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Episode 163: Monetize Your Blog With Ads with Nicole Johnson

In episode 163 we talk with Nicole Johnson from Mediavine about ad management companies and how they can help you monetize.

We cover information about why Mediavine is different from other ad management companies, what you should expect from an ad manager and tips to reaching 50K sessions/month!

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 Mediavine
Website | Instagram | Facebook

Bio
Nicole Johnson began her career in blogging accidentally back in 2010, with the launch of her food blog, Or Whatever You Do. In 2014 she went to work for a popular SaaS startup that services bloggers, and in 2016 made the move to Mediavine and hasn’t looked back. Nicole lives in Washington State with her husband and 7 children.

Takeaways

  • Create a strong audience before you consider monetizing. Begin adding affiliate information & potentially products to your site to begin monetizing while waiting to hire an ad management company.
  • Be thoughtful about whether Google AdSense is right for you. You are your own ad manager and no one will be there to guide you on dos and don’ts. The consequences of getting banned from AdSense follow you the lifespan of your blog.
  • Low quality ads slow your site down and impact load times, ultimately impacting the UX.
  • Beginner bloggers that work for free also have to anticipate spending money on their blog if they want to monetize eventually.
  • A good host, a premium self-hosted theme on WordPress and site speed are important to a successful blogger.
  • Mediavine was started from scratch by bloggers who needed a valuable resource for ad management.
  • Mediavine offers programmatic advertising as well as some customizable ad options for you to determine through their dashboard.
  • Bloggers need to focus on quality, useful content and connecting with their audience. This is what will grow a bloggers sessions.
  • A good ad manager will have resources available to you. They will also continuously be updating you on industry related news and have clear, prompt service.
  • An ad management company will offer detailed and accurate reporting so you can make data driven decisions about your own business.

Resources Mentioned

Mediavine blog

Mediavine resources that Nicole references

More Monetization Strategies?

Learn how virtual cooking classes with Chibo could help you grow revenue streams in episode #144.


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:

Food bloggers. Hey, are you looking for new ways to make money as a blogger? If so, we have got your back. We have launched an ebook called Conversations On Monetization. Inside this resource, we take your favorite podcast episodes about monetization, and we put them all in one easy accessible package. We threw a few exclusive interviews in as well. Friends, there are so many ways to monetize your food blog. Inside this ebook, we have interviews with success stories like Todd Bullock, Alyssa Brantley, Kelly McNelis, Jena Carlin, and more. All of these examples have become successful through completely different monetization strategies. Whether you are a brand new blogger or looking for your very first revenue stream, or you are a seasoned pro wanting to diversify, this ebook is for you. Go to eatblogtalk.com to grab your copy. And we can’t wait to hear your success story with monetization.

What’s up 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 have Nicole Johnson with me from Mediavine, and we are going to have a chat about monetizing your blog with ads. Nicole Johnson began her career in blogging accidentally back in 2010, with the launch of her food blog Or Whatever You Do. In 2014, she went to work for a popular S a a S startup that services bloggers and in 2016 made the move to Mediavine and hasn’t looked back. Nicole lives in Washington state with her husband and seven children. Oh my gosh. Nicole, you have seven children. That’s a lot of children. Oh my Gosh.

Nicole Johnson:

I do. It’s a lot. It seems like more this year.

Megan:

They’ve multiplied somehow here. So that was not your fun fact or maybe it was going to be, but on top of that, what fun fact do you have to share with us?

Nicole:

It’s pretty widely known if you’ve ever spent any time with me in real life when spending time in real life was still a thing, but I am very much obsessed with finding the craziest karaoke bar in any given city. So you know, my hobby is a little bit on hold this year, but I’m hoping I’ll be back to karaoke bars before too many more years go by.

Megan:

Oh, that’s fun. So your fun. Is that your way to release steam after being around seven children all day?

Nicole:

You know, funny enough, I didn’t really do karaoke when I was home, but when I traveled, I liked to get out there and do that.

Megan:

Oh, cool. I love that

Nicole:

I used to host Karaoke for a while. So you either really love karaoke or you really don’t love karaoke. So I’m in the really love category.

Megan:

What is your favorite song to sing?

