Listen to this episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast using the player above or check it out on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.
This episode is sponsored by Clariti.
Welcome to episode 361 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Eric Samuelson from Eat Like No One Else about how he monetizes his site and travels full-time with his family as a food blogger.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Eden Westbrook from Sweet Tea and Thyme about how she shifted her mindset and became a full-time food blogger. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Earning $2,500 in One Day and Traveling Full-Time as a Food Blogger
Can you imagine growing your food blog while also traveling full-time? Well, that’s what Eric does!
He runs the food blog Eat Like No One Else, and in this episode, you’ll hear how his blog has opened the door to so many new opportunities in his life, from traveling the country full-time with his family to earning $2,500 in ad revenue in a single day.
Eric’s story is so incredible, and no matter where you are in your blogging journey, we know you’ll have so many great takeaways from this conversation!
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- How Eric got into food blogging
- How he shares non-recipe content on his site
- How he became a full-time food blogger
- How he monetizes his site
- Why his traffic skyrockets in Q4
- How he travels the country full-time with his family of six
- Why he decided to launch a podcast
- Why he focuses so much on updating old content
- Why he doesn’t compare himself to other bloggers
- Eat Like No One Else
- Pinch of Yum Income and Traffic Reports
- Best Crab Apple for Eating – Chestnut Crab
- The Feast Plugin
- Costco Meat Prices 2022 Screenshot
- Advanced “Jump To” Links
- Follow Eric on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest
- 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 the Clariti waitlist today to receive:
- Early access to their $25/Month Forever pricing
- 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: A big thank you to Clariti for sponsoring the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. You’ve heard me talk about Clariti before. It’s a tool that we’re building and using for Pinch of Yum, but also a really powerful tool for anybody who’s focusing on content as kind of one of the main vehicles for growth or revenue for their site. And we’ve been working on Clariti for a couple years, but it hasn’t been until recently that we’ve started to bring other people in to sign up and become a part of it. We’re doing an offer right now that we’re calling 25 Forever. So the first 500 people who sign up for Clariti will get their account at $25 a month forever. We’re still in the early stages of offering this, but we’ll cap it at 500 people. So once we have 500 people who have signed up, then we’re going to cap that and we’re going to move to a different pricing for Clariti.
Bjork Ostrom: So it’s still in the early stages. It’s not going to be the kind of thing where at this point where we’d cap it and say, “Hey, you can’t sign up. You’ve missed your chance.” But slowly and surely, we’re moving to that 500 mark. So if you’re interested in joining and checking it out, that would be a good time to do that. There’s no commitment. There’s no plan that you have to join and can’t cancel so you can check it out. You can see if it’s a good fit.
Bjork Ostrom: And how do you know if you would even be interested in it? Well, Clariti’s for anybody who’s focusing on content and also starting to focus on optimization of their existing content. So we have this belief that any and every site is going to be suboptimal right now. There’s going to be broken images, broken links, there’s going to be posts that don’t have internal links that could or don’t have external links to helpful resources. There’s going to be images with missing alt text. There’s going to be content that’s starting to perform worse that if you looked at and kind of improved and enhanced, it would increase rank. We’re really just thinking about that for Pinch of Yum a lot. What are the ways that we could improve the content that’s currently on our site as opposed to just creating new content? And we’re using Clariti as the tool where we track that and make those enhancements and improvements.
Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that comes along with that is you can join the Slack community that we have of other content creators. And this just came up the other day. Somebody posted and they said, “I’d had no idea that I’d had broken images on my site, but somehow those images broke. So I need to, number one, find out how they broke. And then number two, fix them.” But they were just saying that they noticed that because of Clariti and some of the filtering that they were able to do. So they created a project. They filtered first and said, “Show me all the broken images on my site.” And then it was like, “Oh, there’s some broken images.” Then they filtered. After filtering those, they created a project that was fix broken images. Now you could then have somebody on your team go in, make those improvements, make those enhancements.
Bjork Ostrom: Or if you don’t have somebody on your team, that can be the type of stuff where maybe once a week, once a month, you kind of have this maintenance or in kind of spring cleaning mindset where you go in, you block the day out to make improvements, make enhancements. You’re not creating new content. You’re just going in and optimizing and improving and paying attention to older content. And making sure that it’s at 100% as opposed to 70%. Which, if I were to guess, I would say all of our sites, Pinch of Yum included, would probably be operating at 70% of their true potential value. And we want to find ways that we can improve that. And we’re using Clariti as the tool to not only discover those things, but also to organize the tasks and projects that go along with improving them.
Bjork Ostrom: So we’re still in the early stages of it. We’re excited about what it’s going to be and what it’s going to grow into. And we’re also excited to learn from you in the process of what you would want it to be, which is why we have that Slack community that we will welcome you to if you are interested in signing up. So you can go to clariti.com/food. C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com/food if you’re interested in signing up. All right, that’s a wrap for this little ad read. Let’s go ahead and jump into today’s episode.
Bjork Ostrom: Hello. Hello. You’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. I think you probably know that, but for anybody who’s tuning in, maybe you’ve stumbled across this for some reason. Maybe you’re searching in the podcast app for RV Lifestyle and you came across this and you’re like, “What is this Food Blogger? What? Huh?” The reason I say that is because the conversation we’re having today is with Eric Samuelson. And he has a brand, a blog, a website, whatever you want to call it, called Eat Like No One Else. And I’ve known Eric for a long time. We’ve traded emails back and forth, but this was the first time that we were able to have a long conversation. And it was really fun for me to hear his story, his journey of building his site into his full-time income. And here’s the tie into the RV Lifestyle. How he was able to use that success that he had with his blog after years of hard work and really focused time on growing and building his brand to finally unlock some really cool things in his life like traveling full time with his family, seeing the US.
Bjork Ostrom: When I had this conversation, if you see the video, you can see a map behind him of all the different places that they’ve gone as a family. And he couldn’t have done it without the blog supporting him. And he’s going to talk about what that’s been like, kind of a little bit of a different take on the type of content that he’s creating. It’s not just recipes, although recipes is a part of it. He talks a lot about the importance of quarter four and why that’s an important piece of the puzzle for him. And I think you’ll find a lot of inspiration from it because he’s worked hard for a long time. And now he’s able to, here’s the tie in, he’s able to harvest the fruits of his labor. And we’re going to be talking about fruits specifically in apples in this podcast episode. So I think you’ll enjoy it.
