Many of you have noticed that our blog has really changed in the past year and this week we are going to share everything about why we’ve made some pivots and how we began growing our website traffic after 10 YEARS of not growing. This episode is both really business oriented and really personal to us as humans. We’re definitely spilling all the tea for ABM.
You can find the podcast posts archive here.
And if you’re looking for a specific code you heard on the podcast, you can see a full list on this page!
Use code ABM for 10% off Cooking with Keywords and Blogging with Keywords
The biggest growth eras for ABM
- Early blogging (anything worked!)
- 10 years ago we were doing three blog posts a day
- The past six months focused on keywords
Check out our craft posts on childhoodmagic.com
Why is your blog changing?
- We care what you think & we love you!
- We are changing humans (family, priorities, interests).
- It’s so exhausting to work hard without growth. It’s bad for morale.
- The entire industry has changed in the 15+ years we have been blogging.
- We need to secure a sustainable income.
Why are you posting so many recipes?
- It works! Our traffic is almost double what it was last year at this time.
- We are good at it. It’s Emma’s main passion and Elsie is enjoying it too.
- It’s sustainable.
Check out julieblanner.com
Why aren’t you posting much on Instagram?
- With less sponsors, we have less $ incentive.
- With a smaller team, we can’t give 100% to our site and create videos for social, so we chose our site.
What are your goals for ABM (aka I don’t get it)?
- Top level—to have a flexible schedule that serves our family life.
- To enjoy our work.
- To create passive income for the future
How we grew our blog after 10 years of not growing
- Cooking with Keywords & Blogging with Keywords
- Writing our blog posts based on keyword lists instead of random ideas.
- It’s not only recipes, we also have a series on plants. This year, we will be doing paint colors, nail art and crafts.
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Episode 216 Transcript:
Elsie: You’re listening to the A Beautiful Mess Podcast. Many of you have noticed that our blog has really changed in the past year. And this week we’re going to share everything about why we’ve made some pivots and how we’ve begun growing our website traffic after 10 years of not growing. This episode is both really business-oriented and also really personal to us as humans. So we’re definitely spilling all the tea. I’m so excited.
Emma: Yeah. I feel like we’ve gotten a number of comments on the blog or other places too, where people are like, so what’s up? It seems different. Or they’re maybe a little bit low-key or high-key complaining about how they don’t like whatever content we’re doing or whatever, they want more crafts or whatever it is they’re missing, you know, different things for different commenters, but yeah, it’s fun to talk about.
Elsie: Yeah, I’m excited. So we’re going to try to answer all your questions. So just a preview of what we’re answering in the episode. We’ve had a lot of like confused slash not happy comments from people who just want to know the following questions. Why is your blog changing? Why are you posting more recipe posts? Why aren’t you posting as much on Instagram right now? And what are the goals for A Beautiful Mess? A. K. A. I don’t get what your strategy is.
Emma: I don’t get what you’re doing.
Elsie: So we will answer all of that. But first, I’ve been waiting for this all year. This is like a big moment for me as a parent, and I think you’re all gonna love it.
Emma: It’s a big moment for me as an aunt. I’m excited too.
Elsie: Okay, so I’m just gonna turn it over to Nova right now. This is her first year to be a Girl Scout, and this is her first time ever to sell Girl Scout cookies, so I’m just gonna turn it over to her and let her tell you about it.
Nova: Hi, I’m Nova, and I’m selling Girl Scout Cookies. After this my mom’s gonna tell you how to get on there and get the Girl Scout cookies, but first, I just want to tell you that there’s a lot of kinds. You’re welcome to take your time to pick, and I hope you can buy them because it will really help my Girl Scout troop. Oh, also, I hope you love the cookies, too. Thank you.
Elsie: And yes, if anyone wants to buy Girl Scout Cookies, they will be linked today in the show notes. Nova has her own cookie store, and I’ll link them everywhere. All right, say thank you.
Nova: Thank you, and I, again, I hope you like the cookies.
Elsie: Okay, so thank you to everyone for supporting the cookies. Obviously, like, don’t buy them because you feel bad, don’t feel pressured, but just, if you love them, if you’re like me, and you just, like, eat them all winter long out of your freezer, then go for it.
Emma: That’s me! Four months pregnant, my adorable niece is selling cookies. Yeah, you better believe my freezer is gonna be full of these cookies as soon as they come in the mail.
Elsie: It’s very special. She set a high goal. She set kind of a high goal. So I tried to talk her down. Yeah. She first said she wanted to sell a thousand boxes and I talked her down to 250 boxes, which I think is still a big goal.
Emma: I think that’s a great goal.
Elsie: I’ve never done it. So I don’t know how aggressive that is, but we’ll find out. And yeah, thank you to everyone who supports it. It means a lot to us. I know it’ll probably mostly be our podcast listeners and that is very meaningful.
Emma: And me.
Elsie: Yes. And you. Oh my gosh, that’s cute. Okay, we are gonna get into it. I’m so excited about this episode. I’ve been looking forward to this for months because yeah, like we said, we have had lots of people just checking in, asking questions. And I’m saying, have I missed an announcement? And definitely, you didn’t miss anything. We’ve just been working behind the scenes for more than two years now to improve our website traffic, which is how we earn money and a bunch of other things surrounding it. So at first, I wanted to talk about like our biggest growth areas for A Beautiful Mess because I think a lot of it is like understanding blogs in general. If you’ve never had your own website or you’ve never done it professionally, then you might not really even understand how websites earn money. I’m sure you like, no, there’s the annoying pop-up ads. And that’s one way that websites earn money. These are the biggest growth errors that we have ever had through a beautiful mess. So early blogging, we’ve been blogging for more than 15 years. So early blogging, I would say, is anything over 10 years ago, like the first five years.
