138: How to Get the Most Out of Your Content with Ashley Ward

Welcome to episode 138 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork talks with Ashley Ward from SEMrush about optimizing the content on your website.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork interviewed Trey George about building, developing, and managing apps. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Content

Content is the core of your blog, but how do you know you’re getting the most out of the recipes and posts you publish?

That’s why Ashley is here. She explains that there’s a lot you can do with your content after you set it live. Between evaluating your stats and forming strategies, optimizing your content can happen in different forms. If you’ve wanted to learn how to own your niche or use your competitors when creating content, this episode is for you!

In this episode, Ashley shares:

  • How she got started as a corporate speaker
  • What SEMrush is
  • What PPC is
  • How to be strategic with your stats
  • How to use your competitors when creating content
  • How you can own your niche
  • How long you should wait before looking at metrics

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Bjork Ostrom: On this podcast, I’m going to be sharing a story about somebody that got 10 million views the first time they created a recipe video, and then we’re going to talk to Ashley Ward from SEMrush about how to be smart with your content.

Hi, everybody. This is Bjork Ostrom and you’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast, brought to you by WP Tasty which is the ultimate go to resource for anybody looking to add high quality plug-ins to their WordPress recipe site or food blog. If you haven’t been to WP Tasty, you know that … or I will let you know that we have two plug-ins and the two plug-ins we have are called Tasty Pins which allows you to optimize your images for both Pinterest and SEO, and the tasty recipes for all of the food bloggers and recipe bloggers out there.

That allows you to optimize your recipe so your posts show up high on search results and we have been doing that now for about a year building WP Tasty and those two plug-ins. Tasty Pins is a little bit more recent and we actually went through the process of building that plug-in because we’re solving a problem on Pinch of Yum. We know that we wanted to optimize both for Pinterest, with a Pinterest description and for SEO with the all text for an image, so that’s why we created Tasty Pins and we created tasty recipes because we wanted to continually update our recipe plug-in and make sure that it was fully supported, and a really high quality plug-in.

That’s WP Tasty and WP Tasty sponsors the tasty tip each and every week we do the Food Blogger Pro podcast. Kind of a funny sponsorship because it’s technically another business that we have but it makes the most sense because it’s really close to what we do here in the Food Blogger Pro podcast which is talking about advice for people that are building blogs and specifically food blogs.

What is today’s tasty tip? Well, it’s actually about an upcoming bootcamp that we have and last year around this time, we did a bootcamp for Food Blogger Pro and a bootcamp is essentially a free day long digital training camp for a certain subject and this year we are doing the same bootcamp subject that we did last year which is recipe videos. One of my favorite outcomes that we heard from last year’s Recipe Video Bootcamp was an individual from Australia who followed up.

It was maybe two or three weeks after we did the bootcamp and said, “I created a video. I was inspired after the bootcamp. I created a recipe video for the first time using my phone and I posted that to Facebook, and within a few days, it’s had one million views.” Recently, that individual followed up and said, “I’ll explain a little bit more,” and said, “I took Food Blogger Pro’s Recipe Video Bootcamp. The course was addictive to follow and eventually convinced me to create my first recipe video ever. They made it look so easy. Well, now, in 2018, that same video is at nearly 10 million views and it literally changed my life.”

What an awesome email to get and why I love that email is because this individual took action. It wasn’t like they went to the bootcamp, they learned the material and then just decided not to do anything. They got into it and they said, “I’m going to use what I learned and then take action to create something.” They created their first recipe video and it had a huge impact. Now, obviously everybody is not going to come out of this being able to create videos that get 10 million views. I think that was an exception but the point is that this person took action from the things that they learned and they knew that they wanted to start making recipe videos.

I needed a little bit more context for how that was done and that’s what the bootcamp is all about. If you’re interested in attending, again, it’s a free one day event. You can go to foodbloggerpro.com/bootcamp. When you do that, you will be redirected to a page where you can sign up to attend the digital bootcamp which means that you can show up in your pajamas. You don’t have to go anywhere. It’s going to be live, but there’s also going to be recordings available for a couple days after we do the live presentation.

Now, the advantage with attending live is that you can chat and interact with us as these sessions are going on and we’re going to be in the chat area, but if you can’t make it then you can go ahead and watch the replays of that after the fact. There’s going to be four sessions throughout the day. Lindsay is going to be sharing about she shoots videos using her iPhone which some of the most popular videos from Pinch of Yum back in the day were iPhone videos that Lindsay shot and then edited as well.

Some of the same concepts will apply if you don’t have an iPhone android. The next two sessions are going to be featuring Alana who’s the video specialist at Pinch of Yum and the last session of the day is a live Q and A. Those are going to be action packed. Bring a notebook and be sure to jot down all of the big takeaways that you have because there’s going to be a lot. Again, that is foodbloggerpro.com/bootcamp. In the show notes, we’ll put a link as well. That’s the Tasty Tip today.

It is attending this free bootcamp that we have for Food Blogger Pro and when is that happening? It is happening Thursday, February 22nd. More information is all about that when you go to that page and it will outline how it all happens and how you can sign up. One last time, foodbloggerpro.com/bootcamp.

