Welcome to episode 213 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, you’ll learn about tips for optimizing your site speed, how Lindsay publishes trendy content, and how to share smarter on social media.
Last week on the podcast, we talked about the new podcast format, new courses on Food Blogger Pro, how bloggers can approach creating new content, and more. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
This week on the podcast, we’re focusing on trends, and you’ll hear tips from three experts on site speed, blogging, and social media.
First, Andrew from NerdPress will talk about trends in site speed, and he’ll share his photo size recommendations, his favorite plugins, information about caching, and more.
Then Lindsay from Pinch of Yum talks about how she publishes relevant content for her readers and how she stays on top of food trends.
And last, Abby, Food Blogger Pro and Pinch of Yum’s Social Media Manager will talk about some of the trends we’re seeing on social media, namely hashtags on Pinterest and then Instagram pattern grids.
It’s a great episode, and we can’t wait for you to dive in. Enjoy!
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- Why site speed matters for bloggers
- How caching works
- What lazy loading is
- What the latest image size recommendation is
- How Lindsay approaches creating “trendy” content
- How hashtags work on Pinterest
- What Pinch of Yum uses to share content to Pinterest
- How we’re customizing the Food Blogger Pro Instagram grid
- Google Trends
- WP Rocket
- a3 Lazy Load
- 188: Optimizing Your Website’s Images with Simon Duduica
- Food Blogger Pro Deals
- Tasty Pins
- Follow Food Blogger Pro on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
If you’d like to jump to the comments section, click here.
Bjork Ostrom: Hello, hello, hello, Bjork Ostrom here, and you are listening to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. We are in the second episode of this new version of the podcast that we’re trying out. Just to test it out and see how it goes. We’d love to hear from you if this is something that you’re like, “Hey, you should continue doing this. This is something that I really like.”
Bjork Ostrom: We’re always trying to figure out ways to tweak, improve, to change things. And so this is, this little 10 part series is our way of doing that for the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. If you listened to last week’s episode, you know that we are focusing on the concept of new, we’re talking about all things new including the new format for the podcast. And today we’re going to be focusing on another theme, but the theme today is going to be trends. We’re going to talk about trends in site speed.
Bjork Ostrom: And if you aren’t familiar with site speed, if you haven’t taken time to understand site speed, Andrew from nerdpress.net is going to be talking about why site speed is such an important thing to know. And how you can go about improving your site speed and including tools, and plugins, and hosting, he’s going to talk about all of that.
Bjork Ostrom: We’re also going to be talking to Lindsay from Pinch of Yum about understanding trends as it relates to recipes. So how she’s always tuning in and being aware of different trends and shifting industry norms as it relates to recipes and balancing that with the things that she’s most interested in, but also trying to figure out, “Hey, what are things that are trending and what are people interested in?” She’s going to be talking about how she approaches that as a content creator.
Bjork Ostrom: And then we’re going to be talking to Abby, the social media manager for Pinch of Yum. She’s going to be talking about trends as it relates to hashtags; so Pinterest and Instagram and things that you as a creator can be aware of in the social media world. So really good content coming up, Andrew, Lindsay and Abby, we’re going to be focusing on trends. And the thing that I want to leave you with, the little tip here that I want to leave you with, is something that I love to check out as it relates to trends. And that is Google trends. So if you’ve never tried Google trends before, you can go to trends.google.com and it will bring you to this page and you can say, explore what the world is searching.
Bjork Ostrom: And there’ll probably be a couple examples, like when I pulled it up here, it was like Taylor swift versus Kim Kardashians or World Cup, which is trending or football versus American football. So it’s showing you these examples of things that you could search, but it’s really great for content creators because you can see what content is trending. So for example, I could type in chocolate chip cookies, which I’m doing right now, and you can see a little chart that shows over the past 12 months, how has chocolate chip cookies trended on Google.
Bjork Ostrom: Now this isn’t showing you the search volume, it’s just showing you the trends. So is it improving, is the number of searches increasing or decreasing? And it comes in really handy if you want to do things like compare two different trends. So an example of one that I love to do that’s really interesting is comparing Keto to Paleo. So you can type in those two terms and you can see over time how those terms have panned out on Google, how often people are searching for those.
Bjork Ostrom: So what I did is I typed in Keto and then I typed in Paleo and then I did this search period for five years. And you can see right about 2017 is when things diverge and Keto takes off, it becomes super popular and Paleo stays the same slash maybe declines a little bit and has a tiny little peak in January, which makes sense because people are really interested in it. You can use this for things like understanding when certain ingredients are more popular. So if you search strawberries, you can see that strawberries are going to be more popular in the months that they are in season.
Bjork Ostrom: Which makes sense because more people are searching for strawberry recipes when they have strawberries. So it’s something that they want to make and there’s something that they’re interested in making. So that peaks during the seasons when the strawberries are in season. So you can see it’s a great tool to understand different search trends and inform the decisions that you make as it relates to content and it works for any industry.
Bjork Ostrom: So I wanted to leave you with that little quick tip. If you haven’t yet checked it out, be sure to do that because it’s a fun tool for content creators and for anybody really to spend some time exploring. All right, so what we’re going to do now is we’re going to jump in, and we’re going to go into the Expert’s Corner and we’re going to chat with Andrew. Andrew is going to be talking all about trends in site speed.
Bjork Ostrom: Andrew, welcome to the podcast.
Andrew Wilder: Ooh.
Bjork Ostrom: Good to have you here. We’re going to be talking about some Nerdy things, which makes sense because as you have a company called NerdPress, all around helping people with their blogs and specifically with WordPress and there’s a lot of different areas that we can talk about with WordPress. But first we’re going to talk about site speed. So before we jump into it, before we talk about the things that people love, like the tools and tips and tricks, can you talk about why site speed is important for bloggers?
