In episode 289, Megan chats with Gina Dickson, party planner and recipe developer at Intentional Hospitality, about becoming an empty nester, going through a journey overcoming cancer while growing as an entrepreneur.
We cover information about connecting with your why, putting into action all your education and accessing the trio of tools to bring success: RankIQ, Eat Blog Talk and web stories.
Write Blog Posts that Rank on Google’s 1st Page
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Bio Gina is the recipe developer and party planner behind the blog Intentional Hospitality. Gina began her blog to help people create easy-to-make meals and party food that would help create a table where people would come together and enjoy a meal and a conversation.
- Needing a creative outlet and an entrepreneurial spirit can combine to start blogging as a business.
- RankIQ can help to get your posts fine tuned to get Google to notice you.
- Stop trying to learn everything and just jump in.
- You will learn as you go – start posting.
- Get rid of things that are slowing down your site.
- When you have a passion and a goal, you’re motivated to find ways to make money and buy what you need to invest in your business. Yard sales, making things and selling them, getting a temporary job, etc.
- Masterminds are a great way to level up with both knowledge of what’s working in the industry and create a community for yourself.
- Creating web stories and posting consistently a few times a week can grow page views and traffic.
- Use Google Analytics to find relevant content to share on web stories.
- If a post doesn’t get indexed, try this: copy it and rename the title slightly, then republish. No need to change the content in the story.
- Mindset is huge – find your why and work on confidence.
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Another Inspirational Journey
Listen to Lyn Croyle in episode 277 about her journey into blogging and what helped her find success.
Click for full text.
289 Gina Dicks
Gina Dickson: Hey, y’all. This is Gina Dickson from Intentional Hospitality, and you’re listening to the Eat Blog Talk podcast.
Sponsor: Hey, awesome food bloggers. Before we dig into this episode, I have a really quick favor to ask you. Go to your favorite podcast player. Go to Eat Blog Talk, scroll down to the bottom where you see the ratings and review section. Leave Eat Blog Talk a five star rating if you love this podcast. Leave a great review. This will only benefit this podcast. It adds value. I so very much appreciate your efforts with this. Thank you so much for doing this. Okay. Now onto the episode.
Megan Porta: Hello, food bloggers. Welcome to Eat Blog Talk, the podcast for food bloggers looking for the value and confidence that will move the needle forward in their businesses. This episode is sponsored byRankIQ. I am your host, Megan Porta, and you are listening to episode number 289. Today, Gina is going to talk to us about her amazing journey with food blogging, how she’s massively increased her page views and how this has really been a creative journey for her. Gina is the recipe developer and party planner behind the blog, Intentional Hospitality.
She began her blog to help people create easy to make meals and party food that would help create a table where people would come together and enjoy a meal and a conversation. Gina, I was just telling you before we started recording that I just never could have imagined you’d be here today, but I’m so thrilled that you are. Can’t wait to dig into your story, we all want to hear your fun fact.
Gina Dickson: Well, my fun fact is during COVID, just before it shut down, we went out and bought an RV. A 29 foot ACE RV, and it was brown and ugly and whatnot. I just decided I’m going to flip this. I got permission to keep it parked in our driveway for COVID and that kind of thing. I gutted it and basically put in quartz countertops and did you know, the high-end leather and just really did it up. Then I get this phone call from a friend that says, Hey, Mel Gibson needs a place to stay while he’s shooting a movie here in Augusta. Can we use your RV? I’m like, yeah. So they borrowed our RV. Actually they rented it and he stayed in it during the shooting of a movie. So it was just a fun thing.
Megan Porta: Oh my gosh. Okay. Now I remember you telling me that, but I had forgotten that. So do you still have the RV?
Gina Dickson: We decided to sell it just after, probably six months ago and we are living in an apartment. We sold our house. We sold the RV. We’re simplifying life. We’re building right now. Yeah, everything’s gone and it’s like a refresh. Let me share with everybody. The reason is because we became empty nesters. That’s a lot of my story too.
