Welcome to episode 303 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Kelly Senyei from Just a Taste about trying new things to grow her brand.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Nisha Vora from Rainbow Plant Life about how she has grown her brand online. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
We’re super excited to welcome Kelly back to the podcast today!
In the six years since we’ve last heard from her, Kelly has done… a lot. And she’s here on the podcast to talk about how she has tried new things to help her brand grow.
In addition to chatting about her podcast and new cookbook, she’ll also share some of the tips and strategies that have made the biggest impact on her traffic and income as she continues to grow Just a Taste.
It’s a super fun, informative interview, and we hope you enjoy!
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- How Kelly turned her blog into a full-time job
- How to build a successful podcast from scratch as a food blogger
- How to know what to focus on as a content creator
- Where she makes her blogging income
- How to get TV appearances as a food blogger
- How she would start over today
- How to better understand your audience
- Just a Taste
- The Just a Taste Podcast
- The Secret Ingredient Cookbook
- Pinch of Yum
- 111: How to Build a Company of One with Paul Jarvis
- Baked Feta Pasta
- Follow Kelly on Facebook and Instagram
- Meet the Food Blogger Pro Experts
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].Learn more about joining the Food Blogger Pro community!
Transcript (click to expand):
Bjork Ostrom: Hey everybody, Hey everybody. Welcome to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. Excited about today’s episode with Kelly Senyei from Just a Taste. She’s been on the podcast before, but we’re having her back to talk about really all things business. She’s going to be talking about some of the things that she’s been thinking about with her business lately, a little bit of a recap of her story, talking about some of the things that are working, some of the things that aren’t working. And she’s also going to be talking about some of the new ventures that she has, including a cookbook.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s a great check-in with somebody who really understands building a business online and everything that goes into it. And I know that anybody who listens to this podcast is in that same category. We’re figuring out how to build strong businesses by getting a tiny bit better every day. That’s what we’re all about here on this podcast. So without further ado, let’s jump into the interview with Kelly. Kelly, welcome to the podcast.
Kelly Senyei: It’s been a hot minute. It’s been a hot minute or six years.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s has been a while.
Kelly Senyei: Yeah. I think it’s been six years.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s one of those things where I’m like, “That wasn’t that long ago, was it?” And then I Google search my own podcasts, “Food Blogger Pro, Kelly.” And I’m like, “Oh my gosh, that was like one of the first episodes we ever recorded.”
Kelly Senyei: It was.
Bjork Ostrom: I’m guessing a few things have happened since then.
Kelly Senyei: Just a few, just a few.
Bjork Ostrom: Excited to talk to you about that. One of the things I want to kick it off with, you’ve been doing this for a while, and before we hit record, you were like, “Hey, I want to always stay on top of stuff. I want to make sure that we’re doing things that are relevant, that we’re not becoming a dinosaur.” Because you are somebody who has blogged before blogging was cool. So rewind the tape a little bit, take us back. What was the year that you published your first blog post?
Kelly Senyei: Absolutely. I’m going into my 13th year of running Just a Taste, which in the world of food blogging, as you know very well, I’m basically… It’s like dog years where a year of food blogging is like…
Bjork Ostrom: Seven.
Kelly Senyei: Yeah. 127 years old in the food blogging realm. 2008 is when I kicked it all off, which is crazy to think about. First blog post I ever published, I was in grad school at the time. I did not want to write my thesis, it was two o’clock in the morning. I was like, “I’m just going to put my mom’s baby back ribs recipe online because everybody’s been asking me about it.” So I published it, and 13 years later, here I am sitting in front of you.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s like you had done everything to procrastinate, and you’re like, “What’s the last thing I can do?” It’s like you had checked your Myspace, you had blogged into Aim.
Kelly Senyei: Yeah, exactly. Myspace. I had done my in-sync breakdown dance to get rejuvenated, tolerating.
Bjork Ostrom: What was the platform at that point? Kind of a nerd tech question, but-
Kelly Senyei: No. It was WordPress. It was still WordPress, but it was not a custom WordPress, it was just very much the basic. I remember it was this lemon theme, it was hideous, but I thought it looked so cool. But 2008, way back when the OG-
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. At what point you were like, “Gosh, this could become something.” At that point, was it more of almost like Myspace thing where you’re like, “Hey, I’m just going to post this. This is fun.” Post it online.
Kelly Senyei: There was actually a very distinctive moment that I always think back on, which is when it dawned on me that, “Okay, I’m going to quit my corporate job and I’m going to pursue this full-time.” And I was working at Condé Nast at the time. I was working as an editor and on-air talent. We had launched Gourmet Live. I think we had maybe spoken around the timeframe when we were launching Gourmet Live. And then I ended up working at Epicurious and I was sitting at my desk and I would get the traffic reports across my desk every week for Gourmet.com. And I started realizing that Just a Taste was getting more traffic than Gourmet.com. And I was like, the light bulb literally went off in my head.
Kelly Senyei: And that was a very special moment that I will always remember because it actually dawned on me, “Maybe I could actually take my one-person business and turn it into a full-time thing.” So I say I’ve been doing this since 2008, but full time, full time, probably since 2000, ’11, ’12, sometime around then.
Bjork Ostrom: At that point, how did you make it a full-time thing? Was it ads? And was there anything from the work that you were doing at that point where you were like, “Hey, I can see what a corporate business would do with their site and how they create income, I can do some of the same things in my own way with my site”?
