Welcome to episode 434 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Taryn Scarfone from Joy Filled Eats.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Zhen Zhou. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Navigating Google Algorithm Updates, Leaning into Email Marketing, and Running Three Food Blogs
Taryn started Joy Filled Eats eight years ago and has recently started two additional food blogs, one with her 14-year-old daughter and one with her husband. With each new blog, her approach has become more intentional and strategic — and has seen more rapid success as a result.
In this interview, Taryn shares more about how she manages the responsibilities of three food blogs. She also speaks to the effects of recent Google Algorithm updates and why she has prioritized email marketing for Joy Filled Eats.
Taryn has also hosted a mastermind group for food bloggers, as well as an in-person retreat with fellow food creators. She explains the process of organizing both, in case you feel inspired to do the same!
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- How she came to have three food blogs and why she enjoys running these sites with her family.
- What it’s like to juggle the responsibilities for all three sites.
- How they grew A Grill for All Season to 150,000 monthly pageviews.
- How her sites have been affected by Google Algorithm updates and how they recover from updates in which the sites are negatively impacted.
- More about Google Discover and how it can affect site traffic.
- How she organized a retreat and a mastermind group for food bloggers.
- How she leveled up her email marketing strategy and grew her email list to 40,000+ subscribers.
- Joy Filled Eats
- A Grill for All Seasons
- Baking Me Hungry
- Google Discover
- 430: Grow Your Email List with ConvertKit’s Creator Network with Nathan Barry
- Sidetracked Sarah
- Evolving Table
- It is a Keeper
- Email Crush by Matt Molen
- 201: Email Marketing for Bloggers with Matt Molen
- Follow Taryn on Instagram and Facebook
- Join the Food Blogger Pro Podcast Facebook Group
Thank you to our sponsors!
Thanks to Raptive for sponsoring this episode!
Become a Raptive creator today to start generating ad revenue on your blog and get access to industry-leading resources on HR and recruiting, SEO, email marketing, ad layout testing, and more. You can also get access to access a FREE email series to help you increase your traffic if you’re not yet at the minimum 100k pageviews to apply to Raptive.
Interested in working with us too? Learn more about our sponsorship opportunities and how to get started here.
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. If you’ve been frustrated trying to discover actionable insights from different analytics and keyword platforms, Clariti is your solution. Clariti helps you manage your blog content all in one place, so you can find actionable insights that improve the quality of your content. Not only does it automatically sync your WordPress post data so you can find insights about broken images, broken links, and more, it can also sync with your Google Analytics and Google Search Console data, so you can see keyword, session, page view, and user data for each and every post.
One of our favorite ways to use it, we can easily filter and see which of our posts have had a decrease in sessions or page views over a set period of time, and give a little extra attention to those recipes. This is especially helpful when there are Google updates or changes in search algorithms so that we can easily tell which of our recipes have been impacted the most. Listeners to the Food Blogger Pro podcast get 50% off of their first month of Clariti after signing up. To sign up, simply go to clarity.com/food. That’s C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com/food. Thanks again to Clariti for sponsoring this episode.
Emily Walker: Hey there. This is Emily from the Food Blogger Pro team, and you’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast. This week on the podcast, Bjork is interviewing Taryn Scarfone from the blog, Joy Filled Eats. And I say from the blog, Joy Filled Eats, but in reality, she also runs two other food blogs with members of her family. Taryn and her husband run the blog, A Grill for All seasons, and Taryn and her 14-year-old daughter run the blog Baking Me Hungry. Taryn shares more about what it’s like to juggle the responsibilities of three different food blogs, and how her process and strategy for starting a food blog has changed over the years. She also shares more about what growth has looked like for each blog and how she prioritizes everything for all three sites.
One of her sites was hit recently by the recent Google algorithm update, and she shares more about her strategies for recovering from those algorithm updates and just her mindset around updates like that in general. In recent years, Taryn has hosted a mastermind group for food bloggers, as well as an in-person retreat with fellow food creators. And if you’ve ever felt inspired to do the same thing, she gives a step-by-step of how you might go about organizing and even getting a sponsor for an event like that. It’s a really great interview, and stick around after the interview for our November member news update where you can hear more about what’s going on at Food Blogger Pro. And without further ado all, I’ll let Bjork take it away.
Bjork Ostrom: Taryn, welcome to the podcast.
Taryn Scarfone: Hi, Bjork, happy to be here.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, we’re going to be having a conversation today touching a lot of different topics, but one of the interesting things with your story is you actually have three sites, and what I love about it is it feels like one of the considerations within that is working together with family. So can you talk a little bit about your portfolio of sites that you have and who the connection is with your family within each one of those?
