Carrie Forest is a successful food blogger and the latest guest on the Niche Pursuits podcast. Carrie started her website in 2009 and, for almost ten years, paid no attention to SEO or monetization and only wrote blog posts as a hobby.
In 2018 she had an ‘aha’ moment, realizing that blogs can earn vast amounts of money if they receive enough traffic producing content people are looking for.
Her challenge was to resurrect a website built with no SEO or keyword research into one that could do well and make her a decent income.
Today, she chats to Jared about how she did just that.
Her website now receives up to 600,000 monthly page views and earns over $20,000 each month. Carrie walks us through how she achieves these results, starting with getting the site unstuck and making it one that Google loves.
She talks about the content decisions she had to make, her thoughts on Google Web Stories and how you can write stories to get substantial traffic spikes on your blog, plus a lot more. Moreover, she also discusses other aspects of building a blog, such as keyword research, link building, and updating content.
Table of Contents
- What was holding her back from making money from the blog
- Setting goals on page views
- What makes up 80% of her articles
- Content tips for bloggers
- Structured data
- Who Google Web Stories are for and how to put one together
- Concerns about the upcoming banning of third-party cookies
- Deleting several hundred blog posts
- Updating more posts than you publish
- Plus much more
In addition, Carrie’s story, tips, and advice are great for those who have mindset issues with their blog. She’s been building the blog for almost 15 years, so she knows what’s needed mentally and strategically to be a success.
It’s another excellent interview from Niche Pursuits, with pearls of wisdom and golden nuggets of advice from the start. So as always, we hope you take notes and enjoy the episode.
Links & Resources
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watch the full interview:
read the full transcription:
Jared: All welcome back to the pursuits podcast. My name is Jared Bowman. Today. We are joined by Carrie Forrest, uh, Kerry, Forrest. Sorry about that. Welcome on board Kerry.
Carrie: Thank you. I’m so excited to be here.
Jared: Ah, good to have you good to have you, you were saying at the outset that, uh, you’re also a listener of the podcast, which is always great, cuz you, you kind of know the types of things we talk about.
We’re talking websites today. No, uh, uh, no surprise there, but um, why don’t you bring us up to speed a little bit on your, on your backstory and how you got into, uh, into the website you’re building right.
Carrie: Okay. Yeah. And I don’t know if I’ve been living under a rock or what, but I really only discovered the niche pursuits podcast when the CEO of media vine was on who’s, you know, most people know media vine is an ad company for website and I’m a media vine publisher.
So that’s how I was introduced to the podcast. And then I’ve really been binge listening and wondering, you know, why I wasn’t aware of the podcast sooner because I’ve been getting tons and tons of value. And so I’m thrilled to actually be a guest on the podcast today. That
Jared: was a, that was a great interview with Eric.
I remember his last, name’s hard to say, so I’m not gonna try to say it now, but Eric, from, from me, even that was a fascinating interview into the, the state of, um, kind of ads now and going forward. And what, what media V specifically is doing.
Carrie: Yes, exactly. And we’ll probably touch on that because of the third party cookies going away, uh, coming up in 2023, I believe is the projected date.
So yeah, there is some uncertainty when it comes to display advertising and I’m especially concerned about that because. About 90% of my revenue from my website comes from display advertising. So just to give you some background, I’ve actually been blogging since 2009, but it was really just a hobby and it was a way to connect with other people.
It really, I had no clue and no idea of how to monetize or that you even could monetize or make a business out of blogging. So I would say it took me, I mean, and I was doing other things. I got a master’s in public health around 2000, starting around 2010. So I really didn’t start to turn my website into a business until 2018.
So for the first nine years or so, it was just kind of having fun, meeting people, doing it as a, a hobby. But since around 2018, I connected with a food blogger and I am a food blogger. One of my food blogging friends told me she was making like six figures a month and it blew my mind. And I believe it was somebody on the niche.
Pursuits podcast mentioned this idea that it took like centuries for the first human to reach a four minute mile. And then it only took a month for the second human to, to reach a four minute mile. And so I feel like that really happened with me. Once I realized the possibility that you could turn your website into a million dollar business.
I was like, all the barriers were gone in my mind that were maybe holding me back just because of realizing that it could be possible that you know, someone else like me could make that kind of money. I’m not making that kind of money yet. but I’m really very focused on getting there. And I hope that today I can share some of my strategies of how I’m trying to make the most money that I can with my website.
Jared: Walk us back to that moment in, I think I, you said 2018, what was the, I mean the light bulb moment obviously was, oh my goodness. I’m kind of sitting on this website that has potential, I never understood or never knew about, but what was, what were the, the details of that or the tactics involved? Like what were you missing on that you learned in those moments that kind of started this new trajectory for your site?
Carrie: I would say the biggest thing was an overall strategy mindset. And then getting into specifics. I had never done keyword research, which at this point kind of blows my mind. Like, I feel like I was so naive, but now, so, you know, any, any time from 2009 to 2018, anything I blocked just came out of my brain or maybe.
A reader asks me about a recipe or something like that, or a topic. And now every single post that I do is based on keyword research and, you know, looking at search volume and competition, I’m lucky in a sense that my website, you know, even all those years where it was just kind of a hobby, at least it was building some authority.
Mm-hmm . So, and then I also got a master’s degree in the field. So my site itself has some authority. It’s not like I was starting from scratch. And then my site also has the eat, the expertise, um, authority. What’s the T trust
Jared: trustworthiness, trust trustworthiness trustfulness yes. Trust with some things on the end of it.
Carrie: right. So my degree. gives my site some of that too. So, but yeah, I mean, just this overall idea of having a strategy and then I think also just having a goal. Mm. So I got it in my mind that I wanted to reach a million monthly page views. So I would say in 2018, my site was getting maybe. Maybe I was already a member of Mediavine cuz I had joined Mediavine in 2014, but even in 2018, my site was maybe getting 30,000 page views a month.
Jared: Yeah. Their traffic requirements have kind of gone up over the years, so they probably was lower back than maybe 10, 20,000 if I have my history.
Carrie: Right. Yeah. Yes, exactly. So, um, and I’d for many years I had wanted to have a hundred thousand monthly page views because that was the point when you could join ad thrive.