Kelly Senyei: That’s exactly it, you hit the nail on the head. Basically I took all of these principles that I had learned in this very big successful media company and applied them on a much smaller scale to my own startup. And I had a very lucky timing, but also hard work sponsorship hit when I decided to quit my job and do this full time, it was with KitchenAid. I have a wonderful relationship with them and they signed me on for a year-long sponsorship. So basically, that gave me the ability to comfortably say, “Okay, I’m going to quit my job. I know that I have this one Scott-sponsored contract in the books, and I’m just going to run with it and just see what happens.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s great. I remember, for Lindsay and I, Pinch of Yum, we had this like long drawn out transition, we were like 75% regular work, 25% working on the side, nights and weekends, and slowly started to make that transition. But anytime that we could have a history where we would look back and say, “Hey, we’ve seen that we’ve made this amount and it’s incrementally gone up,” or to your point, signed a sponsor contract deal, it’s like, “Great. Now we know we have at least a little bridge.” It’s like a startup that gets funding, you know that you have some of that time built in.
Kelly Senyei: That’s the exact way I look at it. It’s like, I just needed that little seed. I needed that initial seed then from there I knew I could just run with it.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. You’ve done a lot of things, it’s not just blogging. We all know it’s blogging, it’s social media, it’s video, but you’ve also done cookbooks, you have a podcast, you’ve done TV. There’s a lot of different elements that you’re juggling. I’m curious to know, how do you go about decisions when you’re saying, “Hey, I think I’m going to do this new thing, podcasting. I’m going to start a podcast.” How do you go about the decision making process and how do you not get spread thin, so you’re doing stuff in a lot of different places, but know that you can actually go deep and do stuff well, even if you’re doing a lot of different things?
Kelly Senyei: And I think that’s exactly it is. I don’t want to be jack of all trades master of none. That’s never been the goal, but at the same time, I have this big ethos about not going the way of the dinosaurs. So could I stay the steady path that I was on five or six years ago, rely on ad income and sponsored content and just continue to grow the site, which is really, I just considered Just a Taste like my base. That is my home, that is where all of my great readership is, that’s where all the recipes live, but from that, how can we build upon it?
Kelly Senyei: And so anytime I’m going to take on a really big new project, the podcast being one of them most recently, the cookbook, which comes out soon, all of these things, it’s like, how can I dedicate… I try like every couple of months dedicate myself to one new major idea or project. And yes, there’s a million balls in the air at all times, but the podcast is a perfect example. I saw a lot of people having success with podcasts, but they weren’t necessarily in the hardcore food space. So I spent about four months, I fast-tracked my launch because I was about to have my third baby.
Kelly Senyei: I signed on a wonderful producer by the name of Elizabeth Evans, we fast-tracked launch. She basically gave me like masterclass of what podcasting was, what it entailed. I have a journalism background, I went to journalism school, so I knew the interviewing aspect of it, but the tech part of it, I was like, “I didn’t know what this was I’m wearing currently,” which way we were talking about. I’m like, “Elizabeth, what do we record on? What microphone do we do?” There are so many things… She’s like, “Well, your show notes page, and then we’d put it into Libsyn.” I’m like, “What? I don’t know what any of this is.” So I basically got this like hardcore masterclass in podcasting over the course of four months.
Kelly Senyei: We launched, I had a baby, then we continued, and we’re about to launch season two. So it’s one of those things. I’m just, I am very like a dog with a bone. Like, you put something in front of me that you’re like, “You might have success at this.” I’m going to go at it 110%. It’s just the way I am.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. What do you feel like success looks like for the podcast?
Kelly Senyei: Definitely growing the readership, but also I think the guests that you can book, and honestly, I was very surprised when we first went out, when we started pitching guests, we got some really big names. My first reaction was shocked.
Bjork Ostrom: Just so you know, I’m just starting and I didn’t know which microphone to use a month ago.
Kelly Senyei: I know. I want be like, “You’re the first episode.” Yeah, I had no idea. So the fact that we got so many yeses across the board, I was like, “Wow, this might… ” And our guests for season two are epic, they’re amazing. The whole goal of doing the podcast was, I wanted to share other people’s stories who have had success in the food and in the tech spaces. Because I think talking to people that have success, I always feel that you can learn so much more by listening than by talking. So by me being a host on a podcast, I have to shut my mouth, which is very hard for me to do, but I shut my mouth and I listen and you absorb so much more.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think the other thing that I really like about podcasts is, it’s a type of medium, especially for food, that’s unique in that people can consume it asynchronously. Maybe that’s not the right word, but they don’t need to be sitting, looking at their phone and scrolling through Instagram. They don’t need to be Googling something that they want to make that night. They can just be doing dishes or driving or working out.
Kelly Senyei: Exactly. This is what I say. It’s always on in the background. For me, I have podcasts on in the background at all times, not necessarily when I’m driving my kids to school, because we’re probably doing some like epic dance to Abba or something crazy, but it’s something that I always have on. Like once the kids are in bed, it’s, put a podcast on, start doing the dishes, get the bottles washed, like all of that sort of stuff. But I think one other thing too about food-specific podcasts, which you know, you’ve been doing this for a long time now, food is such a visual medium. So it really took a change in my brain to be able to say, “Okay, now we can’t show people… ”
Kelly Senyei: You can record the video, which is great, but most of the time, your audience is going to be listening. So how do you descriptively get them tuned into food without having a gorgeous photo or video to do that.
