I Make $10k to $30k Per Month Working Part Time On My Sweet Food Blog

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Want some timely tips on how to grow an audience and brand from the ground up?

Jessica Holmes is on the podcast to share the surprisingly unique perspectives she’s gained from growing a successful food blog.

Just as a sample:

  • She wants direct traffic more than SEO traffic
  • She uses the principles of quality customer service to help grow her audience
  • She rarely looks at keyword tools to source topics
  • And she doesn’t shy away from showing the good, the bad, and the ugly when testing the recipes she shares on her blog

It all started back in 2014 while juggling a full-time job as a copywriter. Jessica wanted a creative outlet, so she started up her blog sweetestmenu.com.

Initially, she knew nothing about SEO or turning her site into a business so it was a true hobby blog.

She’d promote her content mainly on social media until a pivotal moment in 2016 when she transitioned to an SEO strategy after an audit with Casey Markee.

But this is not your traditional ‘SEO’ story.

Her content strategy heavily prioritizes the actual reader over any search engine algorithm, and it seems to be working.

For instance, Jessica emphasizes the importance of creating content based on reader demand and feedback rather than the usual keyword research approach.

She looks to the reader, then her own interests, then the season, and then if necessary – a keyword research tool.

She also speaks openly and honestly about the challenges of maintaining a successful food blog, including the need to update old posts and the importance of engaging with the audience and providing excellent customer service.

And the cherry on top is that she does all of this while working ‘part-time’ on the site!

It really is a wonderful discussion and Jessica has a lot of great advice we could all start testing on our own blogs.

Enjoy!

Watch The Interview

Topics Jessica Holmes Covers

  • Turning her passion project into her business
  • Getting onto Mediavine
  • Interacting with her audience
  • Prioritizing what’s best for readers
  • Direct traffic vs other types
  • Her approach to keyword research
  • Humanizing content via fails
  • Recipe testing
  • Fostering a 2-way conversation
  • Providing a great customer experience
  • Following through
  • Updating content
  • Adapting to change
  • Monetization
  • And a whole lot more…

Links & Resources

Transcription

Jared: All right. Welcome back to the niche pursuits podcast. My name is Jared Bauman. Today we are joined by Jessica Holmes with sweetestmenu. com Jessica, welcome on board. 

Jessica: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I’m a big fan of the podcast. I’ve been listening for most of this year and I’ve actually learned so much from this podcast, so really happy to be here.

Jared: Oh man. It’s always great to have a listener on board. You kind of know the flow, you know how we like to do things around here. But we, uh, our time before this podcast and the intros was super quick and easy. You already know how things go. So it’s great. It’s going to be great to have you. And, um, I’m, I’m very excited to talk about your website.

You know, we were talking before we hit record that. Over the years, we tend to end up interviewing a food, a food blogger, if you will, here or there, and it’s been a little while since we’ve had one on, and it’s been a little while since we’ve had one on following this kind of bevy of Google’s updates in 2023 and the tail end of 2020.

Um, I’m really excited to talk to you today about how you grown this website and what you’re up to. Why don’t we start by, by doing it like we always do. Maybe give us some backstory on who you are and catch us up to when you started, um, sweetestmenu. com. 

Jessica: Yeah, sure. Well, I started sweetest menu in 2014, uh, which is a lifetime ago now coming up 10 years.

Yeah. So, um, but when I said I was very humble beginnings, I was working full time as a copywriter and I was doing graphic design classes at night and they were finishing up and I was just looking for something creative to do. My spare time, I had no kids, so the evenings and weekends were all mine. And, um, I was.

Head over hills in love with food blogs, following so many. And um, yeah, my husband said, why don’t you start a food blog? And I was a bit hesitant at first, but I did it and I didn’t tell anyone for a good six months I think, but I just dabbled with it, had a lot of fun. Did not, uh, contemplate it becoming a business or a career at all.

Um, it was just pure enjoyment. But I did fall in love with it and I learnt. Well, I’m still learning, but, um, I just learned so much about the blogging world and I think I probably got addicted to blogging when people started to leave comments and say they tried one of my recipes or just tell me that my.

Photos look great or something, you know, it was back when people left lots of comments on blogs And I just couldn’t believe people from around the world started to find me started to apply and enjoy my recipes and I just got hooked But it was about 18 months It’s in, it was still purely just a hobby, but I started to watch these other bigger bloggers around me start to turn theirs into businesses.

Like I was following, you know, pinch of yum, Sally’s baking addiction, some of these massive massive sites. And I was like, Oh, they’re turning those into a business. That’s interesting. And, um, my dad said to me, why don’t you put some ads on your site? And I was like, Oh no, dad, I don’t want ads ruining my nice aesthetic.

You know, I was, I was really hesitant, but then I was like, Oh, why not? So I. Threw on, um, I just signed up to Google AdSense and that first month I made 50 and I just thought that was incredible. Like I was like, someone is paying me money to do what I’m just loving and, you know, pay for my ingredients that month.

I just thought that was incredible. Um, so that’s the business. technically started. And I think about two years after I started, I then switched over to media vine and it’s sort of, you know, started to become more than just a hobby, but I actually continued doing it as a side hustle for six years. So I stayed in my full time career for six years before moving over to becoming a food blogger in March, 2020.

