170: What’s Working and What’s Not with the FBP Community

Welcome to episode 170 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week on the podcast, we hear from three Food Blogger Pro members about what’s working to help them grow their blogs and what’s not.

Last week on the podcast, we chatted with Josh Pigford from Baremetrics about the lessons he has learned in the 15+ years he’s been building businesses. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

What’s Working and What’s Not

We’re so excited to share this new episode with you today because it’s definitely a bit different from the episodes we’ve shared in the past.

We’re highlighting three Food Blogger Pro members, Katie, Mary, and Sarah, as they talk about the things that really help their blog growth, and the things that they’ve been struggling with.

Then Bjork responds and offers some ideas and encouragement to work through those tough situations. He talks about finding the time to work through your to-dos, tips for social media, and more.

It’s a really fun episode, and we’d love to hear what you think in the comments!

In this episode, Katie, Mary, and Sarah share:

  • Using your blog as a portfolio
  • Getting your content seen
  • Using recipe videos
  • How passion fuels progress
  • Finding enough time

Listen to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast below or check it out on iTunes, Google Play Music, or Spotify:


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: Hey there, hey there, this is Bjork Ostrom. You’re listening to The Food Blogger Pro podcast. We have a fun podcast today because we’re going to switch it up a little bit. We’re going to do a “call in,” I’m doing air quotes, you can’t see it, “call-in” where people are going to submit a little audio call, it’s a little audio clip that they recorded, and they’re going to be talking about two things. One thing that’s working well for them, and I thought that would be fun because this is going to open up some potential ideas for you as podcast listeners to hear from other bloggers something that’s working well for them that you can apply to your blog. Then, they’re going to talk about something that’s not working well, that thing that’s maybe a little bit sticky for them, or they’re trying to work through, or a problem that they’re trying to solve.

We’ll talk about both of those things. This will work in a different way, it’s not going to be an interview, but I’ll set up each audio clip, and then we will play that, and they’re not too long. Then, once that’s done I’ll jump back in and talk through the audio clip, and talk a little bit about the thing that’s working well, and we’ll process through maybe, why that’s working well. Then, we’ll also have a conversation, by we it’s actually just me sitting here in this chair but it feels more inclusive if I say we, and then we will have a conversation and talk a little bit about the thing that’s not working well, and talk through the specific situation but in a global, kind of universal way that might apply to you the podcast listener as well.

Our first, I’ll call them calls even though they’re not technically calls, our first call is from Katie, she has a blog called Hey Nutrition Lady. She’s going to talk about something that’s working well for her, as well as something that’s not working well. I think the not working well piece will be relatable. I think a lot of people will be interested in this, so excited to hear from Katie, and to hear a little bit about what’s working well, and what’s not working well. Let’s give a listen.

Katie Trant: Hi there, my name’s Katie Trant, and I’m the blogger behind Hey Nutrition Lady. One thing that’s worked really well for me is using my blog as a living portfolio. I’m a nutritionist by trade, and a professional writer, and the blog’s allowed me to launch a small nutrition consulting business, and market myself as a writer, and content creator for other sites and businesses as a nutrition expert. My page views have never been huge, and I’m no pro blogger, but this has allowed me to make a living doing the things that I love.

One thing that’s not working for me so well is getting my blog out there to the people. I’ve been blogging since 2010, but I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way and, to be honest, I’ve really only been serious about it for the last year. Up until a year ago I didn’t make even know there were Facebook groups for bloggers, that’s how clueless I was. This last March I did an audit with Casey Markee, and I’m working through a super daunting to do list of things to fix, so I’m hoping that things will change soon, and focusing on SEO, and good social media that I’ll be able to reach more people. For now, I’m just plugging along, doing what I do, and loving it every day.

Thank you. Bye.

Bjork Ostrom: Hey Katie, so fun to hear your story, and thanks for submitting a little audio clip for the podcast. Really fun to hear your story, and what you’re up to. One of the things that I love about the little piece that you talked about what’s working well is that you’re reminding me, you’re reminding our audience, you’re reminding people that a blog, something that you’re building online, or a social media following doesn’t have to be used for this … the Holy Grail of traffic, that’s not the only thing that we need to think about when we think about what we’re building online. So often the thing that we are building can help us, can be leveraged towards another thing.

