This is part of my Makin' Bacon podcast, you can check out all the episodes or subscribe on your favorite podcast player.
Today, we are going to talk about how to find out what your audience is looking for, why great design matters, and why a brand is more than just a logo.
As bloggers we often work so hard on our recipes, the stories we tell, and using social media to bring in readers, but we often neglect the thing that people see first...our website. A good website design does more than look pretty, it informs the visitor and can be a big factor in turning them into a real Fan. But where do you get started?
The video of the interview is also available on the Makin' Bacon YouTube Channel.
Madison Wetherill is a food blogger turned web designer, who has worked with hundreds of food bloggers since 2015 through Grace + Vine Studios. She helps her clients connect with their audience through their website design and branding. She is also the host of The Vine Podcast, a podcast focused on strategy and design and growing your food blog without the hustle and burn out.
Madison offers a free DIY Branding Foundations Guide for you to start thinking about your road to success.
If you want to read some more about this, here are a few helpful links.
Today, we're going to talk about how to find out what your audience really wants, why great design matters and why a brand is more than just a logo. Take it away. Madison.
As bloggers, we often work so hard on our recipes, the stories we tell and using social media to bring in readers. But we often neglect the thing that people see first, which is our website and a good website design does more than look pretty. It informs the visitor. It could be a big factor in turning them into real fans. But where do you get started?
Today's guest is a food blogger turned web designer who has worked with hundreds of food bloggers since 2015, through Grace & Vine Studios. She helps her clients connect with their audience through their website, design and branding.
She's also the host of the Vine Podcast which is focused on strategy and design and growing your food blog without the hustle and burnout, sounds like a very good thing. And I'm so excited to learn from today's guest Madison Weatherill from Grace & Vine Studios.
Jason Logsdon: Madison, welcome to Makin' Bacon.
Madison Witherill: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here.
Jason: Really appreciate you coming on. And I can't wait to dive into website design branding and all the things about blogging. But I always like to start with, what is it like around your dinner table on a typical day?
Madison: Oh, my goodness. So that is an interesting question because I have 2 little boys. So it is usually a little bit of a chaotic shuffle to get us all around the table. But we are definitely very passionate about that time around the table. And even if it is only 5 minutes of us all being there together, at least spending that time. So definitely a chaotic shuffle, but my boys love to eat. So that is definitely a priority in our house.
Jason: Do they have any favorite meals?
Madison: Everything really they're like. I mean, they love the typical things that, you know, kids love, but they also love like vegetables and stuff like that. So I've gotten very lucky with that one.
Jason: Nice. It makes it a little bit easier that you don't have to bribe them with the good stuff.
Madison: Yeah, exactly.
Jason: So when many people think about branding, they think about a logo, maybe some business cards, maybe a header on the website, but there's a lot more that goes into it. Can you talk a little bit about what branding actually means to you?
Madison: Yeah. This is such a good question. And honestly, I, I guess being in the industry for so long, I've been in this industry for about 5 years now and I studied graphic design in college before that. I have seen people come to me often, just asking for a logo. That's, you know, that's what they're looking for.
And I have to kind of back up and explain like a logo is obviously important. And like you said, it is the first thing that somebody is going to see and experience in your brand. But the all of the strategy and the identity that goes into creating a logo has to come first. Because if you don't focus on that brand strategy and things like your niche and who your audience is and how you speak to them in terms of your like brand messaging and your voice, what you're going to end up with is a really pretty logo.
But in six months, when the trends change or when your favorite color changes, all of a sudden your brand no longer feels like you. And instead, if you're able to really solidify that strategy first and then figure out, okay, how do I represent this visually? You're going to have a much more strategic logo, but an beautiful logo, but also one that's going to stand the test of time, which is really important.
Jason: A brand in my opinion, is so important that it encapsulates so much. What are the benefits of why a blogger really does need a strong brand?
Madison: Yeah. Well, especially these days, food blogging has become a very saturated industry. I think when a lot of us started blogging, it wasn't that common and it was kind of, people would kind of look at you like you do what? You talk to people on the internet? That's weird.
But now it's become so common that really your brand is our first impression and the first opportunity you have to really help somebody understand what you're all about. When people are coming specifically from Pinterest or Google, and they're landing on a recipe of yours we know that they want to get straight to the recipe, and they're not super interested in who you are at that moment.
But when you're able to really clearly show them, this is what my blog is about. This is who I'm for. It helps the right people to really connect with you and to slow that scroll down and really figure out who you're talking to. And so, you know, you're still going to have those people coming to your site who are just trying to get to the recipe, we can't, we can't change that kind of motivation.
But we can really try to paint the right picture for your ideal audience so that when they land on your site, they immediately are like, Oh, I want to hear more about what this person is saying, because I want to know like how they can help me. And of course, those are thoughts that are happening kind of in their head they're not saying them out loud or really conscious of them. But when we're able to just really clearly define what our site is all about, it gives people the opportunity to like figuratively, raise their hand and say, yeah, Oh, yeah. I believe that about food too, or, Oh yeah my family follows that diet too. So it's really the first impression and the first opportunity to really get somebody to connect with you.
Jason: I feel like having a strong brand benefits, not only the website, right. But it's the people coming from Pinterest or coming from Facebook or Instagram that it's kind of this concerted face that you're putting forward to everyone that when they hit your website, they're now not like, where am I? This is not at all what it's like on their Facebook page. It kind of ties everything in.
Madison: Yeah, that is a really good point too, because there are a lot of people who maybe even have a really great brand or website, and then they have all these other elements that are kind of disconnected and don't follow a cohesive look and feel. And that is like a recipe for disaster. When you have an audience, like a potential audience member coming to your site, expecting one thing and they get something totally different. It's like, you know, coming from Pinterest and you're expecting a vegan blog and you come in, it's like really all meat recipes and carnivore.
It's like, there's a disconnect here somehow. And that like initially comes down to your branding and your messaging and, you know. Then the visual side of things as well. So that is so true.
