Welcome to episode 143 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork talks with Jessica and Stacie from The Real Food Dietitians about growing their blog to have over 2 million page views per month.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Andrew Wilder about the top five tech mistakes he sees on food blogs. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
2 Million Page Views in 2 Years
Jessica and Stacie’s story is impressive; not only do they operate their business from two different states, they’ve grown their audience to over two million page views per month in just two years!
They’re here today to share the story of how they started their business together and why they ended up shifting their focus. They also will chat about why connection has been such an important part of growing their business and how they’re using Facebook to cultivate that connection. You’ll love hearing about how they’ve learned to thrive as the bloggers behind The Real Food Dietitians.
In this episode, Jessica and Stacie share:
- What they did before they started their blog
- The most critical pieces of their journey
- How they connected at a conference
- How they started to work together
- How they’ve built authority on their site
- Why guest blogging works as part of their strategy
- How they made connections with other bloggers
- The most profitable aspects of their business
- How they work together in different cities
- Why they run a private Facebook group
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
Thanks to our Reviewer of the Week, Madison from Sunny Thymes! If you’d like to be featured, leave a review for us on iTunes and include your name and blog name in the review.
If you’d like to jump to the comments section, click here.
Bjork Ostrom: In this episode, I talk about knowing your peeps and then Jessica and Stacie from the Real Food Dieticians talk about how they built their blog to over two million page views, monthly page views, in less than three years. It’s going to be a great episode.
Bjork Ostrom: Hey there everybody. This is Bjork Ostrom. You’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast and we are sponsored by WP Tasty, which is a plugins site for anybody that runs a WordPress site. We have two plugins, Tasty Recipes, and another plugin called Tasty Pins that help you optimize your site for recipes, if you are a food blogger, and that’s what Tasty Recipes is for. And Pinterest, if you get a lot of traffic from Pinterest and you’d like to optimize both the alt text for your image as well as the Pinterest description and do other fancy things like include hidden images that are triggered when people pin a recipe but they don’t see on your blog post, then Tasty Pins is going to be the plugin for you. You can find all of that at wptasty.com and every episode we do a Tasty Tip that has to do with the episode or just general best practice for blogging.
Bjork Ostrom: Today, we’re going to talk about something that was mentioned on the podcast today. That was this idea of demographics. And I want to talk about demographics because there’s this really cool thing you can do with demographics that ties into sponsored content and to find the demographics, all you have to do is log in to Google Analytics, go to your site and then on the left side, there’s this area call Reports. You just click on Audience and then you click on Demographics. Then you can see there’s three options there, Overview, Age, and Gender. What I like to do is click on Overview and that should give you an overview of the demographics of the people that are visiting your site.
Bjork Ostrom: Now, that in and of itself is really cool but then what you can do is use this information to help build out your media kit. So a media kit is used for anytime that you do sponsored content, and are working with a brand or pitching to a brand, their going to want to know information about your audience. Who are these people? And you can use the demographics section in Google Analytics to get that information to then put that on your media kit. In the case of Pinch of Yum, if we’re to look at Pinch of Yum it’s a primarily female audience and we can see that the gender demographic is 17% male and 82.7% female. That’s going to be really important for any brand that is working with us because they’re going to have a certain target market that they’re looking to aim at, and if they know that information, they may be more inclined to work with us.
Bjork Ostrom: The same is true with age demographic, which you can also see with Google Analytics. So that’s a great little tip if you are building your media kit for doing sponsored content. Be sure to check out the demographics area and use that to inform some of the communication that you’re doing with those brands or the sponsorship opportunities that you have.
Bjork Ostrom: Now we’re gonna’ jump into the good stuff. We’re gonna’ talk to Jessica and Stacie from the Real Food Dieticians. They’re gonna’ talk about how they started their site, the advice they have for anybody that’s looking to enter into a partnership, and then some of the things that helped them grow the site to the point where at the beginning of the year, they had two million page views in one month. And they did that with launching the site in a relatively short amount of time. They launched back in November of 2015, so they’ve grown the site, they’re having a lot of success, and they wanna’ share that with you which they’re gonna’ do on the podcast today. It’s gonna’ be a great interview so let’s go ahead and jump in.
Bjork Ostrom: All right. I am so excited to have two incredible guests on the Food Blogger Pro podcast. It’s always interesting with two guests because we’re doing an audio interview so I can’t look at you and know that I’m speaking to you, so I’ll try and point out who I’m talking to by saying names. First of all, Jessica, welcome to the podcast.
Jessica Beacom: Thanks, Bjork.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and Stacie, welcome to you as well.
Stacie Hassing: Thank you.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. We’re gonna’ be talking about how you built your blog and in a relatively quick amount of time built it up to a sustainable and impressive amount of page views. And the blog, The Real Food Dieticians, at therealfoodrds.com. It is a really incredible blog, but before we do that I wanna’ hear a little bit about each one of your stories. We’ll take it individually and then we’ll come to that meeting point where you became partners and started working together, and from there we’ll launch into talking about the blog.
Bjork Ostrom: So Jessica, would love to hear from you first. Before you were working on The Real Food Dieticians, what was it that you were doing? And would love to hear you bring it up to the point where you met Stacie.