Nicole:

It changes so often. I don’t know. Whatever my song is at the moment that I can’t turn off and just put on repeat over and over again, I guess.

Megan:

That’s a good answer. We all have those songs that you need to listen to again. I do that all the time and my family is like, Oh my gosh, mom, why are you listening to this again? I tell them because it’s amazing. We have to listen to it on repeat over and over and over.

Nicole:

I wear some stuff out with the family and they make fun of me about it a little bit, but it’s well earned.

Megan:

Definitely well earned. Well, let’s chat about ads because you work for Mediavine, which is one of the main ad companies that works with food bloggers. You have the ears of people who would like to start monetizing their food blogs, Nicole. So tell those people where they can start with this whole process.

Nicole:

It’s pretty easy to start monetizing a food blog. I think the trend tends to be, to want to do it too early. The more information that has come out about starting blogging and making it a business and making it your job has brought a lot of new bloggers into things, but I really encourage people to wait until they build up significant amounts of traffic before they start monetizing with advertising. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start monetizing pretty early on. Once you have at least a little bit of an audience built up, I would start with affiliates and potentially products. If you are dipping your toes into the product realm, while you work on building the traffic that’s required to make substantial amounts from advertising.

Megan:

So you would recommend focusing more on affiliates before even starting with something like Google AdSense.

Nicole:

I would, yeah, it’s really easy to do AdSense incorrectly. The consequences of getting banned from AdSense can follow your domain for the life of the domain. It’s on you when you run AdSense to make sure you’re complying with all the different ad policy and that can get really complicated. So I don’t really think it’s worth it in most cases to monetize with AdSense because it doesn’t typically earn enough to really make it worth your focus and energy and time.

Megan:

So you mentioned doing it incorrectly. What can you do that’s incorrect that could get you into trouble.

Nicole:

Oh, there’s a list, probably hundreds of bullet points long. Things like ads too close together, the wrong type of ad in the wrong place. You could run ads alongside content that is not considered brand safe, and that can be a policy violation. It’s a really complex set of rules that even though I’ve been focusing almost entirely on programmatic advertising and ad policy and all of those rules for almost five years, I still don’t even know a quarter of all of the different criteria. Thankfully I’m not the one that has to know all that stuff, but it’s much easier to let someone manage your ads for you, who then gets to take care of all of the fun policy and rules, the stuff for you and not worry about it.

Megan:

Yeah, with AdSense, it’s much harder to monitor the quality as you mentioned. So the quality, if it’s bad, you don’t obviously want to represent bad stuff on your website, your blog that you’re putting so much time and energy into, right? So your opinion is kind of the low quality ads are worse than not having ads at all.

Nicole:

Right, absolutely. Low quality ads can slow down your site and it can impact your load times. It can really impact how the user interacts with your page in some cases. So you want to make sure if you’re running advertising on your own under AdSense or under a non-premium ad provider, make sure you’re really paying attention to the experience on the site, how it impacts your site’s speed, run tests with the ads, without the ads and use the data to make a decision about whether it’s really worth it, but there’s costs and there’s costs. So you have to determine if it’s worth it for your site and where you’re at to make those kinds of sacrifices that you sometimes have to if you’re not running ads with Mediavine.

Megan:

You recommend that people hold off and not put ads on too early. How long do you think it takes typically to get to that point where you should consider putting ads on?

Nicole:

Sometimes it can take a long time. I’m a food blogger as well. I started my site in 2010 and I did not have, obviously back then we didn’t have all the resources that there are now. I also didn’t put enough time into it, I don’t think in the early days, because it was really a hobby and an outlet for me and not something I thought was going to turn into a viable business. But it can take years in some cases, depending on how much time you put into it and how quickly you pick up SEO and how quickly you pick up what’s working on social media. There’s not really one track or one timeline, but if someone comes to me after they find out what I do, and they say I want to start a blog and I wanna make my blog my job and earn income from it, I generally prep them for a year or two of working, not only for free, but it will cost you money initially.

Megan:

That’s so true. And not, not everybody knows that going into it.