Jason: And there's so many people that don't pay attention to what you were saying, when they want the recipe, they go to a website and they get the recipe and they might've followed it from Pinterest. And they're not going to remember most places until they've seen it 4 or 5, 6, 7 times. And the more you can get that brand out there, the more that it's going to be like hammered home to like, Oh, this is the person that does X and you're going to stand out to them.
And then you get to the point where they're searching for a recipe and they're scanning the top 5 or 10 because they're looking for your blog, not just the best, whatever chicken parm recipe out there.
Madison: Yeah, that is definitely true too. And that is something I talk about with people a lot is when your blog looks the same as everyone else's, you know, you're using the same premade theme. You haven't taken those extra steps to really figure out how to make your website usable for your audience specifically. You really are running that risk of somebody just never remembering, Even if they loved your recipe, by the time they're eating the recipe, they've probably closed that window on their browser. And it's going to be hard for them to find it again. And they're probably not going to spend that effort to do that.
So you really do have that a few minutes of time when somebody is coming to your site, if minutes is even, it's probably less than that, it's probably seconds to just get somebody to understand. Like, there are certain blogs that I know and this kind of goes down to like your niche, at least from your audience's perspective, it's probably going to look like it's your niche to them.
Even something as simple as knowing like this is the type of blog I'm going to go to when I need a grilling recipe, or this is the recipe I'm going to go to the site when I need a healthy recipe. Like we all have kind of those buckets of sites that we go to. But the other thing that I always tell people is, you know, being in this industry, we're so used to how food blogs work and we pay attention to things a lot more than other people do. And so you really have to capitalize on that split second decision that somebody is going to have.
Jason: Yeah, that's one of the things that's been interesting to me as I've been doing more research with readers out there, but also bloggers is we pay so much attention to stuff, and we think that everyone else does as well.
And it's not you, I don't know if you'll agree with this or not, but I think when you design a website or a brand or your recipes, it's important that you're not doing it for yourself. This isn't a cookbook that you're making to put in your cupboard so you can pull out when you want to make a recipe that you love. This is something for somebody else. And so trying to put yourself in their eyes about what are they looking for, what matters to them. And sometimes it's not what matters to you that is so important.
Madison: Oh yeah, absolutely. And that's, that's something that I think a lot of food bloggers have to, it's kind of a hard pill to swallow because they realize that maybe there's this disconnect between even sometimes why they started their blog and why they're continuing to do it. And that's something that I really dive into with my clients is like, What makes you unique and why are you doing this? Because so many food bloggers started as just a hobby and it was just something fun to fill the time.
And it's kind of evolved over time. Or I know for a lot of food bloggers their business grew so fast and all of a sudden they had to look back and figure out like, okay, who's my audience and what is my niche? Um, those are rare cases I think. I think most people, the growth is slower and so it is really important to spend that time, to figure out those foundations. So that as you grow, you really have a good understanding of who your audience is.
And like you said, what they're looking for, because again, we are just so close to it that we browse recipe sites in a specific way, but our audience might not do that at all. They may like, again, they get frustrated that they have to scroll through the ads and we know why there's ads there,we appreciate that. So there's just so many differences between, you know, food bloggers as the creator and the people that are viewing your site as the audience.
Jason: When do you think is the right time to start developing your brand? I know when you first get started, there's some people probably listening that are like, I have written 2 posts, do I need a brand now? I don't even know what I'm writing about or doing at this point. And there's other people who are like, I've been blogging for 5 years and I should probably have a brand cause I have 200 recipes out there. Where is that kind of line of now is the time to really buckle down and find that brand.
Madison: I think it might depend partially on your goals for your blog and also like the certainty that you have at the beginning, because if you are just kind of start to just see how it goes and yeah, you're not really sure what kind of recipes you want to share and all of that stuff is sort of murky then it's going to be frustrating, trying to like figure out what your brand is.
But if you're starting a brand new blog and you know, you follow blogs for years and you know, maybe you look at the recipes that you share with friends and family, and you can see like, what is unique about those or what people are always asking you about. That's going to be a really big clue into what your potential audience might be looking for from you. Because at the end of the day, like, well, yes, it is really important to do things for your audience, you also have to be true to who you are as a person. And, you know, again, like with the vegan and carnivore example, like if you're a vegan, you're not going to have recipes that are like carnivore friendly because that isn't who you are and it doesn't fit.
So I think for somebody just getting started, I think you really have to ask yourself, like, how clear are you on this like mission for your blog. If you are feeling unclear about it, you know, set, set your brand identity and just be fluid with it. Be willing to adjust it, reevaluate it every 6 months and see what sticks. Because you know, for some food bloggers, what ends up sticking is the stuff that does well on Google or does well on Pinterest and they kind of morph into that.
I think it really depends on, you know, the person, but I think the faster, you can really get clear about that brand identity, even if it's parts of it, the better aligned your blog is going to be. And I honestly believe the faster your blog will grow because you have that foundation and you are telling me, well, this is what my site is about, take it or leave it.
And that's something that people have a really hard time with, the whole like attract and repel idea in marketing. They're like, I just want everyone to love my recipes, but yeah. Everyone's not going to love your recipes and that's okay. Like you're not doing this for everyone, you're doing it for a very specific person. So figure out who that person is and then just serve them so well that like, they can't wait to share your blog with other people.
Jason: I think that's a huge point is worry about the people that you want to attract. And this has been a recurring theme with a lot of people I've interviewed. That it's the ones that end up being successful are the ones that have buckled down and to say, this is who I'm writing for.
And this person might be close to that, but they're not it. And they aren't getting what I'm saying. So, there's other bloggers that they can go follow. But these people I am talking to are now going to be the ones that are going to come back time and time again. If you put out books or products or courses, they're the ones that'll end up purchasing those, not this person that kind of liked it anyway.
Madison: Yeah, exactly. And you know, that's another thing that I always teach people is like, you know, you might attract random people to your site, that's just going to happen, you're going to have those people who have a one off recipe that they're looking for. But when you have that brand messaging clear and you have, you know, a logo that really conveys the heart behind your brand, you're going to be able to filter through those people and really attract the, I guess, keep the people that fit within your audience.
