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Episode 189: Optimizing Old Blog Content with Chef Dennis Littley

In episode 189, we talk with Dennis Littley, seasoned food blogger and chef, about optimizing old content with a simple process.

We cover information about how Google Analytics can help you decide where to focus, how to come up with a system to get through some mindless tasks and how to use the tools at hand to get your older content to shine online!

Listen on the player below or on iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast player. Or scroll down to read a full transcript.


Guest Details

Connect with Ask Chef Dennis
Website | Instagram | Facebook

Bio
Chef Dennis is a Food Blogger, Chef, Social Media Enthusiast & Travel Blogger. He loves sharing his Restaurant-Style Recipes and will help his friends find the joy of cooking!

Takeaways

  • Use Google analytics to help you focus on content that is already performing well so you can spruce it up even more.
  • Determine if each post has the proper keywords written into it and get your content updated one by one. Also focus on adding alt-text.
  • Pick a number – 5 or 10 and focus on improving that many posts a night. Eventually the tweaks to the post will just be effortless and repeat, repeat.
  • A call to action should be added to each post. You can create a reusable block with Gutenberg to do this.
  • Google will only crawl so many of your posts so uncheck those that are not worth having Google look at.
  • Swap out poor photography and add in better shots as well as consider using ingredient shots and process shots. Chef Dennis uses 8-10 photographs per post to accomplish all this.
  • Photo collages are a great way to combine a few photographs but not overwhelm the reader. You can use Canva to accomplish this.
  • Social media is a billboard.
  • If you have a task you don’t like to do, hire someone to do it and you can focus on the tasks that make money.

Want More Resources?

Join Lauryn Piemonte and Jake Poses on episode 161 to learn how Jumprope can help you grow your audience.

Transcript

Click for full text.

Intro:

Welcome to Eat Blog Talk, where food bloggers come to get their fill of the latest tips, tricks, and insights into the world of food blogging. If you feel that hunger for information, we’ll provide you with the tools you need to add value to your blog. And we’ll also ensure you’re taking care of yourself, because food blogging is a demanding job. Now, please welcome your host, Megan Porta.

Megan Porta:

Are you a motivated food blogger, striving to meet financial or freedom goals? If so, then the Eat Blog Talk membership is for you. Take a journey with like-minded peers that will bring you past the overwhelm and straight into the arms of clarity. You will have direct access to guest experts, delivering massive amounts of value into your business. You will have the opportunity to participate in monthly strategy calls, focusing on different aspects of food blogging. And most importantly, you will be part of a tight knit supportive and encouraging family filled with people just like you. Visit eatblogtalk.com for more information. The rest of us can not wait to see you inside.

Hey, food bloggers. Welcome to Eat Blog Talk. This podcast is for you, food bloggers, wanting value and clarity to help you find greater success in your business. Today. I am so honored to have chef Dennis Littley here with me from askchefdennis.com and we are going to dive into the topic of optimizing old blog posts. Chef Dennis is a food blogger, chef, social media enthusiast, and travel blogger. He loves sharing his restaurant style recipes and helps his friends find the joy of cooking. Dennis, you are like an old friend to me. I feel like I’ve known you forever. We were just talking before we started recording and I feel it’s been like 10 years, but kind of feels like a hundred years. So I am just glad to have you here with me today. But first, before we dive into this topic, I, as well as everyone else wants to hear what your fun fact is.

Dennis Littley:

Oh, my fun fact. I wrestled collegiate and Greco-Roman and freestyle for almost 30 years. That’s my fun fact.

Megan:

Okay. Tell me more about that. How did you get into that and what does that mean?

Dennis:

Well, when I say those styles, I won’t don’t want people to think I was like a WWE wrestler. I wasn’t diving off the ropes with a mask on, although some days that sounded like it could have been fun. But no, I started wrestling when I was 13 and went on through my high school career and, a little bit in college and there was not a lot left after that. So I started doing AAU wrestling and it wasn’t what I was used to. It was called freestyle. Freestyle was a completely different animal and it changed over the years, and then I learned a little Greco-Roman and another style called Samba, which was with a judo jacket and was extremely difficult. But yeah, it was something I did. I coached it for almost as long as I wrestled and I was an official. Worked my way up through the ranks as an official for AAU tournaments and getting the Olympic athletes ready. I competed in a few qualifiers myself, but was never quite at that level to actually compete in the Olympics or even get close. But I enjoyed it. I had a lot of fun.

Megan:

That’s so cool. I see a theme with you. So you get into certain things and you really dive into them. You are a chef. I know that you really are passionate about that and food blogging as well. You’ve been like a really good resource for food bloggers for so many years and wrestling that obviously you liked it if you did it for 30 years on some level too.

Dennis:

I had a good time with that. I met a lot of really, really nice people and you’ll meet nice people, no matter what you do, you just have to weed out the ones that aren’t too nice.

Megan:

That is so true. That’s great advice. Well, you’re here today to talk about optimizing old blog posts, you and I both have layers and layers of content sitting in our archives. I am in the process of going through mine right now. I made a decision, it was probably a year ago to stop creating the new until I started going through the old and kind of getting a handle on everything I had. I feel like I had just built up so much garbage over the years and I wasn’t paying attention to it. So now I’m just finally getting to the point where I’m like, okay, I need to take care of this stuff before I move on and make new stuff. I’m sure you can relate to that. So I’m excited to learn from you because I know you have kind of a process that you go through. So I guess the first question is where do we even start with this? Especially for older bloggers like you and me, how do we prioritize which posts we even focus on first?

