This episode is sponsored by Clariti.
Welcome to episode 387 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Madison Wetherill from Grace + Vine Studios about optimizing your website design as a food blogger.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Matt Ragland about getting the most out of your email marketing strategy. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Optimizing Your Website Design as a Food Blogger
When it comes down to it, website design is so much more than just your website layout and logo; a large component of it is how you convey your brand’s messaging and voice throughout all the pages on your site.
Madison Wetherill is the web designer behind Grace + Vine Studios, and she’s here on the podcast today to share all her best tips for optimizing your website design as a food blogger!
In this episode, you’ll hear how she works with food bloggers, how she helps her clients develop and showcase their brand’s voice, and her best tips for enhancing the user experience on your site. We hope you enjoy this episode!
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- How Madison became a web designer
- How she works with food bloggers at her web design studio
- Why brand voice is so important
- How to stand out in the crowd as a food blogger
- How to convey your brand’s messaging on your blog’s homepage and blog posts
- How to optimize the user experience on your site
- Why she decided to expand her team
- What topics she covers on her podcast
- Grace + Vine Studios
- The Vine Podcast
- The Clean Eating Couple
- Follow Madison on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter
- Join the Food Blogger Pro Podcast Facebook Group
About This Week’s Sponsor
We’re excited to announce that this week’s episode is sponsored by our sister site, Clariti!
With Clariti, you can easily organize your blog content for maximum growth. Create campaigns to add alt text to your posts, fix broken images, remove any broken links, and more, all within the Clariti app.
Sign up for the Clariti waitlist today to receive:
- Access to their limited-time $45 Forever pricing
- 50% off your first month
- Optimization ideas for your site content
- An invitation to join their exclusive Slack community
- And more!
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
Transcript (click to expand):
Bjork Ostrom: This episode is sponsored by Clariti, C-L-A-R-I-T-I. Here’s the question, are you manually keeping track of your blog posts on a spreadsheet or project management tool? Maybe it’s like Airtable or Asana, or maybe you’re not even keeping track of anything at all. When it comes to optimizing and organizing your content, how do you know what to change and how do you know what you’re doing is actually moving the needle? With Clariti, all of that stuff is easier. It’s easier to keep track of things. It’s easier to know if the changes you’re making are having an impact. That’s why we built it. We realized that we were using spreadsheets and cobbling together a system, and we wanted to create something that did that for you. And Clariti brings together WordPress data, Google data, like Google Search Console and Google Analytics. And it brings all of that information into one place to allow you to make decisions and also inform you about the decisions that you’ve made and if they’re having an impact.
Bjork Ostrom: I could talk on and on about the features, but the best way to understand it is to get in and to work with the tool yourself. The good news is Clariti’s offering 50% off of your first month if you sign up. You can do that by going to clariti.com/food. Again, that’s clariti.com/food to check it out. Thanks to Clariti for sponsoring this episode.
Bjork Ostrom: Hey there, Bjork here. You’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast. Today, we’re having a conversation with Madison Wetherill and she has a business called Grace + Vine Studios, where she works with food bloggers to think strategically about how they are presenting themselves on their website. It’s really design, but design is so much more than logos and layout. It’s really strategy around positioning and communicating the message of who you are and what you’re about to help people understand if they’re a good fit for what you’re doing in the world. She’s going to be talking about strategies that you can use and different ways that you can be thinking about presenting yourself to increase the likelihood that when somebody finds you online, that they’ll stick around and they’ll say, “Hey, this is for me. I’m going to continue and follow along with this person.” Because getting a lot of search traffic is one thing, but then actually getting those people, whether it be from search or from social, to stick around and to follow you is another thing. And building a following is kind of a different pursuit than just building traffic.
Bjork Ostrom: So Madison’s going to be talking about some strategies that you can think about as you consider ways that you can do that. It’s a great interview. Let’s go ahead and jump in. Madison, welcome to the podcast.
Madison Wetherill: Thanks for having me, Bjork. I’m so excited to be here.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So take us back to 2015. It’s when you got into this world of web design. Is that something that you had experimented with before and had some kind of curiosities about? What did that look like for you to step into this world?
