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Episode 182: Establishing a Niche for Your Blog with Carrie Forrest

In episode 182 we talk with Carrie Forrest, blogger at Clean Eating Kitchen, who shares about how she found success in her blog by nicheing down.

We cover information about leaning into your audience to hear what they need from you, use your video footage to help build your avatar and how to ask friends and family for clues about what you’re good at delivering.

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 Clean Eating Kitchen
Website | Facebook | Instagram

Bio Carrie is the creator of Clean Eating Kitchen where she shares easy, real food recipes for women recovering from chronic health issues. Carrie has master’s degrees in public health and in business, and is a survivor of autoimmune disease, PCOS, and thyroid cancer. Carrie has been an avid blogger since 2009.

Takeaways

  • Don’t be afraid to niche down to hone in on your audience but don’t get too specific so that you can’t draw in a wider audience. You want your topic to be interesting and relevant in 3-5 years.
  • Think of who your avatar is right from the beginning of blogging. Then think ahead 5 years and decide where you want to be so you can work backwards towards where you are now.
  • Ask your friends and family what you’re an expert in. Check comments made by your audience on your posts and see what they reference or come to you for information on to determine where your authority is. This will help determine your niche.
  • YouTube is a more intimate space and the audience wants to know you personally vs Facebook where you don’t really share or develop a personality. This allows for you to be creative where you aren’t as creative on your blog anymore.
  • Keyword research is the key to success in blogging.

Resources Mentioned

I was interviewed on the Food Blogger Pro podcast about recovering from Google Core update hits where I lost over 60% of my traffic:

I also really love the Video for Bloggers course from Lisa Bass. It’s all about creating video for YouTube:

I also really like the Cooking on YouTube course:

Lastly, I love the Pretty Focused photography course:

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. And the rest of us cannot 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’m so excited to have a chat with Carrie Forrest from cleaneatingkitchen.com. We are going to talk about establishing a niche for your blog. Carrie is the creator of Clean Eating Kitchen, where she shares easy, real food recipes for women recovering from chronic health issues. Carrie has Master’s degrees in public health and in business, and she is a survivor of auto-immune disease, Pecos and thyroid cancer. Carrie has been an avid blogger since 2009. Wow, you’ve been blogging for a long time Carrie. That’s awesome. So in addition to that, do you have another fun fact to share with us today?

Carrie Forrest:

Hi Megan. Yeah. I’m so happy to be here. Thank you for inviting me on. My fun fact is, maybe it’s more of a funny fact, but I did not learn how to cook and actually really did not even know how to boil water until I was about 30 years old. So as a food blogger, I don’t know, that seems a little counterintuitive, but I did not grow up learning how to cook and I’m sure that contributed to some of my health issues and really the extent of my cooking through graduate school and all that was baking a potato in the microwave and topping it with cottage cheese.

Megan:

Okay. That is actually really funny. I love knowing that about you and you’re not alone. There are so many people I interview that say that same thing, that they didn’t grow up with food. Their parents didn’t teach them how to cook, but they’ve somehow through health issues or whatever, found a necessity to how to cook. So you’re not alone with that, Carrie. I love it. The baked potato and cottage cheese sounds amazing. Well niching down is one of those buzz phrases right now. So everyone is talking about how niching down can bring you the traffic and the people, especially in recent years, food bloggers who have honed in on a really specific niche, like you have. Have managed to get to know their audiences better and they’ve just gained traction all across the board more quickly. So I want to hear about your niche, because you have a very specific one. Tell us how you determined your niche, Carrie, and just kind of talk us through that.

Carrie:

Yeah. I will say that I think I was confused or I still get a little confused because I see some blogging courses and blogging experts actually say not to, I say niche, but not to niche down. So I think it can be a little confusing and sometimes I question what I’m doing, but when I really go back and look at even my success that I’ve had from when I started, it really did come from niching down and being really specific about who my audience was. So just as an example, when I first started blogging way back in 2009, I had been reading blogs and I really just wanted to have a blog. At that time I was starting to learn how to cook, so I didn’t even start as a food blog.

