In episode 371, Megan chats to Vanessa Mota about how to niche down, finding the ideal topic for your blog, and why this can increase traffic and income.
We cover information about knowing your reader really well and how determine what will help them solve a problem, steps to develop a strong content strategy that’s SEO focused, why you need to build trust with your reader and then find what you can build from your strengths to monetize more than just ads.
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Bio Vanessa Mota is an award-winning food photographer and nationally recognized content creator. Her love for food led her to create My Dominican Kitchen, a bilingual platform with traditional Dominican recipes and Latin-inspired meals for home cooks, as a way to preserve her family’s recipes and share with the world the flavors of la comida criolla.
- Focus on your reader primarily. So who is your reader and what do you need to know about your audience?
- How can you help your reader – what solutions can you provide and make life easier within your niche?
- Create a constant strategy around SEO to achieve these goals.
- Be sure to ask your audience ways you can provide solutions and what interests they have that align with your niche?
- Asking your audience for solutions is a way to engage and grow your email list. They may give you general answers but also very specific.
- Use Google and keyword research to help cast your net wider within that niche in ways you didn’t originally consider.
- Compare your top content to what the audience wants and analyze what people are engaging with to try and find a way to build more content to serve them.
- Assess your competition and see how they’re serving their audience. This is self-reflective so you can find your own way to approach these solutions for your niche.
- You can pursue monetization easier with being niched down because you have experience that has a direct line to an audience hungry for your content.
Click for full script.
EBT 371 – Vanessa Mota
Vanessa Mota: Hi, this is Vanessa Mota from My Dominican Kitchen, and you’re listening to the Eat Blog Talk podcast.
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And I think just that transparency and willingness to be open and sharing for the pure benefit of somebody else’s success has been a big surprise to me. For me, that’s a big part of who I am too, as I’m very much interested in helping other people succeed, but it’s been very equal. There’s just a very equal amount of giving and taking, sharing and sharing for other success, and other people are so willing to share what has worked for them purely to help other people succeed.
Megan Porta: Hey 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 by RankIQ. I am your host, Megan Porta, and you are listening to episode number 371. I have Vanessa Mota with me today, and she’s going to talk to us about how niching down the focus of your blog can actually increase traffic and income. Vanessa is an award-winning food photographer and nationally recognized content creator. Her love for food led her to create My Dominican Kitchen, a bilingual platform for traditional Dominican recipes and Latin inspired meals for home cooks as a way to preserve her family’s recipes and to share with the world the flavors of la comida creola. Thank you for being here. How are you today?
Vanessa Mota: I’m doing great. Thank you so much for having me.
Megan Porta: Yeah, I’m excited to chat today about niching down. We would love to hear if you have a fun fact to share though, first.
Vanessa Mota: Yes. So my fun fact is that I started my blog in college 11 years ago as a school project without really fully understanding what a blog was or how it worked. And it’s just grown since then to the point now where it supports my business and it supports my entire family.
Megan Porta: I love that and we’ll get into more about where you started. So why don’t we just start there? How did your focus start? Where was your blog focus to begin with, and how was that transport biased over time to get to the point where you’re really interested in niching down?
Vanessa Mota: Yes. So when I started, it was nothing like what it looks like now. It was, as I mentioned, a school project and it was named Smart Little Cookie. It was a play on words and I was basically just sharing everything about my day-to-day life as a college student and a mom, just going about life, very inconsistently, I must add. And not really with any focus at all. In 2014, I got more intentional and I had fallen in love with food blogging, so I decided in 2014 to focus on my blog and just sharing recipes. In the beginning I was sharing just general recipes, Latin inspired with a focus on Latin food because it is what I know and what I enjoy eating. In 2020 I started really focusing on the idea about niching down further. That is what the conversation for today is, and that’s when I decided to rebrand to My Dominican Kitchen and focus my blog mostly on Dominican food.
Megan Porta: Okay, so from Latin food, Latin inspired food, which is where you started, Dominican food is your niche?
Vanessa Mota: Yes.
Megan Porta: Currently. Okay. How has that gone for you? Do you feel like, since you niche down in 2020, do you feel like you’ve gotten more traction, traffic, all of the good things that we all want?
Vanessa Mota: Oh yes, definitely. I think that when you are able to niche down and create a very specific focus for your blog or your website and the content you create, everything becomes more clear for yourself, but also for your readers and everyone who interacts with your content. Since I rebranded, my new website rebrand was actually launched in 2021, so that was about a year and a half ago. Since then, my blog has just increased substantially in traffic and also income. Also it has created a stronger connection with my readers.