Dennis:

I always tell people to start with Google analytics. The best place to start is with your posts that are already performing well. That might not be where you would think, but if your posts are performing well, you want to try and pump them up a little and get more out of them. Blogging has changed on how we write blogs, what we include in the blogs. I mean, we used to have to have a story with everything and now people don’t want the stories, they just want the recipe. You just gotta have a “jump to” recipe button, but it doesn’t mean you still can’t inflect a little of your personality in it. If they don’t want it, that’s too damn bad because it’s your blog and you need to write in a voice that you’re comfortable with.

So don’t let people talk you out of that. But that being said, there is a format you kind of want to follow and I’ve learned all this through trial and error and refusing to make changes and then finally going, okay, I see what you’re talking about. One of my best resources, I don’t know if you know Mr. Casey Markee he is just an exceptional person and always there to help. He’s done a lot for me and dragging me, kicking and screaming sometimes, but you know, making me make some changes. You go to Google analytics and what I did, there’s been so many changes over the last few years of what Google wants, what they want to see and what you need to add to it, that it can be mind-boggling. One of the first things I did before I even started updating the posts was I went to them and I went through Google analytics and I started making sure that all the keywords were in there, that I had my other descriptions in for the people that can’t see, Oh my God, what do we call those?

Megan:

The Alt-Text?

Dennis:

The alt-text was just whatever you were making was. We didn’t know any better. Then somebody says, Oh, they’re for the blind. So they can hear what you’re writing. I’m like, Oh, that makes a whole lot of sense. So, I started with alt-text, descriptions, keywords, and making sure that my recipes were all converted because most recipe cards have those conversion tools in them. Then everything was kind of laid out going through your Google search console. So that was the first step. The first step in optimizing them somewhat to get them to perform a little better. What I did was I went through 10 a night and I had kind of a pattern of what I would update, a call to action. That was something I never had in any of my posts, and I would put in the keywords, a call to action, check the recipe card and I would get all that set up and make sure the alt-text was right. Then I’d move on to another post. I would do 10 a night, nothing overwhelming. I would do them with my laptop on my lap while I was watching TV. Just try and take a little bite out of the elephant at a time and I ended up doing close to 300 posts that way. It took a long time.

Megan:

Oh my gosh, that is so inspiring. Okay. I need to come up with a process like that because I’m all about processes and doing what you’re saying, but I’ve never had that big of a goal to do 10 a night. So you’re saying you took like really bite sized pieces of it. So for example, focusing on keyword description and alt-texts for 10 posts a night. So you did that first?

Dennis:

Does everybody have a call to action? It’s amazing how many people will actually leave you a comment if you ask them t. If you enjoyed this post, please let me know. I love hearing from you. Then you also put in your social media tags. So with Gutenberg, you can make a reusable block that you can just pull up, call to action all the time and just pop it in. That’s another good thing to do, while you’re going through your top posts, convert them over to blocks and believe me, I was very hesitant and I started learning it and I went, Oh, this isn’t difficult at all.

Megan:

It actually makes your life easier, right. Using the Gutenberg block box.

Dennis:

Oh my goodness, yeah. Although remember to convert the block to a regular block, because I wasn’t doing that at first. It was changing all my blocks to the same thing, which was making me crazy for a while. It took about 10 posts to figure that out because it would just keep changing them. It doesn’t have to be 10. Maybe your goal is five and you can take weekends off. It doesn’t have to be every day or maybe Monday through Thursday, but start taking bites out of that elephant and working on your posts that are already performing well. So you’re not really affecting them too much. You’re not changing the pictures. If you’re in there and you see something that shouldn’t be there anymore, if you want to pop out a story that was just way too long or if you’re feeling really enthused about it, you might break up your paragraphs a little bit more because we used to write in one big block so that you have add space too. Little things and once you get used to the flow of doing it, then it’s just repeat, it’s just repeat and then repeat and you just do it. It becomes almost mindless to a point.

Megan:

I’m with you. I’ve been on the same journey over the years where I will go in. Your 10 a night is so inspiring. I’ve never done that, but I will go into a post and do certain things over and over, like you mentioned, adding alt-texts to the images and you’re right after a while it becomes something that you really don’t even have to think about. I could sit in the evening and next to my fire and my hubby and do it without even thinking about it. So this is super inspiring me because I need to get through my garbage, there’s so much. So I need a process. That will help me, I know, a ton.

Dennis:

I tell you the first thing I did too was, we wrote some really or I did anyway. I wrote some really bad posts when I first started.

Megan:

I’m with you.

Dennis:

Then I also wrote some that I would hope never saw the light of day, some sponsored posts, just some things that really didn’t make sense anymore. So I went in and I got rid of them because another thing is, Google gives you so much room to crawl. If you have, I think I had 800 posts at the time, they’re not going to crawl them all. So you’re going to get some and then maybe next month it’ll do some more. So by weeding out the ones that you really don’t need crawled anymore and you don’t have to delete them. You can uncheck them from being searched, from unsearched, if you want to. I was very happy just to get rid of them. So I got rid of them. BIt is a matter of prioritizing what you want Google to see too. So cleaning out some of your old content or putting it into draft again so that you can fix it later. If it was something that gets traffic, don’t. You’ll be amazed if you go all the way down, as far as Google analytics will go to see that you’re getting one hit during the year,

Megan:

Not worth it.