I was just more like, I want to have a blog. Maybe over a year, I started to see more vegan blogs and more specific blogs. I was going in that direction of a specialty diet. So when I actually was a vegan blogger from about 2010 to 2014, and ultimately I personally moved away from a vegan diet. So I changed my blog away from a specialty vegan diet or vegan blog. But I did see that once I really started being really specific about what I was going to blog about, then it was just like naturally I was able to draw an audience that really resonated with my message. So, I mean, I can kind of see it both ways. There’s a benefit of having a niche and I definitely have a niche to my blog now, which is gluten-free and dairy-free, but then also you have to have both sides of the coin. You also want to have topics that will also draw in a wider audience. So I can kind of see it from both ways, but I think ultimately if you do talk to a specific audience member, you really are going to resonate so much more deeply, with her and with an audience.

Megan:

Do you agree with this? I’ve talked to a few people recently who just talk about the concept of older bloggers, not like age older, but bloggers who have been around for a really long time being able to not have a niche and be more successful. Whereas today, if there were a newer blogger who was just starting out, even just a couple of years under their belts, that it would be a lot harder. Do you think that’s true?

Carrie:

I do. I think that comes down to, when you look at the keywords, when you start doing keyword research, because the market really has become very saturated. So if I had started 2009 and just had been like a healthy food blogger, I think I could go after keywords like a chicken salad or something. Whereas now, if you try to go after chicken salad, it’s just too saturated. So you’re going to be likely more successful if you do something like a dairy free chicken salad, or even a vegan chicken salad or something like that.

Megan:

That makes sense. So you said that you started out not even having a food blog, right. So you started out not knowing which way you would go and then you landed on food and then you went vegan and then now your niche would be gluten-free and dairy-free recipes only, is that kind of how it evolved?

Carrie:

Yeah. Because that’s not maybe as sexy a term as a vegan diet or it’s just not really as well known. I make it a little bit broader to real food, like a real food diet, but then for my audience member, like my specific, I guess you could say my ideal reader is that she really is gluten-free and dairy-free because she’s dealing with some of the health issues that I had, like auto-immune disease. There seems to be a little bit of a consensus in the functional medicine space about auto-immune disease that it’s better to be gluten-free and dairy-free. So if somebody is really trying to manage her illness and she’s dug down really deeply, she would likely say okay, I need to do gluten-free and dairy-free. So then when I say that, she thinks that’s what I need. But then for a broader audience or maybe somebody who just has food sensitivities, or she has a child who has a dairy allergy, if I say real food diet, then that’s a little bit more open and it’s not quite as specific. When I really dig down, all my recipes are gluten-free and dairy-free.

Megan:

I love the way you described that. I think that was awesome. Also that you talk about your avatar as if it is a she you’re referring to her as a she instead of just they. So you really seem to know who you’re speaking to. It also sounds like you landed on your ideal user very naturally, and there was a natural progression for you, but that doesn’t happen with everyone. So what advice do you have for people who are starting out, or maybe they’ve been doing it for a while and they just have no idea who their person is or what their niche should be.

Carrie:

I know that is such a hard question. Honestly, I have thought about this for hours and hours. It is hard because also you don’t want to limit yourself. So when you start to think about your avatar, you worry about alienating other people, but I think it is really important. I’m sure we might talk about this, but I’m also playing with YouTube and I can’t even believe I’m saying this, but I’m playing with TikToK and, Oh my gosh, I have to say it’s really fun. I like it a lot more than I expected. I really resisted TikToK, but it’s fun. I think when you get into a video space as well, that also forces you to really think about your avatar because I’ve done some YouTube courses and we spent a lot of time doing that.

But I would say if you’re not necessarily going into video, but you’re really thinking about your blogger avatar. I think one great way to think about it is to think backwards. Whether you’re just starting, or maybe you’re a few years in, really think about what you’re building and where you want to be five or 10 years from now and then work backwards. When you think about the business that you’re growing, because you really are, when you’re creating a blog, you are building a business, or you can, you can build a successful business. What is it that you’re going to be building? Then when you reach that point, 5 or 10 years from now, what do you want to see? What space do you want to be in?