Jared: Wow. Okay. Uh, so you went full time, uh, geez, that’s basically when COVID hit actually, right? Yeah, 

Jessica: it was really interesting. So the day I, I quit my job and the day I packed up my desk was the same day that all my colleagues were packing up their desks because they’ve been told they had to go work from home for two weeks and then it ended up being two years.

Yeah, it was very strange time, but it worked out even though like it’s horrible few years, but, um, it was amazing for me because it had the baking search, you know, and everyone was at home. And so I got this massive 2020 and 2021, this massive traffic surge. Um, so I got to really enjoy and sort of ride that wave, which was.

Considering it was a real bummer of a few years, 

Jared: I was going to say, I mean, I, I, I know that, uh, we’ve had travel website owners on, you know, uh, since the pandemic, and obviously that was a huge downswing for them followed by a resurgence. I’ve got to imagine with so many people being at home, perhaps you left your full time job to turn to this full time, perhaps that was actually.

Looking back on it pretty good timing. Like, did you see a fairly sustained bump in traffic as a result of that? 

Jessica: Yes, I did. I did. And what was nice was I didn’t count on that. So it wasn’t like I left while I was in the middle of that search thinking it was going to be like that forever. So by 2019, I knew it was a sustainable business.

So I’d, I’d out earned my day job. I was earning more doing this than my day job. So that’s why I felt sort of comfortable leaving. And then, yeah. And then I had a really big 2020 and 2021. It was, Um, beautiful surge of traffic, like effortlessly just going up. It was wonderful. And 2022 and 2023, it has definitely come back down, but still higher than like it was 2019.

Um, but it was a bit sad to watch that. Like, yeah, slowly come back down to a more like even spread of traffic. Yeah. 

Jared: The, um, you know, I tend to ask this question. To a lot of people who have a website that’s maybe like 10 years old, like yours is, and especially in the food space. I’m just curious. Uh, you don’t have to spend a ton of time going into it, but a lot of times the arc of traffic sources for a 10 year old site will change.

And a lot of times the traffic arc for, for food, for food websites will change. Like, did you lean heavily on say Pinterest traffic? In the late 2016, 17, 18, 19. And then, you know, like where’s the traffic coming from these days compared to maybe the first few years? Yeah, 

Jessica: that’s a really good, um, question. So yes, it was definitely more social heavy and definitely Pinterest was the biggest driver, uh, in those early years.

And then I had my first SEO audit in. 2016. So four years in, and that was when I, and that was with Casey Marquis, who I believe you’ve had on the show. Um, and. Through implementing a lot of the suggestions that he made, that’s when I was able to really like tap into SEO traffic for my site, which is now the number one traffic driver, but prior to that, it wasn’t a huge traffic driver for my site.

Jared: Interesting. Yeah. So you made the transition, um, uh, let’s, uh, I like to do this. A lot of people like to do this. We’re going to get into the nitty gritty of, of a lot of the details you use to kind of, to build this, this site out and some of the things that make it unique, but maybe catch us up to right now, any numbers, any, anything you’re comfortable sharing in terms of the site, where it’s at, whether it’s traffic, monetization, number of articles, like just to give people an idea of the scope of where you’re at almost 10 years in now.

Jessica: Yes. So I have over 500 recipes, I believe on the side. Um, and I’m getting somewhere the traffic. Ebbs and flows a lot throughout the year. So I’m currently enjoying my wonderful December, which is always beautiful. Since it’s a baking blog for those that don’t know, um, yeah, everyone wants to bake in December, which is awesome.

Um, but my traffic sort of ranges from about half a million to a million page views a month. Um, and yeah, it was higher. Like we mentioned before, it was higher than that in the previous few years, getting up to around 2 million. And so it’s. It was come down, um, but it’s nice and nice and consistent, which has been really good.

Um, and then obviously the ad revenue changes quite a bit, but that probably sits around, uh, it could be anything from 10 to 30 K a month. 

Jared: Yeah, yeah. Congratulations. How amazing over a million people looking at your recipes a month. That’s phenomenal. Well, um, you know, I, I, I have a lot of questions. I did spend some time on your site before and I was telling you beforehand, you mentioned Casey.

I could, after interviewing him, I could almost see some of the. The threads of, uh, uh, uh, or maybe the fingerprints of him on the site. We’ll, we’ll link to his interview for, for those of you want to hear, that’s probably about a year and a half old now, but it’s still super applicable in terms of the things that he shared on the podcast interview.

But, um, you had to transition to an SEO strategy from, it sounds like a more social media. I mean, we can use that to transition into. Kind of how you built the current site. Was it one of those things where you were just noticing some traffic from organic search and saying, well, I want to pursue that? Or was it really more of a decision to say something’s changing in social media, for example, like I’ve got to switch my traffic sources.

Like how purposeful was that transition to focus on SEO? Um, it 

Jessica: was pretty purposeful. I think, especially after I had the audit with Casey, I think, um, I just really saw a lot of potential in that it wasn’t necessarily turning away from social media. It was just in addition to I was just seeing how powerful it was and I’m seeing it through a lot of other people, to be honest, more than myself, how they were growing their sites.

Um, But my SEO traffic was just slowly increasing and, uh, it was increasing quite effortlessly. I think because I guess the whole like passive income thing, once you start to rank and once you get, you know, many pages that are ranking, it’s just working for you in the background over and over and over. So I was just very keen to have that, um, working for me, uh, if that makes sense.

