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Episode 239: From 0 to 75K Sessions in 15 Months, Focusing on Just SEO: Six Lessons Learned with Shruthi Baskaran

In episode 239, we chat with Shruthi Baskaran, blogger at Urban Farmie, about a few important SEO concepts that have brought her success in just 15 months.

We cover information about why you need to tackle technical issues first and foremost, how you should focus on one thing at a time and marry your content calendar with your keyword research.

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 Urban Farmie
Website | Facebook | Instagram

Bio Shruthi has been a food blogger since March 2020 and has grown her blog to 75k sessions in under a year, while working a full time job (often 70+ hour workweeks!) In Shruthi’s professional life, she works on food systems and agricultural development issues in various parts of the world, and has lived, worked, and traveled to 60+ countries through that work. She used to work on food issues for the UN! Also, she has two graduate degrees from Stanford, one of which is on food systems. Shruthi is a foodie and a “farmie” – which is the genesis of her blog, Urban Farmie. She blogs about seasonal, global, vegetarian recipes + recently forayed into blogging about growing your own food as well.

Takeaways

  • #1 – Learn the technical side of blogging. This is the least sexy but so important.
  • #2 – Define your blog principles. Write out three to four bullets that are a litmus test that help you make decisions about whether something is good for your blog or not.
  • #3 – Share authentic recipes from other cultures but try and get help from someone who can help confirm your direction. But also make sure you know where you are adding value to your audience to be sure you’re sharing good content.
  • #4 – Create a workflow that works for you. Where is your focus?
  • Even though bloggers do wear many hats, you can’t produce quality content when you stretch yourself too thin so know where you want your attention.
  • “But I think I really interpreted SEO as understanding how Google interprets user intent. So basically it was like looking at what the users want, using Google as a proxy.”
  • Marry your content calendar and your keyword research.
  • Having blog principles on the one side and then doing keyword sniff test to make sure that you’re doing the keyword research before posting a recipe is an important aspect of the workflow.
  • #5 – Create a template in WordPress and nail down the time you are putting into writing each post.
  • #6 – Google updates will wreck you at some time.
  • At the end of the day, you have to figure out what quality content means for yourself.
  • Now start diversifying your income because you aren’t just focused on keywords and writing.

Resources Mentioned:

Ahrefs

Top Hat Rank webinars

Transcript

Click for full text.

239_SHRUTHI_BASKARAN

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. 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: Hey, food bloggers. Do you ever get caught up in confusion about how in the world you are going to make money? Take the free quiz I’ve put together for you that is going to help you get to the bottom of this problem. Go to eatblogtalk.com/quiz to find out which stream of revenue is the next perfect one for you. Your results will be personalized based on your answers, and they will provide you with action steps, and resources that will help you launch into monetizing your blogging business in a new way. There are truly so many ways to make money as a food blogger. So don’t waste another second. Again, go to eatblogtalk.com/quiz and get started on your next revenue stream today.

Hey guys, just reminding you to head over to iTunes if you haven’t already, to subscribe, rate and review Eat Blog Talk. It adds value to this podcast when you do that, and I would be so grateful for your time. It will take two minutes. Press pause, go do it and come back and keep listening. 

What’s up, food bloggers. Welcome to Eat Blog Talk. Thank you so much for tuning in today. I have Sruthi Bhaskaran with me from urbanfarming.com and we are going to talk about six lessons that she has learned going from zero to 75K sessions in 15 months with just SEO. Sruthi has been a food blogger since March 2020 and has grown her blog to 75,000 sessions in under a year while working a full-time job. Often 70 plus hour work weeks, which is, ah, that’s crazy.

In Sruthi’s professional life, she works on food systems and agricultural development issues in various parts of the world. She has lived, worked and traveled to 60 plus countries through that work. Also she has two graduate degrees from Stanford. One of which is on food systems. She is a foodie and a farmy, which is the Genesis of her blog, Urban Farming.

She blogs about seasonal global vegetarian recipes, and recently forayed into blogging about growing your own food as well. I just love your bio Sruthi. There’s so many things going on there. You’re like a multifaceted awesome human. So I’m excited to chat with you today and thank you for joining me by the way. But we all want to hear your fun facts before we dig in.