And at the other people will probably get the recipe and never come back and that's okay. Because like you said, when you go to create a product or when you're growing your email list, those people are going to be the people who just ignore what you're saying or don't subscribe in the first place. So not that they don't matter, but in the sense of your brand identity and like your foundations of your business, in that sense, they don't matter in terms of the people you're trying to attract.
And that's just a, a thing people have to just get over and be okay with. Because it leaves room and, you know, it creates space for the people who are going to be all in on your brand and who are going to be your biggest cheerleaders, which those people are way better than, you know, the trolls on the internet that give you the one star ratings and stuff.
Jason: It's a lot better to alienate 80% of the people coming to your blog and having the 20% that are, you're not alienating love what you have to save rather than 100% of people think you're like, okay.
Madison: Exactly. And going back to like how many food bloggers there are. I can't remember the exact number, but I remember in a podcast episode I talked about, I think it was like, I don't know, 150,000 food bloggers or something insane. I mean, it's, it's a crowded market. And so you have to be willing to kind of make it clear what you're about and if you don't, you're just going to blend into the other thousands of blogs on Pinterest and that's, that's just not going to serve your blog very well. And you're going to run into a lot of hard work for little payoff.
Jason: Yeah. And it can feel weird to try to narrow it down so much, but it's so much easier to stand out the smaller that you get. That if you write about grilling you're competing with Bobby Flay and Meathead Goldwyn and all of these famous names. Where if you narrow it down to a market that's too small for them to even really worry about, you can stand out and you can be a big fish in a smaller pond.
Madison: Yeah, absolutely. I think that's what is that called? The blue ocean, like finding your blue ocean or something like that. Yeah. It's so important to find that. And like you said, those are going to be the people that make it worth it for you, those raving fans.
Jason: You talked about something that I always harp on, which is what are the goals of your website? That it's so many bloggers just start blogging and then they don't really know what, where they're trying to go, you know what they're trying to accomplish long-term. So it's hard to decide where to spend time and energy.
What do you think are the most common goals you see that are good goals for our website to have?
Madison: Yeah, that's a really good question. And that's, that's another thing that I really get into with my like branding and web design clients. Because when I'm designing a brand or a website, I want to make sure that it's able to grow with you.
And so I want to know, like in 5 years, where do you see this going? Do you see this being your full-time income? Do you see yourself creating products? You know, because. I want to make sure that I'm designing something that stands the test of time, not only visually, but also in terms of your blog.
So I think the common goals I hear from different stages of food bloggers at the beginning, people just want to make money. They're just like, I just want to make some kind of money so that it's worth it. But, they aren't usually saying things like, Oh, I'm going to retire my husband, or I'm going to make a full-time income. It's just like, well, I really enjoy doing this, but I've put in a lot of work and I'm ready to start monetizing. Um, all the way up to, I have clients that have blogs that are, you know, getting a million page views a month and they're looking to retire their husbands, or they're looking to create products in Williams Sonoma.
I think it's really good to have kind of like, you know, 1 year, 5 year and maybe like crazy dream goals because it gives you something to work towards. And it really makes it, and it makes it worth it and puts it into perspective like why you're doing this hard work. Because food blogging is a lot of work and it's. You know, it's not, I always tell people there's a lot easier ways to make money, but you know, you're at the end of the day, you're passionate and about this.
And so it's figuring out like, Yes, I'm passionate about this, but what makes it worth it to me? What is that end goal? Is it a monetary amount? Is it, you know, being able to have like the visibility of a cookbook or, you know, for a lot of people, that's just something that they want to do. It's not necessarily a moneymaker for them, but they just, that would make it worth it to them. So really looking at, because everybody's different, not everybody's driven by money, not everybody's driven by building this huge audience.
So really figuring out like, if I connect with one person and like change one person's life, that's worth it to me all the way up to like, I want to do a course and I want to change thousands of people's lives with my like philosophy on cooking or whatever it is. There's so many different goals that you can have but I think knowing those and having those in the forefront of your mind, like you said, it's going to help you figure out where do I want to spend time? Because there are so many things that food bloggers are supposed to do, and sometimes they literally don't benefit you.
And so that's something I help my clients with is, you know, I know that this is an end goal of yours, why are we spending time here doing this when that is not going to lead you to this goal at all? So just that helps you filter all of the noise out there and all of the trainings and all of the education that we're so lucky to have in the food blogging world. But it helps you to figure out like, what is the most important thing to me right now?
Jason: That's something I talked about in my International Food Blogger Conference talk. Both of us did a talk at the virtual summit they just had. And I think they're still available for purchase from their website. Mine was all about how to increase your revenue. And one of the main things in there was where do you want to go in 5 years or 10 years?
Because if you want to be on-air talent for a brand, maybe then you probably shouldn't spend a lot of time doing SEO work. And if you want to write a cookbook, then maybe doing videos aren't the most important thing, you should be focused on writing recipes and figuring out that type of where you want to actually end up. Like almost no one gets paid to be a blogger. So find out where your money comes from. Whether it's ads or cookbooks or working with brands. You don't get paid to be a blogger unless you're working for a company. So where's that money coming from and then do the things that are going to better position you to meet that long-term goal of 5 years or 10 years from now.
Madison: Yeah, absolutely. That's really important to remember. If you look at the bigger bloggers that have been around for a while time, they've all gone in a lot of different directions. They've done different things with that, you know, level of success that they've had. And so I think that's important to remember because so often I just, and people saying, Oh, I just want to grow my blog, I just want to grow my blog. And it's like, yeah, but you can chase that forever. There's always going to be a next level of growing your blog. So, what does success look like to you? And, you know, being okay with if that looks different than somebody else, like, there's nothing wrong with that.
So I have clients who are just like, this is just a hobby for me. It's just fun. Like, that's totally fine, you know, do whatever makes you happy and whatever, you know, fits your family too, because that's something that.
