Tips from Bjork and Lindsay
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Welcome to episode 146 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork talks with Kate Kordsmeier from Root & Revel about how she generated a full-time income from her blog in just two years.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Shauna Niequist about inspiration, knowing when to disconnect, and living with intention. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
One of the most common questions we get on Food Blogger Pro is when bloggers should start monetizing.
What do you think?
6 months? A year? 1,000 followers on Instagram? 10,000 page views per month?
Kate believes you should start monetizing as soon as possible (as in day one), and in this interview, you’ll learn all about the ways she has monetized and grown her blog over the past two years.
Thanks to our Reviewer of the Week, Kitty from My Katie Blue! If you’d like to be featured, leave a review for us on iTunes and include your name and blog name in the review.
If you'd like to jump to the comments section, click here.
Bjork Ostrom: In this episode, I talk about how to check yourself out on Pinterest, and we chat with Kate Kordsmeier about she earned $75,000 from just her second year of blogging.
Bjork Ostrom: Hey there everybody. This is Bjork Ostrom and you’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast, brought to you by WP Tasty, which is the go-to place for WordPress plugins.
Bjork Ostrom: WP Tasty has two WordPress plugins right now, Tasty Recipes and Tasty Pins. Tasty Recipes is for all of you food bloggers out there, and Tasty Pins is for all of you that want to optimize your Pinterest pins, and specifically optimizing your images, both for Pinterest as well as Google. We talk about that in previous podcasts, so we won’t dive deep into how that works because today the Tasty tip is all about optimizing your Pinterest account, not necessarily using Tasty Pins but that’s a piece of it.
Bjork Ostrom: How do you check yourself out on Pinterest? There’s this really cool URL that you can use. If you go to this URL it allows you to see all of the images, all of the pins that are happening in realtime on Pinterest associated with your URL. You can get there simply by going to pinterest.com/source/yoururl. Now, obviously you wouldn’t type in, yoururl, you’d put that in. So in our case we’d go pinterest.com/source/pinchofyum.com.
Bjork Ostrom: The other great thing that’s nice about this URL, where you can check yourself out, is you can also check out other people. First, what I’d recommend doing is going in and making sure that your content is optimized. Now what is an optimized Pinterest pin? A couple things that are important. Number one, you want to make sure that it is a rich pin. A rich pin has additional information around the pin. For food blogs that’s ingredients.
Bjork Ostrom: You want to make sure that your recipe that is being pinned has the ingredients on Pinterest. There’s lots of different reasons why that’s beneficial, but it helps people engage with it. It adds some discoverability within Pinterest, so Pinterest has a better understanding of what that pin is all about. Pinterest has said that they’re going to place an emphasis on these rich pins because of the searchability and the additional information that’s provided with these.
Bjork Ostrom: So you want to make sure that you have rich pins. If you have a food blog and you don’t yet have a recipe plugin, make sure that you get that installed and added. It’s kind of a 101 but I always want to mention that, just in case you don’t have that installed yet. That’s going to help you get some rich pins for Pinterest.
Bjork Ostrom: The other thing that you want to make sure that’s optimized as you’re checking yourself out on Pinterest using that source URL, is you want to make sure that the strong description for Pinterest is included on that pin. A strong description is really good for searchability, but it’s also good to include the hashtags for that given recipe. You might want to include things like #healthy, or #dinner. You could include #cleaneating, if it’s a clean recipe, or maybe it is for a certain diet like Whole30 or something like that. You want to include those hashtags.
Bjork Ostrom: Pinterest has come out and said it’s important to include those hashtags in your descriptions. How do you make sure that your description is optimized? Well, there’s multiple different ways you can do it. Number one, the really basic way is to use that as the alt text for your image. This was the old way to do it. Where you’d optimize your image’s alt text for Pinterest. But what’s happened is people have started to change, and they’ve realized, “We don’t want to optimize the alt tag for Pinterest, because we want to make sure we’re optimizing that for Google, describing what the image is instead of putting in a Pinterest description.”
Bjork Ostrom: So the second option would be, in your image you can use the title area. Now, for every image there’s a title and then there’s an alt text. The title is what shows up when you hover over the image, and it’s meant to be an explainer or a guide for people that are navigating your website. That’s the next best option. You’re dividing the title text and the alt text. So the alt text is used for Google, and the title text can be used for Pinterest.
Bjork Ostrom: But if you want to take it even a step further, you can use a plugin like Tasty Pins, which puts in a very specific Pinterest description area on WordPress, and we show you exactly how that happens on the explainers and tutorials that we have on WP Tasty. That will allow you to have this really clean separation, and you can use the Pinterest text for the Pinterest description, and you can use the alt text to describe what the image is to optimize that for SEO.
Bjork Ostrom: What that allows you to do is once you go to the source URL for your blog, again that’s pinterest.com/source/yourblogulr, so in our case pinchofyum.com, we can click on an image and then we can see that those images, unless somebody’s changed the description, but almost always people are going to use the default description, especially if it’s really well written. Those descriptions on Pinterest when they’re pinning those images are going to be really strong descriptions, because you have optimized those using a custom Pinterest description.