Emma: So there really wasn’t a lot of social media back then.
Elsie: Yeah, almost none.
Emma: Travel back in time with us and think back 10 years. It’s just mostly blogging. So that was really where growth was and also how you would monetize.
Elsie: Yeah. Social media at that time was like Facebook and MySpace even, and Twitter had just been invented. And we hadn’t even heard of Instagram yet. We were just getting our first iPhones, you know, we were just getting our first filter apps. Everything was changing. So, in the early days of blogging, I’ll just say anything worked. The more you post, the better. So we learned very quickly that it wasn’t what we posted, it was the frequency that we posted. So it was essential to post every day. And a lot of the posts that we would put up were just like kind of a lifestyle journal about our day. And you have to remember this was before Instagram. So it made a lot more sense back then why we would share what movies we watched or we had a lot of like pictures of Emma and me getting coffee together, which was like obviously staged, but it’s something that we worked to get, but it was also like kind of easy. It was like, all we have to do is take some pictures.
Emma: We did actually drink the coffee, so it wasn’t totally staged.
Elsie: We always went to restaurants where we really wanted to go. And yeah, but it was a lot of pressure to share, I would say at that time, the most requested thing that people wanted was just to hear about our lives, and see our lives, so a lot of things we would talk about were kind of random. I think that was a great introduction to blogging. It, you know, it definitely wasn’t strategic, but it was kind of I think how our blog became so well-rounded is that we tried so many different things. So we’ve always had recipes because that’s Emma’s biggest passion, but we also had, as we bought our first houses, we started doing like home DIYs and little decor updates.
Emma: We shared our wedding.
Elsie: Yeah. We shared our weddings. We shared outfit posts for a long time, probably more than five years.
Emma: Originally we shared a lot about our store. We had a local store, and that was a big part of what our blog was in the early days. It was kind of promoting what we were doing there and kind of just showing it. It wasn’t even necessarily marketing in that it didn’t translate into sales in the store per se, but sometimes it did, I suppose.
Elsie: Yeah. So as soon as we started to realize that we could sell ads on our blog, and we were selling them ourselves individually to small shops, I think there was like Google Adsense already, but it was like very low earning, you know, it wasn’t kind of anything at that time. So we realized that the more frequently we posted, the more traffic that our website would receive, which was appealing to the people we were selling ads to. And then we soon after that started doing sponsored posts, which also to them, you know, they would always want to see like what our traffic was. So our biggest motivator in those years was just having a lot of posts. So all of our posts were very short. Relative to how they are now, they were probably like 25 percent as long, like a recipe would be like just the recipe, and like a paragraph about what we thought about it. That was how we were able to publish three times a day, was pretty much writing the shortest, easiest post, and there were definitely ones in there that took more time and were more complex, but a lot of them were easy things to do, like 10 ways I blah, blah, blah. You know what I mean? Things like that.
Emma: Yeah. This will become relevant later, but just my own little personal blogging journey. Many of you have probably been blog readers for very long, but I know some of you haven’t. Elsie and I used to blog separately, but A Beautiful Mess was originally just Elsie’s blog. And I kind of helped her with behind-the-scenes stuff, like selling ads and things. And I had my own blog, which was originally called From Scratch, and then I renamed it Food Coma.
Elsie: Those are both great names, by the way.
Emma: Thank you. Yeah. And they were both food blogs. I originally got into blogging because I loved food. Food blogs. I was reading lots of other food blogs at the time. Some of my favorites way back in the day and still to this day are Smitten Kitchen and Joy the Baker. Yeah, so I was getting into cooking and I also got really passionate about food photography. I’ve always loved photography. I’ve done it since high school. But I didn’t really ever get into food photography until food blogging, it just made it necessary. But also I just started looking at a lot more food pictures. And so that was a lot of where my creative passion was in blogging originally. And then when I joined Elsie, we just worked with the strategies that worked best for the site, which was fun.
Elsie: Yeah. And I will say, I think I’ve gotten better over time, but I was a very controlling little 25-year-old.
Emma: She’s got a lot of ideas.
Elsie: We can have food, but it has to be cute. Everything is cute. And I was just like obsessed with everything being cute.
Emma: You’re right, actually she’s a real bitch.
Elsie: I mean, I could be, I could be, let’s be honest. So anyway, 10 years ago, so we’re, give this 2014 ish, we were in our three posts-a-day content machine era, I think the highest we ever got was around four and a half million page views a month, which is a lot for a website like ours.
Emma: Yeah, I think so.
Elsie: It was our peak. We started to get lots of sponsors at that time. We got these year-long campaigns, like with Canon, who we ended up doing year-long campaigns with for more than 10 years. So it was like a very good era. It was when our business grew a lot.
Emma: I still use my Canon Proof every week.
