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How To Optimize Your Old Content To Drive More Traffic To Your Site (with Bjork Ostrom from TinyBit)

Ben Aston is joined by Bjork Ostrom, co-founder of TinyBit. TinyBit’s focus has always been organic growth, mostly through content. They do some limited advertising, mostly retargeting and occasionally paid Facebook campaigns. Listen to learn how to optimize your old content to drive more traffic to your site.

Interview Highlights:

  • Bjork Ostrom is the co-founder at Pinch of Yum, but he’s actually a self-confessed terrible chef. He loves to find ways to maximize the potential of people, of technology, of life. So he and his wife, Lindsay started this food blog, Pinch of Yum a few years back. And they’ve decided to do just that to maximize its potential. [0:28]
  • Bjork and Lindsay share what they’ve learned at Pinch of Yum on Food Blogger Pro. Bjork has got lots of things going on. The Founder of Clariti. It’s a tool that he is building that learns about content on your site and how it can be optimized, and then how to keep track of that performance of the content over time. [0:50]
  • His wife, Lindsay was interested in publishing recipe content online. They were recently married. She makes the recipes and they publish it on Facebook. [1:39]
  • Bjork was just listening to audio books, podcasts, essentially anything that he could find around online businesses, kind of business or finance, that was the sweet spot for him and one of those books that popped up as like a recommended audio book was a book called Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk. [2:02]
  • Before, Lindsay was a teacher and Bjork worked at a nonprofit. [3:37]
  • Bjork talks about this concept of 1% infinity. 1% infinity means showing up every day and getting a tiny bit better forever. So, TinyBit is all about helping people and companies get a tiny bit better every day with this idea of 1% infinity. [4:13]
  • Pinch of Yum, Food Blogger Pro, which is a membership site for food bloggers, WP Tasty, which is WordPress software for food and now other sites, it’s not just food Nutrifox which has a nutrition analysis site and now Clariti is this startup that they’re working on. So, TinyBit is still really early stages. Technically it’s been less than a year that it’s existed or over a year now. So they started at TinyBit at the start of 2020. [5:18]
  • Bjork describes their company as an online magazine. [7:39]
  • For TinyBit, they would describe it as a startup studio at this point. So it’s a company where they’re creating other companies TBD on that. [8:25]
  • Start to think about keywords and Google Analytics and you can start to think about placement of your logo and you can get wrapped up in a lot of technical things that allow you to check the box like Bjork did set up Yoast SEO and optimize the meta-description. He added alt texts to all the images and that’s really important. [9:09]

“The core of what you’re doing when you’re publishing content online is creating something that solves a problem or engages people in a way that is better than the other options out there.” — Bjork Ostrom

  • Ben, the founder of Pinterest, his mom was one of the recommended follows when you sign up for Pinterest. So she had millions of followers and she found a Pinch of Yum recipe and pinned it to her account and they had this huge spike and it comes back down, but it’s like a new plateau, but that didn’t come in the first week. It was like the third year. [13:19]
  • True talent will eventually rise up and people will recognize it and you’ll see it. The question is, do you have the ability to continue to show up and publish that for a long period of time until the point where you have that breakthrough? [14:04]

“As creators in the world, whether it be content or businesses or software, it’s less about how many, and it’s more about who.” — Bjork Ostrom

  • Bjork started on Tumblr. That was a platform decision for them. For 2 years they were publishing on Tumblr and then eventually switched over to WordPress. [17:03]
  • For anybody who’s thinking about publishing content, Bjork’s strong recommendation is, especially if you’re looking to optimize for search and social share and stuff like that, WordPress is a great platform for that. [17:17]
  • Part of the diversification of the monetization comes from the multiple different companies under TinyBit. So Pinch of Yum, it’s because it’s recipes get a ton of traffic. [19:17]
  • Bjork works with an ad network that displays traditional display ads on the blog and that ad network is called AdThrive. Mediavine is kind of a competitor and Sortable is another one. [19:51]
  • Lindsay also wrote a book about food photography around 2011-2012. [20:38]
  • On Pinch of Yum, they used to talk about blogging more than they do now. They’ve kind of stepped back and focused just solely on food. But there was a time where they talked a lot about photography, blogging, business building. [21:14]
  • Bjork is excited about building a software app, SAS app, as a service that has a decent price point. [22:49]
  • Advertising is great if you have a site that has enough traffic and it’s just rare to build a really high traffic website. And they were lucky enough to have that in Pinch of Yum. They’ve been doing it for 11 years now, so it takes a long time to build that up. [23:43]
  • On Food Blogger Pro, Bjork does a podcast for that to help with some of the content and the courses. For Lindsay, she’s solely focused on Pinch of Yum. They also have WP Tasty and Katie is the GM there. [25:12]
  • Bjork and his team had a huge post log and it had every single post that had ever been published on Pinch of Yum. [26:13]
  • Bjork uses Ahrefs or Google Search Console to see what are the pieces of content that they have with high impression or click potential. [28:19]
  • Bjork doesn’t have huge ambitions to be like the market dominating massive content planning app. The vision right now is to do the best job that they can to help people understand the ways that they can improve their content. [31:52]
  • As a team, they don’t spend a lot of time on doing deep keyword research. They do 20/80. Like 20%, they’re looking for what’s the keyword they can rank for. 80% of it is like what’s a recipe that has gone really well, that they’ve made recently. What’s something that they think the audience would be really interested in. [34:52]
  • Search Discovery – you can look at all of your content, and then you can do an export, and you can sort order by keyword position so you can see what are the most popular keywords that you have that rank number one, and then you can do a secondary sort order by impressions or clicks. [37:13]
  • Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Ahrefs are the tools that Bjork and his team use. As a team, they use CoSchedule for the planning of their content and putting everything in one central spot for it. For sponsored content they use the tool called InfluenceKit as a content calendar, but it’s also a great way to send out if you do a sponsored content deal. [38:19]
  • The best advice that Bjork has ever received is it comes back to that idea of showing up every day forever. 1% infinity, tiny bit better every day forever. [40:34]
  • Bjork’s personal habits that have contributed most to his success is to continually align to where he works best, and where their team works best as opposed to what works for other people. [41:47]

