This episode is sponsored by Clariti.
Welcome to episode 427 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Arman Liew from The Big Man’s World.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Andrea Balogun. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Why Diversifying Your Website Traffic Matters
Arman has been blogging for almost ten years now and has a really fresh perspective on everything from sponsored content to social media.
He is really honest about some of the struggles he’s faced with blogging over the years (fickle algorithms, anyone?) and how those have led to a very strategic and intentional approach to his site nowadays.
Arman also shares more about what it’s like to be a food blogger in Australia, and why he’s chosen to prioritize an American audience with his content. It’s a really entertaining and thought-provoking interview — don’t miss it!
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- About the early days of The Big Man’s World.
- How Arman was able to leave his full-time job to work on his blog.
- What strategies Arman found to be the most effective in growing his site.
- How he reached out to brands for sponsored content and decided what to charge.
- About how he put all his eggs in the Pinterest basket — and how he has recovered from that.
- How he transitioned from prioritizing Pinterest traffic to SEO.
- The importance of diversifying your traffic sources.
- How he tailors his content and voice depending on the platform.
- How he grew his team.
- Why he prioritizes an American audience despite blogging from Australia.
- What he’s most excited about with his business right now.
- The Big Man’s World
- Wayback Machine
- Pinch of Yum
- Follow Arman on Instagram and Facebook
- Join the Food Blogger Pro Podcast Facebook Group
About This Week’s Sponsor
We’re excited to announce that this week’s episode is sponsored by our sister site, Clariti!
With Clariti, you can easily organize your blog content for maximum growth. Create campaigns to add alt text to your posts, fix broken images, remove any broken links, and more, all within the Clariti app.
Sign up for Clariti today to receive:
- Access to their limited-time $45 Forever pricing
- 50% off your first month
- Optimization ideas for your site content
- An invitation to join their exclusive Slack community
- And more!
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
Transcript (click to expand):
Bjork Ostrom: This episode is sponsored by Clariti, that’s C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com. And I’m going to give you a really specific example of how you can use Clariti if you sign up today. And that is poster page-specific tracking of changes that you’re making. And you can use the notes area within Clariti to make a note anytime that you make a change. An example of when you’d want to do this, let’s say that you’re switching over some of your YouTube videos to be AdThrive or Mediavine video players. You want to make sure that you’re tracking to see when you look back three months later, the change or the impact that that had. And personally, what we’ve noticed as we’ve worked on content is like you forget. If you don’t have a system, if you’re not making a note of that somewhere, you’ll forget.
And so within Clariti, there’s the ability to leave a note anytime that you’re making a change or improvement on a piece of content to allow you to go back and see how that change impacted things. There’s lots of other ways that you can use Clariti, but I thought it’d be helpful just to give a really specific example. If you want to see what those other ways are, you can go to clariti.com/food to get 50% off your first month. Again, that’s C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com/food to get 50% off of your first month. You can start taking notes on the changes you’re making and explore all the other features. Thanks to Clariti for sponsoring this episode.
Emily Walker: Hey, this is Emily from the Food Blogger Pro team, and you’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. This week on the podcast, Bjork is interviewing Arman from the blog The Big Man’s World. Before we hop into the episode, just a quick note that the audio on this episode is a little wonky. Bjork was having some issues with his microphone, but we did our best to make it listenable and it really shouldn’t interfere with your enjoyment of the episode at all.
So with that out of the way, I’ll tell you a little bit about this episode. Arman chats a lot about how he was able to leave his full-time job pretty early on in his blogging days to focus on The Big Man’s World. He shares about what strategies he found to be the most effective in growing his site, and a little bit of a cautionary tale about putting all of his eggs in the Pinterest basket, so to speak. He was really heavily focused on Pinterest in the early days of his blog, and that worked really well for him until it didn’t, as often happens with social media platforms.
He shares behind the scenes of that journey, how he recovered from relying totally on Pinterest, and now how he diversifies his income and focuses on lots of different strategies for getting traffic to his site and monetizing his blog. Arman also shares more about what it’s like to blog from Australia, but with a primarily American audience and how he’s grown his team over the years. It’s a really interesting episode, a great perspective to have a blogger from outside the United States on the podcast, and we know you’ll get a lot out of it, so I’m just going to let Bjork take it away.
Bjork Ostrom: Arman, welcome to the podcast.
Arman Liew: Thanks so much for having me, Bjork. I’m excited to be here.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, this is one of those interviews where technology is amazing because we are miles apart right now, and yet it feels like you’re just kind of hanging out in the room with me. So it’s end of day for me, early morning for you. Thanks for getting up early, you’re coming to us from Australia. So I want to hear a little bit about your story. We’re going to talk about your journey over the past, really 10 years, is that right? That’s how long you’ve been at this?
Arman Liew: Yeah, maybe a little bit less than that. I think we started taking it a bit seriously around, yeah, maybe seven, eight years ago. I think the blog’s been on the internet for maybe 10 years.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Arman Liew: But yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: One of the things I like to do is pull up the Wayback Machine. Do you ever do Wayback Machine? And it’s always-
Arman Liew: I made my own website.