It doesn’t have to be the thing, and the thing would mean that it’s something like Pinch of Yum. Pinch of Yum is the thing for us, we’re trying to get people to go there, we’re trying to increase traffic, we have ads. For many, many, many people the that they are building online is used as a portal, or a step into another thing, and that example that you gave with your blog being a portfolio and allowing you to work with clients or to do freelance writing is a great example of how we can think strategically about building a following online, and using that to do something that we love. It doesn’t have to just be trying to get a bunch of traffic, we can also think about it as trying to get people who are the people that we want to serve, or who are interested in the business that we’re building, and using a blog, or a website, or social following as a way to connect with those people to prove our knowledge, to prove our value, and then transition that into some type of relationship.

The relationship could be a product that you have, or maybe something that you’re selling on your website, but it also might be a service, and it sounds like that’s the case for some of the things that you’re doing. For any podcast listeners that are interested in working for themselves, or building their own thing the services industry, or the services category is a great way to do that, to make that happen, and to do that relatively quickly.

Now, the one thing that exists with that is you’re, in some way, going to be trading your time for dollars, which in the online world we often hear about people talking about building something that is scalable, which is a legitimate thing to do and a really important thing to think about. In the early stages, one of the best ways to work on what you love, to do what you love is to think of ways that you can transition that love and that passion into something that is service related. It’s a great way to transition into building your own thing, to owning your own business, to building your side hustle.

For a lot of people, they like to stay in that lane, they want to be that person that is offering a service, or a product, or something of value to their followers, and to their readers, and to their fans, and to the people that are connected with them online. Others use that as a transition into building that scalable thing, so they say, “Okay, I have now met my income requirement for working for myself, or for my side hustle,” or whatever it is that you’re trying to do, “And now that I have control over this, and I have something that’s service related the transition then is saying okay, how do I start to slice off pieces of this pie and transition it over into that more scalable thing?”

It sounds like that’s what you’re talking about a little bit when you talk about what’s not working well. You’ve figured out this piece of working for yourself, doing what you love, being in this place of, “Hey, I really love this, I get to do this,” and now you’re thinking about how can I transition this into being something where my blog, or my website, or my following is the thing as well? We talked about it a little bit of an ambiguous term, the thing. What does that mean? It becomes the business, the blog becomes the business as opposed to the portal for your other business or service, which I explained a little bit earlier. Hopefully, that makes sense.

A couple thoughts around that. Number one, love that you’re strategically thinking about working with people and partnering up with experts. You mentioned Casey, who’s a Food Blogger Pro expert. Connecting with him, and having him do an audit of your site, and looking at it and saying, “Okay, here are the ways that you can be improving.” One of the things that I noticed, and this would be a take away for a quick little tip, a quick little take away for any podcast listeners, is to occasionally do a branded Google search of your own name. When I Googled Hey Nutrition Lady, one of the things that I found out … and this has actually happened with its probably happened with 3 to 4 of my close friends who have businesses and I’ve always followed up with them and said, “Hey, there’s something unique, or interesting about this,” and that is that the branded domain name didn’t show up first. What I mean by that is when I search Pinch of Yum you can see Pinch of Yum is the first thing that shows up when I search Pinch of Yum.

When I search Food Blogger Pro the same thing happens where FoodBloggerPro.com shows up, and because these are sites that are a little bit older they have underneath, what are called, site links, so things below the branded URL, or branded domain name. I noticed that with Hey Nutrition Lady that didn’t pop up. I’m guessing Casey, in your audit, if there was something that was an issue there probably pointed that out. With my friends, the people that are here in the Twin Cities, and then a couple other people that this has happened with what I noticed, or what I found out was that their front page was actually set to no index. What that means is that their blogs were set in a way where if you were to search for the homepage, that homepage was set so it wouldn’t be indexed by Google, which is an issue.

If you as a blogger, and I’m talking to the podcast listeners now, do a branded search of your site and, let’s say, it’s a specific name, and you’ve been around for a few months now, so it should be showing up in search results, and you notice that the homepage isn’t showing up there might be an issue with how you have things setup on your site. You should look into that, and make sure that there isn’t something with your site where it’s set to no index because that means that either your whole site sometimes, or your homepage oftentimes is set where Google doesn’t crawl that, and that’s going to be an issue for exposure, and all of those things. Make sure to check that out because you want to make sure that that is something that is not happening, obviously, especially if you’re searching … or looking to improve search stuff.

For you Katie, what I noticed is that actually it is showing up now, but it’s not number one, so it looks like it’s maybe crawling up, it’s getting close to the top, maybe related to a change that happened recently. Something to look into, something to be aware of. Then, the general idea that you had here about getting in front of people, how do you get in front of people? How do you build traffic? How do you build a following? It is the problem to solve, the thing that people want to know about. My response is probably pretty familiar, and it’s probably stuff that you’ve heard before. The thing is it’s not an easy thing to do, but this is what I would say if I was going about doing this, if I was thinking of building a new site this is how we’d approach it, and how we do approach it with the content that we’re doing. We think about or the people that we’re serving, and getting really specific with that.