Madison Wetherill: Yeah, so it actually goes back even a little bit before that, but I’ll briefly cover that. Basically, I graduated from college and found myself with a lot of time on my hands because I went from being in full-time classes, multiple part-time jobs, lots of social activities to having a 40-hour a week career in the corporate world and I was like, “I have a lot of time and I’m kind of bored.” Because I’m just someone who likes to be busy in general. And so I was like, well, I studied graphic design in college and this blogging thing is kind of interesting. So I’m going to just sell some stuff on Etsy and I’m going to start a blog. At the time, my husband and I had just got married, so my blog was our newly wed life. It was still back in the days where it was all personal stories and you could get away with being a lifestyle blog and that sort of thing.
Madison Wetherill: And so I did that for a couple of years and then in 2015, I was let go from my corporate job and a week before that had found out that we were pregnant with our first son. And so it was this moment of, okay, if I’m going to do this, if I’m going to try to do my own business and stay home with my kids, now is the time that I need to make that happen. And so that’s the moment that I was like, “All right, I’m going to see like what this food blogging, like blogging world is all about.” And so I started just really focusing more time on my blog. At the time, I was really skeptical of the idea of niching down, so I was still kind of in this lifestyle sector and started to slowly get into design for bloggers because what I found was the community I had built in the food blogging world started to ask me for help with their logo or website design and all of those things.
Madison Wetherill: And so it kind of just took off from there and just became something that I was able to combine these two sides of my life, loving cooking and blogging and then loving design as well. There’s a lot more to the story than that, but that’s kind of how it started and how it became my thing.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. And one of the things that I find to be true whenever we have these conversations is there’s always the genesis of a thing that happened, but usually there’s an entire book before that, and that leads up to the launching point for you to hear about your story of being in college, doing graphic design, learning those skills. All of that stuff rolls into the eventual launching pad of this studio that you have that does design work for creators. What does that look like now? What does a normal day or week or month to month, whatever it is? You talked about college and it being this kind of busy season, my guess is that at this point in life, you’ve gone back to being really busy and not having a lot of margin and free time. So what does that look like for you?
Madison Wetherill: Yeah. Well, that’s actually a whole interesting side of the story because what I found is that busyness didn’t serve me very well. And so over the years I’ve had to break that down and really figure out where that drive for busyness is coming from. And I’ve become a lot more practical with my time. I have three little kids, so that affects my time a lot. And that’s also-
Bjork Ostrom: What did you find when you… I’m curious to hear what you found when you did that work. In the piece that you talked about, I think a lot of people can relate to this, even myself, the busyness, almost like this realization that you have a need for it, that it’s serving you in some way. Not necessarily serving you in a good way, but really spending time looking at that. What was that like for you to do that?
Madison Wetherill: Yeah. There’s a quote that I heard recently that was something along the lines of, “If you find that resting or peace and stillness is stressful for you, then you probably use busyness as a way of almost covering up things that you don’t want to have to deal with. Or if you can’t rest, then there’s probably some reason why busyness feels wrong to you.” And so over the years, I’ve had to break that down a lot and realize that rest is really great for… I mean, in your personal life, it’s so important, but even in your business life, that rest, I mean the moments that I’ve had rest, the times I’ve taken off from my business, those are the times where I have my best ideas and those are the times where I am able to come back the most fulfilled.
Madison Wetherill: I just came off of maternity leave and that time, while I usually really focus my vacation time just letting my brain go in different directions for business, this time I didn’t do that, but I came back with full energy in a way that I’ve never felt before because I was able to rest. And so over the years it’s definitely been something that I’ve learned to incorporate into my business. It’s honestly one of the things that I think food bloggers struggle with the most because your food blog is always on and there isn’t a natural period where it’s like, “Oh, no one’s on my website today.” If that happened, that would be a bad thing. So it’s a struggle I think for sure for people who have an online business to be able to sit in that, rest, and let it fill them up and fuel their business in a way that… It just feels counterproductive and countercultural to be honest.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah, interesting. I think that one of the hard things personally with it is there’s always something that you can do. So in those times of rest, it feels like, “Shoot, there’s this endless list.” You talked about that. It’s like you never really are done. And so creating those boundaries, but also, and you mentioned this, realizing that even in the pockets of rest and the pockets of still, that’s still a beneficial thing. It’s still serving you. And I think when I’m at my best, I’m reminding myself that by not working, by not being busy, that doesn’t mean that you’re not making progress. Because progress could be recharging, it could be an idea, a new way to look at something. So I love that you mentioned that. I wanted to hit on that a little bit.
