134: FBP Rewind: Creating Success with Sally McKenney

Welcome to episode 134 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This episode is a special FBP Rewind episode where we’re rewinding to one of our first and most popular episodes with Sally McKenney from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork talked with Casey Markee about the changing landscape for online searches, recipe cards, and more. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Creating Success

If you haven’t been over to Sally’s Baking Addiction yet, you are certainly missing out. Sally creates baked goods to swoon over – from cheesecake to brownies to pies, and everything you can imagine with funfetti. She’s also a whiz when it comes to blog success. Sally took her blog from zero to hero (read: full time job) in just two years. She is now the author of three cookbooks, Sally’s Baking Addiction, Sally’s Candy Addiction, and Sally’s Cookie Addiction.

If you dream of taking your hobby blog to full-time status, this episode is not to be missed!

In this episode, Sally shares:

  • Why comparing your baby blog to the big guns is not a good strategy
  • What she attributes to her rapid success (hint: it’s not luck!)
  • How she juggled her full-time job and growing her food blog
  • How she got a cookbook deal – and kept up her blog while writing it
  • Where her traffic comes from
  • And the advice she would give herself back when she started her blog

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Alexa Peduzzi: Hey, friend. You’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. You may have noticed that this is not Bjork. No. This is Alexa, and I’m part of the Food Blogger Pro team, and I’m also the editor of the podcast, and I’m coming here today instead of Bjork because this is a really special episode. This is our first ever FBP rewind episode, and I’m really excited to share one of our past episodes.

Actually, it was our third episode ever published all the way back in 2015. It’s one of our most popular episodes of all time, and it’s with one of my personal blogging idols, Sally from Sally’s Baking Addiction. In this podcast, Sally talks about comparison, her rapid success, her cookbooks, where her traffic comes from, and so much more. Even if you have listened to this episode before or maybe this episode is brand new to you, the advice Sally gives is totally timeless, so I think you’re still going to find a lot of really helpful advice from Sally in this episode. Are you ready to rewind? Let’s jump in.

Bjork Ostrom: Sally, welcome to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast.

Sally McKenney: Hi. Thank you.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. We’re so excited that you’re here, Sally. We’ve communicated back and forth via email, but we’ve never been able to jump on an official call like this, so I think this would be super valuable for people that are listening. Then also, selfishly, I’m just really excited to talk to you a little bit, so let’s just go ahead. Let’s jump in right away.

Sally McKenney: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Take us back to December 11th, 2011. I did a little searching on Sally’s Baking Addiction. I scrolled back, and I went deep into the archives, and I saw that that was the first post ever of SBA.

Sally McKenney: Oh, that.

Bjork Ostrom: Just curious, what were you thinking at that time? What was your thoughts going into it? That’s a big commitment to start a blog, to publish a post. What were you thinking when you did that first post? What was in your mind?

Sally McKenney: I really just wanted to share a couple recipes with my friends, and I followed food blogs myself, and I thought to myself, “You know what? This would be really cool. This would be a great way to share my recipes with my friends and family.” Everyone’s always asking me about, “Those cookies that you made for work that one day”, or, “What about this cake recipe you made for this birthday party?”, so I really just wanted somewhere to put all of my recipes, and I thought, “Okay. A food blog is a good online recipe journal of sorts.”

I could definitely do that in my spare time, and it was really just a hobby when it first started. I would post a couple of recipes in one day. I mean, I know blog followers. It was just my few friends and my mom really. That was the only people that ever know, read my blog, but it was just very, very not professional at all.

Bjork Ostrom: Great.

Sally McKenney: Just really just a fun hobby for me.

Bjork Ostrom: I think that’s good for people to hear. Lindsay and I share that similar story where Pinch of Yum, my wife, Lindsay’s blog started, and was really something that was just an enjoyable process, and I think it’s really good, and I’ve read some of your blogging posts where you talk about the fact that it really has to be something that you enjoy doing first and foremost, and I think that’s really wise because as you know, there’s so much work involved with it.

Sally McKenney: Yeah. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: You started out. It’s something that you enjoy. You were posting maybe a couple of times a week. Is that right?