Bjork Ostrom: The nice thing about the source URL is you can check out other blogs. So if you want to scroll through and look at what we’ve done with Pinch of Yum, you can just go to source/pinchofyum.com when you’re on Pinterest to get a look at what that is. Now, all of those won’t be optimized, but what I think will happen is as you scroll through and look at those, you’ll see a lot of those are optimized. Then you can go over to your URL and check it out as you’re making updates to see those optimized descriptions and those rich pins start to come through. That will improve your Pinterest traffic and engagement. You’ll start to get more traffic on Pinterest by implementing the optimized Pinterest strategies that we talked about here in the Tasty Tip for this episode.
Bjork Ostrom: Speaking of Pinterest, Kate is actually going to be talking about some of the strategies that she used to improve her Pinterest account, and actually how she did that when she didn’t really even like social media. She talks pretty blatantly about not liking social media but bringing people in, including a lot of Food Blogger Pro experts, bringing people in to help her in those areas that she’s not excited about. All of that has helped her to grow really intentionally in just her second year of blogging.
Bjork Ostrom: She published a report where she talks about how much she earned in her second year of blogging, outlines what the expenses were and the income was, and talks about some of the intentional decisions she made as she grew her blog. We actually interviewed Kate previously on the Food Blogger Pro podcast, where she talked about freelancing. In this podcast, she talks about getting burnt out with freelancing and wanting to make that switch over into blogging for herself, being her own boss, and being really intentional in doing that. It wasn’t something she stumbled into. She said, “I’m going to set out. I’m going to do this,” and she has done it. In 2018 she’s getting even more traction, which she’s talking about. She was nice enough to come on, and share her tips and advice with you on the podcast today. It’s going to be really encouraging and I know you’re going to get a lot out of it, so let’s go ahead and jump it. Kate, welcome back to the podcast.
Kate Kordsmeier: Thanks for having me. I’m so glad to be back.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. For those that haven’t listened to the Food Blogger Pro podcast for a while, back in May of 2016, so almost two years ago, we talked to you about freelance journalism, and how you can double your income doing freelance writing. For you, you were writing in the same niche as the food and recipe world, but for those that didn’t listen to the podcast, can you talk about some of the things we talked about in that podcast, and what it was that you were doing at that time when you were doing freelance journalism?
Kate Kordsmeier: Yeah, absolutely. I went to journalism school for college, and then after I graduated I basically started freelancing full-time right away. What that meant was that I was getting paid to write stories for magazines and newspapers. This was 2010, so there were some websites but still nothing like it is today, so it was mostly print publications. I basically picked a niche and decided to go with food, because that was what I was passionate about and what I loved to do, was eat.
Kate Kordsmeier: I kind of had that as my beat, and for the next I’d say about eight years or so, well, that would put us today, so I guess it’s a little less than that, I did that full-time. I traveled around the world and literally wrote about what was happening in the food scene. It was mostly about restaurants and hotels and chefs and food trends, and that kind of stuff, for magazines and newspapers.
Kate Kordsmeier: And then I also, on the side, freelanced recipe developed. I would write recipes for magazines like Cooking Light and Shape and Fitness, and that kind of thing, so in the healthy recipe realm. It was a combination of food and travel writing and recipe development.
Bjork Ostrom: There’s a part in … We’re going to talk about a report that you did, kind of a recap of 2017, and the income that you created from your blog, and expenses. We’re going to dig into that as a fun way to explore what the potential is for somebody in their second year of blogging.
Bjork Ostrom: But before we do that, one of the things that you talk about early one is you talk about doing freelance journalism and getting at this point where you were burnt out. Where you had to report to an editor. There was advertisers that you had to be beholden to. And then you talk about eating rich restaurant food five times a week and traveling so much. But I think for a lot of people if they hear that, the idea of traveling, and getting to eat out at restaurants, and getting to do that for, quote-unquote, free, sounds like the best thing ever. So what was it about that time, where you eventually got burnt out with it and you knew that you needed to change?
Kate Kordsmeier: Honestly, it was the perfect storm of things, because at the same time … I had been doing it for, I don’t know, at this point I guess six, seven years. While it was so much fun, and I’m so grateful for the experiences I got to have, the places I got to see that I would have never have been able to afford on my own, and especially with how frequently I was traveling. It was amazing, and it really was like a dream job, but it was also exhausting and I was gone half the year and on the road.
Kate Kordsmeier: Sometimes it was like they’d take care of you, but sometimes I was sitting in the backseat on a 30 hour flight to Australia, and kind of sucks. So there were some things that were exhausting about it. At the same time, I was also going through a lot of health issues, and really had to change my diet. So eating out at restaurants became really difficult for me, especially when I was doing things like elimination diets and trying to figure out if I had food triggers for things.
Kate Kordsmeier: It’s not like I could just go to a restaurant and get the healthiest thing, in order to really write with authority about a place, and especially if I was ever doing reviews, I had to try the whole menu. That started becoming impossible. So yeah, it was a combination of being exhausted, at the same time I was in my early and mid twenties when I was doing this in the beginning, and I had very little responsibilities and a lot of energy, and that kind of thing. By the end of it, I was 30 and got married and bought a house and wanted to be home more, and my lifestyle and goals and interests were changing. It was a lot of different things at once.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting to hear people talk about some of those big decisions they make with their life and having a pivot. Some people would call it a pivot, where you’re not necessarily doing something completely different but you’re shifting directions. So often it’s related to something like that, where you have this big life change, whether it has to be a health related thing, or relationship. You have, you get married, you bought house. All of these things impact, in your case going from traveling around, eating out at restaurants, to this next possible phase, where there’s this evolution.