Mm-hmm for which for many years was kind of like the elite, um, advertising agency in my mind now media fine and ad thrive are at the same level. So it took me once I started applying strategy and keyword research, it didn’t take too long to get to that a hundred thousand monthly page view. Uh, mark, I would say.
By 2019. And so I was starting to make a little bit of money and feeling pretty happy about that. And then pretty quickly after that, I got up to 250,000 monthly page views. And at this point where I stand now in 2022, and I’ve done a lot in the last year, I really dialed in my strategy, which we can talk about, but now I’m sitting anywhere from, uh, well, summer now.
So page views are little slower. I’d say anywhere from 475,000 up to my high this year earlier, this year was 650,000 page views. I’m getting closer to that million monthly page view. And there’s nothing like. You know, you don’t get a medal or a trophy or anything once you hit a million monthly page views.
But for me, that’s just like this goal that I’m in my mind kind of sets you apart as like an elite, especially in the food blogging arena sets you apart. I can’t imagine that that many, I mean, there probably are quite a few blogs that are reaching a million monthly page view. I would say within the food blogging niche, it’s gotta be in the top five to 10%.
That’s just my mm-hmm kind of
Jared: guess. So 2018, the site was getting, I mean, you know, under 50,000 pages a month and now fast forward, four years later, it’s, you know, between a half million, 600, 700,000 pages a month and growing, I mean, that’s, uh, that’s fantastic. You were saying that most of your revenue, most of your income comes from media vine.
Are there just before we kind of dive into the details, are there any other kind of figures about the site? You, you become full sharing, maybe the number of articles or posts you have, maybe roughly the amount of revenue you make amongst. So people can kind of get a, um, their mind around what type of site we’re, we’re looking at.
Carrie: Okay. Sure. So I really, um, took my strategy to the next level, I would say in May, 2021. And we could talk about that, but essentially I started outsourcing some of my work, some of my content. So prior to May, 2021, I was doing everything by myself. I had no content writers. I, I don’t even think I had any virtual assistance.
And at that point I was making less than 10,000 a month. and, um, that does not include my expenses. So, you know, every website owner knows there’s like hosting fees and I do, um, work with a tech company who manages my backend. So there’s always like a minimum amount of expenses that you have, unless you really wanna do everything by yourself.
But in one year from May, 2021 to may 20, 22, my revenue grew, I looked it up cuz I wanted to share that. Um, let’s see, where is it? My revenue has up 71%. Yeah. My pages are up 60%. So at this point before expenses, I’m pulling in about 20,000 a month and my expenses have gone up because I did start outsourcing.
Right. But I’m also a very. I don’t wanna say cheap. I’m a very penny wise person. I’m a frugal person, especially because I’ve done everything most, everything myself. So I try, I really, really try to keep my expenses for a long time. I tried to keep ’em under 5,000 a month. I’m been kind of easing up on that a little bit in the cuz I’ve seen how, when I spend money, I can earn a lot more money.
Mm-hmm mm-hmm so it’s I can spend a dollar and earn. $5, maybe I, don’t not sure the exact figure. Yeah. Yeah. But at this point, yeah, my expenses are around 6,000 a month.
Jared: That’s great. That’s great, man. There’s so many questions I have for you. Okay. Okay. um, let me, let me, let me kick off our, our deeper dive with this question then let’s maybe we don’t have to go all the way back to 2018, but, um, when you started on a different focus, right, you started focusing on this website with a new lens and a lens of getting to a million page views and obviously all the monetization opportunities that were also in front of you.
Um, and, and I think this applies by the way. I’m, that’s why I’m asking to a lot of maybe the people listening who have this site that maybe they Haven. Um, treated it with very much interest for a period of time. Maybe they, they did a lot of work on it prior and now it’s kind of sat dormant for a while, or maybe they have been blogging on it.
They have been writing for it, but they haven’t been doing it the right way, no keyword research or something like that. And, and so this question is kind of posed for these types of people. What did you do to get that site going in the right direction? Did you go back and update a lot of the old content or did you kind of just say, well, let’s just start fresh from here and go forward with this new strategy and approach.
Carrie: No, I definitely have, especially this past year, I’ve done a huge focus on updating old content. So that is definitely one of my strategies. So I had, I mean, prior to 2018, I was coming up on a thousand posts cause I’d been blogging for almost 10 years, but I mean, 80% of those were crap because they weren’t keyword research.
They were just, um, my photos were horrible. I, I would say 80% of my posts are recipes because that’s what my audience always ask me for. But then about, um, the rest, um, 20% were health articles. And because I do have a, I know that’s a very, um, kind of like your money or your life mm-hmm , um, industry, but because of my master’s degree in public health, um, I’m fortunate that I can write on those topics and I can rank, so I have gone back.
I deleted. Around, you know, 2018, I would say I did. Several hundred posts that were had no, no value to the site. And they weren’t going to be able to be updated stuff like giveaways and right old product reviews. Um, looking back on that maybe I wouldn’t have deleted, but I, I I’m happy. You know, that my site now is pretty streamlined.
So right now I’m sitting around 670 posts and I have the feeling that no matter what posts any of my readers land on. I want them to really represent or be representative of the quality of my site and, you know, for better or for worse, I’m definitely a perfectionist and a little bit just kind of a stickler about wanting everything to look really good and to offer value.
I don’t want somebody to come to my site and land on an old post that hasn’t been updated since, right. Whenever and just think like, oh, this site isn’t great. I want them to be blown away, frankly. Um, so I put a huge focus on that. I think in the last. Um, cause I do an annual SEO audit as well with a outside provider and he has pushed me as well to really try to update almost like a two to one.
So two posts update two posts as opposed to publishing one post. Wow.
Jared: That’s that’s that’s some good advice
Carrie: I would say. Yeah, I think it’s worth it because, and there’s so many tools now. So one, one of the strategies that I’ll do is I’ll, um, I do have a paid account with HFS, so I will take a URL. That’s say it’s, um, I usually wait about a year.
