269: Quality Content – How To Create The Best Recipes for Your Readers with Sally McKenney

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An image of a computer on a desk and the title of Sally McKenney's episode on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'Quality Content.'

Welcome to episode 269 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Sally McKenney about how she creates the very best recipe content for her readers.

Last week on the podcast, we re-shared an episode in which we offer advice to new food bloggers. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

How To Create The Best Recipes for Your Readers 

We’re so excited to welcome Sally from Sally’s Baking Addiction back to the podcast after five years. Fun fact: she was the first true interviewee on The Food Blogger Pro Podcast!

This episode is loaded with valuable information for any blogger at any part of the blogging journey. Sally talks about what it’s like to run a blog and balance being a parent, how she delegates tasks, the work she’ll always do for her blog, and the kind of work that has been most beneficial to her blog’s growth.

Then she’ll talk about the importance of creating awesome content for your readers. What does it look like? How do you update your older content to be even better? She answers all of these questions (and more!) in this interview.

A quote from Sally McKenney’s appearance on the Food Blogger Pro podcast that says, 'I'm a regular person and I want to search for a cookie recipe –– what am I looking for? What questions do I have about it?'

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How Sally decided to hire help
  • How her team helps her run her blog
  • The things she’ll always do for her blog
  • What has had the biggest impact on her blog and business
  • How she thinks SBA may change in the future
  • How she optimized for SEO
  • How she republishes her content
  • Why she doesn’t have any regrets
  • What she wants to focus on in the future
  • How she measures quality content
  • How she would start a new blog today

Resources:

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

Transcript (click to expand):

Alexa Peduzzi: Hello, hello, and welcome to The Food Blogger Pro Podcast. My name is Alexa and we are so excited that you’re here today. Today’s new episode, I actually kind of teased this episode last week is with one of my favorite bloggers. And that’s because I’ve been following her almost since she started. I can’t remember how I found her blog, but I go back to it almost daily. Every time she posts a new recipe. I’m so excited to get to catch up with her today in this episode of the podcast. And it is with Sally McKenney from Sally’s Baking Addiction. Now, Sally was actually the first actual interviewee on The Food Blogger Pro Podcast many, many years ago. So if you go back to episode three of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast, you will find that first interview with her. And a lot as you would probably expect has changed since we first talked to her.

Alexa Peduzzi: And in this episode, there’s a really big focus on what it means to create the very best content you can for your readers. And I think that’s always just an important message to remind yourself of, because our to do lists are never ending. We’re always adding more tasks to our to do lists, but creating awesome content for your readers should be at the forefront of what we do every day. And this conversation focuses on that. So it’s a really great conversation, so excited to check in with her again. So without any further ado, Bjork, take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Sally, welcome back to the podcast.

Sally McKenney: Thank you. I’m so glad to be back on here.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, I was looking back at the last time that you were on the podcast. It was five years ago and I think it was, I don’t know for sure, I think it might’ve been the first actual interview that I did with somebody else. So I did like a solo episode. I did, I think Lindsay and I had a conversation. And then I think you were the first person to come on the podcast that was like not Lindsay or myself. I’d have to go back and double check. But this is a big deal to have you back on. And we’ve been doing these catch-up episodes to hear what people are up to after five years. So yours is long overdue. And I want to know what, if we were to go back and listen to that episode, not that you remember everything that was a part of it, but could you highlight some of the things that are different today than July of 2015 when we recorded that podcast?

Sally McKenney: Oh my gosh. Well, one thing that sticks out to me most is, I feel like if we were having this catch-up conversation five years ago, I would have taken the time to listen to my first podcast with you and thought about the things that I said back then, and it would have really prepared me for our conversation today. But it just goes to show how much has changed because I literally did not have any time to go back and listen to our first podcast because life is just so crazy for me right now. Not only just business, but life in general. I have two children now and we bought our own house and we moved, and just so many different things have changed since 2015. My goodness! So I didn’t even have time to go back and relisten to our podcast, but I will be happy to chat about all the different things that have changed for my business and life and things like that. But it’s just so crazy.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s interesting. And I can relate to that idea of when additional things are added into your life, you have to then cut other things out because you just can’t do it all. Like if you were to go back and one of the things that I remember specifically about that interview was you had talked about this idea of like, “Hey, from the moment I get up until the moment I lay my head at the pillow at the end of the day, I’m thinking about work, I’m working in some capacity.” And it was really evident just how much time and energy you’re putting into your site, which translates to the success that you’ve had. And as life evolves, these additional things, kids being a really great example, owning a house being a great example, start to get layered in. What did that look like for you once you realized, I’m not able to do all of the things I normally was able to do? And how did you make decisions around then what you did prioritize?