Who are you going to be talking to? I think another way to think about it is, what do your friends and family think that you are an expert in? What did they come to you and ask you questions about. I know my sister would never ask me for advice for most things. She probably hates when I give her advice, but there are a few things that she would ask me about. Those are clues to what your niche could be. What you’re an expert in and what your passion is. You probably have a passion for it if people see you as an expert in that topic.

Megan:

I think that is the best advice ever. What are the clues people are giving you because you have people who love you and who know you really well. Yeah, they’re asking you specific things and it’s also okay to come right out and ask them too, right? What am I really good at? What do you think I’m an expert in? That might be a weird conversation for some people, but if it’s your close friends and your family, they are most likely going to be willing to talk to you about that and say, I think you’re great when you’re hosting parties or you make really delicious vegan food or whatever it is. Those are the clues, as you said Carrie, and then from there you think about what you want in your business five years from now.

I love thinking about that. I love pushing people to think about that too, because it’s such a long ways away, but just thinking, do I want to be on the Food Network, do I want to be doing the same thing I’m doing now. I mean, it could be as simple as that, but then working backwards is brilliant too. So I think that is the most awesome strategy ever. That gives people actionable steps. I can ask my mom today and see what she thinks and start dreaming about my five-year plan. I think that’s awesome. Once you establish a niche and you’re like, yes, this is where I want to go. How do you start finding an audience? For me, that was, it was so hard to fill that gap. Like once I decided, okay, I do want to focus on this, where do I find those people? Are they already there? Do I have to go search for them? What do you think?

Carrie:

That’s really hard too. And until I think until you have a few loyal readers and you even know their names and for me, it’s people who messaged me on Instagram or even email me because then they’re like, wow, they really do see me as an expert. I do have a master’s degree, but I’m not a doctor. I’m not a nutritionist, but I get people, a few loyal readers who they like really trust me. That’s a really amazing feeling, but if you aren’t quite there yet, I mean, I was there for a long time. My mom’s reading my blog and that’s about it. But Instagram is a really fantastic way to find your audience and to start to carve your name out or to carve your niche out or find yourself a place and you can do that through hashtags. I’ve also found success in a really specialty diet Facebook group. Instagram, I find seems to be the best place to start to carve a name out for yourself. That was the expression I was looking for. I also wanted to mention that in the Facebook groups, is a great place to read through what other people are posting. For instance, I’m in a gluten-free and dairy-free lifestyle group, and it’s not always appropriate for me just to go in there and post new blog posts. I mean, I do that, but it’s a really great place for me to see what questions people are asking.

What are they struggling with? I have my own Facebook group that’s just a basic clean eating group and I can post polls in there. I can ask people, what are you struggling with? I can give them a few options. What is really interesting to me is I will always have a prediction of what I think the answer will be to a poll or to a question, and I’m usually wrong. That’s interesting. I think you should like to go with your own intuition about things, but I also find it very interesting to get direct feedback from my actual reader.

Megan:

Instagram, like you mentioned Carrie, is a great place to do that because you have the polls feature and you have the questions and you can do calls to action in your posts and people respond on Instagram. I feel like more than anywhere else, don’t you?

Carrie:

Yes, definitely. It’s a great place for that kind of interaction.

Megan:

It really all comes down to listening, just tuning in. You mentioned going to Facebook groups and just observing, what are people asking about? What are they talking about? What are they wanting? Take note, like literally take out your pen and paper and just write that down because sometimes we can observe and then it kind of goes away. But if we write it down, then get it. We can go back and look at it and then maybe it will align with what people are asking about on Instagram and all across the board. So I think that’s great advice too. I want to touch on something you mentioned earlier about video. You mentioned that videos like doingTikTok or YouTube or other live videos, kind of forces you to think about your avatar or your ideal user. Will you talk through that? Because I thought that was really interesting and I’ve never really thought about that.

Carrie:

I think it came from a course I took. I’ll just go ahead and mention it, but when I started digging down in the YouTube space, as a food blogger, you kind of automatically think, well, I’m going to do a cooking show. But I don’t know that didn’t really appeal to me so much. I think because there’s been the whole hands and pans videos, which I think are maybe not as popular as they were in 2000, I would say like 2014 to maybe 2018. I know bloggers grew their Facebook pages and Facebook traffic by a huge amount doing the hands and pans videos. They are the one-minute overhead Tasty style. So a lot of bloggers also put those videos on YouTube. I did for a while.