Madison Wetherill: Yeah, for sure. I mean, it’s really, it’s changed the way that I run my business. It’s changed the way that I even try to support our clients when we work with them, because while working on your website can be… it’s kind of a sprint. There are some parts of it that’s a marathon, but a lot of it is just a sprint because you’re in this constrained amount of time that you’re trying to get things done. But at the same time, it’s not a run yourself to the ground and then try to keep going after that. That period of rest or even just the idea of having support in your business so that it’s not all on your shoulders 24/7 is something that we really try to instill into the listeners of our podcast and our clients and just my team in general because I’ve been so close to burnout so many times that it’s no longer an option for me. It’s just not something I’m willing to tolerate in my life.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s sustainability and it’s like you need to, in the world of business, whether it be an online business or in person business, whatever it might be, what’s most important is that you sustain yourself through it. And if you don’t, then to your point, you’ll hit this stage where you’re like, “Gosh, I got to step back.” And to combat against that, it’s like the slow decisions every day that put you in a good place to be in relationship with your work and continue with it. So I love that. So you’re, right now, fully focused on your design agency. How would you describe it and then talk a little bit about what that is?
Madison Wetherill: Yeah, for sure. We run Grace + Vine Studios and for a long time it was just me and maybe one assistant helping me with the back end of the business. Over time, now, we have multiple designers that work with us and we have developers and it’s essentially become this team of experts that can help support our clients in what we call… The people who come to work with us, we see that they are most often just really trying to scale their business in a way that helps them to increase their impact. And that can look so many different ways for our food bloggers in general. It could be that you’re looking for time freedom, financial freedom, that you’re looking for the ability to stay home with your children, you’re looking to leave a legacy behind for your children, or that you’re just trying to really impact your readers in a way that is more so than just someone living down the street that you’re helping with a recipe that they want to create.
Madison Wetherill: So we really support clients who are looking to think bigger with their food blogs, and we do that through building custom brands and websites that really help them to stand out in the crowded world of food bloggers. Because I mean, back when you started this podcast, food blogging was like, it was huge, but it was so small compared to what it is now. Now, it’s so big and so you really have to be able to stand out if you want to be able to attract the right people to your site so that you can have that impact with them and not just blend in with everybody else who’s sharing recipes online.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. One of the things that you have shared and talked about is the importance of voice, and we think a lot about voice as writing, but also there’s voice in the context of your brand and what it communicates to people. Can you talk about why that’s important and how we as publishers, creators can be thinking about crafting that?
Madison Wetherill: Sure. I think there’s been this shift over the last, I don’t know, five, 10 years almost, where we’ve been trained to suppress that voice. We’ve been told that Google doesn’t want to hear our stories or that our readers don’t want to hear our stories. While some of that can be true, I think what we’ve missed in all of that is that our unique voice for our brand, which is basically just what makes you different as a food Blogger or as a content creator, we’ve missed that that is still important. Because if you don’t have that, you run the risk of just being any other food blog out there and it makes it really difficult for people to latch onto something. If they come to your site and it’s like, “Oh, it’s another easy dinner recipe website.” I’m not going to remember anything unique about that experience of coming to your website and I might remember some of the bad things about coming to your website if it wasn’t set up properly.
Madison Wetherill: And so that brand voice is really what is able to help you to stand out and to make that connection with your reader, which is going to help them to want to come back to try more of your recipes. If they come to your site and make one recipe, that’s not really a huge impact, but if they remember how you made them feel when they came to your site and they recognize this site was built for me. I think these recipes were made for me and my struggle in the kitchen. That’s going to be what helps them to come back, and that’s what we’re talking about when we talk about brand voice. It’s those things that make you recognize and differentiate one food blog from another.
Bjork Ostrom: What are those specifically? Is it a niche you’re focusing on? Is it the H1 on the homepage? When you think about brand voice, what does that entail?
Madison Wetherill: So I think it’s a lot of things, but I think the thing that I think most food bloggers miss is how much you need to share this type of information because people will miss it if you don’t share it in a lot of places. So both of the things you mentioned, your H1 on your homepage. Something on your homepage where if someone hops over to your homepage from the recipe they Googled, that they’re able to say, “Yes, this site is for me.” Or, “Oh, didn’t realize this site was Whole30 or didn’t realize this was a vegan website. I’m not vegan, so this isn’t a good fit for me.” It’s either one of those experiences is what you’re looking for.
