EPISODE 019: KEEPING YOUR EYES ON YOUR OWN WORK WITH DANIELLE ESPOSTI
Blog Title: Our Salty Kitchen
About Danielle: I have been blogging since October 2016. What started as a way to to bring additional exposure to my husband's business (he's a professional photographer, with a specialty in food) bloomed into a full-on career. It been an unexpected but amazing journey! I blog about "real food for real people" using simple, mostly seasonal ingredients, and techniques that anyone can master.
Notes from Episode #019: Keeping Your Eyes On Your Own Work
-Fun fact: Danielle was a newspaper carrier back in high school and won state carrier of the year. The prize was being sent on a trip to Europe. From there, she discovered global cuisine. Food is so much bigger, deeper and richer than she’d ever experienced.
-Almost 20 years ago, one of Danielle’s best friends gave her the best advice ever received: "Someone else's success isn't your failure". Now it's a mantra she’s carried ever since, and applied it to not only professional development, but to personal development as well. It's also a great phrase she’s taught her children constantly! Danielle has attributed this advice to being a reason for her success as a food blogger, in an industry that only seems to get more competitive every day.
-Danielle has been blogging for a little over 2.5 years (launched October 2016) and by January 2019 her income from blogging income exceeded the income at her last full-time job, where she was an event planner.
-There is no magic formula for success when it comes to food blogging, and everyone's path is unique. Danielle achieved her income goals in a little over two years by playing on her own strengths - Pinterest, photography, and (more recently) video. Had she attempted to mimic what she thought worked by looking at "the most successful" bloggers, she would have failed. That’s because others have strengths that aren't necessarily your strengths.
-Danielle got so many hours back in her life when she let go of the things she wasn’t great at and focused on what she was good at. Sometimes you take relevant pieces of what you’ve been taught and do it when it works. Or listen to what you’re learning and then put it aside if it doesn’t work for you.
-You don’t have 30 hours in a day so chop things off your plate and get yourself back on track.
-As business owners, It’s important to keep the momentum going but also to know that when you were employed at a different job, you were allowed to go on vacation. To give yourself that grace when you’re self employed is very tough, but very rewarding.
-Danielle learned early on that just because someone else has success on a particular platform, that doesn't mean that she had to thrive there too in order to be successful overall. Therefore, she doesn’t push herself to be on channels where she doesn’t naturally shine - Facebook and Instagram. Danielle hired a VA to schedule content to those platforms. If being an IG influencer isn't in your wheelhouse, don’t make a huge part of your business plan.
-Danielle truly believes that success doesn't come from mimicry, it comes from innovation. Don’t try to re-invent the wheel with every recipe post, but always push yourself to do it differently - better, faster, more delicious, or with a twist that would resonate with readers. Don’t compete for ridiculously high-volume keywords, because it's just one more way to compete with the masses; she wants to carve her own path. For Danielle, this translates to being practical about what she offers - there are literally a million searches a month for Ratatouille. It's a seasonal dish that she knows her audience would enjoy, but does that mean she has to offer a ratatouille recipe? Nope. It's been done and it's been done REALLY well by others. She’s going to put together a dish she can do, and do well.
-Stay focused on what EAT means to your readers, then you won’t have time to compare yourself to other people because your attention will be focused on the important stuff.
-Danielle used to be obsessed with key words. Keyword searching was limiting her creativity. She was doing more imitation than innovation and didn't make her a happy creative.
-There’s a lot of value in going after strategic key words when you’re approaching content but there’s a lot of value in being on-brand, sticking with your gut and putting out great content.
-Compete with myself, Danielle does ruthlessly! Use google analytics to uncover new content opportunities and identify ways to improve existing content based on hard data. Instead of asking yourself "why isn't this recipe for XYZ ranking better than this one from this other blogger" try to look at the content with "naked" eyes and work to improve it. You can do this with old posts too by revising content. Aim to make it the best it can be.
-Danielle is constantly discovering new bloggers and saying this is a great blog and I can’t wait to make something from here. Appreciate their work and be inspired by it. There’s no finite supply of recipes in the world.