Elsie: Oh, I do too. I love it. No, I am IP 8720 for life. They’re not sponsoring us anymore, but we’re loyalists for sure. No, it was a fun time. It was the time when we started blogging out of my home as our office, and then we quickly realized that was a bad idea, and then we got a little, another home, which we realized was a bad idea when our neighbors started reporting us.
Emma: We didn’t know about zoning. We were young. We were idealists.
Elsie: I don’t know how we found this out. I think they said it. We had kind of a lot of employees and we had like a very, like, three or four men and then three or four women. Like, it wasn’t just all women. But anyway, they thought that we were maybe having some kind of like a porn content. I don’t know where the idea came from, I would love to know because we would like to go outside and take pictures of ourselves, but they were not, like, they were silly pictures.
Emma: I’m honestly flattered by that assumption.
Elsie: Me too! Goodness. That’s the edgiest we ever were and it wasn’t even real. Anyway, so yeah, during that era, we were seeing just how much we could grow. And I will be honest, it was mostly about like the quantity and the numbers. We weren’t as careful about like posting like a long, thorough article. Like that’s not something that would have been on our radar in those days.
Emma: I think we were leaned a lot more into like. Whatever we were passionate about whatever was sparking our creativity and not so much trying to be a resource to others. Not that we didn’t want other people to read it, we just were more entertaining than we were educating, I would say.
Elsie: Yeah. And I think I also didn’t exactly know what other people wanted to search for or wanted at that time. I think I was under the impression, which sometimes I think proved true in those days that it was like, if you share what you’re into, then that’s the thing you’ll be best out and that’s the most authentic.
Emma: That probably is true. That works for you will be most authentic, and that’s probably true.
Elsie: Yeah. So, 2014 rolls by, and we hit our peak, and then our traffic started to go down, and not so coincidentally, it was at the exact same time that our Instagram started to go up. So, social media began to take off. And we actually made it in A Beautiful Mess, social media, and it started to grow wildly. But at the same time, our blog traffic started to go down, and it wasn’t all at once, but I would say it was pretty substantial and pretty noticeable. And for a couple of years, maybe very drastic, and then it just kind of was stagnant for 10 straight years, the past 10 years, our blog traffic has never significantly gone up and it’s never significantly gone down.
Emma: Yeah, we’ve had a few viral things. And I would also say 2020 was a little bit higher traffic of a year, I think due to more people being home and being online, but not in a, you know, hugely significant numbers way. But just if you looked at a chart, which I did recently as we were preparing for this episode. I was like, Oh, okay. It went up a little bit in 2020. Well, that makes sense given what was happening in the world that year. So yeah, didn’t really have much to do with us, I guess, is what I’m saying as far as our content.
Elsie: Definitely didn’t meet, ’cause I remember I barely blogged that year at all. I have two young kids at home. Survival mode.
Emma: I think it was a tough year.
Elsie: And then after that, our next biggest growth era ever is the past six months. Even like the past three or four months. We have finally, we’ve been working for two years on this keyword research method of blogging and trying to improve our traffic and trying to be more strategic and more planned, and in the past few months, it has finally significantly risen our traffic. So our goal at first was to double our traffic and it’s like kind of close now I think we’ll be there this year. It’s been an extremely encouraging thing for us after so many years of not growing, that for a personality type like mine, that is extremely draining and it took a lot of perseverance to just not care and not let that be discouraging.
Emma: Yeah, it’s hard to work at something that you feel like you’re bad at all the time. That’s a frustrating feeling for sure. And on my end, you know, part of my role is to keep our company financially healthy. And so I’ve been spending the last few years worried and trying to find ways to save money or cut costs and, you know, do it in appropriate good ways, which is really hard to do when you have to do it all the time. You get to where your business is a skeleton and when it used to be a full person, it’s kind of sad.
Elsie: Yeah, someday we could do a whole episode about what it’s like to run a successful business that is declining. It’s successful and declining at the same time. That has been, like, our situation.
Emma: Do you want to hear something depressing?
Elsie: It’s not the story you always hear about, though, because a lot of times it’s like when you realize it’s not successful, or when you realize you need to quit kind of at the same time, we’ve known it’s not worth quitting, but it’s also not, you know, it’s growing for a long time. It was just kind of like, I don’t know, stagnant things are really hard for me to accept. So this has been like the most energizing change of events possible. So yeah, I think that’s something I really wanted to share in this episode is that this has been so good for our morale. And just like our spirit as creative people and bloggers, it’s been life-changing. Okay. So the next question we want to address is why is your blog changing. Why? Why? Why? We’ve had so many questions and I understand like I want to say like up front we care about you, we love you. Our readers mean a lot to us especially when people say like I’ve followed you since and they’ll say a milestone like your wedding or the shop days or you know any of those times, it means more than 10 years, and it means a lot to us that people have been with us through all these different eras, you know, we’re not the same people we were when we started blogging and that means we’ve kind of grown up together, which is a really special thing. So, yeah, I want to start out by first, making it so clear that when we get these questions and comments, I take it really seriously. Honestly, it does hurt. It hurts because we care about pleasing the people who have supported us our entire careers.
Emma: Yeah, of course. I mean, I don’t know, you’d have to be a pretty bad bitch not to, and I consider myself quite cold-hearted. But no, they matter a lot and we have to survive. We have to do what’s working. We have to pay attention to our bottom line. We have to do what excites us, and is meaningful to us as creatives and as business people. And sometimes, not always, but at least in the last couple of years, or at least this year, I feel like for some of our audience, those two things are in opposition and it’s a bummer and it bums us out, but you know, we kind of have to do what we feel is the best move for us.