Taryn Scarfone: Sure. I started Joy Filled Eats on my own in 2015 as a hobby, which turned into a career, and while I was doing that on my own, it hit us that my husband likes to cook as much as I do. So we went to the Everything Food Conference in 2018 and on the way back on the plane ride we’re like, “Let’s do it. Let’s start a second site that we work on together.”
So at that point we started and we worked on it very little for about two to three more years. And when COVID hit, we had a lot more time, so we really started to spend a lot more time on that site, which paid off. And then a year ago, I decided to start a third site with my now 14-year-old daughter because she has wanted to be a pastry chef since she was about five years old. So this site is mostly desserts and baking. Since my main site is low-carb, keto, gluten-free, healthy, it’s been nice to be able to have the other sites. And at this point, we can make pretty much whatever we want.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, because one is grilling focused, one is baking focused, and then the other one is keto. So it’s kind of like you have all of that covered. I know a few other people who have these niche focused sites, and one of the things that they run into is the parameters that they put around it, which is really good, and I think it’s great for growing a site is to have these specific focuses and a specific offering, but then as a creator, sometimes you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I really want to do this muffin recipe that’s so great. What do I do with that?” And so great to be able to spin up one of those additional sites.
So the sites, Joy Filled Eats, A Grill for All Seasons and then Baking Me Hungry, what does it look like to juggle the three of those? I think anybody listening would think of having one site and be like, “Oh my gosh, it’s so much just to keep up one.” Is it just as hard to add another one in, or do you feel like actually, it’s maybe kids a little bit? Your first one is like, “What am I doing?” And then you have a second kid, it’s still hard. You’re managing more, but it’s like, “I’ve been through this before. I know what to do.” What does that look like to manage multiple sites?
Taryn Scarfone: It’s a little bit of both because a lot of things when you’re setting up a website, you do once, and then you forget how you did it.
Bjork Ostrom: Yep, totally.
Taryn Scarfone: So we’ve run into that a lot. And our main focus is still Joy Filled Eats because that’s bringing in the most revenue, so that has been the main focus. And the other sites are a little slower, so it’s a little less social media, a little less new posts, but we basically spend one day a week all day in the kitchen with an assistant, and we’ll test recipes for all three sites depending on what’s in season, what we feel like cooking that week. And then my daughter now, if I write out a recipe that we want to test and hand it to her, she can just run with it and take the camera and take pictures and do the whole thing, start to finish.
Bjork Ostrom: That must be fun for you as a mom to work on something together in that way.
Taryn Scarfone: Yeah, when I upload the photos and I see, “Wow, these are actually really good,” it’s very rewarding.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s like a 14-year-old version of our daughter Sylvie, who’s five, is now starting to draw pictures, and it’s like, oh, you can kind of see what they are. And it’s like, I’m just so proud. But as they get older, it’s like you just get more advanced and it’s like, oh, now you have this recipe that you’re developing and pictures that you’re taking of it and a blog post that you’re putting out into the world and people who are interacting with it. I just imagine that is a really valuable thing. And for her too, to be learning that. That’s really cool.
Taryn Scarfone: It has been very rewarding. I just need to teach her to do the less fun things, like alt tags.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah, yeah, totally. All of us, right? It’s like whether you’re 14 or 30 or 40. You talked about the assistant coming in. What does that look like and do you have other team members that are part of what you’re doing? I think that assistant role is such an important one, and I would imagine, especially when you’re doing multiple recipes in a day.
Taryn Scarfone: Yeah, so we just hired a very good friend who comes in and she will prep ingredients and do the dishes. So it’s pretty amazing having someone just washing pans and pots as we go and not having them all pile up in the kitchen. We have six kids, which fortunately this is the first year they were all in school, so it’s just been a very different positive move forward.
Bjork Ostrom: Just in terms of margin?
Taryn Scarfone: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, totally. You’re like, “Oh my gosh, what does it feel like to have six hours, five hours in a day where it’s just you being able to be at home, work on stuff, focus. That’s great. So we chatted about this a little bit beforehand, but one of the things that I think is so incredible is you talked about launching this site with your husband and being able to build it pretty substantially. So Grill for All Seasons focuses on grilling recipes, and can you talk a little bit about the things that, it sounds like you started slow and then maybe focused on it. When you started to focus on it, you were able to grow it really big and then you can share metrics or information to the degree that you’re comfortable with that? And then Google algorithm update, not to bury the lead, but with that as a consideration within all of this. Can you talk about the arc of that site because it’s both inspiring and then also I think relatable in terms of having to navigate the Google gods and these algorithm updates that they push out?