Shruthi: Thank you for having me on Megan. My fun fact, actually, has something to do with the 60 plus countries that I’ve worked in and traveled to. I happened to collect both cookbooks and wine bottles from all of the places that I’ve been to. So now I have a collection of over 150 cookbooks and over 350 bottles of wine sitting in my garage in a fridge.

Megan: Oh goodness. So when are you going to dive into the wine? 

Shruthi: Someday, someday. Let’s get the food blog up and running fully first was the thought process behind that. 

Megan: Is there a bottle of wine that you’re most excited to drink? 

Shruthi: I am. So when I used to live in Italy, I had the opportunity to visit this vineyard, which isn’t, which no longer produces wine. It was their last batch. It’s a vineyard that’s been around for over 250 years. On a whim I bought a really nice bottle of Sangiovese, which is one of my favorite wines. I actually bought a case of it. I’m getting married in February and so we’re gonna open the case at our rehearsal dinner. So I’m super excited for that. 

Megan: Oh congrats on the upcoming wedding! What better time to open an amazing case of wine. That is so awesome. I bet that’s going to feel and taste so good. 

Shruthi: Absolutely. 

Megan: Love that. You have a wild success story, Sruthi. You have gone from zero to 75,000 sessions in a relatively short amount of time, which is awesome. So I know everyone listening is going to be really intrigued to hear your story. So you have six points or six lessons that you want to talk through about how you made that happen. I would just love to dig right in. Why don’t you just start with lesson number one? 

Shruthi: Yeah, for sure. Lesson number one is probably the least sexy of all the lessons, but probably the necessary, but insufficient condition for making sure that you can reap the benefits of SEO and that’s to get the technical side. In a strange way, so my background is actually in engineering and drawn to the site of things to get stuff figured out, even before I launched a bunch into the content. But one lesson I learned super early is that regardless of how good your blog is, if it’s going to load super slowly or if your images are not really optimized, if your host is not good, if you have a bunch of funky fonts and whatever else, it will get dinged by Google.

It actually really doesn’t matter how good your content might be. That was like a big wake up call. A bunch of podcasts and you’ve done a bunch of podcasts on these pieces. I also looked up a bunch of other seminars and things like that, but really try to get stuff going. That’s made a huge difference.

Megan: It’s not the side of blogging that we necessarily get into blogging for. We don’t get into blogging thinking, oh, I want to dig into SEO and understand page speed and which host is a good host and how my theme is going to operate. Those are not things we get into the business for, but thinking about them is super important.

I also think it’s important to point out that there are a lot of free resources that can help you with this side of bloggin, if you’re listening and you’re thinking, I have no idea where to start with this. Start with this podcast; go back in the archives. Basically, any time you see SEO in the title, go listen to that. There’s so much good information. Do you have other insights as far as where people should get their information from about this topic?

Shruthi: I was definitely going to say your podcast because that’s where I started. The other thing that I found super helpful, were the reason series of the Top Hat Rank seminars that I think, Casey Markee and Andrew Wilder, a couple of other folks were all doing. I think it was the series of several lessons over many months now, since the pandemic started. I thought that was a really great bite-sized chunk of you don’t need to tackle everything at once, but, just even making a list of all of the technical pieces you need to get right. Then working your way through that could be really beneficial for the blog. 

Megan: Top Hat Rank webinars are amazing. I’m going to second what you just said. I’m just going to back that up because all you have to do is understand one thing at a time. If you stumble on one thing and you’re like, I have no idea what this means. Dig into that and then learn the next thing and just keep showing up at those webinars or on podcast episodes. Eventually it is going to make sense. So don’t let the overwhelm just completely stop you. So thank you for that. Do you have anything more on that before we move on to point two?

Shruthi: No, people will probably have different issues when it comes to technical things. Some people might have started out with the right host, but then maybe they’re on a bad theme. Or some people might have the right theme and the plugins and all of that. But then maybe they just didn’t realize that they were uploading all their images as PNG files, which is what I was doing. That was not a good start to my blogging career, if you will. But soon recognized that I needed to do image compression and I needed to export it to a certain file size and so on and so forth. So I think it will really depend on how much you have already absorbed some of the content that’s available out there, but making sure you get that checklist and check stuff off, is going to be super important.