Bjork Ostrom: Before we jump in, I do want to give a little shout out to the Facebook group. We occasionally mention this. It’s the Food Blogger Pro Podcast group and slowly but surely we’re growing that group. We have, at the time of this recording, that I’m recording this, 546 members who are all a part of this private group just for Food Blogger Pro Podcast listeners. And it’s a chance to join in on the conversation as opposed to just listen to it. And you can check that out by going to foodbloggerpro.com/facebook. Everybody has to click to apply. It’s not just an open group, so you have to apply. We’ll look through your account. Chances are if you’re a blogger, if you’re a publisher, if you’re not going to go and just kind of spam with a bunch of promotion of your own stuff, that we’ll let you in and you’ll get be a part of the conversation there in Facebook. So would love to have you join the community there. And I’m also excited to share this interview with Eric. So let’s go ahead and jump in. Eric, welcome to the podcast.
Eric Samuelson: Thank you, Bjork.
Bjork Ostrom: If you were to guess, if you were to look back, when was the first time that we would’ve traded emails back and forth? Would you have a guess as to the year?
Eric Samuelson: Oh, man. It would have to be probably early last decade, I would think. I’ve been doing this since 2009. Yeah. And I first encountered you guys with your old Income Reports. And you were the first other blog I learned something like that from, because back in those days, there was no conferences or podcasts or Facebook or Instagram. Any of that kind of stuff. You were kind of on your own. So it was like, “Oh, here’s somebody else doing something and sharing something else.” So it felt like someone kind of knew what I was doing and stuff, so…
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. Anytime that you can connect with somebody who’s like, “Oh, yeah, I get it. I get what you’re doing and understand it.” Especially then. But even now, it’s like, “Oh, it’s really refreshing, because you don’t have to explain.” I always think of when we move into a new neighborhood. It’s like people ask, “What do you guys do?” And I’m always like, Hmm. I feel like every time is like I’m evolving and trying to get better at figuring out how to describe what we do like, “How did that land? They didn’t ask any follow-up questions. It probably was too confusing.” But, yeah, any time you see somebody else doing it.
Eric Samuelson: Yeah. I finally gone to explaining it to people who seem to have no clue about any of it as to just say I’m like a newspaper.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally.
Eric Samuelson: Yeah…
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah. There’s something about-
Eric Samuelson: That seems to be the best way.
Bjork Ostrom: There’s something about tying it to a tangible physical thing. We’ll often say online magazine and people are like, “Oh, I get it.” Like online food magazine. “Okay. Got it.” But if you’re like, “Online food blog,” people are like, “What?”
Eric Samuelson: Yeah. It’s kind of like pyramid scheme or something.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, exactly. So 2009, that was before Pinch of Yum. That was before most people, I’m guessing, listening to the podcast were creating content. What was it that drove you to create content in 2009 and on what platform were you doing that?
Eric Samuelson: Yeah. Fortunately, you I started mainly with WordPress, so I didn’t have to do any kind of changeover. Unfortunately, I did start with Bluehost and that turned to be a major mistake that caused me some headaches way down the road. But that was the whole thing. But, yeah. And I had a friend who was doing a… He was just in the old school forums. People used to have forums. It used to be a bigger thing before our Facebook groups. And so he shared with me Google Analytics. So I got that on there right away. Probably within a week of starting my blog, I had Analytics up and running. Which right now I’d definitely give it back. Then I’m like, “What is this information?” So that helped me.
Eric Samuelson: The reason I started at the time was I was a stay-at-home dad. I was just looking for other ways to make money. I think I saw something on Good Morning America or some new show or something. But somebody who was making money off something, ads on their website for, I think it was beekeeping or some of those bees. I think it was beekeeper hiring or something. But like, “Oh, here’s the next way to make money here?” That was kind of a cool idea. But that’s how I kind of began starting to blog and saying, “Okay, let’s give this a try out here.” I had created websites before, well, for fun. My dad had a computer store, so I made a website for him and stuff.
Eric Samuelson: I had some experience already in doing that. So I’m like, “Oh, yeah.” I had a little technical experience. So if something came up, I’d be able to manage through it. If I wanted to learn to write code, if I really, really wanted to, I don’t want to, but I can understand it when I… The few times as a blogger, I’ve had to get cody a little… Get cody, I guess that isn’t a word, but into the weeds and I had to do that, I’ve been able to.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah. That makes sense. Have the ability if you need to. Not necessarily something you’d want to do all day. So Eat Like No One Else has, that’s the blog, at that point, did you have an idea of what it was and how close is it now to what you thought it would be?
Eric Samuelson: It’s surprisingly still pretty close. Originally, I had this kind of catchphrase where it was at the store, in the kitchen, in the garden. So I had this three-prong thing I was doing where I was talking about grocery shopping, like tips there. Talking about cooking and then gardening. The gardening part is gone. That part did not fly and it was not getting the traffic of the other thing. So the other two aspects are stuff I still kind of do. I’m still talking about cooking. I’m still talking about grocery shopping. So those two kind of stuck around.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. You talk about grocery shopping. What does that look like? What do you mean? Because one of the interesting things about your blog versus some of the others that we talk about is that your focus isn’t just recipes. You also talk about a lot of other things, non-recipe content. And we’ve had a few conversations with folks on the podcast who are food sites, but not recipes. How much of your content is non-recipe content?
Eric Samuelson: I would say the majority of it’s non-recipe content. I’m going to give an example right now. This morning, I just did a check for this week to see how less stats were doing. And out of my top 100 posts, 22 of them are recipe related. What I mean were recipes. But almost all of those recipes too are actually kind of more how-tos type of recipes. So it’d be like how to cook a ham on the instant pot. So it’d be more spray along those lines than it would be like I have a recipe for sous vide chicken with a creamy pepper flake sauce. That’s a more specific recipe. That post doesn’t do as well as the other ones do. So that’s more of like a how-to.