Taryn Scarfone: Yeah, within really starting to work on it, a good amount of time when we came back into it. Within six months, we were at maybe 100,000 views a month. We had a Traeger Turkey recipe that went viral our first Thanksgiving, and it was just amazing to watch that happen. And since then, it’s been fairly steady. Over the summer we were at around 150 views a month, sessions. Sessions or views, I forget which one, on that site.
Bjork Ostrom: 150,000?
Taryn Scarfone: Yeah, 150,000. And then we got the Google update in September and it’s down over 50%. Some of that’s seasonal because it’s grilling and smoking recipes, so it’s hard to tell exactly, but it’s definitely down quite a bit.
Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about your mindset going into that? And I think we’ve experienced Google algorithm updates on both ends, like, oh, it’s really positive, you get one, and it’s really negative. And it can be super discouraging. You’ve spent so much time, effort, you build up this thing, you get traction with it, you get momentum with it, and by no fault of your own, something happens, an algorithm change happens, and we know all sorts of sites that this happens to, millions of page views a month and super established and an algorithm update happens and it impacts thousands to tens of thousands to millions of dollars for these different sites and can completely crush certain business models. What was that like for you? Obviously you have the other ones to kind of hedge against, which I would guess helps, but what was that like to experience that, and what is your approach with the site knowing that this Google algorithm update impacted it?
Taryn Scarfone: It’s discouraging, to be honest, but part of it is I know that it ebbs and flows. So in March 2020, Joy Filled Eats was 75% Pinterest traffic, which there was a Pinterest algorithm update and that went down substantially overnight. So it’s just really a reminder to not put all your eggs in one basket because the Grill for All Seasons was 90% Google traffic. So then when an update comes that’s not favorable, it can be bad. So we just need to focus more on social for that site diversifying and just keep plugging away, because I’m sure it’ll come back up.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally. And I think doing it as long as you have, seven, no, eight years, doing it as long as we have, over a decade, one of the things you realize is that’s just part of this business. Things go up, things go down. And as long as you can continue to show up and continually create good content, be aware of the changes within the different platforms within search, but maybe not cater everything to those. It’s kind of that mix, that sweet sauce of what’s working, on search as an example, but also what is good content, what does your audience resonate with and finding the balance of those. And the interesting thing in your story is it sounds like that was the only site that was impacted. The other two, it sounds like, kept going, everything’s normal. Is that right?
Taryn Scarfone: Yes. The newest site, Baking Me Hungry, right now is primarily getting Google’s Discover traffic, which I don’t know why Google likes it. I mean, domain’s interesting because I bought an expired domain that’s existed for over 10 years that I took the domain. So I don’t know if Google just likes the longevity of it being in existence and that it’s back and that it started out with some backlinks, but…
Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about what Google Discover is? Because I think there are a lot of people who are listening and they’re like, wait, Google Discover? And there’s some people in different content categories like this site where I know somebody who does Disney News, and Google Discover is a goldmine for them. And I think in our world, we think so often of just standard search, like you search something and you go to the results page and click on it. But what is Google Discover and can you kind of talk about how that’s maybe a little bit different than normal search results or a search results page on Google?
Taryn Scarfone: Honestly, what I think Google Discover is is when you on your phone and just on the main, you open up the browser and it’s what’s there that it’s encouraging you to scroll through. It’ll be news articles, recipes. Am I correct?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally.
Taryn Scarfone: In what it is.
Bjork Ostrom: And it’s funny because it’s like for those who use it, I think they know it well, but maybe don’t know that what they’re doing, what they’re using is Google Discover. And so for anybody listening, if you want to get a feel of what it is and how it works, you could just go on your phone, as long as you’re signed into Google, I think, just go to google.com or pull up the Google search app. If you don’t use Safari or if you don’t use Chrome. Well, Chrome-
Taryn Scarfone: It comes up in Chrome.
Bjork Ostrom: As long as you, I think, go to google.com. But for me, I’m in Safari on my phone, I go to google.com and then I see all of these news articles that are for me, it’s like, “Baltimore Ravens versus Arizona Cardinals, five things we learned,” all of these. Football news, Minneapolis News, ChatGPT, Matthew Perry, like a Yahoo Finance article, Business Insider, Loki season two, all of these different pieces where it’s like, “Hey, you might be interested in this.” And so the interesting thing is recipes I don’t think often is something that gets into those, the Google Discover. But it sounds like for that baking site, you’ve seen that. Is there an area, like are you pulling that up in Google Analytics? And if people would be interested in seeing if they are getting Google Discover traffic, I haven’t looked in GA4 yet. Is there a place where you can find that as a source?