Dennis:

So get rid of it, move on or maybe save the idea. If the concept is good, save it, put it in a draft, save it. Very likely your title was bad. It had contained too many words. I look back and see what I call some of the blog links, and they’re just really too long. They tell you now to get specific so your keywords are in there. My keywords weren’t always in there. If it’s doing well, leave it alone, don’t touch it. Don’t redirect it, don’t do anything. But if it’s something you can rewrite, that’s something to think about too. But you know, Google analytics is your friend and that’s kind of what you want to start leaning on to build up your posts.

Megan:

So it’s like weeding a garden, right? You’re pulling out all the bad stuff so you can allow the vegetables and the pretty flowers to grow. If you keep the weeds in there, there’s no guaranteeing that the flowers and vegetables will grow because weeds take over everything.

Dennis:

Sure. They take the nutrients, they take away from what you’re trying to show. So it just makes for a better all around appearance of your blog too. This is your property. This is your business. So you want your business to shine.

Megan:

Yeah, definitely. What are your thoughts about images? Because I have some doozy images in my archives that are really embarrassing and I just pray that no one ever goes back and looks at them. So how do you determine which ones to reshoot and how do you add that into your process?

Dennis:

That’s something that I started doing quite a few years ago was reshooting some of my better posts. The pandemic, as bad as it was, it did one really good thing for me. It reminded me that I liked to cook. I had gotten so bogged down with the business of the blog and traveling and social media that we would just go out to eat three or four nights a week. I was too tired or didn’t feel like cooking. With the pandemic, we didn’t leave at all. So, I kinda enjoy doing this. So during that process, I started reshooting a lot of posts and retaking pictures. People tell you don’t touch your unicorn posts. If they’re in one and two positions, be very careful. I think swapping out images isn’t as bad. If you start rewriting the content a lot, you might get in trouble, but I’ve started swapping out a lot of my images. I’m going to tell you something, I probably shouldn’t tell you, but I’ve also started hiring some people to start reshooting some of my posts for me, because there’s only so many hours in the day.

Megan:

I know, I don’t think that’s bad. I think that’s just fine to do that.

Dennis:

It was like I was living under a rock. Someone told me this a couple months ago and I said, there’s what? There’s people that’ll do that? He goes, Oh yeah, yeah, I’ll send you invites to the Facebook group. So through the process that takes some time and you’re going to hit a couple bumps along the way. But you know, you find a couple people that are good at what they do and let them reshoot for you. Then that’s when the whole format of rewriting your post comes into play too, because I have a very specific way of writing a post now for Google to make Google happy. With the images, it makes it really, really easy.

Megan:

So you’re hiring out every reshoot or do you do some or just a select few?

Dennis:

I do some, but everybody has a list. I have a list on my desk and like the same 15 posts that I put on the list that I wanted to reshoot have been there for four months because I was making something new or something else came into mind. So I started farming some of those out. I’ve only done four so far, so it’s just starting as a beginning process for me. What I asked for, a lot of them will want to send you completed images. But what I asked for was just raw files because although someone else is shooting it, I want the image finished with my eye.

Megan:

And I love it. That’s perfect.

Dennis:

Then you tell them, like I had to tell the one person I said, leave me some space, leave me some empty space on the side of the entree or on the side of the plate. I need an open space on either side because that’s how I shoot. Once you tell them that they go, Oh, okay. I don’t shoot a lot of verticals, which I should, but I don’t. So I tell him to give me some verticals and some horizontals, I want my product, the ingredient shot is always horizontal. Just do that for me. You give them specific instructions and most of them are really eager to make you happy. To me, it’s a lot of work for charging, but you know, they’re happy with it. They get a good dinner out of it. That’s the one thing they say is, Oh my God, your recipe was so good. We really enjoyed it. Oh, that’s good. So, in essence, I’m paying for their dinner. Cause you pay for the ingredients, plus whatever they charge you. I guess it’s like going out for them. If you want to think about it that way.

Megan:

I like that you leave room for you to edit their photography. Because that is a really easy way to put your spin on it when you don’t actually have to photograph it. That’s brilliant. I don’t know that I would have ever thought of that.

Dennis:

That was the first thing I said. That’s causing them extra work. So I actually gave them a bonus because they were charging me whether they finished them or not. But I said, nah, just send them to me. Send me more, cause some of them will say, well, how many do you want? I told him like 20 to 30 and they’ll go, Oh, that’s a lot of pictures. I said, I’m not going to use them all. So I might use eight to 10 at the most. They go, Oh, okay. Because I think there’s a problem with them thinking you’re going to use all their images for that price. But I just want to choose, I want something to choose from and to try and pick out the ones that are more my style of shooting. I had one of the guys actually ordered the background that I use, you know? So that was great. I’ll be happy to pay that extra for that if you’re going to shoot with the background, I want so again, making it look a little bit more like your style. These aren’t recipes that I’ve never made. I make them, I know how they go. So I can answer questions when people ask me or say this went wrong. It’s good to see that a complete total stranger can make it and it’ll come out the way it’s supposed to, too.

Megan:

That’s a good point too, giving the recipe to someone and saying, here you go, and if they don’t have issues, if it went seamlessly and they enjoyed it in the end, that is saying a lot about the recipes. So that’s a great point as well. So you mentioned having a template that you use now. I’m sure you’ve done enough. If you do 10 a night or you’ve got it down. Can you talk us through that? Because I find it so fascinating to learn what order and what elements each person adds to their posts. I’m really curious to hear.