An example would be for WP Tasty, which is a new blog and a new business that we’re working on, Raquel and Ann over there at WP Tasty working on the content over there, as well as customer support if you’ve interacted with them, you’ve been able to see some of the really intentional content work that they’ve been doing. We know the people that we’re talking to, and it’s beginner to intermediate bloggers, and we know the type of stuff that we want to be talking about and it’s affiliate marketing, and it’s Pinterest, and it’s SEO. We are creating, and by we I don’t want to take too much credit for it is really Raquel and Ann that are leading the charge over there, are creating really awesome content that is long form content, and super, super helpful.

An example would be the affiliate marketing post that they recently did. If you go and check that out, and we’ll link to that in the show notes, you can see that it’s a really substantial piece of content. There’s a lot of questions that are answered within that, there’s a lot of really good screenshots that they have, and it takes a lot of time to create that piece of content. For you Katie, as you think about the space that you’re working in with nutrition to really drill down and say, “Who are the people that I’m talking to? How can I create really substantial, awesome content? And then, what does that look like to get that in front of people?” That last piece is the hard piece.

I just want to say this before I forget about it, another good example of that, as we think about doing this with Pinch of Yum, Lindsay recently did a freezer meals post. It wasn’t just like a freezer meals recipe, it was 12 individual recipes with really specific examples of why the freezer meals are helpful. She’s talking about that as we go into this phase where she’s stepping back for maternity leave, so tied into her story. She created, with Jenna on our team, these really awesome printables that go along with it that you can download for free, did photo shoots for the 12 different recipes, and she actually went through and did a photo shoot and realized that the photos that she had didn’t look the way that she wanted, and went back and redid a lot of them. It took hours, and hours, and hours, and hours, and hours of time, but the end result is we have this really substantial piece of content.

I think that oftentimes, as content creators, we think about, “Ah, I need to get a piece of content out the door just so my blog continues to be alive, and so I’m creating something that people interact with, and so I’ve checked off the publish box.” What we don’t think about is how specific is this content, and who is it for, and why is it going to be a, let’s say, top 10 on the Internet piece of content? If you can confidently say, "I’m creating a piece of content, and I know who it’s for, and I consider this to be a top 10 piece of content in terms of how helpful it is that’s the type of content that you need to be creating as you think about, as you talked about, getting your blog in front of people. It’s so often not a trick, or a tip, or something that you do with social media that really helps out. More often than not it’s having a really good understanding of who it is that you’re speaking to, the problem that you’re trying to solve for them, and then creating content that is top 10 content. It’s the content that is, in a lot of ways, better than any of the other content out there, which is a really, really high bar to set, and it’s really hard to do.

If you think about professional athletes there’s only so many professional athletes because it’s this really high bar, and you think about how much they practice, how much time they spend thinking about strategy, reviewing film, how much time they spend working with a coach these are the types of things that you need to think about when you think about the content that you’re creating. You’re trying to be in your niche, in your category the professional athlete. You are the professional content creator, and if your goal is to increase traffic and be the authority for a certain category that’s how you need to think about it. You need to think of yourself as the professional athlete for that, and if you do that, that will help you to level up how you approach, and how you go about thinking about the content, and the level of that content that you produce. Like I said, it’s not a tip, it’s not a trick, it’s not a hack, but it’s a mindset, and that mindset is so important to have as you think about building a following online.

The other thing that, I think, is really important is to think about the things that don’t scale. How do you make one-to-one connections, and do what you can to be a source of value, a source of inspiration, somebody who’s helpful to that one-to-one connection that you have. Instead of saying, “Hey, can I do a guest post for you?” Or, “Hey, can you promote this specific piece of content?” It starts with reaching out to somebody and saying, “Hey.” Maybe it’s somebody who has a blog that’s similar to yours, or somebody that you aspire to be like. It’s reaching out to them and saying, “Hey, I loved this thing that you’ve produced, I love your Instagram account. I love this resource that you have. And I just want to let you know, I shared it on social media, I linked to it in a blog post. I really found it inspiration and have shared it with a couple friends via email.” And that’s it.

And, leaving it at that, and maybe having multiple touch points with that person, where there’s zero ask, and who knows how long that lasts? Maybe it’s three months, six months, one year, and eventually, there might come a time where there is an ask involved. And if you have a history of giving, if you don’t start the relationship by asking, if you have a history of giving and that person has that context, there is a higher chance that they are willing to reciprocate that.