Megan Porta: Oh yeah. We’ll get into that. Then one last question about your fun fact. Did you actually get to meet Mel?
Gina Dickson: No.
Megan Porta: Oh, dang it.
Gina Dickson: I did not. But I did give him my ]Master’s cookbook. I wrote him a little letter and said here’s some recipes from Augusta, from my blog, blah, blah, blah. He took it. It was just neat.
Megan Porta: That is a really cool thing. Wow. I love that. Okay. Let’s get into your story, Gina, because you have such a great story. You mentioned that you’re like a super creative person and you needed a way to express yourself after being an empty-nester. So would you mind just telling us your story? We want to hear how this all evolved for you.
Gina Dickson: Sure. I could start where everybody wants me to and say, last December I was at 18,000 page views and this December I was at 112,000 page views, but that really is not the story that I like to share. But it’s more about perseverance. I’m not one of those people that just, oh, I figured it all out. Here I am to be a successful blogger. It was a journey for me. When I started out, gosh, it was in 2008 when I started my first blog, I was a homeschool mother of six. I needed an outlet to be creative that I could do while they’re doing their schoolwork. That was where it evolved from. I was on a free platform for homeschoolers. Then around 2011, I moved over to Bloggers. That homeschool blog became more of a decorating and recipe blog. I was just working on it whenever I could fit it in. Doing this algebra two and trigonometry and all those things. So then around 2014, I decided this is something I want to do when the kids are done, because I was down to the last two kids. They were in high school and I thought I can do this as a fulltime job when I’m done. So I got on a local server and Intentional Hospitality was born. Then lo and behold, the next year, my sister who lives in Atlanta called me and said, Hey, let’s go to Italy. And I’m like, what in the world? She said Annette Joseph has a workshop. That was a friend that she knew there in Atlanta and she had workshops for food styling in Italy. So I did it and I’m like, oh my goodness, this is real. This is the first big step God opened for me to go and learn how to shoot photography for my food blog. At that point, I didn’t even own a camera. So I got on the computer and I just started Googling. What kind of camera should I have? I went in and I decided on a 6D and headed to Italy, never really even shooting it other than just when I first got it out of the box. It was good and we had a wonderful time. I met Jewel from Jewel’s Kitchen. I’ll need to look her up. She’s a wonderful food blogger over there and I just got this creative spirit that just bloomed in me as far as photography and the idea of creating recipes and just all that. About that time, I started listening to Brandon also from Blog Millionaire. I was just absorbing anything that he had to say about growing your blog. I was really excited. The kids were like the last two are junior and a senior, and I was ready to take my blog full time and do lots of posts, probably about 200 posts at that point.
Then I got a cancer diagnosis. My world just stopped in 2016. I didn’t even touch my blog. It was just a hundred percent, I’m going to beat this. I’m going to live again and have a normal life. Of course, when you’re going through chemo and radiation and all that, food is not one thing you’re going to think about. I couldn’t even think of making a recipe on my site to smell the food or having anything to do with it. I just basically let it just live on its own for a while. Then after all the treatments and I got the clear, I spent five years of recovery from that cancer treatment that had a lot of issues. If anybody ever wants to talk to me, just let me know. Because colon cancer is a lonely kind of treatment sometimes, that it’s a challenge as if any cancers are, but. I would love to talk to some people if anybody was interested about it at another time. But during the last five years after recovery, I started working for a medical examiner. It’s a local paper here and he had me write a recipe twice a week. I thought, okay, I can do that. That’s about all I could get done. So it gave me some time to get back into it and have my photography published. I’m just like, okay, this is real. At that point I thought I needed to work on my photography. Booked a workshop with Jen Davis from Two Cups of Flour, ran up to Nashville and spent some time with her. It just opened a world of photography for me that I didn’t know. Right after that she won the Saveur award. So it was just kinda oh my goodness, I know this famous person. It was just fun. But then about that time, 2020, I found you. That’s where we can pick up.