So once I had my first, um, Okay. I then started to implement that and I’ve actually had three audits now with Casey over the years because as you know, something’s keep changing. But to be honest, if I went back and listened to his first one, I think a lot of his advice would be very similar. There’s a few little quirks that have changed over those times.

But the, at the end of the day, he’s always talking about, um, What’s best for the reader? And I think, you know, that’s still what we’re all harping on about at the moment. Um, and what Google keeps trying to tell us to do, um, even though, you know, sometimes they lie to us a little bit. But, um, yeah, so that’s what I that’s what I’m trying to do.

And I think. With my site, I’ve always been a really big believer in, I think, and I think this comes, so I’m just trying to think, I think this comes from, because I’ve always had a lot of interaction with my readers, whether that’s through website comments, through social media, through email, you know, people send me their photos of their recipes that they’ve made.

I’ve always felt very close to the reader. So I’ve always tried to have a real, um, approach. So even though SEOs. definitely a high priority for me at the end of the day, I want to be doing what’s best for my readers. And, you know, a lot of people get a bit surprised when, you know, I know there’s a lot of food bloggers and other people that will go really heavy on keyword research.

But like for me, if a reader. If multiple readers say like, I really love this recipe and I, I, you know, do some keyword research and I can see like, I’m never going to rank for that. Like, if you take banana bread, right? I’m never going to rank for banana bread. It’s never going to be an SEO keyword for me that I can touch, but.

I’m not just not going to do that because of that, because if my readers want that, then I’d love to put it on my site. And at the end of the day, I want my readers to be able to come straight to my site. And if they want a banana bread recipe and there’s not one there, then that’s kind of a disservice to them.

Does that make sense? 

Jared: It does. I mean, it does. And that was going to make my next question, which is A typical SEO focused website is going to do keyword research and they’re going to come up with a variety of recipes that are going to go in their content calendar. And maybe, maybe they’ll focus on breads for the month or two to kind of build out what’s, you know, what might be considered topical authority.

It sounds like maybe, maybe you take a bit of a different approach to how you come up with the topics that are going to go on the site. And I’m curious to hear how you do come up with them. Yeah. 

Jessica: So it’s a lot more fluid. So I do have a content calendar, but. Um, at the end of the day, I think because this is a creative website, I love the creative side of things.

So if, if I come to a week and I think, well, you know, I had planned to do a pumpkin pie, but I don’t really feel like doing pumpkin pie, but I’ve just, I’ve just had this great idea of doing a cheese scone instead or something, you know, like that, then I will definitely switch things out. I don’t like sit hard and fast to things, but I really do listen to what my readers want.

So they do. Constantly ask for recipes, and I do have a big list of what they want, and I try to then do the keyword research after that, just kind of see what I can put into the post. Um, but yeah, I definitely, I’m not a traditional sort of keyword research first kind of person. I really do go with what the reader wants, and then I go with what I want, and then I probably look at seasonality and then I look at keyword research.

So. Yeah, I don’t know if this is, this is wrong to tell people because it’s not necessarily, you know, like following the Google rule, but it works for me. And at the end of the day, I want SEO traffic, but you know what I want more than SEO traffic. I want direct traffic. I want people that just go, I want a dessert.

I’m just going to type in sweetestmenu. com and come straight to me and those people. I want them to find what they’re looking for when they come to my site. So that may mean doing recipes that don’t necessarily rank in Google. 

Jared: How, where does SEO come into play? Let’s say you are making the banana bread recipe, if we could, which I checked your site.

I don’t. I don’t see banana bread here. Okay. I couldn’t find you do rank very well for banana cupcakes, by the way, but, but, um, anyways, I digress. Let’s just take the banana bread, uh, topic and run with it. Like, let’s say you are going to make that and you know, whether or not you look ahead of time or not, you’ve kind of already determined, wow, that’s a very competitive keyword from an SEO standpoint, but my readers want it.

I’m going to make it. What do you do? What, where do you add the SEO components? Where do you optimize for search, even though you’re focusing on content that your users want more than maybe a search engine wants? Yes. 

Jessica: Yep. No, great question. Um, for that, obviously for me, that comes in all the formatting of the post.

So I have a sort of, uh, uh, loose format that I stick to. Um, you know, with different headings and different topics and how I want to format my post. So usually, you know, that’s talking a little bit about post, sorry, talking a little bit about the recipe. I like to include something in my post that I don’t see many people including, which is recipe testing.

So when I test multiple recipes, I, um, uh, or iterations of the recipe, I should say, I take photos of it and my, my, my readers love to see it fail. So I love to put those images in the post where I can. And I think. Now that a few years ago, I got told to not do that because it’s typically, you know, not really an SEO thing to put in there.

Um, but now I feel like it could be because with AI and everything like that’s kind of proving that I’m a real person. I’ve really tested this in my kitchen and no one can really fake those. Well, I mean, they can fake, but yeah, it’s real recipes, real tests, real fakes. Uh, sorry, real flops when it doesn’t go well.

Yeah. So I put that in and then obviously I just break down the post. Now I try to put in process shots for Google, um, and for my readers. And then I try to really, um, put in like expert tips or frequently asked questions. And I get a lot of that again from my. Readers rather than I do check Google and see, you know what people are asking.

Um, but also I just know I get a lot of common questions, so I know what my readers are typically going to ask. Um, and even it can come in later. So if I publish it on Instagram or if a comment comes in and they, you know, want to ask, Oh, can I use a different shape tin or, um, what can I add this mix in instead of that mix in, then I might go in and add that.