Sally McKenney: Yeah. It was very, very random. It would really only be when I had time or when I made a recipe for something. I wouldn’t just be making recipes for my food blog. It was when I was genuinely making recipes for this on the weekend, or this to bring into work, or things like that, so it was very random.

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Sally McKenney: I think it was really just a couple of times a week if that. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure, and it was functional recipes in the sense that you’re bringing it somewhere or using it, which is a great point I think for people that are looking to just get started, that it doesn’t have to be something that you commit to three posts a week.

Sally McKenney: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Like if you’re just interested, just getting started, it can be the recipes that you’re making, and maybe you have a family dinner, and you take some photographs of it, and you put it up on your blog, and I think that makes a lot of sense.

Sally McKenney: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: That first year in, you’re starting to post a little bit more consistently. It’s all recipes that you’re using in different places. At what point do you have the thought, “Hey, I wonder if this is something that I could turn into something or that I could take more from a hobby to maybe like a business, or not even a business, but maybe just like side income or kind of create something in it.”?

Sally McKenney: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: Do you remember that if there’s a point where that happened?

Sally McKenney: I can’t remember an exact point, but I do remember all throughout that first year, just looking at all the other food blogs around me, and not even just food blogs, just any kind of creative hobby blog that I was seeing, and everyone had such beautiful photography, and everything just looked so professional and nicely done, and I said to myself, “I can do this too.” I really wonder if this could ever be profitable for me. It was at a time where I enjoyed what I was doing. I was an associate for a team of financial advisors at a insurance company, and I’ve liked my day job, but it wasn’t where I felt I belonged. I would just go to work, go through my jobs and tasks, go home at 5:00, and that was it.

It wasn’t really fulfilling for me, and I think that’s what inspired me to really research and look into my different options for making this little hobby food blog a source of income for me. I really just researched it for a while and I kept saying, “If you have a food blog, in order to grow, you really have to improve your food photography”, and that’s when I first realized, “Okay. I need to get a little more serious about this if I really wanted to become my full-time job and make some sustainable income from it.” It was probably around the spring or summer of 2012, so maybe about six months after I started, I began to realize that this could actually be something that I do that could support me one day.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay. Great. I want to go back actually to something that you had said before that I think is really important. You had talked about seeing this other blogs, or websites, or creative spaces, and really appreciating what they’re doing, and I think one thing that’s so important with that is to not get totally discouraged with it because it’s so easy to do when you go to another site and you see how beautiful something is or how well done something is, and yeah.

Sally McKenney: Yes. Yes. I was doing that. I was comparing my little baby blog to this successful, millions of readers blog, and I should have been doing that, but that’s what you do.

Bjork Ostrom: Right. Yeah, and it’s so sad and discouraging, and in some ways, it’s completely demotivating.

Sally McKenney: Yeah. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: I think what’s really insightful in what you said is that you researched, number one, which just makes a lot of sense, but also that you’re able to look at and say, “Okay, what is it about this that is making it successful?”, and then to break that down. The reality is if anything’s be done, it can be done again, and so, if somebody has a big following on a social media site or if somebody has a beautiful blog, for those that are listening for you to know, that’s something that’s totally possible for you as well. It’s not easy, but it’s possible, and I think it’s an important reminder. About six months in, maybe let’s say six months to nine months in, you’re starting to have these thoughts of like, “Okay. I think this is something that I want to explore a little bit.”

Sally McKenney: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Then, you start to turn the dial up a little bit. Is that right in terms of the work, and time, and energy?

Sally McKenney: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Was that an intentional decision? Was that kind of like boiling water in the sense that it took a while to heat up, or were you, once you made a decision, all in?

Sally McKenney: It felt like it took a while to heat up, but looking back, the big picture, it did not take long at all. Once I started to really hone in on my food photography and really practice and hold the camera as much as I could and take as many photos as I possibly could and really practice and learn about my DSLR, which I was actually borrowing from my boyfriend, then husband or now husband, Kevin … He was taking a photography class at the time, so I was able to borrow his camera, but once I started really getting into food photography, I started seeing my traffic really increase, and I was sharing my photography on the social media. It’s like Facebook and Pinterest, and I noticed my photographs being shared more, the better that they were. They were being shared more, and once they were being shared more, that was just more eyes seeing them and being directed to my blog.