Megan: Can I just tell you a big thing that I did wrong? Up until very recently that I hope to maybe eliminate from someone else’s list of problems? All of my image sizes were sized wrong. So you’re supposed to size them at 1200 pixels wide. All of mine were sized at 850 pixels wide. I did that for a lot of years. So I’m talking about thousands of images. That I am currently going back through and resizing. So I just wanted to mention that. Don’t do that. Don’t do what I did.

Shruthi: Totally understand that. Also I do think that to some degree, Google keeps changing too, right? 850 was probably the size they recommended plus a buffer maybe a couple of years back. I know you’ve been blogging for a really long time. But then now, what we need to do is at 1200 in order to stay ahead of the trend and make sure you don’t have to go back and resize everything. 

Megan: That’s a good reason to save your originals and thank God I did this. I have no idea why, or if there was like a little whisper in my ear that said, save your original images, but I did. I have all of my originals, so whatever that is, pixels, I don’t know for sure right off the top of my head, but now I can just go back and access those original images and resave, but I can’t imagine what I would’ve done if I didn’t have those originals. Okay. What is your second lesson? 

Shruthi: So the next thing I think that I did pretty early on and this wasn’t super intentional, but I think I stumbled into it. I’ll explain what I mean by that in a second, if I define my blog niche, but also blog principles, pretty early on when I started blogging. I think that convoluted way helped me write for my user more than myself. What I mean by that is that it’s so easy to get tripped up in yourself when you start a blog. Of course, that’s part of the charm, right? Because we have something to share and we want to get our stories out there. 

But what I recognized pretty early on in listening to your podcast and following a bunch of other articles and forums, was that in order to set this up as a business, you really have to think about serving the user first. But at the same time, you can forget about what’s your unique perspective or flavor. So I started calling these my blog principles. Actually, I have them printed out and I have them on my board where I usually have my recipe ideas. But it’s essentially three to four bullets that are a litmus test. Every time you want to make a recipe, or in my case, every time I get really drawn to something I see on Instagram and I’m like, oh my God, I should totally post that too. I know that doesn’t really work with my blog principles. I’m a vegetarian blog, but I don’t use fake meat products, even though I think they’re really attractive and I have nothing against them from a principal perspective. It’s just that I don’t enjoy eating them. The other part of it is, I’m super allergic to cucumbers, which is a really random allergy to have. But a principle that I set up for myself is that I would never post something that I personally can’t enjoy. So there are zero cucumber recipes on my blog. This might change over time, but I think that a couple of bullets that just says, Hey here are the things that I want to talk about, can really help you have almost like a filtering mechanism every time you come up with a new idea. But from an interesting perspective, of course, there’s all the keyword stuff and so on, which we’ll get into later. But this is more from still reflecting your perspective and your niche, your flavor on your blog.

Megan: I love that you do that. I feel like more of us need to do that. Especially early on when a lot of us started blogging, we were just like this is really popular on Pinterest, even though it was some weird recipe that maybe we would never have made otherwise. But we did it because everyone else was doing it. We’d get into that herd mentality, I’ve got to do what everyone else is doing. I love that you have set these boundaries for yourself. I like that you call them principles too. You don’t go outside of that. So you’re not making cucumber recipes just because it’s a wildly popular trend.You’re sticking to who Sruthi is. I think that is to be admired. 

Shruthi: Yeah. I think it’s helped, especially at the start, right? Because obviously, I have big blogs that I follow for inspiration, and sometimes it’s easy to be, they’re posting it, but you know what? They have years of experience. Tens of thousands of backlinks and a whole bunch of other stuff going for them that I don’t. So to imagine that if I post a similar or a take on certain recipes, that it would compete against someone who just has a lot more authority, it’s sometimes happens, but it’s not something you can take for granted. 

So in a strange way, that’s what I was saying earlier, the principals have actually helped me. It’s a backwards way of trying to tell Google, Hey, like here’s the stuff that I am an expert on and you should rank me over other people because these are the only things I write about.