Bjork Ostrom: Always the worst fear for anybody who has anything that they’ve published online is somebody going back to look at the early versions of it, but it’s always interesting to see how did people start. And it sounds like, and I would be interested to hear you talk a little bit more about this, the idea of The Big Man’s World, which is the name of your site and where you are on social everywhere, was all about this transition into all of these things now about becoming an adult. You were in university, you were studying, and it’s like, “okay, it’s time to transition into being an adult.” All of these things that come along with it, including cooking and making meals. Is that generally speaking where the name came from?
Arman Liew: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s probably one of the biggest questions. Everyone’s like, “How does that even relate to it all?”
Bjork Ostrom: Totally.
Arman Liew: And it’s like, “Oh, it kind of doesn’t because it didn’t start off like that.” But yeah, that’s sort of where the name sort of started because it was a university assignment in my final year of university. And so it definitely didn’t start off as a food blog, and it sort of over time transitioned into that to sort of what it is now. But yeah, I hate to go back to the Wayback Machine and see what the blog looked like back then.
Bjork Ostrom: Totally. Everybody does, yeah. But one of the things that I think is great about that is, and I often talk about this, anybody who’s thinking about starting a thing, is the most important thing to do is to start, because oftentimes it will evolve into something that you didn’t expect, and it sounds like that was somewhat true for you where you started, you were publishing things online, and then was it that you found an interest or you found traction, or maybe both? What did it look like to start? You were on Blogspot, is that right? You’re publishing on Blogger or Blogspot?
Arman Liew: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: And so it’s just kind of general content, talking about things, and then eventually kind of found this avenue into food. What did that look like to discover that?
Arman Liew: Sure. So it’s a bit of a weird story. So what happened was I moved from Melbourne to Sydney once I graduated university to start working for Qantas, actually, which is our main carrier airline as part of the graduate program. But my final year of university, for my media subject, we had to start a blog. So that’s sort of where I had the URL and everything was on Blogspot.
Bjork Ostrom: Interesting. Yeah.
Arman Liew: And once the university finished, graduated, I conveniently forgot that it’s on the internet still. I never deleted it or anything like that. So when I moved to Sydney, I sort of used it as a log for myself to, I was cooking for myself for the first time. I had a personal trainer that was telling me certain things to eat and exercises to do. And instead of just having, I don’t even think iPhones were around then, but I didn’t use the notes function or anything like that. And I used my website as a log of things that I was doing, forgetting that random people on the internet sort of stumbled across it.
And over time, over maybe about a six to eight month period, I started getting comments from people being like, “Oh, I tried this recipe out, or I made this.” And I was like, “Oh, that’s really odd. I thought this was only for sort of my eyes.” And then I guess over time I just sort of used it as, I started writing a bit more, I guess just random stuff, just whatever’s on my mind, and then intermittently would add some food content because that’s what I was eating and cooking at home. And accidentally, I sort of grew a bit of an audience, I think at the start was other bloggers in the health food niche or healthy living bloggers, I think. And they would come and comment and stuff.
And over time I sort of saw that traffic was going up, but I wasn’t really intending it to. It was sort of like, “Oh yeah, I’m just posting stuff on here.” And then one of, I think it was a fellow blogger, but I don’t think she blogs anymore, but she actually wrote something like, “Oh,” on one of my posts that, “If you were in America, you could do this full time.” And I was just like, oh, that’s such a foreign concept for me because I think, even still to this day, Australian food bloggers, there’s not many. There’s very, very few, especially compared to America or even the UK or Europe.
Bjork Ostrom: Why do you think that is?
Arman Liew: I think maybe it’s just a very, here, I think we’re not a, I wouldn’t say, how would I say it? It’s what’s popular in the States, it usually takes a couple of years to gain a lot of traction and popularity here, whether it’s a type of food, a type of exercise, a type of work. And I think back then it just wasn’t really something that people would go online to search for. We had lots of free resources without grocery stores, and it just really wasn’t super popular unless you had people that would use, I think LiveJournal or I think maybe MSN had something called like MSN Spaces where people would just write a diary sort of thing.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And you would follow along with friends or it was maybe more of a social network than it was a platform.
Arman Liew: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Arman Liew: Absolutely, definitely more a social network. So back then I just found out such a foreign concept, but gradually more and more people were saying that, leaving comments being like, “Oh wow, are you a full-time blogger or do you do this full-time?” And I was just like, “No, this is just a hobby.” But it sort of piqued my interest. I sort looked into it a little bit more and I was like, “Wow, there are a lot of bloggers.” I think this is the start of 2015, a lot of bloggers who were food bloggers especially who were doing it sort of like a full-time job, and I was just like, “Oh, imagine being able to work for yourself and that sort of aspect of it.”
So I worked out that with my university degree, because I’d graduated within a certain time period, I was able to get a one-year working visa for the States. So I was really unhappy with my job, but I was doing okay at it. But I was like, “I wonder if I could take a career break and sort of have a stab and go to the States and see if I could try blogging full-time, pick a niche, stick to some consistency instead of one week I might post four recipes the next week, I would, don’t know, write some random jargon about my day.” So yeah, got a one-year working visa, and that’s when I flew to New York in, I think it was mid 2015.