So if a post is one year old or older, I will take that URL URL. I’ll drop it into HFS and I will look and see what keywords it’s ranking for. I’ll also look at its history of search traffic so I can see if it’s, if it’s continuing to rise. Maybe it’s just about a year old. And for some reason, it’s just finally getting traction.
I might hold off on doing anything to it, but more than likely if a post is older than a year old, I’ll see that maybe it had a bump in traffic and keywords when it was published and now it started to fall off. And so I will look at the keyword, the keyword, cuz usually, you know, one post will have, could have a hundred keywords and I’ll look at the one that’s the most popular, hopefully it’s related to that post and I’ll go back and if it’s a recipe, maybe I’ll re-shoot the photos.
If it’s an article, I will try to, sometimes I do have to rewrite the whole thing. Um, obviously if it’s, if a post is in the top three, if it’s ranking in the top three for keyword, I’m not gonna touch it. But in my mind, if a post really isn’t. Getting several hundred page views, um, a month and it’s older than a year old, then it’s fair game for me to decimate it or really give it a complete remodel.
Jared: What are the things you do to give it a remodel? I mean, you mentioned some of the things, maybe take new photos and you’re in a very photo centric niche. Right? So that that’s obviously, I mean, very important, but um, if it’s not going where you want it to go, if it’s dropped off a bit, what other types of things do you look at updating?
Carrie: Yeah, I mean, I’ll see what other keywords it’s ranking for usually it’ll rank for something that I had no intention of it ranking for mm-hmm so I will maybe take it, um, add some paragraphs in a different direction. I’ve started adding, um, I use the Yoast FAQ schema. Plug in mm-hmm um, I’m not sure if that’s the right word, uh, block.
I think it’s a block. I will use that because a lot of, um, my FAQ blocks will then, um, show up in Google. So maybe in previous, uh, like a couple years ago, I wasn’t using that block. I don’t even know if it existed, so now I will change any FAQs into that block.
Jared: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’ll add the schema or the, the, the structured data markup to tell Google that, Hey, I’m, I’m answering some important questions here and then, you know, that does have, uh, facts and you can pick up, get picked up by Google in different ways because of the, the way you’re communicating to him.
Carrie: Yeah. And then one of the biggest things that happened for me in 2021 is I had, I would say a second big light bulb moment in that. Um, I have a brother-in-law who is a venture capitalist. And just as a mind game, I thought to myself, Because, you know, they, his firm, they fund businesses. I thought to myself, what would happen if I had a million dollar infusion of cash?
And I mean, it would be hard to spend a million dollars as one person on a blog, but then it occurred to me. Well, I don’t have to, I don’t, I personally don’t really wanna take outside. I didn’t wanna take outside money and give away control of my business, but I thought, cuz I had started making more money.
I thought, what if I just, um, instead of being the tight wat I am, what if I actually took some of my excess cash and I invested $10,000 in my business, as opposed to me being so controlling and not wanting to spend any extra pennies. And that was a light bulb moment. So. Up until that point, I had taken all these food photography classes, you know, invested thousands of dollars.
I really wasn’t getting much anywhere with my own personal food photography. It wasn’t my passion, which is kind of ironic as a food blogger. You kind of assume that food bloggers are all amazing food stylist, an amazing food photographers. It just wasn’t my passion. So I started outsourcing my food photography, and immediately, tho those photos are a hundred times better than anything I could ever shoot.
Plus it added it freed up so much more of my time. Right. So that was a big change for me in 2021. And I, it allowed me also to go from publishing. One to two times a week, two going up to five times a week. Now at this point, I’m publishing seven to nine times a week. Um, that’s a lot. Yeah. So that’s been a huge change.
Not only that, but I started, um, I started looking into this world of virtual assistance and having people help me with getting the blog posts all set up. So. I farm out the food photography. The photographer sends me these beautiful photos. And then I have a virtual assistant who I can send her the photos.
She can get the blog posts all set up for me. Then I can just go in and, and tweak it and, you know, add all the internal links, maybe add some keywords. And it’s just really streamlined my process. And it’s allowed me to become almost like an editor in chief, as opposed to the writer, the food photographer, the recipe, tester, the keyword researcher, you know, doing like a thousand jobs where I can only publish one to two times a week.
I’m still doing a thousand jobs, but I’m doing more of the jobs that I like, like more of the strategy. And I consider myself like the brain of my business. And then they have all these helpers. Um, of course they have brains too, but they’re, you know, like they’re so much more skilled than I am in food photography sometimes in writing in organization.
Um, I even consider, you know, like the people who I consult with about SEO. I mean, they know so much more about SEO than I do, so I’m willing to pay them and then I can apply. That stuff to my website, instead of me having to go out and keep up with every single, you know, SEO change or whatever,
Jared: something to be said.
And a lot of people will advise this, that, you know, outsourcing unlocks so much, you know, untapped potential and you, you went through it so eloquently. Like it just allows you to do so much more. You basically went from one to two posts a week to seven to nine posts a week, but you also had spent well over a decade, but even if we just look at maybe from 2018 on, you’d spent three years at that point, doing all these things yourself and, and there’s, there’s something to be said for that.
Yes. Outsourcing can unlock so much potential for your, for your business and your website, but perhaps the reason you have been so successful at is cuz you had three years plus a decade prior to really understand what you wanted done by these additional people you’re adding on.
Carrie: Yeah. That, I think that’s a really good point because I mean, you can put out into the, I usually find people on in Facebook groups, but I mean, you’ll find people who are willing to sell you any kind of service.
And so you have to be really, you have to be careful about who you hire and who you’re gonna trust with your business. And I feel really lucky that, you know, I’ve, I’ve definitely had to go through people and I like to test people, so I don’t immediately hire somebody. And by the way, they’re all contract employees.
They’re not. Um, actual employees, w two. Um, yeah, so it’s good. I think I found to, um, have people do a test, um, and just be really careful about what you’re outsourcing. And then I think to really outsource the stuff that you really dread doing, or like, with me, with my food photographer, I mean, I gave it my food photography.
I gave it such a, a try and I have all this expensive camera equipment now sitting like the batteries have all drained out and everything so, um, I’ll probably get rid of it at some point, but yeah. And by the way, it still was a test. I mean, in May, 2021, I really was like, I am just gonna test this out and see what $10,000 will do for my business.