Eric Samuelson: So, yeah, I never started out just being a recipe blog. That’s never been my thing. It’s always been like, I have recipes here, but I teach people about ingredients. So I do a lot of reviews of fruit varieties. So different types of fruits to check out in the store, because people are like, “Hey, try this new apple. Learn that. Hey, stores can tell you there’s a variety of peaches, but there’s tons of different types of peaches out there.” So kind of learning that.
Bjork Ostrom: And is that something you’d always been interested in? It always would gravitate towards like, “Hey, there’s all these different apples. I wonder what the difference is between them or which ones are sweeter.” Did you see an opportunity and say like, “Hey, I think this could be something that I could write about”?
Eric Samuelson: So as a kid, I always liked going to go shopping with my mom. She’s going on Monday here and I enjoy walking around the store looking for new products, looking for new things. So that’s something I did as a kid always. But specifically giving apples for an example, there was a time I didn’t know about the different varieties. Like, “Oh, is this good for baking? Is this sweet? Or is this tart here?” So I wanted to learn that for myself first. So I went out and started trying different types of apples and tasting them and seeing all that. I mean, this point now… I mean, apple’s one of the big things. I’ve probably tried 300 to 400 varieties of apples.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. And-
Eric Samuelson: I’ve not written about all those of course.
Bjork Ostrom: The idea of being like, hey, it’s almost like you’re a test kitchen in a way where not testing recipes, but doing research and gathering information about different apples or grapes or when are these in season? When are these not in season? So is a lot of the search content that you’re getting then from people searching things like what’s a good apple to bake with? Or what is the sweetest apple? Phrases like that versus chocolate chip cookies recipe?
Eric Samuelson: Yes. I do get a lot of people that are looking for that kind of specific information. That they want to know what’s a good… During the fall season, my post on different types of apples for apple sauce does really well. So I get a lot of people coming in looking for what kind of apples I can use. I also get a lot of people just when I do a straight up apple review, it’s actually the most common thing in my entire blog is people coming on and saying like, “Oh, yeah, I found this apple too. I love it. I got it here.” They’ll come on and say that. It’s strange. Those sort of posts get the most comments of anything I write about. People just share and like, “Oh, I like this too. Or I hated this. You’re nuts. Why do you think this was good?” Most of the time it’s positive. Most of the time it’s positive.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. So this is you saying you’re going to try this apple and you’re going to review it. Do you have a framework for saying here’s how crisp it is, how sweet it is or is it kind of –
Eric Samuelson: Yeah, there’s a rating system. I wanted to have a rating system.
Bjork Ostrom: What’s the best apple that you’ve ever had? What’s at the top of the list?
Eric Samuelson: That’s like picking my favorite kid. I can’t do that.
Bjork Ostrom: Is there one from the rating system that came out as number one? Or is there a three way tie?
Eric Samuelson: Oh, there’s a huge tie. There’s a lot of different apples. There’s one called snow sweet that I really like. Oh, it’s called Chestnut Crab apple. It’s a really small apple developed by the University of Minnesota.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Minnesota has a very, you know this obviously, but for listeners, a very long list of really great apples that they’ve developed. Honeycrisp is always the one that comes up.
Eric Samuelson: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So if somebody sees, what was the one that you said?
Eric Samuelson: Chestnut Crab. So it’s unique. It’s a crab apple, which people think like, “I can’t eat those.” But it’s actually pretty sweet and has those kind of nutty flavor. It’s bigger than most crab apples, but it’s still small. I love the skin of apples. Some people like my mother-in-law will not eat the skin. She’ll peel the skin off of every apple. So she’ll buy the biggest apple she can so she can peel it really easily. And I’m like, “I want to have like that skin to flesh. That ratio, biting the flesh and the skin the same time.” I really like that. So that’s why…
Bjork Ostrom: It’s like, the name’s escaping me. If you’re a professional wine, you reach… Oh, what is the name for it?
Eric Samuelson: Connoisseur.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, no. Not connoisseur. Everybody who’s listening is going to be able to think of this. It is sommelier. You’re an apple sommelier. But it’s interesting. Even when I look at Chestnut Crab apple review, I see Eat Like No One Else. There it is. And it’s a best crab apple for eating. And you pull it up and here’s a post that you wrote about it and here’s the rating system. It’s got great flavor, very crisp. So it’s cool to see a different type of content and one that you found like, “Hey, this is something you’re interested in.” And there’s also a need for it. People are searching for it and probably not producing content in the same way when you think about like apple pie recipe. There might not be as many searches, but you’re able to own that in a different way as well. When you look at your… Yeah, go ahead.
Eric Samuelson: Yeah. I feel confident that if I go into a grocery store and find new variety of apple, then I’m going to write about it and I’m going to rank for it. I feel like I’m going to be 1, 2 or 3. We’ll know it’s good. It’s what happens and it’s pretty consistent. And obviously, depending on the time of year of the apples, there’s seasonality to it. So it’ll be more of a fall-winter type thing.
Bjork Ostrom: When you are doing this content and you look at your site in terms of the strategy around it, obviously there’s ads and people are coming, you get to do display ads. Do you also get a lot of people reaching out who are in the apple industry or in certain industries to do sponsored content or to work with you who have one of those apple slicers where you push it down and it automatically cuts it into multiple pieces? Do you get a lot of that or is it-
Eric Samuelson: I have gotten some, yes. I definitely gotten some. I had someone more recently, they developed a new variety of apple, which is happening all the time. Everybody’s trying to be the next Honeycrisp right now. So there’s a lot of apples. New varieties in the store that most of them are actually like Honeycrisp Cross with something else. So this is another different variety of apple. They had reached out to me about working with them. So it does happen from time to time. In terms of the budget too. I had mentioned, because I’m at a point now where I’m not doing work for free.