Madison Wetherill: It can be a snippet in your food blog, in your actual recipe that is talking about why you love this recipe. It’s not the stories that we used to tell about how it was grandma’s recipe and you changed it and all of that stuff that we’ve been hearing our readers don’t want to hear, but it’s sharing why you love the recipe in a way that makes people understand like, “Oh, she made this recipe because she was struggling to get dinner on the table when she had 20 minutes before soccer practice. That’s me too.” It’s those types of moments of them figuratively raising their hand in agreeance. Those are the things that are that brand voice.
Madison Wetherill: Your niche is definitely part of it, but I always tell people it’s one step further than that because your niche is a way to take people from being thousands of food blogs to maybe hundreds of Whole30 blogs. But if I lined up all those Whole30 blogs, what is different about you? It’s not that you share a different type of recipe obviously, but there’s something that you believe about your recipes or the way that you share your recipes that makes you different than the rest of those a hundred whole 30 recipe bloggers.
Bjork Ostrom: And how much do you think that that is the brand versus the person?
Madison Wetherill: That’s a good question. I think it depends on how much those two are interconnected because for some food bloggers, they really have distanced themselves from the brand for a variety of reasons. But for other people, like Lindsay with Pinch of Yum, she is very much the brand. And so I think it depends on your preference, but a lot of the time there is a huge overlap between those two, especially because food blogging is so personal. And I think when we try to take the person, and I’ve heard this from our clients in the past, they have told me when they focus on the SEO style of writing, they just lose their love of food blogging because it depersonalizes it. And there’s only so much of the SEO type of writing that you can do before it just feels robotic in a way.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And for some people, I think they love that world, they love the world of search, and they love the world of search optimization and know people and have friends who live in that and it’s awesome. It’s a skill and they build systems around it and optimize for it. But even we’ve had conversations, and we haven’t necessarily done this fully, but Lindsay’s talked a lot about what if we just didn’t focus on that, like didn’t think of search first. And what we thought of was people who are going to come to the site and it’s going to be awesome, and then they’re going to come back. And direct traffic is an important piece of traffic and in some ways can maybe be one of the most valuable in that it can be repeat, like if somebody saves something or bookmarks.
Bjork Ostrom: And so what does it look like? Realistically, what it comes down to is there’s a balance, but what does it look like to serve both really well? Like to create an experience where a user comes and they look at it and they’re like, “This is for me, I like this. I’m going to come back to this.” And where you’re not completely ignoring the acquisition part of traffic, which is search or social media, whatever the acquisition side would be. So I think it’s really important things to think about and appreciate that perspective on it.
Bjork Ostrom: Obviously, this is a world that you live in and you think a lot about this and probably have these conversations with different clients that you work with. But if somebody wanted to, on their own, assess and take time to think about and strategize, what would you recommend? How do they do that? How do they think about brand voice in regards to their own site?
Madison Wetherill: Yeah, so I think it starts with what I was just mentioning about if I lined you up with all of the other food bloggers in your niche, what would make you unique? And I think content creators have a hard time with being a little bit boastful in these moments of what does make them unique. I think you have to let that wall fall down for a little bit and really think about the comments you’ve received from readers or how people engage with you on social media, the types of recipes that you’re sharing. You’re probably not sharing the exact same recipes as the other people in your niche. And it’s not just because you found some keyword that worked well, you have to care about what you’re sharing. And so why is it that you care about these recipes that you’re sharing?
Madison Wetherill: Again, I give the example of the soccer mom earlier, maybe it’s because you have dietary restrictions in your family and you have to create recipes for multiple dietary restrictions. Or maybe it’s that you’re really passionate about the nutrition behind recipes. There’s something unique about why you share what you share, and that is the start of that brand voice and sharing that with your readers because they’re not going to know the difference between you and another Whole30 blogger. I’m giving that example just because it’s the season and it’s recognizable, but it could be any type of niche. They’re not necessarily going to know the difference between you and another one. But if you dig deep and you start asking yourself those questions of, why do I care about this? Why is this important to me? Why would I not share this type of recipe? Dig into those reasons behind that intuition you have behind the recipes you choose. And that’s the start of figuring out what makes you different and how you can share that with your readers.