Sally McKenney: Sure. Obviously I still am so passionate about my work and the blog and everything I do, but I made a firm decision when we really started to think about kids and buying a home was I need to hire help because I cannot work anymore from the moment my eyes open to the moment my eyes closed. So we expanded the team. In 2015, I think, I believe it was just me and my husband had just quit his job. So it was just the two of us. And he was mostly doing accounting and things like that for Sally’s Baking Addiction. But I really needed assistance with the day to day things and the social media and stuff like that. And so I hired because I couldn’t keep my mind on it 24/7, it just wasn’t reality anymore.

Sally McKenney: And then once we bought a house and moved, we had a lot of things going on, house renovations, things like that. I didn’t even have a kitchen for part of the year. I had to work out of the basement because our kitchen wasn’t finished. And so I just had to reset my priorities a little bit and what was most important and doing like the bare minimum of what my blog needed at that time, and just to move forward and catch my breath a little bit. And then hired a team. Now I have four. I have four team members now in addition to my husband and I, and then… I don’t know, just kind of working more on my work-life balance a little bit, and really managing my time to make the most of the time when I am able to work kind of carving out those sections of time that I’m available to get my work done and having no distractions whatsoever has really helped too.

Bjork Ostrom: Was that hard to start to give up pieces of, or have somebody help with pieces of the work that you were doing, or did you find it kind of freeing to be able to like, “Oh my gosh, finally somebody else can help with this and please take all of this off my plate.”

Sally McKenney: Yes. Okay. At first, it was really hard. I am totally type A. I am a perfectionist. I need to be doing everything myself because I am just really anal about everything. And so at first, it was difficult. So my first hire, her name’s Stephanie. She’s still with us, love Stephanie so much. She’s so good at what she does. It was really hard for me to train her and start to give her a little bit of responsibility. And I started small. I can’t even remember at this point when I first gave her, I think maybe she was in charge of my Twitter account and things like that. And then once she took that and ran with it and was doing a great job, I was like, “Hey, this is pretty awesome.” She’s really great at what she’s doing. So I just kept listing off more things, and more things, and more things for her to do.

Sally McKenney: It was just that initial change, that initial giving up the control and letting her do something because my blog was my baby. I had been doing it just myself at that point. I hired her in 2016. So for five years it was just me. So it definitely was a challenge. And then once I got over that little hump, that little mental hump, I was like, “Oh my gosh, she’s rocking it. She’s a rockstar at this.” So I just kept giving her more and more, mostly social media and things like that, emails, my schedule, things like that. But at first it was hard. And then it was just fine. And then since then I hired three more after her.

Bjork Ostrom: And it’s a common theme that we hear when we’re checking in with people. A lot of the people that we talked with four or five years ago, were at a point where it’s like, “Hey, I’m working on this, I’m working super hard, I’m putting in some long hours,” and inevitably get to a point where you kind of get maxed out. And then it’s like, “Okay, I’ve worked so hard. I’ve created a business. It’s profitable. Now I’m able to use some of that profit to gain back some of the things that are so valuable, like time.”

Bjork Ostrom: And so you start to have this transition where you exchange some of the profit of your business to get back some time. And it sounds like the first things that you did were maybe social media, some of the scheduling, some of that day to day, week to week. What were the additional things that you started to have team members help out with for your site?

