This is part of my Makin' Bacon podcast, you can check out all the episodes or subscribe on your favorite podcast player.
Traffic is the life blood of blogging, and we are in a constant struggle to get more of it. There are so many different ways to approach it though, that it can quickly get confusing. Today's guest is going to help us cut through the noise and find what is truly important.
Not only has she been blogging for more than a decade, she also has a day job where she hires bloggers for big brands. So she lives, eats, and sleeps blogging!
In the past year she has grown the traffic on her site by more than 10x! And, as you know if you were at the International Food Blogger Conference last year, she does a mean stand up routine!
I'm so excited to learn from today's guest...Heather Johnson - better known as The Food Hussy!
The video of the interview is also available on the Makin' Bacon YouTube Channel.
Heather has been blogging for nearly 12 years. She - unfortunately - still has a day job where she hires bloggers for big brands. So she lives, eats, sleeps blogging! In the past year she has grown the traffic on her site 10x over!
If you want to read some more about this, here are a few helpful links.
Today, we talk about how to make keyword research more manageable, how niching down can actually make you more creative, and why you shouldn't fear the algorithm.
Driving traffic to your website is something we, as food bloggers have to do all the time, and the fortunes of our business can ebb and flow based on the traffic. But there's so much information out there, not all of it's accurate. It can be really hard to know what to do. But today's guest is going to help us cut through the noise, figure out what actually does work, and so we can move our blogs forward.
Not only has she been blogging for more than a decade, which is really impressive. She also has a day job where she helps hire bloggers to work with the brands. So she eats, sleeps and breathes food blogging. She knows a lot about it. And in the past year, she's grown the traffic on our website by more than 10 X, which is incredible.
And if you were at the International Food Bloggers Conference last year, you also know that she puts on a mean standup routine. I'm so excited to learn from today's guest, Heather Johnson, better known as The Food Hussy.
Jason Logsdon: Heather, welcome to Makin' Bacon.
Heather Johnson: Hi, I'm a really excited to have you on. I think you've done so much good work with blogging and you've done a lot over the last year to grow your blog. I think my audience can really learn from, from your journey and a lot of the stuff that you've, you've done over the last year.
Jason: Before we dive in, I always like to ask, what's it like around your dinner table on a normal day?
Heather: This is what it's like around my dinner table.
Jason: Dogs on the lap.
Heather: Most of the time my dinner is on my couch while I'm watching TV or working on my blog and things like that.
So my dinner table consists of Misty and my dog Wiener sitting at my feet drooling for a bite of the food. They're very good taste testers, and as a single person with a food blog, I cannot eat everything that I make so the leftovers often go to them. So they're very excited about that.
Jason: Very lucky for them.
Heather: They're healthy dogs we'll just say that.
Jason: Nice they're not wanting for food.
Heather: No, they're chubby.
Jason: There's nothing wrong with that. There's no fat shaming of dogs allowed on Makin' Bacon.
So I wanted to start with the growth of your blog over the last year. It's been amazing. I think you said you went from 20,000 monthly visitors to over 200,000 visitors a month. She's just stunning.
One of the things you said that really helped was a focus on planning and scheduling. Can you kind of talk more about that? Cause I think that's something most food bloggers wouldn't have on the top of my list to drive more traffic.
Heather: I have a good friend in blogging her name is Stephanie, and her blog is called Plain Chicken. She's been blogging a little bit longer than I have. And she's one of the biggest food bloggers out there, and she's amazing. When I started, when I met her and started talking to her, she asked what's your schedule? How often do you blog? What things do you? Do you know how far in advance are you blogging?
And I'm like, I make stuff yesterday and I put it on the blog tomorrow. And she's like, "no, we're not going to do that anymore". She really instilled this discipline in me. And she was like, if you are in this, if you want to do this to make money, you have to get disciplined.
And so the first thing we did was create a content calendar to start planning out my schedule of what I'm going to make and when. I also looked at what had been working for me in the past. I had started out as a restaurant blogger. And found that over time the recipes are what obviously make you more money.
And so slowly I tapered off the restaurant reviews. And then one day I made the decision and I called my staff and said "Hey, I'm not going to do restaurant reviews anymore." And she like jumped up and down and cheered for me because that's what she wanted. But she's knew I had to come to that decision.
But once I did that and then I set up on my schedule and I was like, all right. Because I had restaurant in my background, copycat recipes do really well for me. Google sees me as an authority for restaurants, and so when I do a copycat recipe, I have some of that authority, that kind of leans into it. At least it's why I think copycat stuff does really well for me.