Madison Wetherill: And then after that, it’s just repetition of sharing it over and over and over again with your readers so that they get it. The best example I have of this, I had a friend who was doing Whole30 a few years ago and she just told me, “Yeah, I’m trying Whole30, I’m looking for some recipes for it.” Instantly, I knew the blog to send her to because that blog had… And she’s not even a Whole30 blogger technically, but she has so much content and I’d heard her talk about it. So instantly, I just sent-
Bjork Ostrom: Who is it? Just out of curiosity…
Madison Wetherill: Liz from The Clean Eating Couple, who I think has actually been on the podcast before. She’s a client of ours too, but back in the day, she was just a friend of mine. But yeah, it was instantly like, “You have to go to this site, this is the site where you’re going to find the recipes that are going to be great for this Whole30 month for you.”
Madison Wetherill: So it’s that type of light bulb moment and knowing how to share it. And to your point of direct traffic, that’s a way of increasing your impact and increasing the people who are coming to your site when you have these advocates for your brand outside of your own business who can help spread the word.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. I love that. So the process of doing that, my guess is you have those conversations with clients, you kind of formulate that and then you start to fold it in. And you talked about repeating it and really saying it more than you think you should. We see everywhere that we publish stuff, and so it feels like we’re blasting it everywhere, but I think it’s a good reminder that not everybody sees everything that we post. As a matter of fact, probably nobody sees everything that we post. And so to repeat and to kind of declare what it is that you are doing is an important thing, what does that look like when you are working with somebody? How do you hold that in? Where are the places that you’re sharing it? Obviously, it’s more than just the website. So how can people start to think strategically about sharing things like their message online?
Madison Wetherill: Yeah, so I’ll break this into a couple of different categories and that’ll help to show how often this needs to be shared. But one really primary spot is on your homepage because we have to remember how people are getting to our website. The homepage, especially for a lot of food bloggers, is starting to be one of their highest trafficked pages, which is for a bunch of different reasons. But just taking that data alone, a lot of people are coming to your homepage, what is someone wanting to do on your homepage? They’re trying to figure out what this site is about and what types of recipes they share. So the homepage is gold for this type of information to live on. So it can be a heading, it can be in maybe your about section that’s on your homepage. You can talk about your niche and your specialty and what makes you unique.
Madison Wetherill: It’s also in the types of recipes that you share on that homepage. A lot of the times we’re going to have your most recent recipes on the homepage somewhere, but also you’re going to have other categories that you’re featuring. So really think about being strategic with those categories because those are going to help someone to basically compartmentalize your blog and your content in a way that helps them to understand what it’s all about. Because again, even in healthy recipes, you have multiple categories that make up healthy recipes. Sometimes with certain blogs, we’ll actually put a whole part of the page that’s their brand messaging, which is another word I use for brand voice. That would be something like your tagline or just a really strong statement that would help someone that has never seen your blog, doesn’t know you would help them to understand and put you into a category.
Madison Wetherill: So that’s the homepage. Those are some spots that you can do it. And then on your actual blog post, there’s also places where you can do it as well. One of those is just in your blog post, like we were talking about, sharing why you love the recipe or sharing helpful tips, but just in a way where they’re kind of the same types of tips every time. For example, maybe it’s how you make this a balanced meal, and that’s kind of like your statement, how to make it a balanced meal. And that’s like a Gutenberg block that you use every post, where your readers who are coming back will start to recognize that. Maybe it’s how to make this recipe for your whole family even if you have picky eaters. So using the actual content in a way that helps to share that narrative and share the brand messaging can be really helpful as well.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s almost like a layer on top of the content that’s a repeating element. Like tips and tricks or considerations that you need to be aware of.
Madison Wetherill: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: That matches what your brand voice or message would be.
Madison Wetherill: Exactly. And that is where you’re able to take the idea of, okay, Google wants this content or this content is helpful for my reader, but how do I marry that with making it stand out and be unique? So I’m not just putting what knife is best for cutting chicken, but I’m using my culinary background to explain this is why this knife is helpful. And every blog’s going to be a little bit different. Not every blog’s going to go as scientific and things like that. But again, that’s why knowing your brand matters because your readers may not care about that, but if they do, then that’s something that you need to share with them, and that’s one way that your blog can stand out from others.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. It’s almost like, I’m trying to think of an analogy on the fly, but a pyramid where the base of the pyramid is the general focus for your content, and then you build on that and you talked about organization of your content into categories that also is important and communicates something, but it’s layered on top of your area of focus or who you are or your beliefs, your reason why. So then it’s like organizationally, what does that look like? On top of that is the actual content that you’re producing, but then even within the content as you go up the pyramid, would be call-outs or messaging or additional smaller items that continually communicate what you’re about, what your focus is, but it all comes back to that foundational element of saying, “Here’s who I am, here’s why I create the content that I create.” And you can build off of that.