All right. Let’s jump into the interview today with Ashley Ward. Ashley comes from a speaking background which is always great to have somebody that is a speaker come on the Food Blogger Pro podcast. She’s going to be sharing about SEMrush which is a tool that she speaks on behalf of and educates people on. It started out as an SEO tool but now it’s essentially a marketing and content strategy tool.

It allows you to understand your content better and understand ways to leverage your content and really make sure as many eyeballs as possible see that content. It crosses the board from search engines to social, to repurposing strategies and that’s one of the things she’s going to talk about today which I think is really a smart thing to think about. How can you not just publish something and then go on to the next thing? How can you think strategically about each piece of content is really valuable and really juicing that content for all that’s worth? It’s going to be a great interview. Ashley, welcome to the podcast.

Ashley Ward: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s be great to check in here and talk about a few different things but before we get too deep into the tips and tricks and advice, I always love to hear a little bit about people’s story and how they got where they are. One of the things that was interesting about your story is what your title is so you are a corporate speaker for SEMrush and there’s two things I want to break out from that and get a better understanding so our audience knows a little bit more about you. First thing is corporate speaker. Can you tell me a little bit about what that is and what your job looks like?

Ashley Ward: It’s actually a question that comes up quite frequently whenever I introduce myself as a corporate speaker, people are usually like, “What do you do?”

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Ashley Ward: What I do essentially is I go to conferences, I host events, workshops. I teach social media and content marketing tactics. I talk all around the world, go to a variety of cities whether I’m going for a conference or whether I’m going to host a workshop or meet it myself and then I get a bunch of people together and teach them as much as I can about the latest and greatest in either content marketing or social media marketing.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. Both of those things, I would love to dive in to and talk about a little bit and one of the great advantages you have is a corporate speaker is that you’re travelling around, you’re at these conferences and I feel like it’s comparable to … This is maybe a terrible analogy but I’m thinking of it on the fly, so I’m going to use it, like a bee going around to each little flower. A lot of us just stick in our same garden and we’re working away and the context that we have is the other garden flowers around us but as a corporate speaker you’re going to each one of those places. You’re making a stop there, you’re getting a feel for it and you have a really good background and knowledge because of all of those different places that you touch along the way.

I would love to dig in into that a little bit. The other thing that I wanted to understand a little bit better, I know and familiar with it but maybe some people in our audience aren’t familiar with it, is this tool called SEMrush. Can you talk about what that is and your involvement with that company?

Ashley Ward: Certainly. First of all, that was not a terrible analogy. That was actually fantastic.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay, good. Thanks. I appreciate that.

Ashley Ward: SEMrush is, you can think of it as all-in-one toolkit for your digital marketing needs. Originally, we focused very heavily on SEO and PPC. Anything and everything you need to do for your SEO effort, you could do within this tool. It’s expanded into an entire toolkit to where it covers anything you need within digital marketing. We have content tools inside of there which help you come up with topics, which help track your back links, your traffic sources as well as develop new content ideas.

Then we also have the social media aspect now which some of the social media part is fairly new and really exciting. We’re able to schedule your social media post within the tool now as well as track all your mentions so you can do some PR analytics with your social and then you can also get all of your engagement data as well.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it.

Ashley Ward: Any kind of data that you need for your brand, your blog, your company, you can get within SEMrush but my favorite aspect is the competitor data. You can literally see just about anything and everything that your competitors are doing. If there’s another food blogger that is just killing it and you’re trying to implement all the same things, you have great content, you just don’t get why you’re not hitting the market and they are, you couldn’t go in. You can put their URL.

You can see are they writing PPC campaigns with it? Are they promoting their content in certain ways? What are they doing socially? What kind of SEO tactics are they doing? Then you can get a better idea. Maybe they’re getting a bunch of traffic sources from this one website and that’s what’s helping them so much. Hey, I should probably reach out to this website and partner with them as well to get that kind of exposure.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. One of the things that you mentioned was PPC. That’s something that probably the majority of people that listen to this podcast aren’t implementing. Can you talk about what PPC is and when in would make sense for a business or a blog to implement that?

Ashley Ward: Of course. PPC stands for pay-per-click. These are the ads that we see in search results whether you’re on Google, Yahoo, Bing. They’re the first ones to display at the top, sometimes on the side, sometimes in the middle. Generally, you’re going to need a decent budget if you’re going to join the PPC game because there’s a lot of competitors out there.

Something like food bloggers is going to use PPC to gain traffic to a new post. That may not be as aggressive as if you’re trying to compete with Amazon on selling a new food product, that’s going to be incredibly costly and your average cost per clicks are going to be so high you won’t even believe it, and it’ll cost so much just to get one click that it’s not even worth playing.

Something for food bloggers, I think it would be appropriate to start joining in on PPC in terms of ad words when you have a piece of content that you want to promote. Did you just create a brand new infographic? Did you just partner up with a bunch of different companies to create a piece of content that you want a lot eyes to see, then you’re doing a PPC campaign that’s based on traffic and not necessarily based on direct sales, that’s when you’re going to be able to have a little bit more affordability if you’re more of a small budget.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. What you’re saying is even if you don’t have a product that you would be able to potentially use PPC because I usually think of PPC as like, you’d probably want to be doing that if you a direct dollar type product associated with it. Would there by times where maybe it’s just PR or you’re just looking to get traffic and if so, how do you keep track of that and make sure that you’re just not throwing money to Google as if Google needs more money.