So I decided Monday is going to be kind of a whatever recipe, Wednesday is a copycat, and Friday is an air fryer recipe. Stephanie also turned me onto the air fryer. I became completely obsessed and addicted to it. Everybody, I took my Instant Pot and I threw it in the closet, and I haven't touched it in 2 years.
Jason: Wow, that's a bold statement.
Heather: I know. I hate the appliance. I used it twice and I didn't like it. But my air fryer I use 4 or 5 days a week. And so I started leaning in on that and I know it's the popular the thing right now. And so I know it's good timing for it. I don't think everyone should be an air fryer blogger because that would take - no, um, don't take my Juju.
But I focused in and then having that schedule of going, okay, Monday's this, Wednesday's this, and Friday's this. And I have a full-time job. So 3 recipes a week is the most I can commit to right now. But yeah, I'm working on next week's recipes today, I've made them all and photographed them.
But the thing is, having that schedule and being able to plan it out. So now when I do my grocery shopping on Shipt, because I don't ever go to the store. I always have my groceries delivered. But when I do my scheduling and my grocery planning, I already know, well, next week I have to make minestrone and battalion green beans and air fryer chicken legs.
And so that's my schedule for the next recipes I have to cook. So my grocery list, my grocery list is my menu plan and my schedule for next week. So it makes it just super easy for me. I don't have to think, I'm not sitting here on a Saturday going, gee, what am I going to make today and put it on the blog?
I already have a plan and a schedule, and I have that schedule, probably a month and a half out. But I would ideally like to be 2 weeks ahead on cooking, but right now I'm about a week. So there's the long answer.
Jason: I like that. I think it's really interesting to plan it out. I assume it also makes it easier if you want to do kind of content that revolves around each other to know what you have coming down the pike. That way you can have stuff to compliment the recipes that you know are coming up. Right?
Heather: Yeah. And I mean, a lot of times whatever I make is what I have for dinner that week, you know?
So, but like today I'm going to make the air fryer chicken wings and the Italian green beans. Well, those are two different recipes on two different days on my plan. But I might as well make them together and kill 2 birds with one stone.
But it's also nice having that schedule because then as I add in, like keyword research and I do things like that, or I go out to eat and I want a copycat this. I can shift and move things around on my calendar. Or holidays come up and I can go, Oh, Easter's coming up, I want to do something with that. I can shift and move things around, but I have that schedule there as a background.
And so I usually grocery shop on Shipt on Friday night after work. I'm tired and I don't want to think, and so I can just look at my schedule and go, Oh, okay, what do I need? And that's when I start to write out the recipes, and here's what I need for those things. Let me get started. And it's so much less stress. I've just found huge success with that in that it gives me more time.
Because I'm not trying to think of things and figuring out what I have, what I want to make. I have a plan. And I just follow my plan and it all goes together so much easier. The stress has been just like nosedive, I mean, it's just so much easier.
Jason: That's awesome. I feel like whenever I have a plan of what I know that I have to do, I'm a lot more motivated to also do it. Where if it's kind of ambiguous and it's like, well, I need to cook something, what sounds like fun? Nothing really sounds like fun today cause I'm tired. So maybe I'll just end up playing some video games instead of me doing a recipe that I need to do for the blog. But if it's written down, it's like, Oh, I know I have to make the green beans. So I'm doing that cause that's what's on my schedule today.
Heather: Yeah, exactly. That is 100%. Like even last night I knew I had to make Spanish rice that's on my schedule. Or I did stuffed mushrooms this week and I was tired, but I'm like, I have to have dinner anyway. I might as well since I have all the ingredients.
I know the recipe is because I already have it written up, so just go home and make it. And so even when I'm tired, having that plan and that menu and that recipe already ready to go because I do that of on the weekends. Then I just come home and okay, I'm tired, but really how long is it going to take me and I have to cook something anyway, I might as well do this run upstairs and take pictures of it real quick.
Jason: You mentioned doing keyword research. What type of keyword research have you found to be most effective and how much do you do? I feel like there's a wide range of how long people spend on keyword research.
Heather: So I found I have 2, sort of. Pinterest and Google are obviously my two biggest traffic drivers. Facebook is actually a big traffic driver too, so we can talk about that. But Facebook is actually driving some healthy traffic for me now. But I find that my air fryer stuff does well right away. And then my copycat stuff needs a little while to grow because it does have that Google element to it.
And so I've also found that my copycat stuff is just really strong on Google. And so to me, with all this keyword stuff out there, I was like, I need to figure it out, instead of just wondering about it. For 10 years I went about it by asking what do I want to make and what do I want to copycat? And then I listened to podcast, I listened to it. I'm obsessive about podcasts, and it said I have to think about my followers. And so changing that mindset to I need to think about what other people are searching for. That was huge. Realizing that it doesn't matter what I want, because I'm not searching my own recipes. It matters what my readers and my followers and just the world wants to hear.