Eric Samuelson: And once I had mentioned the money thing, I got crickets, which happens sometimes. You kind of want to test the waters here. But more of a like, “Okay, I need to be compensated for this.” It was cool back in 2010 when a company sent me apples. Which were also another University of Minnesota variety. I’m like, “Oh, yeah. Someone sent me some apples. It’s so cool and stuff here.” But eventually it becomes your full-time job. You’re like, “It’s not cool anymore to just get this like that.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yes. Totally.
Eric Samuelson: You can send me free stuff here and a pile of cash.
Bjork Ostrom: Yep. What did that look like for you? So you were working on the blog for a while. My guess is, you had your kids, you were with your kids. Did you make a transition into saying like, “Hey, this is going to be my full-time thing, and this is when that’s going to happen”? You have a long story, a long journey being that you’ve been doing it since 2009. So could you look at it from just a season’s perspective? It was like two years of this, three years of this, what did your journey look like?
Eric Samuelson: Yeah. There was the kind of beginning time period, which were couple of years of me when I was a stay-at-home dad. Eventually my wife had lost her job. And so we had to just do anything to get a job, get an income and stuff here. And that put me to work for five years. There was that five year period in which I was trying to grow the blog and working at the same exact time.
Bjork Ostrom: And you had kids?
Eric Samuelson: Yeah. And I had kids. So it was extremely challenging too because I was working… Most of the time I was working for Whole Foods. So I was-
Bjork Ostrom: Which is good. It related.
Eric Samuelson: It was good in terms of I would learn about products, of course, being at the store. I’d be able to interact with customers and talk to them. All my coworkers were like, “Oh, just talk to him. Go talk to him.” There were some benefits. But it was very difficult in that type of environment where the time schedule would be different every single week. It couldn’t be consistent on working. So I think that kind of slowed me down for a while. So I was in that period for quite a while, had some health issues come up, which put me out of work for a bit. And eventually made it back here. But at that point I kept spinning my wheels. We’re not getting anywhere here. I know I could do this. I know I could get from point… Because I was struggling for a long time. I was getting the traffic, I had the traffic going here, but I wasn’t getting the income for it yet.
Eric Samuelson: And so just trying figure out how could I… There’s got to be a way to do this. I saw your guys’ Income Reports. I saw there was another blog, I can’t remember who she was at point now. But also was giving Income Reports and her numbers were closer to where I was at. I’m looking like, “Oh, my gosh. Her RPM that she’s getting paid for is a lot higher than mine. So what was the problem here?” So for me, a lot of stuff just took longer because I wasn’t in the community of loggers at that point very much. I was busy and stuff here. So it took me, I think, a lot longer because I was just focusing on trying to survive. Get our feet here and life here. Then eventually around, this would be 2017. So 2017 is when I kind of had a breakthrough there is when I discovered Mediavine.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Eric Samuelson: That would be easy to figure, like, “Oh, new blogger. It’s a lot easier.” Really it was I didn’t know this had existed. I’m like, “Okay, there’s this Mediavine service here. This person’s using it. I’m going to use this service to see what happens here.” And at the same time I actually had quit my job for a temp job just to get a… I needed to break. I needed to do something even though this will make a few months. I’m like, “Okay, if all else fails here, I’ll deliver groceries on Instacart.” Which I actually did for a month. But trying to figure out I need to make this change in my life because it was just not working. It was just keep pounding my head against the wall, because I couldn’t give the blog the time it needed.
Eric Samuelson: So then I did that, take a job that would be more of an 8 to 5 type of deal so I could consistently work and know I could work these hours and work on my blog when I wanted to. And not be too tired to work on it. And that’s when I also trained. It was one amazing timing. I got this job here that was going to last through the Christmas season. And then I worked and then I had applied for Mediavine got into Mediavine the last day of the training for that job. So I was already set up good. And it took a day or two to for stats to start coming in. And then I was like, “Oh, my gosh. I’m already making more money than I was.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Making more money than you were at Whole Foods?
Eric Samuelson: Whole Foods. Yeah. I was already doing that. It was a matter of I had the traffic already. I just didn’t know about it because I was so busy doing stuff that I didn’t know that, “Oh, this is that key thing I needed was…” I just did better ad service. I had ad services that just were not paying out the way they should be for what I had.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes. Right. And it was more common 2015, 2016, 2017. But there were people who had significant amounts of traffic that weren’t monetizing it with an ad network, Mediavine and Adthrive. And when they discover that, it’s within six months or a year. It’s a great problem to have because it’s such an easy fix, right?
Eric Samuelson: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: In your case, what you do is you start working with an ad network and then three days later, you’re like, “Now I’m making more than I did with my job at Whole Foods.” By essentially starting to, for lack of a better phrase, harvest the value that you had been kind of planting for seven or eight years, you had this crop. You just didn’t have the right tractor to harvest what you had grown. So at that point, what happened? 2017, that switch happens. Do you leave that temp job and say like, “great, now I’m going to do this”? Or do you finish that out?
Eric Samuelson: So the timing with Mediavine, there was a net 60-day payout. Sure. So there was time between. So I kept going where I did. A week after Christmas, that job ended. There was a one-month gap because I stopped my other advertising and they were 30 days out. So I had one month to figure out like, “Okay, I need to make enough income to get to February.” For a month, I did Instacart delivery.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. To close the gap there.
Eric Samuelson: As much as I could to just kind of cover the rent and bills taken care of. And then February hit and my first big payment was for Thanksgiving month, November month. So, it was like a big chunk.
Bjork Ostrom: What was that moment like when you had that deposit from Mediavine?
Eric Samuelson: It waws enthralling. It was so exciting. We were all so excited. I’d finally gotten to that point to be able to… My blog just paid for everything. That was one of my top moments in life for sure. We just were so excited. I worked so long for this here. And along the ways too, I had some friends here that saw me doing this and they were like, good intentions sometimes too, they were like, “Why are you still doing this here? This is not going to work. It’s not going to work.” But I knew it could. I knew. At the time, I didn’t know that I was not on the right ad network, but that was the key I was missing. I just didn’t know that. And once I had figured that out… And at that point, I know Mediavine increased their minimum level, but I was beyond the minimum level. I was four times beyond it at that point. It was a no-brainer. Let me in.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. So that was 2017 going into 2018. And then was it essentially, “Hey, I’m going to just focus on this as my full-time thing now”? What did that transition look like to focusing on your blog full time?