And within, I think it was. By July of 2021, I had my first $10,000 ad month, which I had never gotten close to earning $10,000 a month in agile, two months later, two months later. Exactly. So, I mean, from there, it’s just, um, you know, so I would say if you’re starting to think about outsourcing to start slow and really try to build a team that you feel like their skills are better than what you could do, even with tons of training.
I mean that, they’re just really skilled at that, at what they’re doing. Mm-hmm and it makes it worth it because then you’re, cuz it is painful to have your expenses double or even triple. Um, but if you realize that the value you’re getting is so much more than what you could have done, it makes it worth it.
Jared: So we’ve talked about updating content and we’ve talked about scaling content really. I mean, you know, outsourcing or, but scaling through outsourcing, what other, what other things, uh, maybe core things have you done over the last couple years that have helped this site grow so
Carrie: much? Okay. Well, I think we should talk about, um, keyword research and also capitalizing on content that’s already doing well, but I just wanted to mention that.
This strategy of me trying to publish more content, you know, going from two posts a week to sometimes nine posts a week is kind of my, um, proactive way of addressing this upcoming issue of the change in third party cookies, which nobody really knows. I’ve been trying to ask everybody in the industry, like, how is that gonna affect ad revenue?
But of course, nobody knows. Um, I even, um, have a, a contacted Google just from that Google creators team. I think they’ve started this new kind of push to try to market, to creators. I have the upcoming interview with them and I even was asking this Google employee, like what’s gonna happen with ad. And she said they were concerned about it as well, of course, because.
Google makes money from ads, right? So nobody really knows, but this, um, is my main strategy of, um, dealing with the potential loss of ad revenue is trying to make it up with volume. So that’s another one of my kind of reasons why I’m shooting for a million monthly page views, or just as much traffic as I can get because, um, you know, God forbid ad revenue goes down 30, 50, 60%.
Um, if I have that much more volume, then I can at least try to keep up with my, um, earnings where they are now. So, I just want you to throw that in there. And again, just emphasize that nobody really knows, so we’re not gonna know what happened until it happened.
Jared: And again, uh, I’ll just a little plug, but if you haven’t caught up on that, uh, interview, we did with Eric from media vine, it’s, it’s, it’s a very technical, deep dive, but, um, uh, he’s pretty candid and pretty honest about, you know, Hey, here are the different things at play.
Here are the different possibilities. And then here are some things that are, are being done, but, you know, really gives you a good understanding of what, what the current status of, um, third party cookies as they relate to ad revenue. What the status is. Yes.
Carrie: Um, so, um, yeah, I think we should maybe, or I would love to share some of this information about keyword research.
Yes. And capitalizing content that’s doing well. And I think, um, I think if you’re a blogger, you kind of already know this, but I think it’s worth emphasizing the idea that if you look at what is doing well on your site, It means like, so the post that you’re ranking number one for your top, let’s say your top 10% post.
If you just go and look at those, the top 10% of posts that are driving your, most of your traffic, if you look at those keywords, you just, it’s kind of like a duh thing. But if you think, okay, Google sees you as an authority for those keywords. And even if you don’t consider yourself an authority, Google is considering you with an authority.
And so like, don’t take that for granted. Um, so like for me, um, my site is based around gluten free and dairy free recipes and kind of about like, I, I talk about like holistic health information for women with chronic disease, um, because I’ve had my own personal health journey. And of course I, as I mentioned, I have like a educational background in nutrition.
So, but yet, um, I rank for the most random things like salary juice. Um, and beat juice and are two of my highest traffic posts. And those, those posts are actually pretty old, but Google sees me as an authority. So I have tried not so much with celery juice, but with, I probably should, but with beat juice, I really tried to do other posts surrounding just how to make beat juice, like beat juice powder.
Um, the benefits of beat juice and I’ve made these all into new blog posts. And the cool thing about looking at keywords for stuff that you’re already ranking for is that it means that you don’t necessarily have to find super low competition keywords because Google sees you in as, as an
Jared: authority student, uh, you’re already an authority.
Carrie: you can go for higher competition. So, um, like my benefits of beat juice, I think I rank in the top three and I’m sometimes will outran like Harvard medical school. Dr. OS show, um, Healthline, which are, you know, all those sites are. Way bigger than mine and have much higher domain authority, but for those types of keywords, I can actually compete with them.
So again, I just think it’s like worth pointing that out. That try to take some time to maybe go into a keyword research tool and put in those keywords you’re already ranking really well for, and just look for some offshoots that maybe you wouldn’t have thought about otherwise. Um, so I’ve done that. And then, um, I don’t know if you’ve had guests talk about Google web stories?
Um, none in the past, never. Okay. So , I was so Google web stories. Um, they were released, I believe in like November. Um, I wanna say 20, 21. I don’t think it was 20, 20. I was a little late to Google web stories, but it was sometime in the last couple of years. Sure. The Google web stories, you, I can only see them on my phone.
I can’t see them on my iPad or on my desktop. But if you look at your phone and I think it’s Android and iPhones, what if you put in, um, like, um, I would put in a keyword for a recipe. So, um, I don’t know anything you could put in beat juice. And then if you scroll up past the first few, um, search results, there’s something called visual stories and those are web stories and it’s a new feature that Google introduced got ’em right here.
Okay. Yeah. And, um, So not because it’s new, it’s like uncharted territory and it has, they have the potential to send hundreds of thousands of page use to your site a month. And, um, so it’s a little bit of a task getting them set up. You have to install the plugin, which is the actual Google. Brand, you know, the branded Google web story plugin, you have to do a couple of tweaks and media vine has a great article on their website about how to set it up because you wanna, um, do a couple things.
I’m not, I’m not super technical. That’s why I have somebody, you know, firm helping me with the tech stuff. But, um, like you wanna, there, there’s just a few tweaks, let’s say, so there’s a little bit of a process getting set up, but then once you learn how to create them, they’re not super hard to create.