Elsie: One reason is that we’re changing humans. Someone sent me this like, kind of, I think they meant it as a really sweet thing on Instagram that was like, a lot of women used to be like, basically like a workaholic and like your business was everything and you put it first and then you became a parent and now you put your family first and you just can’t go back to being that other person ever again. That is true. I didn’t know what to make of it when I received it, but I was like, I see that you’re trying to understand, you know, where we’re coming from. Which is nice. Our family, yeah it’s the most important thing in our lives for sure. And a big part of that is creating a sustainable, realistic business that we can do in these for me, it’s like not even a full work day, you know, like I have from 7 am. till 2 pm. every day to do everything that I do for my business. And yeah, I work a little bit on nights and weekends occasionally, but for the most part, I stick with that schedule. And when my kids have a sick day, a week off school, the longest Christmas break ever, the entire summer home, that also changes, like, how much I’m able to work. So, yeah, that has extremely changed the way we think about, like, how we prioritize our site. Another reason is our interests have changed, and I think this one might be, hard to hear, but I do want to be honest about it. I’m tired of DIYing. I’ll just say it. I’m tired of my house always being a construction zone. This year we’re taking a mandatory year off from renovating, and we’re barely doing anything to our house.
Emma: Yeah, I also like, still really love crafts, but I don’t have as much time to do them as I used to, and a lot of the crafts I do right now, like a lot of just where my mind is at, is on my two and a half-year-old. And I’ll have another infant this summer, and so like, little things after a while that he can do too.
Elsie: She’s in the handprint art zone, yeah.
Emma: And I love it, by the way, and it’s also a very specific era, and I don’t really want to miss it. And that stuff goes on childhoodmagic.com. So if you don’t read that site, you probably don’t see that we’re actually still doing kind of a lot of craft content. At least I did a ton last year. But, you know, so a lot of times we see a lot of comments on Beautiful Mess that’s like, where’s all the crafts? And I want to be like, well, it’s on this other site, because right now I’m doing a lot of stuff that’s like, geared towards my family and kids. That’s just where my brain is. It’s where my creativity is right now.
Elsie: Okay, another thing that I want to talk about is how hard it is to go through a flop era. I mentioned this a little bit before, but for the last few years, we have been using the term flop era a lot. I know we’ve said it on the podcast before, but we said it a lot more internally to each other. We knew we were in our flop era. You know, we’ll talk more about our situation with sponsors and stuff a little further down, but like we kind of stopped getting sponsors. It wasn’t sudden, but it was, it was substantial. And we have been trying to grow our website traffic for more than two years. We invested a lot of time and money retraining ourselves. Learning just a ton of stuff, like, to improve and do better, and it took a long time of trial and error before that started, like, kicking in and having positive effects. So, yeah, I kind of want you to just, like, if there’s one thing you can have compassion for us as humans on, is understanding that, like, it is so discouraging to work really hard on a website. That’s not growing where your efforts are not rewarded. So finding something that rewarded our efforts was very important to us.
Emma: It gets extra hard when you’re like, I’m away from my kid all day so that I can work on this thing that I’m doing bad at, or that isn’t having any measurable results from, you know, that’s hard to make.
Elsie: You can’t put your kid in daycare all day and work on something that you feel isn’t earning money. Like, it just doesn’t really make sense.
Emma: Yeah, not for me anyway. Maybe someone else could and that’s fine to each their own on the choices, but not for me. I just couldn’t. That just makes me too sad.
Elsie: No, I mean, I think honestly, like we’re doing a business episode. I can honestly say I love earning money. I am motivated by money.
Emma: In business, yes.
Elsie: I’m working to support my family. There’s nothing wrong with that. I think as women, we feel like sometimes we have to minimize that or that people will sort of like a judge. And it’s like, why? You know what I mean? I think that the time for that is way in the past and we can admit that we enjoy earning money and that we’re motivated by it, you know, like no big deal.
Emma: Oh yeah. I mean, for work especially, you know, like I have hobbies that don’t make any money and I enjoy those too. But I don’t put my son in full-time daycare to do them. If someone chooses to, that’s their choice. But for me, I wouldn’t feel great about that. Just my own choices in my own life.
Elsie: Another big thing is that the entire blogging industry has changed so much in 15 years. That’s one reason why our blog has changed also. There’s just a lot of content that will do better and makes more sense to put on social media. And, you know, if we were a person who wanted to do full-time social media and full-time blogging. We would put different types of content on both of those places because different types of content do well in both of those places. So that’s really why there’s a lot of things I think people want us to write our blog like we did, you know, more than 10 years ago, pre-social media. And that’s just like, it doesn’t really make sense anymore.
Emma: No, we should do that on Instagram if we were gonna do it.
Elsie: Yeah. One of my favorite things on Instagram is to do those little Q&As and just, like, have this little chatty time once in a while on the weekends, and that’s so fun, but it’s not something that makes sense to do on the blog anymore. It makes no sense.
Emma: No, for the strategy. And, yeah, it doesn’t make sense.