Jessica Beacom: Okay, I was actually a part-time stay at home mom and was dabbling in a private practice as a registered dietician. I had just built a new website and was just getting into blogging but could never really find my groove and I never felt really compelled to share anything, and so that was kind of stagnant for me as far as the blog and the website, but I was seeing quite a few people face to face, and I got to the point where I could only exchange so many hours of my day for dollars, and so I figured I needed to find a way that I could make my business, like scale it online realm. I did that for about three years. I kind of struggled with that and then it led to where I met Stacie, actually.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. I want to dig into that a little bit. What it sounds like is you had maybe what we would consider a portfolio website where it wasn’t necessarily the thing that people were coming to and where business was being done, but it was kind of like, “Hey, this is proof that I’m good at what I do, that I have other clients, and dabbling in the blog side of things a little bit, but the primary business interaction was offline, so to speak. It was working with clients. So what was it about that process? Was it strictly trading time for dollars, or did you get burnt out on the process of working one on one with clients? What was it that flipped the switch for you into starting to think about, ”Hey, what would it look like to have something more scalable where I don’t have to trade my time for dollars?”
Jessica Beacom: I was working primarily in a practice that focused on digestive disorders and diseases, so a lot of the people who came to me were extremely sick and their healthcare providers had really given up on them. It was exhausting at the end of the day; I would take on everybody’s emotional and mental burdens. It was really hard and I really wanted to go back to operating more in the general wellness space and just talking about more general things that weren’t quite so heavy and didn’t require so much research and so much lab work and interpreting labs and things like that. Especially having really young kids at the time. They were three and six so they weren’t even really in school full time yet. I just wanted something that was quote unquote “lighter”, and then I could reach more people.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and probably lighter from multiple different avenues where it’s lighter in terms of the actual heaviness of the work that you’re doing, and 100% absolutely that work needs to get done and what a incredible thing it is for the people that are able to do that. Given life situation there might be times when it’s just not a good fit, and it sounds like for you, you realized, “Hey, this is important work, this is significant work that I’m doing, and also at this point in my life, in regards to the time that I have, the time I want to spend with my family, and maybe a little bit from a business perspective as well, building something that’s scalable” that will continue to work even when you’re not working. All of those things together led you to kind of think about, “Hey, what is the next step, is there something else I can create?” When you got to that point, did you have different ideas of what that could be or were you just really open to whatever could possibly check those boxes that you would need to get checked?
Jessica Beacom: Honestly, I didn’t even know how to scale that business to more online or to a broader audience. I was still thinking really small at the time and it was kind of like, well maybe I’ll offer a group class online and charge for it. Or maybe I’ll write an ebook and charge for it. But then again, I didn’t really have any traffic to that website, so up to the point where I met Stacie, I was really just stabbing away at things in the dark, and really just grasping for something. But I knew at the time I needed to get out of seeing clients. Because I had kind a unique position … not I guess unique, but I’m a sandwich generation. I have an older parent, a mother-in-law who lives with us who needs more care. And at the same time I had these really young kids who needed more care. There was definitely impetus to get out of what I was doing, but I didn’t know where to go.
Bjork Ostrom: Absolutely. And that will be a good foreshadow, but before we jump over into launching The Real Food Dieticians, Stacie, I would love to hear a little bit about your story. So before the site, what was it that you were doing and you can take us up to the point where you met Jessica?
Stacie Hassing: Sure. I was a full time dietician, a full time clinical dietician and dietary manager at the local health care system. I probably worked there I think for about four years before I started kind of dabbling into this online world. And the way it started was through … I decided one day I was gonna’ start a Facebook page where I could share different nutrition tips, the recipes, and things like that. So that evolved into me teaching cooking classes out of my home, it evolved into me getting attention from people that aren’t necessarily in my local area, people were reaching out to me to help guide them through meal planning, nutrition counseling, so I started to then think about, “Well, I could grow a private practice, and I could see patients or clients all over the nation and help them out. That led me to this conference where Jess and I met, which is where … we went there to kind of learn about how to grow our online business.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. And excited to jump into that and talk a little bit about that. Stacie, I have a couple questions about your story, personally. One of the things that’s interesting when you kind of look back at your story is you kind of stair-stepped along the way. You mentioned couple different things that you personally had done. You started a Facebook group, you’re starting to do some individual cooking classes, and then also mentioned kind of dabbling with a blog. Curious to know, as you went through that process, what were the things that you learned along the way that helped you build and grow, because so often those early stages are a learning period and I’m guessing that you took some of those things that you learned from that period of you just personally working on your site and your brand and applied them to what you’re doing with The Real Food Dieticians, so what were the things that you learned in those early stages?
Stacie Hassing: One of the biggest things I learned was the importance of building the community, building your community. Whether it was teaching cooking classes, or at that time my Facebook page was very small, I knew it was all mostly local people that I knew, so it was really reaching out to those people, and I think it just made it feel more real because I knew I had a personal connection with those people, and also that it came from a place of passion. At this time, I didn’t really have an intention to create this blog as my full time business, or this online teaching classes and growing a Facebook page. It was purely out of passion that I was sharing this information with people.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. And that’s actually one of the questions that I’m gonna’ ask for you together, knowing that you have a private Facebook community, I’m gonna’ ask some questions about that. Before we get there, let’s go back to this conference. You each went. At this point, Jessica, you didn’t know each other, right? So can you talk about what the conference was and why you personally, Jessica, decided to go to that?