Megan Porta: Yeah, that’s something that it’s not necessarily measurable, like it doesn’t appear in our statistics, but that’s something that’s very important as well. Okay. So you have some benefits of niching down, so others can be inspired by this because I know there are a lot of blogs out there that are really broad. Like mine. I cover so many different recipe types. I really don’t have a niche, a really like focused niche. I know a lot of people are in the same boat and we all consider this at times to find just a really specific niche. So what are the three things that you feel like we should focus on to increase traffic and income? I know you have three things to talk through.
Vanessa Mota: Yes. For me, I believe the most important thing that you need to focus on first is your reader, right? Who is this person, this ideal reader that you want to reach? What do they like? What do they need? What are they struggling with? What are you providing for them? The second thing is like, how are you helping them? You need to focus on that. Answering or creating content around the idea of understanding and knowing who your reader is. How do you help them? What do you provide for them that is going to make their lives easier or solve a problem for them? Then the third thing for me, once you know your reader and you understand how you’re helping them, creating a constant strategy that is focused on SEO. Because SEO is really what’s going to help the reader find you.
Megan Porta: Okay. Yeah. I think it’s really easy to figure out who they are. Most of us have gone through that process of figuring that out and how are you helping. But talk us through how you personally have created a content strategy that is SEO focused.
Vanessa Mota: So once you have a niche down and you understand what is the content that you should be creating, or who is the person that you’re creating the content for, you are going to start coming up with ideas of, how do I serve this person? What I feel is that they need it. A few ways that I do that is first think about what I think they need. But then also asking. A lot of us, once you have been blogging for a little bit, you already have some readers, hopefully some subscribers and followers. Ask them. You can ask, what do you like to see from me? Or, what are you struggling with right now? Or, what would you like me to share? You’ll be surprised about the responses that you get. Sometimes you’re gonna get responses that are not necessarily going to be what you thought you should be focusing on. Then really craft your strategy or build your strategy around that. Around those answers that you get. Take into consideration other things as well. What is the top content on your site and what do they have in common? What are the top content on your social media and what do they have in common? Then create content that supports those pieces of content as well. That can help you build a strong list. Then once you have that list, then you go and you use a keyword research tool and search it up. Look it up, use Google. See what people are already sharing with that topic in mind. What are people asking online? Rather than just looking at a keyword based on keyword volume and difficulty and these types of things, I like to think about it. Am I answering a specific question? Is my answer going to add something and be helpful? If the answer is yes, definitely, then write content around that. Even if you don’t feel that a lot of people are searching for it, you might be surprised. Sometimes the simplest question is the one that’s going to drive the most results for you. Or in our case, like the simplest recipe, is the one that’s going to drive the most results for you. So don’t doubt it or don’t think that it’s too small or that maybe somebody else has already done it. Just do it. Do it your way and try to provide the most information and the most benefit possible. Then that will really connect with your audience and the reader. Sometimes, yes, other people might be doing the same things, but they are not going to do it like you do it. Maybe your reader wants you to be the one to tell them and not someone else, right? Because you are building, you’re trying to build that trust with your reader, where if you do it correctly, they’ll come to you for the things that you share.
Megan Porta: That was very well said. I love it. what you just said because think about when we search for things on Google and how we may get results that are the same answer, maybe it’s how to cut a pineapple or something. We pick which one, which link we click on based on who we know and how we like that information delivered. It’s not necessarily the information, it’s the person delivering it, the brand delivering it. So thinking through how we are as users and how other people perceive us when they’re our users. Then I love your strategy about just asking the people, asking your users what they like and what they want, and basing a content strategy around that. That is super smart.
Vanessa Mota: Yes. Also it is very helpful in niching down. If you are a person that you want to niche down your, the focus of your blog, but you don’t necessarily know really well how to do it or what will be the best approach or how to decide how to niche down or in which direction you should do it, asking your audience is always the best option. It’s how I did it and how I knew that was the right step for me. Because I did a survey where I asked my readers, what are you struggling with? What is it from the content that I share that you like? What would you like to see more from me? About 75% of people responded to my survey. Really the answers were basically Dominican recipes, Dominican food. We wanna see more Dominican recipes, and they’ll ask for a very specific recipe. Which already is helping me add to my content strategy. That’s usually the best way because obviously there’s something about that’s resonating with the people that read my blog and the people that follow me. So if they’re asking me for it, maybe that’s the direction that I should go and that’s the best way to guide yourself, to serve that person that’s receiving your content.
Megan Porta: Yeah, that’s really smart. I haven’t done that in a while. Just a simple act of reaching out and asking people, what do you want for me? Then taking it from there. It’s really a very simple strategy and very effective. If somebody’s listening, Vanessa, and they’re in a boat where they’re serving a large number of people, they’re covering a large array of topics and they really want to start niching down, how do you recommend that they start and do this in a really effective way?