That’s when I really saw the traffic start to take off, and I was using food photography sites like Foodgawker and Tastespotting, which I actually still use today. I noticed that if you have really, really good food photography, that you’ll get more views and website visits that way, so I think the practice, the time, and the willingness to learn with my new camera …

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Sally McKenney: My completely foreign camera. I had no experience whatsoever with the DSLR, but I think that the willingness to learn and the time I took to practice and really read the manual and get to know my camera really, really helped my food photography, and then therefore, helped bring traffic to my blog.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Yeah. Lindsay talks a lot about that, the time that she spent transitioning from just the automatic settings to having a little bit more control of the camera using manual settings, starting to pay more attention to light, and all of those things that go into learning food photography, and especially when you’re first starting out. Totally overwhelming, but a huge part of it is the learning, but then also, just the time that goes into it, so kudos to you for doing that. That’s awesome.

Sally McKenney: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Another thing that I think is important to note about that is that with the food photography, one of the things, we think about people that will pin recipes or share a content, and I think it’s the consumer, but for people to think about the fact that it’s also a lot of times, there’ll be people that have huge social media followings maybe on Pinterest or something like that, and their desire is to look as awesome as possible to their people, so they’re looking for photos that are beautiful that they can share to their large following, so it’s kind of a win-win in the sense that the people that are coming to your blog as just readers are more likely to share, but also those people that want to have really beautiful photos to share to their social media, will share it as well, so it’s a win-win.

Sally McKenney: Yeah. Yes. Okay.

Bjork Ostrom: You’re making the switch, and you’re turning up the dial a little bit, but there’s this reality that you still have a full-time job. Right? It’s not like you can just be like, “I want to do this full-time, and then now, I’m going to put in my two-week notice.”

Sally McKenney: Yeah. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: There has to be some in between. What did that look like when you were working at a full-time job, 40 hours a week I would assume, but then also spending what I would assume as a lot of time building your blog and doing recipes, and photography, and writing, and all of the stuff that goes into that? How did you do that?

Sally McKenney: Oh my gosh. I don’t think I slept for like an entire year, or that’s what it felt like at the time. As my blog traffic really began to increase and new opportunities were arising, and I got new followers and things like that, more comments, more emails, I found it more and more difficult to obviously keep up with it all. Like right under my nose, I had started this blog, which quickly was turning into a profitable business. I had ads on my blogs, so that’s how I was able to earn some side income, and with more and more readers, I put more and more pressure on myself to deliver the best possible content that I could, and when it was truly difficult to juggle both, like I said before, I would cut back on sleep.

I would turn down social invitations with my friends so I could get things done for my blog on the weekends or on the weeknights, and it was around that time that I realized that I could truly support myself on the income I was making from my blog, and that’s when I decided to laeve my job in the corporate world to really make this blog my career, but in between then, it just took a lot of dedication and a lot of time, and a lot of late nights, and a lot of sacrifices, but I knew that I want it to become a reality, so that’s what kept me going.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s funny, we were talking before this, and as I was doing research for this podcast, I dove deep into the email archives here, and I pulled up an email that you had sent. It was November eighth of 2012, and you had said some kind things. Then, there’s a part here where you said, “I enjoyed reading the reports each month”, so on Pinch of Yum, we do kind of business blogging reports, and you had mentioned one of your goals is to increase your monthly income so that eventually, you could quit your full-time job someday. It’s not uncommon for us to get those emails, but what’s fun with your story is that just a few months later in April, that was the time when you had transitioned into doing your blog full-time. Is that right?

Sally McKenney: Yeah. Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: At that point, had your blog income met what you were doing with your full-time job or did you know that you could see the upward trend, and so it was a little bit of a leap or-

Sally McKenney: I could see the upward- Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Sally McKenney: I could see the upward trend. I wasn’t making as much from my full-time job, but I was making enough to support myself. I was making enough that I could pay rent each month, and I could have some savings and some money for personal expenses and things like that. That’s when I realized that I could actually support myself from my blog, and that was really, really an incredible feeling.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Can you tell me a little bit about that? What was that day like, the first day that you didn’t wake up to go into work, you woke up to work on Sally’s Baking Addiction?