Megan: I was just thinking about oh gosh, this was probably year three-ish of my blogging journey or so when there were waves of these food trends that would run through bloggers’ content, and one of them was the unicorn cake. I wish I could think of more examples. One person did a unicorn cake and then everyone did it and we would just put little spins on it and make it a little bit unique. Another one was the rainbow cake. So like the different layers with different colors of rainbow. I think I have one of those somewhere on my blog. It’s so funny, but we all were like, oh, so this is the next trend. This is what I’m supposed to do next. We would do it, like we were a bunch of lemmings just following each other. But now it’s so different.

Just be yourself and stay true to who you are. Do you have other examples of principals? So you mentioned a couple of your principles, but what can other people think through when they’re forming their own principles? 

Shruthi: Yeah, that’s a really good question. One of the other pieces is that, the Genesis of my blog and this speaks a lot. So I’m Indian. My fiance’s Nigerian, and I’ve spent a ton of time in all of these different countries. So one of the other principles that I have generally tried to work on is that any time I post recipes that are not from my own culture or from my partner’s culture, I only post them if I know for sure that they are authentic recipes. Usually I would reach out. If I wanted to post an Italian recipe and especially if I call it authentic blank, I try to reach out to people and I tried to credit them and so on.

There are many recipes from cultures where ideally you want to spotlight the people that are the true experts and it comes from their culture. So I’ve been trying to do more of that, but that’s also another principle. How do I determine where I might be able to add value? Of course this doesn’t always apply for every single recipe. Because there are some that are very culturally focused and then there are others where it’s yeah, I’m going to write a recipe on how to grill asparagus. I don’t think that necessarily speaks to authenticity. At the end of the day, food is love and you want to share, and you want to celebrate people’s cultures. But that’s another principle. So translating that to how you might apply that for yourself. Just having an honest reflection around what are the types of recipes or what are the cultures, or what are the cuisines that you want to draw from and having a perspective on how that could connect to your own experiences, is also super valuable. 

Megan: I think that gives people so many great things to think through, but having those principles, I think is a really great idea. I love that you do that. What is your third lesson, Sruthi?

Shruthi: Building on this theme of narrowing down. One of the bigger things that I decided early was to just focus on one thing at a time. I think people have this perception that food bloggers are just chilling. You cook something and you take a picture and then you throw it on a blog. Oh my God, they’re making so much money. Oh, I hate ads. You see this all the time. But very early into starting my food blog, I realized just how many hats we have to wear.

You are the recipe developer or you’re the marketing expert. You are the photographer, you’re the technical person. At least when you start out, most people don’t have teams of people to take care of all of these things. There’s always new shiny objects. That was the other part of it. There’s TikTok and there’s Instagram Reels and there’s Clubhouse and there’s YouTube shorts and yada yada, it’s never ending. But the real constraining factor for me is that I have a pretty rigorous full-time job that I work on average at least 60 hours a week.

Sometimes it’s 80. I don’t really know. I love my job, but I think it forced the constraint that I couldn’t be all of everything all the time. For me, the one thing that I focused on at the beginning was to set up a workflow to just get the quality content out on a regular cadence. For me, that meant focusing just on SEO. Nothing else. Occasionally, I post on Instagram. I sometimes post on Facebook. I try to keep up with Pinterest, but who knows what Pinterest is up to on a day-to-day basis. But I think I really interpreted SEO as understanding how Google interprets user intent. So basically it was like looking at what the users want, using Google as a proxy. Once I started thinking that way, it just completely reversed my workflow. I think the title of the episode suggested that I was actually able to go and choose how many 5,000 sessions in just 15 months, which I would have never in my wildest dreams set as the target. 

Megan: Yeah. I think that’s solid advice to just focus on one thing at a time. You mentioned this a little bit, but Pinterest seems to be a wild card these days. So the previous version of Megan would have told you to go the Pinterest route because I found huge success there, but things seem to be changing; volatile at times, depending on when you ask me. Although Google does throw us some curve balls, it does seem to be the most consistent form of traffic if you can nail it. If you can stay current too. So we talked earlier about figuring out where you need to show up in order to learn about the technical side and about SEO.

So do that. But don’t just do it once. Do it regularly. Keep learning about it from the people who really know it and change as needed. But I think that’s the one place that people feel like they can go find fairly consistent results. Do you think that too? 