Madison Wetherill: Yeah, exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: So let’s say people go through that process, they start to understand that a little bit better. Another really important consideration is, from almost like a user experience perspective, what does it look like for the flow of somebody coming to your site? How are you directing them? How are you bringing them into certain places? Do you have any advice for people who are looking to structure their site in a way that’s conducive to a good user experience?
Madison Wetherill: Yeah, for sure. So user experience, one of those complicated terms that I think we hear a lot, but really what user experience boils down to is making sure your website is easy to use. So there’s some standards of you need to have a search bar, you need to have your navigation menu. There are some things that are just like, you have to have it. But there’s other things where understanding that brand voice and then applying it to your user experience can really give your readers that carved out path for them to go down your site. I often talk about this with our clients where we say, you kind of have these silos of content that you want someone to go through. So it’s like, how do you want them to go through that? Or what makes the most sense for them? And everybody, every food blogger, their readers have what I like to call it, your reader journey or again, the user experience through your website, but it’s figuring out where they need to start so that they can end where you want them to end.
Madison Wetherill: Again, we talked about how someone’s coming to your blog post and then they might be jumping over to your homepage to figure out what’s going on. What is the next step you want them to take? Is it to go browse a category page and find more chicken dinner recipes? Is it to subscribe to an email newsletter that’s really going to help them to figure out their next steps? It’s figuring out what is the next step you want them to take and then making that the obvious next step for them through your website design.
Madison Wetherill: Categories are a huge part of this just because that’s how our blogs are basically set up, but we see that on the back end, our readers don’t necessarily see that on the front end. So we have to make sure we’re creating that user experience where it’s a natural path for them to go from recipe to homepage to category page or to another recipe. And just thinking about that progression of information and what it does for them in recognizing your brand voice and what you can help them with as a reader. Because I always tell people, we are not just sharing recipes. There’s a deeper struggle and need behind the recipe content, and that is what you have to figure out to help create that user experience for your readers.
Bjork Ostrom: I’ve heard product framed up, like if you’re thinking of creating a product, framed up around this idea of a vitamin or a pill or a painkiller. So is that a vitamin which is kind of nice to have, you don’t really need it, or is it a painkiller? It’s not exactly the same, but it kind of is circling around the same idea, which is just a random recipe that you’d make would probably be a version of a vitamin. It’s helpful, if it turns out well, it’s going to be great. So there’s that. But the closer you can get to a pain killer, I think the more beneficial it can be to the individual.
Bjork Ostrom: An example in this world would be like we’ve referenced specific dietary considerations. That would be one where it’s like, hey, that’s actually really helpful for somebody who’s, for medical reasons, maybe needs a certain diet or really busy family with two working parents and creating meals or meal plans that serve those people in a way where it’s still healthy but also really easy or doesn’t take a lot of time to create it.
Madison Wetherill: Right.
Bjork Ostrom: So I love that point that you made where it’s like when you look at it initially from a distance, you might think, “Hey, this is just a recipe.” But when you get behind it, what it can actually be is serving people in a really significant way depending on what your area of focus is or your expertise or your passion area.
Bjork Ostrom: So how about when a new client comes to you and they have a site, and maybe it hasn’t been updated or touched for a while, I’d be curious to hear you reflect on some of the things that right away you’re looking at and saying, “This can be an area of an improvement, this can be something that we can change.” Maybe it’s kind of low-hanging fruit, the first things that you look at, kind of a first pass through. Do you have any thoughts or reflections on that?
Madison Wetherill: Yeah, I’m trying to think of from either a brand perspective or a website design perspective. The first thought that came to me immediately with a website is, if you just have your most recent post on your homepage and that’s it. That is a quick win for you to be able to restructure that homepage even on your own maybe to make it more enticing for people to click around, because people don’t really scroll like that. I mean, yes, we scroll on social media for sure, but we don’t necessarily like to scroll the archives of a blog anymore. You want to be quickly enticed to click into something that is helpful for you. So that’s a huge quick win is if you don’t have your homepage or even a recipe index broken into categories that makes sense for your reader, definitely do that. I think the second one is if there’s no mention of who you are as the content creator behind the blog, why your blog is unique, adding in that brand voice, that’s another quick win.