Sally McKenney: Sure. It was mostly social media, actually, because my social medias were growing so much that one person couldn’t really handle it all. So my second hire, Hillary, she kind of was then assisting Stephanie with the social media because it was just getting to be too much for one person. And then after that, it was mostly Hillary doing social media and then Stephanie started to come in and help me with emails and blog comments and blog questions. It was just me doing all of that prior. But I really started to need help with all of the questions that come in that aren’t on social media, and then we hired help for Hillary. WE hired Trina. So now Trina and Hillary were doing social media. And then Hillary took on more of a role of just operations, like my inbox and my calendar and assigning different tasks to all the team members, and then Trina then needed assistance. So then we hired one more girl, Lexi, who now helps Trina doing social media.

Sally McKenney: It’s everything. It’s my blog comments. It’s my emails. It’s like calendar, it’s just random website little projects. Like right now we’re working on adding texts to all of the images on the site and optimizing old posts and adding links and fixing broken links. Just all the little things that go into just keeping your website flowing, and working, and running, and then the social media and the emails and the blog comments and everything in between.

Bjork Ostrom: There’s so much of that. And a lot of it… what you start to realize, there’s a lot of things that need to get done that are really important that don’t matter if you, the creator and voice, are doing them. So a great example of being like, hey, making sure that your website is accessible. So there’s alt text, making sure that it’s tidy in a way where you would clean things up if you see something random sitting around your house, you cleaned it up. Broken links are a great example of that. You have something where it’s like, there’s a broken link and you go and clean that up. It doesn’t matter if you do that or somebody else does it. Those are great things to have somebody come in and help out with. Are there any things throughout the process where you said, “Hey, forever and always, or at least for a really long time, I’m going to always do these things?” Things that you’ve stuck to and said, “I’m going to hold onto these as things that only Sally does.”

Sally McKenney: Yes. I’ve tried… When I hired all of these wonderful team members, I just always thought to myself, “I need to only be focusing on recipe testing, creating the recipes, photographing the recipes and writing the blog posts.” Pretty much everything else I don’t need to be doing. And whenever I feel overworked or anything like that, I sit down with my husband and we chat about it. And he’s like, “Well, it seems like you’re doing more than those three or four things that said you should only be doing. The team members can be helping with those things.”

Sally McKenney: So the things I will always do, I will always come up with a recipe, test the recipe, photograph the recipe, which of course also means edit the photos and things like that, and then writing the blog posts will always be me. So those things will always be me. Everything else can pretty much be another team member. And if they need help with something, obviously they can come to me and things like that. But I need to be the only person with the recipes and a photograph, same in writing the blog post, which is still so much work.

Bjork Ostrom: It really is. And especially when you have the additional life things surrounding that. It’s not like you are only doing this producing content for your blog. It’s like all of the other things that come along with life, with you have kids and connections to family and friends and all of that. And you had mentioned that as a work-life balance piece and trying to shift towards that in this new stage of life. Can you talk about what that has been like? And as somebody who is work oriented, I would assume you have an engine that runs at high capacity and you have an ability to work really hard and probably a leaning to do that. What has that been like for you to… or have you drawn hard lines and said like, “I stop work at this point,” and has that been hard to do? And what would your advice be for people who are also looking to introduce some of that balance?

Sally McKenney: Sure. It was very hard. It’s still very hard. And it’s not something I’ve ever reached. It’s something I’m always working on, work-life balance, because I don’t have a separate office. I don’t have a cutoff time. My business, my blog, as you know, it’s 24/7. It doesn’t shut down, it doesn’t close. And neither does my life as a mother, or a wife, or homeowner, or things like that. So really it’s just been about really setting… closing the office doors when I’m working. Nobody comes in, nobody bugs me. I put on my headphones, everybody knows in the house you don’t talk to me when I’m trying to get this work done because as you know, it’s very, very important to put 100% focus on it.

Sally McKenney: And then having a stop time. So I stop every day at five o’clock, in the evening. One thing that I do that I know not everyone can do, but I’m an early morning riser. Obviously right now we have a newborn, so things are a little different right now. But before my baby was born and even when I just had a toddler was I wake up very early. So I’m an early morning riser. And I attribute a lot of the work that I get done and the amount of work I can get done in a day to how early I wake up. So I’m honestly up at 5:00 AM every day, again, not right now because we have a newborn and I don’t get any sleep. But finding in every day and I have that quiet time before anyone else in the house is awake.