But so often what happens is, we try and connect with people in order to push our agenda, instead of connecting with people and pushing their agenda first, doing what you can to be helpful to them, knowing that someday there might be a time when that is reciprocated.

And so, that kind of goes hand and hand with this idea of creating that top ten type of content. You also need to have these people that you are connected with, these one to one relationships, these established connections, because those are helpful as you start to build and get traction. But they’re only helpful if you have established those as authentic, true, giving relationships, as opposed to a relationship where you are asking right away.

And, realistically, that takes months and months and oftentimes years for those type of relationships to form. And, it takes a lot of work as well, and it’s one to one, it’s individual, and it’s not quick. And so, both of these things have to do with delaying the gratification that you get from kind of that quick, ping, publishing a piece of content and feeling like, hey, I did it. But instead, delaying that out, taking your time, building relationships, working on long form really high value top ten content. And, what will happen is, that snowball, both relationally, from the people you’re connecting with, as well as with the content from the traction that you get from that, and hopefully the traffic that comes from that, will be able to build.

That snowball will be able to build in a way that it doesn’t’ if you kind of have these quick pings, and one off pieces of content that you are publishing. So, the great thing is, Katie for you, is you have this history of blogging, you’re familiar with it. When I go to your sight it looks beautiful, you’ve done a great job with it. It’s really well designed, and, you have a consistent history of publishing content which is great and super helpful, and so I think it’s a matter of, like you said, in the post. Kind of taking that dive into it and saying, “Hey, I’m going to really take this seriously, I’m going to think strategically.” And you’re off to a great start.

So, keep up the good work, really great to connect, and thanks for submitting. The thing that’s working for you, and also the thing that you’re trying to work through Katie, and so excited to stay connected with you and watch you continue to grow Hey Nutrition Lady.

Mary Shrader: Hi Bjork, my name is Mary and the name of my food blog is Mary’s Nest.com. I’m very new to all of this, but what is working well for me is making videos and embedding them in my blog. I use a Cannon EOS rebel SL2 on a tripod, with a level ear mic, and film myself across my kitchen island as I show how to make traditional foods such as bone broths and so on and so forth.

I embed the video in my blog, and I am very happy how it has all turned out. However, I think the biggest thing I struggle with is keeping up with all the social media. I want to distribute my content, while I’ll also keep up with viewing and commenting on all my online friends’ content.

I find that tending to social media can take up my whole day if I let it. Thanks for any insight you have to share.

Bjork Ostrom: Hey there Mary, fun to hear your little audio clip and explore your channel a little bit, and to hear what’s working well, and what’s not working well. First a quick little comment about what’s working well, love, love, love that you’re doing video, and also video where you’re in front of the camera. That’s so hard to do, it’s hard to do video in general, but extremely hard to be the person in front of the camera, talking to the camera, and engaging the audience from in front of the lens, as opposed to behind it. Or just doing kind of the standard hands and pans type videos.

So, good work, you should be proud of the work that you’ve done so far with those videos, that’s awesome. And, a quick note to other people that haven’t yet explored video, I’d encourage you to give it a shot, to see what it feels like and explore the different ways where you might want to jump in and create video, because it’s going to continue to become more and more important for us. Us being content creators, people that listen to this podcast, to figure out how they communicate through these kind of 2.0, or 3.0 forms of media.

Whether that be audio, like is happening right now with this podcast, or video, as bandwidth becomes more available. Even in rural areas, in small towns, they’re starting to get fast internet, and can watch video pretty seamlessly, there’s not a lot of the buffering that happens, even in places that traditionally didn’t have good internet.

And so, what’s happening is, video’s becoming more important because it’s a more vibrant type of media, you’re able to connect more, communicate easier, is the same, or the same can be said and much like is true for audio. And audio is that same kind of thing, people know me, they understand me, they know a little bit more context about who I am by listening to this podcast. And, video does that same thing, especially if you’re able to be in front of the camera.

And what a great skill that is to develop. So, good work on that Mary, love, love, love that you are doing that, and one of the things that you talked about is kind of on the other side, something that’s more different, or that you’re working through, trying to figure out, is this idea of social media. And social media can be a total time suck, like you said and like you talked about, you could spend the entire day just surfing around on social media, and posting, and interacting, and commenting. Supporting your friends, which, you mentioned, which I think is so cool and showcases who you are, and what you’re about, by the fact that you say, “Hey, I want to support my other friends who are online and doing social media.” Which makes sense and is awesome.

A couple things, as it relates to social media, this might apply to you, Mary, or to the broader podcast audience. I think it’s really important for us as creators, to think about the places where we are naturally draw. Where are the places that make sense for us to be creators, because those are going to be the places where we are going to want to focus.