Dennis:

Well, the template that I use now is when I write a post. I have kind of updated pretty much. So I write a post and I’ve told people to do this and they go, Oh my God, it’s so much easier that way. I write the recipe, I cook the recipe, I have all the steps out, so I know how it’s supposed to go. So now I decide on what images I’m going to use. So I always start with a little introduction, a couple of sentences to get that keyword up there at the top, and to tell a little bit about it. Then I lead with a picture. So after the picture, I write a little bit more about whatever the picture is and this is something I started with travel blogging, because I didn’t know what to write sometimes.

So I always pop a picture and then I write about the picture. I pop a picture and then I write about the picture. I pop a picture and then I write about the picture. In no time the post has finished. For me the hardest part is the recipe; is writing the recipe and the instructions. That’s what takes the most time. You write the recipe, you test the recipe, you rewrite the recipe and then the instructions and make the instructions clear. So once I started doing that and once I started taking process shots, which I hated doing, and I still hate, but Google loves them. The people that read the posts seem to love them. So, again, I’m trying to get them to like my recipes and we think of things that are really so easy. Why would I write that down?

But to someone that doesn’t cook all the time, it’s not easy. It’s not common. It’s not just, wow. You cut that onion that way, or you added salt there, why would you do that? Well, it’s just the way it does, it becomes automatic for us. So you have to remember that when you’re leaving instructions. Sometimes I’ll find I have too many images of process shots, so then I’ll go into Canva and I’ll make a four picture collage and talk about them. But I try to get eight to 10 shots in every food post now.

Megan:

Oh, wow. So you do okay. So eight to 10 total or eight to 10 process shots?

Dennis:

8-10 total.

Megan:

I like your idea of collages. I don’t do that enough, but that’s a really good idea. If you have a really complicated recipe and you want to show more than three steps, collages are so easy to make in Canva.

Dennis:

Yeah. Then you have that template done. Even putting number one, two, three, and four in the blocks. So then you just throw a picture in and slide a picture in and it’s done. Talking about Gutenberg reusable blocks. I have one that’s called mise en plas and every one of my ingredient lists has this little blurb that I say about, in chefs speak, mise en plas is everything in its place. It’s best to get all your ingredients together ahead of time. I do this when I cook here, I lay them all out because I don’t want to know that I don’t have any basil or I don’t want to know that I don’t have a lemon in the house when I need a lemon to finish a recipe. So by getting all your ingredients out and taking a picture of it, you’re letting the reader see that it’s, maybe you’ve only got six ingredients or eight ingredients. All right. That doesn’t look that difficult. I can do that. I know what those ingredients are. One of them isn’t truffles from the left side of a tree, in a park in the South of France. I don’t know where I’m going to get those. Some people use ingredients that you got no idea in hell, where are you going to find them?

Megan:

I know.

Dennis:

Simple, use basic stuff. You know some of the Asian ingredients are the hardest, but if you direct them to an Asian grocery store, which there are plenty of , they’re easy to find. But the collages make it easy. If you have an overabundance of photos, like some things are steps just as there’s a lot of steps. If you started adding every image and it would just get too tedious. So the collage lets them see it. Under the collage it’ll have the four steps or more, sometimes more that are involved in that collage. Then you move on to the next picture. The picture is worth a thousand words. So if you use it to your benefit and you pop the next picture in, and then you start writing about it because you’re inspired or if it’s a step-by-step you take the instruction that you’ve already written out and pop that underneath the picture.

So that’s making, writing the posts even easier. Then sometimes I’ll see that instruction isn’t as clear as I’d like it to be. So that lets me see it again and rewrite it. Then I’ll just go and put that back into the recipe card. I’ll swap them out. So that’s the process. Again, once you get rolling, it’s just boom, boom, boom, boom. Then you start with a hero shot. You end with a hero shot. You have your ingredients and all your process shots in between. Sometimes you can sneak two heroes in at the end and then your call to action. That’s in every post. If it’s a seasonal or a holiday recipe, like this is St Patrick’s day, I’ve been cooking Irish food for the last two weeks because I did not have any in my repertoire. You know? So I’ve been making stuff like crazy and it’ll be these Irish dishes. Maybe they’re not always just for St. Patrick’s day, but then it’ll be all the Irish dishes that I have right now that are appropriate. Then if it was like cottage pie, other ground beef recipes. So I’ve got two sections of my links that they can go to. It all depends on, on what feels right to you and where you want people to go and where you want to send them. Then the last thing is the call to action, which is if you made it, let me know and rate it, rate the recipe. When I started doing that, I started getting more ratings than I could have imagined.

Megan:

Really. I love hearing that because I just started doing that too, really recently. It’s good to remind people. I think our readers and our audience want to support us in that way, but they don’t know that they need to be doing that. But when they’re asked, they’re like, absolutely this takes 60 seconds of my time or less. I am more than happy to click that star and leave you a comment.

Dennis:

Yeah. That is driven more of my posts up into the first page, you know? So they’re getting honest reviews and people that are making it. So Google is seen more as a trusted source now.

Megan:

Yeah, for sure. That makes sense. It’s a good, good path to start to go down. I am looking at your posts right now, your recent St Patrick’s day posts. This chocolate cake looks so ridiculously good. I keep scrolling back to it. I’m like, Oh, I need a bite of that. It looks so delicious.

Dennis:

Yea, the Guiness cake.

Megan:

Goodness.

Dennis:

Wasn’t difficult. There were a few simple techniques and there’s tons of recipes out there too. So how many people have made a Guinness chocolate cake? You know, anything you’re going to write, they’re so common sometimes unless you come up and I’m always amazed when I make something and there isn’t one post about it. I’m like, whoa, okay. Either it’s never going to make it or it’s going to be a star.