Shruthi: I definitely think so. I think it’s important to balance that with the perspective that SEO at the end of the day is still a zero sum game. Because there can only be one person who’s occupying rank number one on Google for a specific keyword, for instance. But there are enough keywords that you don’t have to take to heart if you’re not ranking for. I don’t know, there’s probably 7,000 variations of fettuccine alfredo that people are searching for. Fettuccine alfredo without cream or whatever else, that I think you could carve out like a section of Google for yourself, by making sure that you’re doubling down on the focus, making sure that you’re posting stuff that Google will soon come to recognize you as the authority for. I think that creates a path where you can slowly expand and try to keep up the consistency of traffic. Or at least that’s been true in my case. 

Megan: That makes a great case for becoming an authority in specific areas and building content around that too. I think that’s becoming more of a theme in our world. So this just makes a great case for that because Google is going to see you and any content you build around that theme, it’s going to prioritize it. Okay. What is your next lesson? 

Shruthi: This is probably the most important thing out of all of my lessons, which was to really marry your content calendar and your keyword research. What I mean by that is instead of cooking the recipes that I wanted to cook and then trying to find keywords to optimize it, I built a content calendar that passes what I call a keyword sniff test. So I basically completely reversed my workflow in some ways. But I think of course, at the end of the day, then that doesn’t mean that I’m just making recipes where the keywords are helpful.

I do have a setup where I allow myself the freedom and the flexibility to post a certain amount of recipes that I really just don’t care about SEO. I’m just doing it because I wanted to post a specific recipe or I was feeling creative or whatever, but I think having my blog principles on the one side and then doing this keyword sniff test and making sure that I was doing the keyword research before I cooked or posted a recipe has I think been the most important aspect of how I interpret the most important aspect of being able to where I have landed in terms of traffic.

Megan: I think that’s so smart and it sounds like you have such a balance because you do have your principles that you stand by yet, I love that you call it a keyword sniff test. I think that so perfectly explains that. So how do you balance that? Do you allow yourself wiggle room for how many posts a month or how many posts per whatever to just do whatever you want?

Shruthi: Yeah, it’s a great question. I think last year I was planning this by quarter, but for this year I basically have most of the planning completed for the year. I think it started out by seeing what’s the goal for publishing a high-quality recipe every week. So I said, knowing my life and the fact that I’m planning a wedding and all of these random things in my work side of things, I committed to doing one recipe a week and many times I’ve actually exceeded that, but I told myself that’s my ambition.

So that’s 60 posts a year or so. But then I actually identified 75 or 80 ideas. Mostly evergreen, some are seasonal. Then I found, I just have a blank spot for like 10 to 15 ideas that I was like, you know what? I don’t know, two weeks from now, I might want to do something. Because I have so many tomatoes in my garden and I don’t want to look at keywords. That way, I land at slightly more than one recipe a week over the course of time. If I have a lot of time during breaks or something, I do a multiple, sometimes I’m only able to do one, but I think it really gives me the wiggle room to say, here is the set of content that’s well-researched and it’s really SEO driven. Here’s a buffer list, which is basically whatever I feel like doing. 

Megan: Yeah. That’s so awesome. I just want to point this out. I see in your notes, you wrote that you set a timer to make a yes or no decision on keywords for each recipe. I love that. Oh my gosh. That’s brilliant because then what’s coming and you’re not 60 minutes later, wait, I don’t know what I’m doing, waffling at all. It’s five minutes and that’s the amount of time you have to make the decision. 

Shruthi: I also batch process it. So this is what I was saying is my keywords sniff test. But I basically use Keywords Everywhere but I’ve heard Key Search is excellent. It’s just what I was used to using because I signed up for a free trial at some point, and I just really fell in love with it. But essentially I just start out by saying, okay, here’s my rough idea of something. I dunno, like grilling asparagus. Then I like to look for combinations. Then I say, What’s a reasonable search volume that I want this recipe to have?” Usually nowadays I target somewhere between a thousand to 2000. Then I also look for stuff that’s not super competitive; meaning if I Google the keyword and if the first five or so entries are all like major websites or blogs that have been around for years and years and probably don’t have a chance of out competing them. Then I say, you know what? Okay, this is good. I check the box and I move on a five minute timer, make a go or no-go decision. If the timer runs out while I’m doing it, I usually just make a split second decision. I just put it in a box and I move on.