Into the post. So I’m just trying to answer every question that I can in the post. Um, And then, yeah, and then obviously like a fully optimized recipe card and really nice images with, you know, alt text and all those sort of things. So still trying to follow all the SEO rules, but sort of doing a little bit my way.

Jared: I’m looking at the recipe testing and you’re, you’re exactly right. It, um, you’re, I’m looking at the one on chocolate buttermilk cake and you have different. Pictures showcasing when you use melted butter versus vegetable oil and so forth. It reminds me of one of my favorite websites. Uh, because I’ve gotten into cooking with a sous vide over the years has been serious eats and they do the very similar thing where they’ll show you pictures of, Hey, cook it at 165, cook it at 160, cook at 155.

Here’s four hours, here’s eight hours. And I feel like I’m learning, but you’re right. It also shows the, uh, reader. And perhaps the algorithm that you’re actually testing these different things. Yes, 

Jessica: that’s right. And that was something that over the years, I think it just started by accident. When, uh, on, you know, Instagram stories, I would often have a peek in my kitchen and I, I just kept putting out like, Oh, you know, this didn’t work and it would be a terrible cake with a big hole in the middle or spilling over the sides.

And I noticed that I just got so much. Feedback on those photos and just so many people going like, Oh, wow, that’s really interesting. Or that happens to me too. And it was like, people also didn’t realize that I have those fails all the time in my kitchen. And I was kind of a bit surprised. But then I thought, Well, I guess that makes sense.

If you’re constantly just being bombarded with these beautiful photos, they just think I’m this, you know, wizard that just Everything works and it’s quite opposite. Most things don’t work in my kitchen . So they, um, I guess it humanizes me a little bit and, um, I love to share it because as I’m learning then, you know, I, I can share that feedback with them and then they learn and, um, yeah, they seem to really enjoy it.

So that’s sort of where it stemmed from. 

Jared: You talk about how you do some things a little differently. I mean, maybe I just wanted to ask a bit more about that because I’m looking all, you know, first thing that stands out to me is all your headers are in lowercase font, right? So you’re not capitalizing things like normal, like the, the SEO, the SEO and me goes, Ooh, I don’t know about that, you know, like.

There are some things as I look at your post, how do you make those decisions? Like what, what causes you to kind of go, I’m going to write this header, you know, almost like I’m texting someone rather than, um, a classic header and any other things you do because you think it’s more on brand than, than, than, you know, proper or whatever you want to call it.

Jessica: Yeah. Yeah. That’s a good question. That’s a step that honestly, that decision. stemmed from when I got, I got a website redesign, but I do remember Casey flagging that with me, um, with the headings, but we didn’t change it. So whether that’s, yeah, whether that was a good decision or not, I’m not sure. But, um, it is hard though, because it automatically.

Lowercase is it? And if I accidentally have the cats loft on, um, I can’t tell, but then it shows up in the, um, cause now I have the jump links. So if I’ve, yeah, if I’ve, yeah, so that is a bit of a headache, actually, if I could go back, I’m not sure if I would do that again. Um, but I think for the most part, apart from maybe the recipe testing section, um, I think I probably follow most of the rules.

I’m trying to think if there’s anything else. I’ll let you know if anything comes to mind. I’m not a rule. 

Jared: Well, and you mentioned just briefly. So I wanted to kind of maybe dovetail that question to the next one because you mentioned it already. And I think everyone would benefit from hearing about this.

This is certainly something we’re all thinking about right now. And that is. Adapting as perhaps the rules as they were changed. Right. You talked about how, if you went back and listen to that first audit, when you first started looking at SEO back in 2016, you feel like a lot of the things you’re doing now are fairly similar, you know, making content for the user, but you have, you did mention you’ve adapted, like what adaptations have you had to make any big ones that come to mind, any changes or pivots you’ve had to do along the way?

Jessica: Yeah. Uh, there has been quite a lot actually. And, uh, I’m not sure how much of it is that it has actually changed and how much of it has been. I’ve been quite slow to react, so I’m trying to learn to be faster. But if, like I said, if I went back to that audit, Casey was telling me in 2016 to do process shots.

And I didn’t do them. I told him, I’ve got a full time job. I don’t have time. Sorry. Um, but if I had been doing that since 2016, I think today I would have been in a much stronger position. So, some of those things. Has sort of stood that test of time. But for me, I’ve only started doing them religiously. So like, in every single post, um, probably in the last year or two.

So that’s a big one for me because that’s changed my entire, um, like not strategy. Like, how do you say? Um, like day to day operations, like to actually publishing workflow. Yeah, yeah. Like I walk workflow. So that’s a huge consideration. And that often means I’m having to make something multiple times, because if I only have a certain window to, um, photograph something, I’ll need to have it, a finished cake or whatever it is.

Um, and then also the steps I’m often making it. Um, complete and then remaking it, excuse me to make, um, the process shots and then remake and then rebaking it and then just like having so many cakes to eat. So, um, yeah, it’s it’s really hard to, like, manage that. But yes, so that’s, that’s been a huge 1 and that’s been a huge 1 for my workflow.

Um, and then probably just being. Um, more robust in, in my post. So even when I look back now, I thought I was writing really helpful posts. And now I look back and I like there was, the content was very thin and I was answering a few questions, but there was so many more that I could answer. And I think for me, sometimes it’s that careful balance of.

