203: Low-Hanging Fruit – How We’re Finding and Juicing the Low-Hanging Fruit in Our Businesses

An image of Bjork Ostrom and the title of his episode on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'Low-Hanging Fruit.'

Welcome to episode 203 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork chats about how we’re strategically targeting our low-hanging fruit.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted about WP Tasty’s traffic and marketing strategy. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

How We’re Finding and Juicing the Low-Hanging Fruits in Our Businesses 

Working smarter, not harder. Sounds like the dream, right? That’s exactly what this episode is about; putting in a bit of work and getting a big return.

This episode is part two of our four-part “Projects” series, and Bjork is sharing some ways that you can be thinking more strategically about the low-hanging fruit in your own business. He’ll encourage you to find the things you’re already doing and do them a little bit better so that you can be more efficient and effective with your work.

A quote from Bjork Ostrom’s appearance on the Food Blogger Pro podcast that says, 'We can get distracted and climb to the top of the tree before we get the stuff that’s easiest.'

In this episode, Bjork shares:

  • The two ways you can optimize the ads on your site
  • How you can balance the attention you want to give up to ads
  • How you can increase the earning potential of your business
  • How to make a blog visit more valuable

Listen to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast below or check it out on iTunes, Google Play Music, or Spotify:

Resources:

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].

If you’d like to jump to the comments section, click here.

Transcript:

Bjork Ostrom: Hello. Hello. Hello. Bjork here. And this is actually a first for the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. This is the first time ever we have recorded an episode outdoors. I’m sitting right now at a picnic table in a park, lake Johanna for those of you that are Minnesota people. Our office is close to here. And what ended up happening was I pressed record. I was getting into this episode, felt really good about it. And then they started to jackhammer, I don’t know if that’s actually what it was, but it was something very similar to jack hammering the tile in the hallway because there’s something construction going on, which as excited as we are to make some updates in the office, it doesn’t make for good background noise for a podcast.

Bjork Ostrom: But what does is chirping birds. I don’t know if you can hear them, but there’s birds chirping. There’s a soft breeze. I’m by the lake. And so if nothing else, this will be the most relaxed I’ve ever been recording a podcast. So hopefully, it’s the most relaxing and also one of the most helpful podcast episodes ever recorded. I know it will be something that will be a little bit different, a little bit unique, and a little bit strange for anybody that comes and starts to eat lunch around me. Right now, the other picnic tables are empty. But I’m really nervous about somebody coming over here for lunch, sitting down, and then me making eye contact with them, and just continuing to talk into this microphone by myself.

Bjork Ostrom: But I will press on because we need to press publish. Right? Not always ideal situations for creating your content, for publishing it, but the moral of the story is the show must go on. In this series, it’s a four part series we’re actually going to do, talking about the projects that we’re doing behind the scenes at Food Blogger Pro, Pinch of Yum, WP Tasty, or Nutrifox. We’re going to be talking about some of the things that we’re doing that we might not always talk about that would be helpful to know. It would be helpful for you to say, “Hey. This could be something that I could be doing as well.” We talk a lot about the different businesses we have, kind of on a surface level. But it’s not often that we actually dive deep and say, “Here are some of the things that we’re doing, some of the projects we’re working on, and some of the things that we’re hoping to accomplish this year.”

Bjork Ostrom: Today, I’m going to be talking all about low hanging fruit. And we’re using food analogies as much as possible on the podcast. Right? Food Blogger Pro Podcast, let’s use food analogies. Why not? We’re going to be talking about low hanging fruit. And with some of the people on our team, they would probably roll their eyes when they hear this because I’ve been talking about fruit a lot, juicing fruit, getting low hanging fruit. But essentially, thinking strategically about your business and the things that you are working on, and using fruit as an analogy for that.

Bjork Ostrom: And today, we’re going to be talking about low hanging fruit. What does that mean? What is the analogy for low hanging fruit? Well, you can imagine that if you’re picking an apple tree, and you’re wanting to get as many apples as you can, and you probably have a limited amount of time to do it. Let’s say it’s daylight time, so you have a certain number of hours in a day to actually get that fruit. You want to be as strategic as possible in how you go about doing that. And the same is true for content creators.