“Operate in your own unique strengths and not to feel like you have to bend yourself into what somebody else does just because it worked for them.” — Bjork Ostrom

  • Personal tools or internet resources that Bjork uses regularly are Podcast app and AirPods. [42:29]
  • Bjork’s recommended book is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It is about how hard it is to sit down and do the work and some thoughts and advice around how you do that. [43:32]
  • Being able to plan your work is just as important as doing the work. There’s a tool that Bjork uses called Things by Cultured Code. It’s essentially a task management app that is based on getting things done, a kind of methodology for work. [44:50]

Guest Bio:

Bjork Ostrom is the co-founder of TinyBit, a (freshly formed) parent company that holds its operating entities listed below. The name TinyBit comes from their goal of showing up every day and getting a tiny bit better.

  • Pinch of Yum – A food and recipe blog we started in 2010 that gets 5 – 7 million pageviews a month.
  • Food Blogger Pro – A membership site for food and recipe publishers.
  • WP Tasty – A suite of WordPress plugins for publishers.
  • Nutrifox – A nutrition analysis software used for creating nutrition labels.

TinyBit’s focus has always been organic growth, mostly through content. They do some limited advertising, mostly retargeting and occasionally paid Facebook campaigns.

Photo Of Bjork Ostrom

“If we think something can exist within the world, we want to try and create that to see if it’s something that can help people or companies get a tiny bit better.”

— Bjork Ostrom

Resources from this episode:

Related articles and podcasts:

We’re trying out transcribing our podcasts using a software program. Please forgive any typos as the bot isn’t correct 100% of the time.

Read the Transcript:

Ben Aston

Welcome to the Indie Media Club podcast. I’m Ben Aston, founder of the Indie Media Club. We’re on a mission to help independent, bootstrapped media entrepreneurs succeed, to help people who create, promote and monetize through content, do it better. Check out indiemedia.club to find out more. 

So today I’m joined by Bjork Ostrom. He’s the co-founder at Pinch of Yum, but he’s actually a self-confessed terrible chef. He loves to find ways to maximize potential of people, of technology of life. So he and his wife, Lindsay started this food blog, Pinch of Yum a few years back. And they’ve decided to do just that to maximize its potential.

So now they share what they’ve learned at Pinch of Yum on Food Bloggers Pro. So if you’re a few bloggers, go and check that out, but he’s also, he’s got lots of things going on. The Founder of Clariti. Now it’s a way, is a tool that he is building that learns about content on your site and how it can be optimized, and then how to keep track of that performance of the content over time.

So, today’s podcast and what you’re going to learn today is all about maximizing and optimizing your old content to fundamentally drive more traffic to your site. So, Hey, Bjork thank you so much for joining us today. 

Bjork Ostrom

Yeah. Ben, super excited to chat with everybody and great next to you. 

Ben Aston

So take me back to the beginning of what we’re talking about here, which is Pinch of Yum and how that started.

Tell us about the food blog that it all began with and how that came to be. 

Bjork Ostrom

Yeah. Yeah, totally. So the quick story is my wife, Lindsay was interested in publishing recipe content online. We were recently married. She was like, Hey, make this recipe. It was really great. We’d publish it on Facebook. You know, wherever it was that you’d spend her time on social media. Eventually, she was like, maybe I should be putting this somewhere else and around that same time, I had like a half an hour commute to work. 