Ashley Ward: Of course. Most certainly. One of the biggest ways to do that is to take the brakes, slam them down hard and go back about five steps and figure out, “What’s your main goal?” Yes, you have this blog, you’re producing content regularly. Is it that you want 100,000 people to go to your website each year, each months, each week? Do you want people to contact you? Do you want advertising opportunities to come out of it?

You need to define what your real goal is and one of those goals no matter how many you have, what level or what priority it is, it’s going to be that you’re going to want traffic. As a traffic source, PPC would be a great option especially if you’re trying to get more advertisers to help partner with you on your blog, that’s where you’re going to get revenue. Advertisers are only interested in numbers so if you have a blog that’s only getting maybe 10,000 in unique visitors every six months, that’s not that aggressive.

They’ll go to the next blog who’s getting those 10,000 unique visitors a week. In order to up your data and up your stats for your Google Analytics and to have something aggressive to approach different advertisers to help give you some kind of revenue, PPC would be an option for that.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. One of the easiest places to start, I think would be for content creators or bloggers or business owners, if you can calculate how much on average that you earn from somebody coming to your site, then you’ll be able to know how much you can spend per click. Obviously, there’s lot of different variables that go into that but if we’re going to be really simple with it, let’s say that if you only create an income from ads on your site, and let’s say it’s a $10 CPM so you’re earning $10 total every time or RPM, you could call it.

Then you would have to have the per click be less than one cent which is like as you said, really hard to do if you’re doing PPC. If you have a page on your blog like on Pinch of Yum, we have an eBook and it’s $29, we’d know that we can experiment with that little bit more and maybe we can pay a dollar or $2, we haven’t set this up, but per click when somebody is searching for learn food photography and we could test that out with PPC to see if it works.

Takeaway for people that are listening would be if you have a product or something that you know would be a higher dollar amount that would be something you could look into and experiment with from a PPC side, but a lot of what we do is on the organic traffic side of things where a lot of the people think about organic traffic. I know that that’s a really important piece of SEMrush and the things that you talk about is how you get that organic traffic both from social media as well as search engines.

One of the things that you mentioned was doing this competitive analysis. Can you talk a little bit about that? You mentioned some of the things that competitive analysis would reveal but what are those metrics that are revealed and what are some common things that bloggers or content creators can be thinking about or implementing when it comes to being strategic about tracking certain metrics as it relates to organic traffic?

Ashley Ward: Certainly. Some of the most important metrics you would track are your unique visitors, what’s your balance rate, what’s your time on page if you’re seeing that your time on page for a 5,000-word blog post that you just came up with is only 18 seconds, that’s a huge red flag. That tells you right there that you’re not writing for your audience. That content piece is not working because they’re not reading it. They’re barely getting through the title and the first paragraph before they leave.

That’s a huge metric to measure especially when you’re trying to figure out, say, you’re new to blogging and you’re trying to figure out what’s your real niche, what’s your actual topic that you want to zone in on. The time on page is going to be huge. You also want to look at your position tracking and see how’s your rankings? Are you trying to be the number one food blogger for vegans? Who else is out in that space?

You need to know what kind of keywords your competitors are using? Are they using it throughout all of their blog post? Are they using it on specific pages? Which pages are getting them the most traffic so that way you can analyze those pages and say, “Okay. If I want to be number one for vegan bloggers and my top competitor has the word vegan four different times on his about page, maybe I need to implement something like that.” Also I need to five in and what are some more similar keywords with vegan because we don’t want to stuff our content. We still want our content to be readable and enjoyable as well.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. To go back, you had mentioned time on page. Can you talk about why that’s important? What it means? It’s self-explanatory. What it means and why that’s important and then the third part would be how do you go about improving that if it’s on the lower end?

Ashley Ward: Got you. Time on page is exactly what it sounds. It’s how much time is the average user spending on a specific page on your website. Say, you want to analyze your contact page, how many people are spending time in your contact page? Are they getting to it and then leaving it right away? Is your goal that you want people to fill out your contact forum more often? If so, that means they’re going to actually need to spend time on your contact page because they need to manually fill in their information.

You’re looking at probably at least 25, 30 seconds if not more for those who it takes longer to type. If you’re getting results back that are more the average time on page for your contact is three seconds, 4.2 seconds, that’s telling you there’s something wrong with your contact page. People don’t want to engage with it so perhaps it’s a layout and a user experience issue. I’d then also go look at your page load speed.

Is it taking two seconds just for your page to load and within two seconds they’re leaving because they’re only there for 4.2 seconds in total? That’s a huge issue that you also need to check in when you’re looking at low time on page stats. How fast is it taking, how slow is it taking for your page to actually load.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. It’s interesting to think through that because my assumption would be that it really … What the norm is for that isn’t universal. Like you said, I feel like the contact page is a good example. If somebody is looking to contact you and that’s what they search for, the bounce rate for that is going to be pretty high probably. I think we’re in a niche and would love to hear your thoughts on this where the bounce rate probably trends towards higher. A lot of that has to do with the nature of the content.