Sally McKenney: And I have like about two to two and a half hours to just put sole focus into my work. So I get a lot of my blog posts writing done then. So really any posts that you’ve read on my blog, I’ve probably written it before 7:00 AM. And so I just have that quiet time, me and my coffee and my work, I get all of that done. And then I have a little break and I do the regular morning routine mom’s stuff with my daughters. And then I go back into work. We do have childcare. So I’m able to put 100% focus back into my work day. It kind of starts at a really early time, and then I pause for a while, and then I get back into work until about four or five o’clock at night, and then I’m done, my laptop is shut down. My computer is turned off. My phone is in the other room and it’s 100% family until my daughter goes to bed. And then usually I’m so tired at that point that I can’t even think about work.

Sally McKenney: So I usually don’t do any work past four or five at night. And then up again early the next morning. And knowing that I have just a small set of hours in a day, I don’t have 24 hours like I used to have, I can get so much more work done because I know that there’s a cutoff time.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s interesting. I remember a step in high school and they talked about… it was about kids who are involved with extracurricular activities correlates to having higher grades. And it seems counterintuitive. Like you’d think, “Oh, if you had more stuff going on, you’d have less time to actually do it.” But I’ve heard people say, if you want to find somebody to get something done, find somebody who’s busy, idea being like those artificial or very real, in some cases, boundaries on your time motivate you to get stuff done really quickly. And it sounds like that’s been the case for you.

Sally McKenney: Oh, that’s definitely been the case for me. It was even the case for me when I was writing my books and I had a deadline. The best work I got done was like the seven days before my deadline, because I knew I was on a deadline and there was no playing around at that point. And it’s kind of like that for me every day now. I have a set deadline.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So looking back, what were the things that had the biggest impact on your blog and your business? And obviously greater than just your blog. It’s a full-fledged business and there’s a lot of components to it. But if you were to go back and say like, man, these were really pillars of success as you built Sally’s Baking Addiction, what would those be?

Sally McKenney: Let’s see. I can think of two, first and foremost. So number one would be just communicating with readers and being accessible to readers. That includes just responding to as many questions and comments as I possibly can, which has been, I’ve been able to do that because I have my team who also help to respond to everything. So one person can’t do it all. So just being accessible to my readers, and answering their emails, and their comments and their questions, and engaging with them on social media and on my blog asking questions and getting involved in conversation and things like that. Definitely number one is just being approachable, and communicating, and being open and engaging, and things like that. So definitely that-

Bjork Ostrom: What about that… like if you’re to drill down about why that was a success pillar or whatever we want to call it, what was it about that was so helpful and a reason for calling that out?

Sally McKenney: I think it just makes me seem and like this approachable and friendly and you want to continuously go back to a trusted, friendly source within you. I think that you see me then as a person and not just a recipe website where you just go and it’s just there’s no person behind it, it’s just pure recipes, which of course people can use my site for that too. But seeing that there’s a person who has a family and who has a personality and is willing to communicate and engage with and things like that just maybe makes my site seem a little more dependable. That’s how I see it a little bit.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s personal and there’s people know who it is and people like to interact with other people, I think, in a very real way. I want to come back to that second one that you’re going to mention, but would be interested to take this another step down. So as you think about Sally’s Baking Addiction as a business, one of the things that you hear people talk a lot about is this idea of whether it’s scaling or building a team, which you’ve talked about, creating processes, whatever it might be, one of the interesting things with a personality based business is, you’re kind of trying to scale the unscalable and a huge part of the success of it is you. Does that factor into how you think about the work that you’re doing and do you think that that will ever change or evolve into a new version of Sally’s Baking Addiction, or do you really envision yourself being the center of this for the years to come and continually being very personality driven?

Sally McKenney: I think about that a lot as we grow our family and things like that, what the future would be like, even just the near future. And I always see myself as being the person behind the brand, it’s called Sally’s Baking Addiction. It’s always going to be mine. And I think, yes, I will always be the personality behind this. I don’t think that would ever change. What may change way down the line is the amount that I’m posting and the amount that I’m available. So I think that, yes, I will always be the face behind this brand. I always want to be. This business is my baby. I love it so much. I’m so passionate about it. And I wouldn’t ever put it in anyone else’s hands, because I just don’t want to.