Andrew Wilder: Sure. So nobody likes to wait is basically what it comes down to-
Bjork Ostrom: General for anything.
Andrew Wilder: For anything. Exactly like if there’s a line, I do not want to get in it. So it’s the same thing as on websites. You click a link to a website, you’re trying to find a recipe and the site just sits there and you’re staring at a white screen for five or six seconds. And what most people will do, is they’ll click the back button and try the next one at the site. So it’s super important to get things work as fast as possible.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s interesting there’s all these studies and I don’t know the numbers or the actual source of the studies, which isn’t very helpful to cite on a podcast, but all of these studies that talk about the impact specifically around eCommerce where if you shave a second off of the load time or half a second or sometimes it’s even less, the impact that that has on the conversion rate. The same thing could be applied for content sites. If you have a content site like a recipe site or a DIY blog, if it takes a really long time to load, there’s a really good chance that that’s going to have an impact on the experience, whether that’s people sticking around, whether that’s people sharing it.
Bjork Ostrom: So it’s really important for us to start to think about site speed. How do we speed up our sites? And there’s some different categories that we’re going to talk about. And those three categories are plugins, testing, and the tools that we can use. And then we’re going to talk about images and why those are really important to consider, especially for people who use a lot of them. So let’s start with plugins. As it relates to having a speedy website, are there plugins that you would recommend that bloggers install?
Andrew Wilder: Absolutely.
Bjork Ostrom: Great. And what would those plugins be? Good followup question.
Andrew Wilder: So my favorite plugin is WP Rocket. We install it on all of our clients’ sites. We included it as part of our services and the all of the setup of that. The reason I like it is it just works well. There’s a bunch of layers in speed optimization and WordPress and it handles the majority of that stuff really beautifully and easily. The only downside to WP Rocket is it’s not free. I think it’s $49 a year for one site. Best money you’ll spend on your site because it’s a great tool. So the basic thing that WP Rocket does is called caching.
Andrew Wilder: So when somebody goes to a site, if they don’t have a caching plugin of some kind installed, WordPress will have to generate that page on the fly. So basically says, “Give me this chocolate chip cookie recipe.” And WordPress will do all the decoding of all the PSP programming and load the images and it’ll assemble an HTML page and send that back to visitor. A fast server can do that in a little under a second, maybe 600 milliseconds, which is actually pretty good. On a slow server it might take three or four seconds. So it’s got to do a lot of programming and stuff to compile the page.
Andrew Wilder: So what a caching plugin does, is it takes that compiled page and stores it for reuse. So the next visitor that comes, instead of it having to rebuild the whole page, it just serves the HTML of the static HTML version of that page. So it can save a ton of time. We’re going to see the biggest impact is on slow servers. If you’re on Bluehost cost, it’ll make an enormous difference. It also reduces the amount of work your server has to do, because it’s not constantly generating all these pages on the fly. So you don’t need as much server horsepower in general. So it can reduce your hosting costs dramatically as well.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. So the basic idea with caching is it’s taking the things that people need to download to their computer. As I was learning about websites, one of the things that was so helpful to learn is like the Internet is essentially just computers talking to other computers and sending stuff back and forth. And a server is just a computer. And when you say hosting, it’s just a computer that hosts stuff that delivers it to other computers that try and pull it up via the Internet browser. And so caching what you’re saying essentially is being smart about the things that are delivered and kind of pre-packaging those and having them ready so that they have to be assembled every time.
Bjork Ostrom: Which is really important, especially as you start to layer on more people. So as more people start to come to your site, it’s going to be a higher drag on the server, that computer that is delivering that, so you want to have that prebuilt. And especially with, you had mentioned Bluehost, which is a shared hosting and it’s shifted over the years. This has been something where, especially like within Food Blogger Pro, it was a host that we used to recommend. We heard consistent feedback from you and some of the other Food Blogger Pro experts and they said, “Hey, things are really slowing down with this and it’s not an effective host.”
Bjork Ostrom: So switching, and we’re going to be talking actually in episode 219 coming up about hosting a recommendations. So we won’t get into that. But it’s important to always be aware of that and to be mindful of hosting as well as it relates to site speed. But what you’re saying is regardless of the host that you’re using, you want to have a plugin like WP Rocket, because caching is going to be important no matter what type of host you have, is that right?
Andrew Wilder: Yes. And actually let me take a quick step back. There’s two sides to speed optimization. There’s the generation of the page and the work the server has to do. And then there’s the work that the web browser has to do once it receives that page. And so the caching part actually speeds up that first chunk. So a fast host with caching can return that document to the web browser very quickly. So the main HTML page, which is like the roadmap to building the whole thing, that says to the browser, “Hey, download all these images and get all this other stuff and build the page on the client side or the browser side.” Where your visitors are seeing.
Andrew Wilder: So on a fast server caching will make that even faster. On a slow server, caching will act as a band-aid to help improve that. In terms of getting that document back, Google has actually published the times they want to see on that. So when you type in nerdpress.net and hit enter in your browser, Google wants my server to send back that HTML document in 0.2 seconds or less. 200 milliseconds. So that’s going to happen super fast. Now they’re not going to penalize you if you’re three or 400 milliseconds. But if it takes two or three seconds, they actually will drop you in the search rankings. They do penalize very slow sites.
Andrew Wilder: In terms of SEO, I don’t want to go too far into that, but it is a benefit. There isn’t a speed benefit with Google per se, they won’t increase your rankings, but if your site is significantly lower than other sites in your sector, they may actually hurt your rankings or reduce your rankings. Because they’re providing a bad user experience and they don’t want that to happen.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That make sense.