But YouTube is much more intimate and YouTube viewers really want to get to know the person who is on YouTube and they want to know what your house looks like. It’s a little bit unnerving in how vulnerable you’re expected to be on YouTube. I have definitely not mastered it all, but I took a course called Video Labs and there’s a podcast, I think it’s called Video Creators. But the podcast has amazing information for people who are interested in tackling YouTube. But it’s really different from blogging. It’s almost like building a second business, although they are attached. I have seen other bloggers who do really well on YouTube, have it translate into huge traffic for their blogs. It is a really big job. It’s just not like something you can do on the side. I’ve gone ups and downs with YouTube where I was like, I am all in. But then honestly like once I was able to monetize on YouTube, it is a fraction of the revenue that you can get from your blog. So for me, right now, it makes more sense because my blog is growing for me to spend more time on my blog than YouTube. Part of what I learned, when I was really digging into learning how to master YouTube is it’s almost even more specific than your blog, whereas with your blog, um, we’re talking about having a niche, but yet on a blog, my blog is gluten free and dairy free. But my whole blog is not just specifically gluten-free and dairy-free. I have a post that does really well on how to freeze avocados. That’s not at all specific to gluten-free and dairy-free, but yet on YouTube, if I did a video on how to freeze avocados, it really wouldn’t generate a lot of excitement. It’s a whole different beast.

Megan:

I’ve heard other people say that as well. It’s just an entirely separate entity, but you can incorporate it into your blogging business. But some people really dive into YouTube and just do that as kind of like a standalone business, but it for food bloggers can be just like a compliment. Is that a good way to describe it?

Carrie:

I think it’s also a really amazing place to build community. I think one reason I have been drawn to YouTube and now TikToK is that blogging has changed so much in terms of community. I still feel connected to my audience, but blogging as you know, a lot of it now is about keyword research. It’s about finding topics that haven’t been covered by All Recipes or Health Line. Right now with my blog strategy, I’m kind of thinking what’s best for my audience, but I’m more thinking what’s a keyword that hasn’t been covered that is good for my size and would generate me some traffic. That’s not really community driven, whereas I feel YouTube is much more community driven and you get immediate comments on your videos on YouTube.

Whereas I don’t know, I rarely get comments on my blog anymore. It’s just changed so much in that feeling of community. There’s a channel I watch on YouTube religiously. It’s this lady in Italy and she blogs about her life and shows what it’s like to live there. Her husband, he’s Italian and has an amazing accent. He was saying, we are a family, we make videos and you leave comments and we feel like you’re our family. I really felt like that. It made me feel so happy because I’ve been watching this channel since the pandemic started and watching the channel grow. I really felt like that. I have not felt like that with a blog or any other blog for a really long time. That’s just the way that the industry has changed and you know, the way blogging has changed. But that’s where I feel like video is kind of picking up the slack.

Megan:

I love how you talked through that. I think you are so spot on with that. YouTube is great for the community and my son, as you were talking about the channel that you follow, my son is obsessed with this channel that’s about a beagle puppy. It’s called Oliver, the beagle. It’s so simple. The guy, the owner of the beagle, just shows all Oliver’s adventures. Really, that’s interesting? But my son feels like that. Oliver is my friend. But yes, totally community driven. He goes on there, he’s so loyal to it. But you’re right with blogs, it used to be the same. People would come on and they would comment on my posts. I have 600 plus comments on some of my older posts. That never happens today.

Carrie:

Exactly.

Megan:

If I get one or two, I think, that is awesome. That’s a lot. It is totally different. Keywords and Keyword Research is how we think about our blog sites. If you do want that community and to get really specific with what you’re delivering, YouTube is a good place to go. I love how you framed that, Carrie. So how do you recommend people dig into SEO with really niche topics? Because it is kind of overwhelming and it’s robotic sounding. What are your thoughts on it?

Carrie:

Not to harp on keyword research, but that is really the key to success for blogging right now. I mean I really strongly believe that. I spent years writing content that nobody was searching for, maybe my 10, 100 loyal readers read those blog posts when they were published, but then they were never read again. So I spent the better part of 2020, and I guess this is the silver lining of the pandemic in 2020 is I just had a lot of time to clean up my blog. So I ended up deleting probably about 600 blog posts. It’s easy to delete, but it’s harder to fix old blog posts, but I’ve been spending a lot of time doing that too.