Vanessa Mota: So first, like I said, survey your audience. Ask them and they’ll tell you what they want you to share. Usually they will tell you something in regards or like in relation to something that you have already shared before. Then taking those answers and reviewing it, comparing and seeing what those answers are, but also reviewing your top content and seeing what they have in common. And when I say your top content, I don’t mean just your blog, but also social media, right? What is the content that people are engaging with the most? And just analyze that and see what all of that has in common, right? And start deducting from there to find that niche. Then ask yourself, what is it that comes natural to me and find what’s in that, right? How can you integrate that. Then weigh everything against your why. Why are you doing this? Find the common ground on all of those aspects, and then that’s going to really help you understand the audience that you’re serving and the content that you’re sharing. For example, for me, I started noticing that my top content on my website were Dominican recipes. I started also noticing that on social media, most of my posts were traditional recipes. Whenever I asked my audience what they wanted to see, the answer was always the same. Then when I sat down to really weigh it and think about all of that and what I wanted to do, of course it is going to resonate more with my audience because I am Dominican. It comes more naturally to me to be able to share those recipes. But also the whole reason why I started my blog was because I wanted to share recipes as I learned to cook because I learned how to cook at an older age. I was already married and pregnant with my daughter. The reason why I started sharing my recipes is because I had a hard time getting the recipes from all my family members because in our culture it’s not common for people to write recipes . When they, when you ask them and they tell you how to make a recipe, literally they’re telling you, oh, you add a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
Megan Porta: You’re like wait. How much is that? Come on.
Vanessa Mota: Exactly. For someone that knows nothing about cooking, that’s really hard to figure that out, right? It takes a lot of trial and error.
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Vanessa Mota: So I started my blog as a way to preserve my family’s recipes, but also help the next generation who might be going through the same issue that I went through trying to make the recipes that I grew up eating. So understanding my why and why I started my blog in the first place and asking my audience and weighing my top content and all of that stuff, that made it really easy for me. I am aware that it might not be as easy for other people, but I truly believe that once you sit down and you analyze everything as a whole and together and try to find the common space, you can definitely find something where everything fits, right? That will give you the direction that you need to be able to niche down effectively.
Megan Porta: I’m picturing one of those diagrams where they have like circles that kind of overlap in the center and you have a circle for what is your strength and areas of focus, and then what are your people asking you for, and then what are your analytics saying? Then you get to the center where there’s like common threads and the overlap and then you can choose that way. So you talked through that really well. I think that was super helpful. Now, you talked about creating a content strategy around what people’s feedback is and also doing SEO research on that. Do you have any other tips for creating content strategy beyond those things?
Vanessa Mota: Yes, I will say it’s important that you assess your competition. See what they’re doing. What type of content they’re sharing. Not in the sense of going to copy your competition because you don’t want to do that, you want to see what they’re doing and what is working for them and ask yourself, will something like that be helpful for my audience? How would I do it? Or what is my approach to this issue from that point of view? Then add to your constant strategy from there.
Megan Porta: Okay. I think that is a well-rounded plan. Then how have you done, since you started niching down Vanessa with just revenue, and how do you recommend that people use their niche to guide their own monetization strategy?
Vanessa Mota: Yeah, so that’s a very interesting aspect, right? Because we want to niche down because we want to focus on our audience and be able to provide more specific content and help. But the way that niching down will also affect how you monetize is fantastic because once you have a very specific focus, your content is gonna be more clear. But so also who your reader is and who are these people that you are bringing into your network and your community. With that, it’s going to not only increase your traffic so that you can get higher ad pay from app networks, but it’s going to open doors to better and more aligned partners. Whether it is with brands that want to reach the audience, the specific audience that you have access to. Depending on your niche, you might be able to ask for more money, if your niche is very specific. You can also build long-term relationships with brands and partners because you already have access to the audience. This very specific audience that they want to have their product in front of. A lot of other things can come up. For example, for me, I was able, once I did my rebrand, I was able to secure a cookbook deal and I will have a cookbook now launching in April 2023. Which might not have been as easy or an option before. But I think that having a very clear focus really opened that door for me, where it was very clear that this is what I do, this is who I am, and this is the type of content that I share. My cookbook is going to be the only Dominican cookbook in the market, currently. Which fills a big gap. But it was easier for me to be able to sell that offer to a publishing company because I could speak directly from experience and from having my blog and from sharing what I do and for having built my audience that looks for these specific recipes, right? Also you can, in so many ways, you can monetize. You can promote very specific affiliate products that serve the specific audience that you reach because of your niche. You can create other types of products that you can sell, like very specific eBooks that solve a problem for that audience. The way that I see it is like so many opportunities can come about when you focus on your reader. That’s going to come with your niche. Because if you are serving this specific niche, there is a very specific audience and once I understand who they are and what they need, then I know what I can create and how I can help them. Promoting certain affiliate products can be a way of helping if they are looking for something that they might not be aware of that you do that can help them solve a problem or creating a product, an ebook, a product that you can sell on your platform that’s going to help them in a very specific way because you already know what they need and that’s going to help you sell easier because you are selling to that specific audience.