Bjork Ostrom: If you think about your business or your blog as an apple tree, let’s say, and you’re trying to pick as many apples as possible, how do you go about strategically doing that? Well, I would suggest starting with the low hanging fruit. But sometimes what can happen is we can get distracted, and we can try and climb to the top of the tree before we get the stuff that’s easiest. And today I’m going to talk about some of those easy things that we are doing with our businesses. And hopefully, you’d be able to think about that and if it would be possible for you to do something with your business.

Bjork Ostrom: There’s going to be three things that I’m talking about. The first is optimizing your ad ops, so working to really strategically think about ads on your site and how you can be taking advantage of the low hanging fruit as it relates to ads. Number two, I’m going to be talking about plugging the holes. I’m going to tell you what that means and how we do that with our businesses. And last, I’m going to be talking about rolling snowballs. And we are going to be talking about the analogy with snow, and we live in Minnesota, so there’s a lot of snow. Luckily, there’s not any right now because this would be a miserable outdoor podcast if there was. But we’re going to be talking about snowballs and this idea of rolling snowballs as it relates to your business.

Bjork Ostrom: Each one of those relates to this idea of low hanging fruit. Low hanging fruit meaning, you don’t have to do a ton of work, but you still get the same result. You get that apple that you’re able to pick, and you’re able to put it in your basket, and your basket being your business. So let’s … Optimizing ad ops, now it’s a little bit of a made up concept because ad ops technically stands for ad optimization. And essentially what we’re saying is optimizing ad optimization, which is kind of redundant. But the point here is even if you work with an ad ops company, you still need to be thinking about how you are optimizing your ads. Just because somebody else is doing the general management of your ads doesn’t mean that there’s not low … This is something that we have been doing with Pinch of Yum.

Bjork Ostrom: Pinch of Yum is the only site that we have that is monetized via ads. And it’s a really important metric for us. It’s a really important revenue source that we pay attention to because there’s a lot of traffic that comes to Pinch of Yum. And I know a lot of people that listen to this. It’s also one of the ways that you monetize your site, is through ads. And if you have ads, you probably work with some type of ad ops company. If you’re not there yet, maybe you’re in the early stages, you’re building up to a point where you can start to work with an ad ops company. But even if you’re not there, you could be working or using something like Google Ad Sense, where you put ads on your site, and there’s no cutoff for that. There’s not point that you have to get to, to say, “Okay. Now I can actually work with Google Ad Sense.” You can run that pretty early on your site. And this would apply to you as well if that was the case.

Bjork Ostrom: Optimizing your ad ops, what does that look like? And how do you go about doing that? Well, the thought here, the project that we are doing with Pinch of Yum is this realization that there are two ways that you can optimize your ads. One is thinking strategically about where your ads are and what type of ads those are. And with advertising, there’s always going to be a balance between how intrusive the ads are and how much revenue you get from those ads. And the general correlation is going to be, the more intrusive the ad, the more obvious it is, the more front and center it is, the higher the revenue that you’ll get from that ad. That is tied to attention, so the more attention you can get, the more money you will get for giving that attention away for people that are coming to your site.

Bjork Ostrom: An example would be you could have a sticky ad on your sidebar. So if you imagine on a desktop computer, if you go to a site, you pull it up and then you scroll down. You might get to the end of the sidebar, but what happens is you can set up an ad where it sticks and continues to scroll with you. Now that’s a little bit more of an intrusive ad. That’s a little bit more invasive in a sense that you’d maybe call it annoying, or you’d maybe call it distracting. But the idea is it’s front and center. It gets more attention. And therefore, it’s a higher earning ad. The same could be true for an ad that overlays the content. That could be on mobile or desktop.