Being really helpful, having lots of great content, which, which your readers hopefully enjoy, which Google likes, but then also for me personally, sometimes. When I look at other bloggers who are very successful, sometimes I find their posts too overwhelming. They’ve got too much information in there. Um, and by the time you get down to the recipe card, I don’t want to make the recipe anymore.

I’ve gotten so overwhelmed with all the steps and the advice and everything. So I kind of try to sit somewhere in the middle there. So it’s. It’s robust, it’s helpful. It’s, um, you know, answering questions without being, uh, too verbose or trying to reach a magical word count when there isn’t one. Um, and yeah, and then not being thin and crappy because the, because actually that was the thing.

So, um, when I said mentioned earlier that, uh, my page views sort of were coming off the COVID, um, rise, they also. I realized I think in 20, so 2022. So that’s sort of when I was contacting Casey again as well is I realized I was having a lot of content decay and I hadn’t really, um, understood what that was.

So for me, I was sort of still caught up in the blogging world of publish, publish, publish new, new, new, um, You know, it was always more, more, more, everyone is a bit like the social media, right? Everyone’s hungry. As soon as you do one post, they want another post, keep posting, posting, posting. And I wasn’t seeing, I wasn’t seeing a huge decline, but I was just really flat lining.

And, um, I was, I started listening to a lot of podcasts and talking to Casey and digging into my analytics and, and just going like, why am I not growing? Cause I was just used to the more you published, you just. The more you grow, you think it’s just going to be that upwards right arrow. And then, you know, when it was flatlining, I couldn’t understand.

And that’s when I digged into my analytics and saw that there was quite a lot of content decay happening, where some of my posts that had been long standing and doing really well on the first page of Google had just started to slip down further and further. And that’s, and I started to look back and realize.

You know, I probably have been a little bit lucky for some of those to rank because the recipes might still be great. And a lot of my recipes do stand the test of time because I retest them, but the posts are not great. So they need gutting and redoing. So that’s sort of where my strategy has moved. I’ve completely forgotten what your original question is, by the way.

Jared: Because my next question was on article updating. So, um, you know, I was, that’s actually where I was going with it. I was going to ask you about it because, um, keeping up with what has changed, right, as things develop and as things, uh, adapt to certainly in 2023, a lot of what we know about writing content for the web is.

It’s changed at least for the time being and, and really that does kind of point to article updating, updating old content. And it’s interesting to ask food bloggers specifically about updating old content because in many ways, like your chocolate cake recipe doesn’t necessarily need to change, right?

It’s the same as it was in 2016, especially if you found a good one. So What do you do when you go back and look at a chocolate cake recipe that you set has decayed in terms of the traffic? And like, how do you identify what to update? What are you doing to update it? How extensive are you going into updating all content?

Jessica: Yeah, I’m, I’m going all in. So I usually start if it’s a recipe that I haven’t made in a while. So a lot of my recipes, even as old, I’ve been making it in my kitchen. So, you know, I can, I know it stands the test of time, but, um. Yeah, a lot of it is remaking that recipe. That’s where I would start is remaking it, making sure it works.

And sometimes it does need some altering. What I often find actually is, um, cause I’ve gotten a bit older. Some of my original recipes are just a bit too sweet. I think I just had a real like teenage sweet tooth. So it was just kind of. Balancing that out. Um, and, but it’s even just things that it comes down to, like with the ingredients, um, I’m, I’m always trying to write, uh, you know, for anyone sort of in the world, but the top three countries are Australia, the US and the UK, and we all have different ingredients with different names.

And, um, yeah, it’s quite complex and even our cup measurements are different and our tablespoons to your table. And so. Um, even, you know, back in the day, it would just be, I would just write it, you know, as it worked for me. But now I try to put in a lot more notes, or now I know, like, dark chocolate here is semi sweet chocolate there, and things like that.

So I actually update how the recipe is written to make sure that all my ingredients are actually listed correctly, as far as, you know. The main audience, um, as they understand, and then also, um, I, it’s even just things like my recipes. I’m splitting it out into better step by step. Steps because I used to write, you know, I write a long recipe and it would be like three steps and it would be so hard to read.

So now it’s like breaking it up. And as I said before, I was a copywriter and even though I was a copywriter back then, I’m a much better copywriter than I was back then. So now I go through and I can even rewrite it or rewrite the steps. I’m a better baker now, so I can maybe even explain. Um, how to do things a little bit better.

So essentially the recipe usually stays the same, but it may be sort of rewritten. Um, and then maybe tweaked a little bit if there’s a bit too much sugar or it needs a bit more salt or things like that, but essentially it stays the same. And then it’s usually if it’s, if it’s an older post, it’s, it’s pretty much gutting the whole thing.

Um, and redoing all the photos. Um, and redoing everything from, you know, the, how to do it to all the questions to, yeah, all that information. And then, and I use like, um, you know, uh, keep like content optimizers and then I just basically go to Google and have a look around and see what people are asking and things like that.

Um, but yeah, I’ve got a good place. Now I feel like I’ve got a good strategy of how I structure my posts, but yeah, it’s a lot of work. Like you kind of think update first is easier, but I don’t know if it’s easier than a new one or not. It’s, it gives you somewhere to start, but I mean, and it can take out that recipe testing element.

Like sometimes, you know, when I create a recipe from scratch, I can be. Making it like six times or something. So obviously like with this, you might only need to make it once or once or twice and you feel like, yeah, that’s good. Um, but yeah, the whole gutting and redoing all the images is it’s a lot of work.