SEO, search engine optimization and keyword research can be an indicator of what your audience is looking for. I’m constantly surprised by what my audience tells me, but SEO or keyword research is also a way of your audience telling you what they want. I’m constantly surprised by things the audience wants. For example, a dairy-free strawberry milkshake. People have to be looking for that. That sounds good to me, but then I do the keyword research and it’s maybe 10 searches a month. So that is telling me, no, that’s not right. That’s not what my audience or an audience is looking for. Maybe it’s actually a vegan strawberry smoothie is what they’re looking for.

So that’s where keyword research comes in. I think I also mentioned this too, but it’s okay too, to go outside of your niche. I mentioned how to freeze avocados. Your niche can start to feel like a prison. You can’t go out of it, but you can because you also want a little bit of a wider audience than your niche because you don’t want to limit yourself, but I wouldn’t make a post about how to make a raw milk smoothie. That’s almost like the opposite of my niche, but I could make an almond milk smoothie, a coconut milk smoothie. There’s so many options. So I think that’s where keyword research comes in.

Megan:

It is super important right now, Carrie, I agree. I know that you recently got an audit right with Casey Markee and he stresses that wherever he is, he talks to food bloggers all the time, but he always says that too. It’s very important. I love what you said about not being afraid to go outside your niche a little bit, because it can feel like a prison. It can feel like, wait, that’s not exactly aligning, but I think you could be surprised by some things that actually take off. I want to say like two years ago I started making homemade sauces just because my husband had stomach issues. It seems like every store bought sauce that we bought would have yeast extract or something that would send him over the edge. So I was like enough, I’m just going to start making my own. I started putting them on the blog and they’re top posts now. I mean, people love my sauces. I never would have thought that. It doesn’t align really with anything else that I do. Just experimenting a little bit, going outside of your normal. I think it really can’t hurt as long as it’s not, like you said, totally contradictory, but if it fits in even a little bit, then I say give it a try.

Carrie:

When you’re picking your niche, you do have to be a little bit careful. You do want to make sure if you, right now in 2021, if you picked Instant Pot as your niche, the instant pot is still really popular, but is it going to be really popular in 10 years? It probably will be, but it’s also a saturated niche. Also you have to think, are you going to be as passionate about Instant Pot in five or 10 years as you are right now? You have to be a little bit careful not to build your own prison. When I had a vegan blog, sadly the diet wasn’t working for me or the lifestyle wasn’t working for me for the long-term. I didn’t anticipate that. That was difficult to say this is not my niche anymore. It is kind of interesting on my website, I have a few blog posts about a vegan diet not working for me. Those continue to be among my most popular posts as well.

Megan:

Oh, interesting. I think that anytime you incorporate an appliance into your niche, you have to be really careful because the Instant Pot is huge obviously, but you’ve got to kind of think ahead. Slow cooker, I feel like the slow cookers stick around forever, they’ve been in existence for eternity. So maybe the slow cooker would be a good option, but anything else I’d be really careful. You can incorporate those things into an existing niche. So you could do easy dinners and have a bunch of Instant Pot recipes inside of that, but you’re not locking yourself into instantpotfoodforlife.com or something like that.

Carrie:

I think that’s good advice not to base your niche around an appliance.

Megan:

I love Instant Pot, but it can go into just about any area. So what if somebody has landed on a niche and they really like it, and then like you, you decided you wanted to go a different route or maybe expand a little bit into different areas. Do you have advice for that?

Carrie:

I would try to push the boundaries as much as you can, but at a certain point, say you are like me, say I do have a real food gluten-free and dairy-free diet. Let’s say all of a sudden magically, my health changed, where I could eat gluten and dairy, you know what, honestly, what I would do, looking back on my experiences is I would start a second blog instead of contradicting everything I’ve built and trying to reverse everything, I would consider starting just starting a new one. I think ideally once you’ve established yourself in a niche and when you don’t want to be in that niche anymore, it’s really kind of heartbreaking to have to tear down what you’ve built rather than either trying to expand on your niche or just push the boundaries a little bit.