Andrew Wilder: So it’s a win to be faster. And it helps your SEO.
Bjork Ostrom: For sure.
Andrew Wilder: I do think most people have probably gotten the message on speed, two years ago I was like, “Faster. It has to be faster.” And now clients are coming to me saying, “Faster, it has to be faster.” And so we’ve actually adapted what we do to put much bigger emphasis on speed. So that’s probably the number one thing people come to us and say, “I need my site to be faster.” So caching is actually pretty easy.
Andrew Wilder: And WP Rocket’s not the only plugin I should mention. A few others, there are free ones out there that do a good job on that page caching. W3 Total Cache is one of the most popular, it’s very confusing, their interfaces, but it works well. WP Super Cache is sort of the semi-official one. A WP Fastest Cache, comment cache, there’s a number out there. So in terms of caching, a lot of them do a really good job at that. Where WP Rocket really shines for me is the stuff that happens after that. So the optimization of the HTML. So the name of the game now with speed is not just get the document faster but it’s getting the page to render fast.
Andrew Wilder: Because if the documents are returned in 0.2 seconds and then it takes your browser three or four seconds to process all of the stuff it has to process before can show you anything, then the user is still sitting there staring at a white screen. So what you really want to do is get the browser and start showing the visitor something, anything as soon as possible. The psychology of it is really weird, like time isn’t linear in your brain. If you’re staring at a white screen for five seconds, that feels like a long time.
Andrew Wilder: If it’s five seconds and then everything pops into place right after that, the page feels really slow. But if you click on a link and it starts loading stuff after one second and it takes four seconds to draw the rest of the page and you’re watching it happen, it may take the same amount of time overall for the page to show, but it feels so much faster because you’re looking at something change.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it reminds me of some programs or even apps they’ll have essentially it’s a gray placeholder where the image is, and it feels like, “Okay, there’s going to be an image there.” So you kind of know that that’s happening in the background. Same concept, which is filling in the pieces versus waiting for everything and then filling it in.
Andrew Wilder: You don’t care about the stuff below the fold yet because the user hasn’t scrolled. So you want to get the above the fold stuff to show first. And you do that by basically deferring any of the stuff that is needed for the below the fold and only loading and stuff you absolutely have to have for the above the fold.
Andrew Wilder: So WP Rocket can generate what’s called Critical Path CSS, which is the styling. And it’s basically just the minimum amount of styling that’s needed to show the stuff above the fold. And actually, instead of having it in a separate style sheet, it puts it into the HTML. So the browser already has that on the first response. I don’t want to get too technical, but the nice thing with WP Rocket is it does it for you and it works really well.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Which is really nice. When something does something that is that complicated and sets that in place and obviously you need to understand the basic concept of what it is that you’re doing, not necessarily how it happens. And I think that’s what a podcast like this is about. People can go back, maybe they have to hit the back 30 seconds button on the podcast a couple times and listen through that to understand the basic concept. But once you do that, you can know, “Oh, this is an important thing. Here’s why it’s important.” Not that I have to understand specifically how that happens from a development or code perspective, but just know that it is important as it relates to not only caching but then also when that content is delivered, how it’s delivered also plays an impact in the user experience.
Andrew Wilder: Absolutely. One thing also is once that HTML … to give more of the mental framework of how all this works. Once that HTML document is given to the browser, there’s always other links. That document will say, “Hey, I need these five different style sheets. If I’ve got a recipe plugin that needs this style sheet, and I need these Java Scripts to do whatever this feature is. And I need all of these images.” Images a part of that. And so what happens is this, the HTML goes to the browser, the browser scans and says, “Okay, great. Now I’m going to fetch all these other resources.” And on a food blog that could be easily 50 or 75 different resources.
Andrew Wilder: So then what the browser has to do is say, “Hey, Google, I need your analytics script so I can run Google Analytics.” And “Hey, Jetpack, I want your site stats.” Whatever the things are, the various resources. And so the browser has to do a whole bunch of work. So the optimization we’re talking about is trying to minimize how many requests have to be shown at once or letting some requests happen later. This is constantly evolving too. So understanding the concept is important and it does have a huge learning curve and it’s constantly changing.
Andrew Wilder: I was talking with my team just two days ago about like, “Hey, how can we tweak these different things?” And we’re now talking about like DNS pre-fetching to shave off a hundred milliseconds here and there All of that adds up when you’ve got 50 resources and you can shave off a second on each of them. That does make a big difference.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, absolutely.
Andrew Wilder: It’s a process.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. And that’s something where there’s probably a combination for somebody who’s just starting out. There’s probably things that you could implement and take care of yourself. But there is a point where it makes sense and that’s why it NerdPress exists. Is because there’s a point where people say, “I know this is important. I know I want to take this seriously and I know that there are other people who are way more into this, for example, Andrew, than I am. And that’s why NerdPress exists and why it’s such a great resource.”
Bjork Ostrom: So that was just one plugin. So that’s one thing that you can do to increase your site speed. A really important one, maybe the first one that you would recommend is a caching optimization plugin and other things that go in with that. Are there other plugins that impact site speed or would that be the one that you’d say, “Hey, this is the number one site speed plugin. This is the one that you need to install and there’s nothing else out there.”
Andrew Wilder: Then images is a big part of this. So one of the things you can do is called lazy loading of images. And so this comes back to the differing things. So a WP Rocket has a feature for this built in, but there’s a great free plugin called a3 Lazy Load, like the letter A, is an Apple 3 Lazy Load. I think a3 is the name of the company. And what Lazy loading does is, it doesn’t actually load those images until the user scrolls, until they’re actually needed.