I think the big takeaway is to prevent overthinking by time boxing. This way I end up usually validating somewhere between eight and 10 recipes in an hour, which makes a huge difference because now I have 10 things that I’ve looked up, yes it passes the keyword sniff test. It is optimal and now I can go into recipe writing and development and taking pictures and all that jazz.

Megan: This is a theme that I implement all the time in my business as well. I don’t do the five minutes on that, but I think I’m going to start now because you’ve inspired me. But every single task that we do in our businesses and in our lives really will fill the amount of time that we give it. So if I sit down without thinking that there’s a certain time for keyword research. It will fill hours but if you give it five minutes, it will fill five minutes. I always encourage people, if there’s a task for example, like writing one of your blog posts, I feel like that takes people so long; myself included. Take the time that it normally takes you to write a blog post, cut it in half and see if you can do it. If it normally takes you three hours to write a blog post, sit down, set a timer for an hour and a half you’re most likely going to get it done.

Shruthi: A hundred percent. Absolutely. 

Megan: Okay. I want to hear less than number five, Shruthi. 

Shruthi: This follows in the theme of optimizing the process. But one thing that’s been super helpful for me is that I’ve made a recipe. I’ve made a recipe, post template in WordPress, but I also have a process that I follow for every single blog post that I write. As a result, I think I’ve actually reduced and obviously I don’t count taking the photos or editing the photos in this bucket, but I can go from start to finish on a blog post in an hour. Assuming that I have the photos ready and it’s an evolution, right? I think I started somewhere for two and a half hours and then over the course of time, it just made it so much easier to stay at exactly what you’re saying. It will expand to occupy the time you’ll give it. So if you give it less time, you actually end up with a relatively good quality of content for half the amount of time that you thought you would spend on it.

Megan: Yeah, the recipe post template is brilliant and it’s super helpful because otherwise I feel like you’re just wildly putting content together. How do you recommend that people land on a template? Because I know there are so many different ways to compile a blog or a recipe post. So what are your thoughts on that?

Shruthi: Totally. Casey Markee I think has excellent suggestions here and he is always consistent in what he suggests. So I think I’ve just co-opted that into what works for me. I typically do some kind of an introduction, ingredients with a focus on making sure that I call out variations or substitutions. Especially since I do a lot of random cusine’s and so on that a lot of people might not have previously cooked before. So I try to provide substitutions as much as possible in that section. Then I go into the process and the tips and then there’s a conclusion and a recipe card. Then, that really is the posts that I have saved in WordPress. Then every time I create a new post, I just duplicate that and start whenever I have to write a new recipe. But there’s also a process that I follow alongside this particular template to make sure that I figure out what I’m going to fill in each of those sections.

Megan: It’s amazing how fast you can fill in that information when you’ve got a template set. When you’ve done it over time, time and time again. I almost feel like I’m cheating when I sit down too, because right now I’m basically just redoing my content. I’m really not publishing a whole lot of new stuff, but I have a lot of old stuff in my archives that needs this new format.

So I do go through a lot. I put these elements into place, exactly what you said. So introduction, ingredients, process, tips, conclusion, all of that. Sometimes they get done so quickly that I’m like, oh, was that, is that okay? Did I just, but it is. I look back through it. I’m like, yeah I did it. But if you just do that and get in the process of doing it and getting that magic flow and do it over and over, pretty soon you are going to be doing it in no time. Anything else you have on that? 

Shruthi: There’s a couple of things that come to mind. I usually write a Chana Masala recipe. I will also look up alternative keywords. So for instance, you say Indian chickpea curry or whatever it is. Then I will make sure that I go through my posts and if it has a variation of a recipe, I will include it and so on, just to make sure that I’m covering my bases in terms of specific other keyword alternatives, because you never know what Google actually picks up.

Of course there’s you know the keywords you think it’s going to rank for and then there’ve been so many times when some of my posts rank for something that I didn’t even realize they included in the post and it’s bringing me thousands of page views a month. And I’m like, wow, that’s interesting. I should do that more intentionally. 