But before I went, I’ve always been scared about not having a job and not being able to support myself. So I just kind of made a goal with myself that was within, if I wasn’t able to match my income that I was making at my graduate position, which wasn’t super high, it was like straight out of the university within the first three months, I’d have to use the working visa to find an office job, a corporate job over there.
And I think that sort of scared me because I was like, “Oh, look, I don’t want to go back to that corporate work that was causing me a lot of stress.” So I started learning photography really, really well. I invested in a camera, a proper camera. I spoke to a bunch of other bloggers about like, “How do you reach out to a brand to work with them?” Which is such a big thing before I got there because brands were happy to collaborate or do a sponsored post, but as soon as they heard that I was in Australia, they were just like, “Okay, no we’re not going to work with Arman across the globe.”
So yeah, it was a very busy first couple of months, but it was very fruitful because I think that drive of not wanting to go back to the corporate world, I really, really worked hard to make relationships with brands, posting regularly on the website, and sort of picking a niche that was quite popular at the time, which was healthy recipes, healthy desserts. And I sort of stuck with that for the first couple of years, I think. And yeah, that’s sort of how it all started.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. And the two things that are nice about that, having a little bit of a history and some traction with creating content, so it wasn’t completely new. You had a little bit of, there’s already something there that you could kind of shape and mold, but it sounds like what you did is really put a lot of intentional effort behind it. Photography, you mentioned, learning, connecting with other people. What were the things in those first few months that you did that were most fruitful or most helpful to accelerate that journey?
Arman Liew: I think for me then was just really being consistent and only sort of posting recipes instead of the odd posts that would be sort of an update sort of thing, which actually alienated a lot of my initial audience because they were like, “Oh, we sort came for, we didn’t mind the recipes, but we really liked your casual posts of your day to day or stuff that you are struggling with travels and stuff.” So that was a little bit difficult at the start, but it was also what really was the most intentional and most sort of helpful with getting into a routine of waking up and doing some recipe testing, doing photography, and then having a post ready to go out every week.
And sort of sticking to that because I think the first couple of weeks was a bit tough because you’re trying to work out what kind of schedule you can manage and balance, but after that, that was probably the most helpful sort of thing to do was be consistent, put out really good quality photos, because I think 2015, that was a time where photography was just super, super important. I think there was TasteSpotting and Foodgawker I think were two big sites that you would really, excuse me, really push adding your photos too because if you managed to get a top spot on one of those websites, it would provide a lot of traffic. So that was really, really a big thing that I sort of focused on back then with things.
Bjork Ostrom: And in those, I think people that are listening did hear two months and they think, “Oh my gosh, how did you know within two to three months that this was going to work?” Is that what it was? In that three month period, by the end of it, did you get to the end of it and say like, “I think this is going to happen, that I’ll be able to replace my income”? And like you said, it’s not like you’re VP at a huge corporate job. Similar to Lindsay and I, I worked at a nonprofit, she was a teacher, and the nice thing is your lifestyle hasn’t adjusted to this point where you have a huge income to replace, but still it’s a short amount of time to get to a point where you feel confident enough to say, “I think I can do this.” Is that what it was at the end of that kind of three, four month period where you’re like, “I think I can do this”?
Arman Liew: Yeah, think I didn’t want to sort of jinx it or count my chicken sort before they hatched, but I was able to get a lot of, I remember sponsored content within a short period of time. And I remember at that time what was quite interesting was that I managed to get a few really, really great partnerships based on being a male in a mostly female niche. I mean, now there’s a lot more guys doing it, which is great, but at that time there was very, very few that was sort of doing food blogging that they sort of liked that. So it was, I think by reaching out to some brands and also who they were looking for, sort of like a newer sort of voice I guess, that I think just the timing was just right that there was just a bunch of brands that were willing to work with.
And back then it was also a lot less competitive or saturated than it sort of is now, so it was a good time, but still within that period it wasn’t like, “All right, sweet, I don’t have to worry about going back to the job.” It was always like, “Okay, but what about next month? What about the forthcoming month?” But what also played well at that time as well was I managed to get on Pinterest quite soon before everyone was like, “Oh, this is a really, really important social media platform.” And I sort of took advantage of those at the time, those really long pins weren’t really popular, but I was like, “Oh look, I’m just going to have a go and post these long pins that would have some keywords and stuff in it and see how they do.”
And yeah, I don’t know what sort of happened, but for a good maybe, yeah, I think it was like August, a year or so after that, it just was such a huge traffic driver to the point that it was like, “Okay, do I even need to do sponsored posts anymore? I can just focus on creating pretty images and recipes that would look really nice,” and it would just do well on Pinterest. Everything I would post would do well on it, which come the pandemic time it came to fight me from behind being like, “Wow, I really should have focused on SEO on Google versus using a social media platform to get all my traffic on.” So that was a big wake-up call.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s kind of the world that we live in. It’s one of the hard things is we’re always figuring out what works well, but then always nervous once we figure that out that it’s going to go away. It’s like the curse of our industry is the ebb and flow of, “Wow, Pinterest is working really great. Video on Instagram works really good, Facebook video works well.” And inevitably it’ll work well, you’ll be able to take advantage of that, and then it will go away. And so we’re kind of in this perpetual cycle of figuring out like, “How do we diversify, but also not stretch ourselves too thin?” And so I think a lot of people can relate to that feeling of like, “Wow, this is awesome. But also I don’t want to sit here too long because I know that eventually it’s going to go away and it’s going to change and look different.”