So I was just listening to audiobooks, podcasts, essentially anything that I could find around online businesses, kind of business or finance, that was the sweet spot for me and one of those books that popped up as like a recommended audiobook was a book called Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk, who some people are familiar with them, maybe polarizing, I don’t know, but an influential person in the world of like publishing content online. And at the time he’s like, Hey the analogy he had or the story he had in that book was like, if you are really into worm farms, like if you love worming like you can build something around that. You can build a brand, you can build a blog and there’s going to be people who reach out to you and they’re like, Hey, we sell worm farms. Can we advertise on your site? And that made a lot of sense to me and it also made sense that Hey if my wife Lindsay is interested in recipes and publishing content online in you know, this niche, if not worm farms you know, why not recipes and so we kind of started to experiment and we said, Hey, let’s see if we can build this into a thing. So she got good at photography, recipe development, writing crafting, engaging content. I got really interested in the online business side. What does it look like to look through analytics, to optimize, to work with ad companies? And we just, by luck, ended up working on two kind of important pieces of a blog, of publishing online, and over time, we were able to build that up where eventually we were able to replace our incomes and do that full time. She was a teacher, I worked at a nonprofit, so it’s not like we had this huge lifestyle to replace, but we’re able to do that within, it was probably like four to five years.

So we worked really hard for a really long time and it didn’t happen overnight, but eventually got to the point where we’re like, Hey, we can do this kind of as our full-time thing. So that’s kind of the quick backstory with Pinch of Yum. 

Ben Aston

Nice. So tell me about what you’re trying to build now. I mean, you mentioned Startups prior to this. I know you’ve got a Clariti going on. You’ve got Food Blogger Pro, tell us your big vision, your big picture goals in terms of what it means to maximize potential.  

Bjork Ostrom

Yeah. So my, the thing that I love thinking about is and that we talk a lot about is this concept of 1% infinity and 1% infinity means showing up every day and getting a tiny bit better forever. And so the parent company, the holding company, whatever you’d want to call it, we call it a parent company because we’re not just holding businesses, we’re kind of a family of businesses is called TinyBit. 

So TinyBit is all about helping people and companies get a tiny bit better every day with this idea of 1% infinity. The thing that I love most is taking something from that’s non-existent into an idea with traction kind of zero to one. I think there are people who are really good from taking something to like one to five or five to ten, or like ten to a hundred. I love spending time in zero to one and so what we’ve built with TinyBit is.

A family of companies that at this point are all related. That when we have an idea, if we think something can exist within the world, we want to try and create that to see if it’s something that can help people or companies get a tiny bit better. So, Pinch of Yum, Food Blogger Pro, which is a membership site for food bloggers, WP Tasty, which is WordPress software for food and now other sites, it’s not just food Nutrifox which has a nutrition analysis site and now Clariti is this startup that we’re working on. So, TinyBit is still really early stages. Technically it’s been less than a year that it’s existed or over a year now. So we started at TinyBit at the start of 2020.

So we’re still really kind of improving concept to see, can we be a company that builds other companies? To a point where we bring in a team who can run them effectively and so far we’ve been able to bring in, you know, small, but mighty teams of extremely capable, smart people to help move these projects forward.

So that’s the quick vision of what TinyBit is right now. We’re still trying to figure it out. But that’s where it is right now being a little bit over a year in. 

Ben Aston

Awesome. I’m curious because when I’m describing to people, my company, I always struggle to quite put it in a box. Do you describe yourself as a technology company, a media company or publishing company? What would you say Bjork? 

Bjork Ostrom

We haven’t, we haven’t been able, we haven’t had to describe what TinyBit is very much, like this is, because we haven’t talked about it a lot and like my mom came and visited at the office the other day and she was walking out and we have like the office, like sign on the way out and she’s like, Oh, she’s like, you call yourself a TinyBit? 

That was like, yeah, like, so my mom that was like a year end, and that was my mom learning about it. People are most familiar with Pinch of Yum like it’s out of the, you know, all the businesses we have. That’s the most established it’s been around the most and it’s also the most consumer facing. So when we describe that to people, it depends on how familiar they are with like the online eco system and if people are really familiar will say, Hey, it’s a, you know, a WordPress blog and really an Instagram account like those are the two ways that we’re creating income through you know, programmatic ads and sponsored content. So like on the technical end, that would be what we’d describe it as. 

If somebody is less technical, what we realized is like, if we try and describe it as a blog, people are like, Oh, and maybe they think like, maybe you’re transitioning in between jobs. Trying to figure it out. People don’t really know, like follow up questions to ask. So what we found is it’s most accurate to describe it as like an online magazine.

So we move into a new neighborhood and they’re like, what do you guys do? We run an online magazine and people are like, Oh, I understand that in a way that maybe it’s harder to understand like I have a blog. Which anybody can have, and there’s varying degrees of success with that but there’s something about like using traditional media to describe something that solidifies it as like a real thing.

It’s like the first time that we were on morning news, you know, the audience was probably like 50 people, but five of which were you know, our extended family and that like legitimized what we’re doing for them we’re like you were on the morning news and making muffins and you guys have made it even though, like, there’s really no impact to that.

But in terms of, for TinyBit, we would describe it as a startup studio at this point. So it’s a company where we’re creating other companies TBD on that. If that’s what we’ll stick with, but again, it’s kind of a technical leaning term but for those who are familiar with startups and the kind of the studio concept, that’d probably be most accurate.