Taryn Scarfone: I don’t know if it’s a source in GA4. You can see it in search console. On the left side it says Discover, and if you click that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yep. And the ones that we’ve had, this is in the past. This is pulling from maybe a year or two ago. And it’s fun because when it hits, it hits. And you’ll have your normal search traffic. And then it’s like for Pinch of Yum, it was double. And we were like, oh my gosh, what happened? And we looked and it was like Lindsay did an article on my favorite recipes from Aldi or something like that, or favorite ingredients or things from Aldi, snacks from Aldi, and that was kind of like a Google Discovery kind of article, it felt like. And so if people want to see if they’re getting Google Discover traffic, yeah, I’m seeing it right now. It’s under… So looking at Pinch of Yum, this is always so terrible to describe it on a podcast, describing Google Search Console on a podcast, but you see search results and then under that you see Discover.
And this is interesting, for October 26th for Pinch of Yum, there was something that must have, a recipe that must have gotten some traction because it had 300,000 impressions, so a lot of people scrolling past it, and then 6,000 clicks. And then it will be on October 19th it was 800 impressions and 30 clicks. So it’s kind of very spiky. Are you seeing kind of the same result with that site where once in a while something will get picked up?
Taryn Scarfone: Yes. Very spiky. We had a biscuit recipe go viral, and I mean, that site generates normally under $100 a day. It’s a smaller site, and we hit almost $1,000 in one day with Discover traffic.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, cool.
Taryn Scarfone: Time to go out to dinner and celebrate.
Bjork Ostrom: So is that so fun for your daughter? As a 14-year-old, I can’t imagine what that would be like.
Taryn Scarfone: Yeah, we tell her it’s going to pay for culinary school someday.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that is so awesome. I love that. It’s really inspiring. Something to think about as our, they’re not at the point yet where, I mean they’re helping, but not really. But as they get older, thinking about what does a job look like for them and how cool for them to learn all of these different skills and to fold that in. So that’s super helpful. And I think a lot of people are probably navigating some version of either just trying to understand how the algorithm works, all the different components with it. And it’s interesting to hear somebody who has a portfolio of sites say like, “Hey, this impacted this site. It didn’t impact this site as much.”
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One of the things I wanted to talk to you about, we talk about this idea of continual learning, how important that is. I know one of the ways that you’ve done that is you’ve organized and facilitated meetups or retreats, mastermind groups in the past, and even it was interesting to hear you talk about going to the conference and coming away from the conference with your husband and being like, “Hey, let’s do this.” And I remember interviewing Nathan Barry, who started ConvertKit, and he said all of his biggest breakthroughs with his business came from when he attended conferences. And I see that as kind of a through line, in person events, a conference, a meetup. So what does that look like for you to host these, to gather people together and any advice for people who are interested in doing a similar thing on their own?
Taryn Scarfone: Definitely. So coming back from that conference, I realized that the best times were hanging out with other women in sweatpants and just talking shop. We just talked about what we do and what’s working for us, and that was absolutely the best part of the conference. So backtrack a little bit. Leading up to the conference, Sarah from Sidetracked Sarah started a mastermind group online for women that were going to the conference so that when we got there, we would see some familiar faces.
Bjork Ostrom: Oh, that’s awesome.
Taryn Scarfone: Which was really awesome. And after the conference, that Mastermind group continued for a little while and it kind of branched out and I took over it at one point, and people just came and went as life changed and their businesses changed. And after COVID, there weren’t any big events yet, and I just really missed seeing other bloggers in person. So I heard a rumor that at the time Ad Thrive would occasionally sponsor retreats. So I reached out to AdThrive and pitched my idea and they pretty much gave us enough money to pay for the retreat. It was very simple. We rented a beach house, we took turns cooking, and each one of the women just led a different session on something that they excelled in.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool.
Taryn Scarfone: So we had London from Evolving Table did a session on how start doing YouTube videos, which not many of us were doing. Christina from It’s a Keeper is a whiz with Airtable. She was helping us figure out how to get organized and use Airtable. So each person just brought their own expertise. We sat around in our pajamas, we ate snacks and drank wine and took a walk on the beach. And it was wonderful. Even without, so the total cost, house and food and everything, came in at under $4,000. So even if you wanted to organize one of these without a sponsor and just divide up the costs, it’s pretty minimal.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. And it’s one of the things I’ve found whenever I get together with a group of people, it’s like you can have some loose structure, that’s important, but generally speaking, the one thing you all have in common is this pursuit of creating things online. And so naturally from that you share. And I love the idea of everybody bringing one thing. What did you say? How did you frame it up? One thing that’s working well or one thing that you’re an expert in or?
Taryn Scarfone: Just something, what’s their area of expertise? The thing that I think I do well at is email marketing. So I led a session on email marketing.