Jessica Beacom: Yeah, I had done B-School through Marie Forleo.
Bjork Ostrom: And for those that aren’t familiar, can you talk about what that is?
Jessica Beacom: Yeah, B-School is an online … I believe it’s six weeks … online business program, it walks you through setting up an online business, essentially, from getting the email to building a website to creating an email list, an opt-in. I had gone through it very loosely, and when I signed up I signed up through one of her affiliates who was Natalie Lussier, and she was putting on a conference. I can’t even remember the name now.
Bjork Ostrom: And this was the same conference that you attended, Stacie, is that right?
Stacie Hassing: Yeah, correct. Stacie, what was it called?
Bjork Ostrom: What was the name of the conference?
Stacie Hassing: Something Live.
Bjork Ostrom: There’s one important thing that came from it and that is your connection from it.
Jessica Beacom: Yeah, I’m sorry Natalie Lussier, but I can’t remember what it was called. Oh it was called Off the Charts Live.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay.
Stacie Hassing: Off the Charts, yes.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. So you had each attended this. Stacie, did you go through B-School as well? Is that how you were able to get the ticket to this event?
Stacie Hassing: I did not. I was invited to go with a friend who was planning on going to the conference.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. Yeah, and so Jessica, I wanna go back to the B-School side. I know a couple people that have gone through that and familiar from a distance with Marie Forleo.
Jessica Beacom: Forleo.
Bjork Ostrom: Forleo, thank you. What was your biggest takeaway from B-School.
Jessica Beacom: I think from B-School, my biggest takeaway was that I was really naive as to what online business was. I wasn’t aware that I could actually provide services online to clients, and that was … like I said, it was stabbing in the dark. Do I write an ebook, do I host a group class? So that opened my eyes to all of these other opportunities. I already had the website built but I knew nothing about creating an email list or an opt-in, or how to use social media. I think those were my biggest takeaways, were just very basic things. Get an email list, get on social media.
Bjork Ostrom: And yet so important. It’s similar to fitness and nutrition. We know it’s good to eat vegetables and we know that it’s good to exercise and yet it’s not always easy to do even though the information is simple. And sometimes it’s helpful to have that outline and those guidelines to say, “Okay, this is what it is and how it looks and this is how you implement it.”
Bjork Ostrom: So you’re both at this conference and, Stacie, I wanna’ hear about the moment where you connected. And was it a partnership love at first sight where you say, “We need to do business together, we know it’s gonna’ happen.” Or did it take awhile for that to develop?
Stacie Hassing: Well actually, we met at the conference. I remember Jess giving me a goodie bag full of healthy snacks, so she knew. Jessie must have known that there was going to be other dieticians there.
Jessica Beacom: Yeah, I connected with another dietician and I found out that there was gonna’ be a group, so I brought them all a bunch of locally made Colorado products.
Bjork Ostrom: Oh cool.
Stacie Hassing: Yeah, so that’s the first encounter we had, and then, at this conference I think there was maybe four or five of us dieticians, and so we went out to lunch every day. And then that’s where Jess and I even connected further, and from there we decided … I guess it wasn’t really right after the conference, but about three to four months later, I reached out to her and I just said, “Hey.” I just kinda checking in to see how her business was going, what she was applying from the conference. I asked her about, let’s get on the phone, let’s kind of see where each other’s at, how can we help each other out. And from there we kind of started, well we did, start talking about how we could collaborate.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and Stacie, talk about those early conversations, because I think a lot of people have that idea or think about that potential of working with somebody, but it’s rare for that to actually happen, and then even more rare for, a few years down the line, to still be working together and be having success with the site. So what did those early conversations look like and what do you feel like are the things that you did that are helpful to set the partnership up for success?
Stacie Hassing: Sure. Early on, our conversations were very much so out of support and out of how can we help each other out, what’s working for you … We were both at this time, trying to grow our online practice and also grow our email list. Through that, we’re like well how can we work together to grow our email list? So we decided that let’s create an ebook together and we will use that as our opt in. It started off very small. This wasn’t going to be a long term thing at first. I don’t even know at that point if we were thinking about long term partnership, it was more so let’s work together on this project and let’s build our email list.
Stacie Hassing: From there that project actually ended up being several projects, and that led into the start of our business together.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. And I think that is a huge takeaway, whether that be with partnerships or contractors or employees or whatever it would be to build in ways to connect and work together to test the water a little bit.
Stacie Hassing: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s the idea of like dating before you get married, and I think sometimes people are so anxious to have a new team member or to have a partner that they’re just like let’s just get married. And what you don’t realize is that you need that kind of quote unquote dating period to understand the person better to see if you work well together. And doing those small projects is such a great way to do that, so big takeaway for people that are listening that are thinking about partnering with somebody whether that be in an official business capacity or even just for projects as hiring somebody to work with them on a project basis to start, to get a feel for how it is to work together.
Bjork Ostrom: At what point did you say, “Okay, let’s go ahead and go all in on this blog? Jessica, do you remember when you had that conversation and how that unfolded?
Jessica Beacom: I do. We actually didn’t start with a blog. We had an idea … Actually Stacie had been working on an idea for an online meal plan membership program where each week members would receive a meal plan with a grocery list and the recipes, and she asked if I wanted to buy into that project. So I did. We hired someone to develop a website. It was very rudimentary and very crude and built on OptimizePress. And I felt like we were kind of teaching the web developer as we went what we needed, and he was like researching it. We wrote, not really blog content, we wrote a bunch of recipes, we preloaded this blog in anticipation of launching it the first of August in two thousand…
Stacie Hassing: 15.