Bjork Ostrom: And the low hanging fruit here, the strategy here, is to think about the perfect balance of the amount of attention that you’re willing to give up, and then making sure you fill your bucket up to that point. Here’s what we’re doing with Pinch of Yum for that. One way we’re doing that is we’re saying, “Okay. We’re talking to our ad ops company.” Ad Thrive is the one that we work with. And we’re saying, “What are the available ads that we can run?” There’s different types of ads that you can have on your site. There’s video ads. There’s multimedia ads. There’s ads that on mobile, when you scroll, they look a little bit different. They scroll within the background of the content, and they feel a little bit more cohesive with the content.

Bjork Ostrom: And so we’ve had conversations with our ad ops company. And a lot of times, they will reach out to us and say, “Here are the available ads that we have. What ads are you okay with us running on your site? How interactive, how much attention are you wiling to give in the different areas on your site?” And without going into the specific details of that, we’re constantly analyzing. Are there ways that we could introduce other types of ads that would be … There’s also a line that we draw. For instance, Lindsay’s really insistent on not having an ad show up between the instructions and the ingredients on mobile. She wants that experience to be really good. Now that might change down the line. But right now, she said, “Hey. I really want to make sure that when people pull up a recipe on Pinch of Yum, that they’re not having to deal with an ad in between the instructions and ingredients.”

Bjork Ostrom: Now that comes at a cost to Pinch of Yum as a business because that’s a really high earning ad, and the potential for that to earn a lot of income is really high because of the amount of attention that people give between the instructions and the ingredients on a site. But for you, you might say, “Hey. Actually, that would make sense for me to have an ad there.” And you could talk to, if you work with an ad ops company like Ad Thrive, or Media Vine, or any of these ad ops companies that are out there, you could have a conversation with them and say, “What are the ways that I could be introducing other types of ads? And what are the other places that I could be including ad so as to increase the amount of revenue that my site is able to earn?”

Bjork Ostrom: That’s really low hanging fruit because it’s not requiring you to build more traffic. You’re just tweaking a few things. It might take an hour conversation, an hour of thinking through the impact of that. And then it’s flipping a switch. It’s relatively low hanging fruit. The two ways that we’re thinking about that as it relates to ads, we’re thinking about: What types of ads are we running? And the second way we’re thinking about is: Where are those ads showing up? Are they in places that make a lot of sense for us in terms of creating income? Or are they places that make a lot of sense for the reader, which means they’re less intrusive? And it’s always a balance for that. And for you, as a creator, you have to decide. Where do you land with that? And how much do you want to maximize the revenue? Knowing that there is potential impact on the user experience.

Bjork Ostrom: The other thing that we’ve done that has been really helpful and is extremely low hanging fruit is we’ve reached out and said to our ad company, we reached out to Ad Thrive and said, “Hey. Are there any pages on our site right now that aren’t running ads?” And I was surprised to find that we had, from whatever decisions we had made in the past, I don’t even remember what they were, we had some sites, some pages on our site that weren’t running ads. And it was as simple as saying, “Okay. We actually want to run ads on those pages.” And an example was, this was a page that we actually discovered outside of the conversation, where we’re working with a company called FlickStream. And you’ve maybe noticed FlickStream on the Pinch of Yum website. And it’s an engagement tool that we’re using. We’ve been working with our team to figure out ways that we can optimize the site.

Bjork Ostrom: And they came back to us and said, “Hey. Actually, there’s a page on your site that doesn’t have ads at all, and it’s the Pinch of Yum slash blog page.” And it’s one of the highest traffic pages on Pinch of Yum. And so all that we had to do is send an email and say, “Hey. Actually, we want ads on this page. Turn ads on.” And it was really low hanging fruit. We didn’t have to do extra work. It was just a matter of flipping a switch. If you run ads on your site, think strategically about what types of ads you’re running. Are there additional ads you could fold in? Where those ads are showing up, and then also think about the pages on your site that potentially don’t have ads. Would you want to turn ads on for those pages?

