We cover information about the importance of standing out as a food blogger, how to find your unique voice and style (while still following SEO guidelines) and how to build a community that is not reliant on social media platforms or Google.

Listen on the player in this post or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube or your favorite podcast player. Or scroll down to read a full transcript.

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Guest Details

Connect with Desiree Nielsen
Website | Instagram | Pinterest

Desiree Nielsen is a registered dietitian in Vancouver Canada with over a decade of experience in plant-based nutrition and chronic digestive and inflammatory disease. She is the author of two Canadian bestselling and award-winning cookbooks, Eat More Plants and Good For Your Gut. Her latest book, Plant Magic, arrives April 2024.

Her work has been featured in People, Washington Post, The Globe and Mail, KTLA, WGN Chicago, The Social, Food Network Canada and Elle Gourmet Canada in addition to hundreds of media features across North America. Desiree is also a food blogger and the host of the evidence-informed wellness podcast, The Allsorts Podcast, where she hosts a diverse roster of guests from NYT bestselling authors to leading health professionals and researchers


  • Reflect on your personal food interests and cooking style: Take time to understand your preferences, tastes, and approach to cooking to develop a unique voice.
  • Look at what others are doing differently: Analyze popular blogs and recipes to find gaps that allow you to approach topics in a distinctive way.  
  • “Write drunk, edit sober”: Write without inhibition first and then structure anecdotes and humor within a format to meet SEO guidelines.
  • Prioritize search volume: Focus recipes on your blog on trending topics and keywords people are actively searching to maximize visibility.
  • Develop recipes with unique ingredients: Add a flavor profile or component that is unique to you to make recipes stand out and memorable.  
  • Build community consistently: Nurture readers through high-value, free content to develop loyal readership and build a newsletter to connect directly with your community.
  • Embrace the unexpected: Leave space for unforeseen opportunities that could further your growth in surprising new directions.  
  • Share vulnerability: Connect with readers through candid self-disclosure in small doses to form deeper relationships.
  • Your Path is your path: Pursue your interests wholeheartedly and say “yes” to chances that excite you creatively.

Resources Mentioned

Plant Magic Cookbook


Click for full script.

EBT545 – Desiree Nielsen

Intro 00:00

Food bloggers. Hi, how are you today? Thank you so much for tuning in to the Eat Blog Talk podcast. This is the place for food bloggers to get information and inspiration to accelerate your blog’s growth, and ultimately help you to achieve your freedom. Whether that’s financial, personal, or professional. I’m Megan Porta. I have been a food blogger for 13 years, so I understand how isolating food blogging can be. I’m on a mission to motivate, inspire, and most importantly, let each and every food blogger, including you, know that you are heard and supported. 

Megan Porta  00:37

As you know, food bloggers this world of ours is very large. There are so many of us doing the same thing. A lot of us are doing it the same way with the same looking websites, the same writing style, the same format, bla bla bla, Desiree Nielsen, she is from desireenielsen.com. She is a food blogger, but she’s also a registered dietitian, and she has such a history with food over the past decade. Her journey is so awesome and extensive, including writing cookbooks being on a TV show. And that’s just to name a few of her foodie adventures. In this episode, she talks about how to stay creative, and build a distinctive voice and cooking style in this world that is so saturated with people doing the same thing as us. This conversation gets really deep at times in the best way Desiree talks about some of the blogging mistakes she has made and lessons she has taken away from them. She talks a lot about ways that we can stand out in this sea of sameness and find our own unique voices easily. This interview really inspired me and I hope it inspires you too. It is episode number 545. Sponsored by RankIQ. 

Sponsor  01:59

Hello there, food blogger friends, I want to take a really quick break from this episode to chat about a few ways Eat Blog Talk can help you to feel connected as well as to get your hands on relevant, valuable information in 2024. It has been a bit of a tumultuous year so far do you agree? But you have come too far to stop now. This time is a minor blip in the journey. So buckle up and let’s do this journey together and come out on the other side stronger than ever. Eat Blog Talk now has a Facebook group. Go join the BlogTalk community Facebook group to get in on some great discussions. Once you’re inside, you will gain access to a free job postings shared document whether you’re offering a service or looking for a service. There’s also the new-ish accountability group that you BlogTalk offers. This group is a low investment membership for anyone looking to connect with peers and grow your business. This is for newer bloggers, intermediate bloggers and experienced bloggers we offer robust calls in Slack discussions and so much more in this group for the low cost of $34 a month. The Eat Blog Talk Mini Minds and mastermind groups are still being offered in 2024 and beyond. Mini minds groups start up again in October and we will start filling the 2025 mastermind group in late summer of 24. Join the waitlist for one of these groups and you will not be disappointed. And last but not least join us at an in person retreat. If you are ready to learn, grow and build relationships in person. Join me and a handful of your fellow food bloggers and an upcoming Eat Blog Talk retreat. This is such a great opportunity to convene in an intimate setting. So you can learn collaborate and connect. These retreats involve mastermind style peer to peer collaborating, and they’re incredibly powerful, delicious, so much good food and fun. For all the offerings mentioned head to eatblogtalk.com and you will be directed in the appropriate way. We are more than just a podcast go explore some of these other offerings as your time and budget allows can’t wait to see you in some of those other places. Now back to the episode.