Ben Aston

That’s cool.

Bjork Ostrom

Yeah.

Ben Aston

And I, let’s dive into Pinch of Yum for a minute and talk about that process. So, you decided to start the blog and start publishing Pinch of Yum. 

Bjork Ostrom

Yeah. 

Ben Aston

Tell me about what you did in those early phases to drive engagement, to build search visibility, to to get noticed. What did, what happens before you appeared on Breakfast News how did you get that? What was the journey to becoming famous? 

Bjork Ostrom

Yup. So all credit due to Lindsay for the work that she did in the early stages, and it’s really a job it’s. It’s an obsession about content that connects and so I think what can happen a lot of times for especially people who like the technology side of things is you can start to think about keywords and Google Analytics and you can start to think about you know, placement of your logo and you can get wrapped up in a lot of like technical things that allow you to check the box like I did this, I set up Yoast SEO and optimize the meta-description. I added alt texts to all the images and that’s really important.

It’s super important. It’s one of the reasons why we built a tool to track that in Clariti, but if that’s the only thing you’re doing, it’s you know, if it’s a sprinter who’s like shining their shoes or something like, or adjusting what a swimmer who’s like trying on different swimsuits to see if it makes them faster.

It’s like all of that stuff’s important but like the core of what you’re doing when you’re publishing content online is creating something that solves a problem or engages people in a way that is better than the other options out there. And so for Pinch of Yum, it’s recipes like it has to be really good engaging photos.

So once he got really into photography and learning how to take really like extremely high-quality photos and at its core it’s recipes that when people make them, they have success with them and it sounds so obvious. But I think it can get lost sometimes in the tips and tricks and fad advice of a season on how to like rank and get traffic but at its core, it’s becoming an artist and creating art that resonates with people in whatever realm that is. It could be factual and informational. It could be, you know, how-to content, but it has to be effective and it has to be impactful.

And there’s no like secret sauce to that. It takes two, three, four or five years. If you, especially if you were just beginning. 

Ben Aston

Yeah. And so in terms of the, those first few days where you began creating content, iterating on that content, making that the quality of that content better, which is what I’m hearing is the secret sauce.

That’s how you’re able to build the audience. It was create really good content that connects with your audience because they’re able to recreate it. What, what was there a moment where you thought, okay, we’re getting like 25 people a week and then it became 50 people. Then it became 250. What was that? How fast was that snowball effect? And were there kind of any milestones in that journey? 

Bjork Ostrom

Sure. Yeah. So I think it Ed Sheeran talks about songwriting and somebody asked him a question about like, how do you write so many good songs? And the, this is going to be butchering like what he actually said but the basic premise was like, I wrote so many bad songs that have kind of gotten the bad songs out of me and I don’t think it was to say that I never write bad songs anymore, but I think it was to say, I’ve done this so much for such a long period of time that I figured it out and refined you know, the, what it looks like to do songwriting. And I think the same thing exists with content where if you do it 15 hundred times, which if you go and look at Pinch of Yum, there’s 1500 posts, those probably take as long as writing a song would be.

If you think of like, what makes an artist? It’s like three albums and 12 songs on each one and of those three to four true hits. And I think sometimes people want to write fewer songs and have more hits and that can happen. You can write a, one of your first songs can be your hit song. Your 10th song can be your hit song.

I think more often your 12th hundred song is your hit song and I think the same is true for the content world. So for Pinch of Yum, if you look back, if you pull up the Google analytics, it’s like ten, fifteen, eight, you know, day to day and then it’s like, there’s a spike. And if we dig into that, it’s like, Oh, this was really early Pinterest and Ben, the founder of Pinterest, his mom was one of the recommended follows when you sign up for Pinterest. So she had millions of followers and she found a Pinch of Yum recipe and pinned it to her account and we had this huge spike and it comes back down, but it’s like a new plateau and, but that didn’t come in the first week. It was like the third year. And I think there’s something that we need to remember as creators in the world, whether it be content or businesses or software, like it’s less about how many in the early stages, it’s less about how many, and it’s more about who, and if you’re creating things in the world that are truly good, even if you don’t have the metrics to support that, who is important because it could be, you know, the co-founder of Pinterest mom, it could be Oprah, it could be you know, an agency who’s looking for talent. True talent will eventually rise up and people will recognize it and you’ll see it. The question is, do you have the ability to like continue to show up and publish that for a long period of time until the point where you have that breakthrough?

So if we were to look back, it’s little things like that, where like somebody discovers it. It’s finding, it’s not just organic kind of floating around, hoping somebody finds you. It’s also finding things that work and then doubling down on that. So if there is something that catches on in the early stages in Pinterest, you can try and like iterate on that and create another version of it.

So super early on, there was a like sweet potato skins recipe that Lindsay like, healthy, sweet potato skins. That did really well. So what does it look like to iterate on that and do kind of a similar version of that? So there is strategy in it, but I think in the early stages, you don’t have enough data to inform any of that.