And, for me, for instance, I spend almost no time on social media on a week to week or month to month basis, and we run an online business. I run an online business, but that’s very different than Lindsey, Lindsey loves Instagram, that’s a place for her where she feels very much so at home. And loves to think about creating content on Instagram that connects with people and to have conversations on Instagram.

So, we are different in that way, I have almost no social media presence, whereas Lindsey is intentional, say, “Hey, what does it look like for me to live and to operate both the brand of Contrivium, as well as Lindsay individually, on social media.” So, point there, is that it’s important to remember that even if you are building something online, it doesn’t mean that you have to be the person that is creating social media posts, or posting to social media, or spending a bunch of time in your different social accounts.

Now, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t use social media to support your business, I think we just need to think strategically about what is the thing that really excites us, and what is the most important thing. And, for most of us, the most important thing is creating really valuable, accessible and targeted content for our followers.

Now, obviously you need to promote that somewhere, that has to, you have to build in some type of system to give that exposure, but you don’t always have to be the person that is doing that. And, we have, for instance, just a short example is that, for the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, one of the things that we do is we take a short little snippet, and we post it to our Instagram account, in video format. Now, that’s not me posting to the Food Blogger Pro Instagram, but it’s us as a team saying, “Hey, we know Instagram’s an important platform, what are the was that as a brand, we can use Instagram to engage with and connect with our audience?”

And that’s one of the ways that we’ve decided to do it, because we have this podcast, I enjoy doing a podcast, and so, what are the ways that we can then lean into another platform, without having to spend a bunch of time, you know, crafting original content for that platform.

Another thing to consider is to spend time thinking about the one platform that you love, and become an expert on that platform. And I think what happens too often is that, we as individual creators, we do everything for our blog, we manage WordPress, we manage all the social media accounts, we create the content, we do the photographs, we shoot the video, and it just becomes so much. And then we also think that we have to, you know, have these really strong, a really strong presence on every one of these social accounts.

But I would encourage you to do in the early stages is to think about what is the single platform that I feel like I can operate and understand, and that I’m most drawn to. And go deep on that single platform, and for you, Mary, I feel like, you know, in the amount of time that I spent looking at what you’re doing and what you’re up to, hearing your audio clip. You talking through what you like to do, the things that are working well, I hear you talking about video.

So, it makes a lot of sense for me, when I look at your scenario, as you’re building your brand, and as you’re building your blog, and as you’re building your following. To say, “Okay, I know that there are these other platforms, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, whatever it would be, Snapchat if you want to go wide.” But, you don’t have time for all of those. And, if you’re trying to do all of those, you’re going to be doing all of those at a sub-par level. Just due to the time that you have in a day.

So, instead, think about the thing that you’re drawn to, the one platform that makes the most sense for how you create content, and think about content, and publish content. And for you, that seems like YouTube, it makes a lot of sense to go deep on YouTube, and to get a really good understanding of that, as a social platform. And there’s going to be an inherent loss in saying, “Okay, I’m saying no to these other platforms, I’m saying no to these other things, and this could be time management in general. In order to say yes to this one thing, and to say yes in a really committed way that’s going to have a really big impact.”

And it’s not to say that that’s forever, and that you never touch any of those other platforms, but, you want to focus on a single platform until you feel like, okay, I have created systems around it, I know the, how to optimize for this platform, I know what I’m doing, and now I’ve found that I have some margin to build in another thing. And maybe that additional thing is then posting videos to Instagram, for instance. Where it’s kind of related, there’s a little bit of overlap, but it allows you to expand out a little bit.

So, you might miss out on some of the conversations with people that you’re connected with, and friends, but I think that’s a necessary and important thing to cut out at, for a limited amount of time, maybe it’s six months, maybe it’s a year, in order for you to go deep in a single platform, to say, no to one area, in order to say yes to another area. To go deep on that single platform, to learn it, to optimize for it, to develop systems around it, where you’re not having to learn every single time, or relearn, you know, the best way to do something.

And, once you have established that, once you’ve mastered that, then you can kind of layer in little pieces beyond that. And, example, for us, what we do, I feel like that, for us, is the podcast. So, that’s the area that I’ve decided to go really deep on, as a creator, and then we use that, like I said, to cross promote in other areas. Whether that be Instagram, or Twitter, or Facebook, but, we’ve realized, or I’ve realized, that I can’t do everything.