Jared: Oh, I feel like new content is so much easier than updating all content. It doesn’t, I do. It doesn’t make any sense intuitively, but I just, yeah. Updating all content is so difficult. Do you 

Jessica: think it’s like, because you kind of lose the creativity because sometimes I just go, I’ve got to do a new one because I’ve got to get excited because I get excited like, and that’s how I get it out on social media because I’m so excited to share this new recipe.

And when it’s an old one, even though I love it, it’s still old. So like. I’m excited. Not that excited. 

Jared: I think it’s really hard to look at something you created. And even though you know it needs updating, it’s hard to know like what needs updating because you were so invested in it for at one point in time.

And so it’s like, I know this needs changing, but what am I going to change? And it’s hard to get that perspective on it. Whereas when you are coming at a fresh piece of content, you can just come at it with all that vigor and all those new ideas without any kind of obstruction to what is and isn’t working on it right now.

Yeah, 

Jessica: yeah, that makes sense. I, I feel you there. 

Jared: Um, Hey, so let’s, I mean, SEO traffic, traffic from organic search. It is, I think you said about 65 percent of your traffic, but there’s a whole lot of other sources. You know, you’ve got social media. You’ve, to my knowledge, have a, a pretty thriving email list and newsletter.

Like I’d like to get into some of these things. Um, uh, I guess from a high level. How do you grow a loyal audience or an audience that wants to come to your site, whether you’re using social, whether using email, whether using organic, et cetera, et cetera. Yeah, 

Jessica: I think it starts, um, with really viewing your business and the social media as a two way conversation.

So, um, I just really make sure that I am present and able to talk to my audience. So I know, and this is the problem. with outsourcing. So I know a lot of people outsource their social media and trust me, I would love to outsource my social media sometimes. Um, but it puts you further away from your audience.

And that’s what I’ve always been really hesitant. So even, um, well, one of the big ways, which I guess isn’t social media, but people leave comments on On your blog posts. And, um, I answer all of them. So I read them all and I answer all of them myself and I’m, you know, 10 years in, I’m still doing that every day.

Um, and I think that’s a great way to stay close to your audience and to understand what they like, what they don’t like, what they’re having troubles with, what didn’t work in your recipe. And I feel like that’s one of the only ways to kind of get better. And I kind of take that approach with social media too.

So. Um, I love to talk to my audience. So any, anyone who DMs me on Instagram, they’re going to get me. I am going to respond to them. Um, I love to put up like polls and surveys and ask me a question things on Instagram so I can hear from my audience and, um, I love to answer them. I love it when, you know, they send me there.

When they’ve made one of my recipes, um, I reply to it, people email me their photos. I reply to it. So, you know, it’s not rocket science or anything, but I do think that some people lose that closeness to their audience, um, whether it’s just not their thing or whether they outsource it or however, but I feel like it’s a huge value add to your business and.

I mean, these are your readers. These are who you’re creating for. And, um, it’s so incredibly valuable to me to have that feedback and to really listen to what people are saying and what they’re asking for. And, you know, and that’s, what’s helped me. Like we were talking about the different names of ingredients before.

That’s how I know is because people say, I don’t know what that is. I don’t know. Um, um, I wouldn’t know, you know, that otherwise. So. It’s been so incredibly helpful, um, for my business and, you know, other things is like doing reader surveys. Um, and. Yeah, just anything really to get the conversation to way and I don’t know about you, but I get so sad when, like, if you contact someone, like, because I know not everyone can be contactable 24 7, but you know, when you reach out to someone and then they don’t reply and it’s like, really sad.

And then you’re like. Are they not very nice in person or did they just not see it? And you kind of want to, so I just, I just feel like when you do that, sometimes it’s just this extra ad that people often get really surprised and they’re really thankful that they actually do hear from you and that you’re happy to take the time of day to answer their questions.

And I think I kind of view it as, um, kind of like customer service. So it’s just like the customer service that I want my business to. 

Jared: So, well, you know what they say, never meet your heroes.

So you just said it, you had it in our agenda and I really want to double down on this. I think it’s really fascinating because I’ve, I’ve interviewed a lot of people over the years and I’ve never heard anybody ever once refer to their website and the things that they do, whether it’s website, whether it’s social media, whether it’s email as customer service.

Now, if you were to go to a. And I’m using air quotes here for a whole host of reasons. Anyone who’s listened to the news podcast this year will know why I’m using air quotes right now. But if you were to go to a real business, air quotes applied, customer service is constantly talked about, right? Like I own a business.

We talk about customer service every day. There’s people who are dedicated to customer service. Most companies have people dedicated to customer service. Yet when we get into this world, we live in now this website creation world. I have literally never heard the words customer service said once in this podcast over years and years of hosting.

As we talk about websites, talk about that more. Like, I just want to hear more of your thoughts on customer service and how you view it on your website. Is it just replying to comments or does it go even further? How do you apply that? Hmm. 

Jessica: Um, that, yeah, I think. Look, when I do a lot of things with my blog, I think, um, from my own point of view, and for me, good customer service is so incredibly valuable.

Like, when I think of, um, when I think of even there’s some people that I partner with, with my site, like my, my ad company, um, and. Um, but even I’m thinking in my, in my home life, like, um, you know, when we’ve bought out lounge suites or like just all kinds of things, I can honestly come to mind when people have gone above and beyond their customer service, when they’ve treated us so well that I think to myself.