Bjork Ostrom: And how do you do that?
Kelly Senyei: So much description. I always say with my podcast’s interviews that I do, I say, “It’s going to seem kind of awkward, but I’m going to describe literally everything that you’re doing, every gesture you’re making.” Pulling people into that scene and making them feel like, “Okay, you’re sitting here with me now.” I would say, “Okay, look at you now. You talked about this dish or that apron that you wore. Walk us through it. Did something splatter on the stove? What sound did that pasta make? What color was it? A vibrant green?” And really getting people to get uber descriptive, I think transforms and takes the podcast so much more personal and it makes it way more relatable too.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Why do you think it’s easier to get access to people? That’s one of the things that’s so interesting about interviews, is, you’ll reach out and be like, “Hey, we’d love to interview you for an hour,” and you might have a decent amount of success with that. I think part of it is you’ve proven yourself in the work that you’ve done. You’ve proven that you’ll actually do a podcast when you do it, you have a history that builds credibility and trust when you do reach out. But there’s also a piece of it where it’s somebody could take an hour to write a written response to questions in an email, and it’s one in 1,000 people will actually do that.
Bjork Ostrom: Whereas you reach out and you’re like, “Hey, I would love to interview for podcast.” The success rate with that seems to be so much higher.
Kelly Senyei: It is.
Bjork Ostrom: Do you have thoughts around why that is?
Kelly Senyei: It’s so funny you say that because I feel the exact same way. Again, being shocked at people who have agreed to be on the podcast. I think it’s because there’s a much lower bar of entry. So for people to do this, I’m just sitting here, I’ve got my iced coffee next to me, I’m in my zone right now. I don’t have to sit down and write for two hours. We’re talking, we’re having a very casual conversation. And that’s what I always say too when I’m doing my podcast, is, “This is very casual. This is meant to be a window into your success. What tangible takeaways can our readers have?”
Kelly Senyei: I just interviewed a food stylist the other day for my podcast, and she had so many great tips for how people can make their home cooking look so much more Instagram worthy. And that’s the kind of content that I want to provide, is, tangible tips about how other people have been successful so we can all share that information. But yeah, I’m surprised that people have said yes, but I think it’s just because it’s easy. It’s easy to just jump on here, listen, talk. This is not a very intensive-
Bjork Ostrom: It’s a different type of thinking to sit down and write a report, technically, which it feels if you’re going to be doing some type of written interview feels different than just sitting and having a conversation.
Kelly Senyei: It’s more casual. Yeah. I’m having a coffee. We’re hanging out. We’re on different sides of the country, it doesn’t matter.
Bjork Ostrom: When you are approaching something new like that, the podcast being an example, cookbook being an example, how much of that are you trying to master versus letting other people who all are masters of it take over the majority of what needs to happen and allow you to do your thing?
Kelly Senyei: I think the cookbook is a really good example. So the Secret Ingredient Cookbook is actually a concept that I came up with eight years ago. So talk about taking your time to really dedicate yourself to something. I had a lot of opportunities to write cookbooks over the past couple of years, and it just never felt the right moment. And I think everybody intuitively in their gut knows when those moments strike. I had that moment when I was sitting at Condé Nast. I had that moment where I just thought to myself, “Okay, I just had my second kid. I have a little bit of a breather here. I’m going to go 110% at a cookbook.”
Kelly Senyei: And I had wanted to do this concept for so long and I was nervous, it was getting to the point where I was worried somebody else was going to do this concept of the Secret Ingredient, which is basically tried and tested recipes all with a really creative surprising twist.
Bjork Ostrom: Do you have an example?
Kelly Senyei: Oh, I have 125 examples.
Bjork Ostrom: Can you give one?
Kelly Senyei: Yeah, I can give one. One of the ones that I talk about a lot… I have three little boys and I make smoothies with them on the regular. So we do smoothies in the morning because it’s quick, easy, gets them out the door to school. But the secret ingredient in my smoothies is actually cottage cheese. It sounds a little weird, but it adds protein, it adds creaminess. It goes completely undetected by my taste testers, which is fantastic, which is great. So familiar foods, but that have these surprising twists. Same thing with my white chicken chili. This is a recipe that’s in the book. It actually is made with two tubs of garlic hummus. Sounds strange, but if you think about chili it’s beans, chickpeas beans. I’m basically trying to connect the dots here.
Kelly Senyei: But I think the thing with the book was, we did such extensive recipe development and testing and testing and testing and testing because the replicability of these recipes is of utmost importance. And I know you know this with all of the recipes that you put out on Pinch of Yum. I always think people spend their time and their money so that they’re going to buy this book, every single one of those 125 recipes have to be A-plus. So I have a whole folder of rejects on my computer of things that just didn’t make it.
Bjork Ostrom: So a little bit of a rabbit trail off of the original question, just talking about mastering. For you as the creator, the voice are, you trying to master conceptually what goes into having a successful cookbook? What goes into having a successful podcast? What goes into having a successful blog versus bringing people in… One of the mantras I had for a while was intentional ignorance. I just want to be good at the thing I need to be good at and not know anything else that I don’t technically need to know. Where do you fall from master of all things to intentional ignorance?