Megan Porta  04:14

Desiree Nielsen is a registered dietitian in Vancouver Canada with over a decade of experience in plant-based nutrition and chronic digestive and inflammatory disease. She is the author of two Canadian bestselling and award-winning cookbooks, Eat More Plants and Good For Your Gut. Her latest book, Plant Magic, arrives April 2024.

Her work has been featured in People, Washington Post, The Globe and Mail, KTLA, WGN Chicago, The Social, Food Network Canada and Elle Gourmet Canada in addition to hundreds of media features across North America. Desiree is also a food blogger and the host of the evidence-informed wellness podcast, The Allsorts Podcast, where she hosts a diverse roster of guests from NYT bestselling authors to leading health professionals and researchers.

Megan Porta  05:03

Desiree thank you so much for being on Eat Blog Talk. How are you today?

Desiree Nielsen  05:08

I’m doing really well. Megan I’m so excited to I feel like this is maybe the first time I’ve come on a podcast to specifically talk about the world of blogging. So I’m really excited because I really like to nerd out about.

Megan Porta  05:20

Well, I’m glad that you are here. And we’re going to have an amazing chat today about just being creative and building a distinct voice. And I want to hear more about your story because it sounds like you have a really colorful story to share. Before we get into all of that goodness, do you have a fun fact to share with us?

Desiree Nielsen  05:38

I do. So I really pride myself on like, if it’s a plant, I’ll eat it like just being a really adventurous I love all plants kind of eater, but I don’t like seaweed. I have tried so many times and actually spent a lot of time in Japan as a teenager. And I just for whatever reason, I’m constantly trying it just in case my taste buds have changed but like as a food person, but also as a food blogger. It’s really limiting because there’s so many incredible things you can do with seaweed in so many different textures, but I just can’t make myself eat it.

Megan Porta  06:12

That is how I feel about beets. I have tried everything and I really I pride myself on eating any veggie to I’m such a vegetable person, but I just I can’t do it. I can’t find a single way that I enjoy beets. So that must be the same thing with you and seaweed. 

Desiree Nielsen  06:29

I feel like we all get one gimme. I know for a lot of people it’s like mushrooms or eggplant and I love both of those things. But yeah, for me, it’s seaweed.

Megan Porta  06:37

I feel very strongly about mushrooms in the other way. I love mushrooms so much. Oh my gosh, my husband is so grossed out by them. He’s like, how can you put those things in your mouth are so disgusting. And I just feel like I can eat them every meal all day. They’re so delicious. Veggies are so great. Well, I will not be sending you seaweed recipes or anything seaweed related. I love seaweed. That’s so funny that yeah, and…

Desiree Nielsen  07:03

My kids love it. Like I just watched them eating like seaweed salad when we go for sushi. I’m like eating the seaweed snacks. Like they adore it. And either like it’s potato chips. But I’m like, I’m just so proud of them. I’m like, 

Megan Porta  07:15

Yeah, good. 

Desiree Nielsen  07:15

I wish I could eat it like them. 

Megan Porta  07:17

Yep, yep, that’s exactly how I feel too about beets. Well, glad to know that about you. We’re gonna talk today about, you know, building that voice. Because this is a community filled with a lot of the same blog looking blogs, and a lot of the same types of recipes and a lot of the same a lot of things. So how to stay unique in this community. And I think it would be really great to start with you telling us a little bit about your journey, because it sounds like there’s a lot of cool stuff involved.

Desiree Nielsen 07:50

Yeah, thank you. So you know, I really, I’m coming around to like my blogger era a little bit late in my career. So I’ve been a registered dietician for 15 years. And my very first job right out of internship was at a health food store. So I was a retail dietitian, like taking people on grocery store tours and doing nutrition talks, and all of that kind of good stuff. And I have to like websites and blogging, and again, because it was 15 years ago, like social media, like none of that was even in my sort of trajectory of like, that’s where my path can go. And it wasn’t until I you know, five years later, I had had one child and I was like working 70 hours a week and commuting like a ton. And I was like, something’s got to give. So I was like, why don’t I try going out on my own and like doing private practice, or maybe doing some consulting. So I’m not always like the last person running to the daycare, like, you know, 5:31 before they start charging you $10 Every minute for being late. 