And part of the shift that I made in my life and business away from food blogging, was just because I had gotten to a place of just burn out with my blog. Because I wasn't aligning myself with my goals for my family and for my life. And so I always try to tell people, and that's why I have that like, line about my podcast, you know, being about doing these things, not for the sake of burnout, because so many of us fall into that trap.
Jason: I think you're a great example, too, of like taking skills that you have and you developed as a food blogger and applying them to a new career.
I just interviewed Christina Peters, who also spoke at the conference and she's a professional photographer. And we talked about a lot of food bloggers are really good at photography. And so how can you, if you love that, how can you consult with brands? How can you take advantage of the skills that you have that might not have anything to do with your blog necessarily, but it's the skills you learn doing that. And then apply them to different directions to move, however, wherever you want to go.
Madison: Yeah. That, and that brings up like an interesting thought for me and something that I'm really passionate about in my business and in life really is like outsourcing. I know that's not on the topic of branding at all, but. I think the interesting thing about food blotters is it's a niche and industry, or you have to be like a Jack-of-all-Trades.
You have to know how to do so many different things. Like if you were to write them all down, it's really insane. All the different things that you're kind of required to know.
And the interesting thing is in other industries, it's really not like that because it's like, this is your zone of genius, this is what you're good at. And then you figure out either you know, how do I learn a skill that you know, I can do for now, but eventually I'm going to outsource it. Or how do I, um, find somebody that can help me with this specific skill? And, yeah, it's just interesting that in the food blogging world it's, it's a lot of like figuring out just enough to get by in different fields.
And then, um, You know, there's this big shift down the road when all of a sudden now it's like, okay, now I have money to do this or now I've reached a certain level of success where outsourcing is is okay. But to me, I'm like, find your zone of genius, like you said, is it food, photography? Is it SEO? Is it, you know, video like in, you know, being in front of the camera? Find that, and then really like, just go all in on that particular thing.
Jason: And if you love photography, like don't spend all your days working on SEO to bring stuff in and figure out how you could do something you love in the long-term. Don't create a job that you're not going to enjoy.
Madison: Yeah, because it's, it's not worth that at all. And you know, that's an interesting thing too, with food photography, that, that is actually part of your brand and like, It isn't the, it's not the part of your brand that you necessarily like outsource to a designer or anything like that, but it is part of the visual part of your blog and what people will come to recognize.
Again, as the industry has gotten more saturated, this doesn't happen as often, but there are still some bigger blogs where if I'm on Pinterest and I see their, their photography, like I know exactly who they are, regardless of if I know, you know, I don't see their name, but I see their photo and I know because it's such a specific style.
And so that's another thing to think about too, when you're thinking about branding, is that visual side of your photos, it could be the way that you write recipes, the type of ingredients that you use. Like there's a lot that goes into that brand identity that isn't just like the logo design itself or any of the, like visual parts of your branding. Um, there's so much that goes into it. So when you said photography, that just reminded me of that too.
Jason: Yeah. It's amazing how many different components of what you do really just create your brand. It Is the way you handle yourself and the way you respond to emails. Like there's so much that just creates your entire kind of persona, your public persona that you have to keep track of.
Jason: So you mentioned, you know, finding your niche and kind of narrowing it down. And I think a lot of bloggers start going like, well, okay. Food and then like healthy recipes and maybe in an air fryer. And then they kind of Peter out at that point. And to me, that's not a good niche. I have some opinions about what makes a good niche and just kind of generic type of food generally isn't it? How do you recommend people kind of find a niche that works while still being specific, but helps you stand out?
Madison: I actually have 3 different levels of kind of defining your niche that I walk my clients through. And the first for most food bloggers is that you're a food blogger. That's, that's kind of the top level. But that's, it's interesting because people sometimes say that that's their niche. I'm like, that's actually not your niche at all, that's your industry, but that's like the very top level.
And so then when you go a level deeper, I kind of asked, you know, what are the types of recipes that you share? And so that might be dairy-free, that might be healthy recipes, that might be like, you know, southern comfort food. It can be a lot of different things.
And then the third layer is kind of what you were touching on, which is the most, it's really the most important layer. And that is if I were to line up 10 different people within that, like sub-niche of yours, so 10 dairy free bloggers. What makes your dairy-free blog different? Is it the type of ingredients that you use? Is it the fact that your child has a dairy allergy? Is it the fact that you're vegan, you know, what is it?
I've worked with a client who was a vegan blogger, or technically she wasn't a vegan blogger, but she had an eggs, an egg allergy. And so she fit into kind of the vegan world, because of that. That's what makes her blog unique and different when you stand her with a bunch of other plant-based bloggers. And so figuring out like, what is that thing that somebody is going to remember? Because they might remember that you're a dairy-free blogger, but they might also remember the other 5 dairy free bloggers.
And so again, what is that specific thing that makes your site unique among the people that are in that little sub-niche of yours? Because like you said, that the more specific you can get, the more people are going to be able to remember that, they're going to be able to tell their friends that. And that becomes so important. And that's like an intangible, you know, style of marketing that we can't really control. The only thing we really can do is making sure that it's clear to the people that come to our site.
So, yeah. So it's those 3 layers of figuring out, like when you boil it down, what is the thing that, you know, very few other people are going to be able to say is true about their site. And sometimes it's literally, nobody else can say this about their brands, because it's so specific to who you are.
Jason: I think that's a great way to approach it, narrowing it down to something that only you can provide or something that only you believe is possible with the type of cooking you're doing will make you stand out so much better than everyone else.
And that's what people will relate to. No one thinks like, Oh, I love this person because they use an AirFryer. That's almost never something that's going to make you stand out. You love that person because they use that to feed their entire neighborhood for potlucks. Or they use it for healthy cooking to remove cholesterol or whatever the spin is. It's that spin that you remember, you don't generally remember the kind of generic topic that they talk about.