And so that's when I started using, I used keywords everywhere, which now they charge. I used that as kind of an AnswerThePublic, for surrounding keywords. But when I'm menu planning and I'm planning my schedule, I use SEMrush. I used Google Search Console at first. Which if you don't have Google Search Console installed, Google it, figure it out, do it today because that's what told me my copycat stuff is huge. And it gave me ideas of what words people are searching.
But then SEMrush has this thing, I'm lucky enough that I get to use my work subscription. They have this keyword magic tool, and it's really the only thing I use on there. I know I only use a hundredth of what that tool has. But like for me to go in and I can search copycat recipes and I'll type a search for different restaurants. And I know immediately what people want and they're searching for. And I can see with the keyword research, the keyword magic tool, you can see a score. So you know if there's a bunch of searches for it, and if there's a bunch of other recipes already out there. And so it allows me to be able to pick and choose. I might want to make Olive Garden's fettuccini alfredo, which I actually just did. But I could go on there, or like Olive Garden's breadsticks. Well, yeah, maybe I want to copycat the breadsticks, but there's already 10,000 other recipes for Olive Garden's breadsticks. What I do is I use that keyword magic tool to find the ones where there's a bunch of searches and not as many results.
And so doing that has really honed in on giving me the right things to plan and to create my schedule. So that for me has just been a game changer. I'm going out to the Cheesecake Factory later today so I was literally on there looking for what recipe should I make. And so that's going to determine what I eat at Cheesecake Factory today because I need to know what to copycat.
Jason: I also liked that you talked about that you only use like probably 10% of the functionality. And I think that's something a lot of bloggers are like, Oh, I should get into keyword research, and they pull up some of these tools and it's like we'll index your entire site and we'll give you all of your keyword density and all of your competitors in the backlinks. And they're like, I don't know what any of this means and I'm not going to do it because it's confusing. Where you could do this one part of it. I'm going to learn just this one teeny part and it can have a huge impact on what you're doing.
Heather: Well that was exactly it. I, I'd heard of SEMrush before and I knew we had it at work and so I asked if I could use it. I asked our SEO guy, "Hey, can I use the SCMrush that we use for work?" And he was like, sure. Because I know it's a little bit more expensive. But actually when I looked into it, it's really not that expensive. It just seems like a lot, but the value in it is amazing.
But then I have another person I work with who SEO is her thing. And so one day I was like, just show me how to use this keyword tool. I'll learn one thing at a time in there. And just the learning of that, like she told me the score and the relevancy, and she taught me how to do that. And it's literally changed my world of blogging. And I'll learn the other stuff as I go. And you know, I get a little weekly lesson from Maria about how to use SEMrush. But that one tool that I use would be worth the subscription if I paid for it myself.
I mean, it's changed everything about how I plan my blog. And I think those results aren't immediate because it's making something that Google search wants and that people are searching for. It doesn't mean I get 10,000 page views on my first week, but I know in 6 months it's going to be a good return, you know?
I found I was able to see what recipes do well for me. So I have this made right recipe, which is an Iowa sandwich thing. I love Iowa. Go Hawk. Okay. And then I have Penn Station is a local kind of chain around here, and the number of searches for those are low. Like there's maybe 1,000 searches a month. But if I'm in the top 3 and I get all of those results, then I'm getting a lot of page views. That's where a big chunk of my traffic comes from.
If I can find other recipes like that where there might not be 50,000 searches a month, but if I can be in the top 5, then I'm still going to get a lot of search results from it. And so just learning that 1 tool gave me so much insight into what I should do.
Jason: I liked the concept of attacking smaller keywords as well and you know you can be in the top 3 for these. I think most of us would say if every recipe you put out brought in 500 to 1,000 page views over time, it's a long, a long game that we're playing here as food bloggers. So over the years you will get up to 200,000 monthly page views even by going after some of these smaller keywords, which will then help you rank for the hierarchy words as well.
Heather: Yeah, and I've got this interesting juxtaposition on my site, I have a few recipes, I think everybody does, it's the old 80/20 rule. You know, 20% of your stuff brings in 80% of your traffic, but it's true. I have a few recipes that have done really, really well. And I'd see a copycat and a couple of others. I have an air fryer cabbage, like who knew, I even almost did not publish it because I thought this is the dumbest thing ever. At New Year's Eve, it went bonkers. Now, not viral in terms of like millions, but I mean viral for me. It went really well and it gave my site this big bump. But I almost didn't publish that recipe. But the thing is that I've got a few of these that when I look at my tool they have tens of thousands of page views. But just a few of those. If I can just once a month out of my 10 recipes, 10, 12 recipes I do, if 1 a month does well like that I can make a lot of money. You know? And God forbid if 2 do well! If I come up with 1 recipe a month that kind of takes off, it's a lot of money and it's a lot of income and that income keeps going and going and growing. I mean that's my hope. Not every recipe is going to be great. But if I can get 1 in a month that hits, I'm in good shape.