Sally McKenney: It felt so strange. I felt like I was just on vacation from my work or something, that I was supposed to go in the next day. It was very, very weird because the only times that I would work on my blog prior to that were like week nights and early, early, early, early mornings and weekends, and to wake up on Monday morning. I’m a natural early riser, so I wake up early no matter what, but I woke up early, and I just said to myself, “I don’t have to straighten my hair and put on a make-up, you wear all those clothes today.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Sally McKenney: I can gradually answer my emails and comments, and get in the kitchen, and that’s what my day is going to be like, and that was so, so incredible.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. You say it was like a vacation, and I feel like it’s maybe a twisted vacation because I know how incredibly hard you work, and I know that you’re, may be able to do things a little bit differently and spend more time with content, and to be a little bit more intentional at certain things, but I also know that you work really, really hard.

Sally McKenney: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: I’m just curious right now for you Sally, what does it look like in terms of your daily routine? Is it working from sunup until sundown or do you have a structure for that?

Sally McKenney: I work from the moment that my eyes open to the moment my eyes close. I am always working, but what’s pretty cool is that it doesn’t feel like work. Let me rephrase that. When I’m not writing a cookbook and maintaining my blog content, it does not feel like work. When I am writing a cookbook, maintaining blog content three or four times a week, it definitely feels like a job.

Right now, I’m not writing a cookbook at this time, so yes, my days are packed. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: You’ve written two cookbooks. Is that right?

Sally McKenney: Yes. Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Can you tell us a little bit about what that process was like? I’m interested to hear how that developed in terms of you being able to do those, and then after that, as a follow-up question, I’d love to hear how you maintained your blog while also doing those, kind of like you talked a little bit about. Can you tell us a little bit about the process for the cookbooks, how those came about?

Sally McKenney: Yes. It came about from actually one of my blog readers who was actually my editor. She was a blog reader in the beginning of 2013, so right around the time that I was itching to quit my full-time job, she sent me an email. She found one of my recipes from a Google search. She happened upon my blog. She really loved it.

She started reading it every day when I had a new recipe go up, and she sent me an email in this early spring of 2013, so right around the time, I was about to quit my full-time job, and she introduced herself and said, “I made this recipe. I’m actually an editor of this publishing company, and I would love to chat with you about possibly writing a cookbook.” I read that email when I was at work at my full-time job, and I almost fall out of my chair. I actually took a deep breath in, and I swear, people around me were like, “What is wrong with her?”

Bjork Ostrom: Is she okay?

Sally McKenney: Yes, and I think I screamed inside. It was just so, such a crazy thing, and then, we got to talking, and I was really lucky in the fact that I didn’t have to hire an agent or write any kind of proposal or anything like that. She was naturally just a blog reader who enjoyed my content and thought a book would be a great step for me. That’s really how it came to be.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome, and I think one thing that’s really cool about that is I think you do a really good job of connecting with your readers, and you’re really intentional about that, and I think that goes a long way.

Sally McKenney: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Sometimes, you’ll be helping somebody just to help somebody, and that’s a good thing, and sometimes you’ll be reaching out and connecting, and helping somebody that is also going to be able to come back to you and say, “And I have this”, and in this case, it was somebody that was able to help you get a connection for the cookbook, which is really great.

Sally McKenney: Yes. Yes. Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: You’ve done two, which is incredible.

Sally McKenney: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Not just one, but two, so congratulations on that.

Sally McKenney: Yes. Thank you.

Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk a little bit about what it was like to maintain your blog, while also doing the cookbook, what your routine was and how you continued to produce content for the blog, as well as for the cookbook?