Bjork Ostrom: So in that session, so let’s say you get everybody together, you’re like, “Hey, we’re going to rent this beach house.” Maybe everybody has their own room or you’re sharing rooms, depending on how big it is, you have some food that you bring in. Ones that have done it before, they’ve been able to cover a chef coming in because everybody chips in to kind of pay for that. And so you have meals taken care of. And then do you schedule a one-hour session where you say like, “Hey, we’re going to do, I’m going to present on email for one hour.” You present for a little bit, and then kind of Q and A after that?
Taryn Scarfone: Pretty much, yep. I just created a Google document with time slots, people signed up. We did cook, which I did find enjoyable because we’d each just cook one meal. Everyone pretty much just had groceries delivered, so it was not a big deal to cook one meal over the long weekend, and we just would sign up for different slots and go from there.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool. That’s awesome. And you talked about the idea of a sponsorship. A lot of times brands will say, “Hey, if there’s a group of people gathering together, we’d be interested in allocating some of our money to,” whether they consider it PR or marketing or whatever to support that effort, which is cool to hear that AdThrive or now Raptive did that. How about on the mastermind side of things? How do you mastermind? What does that look like and what did you find were the things that were most helpful in that process and maybe things that you would do differently or suggest that somebody considered differently if they were going to go into it and do it on their own?
Taryn Scarfone: That’s very simple to do. So I created just a Google form with a basic, it was five or six questions, why do you want to join? I set the criteria of making $100,000 a year just so that it was full-time, more career bloggers and less hobbyists, so we’d all be at the same level. So everyone just filled out the form, the people that seemed like would be a good fit. We made a Facebook group to be able to discuss what times work, what day of the week works, and then we would just Zoom once a month for one hour. And we tried different things where when I first started participating in a mastermind, one person would be on the hot seat where they would start off and pick a topic, and then after that it could just be questions and answers, so more of a session style. And it became more casual recently where just, okay, guys, there was an update, how’s everybody doing? What’s going on? But it’s also the one thing that I’ve found challenging with mastermind groups is getting people to commit.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, totally.
Taryn Scarfone: So that has been challenging and part of me wonders, my husband always says that you have to have skin in the game. So something that someone’s paying for, even if it’s five or $10, they feel they’re just more committed naturally. Whereas the ones that I’ve run have all been free, they’ve just been informal and casual.
Bjork Ostrom: Lindsay and I have these recurring meetings where it’s like we call it household huddle and we have it scheduled and we’re always like, “Ah, let’s just reschedule it for another time.” It’s an example of, I think what happens with a mastermind meeting, which is if you’re not paying for it, if you don’t have skin in the game, it’s really easy to look at it and say like, “I’ve got some other pressing things.” And it feels like that’s always what happens for Lindsay and I when we come up against these meetings is like, “Oh, we have these pressing things that we got to get done.” But to our earlier conversation, a lot of the most impactful things that you can do within your business are from these conversations or meetings or meetups or these opportunities to essentially just talk with other people and learn what other people are doing.
Because if not, we can kind of be in these little bubbles and I can show up in my office and it’s literally, it’s like it’s not a bubble, it’s a square, it’s a box. I could just work here all day long, do stuff, but it’s when I kind of rub shoulders with other people, interact, even these podcasts that I come away with ideas and insights. And so as much as people can prioritize that, I think the more, the better. So masterminds obviously really important. Meetups, I love the fact that you’re the one organizing those as well. A lot of times people will say, “How do I get connected into these groups?” And the best way to do it is just to do it on your own. So for anybody who hears this and they’re like, “You know what? I’m going to give it a shot,” what would kind of the quick playbook be that you would recommend for them.
If you were to outline kind of like a packing trip for camping, it’d be like tent, that’s all that I know about camping. We never go camping. A tent, a sleeping bag, a fire starter. What would the packing list be for, not actual packing list, but the prep list, the launch list for your own in-person meetup?
Taryn Scarfone: I think step one is decide whether or not you want a sponsor. If you’d rather have less money out of pocket, go for finding a sponsor. Second step, decide where you personally want to travel to. I decided that I wanted it to be within a few hours just to make it easier. I could bring things from home. I didn’t have to fly. So that was one of my requirements, was just. Then I found a house and booked it. So after that, I first reached out to the other women. I was in a mastermind group with already who is interested in coming, and once I had answers from them, yes or no, I realized we had a couple spots left. So all I did was make another Google form and pop it in a Facebook group and I had some interest. So we decided part of the way we chose people was just what their experience was, what their expertise was. So if we already had someone doing email marketing, we don’t need a second person who specializes in email marketing.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. One of the things I thought of when you talked about your session that you did on email marketing was this reality that a lot of creators, a lot of bloggers in the food space specifically, it feels like, let me know if this feels true to you as well, email marketing is kind of this secondary thing. In some niches it’s all that people think about. It’s like email, email, email. I think in our niche, people think about search, search, search and email’s kind of an afterthought. So how are you strategically using email as a valuable part of your business and what advice would you give for other creators in the food space specifically who have treated email as an afterthought?