It’s kind of like a blog post, um, and Google wants you to use video, but I don’t use video in my web stories. I just use my static images from a blog post and I’ve done web stories for my recipes as well as articles. Hmm. Okay. I was
Jared: gonna ask about
Carrie: that. Yeah. So yeah, so you don’t, it’s not just recipes. Um, uh, cuz I do have these articles, so I’ll actually also do some web stories about.
Like round up. So I’ll do like one of my best web stories is best juicing recipes for beginners, because I rank well for juices. Um, so if you’ve never done web stories, I would look into it. And that is how I reached. That’s how I went from like 400,000 page Jews up to 650,000 in February or March this year, because I had just a few web stories, driving insane amounts of traffic.
Like 150,000 page views in a month.
Jared: Okay. Can I ask a couple quick questions? Cause we have not talked about this. And so now you’ve just got me chomping at the bit here. So are these I, so I’m likening at my brain a little bit to Google discover with some of my clients, um, at my market agency, they do very well in Google discover and those articles though, when they hit Google discover.
Or maybe, you know, they’ll, they’ll pop for three days and then they’ll just drop off in terms of discover traffic are web stories like that, or do they just, do they go on for a while? How does it work?
Carrie: It depends, but usually it is just like a big bump in traffic. Um, if you’re lucky, like I’ve gotten lucky a few times, I got, you know, a week of insane traffic from one web story and the data will show up in dis in discover.
So you can actually see which web stories okay. Are driving traffic. Yeah. So you’ll see if you go into your discover tab and Google search console. Yep. You’ll see the URLs that are giving you the Google discover traffic and it will, you’re a URL for any web story will show web story versus like your regular blog post that might show up in Google discover.
It’s just your regular blog, post URL. Yeah. Um, so my recommendation, because they have been out now for about. I’m gonna say a year or longer. It’s definitely been over. I, well, let’s say about a year, my recommendation, what I have noticed, cuz at first, um, when I first started them, I was like, oh my God, this is amazing.
And I started doing web stories for every single one of my blog posts, but they take about, I would say about 15 minutes to create one and you can create a template and you end up just dropping your photos and the information in there. And you can link every slide of a web story. Is linkable mm-hmm , which is amazing as opposed to, uh, what they look like.
If people are familiar with Pinterest idea pins. Yeah. They look like a Pinterest idea pin, but Pinterest idea pins don’t link
Jared: is they don’t give any traffic yeah. It’s
Carrie: beyond frustrating. Um, Google web stories are linkable. Every single page is linkable and you can set up the link. So like, I have a few that are round up, so I’ll have each slide of a web story link to a different
So that was gonna be my next question. Is, are they monetizable? It sounds like the web story itself. Isn’t but then you can link out to pages that then will get secondary traffic.
Carrie: Yes. You can actually monetize your web stories. Oh, okay. Uh, I, there, I believe it’s Google ads ad sensitivity. So yeah. So the ones that we’re showing were like warts on the feet.
They were like, not very good for a food blogger. So I turned and they were only getting me like less than $10 a month since
Jared: paid so low on the RPMs. And you’d probably be getting a low RPM and then you’re getting exactly maybe not ads that are quite as targeted .
Carrie: Yeah. And then it was somehow it was affecting my RPM through media V so I turned off okay.
Ads on my web stories, but again, because they’re so easily linkable, right. Um, they have definitely monetized because they go right to my blog posts. So a couple things. Um, my recommendation at this point is, so I would actually look at your phone if you’re thinking about doing a web story, because not every keyword is going to be, have a visual story on Google.
So you, I would put it in into your phone and look and see if there already are, you know, visual stories. Um, before you spend the time doing one, I would, secondly, I would do one do web stories for your top posts, because it seems to me that in my experience, the Google web stories that I do for my top ranked posts are more likely to show up on that front page of Google.
Cause I have a lot of web stories at this point, I’m over 300. I ended up hiring a virtual assistant to do them for me, but, um, I would say less than 10% of them are driving traffic. I just decided to do an approach of like, let’s just cover the bases and get as much traffic as I can. But if you’re, if you don’t wanna hire them out or whatever, if you’re doing them yourself, just do them for your top, do them for your top 10 posts and see if it helps, but kind of like do a little research and make sure that Google is showing web stories or visual stories for that keyword.
Cuz they’re not doing it for everything I’ve noticed. Like for real technical stuff like health stuff, they’re not really doing it, but just for random keywords, they you’d be surprised what they’re showing these stories for.
Jared: So let’s say I, I, I do a, a, a web story on, on beat juice. Um, and it does really well.
And I’m, I’m hooked, uh, it dies off after a little bit. Do I do another one? Do I repost my old web story that did well, maybe a couple weeks later. Um, cuz I mean obviously as content creators were in the mindset of, oh, publish an article, it does. Well, if it drops off, we’ll go back and update the article.
It does. Well, it drops off well updated again. It does well do some secondary articles that are related to that is that is kind a similar concept with web stores or you take a different approach. Well,
Carrie: I think it’s kind of up in the air at this point. It’s a little bit like the wild west. Yeah. So. Once I have a web story that is doing really well.
And now I have so many, so it’s a little bit hard for me to keep up on it. Um, like on what they’re doing. I know, I definitely know when some are really like hitting and doing well, but I have so many that I just, I kind of just let them go. I tried to do a little bit of strategy with them where I, I put the URL of the web story in, in H RS.
Um, and I could see what keywords it was ranking for. And then I went in and I, so I saw one that wasn’t doing well. I changed the URL and updated it and it, it didn’t have an effect. It didn’t necessarily make it go crazy again. Or get any more traffic. Um, so I just, I just let it go. And then I’ve heard, I kind of try to talk with other bloggers and see what’s happening with their Google web stories.
I’ve heard that it’s not great to have two web stories going to the same URL, but that’s totally just, yeah. Rumor. Nobody really
Jared: knows. Well, I looked it up while we’re sitting here talking and Google web stories used to be amp stories when they rebranded them as web stories and relaunched in may of 2020.
So we’re about two years in now. It looks like, okay. Yeah. Wow. That was, that was fun. I think we could do an entire. Episode on that, but I don’t wanna hijack all the other good things you have to say. Okay. So thank you for talking though about the web stories. That’s uh, I have that underline in my notes here.