In the case of Pinch of Yum, if somebody is looking for a chocolate chip cookie recipe, they find that and they like it. They’re probably not going to go searching around for other types of content on the blog. It all just throws some of these numbers out there for listeners, just so they have a little bit of a metric to go off and I’m not saying this is the worst nor the best, but I would love to hear your thoughts on it, Ashley, maybe if we could even think strategically other ways that this could be improved.

Pinch of Yum, the food blog that my wife Lindsay and I run, so the average pages per session is 1.45. The average time on page or the session duration. Now, that’s a little bit different than time on page, right? That’s the average time somebody is on the site entirely?

Ashley Ward: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s one minute and 18 seconds and then the bounce rate is 80.73. Those numbers, I would guess would be on the higher end for bounce rate and the lower end for average session duration if you looked at the web in general, but I don’t know that for sure. Does that sound right?

Ashley Ward: Yes. That sounds about right. If you’re having a bounce rate down from 26 to 40, that’s absolutely amazing. That’s goals. Higher bounce rate like that, it could literally come down to the industry and that’s where we’re using something like competitor data and tool that will grant you access to that info. Then you can see, “Okay. My competitor’s bounce rate is 60 and mine is 70–80.” I’m not too far off. It might just be an industry thing. How can I be unique? How can I set myself apart? What you’re talking about with the chocolate chip cookie, I mean looking at my own user behavior, I’ll go to Pinterest and I’ll look up a recipe that I want to make for dinner that evening.

Once I find that recipe on that blog, I made the dinner and then I probably don’t have to go to that blog again because I’ve used the recipe. Food bloggers really need to step in to the user experience and figure out within than recipe, within that one stop page, how can we take it a step further and fully grasp our user’s attention and introduce them to the rest of our page so that’s the next time, I don’t have to go to Pinterest, I just go straight to your blog.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. Introducing that other content. Maybe it’s similar or complimentary recipes, maybe you have a roundup post that talks about other cookies that you love but figuring out ways to impact that and you can test that too, so you could implement something and then track along with that specific page. Just as a way to contrast a different niche and a different site, Food Blogger Pro which is a membership site that we have. It’s connected with this podcast, the average session duration is four minutes and 42 seconds and the bounce rate is 60 and the average pages per session is 3.51.

Just to compare in contrast, that looks a little bit different and the interesting thing with that is that’s the site overall. I’m guessing what happens with Food Blogger Pro and I haven’t really dug into this is a lot of people that aren’t members will come to the home page, maybe sign up for the waiting list or maybe leave. While members would have a really average session duration and a really low bounce rate, we also contrast that with the fact that if you’re not a member, there’s not a lot you can do so you’re coming, you’re maybe looking at the home pages, signing up for the waiting list and then leaving.

Like you said, there’s a lot of it that depends on the industry or the niche. You said, you can look at the competitive analysis and is that something with SEMrush that’s available within the tool to see the … It would have to be estimated, I would assume, estimated bounce rate and average time on page for other sites?

Ashley Ward: Yes. Then you’re also looking at time periods. Around the holidays, you can zone in on what month or over a certain data range just like you do within Google Analytics and so it’s always really interesting to see around the holidays when you’re looking at you competitor data, how it changed. Especially with food bloggers, you’re going to see a spike over certain holidays because people need more recipes, people, they’re hosting more events. Around summer time, you’re also going to see a spike.

When you’re looking at this competitive data , you don’t want to just look at it over all time. I would look at it individual increments and as you’re planning your campaigns and you’re planning your content strategy down the next quarter, two quarters, you’re down the line to go back and see what happened last year for our competitors during summer if you’re starting to plan your 4th of July barbecue recipes and your content strategy. Go back for last year and see what happened with your competitors during that time. Compare it with what happens and see what you can do differently.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. I’m guessing that time on page also probably in some ways impacts bounce rate although there’s probably some things you could do to increase time on pages that wouldn’t decrease bounce rate like include a video in a post would increase the time on page usually because it’s another piece of content that people interact with but they still stay on the page and then they have that bounce rate.

They might come, they look at the content and then they leave and that’s what bounce rate is so you’re coming, you’re looking, you’re not going anywhere else and then you’re leaving. Those complement each other but they’re a little bit different as well. Are there things that people can be doing other than just including similar content within that page that would impact the bounce rate or including more links or any other advice that you’d have for people to help get people to stick around when they are reading your content?

Ashley Ward: Yes. Links would be the biggest tip. Tell me a little but more about your website? What else can I get from you? Think of it like a cookbook I just went to the library the other day and purchased a cookbook of various specific types of recipes and I’m always going to go to that cookbook for these specific recipes. It’s for Indian food. If you can get very niche and this is something that I see a lot of food bloggers don’t do.

They open themselves up to everything because they’re amazing cooks and they can produce great recipes but if you can narrow down into I just do cookies or I just do vegetarian food or Indian food, whatever the focus is, then I’m going to be able to not just trust you more but know when I click on those external links on the original piece of content that I went to, then I’m going to get the same quality from this original post that I was drawn and attracted to.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it.