Elsie: And then, other than that, securing a sustainable income, that’s very important to us that we, you know, work smarter because we kind of can’t work harder. Like we have limited amounts of time and we are moms. And, you know, we’re also like people who have lives.
Emma: And maybe it’s because I’m a mom now. I don’t really know. It’s hard to divorce the two, but I definitely had a long era of my life where I loved working all the time. I worked most weekends and I loved it. It never felt like a burden to me. It felt like fun. And I just don’t feel that way anymore. I assume that I will again one day. I just kind of see it, but I don’t right now. And it’s probably in large part because I want to spend time with my kid. Also, there are times, like, he might be at grandma’s, and I still don’t want to work. I kind of just want to, like, clean my house, or, like, make a little necklace, or work on a hobby I’ve been doing, or whatever, read a book, you know?
Elsie: Yeah. No, me too.
Emma: And I’m just, like, in an era where I don’t really feel so workaholic.
Elsie: No, I think that makes perfect sense. Same here.
Emma: It’s just not where I’m at.
Elsie: Okay, so the next question we’re going to answer is, why are you posting so many recipes? So, three reasons. We’ll go through them. One, it works. Two, we’re good at it. And three, it’s sustainable. Let’s start with how it works. So our traffic is close to double what it was this time last year. Like not quite, but like close. Close. It’s Like working so well.
Emma: It seems that maybe they’re not leaving as many comments as the people who are sad they missed the crafts, but someone’s reading all the recipe content, so it’s working. We can see the numbers. People like it. People are using that content. So makes sense to keep going in that direction.
Elsie: Yeah. So let’s talk a little bit about like SEO. And I know like some people hear the abbreviation SEO and your brain kind of turns off and you’re like, Oh, that sounds so boring. Or like, it doesn’t sound like fun and exciting, but let me sell you on why it really is fun and exciting. So more than two years ago, we took like a weekend course with Julie Blanner, that taught us how to do SEO.
Emma: Yup. Shout out, Julie. We love Julie!
Elsie: Yeah. Shout out, Julie. We love Julie Blaner. And then after that, we took cooking with keywords by Aleka Strzok. And she also has a course called Blogging with Keywords. We have a code for a discount.
Emma: The code is ABM, all capital.
Elsie: The code is ABM. And then we have a special link. We’re going to put these in our show notes. So if you want to learn about SEO, there is no better course than this, at least not that I’ve seen, it is so good and we learned so much. It was life-changing for us.
Emma: We contacted her to get this link in this code because we knew we wanted to talk about it because I have already shared this course with so many blogger friends. Like I have already influenced so many people to take this course because it really has been very life-changing for us to just help us see things in a different way. Help us learn to research the content that we want to write in a different way. Find things that we might be good at writing that people want to learn about like trying to find that intersection of the Venn Diagram of like stuff I’m passionate and good at and stuff that people actually want to know and that’s the stuff we want on our site. I think this course really helped us Kind of figure that out. Put it into practice.
Elsie: Yeah, our current strategy is we write posts, we write blog posts, usually recipes with keywords in mind that people are searching every month. A lot of people are searching for them every month. Our goal when we write these posts is to be at the top of Google searches when people search for these types of recipes. And it has worked really well for us. We get new ones every month. For me, it’s kind of like, been like, gamifying, fogging because I just like, love seeing what spots we get. And even when we get like, sometimes we’ll get like spot 15, which isn’t really going to give you traffic, but it like encourages us that if we keep adding to the post and improving it, then, you know, pretty soon maybe we’ll get to spot three or somewhere where we get traffic from it. So it’s been like a different approach for sure. And I can understand for a loyal, longtime reader, how it looks different, which maybe doesn’t feel like, you know, normal at first, it feels like we’ve changed and you’re not sure why. So we’re explaining now, that this is why we are working off a checklist. So this year for 2024, we planned our entire year of blog posts in November, like last November. And we already started it before the new year, we’re so organized. And it’s so that Emma and I can pre-schedule and take off the entire summer, this summer while Emma’s having a baby and my kids are at the age where they’re home from school the whole summer, and it’s something that like I never dreamed we’d be able to do, it feels like such an opportunity for us.
Emma: Yeah, it kind of, at least for me, helps me. So the main thing is I’m going to have a maternity leave this year, and that’s obviously going to be me taking off work. This is a low work year for me. Which I’m fine with because I’m excited for the baby. But, I also think this kind of helps me to create a little bit of space as someone who works for herself. I have other career goals and I know you do too, Elsie. You’ve shared with our listeners about your painting. You’ve shared some other projects you’ve wanted to work on. I want to write. I have one book out, Handmade Murder. I have another book I’m working on. And those are things that I don’t make a lot of money from yet. I make a little bit, but not a lot. So, I kind of have to fit it into the slots that I have available and so being really organized and like finding work that’s like going to do well on our site. Gives me the space to do a little more creative work that maybe doesn’t quite make money yet, but I’m hopeful that one day it could, and also if it doesn’t, whatever, I just don’t want to be a creative person.
Elsie: Yeah. So a couple of other reasons why we’re posting so many recipes, it’s something we’re good at. Emma has always been the main food writer for our website, so she still is. Actually, I’ve written cocktails for more than 10 years too. And I took on mainly to finish the cocktail archive. So I’m literally writing every popular cocktail recipe.
Emma: You should see her liquor collection at her house. It is epic. It looks like a bar. It looks like a bar in your house. It’s amazing.