Eric Samuelson: It was great to not have to juggle all the balls again. That same year too, we had my fourth child, my daughter. We had her that year too. So it was nice in that era because from when the third child was born until when my fourth child was born, I worked outside the house and did stuff and then. So it was kind of like she had to be a part of daddy not being home. About me not being home for dinner three, four nights a week. And she never had to experience that. So that was really exciting. And it was like, “What’s the next step at that point?” There was a period where I was like, “Okay, I got this point now. I’ve made it to the mountain top.” It was like, “Oh, there’s still some more mountains here. You might need to go up there. It’s Mount Everest still up there. And there’s still more mountains to go too.” And still at that time period, so I do extremely well for the Q4. Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Bjork Ostrom: Because it’s apples and it’s fall food and yeah.
Eric Samuelson: I have so much content for Thanksgiving. I will write content for Thanksgiving that will only get traffic for those two, three weeks. But it’s so much traffic and so much money that I don’t care that it gets five pageviews the rest of the year. But when it gets hundreds and hundreds in a couple of days, then it’s like, “Yeah, cool.”
Bjork Ostrom: And the idea behind that, just to explain it for people, is not only a lot of people searching for food content, but Thanksgiving also lands around the… It is a national holiday for families followed by a national holiday for retail, which is Black Friday, Cyber Monday. And so companies not only are at the end of their ad budget for the year, right? So they’re getting to quarter four where they need to spend through their ad budget, but it also moves into the most important season, which is kind of that kickoff of Black Friday up to Christmas where companies are spending more than they ever do on advertising. And so in your case, not only is it smart because there’s a lot of traffic to it, but the spend against that traffic is higher. So strategic in that way.
Eric Samuelson: Yes. Yes. So the pandemic Christmas, the 2020 Christmas, I think I made 2,500 bucks on Christmas Eve.
Bjork Ostrom: Yep. And it’s not passive in the sense that you don’t have to do anything, but it is passive in the sense that you wouldn’t have to work that day and you would earn that money.
Eric Samuelson: I was not working that day. Yes. I was on the phone looking at Analytics and just enjoying it.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. And to go back to the earlier analogy, there’s years and years of work that you’ve put in to get to that point. But it’s kind of that snowball effect of you’ve done that work and it’s built up enough where it can kind of move on its own. I like to think about almost like when we start with any business, but especially publishing content online, it’s we’re doing in, I use snow analogies being in Minnesota as much as possible. You like to use snow analogies. It’s like you’re making a snowball, but you’re pushing it like up a hill, right? And so it’s like only are you going up a hill, but also it’s really small. You’re having to work really hard. But over time, not only does that snowball get bigger and it might get a little bit harder, but it’s kind of like you get to the top and it kind of maybe evens out. So you’re able to push it and it rolls a little bit.
Bjork Ostrom: But then eventually what happens is you get to the other side and you can push it. And it kind of goes on its own. It’s not necessarily maybe downhill, but it’s just a slight decline. And so you push it and it rolls a little bit. You push it and it rolls a little bit. And it feels like that’s kind of the feeling that you have at that point where you’re able to make multiple thousands of dollars in one day not having to do it, but it’s because you have this snowball that you’ve been pushing for so long. And that’s such a great feeling. So talking about snow, talking about Minnesota, here’s this transition. You’re going to be in Minnesota soon because 2020, your family ventured out and said, “You know what? We have the ability to live anywhere. We’re going to live anywhere.” Tell us what that decision was like and what it is that you’re doing right now. What does your day to day look like?
Eric Samuelson: So right, now me and my family, we live full time in our camper. So we travel the country. And this kind of started back in Dec… So back in December of 2019, while we were all very sick together, stuck in the house. We always kind of wondered, did we get COVID back then? Because it was-
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Were you like patient zero?
Eric Samuelson: On the news that there was this virus in China. So we kind of were like, did we get that then? Did we have COVID?
Bjork Ostrom: Sounds familiar.
Eric Samuelson: One of those mysteries. I don’t know. We were just totally sick with a very weird sickness. Food didn’t taste right afterward. Someone brought us some hot dogs from Aldi and they were like… they had like a pound of salt on them. It was weird. So we were thinking like, “Oh, we want to go and travel places. We want to be able to see more things.” I’ve been working so hard. We’ve been taking vacations, but I had one stretch where we went to the Smoke Mountains for four days. That was the only vacation in two years. We didn’t take the time off. I want to go travel places, so to see more stuff. So we were talking about that as we were in our fever delirium, me and my wife are wanting to do this here. We felt like, “Oh, this is going to be one of those things that’ll happen years down the road, blah, blah, blah, blah.”
Eric Samuelson: COVID hit and that kind of made it even more wanting to leave because we were told we couldn’t leave. So we’re sitting here stuck at home. Our landlord at the time, she started missing her family a lot. That kind of pandemic thing, life’s a little more fragile now. Wanted to move down to Florida. So she wanted to sell the house. And that was the third time in four years that we were renting a place and the landlord wanted to sell. So we were like, “We’re getting tired of this. These forced moves. The kids get emotionally involved in a place and then we can’t do that yet.” And at that time, I’m like, “The housing market was, I mean, it’s not bad now, but then there was nothing.” So it was like, “Hey, well, we either go rent somewhere else in the same spot or is this the time we take this jump and we go and do this?”
Eric Samuelson: And also the beginning of the pandemic was extremely good for the blog. I jumped another level in traffic from that. Now there was tons of money coming in, nowhere to go. We were saving the money not doing anything. So I was like, “Yeah, let’s buy a camper.” So we bought this popup camper to kind of start with it. It was kind of like let’s practice. We’ve never camped and something like that before. Let’s do it here. It became my home office because I was stuck at home. And we never left the driveway because we never could get it registered.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Eric Samuelson: And so by the time we actually wanted to buy-
Bjork Ostrom: Because for what reason? Why couldn’t you register it?
Eric Samuelson: They shut down. For Michigan, we don’t have the DMV, we have the Secretary of State. That’s where you get stuff done.