Bjork Ostrom: Now there’s some pages that you don’t want to have ads on for whatever reason. Maybe it’s a personal page, or a page where you’re telling a story, and you just want that to be really clean. You don’t want ads to be on there. Makes sense, you can turn ads off on that page. But I’m guessing that there might be some pages on your site that you could turn ads on, and that would have a really big impact. And it would be a really low amount of work. It would be that low hanging fruit for a high amount of impact. So that is optimizing ad ops. It’s actually just ad ops, but a lot of times, we work with ad ops companies, and those companies are really good about saying, “Here’s some additional ads that you could be running. But you are the captain of your ship, so you need to make sure that you are spending time thinking strategically about that, and specifically with those three ways.”

Bjork Ostrom: And open up that conversation with the company that you work with. And if it’s not a company that you work with, think about that as it relates to whether it’s Ad Sense, or whatever ad solution you are using right now, how … So that is all about ad ops. Number two, plugging the holes. This is another project that we are working on behind the scenes for all of the businesses. And it’s actually started to be a recurring task that I have. And every three months, I do a deep dive on the expenses, the expenses of our business. A lot of times, we can get distracted by the revenue for our business. How much are we earning from ads? How much are we earning from sponsored content? How much are we earning from selling the products that we sell? And the holes start to form in the company. And the holes are expenses that we have.

Bjork Ostrom: And one of the things that I’ve found is it’s really, really low hanging fruit to plug those holes because revenue comes in, but a lot of times, if we have too many holes in the company, if we have too many expenses, that revenue just goes right out. And what you need to do is to think about how you can plug those holes by doing a deep dive quarterly review. Now this isn’t as hard as it seems. It’s just a task that I set up on a recurring basis. It’s every three months. And what I do is I log into our bank account, and I go to the checking account or the credit card account for each business. And then if it’s the checking account, I sort by the expenses. That means I’m not looking at any type of deposits that are made. I’m only looking at the expenses.

Bjork Ostrom: And when I’m doing that, I’m looking for things that we can do, three different things that we can do. And the three things that we can do are either number one, find a recurring payment that we no longer need. And this is the best part. If you’re able to find these, this is awesome because what you can do is, you can cancel it. And you’ve immediately increased the earning potential of your business because profit is what really matters in a business. Right? It’s not just revenue. It’s how much you’re actually able to keep. And if you can plug a hole, that means you’re keeping more money within the business. And the best way to do that is to cancel a recurring payment that you no longer need.

Bjork Ostrom: Now another way you can do that is you might have a plan. You might have a recurring payment that could actually be downgraded. And we’ve found this to be true before where we were on a tier, we were on a plan level that we didn’t actually need. And we could downgrade that plan. We could not … We needed it still. We needed it on a recurring basis. But we didn’t need the level of service that we were paying for, so we downgrade that. Again, you are plugging a hole, or in this sense, it’s maybe a bigger hole and you’re just making it a little bit smaller. It’s the second way that you can think about plugging a hole.

Bjork Ostrom: And then the third way, this is something that we have started to do, is maybe there’s something, a service that you need, or a product that you need that you’re paying for on a monthly basis, and it’s something that you need at that level. And you know that you’ll need it moving forward. What we look to do in these situations is upgrade to yearly. If you have the budget to upgrade, almost always, the yearly option is going to be more affordable than the monthly option. And that, for your business, could save you 10%, 20%, 30% on that service on an annual basis. That’s something that we’ve spent a lot of time doing on these deep dives, is looking at a recurring payment and then going and saying, “Hey. I wonder if there’s an annual option for this that’s a little bit more affordable.” And almost always, there is. So for the most part, all of the plans that we have are going through on an annual basis.

Bjork Ostrom: Now some exceptions, if we sign up for a service for the first time. For instance, if we’re just getting started with it, getting a feel for if we like it or not, we’re kind of in that dating period. We don’t know if we want to commit to it, we’ll start with monthly and then later on, we upgrade to yearly. That’s the third way that you can plug the holes, is you can upgrade from a monthly plan to a yearly plan. So just a quick recap, you could either cancel, number two, you could downgrade if you don’t need the level of service that you are on. Or number three, you could upgrade from monthly to yearly. And that’s all about plugging the holes. It’s a really low hanging fruit because it takes maybe an hour, two hours, if you haven’t done it for a while, to review the last three months of expenses, to do a deep dive to look at what those recurring payments are on your account.