Jason: Yeah. I think that's a great, good approach. It's hard to say this specific recipe is going to do well, but it's pretty easy to say. If I put out 10 quality recipes that 1 or 2 of them will do well. I don't know which of them, but 1 or 2.
Heather: Well, and it is a crap shoot because I never would have put my money on air fryer cabbage, let me tell ya. But it did well, and I'm grateful for it. I'm happy.
Jason: So are you ever worried about any of the algorithm changes that come out? That's the big scary phrase people always use. What if the algorithm changes? What do you think about it?
Heather: I don't worry about it. Steph kinda and my shameless plugs, everybody go follow Plain Chicken, she's my best friend. But she's the one who taught me not to worry about those little algorithm changes because if you're producing good content with pretty images and good keywords, you'll be fine.
Before I even learned about SEO, to me it's common sense. You don't stuff it full of keywords. You just write common sense and put the keywords in there. You know, it doesn't have to be rocket science, we're not curing cancer here. If I'm talking about Olive Garden's stuffed mushrooms, I'm going to say Olive Garden stuffed mushrooms a few times. That's all there is to it. And so, you know, just not worrying about the algorithms.
Now when things change, like Pinterest just changed their algorithm, that's where podcasts come in handy to me. In one of the podcasts out there somebody from Tailwind was talking about the algorithm change. Well, I made sure to listen to that right away. Picked up 1 or 2 tips. I don't change everything I'm doing; I don't scrap my plan and go some other direction. I just make a few tweaks and then keep riding the wave and keep driving. You know? Riding the bicycle and just keep pushing up the hill and I'll figure it out.
Tailwind and Pinterest have just said now that you're not supposed to pin a bunch of times and you're only supposed to pin to 10 boards. Okay, I'm only putting into 10 boards now that you gave me a big warning. So I do it, I make that little tweak, but I still keep doing my thing. And you know, if you're making good content, it'll work, eventually.
Jason: I think that's a good approach. If you put out the good content and you're writing for your fans and not just writing for Google or for Pinterest, then in the long-term you will do good. And it might, like you said, it might take slightly longer. But I think most food bloggers would rather have it take slightly longer and enjoy what they're doing by putting out more recipes than going nose deep into SEO every time they tweak something, to try to maximize your programming on your website. Like just put out another good recipe and it will probably even out over time.
Heather: That's the thing as soon as you figure out one algorithm, another one's going to change. So don't stress about it unless your traffic is taking a hit because of something, you might want to figure out why. But all in all, most of the time, your traffic's like this and then you might go down here, but if you work at it, you'll get back up there. You just have to tweak things or try different things. But I don't stress about it too much, I have too many other things.
Jason: Did you make any changes within the post themselves? You know, outside of SEO and planning, that you think has helped increase your traffic that you've been getting with either the recipes or the photos or the content of the posts.
Heather: My pictures, I have always said that I am a terrible photographer. Awful at it. And again, Steph was a big proponent of teaching me how to do things and she just instilled in me, like she's down south in Alabama, and I went down to her house and she showed me. It was a 3-day intensive, 1-on-1 training session on how to take better pictures.
But I had gone to conferences and I had gone specifically to learn about how to take better food pictures. And I just wasn't absorbing it. I think we all learn in different ways, and for me, I need that 1-on-1 help. I literally bought the same camera she has.
She said, give me a recipe you love, but just doesn't do well or that you have terrible pictures and you know they're bad. And I said brown food is the hardest. We all know a brown food casserole. I have this chicken casserole. It's chicken cream of mushroom soup and Ritz crackers, beige, beige, and beige. And I was like, what do I do with this?
And she sat down with me and she said parsley is your best friend. And you know, she's like, we have to take this out of the casserole dish and put it on a little plate. We got to take a really nice picture with the spoon shot. Like I literally, she sat with me and we made the recipe together. I bought little plates. I bought new napkins. I bought a wooden spoon, and I did everything she told me. But having that person just 1-on-1with me and showing me and walking out to her porch and saying, okay, here's how I take the picture, now you take the picture.
She taught me Lightroom. Which again, Lightroom was life changing. It's $15 a month. It's so cheap, and my editing skills have gone through the roof. Like the photo editing is amazing in that tool. And how did I learn it? The first time she sat next to me and she did it and I watched her. Then the second set of photos. I did it and she helped me and talked me through it. Then the third set of photos, I did it on my own and just asked her questions. And literally with those, I mean, it took 2 hours and I knew Lightroom.