I would try to get some advice before you do anything drastic. Maybe even talking to an SEO expert, just because we’re human, so we’re emotional people. We just naturally have feelings and we like to have breakpoints. For me, I decided I’m not going to be a vegan blogger anymore. Well, if I had really thought about it, maybe there was a way to work with it rather than destroying or pushing away my audience. It was a really traumatic time for me. It took many, many years, not just emotionally, but I really destroyed my audience, my page views, my growth trajectory. I hate to see bloggers go through that when you don’t have to.

Megan:

I like that advice. I don’t hear that often. I don’t often hear bloggers saying start a separate website. I actually do know one other blogger recently who decided to do that. I thought, oh, this is a new concept, but kind of smart, because like you said, Carrie, going through that, you were devastated and you also pushed away your audience, which is not good. They were probably confused. What is she doing? We’re here for her and now she doesn’t want us? What kind of feedback did you get from people during that time?

Carrie:

It was a rough time. I was going through my own health issues and my own swirling emotions and then to feel like just being rejected and that I was irritating people. It was a rough time and I mean, in a way I kind of blame myself. I put myself in this community and now I’m extricating myself. I did a lot of self-blame and things like that. That just kind of also speaks to when you’re picking a niche, you just have to not put yourself into such a small box because you are going to grow over time.

If you do put yourself into an Instant Pot box, you’re going to grow over time and you’re going to have new passions, so you have to be cautious about that. Also it’s just that balance because I feel really passionate and connected to my gluten-free and dairy-free audience. I don’t like seeing any of that changing. Even if personally, every once in a while, of course I’ll try some dairy and my body doesn’t like that. I don’t see myself not being a gluten-free and dairy-free blogger in the future. But even if I did change, I probably would stick to just doing gluten free and dairy free recipes, because that really is what I’ve built my foundation on.

Megan:

You’ve learned from your past that taking yourself out of a world is harmful maybe to your people and to you. So you’ve learned from your own mistakes. You want other people to learn that too. Just be really careful when you’re deciding on a niche. You used the word prison earlier. Nobody wants to feel like they’re in prison. Try to avoid that. What are your thoughts, Carrie, about making money as a niche blogger? We always hear about the big bloggers who make tons and tons of money and they’re typically not niche bloggers. They’ve got recipes from all different categories on their sites, but what do you feel about monetizing and being a niche blogger?

Carrie:

So you definitely a hundred percent can make money as a niche as a niche blogger. That also speaks to making sure that you aren’t too specific that you can’t write about broader topics. It’s definitely possible. I think that one way to further your monetization is to keep an eye on what is working and then to write more blog posts or more recipes around the topics that are working. I didn’t really take that advice until a few years ago, but it has worked for me. It can be a little frustrating because like you said because you will have no idea what blog posts or topics Google is going to rank you number one for, and it might not even be something that is your niche topic.

For instance, this is kind of funny, but I’m like, gosh, many years ago I wrote a butter coffee recipe. So butter obviously comes from milk. So that’s a dairy product. But for people who have dairy allergies or dairy sensitivities, I should say because butter is mostly fat. There’s not a lot of the protein that is inflammatory for people with dairy sensitivity, somebody with a dairy allergy cannot have butter, but somebody just with a sensitivity can maybe get away with butter. So I rank really, really well for butter coffee, but yet I’m a gluten free and dairy free blogger. Now I haven’t made butter tea. I don’t know what other kind of drink recipes would be made with butter, but I’ve done a few other coffee recipes and they’ve done okay. But nothing like the butter coffee recipe. You can make money as a niche blogger and then you just keep an eye on what’s doing well and do more of that.

Megan:

Yes. Again, it comes down to listening and just observing and taking note. So you’ve been blogging for 11 years. I rarely find people who have been blogging as long as me, but that’s a long time Carrie. So how do you stay excited about blogging? People ask me that all the time and it’s hard to answer it, but what keeps you excited? Then also, where do you see food blogging going in the future?