Nicole:

They really don’t because there are cases where it takes off much faster than that. I think we’ve all seen and heard the stories of the people who just seem to know what they’re doing even without any prior experience. They really connect with an audience early and their sites kind of explode. That is amazing and I wish I had a little of that on my own site, but for most people it’s a marathon and it’s a slow and steady build to get traffic.

Megan:

Patience is key in food blogging for most people. To start, Nicole, tell us some things that we should have in our minds as we get started, hosting, themes, things like that.

Nicole:

It’s really important to start off on the right foot if you want to get to the money part of things as fast as you can. So make sure that you have a good host. So a good host is someone that is going to be able to help you fix things if they’re broken. They should have a phone number you can call and talk to a real person before you want to throw your phone out the window. They should have some kind of published policy about how they’re covering things on holidays and weekends, because especially as food bloggers, our traffic is the highest on holidays and weekends. If something happens, you need to know that your host is going to be around to help you fix it, so you’re not losing out on that traffic and that money that’s so good during those peak traffic times. You also want to make sure you are focusing early on on site speed. Google cares more and more and more about how fast your site is, as time goes on. So that is not a thing you can afford to put off until later. So make sure you have a fast site, a premium theme. I recommend WordPress, the self-hosted WordPress for anyone asking, because I think it’s one of the most common platforms, easy to use. There’s a lot of information available on it and it’s easy to monetize as well.

Megan:

Yes, that’s all great advice. And also things that we don’t all think through when we get started. I know I didn’t, none of these things were on my radar, but I started way back when you did Nicole. So 2010, I started my blog as well and 0% did I think or know anything about this, but now there are so many food bloggers that exist today that did not exist back when we started. There’s just so much more information out there. You can figure out how to find that good host really easily, go into any forum or group. You’re going to get a slew of responses about that. So I think just asking around is a good way to figure out if your theme is good and also figuring out if your site is slow or fast and all of the stuff that you mentioned. I want to touch on this because display advertising historically has carried a bit of a bad reputation, to be honest with you. It’s one of those things, it’s kinda touchy, but it definitely has. So tell us why this is, and also tell us what sets Mediavine ads apart from those quote bad ads.

Nicole:

I don’t think it’s any real secret that most ads on the internet are terrible. They can slow down your site. They can impact the load time. They can take over the screen. They can do all kinds of crazy things with your browsing experience. That is something that I’m not on board with and something that Mediavin,e as a company, I really connected with this company because of Eric, our CEO really sat down and had a conversation with me about was that ads suck. They really do. I was like, Oh, good. Let’s get that out of the way. But Mediavine’s do not because we really, really focus on that user experience side of things, because we’re not only users of food blogs and all blogs ourselves. A lot of us are also bloggers.

We are on the other end of the angry emails that happen if ads are too much or are annoying or are doing things they shouldn’t be doing. So we know firsthand the consequences of having a bad user experience. Alot of us have also had experience firsthand utilizing the other bad ads and bad ad providers because Mediavine, as a company started the ad management side of the company, when their owned and operated sites couldn’t find adequate advertising options. So they decided they were going to make their own and here we are.

Megan:

Well, that’s awesome that you guys have experience knowing that yes, ads can be really bad and really bad for the user. So in what ways do you guys focus on the user? How do you make them different?

Nicole:

We built our own tech from scratch and we make sure that we’re lazy loading most of our ad units, which means they’re not loading with the page. When you fire up a website, they don’t load until you scroll near them. That helps ensure that none of the content is going to be waiting for any of the ads. We also for options in our dashboard that get a little more aggressive with some of our speed optimizations and those options can sometimes reduce your revenue a little bit, but in the long run, we feel like it is worth it and encourage people to run those options because they really speed up the page and they don’t impact things very much in most cases. I run that optional optimization on my own site, without any issues monetizing properly. We also load our script asynchronously, which is like a fancy way to say that it doesn’t prevent anything else from loading on the screen. Our dashboard offers controls over placements and frequency and all kinds of settings that are related to how and when the ads are displayed.

Megan:

I’m not familiar with the dashboard. Can you just talk through it?