Sally McKenney: Sure. Yes. The first cookbook that I wrote was in the summer of 2013, so it was after I quit my job. I was just beginning this full-time blogging thing, and my traffic was pretty high, but I wasn’t really on a set schedule in terms of blog posts. I would really just …

I would definitely post three recipes per week, but it would be really random. One would be on Monday. The next would be on a Tuesday. The other one would be on a Friday, so I wasn’t really on a set schedule. It was much different when I was writing the second cookbook, which I wrote this past winter, Sally’s Candy Addiction, but when I wrote both of them, it was definitely difficult keeping up with both and having enough creative energy to get through all of the content I had to produce, because it’s almost like having two separate blogs, two separate, very large scale blogs that you have to run at the same time.

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Sally McKenney: It’s pretty difficult. What’s also difficult is with my blog recipes, I can make it in the kitchen. I can photograph it. The next day or two, I can put it online, and I can chat with my readers about it. With the book, you have to keep it a secret for so long, and you just have to hold on to it for so long, and then you finally get to release it, and it’s just the best feeling in the world.

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Sally McKenney: During the time of writing them, it’s really challenging to have enough time to really get everything done, and you just have to be very strict about your schedule, and I had to write down a schedule for every single day, and I had to stick to it, and I really never give myself days off now unless I’m going on vacation or something, but I just had to say no to some things, and even though I work for myself, I was just so very strict with my schedule. I would write down my, what I had to do each day, and I would prepare every single night before going to bed. I’m going to do X, Y and Z first thing tomorrow morning for my blog, and then I can check in with my cookbook and do cookbook recipe testing and photographs the rest of the day, and then at night, I can sit down and check back in with my blog, and then I can write the recipe for my book. It’s just a lot. It’s a lot.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Sally McKenney: It’s like I’m not going to sugarcoat it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Sally McKenney: It’s a lot of work.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and I think that’s important for people to hear because from the outside, sometimes, it can seem like we follow these people, whoever, if it’s a food blog or a social media star or somebody on YouTube, and it seems like they’re able to do all of these things without any work or it seems pretty seamless, but the reality is like a lot of times, it just comes down to being a lot of work and a lot of time, and pushing through like creative roadblocks and doing something when you don’t want to do it, and continuing to do that over a long period of time, so congratulations on getting those two cookbooks published.

Sally McKenney: Yeah. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: I think that’s incredible and obviously, a lot of work with it. One thing that you had mentioned before was you said that your traffic had started to grow a little bit.

Sally McKenney: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk a little bit about maybe just in general over the past few years, if you’re willing to share traffic numbers from your blog, and as each little bump happened, if you can say, “I think it had to do with this”, or tie it back to a certain reason. Maybe we can’t always tie it back to something, but I’d love to hear the different stages that you’d say Sally’s Baking Addiction has gone through traffic was.

Sally McKenney: Right. I started my blog at the very end of 2011, so I really was only blogging for two weeks before the end of the year, and I’m being very honest when I say that my only blog reader was my mom. That was the was. That was 2011. It was really just my mother reading the blog.

2012 was my first full year blogging, and the beginning of it was very slow. I didn’t follow any schedule like what I said before, and I had about the entire year, I had 3.5 million views, which is a lot for a first year of a blog, and I think that really has to do with the second part of the year is that’s when I really start to practice my food photography and read as much as I could about it, and really spend a lot of time and energy into perfecting my photos that I share on my blog, and also just producing readable content, and I do that just by being myself, and the words that you see on my blog are exactly how I talk in real life. I’m just completely 100% myself on my blog, and I think that’s what drew people in in the first year of my blog, and then, they’ve just stayed hopefully.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Sally McKenney: I’m pretty sure they have.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Sally McKenney: I think that the first year’s number of around 3.5 million was the most of it was the second part of the year, and that was when I really started to pick up my DSLR and get to know it.

Bjork Ostrom: Great.

Sally McKenney: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Did that continue on than in terms of the traffic growing into the next year?

Sally McKenney: Yes. Yes. Absolutely. At the very end of 2012, so about a month after I sent you that email asking you how …

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Yes.

