How to write bad blog posts and lose visitors

How to write bad blog posts and lose visitors

Gavin Wren Food Blogging, Food Opinion Pieces, Writing

If there’s one thing that turns me off when I read a blog post, it’s starting with phrases like “YOU NEED THIS IN YOUR LIFE!” or “This recipe is AMAZING and will CHANGE your WORLD”. You don’t NEED any recipe in your life, you just need basic food and water and the absolute last thing you need in your life is someone telling you what choices you should make. You should work them out for yourself and if you aren’t already doing that, then you need to start, rather than listening to a click-hungry blogger who is trying to big-up their recipe in the hope of a few more pence of ad revenue. It’s patronising and condescending that some blog writers can’t give their readers some credit by engaging you with engrossing text worthy of reading, rather than red-top tabloid headlines.

Of course bloggers will tell you their recipe is amazing, because in this busy, crowded marketplace of amateur online recipe provision, words closely follow images as the most powerful arsenal available to sell our little digital slice of culinary life. It’s a shame that after the meticulous skill and patience required to craft visual culinary landscapes, take amazing photos of them, plus the nuanced techniques and processes of editing them, the entire integrity of the post is debased by a simplistic, teenage “YOU NEED THIS IN YOUR LIFE, LOL!” It’s like eating at a Michelin starred restaurant and asking for ketchup. Great chefs and food writers of our time would never include such base language in their publications, because their wont is to sell their food or writing through ability and style, rather than desperation.

…words, one of the most powerful tools available to mankind… they give you a chance to forge deep emotional ties, to conjure glittering, illuminated torrents of prandial imagery.
I’m not naive, I understand why this happens. In the world of food blogging, photos are the number one attention grabber to draw people in to your site. Everything’s visual; Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and even Twitter, all rely heavily on people being drawn to your photos before they even set foot across the threshold of your blog. Once they’ve made that leap of faith into the unknown they’re confronted with words, one of the most powerful tools available to mankind, unique to homo sapiens as a form of communication and they give you a chance to forge deep emotional ties, to conjure glittering, illuminated torrents of prandial imagery. Here you have a chance to allow your visitor’s first taste of your recipe to come not after hours of toil above a hot stove, but through eloquent reproduction of the gentle touch of food upon lips, the sweetness sensed by the front of the tongue then followed by an avalanche of flavours exploding in a voluminous burst of gustatory perception. Or, you can just write “THIS IS ORSUM!!!” Your choice.

This dumbing down to short sentences, monosyllabic words and one line paragraphs all accelerates us towards a rather depressing future of split second attention spans. Perhaps it’s an evolutionary thing. Our attention spans are dropping to minuscule levels because constant input through myriad digital sources means our ability to focus on anything for more than a few seconds is fast eroding. Of course the reason why these simple headlines exist is because after the amazing photo, you need to convey how great the recipe is, very, very quickly to ensnare those few seconds of attention span that your reader has managed to hang onto. Deep philosophical ramblings may divulge a broader subtext on the essence of the recipe, but ultimately, only a few people are going to bother reading them and success as a blogger is judged by monthly page views, rather than your reader’s post-visit enlightenment.

You could say it’s easy for me to sit here and snipe at other blogs, but I feel that the stupefaction of communication in the name harnessing clicks is tiresome. Our attention spans are going down the toilet fast enough without intelligent and influential people creating blogs which purposefully dumb things down as well. I feel that authentic, genuine human interaction should be the key to a blog, not the forced, artificial click-bait which we see so often. Just because people want something, it doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

…but I feel that the stupefaction of communication in the name harnessing clicks is tiresome.
I’ve spent about 9 months putting a lot of time into this blog, largely as a piece of personal, creative development. I’ve researched how to develop an audience and regularly come up against a fundamental problem which I fight all the way, which is the sense of blogs being contrived to be successful. What to write, when to write it, how to write it, when to publish, how to interact etc etc. I love writing, in fact, I’d say that it’s one of my favourite parts of producing a blog, crafting some words that might entertain, sparkle or cajole you into a happier state, with the recipe being a positive addendum to this work. I like writing about my opinions and thoughts, normally with some oblique relevance to the recipe, yet everything I read tells me I need to write about what YOU, the reader wants, which is why bloggers end up shouting what YOU want, because that’s what the internet has in turn told them to do.

I have flirtatiously tried writing about what YOU, the reader wants, but it doesn’t come naturally, because I simply don’t know what you want. The only things I know for sure are what I think (although there’s often some doubt there), what the recipe embodies, how it came about and the details of how I experienced it. My translation of those elements is pivotal in your understanding of what comes next and hopefully I can do that in an entertaining way. And rest assured, if I’m ever stuck for words, mired beneath a thick fog of writers’ block, then you’ll simply find a short post, rather than resorting to sub-tabloid journalism of the blog world.

“To be popular, one must be a mediocrity”Oscar Wilde
My last point is something that I’ve discovered in life, which is that just because someone or something is shouting the loudest about their greatness, by no measure does it mean they are the greatest. This can be seen in many walks of life and especially online, perceived greatness is no guarantee of a fantastical experience. As Oscar Wilde once said “To be popular, one must be a mediocrity”.

At the end of this rant, I find myself wondering what the point of this post is, why am I saying all these negative things, sitting here behind my average blog criticising all those hard-working people. Well, it’s simply my point of view, garnered from months of producing blog posts. I prefer thoughtful, involving content, which perhaps puts me in the minority and leads me to write pieces like this when I look around and see a lot of OMG style posts. I just think that our world of online resources could be a far richer place without this unnecessary dumbing down of language, simply to ensnare the short attention span and harvest a few more precious clicks. If the prevailing opinion is that these short, snappy posts, telling readers what they want are ‘good’ posts and the best way to grow an audience, then I guess I’m stuck, left to write bad blog posts and lose visitors. But as long as I’m writing what I feel, opening a line of genuine communication, that’s the important thing and ultimately, that’s why I write a blog.

Disclaimer: All of the views stated above are my opinions which I’ve developed over the time I’ve been producing my blog. In that time, I’ve researched, experimented with and implemented various styles and techniques in a quest to find what I like. There’s a chance I’ve toyed with things that contradict what I’ve said above, however as I exist as a perfectly normal, illogical human being, any apparent hypocrisy is perfectly healthy, as my opinion today may not be the same as my opinion 6 months ago, and probably differs from my opinion 6 months hence. Our perceptions of the world change over time, this piece is just a snapshot of where I’m at today, Tuesday 17th November, 2015.

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