Desiree Nielsen  08:59

So that’s why I was like, well, I guess I need a website. And I built my first website. And I was like, well, I guess like, I guess I should like maybe blog, you know, so people know what I’m about or like what I’m good at. And I really just started a website and a blog as a form of marketing all those years ago, like it wasn’t even on my radar that sort of like blogging was a thing. And that you could like make a career out of it. So I spent that time doing private practice, and doing talks and sort of like really typical dietitiany stuff. And, you know, it wasn’t until I started seeing all of these food bloggers around me going Hey, you know, like people are actually like doing this for their work. And I really love writing recipes, which I found out, honestly quite by accident, you know, early on in my private practice my one dream when I was 18 years old. I didn’t even didn’t know what a dietitian was. But I had this dream of writing a best selling nutrition book. And being on Oprah, so and it was like this time where, like a lot of doctors were writing nutrition books and going on Oprah to like, talk about them. And I was like, Oh, if I become a doctor, and I can read a nutrition book, like, that was my thing. So when I, you know, when I had my first child, and then I, I went out on my own, I was like, You know what, it’s now or never time, I’m in my early 30s. And it would be so easy to just let go of this dream. So I’m going to try writing a book. And I wrote my very, very first book called On Junkier Diet, and the publisher had asked for 50 recipes to go along with and it wasn’t like, it wasn’t a cookbook, it was just like a like an actual sort of like black and white, like reading nutrition book. And I was like, I don’t know how to develop recipes. Like, at all, like, I never cooked with a recipe until that point. And I was really lucky that one of my close friends at the time, Heather McCall, she was a registered dietician, but also a trained chef. And in her day to day work, she developed recipes, and she’s like, I can teach you how to do this. And I was like, Oh, my gosh, so grateful to her. And I was like, I don’t even know, like, how do we choose what recipes we’re gonna make, like, totally starting from scratch. But over the, you know, the course of those months that I developed those recipes with Heather, like, this is super fun. And I love food. Like, from the time that I was a small child, like, I love food, I love going out to restaurants, I love eating, like it’s one of my core pastimes and like major pleasures in life. And I was like, maybe I could actually do this, like, maybe I could develop recipes for my blog and put them on my blog, and maybe people will like them. So, you know, that was sort of really how I came to that. It was almost by accident, really the recipe development piece, I’m like the blogging piece. And I just started sort of chipping away at it over the years. 

Desiree Nielsen  12:13

And the idea of myself as a recipe developer, because I really came to nutrition like, I’m a super nerd, like, I love science and weird, icky body stuff. Like I love this science of like how nutrients affect the body, like, cooking was not at all, like sort of like on the career trajectory that I thought of for myself. But then, you know, as I was doing a lot of local media here in Vancouver, I was just sort of, you know, living my life, not like doing anything. And on Twitter, someone asked me to audition for a vegetarian cooking show. And I was like, that’s hilarious. Do they not know me? I’m like, I am a self taught cook. I have no knife skills. Like, who would watch me cook, it’s going to be so embarrassing. I was like, I guess I’ve got nothing to lose, since we’re not going to choose me anyways, and I went to the audition. And then I got it.

Megan Porta  13:12


Desiree Nielsen  13:14

It was like a very, very surreal experience. Because very quickly in oh my gosh, from the time I did the audition to the time I was in front of the cameras for the first time I think was two months. And then I that really this is sort of like a strong theme in my life, not knowing what I’m doing. I can just say yes and jumped into. And I recorded this cooking show which it aired first in Canada. So it was the very first vegetarian and vegan cooking show on national TV in Canada ever, which I was really proud of is called The Urban Vegetarian. And then since then, it’s been sort of syndicated all over the world. So it’s, it was the coolest experience. And that was the point that really sort of crystallized. You know, food has to be part of my path. I love cooking. I love doing this way too much. And when someone makes a recipe in their own home that you’ve created, it’s like the best feeling in the world.

Megan Porta  14:20

Wow, Desiree what a story. I don’t think there’s any story like that out there ever. That’s such a cool journey that you’ve had. What would you say is your favorite part of that? Just talking through it like the dietitian, the cookbooks, the TV show? And now the food blog? Is it like every part becomes your favorite part as you go?

Desiree Nielsen  14:43

I think so. It’s almost like I’ve sort of feel that the universe is like, helping me step along this path. It’s like you didn’t know this was a possibility for yourself. So I’m just going to present it now. And we’ll see where this takes you in a few years. But I think because I’m a certain age and you you know, I started my career before, Instagram was really a big thing. And so there are a lot of career paths and a lot of things that have opened up to me now, that literally were not a possibility. They were just not a possibility, like when I started in school. And so, you know, the idea of being a blogger, the idea of creating content on Instagram just was not on my radar. And so all the things that came to me, it was more of a traditional career path, I, you know, I became a dietician, I got this job and as a grocery store dietician, and in order to promote our services, they’re like, Hey, let’s get you on some TV segments. And so I did, you know, the breakfast shows. And so it was like this really sort of conventional path. And I think what, you know, supercharged it, for me, particularly the shift, because the cookbooks were born out of having the cooking show, I now had this opportunity to share, you know, recipes with people in a larger way. But 2020, and being home, and when most of my career was doing morning shows, and doing talks, you know, in front of, you know, audiences of like 500 or 800. And then all of a sudden that went away. I think that was the point where it really crystallized well, that can that can go away, I never thought that that could go away before. So what can I do now? That’s mine. And I think that’s where I started looking at my blog far more seriously, because even with things like Instagram, like, I was on Facebook, back in the day, I haven’t been on Facebook in three years, you know, so even sort of seeing with social media, you know, the talk about TikTok, whether or not that’s gonna get banned here in North America, these platforms that we pour so much of ourselves into, you know, my gosh, particularly on Instagram, I used to post six days a week, and like these really heavy science, nutrition posts that would take me, you know, one to two hours to research and write, and all of that effort, you know, if Instagram were to go away, it’s just gone. Whereas that website is mine, no matter what, and the people who choose to sign up for my newsletter, like, that’s my community, that’s not going to go away, no algorithm is going to get in between us. And so 2020 is really when I started sort of enacting a vision of, you know, like, how do I create something that is permanent, and truly mine and that I’m really excited to invest in because I know it can’t just be like, pulled out from under me. 