But the thing is with Lightroom I use a hundredth of the power of Lightroom, but it works for me. I know enough to get myself, get my photos edited. But that there's just those couple of changes of sitting with someone. Find a food blogger if you're out there and you think my pictures aren't good. Find another food blogger in your area who takes better pictures than you do, or even one not your area. Go to a conference like I have and find someone to buddy up with there. If that classroom of them teaching 30 people at once doesn't work for you then find somebody one-on-one. And say, hey, can we just hang out for a day and will you teach me and can I learn from you?
I think most of the time, like I don't want to give up all my tricks, but I'm more than happy to help people improve. There's enough room for all of us. There are a billion food bloggers out there and we're all still doing fine. I don't need to hold everything for myself.
And so just getting out there and grabbing someone and saying, Hey, can you show me how to do this? Most of the time they will. And I'm happy to jump on a video chat and help people with Lightroom if they need it. A friend of mine lives in Columbus, she's 2 hours away, and I'm going to help her learn Lightroom that way. Like we're just going to both have it on our computers and do it at the same time.
Improving my photography was huge. I know that was huge. I know it was an area I was lacking in and now I look at my photos and I'm proud of them. And look at other pictures, like literally when I'm going to make a recipe I'll go to Pinterest and I'm not copycatting. But I go to Pinterest and I look up other pictures for that same recipe. It gives me ideas of like, make sure I have this little parsley on the side, or I have some lemon in the background or this is a good color scheme for these green beans, or whatever it is. You know, just looking at what's out there, gives you ideas on what to improve on and what works for your style.
Jason: Yeah. Especially when you're learning. I found it really, really helpful. That might be like, I don't have any idea how to plate this specific dish.
Like you said, go on Google image search or on Pinterest and do a search and see how are people successfully doing this and look at the ones that work and the ones that don't work. You can analyze what they're doing and then you can try to replicate some of the aspects of it to make it look good for you. Which was really helpful for me.
Heather: And I have a long ways to go. I'm still not great, but like that brown food thing, just having her say, okay, what you need is teeny tiny plates. Like I went to Goodwill and I found some little tiny white plates. They're like a saucer size. Like literally a teacup saucer size, maybe smaller than that. Maybe 4 inches across at the most. But when you put it in the photo with a fork, it doesn't look like a little baby doll plate, it looks like a plate.
You know, she's like, now you need to add, which Heidi from Foodie Crush, I was at a conference one time and she talked about it too. You want to add things to it. So with this brown food, Steph was like, put a little side salad in the background, put a spoon over here, put a salt shaker over here. You know, other things you would have on the table. That kind of thing to fill out that background.
And then the parsley on top. Oh, miracle. I have dollar jars of parsley everywhere in my house because I never know where I'm going to take a picture. So there's like random jars of parsley everywhere.
The thing is like filling out that background and so when I did an Olive Garden salad recipe, everybody on the planet knows what Olive Garden salad looks like. I have a bowl that's identical. I bought those plastic tongs that they use at Olive Garden. I made sure I had 3 giant olives on there, you know. And then I put the other stuff, like I have an olive oil decanter thing that I put in the background, so I wanted to make it look like Olive Garden. And I bought some breadsticks. I didn't cook the bread, I didn't make the breadsticks from scratch, I bought some breadsticks and shoved them in the background. Because that's what puts together that whole picture. And so just adding things like that, I'm still not good at it and that's what I need to work on. But I'm a lot better than I used to be.
Jason: You talked about that it helped a lot when you started niching down, when you said you want to do air fryers and copycat recipes. A lot of people are hesitant to niche down. They feel it's going to limit them or it's not a big enough niche to grow. How do you kind of get over that fear of limiting yourself to the specific niche?
Heather: It's made a huge, I mean, I have just seen success after success after success. And I think that helps obviously back me up and say I made the right decision with that. And I still give myself some flexibility. I have that Monday spot open, as far as Monday, it's just a whatever. It might be a copycat, it might be an air fryer, but it could be just something else completely different. Because that gives me some flexibility to do things I want to do or just do something that maybe doesn't fit in those 2 niches. Sometimes stuff I have is both. I'll do a copycat air fryer, but I found that I'm able to focus a lot more.
And my scheduling is so much easier because I have kind of limited myself. Instead of just doing, Oh, I can do whatever there is out there, it's too overwhelming for me. With this I go, no, I got to have copycat recipes, so I will plan 2 months of copycat recipes all at once. I will plan air fryer 2 months at a time. I will shift and move and things like that but it gives me a lot more focus.