Once you do have enough data and metrics to say like, Hey, I can see that this is performing well, let me discover why that is. I’m going to use Google analytics. I’m going to use Google search console. I’m going to do some exploratory research on seeing if I can trace back any of these links. Oh, wait, look somebody in the Buzzfeed Roundup linked to this, let me reach out to that person and say, thanks so much for sharing it. If there’s ever anything else that it can do, let me know. So you can start to, once you get a little bit of traction, try and figure out how do I replicate this, but in the early stages, it’s more about perfecting your art. I think the growth stuff comes a little bit later on. Once you have enough traction to kind of pull from that, and then after a while in the search world, once you have a catalogue of content in a specific niche that you’ve been publishing to for a period of time it gets easier to rank for more competitive keywords.

The stuff that you get is getting shared more you have a bigger email list, so more people are gonna link to it. That stuff comes more, for us it came more organically. I think there are people who are really good at search and really good at kind of the optimization strategy. And we have that but lean to content first and credit due to Lindsay for that, so.

Ben Aston

Yeah, that’s cool. And I’m curious in this journey of getting to your 1200 posts, that by that time was like, okay, now we’re hitting our stride.

Bjork Ostrom

Right. Right 

Ben Aston

Some of your biggest screw ups along the way, because I’m sure it wasn’t just, it’s 

Bjork Ostrom

Totally

Ben Aston

It’s not just about creating good content it’s, it’s like you say, it’s lessons learned, Hey, that really didn’t work. That was a really bad idea. 

Bjork Ostrom

Yeah. 

Ben Aston

What were some of the major things that went wrong? 

Bjork Ostrom

Totally, yeah and I think it’s important to talk about it cause I think it’s easy to come on a podcast and reflect on like, here’s all the stuff that went well. We started on Tumblr, so that, that was a platform decision for us.

That was a really big impact on changing that down the line. So we had probably for the first, like two years, we’re publishing to tumbler eventually switched over to WordPress. So for anybody who’s thinking about publishing content, like my strong recommendation is especially if you’re looking to optimize for search and social share and stuff like that. I think WordPress is a great platform for that. So we eventually switched over to that. I think that there is, there’s lots of things that we spend time on that didn’t turn out. We had created some kind of E-Cookbooks in really specific niches and they did okay but for the amount of time that it took to like create 50 unique recipes to document those and then to sell that as a product, it probably would have been more valuable to just have those as free content available online.

I think that for too long, we tried to do too many things on our own. I think we would have been much better off if we would have thought about ways to bring a team around us and to support us in the things that we don’t actually need to be doing. And I also think that a mistake is thinking that like I or Lindsay or whatever the task might be, would be the best people to do things. And I think people have this idea of like, well, I’ve always done it and I know how to do it and I’m probably the best person to do it, and I’ve had thoughts like that and then I bring somebody in and I’m like, Oh, actually it’s getting done much more consistently. The quality is probably higher than I would have done.

And it frees me up to do things that I’m uniquely equipped to do in a way that maybe not for a certain task. We’re we could go on and on though, depending on how much time we have. 

Ben Aston

I want to dive into. Yeah. Two of the things that you touched on there, one, one of those was monetization models.

So the idea here along your journey was, I know let’s sell a ebook and monetize that and actually that’s how for me, the Digital Project Manager started. The original business idea was, this was back in 2011, 12, make an ebook and sell it. People will buy it. Yeah. I never finished the ebook, but you did. So tell me about like how your monetization model or strategy has changed over time and what kind of drove that.

Bjork Ostrom

Yep. So part of the diversification of the monetization comes from the multiple different companies under TinyBit. So Pinch of Yum, pretty easy to explain. It’s because it’s high traffic, recipes get a ton of traffic, but they’re not really, like, it’s not like, you know, the Digital Project Manager where you have a really specific audience with a really specific need. These are like people who are like, what am I going to eat tonight? And so high potential traffic, low potential quote, unquote, value of that traffic. So the way that’s monetized for us is. We work with an ad network that does you know, display traditional display ads on the blog and that ad network is called AdThrive. Mediavine is kind of a competitor. Sortable is another one. So there’s a lot of these ad companies out there that do header bidding in a way that the earnings are higher than with like a Google AdSense, usually. So we do that. We do sponsor content. So a brand all the comes to us grocery store that does like organic foods and they say, Hey, we would love to it might not be just organic, but we would love to work with you to promote this like salmon recipe. If you create a salmon recipe and then, you know, you can talk about salmon that you can buy at all the or something like that. And that’ll be on Instagram or the blog itself.

So those are really when it comes down to it, the two ways, primarily for Pinch of Yum that it creates an income. Lindsay also wrote a book about food photography, probably around the same time that you’re writing your ebook around project management, like 2011, 2012. That’s still available and that kind of peaked it, but it still exists.

Like it’s still might make a thousand to $2,000 a month, but it’s not the kind of thing where, you know, it’s the primary avenue for creating an income. On Pinch of Yum we used to talk about blogging more than we do now. We’ve kind of stepped back and focused just solely on food. But there was a time where we talked a lot about photography, blogging, business building. 