Madison: That is so true. And that's, you know, that kind of goes into like the personal branding side, which is different than, you know, again, all of this is kind of wrapped into that brand identity. But personal branding is definitely an area where I see food bloggers not taking advantage of as much or. Kind of being afraid to kind of go into that personal branding, um, side of things. You know, they're afraid to get in front of the camera, or even if it's just Instagram stories or they're afraid to have like brand photos done where they can like show up on their feed where it's not just their recipe.
And so when you think about like how the branding piece all works together, like your personality, and like you said, the reason behind, you know, what you're doing and. Those sorts of specific details really make up that personal branding side. And like you said, that's, what's going to make people remember you and that's, what's going to resonate with people more so than like, yeah, it's an AirFryer recipe, cool.
Like that's the, those people coming from Pinterest think that, but the people that you, you want to stick around are going to be like, That lady has 6 kids. That's crazy. I like her, you know. That kind of mentality and that kind of mental processing of your story is what is so important if you want to build something where you're really connecting with your audience. Because again, some people, their goal is just to grow really, really fast, how lots of page views and that's, that's, what's important to them. But if you're really looking to make those deep connections with your audience and to have that audience to sell products to in the future and you know, have an email list that's really engaged. Like those are the kind of details you need to really hone in on.
Jason: Yeah. People get so focused on size and that can be good for a few things especially if ads are the main way you monetize, like you want many people coming through. But even if you're doing things like sponsored posts, it's a lot more effective in many cases to have an audience that really cares and is engaged and consumes your content rather than an audience that is twice the size that really doesn't, isn't that engaged.
Because you can go to the brand and say, I have these group of people. They're passionate. They listen to me. They engage with this content I put out, I can get you in front of them. Versus here's some numbers of kind of random people that might be interested in it.
Madison: Exactly. And I think from like a confidence perspective that helps you as the blogger to like, to really know if I share this content with my audience, they're going to love it. Or, you know, if I send this email out with this affiliate link, they're totally going to buy it because they trust me and I've built that trust with them.
But that's like you said, not going to happen if your only goal is just large padded numbers. Where sure, you might have thousands of people coming to your site every day, but you have no idea who they are. You have no idea how to speak to them in a way that resonates with them. And so again, it goes back to your goals and like what's important to you. But I think for most of my clients, most of the food bloggers that I've talked to the, the way to kind of avoid that burnout is to grow that audience in like a very authentic way. And it's, it's hard to do that when you don't know what your messaging and you don't know who you're talking to. It's you literally feel like you're just putting it out there and hoping it sticks.
And so really having that brand identity foundation can make literally everything else in your marketing, your website design, email marketing, content strategy, all of that. It all comes together once you have this identity in place.
Jason: It makes it so much easier to, to come up with like your recipe head notes and the things that you're writing people say, well, I write about, you know, spaghetti. How can I write an introduction that's interesting? if you know your focus niche and what makes you different It becomes very easy because you can talk about whatever that is very authentically. And you can put that spin that you have on any recipe, any topic, because it's your belief. And it makes it a lot easier to come up with content and just you don't have to struggle to try to think of things to write.
Madison: Exactly. And you know, that's, I've had that experience many times trying to write a blog post and it's like, I've got nothing here. Like I just don't know what to say. I made this recipe 6 weeks ago and I don't remember. You know, whatever it is. But like you said, if you know, like this is my audience, you know, this is my person and this is what she's struggling with, this is how I can help her with this recipe.
It's not only going to make the content writing easier, but it's going to make it so much more fulfilling to know, you know, really how you're helping somebody as in, you know, in reference to the struggle thing.
Like I think a lot of food bloggers think that their audience is struggling to find a recipe and I just don't think that that's true at this point. There's literally thousands of recipes on Pinterest and Google and I don't think that your audience needs another recipe. But they do need something else. And they're they are struggling with something, whether it's related to food or not. And so really thinking about like, what is my ideal audience?
Like, what is their life like? And you know, what do they wish their life was? Like? What, what would they want to be different? Because knowing that will help you to sort of place food in a specific part of their life. I always talk about how there's 2 different kinds of people. There's the people who love cooking and there's the people who do they do it because they have to.
And, you know, so figuring out like which one is that, which one of those 2 things is my audience? Where do they fall in? Because that is totally going to change the content that you share and how you talk about it. If you know, like they don't love cooking, they're just doing it because they have to, you're not going to serve them a recipe that's a 5 course meal or takes 6 hours to prep. Because they won't, they won't want it. So yeah, like you said, knowing your audience, it just, it changes everything.
Jason: I think that's a good point too, about, you know, there are recipes out there. They will either fall in love with you and your point of view, and they want your take on a specific recipe rather than someone else's that they can easily find out there.
You know, that they, I think someone mentioned it in the IFBC presentation that it was about you know, they ask someone like, why do you come to my site when you can find these recipes elsewhere? And they said, cause it's not your take on that recipe. They could find a chicken parm recipe, but they wanted one that was made with their specific viewpoint in mind. Which is why people start coming back to your site time and time again.
Madison: Yeah, that is gold. That is so good. I think more people and they have that experience of their audience saying things like that. It's like, Oh, well that makes the whole thing worth it. And I'm glad that I got that across. And so yeah, the brand messaging thing, like really it's, it's nothing that you don't know, like internally, it's just pulling that out and figuring out, you know, when I explain something to my audience, this is, these are the things that I share, or these are the reasons I do things.
And that, I feel like having that, like on a sticky note or in your notes app on your phone, like something to reference helps ground you in your why of your food blog. And like you said helps you to understand, like, this is what my audience comes to me for. So I'm going to make sure every post has this special tip that they always come for. You know, things like that.
That's one of the things that I love about like Gutenberg Blocks. I, don't not everybody's using Gutenberg yet, but it makes it really easy to kind of have those like standout phrases and like key messaging throughout your blog posts that are going to make people stop in their scroll and pay attention. Which is, I think what we've all been trying to do for forever. Like, that's, that's what you want someone to do on your blog. And you know, that messaging is one of those ways you can do that.