The Monday slot is the one that I have a harder time with because it's like "Ooh, I could just make anything. Why don't I...". It's so much easier to plan and that making it easier to plan and easier to schedule drives success for me.
I think another reason it has worked so well for me is Facebook group. There are so many Facebook groups, and Facebook loves Facebook groups right now. There are a billion copycat recipe Facebook groups, there's a bunch of air fryer recipe Facebook groups. I joined those groups. And you have to be mindful, some of them don't want you to post other recipes because they're run by bloggers so they only want to sell their own stuff. Whatever everybody to each his own.
A lot of them are just, somebody started a group that likes copycat recipes. They don't have a blog. They're just a person who likes copycat recipes. That's something, and so they started a group. I share my recipes in there that's the first thing I do. I pin the recipe and then I share it to my groups. I'll share it to 10 groups on copycat day and 10 groups on air fryer day.
That launches my blog post though. It gets me hundreds of page views on day one. I don't have a big email list. I didn't start my email list until last year and I was blogging for 10, 12 years. I didn't start my list until last year, so my email list is less than a thousand people. Steph at Plain Chicken, her email list is huge because she's been going and had it going the whole time. I made a mistake and didn't do that. If you haven't started your email list, start it. Yes. So the thing is, I don't have a ton of just direct traffic so I need that bump.
But when Facebook, those groups, I'm able to post my recipe out there and I get anywhere from a few hundred to a thousand-page views on day one. And that's huge, like that's a lot. And it gives my recipes a jump and helps them get started. Which then Picture sees that, Google sees that "Oh, this recipe is already taking off. It's doing well. We'll show it, we'll show it more." It's got some authority to it.
So that niching down isn't possible, like there are just generic recipe groups, like Easy Recipes for Moms. But I found that the copycat and the air fryer do really well because it's a smaller group of people who are interested in that. And I also participate in those groups. I think that's the other thing you can't just join a Facebook group and show your own stuff all the time. Like I participate. I answer questions. I am active in the group.
But niching down has helped me be able to pick. Okay it's copycat and it's air fryer, Keto or whether it's vegetarian, grilling or sous vide, whatever you're.
Jason: Exploring Sous Vide Facebook group, everyone should join it. It's the best one.
Heather: Yeah. And Food Hussy has an air fryer recipe Facebook group that everybody should join.
Jason: We will have links in the show notes.
Heather: It's really helped me a lot. So that's a long answer to say that's some of the ways niching down has helped.
Jason: One of the things with Facebook groups too that I found really helpful is you get feedback about your recipes. In general by doing SEO research and stuff like that, but it's not as visceral as posting a recipe in a group and then having people go to it that day and comment on it. Especially in a place like Facebook where they're not always the nicest individuals.
You can get really good quick feedback on if you're having good recipes, if you're writing about things people are interested in. And it gives you, at least for me, it gives me really good instant feedback on what people are going to click on and what they like.
Heather: It also points out mistakes that you've made in your recipe. They will catch every spelling error or things like that. "Oh, you didn't tell me how much of this to put in." So they catch errors too. But yeah, I do agree. It does kind of give me a little insight as to what I think might do well longer term.
If it does well on day one with the Facebook groups, I go, Ooh, this might have some legs to it. And that's when Pinterest then picks up, but it's usually the next one to pick something up, and I'll see it do well there. So that definitely is part of the equation.
Jason: Being involved in the groups too, always helped me figure out what questions people are asking. And if you can be involved in the group, I've started doing a lot longer answers to people in the groups. And then I turned those into a blog post because I know people are asking that specific question, which is great for SEO and it's great for bringing in long-term traffic and you're participating in groups and helping people.
Heather: Well, that's the thing too. Right around Christmas time I knew air fryer was the big gift. Everybody's getting an air fryer for Christmas. Just like a few years ago, everybody got an Instant Pot. Well everybody's getting an air fryer this year for Christmas. They're on sale everywhere.
And so I saw people start to ask questions because maybe they'd bought them for themselves a little before Christmas because they were on sale. I saw people start joining these groups and saying, what can I make in an air fryer?
So I sat down one Friday night, I had my plan of what I was going to work on, I threw the plan out the window and I wrote in one night, which is really just a big Roundup post. But I wrote a post and it was, "What Can I Make in My Air Fryer?" because that's what everybody was saying. That was the question everybody was typing. What can I make in an air fryer? And so I wrote a blog post, "What Can I Make in an Air fryer?" And I put a big old Roundup and I kind of broke it down by like, here's some chicken, here's some beef, here's some fish, here's some veggies.