Bjork Ostrom: You take what you learn, these things that you know and have come to become an expert at, and evolve on those a little bit. When you looked at the different paths to evolve to, were you looking at multiple different things, or did this idea of blogging come forward, and then you were like, “Hey, I want to go into this,” or did you pick it as one of the paths that you were looking at?
Kate Kordsmeier: I would say more so the latter. For about the last year, maybe two, that I was freelancing full-time, I realized that I wasn’t enjoying it as much anymore for a lot of the reasons we just discussed. I also moved from Washington DC to Atlanta, which made it more difficult to get work because there was so much more work in DC, and DC is so much more of a travel destination in itself than Atlanta is. So there was some of that going on as well.
Kate Kordsmeier: I was just thinking like, “What could I do?” But I knew that I didn’t want to go work for somebody else and work in an office. So I explored, like, “What if I started my own restaurant PR firm? What if I started … ” At the time I started doing a bunch of on-camera work for places like CNN and the state of Georgia’s tourism department, and some other places.
Kate Kordsmeier: Then I thought … I actually had a audition with the Food Network, and so then I’m like, “Maybe this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to be a TV personality.” That kind of fizzled out and I realized that wasn’t really what my interest was. Honestly, it was that I had been following Pinch of Yum as a regular reader for years, and I must have skipped over the income reports, or not check back off. I don’t remember ever really seeing them, until one day I did, and then got sucked down the rabbit hole and spent the entire weekend reading every report you ever wrote. It was like, “This is what I should do. This is the perfect way to transition, where I still am getting to write, and work for myself, and work from home, and be in the food world. But I can do it more on my own terms.”
Kate Kordsmeier: I am a huge control freak, and that was one of the things that really started getting to me after a while with freelancing, was like I you said before, having to report to an editor, having to … To get a story I had to pitch editors, which means I have to convince them that the story is worth telling. Sometimes they wouldn’t agree with me and that was so frustrating. So I was like, “Well, if it’s my blog I can write whatever the heck I want to write. It’s mine.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure.
Kate Kordsmeier: Yeah. So eventually I said, “Okay. I think this blogging thing is going to be what I’m going to do.” Which honestly was a huge shift for me, because I had this really snobby attitude about bloggers before, as I felt like I was this legitimate journalist. A lot of the restaurant bloggers I had worked with in the past were sort of just in it to get a free meal. They just did it on the side, had no business acumen, and didn’t do it with a lot of integrity. That’s what I thought of as blogging, until I really started looking into it, and realizing, “Oh my gosh. No. There’s plenty of amazing bloggers out there that don’t sell their soul and are really helpful to people and provide great content, and service, and all of that.”
Bjork Ostrom: So you looked at the income reports. You said, “Okay. I see somebody else doing this.” But the hard transition is to go from, “I see somebody else doing this,” and, “Now I think that I can do this.” Because I think usually what people do is they’ll something, and then they’ll create walls that say, “Here’s why it’s not possible.” But it sounds like for you, you jumped in and said, “No. Here’s why it is possible,” and then started moving on it. How did you, from a mindset perspective, how did you have the optimism, and positive thinking, and the action-oriented outlook in order to move forward with building your blog?
Kate Kordsmeier: Man, that’s a good question. I feel like my answer’s cheating because it just comes naturally to me. I’m not necessarily a confident person in my personal life, but in my business life I do feel like I’m very like, “If they could do, I could do it.” Some of it I think was like, “Okay. This is possible. I see that, here’s this blog that I like, and they make good money from this, so, so could I.”
Kate Kordsmeier: But I also knew that I knew nothing about blogging and that I would need, especially if my plan was to make it a business, which it was. I never started it as like, “This is just a hobby. We’ll see how it goes.” It was always like, “This is my next business step.” So I joined Food Blogger Pro, and literally watched every video before I even launched my blog, and then went back and did certain courses again as I was setting it up, to make sure that I was doing everything right the first time around. I really didn’t want to have to wing it, and then a year later go back and redo everything.
Bjork Ostrom: It reminds me, it’s one of the things I’ve tried to do whenever I’m doing any type of furniture assembly, is, take out the instruction manual and read it all the way through before doing anything, and then go back, and then step by step assemble it. It sounds like that’s in a way what you did, using the course content of Food Blogger Pro as like, “I’m going to go through this. Then I’m going to go back, and now that I know the landscape, what’s there, I’m going to as needed go through these and apply them as I build my site.”
Kate Kordsmeier: Yeah, exactly. That’s such a good analogy. That’s actually exactly the way too that I do recipes. People always say, “Read the recipe in full first, make you understand, then go back and put your own twist on it,” which I’m incapable of following a recipe to a T. I feel like that was very much the same approach that I took with this. Just tried to learn as much as I could and make sure I was doing things … I mean, there is no one right way of course, but that I was doing things from an informed place, and not just like, “Let’s try this.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So in going through all the course content, and doing this learning period that you had, what do you feel like that did for you in terms of informing the decisions that you’re going to make as you jumped into it? Knowing that the whole time your intent is to do this as a business. You’re not doing it as a hobby. You’re not just stumbling into it. You’re saying, “I’m going to do this, and I’m going to be really intentional with it.” What did you pick up? Whether it be from Food Blogger Pro, or in general, as you got into it, that helped you in those early stages?