Nicole:

Sure. So with programmatic advertising, which is advertising that is specific to the user that’s reading the page and not necessarily just what’s on the page, you don’t ever get full control over what specific ads are being placed on the screen. We’re serving ads based on what the user is most likely to buy, really. So that’s going to be dependent on the user. Like when I go on most websites, I see ads for Amazon and target and winter coats, because that’s what I’ve been shopping for recently. Shhh don’t tell my kids, but you know, that’s relevant to me. That’s what programmatic advertising does so well.

Megan:

Okay. That makes more sense. So you have some control, but you don’t have full control, which is kind of the benefit of working with Mediavine because you guys do filter out a lot of that bad stuff for us.

Nicole:

We do. We have ad reporting underneath all the ads. So if you do catch an ad that you don’t like, or isn’t formatted properly, or just is not something you would want to be seeing on a site, you can report it. Those get reviewed by an actual human. Hi Nick, thanks for reviewing all those ad reports. Then he gets to find them and find the partner and track them down and get rid of them. If there’s something we don’t want across our whole platform.

Megan:

So Nick is quality control.

Nicole:

He sure is. Nick and Brad. Those guys are great.

Megan:

Thanks guys.

Nicole:

The dashboard doesn’t only offer that though you can also control what density your ads are at. So we are a member of the coalition for better ads, the CBA and their guidelines, which are a set of rules for people to follow that don’t want to be annoying on the internet, state that you should never have more than 30% advertising compared to 70% content. So on any given blog post the advertising, when it’s like added up as a whole should never be more than 30% of the whole thing. So we allow the bloggers in our dashboard to set what level they are comfortable with as a maximum. So let me fire up mine. I forget the specific settings because I typically run mine just on high because I like dollars and I have a lot of kids to buy a lot of winter jackets for.

Megan:

Dollars are important with a lot of children especially, right?

Nicole:

Yes, yes they are. So for mobile, you can set your ads right now, anywhere from 30% down to 22%. On desktop, they go from 10% up to 30%. But all of these controls, including how far apart they are in your content, if you want them two paragraphs apart or three paragraphs apart as a minimum, all of that is available for us as bloggers to control and adjust anytime we want. As well as enabling optional ads, gum gum in image ads are a thing I like to run over the holidays, especially because they can add several dollars onto your overall RPM in some cases, but those types of optional units, you can just toggle on and off as you’d like, it’s very, very handy as well as all of our reporting.

Megan:

Yeah. So I was just going to ask you, I can see where some personality types would like having access to being able to change things and experiment and test a little bit, but some personality types, myself included, I would rather not. If you were dealing with me, is there a way to just have someone kind of manage that for me? Or is it something that the bloggers are expected to manage themselves?

Nicole:

Well, it’s a little bit of both. If you are a Mediavine customer and you write into us and you ask, will you just push the buttons for me and help me make more money, we’re happy to push all of the buttons to help you make more money. Also explain to you different things you could do on your end, like as far as content formatting or the design of your site, or if you have settings that are not optimal, but we kind of want to chat with you before pushing any buttons. We’re happy to do that. That’s what we’re here for to help you guys in any way.

Megan:

That’s great to know. So would you say that most blogs that come on board with Mediavine watch their traffic grow?

Nicole:

Yeah. Most blogs have traffic that grows significantly and it’s very fun to watch and see people that started just a few years ago, getting all of the traffic. There was a few people that had, like do it yourself, I think it was hand sanitizer and a couple of mask patterns from some crafting blogs that existed pre 2020. That was really fun to watch.

Megan:

I bet that it is fun for you guys to see people come on, who maybe have been wanting to be a part of your network for years, maybe in some cases, and then who just finally get there and then they just explode. I bet that is so rewarding for you.

Nicole:

I can’t even really adequately describe how, how awesome it is to see all of these business owners really doing so well for themselves. It was one of the most fun things about events when we did those, it was meeting people and talking to them and a lot of people have changed their lives through their websites. I love seeing it.

Megan:

So we’ll talk a little bit about tips for getting to 50K, that threshold you guys have, but until you get there, what are the best focuses to put your time and energy on?

Nicole:

Content. Really until you have the traffic built up, your job is learning how to make great, useful content and connect with your audience. There’s so many things to learn when you start out blogging and you’re in that traffic building phase. If you’ve never done that before, if it’s your first site and you’re just starting, it can be overwhelming, but just focus on getting yourself a solid content production schedule made. That was the hardest thing for me, I think, as far as growing traffic was really accepting and wrapping my head around the fact that I had to crank out some content for that to happen.