Megan:Yes, totally. We all have those right where it’s whoa, that actually took off. I had no idea. But then we also have the flip side where we think something is going to be super popular and it tanks; nothing happens. You never quite know. You just have to release it into the air and see what happens. All great stuff. Okay, we’re already on your sixth lesson, Sruthi. So tell us that is.

Shruthi: This is the last one, which is ads and SEO. Of course, at the end of the day, we’re talking about optimizing SEO because you want to monetize. I personally haven’t monetized my blog at the moment because of some personal slash work permission related reasons, but it’s in the cards in a few months. The last lesson is probably the most important in the sense that Google updates will wreck you at some time. It will. A hundred percent. It really doesn’t matter what you do, how prepared you are. In general, the trend is Google makes their search process and what they prioritize and what they show more and more user-friendly, accounting for user intent and all of that, but it will wreck you.

You just need to shake it off and move on. In my own case, in the last two months, my Google search console literally looks like a rollercoaster. There’s huge spikes sometimes that lead to 4,000 visits a day. Then there’s like a huge drop and then my page views, our sessions goes down to a thousand a day and then it’s back up and then it’s back down. Especially when you combine that against, to some degree, the summer slump, the fact that people are getting out of the pandemic, but then going back into lockdown and coming out again, there’s just going to be variations and some Google update will probably go south for you, but at the end of the day, you have to figure out what quality content means for yourself. Instead of thinking that Google is doing something to you, if you think of Google’s guidelines as basically a cheat sheet of what you need to do in order to serve your user, meaning Google is almost like a translator that’s taking the collective audience of millions of people and saying, here’s what they’re searching for and here are the things that we have found that those users are optimizing or preferring, your life just becomes easier over time. I realize it’s easier to say, a portion of your income perhaps doesn’t depend necessarily on the SEO piece. This is where I think once you build up your SEO to a point where you have your process down, you have your keyword research down. You have a good grasp of it and that’s where you can start diversifying to make sure you are adding other income streams so that you’re not relying completely on one thing. 

Megan: Amen to all of that. That was so well said. I feel like it should be an introductory course into becoming a food blogger. Everyone should have to go through this where they check the box that says, I clearly understand that at some point I’m going to be wrecked by Google and or Pinterest. That is a part of the journey. You don’t learn that right off the bat. Unfortunately, you learn it the hard way when you see your traffic going up in a nice direction and then something happens and it tanks, and then you’re devastated. I’ve been there so many times. 

Shruthi: Totally. I think it’s so easy to get disillusioned. But coming back to SEO versus some of the other traffic sources. One of the interesting things about SEO is that Google makes it super transparent. If you actually go and read Google’s webmaster guidelines or whatever, here’s how we’re doing this. Here’s what we’re asking our human Raiders to do and that information is available to everybody. I have read that document. I think it’s like 150 pages. I’ve read it at least three or four times, from start to finish. I think people like Casey and your podcasts, you’ve had several guests, all do a really good job of distilling it down to the core facets. But I think reading the document actually helps in terms of understanding how Google frames this problem, because at the end of the day, they’re also trying to do things to make sure that they are staying the most relevant. So I think with SEO, there is a generally accepted right way of doing things and a generally accepted not right way of doing things. If you mostly follow that, I think you should be good. But I don’t know. I’ve hit 75,000 sessions, but if you look at my analytics and search console over the last couple of months, I’m like, wow, this is insane. It goes to 85,000 and then it drops to 60,000. If I’m literally translating that into dollars, that’s a pretty significant difference, in terms of how much you’re making in a given month. That’s the point. I think once you hit a point where you have established a baseline of what I can expect from SEO, and it’s going to go up, you can then start diversifying. I still haven’t figured out what that diversification is going to be for me specifically, because Pinterest is, they’re doing their own thing. Facebook is interesting. Instagram is not really a traffic driver, so I’m trying to figure that out. But, after having hit 50, 75,000 sessions. 