Andrew Wilder: Images are really heavy when it comes to speed. Because there’s all this graphics, you can have an image that’s 200 kilobytes and that’s a lot of data to send back and forth. So you want your above the fold image to load right away because that’s important too for people to see and to draw them in. But as you’re scrolling they’re already hooked. And if those images pop into place as these are scrolls, that’s totally fine to user because they’re reading and it doesn’t take long for one image to load. And that way the images become non blocking. So enabling lazy loading for images is really big, easy thing to do because you can turn it on. And if your theme works with it; it just works.
Bjork Ostrom: So, speaking of images and image sizes, lazy loading is important, but it’s also important to make sure that the images that you are sending back and forth are not huge, huge images. Can you talk about ways that we can be smart about site speed as it relates to the actual size of the image?
Andrew Wilder: Absolutely. Yeah. Because even if it’s lazy loading, if it’s a megabyte image, there’s still going to have to sit there and wait for it to download. So, the size recommendations in terms of height and width and number of pixels have evolved as screens have gotten higher resolution. My recommendation now is actually to make your images no more than 1200 pixels wide by about 1600 pixels tall as the maximum. You can go a little smaller than that. But I found any bigger than that, you don’t get any benefit. And I like the 1200 pixel number for a couple of reasons.
Andrew Wilder: One is it’s future-proof. I think we’re going to continue to see larger images as bandwidth increases, monitor resolution increases. And you don’t want to be stuck two years from now with images that look too small. There’s also a couple of things like Google, in their Google discovery thing in the app, you can actually opt into larger images if you have a 1200 pixel wide image. So some sites may see a benefit from that. So, I’ve settled, in the recent months on 1200 pixels wide. So there’s-
Bjork Ostrom: And the disclaimer with that is, that would be if you are including an image within a post. Because there’s all different types of images. You could have a bio image or a thumbnail for something. So you’re speaking specifically about like if you were to include a picture of a recipe within a blog post, is that right?
Andrew Wilder: Yes. Thank you. And in terms of other stuff like your head or your profile picture.
Bjork Ostrom: Logo.
Andrew Wilder: What I generally recommend is about one and a half times the actual display size. So if your header or let’s say your profile picture needs to be 200 pixels wide on the page when it’s shown, say they’re 350 pixels wide. And the reason to do that is for Retina displays. That’s Apple’s term for it. On PC we call it 4K display. But it’s really confusing now because they’ll show more pixels in the same amount of space. So they’re actually showing all 350 pixels wide in that 200 pixel space. So it’s really confusing nomenclature.
Andrew Wilder: But that increases the sharpness of the picture. In general, I recommend using Retina images for things like your header and your profile picture. Like literally images that are shown all the way around the site because the increase in sharpness will make everything look better. For photographs inside the blog posts, I don’t think the Retina gives you any benefit. And keep in mind people are looking at these on tiny screens. So a 1200 pixel wide image versus a 600 pixel wide image on your screen may actually look identical, but you’ve got four times roughly the bandwidth you’re using. The reason why I’ve come down on the 1200 pixel width though is that WordPress and most themes are now much better at using what’s called
Andrew Wilder: The reason why I’ve come down on the 1200 pixel width though is that WordPress and most themes are now much better at using what’s called . Which will actually be a bit of code that says, “Hey, if they’re on a narrower screen, you don’t need to load this big image, you’ll love this smaller thumbnail.” So you’re actually not loading that 1200 pixel wide image anymore. That’s-
Bjork Ostrom: It’s like a menu of options for the same image. And this code is smart enough to say, “Hey, is this a giant desktop computer that is 4K super sharp or is this an iPhone SE which is a smaller screen? And if so, don’t give the huge image to this small screen.” And so the code around that is getting a little bit smarter. And you’re saying that’s called srcset.
Andrew Wilder: Srcset, yes. S-R-C-S-E-T. So if you’re on a well coded theme that actually just happens automatically in the background. So I know Food Pro and all these themes, which a lot of our folks use, those handle those pretty well. So with images there’s, I’ll say three things that really affect the image file size. So you’ve got your height and your width and it’s exponential because it’s height times width. And every time you go wider you’re getting more pixels vertically also. So from a 600 pixel wide image, scaling to a 1200 pixel wide image is roughly four times the number of pixels. So that makes a huge difference. So that’s why two or 3000 pixel wide image will be so much larger than a 1200 pixel wide.
Andrew Wilder: So that’s why you really don’t want to upload straight from your camera. So there’s the physical dimensions. And then there’s the file type. The most common we see are JPEG and PNG. JPEG is great for photographs. It compresses photos really well and they’ll still look good. PNG is great for line art and vector drawings and things like your logo. And PNG is also good for texts. Where I see some people run into trouble is Pinterest images where they’ve got a photo and text and they’ll save it as PNG. And then the file is huge. Generally speaking, if you’ve got a combination of both, JPEG will work out better. If it’s mostly text and a tiny little photo, PNG may be better.
Andrew Wilder: So you may want to export the imaging, both file types and see which works out better.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool. And then the last part, and this would actually maybe tie into plugins as well. Do you have a favorite plugin for compressing images? And can you talk about how that works and why that’s important?
Andrew Wilder: Yep. And this actually is the third part of the image size factor is the amount of compression. So JPEG is a lossy compression and so you can say, “Hey, I want a JPEG quality of 90 or I want a JPEG quality of 20. And the 90 is going to look good and have a big file size. The 20 is going to look really crappy and have a small file size. And so you probably want to be somewhere in between. So the first step is when you’re exporting from Photoshop or Lightroom or viewer working, make sure you set up an image quality that is generally around 75% that looks good but still has a reasonable file size.