Megan:

And manage it too. Organizing it is not always easy or fun. So I think just getting into a flow of how you create and manage and publish and all of that is really important. That could give you a good distraction too, because I know a lot of people get really laser focused on ads, ads, ads. I need my ads. But there are so many parts of food blogging that are really important to pay attention to in the meantime. I just love distraction. I think distraction is good when you’re focusing on something in an unhealthy way. So that’s a good thing to think through, you have content to think about. So do that. Then before you know, it you’re going to be ready for ads.

Nicole:

Right. I spent so much time in the first few years worrying about every new social media platform that came around and so many hours uploading stuff to those and they never generated not even one page view. I spent so much time doing 7,000 homemade logos when I could have just spent a few hundred dollars and got a great one from the start.

Megan:

I’m with you 100%.

Nicole:

It’s crazy. I also really encourage people to find some friends early on that you can learn with, and a small group and keep each other accountable. Use your friends as a way for you guys all to build backlinks, and link around to each other, to people you read and you like. Take advantage of all the Facebook groups that have all the learning in them and search those for nuggets and share them with each other because there’s so many now you really cannot keep up with all of them. So if I’m in one or two groups, and two of my friends are each in one or two different groups, then we all share the relevant tidbits. We find it can really cut down on the time you’re spending individually.

Megan:

There’s so much free help available these days. It was not like that again, back when you and I started, but now you can learn anything for free. If you search hard enough, go listen to a podcast. Here on Eat Blog Talk, we have 160 plus episodes of free value. So, I mean, if you just search around a little bit, you’re going to find enough free stuff that’s going to help you figure things out. I want to ask you, because there are food bloggers listening right now who have never worked with an ad company and ad manager, tell them what to expect. I don’t know, just run through a few things, like what they can expect to learn from you, what kind of service, things like that.

Nicole:

When you’re looking for an ad manager, you really want to make sure that they have a lot of learning resources available for you. So you don’t necessarily need a person to find the answer. If there’s a bunch of well-organized, well-documented help pages, content like a blog is great with all the relevant and up-to-date information. I love the Mediavine blog. I learned so much from every post and most of it is new information to me also. So I’m a fan. Make sure there’s clear and prompt service when you do need help though, someone should be around and able to answer if there’s an emergency and help you. If they don’t have the answer, they should at least guide you in the right direction. That is a thing we always try to do with people, even if they sometimes email us about things that are not in our direct control.

It’s always nice to be able to get pointed towards the right answer, even if I don’t have it specifically. You should also be provided ways to connect with your peers. So there should be a Facebook group of some sort or a forum. You want to make sure you have detailed and accurate reporting. So you can make data driven decisions about your own business. That includes CPM and impression data, which is how you’re earning money with ads. So if you are running advertising, please go look at your dashboards and make sure you have CPM and impression data available to you because CPM is cost per thousand impressions, and it is how you’re getting paid. It’s how much you’re being paid per ad unit for every thousand impressions. So it’ll be different between different ad units, but it’s a part of the RPM equation that you really should have access to. You also want to make sure they have good technology.

Megan:

Those are all really great points to kind of work through before you decide on an ad manager. I’m just curious about Mediavine specifically, do you provide opportunities to take courses or educational opportunities, anything like that?

Nicole:

We do. We have a whole series on the blog that is SEO from a CEO, which is written by Eric Hochberger, our CEO and resident SEO expert. He is one of the main forces behind the owned and operated sites of Mediavine and Mediavine’s technology. So it’s very, very eye opening. I didn’t know anything about SEO when I started working at Mediavine and it has been quite the journey, but one of the main things that is really key for SEO, I think is realizing that it’s not that hard. You can definitely do it in it. Isn’t like a big, scary thing that is unknowable. It’s pretty common sense. Make great content, link around to great content. That’s a great way to start.