Ashley Ward: You’re reaching your audience to begin with to get me on there and you’re keeping your correct demographic by just zoning in on one main focus.

Bjork Ostrom: There’s something to be said about that especially as content becomes more prevalent and high quality. It becomes more competitive and so then you need to figure out how do I standout in such a competitive market and its content general not just food blogs. I think that piece that you said is so important of landing on a niche and really owning that. I feel like we do that in a way with Food Blogger Pro and food blogging is becoming more and more prevalent and bigger but it’s also in terms of the internet, it’s a pretty tiny niche.

One of the tricks I feel like is this idea of land and expand and with Food Blogger Pro, we’re a little bit tied to food blogging due to our name. Do you have any advice for people that are starting out and how they can own a niche but not restrict themselves over the long run that allows them to land on a niche but later on expand. I think Amazon with books and Zappos with shoes as examples of companies that did that really well. What would that look like on a micro-level when it comes to content?

Ashley Ward: I think what can be the most successful is your story. Say you want to focus on just Indian food or just cookies, that’s great but what’s your story? Some of the food blogs that I’ve subscribed to the most had been because as I’m reading, I’m hearing about the family, I’m hearing about the history behind this recipe. There’s some kind of emotional connection that this blogger is either going through the same thing I went through, they have similar circumstances, they’re unique in a certain aspect and so I feel like I can actually connect to this person and not just Google search a recipe real quick, get a recipe from allrecipes.com and then I’m done.

I’m actually ready to engage and now I’m willing to follow this blogger on Instagram and I’m willing to follow them on Facebook when they start partnering with other companies and running campaigns. I’m more likely to trust the products that they sponsor because now I developed this relationship with them. I’m watching them go through life as I’m going through life. It’s more than just food, really. You are in food blog.

Bjork Ostrom: I love that. We talk about that quite a bit and it’s interesting. I think we’ve heard all sorts of different opinions. One from, “Hey, you built your brand and your brand is the business and maybe you don’t have as much personality folded into it and you think of the brand as the story.” From where we come from, we’re like, “Hey, we share our story as people.” people that listen to this podcast maybe know a little bit about us. They know that Lindsay and I live in Minnesota and we have a food blog called Pinch of Yum, a dog called Sage.

They know about our personal story and know us then. I think people are connected to other people so I think that’s so great to think about that. I know for other people, it’s a little bit intimidating to talk about who they are but I love the idea of also including story within a brand so maybe you’re talking about this story of your brand, some personality in that but not necessarily as much if it’s something that you’re not as comfortable with. One of the things that you talked about that you do is you teach master classes. I would love to know either your favorite master class is or your most popular one or maybe it ends up being the same.

Ashley Ward: It actually ends up being the same and it’s funny because it’s a lot of what we talked about so far. It’s content ROI. How to measure if your content is producing results? One of my most shows in classes. It makes sense because most of us produce content regularly. We’re content producing machines but we forget the simple step of, “Oh, yeah. We actually have to measure the content that we produce and see if it’s even doing anything for us. Is it even hitting our goals or are we just content machines?”

Bjork Ostrom: I think a lot of people will be able to relate with that because we understand it, we know what we’re doing. We go, we produce content, we know that content will help drive traffic but you can go so much deeper on that which I would love to do so let’s start up high and define ROI. What is that for people who aren’t as businessy and maybe not as familiar with that term?

Ashley Ward: Yes. It’s a return on investment. If you do A and B, what’s C going to be. What do you get out of your efforts?

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. The investment part would usually be equated to some type of economic exchange. It could be time and it could be money. For a lot of people that are listening to this, it’s probably both lot of time and some money as well. Starting with the investment piece, how do you really get a good understanding on how much you’re putting into it in order to then take a closer look at what the return is? We need to first understand what the actual investment is so do you have any advice for how people can understand that better?

Ashley Ward: Yes. I’m so incredibly happy that you said time because most people just focus on what investment usually looks like, and that’s dollars, that’s money. They forget how much time they’re spending. What I do is I look at content as a whole whether you’re the one creating the content, you’re hiring an agency to help you with it or you have a freelancer to do it. All of those whether you have someone else, a writer or you write it themselves, they’re still your management time.

There’s the time that it takes for you to edit the content, there’s the time that it takes you to upload the content, to track all of the metrics for it and then there’s communication time back and forth whether you’re co-partnering with someone on a piece of content or you’re talking back and forth with the freelancer who’s helping you build a bunch of content.

There’s so much time that’s put into creating content so you really need to look at all the way back from when your first looking at the strategy, the idea behind the content. How many people were on that idea? How many people are helping you? You and your wife work together so that’s two people now. This is twice as much time than it’s just the two of us doing it. How much time did you guys take drafting out that idea? Did you outline things? How much time did it take for you to produce it, to edit it?

Then you also have to look at it. Am I spending more time producing the content than what it’s worth for me to hire someone else producing, for me to come back and edit it and add my personal touch? Those are things that sometimes we forget about because as you grow bigger, your cost per time grows tremendously. You spread yourself thin.

