How Samantha Successfully Monetized a Brand New Food Blog (and Reached 8 Million Page Views)

This is an interview with Samantha Milner of Recipe This.

Hey, Sam. Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.

My name is Samantha and along with my husband Dominic, we run from our home in Portugal. We are also parents to 2 under 5s and an adult teen. 

When and why did you start Recipe This?

We started Recipe This in the November of 2015 and it was after a lot of talk about wanting to focus on just one website and with food being our greatest passion we decided that a food blog was what we wanted to do.

We also wanted a blog that we could build into a passive income stream, so that we can travel with it if we wanted to and that we could work around our growing family.

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What made you decide to monetize from day 1, and how did you do it exactly?

We knew that we wanted to build an income as soon as possible and quit what we did already, that meant that we needed to build income streams and an income as quick as we could.

We also had to focus on having a family to support and our goal was to be as passive and quick as possible.

Our early income streams included freelancing for clients in our niche, selling ebooks on the Kindle and sponsored content. 

I am not a fan of either of these 3 now, but for starting out when you have little or no traffic these are perfect and also income streams that you can do straight away.

Our first goal after starting our blog was to lose the freelancing clients as soon as we could. Because working for them on their sites was taking us away from our own.

The same can be said for sponsored content. There is a lot more work that goes into it and it can take up a lot of your time.

With the Kindle, by completing keyword research you can see what ebooks will sell and use the traffic of Amazon to sell them for you.

For example, we have blogs that we owned 5-10 years ago that still generate kindle sales for us, even though we don’t own the sites anymore.

But by doing these 3 it allowed us to get to $2500 monthly income within the first 90 days of starting our site.

How did you bring readers to your blog in the first weeks?

I set up Pinterest from day 1 and used the power of Pinterest groups to drive traffic to our website from Pinterest. We also worked on our SEO from day 1 too.

In the first month, we received 4,000 page views and it was on month 7 that we had enough traffic to qualify for Mediavine.

What are your top traffic sources and how did you increase them over the years?

Our traffic sources have not changed much over the years. SEO and Pinterest are still our top 2 traffic sources and have been from month 1.

We increased them by following the same principles that we did on Day 1 and that is quality content. 

Then from the quality content making sure it is SEO friendly and that you are pinning it to Pinterest and using Google and Pinterest to drive traffic back to your site.

We also believe that the greatest blogging strategy is consistency and to always be there for your audience.

By blogging regularly you have the chance of your next and your next post after that being found in Google search and on Pinterest. Over time this builds your traffic up more and more.

What are your top tips for success on Pinterest in the Food niche?

  • Good quality pins – I know someone in my niche who has not improved in her pins over the years and it shows. Her reach should be amazing given her following, but it is less than those starting out. If she hired a VA to help her with her Pins she would be able to triple her Pinterest traffic.
  • Good descriptions – It really matters on Pinterest to have a quality title, description and tags in your description. When Pinterest recommended adding tags, I added them to my pins and my traffic from Pinterest doubled.
  • TailwindSigning up for Tailwind is a must. By regularly using Tailwind to post to your groups and your own boards can make such a difference in Pinterest traffic and is what originally moved my traffic up to 30,000 page views a month. 
  • TribesJoining good quality tribes on Tailwind and submitting to them regularly. I tested this out on a brand new Pinterest account and saw a growth of 500,000 monthly reach on an account that was less than 2 months old. 

But these 4 Pinterest tips could be applied to any niche, not just the food niche and comes back to my earlier answers about consistency and quality content.

If you’re not willing to put out quality content and share it on a daily basis, then you will not see good traffic numbers and good income numbers.

Many believe that blogging is easy when in fact there is a lot of hard work.

How did you earn your first $100 as a food blogger?

It would have been for a client building a food blog for them and the payment would have been about $1000 and would have included some one on one blogging coaching too.

What are your current income streams and which one is your favorite?

My income streams are made up of:

Though out of these my favourite is Mediavine just because it earns me money every day without fail and as my traffic grows my advertising income grows too.

I know that during high season it will earn me more and I know that it’s going on in the background without any front of housework from me.

Though with Mediavine you earn more the more traffic you have, so its something to work towards when you are on low traffic.

But if I was starting out it would be Ebook sales as it is easy to convert your content into PDF and sell it to your readers. You also don’t need much traffic to do this and it’s a great starting out the income stream.