Elsie: It is a complete home bar. I can make anything. I always am like, would you like a cocktail? I can make anything. And no one ever says something crazy.
Emma: Dude, once I’m done breastfeeding, I will ask you for something weird. I promise.
Elsie: Please do. That’s like my dream for someone to ask me for like a niche cocktail and then I just like make it.
Emma: You’re like, no problem. And did you know the history is?
Elsie: And people are always like, just some wine. I’m like, okay.
Emma: But yeah, as I mentioned earlier with my little let’s go back in time, I’ve loved food blogging forever. So for me, I feel like very in my era in a lot of ways. And also when people are like, why is your blog changing? I’m kind of like, Hey, did you never read my blogs before my post? Because I’ve been doing food blogging this whole time.
Elsie: For Emma, it hasn’t changed. It’s more like the surrounding posts have changed, but her content has remained the same. And honestly, that’s one of the reasons why some of Emma’s posts from 10 years ago are still top posts that still earn money for us every month.
Emma: And though I think I’ve learned a lot more, especially in the last year, about how to make my food blogging more useful to readers and not just like pretty food photos that I’m excited about which I still am doing because I love food photography and I love, you know that, but I also have learned a lot more about writing in a way that’s going to be helpful to people who want to make these things and maybe want to learn something about it in the process. And I think that’s really fun too. I love writing. As I mentioned, I want to write fiction. I also like writing blog posts. I think it’s kind of a fun exercise. It’s a whole different thing, but it’s fun and interesting. And so I’ve learned a lot more about that. And I think my food posts are a lot stronger now than they used to be. But yeah, I feel like I’m doing the thing that I’ve loved for a long time, and it finally matters to someone.
Elsie: No, I feel that way too. I’ve always enjoyed learning about, like, cocktails and stuff. But now, like, making a complete archive, I’ve learned so much. I have to write, like, a history for every single one, which at first I found it kind of boring. And then after a while, now that I know so many, it’s, it’s actually really fun.
Emma: And kind of interesting. Sometimes you read about it and you’re like, I did not know that. Or there’s like conflicting, some people think this, some people think this, and that’s kind of fun to learn the history of where certain things come from or how, you know, different cultures kind of claim, like, it’s like, some people think it started here, but other people think it started over here. And you’re like, Oh, I don’t know. I don’t know who had the first tomato sauce. This is interesting. It’s what I’m doing on a Tuesday.
Elsie: It’s all true. The main reason, this is the biggest reason for me. Why we’re doing so many recipe posts is it is so sustainable? So there’s so many things that we’ve done in business. Like we’ve had retail, you know, we, you probably remember we have like our beauty boxes. We’ve had different subscriptions. There are a lot of blog posts where you will write like this beautiful, gorgeous post, and you’ll be so proud of it, but then it will not really get traffic after the next day like it’s the only day that it ever gets a spike in traffic is the day it was posted. And then, you know, as a contrast, we have some blog posts that were literally written 10 years ago that are still our top post every year. Even you know this year and those posts have earned so much money over the years compared to some of my bigger more expensive posts that didn’t really earn any money or earned a little bit. So yeah, the main reason why we are doing our long list of like Emma’s done almost every coffee recipe. I will do every cocktail recipe, this year Emma’s doing every sauce recipe, and there are 50. She’s actually gonna make 50 sauce recipes and honestly, they will probably still be earning us money five or ten years from now, and it’s like the only thing that I can think of that we would make this year that could do that. So it’s a really good opportunity. If we take a year off from blogging, which at some point we will, it’s one of our dreams. We will still earn money that year and maybe even a full income.
Emma: We do a good job now. We’ll see.
Elsie: Yeah. So that’s one of the reasons why we chose it. We’ll talk more about this later, but why we chose it over social media is that we got to a place where we have a small team now, and we didn’t feel that we could do both. So we chose the one that is sustainable for obvious reasons because it’s like, do it now and we earn money now and we earn money in the future.
Emma: And I think too, for me, like just on a personal level, I like blogging. I think everyone who works online you know, there’s YouTubers who are also big on social media, but you can kind of tell the thing they’re most into. And it has to do with like, your writing voice, what type of content you like to create if you like to do videos, if you like to do, and which algorithm your skills play into the best, you know? And for me, blogging fits all of those, and it also happens to be the one that’s like, had my heart for so long. So I’m just in this long-term marriage with blogging and I’m just seeing where it’s going because it’s my thing, you know, just fits for me. So, and some people I think feel that way about different social media platforms or YouTube or, you know, different things and that’s really cool. I’m just a blogger at heart.
Elsie: It’s true. Why aren’t you posting as much on Instagram? So this one is a little more tricky.
Emma: We are going to do a whole episode, I think next week or the week after kind of about social media. So we’ll go more into more things there, but we’re going to do some high-level stuff here.