And so, it’s not that we’re completely shut off for these other platforms, but there’s only one that I’ve really decided to stick to, and to go deep on in order to do that well, and as we’ve grown, as we have more resources, we’re able to then spin up additional things. For instance, we didn’t have the resources before to do Instagram for WP Tasty, but we’ve finally gotten to the point where our team and Abby is leading the charge on this, is saying, “Okay, I’m going to start to think about what does Instagram look like for WP Tasty?”

We couldn’t do that before, or if we rewind the tape way back for Pinch of Yem, it was for a long time really limited in what we were doing. We were doing essentially Instagram and maybe Facebook a little bit. And there was a time where Lindsey, or Pinch of Yem, really didn’t have any presence on Pinterest, even though it was a huge traffic driver for us, we just knew that there was a draw to a certain area, and also that area had proven engagement and performance.

And those two things have to match up, you can’t, you can’t justify spending a lot of time on a place that doesn’t have a lot of people there. So, it’s not like you could, you know, let’s say Snapchat, if you have 10 people, but you love it, it maybe makes sense to go to a platform where you have more people who are going to see it and be exposed to what you’re doing.

But the basic idea is, you want to find the thing that you’re drawn to, focus on that, go deep on that, and then start to fold in things later on. So, for anybody listening that feels overwhelmed with social media, I want to let you know it’s okay to say no. And that’s not a forever thing, that’s a temporary thing, and you can go deep in one area, and then start to add on later on as you start to figure it out and get some momentum in that singular platform.

So, Mary, great job, keep up the good work with the video, and excited to stay connected with you and watch you continue to grow your blog, and your brand, and the followers that you have online, so good work.

Sarah Cook: Hi, my name is Sarah Cook, and I’m the founder of Sustainable Cooks, and yes, I’m a food blogger with a last name of Cook, I know. What’s working well for me right now, I had a reawakening of just passion and intensity for blogging last summer. Thanks, actually, to finding the Food Blogger Pro Podcast.

Until that moment, I was ready to quit and give up, because after seven years of blogging, I had lost traction and readers, and my page views were actually plummeting. I was stuck, and I did not know what I was doing.

Discovering the podcast and others, I learned that everything I didn’t know about blogging could fill a freaking ocean. I spent an enormous amount of time educating myself on SEO, blogging best practices, and photograph, after finding the podcast, and photography is my least favorite part about blogging.

Thanks to Food Blogger Pro, I’ve gone through an extensive redesign and rebrand, I’ve done an SEO audit with Casey, and I now work with Andrew from the Blog Tutor.

If you were to look at my site last year and compare it to this year, the differences are night and day. I feel professional and I feel motivated each and every day to do the best for my readers. I’ve also shifted by mindset from me to we. I now keep my reader at the front of my mind with every decision I make about the blog. It’s no longer what I want but what my readers have told me and shown me that they need. My readers and Google are starting to reward me for my efforts with increased page views and traffic.

One thing I’m struggling with, just one … My biggest issue right now is finding the time to fix eight years worth of mistakes. I started on Blogger and never even used a recipe plug-in until last year. I know, tragic. Fixing things I didn’t do correctly the first time takes all my energy and time right now. I also have two younger kids, so balancing their needs with my work requirements means a lot of very late nights and 4:00 AM mornings. In fact, I’m currently hiding in my closet to record this so that they don’t scream into the computer.

But I love what I do, and I’ve only grown more and more in love with this profession, so thank you so much.

Bjork Ostrom: Sarah, so incredibly fun to hear your audio clip, to hear your call, whatever it is we’re calling these … but to hear you talk about, number one, having last name Cook with the food blog, awesome. Without you having to do any work, spot on branding, so good work on that. Number two, so fun to hear you talk about the … finding the podcast and having the podcast be that thing that kind of lights a spark or lights a fire for you to continue working on the blog, but not only to just continue working on it but with a new passion and intensity. And I love the hustle that you demonstrate by ducking away into a closet and recording the audio clip to submit to the podcast which is so fun and so relatable.

I remember there was a time when we were living in the Philippines. So, Lindsay and I lived in the Philippines for a year. And that’s when we were first starting Food Blogger Pro and I was recording a video and it was super loud because we lived in a neighborhood where there was just a lot of noise. There was some dogs barking and I remember in the distance, somebody was doing karaoke. And I knew that I needed to record this tutorial for this … the first round of tutorials that we were doing for Food Blogger Pro and I went into this back room and it was super hot out but I threw this blanket over my head to deaden the noise that was coming in. And I just remember sitting with my laptop, the mike, and a blanket in 80 degree humid heat in this back, little room recording this video for Food Blogger Pro.

And so, imagining you tucked away in a closet recording an audio submission so you don’t get any of that kid background noise reminded me of that time for me. And I just love to hear how you have found that new passion and intensity for blogging after doing it for a while.