You can also sell your ebooks on many sites such as Kindle, Draft2Digital, Google Books and so on. 

Read also: How to Earn $1000/Month from Your Blog with Ads

How much are you earning per month as a full-time food blogger?

My income varies on my food blog as we have low, medium and high season. I find it better to calculate it as a per year average.

In 2018 we earned $85,000 and in 2019 we are expected to earn $160,000.

Therefore, our income for 2019, if you were to average it, out would be about $13,333 per month.

What’s your content creation strategy?

I always aim to blog 4 times a week.

That is my overall goal. But sometimes another piece of content comes up and I feel an idea is amazing and needs to go live asap. In which case it can creep up to 7-8 times a week.

For example, in August 2019 we did 27 posts, which is a little over what we normally do.

As a food blogger, I focus mainly on recipes that are niche-focused, but I also like to include round-up posts and affiliate posts when I can. 

I use a simple excel spreadsheet to plan my content calendar and at the time of writing this (on the 2nd September) I have my content calendar planned and complete for the rest of the year and some of January thought out already.

We also optimise every post that we write for social media and SEO and plan what time of the year is most appropriate for the content.

If we have the ingredients in and it’s out of season we will recipe test and then save it for the next time it is in season.

What are your top posts and why do you think they perform well?

Our top posts are all round up focused. I believe they performed well because we were the first to ever do the 101 recipe round up and many people followed that idea since.

It was also at a time when both the air fryer and the instant pot niches were taking off and people wanted lots of beginner recipes to use.

They also received a big boost early on thanks to being shared by other bloggers that I had featured in the round ups.

Combined, the two round ups below have received 2 million page views:

Do you focus more on evergreen or seasonal content?

I prefer evergreen content over seasonal. With seasonal, it is often one day and because I want traffic coming in over a regular basis, it puts me off seasonal content.

Because I am in the kitchen gadgets micro niche of food blogging, comfort food is a big thing, so people will naturally search for my content during the holidays any way.

How competitive is the Food Blogging niche now compared to when you first started?

When I started in 2015 it was still competitive, and the income streams and the traffic methods have not changed much.

Pinterest and Instagram have of course made changes, just like Facebook has but the main traffic sources are still the same. Things are just done a little differently.

I believe if you are in the general food niche and you’re not niched down then it will be very difficult to make your mark. But if you have a good niche then you can easily stand out from the crowd.

How do you find inspiration for new recipes, more content, eye-catching images, etc?

With my content, it’s like my brain is out of control and I always have new recipe ideas and an excel spreadsheet full of more recipes than I could possibly write about.

So I go with what I feel my audience needs right now and some of the other recipes I have planned go on the back burner.

My husband Dominic tries to slow me down and limit me to 2-3 recipes a week and maybe one day, he will get his wish. But I love writing new recipes and testing out my ideas at home.

Quite often a recipe idea comes when I have done another recipe and think what I would serve it with.

Or sometimes it might be because of food I ate when I was out. This recipe for air fryer garlic potatoes with bacon came about from our favourite restaurant. And I thought they would taste much better in the air fryer than deep fried. 

What do you love the most about having a family business?

I love being able to work from home with my husband and kids. Not to have to send my kids to a nanny and being able to be with them 24/7. To not miss out on all the important early steps such as learning to crawl or walk. 

But best of all teaching my kids to cook, teaching them about business and giving them an amazing start in life.

What are some mistakes you’ve made as a blogger/things you wish you knew earlier?

I wish I had started blogging earlier and focused just on one blog. I had my finger in too many blog pies and as such, it means that your attention to detail is stretched too thin.

When I had my very first food blog back at 2012 I should have stuck with it and not waited for when the time is right. 

But there was also a positive in that because having lots of different blogs gave me amazing knowledge and experience in the blogging world, that we would be lost without now. 

What’s next for you and Recipe This?

Content is king. 

More content, more social media, more recipe testing, more ebooks and rinse and repeat.

At some point in the future, I can imagine us moving our office from our outbuilding to better premises. But for now, we are settled and thoroughly enjoying running Recipe This.  

Want to start a money-making food blog? Check out the story of food blogger Samantha from RecipeThis who monetized her blog from day 1 and started earning an income: #foodblogger #foodblogging #startafoodblog #makemoneyblogging #bloggingtipsforbeginners #foodbloggingforbeginners #blogincome #blogtraffic