Sally McKenney: I don’t remember that email. Asking you how to really take my blog to the next level, I actually had to switch website servers, so my website was being hosted by Bluehost, and all of a sudden, one day, I think it was December of 12th or something, so exactly one year after I started my first blog post, this was December 2012. Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Sally McKenney: I was getting such high traffic on my blog that my server could no longer hold me anymore, so I had to switch servers overnight in December of 2012, and I think that the spike of traffic at the end of that year during that time was really just holiday baking. Everyone’s looking for recipes to bake for the holidays, and I had a good amount of readers at that time, and then I think that they were sharing it with their friends around their social medias, and that’s just how it snowballed from there at the end of the year. I mean, holiday baking has a lot to do with it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah.

Sally McKenney: Yes. My busy time of year.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Sally McKenney: Then, it really didn’t slow down with January, February, March. It just kept going, and more people were on my blog. That means more people were sharing my blog. More people were baking my recipes, and then I was getting higher and higher on the Google search, and that’s how my editor found me was on Google Search.

Bjork Ostrom: Right. Right.

Sally McKenney: That’s … Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Great.

Sally McKenney: That’s-

Bjork Ostrom: Today, if you’d be willing to share, and no pressure at all, but in a typical month, Sally’s Baking Addiction, is there a range of page views that you can expect to see now in 2015?

Sally McKenney: Yes. It’s about seven to eight million per month page views per month. Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome and really, really incredible. A huge kudos to you, Sally. I know that that’s seven to eight million. It might look like one shot that it’s just this one month, but just all the work that goes into that over a long period of time, so huge congratulations.

Sally McKenney: Yes. Yes. Thank you.

Bjork Ostrom: We’re going to do a quick break for our show sponsor, which believe it or not is Food Blogger Pro, so it works out nice for us that we sponsor ourselves. Food Blogger Pro for those that don’t know, it’s a membership site, but really, we view it as a community, so we have at this point a little over 900 people that are all in the food media space. It’s called ‘Food Blogger Pro’, but we have a few people that don’t have a food blog at all. They just have a blog and they’re part of the community, but it’s mostly food bloggers or people that are doing food-related content online. Sally’s talked a lot about food photography, so an example of something that we have on Food Blogger Pro is a course all about food photography, and lots of tips and tricks, and that’s taught by Lindsay, my wife.

She does Pinchofyum.com, and with Food Blogger Pro, there’s three elements that we have. There’s the educational stuff, so we have the food photography tutorials, we have learning WordPress, we have deep dives into different plugins that are specific for food bloggers.

Then last and maybe most importantly, we have this community forum where people that get it, get the world of blogging … Sally and I talk here, and we both get it, but for the vast majority of people, they maybe don’t have people that get what this space is all about. We have the community forum where people can share questions that they have and provide answers. That’s Food Blogger Pro, and if you’re listening, one of the things that we want to do is say thank you to Sally, so we’ve set up an affiliate link for Sally, and she’s volunteered to come on and give some tips and share some insight or info about Sally’s Baking Addiction, so if you’re interested in signing up for Food Blogger Pro, we’d love that, and if you do, use this link. It’s FoodBloggerPro.com/Sally, and we want to make sure that she gets credit for those sign ups as a way to say thanks for coming on the show, so I want to say that because you’re on a call right now.

Sally McKenney: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Thank you, Sally for being a part of this.

Sally McKenney: Yes. You’re welcome. Thank you.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Let’s jump back in. I want to talk a little bit more about the traffic piece. Can you talk about the general percentages of traffic for Sally’s Baking Addiction, where those are coming from right now, the different traffic sources?

Sally McKenney: Yes. Most of my traffic comes from search engines online, so I’m high. I’m ranked high in that, and I get a lot of people who are just typing in ‘Chocolate chip cookies’, or just typing in ‘Vanilla cake’, or ‘Carrot cake’, or whatever. Then, they’re linked. They get directed to my blog, and that’s where a majority of my traffic comes from.

The next tier down would definitely be Pinterest. I am all over Pinterest. I myself am obsessed with Pinterest and I feel like I planned my entire wedding on Pinterest.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Sally McKenney: I just, I personally love it. It’s funny I have my friends. They text me or they call me, and I said, “I know this is your recipe. I saw your hand in this photo, and I knew it was you before you’ve been clicking through to your blog. Your recipes are everywhere on Pinterest”, and that’s really where I get a lot of my traffic from is just people sharing and pinning my recipes to their boards, and I try to be very active myself on Pinterest because I know that a lot of my traffic comes from there.