Megan Porta: You know exactly what your focus is as opposed to just trying to dig into a bunch of little things. That’s how I see it.Just having more of a general audience. You’re like, oh, maybe this will work. Plucking things out of a million different places, versus just knowing exactly what your products are, exactly what affiliates you’re aligned with, et cetera.
Vanessa Mota: Exactly.
Megan Porta:So this can be scary, niching down because we tend to feel like we are going to miss out on people and traffic and money. It seems like the more you get focused, the more you miss out on, but I think what you’re saying is the opposite is actually true.
Vanessa Mota: Because when you try to get a hold of too much, I think you end up missing a lot more. In Spanish there’s this saying that literally translates to the one that wants to grab too much, won’t be able to hold on to a lot, right? So you want to be able to really focus and not want to have it all, but be very specific about what I want to really have. In the end, you will end up with more. I’m not sure if I’m explaining that correctly.
Megan Porta: No, I love that there’s a saying for it in Spanish that is meaningful.
Vanessa Mota: Exactly. It makes all the sense, I think that when you’re able to focus on what it is that you do and what it is that you share, you are going to appeal to that specific audience where you might be able to capture a bigger audience that’s more specific rather than if you try to capture everyone. Because then when you try to capture everyone, people might not really understand what you’re about because you’re gonna try to be all over that place. I think in this space, right in what we do, the goal is really to build a community of loyal readers. You don’t want to just put a bunch of content out, trying to have it stick to as many people around every topic as possible. What you want to do is, even if you feel it’s a smaller group of people that you’re trying to reach, the goal should always be that whatever it is that you share, that they trust it enough to always come back to you. When you build a loyal community, they’ll continue to come back for what you have to share and what you have to sell and what you have to offer. They’re more willing and open to buy from you than someone who finds your content once because they search for something at some point and your post comes up and never comes back to your site.
Megan Porta: Yeah. This is a compelling argument and I think with the competition in our space, I shouldn’t say competition, the saturation in our space right now, there are more food bloggers than ever by so many, there’s a lot of people doing what we do, so we have to set ourselves apart. So I think this is a really good opportunity for all of us, or not all of us, some of us, to niche down and find those things that align with our people and align with us and everything that you were talking about. So this is great. Is there anything that you want to mention about Niching down before we start saying goodbye, Vanessa?
Vanessa Mota: Yeah. I know that sometimes it can be overwhelming because you want to make sure that you get it right. Like you mentioned before, sometimes we feel afraid that we might be missing out on other things. But if there’s one advice that I can give anyone in this space is if they have the possibility to focus on their niche, to do it because it’s going to be worthwhile.
Megan Porta: All right. You heard it from Vanessa. It’s worth considering and she made some amazing points here. So thank you so much, Vanessa. This was really valuable and so fun to connect with you today.
Vanessa Mota: Thank you so much. I enjoyed this talk.
Megan Porta: Same. Do you have either a favorite quote or words of inspiration to leave us with today?
Vanessa Mota: Yes. So it’s another quote in Spanish and I’ll translate it, but it’s one that has been incredibly helpful for me and that I use, I live by in all aspects of my life, including my business and blogging. It’s a quote that goes, which means to flow without forcing. When things come natural, you can just create, let things flow and they will take you to where you need to be. You don’t need to force anything. Don’t try to force anything in life. Not your content, not what you share, anything that you go through in life, just create it with love, let it flow and don’t force it.
Megan Porta: That is a motto to absolutely live by, not just with our food blogs, but like you said, with everything in life. If we could just do that more, I think we’d all be so much happier, right?
Vanessa Mota: Yes. Life feels so much easier when you don’t try to force anything.
Megan Porta: Oh my goodness. That is so true. I love that so much. Thank you. We’ll put together a show notes page for you, Vanessa. If anyone wants to go look at that, you can go to eatblogtalk.com/myDominicankitchen. Tell everyone where they can find you online and social media, and then I know you have a cookbook coming out, so tell us the name of that so we can keep our eyes peeled for that too.
Vanessa Mota: Yes, so my blog is mydominicankitchen.com. On Instagram, I am at my.dominican.kitchen, so everyone can find me there. My cookbook is coming out soon. It’s still in production. Depending on when this podcast airs, it might already be available for pre-order. So if anyone wants more information or wants to order a copy, it’s going to be called The Dominican Kitchen, and you can find the information on mydominicankitchen.com.
Megan Porta: Great. Thank you so much, Vanessa, for your time and thank you for listening today, food bloggers. I will see you in the next episode.
Outro: Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Eat Blog Talk. Please share this episode with a friend who would benefit from tuning in. I will see you next time.
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