-You can’t reinvent the wheel every time but you have to move the wheel forward. You have to do something a little different.
-The food blogging world is so open and gracious and they are so willing to share what’s working for them, share ideas and share tips, so choose not to ruthlessly steal business from a colleague.
-Danielle believes that by focusing on what works for her talents and abilities, she’s delivering content that resonates with the audience she’s grown, and not chasing unicorns. This translates into an audience that trusts what you deliver, and will help with continued success via Google and Pinterest as you build your EAT.
-A year ago Danielle joined the Hashtag Jeff Course - within the course, it talks a lot about EAT. There’s a lot of back work to do to build a profile, but it’s also simpler if you think about it as “how can I express my brand in every single post” on your site. Danielle found her Google traffic steadily grows each month. Not huge growth, maybe 3-5% but its slow and steady.
-(In regards to EAT) We all want trust, and authority comes with time, but your expertise is that one thing you can really control and if we’re always working on our expertise and building a new skill and working towards to be the best we can be, then the authority comes, and then the trust comes too.
-If it’s exhausting for users (to see same ol same ol on Pinterest) is it really in the best interest of us as the content creators to feed the beast or is it the best interest to create something innovative, different and something that will inspire someone to share it and try it.
-Ask for help. Utilize friends to test recipes or read through blog posts. Use someone who can be honest and hypercritical, then take their feedback seriously.
-Danielle loves Google trends. She does her editorial calendar a month in advance. Then as she’s looking at recipes or ingredients to focus on, she pulls out her flavor bible to help food pairing and get creative in her recipes.
-Takes 5-6 recipes a month that are not in the top 10 performing links, look at those that are fitting into the 11-20 slots and look them up in Google search console and see what long key tail words are using to find those recipes. You’ll probably find that they weren’t necessarily the long key tail words you weres planning for. Use this for inspiration on content creation!
-Know where you want to go so you don’t jump into a fad or make a turn when it doesn’t fit where you want to take your blog. For example, if your recipes could fit into the paleo/Whole30 category, you may not want to exclusively put yourself into that camp when your content in that niche received early success like Danielle’s did. It’s important to have a vision for where you want to take your blog, and while you know a niche could be wildly successful, it may not be authentic to your strengths. Carve out your own path, instead of seeking success where others have it.
-Always look for ways to improve, and don’t be satisfied with "good enough". Danielle sets a monthly goal for improvement for something she can control. She can't control how successful others are, but can control her own content and efforts. You might focus on overhead photography composition, mastering a new cooking technique, learning how to better use hashtags on Pinterest, or making an improvement to the user experience on your site. Try to push yourself, but still make the accomplishments achievable.
-If you look at what is popular in food culture now, it’s very different from than it was 10 years ago. They aren’t making and consuming the same things. There’s lots of trendy things from before that are now ingrained in food culture and lots of other things that have gone away. It’s always going to be changing.
-Tips for food bloggers who are feeling like they are swimming deep in the water of competition right now and want to know how to get out:
Number one recommendation is to get off social media break to refresh yourself. For a day, a week, however long you can handle it. Whatever your hungriest monster is, take a break from it. Remove the app.
Quit watching other food blogs.
Recalibrate your efforts and refocus on what you’re good at.
When feeling overwhelmed, literally make a list at what you’re good at. 5 things you’re good at! Then write out 5 things you need to improve on. Use that mental energy to make improvements.
Work on gratefulness and let gratitude squash bad feelings to help you change your mindset. You need to re-frame your mindset and kick jealousy out of the equation.
Focus on your progress. Focus on your audience. What feedback are they giving you? You have brought something to them, do it again.
Everyone was a beginner (food blogging). We all started somewhere. Everyone is still improving something in their job, even the biggest bloggers.
If you can re-frame something by saying, “this is a goal I can’t wait to achieve” versus “that’s a goal I want to achieve” when thinking of others work around you, you’ll change your mindset.