Also, because I genuinely love it, but it’s just such an easy social media … Not easy, but it’s the easiest of all the social medias because it really doesn’t take much thought at all. You grab a recipe that you like on your own blog or on another blog, and you put it on your board, and then all of your followers can see it, and they can share it, and then their followers share it, and then their followers share it, and it just snowballs from there. Pinterest is definitely my number one social media in terms of traffic, and my number two in terms of overall traffic that comes to my blog because search engines are number one.

Bjork Ostrom: Great.

Sally McKenney: Then, after that, it’s really just all my social medias together. I mean, Pinterest is a whole world of its own, but then, I get a lot of traffic from Facebook, my own Facebook page, Facebook.com/Sallysbakingaddiction, and then from there, it’s really just all direct traffic right through my blog, so people are just typing in, ‘Sallysbakingaddiction.com’, or they subscribe to my blog and they follow me on Bloglovin or things like that, and they just directly go to my blog, but number one is search engine.

Bjork Ostrom: Great. You had mentioned in there that you spend a lot of time on Pinterest. It’s something that you really like. In terms of … This might be hard to do, percentage rise, but in terms of a normal day for you, how much time are you spending doing recipes versus social media versus writing content?

Could you rank those in order of like, “I spend most of my time doing this, and then this, and then this”?

Sally McKenney: Yes. Every single day is different, but if I were to pick a day when I did everything, so I was in the kitchen. I also photographed. I also spent time on the computer. I also did social media. If I did all of those in one day, which is common, but not every day, I would have to say the most time I dedicate is to photography.

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Sally McKenney: It’s to … Sorry if that does not answer your question.

Bjork Ostrom: No, it does.

Sally McKenney: It’s not social media. Okay.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Sally McKenney: Yes, it’s photograph. It’s setting up the shot. It’s taking a billion photos. It’s looking at them on my computer, deciding I don’t like any of them and starting all over. It’s editing the photos. It’s uploading the photos to my blog, seeing how they look, deleting them because I don’t like them anymore, then trying it again, and the photography is where I put the most pressure on myself because I feel like I’ve put myself in a position where I am uncomfortable sharing less than my definition of perfect on my blog, so I spend the most time on photography. That’s absolutely number one.

Bjork Ostrom: I think that’s good for people to hear. I think sometimes we wonder where maybe people are around Pinterest all day, or maybe they’re on Twitter interacting with people, and the reality is, and I know this is true for Lindsay as well, the photography stuff takes a really long time, and it takes like you said, sometimes you have to redo and shoot or just really spending a lot of time arranging cookies, which is the craziest thing in the world, but it’s the reality of what it takes to get a really good shot that’s shared a lot and that people find engaging, so I think that makes a lot of sense.

Sally McKenney: I know. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: I want to talk a little bit about maybe some soft skills that you’d have to develop with blogging. I think this stuff is really important, and it’s maybe things that we don’t really think about a lot, but I’m curious, as you’ve been doing this a really long time, I think you’ve probably had to, or I would assume that you’ve had to develop some mindsets and some different ways to maybe view the world or view a job that you have as a blogger. Can you talk a little bit maybe about some of the mindsets you’ve had to develop over the past few years?

Sally McKenney: I always try to be positive, and I think that really is reflected on my blog. I have a lot of down days, and I think that those mostly come from recipe fails or I got a mean comment, or someone hates my cookies, or I hate my photography that day or things like that. I just always have to remain positive and level-headed and grounded, and to remind myself why I’m doing this in the first place, and the sole reason I’m doing this in the first place is because I love to share my recipes. End of story. That’s the number one reason why I do this, and I need to remind myself when I’m down, when I’m having a bad day, when I do not want to write this cookbook anymore, when I do not have a post for tomorrow ready to go, and I would rather just sit on the couch, I remind myself, “The reason why I do this is because I love to share my recipes”, and I repeat that to myself.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great, and I think that it’s important to remember because sometimes, we can get caught up in the end as opposed to the means, and one thing that we’ve found as we’ve continued to do this type of work more and more is that the more that you can enjoy the process and the less that you can think about what you’ll get from it, I think the more enjoyable it can be, and we’ve had conversations with people that have built really incredible things, and a lot of times, they’ve even been able to sell those things.