Jason: Yeah, one of my most popular posts is, "What Should I Sous Vide First?" Because that's what everyone asks as soon as they get it, what should I eat first? And I say here's a list of things broken down in different categories. And you're getting people who are new to a type of cooking, especially when it's in your niche. They are new to a type of cooking that you're an expert in and you're bringing them over to your site as soon as they're starting to learn, and you're providing them good quality recipes. You're going to make them feel comfortable and confident in the kitchen. You're going to turn them into a fan long term, which is exactly the type of people you're looking for.
Heather: And that's why I think answering those questions, because when I answer questions, people will be like, Oh, how long should I air fry a steak? Oh, well, here's a recipe that I have for air frying steak, but my thought is blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You know, like, make sure you got your meat thermometer and check how you want it done. But here's how, because my, I liked my cow to moo when I eat it. So people see my recipe, they're like, Oh, that steak's too rare. And I'm like, we'll then cook it longer. Just add a couple more minutes. It's fine. But, you know, get through meat thermometer out and here's an affiliate link to my cheap meat thermometer. So, um, but yeah, I mean, I think that just participating and answering those questions, people go, Oh, I like that.
And actually, I have a friend who has a cruising podcast, Cruz radio news. Plug for Doug, he also is a blogger. And so we became friends and we're talking about stuff all the time. And he was like, I'm buying an air fryer because of you. And the first thing he did, he asked how do I make brussels sprouts in it?
But it's because, you know, he got excited about it and then he's like, Oh, I'm going to try this one too, and this one too. And so I linked to my air fryer Facebook group in there. I always put links to other recipes of my own at the end of every recipe, so that's a great way to do it.
Jason: One of the things I found interesting is that you work all day with bloggers and connecting them with brands and influencers, and the thing you've been focusing on most over the last year is your blog. You know that you live in this influencer world during the day, but when you turn to what you wanted to do, you went back to the blog and working on your content. Can you talk a little about why you made that decision?
Heather: Well, I had worked in project management for a long time and slowly morphed my way into a social media role. Then I just thought, gosh, wouldn't it be great if I could just work with bloggers since I am one. And it does give me this like street cred. When I'm hiring bloggers and I'm like, you know, I am one. I understand what you're doing.
Like it helps them budget too. Because sometimes it's like I got the budget for it, but I'm like, I understand. You know, give me a little better rate this time and I'll give you a better rate next time. I tell him when I like their stuff, I'm like, Hey, that's me, that's Heather from MMI because I'm Food Hussey on Instagram. So, um, I think that it gives me a little bit of street cred with the bloggers. It definitely gives me street cred with the brands when I'm talking to them. And they ask why do you think this will work? Or why do you think this will work with bloggers? I'm like, well, because I am one. What I do all day. You know, I do it all day and then I'd do it all night.
So it's funny too because I don't work with food bloggers. I have not very much gotten to work with food bloggers. My day job really works with beauty brands. And so it's a whole different ball game working with beauty brands. And I love it. It's very different, but I've definitely learned from it and it's helped me grow as a blogger.
Also, my blogging experience has helped me grow in my job. Just kind of knowing the ins and outs and what do you need to put in a brief for the bloggers and what are the things that they're not going to be so good at. Because I know what I'm not so good at, you know. So what things do I need to watch and help them with? Stuff like that.
Jason: What type of thing do most brands look for in bloggers?
Heather: For beauty brands, they're very focused on Instagram and YouTube. I think in the long run, I'm glad I'm not a beauty blogger. I am not a beauty blogger. I'm glad I'm not an Instagrammer because I think with Instagram, it's great, but you have to constantly hustle because that Instagram post is dead in 2 days. You know, nobody's paying, nobody's scrolling back. Instagram shows it to us for a week or so now, but nobody's scrolling back and looking through your old stuff. So you're always on the constant hunt for the next hustle, the next sale, the next project, the next one.
Whereas what I love about food blogging is the fact that I am generating a passive income. If I take a week off because I go on a cruise, which is what I did, it's fine. The world doesn't end. My blog will still keep going. My income, I'm still getting a paycheck from my ads. Like even if I take a week off, like my dad passed away a few weeks ago, I just had a lot, stuff that happens when that happens. Like I had to go home to Iowa, and I had to do this and I had to do this.
When that happens, sometimes life gets in the way and your plan goes out the window. I didn't blog for a week. So what I did was I just shifted my plan to a week later, made a couple tweaks. My income didn't take a hit because I already had all this other, all these blog posts that were generating that passive income.
And that's where I think I'm really glad I'm a blogger and not just an Instagramer. I think the blog and the benefits of knowing that my blog posts live on for years and years to come. Like my mom's peach cobbler from years ago is still one of my best recipes, because a recipe doesn't change over time. Like it doesn't matter if it's 10 years old. It's still food. It's still good.