Megan Porta: Okay, your story, Gina. I knew a lot of this because we had talked about it in bits and pieces over the past year, but putting it all together, it’s so inspiring. You were just. I am almost in tears. You’re just so strong and inspiring. I really appreciate you putting that out there for people to come to you because I can’t imagine what kind of loneliness that is. Just going through, I know you had a lot of pain and I can’t imagine five years of that.
Gina Dickson: Yeah. The first two years after my treatments I didn’t hardly touch my blog either. Because the pain was so bad. I was basically chair bound in my home for a long time. So it is lonely, but it’s all for the glory. Now here we are.
Megan Porta: Oh my goodness. Okay. So you found Eat Blog Talk. Thank goodness. You’ve been this light for the Eat Blog Talk communities. Since I met you, I am so grateful for you. So what kind of inspired you to get back in and make this a business and just kill it? Because you have. You’ve gotten so many page views within the past year. So can you talk us through the past year and what inspired you throughout the year?
Gina Dickson: Really wanting to be somebody other than a homeschool mom. I know that sounds terrible. 25 plus years of schooling my kids, I knew that I did not want to go back to work. I have a degree, but I just didn’t want to go back, but I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to do my own thing so I could take care of right now, my 13 grandchildren. Somebody can drop off the kids and run, go shopping or whatever. I just want to be there for them, but still be successful as a woman and contribute an income, which is something I really had not done in so many years. So it was important for me to find an outlet, something I love to do, but yet something that was creative. Because I’m a crafter, I’m a watercolor artist, color pencil.I love all those things. But doing the blog feels like I need to be creative. That’s why I decided to do that instead of going back to work.
Megan Porta: I think that’s so brave of you to just say to yourself, I want to be successful as a woman and contribute an income. You said it’s the first time that you had done that, right? It’s because you had been married all of these years and you’d put your kids through school. So how inspiring that you were just like, okay, it’s my time. I’m going to step up and use my creativity to dig into an entrepreneurial business and I’m going to crush it.
Gina Dickson: That’s exactly it.
Megan Porta: Yes. I love it. Okay, so you mentioned Brandon from the Blogger Millionaire, who is also the founder of RankIQ. He was in your mind too and he inspired you to dig in. Can you tell us a few things about maybe what he said along the way that inspired you and how that encouraged you?
Gina Dickson: He has and I know he shares this openly, that he has some really heavy health issues and then his wife also had cancer. So I understood a little bit about being an entrepreneur and living with things that make it more difficult than the norm when it comes to your health. So in that sense, I just really connected with him. Then probably I guess it was in 2020, maybe 2019, he started talking about this new thing he was getting ready to put out. I got really excited because what he was saying was this can’t be this good, kind of thing. I did join; first person there. That first week we jumped in and we started doing optimizations of keywords through his, I don’t want you to call it. It’s not really a service.
Megan Porta: His tool.
Gina Dickson: Yeah. Chatted back and I’d say, Hey, this didn’t work, or we tweaked it together as we went through that first month. One of my posts I did with him was number one within less than two days. I was like, wait a minute. If I can do this through here, what can I do with some other content? So I realized how valuable that tool was. I started using it to go through all my posts and reoptimize, I guess you would say, my old ones. I only did one using RankIQ also. So things just started growing.
Megan Porta: Okay. You introduced me to RankIQ. Thank you. Because it is my favorite tool and I feel like it’s a little secret. You, I remember I mentioned, I think it was like a hummus post. Is that right? Is that the one that went to number one on Google within days?
Gina Dickson: Yeah, it was and it was a roundup post. It wasn’t even a recipe. I had 50 other hummus recipes and I gave a lot of Google juice to a lot of other bloggers. So that kind of made me happy because people stay on that one so long. It was exciting.