Carrie:

It is hard because to be honest, to be a successful blogger, it becomes a little bit of you have a template and you’re just filling in the pieces day after day with new recipe posts, because there’s a template that works. If you look at my blog, for instance, most of the rest of the posts are formatted the same way. It’s a format that works. It’s SEO friendly. It’s reader friendly. It’s bare bones. It’s not too many personal stories, that kind of thing. That can get really boring and it’s as exciting to push publish as it used to be10 years ago when, like you said, you would get lots of comments immediately on your blog posts. For me personally, the potential for growth and earnings is a part of it because this is my full-time career now, and I don’t anticipate doing anything else, which is just kind of crazy. But that potential to see revenue growing every month is exciting. That is part of the motivation. For me as like a creator, I also have to have a creative challenge, which of course can be like your food photography. You can constantly be improving on that. But for me, that’s gotten a little bit boring. I think that’s why I’ve kind of been playing with video. It is, Oh my gosh such a creative challenge. To be in front of the camera rather than behind the camera is a huge challenge.

It’s also exciting. Where I see the industry going is the keyword stuff in terms of giving people what they’re looking for in a recipe format and a template that’s been developed. I think that is the future. I don’t see blogs becoming these really personal journal journals, like they used to be. So I think that’s just gonna continue where blogs really are just an online cookbook. As humans, we continue to want to connect with people. So I think that’s where video is going to fill that space online.

Megan:

What a great answer. That’s a really good way to look at it. I think you’re right. I think we’re going to keep honing in on what is working as far as just creating a recipe post and not a journal. I don’t think we’ll ever go back to that journal style, which honestly it’s fine. We can find other avenues to connect and be creative. I think you’re right, Carrie, there’s so many opportunities to stay creative and challenged in this world. So maybe you just think outside your blog a little bit, if you’re struggling with this is getting boring. There’s video format, like you mentioned, TikTok, YouTube. There are so many different platforms that you can really dig into if you’re getting bored. Maybe you want to take 2021 to grow your Instagram following or something like that. New platforms are popping up all the time. Now Clubhouse is on the scene and goodness, you have never ending options, to dig into at any given moment.

Carrie:

You also have to filter that because you don’t want to get overwhelmed. I’ve been there too where you’re trying to do everything and I’m still really a one woman shop. I don’t have a lot of help. I pretty much do everything on my blog and I do my own Pinterest and everything. So that can be a little bit overwhelming to think about adding something new, but that’s where I think you have to just look internally and see where you’re lacking. If you do want more of a creative challenge or maybe you’re motivated solely by revenue and page view growth, which is totally fine. That can be really motivating. So it really just depends on you as a blogger, where you want to grow personally. One thing that has become something that I’ve been thinking about recently is, because I worked so hard in 2020, like I was so focused just on repairing my blog and fixing it after just so many years of bad blog posts, that I kind of got into a bad habit of not really having a separation of work and personal life. Of course we were all home, so it was really easy. Recently I’ve stopped publishing on the weekends and that has been really, wow, really rewarding just to have a few hours off on a Saturday afternoon. It gives me more space to be creative. Because I’m not just the next, the next, the next blog post. You don’t want to try to do so many things that you get burnt out.

Megan:

I love that, that speaks to me. I learned that lesson in 2020 and just started setting my work aside. I’ve been a blogger for so many years who has just worked to the bone. I worked all the time and in 2020, I came to a point where I realized I need to set this down. I need to be showing up for my family and myself. It was a game changer for creativity, for productivity. You’d be amazed how much more productive you can be when you set your work down. So that and sleep, I was sleeping better. I was making more money or more opportunities were coming. I could go on and on. So I’m a huge proponent of that. Just setting it down. You don’t need to do it all and you don’t need to do it all the time. And it actually is counterproductive when you do that. But that is a whole other topic I could go on and on about that one. I have to ask you this question because we’ve kind of alluded to it a little bit in our talk. Where do you see yourself in five years, Carrie?