Sally McKenney: But I think what would change down the road, of course, as things change and things like that, I just maybe might not be posting as much, or available as much, or things like that. But I don’t see that happening. Like right now I’m putting a pause on things. I’m taking time off to be with my baby. But other than that, just maybe slowing down a little bit in the future because there’s so many recipes on my blog as of right now, there’s 1200 on my site. So I’m not posting as much even right now than I was four years ago. So I have slowed down a little bit and maybe that would be the course that my site continues to take in the future.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting because you’ve done the work of almost 10 years now and we’ve used this analogy before, but like putting coal into the engine of the train. And you’ve been doing it for 10 years, from sunrise until sunset. And there’s a lot to keep that momentum going now. And it has a pretty strong velocity in a certain direction. And if there is a stretch where you’re not shoveling coal, it’s still going to be going really fast and moving and have a lot of momentum. So that makes a lot of sense. Going back, there’s another second kind of principle that you are going to talk about, or pillar that was really important for your site over the years. What was that?

Sally McKenney: Yeah, it was optimizing all of my posts and making them really search engine friendly. I kind of came to a little realization. I think it was in 2017, 2018. It was a few years after we had our first podcast where I just really started to understand the importance of search engine optimization and just the difference that it can make on a website like mine and like any food blog, and how much traffic it can really bring without having the need to keep posting as much new material. So kind of going back and making the most out of the content that was already on my website and making that more available to the masses, making it not as random, because before, as you know, before blog writing was really just kind of like an online diary and it’s really changed over the years. It’s changed dramatically over the years.

Sally McKenney: And you’ve kind of had to ebb and flow with that. And a couple years ago when I just came to the realization that, hey, people are coming to my site who have no idea who I am, and they’re seeing me talk about all these random things when they just want the recipe, and so I’ve had to do a little bit of balance since then, and refocus the way that I write my recipes, where someone who has been reading my blog for awhile will still enjoy the content because it’s still me writing it with my personality and things like that.

Sally McKenney: But someone coming in from… who knows where on the internet just searching for banana bread will find what they’re looking for and all of their questions will be answered. So it’s just been finding the balance between those two things and also just going back and optimizing all of my posts so they’re more friendly to search engines and they can pop up in searches and things like that. That’s been a really big project that we’ve been trying to get through in the past couple of years.

Bjork Ostrom: What did you have to remove from your content as you thought about serving the people who were coming from search in a more functional way, like, “Hey, I just want to find a really good recipe and get that made as soon as possible.” And then what did you have to add or what did you keep in that still allowed it to be personal?

Sally McKenney: Looking back, I almost cringe when I look at some of the things, just some of my blog posts from the really early years, because I’m just rambling, I’m rambling, I’m rambling so much. It’s not even interesting to me to read. And so I’ve kind of changed. I deleted some of the silly rambling and I’ve made it more concise where maybe I’ll just do a little intro, “Hey, I made this for a family barbecue yesterday and my mom said she loved it.” And kind of keeping a little bit of a personal intro in there, but then diving right into the specifics. Like, “This is how you make the banana bread. These are the ingredients you use. And this is why. And here’s how you can freeze it,” and just making it just more useful to anyone on the internet who might come across it. So maybe just saving any of those little personal touches to the intro or to right above the recipe, but the main content of the post is on the recipe itself, if that makes sense.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. That makes sense. So it’s like recipe forward with still a personal touch, but it’s not like random personal ramblings that have nothing to do with the recipe. Yeah.

Sally McKenney: Yes. And it’s actually… it’s made blog post writing easier for me too. Instead of just rambling on and on and on, I have like a set structure now almost.

Bjork Ostrom: Yup. And I think sometimes in writing, it’s helpful to have that structure because then every time you’re not sitting down with a completely blank slate and thinking like, “Okay, what do I write about?” It’s like, I do a little intro, talk about the recipe, include actual recipe, include these types of photos, and then we can wrap up on it. So I think that makes a lot of sense.