Megan Porta: That is exciting. I don’t know if I’ve told you this Gina, but my goal in 2022, I started January 1st, is to create three non recipe posts a week, all new and all of them I run through RankIQ. Of those three a week, I’m not creating anything outside of RankIQ content. So far, my January was up from last year. I think it was 25%, which isn’t crazy.
Gina Dickson: It is for January.
Megan Porta: It was really good for me and I anticipate, my goal is to triple my page views in 2022, because honestly, because of RankIQ. It is a game changer and thank you for introducing me to Brandon and to that tool, because literally it’s like my secret right now. I want to share it with everyone. It’s so powerful.
Gina Dickson: I do too. I really think that has been the key. So the thing that really, I think grew my site the most, was I stopped trying to learn everything. I think I spent so many years taking this course, learning to do this and trying to get everything perfect before I even really started. So I just stopped learning basically, except for maybe one afternoon a week. I just started doing, I just started writing posts. I just started taking pictures and I did just the things that were important to grow my site, instead of trying to figure it all out and make it perfect.
Sponsor: Hi, food bloggers. I’m taking a pause here on the episode, really quick to tell you about the spring retreat that we’re planning through Eat Blog Talk. This retreat is focused on you, food bloggers who want to come together and collaborate and learn from one another and grow in ways that you cannot even imagine. The retreat is taking place on May 19th through the 22nd, 2022 here in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We will be spending three nights together, two intensive days learning and growing in a beautiful rental property in Minneapolis. There are a few spots left for this retreat. So if you’re interested, go to eatblogtalk.com/spring2022retreat. You will find all the information there that you need. You can join the wait list and see how it will benefit your business. I hope you decide to join us. It’s going to be really powerful and awesome. Okay. Back to the episode.
Megan Porta: It’s so tempting to just learn, right? Because there’s so much to learn in this world of food blogging. At some point, I think we all get to that spot where we’re like, okay, I need to pause the learning and actually go do. What do you suggest for that? How do you figure out when enough is enough when it comes to learning and what to dive into when we are deciding to just go?
Gina Dickson: When I started to stop learning, in a sense I wasn’t stopping, I was just putting it aside and not making it a priority. Or maybe I should say I wasn’t making an excuse not to do what I should be doing as far as creating content. So April 1st I got in an audit with Casey. He said, of course it would be August before he could get to me. I was like, oh, but I was ready. It was okay. I was like, Casey, what can I do between now and then to help my site grow? He said a few things, and I think that all of us should take it to heart. Get rid of She Media. I had the ads on and he said, it’s slowing your site down. He said, you will be happier if you take it off and wait and be patient. So I did. He also told me since it was so long to get with him, he said, get a Top Hat Rank audit. To me that was. Ka-ching ka-ching. I did not have the money for that, but I wasn’t really making any money. So I went on Facebook marketplace and if you love something enough, you’re going to find a way. I started selling stuff. I went through the house and I had this huge yard sale through my house. The kids were all starting to move out and I had all this stuff that I’d been saving for all those years. I used it towards the audit for Top Hat Rank, and then also for Casey. I paid my way through yard saleing to get to where I wanted to be, because that’s what I needed to do to make this a business. So after that, I had the Top Hat Rank and did a lot of cleaning. Then I moved over to the feast theme, which I’m not saying that’s the best thing for everybody, but that’s just what worked for me. It got my page speed up. So that was April by May, after doing all those things, I got with Mediavine. From then on, it was just uphill.
Megan Porta: You’ve since upgraded to AdThrive correct?
Gina Dickson: Yes. Yes. I had my audit with Casey in August. I also have a little support group that I get together with online. Like you say, community is so important. I was part of the mastermind with Eat Blog Talk. I’ve met some friends there and we started saying, Hey, we’re missing not seeing each other all the time. So we get together on Tuesdays and we just work together. We meet and then we push silent with the video and we work, and then we have a question we just pop in. We do that for about two hours on Tuesday. Then Thursdays, we get together in the afternoon and we have a hot seat and we just talk and share what’s been going on. That’s really helped me grow too, because it’s very isolating to sit here by yourself all day long. What one would learn, we would share with each other. Then it just seems like we’ve all grown so fast together like this.