Carrie:

Hmm, where do I see myself? What I am most excited about is the video stuff. I brought it up more than a few times. I’m so bad at it. I am so uncomfortable. I think about it a lot. What am I going to do? I have so many notes about what I want to know with video. Probably specifically YouTube. I’m using TikTok as my practice area for YouTube. Because TikTok is just so much more informal than a produced YouTube video. It’s almost a way for me to explore what I’m going to do with video. But I would love to see myself in five years being comfortable on camera and not feeling so vulnerable. Because as a blogger you’re writing and you can edit what you write. Of course you edit what you write. You’re careful about what you say. On video you can’t really hide your expressions and it’s just a whole different ball game. To me it feels so vulnerable. So I would love to feel more confident. I would love to have built an audience where I feel connected and confident.

Megan:

You seem really excited about it and I think that that will serve you. You will move past those fears and the vulnerability eventually, if you keep at it. So I’m excited to see how this works out for you. I think it’s awesome to dive into something a little bit different than writing out your blogging. I’m such a strong believer in, if something feels uncomfortable or weird or scary or all of them, that you need to do it anyway, because that’s probably a sign that it’s just something that you need to conquer and you already know that. You’re already there. You’re like, yes, this is uncomfortable and vulnerable, but I want to do it anyway. So good for you. I’m excited to watch that unfold.

Carrie:

Thank you. It’s not like skydiving, I don’t think about skydiving as I want to do that. It’s like no way I’m skydiving, but video, I just keep watching other people’s videos and it’s almost the same feeling I had with blogging. Whereas I read blogs for at least a year or two and I just felt like I want to add my voice and I feel that same way about video. I have something to say too. I don’t quite know how I’m going to say it or how I’m going to do it, but I just feel compelled to be part of it.

Megan:

I love how you worded that. Did you know that I’m a skydiver?

Carrie:

No.

Megan:

I thought you said that because you knew that’s funny.

Carrie:

That’d be my worst fear.

Megan:

It’s so funny because a lot of people say that. My husband and I are both skydivers and for us, it is the most calming peaceful thing ever. So when I hear the word, I think, Oh lovely. But other people panic. Crazy.

Carrie:

That is so hilarious. I had no idea. Unless I read it somewhere in my subconscious brought it out, but that’s one of those things that there’s absolute zero interest in.

Megan:

Yeah. If you have no interest, then you probably shouldn’t do it. Most people say, maybe I’d try it. Anyway, that was awesome. I loved your answer for that, Carrie, if you had one takeaway for food bloggers along the lines of niching down or anything that we’ve talked about, what would it be?

Carrie:

Okay. I actually have two. One is to just remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. So if you’re starting out just pace yourself and just try to do a little bit every day. Try to do some good work every day. Then the second piece of advice is to really stay focused on your content because I see a lot of bloggers who make 10 pins per blog post. Or trying to make a video for every blog post. But I really believe in making lots of good quality content. The only way you can do that is every day you’re finding a new recipe you want to make, or you’re updating an old recipe, but you’re really constantly working on your content rather than the supporting pieces because you can get easily distracted. So even for me with video, I was getting really distracted and then I wasn’t publishing as much, but if you really want to be successful and a lot of us are depending on this income now. For me, I think the advice is to stay focused on your content and just not get too distracted.

Megan:

That’s great advice. Thank you so much for being here, Carrie. It was such a pleasure to chat with you. You’re very fun and easy to talk to. So thanks for taking the time and adding all this value to food bloggers’ lives and businesses. So before you go, do you have a favorite quote or additional words of inspiration for food bloggers?

Carrie:

I would just re-emphasize the marathon, not a sprint. I have to tell myself that all the time. Not overworking, not just thinking about the short term, it’s just keeping that in mind and really thinking about those long term goals. A five-year marathon is a long marathon, so don’t burn yourself out.

Megan:

Yes. Great advice. We will put together a show notes page for you, Carrie. If anyone wants to go look at that, we’ll just have takeaways and anything that we’ve talked about, you can find that at eatblogtalk.com/cleaneatingkitchen. Carrie, tell everyone where they can find you online.

Carrie:

So I am on Instagram. I’m @cleaneatingCarrie, but then on YouTube and TikToK, I’m @cleaneatingkitchen, which is my blog name. I’m kind of hanging out there a lot in those places these days. So you can find me there. I look at my messages on Instagram, you know, all the time, so feel free to reach out and I love connecting with other bloggers.

Megan:

Great. Well, thank you again so much for being here, Carrie, and 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.


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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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