Taryn Scarfone: I went to a small AdThrive meetup that Matt Molen was at. So meeting him and hearing what he did, we decided to hire him to work one-on-one with us, which really was a good kick in the pants to get going on email because really that is the only thing you own. So if you can build a large loyal email network, they will click through and you will get site visits from them. So besides just selling to them, I realized when I was looking through analytics, I’m getting a substantial amount of views from my email list. So once we took the time and created a quick start guide and different opt-ins, I was able to grow my list to 40,000 pretty quickly, and it’s been kind of stagnant.
I haven’t added any new opt-ins or really pushed it in a while, but at this point it’s been great because I try not to oversell to my list, but a few times a year I will promote an affiliate that I work with, which is always lucrative. And now ConvertKit is starting to add ads in email newsletters, which is a positive, going in a positive direction, and some email sponsorships, and it’s just another great way to diversify.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, we just had a conversation with ConvertKit about looking into that. I think they’re partnering with LiveIntent, which is another kind of third party email. I might not be correct on that, but if I’m remembering. And so we were talking with LiveIntent and they’re like, oh, actually ConvertKit is just doing this natively. And we actually just also had for the first time somebody say like, “Hey, can we sponsor the newsletter?” So even for us where it’s like, oh yeah, this is an important thing, we need to be focusing on this and spending time with it. You mentioned Matt. Matt’s site is called Email Crush, or his service. He was on the podcast I think back in 2019, episode 201, if anybody would want to check that out. All about email and how you can be smart and intentional with email as a creator.
And like you said, you own it. And this idea that a Google Algorithm day can happen and your traffic can go away or Pinterest algorithm can happen and that traffic can go away, but you always have your email. And what we found, especially when you want to promote something like you said, affiliate or product, it’s a lot easier to do via email than it is with a blog post or even on social to some degree. So do you use ConvertKit for your email service provider?
Taryn Scarfone: I do. Just for Joy Filled Eats. The one thing with the second and the third blog is we haven’t really gotten into email with those yet. It’s just found I have a finite amount of time.
Bjork Ostrom: Totally.
Taryn Scarfone: So have to pick and choose.
Bjork Ostrom: Believe it or not, with three sites, six kids, all that comes with that, you don’t have all the time in the world. Speaking of that, as you think about balancing the balancing act, these three sites that you have, life, kind of your normal life, how do you think about ROI on your time? And that’s like, all of us I think are wanting to make sure that the time that we’re spending is the best return. And a component of that is we want to make sure that we’re doing things that we actually enjoy, but you’ve built successful sites, a successful business.
It’s at the point now where it’s like this is a career, a job. You’ve built this business that now brings in substantial revenue. And the hard part with it is we only have so much time, but there’s an infinite amount of things that we could be doing. We could just be working on these things 24 hours a day and never stop. So how do you think strategically about your time as a business owner, as a mom, as a wife, like all of these different roles that we play, to make sure that the time that you’re spending is the best return for your business?
Taryn Scarfone: A lot of that is, for me, it’s been seeing where the traffic is actually coming from. So I’ve tried hiring things out, but they all work better when I do them myself, which is hard because I hired out Pinterest and my Pinterest went down, I hired out Facebook, Facebook went down. So I’ve taken a lot of these things back on myself, and then it is a stretch trying to fit everything in, but if I’m not seeing the ROI, I’m not going to pay somebody a thousand bucks a month to manage a social media. It’s just not worth it.
Bjork Ostrom: The idea being, you can pay for it, they can do it, but if it’s producing $500 of value, it doesn’t make sense if it’s costing a thousand.
Taryn Scarfone: Yes, definitely. And if I see it going down, then I would rather do it myself and have it not go down.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, totally. Yeah, it’s one of the hard things as a creator is you know kind of the nuance of your audience, the things that they’ll resonate with, and sometimes you can’t run a playbook against that. You have to know kind of the specifics of things that have worked and things that haven’t worked. Do you feel like that’s a little bit of what it is for you, is you kind of have this gut intuition of the things that are going to perform well based on your eight years of building the audience, interacting with the audience, and it’s hard to outsource that?