Megan:

SEO seems like such a scary, daunting thing, especially if you’re a new food blogger and you’re already overwhelmed by creating your own content and all of the different platforms. Then you’re presented with this term SEO and it’s hard to grasp. So to have an ad manager who actually helps you understand that and provides opportunities to help you learn about it is so valuable and just to kind of break it down and make it seem not as daunting, so that you can be more confident. I love that you guys do that. You guys have a threshold of 50,000 page views a month, correct?

Nicole:

50,000 sessions. Yep.

Megan:

Okay. So any blogger wanting to be a part of your network has to meet those requirements first and foremost. Do you have tips for reaching this number? Because to some, this can seem impossible and it can seem forever. I know some people who are in that boat right now, so what are your best tips for them?

Nicole:

Keep going. Getting to 50,000 is really the hardest part. Once you get over that hump, it’s kind of a snowball effect from there. So know that you’re on the steepest part of the hill and just keep climbing. Take a look at your list of posts that you have, and do some keyword research around those and make sure that you’re properly keywording the post, so that they’re going to be picked up. I know early on, I had no idea the importance of just what I named a post. I would come up with the most ridiculous, mishmash names that no one was ever going to search for. I had a fajita-rido salad and it was delicious, but no one is looking for that, ever. It’s stupid. Sorry if you also have one of those. Mine is stupid, yours isn’t.

Megan:

Okay. Mine was, can I just interject really quick, Nicole? I had a fajita-dia, so there you go. We were. I thought it was the cutest coolest thing ever.

Nicole:

This is going to be the new thing. It’s probably not, if you’re mismatching names. Go on Google and just search for what you’re planning on calling your post. Do keyword research like a tool, or if you don’t have one of the paid tools, there’s a lot of different options for free ways to do that also. Just pay attention to what you’re naming things, pay attention to what questions people might be asking about the recipe. I mine my comments for things all the time for more ways to flesh out a post or add to it or fix confusion that’s arisen after a few people have made it. There’s all kinds of options for that and not all of them cost money. So just look at the stuff that’s getting traffic and see if there’s ways that you can parlay that into more traffic.

We have some great resources on the blog. Like I was saying about how to use a search console to really dig into your analytics and figure out what’s working and what isn’t. I wrote the ultimate easy SEO checklist for the blog a few years ago. That was really just me putting down on paper all of the new stuff I was learning early on and I had to go back and fix in all my old posts. I wish I knew that stuff sooner. So if you are just starting out with SEO and want the basics, there’s an infographic there that is great to save on your computer. So you can just run through it quick before you hit publish. Back links are the lifeblood to good SEO. So make sure you know the proper way to give and receive backlinks. It is probably not plugging in email addresses you mine off the internet and asking for guest posts. I don’t know the success rate of those, but I deleted a lot of them out of my inbox. I think a lot of people delete a lot of them as well.

Megan:

Yeah, those are great tips. Do you have anything else?

Nicole:

Just really posts more often than you think you have to. That was the thing I didn’t want to do the most and really the only significant thing I changed in my habits on my site that resulted in any kind of growth. Like I was stuck for a long time in the 10 to 40,000 page view range for years and years and years. Then in, I want to say 2018, I decided I’m just going to post four times a week and that’s what I’m going to do. It’s going to hard and I’m probably going to hate it for a while, but I’m going to do it. I did it, and it worked really well. It’s not obviously just posting anything that frequently, but if you’re posting content that is related to content that’s already resonating with people and you’re posting it frequently. The numbers in most of the cases I’ve seen personally and watched, the numbers follow. If you make good content, people will find it.

Megan:

I agree. So committing to doing that, l,ike you did just like deciding this is what needs to happen. I am going to focus on this, totally commit to posting whatever number of recipes a week. I think that does pay off if you do it for a period of time, even if it’s just three, four months, you will definitely see an increase in traction, I believe. I was just going to highlight one thing that you said earlier, which was focusing on what is providing you with traffic currently, and maybe putting a little bit more focus on there. If your Pinterest traffic is amazing, great, figure out how to boost that even more. Looking at the things that trickle down. So what’s next? What else gives you traffic? Then focusing on those, I think that’s a really good strategy.