Kelly Senyei: I think I fall, for the cookbook at least, a master of all things. I had such ownership over this. Doing a cookbook is a very long process. And I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions about doing a book, is that it’s like, oh, you write some recipes, you publish it. It’s a six-month thing. It is years from the moment that you write that proposal to the moment that the book hits shelves. So I 110% owned the cookbook, lived, breathed it. It is all consuming. It is all I did, it is all I’m currently doing. That, I’m 110% committed to myself. On the podcast front, I knew very early on that I was clueless, completely clueless, didn’t know anything, and I went and did it.
Bjork Ostrom: And you were okay with that?
Kelly Senyei: Yeah, absolutely. So I did some searching and I found Elizabeth and she has been my leg go-to guru for all things podcasting, and just absorbing all of her knowledge on the podcast front. So those are two very different examples. Cookbook, 110% owned it, master of it. Podcast, someone helped me, I don’t even know how to plug in my microphone at this point.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. But it sounds great, so you’re doing something right. How about in regards to the business side of things? All of those different things mix together and create this support your brand, how do you know what is most beneficial from a brand building perspective and also from a revenue perspective?
Kelly Senyei: Absolutely. I love this question. I don’t think I’ve ever been asked this, but it’s something that I think about on the regular basis. I think there’s trade-offs to everything. So when I signed on to do something big like a cookbook, for me, it was my number one career goal in life. I wrote a list when I was 19 years old, these are the goals that I have in life, write a cookbook, get a TV show, etc. Started at the top, worked my way down. Personally, that was a huge thing for me that I knew I wanted to tackle. Obviously, you get paid in advance when you write a cookbook, so financially, that really helped. There’s exposure, there’s brand building in it, so that was an all-encompassing example.
Kelly Senyei: The podcast, I knew I wasn’t going to make money on, at all. Off the bat, you’re not going to make money on a podcast right when you launch it, you’re not going to be able to sell ad spots on it because you have a readership of you and your mom at this point, which luckily we’ve grown since then. But my mom and I, so she was a big supporter.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s how it always starts.
Kelly Senyei: You got to start somewhere. So I know it’s going to take a year or two to get that to a place where I can monetize it. But from a branding perspective, that’s the trade-off, right? So it helps grow the brand to have a podcast. It helps me exercise different creative muscles because I don’t want to be stuck doing the same thing over and over. We can just write recipes and publish them all day long, but it’s fun to test the boundaries and do something different. And so that sort of engagement and that mental stimulation, I think is a huge part of the trade-off too.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Would you be able to pie chart, in terms of the business of Just a Taste, the different components that “Hey, this makes up 50% of the business revenue, 25%.” It could be very rough math at a super high level.
Kelly Senyei: Yes. Very roughly I would say, I’m going to go with 60% ad revenue because that’s something that we’ve really worked at and that comes straight down to traffic on the site. So I’d say about probably 60% is ad revenue. I’d say a good 20%… You’re going to test my math here. A good 20% is I would say assorted other projects, so like cookbook, a few other things we have coming down the line in terms of product and that sort of thing. And then the remaining 20%, hosting. I do a lot of television and that sort of thing. So I’d say that part of it is 20% of it. Is that 100? Yes, that’s 100.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it is.
Kelly Senyei: Nailed it.
Bjork Ostrom: You get A plus for them. That’ll be the only math question for today.
Kelly Senyei: Great. The one test I’ve passed today.
Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about the TV side of things? How does that work? Is that actually doing shows and getting compensated for that in the same way that you would a cookbook where you sign a deal, you get an upfront payment for it? That world to me is completely new and unexplored. I just have no idea how that works.
Kelly Senyei: Absolutely. So there’s two venues when it comes to TV, there’s either press related TV, which is not paid. And that’s where you just go on shows to promote whatever you have.
Bjork Ostrom: Lindsay and I did that. Quick story, I’ve told this before. Lindsay and I did that once and somehow I got invited and I have no reason whatsoever to be doing a cooking segment on the TV show. And they had me mixing the batter of these muffins that Lindsay was going to make. And he came, the interviewer came over and was like, “Tell me a little bit about blogging.” And somehow, I go from talking about muffins and blogging to domain names and hosting. I’ve just felt so uncomfortable talking about recipes-
Kelly Senyei: And this poor guy was probably like, “back to the batter. Let’s in hone in here.”
Bjork Ostrom: Talking muffins for the fall. So you would do that like if you have a cookbook coming up, you want to promote it, you want to get in front of people. Speaking of relatives and your mom, I feel my aunts and uncles didn’t think that what we did was legitimate until we were on the morning local news. And then it’s like, “Wow.” But it doesn’t translate to traffic or anything, but if you have something that you’re-
Kelly Senyei: That’s the trade off though. That’s the trade off. The payment in that sense is the exposure. So that’s what I always look at things as, “Okay. Maybe I’m not getting paid as much as I thought, but the exposure is value in and of itself.” So it’s constantly weighing those two things. So there’s the side of it that’s the PR and then there’s the side of it that’s the more instructional, actual hosting. I try to do a lot of hosting for Food Network Kitchen, which is a spectacular app, if people haven’t downloaded it. It’s live cooking classes, so you get to cook live with me in my kitchen, ask questions while I’m teaching classes. It’s such a blast. That’s the other side of it.
Bjork Ostrom: That makes sense. So when you think of Just a Taste, how much of that is you versus the brand? I think that’s one of the things that a lot of people are thinking about and wrestling with. Is it a personal brand? Is it a brand that’s personal? You’re also doing some TV. How do you approach that? I think it’s interesting for other people to hear somebody talk about it.