Before we get too far away from it I think people would appreciate hearing from you, your experience with brands and anecdotally, what did those conversations look like? How did you reach out? How did you make the initial connection? How did you know how much to charge? You don’t have to talk about numbers, but for somebody who wants to do more of that work, or maybe they’re not at the point where they have enough traffic to supplement income to the point they want it to be, so they’re doing some more of that brand work. Any advice for people who are trying to figure that out?
Arman Liew: Sure. So I was really fortunate back then that a lot of bigger brands at the time would have set programs that were for bloggers that would be like, “All right, we have our monthly two recipe collaboration with bloggers, and we’d do a bunch of them, and all you’d have to do at the start of each month was apply.” But it was, I think back then even Instagram wasn’t huge, so you would never send a DM to someone. You might reach out to a brand’s website like, “Who’s in charge of marketing or PR? I’d love to collaborate with you in some regards.” And wow, it’s been a while since I’ve done a sponsored post. But I think back then where you do the sponsored post was most important, which was on your website you would create a recipe, have some photos of the product, and the brand would then sort of use it on their platform.
So it wasn’t super difficult to find. It was mostly like, “All right, I use this almond milk, for example, all the time. I’m going to reach out to the brand that makes it and see if they’re willing to do a collaboration of some sort.” In terms of charging, what rates and stuff were, I was so out of my league because I was so new to it. I was like, “Oh wow, $50 for a blog post. I’ll do that. That’s great.” And then over time, when traffic grew and things like that, and speaking to other bloggers and being like, “Wow, I’m really sort of underselling myself.” And then from there I would sort of gauge what they were charging and sort of charge similar.
And then once when you kind of got to a point where you were too expensive for a brand, it would sort of start from there. But look, I think there’s so many brands out there now. I feel like every few months you just go to the grocery store, there’s a new type of peanut butter, or a new chocolate on the market, or the health food industry are always bringing out stuff. And I feel like in today’s day and age like right now, a celebrity, actor, or model, and things like that aren’t the first point of contact for these brands. It would be an influencer, it would be a blogger. I feel like this is such a great time if this is something that people want to do, is to work with brands for social media or for a blog.
There’s so many brands out there, and I feel like I can quite confidently say a great majority of them are putting budget aside for this specifically versus 2015, 20 16 where it would come out of the marketing budget, which would have to include TV, print, everything else. So it is a really good time.
And in terms of rates right now, I think so many people do themselves a disservice. I sort of did at the start as well, really, really undersell yourself for what you’re worth. And I think there’s no harm in trying to work out an amount that you would find comfortable with. Let’s say it would take a couple of hours to do or a full day to do, if I was working at my day job or any job, what would I be earning within that day period? Can I charge that to a brand? And the worst thing the brand will say is no, and you can reach out to another one and there’ll always be one that would be willing to work with you and provided it’s one that you actually would use and actually enjoy. But yeah, it’s a good time now.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. If nothing else, I talk about my friend who works in the video industry and he talks about a day rate, and that’s just for their time and effort and their expertise. And so he’ll go out and shoot and he has a day rate for if he’s a DP or if he’s a director or if he’s editing. And then along with that, you have the variable of just exposure for the brand. So you’re doing the work itself, what does that cost? But then also what is the value or perceived value to the brand by getting that in front of other people or getting it for content that they use on their site?
And we just had a conversation actually with a clothing brand who reached out to potentially work with Pinch of Yum. They’re trying to diversify their media assets that they use on their side, and they want more food content. So it is like an outdoors-themed brand, and so they have a lot of guys chopping wood and people in a wood chop like crafting a bird feeder or something, but they want more people in the kitchen. And so not only is it the value of the exposure that they’d get from us posting it, but also that they’d use somewhere else. And all of that they’d have to pay for if they went to some production studio to have them shoot it.
So I think to your point, the value is beyond just what do you think you should get paid, which in the early stages you probably haven’t level set for what you’re actually worth, the value of the content that you’re creating. So it sounds like there’s some evolutions in that early stage you’re like, “I want to figure this out, I want to make it work.” One of the ways that you did that was when you’re on this one year work career exploration in this area is to work with brands. You had some success with that.
And then it sounds like, correct me if I’m wrong in this, but you started to pick up some momentum with traffic, a lot of that from Pinterest. And then in that time, was that when you started to realize like, “Maybe I don’t need to be doing as much sponsor content, or maybe it’s more valuable for me to focus on creating content that drives traffic from Pinterest?” And then was there a time after that where as Pinterest shifts, then you start to say like, “Maybe I need to focus more on search”? And has that been a season of focus for you, or are there other things that you’d say were kind of chapters along the way?