Bjork Ostrom: How about on the revisiting old content? It’s one of the things that we’ve heard a lot of people talk about and see just as a shift in general in the search industry where it’s not just recipes where this is, but any type of kind of evergreen content you see a lot of people saying like, “Hey, I’m going to go back and really look at this as something that can be improved and I can kind of take care of it over time versus publishing and then hustling to get the next thing out and publishing again, but really going back to that old content and seeing if there’s ways to continually improve it.” Anything specifically within that that’s been especially helpful?

Sally McKenney: Really just looking back at some of my more popular content that’s pretty old on my site and thinking about how I can make it even better and really just slowly working on it and kind of removing all the old text and putting in some new helpful texts, even rephotographing the recipe and breathing life back into that post, and kind of doing a whole sequence again on social media, even adding it to… maybe sending out a email blast about it, like, “Hey, this is my same old recipe and I have extra tips and tricks included and how to freeze this recipe and new photos and a new video too.”

Sally McKenney: Kind of revamping the whole thing and kind of making something old new again because even readers who have used a recipe for a while, a lot of them have said like, “Oh, I’m so glad there’s more instructions now. Well, I’m so glad you have a recipe video now.” Because now it makes more sense, the process, and things like that. So it’s definitely not a waste of time to do that. I found it just very fun to do. And readers, I’ve gotten great feedback from going back and just revisiting old posts and kind of doing a whole new revamp to them.

Bjork Ostrom: Do you ever get nervous about updating a piece of content that’s already performing well?

Sally McKenney: Yes, I do. And you have to be strategic about it because you have to really think about, well, how much traffic is this post bringing you, and is it worth going back and doing a whole revamp? I haven’t had any expert experience where I’ve taken an old recipe that performs really well and breathing new life into it. I think because maybe I do it all, meaning I put it on social media, I send out an email about it, I add a video to it, I add a lot of… I do a whole blast of it instead of changing one or two things and then not even republishing it or announcing that I did these things. I think the fact that I’m kind of making it totally new again, that it really hasn’t affected where it lands in search traffic. It could even be bumped up a little bit. I haven’t, yeah-

Bjork Ostrom: Finish that and then I have another question for you.

Sally McKenney: I haven’t had any problems where it’s been detrimental. Of course, search rankings change daily, and I’ve seen that happen, but it’s never been completely dropped off of page two or three, or something like that.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. That makes sense. The follow up question on that is, how do you pick the pieces of content that you are going to update? Is it personally like, “Ah! This one is really bugging me and I know people are making it, I want to improve this specific post,” or is it looking at Analytics and Google Search Console, keyword research? Is there any high level thoughts you have around that?

Sally McKenney: I have no high level thoughts around that. My thing is, if I go back and the photos make me cringe and reading the posts makes me so leone out of boredom, then I’ll go back and I’ll do it. I’ll give it breathe new life into it, or quite honestly, if I’m remaking the recipe, because I just remake it all the time, like let’s say that it’s like a chocolate chip muffin recipe, well, I make this all the time anyway for my family. I might as well just take new photos and maybe we’ll shoot a video for it. And I’ll get that back up on the site. And I’ll talk about how over the past few years, since I first published it, it’s really become our family’s go to recipe. So there’s really no rhyme or reason to it. I wish I had more… better advice for anyone listening-

Bjork Ostrom: I think it’s helpful for people to hear that though because I think some people-

Sally McKenney: It’s very random.

Bjork Ostrom: I think a lot of people think everybody has this formula that they follow and it’s all of this research and analysis, and I think more often than not, that’s not the case.

Sally McKenney: I don’t do any of that.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s a little bit more organic. So how about on the other side of things, if you look back at things that stand out as like really obvious, “Hey, if I were to go back, I wouldn’t do this again for whatever reason.” Is there anything that you can think of on the other side?