Kate Kordsmeier: I think one of the first things was that I realized how much freaking work it is. I think I knew it was going to be a lot of work, sort of, but I was like, “Well, I’ve been writing recipes for years. That’s no problem. I’ll just snap a couple photos and throw it out there.” It was like, “Yeah, but if you really want-”
Bjork Ostrom: Not so much.
Kate Kordsmeier: “ … anybody to be able to find it, and to drive traffic to the blog, and make sure … ” There were so many little things behind the scenes that I would never have known about or thought of. I feel like that was a big thing, like alt text on photos, using a recipe plugin instead of just writing your recipe in the post. Now some of these things feel so basic, but at the time I didn’t know any of it. I feel like I got a lot of the nuts and bolts and the basics down. And then, let’s see, I feel like there was a second part to your question, but I’ve forgotten it.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Well, the other piece that I would be interested in hearing you talk about is the decision that you made in launching the blog as a business, as opposed to a hobby. How did that inform how you went about building it, and spending time on it, and even spending money on it?
Kate Kordsmeier: Yeah. Two main things come to mind. The first is that I started monetizing from day one. I think a lot of people feel like they should wait. I was actually just having this conversation with one of my coaching clients the other day. They were saying, “Yeah. I feel like I shouldn’t have ads or anything until I have 100,000 page views a month,” or something like that. I was like, “Why would you leave that money on the table?”
Kate Kordsmeier: I had an ad network from day one. I started using affiliate links from day one. Pretty much as soon as I had a couple thousand page views per month I started doing some sponsored content, usually with agencies that paid a lot less. I think the first sponsored post I got was like $100 or something. I just tried to be fearless about approaching people, and say, “The worst they could say is, ‘No thanks.’” Yeah, started monetizing from day one.
Kate Kordsmeier: Then the second thing I would say, which I think there’s a lot of controversy about this, but I went through a phase, and you and I actually talked about this a few times, like, do you have to spend money to make money, or should you wait to spend money to make money. Ultimately, I personally decided that if I was starting any other business, I wouldn’t expect to have zero expenses. I would probably pay for advertising, and I would probably hire some employees, and that kind of thing.
Kate Kordsmeier: So, while I didn’t need to spend $50,000 in the first year, or something like that, I did hire contract help, whether that was for social media, or for photography, or the website. I really felt like I needed to invest in the business if I wanted it to grow quickly. That was, I would say, the second biggest thing, approaching it from a business standpoint literally.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s interesting. I think that’s something I would love to talk about, because it’s an intentional decision. In your post here you talk about 2017, and we’ll link to this in the show notes for this podcast. You outline all the income that you have for 2017, and then the expenses that you had. This is your second year of blogging, is that right?
Kate Kordsmeier: Correct.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay. So in your second year of blogging you had a total of $75,000 in income, and then a total of $39,000, almost 40,000, in expenses. I think it would be great, because you’ve published this and it’s available, I think it’d be great to dig into that a little bit, especially given that it’s your second year of blogging. That’s really impressive and that’s really cool. Let’s start with the income side of it. You had mentioned that right from the start you had started with an ad network. Which ad network did you start with, and who are you using now?
Kate Kordsmeier: Yeah. I started just with Google AdSense, because it was the easiest and there were no minimums. I started with that. After probably six months or so, I switched to, I’m never really sure how you say it, Sovrn, Sovrn.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure, yeah.
Kate Kordsmeier: I switch to that network, which also didn’t have any page view minimums. And then as soon as I got to 30,000 page views a month, I applied for Mediavine. I think that’s still their minimum, although I’m not sure if they’ve changed that at all. It was crazy, because with basically the same number of page views I went from making $50 a month with ads, to $500 a month from ads, and I didn’t change anything else. It was a huge … I love Mediavine. They were a huge boost to my income and they’re super helpful. You can really customize how man ads you want displayed, and where you want them, and that kind of stuff. Now I probably make around $1,500 a month from ads.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. Yeah. What I love about that is you have this stair-step approach, where you’re slowly increasing and juicing the page views for what you can in terms of ad income. These ad optimization companies, Mediavine, AdThrive is another one, are really good at optimizing that. They take a cut of the total income that you’re making, but they do a really good job, like you said, of increasing that potential, doing a lot of different things, generally optimizing ad placements and things like that.
Bjork Ostrom: They also do this thing called header bidding, which is a type of ad optimization. It’s a ad optimization technology which is something that you wouldn’t want to do on your own, but it’s great for … because it’s complicated, but it’s great for these ad networks to be able to do it. Cool to hear you make that switch. I’m interested to hear you talk a little bit about starting with ads right away.
Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that people ask us a lot is like, “Hey, at what point should I start trying to monetize my site?” My response is usually, “If you are somebody that would be excited about the income, even if it’s a small amount that you’re getting month to month, then it’s probably worth doing if you like the idea of having ads and optimizing those a little bit, and seeing like, ”Hey, today I made $3 from that site,“ and you start building that up. But there’s also the other side of, maybe it makes sense to wait. There’s a performance hit that comes along with ads. It slows down your site. You could delay that as well a little bit longer. I’m interested to hear where you stand with that. It sounds like in general you’d say, ”Hey, why don’t you jump it and start earning income as long as you can?"
Kate Kordsmeier: Yeah. I definitely lean more towards that mindset. I think any money, if your goal is to monetize the site, even if it starts off really small, it’s still motivating to see, even if it’s just $3 a day or something like that. Like, “Okay. I’m making money. If can turn this $3 into 30,” then that’s really motivating for me.