Megan:

Yeah. Right. You just never know. Right.

Dennis:

You never know. But you know that again, that’s where it becomes your job to let people know. That’s what social media is for. And your newsletters.

Megan:

Oh yes. I would love to talk to you a little more about that, but first I want to ask about the ingredient shots, because I’ve been hesitant to implement that in my own blog, because like you said, process shots are not super fun. I do process shots, but I have never done ingredient shots, but that’s kind of a new thing. A lot of bloggers are doing them. Do you think I need to start?

Dennis:

would start adding it simply because you’re showing the reader how many things they need to gather to make it. There was a big outcry about the jump to recipe buttons at first because they’re missing all the ads. Well, no, people want to see if it’s doable, if they can make it. So they all jump to the recipe and go, yeah, I look at the ingredients. I think I can make that. It’s not too difficult for me. So it’s the same thing with the ingredient shot. Oh, look at them. Okay. There’s not that many. Sometimes I’ll have like 15 ingredients because of all the different herbs or spices or different things. And I go, goodness, this is overwhelming. I know it would be overwhelming for me, so I don’t want to overwhelm other people, but you know, if you show that process shot and again, as a blogger, it’s a business. You want another picture in there that’s going to leave you room for ad space. So every picture not only tells a story, every picture makes you money.

Megan:

Mm. Love it. Quote of the day there, Dennis. Yeah, that is so true. Okay, fine. Fine. I’ll start doing them.

Dennis:

You get used to making the ingredient shots, again it’s second nature. I have a half a sheet pan. I bought all these little bowls, different kinds of bowls and stuff. I just get all the ingredients out. I measure them and that way the recipe actually goes a lot faster because you’ve measured everything and you’ve got it at your fingertips. You don’t forget anything because it’s right in front of you and you put it on wherever you’re taking your pictures, take a quick couple of shots, you know? Once again, once you start doing it, you kind of get a pattern of how you want it to be and it goes really quick. Then you come back and you start making it. Then as you’re making it, you go out and you take a different process, with the stew or something, sear the beef. Here’s a picture of the seared beef. I come back and I get my steps in that way.

Megan:

Oh, there you go. I love it. That’s a good way to look at it. I love what you said earlier. If you have all of your ingredients out and ready, you’re not scrambling. So it’s really helping you have everything together before you start. That speaks to me. That will make me probably do that. Then your cottage pie. I just have to say this, that photo I saw on Instagram the other day and I was like, Oh my gosh, that pea and the carrot and the beef and the potatoes and, Oh my goodness. I must be really hungry here. I am just drooling over this stuff, Dennis. Amazing.

Dennis:

It wasn’t one of the prettiest things I made.

Megan:

Well, no, that’s exactly my point. Shepherd’s pie is pretty ugly, but this photo makes it look absolutely beautiful.

Dennis:

That came out. I get lucky. Again, you’re taking enough shots and everybody gets their rhythm. I always try to take overhead at a 45 degree angle and then flat right direct into it. Those are my three kinds of techniques for shooting. I don’t do a lot of vertical, which I really need to start doing more of, again because it takes up real estate. But as an old style film photographer, back in the stone age, when man used cameras and film, it was always horizontal. We never shot in the vertical. But that’s what Kodak brainwashed us into doing.

Megan:

It’s ingrained now.

Dennis:

Old habits really die hard.

Megan:

Oh, I hear you on that. So true. So you touched on a little bit about the importance of social media and newsletters. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

Dennis:

Sure. Well, social media is the one way to get your message out and a lot of people complain about it. I complain about it. I mean, it’s not you’re just putting it in groups and people are sharing it as manufactured. Well you know what? It’s advertising. How many billboards do you still pass on the highway when you drive? Social media is a billboard. Social media, you never know who’s going to see it, when they’re going to see it, what they’re going to remember. Especially if you’re working for a client, you want as many eyes on that product as you possibly can. You never really know how many of them come back through it, but they may. The more exposure you give to one of your posts, the better chance you have of it getting comments, getting people going to it.

I’ve had posts that I think are so unlikely that are never gonna get anything, turn almost viral. Because I have a process again for social media. It goes into Twitter, it goes into Facebook, it goes into Instagram, it goes into Pinterest. Then I start sharing them in groups and I let other people help me get the word out. I have a VA that helps me with the shares. So it doesn’t take all my time. The old adage of you have to spend money to make money is very true. So if you’re putting food on the table with what you’re making from your blog, it’s difficult to do, but if you can scrape some of it out and start putting it back into your blog, and sometimes in the form of advertising or hiring a VA, it’ll free you up to do more things will help you make more money.

Megan:

Where do you recommend spending advertising dollars, which platforms?

Dennis:

Well, the only one that you really get a bang for your buck is Facebook. People hate it, hate to pay to play, but you know what, that’s what they do. That’s the only way you’re going to get seen. So if you can work it into a budget and it doesn’t have to be a lot, it can be $5. It can be $10. When someone hires me to write a blog post, I take about 5% of what they’re going to pay, I’ve added on to what they’re going to pay me. I use that to do a really good Facebook campaign. They’re usually blown away because if I’m putting three or $400 on a campaign, then it gets beaucoup likes, and it gets a lot of visibility. We are not worthy of any kind of attitude towards me.