Jessica Beacom: 15, yeah. It feels like forever ago. So we launched it on August 1st, 2015, to, I don’t know, an audience of maybe a couple thousand. We had a few signups and we really were using the blog as a way of putting out an easy recipe and say, “Hey, if you like this, we have a meal plan membership.” The way we were delivering the email was behind a membership, kind of like a membership program. You needed to log in and then you would download your .pdf, and it was really really clunky. We would have to send everybody an email and have to say, “Hey, you can download them. You can get them here.”
Jessica Beacom: That went on for three months and we thought we were gonna’ like poke out our eyes, because it was so soul sucking. It was so much work. We didn’t have any recipes created, like we couldn’t just pull from this bank of a thousand recipes. We actually had a phone call on a Saturday morning. I remember I was sitting in my office, and I think Stacie called me and she was in tears, and she was like, “I can’t do this.”
Jessica Beacom: Then I started crying, “I can’t either.”
Bjork Ostrom: And what it specifically about it that was so difficult? Because I think there’s a huge learning experience in … It’s such a valuable thing, and I think that’s one of the things on the podcast that we try and talk about a lot is that even in not doing something or building something, there is immense value in jumping in, doing it, and attempting it, because you learn from that. So Jessica, what do you feel like were the things that you took away from that experience of trying to build that business that informed the future decisions that you made?
Jessica Beacom: Well, we definitely knew that we were filling a need. From working with clients for so many years, we knew that a big need was people need meals planned for them. They want grocery lists. They wanna’ figure out how to make these delicious things but make them easy so they fit in their life. So we knew we were filling a need. We just weren’t doing it the right way. And we knew we didn’t have the tech ability to create a website where they could select for entrees that don’t include eggs or something like that.
Jessica Beacom: We just felt like we were never gonna’ be able to truly fill the need because we lacked that ability, that resource.
Bjork Ostrom: And how did you know that what you were doing was helpful? What was the problem there that needed to be solved? What were the things that helped you understand that?
Jessica Beacom: I think that, for both Stacie and I, just being in practice, we knew that that’s what clients would come to us for. “Can you just plan my meals for the week and give me a grocery list?” And that was the one thing we kept hearing over and over and over again. So of course having recipes on the website was a way we could say, “Okay, rather than coming to me for me to sit here and write them out for you, you can get them on the website.” And then that would essentially free up our time to be able to see other clients. So that was kind of how we were thinking. We would automate half the business but then still be working live in the other half of the business, our own personal businesses.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. So Stacie, you put this call in. On a Saturday morning you have this conversation. Do you remember, what month was that? You said it was 2015, so about when did that happen?
Stacie Hassing: October, I think, ’cause we launched the blog in November. Yeah, so it was October.
Jessica Beacom: It was like the end of October.
Stacie Hassing: It was actually the middle of October because I got on a plane a few days later to come to your house. And then we spent the weekend building the blog.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. And so how do you know when you should fold something, and how to you know when to continue building something? What were the things, Stacie, that you talked about and the decision process? What did that look like that led you both to the place where you felt comfortable say, “We are done with this”? Or was it just that, like you said, Jessica, it was poking your eyes out? But were there specific things that you said, “This leads me to believe we should fold this business and start something new?”
Jessica Beacom: Yeah, so for us, yes. The poking our eyes out was definitely a sign that we should maybe reconsider. We weren’t excited about it. We weren’t excited to create these meal plans and create these recipes, that we had enough to put on the next month’s meal plan. It was a lot of work and we were feeling burnt out, it was very early on in starting our business together, and so if we didn’t enjoy it, then why would we create a business that’s not fueling us personally?
Jessica Beacom: That’s when we decided, and the whole blogging thing came because we were sharing recipes on this membership site that were free to anyone. And that’s why people were coming to that site, for those recipes. Not to sign up for this membership program.
Jessica Beacom: Through that, that’s when we were like, “Well, blogging … We’ve talked about blogging.” And I’m like, “Well, let’s do that. That sounds fun.”
Bjork Ostrom: And so in October, you wind down the other business, and in November you spin up a new business, and this is a blog. So Jessica, tell me a bit about how you came to agree on the niche you would serve and any advice for people that are looking to figure out a niche, how they can help figure out where the best spot for them would be.
Jessica Beacom: We actually started the blog under the name Simply Nourished Recipes, and that was a spin-off from the opt-in that Stacie talked about that actually turned into three 96 page books that we self-published. So really, in those books, we talked a lot about clean eating, sourcing local, organic when possible, and gluten free. And we had really good response from those books. We sold a fair number to our small email list, and so we kind of just started there.
Jessica Beacom: From there, in 2015, the Paleo diet was really hot, and Stacie had gone to a mastermind with someone who was really connected in the Paleo community. So we started to kind of focus on … well let’s focus some efforts there. Let’s put out some Paleo recipes and see what kind of responses we would get.