Cool. Yeah, I got down that path by talking about keywords. Yeah. And keyword research and kind of how you’re using existing content that’s performing well to then the dovetail that into new topics. Did we cover everything you wanted to talk about in the keyword research arena?
Carrie: Yeah, I would say that tracking keywords I think is really important.
Um, there’s a lot of different tools that you can use to track keywords. Um, but I think that’s somewhere where I kind of. Fell, um, short where I, I had keywords in the past and obviously blog posts that were doing really well. And then after a year or two, they would start to fall off, meaning that maybe a better ranked site did a better article than me, but I didn’t necessarily go back and revisit the post.
Um, so by tracking keywords and I mean, there’s so many tools, there’s so many different ways you can do that. Um, I try to keep it pretty simple. I use the, the HFS, um, tracking. You can track keywords within HFS. I also use key search as one of my main keyword research tools, and it’s a lot less expensive than HFS for anyone who’s on a tighter budget.
And key search has the ability to track keywords. But again, I’m not trying to look at blog posts that are really new. I kind of like let a blog post do its thing for about a year, but anything over a year or so I consider fair game and I wanna see, is it still gaining traffic or is it, has it peaked and it’s starting to go down and you really.
Don’t know that, um, unless you’re tracking your keyword. So that’s something that I just think is super important, um, for people to do for bloggers to do.
Jared: Let’s talk a bit, if we could about links, you know, you, you kind of said at the outset that your site has so much age going for it, that I imagine it’s picked up links along the way organically.
Is there a link building strategy in place because food is somewhat competitive. I mean, it sounds like you are taking a bit of a specialized approach in certain sections of, of the food niche you’re in, but it’s a competitive niche and to get 500 plus thousand page views a month, I’m curious if you have any link building strategies.
Carrie: Yeah, I would say that that’s probably an area that I could work on. Um, the food walking niche is. It is extremely competitive, but one of the really cool things is that food bloggers love to do roundups. Yes,
Jared: you guys love to share with each other and actually link to each other, whereas everybody else in the EO industry doesn’t seem to want to.
Carrie: So if you’re a food blogger, you probably already know there are specialized Facebook groups just for roundups. And so I keep an eye on those. And since I do have so many recipes, um, if somebody’s looking for a certain type of recipe, I’ll just drop my link there. That’s probably my main, um, link building strategy.
I did try the helper reporter out for a while. Um, but mostly those reporters are looking for dieticians or medical professionals to really interview and ask questions. I got a few, um, links that way, but it, I don’t know. I found the emails to be a little. Annoying just cuz they send out so many times they, I just don’t really have time.
I think actually, you know, if I, as my business grows, I think that could be something that a virtual assistant could, could, um, keep an eye on for me. But, um, I haven’t, you know, really gone into that. I think one thing that I have done is, like I said, okay, let’s say like 99% of my posts are based on keyword research.
There’s another 1%, let’s say one to 5% of my posts that I’m gonna do simply for, because my blog, my readers are asking for it. Or I’m gonna call it kind of like link bait. So, um, I have a few examples. My site is, as I mentioned, really focus on gluten free and dairy free recipes. Mm-hmm . So I decided to do a post on how to get started going gluten-free and dairy free.
And there really was no search volume on that when I did this post a couple of years ago, but I thought, you know, Somebody coming to my site, that’s probably pretty important because maybe they’ve been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and they’re feeling really overwhelmed. So this would probably be a good post just to have on my site as like important.
And so I wrote that post and then, you know, it, it ended up ranking number one for that keyword and it’s driving, it does drive quite a bit of traffic. And then, um, as you know, if you have a post ranked number one or probably one to three for almost any keyword, if a journalist or somebody else is looking to link to that keyword, they’re probably just gonna grab your link.
And so that makes it really easy. Um, So those, that’s what I would call as, um, what I call link bait, or just kind of, yeah. Going outside of keyword research and just thinking about some stuff that you you think is important for your site to have, and that you could cover really well in hopefully rank in the top one to three, um, slots.
Jared: Yeah, you’re right. Journalists will grab that for, especially if it’s about a topic. And I think that’s maybe an important distinction to make, um, because if it’s not a topic that maybe, uh, someone would be looking for to quote, then it might not get the links. Even if it’s a topic that people are looking for.
Exactly. Um, yeah. And, and, but, but yeah, if it’s some sort of, uh, topic that people that journalists wanna write about and they need, and then you’re number one, we’ve talked about link bit a little bit before. It’s funny, you mentioned that because it’s come up before from other people and, uh, you know, link billing is such a challenging task for everyone.
Even if you know what you’re doing, it’s time consuming and expensive. And then if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s really confusing and complicated. So, um, any link you can earn through link bait is, uh, you know, you don’t have to go out and do all the rest of the work. Okay.
Carrie: Yeah. And I, I would also say that just going on podcasts as a guest, Going, um, going to speak at events, you’re likely gonna get a link on someone’s site from doing that.
And going on a podcast is, um, a lot more time efficient to get a link it’s like basically an hour of your time than, um, you know, trying to email tons of people, not spending hours doing that. You’re, you’re like guaranteed. You’re almost guaranteed a link if you’re a guest on a podcast versus, um, you know, sending out hundreds of emails.
So yeah, I try to keep my link building really organic. And I would say that my site thrives, um, in spite of my lack of link building. And even though my site is. Old. The funny thing is like back in the day in 2009, we used to do like these, um, link link. We call them link parties where there was this old, old school, um, plugin where it would, you would link to each other because this was before social media.
And so it was a way for bloggers to connect. And like, anyways, I am not probably not explaining it correctly, but I got a lot of links from those types of things. But now I would say 99% of those domains are gone. And so they’re really not, I don’t think they’re really helping my site that much. Right, right.
Um, yeah. So.
Jared: Let’s um, as we kind of come to the end here, I, I wanna ask you a little bit more about maybe some of the intangibles that have led to your success. Uh, you haven’t mentioned it, but I, I feel like taking a step back. There’s just been an incredible amount of, I don’t know if perseverance is the right word, but endurance, maybe just endurance to get to where you’re at.