Megan Porta  17:44

Wow. Yeah, there are a lot of messages woven into what you’ve said, just like, I mean, just to touch on a few saying yes to things and then jumping in and figuring it out. I love that message. And then creating something that is yours. And that is permanent. So this is a big topic right now social media, and you mentioned TikTok, and who knows if things could go away in the blink of an eye, right?

Desiree Nielsen  18:12

Yeah, and, you know, social media has given me I mean, I got asked to audition for a TV show on Twitter, you social media has given me so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had, I don’t live in Toronto, which is where most of our media is located. You know, so be it is because of social media that I have, the community that I have, and the connections that I have and the opportunities that I have. But now I want to take that and create something. Yeah, that’s more of my own.

Megan Porta  18:42

So you started your food blog, are really digging into it in 2020 you said.

Desiree Nielsen  18:47

Yeah, I would say that it’s always been there, you know, more as sort of a marketing pursuit and more heavily to I did a ton of nutritional content. So I used to do really in depth nerdy blog posts, that would take me six to eight hours to prepare, and, you know, occasional recipes. So I was maybe posting a recipe once every three or four weeks early on. And then I started posting nutrition far less often, maybe once every month or two, and then posting a recipe every single week. And that was really where I committed to the shift.

Megan Porta  19:26

Okay, so since then you’ve been in it you’re dedicated you’re in the game, you’re kind of staying on top of all the relevant information and all of that I imagine.

Desiree Nielsen  19:36

Yeah, you know, it’s, I’ve I’ve feel really lucky again that I had the universe sort of plunk a wonderful little fairy in my lap known as Foodie Digital. I work with a company called Foodie Digital, who does like semantic SEO and I really learned a ton from them. And I think one One of the reasons why I was able to make the shift to food blogging more seriously and more successfully is because I had a little bit of help. But yeah, keeping up on everything is essentially a full time job. And I do a podcast and I write books. And I do the food. Yeah, it’s like, I’m trying to do like four full time jobs, but like, I’m only one person. 

Megan Porta  20:23

So how many mistakes have you made? Would you say? And are there any that stand out for you that you can glean, you know, lessons from so that we can learn from you?

Desiree Nielsen  20:36

So I have made more mistakes than I can possibly count. But I think, as I learned more about blogging, the first and biggest mistake that I made was writing, whatever and however I wanted, it would write these titles, for example, like, My Favorite Pancakes Growing Up, and that would be the title of a blog. And, you know, no structure whatsoever, literally no idea what a keyword was. Plus, because I started out doing a lot of nutrition, they were nutrition topics that I was never going to rank for. So one of the things that I didn’t understand was how crowded some of the blog spaces are, and particularly around nutrition, and I have some friends who have wildly successful nutrition blogs. But they take a very different tack than writing these general like, what is irritable bowel syndrome? Because, you know, the Harvard medical schools and the health lines of the world, like they have those topics, so sewn up, like it’s impossible to rank. 

Megan Porta  21:51

Yeah, that’s, that’s a big one. I used to write, oh, my gosh, I can’t even I don’t even want to embarrass myself by telling you some of the titles that I used to, quote, write about. I look back and I’m like, What was I thinking? But that just shows that we’re evolving, right, and growing and learning and knowing new tactics and strategies. So I think it’s a sign of progress and growth. But it’s kind of embarrassing in retrospect.

Desiree Nielsen  22:16

Yeah, you if I if I dig back, and I actually had a first iteration of a blog, like back in the Blogspot days, oh, my gosh, like when I actually dig into that it’s laughable. And as a dietitian, I don’t want to give the impression that if someone is listening to this in nutrition that you can’t write about nutrition. Like I said, I have lots of friends like Sarah Remer, or Abby Langer who write nutrition blogs, and they’re really successful at it. And so, if you’re going to do it, you know, think about what’s trending, I saw some of the signs on my own blog, like when the Wheat Belly book first came out, like way back, gosh, this was like a decade ago, I did a very in depth, dietitian focused review of that book. And it landed on the first page of Google with like, no, obviously no SEO skills of my own. But it was because the internet was looking for an expert opinion on this wildly trending book. And so that’s something to keep in mind is that if you do nutrition, you might want to think about, like what’s trending on TikTok and Instagram, like, what are the best sellers? And how quickly can you turn around a really thoughtful, expert opinion, lead and sort of research backed perspective on whatever that trend is? 

Megan Porta  23:32

Oh, that is gold. Right now, with this just totally saturated space that’s really encouraging to hear that something like that worked for you. Are there any other mistakes that stand out to you that you have learned lessons from?

Desiree Nielsen  23:47

The other big one is because I love food so much. And I’m always looking for sort of the next meal, or the next flavor that really excites me, then like, wow, this is different. This is interesting, and I want to eat more of it. I’ve really learned the difference between the recipes that are most appropriate for my blog, versus what I can and should do for one of my cookbooks. A great example being I may love the combination of rose petal and lavender in a tea cake. But if nobody is looking for rose petal and lavender tea cakes, that means there’s no search volume. That means all of that work you’ve poured into that blog post may not get seen unless you have a huge audience already and like 10s of 1000s of people on your newsletter and then you’re just serving your community. But you know, maybe that’s better for my cookbook, versus something that I know people are looking for, like a dried cranberry oatmeal cookie, for example. You want to really if you’re serious about getting traffic qualifying for ads and having a food blog that’s really going to work for you and become a career path. You need to go after what people are searching for. And that was a very hard fought hard won lesson for me. 