Jason: For people listening that don't know what those are yet. Can you give a quick overview of how they work?
Madison: Yeah. So if you don't know, Gutenberg is basically the latest editor system in WordPress that came out, I think almost 2 years ago now, maybe 3. Um, and it's not the standard yet, but it is coming, that there, that is going to be the only way that you can use WordPress. And it basically, instead of having one big, long block of text. You now have where every paragraph, every image is its own block.
And the benefit to that is that you can create what's called a reusable block. And so it could be designed a specific way or have something like your pro tips for entertaining. And you can reuse that every time in a blog post.
One of the things that I do for my own podcast, my blog posts for that is we have like a group of blocks so that I know every post is going to have, you know, my intro, my Pinterest graphic, my audio embedded, things like that.
And so for food bloggers that can really help you to not only make your blog design stand out, but it can also help you to streamline your editing process and your writing process and save you time in that way.
Jason: Also makes it a lot easier to change your mind down the road, which is nice.
Madison: Yeah, I think we all remember when Amazon changed their affiliate disclosure a few years ago, or maybe a year ago. And it was like, how do I go through hundreds of blog posts and change this while a reusable block would have made that like a two second job instead of hours of time. So we all wish that was around when, before that change.
Jason: You mentioned, you know, making sure that you're providing things that your audience wants, which makes a lot of intuitive sense. How do you figure out though what your audience actually wants?
Madison: Yeah. So I have a whole podcast episode about this. So I will, I'll give you the link to that and you can put it in the show notes, but basically you have to talk to them.
And that is the thing that like, people are like, wait, what, how would I do that? And there's a couple of different ways that you can do this. I'm kind of starting with the easiest and getting to like the thing that people are kind of afraid to do.
The first way is just, you know, wherever you're kind of active on a platform, whether that's Instagram or Facebook or your email, um, just starting to ask questions, starting to give people a really easy way to answer.
And this is another thing that people, I think forget sometimes is our audience not use Instagram and Facebook, the way that we use it. When you know, we are so I used to like knowing that when someone posts something, they want a response and we give them that response.
But as they, the consumer, most of our audience isn't used to that and they are not as like, they're not engaging as much, so we kind of have to train them. And so you can do things like using Instagram Story Polls and you can do the Questions Box you can. And if you have a Facebook group, like create polls there and make it really easy.
I think sometimes we're like, please tell me what you want. And our audience is like, I have no idea idea what I want. I don't know how to use that.
Exactly. But if you say like, What do you most often cook for dinner? You know, you're going to get a bunch of answers, but it'll, you can sort through those and figure out what's common. Um, or if you say like, I'm thinking about making this recipe, or would you prefer this recipe or this recipe on my site? It'll start to give you ideas.
So that's kind of the first way, and that requires a little bit more detective work because you have to sort of read between the lines of what your audience is telling you. So, you know, if you're looking at your responses and people are saying over and over again, that they want like quick and easy meals, well, what does that tell you about their life? Probably that they're busy, maybe they have little kids or maybe they, you know, have a demanding career and so they just need dinner quickly. It can give you an idea of those things.
The second thing that you can do is to send an email survey to your list. If you have been using your email list enough where your audience buys in and trusts you and will respond, but you can send a survey and get a little bit more deep.
You can ask things about what they're struggling with, or, you know, what would make dinner, prep easier for you? Questions like that. Again, don't just ask them, what do you want from me? Because even the people who are your most loyal fans probably don't know how to answer that question in a way that is going to actually be helpful to you.
Uh, but that's a really great way to get insight as well. And that's a great way to also get like demographic insight, um, which I, I think it's important. I think it's important to know your, the general demographics, but I think people get really stuck in that and it usually doesn't matter whether somebody's coming to your site as 30 or 40. It's not going to change the overall way that you speak to them. If they're 20 or 60. Yeah, that's a big difference. But so that can help you with demographics and things like that.
And then my favorite way, which is the way that I get a lot of push-back on is getting on the phone with your audience. So obviously this is not going to be like hundreds of people, but put it out there on whatever platform you're on and say, I'm looking to interview 3 to 5 people from my audience to figure out like how I can better serve you.
You're going to have those people who are obsessed with you and they're going to say, yes, please. I would love to talk to you. Or you can say like, I give you my free ebook or, you know, I'll give you my payday book for free or I'll sign a copy of a cookbook and send it to you. Or, you know, there's a lot of ways that you can make it work for them or make it worth their time.
But the insight that you're going to get from those 3 to 5 conversations is like years worth of insight that you wouldn't have gotten otherwise. Um, and again, you have to read the line in between the lines on those too, because they're not all going to say the same thing. So you have to figure out what's common between these answers and what are they really telling me with their answers.
But that, yeah, I did that before I hosted my summit. I did a virtual summit back in March. And doing that with 3 to 5 people gave me so much insight into what people were struggling with and needing for the summit.
And so at the same is true for your audience. Like you can do that from, with consumers as well. You're just going to get so much information from those little conversations.
Jason: I think too, the more kind of hurdles you make someone go through to communicate with you, you know, versus, you know, swipe, you know which recipe, left or right. Or, you know, fill out this survey or let me get on the phone and talk with you. Like you get the harder it is for them, the more valuable information you're going to get. Because the someone that takes time to fill out a survey and writes 2 paragraphs in the box, like they feel strongly about that problem that they're having. Versus someone that said, Oh yeah, I'd love a chicken parm recipe and, and clicked on the screen.
And if they're like, yeah, I have a problem that I want to get on the phone and talk to you about. That's someone who has a big problem that if you solve it, it's going to be a big deal. Versus someone that's just like, Oh yeah, you know, took 2 seconds to fill out a quick poll or something. I have found that it's very helpful, judging it kind of on how, how much effort did they put through to share that information with you?
Madison: Yeah, exactly. And you know, again, you're not going to have as many people reply to a call for like, you know, get on an interview with me kind of thing as you will, someone just replying to your polls, but yeah. When you're, it's just someone that replying to your polls, like it could be anybody, you have no clue who that person is.