Nicole:

If there are different things resonating on Pinterest than are resonating on Google, cross promote those between the two, go pin all your stuff that’s doing well on Google and maybe take a look at the Pinterest heavy posts that aren’t getting so much of the Google love, and try to get them some more backlinks or try to make them more useful or take better pictures of them. I know there’s some things that I was holding onto in my archives that I thought were amazing and we’re not that amazing. So have less feelings, I guess, about your own content and just try to make it better.

Megan:

Yeah. Detach yourself a little bit emotionally. I think we all go through that process, at least bloggers who have been in it for a really long time, like us. You have to get to that point where you can look at it from a different lens and not just be like, Oh, but that was my grandma’s recipe. It’s a really good one. But has anyone actually ever looked at that? Does anyone care about that recipe? So you do have to kind of detach yourself and just look at it from a bigger perspective. Maybe getting input or feedback from other people that you trust. I think that’s a really good route to go as well.

Nicole:

I agree.

Megan:

I don’t know if that means like getting an audit or just reaching out to other food bloggers who are at your level and who are honest with you. It could be as simple as that. Hey, here’s this post, it’s gotten no traction. What do you think?

Nicole:

I think that can be really helpful. There’s been a few groups I’ve been involved in that have had the concept of a hot seat where you need to put on all of your, I’m not going to get my feelings hurt here. Give me all of your unfiltered feedback on whatever topic. Those have been amazing. It’s sometimes hard to hear Oh, your Pinterest layouts are very unattractive, which mine were for a very long time. My husband has found several posts where he was like, umm, that looks burnt. And then I’m like, it’s not burnt, it’s fine.

Megan:

You get defensive.

Nicole:

It’s very burnt. Yep, no one’s gonna make that. It looks like you forgot it on the grill, which I probably did.

Megan:

Oh yeah, it’s good to get that honest feedback. I remember when I was first starting to blog, just getting stuff up that maybe wasn’t as good quality as it should have been, because I was trying to produce things so quickly. So then later I had to go back and take those things down because, like you, it was like maybe that wasn’t the best thing to put online. Maybe thinking through that too. If you’re not super proud of it and you don’t think that you can come back in a year or two and say, yeah, that was my best work. Then maybe don’t put it up. But that’s a lot, I mean, there’s a lot to think through. You gave us some great tips for getting to your threshold. How easy is your application process once people get to 50K and then also once they’re at 50K, if they dip below it, is it a possibility that they could be removed from Mediavine?

Nicole:

So the application process is very easy. You just fill out a form and send in a PDF of your analytics. Then we take a look at that and make sure it’s going to be a good fit on both sides, because there are some cases where the content or the traffic makeup just would not monetize well. We would never want to lock someone into a contract where we weren’t pretty confident we could do our best by them. So the application process is easy, but it can be intense. So just be patient. We review things as quickly as we can. We also have to have our partners review things in a lot of cases, so that can sometimes cause delays, but we are getting through things pretty quickly these days. It’s not a complex process and the onboarding and launch process, we’ve spent a lot of time making sure it’s easy and approachable for anyone, no matter what your technical experience levels.

So that part, we try to make as simple as possible. Whether someone can be removed, we certainly are not going through and looking for sites that are getting 49,990 and kicking them out. That’s not a thing. If a site is kind of abandoned or is significantly under the traffic threshold, and it just really isn’t making sense on both sides anymore, that is a conversation that we would have at that point. Sometimes we have removed sites for being well under the traffic minimums for a long amount of time.

Megan:

But people shouldn’t stress about getting to 49 or even 45,000, if they’re actively producing content and still engaged and all of that.

Nicole:

Definitely not. Sometimes I see in the groups, people say, I’m at 47,000. Can everyone click onthis post? Don’t do that, just apply with 47,000. If it’s a wonderful site with great content that we believe is going to do well in the term, we’re not going to let 3000 sessions in a month stand in the way of that.

Megan:

I can see though where that could happen, because people are so focused on the number and getting to a certain number that when they do, they’re probably still used to being focused. So they say, Oh no. I can see where that would be an issue. So I’m glad you cleared that up, just to kind of take that off people’s mental plate.

Nicole:

It’s less about the hard line of a specific number and more about where you are in the journey. If you’re reaching 50,000 sessions in a month, you’ve probably been working really hard on your site, probably for quite a while. You probably are seeing small, incremental growth month over month that is likely to be maintained through the long term. Kind of demonstrates a commitment to what you’re doing and making it work. That’s a level that can be hard to achieve. I think it’s a big milestone. So congrats if you are on your way there.