Megan Porta  25:16

Well, we all do this in some way, if our journey into blogging goes long enough. Yeah, because we all have things that we want to make that aren’t necessarily high search volume, right? And do you allow yourself to make some of those and put them on the blog?

Desiree Nielsen  25:32

I do. I do. You know, because I think and I know, this is something that we’re going to talk about, it really fits into this, who am I as an eater? And even with the higher volume recipes that I know people are looking for, I’m always trying to put my spin on it. Like, what what do I have to say about this recipe? What makes this recipe mine.

Megan Porta  25:55

And that adds to the humaneness of it, which is really huge right now. We’re trying to find ways to make ourselves and our content stand out. And that is one way that we can do that.

Desiree Nielsen  26:04

Yeah, I think one of the biggest things about me not knowing what I was doing, jumping blindly into things, and not knowing the quote, unquote, right way to do things, is that in some ways, doing that really helped me just be me on the internet, because I didn’t know how I was supposed or right or supposed to structure my blogs, like I, I put a lot of myself into the food and into my writing. And so I think, now that I also have a little bit more of, well, here’s the structure, here are the rules you should be following and marrying those do I think it’s really helped, as opposed to being like, oh, gosh, I’ve been writing in a certain way because I feel like the algorithm wants this. And now I don’t know how to break out of it.

Sponsor  26:51

Food bloggers hey, taking a really quick break here to talk about Rank IQ with all of the changes our industry is facing right now. We are hearing a lot of advice from different people. And some of it feels really confusing and conflicting. One of the things I’ve been hearing lately is that it no longer works to write posts based on low competition keywords. I do not personally agree with this. I want to tell you why. Because my analytics are telling me that it definitely still works to write posts with a low competition keyword focus. The posts I’ve published in the past few years that I have found on Rank IQ, and that I have run through the optimizer and Rank IQ are performing really well for my blog. I have used a strategy recently that has helped to keep my traffic afloat during this very tumultuous time. I find older blog posts to redo and republish. I use the pro bloggers guide to updating old blog posts published by Rank IQ search for that on Google, put them through the Rank IQ optimizer. These republished posts are quickly rising in the rankings as well. Focusing on low competition keywords is still a good strategy for getting traffic. So I wanted to encourage you all with this. Head to rankiq.com To browse through tons of food niche categories, and grab some of those low competition High search volume keywords to focus on, go to rankiq.com to get started today. Now back to the episode.

Megan Porta  28:18

Do you have any recommendations for people who are following all the guidelines and the rules and doing that writing as they’re quote supposed to? But would like to have more of unique voice? How do we break away from those standards a little bit?

Desiree Nielsen  28:33

Yeah, you know, when I sort of, I started a podcast and I went through this branding exercise because I wanted to for the very first time like have a fancy logo and have someone properly designed it as opposed to just doing it all myself on Canva and I found the branding exercise really helpful and I think if you’re writing a blog, this would absolutely apply so just like making a cup of coffee or a cup of tea and sitting down and doing a little exercise with yourself about Okay, so what flavors do you like like when you’re eating in a restaurant? Like what are the flavors that just like time and time again? You love matcha? Or you love mushrooms or you hate mushrooms? Like what flavors do you come back to in your cooking again and again when you’re just cooking for yourself? Or what do you order on a menu? Also what kind of a cook Are you are do you love indulging in sort of the project type of cooking you know like a Sunday afternoon and just going in for four hours. And you know making broth from scratch or pasta from scratch or are you the kind of like me, I’m a very lazy, I want low effort, high reward. Someone said this to me in a comment and I was like oh my gosh, that is me. They are low effort, high reward recipes because I don’t want to fuss a lot. But I want something really really delicious. So to go through that and ask yourself all these questions like what’s your food outlook as if Is it fun? Is it everything having flavor? Or do you want to make sure that people feel really good and positive about cooking? Do you want to make sure you’re instructional, teaching people the basics of cooking. And then also, who are the creators and bloggers that you come back to again, and again, like list your top five or top 10, and start looking for some connection between them. Because I think if you look at all of that on black and white on actual paper, a little pattern will start to emerge about who you are, as a cook, and what your food personality and your cooking personality is. And then I would say, write from that place, you know, if you’ve sort of figured out this structure and pattern to your blogs that always work for you. Before you do that, perhaps sit down and write a paragraph, freeform, as if you were talking to your best friend about this recipe or about some technique in this recipe, without any formatting. Because I think that will give you like, as a writer, having written three books in the last five years, the more you can just sort of let it flow, the more the truth of what you want to convey will come across. And then if you can take that freeform paragraph and figure out how to make sure that it’s fitting into your structure so that you’ve got your keywords there, you’ve got your headings, you’ve got your teaching content for Google, I think if you can marry those two, then you’ll be much stronger for it.

Megan Porta  31:34

It’s almost like erasing what you know, for just a time and letting your subconscious come out onto paper. And then going back and rearranging it so that it does adhere to some guidelines so that you do get seen. Does that sound right? 

Desiree Nielsen  31:50

Yeah, it’s an overused quote, but Hemingway used to say, you know, write drunk, edit sober. And you can almost think of, you know, writing this first paragraph, this is your no inhibitions, paragraph, write whatever you want, make a silly joke, like, just write whatever you want to get that inspiration out there. And then your sober edit is okay. Now, did I say my keyword of plant based recipes in that context? Did I tell people this really key piece of the cooking technique in order to teach them for, you know, for the algorithm, like, put that passion in there and that personality, and you know, talk about your likes and dislikes, or you know, share a little quip, but then get it into that structure? 

