I am back with round two of Blogging and Biz! This time, I pulled some questions from the comments and am going to answer Q&A Style. Without further ado, let’s get rolling!
1. When did you start blogging and how did you get into it?
I started blogging in October of October of 2010. At the time I was a Junior at The University of Minnesota. It all began because I had a difficult time finding people in college who genuinely liked working out and eating healthy. Healthy living was how I grew up thanks to my mom and dad, so it was a bit of a culture shock when I got to college. I found I had more in common with the bloggers I followed online than people at school, so with a little push from my sister…I started my blog with the intent of “showing college students they could easily eat healthy and workout while in school.”
2. How has your blog transformed over the years?
This is a great question. FFF started out as CFF: College Foodie Finds. My plan was to go to different restaurants and tell people what healthy items they should order off of the menu. LOL. That lasted for about -5 days. About 6 months into blogging, I realized I should purchase my domain name and that I actually really enjoyed blogging. That’s when I thought to myself: what if I’m still blogging when I graduate college? …I better change the name now JUST in case! It was the best decision I ever made!
At the beginning of FFF, I posted a lot of my workouts and “recipes” weren’t really a main focus. It wasn’t until I got my first freelance job with Anytime Fitness (through Twitter ←-OMG I know!), that I realized recipe creation was my niche. Things slowly progressed into me LOVING the whole process of designing a recipe, making it, styling it, photographing it, etc. I am a self taught photographer, but the more I practiced, the better I got. I also found, the better my photos, the more shares, likes, comments, etc. my posts got, which is really rewarding as a blogger. Here is the evolution of the FFF header/logo.
That brings us to where we are today. FFF mainly focuses on recipe creation and food photography. One of my goals is to bring back fitness in 2014. So stay tuned for more workouts and fitness talk (and a really cool opportunity that I can’t announce just yet!) :)
3. What are the key to having a successful blog?
Man this is a loaded question! I guess you first have to figure out what success means to you. Is that pageviews, comments, likes, shares, etc. For me “success” is helping people live healthy. I love seeing reader photos of their FFF recipes and hearing from readers. Because a lot of my work is doing recipes and photos for brands, having a solid readership is also important to my success. With that said…here are some tips:
- Clean Layout + Beautiful Imagery: I think one of the reasons why my blog is where it is today is because of it’s clean layout and beautifully photographed recipes. People eat with their eyes and then their mouths. Because I focus mostly on recipes, it’s important that the reader is sucked in by the looks of what I am sharing.
- Branding/Style: I think it’s important to develop a brand and stick to it. You may notice that I use certain fonts on FFF repeatedly. This is on purpose. I also have a certain style of photography. This is on purpose. I want someone to see a photo and know its mine without clicking on the link. I am not IN LOVE with the branding of my site or it’s functionality, so sometime in the future I forsee a bigger re-brand.
- Social Media: Creating amazing content is one thing, but you HAVE to share it. Building your social media following on multiple platforms is extremely important. This is where people notice your work. After I post a recipe I tweet it multiple times, share it on facebook, Instagram it, submit it to Foodgawker and Tastespotting, and pin it on Pinterest. You NEED to be your biggest cheerleader. The more places you share, the more of a chance you have of being noticed. If you scroll down to question #5, I go more in depth on Social Media.
- Consistency: Yes. This one is important. Posting on a consistent basis is extremely critical to the success of a blog. If you post and share and post and share your readership will grow.
- Be professional: You never know who is watching. Always make sure you are professional…in your writing, on social media, and even in real life.
- Authenticity: This is hands down the most important. Be authentic. Be you. It’s so important. I said this in #5, but you never ever know who is watching or what kind of opportunity can come from a blog post.
4. How do you expand your readership?
I am amazed at how fast some blogs grow! Like thousands of readers over night! Fit Foodie Finds is a little over 3 years old and it’s taken 3 years of consistent hard work to bring my readership to where it is today! I often get asked about how many views I get and how I got so many. I am pretty open about talking numbers (as you know), so I share my stats with them- about 200,000 pageviews or 100,000 unique visitors per month PLUS a long winded answer that usually jumbles these 4 things together into one very long sentence:
1. Pretty/High Quality Content is Key– It’s true…if you want to gain more followers, the quality of content you post is extremely important. FFF is a photo-based blog, so the better my photos, the more pageviews I get. I’ve experienced this first hand as I’ve practiced my butt off to learn new photography techniques, how to edit photos, how to put text on my photos, etc.