Andrew Wilder: And I’ll say that’s under 200 kilobytes, give or take. Now keep in mind that the content of the image itself, what the photo is, will change. The more detail that there is in the image, the larger it is going to end up being. So a burlap tablecloth has a lot of texture and that’s going to need to be a larger image.
Bjork Ostrom: Versus an image of a black rug?
Andrew Wilder: Exactly. Yeah. So texture takes up more space. So it’s not bad. It just is what it is. So that’s important when you’re just working with your images and then you upload them to your site. And then I recommend having an image optimization plugin installed on your site in addition to that. My favorite plugin for that is ShortPixel. Short as in not tall pixel as in pixels; ShortPixel. It is a free plugin repository and they’ll let you optimize I think a hundred images per month for free.
Andrew Wilder: And after that it’s pretty nominal, about $5 a month. And we include ShortPixel in some of our support plans as well. ShortPixel has performed the best in my own testing. I’ve compared it to other similar plugins, where it has produced the best looking images with the smallest file sizes. Sometimes they over compress, these plugins will either not compress enough or over compress and you’ll see an artifacting blockiness. So I found ShortPixel to work really well.
Andrew Wilder: Their default settings out of the box, you install it, their default settings are good. So you don’t have to know a lot to configure it. And the other reason, sometimes people say, “Well, I already export from Photoshop really well optimized.” Well what happens is after you upload to WordPress, it will actually generate what’s called thumbnails. So those are smaller versions of the same image, and your site and may do three or four or may do 10 or 15. Your theme may request certain thumbnail sizes or various plugins may ask for certain thumbnail sizes.
Andrew Wilder: So when you upload the image and then in the background WordPress creates these, let’s say 10 other thumbnail sizes. Well, those are not optimized the same way anymore. So what short pixel does is it optimizes all of those thumbnails too. So then anytime those images are used, they’re going to be smaller and faster for you as well.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. Yeah. We have an episode on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, episode 188 with one of the co founders of ShortPixel. So be sure to check that out. If anybody listening is interested in a deep dive on ShortPixel. So after that podcast episode we didn’t have … You’d be disappointed in us … We didn’t have optimization, compression image, optimization plugin installed. We installed Short Pixel we ran it. I just looked yesterday and it shaved four seconds of load time off of a Pinch of Yum on average.
Bjork Ostrom: So a really important thing to get up and running and you can let our story of not doing it be inspiration to actually do that.
Andrew Wilder: Nice.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Anything else on the image size that you would say would be important to consider when people think about optimizing images, knowing that a lot of people have really big images and maybe include a lot of images in their content?
Andrew Wilder: I was just thinking the same thing. So, food bloggers spend a lot of time plating and styling and making beautiful backgrounds and good lighting and you get this beautiful shot and then you take 20 pictures of it, and they all look very similar and then you post five of those and they look almost identical, it’s slightly different angles, right? So I think there’s a tendency for people to include way too many of similar images. If you don’t need those five images, you’re going to be a lot faster with just one image that’s even better than optimizing. So I recommend maybe two final shots generally at the most.
Andrew Wilder: One of the top of the posts, maybe one near the recipe card, if you want more images in your post, add process shots. So if it’s a tricky recipe, but there’s a certain step of it, but fold something in a certain way or whatever that is, include process shots of those because that’s incredibly useful for your visitor. So always think of your visitor and you say, “Okay, does this photo add value?” And six more shots of the same slice of cake doesn’t really add any value.
Bjork Ostrom: Great. That’s awesome. We covered a lot of stuff and really important things and these are things that people … If you are somebody that leans more towards the tech-nerd side, you might be excited to dig into these, to learn about these, to explore these. But Andrew, if people aren’t interested in doing that, they can work with you at NerdPress. Can you talk a little bit about how that works and how they could connect with you?
Andrew Wilder: Sure. We have ongoing WordPress support subscriptions. So I’m interested in longterm relationships with our clients. I love our clients. I love working with food bloggers. You guys are the best. And that aligns our interests, so we do more work to help you succeed in longterm. So we’ll continue working together. So all of our plans include a lot of the basics of me. So like backups, security, various things like that to get the site running well. And we include, speed optimizations is a big part of that.
Andrew Wilder: We have three different tiers of plans and there are various things added to each of the plans. Sometimes people are pretty DIY but they want help with just like WP Rocket configuration. So they might be perfect on our base plan. Other people may have a lot more ongoing questions and need help troubleshooting other things. And so we have some ways to do support tickets and stuff like that and ongoing support.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. And people can check that out by going to nerdpress.net.
Andrew Wilder: Yes, thank you.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Awesome. And we’ll link to that in the show notes as well. Andrew, thanks so much for coming on and talking a little bit about site speed. Such an important thing. Next up we’re going to talk to Lindsay about how she comes up with timely, trendy recipes.
Bjork Ostrom: Hey Linds, welcome back to the podcast.
Lindsay Ostrom: Thanks.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, excited to talk to you about trends. We’re going to be talking specifically about how you view trends as it relates to recipes and when you create new content. But first, I’d be interested to hear you talk about, is that something you follow? Is that something that you’re aware of and you say, “Hey, I’m going to create content around trends? When I think of content for Pinch of Yum?”
Lindsay Ostrom: Well I guess it depends on how you define trends. I think for me I’m always thinking about content and I’m always thinking about what people like and what I like. And so in that way I guess, yeah, I’m always thinking about trends and I’m following trends. But in terms of doing a ton of research and making that a really formal process, that’s not something I do. It’s not a formal process for me in terms of “following trends.” I feel like the closest thing to following trends that we do, and I do for Pinch of Yum is it just pay attention to what we are doing that seems to land with people.