Jessica Beacom: Just based on, it was more like an instinct I think, or a gut intuition where we would focus than just choosing. I think it chose us.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. A couple things I would point out that I think is good with the branding of it … therealfooddieticiansrds for the domain name. There’s a real specific explanation of what it is – real food – but not specific enough to pinpoint you to a certain diet, which I think is really nice. So you can do Whole30, you can do Paleo, so it’s this nice balance. And then there’s credibility in the fact that you’re saying your dieticians. So it’s this great combination of flexibility and also some credibility with the fact that you are both dieticians which is a huge advantage with you and with the content that you are creating.
Bjork Ostrom: So you go ahead and you launch this site, and in the email that you had sent, and this is great ’cause we get a lot of email pitches for podcasts, but it was a great little credibility piece, you said, “In one year, we grew from non-existent to over 200,000 views, and then in two years, we hit 1,000,000 views in one month, and then today, this was earlier, kind of in January period where there’s a lot of traffic which you acknowledged, but said, ”We’re sitting just under 2,000,000 views for the past 30 days.” Massive incredible growth over a relatively short amount of time, right? Especially for a content based business. November 2015 until early 2018.
Bjork Ostrom: And I would love to spend some time talking about what the things were that you did that helped you guys grow, because a lot of people are interested in growing their traffic and you guys did that. So Stacie, when you think back to the past two and a half, three years, what are the things that were most significant in terms of getting traction with building traffic and readership to the blog?
Stacie Hassing: Sure. So we really put ourselves out there in the beginning. We had a lot of guest blogging opportunities. We reached out to bloggers that inspired us like, “Hey, we love what you’re doing. Would you be open to having us guest blog on your site?” We really connected with a lot of … not even bigger bloggers, just people that we really look up to, and offered to guest blog or we would … Jess was speaking on a website called Paleo Hacks, so we did a lot of guest blogging there too. So the growth, I mean again, we’re not getting paid for. It was all, in the very beginning, a lot of our time.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, it’s … Yup. It’s 100% sweat equity, which so often, in the early stages of building a blog you have to put that in. Can you talk about, specifically, what the strategy looked like for guest posting, and how you went about doing that? Jessica, maybe if you can talk about that was like? It sounds like you guest-posted on a site a couple different times? And then also talk about, after you talk about the process, why was that valuable? What did you get from that?
Jessica Beacom: Yeah, so when we were guest posting a lot, I mean it’s safe to say that we had two blogs to do for our websites, we had to do for somebody else. And so we really were doing double the work for a good period of time. And when we would have a guest post, we’d always make sure that we were somehow linking back to a recipe that was really similar that was on our site. So it was really like, “Hey, if you loved this, come check us out because you’re also gonna’ like this.” And so we always made sure that there was a way that we could somehow get them back to us. So that was really our strategy, I guess. How do we woo them and then impress them in the living room so they come check out the bedroom.
Bjork Ostrom: For sure, we can use the dating analogy further. So one of the things that I think is also important to point out is, with guest posting, not only are you getting the actual conversion from people clicking on that link, but it’s also such a huge SEO boost. For those that’ve listened to the SEO podcast that we do, one of the most important things that you can do to build your authority as a site is to get credible links back to your site. And if you’re doing that via guest posting, it’s a lot of work like you said, and definitely time and energy goes into it, but it’s a great way to be able to build that link profile, especially in the early stages as you’re just getting started.
Bjork Ostrom: At what point, Jessica, do you step back and say, “Okay, now we are no longer going to guest post?” How did you make that decision to start focusing only on your own content?
Jessica Beacom: I don’t remember exactly when that was.
Stacie Hassing: And I would say that we do still guest blo … I mean we’re still doing that.
Jessica Beacom: Oh yeah, definitely.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. So it’s still part of your strategy which I think is great. And I think, for those that have the time and ability to do that, I think 100% encourage people to do that because it’s a great way like we said, to not only build awareness of who you are and build your brand, but also to get links back to your site. Maybe a followup question would be, for those that are overwhelmed, and you can talk about this, Stacie, with the amount of content they have to create, even two posts a week takes a lot of time. Especially with a recipe post. You’re doing photos, recipe development, drafting the content, all the social. How do you also fit in time to guest post? Are there ways that you can do that more efficiently, or is it just like hey, it’s gonna’ take a lot of time and you gotta’ accept that?
Stacie Hassing: Exactly, It’s gonna take a lot of time and you have to accept it. Growing a blog, especially if you’re on the fast-paced track like Jess and I, you really just have to be willing to grind and put in the time. And there’s gonna’ be days that you’re like, “I can’t do this anymore.” And those are the days you just need to take a day off. We’ve just put in a lot of time and we’re continuing to do that. We’ve been able to slow down a little bit, but we’re still grinding away.
Bjork Ostrom: For sure. One of the things that you had mentioned as we were chatting before the podcast and via email was attending a Pinch of Yum workshop, which is so cool. I’m sitting in one of the rooms at the studio at the same place where you do the workshops. It seems like, Jessica, you mentioned B-School as well, it seems like you have been intentional, not only in working hard, but also in educating yourself as to best practices within the industry, which is a lot easier said than done. And it’s hard to do that when you already have all of these things that you’re trying to accomplish and take action on.
Bjork Ostrom: So what do you feel like were the biggest pieces that you learned? And I’d be interested to hear this from each of you both, Jessica and Stacie, the most important things that you’ve learned along the way and the places where you continue to look for that information, and that could be anything and anywhere. It could be podcasts, it could be books, it could be courses. Would love to hear what’s been most helpful in terms of actionable items that’s allowed you to grow your site. And we can start with you, Jessica.