The better looking my photos, the more shares they get on social media.
Maybe your blog is more fitness related and you share workouts, then I would suggest working on the images you design, making them easy to read, pretty, and pinnable!
2. Social Media is your best friend- Having awesome content is one thing, but sharing it is another! I spend almost as much time sharing content on social media as I do crafting a recipe and a blog post! After my blog post has been posted (which I like to schedule out early in the morning around 1AM), I follow a social media routine and schedule out social shares using the scheduling feature on each site…
- Pin onto pinterest multiple times, at different times of the day especially AM and PM and on Saturday and Sunday mornings (unfortunately there is no schedule feature)
- Share on twitter multiple times
- Post onto facebook (make sure you share an IMAGE)
- Share on instagram (no schedule feature)
- Post my blog post link inside the Fitfluential Facebook Group and the Minnesota Blogger’s Facebook group, so others in my communities will share as well.
After I have shared my content on all of my channels, I then submit my food photos to Foodgawker and Tastespotting. These two sites are like Pinterest, but strictly for food A couple times, my photos have gone viral on Foodgawker sending me thousands of views, which is AWESOME!
So long story short, take time to not only create high quality content, but to share the crap out of it!
3. Be yourself- People want to read about YOU. They want to see your personality shine through your posts. Don’t be afraid to share photos of yourself, share your deepest darkest secrets (jk), share real-life personal stories of yourself, and share your opinion! The internet is like a blank slate- you are free to be who you are!
4. Befriend other Bloggers- This is huge. Go out and meet some other bloggers that have similar interests. It doesn’t have to be in real life…it will most likely be through social media. The more influencers you have cheering you on, the better! There’s sort of this secret rule where I share your content, and then you share my content.
Not only is it nice to have other bloggers share you content, but to be able to use them as a support system. Ask them their tricks of the trade, how they did this, and how they did that. So go make some friends! You probably already know this but heree are my blogger besties: Kelly | Davida | Lexi
5. How do you grow your social media platforms?
Great question! I think there is something to be said about an engaging social media following compared to a giant social media following. Now, we all have our own perception of what is a big following and I consider my following more engaging than giant. I don’t have hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, but they are engaged and the numbers are steadily increasing! I’m going to break down what I do on a daily basis to grow my social media following.
- Facebook: Facebook has been a roller coaster due to the recent algorithm changes for business pages. First it was important to share photos, then it was text based posts, and now it’s links. What do I post? All of it! I like to mix up my facebook posts and share a little bit of everything because in all honesty, no one really knows what is going on with facebook. Just think- what would you share on facebook? That’s the goal right- to share something with your audience that they will like and share with their friends. I like to share photos from my most recent recipe, Instagram photos, teaser photos, and Behind the Scenes-type photos. I also frequently ask questions, which urges the viewer to interact and engage with me, which will get my post on their friend’s newsfeeds.
- Twitter: Twitter is a platform that I feel like I’m growing out of/don’t utilize as much as I should. At one point my Twitter following was increasing quite rapidly because I was joining conversations, following like-minded individuals, and tweeting frequently. Today- I am more engaged with photo-based platforms, because that’s what I see drives a lot of traffic to me!
- Instagram: Instagram is my newest social media platform and definitely most engaging! I only have about 2,500 followers, but I feel like I know them all because we follow each other and comment on each other’s photos. I use IG as more of a behind the scenes look at FFF. I also use it for more Fitness related content…you know, posting selfies, workouts, etc. I’ve done some research on how to grow your IG following and all I can say is HASHTAG IT UP. People use the search function on IG like it’s their job because they want to find similar IGers. So what hashtags do I most commonly use? —-> #fitfluential (duh) #igfood #instafood #igfitness #fitness #cleaneats #glutenfree
- Pinterest: Pinterest is all about the photo: the composition, the lighting, the text you place over it, etc. It’s also about WHEN you post. I’ve read a lot of different articles on Pinterest (this one in particular is AMAZING) and most of them say to post early in the morning, late at night, and on the weekends. Just think- when are most people on Pinterest? When are people most likely going to be repinning what you are pinning? It’s also important that you are not only posting your own content, but mixing in other high quality content that you find from around the web. I’d have to say that Pinterest is my most important social media platform not only for sharing my content, but to get inspired! Are you following me yet?