Ben Aston

Right. 

Bjork Ostrom

But the other companies, Food Blogger Pro, it’s a membership. So it’s like if you were to signed up for, you know, previously Lynda.com, now LinkedIn Learning and pay $50 a month, you can sign up for Food Blogger Pro for $35 a month and go through the process of learning what we know. WP Tasty is an annual software subscription.

So the, and then we have some affiliate stuff on Pinch of Yum. But for the most part, it’s, advertising, it’s sponsored content and for the other businesses, it’s like a monthly or annual membership or subscription fee that people are paying. 

Ben Aston

Cool. And of these say you’re blending different monetization models which is your favorite?

Bjork Ostrom

So we’ve, I’ve, with WP Tasty, it’s recurring annual. So, highest is 79 and their WordPress plugins. So that’s kind of that market. Lowest is 29, but what’s been so awesome about that is every month, like it’s more than the previous year that same month. So like October 2019 is less than October 2020 or like said better, like January 2021 is higher than January 2020, like these because it’s recurring annual and there’s low churn, they just stack. And the sweet spot and we’re trying to do this with Clariti, the new software that we’re building now. As we’re recording this it’s the first week that we’re starting to send out, sign up notifications, like to get beta users to sign up and come on board.

So we’re really early stages with it, but I’m excited about building a software app, SAS app, you know, software as a service that has a decent price point. Let’s say like 25 to $50 a month. Maybe more as we get you know, build out features that recurs monthly, because we’ve seen that on the annual basis, but it’s so drawn out. But to do that on a monthly basis. You can start to see how that becomes really powerful, where, Hey, last month we were in 10,000 this month, we were in 11, 12, 13, you know, eventually you might get to a plateau. But the predictability of that is really nice. It’s not as the least predictable is the sponsor content where you’ll sign a sign, a deal.

You’ll work with somebody for six months. A lot of times those companies come back and we work with them again, but it’s almost like freelancing or an agency where you’re going back, you’re signing another deal. So it can be a bit chunkier. And then advertising is great if you have a site that has enough traffic and it’s just rare to build like a really high traffic website.

And we were lucky enough to have that in Pinch of Yum, but you know, we’ve been doing it for 11 years now, so it takes a long time to build that up. So if I had to pick a, it would come down to like recurring monthly at like a sustainable, decent kind of price point. 

Ben Aston

That’s cool. Now one of the other things I want to touch on in your lessons learned was team and how you wished you’d probably spun up the team faster outsourced or delegated more. Tell me what does your team look like now? And how many people have you got? What are they doing? 

Bjork Ostrom

Yeah, so I would consider, people that I would consider a part of our team. I would include like independent contractors that we work with consistently.

So like every month, part-time and full-time, and then Lindsay and I, so. It’s maybe a little bit of a broader net, cause we’re also including freelance, independent contractors, as long as we’re working with them consistently. I’d say it’s 20. So, across the five different businesses. So, all of which, like, if you look at any individual business very small but collectively like, we still call it like a small but mighty team. So, you know, it’s it’s a small business made up of very small businesses. And the degree to which we’re involved with those two depends on the degree to which you were involved with the businesses. So Food Blogger Pro, I do a podcast for that occasionally help with some of the content and the courses.

So my involvement is more there. For Lindsay, she’s solely focused on Pinch of Yum. So she really focuses in there. But we also have WP Tasty and, you know, Katie is the GM there and it’s kind of overseeing the day-to-day there. So, our involvement really depends on, you know, it’s not equal across all of the businesses. But yeah, all in it’d be around 20. 

Ben Aston

Cool. So it’s amazing that you’ve been able to spin up so many things for such a small team. And I want to talk about Clariti, which is one of your latest ventures which is all about recycling, optimizing your content to maximize its potential. So, talk me through what led you to, I guess, decide that you needed this tool in the first place. Was it something that you’d in your content auditing, you were thinking, Hey, that’s, we keep on doing these content audits and let’s make the tools to help us. So what was the kind of Genesis of that?

Bjork Ostrom

I mean at its core, it was like we’re using a spreadsheet and anytime you use a spreadsheet, it could probably be replaced with software. So we had a huge, we called it a post log and it had every single post that had ever been published on Pinch of Yum and then all of these columns of like things that we were tracking with it.

So if we went through what we call a campaign, Hey, we want to go through every single post and make sure that we’re adding at the time, the campaign was alt texts to the images, kind of a basic thing that you want to do, make sure that it’s accessible and then also to optimize search. And we wanted to, at the time it was, it’s still important to do this, but more important to add a Pinterest description.

So if you pin an image, it defaults to first the title, this is in the HTML, the title of the image and then the alt text. But you can put in specific Pinterest code to say, like, here’s what I want the description to be. If it’s a, if it’s somebody pinning it. So we created a plugin that allows us to do that and then we went through every single post and added a Pinterest description. So we had a campaign to do that, and it was like check boxes in a spreadsheet. And the more that we were more time that we were spending in the spreadsheet, more people were working on it you know, it kind of became this Frankenstein piece of you know, team collaboration tool where like, gosh, there’s probably sh should be a tool that we use for this and so that’s kind of the Genesis of Clariti was realizing this and realizing as we had conversations with food blogger, pro members, other bloggers that we knew, everybody was like, yeah, I have a spreadsheet.