Sally McKenney: There really isn’t because I think everything that I’ve done in the past 10 years with Sally’s Baking Addiction, it’s brought me… it’s heightened my understanding of how my business works and what I want my business to be. I guess, I really don’t have any regrets. Everything I’ve done I’ve learned from. And if I’ve made a mistake, a bad business decision or a recipe that didn’t work or anything like that, publishing that on the site, I’ve learned from it and I’ve become better from it. So I wouldn’t really say that there’s anything that I am upset that I spent a lot of time on because I feel like everything I’ve done has just taught me more and brought me to this point.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, there’s an education component that comes with even things that don’t work out. I think specifically an example for us, there’s an idea that I was really excited about, which was a platform that was video based that was specific for recipe content. And we had put in a bunch of money, it was probably a hundred thousand dollars, working on this software and getting it developed and kind of doing early beta testing with it. And eventually we were like, “Whoa, this is way more than we thought it was going to be in terms of delivering video, building up a momentum with a platform versus a publishing site like Pinch of Yum.

Bjork Ostrom: And so we scrapped it. But it’s informed the decisions I’ve made and we’ve made as a team and business owners going forward in that we want to lead with something that is product forward, is able to create income as opposed to something like a platform, like a social media platform, which is so hard to scale. So I think can really relate to that idea that you’re talking about, which is, if I were to look back and say, “Okay, that’s probably something I wouldn’t do again.” But it’s also really helpful to have that education kind of you could consider it kind of like college fees or college tuition in business education because it informs then future decision. So I can relate to that. How about looking forward? You talked about that a little bit, but if we were to do another interview in five years, what do you hope to be true? And what do you hope that Sally’s Baking Addiction would evolve into and what would it look like?

Sally McKenney: I hope that I’m still continuing on this track and producing lots of new, wonderful recipes for all my readers. I want to be doing more videos and just having more videos for all of my recipes, because right now at this point we’re really only doing videos for maybe like 50% of the new recipes that I put out. I’d love to be doing videos for all of them. And I love being in the video. So I love my face on the camera… maybe I don’t love my face on the camera, but like being in the videos because I know it’s extra helpful for readers to see a person actually making what you’re making, especially with baking, which can be a little challenging and complicated. But I hope to be doing more of that and let’s see, just producing the best possible quality content that I can.

Sally McKenney: I hope to have my own space instead of working out of our home. I hope to have my own space in five years. Especially as my daughters get older and they’re more present and things like that. And I’ll want my own space obviously to focus and get my work done. So I hope for that too, and just continuing on with my team and just producing the best possible quality content that I can. Also to maybe have all of my recipes rephotographed by that point because I look back at my old photos and I’m just like, I cringe. You know how it is.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s a huge undertaking, but also I feel like very valuable in the world that we’re in, which is very forward, photography forward. One of the… this actually relates to that idea of rephotographing. And you also talked about it, kind of that phrase quality content. And I think a lot of people hear the advice when you’re creating a site, when you’re publishing content, whether that be recipe content, or whatever genre it is, it’s really important to have quality content. But I think it’s hard because it’s not something that you can really easily define, but for you, what does that look like? For people who are like, “I need to know if I have quality content,” how do you know?

Sally McKenney: Yeah. How do you measure that? Sure. So lately I’ve been thinking about quality content being, is this useful to the person reading it, or the person searching for it, or the person using it? Is it going to help someone? So let’s say it’s a chocolate chip cookie recipe. Well, I want to make sure that on this blog post, the content is helpful to anyone who could be reading it. So why am I using these ingredients? And what substitutions can I make? And can I make this gluten-free? Can I make this vegan? Can I freeze these cookies? Can I ship these cookies? All of the questions that you think a person would ask, answer them, make it useful, answer all of those for them, and deliver it right there for them.

Sally McKenney: And when someone’s visiting this recipe and seeing all their questions answered, they may then be like, “Oh, well, this is a great resource. Let me see what else this website has, what else this blog has, and kind of poke around a little bit and find other recipes. Oh my gosh, this recipe also answers all of my questions.” So quality content being, is this answering pretty much all the questions that could be asked about it and just kind of thinking as a regular person too. Like, “Hey, I’m a regular person. I want to search for a cookie recipe. What am I looking for? What questions do I have about it?” And answering those the best you can.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think that idea of thinking about the user, or the reader, or the person coming to your site, whatever you want to call it, is so helpful. Because I think sometimes we get in this kind of maybe echo chamber of what good content looks like and hearing other content creators say what that should look like from a structural perspective or what words and keywords you should use or shouldn’t use. But when it comes down to it, it’s are you able to help the person with the problem they’re trying to solve? And that problem might be somebody being really bored and wanting to be entertained. And there’s a genre of content for that. In our case, it’s somebody who’s looking to make a recipe and they have a really specific idea of what that is. And our job as content creators is to say, “Hey, how can we do that in the most effective way possible?” How can we help these people, I think, is such great advice to be thinking about.