6. Sponsored Posts- do you charge?
The way I look at “sponsored posts” is marketing for brands. There’s no better way for readers to learn about new products and services than through blogs…because they TRUST US. I remember reading Tina’s blog from Carrots n Cake in college, and she used to talk about Barney Butter all the time. Well- I bought Barney Butter because that’s what Tina recommended!
So, absolutely, I charge.
When I first started blogging, I was rather timid and overall just really excited to get anything for free. I never even thought twice about doing a “sponsored post” for compensation. Thennnnnn I became a part of the Fitfluential community. This is where I learned a about business, and creating value for yourself and your blog, and professionalism.
Just think about it…If I (or you) have a potential 100,000 different sets of eye balls looking at my blog each month and put anywhere from 4-6 hours of my time into each recipe post + social media sharing, shouldn’t I get compensated? Yes. You should be compensated for your work and NOT JUST through product.
What you charge is most definitely up to you. I sort of developed my own formula for what I charge based on the specific project I am doing (whether it is a recipe to be put on my site, a recipe to be put on their site, a workout, a review, etc.). I try and stay away from classic reviews and do most of my sponsored posts through recipe creation (using the actual product inside a recipe). With this said, recipes take a lot of time to develop, style, photograph, edit, share, etc. The way I have formulated my pricing is based off of a combination of an hourly rate and my readership.
Through my experiences working with different brands, I have noticed that pageviews and unique visitors matter. I’ve also concluded that the higher the numbers, the more money brands are willing to pay you. For a sponsored recipe post I charge anywhere from $200 – $600 depending on the deliverables. As my numbers go up, so will my prices.
This brings me into the next question…GLAM.
7. How do you get the Glam sponsored post opportunities?
When I first started charging for my sponsored posts, I used my sponsored rate at GLAM as a benchmark- $150.00. They gave me the rate when I first signed with them based off of my pageviews and unique visitors.
As for getting Glam Sponsored Post Opportunities…that is a good question. I work with the Bliss and Foodie sectors of GLAM and they present opportunities to me, which I then apply for. I’ve done a handful of campaigns with them and have only gotten rejected from one or two. To be quite honest, I am not sure how you get chosen. It probably has to do with how your website looks, the content you are creating, your photography, and ultimately what the CLIENT wants…Are you a good fit?
You are more than welcome to reach out to GLAM and ask them how bloggers are chosen to participate in their campaigns!
8. What are your traffic sources?
I’m not sure what life was like before Pinterest. Pinterest is the traffic source that has really helped gain viewership. This past month I got about 25% of my visitors or 30,000 visitors from Pinterest. Each of these visitors had an average of 1.5 pages per visit, which would equate to about 45,000 page views just from Pinterest alone. My next highest traffic source is Google/Search Engines at about 22% and then Direct views (people typing fitfoodiefinds.com in their web browser) at about 19%. All together these 3 sources add up to about 72% of my views, which is pretty standard monthly.
This past month I had one of my recipes (Bacon Baked Eggs) linked to on Buzzfeed, which sent me nearly 15,000 unique visitors, which was really cool to see! Other common traffic sources include Foodgawker, Facebook, Different Microsites (blogs), and other websites that link back to me.
9. What is your next step with your blog? Where do you hope to see it in a few years from now?
This is something that I think about EVERY single day. I think my next step for Fit Foodie Finds (this year at least) is to just keep doing what I am doing. I’d love to grow my readership by at least 25% this year. I also want to launch my first e-book. I have big dreams for what FFF could be one day. The Tone It Up girls inspire me like no other and so does Martha Stewart and her entire brand. I want FFF to be more than just recipes, but a lifestyle brand- clothing line, kitchen line, cook books, etc….I’ve thought of it all and one day I’ll make it happen ;)