They’ll come back and they’ll come back again and they’ll pay me another outrageous amount of money to write a post because I got them a hundred thousand impressions or 150,000 impressions. I got one company a million impressions and they were talking about me at a conference. A friend of mine says, they’re out there on the stage talking about you now. This was a trip. He says, cause you’re getting them so much traffic. They don’t even think about when you say, all right, it’s going to be another $500. Or if I’m asking for $3,000 or $5,000, whatever you’re asking for, they’ll go, Oh, okay.

Megan:

With that kind of exposure. How many dollars do you recommend food bloggers spending? Because we don’t have wild budgets. So what are your thoughts on that?

Dennis:

You enter into the dark realm when you start, because once you start, you can never come back. But if you look at how many likes and how many shares you’re getting now, unless you’re already doing well, if you’re doing well with the system you have, do not advertise. Unless you get sponsored posts. But if you’re not, start tipping your toes in and they make it really easy, there’s a boost button under it. You can get more specific by going to the ad center and really nailing down the specifics of who you want. I just boosted the cake. You look for topics that they’ll have in their system, that people are already interested in this. So it’s chocolate cake, it’s baking. It’s the Food Network. It’s the Cooking channel. It’s maybe Sally’s Baking Addiction because people love Sally.

So I’m going to target the people that already like her. You’re going to target people that are looking for what you’ve made and sometimes your rock it. Sometimes it just drops like a rock. So it’s hard to say what exactly is going to work, but this is what I do each time. I go after a specific age group; I usually go between 23 and 55. That’s the biggest section of my readers. I always keep it above 21, just in case there’s any alcohol issues or anything else that you get any kind of a gray area with Facebook. But I mean, you can get very specific with who you want to see it. If you go to the ad center and the boosts, there’s not quite as many. Then you kind of have it segmented.

Now I only show to the United States too. Because they’re the ones that pay the most through my ad network. During the normal course of the year, I have about 68% from the United States and the rest is the rest of the world. A lot of that thanks to Food Buzz because they got me out there and then Google plus got me out there even more. But you know, the other countries don’t pay very well in comparison to the United States. Over Thanksgiving I broke the internet because it was all American readers and my RPM was unbelievable, but you know, you focus. So I focus just on the United States. If you need to really show somebody some crazy numbers, you can put it to the world, but honestly, those people aren’t going to return to you what you really want for your blog.

Megan:

So you’ve actually found quite a bit of traction. Like you get blog visits from focusing on Facebook ads.

Dennis:

I do. I get a fair amount of traffic. In terms of rocking the world. It’s never going to be, and it shouldn’t be extremely high because if it’s higher than your organic traffic or close to your organic traffic, you’re doing something wrong in terms of posting because you want the majority of it to be from organic traffic. I think 70%, 75% of my traffic is organic. The next biggest chunk of it is direct traffic and then Pinterest, and then after Pinterest, then we’ll have Facebook, every now and then Twitter will worm it’s way up in there, but not usually. Actually surprisingly the other search engines too. I can’t even think of them because I don’t use them.

Megan:

Did you mention Pinterest?

Dennis:

Pinterest? Pinterest is number three. Pinterest is a search engine, but it’s still kind of a social search engine, but you know, Yahoo, I still get some stuff from them. You know, crazy as it seems. Bing’s the other one, not a lot of traffic, but some and I have tried and I also now have, I run some Google ads too, and they don’t produce the volume that I thought they might. But again, it’s that billboard on the highway that I’m looking for because you don’t know how many of them are signing up to my newsletter. How many of them are coming back on their own, once they’ve seen the ad. On ads, I lose a little money dollar wise each month on what they’re making me in return, but you don’t know what again, that’s advertising. You don’t know what the benefits, the long-term benefits are from it. So you have to be long sided and not always short-sighted when you’re going to spend some money and that’s again, if you have the money to spend. It’s all well and good if you have it to spend, but again, if you’re putting food on your family’s table, especially in these times, you just have to be prudent about what you’re going to spend.

Megan:

Oh, that’s so true. I know I did Facebook advertising years ago and I feel like I invested so much money for really nothing. I didn’t know what I was doing and such a dumb thing that I even put money there without really knowing what I was doing. So ever since then, I’ve just been a little bit afraid to dive into that. So I feel like we could have an entirely other conversation on that because it’s something I’ve never understood. Is the boost button worth it? Do I need to go through, is it called the campaigns manager or something? Campaign manager?

Dennis:

Yeah. The campaign manager you can really dive deeper. You can target 30 year old women from Wisconsin, if you wanted to. Divorced women, married with two kids or whatever. I mean, you can get real specific. I don’t think you’d need to, unless you weren’t targeting a specific product for a company that was looking for that specific demographic. But you know, again, I stay with the United States. I used to send it to Canada too. But what happens is, Canada is cheaper to buy ads from the United States. So you wouldn’t get as much exposure in the United States cause they’d be spending it all in the Canadian ads, which are cheaper, if you let Facebook decide for you. So then I just said, you know, to hell with it, I make my money through the United States ads.

So let’s target those people. One other thing someone told me to, and actually Casey mentioned it. He was having lunch with a woman who does Facebook ads. I don’t use her for Facebook ads, but what she did set up for me was a subscription ad. We spent $5 a day on a subscription ad and I’ve tried spending more and it doesn’t do anything. The subscription ad puts ads for me about my blog to sign up, to subscribe to my blog through there. I’ve gotten, I think a little over 2000 in a year subscribers via Facebook.

Megan:

Whoa, that is something I’ve never heard before. That’s cool.