Arman Liew: Yeah, I think that’s a really, really great way to put it. I did cease doing sponsored posts for a while. I was doing the odd one here and there, but I definitely put all my eggs in one basket with Pinterest, which was such a dangerous thing to do because I’d say for one to two years, it was just such a huge driver for me that I really just did start focusing on publishing more content, but I also didn’t do it in the right way.
Bjork Ostrom: What do you mean by?
Arman Liew: If something did well on Pinterest, like if a chocolate cake did well on Pinterest, I would just do another chocolate cake recipe, probably very, very similar to that one, and kind of go from there. That one would do well. So I’d be like, “All right, chocolate cakes are doing well. Let’s do another chocolate cake recipe.” So I think I cannibalized my website within that three year period so badly that I don’t even know what Google would’ve thought or a search engine would’ve thought looking at it or trying to dissect the site map. They would’ve been like, “What is this website about? You don’t need to have 30 chocolate cakes or 30 mug cakes.” It was just not on that side of it, not a great thing to do. But on the Pinterest side, it was amazing because a chocolate cake always looks really nice, and it just did so well on there. So it just sort of made me want to create it more and more, again, just variations of it.
And every time I would do that, it would just do well again, do another chocolate mug cake that would do well until I think mid 2018, or I think it was mid 2018, they changed the algorithm. And I think I could be wrong with this, I don’t know if that was the exact time, but they went public or they did something. I’m not super familiar with the stock market and stuff, but they did something at that point, and it absolutely changed the whole algorithm with that platform that literally overnight I think I lost a significant amount of traffic, and it was sort of then that was the wake-up call that was just like during that two-year period, I always knew at the back of my mind like, “You shouldn’t be doing this. This is just not the best way.”
Bjork Ostrom: But it’s so great because it works. Yeah.
Arman Liew: Literally that was the thing. And yeah, as soon as that sort of happened, it was a huge, huge wake-up call, and that was when it sort of forced me to be like, “All right.” So I didn’t even know what SEO was then, even let’s say two and a half years into sort blogging full-time, I didn’t have a clue what it was. I was just like, “Okay, I just post something, I write about it, I write.” People make memes about bloggers that write a whole life story. I did that, I literally wrote that life story, added the pretty picture, and sent it to Pinterest.
So yeah, I’d say mid–2018 was a big wake-up call that was like, “Okay, you’ve just relied so much on one platform for so long and now you sort of are in this boat where you’ve lost a bunch of traffic overnight. Now is the time to focus on the website and creating intentional content, I’d like to say, content that you are actually enjoying and enjoy making and stuff that isn’t the same every day.”
So yeah, that was, I think from then, that’s when I slowly, and the keyword is slowly, it took me such a long time to just understand how a website properly works, when you post something, what happens to that post from the day you post it to a month down the track, six months down the track, what goes into that post? You can’t just post it and pin it and then pray for the best. It was like, “Okay, now you have to take into account other social media platforms, email lists.” And it was like a huge, huge learning curve that still to this day, it’s something that I’m still learning and still trying to figure out certain things.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s almost like, to recap, so I think Pinterest, I think I just did a quick Google search. It looks like it was 2019, April of 2019 that it went public, but I think a lot of oftentimes they talk about when companies are going public, they’ll clean up their financials or try and rightsize things so it looks better when they do go public. So a lot of times before the company goes public, they’ll be getting it ready and who knows the inner workings of what happens, but one of the thoughts or speculation around it is, as a social media company, at some point you’re going to have to turn monetization on.
And so as Pinterest starts to introduce ads, they want people to stick around longer, and so they start sending people away less and figuring out how to keep people engaged more, so then traffic shifts. And I think everybody kind of felt that.
Arman Liew: Yeah, absolutely.
Bjork Ostrom: Especially people who were having success on Pinterest to see there’s this shift or change. And I’m curious to know for you, what was that like when you started to feel that or see that? When those numbers start to dip, what was that like for you knowing that you’d worked so hard, done a bunch of work, and this thing that was working really well, suddenly before you put a penny in and you’d get two pennies out, and you’re used to doing that every day, you put a penny in and then nothing comes out, and you put another one in and it doesn’t come out again, and it’s like, “Wait, this doesn’t feel good,” as this relationship changes from input output and suddenly you’re not getting the same results. What was that like?
Arman Liew: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. So at the back of my head, it was like, there’s something saying that, “I told you.” So you knew this, when you started doing this that this was going to eventually, this could happen and it sort of did happen. I think where I was really, really fortunate was, so back when it was really, really, really popular and really great for my business, RPMs were super low back then. It was super, super low, especially for social, because Pinterest just counted as social traffic.
So when that sort of shift happened, I was really lucky that RPMs had really started to ramp up significant a amount compared to 2015, 2016 when it was really, really not much. So financially, I didn’t really feel a massive hit as it could have been if ad revenue was what it was like a couple of years earlier, but it was just a massive, massive wake-up call. But also what I had to learn is just not something I could do overnight. It was like, “All right, let me see how to use TikTok, or let me see how to set up an Instagram account.” It was like, “Okay, you need to learn how to publish a post properly, how to use a H2.” All this sort of stuff that was so foreign to me.