Lindsay Ostrom: And to me that’s following a trend. Because it might not be truly the end all be all trend of the moment, but for us by our followers and our readers and the people who watch our Instagram stories, those people get to dictate the trends that matter to us. So that’s how I view trends and how I “follow trends.” Just by looking at what people seem to like.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And how do you go about doing that? Is there a formal process that you use to gather feedback from readers or people who follow or even seeing macro trends as it relates to where things are generally going. Like what recipes could potentially be trending. So you can talk about both micro within your own readers and people who follow Pinch of Yum, and then macro, are you doing anything to have systems to follow general trends?
Lindsay Ostrom: Okay. In terms of working at our own readers, one thing we do is each month our team, so me, Abby, Jenna, and Emily, we get together for, we call it a social meeting, but basically what we’re doing and what we’re looking at there is what has trended for us on social over the last month. So we really just review every post, every piece of content that we’ve done across all of our social media. And we look at what’s performed and what hasn’t performed and try to analyze why and try to look for patterns. And that’s one of the most important parts of those meetings for me anyways is when we identify the top five pieces of content from social media.
Lindsay Ostrom: So it could be new content but it could also be archived content, stuff from previous years that’s getting shared again to social media. And between all of that we look at the top five performers on each platform and use that to inform what’s coming up next. So that’s probably the most formal process we have for the micro side of things and looking at our own followers. Macro in looking at the greater food world. I don’t really have a process that’s pretty organic for me.
Lindsay Ostrom: So I follow food bloggers that I … Really, I only follow like, I don’t know, maybe five food bloggers on my personal account. But even from my personal account, I’ll just watch what are people making outside of the food in the food blogging world and outside of the food blogging world. What are people making, what ingredients are people excited about? And even things like when I go to a restaurant and they have something on their menu that I’m like, “Oh, that sounds trendy. It sounds like something that maybe they’ve added recently, or it’s one of their popular, more popular dishes.” I think about that.
Lindsay Ostrom: This is a weird example, but when I walk through the grocery store and when you look at the frozen meals, those little individually frozen meals, or even not even frozen, even like the, not rice, not actually Rice-A-Roni, but that kind of dry meal kit … Or no, you can buy actual meal kits anyways, anyways I’m getting carried away. When you look at like pre packaged or prepared food at the grocery store, I often look at what are the recipes that they’re offering to people because they’ve done a lot of research and they know on their end what people are buying and then they’re creating more of that. So I just pay attention.
Lindsay Ostrom: I think that’s my biggest strategy. I just pay attention to food. And I think for a lot of people who are in this space probably are doing a lot of the same. Just even if I didn’t have a blog, I would be doing that. Because that’s just how my brain works. So I don’t have a formal process for macro other than just always being awake and aware of food and what’s going on around me. And then from micro, we do what I described before, which is like a more formal review of content and what content has been most popular with people over the last month.
Bjork Ostrom: I think two important takeaways for that. One is for content creators. I think it’s really important for content creators to remember they also have to be content intakers, content consumers is maybe an easier way to say that, but you can’t just continually pump out content if you’re not also taking in content and consuming content. And the key is you don’t want to consume all the time. As a content creator, you should probably be spending most of your time developing your craft.
Bjork Ostrom: But it’s also important to remember that you have to have some type of input. If you’re a musician, you need to be listening to music. If you are a painter, you need to be going to museums and looking at other paintings. If you’re a potter, my dad does pottery. He is always looking at what other people are doing and finding inspiration both in historical potters as well as all different sorts of ceramic artists that are currently creating.
Bjork Ostrom: And same is true for recipe creators or photographers. You need to look at what other people are doing and find inspiration from that to inform the work that you’re doing. So I think that’s great. I think the other thing that was important is saying, “Hey, one of the ways we look at trends is to look at what’s trending for us.” Can you talk about for somebody who’s never done an analysis of their own content, a really simple way for them to start to understand their own content and what’s trending?
Lindsay Ostrom: I mean this is exactly what we do and it just is simple enough that it also could be applied for a beginner. And I actually used to do this when it was just me, when I was in the first month of blogging. But I would just look at which posts are getting the most traffic, which posts are getting the most comments, which posts on social media or getting the most likes or getting pinned the most. All of the social media platforms have built in analytics where you can look at what stuff has performed. So it should be pretty easy to just within the builtin Instagram tools.
Lindsay Ostrom: Instagram is only if you have a business account. But Facebook, I think if you have a page, you should be able to go in and see the ranking. And for sure on Pinterest you can see your analytics. Plus there’s Google Analytics and even beyond all that, like if you’re like, “I don’t even know where I’m going with that.” Just pull up your blog and your website and look which posts have the most comments. What are people commenting on? What are people emailing you about, and telling you that they made. Any type of engagement.
Lindsay Ostrom: For me, it used to be literally like … I remember I had maybe five or 10 blog posts published. And I remember actually having this conversation with you Bjork where I was like, “Oh, this is really fun to see. Look at this one. This is a shrimp pasta.” And this is a really popular one because it had 50 people that looked at the post. Whereas the rest of them had 10 people that looked at the post.
Lindsay Ostrom: And that was my first version of this process. And following the trends of my readers. Like, “Okay, I only have 50 people coming to Pinch of Yum but hey look, they really like this shrimp pasta. So what can I do that would be similar to this shrimp pasta? Because that’s what people seem to like.” So I don’t know if that’s official enough, but that’s basically what we’re doing. The only thing that makes it maybe more official on our end or formal is that we just document it. We put it into a spreadsheet and we document it and we track it month to month.