Bjork Ostrom: And then the other thing you have to do is actually go through the process of either upgrading, or canceling, or if you aren’t using the level, then you can downgrade it to the lower level of the service. And we do this for our personal accounts as well. And what we’ve found is it’s a really easy way to save a substantial amount. You could call your cell phone company and say, “Hey. Is there always way that I could be saving money? Could I downgrade my plan?” You could do that if you have a cable plan. All of these different services, there’s probably some margin that you could squeeze out of those to be a little bit more effective and efficient with your business.

Bjork Ostrom: The other thing that we’ve done as a little bonus for this, this took me a really, really long time to finally get to the point where I felt okay with this. But we have switched over. We have enough expenses within our businesses where we have switched over to have most of our recurring payments, most of our recurring charges, on a credit card versus on a debit card. And the reason is because we have a credit card with our bank that offers 1.5% cash back. It doesn’t make sense in the early stages because the amount probably isn’t going to be enough. But once it gets to a substantial amount, which it’s at that point for us with our businesses, it makes sense to have a little bit of that money coming back if we know that it’s going to be a recurring payment. And for a really, really, really long time, I was anti credit cards, and just loved the simplicity of a debit card and a checking account.

Bjork Ostrom: But we’re at the point now where we had enough expenses that it made sense to switch those over, so those are landing on a credit card, which we are intentional to pay off every month. That’s an important thing for us if we want to have a sleep well at night business, where we’re not running up a bunch of credit card debt that we can’t pay off. We’re paying that off every month, so we’re able to get the benefit of the additional cash back for the amount of expenses within the business, but we’re not running up that credit card debt or debt within the businesses in general, which can often be very stressful.

Bjork Ostrom: All right. We are moving forward here with our outdoor episode. There’s a beautiful breeze. There’s birds chirping in the background. There’s those birds, mourning doves, doing that who, who, who. And it is a wonderful thing. Thanks for sticking with me here on the podcast as we do our first ever outdoor Food Blogger Pro Podcast. The last low hanging fruit that I’m going to be talking about is all about rolling snowballs. Now we live in Minnesota. It’s snowy. This is an analogy that makes a lot of sense for us because we all understand what it’s like to roll a snowball. Rolling a snowball for a snowman, or maybe you roll a snowball down a hill and it picks up a lot of speed and becomes a really big snowball at the end. Makes sense for us in Minnesota. But for those of our Southern friends, maybe it doesn’t make as much sense, so let me explain real quick how that works and what the idea here is with rolling snowball.

Bjork Ostrom: When you roll a snowball, you can start with something really small. You push it down a hill, and it picks up speed. And the weight of the snowball moves it down the hill. And the snow picks up on the snowball, and it makes it heavier and picks up more speed. So you can see it kind of is a little system that allows the snowball to grow bigger without you having to be involved. And what we’re thinking about with our businesses is: As much as possible, how are we pushing snowballs down the hill that continually get bigger and bigger? And one of the ways that we have done that recently, one of the projects that we’ve worked on, and Jenna really led the charge, our communications manager for Pinch of Yum, is setting up One Signal, which is a notifications service for the blog, and the blog for Pinch of Yum specifically. Here’s how that works. Here’s what One Signal does for us and how it is a snowball.

Bjork Ostrom: Pinch of Yum, as a blog, has certain number of visitors that come every day. And those visitors often times leave. And a lot of them never come back. And we’re trying to think of ways to capture those people, to start a relationship with those people, to start a conversation with those people, so that visit doesn’t kind of evaporate into the world and become not valuable. And one of the ways that we’re doing that on the blog on Pinch of Yum is we are using a notification service. And we’re using One Signal for that. And the way that it’s like a snowball is like this. Let’s say that you have 100,000 people that come to your site. And let’s say that of those 100,000 people, 2% of people sign up to join your notifications for the app that you’re using. And of those people, there’s a certain percentage that then click on any further notifications.