And so what I'm trying to do too is help. I've got a good friend Lindsay. Her blog is Fueling Mamahood. She has the cutest children and her, it's ridiculous. But I'm trying to help her identify those spots because she's very heavily focused on Instagram and the money she makes from Instagram.
I'm trying to help her go into Google Search Console and identify what's working for her and what's bringing in traffic to her blog. So she can create more posts like that. That's how I found my niche of copycat was with Stephanie. We were down in the Gulf Shores on a little blogger vacation, and she was like, let's look at your Google search results. She's like, let's see what's bringing in traffic to your site. And we looked at a year and we looked at a year ago and she was like, Oh, look it, you've got all these copycat recipes that people are looking at. Maybe you should do more of those. That's all it took, and my life was changed, you know? It was like, okay, that's where I'm going.
But I mean, I think just looking at your search results. Don't just look at today and yesterday and the last month, go for a whole year and see what bubbles up to the top. See what trends you can find and see what has worked for you in the past.
And so with Lindsey. She's a lifestyle blogger, so very different than a food blogger. She found this Easter basket post she did about "What to Put in Easter Baskets for Kids that's Not Candy". I was like, ride that wave, babe. Let's do another post like that for boys. Let's do one for girls. Let's do one for 10-year olds versus five-year-olds. Let's come up with some ideas. And so it was, but she'd never would have thought that would be something people resonated with. But for some reason I did. So let's build more of those.
You can still do your posts that you like. Like she can still do the post about her kids and the post of her family. But let's sprinkle in some of those posts you know are going to work and you know are going to bring you big page views to supplement the ones that are kind of what your passion is.
Jason: I think a lot of people feel that if you dive too deep into keyword research, it kind of controls your entire blog. Where I think you can very easily say, here's something I want to write about. What's the best way to phrase it? What's the best like around it? What are people talking about? And it informs your decision making. It doesn't just kind of take you to places where you don't want to go. You can still use it and stay in your comfort zone you have.
Heather: Yeah, and I mean, I think that with keyword research, you can let it control you, but you don't have to. It just gives me, I love AnswerThePublic, the site with the creepy guy who spins around and where it looks at me weird. But the thing is, it gives me ideas. I see some bloggers that every single blog post has, how can I make blank, blank, blank? What should I serve with blank, blank, blank. Like they use it too much, I feel it becomes unnatural.
But the thing is you see that site like AnswerThePublic and I use it, but I don't let it run me. I go to it for ideas. And if I'm making, I made Spanish rice and beans. What are the frequently asked questions around Spanish rice and beans? That'll give me a little bit of a nudge in which way to go But I'm not going to let it run me and say like, this is the way I have to answer the question, or this was the only question I can ask, or this is what I must say, because that's what AnswerThePublic said. No! I do what I want to do. But it gives me some guidance. And it gives me some, you know, like bumpers when you're bowling, and you got those bumpers on the side. It keeps me in the right lane and in the right path. And I have enough confidence in myself and what I'm doing that I still do what I want to do, but I just have a little bit of direction.
Jason: I think that's so helpful and it makes everything a lot easier having that direction, knowing that you're going in the right, going where you want to go.
I'm so impressed by your success that you've had over the last year. I look forward to talking to you a year from now when you've got 10X the traffic that you currently do now.
Heather: Fingers crossed!
Jason: And are you going to the International Food Blogger Conference again this year?
Heather: I'm going to try to make it down to El Paso. This has been a big year. I mean to go and I'm very transparent about what I do and what I've done. And to go from making a few hundred dollars a month to making thousands of dollars a month on your blog is huge. It's amazing. I mean, it's just freeing and it's really great.
So IFBC like, I know there's other folks that go to International Food Blogger who are in the same boat I was. And I know there's other folks who are in the place I'm at now. So I definitely like to go to those conferences and meet up with folks and be able to share.
Jason: Nice. I hope to be there too. So it's always fun grabbing a drink when we're there.
Heather: Oh yeah. It's not as fun as Alaska though. I don't know if it's going to live up to Juno, it was amazing.
Jason: Yeah. Juno is one of the best times I've ever had. It was great.
Well, if people have questions, they can find you on Instagram at Food Hussy correct?
Heather: Yes. Everywhere.
Jason: So be sure to reach out to Heather. She's always happy to answer questions and always a joy to talk to. So thanks so much for coming on today. I really appreciate you sharing your expertise.
Heather: Yeah, thanks. And my dogs only barked a couple of times. I'm very excited. Very good. They were good puppies today.
Jason: This has been Makin' Bacon, all about helping you serve your fans, grow your income, and get the most out of your blog.
So until next time I'm Jason Logsdon.