Kelly Senyei: Definitely. And that’s actually a question that I just went through with my team too, because we were going over the cover for my book, and we had gotten to revision number seven of the cover of the book. And we realized that Just a Taste was nowhere on the book, nowhere. It just said author, Kelly Senyei. And someone in the marketing department was like, “I think we need Just a Taste on there.” I was like, “Oh yeah, we probably should put”-
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, good point.
Kelly Senyei: Because people either identify me with me or they identify with the brand. Not everybody that goes to the site knows that Kelly Senyei writes the site, but they know the name Just a Taste. So it’s trying to capitalize on both of those. I think Just a Taste in and of itself is its own brand, but it is so much of me. That’s my whole ethos in life is, moderation, not putting anything on the do-not-eat list. My great grandmother always said have just a taste of dessert, just how the whole thing started. So I think on Facebook they probably relate more to the fact, Just a Taste.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Or podcast, very personal.
Kelly Senyei: Very personal, absolutely. It completely depends on the venue and how you’re relaying your message like, is it me coming to you or is it you’re getting a marketing email from Just a Taste?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So how about the team element? What does that look to build a team when a lot of what you’re doing is personal and you want to be the voice behind it. How do you go about supporting yourself in the effort of building Just a Taste, but also building your personal brand?
Kelly Senyei: Yes. You’re going to laugh when I tell you this, but my team is two people, myself being one of them. So I’m not joking, it’s myself. And it’s my social media coordinator, Libby, who is my right hand woman who I have worked with for six years now, I can not survive without her. She and I are bulldogs, and together, the two of us tackle everything. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s support from attorneys and managers and all of that other stuff, which is great support, but from a content day-to-day in the weeds, running everything, it’s me and one other person.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I did an interview a couple of years back, maybe it was a year ago, I feel in a global pandemic time is very much at work.
Kelly Senyei: I don’t know what day it is, I don’t know what’s going on.
Bjork Ostrom: It was either in high school or it was last year, I don’t remember, but with an interview with Paul Jarvis, he wrote a book called Company of One. The thesis of the book is, “Hey, don’t hire anybody. You can do a lot of this stuff, all of this stuff, most of this stuff on your own and have flexibility, autonomy, just an incredible life if you are really strategic about that.”
Kelly Senyei: And ownership. That’s huge to me. Ownership is huge.
Bjork Ostrom: What do you mean by that?
Kelly Senyei: Having control of your company, could I have gone out and gotten investors? You get pitches every week about people wanting to buy the site or this or that, as I know you guys absolutely do too, but it’s what’s the ownership at the end of the day, if I were to sell the site, then what? Then what would I go do?
Bjork Ostrom: You’d probably do something really similar.
Kelly Senyei: Really similar. And at that point I’m starting from scratch and I’m going into 13 years of this. So I love the ownership aspect of it. I have not had to give any of that away. And I think that’s very powerful, and that’s reaffirming of the fact of something that I’ve built.
Bjork Ostrom: Yep. Let’s say, hypothetical question, that starting over question, let’s say, instead of somebody buying it, somebody accidentally hit, you didn’t know this existed, it was a delete-all button and 13 years goes away, it’s all deleted. You have one day of being sad, and then you’re like, “You know what? I’m going to get back at it.” How do you start? What do you do to get back at it? What is the first area that you focus on in order to start building?
Kelly Senyei: This might be the single greatest interview question I’ve ever been asked. I just got hives because what you just explained is an actual nightmare that I have.
Bjork Ostrom: Like you wake up and try and-
Kelly Senyei: Screaming, tweaking. Oh my gosh.
Bjork Ostrom: Not working, wait.
Kelly Senyei: Yeah. What?
Bjork Ostrom: Wait a minute, I don’t own a computer.
Kelly Senyei: Oh my God. Where do you start? Oh man. I don’t even know. That is such a good question. I think I would go back to the core of what Just a Taste is, which is easy but impressive recipes. And I think I would just start again with the recipe development because honestly at the end of the day, and I always say this, content is king. You can market and PR the crap out of anything, it doesn’t matter. I can market anything, but at the end of the day, if the content isn’t there and the content isn’t valuable, it’s not useful, it’s not reliable, you have nothing.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think it’s something that we can get lost in a lot of times in the world of tips, tricks, podcasts, YouTube videos, courses. A lot of that is teaching the technique of like what you said, marketing, which is really important. It’s a super important critical puzzle. But if you’re deploying that against something that isn’t quality, isn’t good, whether it be an actual product or the product of a recipe, it doesn’t really matter. It’s not going to have an impact no matter how good you are at marketing.
Kelly Senyei: Exactly. If it’s not useful to someone and it doesn’t solve a problem for them, they’re not going to come back.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s hard to get good at that because it’s more art than science a lot of times, where you’re developing the ability to create something that has an impact that helps people, you are understanding your audience. So if somebody wants to get better at that, how do they do that?
Kelly Senyei: And I think too, you said it’s more of an art than a science, I would say it’s a little bit of a split. The art part of it, yes. And that’s, you’re in the dark. So many times we develop recipes and I’m like, “This is going to be a huge hit. This is going to break the internet.” And then it does nothing. And then other times we have recipes that just go completely crazy, 40, 50,000 people a day come to the site for them. And you’re like, “Why?” So then that’s a perfect case study.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s science.