And like, if they're even the right person for you. So it's, it's a lot harder to make those strategic decisions with sort of that surface level information. But it is a good way to start, and it is a good way to, um, to start training your audience, to reply to you. Because I think we're all just dying for people to actually engage with our content and, you know, respond to us. And so sometimes we have to start small before we can get them on a call.
But, you know, look through your DMS and look through the people who are always replying to your story or the people who always reply to your emails. Those are the people who are going to be willing to do this for you. And. You can get them a $10 Starbucks gift card, and they're going to feel so loved that you just like took that time to spend with them.
Um, you know, the, with the survey, the thing, I always tell people too, if you're going to start doing something like that, make sure that you have the time to like reply to people and thank them, because there's nothing worse than like, helping somebody and you hear nothing back. So make sure you, you know, you're trying to build loyal fans here, not like alienate people by not being a nice person.
Jason: And I think you'd be, if you do that, you'll be shocked by how excited people are when you write back. It's it is amazing. They're like, oh, you, you are out there reading emails and it's
Madison: You're a real person.
Jason: Yeah, it really helps forge that kind of connection between, between you and your fans.
Madison: Yeah, it really, really does.
Jason: I do a lot on, um, Facebook groups. Like if you want to, if it's not your specific audience, but audience kind of in your general niche, you can go on different Facebook groups and see what questions are people asking time and time again. And if you can find it solutions to those questions, especially within your more focused niche, it's a great way to create content that people are actively looking for right now.
Madison: Yeah. I actually recommend to my clients, it like in terms of SEO, like going through the comments of posts that are kind of similar to yours and seeing the questions people are asking. Or, you know, if you have someone ask the question in one of your posts, making sure that you answer that kind of question. You know, sometimes you're going to get the one-off questions.
But if you get someone asking something maybe like basic to you, chances are there's a lot of other people asking that same question or, you know, wanting to ask. So use that as like golden information from your audience that will really help you to produce better content, because I think that's. You know, again, that's part of the problem with like the hustle, you know, on the bridge of burnout kind of mentality is, you know, you're just trying to produce more and more content instead of focusing on better content.
And so, yeah, like you said, doing your research, doing that market research is, can be so invaluable for you.
Jason: I was getting frustrated for a while there, I was getting a lot of emails, which is good that my readers were writing in, but then trying to also create guides and, um, recipes and it was becoming a little overwhelming.
And I kind of had that switch at some point that was like, I literally have people writing into me and I'm frustrated at trying to put together like a paragraph to send to them. And I've now started just being like, you know, here's a paragraph summary and here's a blog post that I just wrote going into a lot of details on it.
And it kind of like, I could use that as research and in forming my, um, my blog. And now when other people would write in, you know, 2 months later with the same question, I'd be like, Oh, I have a great post that covers everything that you're asking about. And that's been a really helpful way to kind of streamline what I'm doing.
Madison: Yeah. I think I heard it from someone at some point that if somebody, if you have your audience asking you something 3 times that you know, you should have like, Probably not a course on it, but it should be a blog post. Or it should be something where you do have, maybe it's even just like a canned response, you know, in gmail where you just have a template that you send people, but something that makes it easier for you.
Um, I think that's awesome you were able to turn that into content, because like I said, they're not the only people asking that question. They're just the only people that, you know, wanted to know badly enough to respond to your email. But there's probably other people out there who want to know that. And you're going to look like the, not even just look like, but you are going to stand out as the expert that you are in your field when you're able to provide helpful content.
And, you know, going back to what we were talking about earlier about like your audience doesn't need another recipe. I think again, food bloggers are so afraid of sharing content that isn't a recipe, but sometimes your audience needs those like primary steps before they're ready to make a recipe.
You know, maybe they need to stock their kitchen first, or maybe they don't I know how to chop an onion. Like again, that's something that as a food blogger you could do in your sleep probably, but your audience is not like that. They may not know how to peel a vegetable or how to do something. And so really figuring out who your audience is.
Again, you can't. If you don't know who your audience is and you talk to them that way, and they're all like, you know, professional chefs that is obviously going to create some disconnect. So you have to know who you're talking to so that you can provide your content in a way that's digestible for them and helps them, you know, like to really, to really benefit them.
You have to help them overcome that struggle. And even if that struggle is just being able to make a recipe the first time without, you know, an error or without getting frustrated, you're going to be like a hero in their book because you don't know what kind of day they had. You know, they don't want to come to a recipe and have it fail. Like we have that happen to us in our house all the time. And it's never fun. So the more you can set your readers up for success, the more they're going to trust you and come back.
Jason: I think as food bloggers, we really, and ex-domain experts we've run into a big problem, which is we don't know how much we know. And what we take for granted people, the people we're writing for don't realize that.
And I do a lot of like getting started guides for sous vide or modernist cooking and whipping siphons and making spheres at home. A bunch of really weird stuff that I kind of go into some of the technical aspects of. But sometimes I forget about the basic techniques. And I had, I was teaching a hands-on class in my house, which another way to find out what questions people have stand there and have them try to follow your recipes in person, it's very eye-opening.
And so we went through this whipping siphon, recipe to make, um, it was like a mango foam to put on a cocktail. And it's like a pressurized canister kind of like a whipped cream dispenser. And. I was talking about like how the pressure works and just like how the cavitation in the foam happens. And they're like, Oh, very cool. And so they put it out and they blew it all over the wall because they were aiming at the wrong direction.
I was like all this talk and I didn't explain that you were supposed to turn it upside down when you pull the trigger. Like the most basic thing and never even crossed my mind that I had to explain that. But it's a recurring theme that I've come to learn.
Madison: Yeah. And it's such a hard thing, especially when it's a recipe that you have made so many times. You know, maybe it's a family favorite that you're then having to go back and like find the right ingredients for, and the right like process for. It's so hard to remember those little details.