Bjork Ostrom: Say that last part again?

Ashley Ward: You start spreading yourself thin at that point.

Bjork Ostrom: I think there will be people that can relate to that. How do you know when that point is? Do you just arbitrarily assign a dollar amount to what you’re … “Hey, I’m on average earning $25 an hour and then once I get to the point where I can find somebody that hire and help for $15 an hour, then I do that,” or where is the breakeven point? Also, how much do you factor in … This is maybe getting into the philosophical end of things. How much do you factor in the enjoyment? For instance, I love podcast and maybe there are times when it’s like, “Well, it makes sense to have a guest person host these,” but it’s like, “Hey, I love doing these, I love connecting with people, I loving a conversation with Ashley on a random Wednesday afternoon.” Do you factor that in as well?

Ashley Ward: Yes, I do. There really isn’t a black and white answer for these questions. It fairly varies drastically depending upon what your goals are, how long you’ve been in it. I can give you an example of my experience. I had been writing for a blog for years, and years, and years and it was taking me about five to six hours to produce each post and I finally got to a point where I had so many new clients coming and this got pushed back into late night hours and so going from 50 to 60-hour weeks were turning into 70 to 80 hour weeks but my heart was in writing.

That’s when I had to sit back and analyze if my heart is in writing and this is what I want to do the most, how can I factor this in? That’s when I actually started hiring freelancers in a different way to help with some of the client work so I can continue writing. Then as things continue to progress and business continued to change as it always does, I eventually had to get to a point where, “All right. I can have freelancers do two of these posts for me and then I can do the other two and that way these two I can still put my heart into it. I still have my passion, I’m still doing what I like to do, but I’m also able to get my checklist done at the end of the day.”

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. That makes sense. You have this idea of … I think the biggest take away is being aware of how you’re spending your time and when your blog or your business gets to the point where you have margin to put back into it, I think the biggest takeaway is thinking about what the … A couple factors probably. What you least enjoy and what the least return on your time is. An example would be for Lindsay who does Pinch of Yum and creates the food content for Pinch of Yum and the recipes.

She really loves the processes of creating the content and doing the photography and there’s people that we know that have built a blog and they outsource all of that to somebody else, but for her, that’s a really important piece of what she does and she doesn’t want to grow into manager of Pinch of Yum even though that’s a little bit of what she does. She said, “Okay. What are the areas that are not as interesting to me and wouldn’t be as good at and wouldn’t have a big return?”

It started to bring team members on to help with that so we have Alana that helps with video and Jenna that helps with a lot of the sponsored content that we do. Like you said it’s this constant adjustment and analysis, and sometimes you have to grieve a little bit as you give up the thing that you really like in order to do the thing that is more important that you like even more but constant evolving. That’s the investment piece understanding that.

How about the return piece? Now, that we have an understanding of what we’re actually putting into our content, how do we go ahead or move forward into really digging into the return on investment and tracking the actual return and increasing that?" How do we get more out of the investment that we’re creating?

Ashley Ward: You get more by tracking what’s working and then multiply those efforts by about 50, but in order to even track what’s working you need to define what’s your ultimate goal so if you’re just starting you need views or if you’re established, you need engagement to start happening. Are you getting engagement on social from your content and if so, is it shares? Is it comments? Is it likes? Likes are great. It’s good for the algorithm but that’s about it.

Comments, as long as they’re tagging people increasing views or having a conversation with you, those are the only times comments are great. If you’re getting comments like “nice” or “this was yummy,” sure it’s awesome for the algorithm, it’s nice fluff but it’d be a lot better if they’re tagging people and being like, “Hey, you’ve got to try this chocolate chip recipe,” it was amazing and they tag their mother.

Bjork Ostrom: When you say the algorithm, is that for Instagram or Facebook or Pinterest or social media in general?

Ashley Ward: Social media in general. Facebook and Instagram’s algorithm is a lot more hectic and scrambled up than any other social media algorithm is. In order to compliment their algorithm, you need as much engagement as possible or they’re just not going to get your post seen by anybody whether or not you have 10,000 followers or 10 followers.

Bjork Ostrom: Basic idea being the algorithm, the said holy algorithm is tracking along and one of the most important metrics is, is this a piece of content that when people see it they interact with it? If it is interactions and engagement means that people stay longer on the platform which all of the accounts want you to do, all the platforms want you to do so the more people that engage and interact with it, the more people stick around which then it rewards that content by showing it to more people.

Ashley Ward: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: Your point was a general comment isn’t as valuable as if somebody were to tag somebody else because that is getting that person then to engage with the content?

Ashley Ward: Yes. That person maybe your exact demographic but they just haven’t assembled upon you yet because there’s so much content out there.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it.

Ashley Ward: If you can get people to actually share your post or comment on your post, that’s a great metric, that’s a great goal to have.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. We talked a little bit about return on investment, understanding what the investment is and then in order to get a better return, doubling down on the thing that’s working. Can we do a real life example walking through a hypothetical food blog?

Ashley Ward: Certainly. Let’s go with the chocolate chip cookie blog.

Bjork Ostrom: Great.