Kelly Senyei: That’s the science element. We are so big into analytics and numbers and knowing exactly what drives people to the site, and also more importantly, what are our top exit pages? So not to get a total nerd for a second, but we want to know when people come to Just a Taste, and we meaning Libby and I, why are they leaving? Why are they not staying longer? So we can of solve for that. And that really helps dictate too what kind of content we’re going to create.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. If I were to distill that down, you would say, “Hey, going back to content, how do we create recipes that are awesome? As we’re doing that, how do we use analytics to understand people’s behavior around these recipes and potentially replicate that? And you talked about exit. When you go into Google Analytics seeing where people are leaving, it’s almost what people don’t like, then also seeing what people do like. Can you talk about within Google Analytics, I’m guessing is what you’re using for that, how you go about doing that, how do you find that and surface that information and then what do you do with it?
Kelly Senyei: Definitely. And I think one of the biggest tips and things that I learned early on is for the first two years of my site, I didn’t even have Google Analytics installed on the site because I don’t know, I had no clue what I was doing. Now, I have 10 years of data, a decade’s worth of data. So I can look back and obviously food trends change and the climate changes and all of that sort of thing, but when we go into analytics, which happens multiple times a day, there’s a really cool thing in Google Analytics that I don’t think a lot of people are aware of, but it’s called real-time analytics and you can get in there and you can see exactly in that moment, who is on your site, what pages they’re hitting, what pages they’re leaving from.
Kelly Senyei: And we can see this ebb and flow all day long. That’s very addictive. So once I start watching, it’s one of those things I zone out and it’s like me TikToK-ing, and 17 hours later, I’m watching a pig in a Tutu, and I’m like, I can’t stop watching it. How did I get here?
Bjork Ostrom: How did I get here? And why did I send this to everybody on my contact list?
Kelly Senyei: Exactly. So I think it’s very easy to go, become obsessed with it. But when you make the jump from wanting to do blogging in whatever food, fashion, whatever lifestyle, to as a hobby to a business, you’ve got to focus on those numbers, because if you don’t know who your audience is, where they’re coming from, what content they’re liking, and most importantly, what content they’re not liking, you can’t further your company, you can’t develop your editorial calendar. So for me analytics, especially those real-time analytics, we can see when we send out our newsletter, we can see exactly the hotspots on the site where people are going to, and we say, “Okay, that was a huge hit. We got to do that again.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So what if the huge hit is not, hypothetical, triple cheese hot dog, and you look at it and you’re like, “Wow, that was actually published as a joke, everybody loves it.” That’s extreme example, but how do you balance, this is what I love, I’m interested in, passion publishing with performance publishing?
Kelly Senyei: I love that, I like that, passion publishing, performance. Here’s an even better example that’s along those lines, baked red pasta, broke the internet. Totally broke the internet. The world is now short unfed up because of this whole recipe graze. So we jumped on it real quick, immediately. As soon as I saw it, starting to trend on TikToK, I’m like “Oh, let’s do that. And you know what? My variation is going to have some white wine.” So I did a variation with white wine, shot a little reel. And then I was talking to Libby and I was like, “I think we should put it up on the site so we have somewhere to link to. It’s a really basic recipe, people can just pull it from Instagram, but let’s go ahead and get it on the site.”
Kelly Senyei: Oh my gosh, beat our number one recipe for the last seven years, in the first two weeks, it got more traffic than the number one top rated recipe for the past seven years. It was a very good learning lesson, but that’s not a recipe that I would necessarily spend weeks developing and testing and beautiful photography. If you look at that post on our site, those are my iPhone photos that I literally took screenshots of from the video, because I didn’t even take photos of it, but it was such a good example of not letting perfection be the enemy of good. We just had to get it out there. We got it out there. It’s a great recipe, don’t get me wrong, it works.
Kelly Senyei: Are they the best photos I’ve ever taken in my life? No, but people relate to it. And it continues to do very well. So it’s a balance. So there’s that. And then there’s the takeout fake-out recipe that I spent three months perfecting and beautiful photos and the whole nine. And they can both do well, but it’s just interesting to know that something like the feta pasta or the triple cheesy hotdog, there’s an audience for both of those things.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. That makes sense. I know for Lindsay, as she thinks about content, there’s a balance where she’s like, “Hey, I’m going to be okay doing 25% of the time, a recipe that I know will be good, that will test, that it’s going to be awesome, might not be sweet spot recipe, it’s more like performance recipe.” And then leaving plenty of room for passion content that might not perform as well. I think it comes down to, for a lot of people, a balance between… For some people, the passion might be creating content that performs well, that might be the underlying thing that’s interesting and engaging. And for other people it might be, “Hey, I like the process of creating art, that is food, but I know that I can’t do that all the time.”
Kelly Senyei: Right. I’m going to put on the site what I have for dinner every night, and I don’t care if people like that or not. Sorry I had salami with Cheer-It, whatever for dinner. And I’m going to take a really cool picture and put it up because that’s just my real life. And I definitely think there is that balance. So it just depends, people come for different reasons to the site, and that’s why I want to have a little something for everyone so that no matter what you’re looking for.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. You had mentioned TikToK, are you using TikToK?
