal lives, their kids, the origin of the recipe, recounting their travel experience that led them to want to share a recipe, etc.
And you know what? That’s their choice, that’s how they choose to run their business, and that’s their prerogative.
Smitten Kitchen and The Pioneer Woman have been writing about personal stories within their recipe posts for years, and it’s how they have created literal empires in the food blogging world. People relate to their stories and love being a part of their lives, virtually.
Other hugely successful websites write succinctly and exclusively about food and recipes, such as Food52.
Both ways of writing are completely valid. And you may have a personal opinion about whether you like reading stories within food posts or not. And your opinion is valid too, as long as you are kind.
Too often I see people – mostly men, to be honest – tell me and other bloggers to “cut the BS” and “just tell me the recipe” or “get to the point.” I read something that stuck with me about this – that with food blogging being a female-dominated industry, this is similar to telling a woman to “be quiet and get back in the kitchen.” I wish I could remember the source, and will update here if I find it.
But whether criticism of food bloggers’ voices is rooted in underlying sexism, or just general annoyance at needing to find a recipe quickly to make dinner, please be aware that bloggers pour so much heart and effort into their writing, and telling them to “get to the point” is not kind or helpful, and it’s essentially telling someone how to do their job without knowing anything about it.
And ask yourself- do your favorite cookbooks have backstories to the recipes? Do you criticize these writings as much as you do food blog posts?
4. How inconvenienced are you… really?
Time yourself. How long does it take to scroll through a post to find a recipe? If it’s more than a few seconds, I’m afraid that’s on you and your scrolling ability, and not the blogger.
Did you look for a jump to recipe button? I have one at the top of each of my recipe posts. If you click it, you will be taken directly to the recipe. You can also click “print recipe” and view the printable page in a separate browser tab. Most bloggers have these options. (And it’s worth noting that a good way to support bloggers you love is to take the time to scroll, rather than immediately pressing these buttons, if you have a few moments to spare).
Are you equally frustrated with advertisements on TV as you are on websites? What about advertisements in magazines? Those services you pay for… and they STILL have ads.
Do you really expect to receive free things without any inconvenience to you ever? Are you just so used to having information at your fingertips through the internet that your perception of inconvenience is a bit warped on a broader perspective?
Personally, I almost always use the jump to recipe or print buttons when I am cooking a recipe.
And sometimes, I do get annoyed when I have to scroll to find a recipe. Especially if I’m at the grocery store needing to find ingredients in a hurry or get dinner on the table soon because my kids are hangry. And it’s OK to feel this way. But it’s not OK to shame bloggers for a relatively mild inconvenience on your part to receive free content when their livelihood is on the line.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Why not just put the recipe at the top of the post? Some people do this, but most do not. Having the recipe at the bottom underneath the rest of the content does a few things:
- It earns the blogger more money, since people need to scroll to the bottom and see the ads.
- It helps users stay on the page for more time, which can help with SEO, among other things.
- Often, questions about the recipe will be answered in the post itself that aren’t in the recipe card, so it helps take care of confusion surrounding the recipe (such as ingredient substitutions).
- Why do some bloggers not have a “Jump to Recipe” button? Again, this is a business decision that bloggers put a lot of thought into. Jumping to the recipe can result in a loss of revenue, since users won’t see ads within the content. I personally find that the user experience outweighs the loss in revenue, but others do not.
- Can I just pay a subscription fee to not have ads? This is something I would love to implement, but I’m not sure if something like this exists. I’m going to be looking out for a way to do this, for those who don’t want ads while looking on my site.
- But why are the ads SO obnoxious? There are different kinds of ads, including in-content ads, pop-up ads, and automatic video ads. On my website, you will NEVER see a pop-up ad, and if you do, I’d like to hear about it so I can alert my advertising network. I do run short automatic video ads, as they are quite lucrative, followed by a recipe tutorial video from my website. These should never play sound as a default, and should be quite easy to x out of. This again is a balance that website owners try to find with user experience and revenue. Some websites do this better than others, and some ad companies run more “obnoxious” ads than others, which is why you may see so much variety across different websites.
Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.
I’m quite passionate about blogging as a business, and it’s been life-changing for me and my family. It’s quite a complicated business that most people don’t know much about, and I hope this was helpful in explaining why food blog posts are often long.
So next time you come across a meme making fun of food bloggers for this reason, think before you share it. There’s no reason to shame people for working hard to make money and run a business in the way they see fit, especially when you receive free content as a result.
Do you have any other questions or comments about long food blog posts, or blogging in general? Please leave a comment below!
(And because this is a weirdly controversial topic, please remember to be kind when commenting. You can read more about my comment policy here.)