And the good thing is that you have this history and this background and this content built up through the years. And you talked about that a little bit. This idea that you’ve been doing this for a really long time and have this foundation but now you’re realizing, hey I’ve got to rework what this foundation looks like in order for it to be really solid. It’s almost like these concrete jigsaw pieces and right now, they aren’t all locked together. And you’re kind of working to say, okay, this is going to be a really strong foundation. I don’t have to bring in any more material necessarily, or at least at this point you don’t. And now the thing is how do these pieces fit together so the foundation is strong? You have the history and the content and now it’s putting those things together which like you said, isn’t an easy thing to do and I think it’s worth acknowledging that.

A couple things that I feel like are worth mentioning and worth looking into and worth thinking about. One thing I would caution you on is that I think there is the potential to … Once you get into it, to see all of the things that could be fixed or enhanced or tweaked. And it’s kind of like moving into a house. So I’m sitting in our house here in St. Paul, Minnesota. And when I look around, even in the room that I’m in right now, I can see, okay, it’s hardwood floors. They’re these beautiful, original hardwood floors but it’s a different color in different rooms. Before we moved in, one area was finished, another area wasn’t. If I look up above me, the ceiling has some little fractures and cracks in it. I know that outside, the stucco is falling apart in a certain area. When we first moved in, the sidewalk was all out of sorts and the lawn was nonexistent. It was a foreclosure we moved into so there was a lot of work that we had to do.

And what we had to do was say, okay, what are the things that are going to have the biggest, most substantial impact? What is the cost both in time and dollars? And then, how do we prioritize? And I think for somebody in your situation, a similar analysis is worth doing. And I think it’s helpful to actually have an equation. It can be a really, really simple equation but to have an equation that helps you bubble up to the top what those priorities are going to be. And then, complement that with continuing to produce content. So it’s kind of the repair and build. And you don’t want to be just repairing and you don’t want to be just building, you want to be doing both and to be doing both consistently to the point at which it becomes less advantageous to repair than it does to build.

And what I mean by that is there are things, much like in our house, where they could totally be fixed. But it’s probably not worth our time right now to focus in on those things because we still have more important things that we need to do. With your blog, with your site, the same is probably true. There are no doubt substantial things that you need to do. And an example would be transitioning from Blogger or Blogspot to WordPress. That’s a huge change and would be a really big priority. And another example would be using a recipe plugin, and you mentioned that, what a huge win that’s going to be to make that transition and to make that update.

But there will be some point that you get to where suddenly it becomes less advantageous to fix the things even though there will be things to fix than it is to build and to continue to add to your pool of content or to create new things. And that is true for A Pinch of Yum, for Food Blogger Pro, all of the sites that we run. There are things that are or could be enhanced or fixed or tweaked that currently exist that we’ve decided it’s more valuable for us to focus our time on creating something new and to create a new thing than it is to go back and tweak and update and change because if you continually tweak, and change, and update you’ll be caught in that place forever, for a really long time. You could constantly be optimizing old content.

So that’s why I think it’s important to do both at the same time, to continually think about what is the path forward. And then also, how do I look back and create something better behind me? How do I look at where I’ve been and not totally ignore that but continue to move forward while also optimizing the things that you have, the previously posted content.

So what I would recommend doing is using Excel or Apple’s Numbers program which is free if you have a Mac computer or Google spreadsheet, Google Sheets, if you have that … is to create a really, really basic little equation and to create a list of all the different things that you feel like you could optimize. And so, one column would be all of the different things that you could enhance. And in that column, you would have things like switching to WordPress, adding a recipe plugin or recipe card. Maybe it’s optimizing the alt text for posts. So that’s optimized from an SEO perspective. And you have this list of, let’s say, 10 or 20 or 30 or 40, who knows how long that list is? And then, next to each one of those, you add additional little items or you’d add additional qualifiers or numbers or metrics that would be in these different categories.

Number one would be the impact. And some of these you’re not going to know, right? You’re just going to have to go with your gut and say what is the actual impact of these? And I would do, let’s say one to five, a scale or one to five. What is the impact, one to five? It could be super substantial, a really big impact, five. And then you can say, what is the time? And in this case, I would use five as the quickest and then one as this is going to be really slow. So five is quick, one is slow. So you create another column that has a one through five for speed. And then you say, what is the cost? So how expensive is this going to be, one through five, five being the cheapest, one being the most expensive.