Kate Kordsmeier: I also feel like it would be such an arbitrary number to decide when you would start advertising. I think there’s an argument to be made whether you want to have ads at all ever, but if you are saying, “Okay. At some point I want to have ads,” I think, why wait and leave that money on the table? Even if it’s just $20 a month, that’s paying for hosting, and your domain name, and maybe a social media scheduler or something like that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. There’s this concept in startups, and they call it ramen profitability, I’ve talked about a couple times in the podcast. The idea being that right from the start you’re profitable because you have a little bit of income, and then you have tinier expenses. You’re keeping expenses super low and you’re creating an income. It could be in the first month where you have a profitable site, but it might mean that you’re spending 200 and making 300. So you’re still profitable but you’re also putting back into your business, but not so much that you are running at a loss.
Bjork Ostrom: In your first year you have $7,800 from ads. That’s growing now. In 2018 that will be more as you mentioned. And then you have this long list of different affiliates that you’ve earned an income from. Can you talk about your approach to affiliate marketing and how you went about doing that?
Kate Kordsmeier: Yeah. To start, I just joined Amazon’s, because that seemed like such an obvious place to join. Especially because I do have a big food focus on my blog, but I also do a lot of beauty, and home, and other lifestyle topics. So there was plenty of stuff for me to link to on Amazon. That was a great start because even if only one person bought something from you, you could still end up making a couple hundred dollars if they … I’m sure, I know you’ve talked about this in the past too on other podcasts, but it’s like with Amazon specifically you get credit for everything they buy in that purchase, not just what they bought from your site.
Bjork Ostrom: Right, so if they click on a $5 product that you recommend, a $10 book, but then their total cart is $2,000, then you actually get a commission on that total cart, which is one of the great things about Amazon.
Kate Kordsmeier: Yes, exactly. That’s where I started, and then very slowly I started adding other programs when I felt like they were a fit for my site. My site is very … I don’t know how to phrase it exactly, but I feel like we have these standards because we’re very focused on clean, pure, non-toxic ingredients and foods and brands. Because we take this very holistic natural approach to things, I couldn’t just partner with anybody. Otherwise, I feel like I would be doing my readers a disservice and selling my soul.
Kate Kordsmeier: I was very intentional about making sure that I would only recommend products that, A, I had personally used, and B, I really did recommend and felt like they were a great fit with the mission of Root & Revel. I started slowly adding it in, and actually it wasn’t until I hired my assistant, who came from the affiliate marketing world, that I really started to ramp up my efforts. In the past I was just including links within blog posts where it made sense.
Kate Kordsmeier: I had started growing an email list and having a few affiliate emails, but once she came on she really convinced me of the value of affiliate marketing. So we said, “Okay. Let’s really put a focus here and see what we can do.” It was like, once we started doing weekly affiliate emails, my affiliate income went from 500 a month to 4,000 a month.
Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about that? When you say weekly affiliate email, what does that look like, and how could people implement something that would be similar?
Kate Kordsmeier: Yeah. On my email list everybody first gets put into a welcome sequence. I have a lot of opt-in freebies that are content upgrades, and free downloads, and that kind of thing within my blog posts. So if somebody opts into that they get their freebie, and then they get put into this welcome sequence.
Kate Kordsmeier: To start I have, I think the welcome sequence is maybe two weeks long or something like that. It’s an email every day for two weeks. I would say maybe four, five of those emails are affiliates. It’s me recommending a product that I think would help my readers with, we focus a lot on holistic health, so with their health. That’s how it starts.
Kate Kordsmeier: I don’t necessarily sell a ton during that time, because people are just getting warmed up to me. They don’t know who I am yet. It can take a few times of recommending a product, and also time for them to get to know and trust you, but it gets them primed. Like, “Okay. You’ve heard me mention this product before.” And then, after they are in their welcome sequence, I send everybody, there’s three emails a week that I send out. One of them is called, Favorite Finds.
Kate Kordsmeier: It’s pretty much always an affiliate product. It’s basically like, I think every Tuesday we send out an affiliate finds email. It will be like my favorite place for grass-fed meat, or something like that, and then we’re recommending it again. A lot of times … Actually, ButcherBox is one of my best affiliate programs. They have promos every month. They are great to work with affiliate-wise because there’s always something to entice readers to try it out, and they work really closely with their affiliates to come up with these programs and help you optimize them. Once a month we’ll send out an email to our email subscribers about ButcherBox, and now I make about $2,000 a month from ButcherBox alone.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. This is a big takeaway. I think this would be worth recapping for people that are listening. You have this really smart thing that you’re doing with your site, which is you are capturing, or having people sign up for an email list. It sounds like, you use ConvertKit for that, or what is your email provider?
Kate Kordsmeier: I do.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay. So ConvertKit, which is a email marketing service, will allow you to get an email from somebody and then tag them, so then you know in general where they’re coming from. Are you tagging people based on if they signed up for business related stuff, versus clean eating, versus clean makeup, versus … Are you tagging people like that?
Kate Kordsmeier: Yeah, absolutely. I have several different, well, dozens of tags, honestly, that I use at this point. Everybody that downloads a freebie, whatever that freebie’s category is, they’ll get tagged with that interest. If you downloaded a recipe cookbook, you’ll get tagged with food, versus, exactly like you said, all the different categories.
