Tuesday, August 31, 2010

International Food Bloggers Conference Day 2

Now I know why they gave us long lunches to blog about the conferences... I have such a hard time remembering everything!  I mean, of course I remember what I did... but I have a hard time remembering all the little details.  There were so many wonderful & in depth things that I participated in!  I did miss the panel on Law & Ethics in food blogging.  I was out pretty late on Friday night and needed to take a quick afternoon nap.  It's nice that I live so close to where the conference was held - it wasn't unreasonable to go home for a quick nap and then make it back in time for the next event!

Here is my best recap of the two days (based on my notes I took throughout the conference).

The venue, Theo Chocolate Factory
Inside the Theo Chocolate - bloggers doing what they do best... blogging
Whoever is the interior decorator gets major kudos from me!
This is a long post so...

Click Here for More About Day 2!

The day started off with a panel about the "Art of Recipe Writing".  Here are the notes I took:
  • Go for the "who, why, how"
    • WHY am I sharing it?
    • HOW am I sharing the recipe? (maintaining consistency and clarity; what is my style and voice)
    • How sophisticated is my reader, how well do I need to define terms?
  • Voice/Recipe Style
    • Use fewer words, this will make the recipe shorter thus making it look more inviting
    • Link techniques to other areas of the website
    • Develop the voice; developing personality of the blog
      • ask others what MY voice is (i.e. readers, what do you think my voice is?  Seriously, answer in the comments!)
      • Make sure the blog is authentic to me, blog is a place to have my voice
  • Best Practices
    • Attribute recipes
    • Give more than one indicator in recipes (i.e. saute for 10 minutes or until golden brown)
    • Give more than one measurement (i.e. 4 carrots or 1/4 cup chopped)
    • USE THE WORD ABOUT - it gets you off the hook when your recipes don't turn out well for other people (ex: about one pound)
    • Use digital scale!
    • Realize that other people have different salt tolerances in cooking
  • Recipe Elements
    • Title of recipe should be straightforward, tempting, descriptive and FUN!
      • Be as descriptive as possible (also increases SEO)
    • Head notes
      • tempt people, inform, personal story... use them to ENHANCE recipe
      • reader wants to know WHY you're writing this recipe down
    • Ingredient List
      • In order used, accurate, easy to shop from (i.e. one medium onion, not 2 cups of onion, chopped)
      • express ingredients how sold in market (see above example)
  • Can get recipe nutritional info from nutritionaldata.com
  • Resources
    • See: "Recipe Writers Handbook" & "Will Write for Food"
    • How to find clients
      • maintaining online portfolio of recipes, make business cards, say you're a "recipe developer"
      • Join professional organization (IACP, local professional organization)
    • You're only cutting off your own capabilities and undercutting professionals who do this for a living
    • Charge for expenses
    • Ask for 10-20% more than their offering price (it's usually in their budget), standard thing to say is "that seems a little low..."
  • Go over old recipes!
  • Print out recipe before publishing; go through & edit with a pencil
  • If ingredient list have instructions (ex: onions, chopped), don't need to have directions listed in recipe body
  • Attribution
    • Essential to be honest and generous (say "inspired by" or "took X's recipe but I like it with more (or less) of Y ingredient...etc)
    • Only thing that is copyrighted is the EXACT expression in the recipe
  • Question of common cooking sense
    • who am I writing for?  Beginner cook = needs hand holding.
And after a quick message sponsors (i.e. we took a ten minute break), we'll be right back!

My breakfast, Day 2

Annnnd we're back! The next panel was on Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  I learned a fair amount about SEO when I was at U of M, but not in relation to food blogging.  I thought this was an incredibly interesting session and I'm excited to utilize some of the things the panelists talked about.  However, I don't think blogging should be all about SEO - there needs to be a passion.  I know I have readers out there (Hi everyone!  Thank you for reading my blog!), but at the same time I'm still blogging for the same reason when I started.  I want to get my recipes and the recipes I've tried out there for my family and friends.

Here are the notes that I took:

  • Important terms
    • monthly unique visitors (how websites are valued)
    • Page views
    • Bounce rate
    • Referrer (where are reviews coming from?)
    • CPM - cost per thousand impressions (hoe advertising works)
  • Measuring traffic
    • Google pagerank, Quantcast.com, Compete.com, Alexa.com
  • How does Google work?
    • Computers understand literal, straightforward terms - this gets Google to "crawl" to you
    • see if in the index by doing "site address: content looking for"
    • How get up higher in the results?
      • What's the search term?
      • What do they know about the site? (trust, page rank)
  • SEO = links!  Inbound links give your blog authority
  • Improving Google rank
    • commenting on other blogs
    • Urban Spoon Spoonbacks
    • Foodista Widgets
  • **Google Webmaster Tools
  • Get an Urban Spoon Spoonback
  • Making money through ads
    • 100,000 monthly unique visitors = 2 Visits per month = average 2.5 page views/visit
  • Making friends w/search engines
    • Front-door traffic (EX: New York Times, a lot of time browsing)
    • Back-door traffic (a lot of snarky Tweets on this one...)
  • Look at stats often
    • Understand terminology and stats
    • How does traffic come in?
  • Google Insights (tracking trends)
    • What's the best way to write about a topic online? (ex: where is corn popular? What recipes are 'trending'?)
  • Write keywords/core words
    • Recipes title should be specific; when it's unique it's less competitive
  • Where to use them?
    • In URL
    • In Blog Title
    • Best Title: keyword phrase, but unique and specific
  • Where?
    • In first sentence of post
    • subtitles
    • photo captions
    • Any links created to post (keywords in there)
    • "All text" for photo (when mouse hovers over)
    • Repeat recipe name before recipe
  • Social Media
    • Place food blog into niche (will generate traffic)
    • Update often (help with search engine and readers)
    • Be unique, find trending, links
  • Food Buzz (website)
  • Put a way to contact you on blog!  Write an "About Me"
Next up is writing with all five senses.  This was a wonderful session, but the worst one to have right before lunch!  To make things worse, I was sitting in the back row so it was very hard to not run over to the food tables right behind me!  Come on, you can't put me 10 feet away from tables full on pastries, fruit and chocolate and then tell me to suck on and smell a lemon!  Alas, I was a good girl and resisted.  This session was to help us think about how to describe a lemon (using our five senses) without using the word lemon.  There were some AMAZING writers out there... it definitely intimidated me!  But you know what, I like having a conversational "we're chillin' in the kitchen" vibe for my blog.  Here is what I wrote... and trying to pretend that I was in Creative Writing 10001.  Also, at this point all us bloggers concluded that describing food is a little bit... sexual.

Tactile/Texture description of a lemon:
Filling my hand, some parts feels more firm than others.  Spots easily give way and disturb the juices under the push of my palm.  Almost like a stress ball of the natural world - I move my hand around to find the strengths and weaknesses.
The inside initially burns my fresh paper cute with it's golden juices.  Soon my thumb begins to easily glide over the segmented ridges and meet resistance with the hard white pithe.

Sound (we closed our eyes & listened to a lemon being chopped):
The staccato thumping waxes and wanes with the determines of the knife wielder.  Thump... thump.. it speeds up like the feverish typing of a reporter on deadline.  Frantic, about to lose control.  The food becomes mangled, the chef becomes frantic.  Climaxing with almost everything chopped, distraction in the distance startles the sword master - she releases her grip and all ends with the clamoring of mental on the hard factory floor.

Smell (I read this one ALOUD in front of EVERYONE... that isn't an easy thing for me to do!):
Like a cleaning crew set lost in a frat house, the fresh and renewed scent fills my nose.  All other smells are scrubbed out; all is clean and bright.

It's tartness shows as my brows furrow in conjunction with the scrunching of my face.  The inside of my mouth wakes up and chapped lips burn.  In an attempt to dull the flavor, I throw the cursed wedge into a tall glass of water.  Drinking it down, it is no longer a bitter enemy, but a welcome friend that adds sunshine to the mundane.

I know, I'm the best writer.... ever.
Next up, lunch!  Oh food, how most of my activities and conversations revolve around you!  However, I did have a little difficulty eating at lunch.  As there was a lot of focus on gluten-free blogging/eating at this years conference, that also means there was a lot of meat.  I was able to eat one dish (the zucchini one) and ask for another without the mini octopus (chili glazed chickpeas).  While a lot of chefs made food that was gluten-free & dairy free... they were often not so meat free.  Oh well, I ate enough chocolate to make up for it!  Wine was provided by the Walla Walla Wine Alliance.  Six different chefs provided food for our lunch, they are as follows:
  • Kylie McIntyre, Gluten-Free fare
  • Chef Jason Stratton, Vegan & Gluten-Free (the AMAZING zucchini dish)
  • Chef John Howie, Gluten-free & dairy free
  • Chef Daisley Gordon, "Meat & Bread"
  • Chef Shannon Galusha, Chickpea/Octopus, chef of the amazing Bastille restaurant in Ballard.
  • Chef Colin McCrate (a total cutie, by the way) from Urban Farming.
As seen below...
 Now, sadly, I went and took a nap.  I was there for about half of the Law & Ethics in Food Blogging session and completely missed the local food panel.  Mom, Dad... I'm sorry... but I was exhausted.  I mean, I had oh, maybe two large french presses worth of coffee.  However, I never reached the point of having the coffee wake me up.  I just went from falling asleep to falling asleep, feeling jittery and a little nauseated.

Next meal, dinner!

Well, before dinner there was the Secret Sherry Society cocktail party.  I had never tasted sherry before; straight sherry isn't my thing, but it tasted pretty good in a mixed drink!  I also was able to talk with Liz Heldmann of India Tree Spices and a wonderful gentleman, Mark Hufford, of Eats n Streets.  He was so inspirational to talk to; he was an older man who just started blogging but has been on BBQ competitions on The Food Network!  Mark, if you read this, keep on blogging!  I'm looking forward to reading your posts (and keeping an eye out for your backside and smoker on the Food Network).

Dinner was preceded by a speech from the spectacular James Oseland, Editor-in-Chief of Saveur!  Sadly, I can't really remember what he said... it was too dark to take notes.  At least I was able to sit and talk with my new friends, again, Alan Campbell and Robert Larsen!  I do remember a lot of very enticing pictures from his time spent in India and the South Pacific!

I went home soon after dinner for a well needed night of rest.

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