Kelly Senyei: Okay. Can we talk about TikToK for a second. I can’t even say it. We joke that I call it the ticktock. So I don’t know. That to me is like a 1:00 AM, I’m trying to go to sleep, but here I am again, to go back to the pigs and the tutus. It’s so addictive, I don’t know how good it is for my mental health, because we are using it. We had one go viral on there, a broccoli cheddar stuffed chicken breast, and I had thrown it up. And then I had not logged into TikToK for about three weeks. That’s where I’m at with TikToK. I log into TikToK and I had an alert that we had 18,000 followers, and I was like, “What the heck?” So then I started going back and I was like, “Oh wow, this has a million and a half views. Apparently there are a lot of people on TikToKs.”
Kelly Senyei: Then we were “Okay, we should do more here for this. So it’s so hit or miss, but from an enjoyment perspective, I love it. I’ve learned a lot, I found a lot of great resources. People are so talented and so witty. And if I just need a good laugh, I go to TikToK.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. For sure.
Kelly Senyei: I don’t know. What’s our strategy at Reddit? We don’t have one. I don’t know.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I feel like that’s so true for a lot of people regardless of what it is, it’s like, “Hey, let’s get on here and try it out and see what happens, let’s post in our reels.”
Kelly Senyei: Sure. One more thing, the next one’s Clubhouse, it’s like, “What’s the latest and greatest?” I don’t know. We’re trying to keep up, again, don’t be a dinosaur. We’re trying to keep up.
Bjork Ostrom: Have you used Clubhouse yet?
Kelly Senyei: I have not. I have an account which is major. So that was the first step.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. For getting an invite.
Kelly Senyei: Logging in was huge. I have not used it. I’ve listened to a couple, but I have not participated in any, so I don’t know.
Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about what it is for those who aren’t familiar.
Kelly Senyei: Sure. Clubhouse think of it a live podcast. It’s all audio, so there’s no video that I know of yet, but I’m saying yet, because you know these things are iterating so quickly. So basically it’s like these chat rooms, these clubs, let’s say, where different authorities, quite honestly, anyone can go in and you can host these Clubhouse meetings and you can just talk and everybody can show you information. And you can mute someone’s microphone or unmute them. It’s basically just a hangout that’s live, but it’s audio only.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And then you can have thousands of people. It’s almost like a digital conference where people are speaking about all sorts of random things at any moment, you can just duck in, listen for a little bit.
Kelly Senyei: Exactly. Jump out, but you’re wearing your pajamas the whole time and you don’t have to be ready to go to the event, you just do this from your couch, which in the current age we’re in, actually works quite well.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And to go back to that idea of consuming content when you don’t have to be present to your phone and why podcasts are great, Clubhouse is interesting because of it’s like a social media type platform that doesn’t require you to be actively looking at your phone, which is also interesting to me. One of the things you had talked about, you talked about your team and Libby, it’s you, you’re doing a lot of stuff. You said, “We’re bulldogs, we’re moving forward and hustling on stuff.” You also have three kids and a family. And how do you balance that? It’s a really hard thing, and I think people are always trying to figure out how do I be hustling at work and fully present to my family as well?
Kelly Senyei: I’ll be totally honest, it is the hardest. It is absolutely the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do from a guilt standpoint. And I don’t want to say that in a negative way, but there’s some… You’re a dad, I know you completely get this. When you are away from your children, there’s a massive amount of guilt in that, “I’ve chosen to not spend this time with them, so what am I going to be doing in that time when I’m choosing electively to not be with them? Am I going to sit here and screw around on TikToK? No, I am not.” I think the way that I am able to balance it… Well, first of all, that guilt is very real, that work-life balance for everyone, especially in the current environment we’re in, we’ve got kids who can’t go to school, we’ve got parents working from home.
Kelly Senyei: It’s a lot for everyone, but once kids are back in school or they are having more regular activities it’s knowing in those pockets of time that I have to work, even if it’s just 20 minutes, I have to be so laser-focused, and that’s the only way I can possibly do anything. I am so laser focused, I also whether this is healthy or unhealthy, I don’t know how people are going to react to this, but I’m just going to put it out there because this is the truth. I work very odd hours. So my three kids, I have a six-month-old, a four-year-old and a three-year-old. I couldn’t even remember. My brain is basically oatmeal at this point. So everybody is in bed and sleeping by eight o’clock, I then work from 8:00 PM to 1:00 AM every single night.
Kelly Senyei: That’s not normal, but that’s what works for me and that allows me to be around my kids during the day, doing school drop-off and pickup, being there for lunch, all of that things, but then I have to know that any personal time is gone. It’s completely gone, it doesn’t exist. So from 8:00 PM to 1:00 AM, I work.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And that’s a solid day.
Kelly Senyei: That’s uninterrupted for me, who’s crazy focused. I can crank out a whole day’s worth of work in those five hours.
Bjork Ostrom: Even people who are working eight or nine hours is probably an interrupted unfocused eight hours a lot of times, but you have a super focused four or five hours.
Kelly Senyei: Yeah. There’s no lunch break in there. I’m snacking the whole time, but I don’t do anything else. I just sit and work from 8:00 PM to 1:00 AM every day. And that’s what just works for me.
Bjork Ostrom: You and Lindsay have a similar schedule. She doesn’t do that now, but once 10 o’clock rolls around, there’s this loose rule that I’ll poke with Lindsay when she tries to have a conversation about anything, just even the tiniest bit of difficult to think about like a schedule or what is our plan for next week? It’s after 10:00 PM and my brain is off, but it’s for her, 8:00 PM to 1:00 AM, that would be the sweet spot for figuring stuff out and working. So I think part of it is finding where you work best and where you have that time and really leaning into that. We’re coming to the end here, but I want to say thank you, number one, for taking some of that precious time that you do have in your day to talk through some of this stuff.