Madison Wetherill: But from the branding side of things, I think most often it’s just pulling out that story from our clients to figure out, why do you care about this? You’ve spent hours upon hours of your life and probably thousands of dollars to invest in your blog. And as a business, why is that? Why do you continue to do the hard work that food blogging can be? What is it that you’re hoping you’re going to impact your readers to do or to live better lives and that type of thing?
Madison Wetherill: I would say those are the quickest areas where it’s the light bulb moments start to go off for our clients, figuring out that brand story and articulating it in a way where it’s like, this is going to make sense to my readers. This is finally put together in a concise amount of information where I can easily share it. And then restructuring that homepage just for it to be super easy for people to dive into more content.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s awesome. As a last topic area, I’d be interested to spend some time talking to you about your business. One of the things that I love about these conversations is there’s all different ways that you can get into running a business, having a business, building a business, and a lot of times we go through these different evolutions. And for you, you have a site, you’re working on it, you talked about this lifestyle site and eventually that evolving into what you have now, which is not doing your blog as a full-time thing, but designing and working with other publishers and creators. So what have you learned over the last seven years, is that right?
Madison Wetherill: Mm-hmm.
Bjork Ostrom: About what it looks like to run a business like this?
Madison Wetherill: Yeah. Well, I can say that I feel like there’s so many parallels to the way I run my business to a food blog. And I think that’s been one of the biggest eye opening things, or I should say the way you could run a food blog, because a lot of food bloggers are still doing it on their own, they’re not really building a team or anything like that. There are definitely some who are, but I would say one of the biggest things that I have learned in the last seven years is you don’t have to do it by yourself. It’s a scary change to start investing in that way, investing in yourself, investing in your business, investing in your team, because you start to shift away from doing the work to supporting your team doing the work. And that has been a challenging thing, but also one of the most freeing things to not have all of that weight on my shoulders anymore and to be able to stay in my zone of genius, which is not always doing the actual work or answering the email or sending the invoice.
Madison Wetherill: I think for food bloggers, it’s the same thing. You know, you start a food blog thinking, “I love recipes, I love sharing recipes with my friends, so I’m going to do this.” And then you quickly realize the 100 hats that you have to wear as a food Blogger, and there’s probably a lot of them that you don’t like to wear. And so I think as a service provider to other food bloggers, food bloggers are also service providers a lot of the time where they’re creating recipes for other people or they’re doing photography freelance, or they might be working with brands on sponsored content. All of those areas are areas that you probably didn’t get into food blogging, thinking you would have to wear all of those hats. So I think the sooner that you can recognize you don’t have to do it all and start to surround yourself with people who can support you in growing your business, it’s going to be one of the things that I think sustains you for the long haul.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s awesome. What did that look like for you? How did you step into that world of working with people and anything that you’ve learned that would be helpful to share?
Madison Wetherill: Yeah. Well, for me, I tend to learn things the hard way. I kind of see signs of things earlier on, and then it takes me a while to be like, “I should do this thing.” So for me, that was just hiring an assistant in my business, which I think is one of the easiest first roles for somebody to hire in their business is just somebody to start helping. It doesn’t have to look pretty, it doesn’t have to be your perfect role for somebody, but just having anybody else who’s helping you in your business can be really helpful. So I would say a tip for that is start paying attention to where you’re spending your time.
Madison Wetherill: I actually have a couple of podcast episodes about time management in general, and one of the ones is about just tracking your time. Track your time for a week or two to see where your time is going because we think we don’t have any time to do the things we want to do. And when we start paying attention to how we’re actually spending our time, we start to realize either way we’re wasting time or hopefully where there’s things where you could easily have somebody else do them for you and they’re not the thing that only you can do in your business. We talked about your brand voice is sometimes something only you can do as a food blogger, but the invoicing for your sponsored content or even scheduling stuff on Instagram, those things might not have to be you. And so give yourself that break to be able to spend more time doing the things that you love to do because that’s going to help you stick it out.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, one of the things I think a lot about is what are people really after? What do people really need? In the case of an invoice being sent, it’s like they needed to be sent in a timely way with real clear understanding of what it is. And if they have questions, to get a response really quickly. It doesn’t matter if it’s from you, right?
Madison Wetherill: Right.