Megan Porta: The rate of growth I feel is exponential when you can find a group of people to work together with, like you were mentioning. I’m so happy that you guys have continued that relationship. I think you are accelerating your growth more than so many people because of it.
Gina Dickson: Yes. I agree. Also web stories became a big accelerator for me also. Of course, Lori’s with me in that group and she’s the one that kind of, we were all just saying, let’s try this, let’s try that. Even yesterday I sent them a thing and I said, Hey, did you see that so and so put their web stories on Pinterest and they used it like this blah, blah. So we’re always bouncing back and forth ideas and trying new things together that will accelerate our businesses. It’s just a great thing to have community.
Megan Porta: Yeah. Because those little things, like you mentioned, you don’t necessarily know about. They’re not on your radar, unless somebody else just happens to mention it. So you’re like lifting up your entire group by just bringing these little things to the table. Web stories. Oh my goodness. That has been huge for so many bloggers in 2021. Even now. Can you tell us, like how many are doing? What is your strategy with web stories?
Gina Dickson: I’ve been trying to do three to four a week. Of course right now I’m gearing up for Masters. If anybody doesn’t know what that is, I live in Augusta, Georgia, and I do have a lot of copycat recipes for Masters. It’s a huge week for me. Last year it was like 400,000 page views within a matter of five days. Of course then it dropped right back down to 30,000 the next week. But anyways, I’m gearing up for that. But for web stories, I have really just found that consistency is the key. I don’t necessarily have pretty fancy ones, but they always run first through the Google trends. I use the exact word in Google trends to make my title. So I did a Caesar salad, healthy Caesar salad dressing the other day. I went into the tool and typed in Caesar salad. I used those words, nothing to do with my words in the sense of healthy, but that was what people were looking for. So they just got a healthy dose once they went to it.
Megan Porta: So you go use Google trends to determine your keywords. Now, do you do the previous year, where do you search what timeframe do you search for Google trends?
Gina Dickson: I searched one day.
Megan Porta: One day.
Gina Dickson: I switch it to one day. Yup. I do. I think that it works best. Thank goodness mine are getting indexed right away within less than 12, 24 hours. I’m running, on average, a thousand page views on my stories a day. It does bring traffic in. It really does.
Megan Porta: There are a lot of people that aren’t getting indexed and I feel so bad for them. Do you have any insights as to why?
Gina Dickson: No, I don’t, but I really feel that they need to work at finding the reason. We have had some success. If you find a story that has not been indexed to go in and completely change the name. You don’t necessarily need to change the story, but just change the name with certain keywords in it and then republish it. That seems to help some. It’s just perseverance with Google. They don’t seem to know either sometimes.
Megan Porta: Yeah.
Gina Dickson: We’re all just learning together.
Megan Porta: I love this quote from Andrew Wilder in a previous Eat Blog Talk episode. He said something like, “this is Google’s world and we just live in it.” That was so funny. We don’t even know what’s going on and we don’t know if they know what’s going on, but we just feel like we’re being tossed around. What is the deal? Thankfully you’ve made it work. You figured out how to just be consistent with web stories and keep producing them. That has produced some extra traffic for you.
Gina Dickson: It sure has. I guess the two keys are SEO for your posts and SEO for your web stories.
Megan Porta: So RankIQ, Eat Blog Talk, web stories. Is there anything else that you want to mention that has contributed to your massive growth?
Gina Dickson: Realizing this is something that I can do and be successful at. It’s a mindset thing. I’ve never really been able to do something like this. I didn’t have the opportunity. So this is something that fills me up, is all I can say. I found my passion and I found my creative therapy when things aren’t going well. It’s oh, I’m just gonna go get in Canva and create something because I’d love to do it. Or I’m gonna go create a web story because I’m grumpy right now and I need to get that jolt of creativity out. It feeds me and it’s a therapy for me.