So thankful that I will not go to anyone else because it doesn’t really matter about the price. It doesn’t really matter about what they’re selling. If you offer me that customer service, like I will come back and I will pay for that. And not only that, like I will tell all my friends, which I do. Um, and I think.

There’s just so much power in that and in the same way when you get pork up in the service, like it leaves such a bad taste in your mouth, right? And I just think it’s such an easy thing and a free thing. For, I mean, apart from time for me to offer, um, that can really set me apart. And to be honest, it’s something that I really enjoy because it is that personal connection because at the end of the day, this, you know, websites are, you know.

The screen and you can feel very like you’re behind the screen. People hide behind it. Um, you can feel very removed, very lonely because you’re working from home or wherever you’re working, but, um, this is a real way to build connection and build connection with the brand. So. I don’t ever want to be a website where, you know, a lot of those big food media websites are like, you know, people, they, they come and they go, they come and they go.

And that’s because, like, even if the recipe is great, like, it doesn’t have any meaning behind it. But if you, if you come and you feel like you meet me, and then you try one of my recipes and you love it, and then you send me a photo and then I say, wow, like, you did really great. Or even sometimes not like it didn’t work out, but I say, Oh, Hey, maybe try this next time, or thanks for letting me know, I’m going to try it in my kitchen and redo it or whatever it is.

Like then, I mean, there’s just a human connection there. I mean, it’s not rocket science, but we love like human connection and I love human connection. And I think. It’s what will keep people coming back to my site. And I don’t say that in a, um, of goody, like they come back to my site, I get to make more money.

But it’s like, these are the people that I really want to come to my site. These are the people that I want to interact with. And they make my recipes and they enjoy them. And they, you know, essentially enjoy me. And that’s that joy that we get to share with each other. Um, And sort of, and that’s why I do what I do, if that makes sense.

But at the end of the day, I just think it’s a really valuable thing that businesses can do. Um, that doesn’t cost a lot of money that at the end of the day is so valuable for you because it keeps you in the mindset of your reader, close to your reader to understand what they want. And I say reader, you know, for other people, it’s, you know, the audience, not necessarily the reader, but, um.

Yeah, and, and I think it can bring a lot of joy as well. Even though sometimes you have to go through the troubleshooting. I mean, not every comment is a nice comment, but yeah. At the end of the day, I think it is a very, very good thing and a very easy thing. And now with social media, it’s just getting easier and easier to, to stay close to our readers.

Jared: How do you, like, what, what tips do you have for accomplishing all that you do on the variety of platforms you’re on? I mean, we’re, you know, into this interview now you’re clearly creating new content and there’s a lot of depth that goes into that. You’re also updating old content and you’re taking that content, you’re putting it on the web.

Uh, on a variety of social media channels, you’re emailing your, your, your audience, how, you know, how are you, is there a process you follow? Um, is there a way you’re kind of maximizing your ability to be active on all those platforms? Um, 

Jessica: when the kids go to sleep, do everything. Um, so I, at the moment I’m.

You know, I’m a stay at home mom. I’ve got a three year old and a nine month old. So I work whenever I get the chance, which isn’t a whole lot to be honest. So this is all coming from someone who I would say is definitely working part time. Um, but something I learned from when I did this as a side hustle for six years is that you can only do what you can do.

And there are so many social platforms, like you mentioned, that I can’t be active on all of them. You know, um, and. Uh, as much as I would like to, that’s just not where I’m at at the moment. And I just don’t have that ability. Um, so I think the best thing that you can do is just choose where to put your time.

And so, you know, for me, like I mentioned, Instagram is a big channel for me and it’s somewhere where I’ve been active for many years and I have a lot of, um, audience, uh, interaction there. So that’s what I prioritize. Um, and then I have. Pinterest isn’t is the next big one and then like I barely do much on Facebook and much on TikTok and much on YouTube and that’s something I definitely would like to change, but I just sort of have to make peace with the fact that that I cannot get to that at the moment, but in saying that I still monitor the comments.

So I even have a, I have a VA who’s been helping me the last couple of years, um, with creating pins and helping me manage my Pinterest schedule. And we, um, still keep an eye on Pinterest comments and answer them together. Um, and she emails me whenever there’s. Yeah, ones that I need to be, um, looking after, but she, she does help me manage that because I actually only, did you even know there was Pinterest comments and then they found out there was Pinterest comments like a few years ago and there’s all these like hundreds of comments over and I felt so bad that for years and years, I didn’t realize that people were actually commenting.

Um, so yes, so now we answer all of those, um, and I monitor Facebook as well, but, um, Yeah, look, you can only do it. There’s only so many hours in the day. And I know even if I was working full time and had all that time, there’s probably still social media that I couldn’t get to. So, yeah, I don’t want my advice to come across like you have to be all to everyone and drown in your social media accounts because it can get very overwhelming, but just as much as you can.

Um, it’s just great to be present. If that’s a value to you and your business, 

Jared: what do you think, because, you know, I’ll hit you kind of with the opposite side or the devil’s advocate to all this, which is there’s a lot of food blogs and, um, and recipe websites on the internet today. What is it about your site and about your brand that you think has been so successful and has stood out and continue to grow year over year over year as you’ve been, as you’ve been working on this?