Megan: Yeah. I think advertising is usually typically the first thing that people try to nail. Then from there it’s, you’ve got some sort of baseline coming in with revenue, even if it does go up and down, depending on the season. Then you can extend your energy and start creating other streams of revenue. But, a lot of people really strive to get those ads first, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You could launch into brand work and do things that don’t require a lot of traffic. So there are other options. Actually I have put together a quiz, it’s not fully done at the time we’re speaking Sruthi, you and I, but by the time this episode is actually published, it will be for sure. It’s free and you just go through the quiz and you can see what your main source of revenue should be based on how you answer the questions. So it’s like a super fast three minute quiz, but it takes you through a lot of questions to determine what your next focus should be. So that might be helpful for you or anyone listening who’s saying I have no idea how to make money. I know there are options, but I don’t know which option to pursue. So just something I wanted to mention there, quick, a little plug. 

Shruthi: Oh my God. That sounds amazing. I will a hundred percent be taking this quiz as soon as it’s available. 

Megan: If you want to find it, it’s at eatblogtalk.com/quiz. Actually, Sruthi starting probably tomorrow you can go find it and go through it. I would love your feedback too. Any feedback is welcome. So please let me know what you think.

Shruthi: I will, for sure. 

Megan: This has been amazing. I just want to applaud you for your success in such a fast amount of time. It’s so inspiring and I know that food bloggers are going to be encouraged by it. So what would you say, of everything you’ve talked about today, which has all been insanely valuable, what would be the number one thing that you would want food bloggers to walk away from this episode knowing?

Shruthi: That’s tough. I would probably say think about all of the different pieces that we talked about and figure out how to create your own workflow. Incorporating the technical components, the keyword research, the recipe posts template, and how you fill it out. Different people tend to work very differently. I do really well when I batch process, for instance. So at any given time, once I have my list of eight or 10 let’s say recipe ideas that I’ve made a decision on that I’m going to write, I typically write the draft post.

First, aside from the recipe development process. That tends to stay separate. I do that because, at work, like if I have a dead time or if I’m on a flight that’s six hours long or whatever, and I can’t really do a lot of other things, I almost always will be able to just write. I think organizing our workflow in a way that makes sense to you and in a way that incorporates some of these best practices, I think will be the top takeaway, I would say. That’ll take some time to figure out. You’re going to start with something and realize that certain parts are working better than other parts. It’s like making a recipe. You make it for the first time. You’re like, wow, the bones are here, but it’s a little too sweet or Ooh, like it could use a little bit of I don’t know, black pepper, and you tweak it. So it’s the same thing with coming up with a blogging workflow.

Megan: Yeah. Great advice. Little tweaks every time are going to make it more efficient in the end. I think that is solid advice. Thank you so much for being here. This was an amazing journey to talk through and walk through with you. So we just appreciate your time.

Shruthi: Thank you for having me. This was awesome. 

Megan: So before you go, I like to ask all my guests for either a favorite quote or words of inspiration. What do you have for us? 

Shruthi: One of the things, one of the quotes that I actually have on a sticky note that sits on my workstation is by Toni Morrison It says, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” That is something that I have taken to heart over time. I think it is inspirational in the sense that there’s always a chance to start. It’s never too late. So I will probably leave you with that as my, not mine, the words of wisdom that I tend to turn to the most when I’m feeling down or if I’m doubting myself and so on.

Megan: Oh, that’s so great. Thank you for sharing that. We will put together a show notes page for you, Sruthi. So if anyone wants to go peek at those, you can go to eatblogtalk.com/urbanfarmie. Tell everyone where they can find you best online. 

Shruthi: Other than my blog, I am probably most active on Instagram and it’s just Urban Farmie. 

Megan: Everyone, go check her out and thanks again for being here, Sruthi. Thank you for listening today, food bloggers. I will see you next time. 

Outro: We’re glad you could join us on this episode of Eat Blog Talk. For more resources based on today’s discussion, as well as show notes and an opportunity to be on a future episode of the show, be sure to head to eatblogtalk.com. If you feel that hunger for information, we’ll be here to feed you on Eat Blog Talk.


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Megan
Megan

Megan started her food blog Pip and Ebby in 2010 and food blogging has been her full-time career since 2013. Her passion for blogging has grown into an intense desire to help fellow food bloggers find the information, insight, and community they need in order to find success.

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