Jessica Beacom: Yeah, I think for me, it’s really been being a member of Food Blogger Pro. It’s really been like my ace in the hole.
Bjork Ostrom: And this isn’t me … You don’t have to say Food Blogger Pro. This isn’t me searching for something.
Jessica Beacom: No. I know. No, no, I know.
Bjork Ostrom: But I appreciate that.
Jessica Beacom: Well, Food Blogger Pro is where I became such a Bjork super fan.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, well I appreciate that.
Jessica Beacom: I’m like, “Did you hear his podcast?” So yeah, I do listen to the podcast. I always appreciate the way you interview and how you get so much information out of people in such a short amount of time. But I also like the fact that I can go into Food Blogger Pro and I can … Do I have a question about photography, about video, about SEO? And in our business relationship, I tend to be more on the techie side and Stacie’s more on the business negotiation side, and then we both kinda fall in the middle with the recipe creation. So whenever we have questions…we built our first website by ourselves. We just got the domain and we got a WordPress and stuff. And so I was in there a lot, like, “How do I do this or how did they do that or what’s the best plugin?” And I still go in a lot for SEO things, like how can we further optimize video in there a lot. So really that’s like my go to resource. And I feel like I’m so busy I don’t have time to step outside of what I know, because what I know is working really well.
Bjork Ostrom: Yup. Got it. You had mentioned B-School as well. Is that something you’d recommend people check out or check out Marie’s content, is that something that’s been helpful?
Jessica Beacom: Yeah, I think so. I thought it was great. It was exactly what I needed because I didn’t really understand online business, and I think if somebody doesn’t really understand, like “how do I create a business in online space”, or “what could it look like”, or “who do I serve”, or “how do I serve?” I think it would be super helpful.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, cool. And then Stacie, how ’bout you? What are the things that you, along the way have found to be most helpful in terms of informing decisions that you’re making and also kind of giving you actionable items? And we will opt out of any Food Blogger Pro-related stuff if possible, to get some variety for places that people can check out.
Stacie Hassing: Yeah, so for me I think it’s connecting with other bloggers. Connecting with those who are kind of going through some of the same experiences you are. There’s a handful of bloggers that started around when we did or maybe a little before, but we’ve been able to really connect with them, network with them. What’s working well for you? And really just more of a collaboration. That’s been extremely helpful to learn from the other bloggers.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that is such a big takeaway, especially with such a siloed type of work, where you’re not in a big office culture, where there’s people that you’re talking to and people you can relate to, and if you have a bad day, people that get it. And you can connect with those people to share that, because inevitably, everybody that’s listening to this podcast has felt similar things whether that be discouraged or lonely or feeling like it’s just not worth it and they wanna’ give up. We all feel that at some point, but the hard thing is when we don’t have somebody to connect with and share those feelings with. How did you go about making those connections? Did you pull a Jessica and bring little dietician gift bags to the people? Did you reach out to them online? What was it that you did you allow you to authentically connect with other people and then maintain those relationships?
Stacie Hassing: Sure. One of the bloggers I’m speaking of is a good friend of mine who we started around the same time. She’s Nourish, Move, Love Lindsey from Minneapolis. Her and I have been on this journey since the very beginning. She started just around the same time we did. A couple of others was just through online connections, whether it was through Instagram, maybe met them at a conference we went to, but various kind of similar blog content, too, so similar types of recipes. That was mostly through an Instagram connection, and it’s just sending them a message and saying, “Hey, I like what you’re doing. I’d love to discuss or talk blogging with you or whatever.” So it’s just being comfortable with making those connections and sending that message to someone who you feel that you could help or they could help you, and vice versa.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great, and I think a big encouragement for people that are feeling alone to say, “Hey, take that step, reach out, send a message. You might not get a reply, which is totally normal, but don’t let that discourage you as you’re looking to connect with people.”
Bjork Ostrom: Specifically with the business, it’s at this point where we’re entering into 2018, it’s an established business, right? So you guys have built something that’s really impressive. Stacie, would be interested to hear you talk about, from the business side of things, where have you found the most traction? You don’t have to share numbers, but in terms of percentages, what’s been most successful? Is it working with sponsored partnerships? Is it advertising? Is it courses or content that you’re selling? How have you gone about structuring the blog as a business in order to create an income from it?
Stacie Hassing: Ad revenue is going to be a number one source of income. With the ad revenue, it’s traffic. And our blog, that’s kind of our focus is our traffic and getting our numbers up because that’s definitely plays a huge part in our income. And then after that would be the sponsored content and any projects that we do for companies, so maybe for contract work. And then the next one would be affiliates. So those are really our four main streams of revenue. So starting with the ad revenue, and then sponsored content, and then affiliates.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay cool. And then for sponsored content, are you working with brands individually or are you working with a agency or how do you get those connections and meet those brands that you’re working with for sponsored content?
Stacie Hassing: Sure. It’s a little bit of both. Sometimes it’s directly with the company and it might be a company we reached out to, or they reached out to us. Sometimes it’s through their agencies. But then recently, we brought on a brand manager. So he’s been a huge help in what we do, and so now he’s kind of the one reaching out to brands and having the conversations, doing the negotiating, and then we’re obviously a part of it, but not as much as we were before.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. It’s so helpful to have somebody like that on your team.