So yeah, I think that was such a big lesson that it sort of stuck with me to never ever rely on one form of social media or an email list or something like that. Email list is probably a bit different. I feel like that one is a bit more reliable, but a social media platform for, or one source of income especially, so as Instagram retraction, TikTok retraction, I’ve been consistent on them, but not to the point where I’m like, “All right, I’m just going to put all my effort into that,” because I think I was so scorned from Pinterest that it was such a big lesson to learn.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And so to recap that, so RPM, Revenue Per Mille, M-I-L-L-E, it’s like a weird metric, it’s a weird name for a metric, but essentially it’s like for every thousand views that you have on your site, how much do you earn? And so in our space, depending on how many ads you have turned on and what ad network and all of that stuff, it could be $10 to $30 depending on a lot of different things. And so what you were saying is it was earlier on where there weren’t as many optimizations, traffic wasn’t monetized in the same way that it was now. And so there was a shift, even though traffic went down, the amount you were getting paid for that traffic went up. And so financially it’s not like there was a huge difference, which is always great.
And during that time, that’s when you started to say, “I’m going to look at this more holistically and say, what does it look like to diversify?” And you mentioned Instagram, you have 1.1 million followers there, which is incredible. Not saying, I’m not just going to view myself as now an Instagram site. I’m also going to think of search and getting good at understanding search. And you talked about, did you say H2?
Arman Liew: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: For those who aren’t familiar, you talk about H1, H2, that’s different types of headers. And so in the world of search, you want to make sure that you are categorizing different parts of your post or your page in a way where it prioritizes it, so you have an H1 header, which in our world is usually the recipe, and then you have an H2, which might be an additional header to describe the next section. So essentially getting good at other different things and diversifying. So as things are right now, how do you look at in kind of rank order what’s most important for you? If you look at different buckets, the different social accounts, maybe email could be a bucket, search could be a bucket. What does that look like for you now?
Arman Liew: Yeah. So for now, search is our big one. We’re really, really focusing on that, but also being really intentional with our audiences on the different platforms. My website, I’d say is maybe 7% desserts, but if you went to my Instagram, you’d think I was a dessert blogger or just only did desserts, which is an interesting thing is that like, “Okay, we found that Instagram, our audience only wants that. Let’s just create content that is in that realm for Instagram.” And because at the end of the day, we’re just meet communicating with our audience and having a bit more of a personal approach with them.
It’s a bit younger on there as well, and that’s sort of what they like, so we sort of keep that as that is. But search is also something that, yeah, it’s probably the thing that we focus on the most and being really intentional with our content. I come from a very mixed background, so I’ve got a lot of experience with different cultures and different foods and stuff. So stuff that I would make myself or if I go to a restaurant and really try it, and it’s something that I’m like, “Wow, this is incredible,” I want to learn more about it, learn the cooking process behind it. That’s sort of the stuff that we would put out on the website. And of course, hope that it ranks.
Email of course is something that we are always trying to learn because it’s something that it looks really, really quite straightforward, but I don’t think it is as easy as people may assume it is. There’s just so much to learn about how regularly should you push an email out, like which segment of your audience should certain parts go out to? It’s a waste if you’ve got someone that’s subscribed that only wants chicken recipes that you’re like, “All right, here’s a dessert,” they’re not really going to open it. And if I was that consumer, I would be like, “Well, that’s really annoying. I don’t want dessert recipes and you sent me this sort of thing.”
So yeah, at the moment, I think that’s sort of where our priorities are. Search, email, still being present on social media, but not relying on it for any sort of form of traffic or anything. We do get traffic from socials, but it’s like a bonus. When we get some click through some Instagram, it’s a bonus, but it’s not where we’re focusing all our time and attention on.
Bjork Ostrom: And the nice thing about having those other platforms is it is a diversification. If you did want to do more brand-related work, you have a million followers on Instagram. That’s there for you if you need it, but you don’t need to use it, and so it’s available.
The other thing that I think is important to point out about what you’re talking about is this idea of understanding that each platform is going to have a different voice and a different group of people, and they’re going to want different content. And being aware of that and not just producing one piece of content and having it look the same and act the same across all platforms, but knowing it should look a little different on Instagram versus maybe TikTok, potentially. Not always, but I think that’s really smart to think of it like that. One of the things you’ve talked about is we or our. Are you working with other folks, or do you have a team that you work with?
Arman Liew: Yeah, that was probably the best thing I could have done for the business, was not feel like I had to do everything myself, which took such a long time to do. Such a long time. I think it was always because I’d done it myself for a fair few years that it was like, “Okay, I can do this all. I can not have a social life, have a 50-hour work week. It’s fine.” Yeah, it was such a big turning point was like, “All right, I want to invest the revenue that we make into other areas.” And it was sort of starting small where it was like, “All right, photography.” It’s probably, to be honest, the most enjoyable part for me was always photography, but it was also the most time-consuming, it was making the dish, cleaning up.