Megan:

Yes. That is a huge milestone. It’s not nothing. I mean, it is a big deal to get there. Nicole, you shared so much great stuff with us today about advertising and Mediavine. If you could leave my listeners with one or two main takeaways on the topic of ads, what would you say to them?

Nicole:

Don’t start too early. When you do start, expect the best, like really have high standards for the ads you’re going to run because it’s being run alongside the content. You’ve dedicated a lot of time and effort and energy towards, so be engaged with the process and really focus on having high quality and high performing advertising on the site. And just keep going. That’s the one common thread around blogs that are very successful, is that they kept going. You’re going to have a lot of pitfalls along the way, most likely. You’re going to have algorithm changes and Pinterest is gonna decide they love you one day and they hate you the next. It’s going to happen and just be prepared for that and don’t quit. Also, take a break sometimes if you want, that’s the benefit of being the boss, right? Is you get to decide you don’t want to work today and you want to go have fun instead. So be nice to yourself, keep swimming.

Megan:

Yes. I love it. And I think it’s so important to reiterate that for food bloggers, because we are hustle and we hurry so much of the time that I think just hearing that from someone just allows us to take a little bit of a break once in a while because we deserve it. We work hard. So I really appreciate that you said that. Thank you for everything you’ve shared today. It was such a pleasure talking to you, Nicole. Thanks for taking the time for it.

Nicole:

Thank you so much for having me. I feel like I’m a little out of practice talking to actual people after all this time.

Megan:

Oh, I completely understand that. I think everyone can relate to that right now. Now I know you guys have an offer. You have a workbook or worksheet you put together or something that you’re going to provide to Eat Blog Talk listeners. Is that something you want to talk about?

Nicole:

Yes. We will have a handout available that details some of the points that we made here and expands on them and links to all kinds of great content, where you can get more information about some of the things I touched on here, and it is going to be amazing and we will send it out if you would like.

Megan:

Awesome. Well, we will put together a show notes page for you, Nicole. So I think we can probably link to it from there. We will also have everything else that we’ve talked about today within that show notes page. So if you are interested, go find those at eatblogtalk.com/mediavine. Nicole, I think we all know where to find you, but tell my listeners the best place they can find you and Mediavine online.

Make sure you check out the Mediavine blog, that’s mediavine.com/blog. There’s also a link to apply and all kinds of information on the main Mediavine site. You can find me on Instagram I’m at @orwhateveryoudo. And Mediavine also has an Instagram @mediavine. My food blog is orwhateveryoudo.com. There’s lots of grilling and outdoor cooking and family style cooking that can feed masses of children.

Megan:

That’s awesome. Yes, because seven children is a lot of children. Okay. Quick, I have to ask your age ranges of your kids.

Nicole:

Oh man. There’s just some birthdays. 16, 15, 13, 11, 7, 7 and 6.

Megan:

It’s good. That’s awesome.

Nicole:

But we have a deal. I remember their birthdays. My husband remembers their ages.

Megan:

I like it. It’s good teamwork.

Nicole:

That’s how we’ve worked it out.

Megan:

You have a lot of teenagers in your home.

Nicole:

Yeah. There’s, there’s so many teenagers. When I go through to do the weekly shopping, it’s a multiple cart ordeal. This is just how we shop. This will last us a few days. I promise I’m not having any parties.

Megan:

So I have a fairly new teenager in my home. He’s 13. He’s been 13 for a while, but I swear the day he turned 13, his food consumption skyrocketed into outer space. We spend so much money on groceries and I have two children. So I cannot even imagine how much you guys must invest in groceries.

Nicole:

It is crazy. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to go back to cooking for not 7,000 people. I don’t know how to do it.

Megan:

Small scale cooking is not probably in your realm right now. Maybe someday. Well, okay. We got off on that tangent, but I just was curious about all of those children that you have. So thank you for sharing all of that. And again, Nicole, just thank you so much for being here. Thank you for listening today, food bloggers. I will see you next time.

Intro:

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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