Megan Porta  32:36

I love that right drunk and edits over. I’m adopting that. Do you have other suggestions for just standing out in this huge world of food blogging? There are so many of us and a lot of us are doing the same things. What are some other recommendations? 

Desiree Nielsen  32:52

Yeah, so one of the things that I do, and particularly when I was getting started when I started to take food blogging more seriously. And I would look at, you know, the first page of Google and look at the, you know, 678 blogs that were there. One of the things that I couldn’t help but notice is how the recipes just almost all look the same, the blog structure looked almost all the same. And for me, I got down on myself, because I said to myself, well, but I don’t write like that, like, this is what the most successful people are doing. And I should probably be doing exactly the same thing as them. But I just can’t make myself or whatever reason, the stubborn streak that I absolutely get from my grandfather. I just I couldn’t. And now, I feel more confident because I realized, particularly with the more recent Google rollouts, that what Google is looking for now is what are you adding to the conversation? You know, like, how is your black bean enchilada different than the first five pages of Google? Because what it wants is something unique. And so if you’re going after higher volume recipes, and you see that, you know, the first you know, 10, the first page, or the second page of Google, they all look the same. You’re like, How can I rock this black bean enchilada and make it totally different? Like how can I change the technique? How can I add an ingredient that no one else has added? And then how can I really impress upon the reader that this way of doing it is even more delicious or easier, or more economical and budget friendly? Look at what everyone else is doing, and then figure out how to do something that they aren’t, that would be my biggest piece of advice.

Megan Porta  34:44

That is such a great piece of advice. So maybe like to use your other code, observing drunk and starting sober something like observing from a place it’s not super, you know, like analytical or anything but just like what is missing and going with your gut. In creating something unique based on that.

Desiree Nielsen  35:03

Yeah, and when you have a palette of those ingredients, you know, I say often that cumin is running through my veins because it’s a spice that my grandmother used. I mean, it’s a spice that’s common throughout so many cuisines, but my Portuguese grandmother used a lot of cumin. So it’s a fully verb that’s just really embedded in my palette. And so there are certain spices, that I tend to use a lot of like cumin, like cardamom, it’s my favorite sweet spice. And so when you sort of have those palette, like even if you have to pop it on the wall, what are the 12 or 15 ingredients that you love, and try and figure out how to add one of those to each of your recipes, because then it’s really going to give you a particular style. And you’re going to attract people who also like the same things as you, which means they’re going to come back, they’re going to be loyal to you because they’re going to like your recipes.

Megan Porta  35:52

So standing out really does start with finding that style that you touched on earlier and sitting down with yourself and having that conversation Who am I in the kitchen? Who am I as a foodie, what do I like? What are the things that describe my, you know, the way I cook and move around the kitchen and make recipes? I think that’s probably step one, right? Before you can get into how do I stand out?

Desiree Nielsen  36:14

It is, you know, it’s it’s very unexpectedly existential moment. Like maybe your therapists can help you. But it’s true. You know, I think oftentimes, particularly from me, I would say, Yeah, but who am I to think that I can do this? And who am I to think that, you know, I could rank on the first page for this recipe? But that is a good question like who are you because it is who you are, because there are millions of recipes on the internet. People may fall in love with a recipe, but they will continue to return if they fall in love with you. And that means you need to show who you are. And it can feel difficult, because all you’re working with is some photographs, and a little bit of text on a blog. But there are absolutely ways to inject that even with the color palette you choose on your blog, or fonts, or you know, little things that maybe you always add, you know, like a fun fact, or a fun tip about the food that you’re using, or the technique that you’re showing. But figure out what those little things are that you’re not seeing a lot of out there and then lean on them.

Megan Porta  37:22

And even photography, right, the way that you photograph your recipes?

Desiree Nielsen  37:26

Yeah, and photography is one of those interesting ones for me as a blogger, because I don’t do my own photographs. It was one of those things that I said to myself, Okay, I can work really hard and become good at cooking. I know I’m a good dietitian. And I think I’m a like, I’m a pretty decent writer, and I can focus all my energy on this to get better. Or I can also take a lot of time to figure out how to do photographs. And I know I’m like the wildcard here and the odd one out because most people take their own photographs, but I just knew that I would take a lot of time to be mediocre at photography. And if the photographs aren’t beautiful, people aren’t going to make the recipe. So I was I’ve been really lucky to have friends help me with the photography. But then again, too, it makes it a little bit more challenging to say, well, what is my style, because I’m not doing the photographs and really work with my friends to make sure that there is sort of a distinctive language about how the photographs look, and that it fits in with my vision of like, what I want to convey on the blog.

Megan Porta  38:32

I think your approach to that is very smart. You’re being efficient, and you’re very aware of where you want to put your efforts. So I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

Desiree Nielsen  38:43

You I think that I had a lot of misgivings about it. Well, if I’m doing a blog, but I’m not doing everything myself. And then I realized, one, how many of the huge blogs and I don’t think many people realize this as consumers have blogs or have even like Instagram accounts, or when we’re getting started on our own doing blogging, but a lot of those huge blogs also have huge teams. So if you’re a team of mostly one like I am, and comparing yourself to these massive blogs know that there are five 8, 10 people making that blog happen. So all we can do is our best as one person. 