Kate Kordsmeier: And then I also have, because we focus on health a lot, I also have symptoms. Maybe you downloaded, or maybe you took a quiz to see if you had PCOS. I collect emails through that quiz, so then anybody that emails I’ve received through that quiz will get tagged with the PCOS tag. I have a ton like that. Each form has its own.
Kate Kordsmeier: And then I have exclusion tags. In the email, let’s say somebody is like, “Yeah, I like getting your emails, but I don’t want all these product recommendations every week.” They can opt out of just those emails, so they don’t get my Favorite Finds emails on Tuesdays, but maybe they still want my Whole Soul list emails on Sundays, which is another series that we do. So then I have tags to exclude people who have chosen to opt out of specific emails.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. It’s like a case study for how to do email marketing. It’s, everybody is a custom user in your account, where you know what they’re interested in and what they’re not interested. The great thing with that is they can unsubscribe from certain categories, as opposed to having to unsubscribe in general from your email list. So maybe they don’t want to get the emails on Tuesday, so they say, “Hey, I want to opt out of these,” but you’d still send blog updates, or whatever it might be. Super, super smart way to not only do email, but to do affiliate marketing as well, which is awesome.
Bjork Ostrom: The other thing that you mentioned which I know is important is that with … Just naturally, when people sign up they’re onboarded or there’s this welcome sequence that goes out to every single person. The nice thing about that is there’s a little bit of a system there. You have a process, where somebody signs up, and then they have these emails that are automatically sent out after somebody signs up. For somebody that’s looking to set that up, and maybe they’re intimated by it, it seems a little bit overwhelming, what would your advice be to get started setting up email sequences and to intentionally tackle some of the affiliate marketing through email that can happen?
Kate Kordsmeier: Well, I will say I can’t take credit for all of these ideas, because I actually got the welcome sequence idea from Melissa Griffin, who runs a course called Blog to Biz Hive, among many other courses. I took that and I walked through her course, I guess, about how to do an email sequence. That was exponentially helpful to me when I was setting up mine.
Kate Kordsmeier: I will say, one of the things about setting up an email sequence is that it can take a lot of time upfront, but then once it’s done it’s on autopilot and you don’t have to think about it again. If you have affiliate links, you can be selling stuff. If you have your own products, like if you write e-books or if you sell hard products of something, whatever it may be, courses, et cetera, you can tell people about those.
Kate Kordsmeier: What I really like to do in mine is direct people to some of the top posts on Root & Revel, because maybe you came because you found a recipe for chicken soup, but you also have PCOS and you didn’t know that I have a whole section of the blog devoted to PCOS stuff. I really use it as a way to introduce people to me, my story, the top content, my favorite products.
Kate Kordsmeier: I just spent a weekend I think going through the blog, seeing, “Okay. What are the places I really want to direct people? What are my favorite posts and products, et cetera?” And then I started setting up emails. I think at first it was seven days, and I decided to do it once a day because I felt like people would maybe get into this groove of every day they get an email from, and they start expecting it, and hopefully looking forward to it, and that kind of thing.
Kate Kordsmeier: But now it’s grown, and now it’s maybe a 21 day sequence. It’s longer than that now. I can’t remember exactly where it is. I’ve added on. I’d say to get started, you could always just start with two or three emails and then add on as you go, or as certain posts come out that you think, “This would be great to add to my email sequence,” or you learn about a new product, or something like that, and grow with it.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s awesome. It doesn’t have something you do 30 emails in a week, like you said. It can be like a post, where maybe you say, “Hey, I want to do one email every week.” So you take time, and you build out that sequence, and after two months you’ll have eight different emails that are part of that sequence.
Kate Kordsmeier: Yeah, exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: Great. That’s awesome, and a huge takeaway for people. The last thing that I wanted to dig in on the income side of things was sponsored content. That was a big part of the income that you had in 2017, so $54,000. You have some experience, not with sponsored content necessarily, but with working with different companies and brands. I would assume that some of that experience has been able to roll over into … Your experience with freelance journalism has been able to roll over into sponsored content. Is that true? Or is it an entirely different beast?
Kate Kordsmeier: No, it’s very similar. While I have never worked with brands specifically, my job as a freelancer was to pitch editors to get work. It’s the same concept. I’m just pitching a different type of person, a different type of service, but it’s so similar, and I’m so used to pitching myself and getting rejected, or not hearing back, so I’ve developed really thick skin to know it’s not personal.
Kate Kordsmeier: Yeah, I definitely think my years of pitching helped me pitch brands. Certainly in the beginning, and even still today, a lot of our sponsored content comes because I sought it out, not because they came to me.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. Yeah. That is actually going to be a good lead into something you had mentioned before was working with somebody that was helping with the affiliate side of things. That will be a transition into the expense side of the profit and loss income report that you did. One of the things that I find so fascinating is how intentional you were with putting money back into your business. Talk to me a little bit about why you decided to do that. Has that helped you grow right away? Have you seen a payback for that right away, or do you think that will trickle down later?
Kate Kordsmeier: Certain things I saw an immediate payback, and it was like, “Oh my gosh, that was the best decision I could have made. I’ve already earned what I spent back.” And then some other things were trial … I mean, it’s all trial and error. Some things I was like, “Yeah. That really didn’t work out. I’m going to stop paying for that and try something else.” There’s definitely been some experimentation with that.
Bjork Ostrom: Before we get too far, what were those things? What was the thing that was the immediate payback?