Bjork Ostrom: So sometimes for myself, and I know a lot of other people, we can think, “Hey, what’s important is that I do this, that I respond to everybody.” And a lot of times it’s just people want to get, and I would say most of the time, people want to get resolution around the thing that they’re trying to solve. And if somebody else can do that in a really effective way, they’ll be just as happy. And a great way to step into that world, and you talked about this with hiring an assistant is, and we’ve had a few people who have talked about this, but by starting just dipping your toe into the water five hours a week, hiring somebody, maybe it’s somebody you know, or maybe it’s through assistant service, they have lots of different services that you can hire people fractionally to help with stuff, but that almost allows you to practice a little bit to get a feel for it and to get an understanding of what that’s like to have somebody helping with stuff. And even an hour or two a day really adds up.
Madison Wetherill: Yeah, it really does.
Bjork Ostrom: When you realize, yeah.
Madison Wetherill: Often, you might be hiring someone who’s better at whatever it is that you’re hiring them to do than you are. I think that was a huge eye opener too, is not only is it not the best use of my time to do these, let’s just call them admin tasks, but there’s also people who are much better at doing them, and it lights them up in the way that designing a website might light me up. So that’s something that I think has been a big shift for me too, is I don’t just think about hiring people as a means to an end of I have work to do and I need someone to do it. It’s also I’m providing that job for this person, I’m providing for this person’s family potentially. That has really shifted even the way that I think about how I want to grow my business.
Madison Wetherill: I think for food bloggers, we know the sky’s the limit for food bloggers to grow their blog, but think about how many lives you could impact from a financial perspective if you’re able to pour back into different people’s families and provide jobs for people. That’s such an amazing experience to be able to do that. And as online business owners, we have the ability to do that if we grow in that way. So I think just even shifting your perspective on that from just, I know two plus two equal four, and I need the work done, so I’m going to hire this person, but no, I’m investing in this person and then potentially in their family. It just makes it that much more impactful for me too.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. As we wrap up here, you had mentioned a couple times your podcast. Can you talk a little bit about… And obviously, people who are listening to this are podcast listeners, so what is that and how can people follow along with your podcast?
Madison Wetherill: Yeah, thank you for letting me share. The podcast is called The Vine Podcast. Over there, we basically just talk about these types of conversations. So things about scaling your food blog, but also really focusing on design and strategy, user experience, all of those kinds of topics. Part of the reason I started it was because I didn’t find that there was a lot of content out there around those topics. There’s a lot of content around growing your food blog, but then when it came to how do you actually do this thing on your website, there wasn’t a lot of that. And so if you like this conversation and other conversations around food blogging, I think you’ll really enjoy it and you can find it by just going to thevinepodcast.com or finding it in your podcast app as well.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. And then Madison, if people want to work with you, if they are interested in having a site refresh and really crafting their brand voice and thinking about user experience, all these things we talked about, what’s the best way to get ahold of you?
Madison Wetherill: Yeah, thanks. So our website is graceandvinestudios.com, and on there, there’s a services tab. That’s the easiest way to just learn about how we work with different clients, but you can also reach out to us via email and we’ll point to you in the right direction.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool. Madison, thanks so much for coming on the podcast. Really appreciate it.
Madison Wetherill: Yeah. Thanks for the time. Bjork,
Leslie Jeon: Hello, hello, Leslie here from the Food Blogger Pro team. We really hope that you enjoyed this week’s episode of the Food Blogger Pro podcast. Before you sign off, I wanted to mention one of the most robust features of a Food Blogger Pro membership, and that’s our courses. So in case you’re not familiar, as soon as you sign up for a Food Blogger Pro membership, you immediately get access to all of our courses on Food Blogger Pro, and we have lots and lots, hours upon hours of courses for you to check out, ranging on all different topics, from SEO, to photography, to video, to all types of social media, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, YouTube, the list goes on and on. And all of these courses have been recorded by our Food Blogger Pro team, or by our industry experts, by all of the Food Blogger Pro experts that we have on our team.
Leslie Jeon: And we are constantly going in and updating old courses so you can rest assured that you’re getting the best information possible as you’re working to grow your blog, to grow your business. The courses are the best way to learn how to do that. So like I mentioned, you can get access to all of our courses by joining Food Blogger Pro. So if you’d like to do that, you can go to foodbloggerpro.com/join to learn more about our membership and join the community.
Leslie Jeon: We really hope that you enjoy checking out our courses. They’re one of my favorite parts of a Food Blogger Pro membership just because we have so much knowledge for you to check out there. I think that’s everything we’ve got for you this week though. Thanks again for tuning in and for listening to the podcast. And until next time, we hope you have a great week.