Ashley Ward: They have a new recipe coming out for spring and the goal of it is they want a hundred shares on social and a hundred unique visitors to go to it. Again, this is not direct money. With blogging, you’re not always looking at direct dollars because you don’t have products. You’re looking more at advertiser, sponsored content, things like that. You’re looking at different metrics here. In order to get that, I’m going to publish this spring post on Friday. On Monday, I’m going to start tracking the metrics. The following Monday, I’m going to look back at the metrics to see how has it changed, how is it increased.

If you start tracking metrics, five hours after you post, it’s not enough time. You really need to give your content five to seven days of fully running before you can gauge this work through the metrics. If you’re producing it on Friday, start looking up the metrics on Monday. Give yourself an idea of what’s happening. Don’t just give it 24-hour notice. After you’ve hit the weak point, then you can say, “Okay. This isn’t picking up traction or this isn’t picking traction.”

If it isn’t take note of why it isn’t. Maybe you got 10 shares and 10 unique visitors and the post that you just posted the week before hit that 100th mark. I would go back to that post and I would go back to something that’s come close to whatever this goal is and say, “Okay. If that hit the mark, what is so different about this post?” Well, the post that hit the mark was talking about cookies and winter and how you can do it as a gift and it’s focused on gifts. It had 10 different photos inside of it whereas your spring post only had four different photos. This is where you’re going to want to AB test in order to hit your goal. Produce the post again, change the title, still at that original post run but reuse a bit of that content, add in those 10 photos and see if that helps you hit your goal.

Bjork Ostrom: When you say republish the post, that would be … Are you saying the same post or are you saying iterate on it, create a new piece of content that’s a little bit similar?

Ashley Ward: Exactly. You never want duplicate content on your website but you can still use the same topic idea. Change up the title, change up the content. I mean, we’re bloggers, we’re writers. We can do this. We can write about spring cookies in 50 different ways.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Ashley Ward: The first way you did it clearly didn’t work, try it again.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. The interesting thing is that it’s this combination of art and science where it’s not, I think, for the people that are engineering slash science oriented. It’s not a perfect AB test and that there is some gut intuition and guessing involved but that comes from … I think this is the importance piece, that comes from intentional, analysis of those metrics. In your experience with people that are doing this type of a content iteration, what are the most common variables with content that impact the traffic or shareability or success of the content?

Ashley Ward: I’m going to say video content having videos, having images. Images are great but if you can add video to any piece of content that you produce, that’s going to help reach your goal regardless of what your goal is specifically because social engines like it and search engines like it, users like it. You’re hitting every single algorithm need. You’re hitting the user need, you’re getting the user experience checked and it’s everything is going.

Not everyone has the time to read anymore but we’re taking the time to watch videos as we’re in transit, as we’re listening to podcast. Things where we don’t have to be so absorbed into the content such as rating, watching, hearing. That’s where everything is moving.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s one of my favorite things and people that have listened to this podcast a long time probably roll their eyes when I talk about it. I love thinking about the history of the internet and how at one point it’s literally just words and links/ You would read something and it would have a link and that would go to other words and then it was like they published these super low end images and it was the most incredible thing ever. It’s like we can have images. That was the new evolution of the internet and it’s interesting to be at a point now where video, the next evolution of the internet is becoming more prevalent.

We’ve seen that over the past five to 10 years as bandwidth increases and the availability of streaming becomes easier, a live video becomes easier. Just naturally we always bend towards the more real life type of content as the way people consume that. It’s fun and interesting to hear you say that and to see that actually playing out as the internet evolves which is you can insert the nerd emoji there if this was … That’s the only problem with audio content is that you can’t have emojis, you just need to speak them.

I would totally agree on that. I think that’s a really important piece and we’ve seen that too with what we do. Do you have advice for people that are creating video? What does that look like in terms of … Do you put that right at the top of the blog post? Do you put that at the bottom? Is that something that you need to test and see? It’s something that I think off often with the videos we’re creating and wondering where are the best places to use those.

Ashley Ward: Initially, I would say the top and then you have the content at the bottom for the diehard readers who they don’t care what stat say about videos, they still want to read. It’s really something that you’re going to need to AB test because for the food vertical, it can be completely different from the tech vertical, from the flower, wedding, travel. It could all be completely different. I would test both at the top and then I would test about two to three paragraphs down. It’s not necessarily in the middle but it’s right in the meat of the content.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. I’ll say this. For those that are listening, Google just recently … Maybe it was within the last year so I don’t know if recently is relative, released an AB optimizing tool. I forget the name of it, but it’s a really easy way to do AB testing and there’s other tools as well like … Oh, I’m going to think before …

Ashley Ward: Optimizely, Unbounce.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, Optimizely, Unbounce but Google recently released one for free which is great so it would be a good thing to check out. One of the last questions that I wanted to run by you has to do with these classes that you’re teaching and maybe it could be this ROI one or maybe not but I’m curious to know what the most common breakthrough that you see students have whether you’re speaking or in a master class.

What is the one thing where that you know with a pretty high level of probability that you’re going to talk about it and they’re going to have a breakthrough or they’re going to realize something that they didn’t realize before and then be able to implement that and have a positive from it. Is there something that you can think of?