Kate Kordsmeier: One of the things was I first started … I hate social media. I literally despise spending any amount of time on my phone documenting my every move. Anyway, I could go on a rant about it and I won’t. Social media was something that I knew that I was like, “I’m going to have to outsource this, because it does seem like I need to have a social media presence as a blogger, but I really don’t want to do it myself.”
Kate Kordsmeier: One of the first things I tried was working with an Instagram manager, who was somebody that wrote and posted all of my posts, and then also had some growth techniques that they did to try to help me gain followers. I did not see a return on that at all, and it was expensive, like 600 bucks a month or something like that. That was something that after a few months I said, “You know what, this isn’t really working.” They had a really hard time getting my voice and I felt uncomfortable sometimes with the way they would say things. Like, “Oh gosh, I would never say that.” That was one of the things that I stopped doing.
Kate Kordsmeier: But then for Pinterest, I actually had come across Kate Ahl’s stuff through Food Blogger Pro, Simple Pin Media. I started working with her and my Pinterest traffic went from 5,000 page views a month to 30,000 page views a month in the first month of working with her. That was like, “Well, that was a no-brainer. That was definitely money well spent.” There’s certain things that I feel like worked really well, some things that maybe take a little bit more time to show you the return, and some things that just flopped.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s great. Kate, for those that don’t know, is a Food Blogger Pro expert. She’s active in the community forum with Food Blogger Pro members, and she’s also been on the podcast talking about Pinterest. That was way back in episode number 26, which you get to by going to foodbloggerpro.com/26. And then she’s been part of the lot of the Q&A’s that we do as well on Food Blogger Pro, so be sure to check out those if you’re a Food Blogger Pro member. We have all of the archives for those that are available if you want to check those out, and is showing here and there throughout the Food Blogger Pro community and podcast, and things like that. A really great business owner and person.
Bjork Ostrom: Happy to hear that you had a good experience with her. How did you find some of these people? One of the areas that I see is a virtual assistant, and the social media management category, I see that as a big category, expense as well. It’s one thing to say, “Okay. I want to put back into my business. I want to invest in my business.” It’s another thing to find somebody that would be a good fit to help you do that. Where did you go to find these people?
Kate Kordsmeier: Yeah. It was really tough, and it ended up being from a variety of ways. At first, I started looking on sites like Upwork and Youlance, or something like that. I did not have good luck with that, because most of the people that work there, while it is very cheap, don’t speak English as their first language, and so I had a hard time communicating. I felt like they definitely couldn’t write in my voice because some of it wasn’t even grammatically correct.
Kate Kordsmeier: I would not recommend going to those places. I feel like I am a spokesperson for Food Blogger Pro, but I did find a lot of contacts on there. I did an SEO audit with Casey, who’s one of your other experts. I worked with Kate for Pinterest, and sometimes even just asking in the forums, like, “Hey, does anybody have somebody they like for this?”
Kate Kordsmeier: And then for my virtual assistant, I tried to find that somebody a different way, and thought like, “I just want somebody on LinkedIn,” or something like a really professional way of finding somebody. And then Pat Flynn actually told me that I should just ask my audience, tell them that I’m hiring and see what they think. I’ve noticed that that’s something that you guys do at Pinch of Yum too.
Kate Kordsmeier: I was like, “I don’t want to do that. I feel like people will think that’s weird, or nobody would want to work for me. That’s so awkward.” I fought it, and then I finally was like, “All right. Well, I’m not find anybody any other way.” So I ended up sending out an email to my list and posting something on social media, and I ended up hiring somebody that was already a reader, which was so awesome because they were already a fan. They knew the brand. They were familiar with my mission. They were passionate about it. They agreed with it. It was a really great place to start, where now I have somebody who takes way less training and getting up to speed.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s awesome. Like you said, that’s something that we found with Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro. The first place we always look is within our community when we’re looking to hire. Food Blogger Pro is a great example of that. Pinch of Yum too, but we are super honored to have this incredible team of people, and they have all come from, in some way, shape or form, the community that we have. You don’t have to have a massive community. You have followers. If you have followers on Instagram, it means you have followers, right? If you have page views on your blog, it means that you have people that are following along.
Bjork Ostrom: A lot of those people could be a really good fit for the position that you’re looking to fill. Great tip. We’ve seen that to be really consistent with how we’ve connected with and found people. Any other advice for people that are looking to build some support into what they’re doing. Whether that means somebody helping in a part-time capacity with social media, or a virtual assistant type person to help with email, or something like that. Any other things that you’ve learned along the way that have been helpful?
Kate Kordsmeier: Yeah, definitely. I think the first is, when you’re trying to figure out, “What should outsource? Where should I spend the money?” To ask yourself, A, what do you like doing and what are you good at? Or the flip side, what do you hate doing, and what are you not good at? And then to outsource those things. Because if you love blogging because you love the actual writing, then don’t outsource that part. That would be a waste of money, then you’re left doing some of the stuff that maybe you hate. But if you are like me and you hate social media, great. There’s plenty of people out there that run social media firms and growth agencies, and that kind of thing. I would look at it from that perspective to figure out where to start.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think that’s great. One of the things that’s most empowering and exciting when I take the time to do it, is to create a things I do and things I don’t do list. It sounds like that’s similar to what you did. One of those things was social media. I think sometimes people that listen to this podcast or are in this space think, “I need to be a social media expert because that’s what an online business is. It’s social media, and Instagram, and Facebook.” But if you don’t enjoy it that doesn’t have to be true. It can still be a component of your business, but it doesn’t have to be something that you are doing. You don’t have to everything.