I use Airtable. I have a three-ring binder like everybody had their own method for doing it, but there wasn’t really a great tool to help solve that problem. And the other piece with it is realizing that there was I think a trend would maybe be the right way to say it, but I think really it was an opportunity that didn’t exist eight years ago because people didn’t have as much content, but this realization that it’s just as, or more important to optimize existing content.

Now, if we’re talking about search, it would be optimizing it to improve it from like position seven in Google to position one. Maybe you spend half as much time doing that versus creating a brand new piece of content and trying to position yourself for like position one from non-existent. And so there’s this movement to like, Hey, think strategically about the content you have, use a tool like Ahrefs or Google Search Console to see what are the pieces of content that you have with high impression or click potential and you can do all this within Google search console. Filter that down and say, Great, show me all of the content that’s in like positions four to 10, and then let’s go back to that piece of content and revisit it and say, how can I make this better and improve it and maybe republish it.

It goes to the front of your blog. You know, maybe you remove irrelevant content and add additional supporting content. Maybe you update the photos add in, you know, a FAQ section. And then share that on all the channels that you have. What we’ve seen is there’s high potential for that to result in a lift from, you know, position seven, call it to position two and the benefit that you see from that is pretty immediate. So Clariti is a tool to help facilitate some of that. And to be able to track that process both with the updates that you’re making and then also see the impact of it. It’s still really early stages. It doesn’t it doesn’t exist in the way we want it to as all early software is like that. But that’s the spirit of Clariti is in, in serving that problem. 

Ben Aston

Cool. So do you connect it with Google Search Console? Is that how it works? 

Bjork Ostrom

Yep. So, if right now, literally when we’re recording this connects with Google analytics, Google Search Console on the Roadmap and then it also brings in all of the WordPress information for, so it connects analytics, Google search console, WordPress brings all of that information then, and then you’ll also be able to add your own contextual notes and annotations along with it. So the idea is a lot of people were doing, going through this process of like making these updates, tweaks enhancements but then weren’t really tracking like what happened with this? And when I did make this change, what was the impact? So that’s the hope that Clariti will eventually be able to help people really easily do that. 

Ben Aston

Yeah. Yeah. I can see that being super useful. The way that we manage this right now is in Google analytics, we tag things when we make an update. 

Bjork Ostrom

Yeah. You add an annotation.

Ben Aston

Yeah. And and then we also have a important things log. So we have a, just a document whenever there’s some, someone does something that they think, Hey, this could be a significant. 

Bjork Ostrom

Important thing. 

Ben Aston

Yeah. 

Bjork Ostrom

Right, right, right. That’s exactly what we’re trying to solve is like, Hey, how do we do that in a way where you can make these notes? Important things, right? Like, did a redirect or added content or switch the photos out. You have the annotation and then a year later you can go back and you can click on that annotation and say can show me before and after, like what happened to this like specific keyword or search traffic or Pinterest. Again, Clariti is not there yet, but that’s the goal we’re marching towards is to allow people to do really easily do that.

Ben Aston

Cool, and tell him, when you talked about connecting with Google search console and the bigger vision, what else is on the Roadmap that you would like to eventually get to? Where do you see this fitting in the kind of content tools marketplace? 

Bjork Ostrom

I think if we do that really well, it’s a good place to sit. Like I don’t think we have huge ambitions to be this like market dominating massive like content planning app. The vision right now is to do as much as possible to do the best job that we can to help people understand the content ways that they can improve their content. Like, Hey, this post has, you know, three broken links.

It’s missing alt text and you know, there’s no internal links to your own site. Great. Okay. We could improve that. There’s other tools that do that, but then what we want to be able to do is layer on that ability to say, and when you made these changes, like here’s how you can look back and see the impact that those made.

If we can do a really good job of that and helped people discover ways that they can improve their content and help people understand how those improvements impacted the performance of their content, I think we can like refine our ability to do a really good job of that and just stick with it for a really long time before we like level up into other areas. 

Ben Aston

That’s cool. So, one thing that’s kind of leads into it. I want to understand more about your process in terms of publishing content. So obviously we’re talking about a tool that helps us work out what to upgrade and optimize, and it’s definitely worth doing.

We, we have we probably spend as much time as we do actually upgrading all content as we do writing new content, because is this sufficient? 

Bjork Ostrom

On which site?  

Ben Aston

Well on all the sites. Yeah, because it’s so efficient. 

Bjork Ostrom

And if you have the important thing with, as like, if you’re early stages, it might not make as much sense, but the longer you’ve been doing it, the more sense it makes to like shift.

