Caroline runs Pickled Plum, a blog where you’ll find hundreds of tasty recipes with a focus on health. Find out how she overcome the initial struggles of monetizing her blog and built an engaged following.

Revenue of $7,000/mo

Email list size of 10,200

Founded in 2010

 

Hello! What’s your background, and what is your blog about?

 Hi! My name name is Caroline and I create recipes for my food blog Pickled Plum.

My blog consists mainly of recipes (over 700 and counting) with an anti aging section where I share beauty tips. I have also been writing more about blogging since many people ask me how I make money working online.

The blog currently makes around $7,000 per month and receives around 350,000 monthly page views.

What motivated you to get started with the blog?

I didn’t want to be stuck working in an office, it’s as simple as that!

I’ve always been a self starter and around the time I started the blog, I was going through a transitional phase. I had just moved to New York and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.  

Then one day I was browsing the net and saw that a few people seemed to do well blogging about food. Since I was already spending many hours in the kitchen every day

I thought “why not give this food blogging thing a try!”

 I didn’t know what I was doing for the first two years and did a really bad job at posting infrequently. There were months when I would only post one recipe that contained one image and a paragraph. I didn’t realize I could make a decent living until I was in my third year.

Looking back I wish I had spent more time learning about the business of blogging and invested more time doing social media.

What is the revenue model for the blog?

I make most of my money from ads on the blog. I also earn money through third party affiliates, sponsored posts and photography.  On average the blog makes about $7,000 per month but I will at times make a lot more than that when a company hires me to shoot their products.

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As I previously mentioned, I was terrible at making money in the beginning! The first two years I was making less than $30 a month. But I fully blame myself for that since I wasn’t putting in the effort and took the blog for granted – a lot!

Then the third year I decided to work harder by publishing more often. This helped the blog get more exposure and I started making a few hundred dollars a month. The fourth year I really pushed SEO and that’s when I made my first thousand dollars. Since then the blog has been growing steadily and I’m quite happy with the way things are going. Blogging has become easier because I know how to deal with the good and the bad.

What are some strategies you have used for building up the traffic?

I’m getting around 350,000 monthly page views a month and most of it comes through SEO and social media.

I email a lot of publications to let them know about my blog (“hey! I have healthy recipes that would look great in your roundups!”). I have also become friends with other food bloggers which is great because we can help each other by sharing recipes and exchanging traffic that way.

I think if you are a beginner at blogging, the most important thing is to focus on SEO. It may be a pain in the butt to learn (so much stuff it will make your head spin!) but it’s totally worth it. Also, make sure you are visible on all social media channels and answer all the questions your readers have. Even if they just drop by to tell you they love your blog, always reply with kind words.

How have you grown the email list?

I offer a free ecookbook for people who sign up to my newsletter. I used to get 2-3 new subscribers daily but since I added the free ebook, the numbers jumped to 20-30! Offering a freebie in return for an email address totally works, so anyone who is serious about growing their mailing list should consider offering a free product. It doesn’t have to be big or complicated – my ecookbook only has 25 recipes that I have taken from my blog.

I also use optin boxes, the best converting one being the one that pops up on screen after a few seconds on my blog (I use Optinmonster).

How do you write great content that performs well? 

This is a difficult question to answer because there is no real way to know. Sometimes I will write something that comes from the heart and it will get lots of traffic. Other times I will create a recipe that I’m convinced is going to do well and rank first on Google search page only to see it tank.

 I follow the SEO rules every time and write long posts to raise my chances of ranking well. But at the end of the day I think it’s just as important to write about what you know really really well and what you love because people will always choose emotions over facts or numbers. If you can make them fall in love with you through the stories you tell, through the words published on your blog, you will have loyal readers for life.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome with your blog? If you had to start over, what would you do differently? 

I started on Blogger, which is a free blogging platform. That was a big mistake because I had to move everything over to a paying host eventually. I wasted so much time learning about 301 redirects and having to look at all my posts to make sure they weren’t missing anything.

I would tell myself to stick to what I know, what I’m good at which is healthy, Asian food. But because I could see that the bigger food blogs all posted similar stuff – fatty foods with cheese on top – and did extremely well at it, I tried to go down that route. And I failed miserably because I don’t enjoy that type of food. And I think it showed through my lack of excitement toward it.

On the other hand, give me a salad and I will talk about it forever while making you drool over leafy greens!

I wish I had been less stingy about spending money on classes that would have greatly helped me understand the blogging world. It’s only when I started to invest in classes and ebooks such as Neil Patels Advanced Content Marketing Summit and Create and Go’s Six Figure Blogger (I considered these business expenses) that I saw some big improvements. 

What’s your advice for bloggers who are just starting out?

Do not start blogging on a free platform, not if you want to make money! There are plenty of cheap and good hosting companies out there that are affordable.

Don’t sit on ideas for too long, just write and hit publish. It’s more important in the beginning to develop discipline and publish consistently than to create great content. No one will come to your blog during the first few months so it’s a good time develop healthy habits that will down the road be crucial for the success of your blog.

Experiment with your content. Finding your voice can take time so have fun writing different types of content and pay attention to the ones that are making you feel accomplished and happy.  

Where can we go to learn more?

Visit my blog or connect via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.