And being in Melbourne, Australia, our weather is so unpredictable that within a 20-minute period, if I showed you my Photoshop, every photo would look different and I haven’t changed a single thing. It’d be purple, it’d be blue. It was so frustrating. So that was the first thing that I did was get someone to shoot photography for us, shoot some recipes. So I would do, let’s say 50%, they would do 50%. And then over time got more photography done to the point that it’s now about, I’d say 99%, and I might do the very, very odd one. If I had to reshoot for something, I would maybe do it myself. But most of it is we’ve got a team of photographers to do that now.
So there’s three of them that would do the recipe photography. So they’re not sort of full-time, but it’s between the three of them, it’s sort of a full-time role. The next thing that we did was social media was a little bit of Instagram, just replying back to comments or just scheduling posts, because we’ve never been keen on using schedulers. I think there’s this myth that Instagram schedulers or Facebook schedulers, as soon as you use them, you are done for. So we’ve always been scared of that. So that was something we didn’t do.
Bjork Ostrom: Totally.
Arman Liew: And I wouldn’t say that they would interact as me, it was more scheduling the reel or the post, making sure it’s published and just making sure, same on TikTok and things like that, making sure it’s all there. And then I would go in and interact with my audience or reply to messages, things like that. And then now I’ve got someone else that is sort of like maybe I’d say a manager of sorts where they’re sort of doing everything I’m doing, but at a higher level where they’re across everything, whether they might do some scheduling, they might do some planning, they might do some testing. And then I also have, I’d say more so contractors that would be helping with some posts, with some layout, with a little bit of updating older content as well.
And of course we use, I don’t even know how would I brand them, like NerdPress, so they sort of manage all the technical stuff on the website. And also I’d say the ad network that we’re with, they offer a lot of support in some other areas that are really helpful for us with email, with knowing our audience more. Even with SEO, I’m definitely not going to count them out in that at all like they are an ad network, but they also offer a lot of support in these key areas that really help our business as well.
Bjork Ostrom: And that’s Raptive?
Arman Liew: Raptive, yes. Yes, Raptive. It’s been really, really great to have them be able to support us in these sort of key areas that are really important for us and are something that we are struggling with and needed that support.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. And it’s amazing when you put all those little pieces together, how many job responsibilities there really are, and then you start to look at it as like, “Wow, I was kind of responsible for all those things.” And for anybody even who maybe doesn’t have the budget or the resources to hire a team, I think it would still be worth it to go through the process of even building an org chart, but instead of people, it’s roles.
And so you have email marketing, you have photography, you have video, you have the technical elements, and you can look at it and say like, “Okay, what are the things that I want, as quickly as possible, have somebody come in and help out with whether it be something I don’t want to do or something that takes a lot of time,” like you had talked about photography in your case, and to start to build that team around it. And like you said, it’s one of the greatest things that can happen once you do get to that point of having that support in that team.
Arman Liew: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: Are the people that you’re working with in Australia? And related to that, what has that been like? You are building this business, how much of it is based on American audience versus an Australian audience? I know you’re not working with brands, so that doesn’t really exist anymore. And just curious, there’s some really incredible businesses that have been built in Australia, I think of Atlassian or Envato, so maybe it’s almost pointed towards those people who are building a business, whether in Australia or in another country, but also have some level of involvement in the US. How do you navigate that or what have you learned other than having to get up early to do podcast interviews?
Arman Liew: Yeah. So we’ve got a couple of team members in Australia, but to your point about dealing with an American audience, because I spent that year in America, I sort of stuck with, all right, I would overall have a global audience, but my priority will be the American audience. And that, because I was so intentional with it back then, it’s sort of second nature to me now where blog posts are written with American English. The recipes that we create are targeted towards more so American holidays than Australian or Commonwealth sort of holidays.
In the last couple of years, we’ve tried to incorporate a little bit more of that, but our primary focus has always been like that. And in terms of being in Australia and working with people that are in America or ad network and stuff like that, it’s been trying to find that sort of happy medium. So for me it means I’ve got an hour and a half window as soon as I get up to any important emails that I need to do.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that you need a reply on. Yeah.
Arman Liew: 100% like that one and a half hours and it’s not even an exaggeration. And when daylight saving happens, it’s even worse. But I get out of bed, I go straight to my emails, I see what I need to do. If there’s anything that I need to email out, I do ASAP. But it’s also a double-edged sword because it’s also, in America, it’s like five o’clock, no one wants to be answering emails and stuff like that at the end of the day. So we’re just being really, really, if anything urgent, we would do it work in that sort of way. But it hasn’t been as difficult as I thought it would be. We’ve always got a reply to something.
Some of our team members are overseas, we might not hear back from them for a day, but it’s not something that’s, we pre-plan for it. But it was really interesting when we went to the conference with Raptive earlier this year, it was so nice to be on the same time zone and be able to sleep in and all this other stuff that it was like, “Wow, this is what it would’ve been like if we were all on the same time zone,” but we’ve managed to make it work. And sort of being intentional with that as well, writing our posts in American English, focusing on American holidays, American traditions, and I think it was fortunate that I spent that year over there, so I was able to experience it.