Um, like, I don’t know. Do you have any specific examples about that endurance that you feel like have contributed to the success of your website?
Carrie: Oh yeah. I mean the bottom line is if, if you wanna be successful, um, you, you have to be determined and work your butt off, honestly. Like, I don’t know any other super successful bloggers that aren’t.
Working their butt off. Um, and it can feel discouraging because, um, I don’t know, maybe you see other bloggers being more successful than you, but I would be willing to bet. And I’ll, you know, just tell you my personal schedule I’m and I’m working on this work life balance thing. But, um, I do work my butt off.
I mean, as soon as I wake up in the morning, like the first thing I think about is my website. I feed my cat first, so they don’t bother me. They don’t bug me, but the only reason I do that is so I can go right to work. Cause
Jared: they don’t bug you away from your website.
Carrie: Exactly. Um, yeah, I mean I’m probably, and I think other bloggers can relate, but yeah, it’s like a very firm focused on page views.
So I’ve, I let, um, social media kind of just go in the background. That’s not, I’m focused on page views, so anything that’s not gonna. Directly bring traffic to my site and that I can’t see revenue the next day in my report is not a priority. So publishing, sharing my blog posts on Facebook has been a really great, um, traffic building strategy for me.
I don’t know how long that’s gonna last, but there are tons of really specialized Facebook groups, um, you know, private or public Facebook groups that are based around like diet and nutrition and probably for a lot of other specialty fields as well, like medical issues or I don’t know, but, um, I get a lot of traffic from, from Facebook groups.
So, um, like Instagram, even though I think it’s fun and I do check in on it way too much. Um, I’m not really focused on like making reels and stuff because I just don’t really care because Instagram people don’t click through to my site.
Jared: Um, because it’s all about page.
Carrie: Yeah, for me, it’s all about Patriots.
Yeah. Yeah. I tried YouTube for a while. Um, I felt like YouTube has some value because I had a couple of YouTube videos go viral. And then I noticed that they were connected to a blog post and it boosted that, um, blog post higher in the rankings. But it’s, I mean, that’s a pretty tough strategy to spend a whole day making a YouTube video.
You know, the hopes that it’s gonna go viral. So I’ve let YouTube kind of, I hope to get back to it sometime, but it’s not a priority now. Um, but I think one thing talking about these intangibles is along with this kind of laser focused. Um, it can start to feel discouraging if you’re not getting, reaching your goals fast enough or seeing like the competition and stuff.
So you need to embrace like an abundant mindset, which is what, something that I work on. But the idea that no matter how competitive it is, like I have a place and my blog has a place in the landscape. I’m offering value. Um, there’s room for me, as well as, you know, Healthline or other gluten free dairy, free bloggers, like there’s room for us all.
It’s really hard to keep that mindset, but it’s something that I think is, um, important and it’s something that I work on. And then the work life balance is really hard, but that’s something that I’m working on as well. Because I’m like the driver of my business. And even though I have a lot of helpers now, like they’re not, they don’t have the ability to publish.
I’ve never like, let go of that control to let somebody else hit publish. So I’m still the main person of my website. I’m the final authority. But if something happens to me, like if I get sick, because I’ve overworked myself, the whole enterprise comes to a screeching halt. And so I have to keep that in mind that I can’t work, you know, 24 7.
But, um, so that’s tough, especially when you are publishing like seven times a week. That’s like basically one time a day. So sometimes, you know, I’ll take a day off um, and then recognizing that you really, you can’t do it all. You can’t do web stories and keyword research. And like I mentioned, like.
Shooting, all the photos, testing all the recipes. There’s no way I could do all that in a day and every day. So I’ve had to outsource. And so if you’re feeling totally overwhelmed and there’s stuff that you really dread doing, I consider, um, Outsourcing it and, and you might be surprised.
Jared: Yeah. Two things you said I wanted to highlight because I mean, a lot of people, um, certainly right now last week’s episode was about how to recover from a Google update, you know, and, and there’s been a lot of, of that happening.
We had a rather large update happen in the spring of 2022, you know, recording summer of 20, 22. But, you know, the mindset that people have had has gotten knocked back a bit for those who got, um, dinged or, or, or hit by this update. So I think your mindset really specifically can speak to people who might have had a setback or two along the way.
And then, um, yeah, there’s such a tendency, right? Where, you know, these podcasts we do are SU super inspirational and you get people on that are really tactical, but, um, but you know, you also, you have an incredible amount of focus. You have a, a goal or at least a priority every day of, of page views and every decision you make.
Feeds back to whether it’s getting you closer to that goal or not closer to that goal. And you you’re saying no to a lot of stuff, and yes, now you’re doing web stories and yes, now you’re able to do seven to nine articles a week, but you know, you can’t do all that yourself. And so if you are someone who’s not at the point where you have everything outsourced, like you do, you’ve gotta say yes to certain things, but say no to a lot of things and, and really prioritize.
So, and, and the whole interview really has spoken to that. I think you’ve done a very good job of really outlining the clear path you took from, from doing everything to now starting to not do
Carrie: everything. Yeah. And I would also just on that point of core updates, because I, we didn’t talk about this, that I got hit right.
When I was getting my growth in 2000, you know, I said in 2018, so in 2019 there was an update. It was never like, they never announced it, but it was Sept September or November. Now. I can’t remember. It was a painful day, 2019. My, um, on my site got hit with a core update. Hugely. I lost 60% of my traffic in one day.
Jared: okay. Yeah. That’s a big one then.
Carrie: So if you’re undergoing that, I can identify, I cried. I don’t cry that often. I cried that day. um,
Jared: I’ve got hit by an update. I’m not sure if I cried, but I sure felt like it. I might have,
Carrie: it was so discouraging and that’s actually, when I started doing an actually like paying a consultant to come in and, and look at my, um, technical SEO, meaning I looked at, he showed me, I had all these broken links that I hadn’t fixed.
I had actually been using my headers wrong. I didn’t know about headers. I’m kind of embarrassed to say I’d been using, like, I would throw in a H two just because I liked how it looked.
Jared: Yep. In, we deal with that a lot with our clients here at the I’m like, you know, they’re like, I just thought it was a sizing thing.