Bjork Ostrom: So last question as we wrap up the conversation today. This maybe is really hard to think about. But let’s say that something happened that completely wiped out all of the work that you’ve done over the last nine or 10 years, where would you start? Let’s say you wake up, it’s all gone. It’s an alternative universe and you have to start from the very beginning with no other resources. What would that look like for you to begin that journey again? And what are the things today in the summer of 2020 that you would focus on first?

Sally McKenney: That is a loaded question. Let me tell you. Let me think. So I think I would… so are you saying like I have no experience whatsoever or do I have-

Bjork Ostrom: With the experience that you have.

Sally McKenney: With the experience I have. Okay. So I would think about what every… and this is the baking blog. So I would think about the most popular things that people are looking for right now. We’re obviously in a world pandemic right now. People are baking from scratch at home a lot more than ever. And so I would think of the most basic recipes and I would get my recipes online as fast as possible.

Sally McKenney: So I would work on a bread recipe. I would work on just basic chocolate chip cookies. I would work on just like the basics, the core recipes that people are really looking for right now. Kid-friendly recipes, fun cooking projects to do with kids. Kids are home, things like that. And I would work on those and getting those up on the site first and photographing them and writing my blog posts to answer all of the questions that everyone would have, the problems that I want to solve based around these recipes, and just going from there. And it’s a lot of work.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And you can exit this interview being grateful that that’s not actually going to happen.

Sally McKenney: Oh my gosh!

Bjork Ostrom: But I think that idea of thinking in the moment what are the things that people need right now is such a great idea for people who are starting out. Because I think, in the beginning stages, you have to have some early traction and that might be the timing of what’s happening in the world and creating content around that. It might be a really micro focus to start out with. So you have a really, really specific focus and a need that you’re solving in a really specific area that you can expand out beyond that.

Bjork Ostrom: But I feel like at its core, what I hear you speaking to is that idea of early traction and as quickly as possible figuring that out. Once you get some kind of coal in the engine for that train, you can start to experiment with other things, but as quickly as possible you want to get that moving, what I think is such great advice. Sally, as always, it’s so inspiring to talk to you. We have loved following your journey and inspired by what you do. If people want to follow along, obviously can just google Sally’s Baking Addiction. But are there any platforms that you want to call out or anything that you want to make sure that people know about so they can follow along with you there if they’re not already?

Sally McKenney: Sure. So we put most of our energy into our Instagram accounts, so sallysbakeblog. And also Facebook, Sally’s Baking Addiction on Facebook. But join my email list, we’re putting a lot of energy into our emails and just the different experience you can have by being on the email list and different emails that we can send to you and things like that. So I would say you can definitely join my email list, and it’s just right there on the homepage when you go to sallysbakingaddiction.com. But yeah, this was wonderful. I’m so glad we got to catch up.

Bjork Ostrom: It was really great. We’ll make sure to put something on the calendar for five years from now as well so we can make this official five-year podcast interview frequency now, hopefully before then. But thanks so much for coming on and chatting, Sally. I really appreciate it.

Sally McKenney: Yeah. Thank you so much.

Alexa Peduzzi: And that’s a wrap on this episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast. Thank you again for tuning in today. We hope you enjoyed this interview with Sally, this check in with her after five long years. And she’s just awesome. She’s a really solid business owner and food blogger, and she just creates fantastic content as you heard about today. So if you had any major takeaways from this episode, we would love to hear from you. You can leave them at the show notes for this episode at foodbloggerpro.com/269. We would just love to chat about it. I think this was such a solid episode and just full of really great reminders, regardless of how far along you are in your blogging journey. If you just started or if your years and years into it, I still think you probably got something out of this episode. I know I did. So that’s a wrap on this episode. We will see you at next week. And until then, make it a great week.

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