Stacie Hassing: It is so helpful, yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about how you came across this person? Was this somebody that does this as their job specifically? A connection that you had from another blog? You don’t have to share information obviously, you don’t want this person to be inundated. But for somebody that’s looking to connect with a brand manager, have somebody help, what would your advice be for them?
Stacie Hassing: Our brand manager is in a similar … He works for more … What would you say, Jess, like outdoorsy type companies?
Jessica Beacom: Yeah, he actually works in the outdoor retail industry.
Stacie Hassing: So he has experience in the whole brand connection, so connecting influencers with brands. And through conversation with a friend, this was around the time we were thinking about hiring a brand manager, I was just talking to a friend about this. And then a couple days later, she sent me a text and was like, “Hey, tell me more about this position.” And at that time we didn’t really have the details all laid out, so I just said, “Well, this is what we’re thinking.” And then I asked, “Do you have someone in mind?”
Stacie Hassing: And she’s like, “Well, yeah, my husband.” And we’re like, “Okay.” Honestly it’s just, if you wanna’ like add someone to your team, or you’re thinking of doing something different with the business, just talking about it, because usually it’s just one of those things. Put it out in the world and it will come back.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s such a important thing where, I think sometimes we think these things that we’re doing, whether it’s creating a product or looking for a new team member, they bounce around in our head and they feel so loud, but what you don’t realize is nobody has else any clue that that stuff is bouncing around in your head, and you need to let people know. And people love to help. Like if I go back and tell my parents and my family and my friends, we’re looking to hire a video specialist, right? So that’s what we’re doing right now, Alana, our video specialist is moving to South America, and so we’re like, “Okay, we’re looking for a video specialist.” But nobody knows that unless we say that. It’s such a simple but important takeaway. I think that’s great.
Bjork Ostrom: One of the questions that I wanted to ask specifically to you, Jessica, was … You had talked about kind of leaning to the tech side of things. So can you talk about what tools have been most important to you as you’ve built your blog? And this would be software, it could be apps. And knowing that, you’re in a unique situation where you’re in two different states, so Jessica in Colorado and Stacie in Minnesota, go Twins. But you’re in these different places working together, so what are the tools that’ve helped you with that? And just in general, tools that’ve helped build your blog?
Jessica Beacom: I would have to say Google Analytics is really my go to. I don’t know how to really use it. I wouldn’t say that I’m a super user, but just getting the information like what were our most popular posts, and where is the traffic coming from has been really helpful for targeting where we’re gonna’ spend time as far as social media goes. I’m not a super user like I said, but I do a lot with Google Analytics just seeing how does things perform, and-
Bjork Ostrom: To dive in on that, ’cause I think usually, myself included a lot of the times, what we use Google Analytics for is we jump in and we say, “Hey, great! Page views.” And then we leave. So if somebody’s looking to go from the very very basic of just looking at how much traffic they’re getting, to maybe going one step further and using it a little bit more strategically, would you have one or two pieces of advice of where people can look in Google Analytics to get a bit of a better idea of maybe what a popular post would be, or where traffic is coming from, doing a little bit more investigative work in Google Analytics. What would that look like?
Jessica Beacom: Yeah, I spend a lot of time in the acquisition tab, just finding out where the traffic is coming from. And then sometimes I’ll go in demographics too, and see where a lot of our readership is in the U.S., because that helps us know that if we have a lot of people in the Midwest, we’re gonna’ be posting on Instagram at a time that’s gonna’ be … you know, not at dinner time in Minnesota. So we definitely focus on that kinda stuff. And I know that Instagram has insights like that, but I don’t feel like they’re as reliable as … because what happens on Instagram doesn’t always happen on your blog. That’s another way I use Google Analytics is we’ll post something on Instagram, we’ll see how many people are coming from Instagram to a post. Was it an effective post?
Bjork Ostrom: And just to say real quick, so the acquisition tab … great area. I don’t know if it’s, what do you call it, tab, area, section, whatever it is in Google Analytics… but literally how traffic is acquired, and there’s all that cool stuff that you’d mentioned that you’re able to check out and spend some time in. If nothing else, a takeaway for people listing to this is, hey, jump in an explore the acquisition tab a little bit. You don’t even need to have an actionable item the first time you look at it, but just go in there and look a little bit and explore the acquisition area. I think that’s great.
Jessica Beacom: Yup. And then I used to look at bounce rate a lot. But then I realized that, because most of our traffic comes from Pinterest, people are really coming in then they’re leaving quickly and so I feel like our bounce rate is a little skewed by the fact that it’s mostly from Pinterest. Now I look at pages per session, and the amount of time per session, and finding out like how long are they staying. And I know there are tools like Hotjar that I’ve kind of thought about using to see like where are they going and how are they navigating within the site, but just haven’t gotten there. But I think that’s really helpful to know that okay, the average person is coming and they’re staying for four minutes, and they’re seeing seven pages. And then we can kind of compare that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yup. That’s great. So how ’bout from the partnership from a distance standpoint? So to use the dating analogy one more time, and I promise this is the last time we’ll use it, but it’s like long distance relationship, right? So it’s like you’re involved day to day, checking in, working on different things, but you’re in different places. So how do you go about managing that? Is it a lot of phone calls, email, what are the different ways that you’ve found have worked well for you two to work together? And Stacie, I’ll let you answer that one.