Megan Porta  39:24

Yeah. Oh my gosh, we can’t do it all we are going to just absolutely implode if we continue trying to do it all. So we have to find those ways that we can outsource and give ourselves more energy for the things that we love. Are there other ways that you recommend we can stand out in this sea of food bloggers that we’re in?

Desiree Nielsen  39:45

I think that a really common piece of advice is to sort of find a little niche which I have to admit I strongly reject. I think that stubborn streak in myself rejects I as part of my last branding Exercise, we’re trying to think, you know, like what would be your tagline on your website because I have sort of three main buckets of interests. So the first is plant based nutrition and recipes. The second is digestive health. In my private practice, I’ve, I’ve done like really complex digestive health like Crohn’s disease and celiac disease for over a decade. And then anti-inflammatory nutrition and like there are already like, I guess, technically, that’s four big buckets. You know, and so many blogs have a very sort of specific niche, particularly in more of my wellness side of things. And so, for me, I just called it transformative nutrition, the idea of the power of food to transform your health, but also the transformational nature of letting go of so many of these rules that are sort of pressed upon us in nutrition, and really just finding your own path and eating to feel good. So that was like, I sort of created this very large bucket with within which to place my my niches from like a keyword perspective, I go after plant-based recipes. And gut health and plant based nutrition, those are sort of my three core buckets there and low FODMAP recipes as well. So I would say if you are if you are drawn to a niche, such as low FODMAP recipes, because maybe you have irritable bowel syndrome, and we still need so many more low FODMAP recipes, just in case, you’re still looking for a niche, that’s a great one, if you can find that niche and really narrow in because Google does love a clear understanding of what you are about to build that authority. But otherwise, just you have to follow your own path. So be who you are, figure out who you are, what that means to you, as a food creator, and go for it.

Megan Porta  42:03

Love all of this. And how important do you feel like community and networking is in everything that we’re talking about?

Desiree Nielsen  42:10

For me, it’s essential, which is also painful, because I am a deep introvert with a dash of social anxiety. Which is probably why social media and particularly blogging, not so much creating video content. But blogging resonates with me deeply. Because I feel like I can be my true self, when I write because it’s not through the filter of being nervous about saying the wrong thing. Or looking weird in a video in the moment like I can, all of that stuff just goes away and I can write. So for me community is something that I’ve worked really hard at building, but also it’s quite essential because I have a fairly small community on the end, you know, on Instagram and Tiktok, and even my blog, in the grand scheme of things. It’s relatively small. But I also have a very strong community because I keep showing up, you know, for over a decade, every week, there’s a blog post, every week, there’s a newsletter, and I always try and offer a ton of value. One of my core sort of values is service, which is why I got into nutrition. And so I want people to really learn a lot from anything that I put out. And I hope that it helps them in their life. So a lot of value for a lot of years consistently all for free. And I’m so lucky that I’ve been able to build a solid career with this community, like when I put out a book, or if I offer a webinar, or a challenge I used to do these January challenges, like people show up and people subscribe, which is incredible to me. So the community piece has always been really big. And I have a pretty big returning readership because my I think my newsletter is maybe it’s 12,000 and change and it grows slowly. But it’s consistent. People go to my blog, they open the newsletter, my read rate is over 50%. And then they click on the blog posts week after week after week. So I have a really strong returning reader profile. And one of the things as I’ve sort of like tried to expand my blog and grow and really go after that Google traffic, one of the things that I realized was that if Google is driving your traffic, it’s a little like TikTok, which was a real shock for me moving from Instagram to TikTok because strangers are now looking at your content. They have no connection to you. So now the focus is, I mean, my community is my community and I continue to nurture them. But then when a stranger lands on my blog, how do I build that connection when they visit like how am I infusing that piece of myself into whatever blog post they stumble upon? And then also, am I capturing them into my community with the email. So it’s that sort of two pronged approach, again, unique voice, be yourself, be vulnerable enough to give that little piece of yourself in your blog posts, so that hopefully you could create a connection and I don’t know, 60 seconds, 90 seconds they might spend on your blog post. And then can you turn that into a conversion, so you can build them into your newsletter community and hopefully build a much deeper connection with them? 

Megan Porta  45:35

That was all. So well said one little piece of it I wanted to comment on was the vulnerability piece, I see a lot of food bloggers getting hung up on that piece alone. Like they can figure out their style and kind of know what their niche is and know where they want to go. But when it comes to being vulnerable, they freeze.

Desiree Nielsen  45:56

And you know, it’s so interesting, because I think we’re in a very different era of food blogging now, because we have so much data, we have so many tools and so much knowledge. But if you think back to the early days of blogging, you know, that old sort of meme that goes around the internet is like I don’t need your life story, like just take me to the recipe. But one of the reasons why those early blogs were so powerful, and their communities were so strong before, way before we really knew much about SEO beyond like, make sure your website runs nice was because they did they shared their stories. And people really connected and formed a relationship with them. Because they knew so much more about the creators behind these blogs. And if we just push the sort of neutral foodstuff only, then like I said, they could get you know, the enchilada recipe anywhere because we’re interchangeable. Like you have to put that little piece and it doesn’t have to be 10 paragraphs, but that little piece of yourself and every single blog post, so that you hope to make that connection.