Elsie: Yeah. Next week, we’re going to do a whole episode about social media. It includes tips and things we’ve learned and all kinds of stuff, but also a lot of it is like our own personal reasons and personal, you know, perspectives and things like that. The main reason why we’re not posting on Instagram as much is what I just said. We used to have a larger team with five people, seven people. Now we have a smaller team with three people, including us. So we have one employee for A Beautiful Mess, which was what we wanted. It’s something we have wanted for a long time. Having a small team was a dream for us for the future, and now the future’s here. But one thing that you just have to face with having a smaller team is that you have less capacity and you have to prioritize where you put your time. With a smaller team, we could not do a hundred percent good job on our website and on social media because social media right now is really just creating videos, and it’s a lot of work. I will say, that I enjoy it, and I have so much respect for it, I love watching them, and I love supporting my friends, but the reason why we chose the website was because we’re better at it, it’s more sustainable, and it’s more what we enjoy doing. And then the other reason why we’re not posting as much on Instagram is that in 2022, we experienced a dramatic decrease in the number of sponsors we had. So our sponsors for the past 10 years were relatively very steady, usually going up. It went from being mostly on our blog to half and half blog and social media, and then in the past few years before 2022, it became primarily only social media, so we knew that wasn’t good for us, and then social media changed to be really only videos that people ask at least us for occasionally we get asked for something else, but it was mostly videos. Videos are their own skill, and I know that I could be good at it, but it’s never something that I’ve applied myself to in the way that I think you need to, to become, like, a star. But, yeah, that’s why we’re not posting as much on social media, it just became a lot of videos, and it’s just not what we wanted to do.
Emma: Well, and when we had the dramatic drop in sponsors, that’s the main way you make money on social media. So on our blog, we have our CPM-based ads, the annoying quote-unquote pop-up ads that you see. And those just get filled based on traffic and based on availability. So time of year, you’ll see more of them in Q4. People spend more money advertising in Q4. You’ll see less of them in the summer. And that’s just, you know, part of it. For sponsors, it’s like, if people don’t ask you for sponsored content, or you’re not soliciting and people saying yes, then there’s really no way to monetize Instagram. Yes, they have some reel bonuses. I think that’s what they used to call it, maybe they’ve changed the name, I’m not sure. But they are, in my opinion, at least when we got them, a joke.
Elsie: Share what, like, one of them was so people can get a picture for it.
Emma: I don’t even remember, but it was like, we had some of our highest reels we’ve ever made, like, maybe a couple of hundred dollars. So it’s just not enough to pay any team or even an individual.
Elsie: It’s not money you can live on in probably any scenario.
Emma: They might as well hand out gift cards. It’s adorable in that way. It’s not income. So if you don’t have sponsors, you’re not making an income from it unless you’ve monetized it in some other way. Maybe you’re selling a course. And all your content funnels people into a course or something like that.
Elsie: There are people who post a large number of affiliate links every day. That makes a full-time income from that. We’ll talk more about this in our next episode. But for us, we just started earning a lot more money from our website again. So we started putting a lot more time into our website again. That was pretty much the whole thing for us.
Emma: Yeah. And we kind of always had it in the back of our minds that one day maybe sponsorships would dry up for various reasons. And it happened. The future snuck up on us. And luckily we had, you know, we’ve talked about this in the past, but like, you want to have a table with four legs instead of one leg. And luckily we had some other legs and so we’ve really been leaning into that.
Elsie: Completely, completely agree. So what are your goals for A Beautiful Mess aka, I don’t get it. Yeah, a lot of the comments, it’s weird how similar they are. And it usually starts off with saying something about how they’ve been a very loyal reader for a very long time and giving reasons why we know that’s true, and then saying, I don’t like what you’ve been posting recently for this reason. It’s usually aimed at my content, actually. It’s usually like, I wrote like 30-shot recipes for the vlog.
Emma: No one’s ever cared about me. I don’t get a lot of hate because no one cares.
Elsie: Well, I posted a lot of repetitious content, which writing for keywords is more repetitious, so that’s understandable.
Emma: I also think a lot of shots right before New Year’s make sense, people! But anyway, that was my choice.
Elsie: But they always end by saying something like, If what you’re doing is working for you, then great, do it, but, and it, like, implies that they think there’s no way that what we’re doing is working. Yeah, that’s, like, a big thing that I, like, want to share is, like, top level, it’s working great. We’re, like, so happy. It’s like the most sustainable growth we’ve ever had.
Emma: Yeah. And it’s really fun. But those comments do still make me sad, because it clearly, just for them, usually they’re saying. It’s different than it used to be and I enjoy it less and that’s a bummer. I wish they enjoyed it just as much as they used to. I really do, but it doesn’t mean that I can change what we’re doing because what we’re doing is working for us, but it does make me sad.
Elsie: Yeah, that’s true. So one of our biggest goals is to have a flexible schedule that serves our family life. We have that now. We just took three weeks off during the holidays, almost a whole month. It was amazing. I worked for about 20 minutes a day. Like, I would approve some comments. Write back to people, put a couple of links in, and that was all I did for three whole weeks. And we made the same amount of money by working ahead and pre-scheduling, and it was great. And we’re going to do that this summer. We have frequent days off. We, you know, we’re living our dream, like we’re moms.
Emma: Don’t feel stressed when my kid’s sick and I got to pick them up early. It’s nice. It’s so nice because I know a lot of parents don’t have that in their life. And that makes me sad for them. Kids get sick. There are snow days, this stuff happens in our society, I don’t think does a great job of building in, you know, the space for parents. And so Elsie and I are building it in for ourselves. I wish everybody had it though, I really do. It’s just kind of ridiculous when you think about it, but that’s a whole different soapbox.