Dennis:

I hadn’t either. Again, Casey was having lunch with her and she sets up and she goes, well, none of the bloggers do that. She went, Oh my God, are you kidding me? They don’t take advantage of this? So I think I was the first one. I was the Guinea pig. It just started really rolling in after that. This is this untapped reservoir, people. Again, I told her target just the United States and other people see it. When we first started it, we were targeting the world and then targeting Canada and North America. Then I said, look, let’s be more specific. Let’s just target the United States. So she’s tried some different pictures, different things do well.

It seemed that they like pictures of me rather than pictures of food. They were more inclined to sign up if they saw me, standing there in a chef coat or however because they were looking for Chef Dennis. Again, bloggers are always afraid to show themselves, but let’s go back to the days of Google Plus. Authority comes from people trusting you. People trust people that they see and they can put a face to something they do. So that’s always been the philosophy behind that. It seems proven true. Like one of the first things you always want to have is a picture of yourself at the top of your blog. Don’t be afraid to show yourself. You don’t have to show your kids. You don’t have to show your husband or wife. You don’t have to show any of the rest of your family, but you know, let them see the person that’s asking them to trust them and to try their recipes and to subscribe to them. Let you be that person, be your brand and draw people to you because of your likeability and your trust factor.

Megan:

Dennis. Wow. That was so well said. Another shining quote that I will highlight. That was amazing. So it is important. Social media is very important in this whole scheme when we’re updating our old posts and optimizing them. It’s not just about doing the things within WordPress and then hitting publish. It’s also about what we do after and putting them out into the world. That’s super important. Newsletters are important too, right? I mean, you’ve got to tell people that you’re updating your old stuff and announce it there.

Dennis:

And again, there’s things that I like to do and things that I don’t like to do, and I never had a successful newsletter. I mean, I would send it out maybe two weeks in a row and then six months later and go, Oh, I haven’t sent a newsletter in awhile. You’re missing a really big opportunity that people are letting you into their inbox. So when I don’t like to do something, I find someone who likes to do that and I hire them. So I mean, it costs me. I have a young woman that is incredible at her job. She just graduated from marketing at Temple last year, she loves doing it. She can even write copy. She writes in my voice and it’s like a hundred dollars a month to take care of my news. So we just switched me over to another, we went from Active Campaign to Convertkit and I tried Convertkit on my own. I couldn’t get it. I don’t know why it just was hurting my head. So Active Campaign I could kind of get, but I still didn’t like doing it. So she writes my newsletters like me. She’ll say, you know I’ve been traveling a lot lately and I brought this back with me from Paris. How do you like this one?

Megan:

Oh, that’s so nice when you can find someone who writes in your voice, isn’t it.

Dennis:

Again, I’ve almost been tempted to let her write copies sometimes because she does that too. But I think I’ve gotten her very busy with other email people. So I don’t know if she has time anymore. You know, finding someone that can help you do a task that you don’t like and a hundred dollars a month isn’t a lot of money to help you get more subscribers and to help you. The big thing is the funnel. I didn’t know how to do that. I didn’t know how to start a welcome funnel. My subscribers get an email. She makes eBooks for me too. They get an ebook and then they go into a funnel where they get welcome emails and they get used to you coming into their inbox. That’s the big thing with the newsletters.

You got to get these people used to seeing your email and clicking on it and going, Oh, it’s okay to click on it. There it is again, there it is again, click on it. So they know your name. They get used to seeing you, it becomes a pattern for them. So they’re going to open it a lot more. So my open rates keep going up as my subscribers go up. Talking about newsletters too, a good pop-up or a good subscriber, a good thing for your blog is finding the right pop-up or the right widget to have. I forget what I was using for a long time and it was dribs and drabs. Then I went to Convert Pro and Convert Pro, which is part of Convertkit. And I wasn’t using Convertkit at the time.

But one of my people that takes care of the blog, Tommy says, you should try and take a look at Convert Pro. I asked, can you install it for me? They said, yes we can, over at Nerd Press. They’re just all wonderful too. They installed it and set it up and then all of a sudden I started getting 15 and 20 subscribers a day. I was insane and it really entices people. I told other people and they were getting the same results. The subscriber list is the only thing you actually own. It’s the only thing that is really yours. If the social media folded and you had no other recourse to get blogs to do your stuff to people, you know your email list. So my email list has grown from 4,500 last year to 10,000 this year.

Megan:

Oh my goodness. That’s amazing.

Dennis:

In the space of a year, just applying some effort and sending out weekly emails. Oh my God, what a concept! Who knew people would like it!`

Megan:

Being consistent, right? Sending something out to your people consistently. Like you said, they get used to opening your emails.

Dennis:

Right. For a bigger blogger, that’s not a lot of subscribers. I know it’s not. I have friends that have like 40, 50,000 subscribers and then it starts to get really expensive with the emails that you’re using, the companies that you’re using, because they charge you more per subscriber. You need to weed them out sometimes, but you know, it’s something to focus on. Start with getting your message out, you know? Again, if you can’t do it, if you have a teenage child that wants to make some extra money and is savvy, there’s always a place to go. If you have a neighbor that has a teenage child, they can do stuff. There’s always opportunities to find people that won’t cost you too much to help get you where you need to be. You can free your time up for things that are going to actually make you more money.

Megan:

I have a teenager in my house. I might hit him up for some help. I actually do ask him occasionally. If you’re really interested in making money, cause he’s always like, mom, I want money for this. Then I say, okay, let me know. I’m serious. I will put you to work, but he’s got to be serious first. Like he’s just kinda like, eh, but maybe he’ll get there.