I also, I don’t know if I mentioned earlier, and I did study abroad, I spent a semester in America, so I experienced Thanksgiving with some friends and a lot of the other holidays as well. This is even before I started the blog, so it was really great to be able to share my perspective on some of those as well with some of the recipes. So yeah, it’s an interesting sort of thing.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I remember when we were in the Philippines, one of the things, we lived there for a year, that was so interesting is starting our day when everybody else was ending their day. And the downside of it is missing that communication window or having a really short communication window. But the thing that I found nice was you kind of have this protected time, or I did at least, protected time where it was quiet. I didn’t have a bunch of emails coming in because it was midnight. And so I think that was one of the things I appreciated was the ability to focus in a way that you maybe couldn’t or that I couldn’t if I was just being pinged constantly back and forth.
So what do you feel like is working right now? As we close out, what is the thing that you look at and you’re like, “I’m really glad I’m doing this, or maybe I’m really glad I did this”? Because it’s something that in your business as things are going right now, it’s paying off, you’re getting traction with it, it’s working because you’ve been, much like us, doing this for a long time and you’ve seen things come and go, but I think it’s always interesting for people to hear what is the thing now that feels aligned or that’s working well or you’re glad that you’re doing?
Arman Liew: Sure. I think for us, it’s not being afraid to put out content that might be a little bit obscure or a little bit different to other people because I think it’s taken me a while to be really, I wouldn’t say proud, but really I’ve always been proud of my background and things like that, but sort of want to share a lot of more cultural recipes that I grew up eating and not being like, “Okay, people are going to look at this and be like, ‘What is X, Y, and Z?’” There’s so much that it’s been working, but it’s just something that we’ve got a whole breadth of new content that we are so excited to share because we’ve got a relationship with it. It’s something that it was part of my childhood and a few years back, I wouldn’t have even thought about it. I’d be like, “People are going to find this so far and so obscure.”
But in some part, thanks to the pandemic with people at home cooking more, being more confident in the kitchen and trying new things in the world, there’s so many more culturally diverse restaurants that people are more interested to try something. And if we look at what a popular recipe would’ve been 10 years ago versus now, I think there’s a lot more scope for it to be found or be tried by a wider audience. So for us, it’s having more content that we can put out that is not super mainstream, but we are not going to worry about it. “All right, this is just like a post that’s just going to go nowhere.” It’s like, “There’s going to be someone out there that will want to try and make it or someone that’s going to search it.”
And yeah, just being consistent I think is still our big thing as well. Just regularly putting our content, regularly interacting with our audience, whether it’s on socials, whether it’s through email, is just sort of being present and trying to put myself out there a little bit more, which is something that I’ve always, for four or five years hidden behind. The blog has no real face to it, but it’s been more and more, I’d say enlightening to be able to do that. And it’s not as awkward as I thought it would be. And it’s really, really great to be able to interact on a face level with the people that support the business. They come to your website to make your things, they’re following you on the socials, they’re commenting on your stuff.
These are people that are invested in your brand, in you, that it’s something that we are going to continue doing as well. Stepping out of our comfort zone and getting on there and interacting with them that way.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s awesome. Arman, I feel like we could have another hour to talk about your story, to learn more about what you’ve learned through the years. We’ll have to have you on again, but for those who are interested in following along with you, connecting with you, I’m sure there’ll be a lot of those people. What’s the best way to do that?
Arman Liew: Sure. So I’m the Big Man’s World on all social media platforms, and of course the website is thebigmansworld.com. So yeah, any questions, anything, DMs, I check everything and answer everything. So yeah, that’s where we’ll be on.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome, thanks. I’ll let you hop off to get your maybe first cup of coffee, your early coffee. I’ll finish my last one for the day, but thanks so much for coming on. It was really great to talk.
Arman Liew: Thanks so much for having me, Bjork.
Alexa Peduzzi: Hey there, Alexa here, and thanks for tuning into this episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast. We hope you enjoyed this episode, and I wanted to just round out this episode with giving you a quick tip on one of the things that comes as soon as you become a Food Blogger Pro member. It’s just one of the nice perks that comes along with the membership. So it’s called our Deals and Discounts page, and it has a bunch of companies that we’ve partnered with to help offer our members exclusive discounts on their products or services. So we’re always adding new and exciting deals to the page.
But as of right now, some of the deals include NerdPress, which is the company of our WordPress expert, Andrew. He helps people with tech headaches on the blog, core web vital optimizations and more businesses, and Liss Legal for all of your legal needs from our legal expert, Danielle. Simple Pin Media for all of your Pinterest needs from Kate, she is our Pinterest expert. Erickson Surfaces for really beautiful photography backgrounds. LinkedIn profile, Process Street, InfluenceKit, and so many more.
We have so many good ones here, including one that’s been really popular recently, which is Cooking with Keywords. We have a nice 10% discount for Food Blogger Pro members, so you get instant access to all of these deals and discounts the moment you sign up for a membership. So if you’re interested in learning more or signing up, go to foodbloggerpro.com/join and you can learn more and sign up right there. Once again, foodbloggerpro.com/join to get access to our deals and discounts page.
All right, that does it for us this week. We hope you enjoyed this episode and we’ll see you next time. But until then, make it a great week.