Bjork Ostrom: And that shut down?
Eric Samuelson: Yeah, and that shut down. So we couldn’t get it changed so we could actually go drive with it. So by the time we actually were ready to do that and were able to go to a place, we were like, “We need a camper that’s going to be not a popup camper, but one that we can actually be in, in all weather all year round.” But the nice thing is the market was so hot for those type of campers, because people wanted to go camping because we couldn’t go on an airplane. So camping was the thing. We sold the thing for twice as much we paid for it. And then the other type of campers weren’t going for as hot. So it was a thousand more dollars. We upgrade to what we’re at right now. So all those kind of parts came together. And then in September, that was the time we were going to take off and start traveling. So we have a map behind me here that proposal-
Bjork Ostrom: It’s starting to get filled in. It’s 50%. Almost more time. Yeah.
Eric Samuelson: Yeah. So we’ve been a lot of places here. And so that enabled us to travel around and being everywhere we want. We were set up pretty well in some ways too, because we already had a mobile internet hotspot because we lived at a place where the cable would not come through.
Bjork Ostrom: Oh, interesting.
Eric Samuelson: We’d have little options for cable. We had no options for cable and satellite internet was bad. So we got this hotspot thing that uses T-Mobile and we’d been using it for years. So we already had the internet thing figured out so we could have internet wherever we went. I have to go to work. I have to have internet. And campground internet is basically a flip of the coin if it’s going to work or not.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, sure. Totally.
Eric Samuelson: So, yeah. We were kind of ready to do that. And so, yeah, we made off September and been doing ever since.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. How long do you think you’ll do it?
Eric Samuelson: We’re not quite sure yet still. We had kind of a long period. So unfortunately, my father-in-law came down with ALS and he passed away back in November.
Bjork Ostrom: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Yeah.
Eric Samuelson: We lost him. That took away from a lot of our fun travel time. They’re out in Southern California. So we had to haul butt to get out there a couple times to be there for that. So we spent a lot of time out there and it’s a good thing. My blog, it was a blessing because we were out in a situation where we were able to be at my mother-in-law’s house for six weeks right after he passed to be with her. So she wasn’t have to be by herself and learn this new life without her husband. So that was a blessing to know that we were able to do with that. But since then, now we’re in the, “Okay, when are we going to stop?” We’re not quite sure yet. Last year, the housing market had looked totally bad. We were like, “We’re not even going to consider it. We want to wait longer. We’re not going to overpay for something. We don’t have to.”
Bjork Ostrom: Right.
Eric Samuelson: It’s starting to look a little bit better now. Still not great, but getting it better here. We’re still trying and deciding where we want to end up at the end too. So we’re going to do this for a little while longer too. We haven’t gone down to the Carolinas and Florida yet. So we want to do that because we were going to do that last winter. But then with her dad, we had to shift gears, so….
Bjork Ostrom: It’s cool to hear that. And I feel like one of the things that is really true with it is that the hard work that you did early on, these sacrifices you made, is coming back to repay you with some really cool things. Like being able to spend six weeks with your mother-in-law in a really important time when you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to do that. And I think one of the things I think about personally a lot is this idea of my conversations with my past and future selves.
Bjork Ostrom: And I would imagine that if you were sitting across from your past self, one of the things you would say is thank you because it’s a gift. The gift your past self has given you, it’s pretty cool to see that. And whether that be being able to travel with your family and be able to be with them in a way that is really unique or to be with your wife’s family in a season where it’s really important. That’s really cool. And also you worked really hard to get that and to get there. If you were to look back and have a conversation with yourself, what are some of the things other than thank you, what would you say? Obviously it’s stick with it. It did end up paying off. But as you think about your journey, what are some of the things that you’ve learned, I guess, is the question along the way?
Eric Samuelson: It has to be the not giving up because there was definitely moments where I had doubts and felt like, “Is this ever going to happen? I’m just spinning my wheels.” So there was a lot of doubting on that. And that led to something where I was just kind of… Down periods and felt like, “Oh, this is depressing” type thing here. So just saying that it’s going to work and to keep at it and keep going. I had this firm that I knew that it could be… Seeing what you and Lindsay have done and seeing what other bloggers have done. And then them sharing the information was so extremely helpful. It just showed that, “Hey, this can be done. It can happen here.” So just a matter of figuring that out. And of course, I would’ve told myself Mediavine would’ve existed earlier than I found out about it.
Bjork Ostrom: Apply for Mediavine sooner.
Eric Samuelson: I don’t even know what year they started actually. I would be curious to look back what year they started.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m not sure.
Eric Samuelson: Or any of the other ones.
Bjork Ostrom: How about looking forward? You had talked about these other peaks and I feel like one of the things personally that I try and think about is, how do you balance being content with being ambitious? And it sounds like you said you like mountaintop experience. You get to this point where you’ve worked hard, your blog is paying for your needs. And then you look around, I imagine your arms kind of stretched out and then you look up to the side and you’re like, “Wait, there’s more.” What does that look like for you? Do you have those additional kind of goals that you’re after and then how do you balance that with kind of being content?
Eric Samuelson: Yeah. I say it’s not easy. I mean, it’s going to do something like I’m talking with you now. I kind of remember those moments because you still eventually start… It’s easy to forget those victories. You have to kind of remember them still. Keep them in mind. Those are big things that have happened. Kind of keep those in mind. I look back in the Bible to the Israelites. And there were these monuments they put up to kind of remember what we did with this area. Don’t forget this. Remember it over again. So I think it’s one of the things that we as humans tend to forget those good experiences. So it’s good to come on a podcast like this and talk about that because I forget that sometimes.
Eric Samuelson: Right now I’m in a midst of… 2022 has been a down year compared to last year. Just the percentage-wise, it’s been down all year. Yeah. It’s not worrisome, being down. It’s just like, “Okay, now I’m not saving as much money right now than I was last year right now.” Right now I’m in the midst of trying to adjust that and try to get that back up. Yeah, there’s been other… Yeah. Thinking of like, “Yeah, I want to achieve other things with my business besides ad income.” And so I’ve been working on the other things. I’ve done sponsor content. I started doing that a few years ago. So I’ve had things here and there. Those are kind of individual mountains. When you secure a deal, it’s like, “Yes!”