Bjork Ostrom: And for Pinch of Yum, it looks a little something like this. On any given day, there’s 300 to 1000 people who sign up for notifications from Pinch of Yum. And of those people, 2% to 5% actually click on a notification when they receive that. That means that over time, and at this point it’s about 100,000 people, are signed up to get notifications from Pinch of Yum. And if 5% of those people click on a notification, that means that there’s 5000 people coming back to the website for any giving notification. Now it’s now always 5%. Sometimes it’s less. It might be as low as 1%. It really depends on what the notification is, how it looks, what’s involved with it. But you can imagine how over time, if that percentage stays the same, 2% to 5%, and the number of people signing up grows, that becomes a really beneficial thing for Pinch of Yum because, let’s say in a really clean way, for number calculations, that you can earn $10 for every 1000 people that come back to your site.

Bjork Ostrom: When we’re first starting out, that 2% to 5% of people that click isn’t that big of a deal. But if you get to 100,000, and 5% of people click on that, then you’re earning $50 just from sending a little notification. And obviously, business are going to be on all different levels in terms of what that number is for how valuable a visitor is. But for a site that monetizes from ads, $10 to, on the really high end, $20, they call it RMP. So essentially, the amount of money you’re making from 1000 visitors, that’s probably a realistic number, $10 to $20. And so $10, let’s say, on the low end, is what you get from a visitor.

Bjork Ostrom: And if you get 5% of 100,000 people, that’s $50. And you can see over time if that stays the same, if that percentage stays the same, how that snowball can build. It’s going to double when it gets to 200,000, triple when it gets to 300,000. And over time, it just becomes more and more effective without, this is why it’s low hanging fruit, a ton of additional work. And that’s why we have loved thinking about ways that we can implement this. It’s similar to the way that I talked about building up some traction for WP Tasty Blog in the last project series. And some of the email capture that we’re doing on WP Tasty and thinking strategically about that, it’s just a different version of that. It’s another way to continue to communicate with people moving forward, and to continue that conversation.

Bjork Ostrom: Those are the three ways that you can think about, and that you can be grabbing that low hanging fruit, optimizing your ads, plugging the holes on your site, so making sure that if you have expenses that you don’t need, or at a level that you don’t need, that you downgrade those or cancel those. Or if you do need them, upgrade them to annual. And then rolling snowballs, this idea of implementing certain strategies that will continue to pay off without you doing additional work, email and notifications being an example of that.

Bjork Ostrom: We’re going to continue on with the project series. The good thing is I will be moving back indoors after construction is finished up. But I wanted to push forward with recording this episode, so thank you for listening in, in the first ever outdoor episode of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. It was unique, interesting, and I’m really happy to say I was able to record the entire episode without anybody coming and sitting on another picnic table, which was a huge relief. I think there’s one person who came, kind of looked at me strange, and then did a heel turn and walked away. Strange man in the park is the subtitle for today’s episode. Thanks so much for tuning in. We have two more in this series. And then we actually have kind of a fun experiment that we’re doing with the Food Blogger Pro Podcast coming up.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s going to be a little bit of a different podcast format that we’re going to be doing, which you can stay tuned for this summer. But really appreciate you, really appreciate the members of food blogger pro, and I appreciate the team that helps to make this podcast possible, Jasmine doing the graphic design and all of the work related to the graphics for the podcast, Alexa for the incredible work that she does in lining up these podcast episodes, planning them, scheduling them, editing them, getting the transcripts for them. Thank you, Alexa, for all the work that you do. And thank you to you, wherever you might be, for listening to the podcast. It’s one of the joys that I have, is connecting with people who listen to this, and having that connection where if we ever meet in person, it’s like, hey, we feel like we know each other a little bit, and immediately have a way that we can kick things off and connect.

Bjork Ostrom: So hope to connect with you in person some day. But until then, stay tuned for next week’s podcast episode number three in the project series. From Lake Johanna in Minnesota on a beautiful summer day, this is Bjork signing off for the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. Make it a great week.

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