Megan Porta  47:07

What a beautiful conversation. I loved this. Thank you so much Desiree. I know you have a book coming out very soon. And actually, by the time this episode will be published, it will be out already. Can you tell us a little bit about it.

Desiree Nielsen  47:20

My newest book is called Plant Magic: Celebration of Plant-based Cooking for Everyone. So this book is my pride and joy for many, many reasons. I’ve written three books in five years. And this was the one where I jokingly said, I just want to cook whatever the heck I want. Because the first two books that I had were therapeutic nutrition, they were really focused on my therapeutic nutrition background. And for this one, I just wanted to share the absolute like joy and pleasure of plant based food. I think for people who aren’t vegetarian or vegan, or they’re just plant curious. There’s this connotation that somehow plant based eating is lacking, or without flavor, or boring or no fun. And I am here to sort of tell the world that it is the opposite of that. I love food. I want every single thing I eat to be so flavorful, and so much fun to eat. And so Plant Magic is really a celebration of all those things. So it’s not about labels. If you love tasty food and are curious about putting some more plants on your plate like everything from chocolate chip spelt pancakes to tiramisu that’s fully vegan, and I promise people will not know the difference. Everything in between.

Desiree Nielsen  47:20

My favorite cookbooks are the ones that people are so passionate about creating. And it sounds like you are and that already makes it awesome. I can’t wait to look at it. And when does that come out? That comes out in April?

Desiree Nielsen  48:57

It is in stores, April 23?

Megan Porta  49:00

Oh my gosh, congratulations, three books in five years. That’s an incredible feat.

Desiree Nielsen  49:07

It’s you know, it is the sort of opposite of what most people do most people build a really big successful blog. And then they write a cookbook. And I spent five years pouring a lot of my time into cookbooks. And now I’m so excited. Now that that’s done to really just, you know, take the reins off and pour so much of what I’ve learned into my blog. 

Megan Porta  49:29

I think it sounds like that’s another one of your messages is that you don’t have to do things the way they’re quote supposed to be done, right? Your

Desiree Nielsen  49:37

path is your own. And I there’s definitely been so much insecurity around that for me, like, oh, well why isn’t this growing in this way? Or why do I see these people succeeding and I feel like I’m not succeeding, but your path is your path. And every step along the way has been so interesting, and I’ve learned so much and I’ve been so lucky to have so many opportunities, you know, different opportunities, like I never thought I would be on TV and I had this like super random TV show that’s actually aired all over the world. And you know, these cookbooks. So I would say, go with where the yes takes you, you know, have a path, have an idea, but hold your sort of like five year vision for yourself loosely, because you don’t know what’s going to pop up tomorrow or in six months or in a year. But if you get really excited about the opportunity, chase that because it might lead somewhere incredible. And even if it doesn’t, you’ve at least learned a lot of what to do or what not to do. And that’s only going to serve you on sort of the next step of your path.

Megan Porta  50:42

Oh, beautifully said holding space for those unexpected opportunities that might come your way is so important, something that we don’t think to do, because we think that we know everything that we want to involve. But it’s not necessarily true.

Desiree Nielsen  50:56

And there could be some amazing things waiting for you around the band. Right?

Megan Porta  51:00

Thank you Desiree this was an amazingly fun conversation. It’s been such a pleasure. Thanks for joining us today. Do you have either a favorite quote or words of inspiration to leave us with aside from all of the amazing wisdom you’ve already shared?

Desiree Nielsen  51:13

Thank you. This has been I’ve had so much fun chatting with you about blogging. I love blogging so much. So I’m going to leave you with I have a bunch of favorite quotes. But I think this one is really helpful because I currently need to remind myself of this on a near daily basis. So perhaps it might help someone else too. And it is never be the one to say no to yourself. Liz Moody said that she’s one of my, you know, sort of wellness business idols. She does an incredible podcast and I also podcast so I really look up to her in many ways. And the idea is like, why would you say no to yourself? Why would you say I can’t do this? Or nobody’s going to say yes to me if I ask them. Why wouldn’t you let someone else like the worst they can say is no, I personally have a hard time sort of letting that one sink in. Because I was like, Oh, I’ll be mortified if someone says no, but really, it’s not a big deal. If they say no, it’s not personal. So go for it. Whatever you’re wanting in sort of your heart of hearts. Go for it. Ask for help lots ask for the opportunity lots because the worst that could happen is they say no. So then you just try again later.

Megan Porta  52:22

I love that so much. Thank you. This was amazing. We’ll put together shownotes for you Desiree if you want to go look at those head to eatblogtalk.com/desireenielsen. Can you tell everyone how your name is spelled number one and then two tell everyone where they can find you Desiree?

Desiree Nielsen  52:40

Yes, so yeah, my name my name is an odd one. So it’s Desiree is D-E-S-I-R-E-E. Nielsen is N-I-E-L-S-E-N. And you can find me and my very nerdy nutrition blog and all of my plant based recipes at desireerd.com And then Instagram I’m desireenielsenrd and TikTok, I’m desireenielsennutrition.

Megan Porta  53:05

Everyone go check Desiree out. Thank you again so much for being here and thank you for listening food bloggers. I will see you next time. 

Outro  53:14

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