Bjork Ostrom: But I want to hear a little bit about, if you’re speaking to that person who is at the beginning of their journey, and they’re interested in doing what you’re doing, which is building a business, which is having an impact, reaching people, and doing that in a way where you’re able to have some autonomy and to pick, “Hey, I want to work from 8:00 PM to 1:00 AM,” or, “I want to work from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM,” whatever the time slot might be. People who are excited to do that, what is your advice to those people and how do they embark on a similar journey or their own journey to achieve a similar goal?
Kelly Senyei: Absolutely. I think I would go back to solving a problem. I think if you break it down and make it that simple, solving a problem is the best and most direct way to be useful to people. For example, the problem that I solve, which I to boil everything down at the end of the day, I’m like, “Is this on brand? Is this going to be worth it for us?” When we’re judging the 9 million things that we’re trying to decide which path do we go down next, if I was starting off right now, I would say, “Okay, what is one singular problem that I can solve?” For me, that’s getting people to have dinner on their table. It’s easy, but it’s impressive. And you’re going to do it in less than 30 minutes, and it’s not going to cost you a ton of money, or you’re not going to have to buy 1,000,001 crazy ingredients.
Kelly Senyei: So I want to solve the problem of people being able to make meals for their families in a fraction of the time that it should normally take and with ease, and you’re going to have something that you’re proud of. So I would encourage people to find that problem. It doesn’t have to be in food, it doesn’t have to be… whatever your passion is, find that problem and try and solve for it and build your company around solving for that problem, because that is what can ultimately lead you to success. I want to be useful to people and I want to be a spot of joy for them to come to. And the comments that we get, the emails that we get, it’s just like writing the book, The Secret Ingredient. I wanted it to be useful for people, especially now with cooking fatigue, we’ve all been cooking the same seven things for the last year straight.
Bjork Ostrom: We’re not cooking at all.
Kelly Senyei: We’re not cooking at all, so when I originally decided on this book, I thought, “Oh, it’s going to be creative twist on classic recipes.” Oh my gosh, the timing actually worked out and sanely well, because I’ve been making the same seven things for the last year straight, and I want to be able to make those same classics, but with creative twists. So the book, I think, solves that exact problem of cooking fatigue. So again, focus on what that one problem is and start from there as to how you can be useful to people. And that’s a great way to build a business.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. I love that. For those who are interested in checking out the book, where can they find that?
Kelly Senyei: Wherever books are sold, Amazon, of course, any book retailer, Target, Walmart, across the board. You can also go to, justataste.com and we haven’t link too from a bunch of spots there.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool. And then how about the podcast?
Kelly Senyei: Yes, the podcast, Apple, Spotify, wherever else you listen to podcasts, it’s called The Just a Taste Podcast and we’re about to launch season two. So lots of great guests coming up.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. Kelly, thanks so much for coming on the podcast again, we’ve got to make it happen sooner than this five, six-year gap that we have.
Kelly Senyei: Absolutely. I am 100% going to see you before six years passes. Thank you so much for having me.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s a wrap for this episode. A big thank you to Kelly for coming on and sharing her story. And reminder for anybody who listens to this podcast, we occasionally mentioned this. We haven’t done it in a long time, but if you have a second or multiple seconds, it would maybe be five minutes to leave a review, that would be huge, it would be a massive thank you that you’d be sending to us for this podcast because it’s one of the main metrics that they use in the ranking algorithm. So if you talk about SEO, we talk about that a lot for food blogs, there is search engine optimization for a podcast as well. And one of the ways that you can increase your search engine optimization for a podcast is by having reviews on that podcast.
Bjork Ostrom: So if you have a few minutes, we’d really appreciate that. If you want to follow along with what we’re up to, you can go to foodbloggerpro.com. There’s multiple things that are happening there that you might not be aware of if you only follow the podcast. For instance, we have a blog where we publish updates that are happening both within the Food Blogger Pro community and also general information that would be good for you to know about as a blogger. We also have the podcast archives page, so you can search through and find different ways that you can learn from different guests that we’ve had on the podcast.
Bjork Ostrom: And for Food Blogger Pro members, this is a really important thing, there’s this great search feature that we’ve released, it was probably a few months ago, where you can search and find, as for instance, you can search for an expert on Food Blogger Pro. So we have different Food Blogger Pro experts with different areas of expertise like Kate from Simple Pin Media or Casey from Media Wyse. And you can search and see all of the different forum threads that they’ve posted to, the podcast episodes that they have. You can see anytime that they have gone back and forth answering questions within the forum on a specific issue and see what those issues are.
Bjork Ostrom: So it’s a great way to deep dive into an expert or a single person and to see how they exist within the Food Blogger Pro eco sphere, for lack of a better word. So be sure to check that out if you’re a member or if you’re not, there’s a lot of great resources on foodbloggerpro.com that you can check out. Thanks for listening to this podcast, for following along, as we say often, and we want to repeat as much as we can, our hope here for this podcast, for this community is that we can help you get a tiny bit better every day forever. That’s what we’re here for, and that’s what we’re all about. Until next week, make it a great week. And we’ll see you then. Thanks.