Carrie: exactly. Um, and I like all this stuff I thought was really. Not that big of a deal. I mean, 60% of my traffic overnight. And by the way, it took about a year to get that back because you’re really not gonna recover that traffic. First of all, until you fix whatever happened as best as you can. Secondly, until there’s another core update.
Because, yeah, Google’s not gonna come and reassess your site until there’s another core update. And I think it took about another two.
Jared: I was gonna say, I hate to say, but it’s not uncommon for it to be more than one, unless you just get Johnny on the spot and make those changes really quickly. Like, you know, it could be.
More than one update, which is even more discouraging, but I suppose, setting expectations yeah.
Carrie: So I learned my lesson. I’m very attuned to technical SEO. So I run like a broken link checker on my site. Like once a month, I’m just like super, really scared about that. But I have to say Google has rewarded me.
So in these, um, more recent core updates, I have gotten a boost and that makes up a little bit for all the pain of getting hurt by a core update. But yeah, it’s painful. It is. It’s so discouraging. It’s yeah. It’s
Jared: awful. And look at where your site is now. I mean, if you were in 2019, so that was maybe two and a half years ago, it sounds like.
And, um, didn’t give up, didn’t throw in the towel, even though again, the word is very difficult when you have a, a traffic loss of that size to not give up and speaking back to, you know, what last week’s episode was addressing. And that’s such a, a common feeling, but I mean, here we have a, the, the very following week after we do a, a, a podcast on the, on how to recover from an update here, we have a, basically a really, really emblematic success story from
Thank you. Yeah. Yeah. And it also helped, um, I think as bloggers, we can get really lonely and feel like. Um, nobody can identify, which I think is one reason I love the podcast so much is I feel like you really understand, you know, you, Jared, like with your questions, you know, what bloggers, you know, are up against and what we have to deal with.
And I mean, you’re, I, as I understand, you’re a blogger yourself, but if you can connect with other bloggers, like either, you know, like in the Facebook group or whatever, there will be other bloggers that also are struggling with the same thing. And it, it helped me a lot. Like I connected with one other blogger at that time, 2019, when that happened.
I mean, we just commiserated for months. And, um, until, um, now we’re both, you know, have recovered, but it, it helped a lot to have somebody understand what, what I was going through and, you know, we could kind of share our, our upset and our rage quite frequently, our anger yeah. Oh yeah. It was horrible. It really
It’s uh, disappointing to that. That’s putting it, that’s fluffing it up a little better, putting it nicely, but yeah, well, wow. That hour flew by, um, Carrie, how can people follow along with what you’re doing, um, or, uh, or, or connect with you?
Carrie: Um, yeah, I’m really open to emails or direct messages on Instagram because I kind of feel like I’m at the point now in my career of blogging where like mentorship is kind of fun.
And I, so I like interacting with other people. And again, like it’s 90% of the time. It’s just me typing behind my computer, not interacting with people. So it’s, it’s fun to connect with people so you can feel free to email me. If you have specific questions, I’m Carrie clean, eating kitchen.com or I’m clean eating carry on Instagram, so you can message me and, um, you know, usually get back within a couple of days.
Um, and I also just wanted to. Um, make sure that you, as a belonger realize, like you should celebrate your, your wins along the way. So whether you’re just gonna, you’re just hitting, you know, 50,000 page uses, or you just got accepted into an ad network. It can like, you can reach your goals. And it’s, like I said, you don’t get a trophy or a metal, so you have to celebrate yourself.
You have to really like, it can be hard to talk to people outside the industry. So I don’t know, find somebody who you can like have as a buddy, or you can talk about your successes with cuz like of course the revenue is amazing. It makes you feel good. But at the end of the day, like the money, it feels good, but it it’s, um, I don’t know.
It’s only like one part of the journey. Um, and then I also found this piece of advice a few years ago. I don’t know where it came from, but it said, um, be so good that they can’t ignore you. Whereas like, I think of they as like Google or maybe my user or just the bloggersphere in general. So I just try to have that attitude with everything I do is try to be like the highest quality and just do the very best you can.
Um, and eventually you will get recognized in, you know, various forms, but you really, if you’re doing good work, like really you authentically wanna put out good material. Um, and help people. I really believe that you’ll be recognized for it, you know, whether it’s financially or I don’t know, being on podcasts or getting interviewed or whatever, but that’s my
I think it’s great. I’m glad you touched on too, because you know, in, in closing, like we don’t get trophies or metals or really any physical thing for what we do. Um, I remember we had Michael Donovan on a, a month or two ago and he, he had, he was lucky enough to actually get a check for his first dollar that he made online.
He, his wife framed it for him, which is great. But you talk about the revenue as, as kind of the. The benefit, but I mean, it just gets transferred into our accounts. You know, it, it is great, but it’s, we don’t get those physical kind of attaboys responses, good jobs. And, and so yes, celebrating and find a way to celebrate the wins along the way, because you don’t get a trophy I
Carrie: love that.
Right. And, and also like when it comes to revenue like it does, of course it’s amazing. Like, it feels amazing, but it’s like a little awkward at two. You can’t just tell random people. I made $10,000 this month. That isn’t like part of our societal norms. Maybe you can tell a trusted friend still it’s a little awkward.
So I think that’s another reason why I really like page views. I can tell my friends, I had, I had a million, I haven’t reached it yet, but when I reach a million monthly page views, yeah, I’m gonna tell ’em, but I’m not telling em how much money I made every month.
Jared: That kinda thing. Good point. Oh man, this was fun.
I mean, obviously I think from just a purely tactical standpoint, learning all about web stories was great. And a total surprise. We did not have that on the agenda. So that was really fun, but good. I mean, what a journey. Since 2009, um, kind of rediscovered in 2018 and now here 2022, uh, you know, well eclipsing 500,000 pages a month, um, you know, uh, $20,000 a month and onwards and upwards to a million dollars.
I can tell you’re you’re focused on it. So you’re gonna get there back when you hit that, when you hit that number. Oh, that would be amazing. Carrie, thank you so much. Um, really appreciate you coming on today.
Carrie: Thank you. Thank you so much. She