But I, my husband always talks about how he wants to be like a recipe critic because he finds all of those little things. So if anyone wants that, just let me know and he will definitely be willing to do that. But it's, it's crazy how, you know, second nature things are for us. And, you know, being people that enjoy food and enjoy cooking, we just, you know, like you said, our level of knowledge is just in a different spot and it doesn't mean that your audience is, you know, any worse than you, they're just in a different phase. And they probably don't, you know, make this recipe all the time. So this is their first time trying to make it and yeah, nobody likes wasted food. So if you can help them be successful, they're going to be very happy.
Jason: I think in conjunction with that, like as food bloggers, we are on our blogs all the time and we know where everything is on our blog and the articles we have and how it's structured.
And I feel like having another pair of eyes, especially an expert like you coming in and saying here is like, where are you trying to accomplish? And now how can we design your website around that? You know? So someone that doesn't know your website can figure that out. How do you go about approaching that when you work with food bloggers?
Madison: So I'm sure it will surprise you that the first thing I do is figuring out like that brand strategy and who their audience is. Because again, you know, you have to know, I have so many different examples of choices that we've made for different clients, where that never would have been what they wanted or what they kind of chose, but because their audience was very specific and like, we want to be able to browse your content this way. That's the choice that we made.
And. Like you said, we're so close to our sites. And I actually, I like to say that one of the things I think people should do is what I call like the grandma test, where you like pull up your website and it doesn't have to be a grandma, but it's just, my grandma would be perfect for this job. But, you know, just watch somebody else go through your site because you might be shocked by what they can't find or what they go to.
Um, there's also another tool, it's not as fun is having your grandma do it, but it's called Hotjar. Have you heard of it? Yeah. So Hotjar, for those of you don't know, it's basically a software that you can add to your site which will let you see a heat map of your website to see where people are clicking.And it also has a secondary feature where you can actually watch people. Like not them, you can't see their face, but you can see their screen and how they're navigating your website.
And so usually before I do like a web design project, I tell people to install that and watch it for, I think it gives you up to like, I can't remember, but it's a pretty high page view threshold. You can get a lot of data from it. But just see what people are clicking on, because you might think, Oh, I have to have these sidebar buttons because people use these all the time. And then you realize like nobody actually clicks those ever. It's like, it's wasted space. It'd be better to put that somewhere else where they could find it. Or, you know, you might think that people want to browse your content by a certain, you know, a certain way in reality what they just want is, you know, XYZ.
So, um, figuring out, like how do people use my site now? Or like, what is the biggest pain point people have? I know like for a long-time people didn't have, and some people still don't have like a search bar on mobile. And as we've realized that, you know, mobile content or more mobile page views are so high in such a high percentage of your audience, you know, people have to be able to find that.
And again, it's like you have that split second of like, does this website work for me or not? And that's the first kind of thing that people look for, especially if it's something like a broken pin or you know, they click off to the homepage and then they can't find what they were looking for. Again, we're like very technical in the way that we use our sites and most people are not.
So yeah, I think it's really figuring out, like, how do people want to use your site and then making sure that you deliver that. And you know, there's going to be some things where your audience might tell you one thing and you're like, I really don't want to do that, that does not work for me. And that's okay, but you have to make that decision strategically knowing both sides of the equation.
Rather than just saying well, so, and so blog did this and so I'm going to do that because I like it. It's like, okay. That's, that's fine. But what does your audience think? And. Is that going to be something that serves them and eventually, you know, increases your page views and increases your audience, you know, your subscribed subscriptions from your email list, all of those things come from those strategic decisions on your website.
Jason: I think it's interesting because a lot of us do want our users to do something, whether that's sign up for a mailing list or, you know, click through to like recipes, you know, guide like whatever you want them to do and we just assume they're built to figure it out.
And in my previous life, before I was a food blogger, I did a website development. And at ESPN, we did a ton of usability testing. And you would come up with a list of tasks and you'd have strangers come in, you know, and say like, okay, Go through this list of tasks. And it would be like, you know, sign in as you know, to the fantasy games and they would not be able to figure it out and you're like, this person's an idiot. And then you'd bring in the next person and they couldn't figure it out. You're like 2 idiots in a row. And by like the fifth person, you're like, okay, we're the idiots, it's not them. Like, it's, it's just, we know how it works. So we know that like, yeah, you clicked the small link up here and then down there and then like type in a secret code and it works.
Madison: Exactly. Yeah. It's totally muscle memory. That's funny.
Jason: So if people are interested in getting more information from you, they can go to GraceandVineStudios.com?
Madison: Yes, that is the site. And I also have my podcast, which is called the Vine Podcast. So if you liked what we talked about here and you'll, you know, you love the idea of doing things more strategically and like less just for randomness sake and you know, with more purpose behind it, then I would love to have you check out the podcast as well.
Jason: And you also offer consulting and website design and a host of other great services taking advantage of your expertise. So anyone needs help with anything that we just talked about, make sure to check out Madison's stuff and she'll be sure to get you running ship shape in no time.
Madison: Yeah. And with that being said, too, I wanted to mention that I do have a branding workbook that is a freebie that I give people. And, you know, so if, when we were talking about things like your niche and your audience and brand messaging, if you're like, I have none of that, I don't know what that is, you know, or I'm kind of foggy on some of these things. This workbook is going to walk you through each of those steps.
I think there's either 4 or 5 steps to the process. Um, and this is almost the exact thing that I walk my clients through. And so basically, but what, before I'm going to design a logo or design a web site. This is the strategy and the foundation that I help my clients uncover. And so, um, I'm going to add that to my website. It'll be under GraceandVineStudios.com/bacon. And I will give you that link too, to put in the show notes.
So if you're curious about that and you know, if you want to have more confidence in your brand strategy and your brand identity, then I would highly recommend checking that out.
Jason: Well, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your expertise. I learned a lot, hopefully everyone else did as well. So I really appreciate it.
Madison: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
Jason: This has been Makin' Bacon, all about helping you serve your fans, grow your income, and get the most out of your blog.
Until next time, I'm Jason. Logsdon.