Bjork Ostrom: I think that’s going to be really encouraging for people that aren’t excited about that, or another facet of building a blog that they might not be excited about. There’s always somebody that is excited about that, and you can look for those people to help fill that in, and to be okay putting that money back into your business. I think it would be a good note to transition into and to make maybe wrap up on, is, as you look ahead, 2018 and beyond, what are some of the things that you’re going to continue to do, and what would your advice be, a two part question, what your advice be to people that want to download the things that you have learned really quickly and apply them to their blog?
Kate Kordsmeier: Okay. Yeah. Well, it’s weird because sponsored content was 75% of my income in 2017, so you would think that I would be all about the sponsored content. But actually what I found with that is that while it can be great, and when you’re working with brands that you really have a good synergy with it’s awesome, it is a lot of work. It goes back to feeling like you’re beholden to somebody else’s vision and you don’t have as much control always, which was what I didn’t like about freelancing at the end. It’s not scalable.
Kate Kordsmeier: You can only produce … I mean, unless you can start outsourcing all of your sponsored content and have somebody else write the post, and do the photos, and all of that, I found that, like, “Okay. I feel like I have capped out how much I can make with sponsored content without having my blog grow exponentially in traffic.” So I’m really focusing less on sponsored content and more on some passive-ish income streams, like affiliate marketing. Things that are a little bit more like, you put in the work upfront and then it runs on autopilot. I’m also doing more e-books, and I’m thinking of … Thinking, I’m in the middle of doing a course on food writing and blogging. I’m hoping that those things will help me still provide a lot of value to my readers, without necessarily having to trade time for dollars.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s awesome. Fun to hear a little bit about the strategy with the affiliate marketing as it relates to that. For those that are interested in following along with it, maybe checking out the course that you’re doing, I know it’s not out yet but how could they be in the loop on that? And then also, one of the others thing I want to mention, you had mentioned doing coaching with certain people. Is that something that you’re continuing to do and people could contact you about?
Kate Kordsmeier: Yeah. I am still coaching. Thank you for asking that. I do both wellness coaching and business coaching. Both of those, there’s links on the navigation bar on my blog. If you go to the For Bloggers section, there’s a one-on-one coaching. I love working with people. A lot of what I am doing with coaching right now is figuring out what people need help with, and obviously helping them, but it’s helping me in turn to inform my course and what’s it’s going to be about, what people are most interested in.
Kate Kordsmeier: If you’re interested in that, coaching or just reading free posts about blogging, and my income reports, and that kind of thing, there’s the For Bloggers tab on Root & Revel that has a lot of that information. If you opt in for my free toolkit, which has 30 resources that I use for blogging, then you’ll be added to my email list and you’ll be tagged as a interest in blogging, and then you will be given updates as courses and other things come out that are relevant to that.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. Great, and super excited for your success Kate. It’s so fun to hear an update, and to hear you moving on the things that you wanted to move on, and having success with that. I know it will be inspiring for other people too as they listen to this and then follow along with your journey. You mentioned a couple different places, but in general where can people follow along with you online?
Kate Kordsmeier: Yeah. So, rootandrevel.com is my blog. Like I said, it’s real food, natural living, holistic health kind of blog. I have started doing some more business posts, so you can see those there. Social media, I’m just @rootandrevel pretty much everywhere, and I think that’s about it.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool. Awesome. Kate, thanks so much for coming on the podcast again. Really fun to connect with you, and excited to continue to watch you grow Root & Revel.
Kate Kordsmeier: Thank you Bjork. I appreciate it.
Alexa Peduzzi: Hello wonderful listeners. It’s Alexa here, and I’m here to bring you the reviewer of the week, and also tell you about a really exciting thing that we just launched on Food Blogger Pro.
Alexa Peduzzi: If you know anyone who would make an awesome guest for the Food Blogger Pro podcast, maybe it’s you, maybe it’s one of your favorite bloggers, we’d love for you to let us know. We have a networks fancy schmancy forum on Food Blogger Pro, where you can fill out the interviewee’s name, the blog name, and the topic that you think they would be really good to speak about. Then you just hit submit and we can easily go through those and contact people as we see them fit into our schedule. So if you’re interested in submitting an idea for the Food Blogger Pro podcast, you go to foodbloggerpro.com/podcast/request and fill out that form, hit submit, and we will get it on our end shortly.
Alexa Peduzzi: Now, it’s time for our reviewer of the week. This one comes from a huge advocate of Food Blogger Pro, Katie from mykatieblue.com. It says, “Hi. Katie here. Just listened to Food Blogger Pro podcast number 76 again. This podcast is so full of helpful information on analytics. I was previously getting lost on what to focus on, but learned of tools that I could use within Google Analytics, reports I should be looking at, and so on. If you haven’t listened to this podcast yet, do it. Quality content abounds, and read the show notes for links to info they discuss during the podcast. Can’t say enough about this podcast and the Food Blogger Pro and Pinch of Yum teams.”
Alexa Peduzzi: Thank you so much Katie, we really appreciate you and thank you so much for your support. For all of you out there listening right now, thank you so much for tuning in this week. Until next Tuesday, make it a great week.
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