Yeah, 

Jessica: um, two things. I think the first is my recipes work, so there’s a lot of dud recipes out there, but I will say that I think for majority of people my recipes do work and they do produce something that’s It’s very delicious. And also I think I’ve niched down to, I’m not just, um, you know, I’m not just a baking or dessert blogger.

I really do hone into being a home baker and I love to create quick and easy recipes. So I think that is the specific audience that I’m aiming at and that’s who I’ve found over the years. And I think there was probably a little gap maybe in the market where there wasn’t. Um, there just wasn’t a whole lot, especially in Australia.

There wasn’t actually a whole lot of, um, blogs or websites really catering to that. Um, so I feel like I found that which is, which has been really great. And that’s probably where I found some of my success. Um, and the second thing is consistency. So we’ve talked about how I’ve had a constant lack of time because this is, you know, side hustle and blah, blah, blah.

Um, but the one thing I can say, I have never been, I’ve had to learn SEO. I’ve had to learn food photography. I’ve had to learn how to bake. I’ve had to learn how to write. Well, I sort of knew how to write, but how to write for SEO or for my readers and recipes was very specific. Um, and the one thing I can say over those 10 years is I’ve been consistent.

I have done this. Week in, week out, every week night, every weekend, um, for 10 years and there’s just something to be said for people that can stick it out in these, uh, in this world, in this blogging world. So like, you know, I’ve seen a lot of people come and go, a lot of people get discouraged, um, a lot of people finish their blogs or sell their blogs, um, which is, you know, totally fine.

Um, but I think. Yeah, some of my success has almost purely just been because I, I’m still here, I’m still here, I’m still showing up, I’m still trying to learn and yeah, something to be said for time, I think sticking around 

Jared: for a while. Yeah, you know, it’s a good reminder. It’s really easy to look at maybe the last month of results or the last three months of results, or look at the last seasonal update or the last Google update or whatever, but oftentimes people who talk about success, talk about taking this very long term view.

And when you pull that graph back, you start to see that a lot of what we might be living in right now is very small in comparison to the larger journey. Yeah. 

Jessica: Yeah. And I think that’s, you know, thankfully I wasn’t hit with the helpful content update, but I, you know, I’ve heard how devastating that has been for some people and I can only imagine how devastated I would be if I got decimated by that.

But I think. Yeah. For people in that scenario, I would just be saying like, just hang in there because if you can hang in there and you can keep going and you can make some changes, like, you know, it can, it can turn around for you, but it just depends if you’re willing to hang in there and keep going.

Jared: Final question from me and it has to do all the way back to what you introed with when you talked about where the site was at today and you talked about how you’re monetized on, on Mediavine with ad traffic. Have you tried any other? Forms of monetization. Have you thought about adding anything else or are you doing any other forms of, of earning revenue from the site?

Jessica: Yeah, I’ve been very lucky that I have been able to maintain, um, a really good income through ads, but I’ve done, I do a little bit of affiliate. Um, but to be honest, it doesn’t do so well in Australia, like even like Amazon, because, um. Well, a lot of my traffic is to us and anyway, it’s this whole thing about the links and blah, blah, blah.

So a little bit of affiliate, um, and I’ve worked with a few brands over the years and done a little bit of brand work, but I don’t do a lot. Um, I’m very protective of my brand. I get asked to do some weird and wacky things and they’re just not on brand for me. So, um, yeah, I only work with a very select few brands maybe a couple of times a year.

Um, Uh, otherwise, yeah, it’s been purely ad revenue. I would love to release a product sometime, but yeah, we’ll just see in the next few years what I can get up to. And I would love to write a book one day. That would be the dream. So we’ll 

Jared: see. Back to time again. Yeah. You know, there’s only so many hours of the day, right?

Jessica: And it’ll be interesting to see. I think we’re all holding our breath for 2024. What’s going to happen with ads and, you know, AI and all that sort of thing. So I’m just. Yeah, I’m sitting here wondering what’s going to happen, but I’m holding on and enjoying the ride while I can. 

Jared: Good. Yeah. Good answer. I mean, yeah, you’re exactly right.

I mean, going back to the way that you approach social media, the way you’re approaching revenue streams, like, you know, try not to overcommit, but also making sure that you’re involved to the point where your audience is. 

Jessica: Yeah, yeah, that’s right. And just enjoying it because at the end of the day, I think sometimes you can really hope to reach, you know, these magical numbers, whether it be in traffic or in dollars and everything.

But I mean, this is fun. Like, it’s so fun figuring this out. And that’s one of the reasons why I love listening to your podcast is because I’m always getting like. Little gems and learning from people or like when you guys cover the news, I love it. Like listening because you just give me like this quick summary, but also like, I just like fester on it for the week, you know, wondering, Ooh, what did that mean and what’s going to happen?

And so like, it’s a really exciting time, even though it’s, you know, sort of a bit terrifying. It’s exciting. So yeah, you just got to enjoy, enjoy this wild blogging SEO world that 

Jared: we live in. It is a wild ride. That’s a perfect way to transition. Where can people follow along with you in 2024 and beyond on this wild ride?

Um, obviously we have your website, which I’ll link to in this show notes, sweetest menu. com, but any other places that people can follow along on. Yeah. 

Jessica: Come join me on Instagram. Um, just my handles at sweetest menu. And, um, yeah, we have lots of fun over there. Okay. 

Jared: Great. Uh, Jessica, this hour flew by. Thank you for coming on the podcast.

It was great to have you and continued success on your website. Uh, really wish you all the best. Thank you.



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