Eric Samuelson: It’s more instant money. Usually, I write a blog post. And it could be months or even a year before Google is giving enough mojo for it to actually do something. And it’s the sum of all the blog posts that matters too. So it’s nice when you get one of those like, “Okay. Do that.” So I’ve been doing that. I’m trying to focus more on getting some affiliate income. Before I’ve been kind picking in multiple different programs. Now I’ve been concentrating on one particular one right now, instead of trying to do all that at once. So working on that.
Eric Samuelson: And then right now I’ve been heavily encouraged by multiple people, other the bloggers, to start my own podcast. So that’s currently in the works, so hopefully will launch that in the next couple of months here. That’ll be a grocery-focused podcast where I’m focused on giving grocery shopping tips. And mainly it’s going to be kind of a… I’m going to be basically reading my blog posts in the podcast. And kind of expanding on that with some bonus tips here. So I’m not actually recreating the wheel. I’m actually just taking what I already have that’s successful and putting it into a different format for people to consume.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. Yeah. Super smart. I think anytime that we can think about repurposing content. Some people love to listen to content. Some people love to read it. There are people who will be reading me say these words because they won’t listen to the podcast. They’ll go and they’ll read the transcript. And it’s something that I’m constantly reminded of. I am not my target market. So anytime I think like, “Oh, why would anybody read a podcast transcript?” It’s like, “Well, because people like reading more than they like listening. Or maybe they are at a job where they can read, but they can’t have headphones in or whatever it might be.” So I think that’s great.
Bjork Ostrom: If you were to look back and say, obviously perseverance is a huge part of it, would you be able to pinpoint anything along the way that was most helpful in terms of your growth? The things that have any type of… Obviously working with Mediavine, that was important. Obviously, perseverance was important. Would there be anything else you’d be able to look back on and say like, “Hey, this was a really important thing that I learned or an important step that I took along the way”?
Eric Samuelson: Yeah. I would say it was, and I kind of had a little bit of this already, but to really see it, is the idea of updating old content. The idea that updating old content is extremely as important as pushing out new stuff. Sometimes more important in some cases. So I really got that. And I think I already kind of started going along those lines here and then hearing Casey Markee come out and talk about treat your blog like it’s a garden and there can be weeds in there. Weed out the garden-
Bjork Ostrom: Yep, yep. Constantly maintaining it.
Eric Samuelson: Yeah. Yeah. I heard him say that probably… Probably he’s talking about your podcast. So doing that was like, “Okay, this is a key part of what helped me then grow to the next level.” So that first year when I was doing my blog full time, I still was being carried a lot by the holiday season. So I would get tons of money for the holidays. I’d save up some of that money to then use the rest of the year, because some other months, they weren’t as profitable. They were not as profitable, but they were a point where I was like, “I need a little extra savings to kind of get over the hump this month.” So doing that, going back and focusing on updating old content has become a huge thing. That’s a big part of my game plan.
Eric Samuelson: I think we can easily, like bloggers, think like, “Hey, hit publish and I’m done now.” But to me, that’s step one. That’s the beginning of it is you publish it. That’s the start. You should be coming back to it and reevaluate things. There’s been several things I’ve had to update over the years because there’s just a thing changing the accessibility type things where I was not putting descriptors on my image tags for my photos here. But that’s been a lot of work trying to go back and say like, “I need to have those on there because it’s the law.” To try and update those things.
Bjork Ostrom: And for those who aren’t familiar, the idea being there’s alt text. And alt text stands for alternative text. And you see that as a field within WordPress. And there’s accessibility standards much like if you have a building and it needs to be wheelchair accessible. If you have a website, it needs to be accessible to people. In the example of alt text, people who might be visually impaired in some way. And so the alt text describes the image to them. And so your point is like, “Hey, that’s something, if you weren’t doing before, you should go back and add that alt text so everybody has the ability, regardless of if they can actually see the image to understand what it is.” Yeah.
Eric Samuelson: So I was looking for things like that. You go back, you update those things. The different sizes of images that Google has wanted seems to have changed sometimes. Or maybe I thought it changed. But getting on to a stair… My images need to be this exact size. I mean, now we’re at what? 1,200 for the width and then the height doesn’t matter. So that’s been what I’ve been doing and updating for the last year plus and trying to get some of those other images adjusted so that they’re to the best thing. There’s those type of changes too that come along where it’s just like, “Okay, those different things change.”
Eric Samuelson: I was encouraged a lot by Skylar from The Feast Plugin and all his different frameworks. And so he was recommending using emojis for the categories because then you pick those up on Google search and people were like, “Oh, it gives you another little visual hit.” So I’ve been doing that and that’s helped. When you do a search now, you’re now seeing my image and you’re seeing these little emoji categories popping up that Google does well.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Idea being that Google brings in emoji at this point, and anything that you can add contextually around a search result might encourage clickthroughs. Do you have an example of a search phrase that somebody might use where those would pull up, where you’d be able to see an example of that?
Eric Samuelson: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, this is one that works out. I have a guide to beef at Costco. Beef prices. So when you type in Costco beef prices, you should get, last time I checked, the emojis were showing. So you have the little intro there, and then my categories would be kind of right underneath in that search thing. And then you can see some of the different categories. You can go like, “Oh, I’m going to jump to here.” We have a category on gross and steaks and a couple different things.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s really cool. I’ll take a screenshot here that we can use in the show notes. But what I searched was Costco beef prices, and then there’s the Costco beef link, right? And then underneath that is your blog post. And it says Costco meat prices 2022 beef. And then underneath it are the subsite links. And each one of those has a little emoji on it, which just looks great. The steak prices has a steak, whole cut and roast prices has a little meat one. Ribeye has an eye. And beef tenderloin has a cow on it. But, yeah, you can see how that adds a certain dynamic in terms of drawing somebody into that. So, great little tip for that. When you click on that post, those are additional… That’s in the jump to section of the post, is that right?