Lindsay Ostrom: So we’re tracking progress. We’re seeing if the trends are for a month only or if they last longer. That part of the process is more formal. But really at the end of the day, what it is, is just looking at performance of stuff which you can do with just two eyes and without any special equipment or any special tools.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. That’s awesome. Linds thanks for coming on talking a little bit about trends. Next we’re going to be chatting with Abby, our social media manager who is actually a part of some of those conversations. She’s going to be talking about some of the social trends that you should be paying attention to on Pinterest and Instagram.
Bjork Ostrom: Abby excited to have you on to talk a little bit about trends today.
Abby Bayatpour: Thanks for having me.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So, you spend a lot of time doing a lot of things around social media and obviously there’s as you know, a lot of trends that come in and out of social media. And we’re going to hit a few of those. So first of all, let’s jump into Pinterest. Obviously Pinterest is a huge traffic source for people, especially people that create food content. And one of the things that we’ve been talking a lot about lately is Pinterest hashtags. So can you talk about Pinterest hashtags and why people need to be aware of them and maybe some of the ways that we’re using those on Pinch of Yum? And we can dive into some more specific questions around that after that.
Abby Bayatpour: Sure. So hashtags are the way people are finding your pins. So for example, if you have a meal prep chicken recipe, you can hashtag it with #mealprep or #chickenrecipe. And when people go into Pinterest to search for recipes, let’s say they need a specific dinner recipe, they are searching for those things and could come upon your pin. So it’s just another way for people to be able to find you and it really is more of an SEO mindset versus a social media mindset for using those hashtags.
Abby Bayatpour: So it’s just making it easier for people to find your pins and your pins to maybe be exposed to more people overall, which is awesome because then they’re not just necessarily seeing you only in the feed. They could just happen upon your pins if they are, like I said, searching for a specific recipe or need to use up some lemons or something that’s really specific. It’s really helping people find your recipes in a more intentional way.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome.
Abby Bayatpour: Yeah. So the way we’re using that for Pinch of Yum is typically when I am going in and pinning any new recipes that are coming up on the blog or any of our popular recipes that I’m recirculating through our Tailwind queue, I’m going in and adding three to maybe five or six hashtags that are relevant to that recipe. So, like I said, anything that is not too broad but not too specific. You’re looking for those in between words that are something like blueberry pancakes or breakfast recipes, something that will help people, like I said, find your recipe without having to go way too targeted down or way too broad.
Abby Bayatpour: So you’re not really going to want to use something like #recipe because that’s way too broad. But we’re just making sure that people are able to find our content in the best way and make sure they’re finding what they’re looking for. So like I said, a lot like a SEO where you have in mind people are looking for a specific thing or recipe and you’re providing them with the tools to be able to find your recipe.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. So that’s one of the things that’s so interesting about hashtags, it’s emerged as this way on the Internet, specifically with social media, but this way to organize and brand content. And the interesting thing is each platform uses hashtags a little bit differently. And for Pinterest, you think about the intent that people have when they’re using Pinterest. And like you said, they might be using it to find a really good blueberry pancake recipe.
Bjork Ostrom: So you want to make sure that not only in your description are you talking about blueberry pancakes for that pin, but also if it makes sense for that recipe, you could do maybe #pancakes or if you want to get a little bit more specific #blueberry pancakes. And the idea is somebody can click on that and then they’re taken to this place where that hashtag is used to categorize or organize or group that content.
Bjork Ostrom: So I love the idea of thinking strategically around a specific piece of content and then including those hashtags. Maybe some that are a little bit more broad, maybe some that are a little bit more specific, but like you said, three to five. And I love that example of saying, “Hey, you don’t want to do #recipes necessarily, because that’s going to be a huge, huge pool of content that you’re going to be included in.” It’s all of the content that’s recipe content. But thinking a little bit more strategically around how to niche that down a little bit. So you said the number that we usually go for, for Pinch of Yum is three to five hashtags. Is that right?
Abby Bayatpour: Right. Yeah. And I know you can put in a lot more, but then it just gets really messy and overwhelming and makes your description too much. So yeah, we usually target three to five, maybe six if it’s something that can be expanded out a little bit more, but that’s the ideal number to happen.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool. And the other thing that you’d mentioned, we’ve actually talked about it before on the podcast, but you mentioned Tailwind. Can you talk about what Tailwind is and how we use that for Pinch of Yum, for scheduling content, for Pinterest, for Pinch of Yum content?
Abby Bayatpour: Sure. So Tailwind is a pin scheduling service. Like a social media scheduler, except for pins and it’s just a really easy way to be able to push out our content on to Pinterest at optimal times without needing to do it manually. So I usually go in once a week and schedule all of our pins for the next week and make sure that they are, for example, seasonal or new content or anything that’s been popular this time last year. And it’s just a great way to be able to push out all of our great pins at the best times for our followers without really needing to go in and pin 20 times a day manually and figure out what time people are on or anything like that.
Abby Bayatpour: Tailwind pulls all of those metrics for us and lets us know what’s working. We can analyze that and make my job and our jobs a lot easier in making the most of Pinterest.
Bjork Ostrom: The nice thing about Tailwind is that there have been tools and services in the past that have done Pinterest-like things or Pinterest scheduling things, but they haven’t been approved by Pinterest. And then they find that out and Pinterest closes off the ability for them to use the Pinterest API. But Tailwind is really closely integrated and tightly connected with Pinterest. So it’s an approved software service for a Pinterest user. So if you are a Food Blogger Pro member, we actually have a deal for Tailwind. So make sure to check that out at foodbloggerpro.com/deals because if you aren’t using it yet, we have a deal for new customers for Tailwind.