Megan Porta: Yeah. I think that we can, a lot of us can say that too. I’m really glad you mentioned that. I wanted you to mention it because I wrote down my notes here. I don’t know, probably 10 minutes ago. I wrote confidence and I circled it because I’ve watched you evolve with that. I feel like. I don’t know, it was probably around March of 2021 or April, maybe when you were getting onto Mediavine. Right around that time, I just saw a shift in you with your confidence and you just, I can’t even explain it, but there was something different, like you knew you could do it. That is when you just took off and you started digging into all of these resources and tools and avenues and you were sharing more about you and what your end goals were. I love that you have found that, Gina. It has been so fun to watch that.
Gina Dickson: Thanks. God gives us gifts to use. I’m using them. I’m using my creativity, my art, my love of food. Opening my home to have people come over and hang out with me. It’s just all part of who I am. When you’re doing what you love and what you’ve been gifted with, then you’re going to succeed.
Megan Porta: Your journey has so many messages and cool stories and perseverance, confidence, just, creativity digging into this as a creative passion. What would you say is your number one takeaway for people listening, if they may be in a place where they’re feeling stuck, or maybe they’re going through something big like you did for five years, what would your main takeaway be for them?
Gina Dickson: I think the thing that helped me the most was finding my confidence and was to find out who I was. I spent so many years being a homeschool mom, and it was like, I’m done. What should I do next? My identity was gone. When I realized that I could be a woman that creates a business and has a why again, other than what I had in the past. That’s when I decided I can do this, I can move forward. I did it with the community. I did it with an understanding that I enjoyed what I was doing. I want people to find their own reasons. My reason was because I was gifted with certain things and I used them and I was becoming a woman that wasn’t just a mom, but actually a woman that could create something and use those gifts to help other people. Even if it was just a recipe or a tip to open their home and have people in. We are mothers and daughters and all those things, but we’re also more than that. We’re beings. I think that when we’re in the transition of going from a mother to who-am-I, this was something that we can fill our lives with. Building a business and being creative and just giving to others besides those that are in your home. That’s how I look at my site. I’m giving others an opportunity to open their homes and to bring people into their homes and enjoy serving them without stressing out and just having community within their own home.
Megan Porta: That was beautiful. Oh my goodness, Gina. What an amazing conversation. You have inspired me today, even having already known you, this was such an inspiring conversation, and I know that you’re going to inspire food bloggers. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing all of this. I know it probably wasn’t super easy to dig into a lot of some painful things from your past but we really appreciate you.
Gina Dickson: Thank you.
Megan Porta: All right. You know how it goes. We want to hear if you have either a favorite quote or words of inspiration to share with us.
Gina Dickson: I do. I have a verse that I always like to put at the bottom of my emails, because I want my readers to feel comfortable to open their homes. It’s all about the community within the home for them. I put, do not forget to show hospitality to strangers for by doing so some people have shown hospitality to angels without even knowing. I think it’s so important, especially right now, our world is so turned upside down and so divided. If we could just see past who the people are by their race or their color or whatever, just let people in your home and feed them and you’ll grow. You’ll learn that they’re just like you and I think that’s really important.
Megan Porta: I’ve never gotten so many goosebumps in an episode before. That was so good. Oh my goodness. Thank you for ending that way. You’re amazing. Gina, we’re going to put together a show notes page for you, and if you want to go look at those, you can find them at eatblogtalk.com/intentionalhospitality. Why don’t you tell everyone where they can find you online and on social media, Gina?
Gina Dickson: Sure. Let’s see, on Facebook, I am Intentional Hospitality blog and on Instagram, I’m Intentional Hospitality as well as on Pinterest.
Megan Porta: Awesome. Everyone go check Gina out. Thanks again, Gina for just being here today and thank you for listening today, food bloggers. I will see you in the next episode.
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