Taryn Scarfone: It is, and I’ve also had a hard time when I do hire out something like Facebook and I hear the VA’s voice. If I scroll through, it’s just not me, it’s not my voice. I mean, I do use a ghost writer for some blog posts, so that happens at the same… That happens with that too, but I just have to. And I’ve also found, I like interacting with my audience. So when I personally am the one who jumps back in there to social media, I feel the connection again with my readers.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, totally. Lindsay’s talked about that. This idea of in the seasons where she hasn’t been involved, maybe it’s maternity leave or something like that, you kind of lose this, like you don’t have your finger on the pulse as much of what’s happening, and then the idea of content creation gets more difficult because you feel disconnected. Is that kind of what you’re talking about a little bit, like wanting to be as closely connected to your audience as possible?
Taryn Scarfone: Yeah. It’s about being connected and also just I feel like I get less positive affirmation if I’m not the one going in there and saying, “Oh, that’s great that you liked the recipe, Susan.” If it’s not me doing that, then I don’t see those things and I’m not getting. It’s more than just income and page views and all those metrics. We really do want to just connect with people.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, totally. It’s like there’s all of these different variables that fuel us, that give us meaning in our work. One of them could be the ability to pay the bills, which allows us to show up.
Taryn Scarfone: Definitely.
Bjork Ostrom: But if it’s just that, and it’s like this empty… If you paid the bills by posting content that nobody would ever see, but it still paid the bills, you probably wouldn’t last very long. None of us would. Because another really important component is impact. Are we connecting with people? Does it make a difference to them? That is super significant as well. When you look at the landscape of the things that you’re doing, let’s say that you had to dwindle it down to three major things and everything else had to go away, would you be able to pinpoint and say, “These are the most important things,” either from a meaning perspective or from a business perspective?
Taryn Scarfone: By things, what do you mean?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. An example would be for Pinch of Yum, we’d say publishing content onto the blog, and we would not publish content to Facebook.
Taryn Scarfone: Right. I think publishing content to the blog is probably also in a top spot. That’s how we got into this, because we like to cook. My degree is visual art with a concentration in photography, so I love photography. I always have. So that’s definitely the top spot. After that, it’s more we kind of switch more to a business perspective. Like with each site, where the view is coming from, we should concentrate on that versus diversifying more across social media. I don’t have TikToks for my sites. I just haven’t had time to do that or the desire to. There’s just always something new and you don’t have to do everything. And for a third, I think it is probably just doing research, just keywords. When I first started, I just would make whatever I wanted. So I had some blog posts with crazy key names that no one would ever search for, which is honestly a waste of time at this point because we have to look at it from a business perspective a little bit versus making just something crazy that tastes good.
Bjork Ostrom: Which is interesting when you think about where your traffic was coming from, which was Pinterest, it’s like that can do well on Pinterest because maybe it’s more visual, people are more intrigued by it. But if you’re interested in search, you kind of have to be more aware of that. Is that one of the reasons why you were able to build traffic to the grilling site more quickly, is because you kind of approached it from a search perspective? And can you talk about what that looked like, what your approach was that allowed you to scale that site so quickly and to build search traffic?
Taryn Scarfone: We kind of just went for a very specific niche. We bought a Traeger grill because there were some high ranking keywords using the Traeger brand that we would be able to rank for with a new site. So that’s what we decided to do from the beginning. And it did pay off for a time, and then the update came and we’ll see where it goes from here. I had a train of thought that I lost.
Bjork Ostrom: Well, no, that’s good. And I think one of the things that people often ask is like, can I still create a site? Can I build a site now? And I think you can, but you have to be strategic with it. And I think what you just shared is a really great example of being strategic where you do some research, you see what people are interested in, you see how you overlap in terms of your interests, and it’s grilling and it’s Traeger grills. You see there’s an opportunity there and it’s like, okay, let’s create a site in this category, knowing that it’s going to touch on all of these things, your area of interest or passion, or for your husband at least, but also an opportunity that presents itself based on some research that you’ve done. And I think that same approach could be taken by anybody who’s starting something new now. It’s not like you can start a general food site and just kind of post about whatever you’re having for lunch, unless you’re a really compelling writer or it’s comedy based and people follow for that reason.
If it’s search-based, you’re going to have to be strategic about it. And I think that’s a great example of it. And to your point, you’re able to grow it really quickly. Google algorithm update happens, but that’s not because of the search results or the strategy, it’s just like the randomness of these updates that come along. So I think that’s great and a really important takeaway. How about, as we close things out, anything that you would give as advice or insight for somebody who’s in those early stages? You’ve been at it a long time now, you’ve had success with it, and there are people who are curious about what it looks like to do this well. What would your advice be to those people who are kind of in those early stages of building, maybe year one or two, maybe they’re year three, or maybe they’ve had it for a while now they’re like, I’m going to take it seriously and I’m going to build this thing. What would your advice be for those people?