Sally McKenney: Yeah. Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Maybe it’s a website that they’ve built and they’ve sold and are no longer a part of it, and a lot of times, they’re like, “I realized that I actually really enjoyed that. It was the work that I enjoyed, not necessarily this end goal that a lot of us have in mind.” I think it’s really important to have those goals and to strive to achieve big things, but I think the more that we can think about enjoying the work and thus, the kind of the reason behind the reason for why we do it, like you said, because you enjoy sharing recipes, there’s not a number behind that. There’s not something really tangible to … It’s a really soft feeling, but it’s something that can help you focus on stuff, which I think is really cool.

Sally McKenney: Yeah. I think that has to do … I think that if you really want to grow your food blog and you really want it to be successful, you have to genuinely love what you’re doing. That is so important. If I didn’t love what I do every day, it would feel like work, I wouldn’t want to do it. I wouldn’t be motivated to keep going. I wouldn’t be motivated to do all the things that I do during the day to make my blog successful, so it really comes down to you have to love it.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great.

Sally McKenney: You really have to love it.

Bjork Ostrom: Great. We’re coming to the end here, Sally. I did want to ask one more question with you.

Sally McKenney: Okay.

Bjork Ostrom: For those that are thinking about doing this, they have the idea, maybe it’s not even a food blog. Maybe somebody is listening right now that knows you or that’s been following along, and they’re interested in pursuing their passion or starting a blog to talk about food, share the recipes, or maybe something else, what is something that you would tell that person that’s listening right now, or maybe, it would even be … No. Ask that, and then I’ll ask one more follow up question.

Sally McKenney: Okay.

Bjork Ostrom: What would you tell that person?

Sally McKenney: I actually was on a phone with someone earlier or last week. It was one of my mom’s friends’ sons who wants to start his own business, and he wanted to chat with me about how I did it, and basically what you just asked. I told him, I said, “Work harder than anyone you know. Look at the people around you. See how hard they work and double that.

You have to work as hard as you possibly can and you really have to push yourself, and it takes sacrifice and time and dedication to build a quality product, whatever it is, especially one that you want to earn a stream of income from and you just really have to keep going, and you really have to love it.”

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. My final question, similar, but a little bit different, if you were to go back, and where we started, if you’re going to talk to Sally from December 11th, 2011, what do you think that you’d tell her?

Sally McKenney: Oh my God.

Bjork Ostrom: If it was your past self and not me on the other line, what would you say?

Sally McKenney: I would say stick with it. Stick with it. It’s going to get hard and it’s going to get tough, and it’s not always going to be easy, but stick with it, Sally. You can do it. You can get through it.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome.

Sally McKenney: You have the capacity to do it, so yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome.

Alexa Peduzzi: That concludes our first ever FBP rewind episode. We really hope you enjoyed this new kind of episode, and if you did, you just let us know. Either email us at [email protected] or you can leave a comment on the show notes for this episode at FoodBloggerPro.com/Blog. I’m also here to give you the reviewer of the week, and this review of the week comes from Theodore Leaf from Theodoreleaf.com. He says, “Honestly, I don’t even know how to recommend this podcast and Food Blogger Pro enough. Listening to this helps me to continue learning and discovering every Tuesday, and most importantly, reminds me that I’m not alone. Thank you all so much for the hard work and dedication that goes into this”, and thank you, Theodore and all of you guys for listening.

If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this review, it’s that you too are not alone. If there’s something you’re struggling with your blog or if you’re really struggling making ends meet by monetizing your blog, know that you are definitely not the first blogger in that position, so hopefully you can take some comfort in the fact that you are not alone in your blogging journey, and that we are here to help. From all of us here at Food Blogger Pro HQ, make it a great week.

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