Bjork Ostrom: So one of the other things that I wanted to mention is actually the including hashtags within the Pinterest description for an image. It’s actually one of the reasons why we created Tasty Pins, because we wanted to start including hashtags and things that wouldn’t be good for the Altec. So if you haven’t checked out tasty pins, it’s the exact reason why we created it. It came from this initial problem of including Pinterest hashtags for images on our blog posts. If you haven’t checked that out before, just go to wptasty.com/tasty-pins.
Bjork Ostrom: The other thing that I want to talk about that has to do with social trends or things to be aware of is Instagram. And as we know, Instagram is a really important platform for creators. And one of the things that we are starting to evolve a little bit into tweak and adjust is the way that we are displaying content on Instagram for Food Blogger Pro. So just I just thought it’d be good to talk a little bit about that shift, that change and how we’ve approached our Instagram account for Food Blogger Pro. It’s not as big as Pinch of Yum but we have a really engaged and awesome following over on the Food Blogger Pro Instagram account. So you talk a little bit about the changes that we’ve made with that? And some of the ways that we’re evolving that account?
Abby Bayatpour: Sure. Yeah. So one of the big things we made a change with was the Instagram grid. So for example, a lot of times accounts or bigger accounts that do a mixture of different contents, let’s say they do food photos three days a week, a graphic one day, and then something else another day, they’re going to build out what we call a grid. So every six photos is a really consistent pattern. You’re going to see on certain days, certain kinds of photos are being posted and you can see that trend time over time.
Abby Bayatpour: So as you scroll through their feed, you know what to expect day over day. And we started doing that with the Food Blogger Pro Instagram account just for branding and consistency sake and really honing in on what worked for our account and what people were engaging with. So we do food photos four days a week and a graphic on Podcast Tuesdays and then a stock photo on Saturdays for a question of the week.
Abby Bayatpour: So we have this really consistent schedule that makes it easy, not only for content planning but for our followers to be able to know what’s coming and to know what to expect. So on Saturdays, our followers know we have a question of the week and they know what that’s going to look like and when they see a photo that’s in line with what we’re typically posting, subconsciously they know, “Oh this is the question of the week. I want to know what they’re asking or I want to respond.”
Abby Bayatpour: And it just really gives our followers a really great opportunity to engage consistently time over time. And that’s how you build that trust on Instagram and that brand and just build up an overall consistency, which I think is one of the really big and important parts in building up an Instagram account is consistency and trust. So for us it’s worked really well. We’ve seen some really good engagement and, again, it makes content planning a lot easier because you already know what days we’re planning to post out certain things. And I’m not scrambling day over day or week over week to get posts out.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s that twofold benefit where there’s the benefit to the people that are following, knowing what’s coming. And I was having a conversation with somebody from YouTube and she was saying recently, “Hey, you want to view your YouTube channel as you would a TV show.” And it’s like, “Hey, bachelorette every Monday night at seven central.” And we just know that and we show up and we expect it to be there. YouTube, this person was saying, “You want that to be the same way. You want this consistent deliverable.” And I can see that for different platforms working really well.
Bjork Ostrom: Obviously it’s not as important for let’s say a Pinterest, but for something where you have this staple piece of content, I can see how having a schedule could build in some expectations and trust around that from the consumer side of things. And then the other piece that you said that I think is so important, is this idea of relieving some of the stress around content creation. And that’s one of the hard things for us as creators is figuring out what is it that we’re going to share, when are we going to share it? And creating a framework for that alleviates some of the stress.
Bjork Ostrom: You might think, “Hey, it’d be really nice if we didn’t have any restrictions on this and we could just post whatever we want.” But that actually is harder because you don’t have those artificial restrictions or those artificial boundaries that say, “Okay, I have to stay in this lane. So in this lane, what is the content that I’m going to create?” So I think it’s a great little takeaway and it’s been fun to evolve the Food Blogger Pro account, which is much different than a recipe account, because we have those unique types of content. So a little plug there to check out the Food Blogger Pro Instagram account.
Bjork Ostrom: Abby, thanks so much for coming on and sharing a little bit about social trends. If people want to connect with Food Blogger Pro and to have some of those conversations, can you do a little shout out for what those handles would be?
Abby Bayatpour: Sure. So we’re at Food Blogger Pro everywhere. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to have you follow along and take part.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. Thanks Abby. Really appreciate it.
Abby Bayatpour: Thank you.
Bjork Ostrom: All right, that’s a wrap for our trends episode. We would love to hear from you if you have any thoughts, feedback, ideas, praise, things that we should consider, email us [email protected]. It’s the best way for us to get feedback, to continue to do more of the things that are most helpful for you. So let us know. We would love to hear what that is. And if you have an interest in a certain subject, if you want us to focus on something specifically, let us know. We have some great episodes lined up after this. Next week we’re going to be talking about optimize.
Bjork Ostrom: We’re going to be talking about the ways that you can optimize your blog and your website. We’re going to be talking about sharing. That’s going to be the keyword after that. We’re going to be talking about the things that you can do to increase the likelihood of your content being shared. There’s some really great stuff coming up, some episodes on monetization, so stay tuned. We’re really excited about this new format and hope that it’s as helpful as possible because that’s what we want this podcast to be.
Bjork Ostrom: Thanks for tuning in. We appreciate you. We wouldn’t do this podcast if it wasn’t for you. And we’re excited to continue to create content, to do whatever we can to help you along with your journey as we find ways to help you get a little bit better every day forever. That’s that 1% infinity that we talk about, and we hope that this podcast is a piece of that journey for you. All right. Make it a great week. Thanks.