There might be additional things that you think of that you’d want to add that can be part of that equation. But after you have that list, you have that total brain dump of all the different projects that you need to do. You’ve put everything down whether it’s a tiny little microproject or a really big substantial expensive project, you put all of that down. And then, in the very last column there, what you do is you add those up and say okay, what is the thing that is going to be most impactful, most affordable, and what is the thing that is also going to be cheapest and any of those other factors that you put in? And that’s not going to be the perfect formula. It’s not going to get you the exact calculation that you need in order to fully understand what the next step is. But what it will give you is a little bit of guidance on what the next most important thing to do is.

And we did this actually, Raquel and I … Raquel does the, she’s a product lead for WP Tasty. We had a meeting and we said okay, what are the most important marketing things to do? And we were spitball ideas and talked about a few things. And we said hey, I think it makes better to use this exact equation that I just shared with you here to just get a better idea of prioritizing what the most important thing to do is. And again, it’s not a fail safe, science tested process to understand what to do next, but it’s helpful in order to just provide a little bit of clarity around what’s the next most important thing to do is.

And for us, that allowed us to say okay, we’ve realized that probably a really easy thing to do that we haven’t yet implemented and that we could do with no cost and in the specific case of WP Tasty, I’m trying to remember back exactly what it was … I think this is what it was but maybe this is just an example … Implementing follow up emails. So if you ever buy a WP Tasty product, you’ll see one of the follow up emails in the sequence is letting people know about the affiliate program. So it’s building in this little word of mouth system that allows people to say oh, I know if I sign up and buy a WP Tasty plugin, if I like that, then I can promote it to my followers and let them know that I use it and then, get referral fees from that.

So it builds in a little bit of viral marketing. And it was really easy to do. It was free and didn’t take much time. And there might be those things for you as you process through the important projects that you have to hit and you’ll be able to work through that list in the order that the spreadsheet creates it. That would be my encouragement to you to provide some clarity around what the next best step is going to be. And you can use that as a living, breathing document. Maybe you get into a project and realize, oh this is actually really hard. You change the time for a project from a five to a three. Or maybe you get a quote from somebody and you realize that something that you wanted to have developed on your site is really, really expensive so you change the cost associated with that.

Again, it’s not perfect but it’s going to provide a little bit of clarity around what the next best thing to work on is going to be and will allow you continue to move forward on that and to continue to make progress. And one thing that I think is important is to keep that list where you don’t remove the things after you complete them or if you do, move them to another spreadsheet where you’re able to track and say okay, I can see that I’ve made progress on these things. Because that’s one of the most motivating things. You’re passionate right now. You have that desire to continue building and growing and it’s important to see the fruit of your labor in some way to have some time of log that shows you the things that you have done and completed. So as you work through that list and build that strong foundation for yourself, I’d encourage you to keep track of that so you can continue to stay passionate and engaged and excited, realizing that all the things that you’re actually doing.

So great, inspiring little audio clip for me, Sarah, to hear that the podcast was helpful for you. I hope it continues to be that and I know that your little clip will be encouraging and motivating for other people as well. So it was a little bit of paying that back, so thank you for taking the time to submit that, for being a part of the podcast, and excited to watch you continue to grow Sustainable Cooks. And love that you were able to include your last name in your blog name in a way that maybe people don’t even realize which is kind of fun.

So that is a wrap for this podcast. Thank you so much for tuning in. It was fun to switch things up a little bit, do it a little bit differently. And so thankful to Katie, Mary, and Sarah for being a part of the podcast today. We’re going to see how this goes and would love to hear your feedback on this if it would something that you would be interested in hearing more of, podcast episodes that are a little bit different like this.

And one of the things that we know to be really, really true is that we have this incredible group of people that listen to this podcast and there are some really cool things that you as the listeners can share with other listeners. And we’re hoping that this podcast allowed us to surface some of those things and have some conversations directly around the things that people are having some success around, sharing those, and then processing through some of those harder problems that people are working through in trying to get a better idea of how they can work through those problems, can find some answers to those, and continue to build and grow your blog or your business or whatever it is that you are using this podcast for to do a little bit better.

So thank you so much for tuning in, for being a part of this podcast. And shout out to our podcast producer, Alexa, for all the work that she does in helping to make this happen. So we will catch you guys in one week, same time, same place. Same bat time, same bat place. Thanks guys.

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  1. Hi Bjork, I just found this!! Please forgive my tardy response!! I want to thank you so much for the kind words and wonderful advice you gave me. I really appreciate it and am working on concentrating on YouTube – for my own channel as well as engaging (watching/commenting) on my friends channels – but have pulled way back on my engagement on the other social platforms. I have really been able to take a deep breath!! Thank you again for the great advice and pointing me in the right direction!! All the best, Mary