Dennis:

You have to let them know the possibilities. Because if you teach them to take your pictures or take your videos, do you know that people will pay you $300 to make a video for them? He’ll go, what? Do you know that you can do this then instead of working in a restaurant while you’re in college or doing some other menial task?

Megan:

It’s true. Paint the picture for them and maybe that will ignite something. My younger son is 10 and he has that really good work ethic that I know when he’s a few years older, he’s totally going to do something like that. When I explain just what you did, $300 to a kid is like a million dollars.

Dennis:

They’re thinking of what they can buy with that. That’s a lot of stuff right there.

Megan:

Lots of lego sets right there.

Dennis:

Yeah. I went to Ocean City last year for a while and I got a place on the second floor and I did not want to bring all my luggage up to the second floor and all this stuff. So I put an ad in the local paper for someone to help me. I said, I’ll give you $40 for about 15 minutes worth of work. A kid came over. His father goes, yeah, he always wants new stuff for his skateboard. He wants that. And that’s too much money you’re giving him. I said, you know what? My back is thanking him. It’s worth $40. Kids will work for money if they’re motivated. Again, you’re teaching and think of it this way too, you’re helping them. You’re teaching them to have a work ethic, to know that their time is valuable and that they can actually make something with it.

Megan:

Yes, absolutely. I love that. We’ve covered so much, Dennis. This has been really enjoyable and valuable. So we’ve talked about just your process for going through old posts. Why we should be optimizing old posts. I am going to come up with a process  revolving around your process where you do 10 things tonight. I don’t think it will be 10, but I do want to get back into the groove of consistently updating like that. So thank you for that inspiration. Also just to talk about Facebook ads and the value of social media when you’re optimizing and updating and also your newsletter. So I feel like we covered so much great stuff today. Is there one main takeaway you would like to deliver to food bloggers along the lines of optimizing old blog posts?

Dennis:

Optimizing old blog posts, don’t be afraid to touch them. Don’t think that you can’t improve on it. If you can, you do. Sometimes I’ll just go into a post to check something and I will rewrite the first paragraph to make it more Google friendly. Just start thinking about your blog as your business and what you can do to improve it. No matter what you do, everything you do has to be to improve it. So that’s the takeaway, whether it’s social media, whether it’s the newsletter or whether it’s taking new pictures. Your blog is your business, treat it like a business. If it’s a hobby and you never care about making money, there may come a time when you lose your job and you’ll go, I wish I had that. Or when the pandemic hit and everything got cut back, I wish I had that income. So treat it as a business and be smart about it. That would be my takeaway.

Megan:

Those are incredible words. Thank you, Dennis so much for being here. All the way from 10 years ago, when I first met you on FoodBuzz, that’s not even on anyone’s radar. People are like, huh? Food. What?

Dennis:

I think it turned into something else.

Megan:

Oh, I don’t even, yeah, I never followed it. We all got dropped overnight. Literally, we were like, what just happened? That was crazy.

Dennis:

It was a sad time.

Megan:

I remember we were wondering, what’s going on? What are we going to do? But we made it, we survived.

Dennis:

We did. We did. That would be my key phrase too, that I use all the time that my freshmen football coach taught me was, endeavor to persevere.

Speaker 2:

See? This all is tying together.

Dennis:

Endeavor to persevere. I had to look it up at the time.

Megan:

Oh yeah. You’re like, wait, what does that mean? There’s gold there though. Those few words, I love that. Thank you so much, Dennis. This has been a pleasure having you here. It’s been great to talk to you. We are going to put together a show notes page for you, Dennis. So if anyone wants to peek at those, you can find them at eatblogtalk.com/askChefDennis. Tell everyone where they can find you online, Dennis.

Dennis:

Absolutely. You can find me at askchefdennis.com and I’m pretty much Ask Chef Dennis on every social media you can find. Stop by and say, hello, drop me a note. [email protected] If you have any questions and I can help you, I will be more than happy to share my knowledge with you because you know a rising tide raises all the boats.

Megan:

Oh my gosh. That’s so funny. I think I told you before we recorded that I was writing an episode about this. So a few things that you’ve talked about, that is the phrase that I’m basing the entire episode on. So it’s really funny that you said that. I have to say Chef Dennis is one of the most giving, generous people as far as like sharing information. That’s kind of your theme. Whenever I think of you, I think of how generous you are with all the things you’ve learned over the years. So I really appreciate you extending that offer and it doesn’t surprise me at all that you did that. So thank you, Dennis.

Dennis:

My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Megan:

Yes. Thanks again. Thank you for listening today, food bloggers. I will see you next time.

Outro:

We’re glad you could join us on this episode of Eat Blog Talk. For more resources based on today’s discussion, as well as show notes and an opportunity to be on a future episode of the show, be sure to head to eatblogtalk.com. If you feel that hunger for information, we’ll be here to feed you on Eat Blog Talk.


💥 Join the EBT community, where you will gain confidence and clarity as a food blogger so you don’t feel so overwhelmed by ALL THE THINGS!

📩 Sign up for FLODESK, the email service provider with intuitive, gorgeous templates and a FLAT MONTHLY RATE (no more rate increases when you acquire subscribers!).

Read this post about why I switched from Convertkit to Flodesk!

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Questions or comments on this episode?

Head over to the Eat Blog Talk forum post about episode #189 to leave any questions or comments. We’d love to hear from you!

Megan
Megan

Megan started her food blog Pip and Ebby in 2010 and food blogging has been her full-time career since 2013. Her passion for blogging has grown into an intense desire to help fellow food bloggers find the information, insight, and community they need in order to find success.

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