Ashley Ward: Yeah. It comes down to the type of content. When we say the word content, we immediately all think about blog post. It’s a universal content, we’re all creating it’s words, it looks the closest thing to what content definition should be but then when you really break it down and start thinking about how you can reuse that type of content, not republish it, reuse it. SEMrush, we have a Twitter chat that we do every Wednesday morning.

After that Twitter chat, we then create a blog post about it. Then it can go a step further create a video about it, a video interview talking to some of the people that we did Q and A with during the chat, it can get turned into a podcast. A lot of times, people, we get stuck at just the blog post or just the Twitter chat, just video. We don’t move past that so one of the biggest breakthroughs that I see with students or attendees, conferences, things like that is when they think about and they run through a little mental content audit and look at the types of content that they’ve produced and some of the most successful ones.

How they can keep that content alive and recreate it in one, two years, even one and two months later into a different type of content. Let’s make a case study out of it, let’s do an infographic on it, let’s get it on Pinterest. I mean there’s so much that you can do with successful content. It shouldn’t just die at the end of that.

Bjork Ostrom: I think that’s a great takeaway and something that we’ve been thinking about with Food Blogger Pro. Even this podcast, we have these great interviews that have so many valuable nuggets in them and we’ve been thinking about how can we break that up and repurpose that in other areas. People that follow along with food blogger pro, on social or on the blog will maybe start to see that a little bit as we start to experiment more intentionally with it.

For food bloggers, I think it’s a great idea and thinking about … Or Obviously just bloggers in general but thinking about what are the most successful pieces of content that I’ve had and not then going and creating a brand new blog post but thinking about I’ve had this thing that’s super successful, how do I double down on that and continue to build on that success. Kind of like an artist that has a really popular song.

It’s not like they’re just going to go out and write a bunch of other songs, they’re really going to lean in to that popular song for a long time and make sure that they can really juice that for all that it’s worth. I think it’s worth doing that and thinking about from a content perspective for content creators as well which is a great note to end on but before we do I have one last question and then would love to hear you talk about where people can follow along with you, Ashley but my last question would be for those that are listening to this podcast, what would your one piece of advice or encouragement be to these people?

You see a lot of content creators, you see a lot of business owners, you see a lot of bloggers. If you were going to speak directly to the people listening to this podcast and have an ending encouraging word or piece of advice for them, what would that be?

Ashley Ward: To be you in your content. It’s so scary, it’s so intimidating and we can come up with a million reasons why we shouldn’t do it but the most successful content producers are the ones who brand themselves. They’re not afraid to be quirky, nerdy, sarcastic, funny. Whatever it is that makes you, you put that into your content because there’s so many pieces of content that are out there nowadays that they all look the same, they’re all black and white, here’s the four steps you need to do, here’s some ingredients. Figure out a way to incorporate yourself into everything you do.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. Lindsay and I were having a conversation last night and she was … I’m going to botch this. Don’t quote me on this but the general idea was there’s this survey and people were surveyed who would you be most apprehensive about spending time with? It was somebody who’s extremely introverted, somebody who’s extremely extroverted and it went through all these things that you’d think of as personalities where it’s like, “Oh, that would be maybe hard to be with somebody.”

The last thing was somebody who isn’t authentic, who is fake or not themselves and that above everything was the number one response for who people would be apprehensive about spending time with and it’s interesting to hear you say that because I think sometimes you go feel like I need to be super extroverted or I need to have this certain voice but the most important thing is just being yourself and being that as much as possible. I think that’s a super good advice and a great note to end on. Before we do, Ashley, where can people follow along with you and learn more about what you’re up to?

Ashley Ward: yeah, definitely. Follow me on Twitter. It is @ashleymadhatter, A-S-H-L-E-Y, mad hatter. Just like Alice in Wonderland.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. Cool. We’ll be sure to link to that and SEMrush as well. Huge thank you to coming on the podcast today, Ashley. Really fun to chat.

Ashley Ward: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. It was a great time.

Alexa Peduzzi: Thank you so much, Ashley, again for being on the podcast and Ashley is a superstar and is offering our listeners of this episode of the Food Blogger Pro podcast a free trial to SEMrush. Just shoot as an email at [email protected] and we can hook you up.

Now, it’s time for the reviewer of the week and this one comes from Holly from the fabulous blog of Baker’s House at abakershouse.com. It says,“ I cannot thank you enough for sharing your knowledge and valuable information on this podcast. It’s a treat to listen in on Bjork, picking the brains of people who have excelled in their field whether that may be photography, social media, writing or other blogging strengths. I am motivated to learn more and to improve with each podcast topic.”

I love that you mention the different kind of topics that we cover here on the podcast, Holly. If any of you out there have an idea for a topic, for an upcoming episode, please let us know. We would love to hear it. Just email [email protected] with your idea. If you want to be featured at this reviewer of the week section of the podcast in an upcoming episode, all you need to do is leave us a review on iTunes and leave your name and blog URL in the review. We would love to feature your review. Thank you, again, for tuning in this week. We really appreciate you from all of us here at FBP HQ. Make it a great week.

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