Eric Samuelson: Yes, yeah. The Advanced Jump to plugin. The insert from WordPress, the block. The block. Yeah. They used to jump down to things, which… Originally, it thinks they’re going skip the content here, but then it does bring up those things on the search where you can see those things. And I think Google recognizes if I go into trying to search for Costco roast. Now that may move me up further on that too. I think those are helpful to have. Helpful to have search-wise. It’s just adding those buttons. It doesn’t feel like, “Oh, my gosh. People are going to jump everywhere. They’re not going to look at my content. I want to make less money.” But there’s no evidence of that ever. It’s not affected me.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s helpful. It’s helpful for people to be able to get to where they want get as quickly as possible. And that’s always a win. So, yeah.
Eric Samuelson: And I think when we’re on our phone too, another thing to kind look at. So like, “Oh, there’s little icon thing here. You got an emoji thing here.” So it just helps you to kind of see something else and breaks up the content a little more.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. Eric, I feel like we could talk for a really long time. And it’s been really great to connect after all these years of trading emails back and forth. Super inspiring for me to hear your story and your hard work and where that’s gotten you. And kind of the cool things like traveling around the world with your family. What a gift to be able to do that. My last question for you, if you were to go back to yourself, maybe in one of those seasons that was a little bit more difficult. You feel like you’re kind of grinding, there’s progress, but maybe not as much as you want, what would it be that you’d tell yourself?
Eric Samuelson: Just keep going. What you’re doing is working here. And I think a lot of people now that are doing that are grinding and feel like it’s not happening. And also you can’t compare yourself to other people. I think that’s big too. You may look at someone… I’ve seen bloggers, new bloggers who come on the scene and are able to do it faster. They’re able to get to that point faster than me. And so you have to look at a way… Someone tell themselves… Because someone’s here doesn’t mean that that person’s better than you, or they’re more skilled than you. There’s different circumstances. New people now of course have things like Food Blogger Pro. They have conferences to go to. They have more of those kind of tools that a lot of us in the early days had to kind of pave the way for those things to happen. So you’re kind of a pioneer in that way. We’re traveling around out west now, and we’re seeing all these stories about the Oregon Trail and all the wrail of the California. And those things started with people pulling carriages out there.
Bjork Ostrom: And now there’s the highway.
Eric Samuelson: Yeah. They’re eventually building a transcontinental railroad where instead of taking months to get there, they’re doing it in a week. So those kind of things are-
Bjork Ostrom: It’s a great analogy.
Eric Samuelson: Those people that are doing the training thing now aren’t better than people who were pulling it. They just are now reeking the benefits of that. So it’s one thing I say not to compare yourself with somebody else because those things: different advantages or some people even financially. If you’re someone who comes from a more wealth, your family may have extra income in order to pursue something. Or there’s health problems. If you’re someone who has more health problems, either physically or mentally, that could make things harder to do. So you can’t… Really good. If you do any comparison, it’s more looking at yourself.
Eric Samuelson: Comparing, “I came from here, I’m here now.” Taking joy in that instead of looking at someone else and saying like, “Oh, I can’t…” Because at times, honestly, when I was struggling there, I look at you guys here and be like, “Oh, man.” It’d be easy to get jealous of that. And in the point of like, “Oh, I’m envious of Bjork and Lindsay for doing this here.” But then instead you take that energy instead of being jealous and you take it to like a point of like, “I know I can do this.” And be a motivator. So that’s what I would I go tell my other self. When I was having those periods of doubt and stress and trying to figure like, “Can I do this thing?” You can do this here. And even if it takes you longer to do it, it can still be done.
Bjork Ostrom: Gosh, that’s awesome. I love that. And so much good content and good things to think about wrapped up in that. And excited to watch you on your journey, not only across the us, but as you continue on with this. It’s great to see you settling into a really valuable, cool type of content that you’re creating. And it’s inspiring for me. So appreciate you coming on, Eric.
Eric Samuelson: Yeah. My pleasure.
Bjork Ostrom: Where can people follow along with you? We mentioned obviously the site, Eat Like No One Else. But is that social handles as well?
Eric Samuelson: Yeah. So Eat Like No One is the actual web address here. For some reason I left the Else out in the past because I didn’t feel like it was… It was too long almost. But on Instagram I’m @eatlikenooneelse. So I had that there. And it’s Eat Like No One on Facebook too. Instagram’s definitely the better one to kind of reach me out. So that’s the one I kind of do more with.
Bjork Ostrom: Great. Eric, thanks so much for coming on. Really great to have a chat. Yeah. Thanks.
Eric Samuelson: It was amazing.
Alexa Peduzzi: Hey, there. Alexa here from the Food Blogger Pro team. Thanks so much for tuning in to this episode of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. We hope you enjoyed it. And I wanted to let you know that we actually are going to be hosting a free event, a free workshop, all about monetization for food bloggers, prep bloggers in general. With the ConvertKit team. So ConvertKit, if you’re unfamiliar, is an email marketing platform for creators. And their team of educators ask us to come along and present on a topic that most of us want to learn more about, our team included. So, like I mentioned, it’s all about monetization and it’s about the three unique ways that we’re monetizing or experimenting with monetizing our food blog, our sister site, Pinch of Yum. So Bjork and Angel from the ConvertKit team will go on at 2:00 PM Eastern, 1:00 PM Central on the 16th, that’s this Thursday, to talk all about it.
Alexa Peduzzi: So he’s going to kind of dive in. He, meaning Bjork, is going to dive in and talk about the different ways that we’ve experimented with monetizing Pinch of Yum. And then he’ll present some takeaways that you can take for yourself and maybe put it in your back pocket for later or apply to your blog right now. So it’s going to be a great event and we would love to see some familiar faces from the Food Blogger Pro community there. So if you’re interested in registering for free for this one hour workshop, you can go to foodbloggerpro.com/money. And that will redirect you to the workshop registration page on the ConvertKit site. So we would love to see you there. Again, it’s this Thursday at 2:00 PM Eastern, 1:00 PM Central. And you can go to foodbloggerpro.com/money to get registered. Thanks again for tuning in to this episode this week. We’ll see you next time. And until then, make it a great week.