Taryn Scarfone: I would say to just put in the time. That’s one thing, you can’t expect to grow a blog doing it an hour to a week. I do not honestly work full-time. I think I probably work 25 to 30 hours a week, so close to full-time, and then my husband works again on the sites as well. So between us would probably as a full-time job, I think that it would be very hard to really see a very part-time blog grow at this point. You just need time. Our goal from the very beginning was three new blog posts a week. So in the summer with kids home from school, we went down to two a week.
Now, after eight years of being in the business with Joy Filled Eats, I’m doing a lot of republishing this year, which I think may be part of why that site did not get hit with the update because I’ve been republishing a lot of posts. And for the newer sites still, just trying to get up two or three brand new posts a week. So if you’re not producing enough content, you are not going to grow and get the page views.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, the analogy I’ve used occasionally is this idea of a train powered by coal. I don’t even know if that still exists, probably not. But for what you did for years and years and years was like you were shoveling coal into the engine of the train, and it got up to speed. It was going fast and it got enough momentum that you were able to, in the summer, step back a little bit. The reason is because the engine, it was running hot, and it’s not like then you stop and you never shovel coal in anymore. It’s just like, now you’re doing it to maintain the speed that you got it up to. But to get it up to that speed from a standstill is really hard. You’re going to have to be shoveling a lot. And in the world of content, building a content site, it’s kind of similar where it takes a lot to get something going from a standstill and then it inches forward, and then if you stop, then it stops.
But if you do it for eight years and then you stop, it’s going to continue going and you can kind of come back and shovel into it and you want to maintain it, continue to work on it. But it’s like you said, you could do it 25 to 30 hours as opposed to 50 hours of just focused time and energy every day, which it’s cool to be at that point. You’re able to, your business is giving back to you in a really significant way, which is cool. And I think a testament to the years of working really hard on it. How about this? So if anybody wants to connect with you, follow along with what you’re up to, either on the food site or even if they’re like, “Hey, I want to start a mastermind. Do you have any ideas?” Like anything like that, is there a way to connect with you or a way for folks to follow along with what you’re up to?
Taryn Scarfone: Sure. Hop on any of the sites, send me an email, leave a comment. Happy to help.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool. That’s awesome. We’ll link to everything in the show notes. Taryn, really fun to connect, hear your story. It’s inspiring anytime that we connect with anybody who’s been doing good work for a long period of time, and you’re one of those people. So thanks so much for coming on.
Taryn Scarfone: Thank you.
Alexa Peduzzi: Hey, everyone. Alexa here, and thanks for tuning into this episode of the Food Blogger Pro podcast. We hope you enjoyed it, and we just so appreciate that you are here. Today, I wanted to give you a quick recap of what we have going on on the membership side of Food Blogger Pro in November. So Food Blogger Pro is the podcast that you’re listening to right now, but it’s also a membership. And with this membership, you can get access to courses and forum discussions and events and so much more to help you make progress on your blog and your business. So if you’re interested in joining, you can go to foodbloggerpro.com/join. But we always add something new to the site. We always add a couple of things new to the site every single month. And here’s what we have going on for November.
So last week on the second, we released our coaching call with Chris Caldis, and they are a very amazing food photographer. Definitely check them out at chriscaldis.com. And in this coaching call with Bjork, they talked through things like finding flexibility in how you work, doing life-giving work, and how to kind of separate your blog from your professional website. It’s a really interesting conversation and we definitely recommend you checking it out. And then on Thursday, literally two days from now on the ninth, we have a live Q and A about TikTok with Brita Britnell. Brita is the amazing videographer behind Food with Feeling, and members get access to this live Q and A for free. But if you go to foodbloggerpro.com/webinars, you can actually purchase access to this Q and A to ask questions and attend live if you’re not a member. So again, that is foodbloggerpro.com/webinars, and you can find all of our webinars, including this one right there.
And then on the 16th, we will have a new course all about recipe batching and content batching, how it works, what it is, and how you can maybe implement some strategies to help you, if you’re interested in implementing this as part of your workflow. It’s going to be so great. We’re really excited because this is one of those topics that we get a lot of questions about. Many people have talked about this in the podcast before about how impactful recipe batching has been for their business. So we’re really excited to have a full course to teach you how to do it.
And finally, we’ll be releasing a trending recipes ideas this winter, updated blog post at the end of the month, but more to come there. The last thing I wanted to mention, if you’re not a member and you’re interested in getting access to the community, we will have a Cyber Monday sale coming up. So if you are interested, even if you’re just a little interested, it’s no commitment, you can opt in at foodbloggerpro.com/cyber, and we will update you as soon as the sale is live. So again, that’s foodbloggerpro.com/cyber. All right, that is it for us this week. We hope you have a great week, and we’ll see you next time.