Stacie Hassing: Sure. So Jess and I, we probably have a phone call every day. We check in, usually in the morning, “Okay, what’s on your agenda today? This is what I’m planning on doing.” Kind of really hit those top priority items. And then we do a lot of work on the Google doc. That’s where we’re sharing our content back and forth. It’s nice ’cause we can both be working at the same time on a project, we can see what each other’s doing. So we organize pretty much our entire business in Google Docs. We always joke that our-
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, Google Docs is amazing.
Stacie Hassing: We always say our business is built off of Verizon and Google Docs.
Bjork Ostrom: Which is so cool. I could geek out on that for a long time, just the Internet … One of the things, I remember I was in college when Google Docs released the feature where you can type and then see what the other person is typing at the same time, and it’s just mind-blowing. And then it quickly becomes normal, right? But a really cool feature, especially if you’re collaborating on a document.
Bjork Ostrom: So we’re coming to the end here, but there’s a couple more things that I wanted to hit. One of the things I had talked about and wanted to hear you share just a little bit about. It’s this idea of having a private Facebook community. And when we were first talking, Stacie, you had mentioned the importance of community and notice that to be a theme that carries over with your site right now, where you have a private Facebook community. Can you talk a little bit about that, Stacie, why you decided to create that Facebook community? And why a private group over an open Facebook page?
Stacie Hassing: Yes, so we do have both. We have our Facebook page and then we have our Facebook group. And in the group, we share more of our real life, day to day things, whether it’s “This is what I’m eating for lunch”, or “This is what I meal prepped.” And it really is a way for us to really connect with the people that are reading our blog or following us on social media. And it allows them to have a safe place, or feel like they have a safe place to ask questions. It’s just to build that community which is so important with an online business, because sometimes we lose that.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting, it’s such a small difference, but it’s such a big difference, right? The difference between a group and a page where a group feels a little bit more like a really big community, whereas a page fees like maybe a really big concert, where people are showing up and they’re just watching as opposed to engaging on the same level. I’ve seen a lot of brands switch over and start to use groups versus a page just for that reason, they can engage at a different level.
Bjork Ostrom: So we’re coming to the end here, of the interview, and we’d love to hear each of you share just a little snippet of what you encouragement or advice would be for people that are in the early stages or maybe they’ve been doing it for a couple of years, and want to pour some gasoline on the fire and grow things as quickly as possible, while also maintaining their sanity, which it sounds like you guys have done well.
Bjork Ostrom: So Jessica, what would your advice be to anybody that’s looking to start and to grow, and to also maintain their passion and interest with what they’re doing?
Jessica Beacom: I would say definitely don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel, because chances are it’s already been done, it’s out there. So connecting with others who are doing something similar. Not being afraid to reach out to somebody you admire and say, “Hey, I have a question, would you have a minute to answer it?” I know, in the beginning that was really scary for us to ask these big bloggers, but now that we’re getting those questions, like many dozens a week, it’s our chance to kind of pay it back, too. But not being afraid to ask, and to connect with others, because chances are… There are so many people out there in the world who can consume this content that we don’t really have to compete, that if we just collaborate, we all win then.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, awesome. And Stacie, how ’bout you? Same question.
Stacie Hassing: Yeah, very similar to Jess, to focus on what you’re passionate in and what you want to share. Sometimes you just have to put your blinders on and not look at what others are doing out there, not look at what this blogger is doing or that blogger, but really just put your blinders on and do what feels right for your business and for your readers. And really always go back to your passions. What are you passionate… What do you want to share? It’s your blog, and so that’s what’s most important.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s awesome. Really great interview. Super fun to connect with you both, and to hear your story. Last question would be, where can people follow along with what you’re up to? We’ll link to it in the show notes as well, but Jessica, can you share a little bit about how people can follow along with your blog and also with the different social media channels that you have?
Jessica Beacom: Yeah, you can find us at therealfoodRDs.com, and then our social handle is The Real Food Rds on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. And like I said, we’ll link to those in the show notes as well. Jessica and Stacie, so fun to connect with you both and to hear your story. Thanks for coming on the podcast.
Jessica Beacom: Thank you.
Stacie Hassing: Thanks, Bjorg. It’s been a pleasure.
Alexa Peduzzi: Hello, hello, hello, and thank you so much for tuning into the Food Blogger Pro Podcast this week. And now it’s time for our Reviewer of the Week, and this one comes from Madison from the blog Sunny Thymes dot com, and that’s Thymes like the herb, so cute. And it says, “Hi, my name is Madison. I recently started a food and wellness blog called Sunny Thymes. Although it’s still a work in progress, I am so grateful for how much this podcast has already helped me. It encouraged me, most importantly, to actually launch my food blog. The tips and tools discussed on the blog are so helpful. Not only is this podcast helpful in building a blog, but it’s also really helpful in refining your life skills such as how to handle setbacks in your life and career. They bring on really reputable, well-spoken guests. I come away from each episode feeling incredibly inspired and ready to take action. I love this podcast and Bjork is also an amazing host. He keeps it light hearted while guiding the conversations in a really meaningful, fun way.”
Alexa Peduzzi: That was a great review. Thank you so much, Madison, and we hope that this episode also helped you refine those life skills. So from all of us here at Food Blogger Pro HQ, make it a great week.