Elsie: Yeah. No, I agree. Our next goal and priority is to enjoy our work, and this is honestly the most I’ve enjoyed it for more than five years. I mean, I have lots of good memories. We’ve had lots of good times with A Beautiful Mess, and it’s hard to put like a best on it. But I feel like right now, it’s definitely the best combination of a work-life balance that we’ve ever had. Yes! And then, yeah, our next goal is to create a passive income for the future. SEO work creates money that you can earn for years to come. Social media, you know, influencer work creates money that stops the moment you stop taking on more. So that is the reason why we chose that. Okay. So then after that, I thought we would share some more detail about how we grew our blog after 10 whole years of not growing because for anyone else who has a website, I know you’re like, probably thinking of questions you want to write in, or, you know, you want more details because anyone can do this with any website. It’s really not hard. In our show notes, we will link right at the top, the cooking with keywords and blogging with keywords courses, you can use our code ABM.
Emma: It’s 10 percent off any of our courses.
Elsie: Nice. Yeah, she also has a more advanced course for people who already know about keyword research. She has like a tracking course as well.
Emma: Yeah. I believe she has one just for using Ahrefs too. So there’s a bunch of options, and you can get 10 percent off any of them with our code.
Elsie: And I should say also, we also did a personalized coaching week with her. Last year, which was really helpful for us, we were kind of just discouraged with the process of trying to do keyword research and keyword blogging. And we got, you know, a lot of helpful tips and, she made us a list of things to optimize and it helped very much. It was very worth it.
Emma: Agreed. She’s really cool, too. She’s a former teacher. Yeah. So I really like her teaching style. It’s very digestible and she also just makes researching seem fun legitimately and it is. And I don’t know. So I think she’s a great teacher, too. So it’s a great course.
Elsie: Yeah. No, I always say that finding keywords is like mining for gold. It’s my favorite part. It’s a game of all the things we do for our blog right now, my favorite part by a lot is searching for new keywords.
Emma: She’s always sending me like a giant list. She’s like, I got a few more ideas for you and it’ll be like 50 things. I’m like, wow, okay. Cool. Cool.
Elsie: It’s so exciting. We recently had one where Emma got a number-one spot on the first day. And it was a really good spot.
Emma: Something else he told me to do that was just kind of random. And I was like, yeah.
Elsie: Yeah, it was low competition, high traffic, getting to the point where you can find things like that is so exciting. So I want everyone who blogs to learn this stuff and at least try it for themselves. Being a professional blogger for so long, having to learn new ways of doing it.
Emma: It’s hard to change.
Elsie: Yeah. It was hard for me. It took more than a year of trying before I started to like to see good results. And I feel like I was able to, like, have some control over the results I was getting. But, yeah, it was so worth it, and it’s definitely been, like, a huge motivating thing. Balance is not one of our goals anymore, we will put like, four sauce recipes in a row, four cocktails in a row, just like it doesn’t really matter, whatever’s in the drafts, we’ll put it up. And it won’t be as well balanced, but it will be useful. It’s always something useful that people are searching for.
Emma: And I’ve put my heart and soul into these sauce photos, let me tell you.
Elsie: Yeah. No, you can tell. So yeah, some examples of our keyword list, Emma has just completed her coffee series. I think, is it complete?
Emma: Yeah. The roundup is going to go up pretty soon. I don’t know when I’d think after this episode, but yeah.
Elsie: I’m still competing, I’m doing all the popular shots, all the popular cocktails, all the popular salads. A couple of other things. So, we’ve been working on that. Laura is doing nail art this year, which is a really fun one for us. And she writes most of our plant posts. We have informative posts about how to care for different species of plants. She writes most of those and those have been really successful for our blog. And they’re also just like really useful because if you’ve ever had a plant that’s half dead and half alive, you need a post like that to give you the tips to keep it alive. And yeah, it’s not only recipes, this year I’m doing all the paint colors in my house that are popular paint colors, which I like considered that when I was picking the paint colors, you’re welcome, internet. Yeah, it’s fun. I really enjoy home decor. It’s definitely still one of my biggest passions. It’s just not something that I can, like, pump out every single day as sustainably as other things. Thank you to everyone for, like, supporting us. I know we’re gonna get nice messages. You guys, you’re so nice.
Emma: Too nice, honestly.
Elsie: So, yes. I’m really glad we got a chance to catch you up on what we’re doing with A Beautiful Mess and why. Yeah, we’ll still be doing the podcast this year. That goes up every Monday. We still do 10 things on Sunday, usually every Sunday. Not a lot of other things are changing, but the things that are changing have already changed and now you understand why. So that feels good. Yay. Okay, so let’s pass it over to Nova. Hey Nova, what do you have for us this week?
Nova: A joke.
Nova: Why can’t you do your test in the jungle? Because there are too many cheetahs.
Elsie: I love it.
Emma: Thank you so much for listening. Our podcast family is so, so special to us, truly. We hope that after this episode, you can feel how much your support means to us. And we’re so grateful for your blog comments and reviews, especially reviews on our recipes when you love them, that means a lot. Podcast reviews always mean a lot. We read them. We care. And I have read almost every review of Handmade Murder. I promised myself I wouldn’t in case I got mean ones. And you know, I got a couple, but I got so many nice ones because you guys are so supportive and we really, really appreciate you. We’ll be back next week.