There’s probably a lot of variables that go into this, but like to shift from creating new, to optimizing old, like if you’ve been doing it for 10 years, you probably have a lot of opportunity to get gains without as much work because of that aged content that you have. 

Ben Aston

Yeah. Yeah. And so, in terms of your, in terms of your process, then as you’re deciding yeah.

Upgrade versus create new content, how do you have a content backlog as well or recipes you want to create, or what does that process look like for creating new content and how does that fit into what you are going to use currency for? 

Bjork Ostrom

Sure. Creating new content? Just specifically talking about new. Yep. So I’m talking, I’m officially talking outside of my area of expertise saying that specifically around Pinch of Yum, because the, all credit due to like Lindsay and the team there for the work that they do around the content creation process.

I do know one of the things that maybe it would be surprising to people is. Like, there’s not as much time that we, as a team spend on doing like deep keyword research. I think people probably would expect that we’re more like methodical with that than we are. We’re starting to do that more. The team is, but it’s probably like 20/80. Like 20%, we’re really looking for what’s the keyword we can rank for. How can we create content around that? You know, what are the easiest wins in regards to new content? I would say 80% of it is like what’s a recipe that has gone really well, that we’ve made recently. What’s something that we think the audience would be really interested in, Lindsay and the team right now are doing what they’re calling an SOS series and it relates to us having our two-and-a-half-year-old todd toddler and six-month-old infant daughter. And like we’re stretched really thin, like SOS. How do you create recipes that are really easy? So it’s in that regard, it’s less a technical SEO analysis. It’s more like heart and what will resonate with us and other people and kind of analyzing that and I think a lot of people are in a season of SOS, like they’re working from home they may be even working more than they normally would. It’s just like a weird season. Maybe people beginning of pandemic, everybody was like making, you know, sourdough bread. Now people are like you know, like barely can do toast for some reason like, we’ve just kind of all fizzled on this idea of like, Hey, I’m going to just make stuff at home. 

So, when we think of new content with the Pinch of Yum team thinks of new content, a lot of it is like, Hey, what’s happening right now? What, what will land with people? And what will be most helpful for people with a sliver of like, okay, let’s think of something that we think might be an area of opportunity to rank. I think where we do the more intentional like keyword research and opportunity analysis is on the republishing side. Hey, we do have this pre-existing thing that was created out of like passion and interest and has resonated with people and now it ranks for like peach cobbler. It’s maybe dipped a little bit seasonally that’s coming back around. How do we go back to that and improve it and optimize it? So in that regard, we’re looking at like important keywords that currently rank, how are they dipping or and we use a tool called Ahrefs for that or a Google search console does a great job of this as well. If you use Google search console, you could look at your, this is a little bit hard to describe on a podcast, but you could go to it’s Search Discovery I think it’s called and you can look at all of your content and then you can do an export and you can sort order by keyword position so you can see like, What are the most popular like the keywords that you have that rank number one, and then you can do a secondary sort order by impressions or clicks.

So you can see like, Hey, what are the things that are the most important keywords that are then like highest positionally or the other way around, you could say, like, what are the keywords that I have that have the most impressions and then secondary sort order by the keyword position and in that regard, what you could do is you could look at like, Hey, and then show me just positions four to eight and you could see the stuff that has like really high traffic potential in positions four to eight and then that could be the concept that you focused on optimizing. So it’s a free tool and if people haven’t set it up, it’d be a great one to get up and running. 

Ben Aston

Yeah. I mean, let’s talk about tools then. So you’ve mentioned Ahrefs obviously Google search console. What else is in your tool tech stock? 

Bjork Ostrom

Yeah, sure. So Google analytics, Google search console, Ahrefs is a tool that we use. We, as a team, we use CoSchedule for the planning of our content and putting everything kind of in one central spot for it, for sponsored content we use tool called Influencekit my friend Bruno created that as a way, a content calendar, but also as a really great way to send out like if you do a sponsored content deal, you want to send over kind of a recap and he’s created a tool that allows you to do that really easily.

And continually is updating, and I’m trying to think we have, we use, like we eat our own dog food for all of the different products that we use. I won’t run through all of those. I could get into like my personal tech stack as well, but that’s probably the sweet spot for like the actual publishing side for Pinch of Yum a sauna for like, you know, tracking tasks and group things that we’re working on as a group.

Ben Aston

Cool. And do you calculate and keep track of how much it costs you to produce a piece of content? Do you know for recipe? 

Bjork Ostrom

Yeah. It’s a really good question. We don’t. Yeah. Zero clue. 

Ben Aston

So you don’t calculate the ROI specifically apart from the sponsored content on the content itself? 

Bjork Ostrom

No, there’s like zero.

You would, I could say a thousand or 5,000 and I’d have it ahead of no idea. It’s probably good to do but we don’t. And I think part of it is a lot of what we do, we know what has no ROI but it’s still equally valuable for the potential future ROI. And I don’t know how to like, delineate those in a way that I can easily decision make.

And there probably is a way, but like, man, it’s probably not great for us to spend like 20 hours as a team, trying to figure out how we do TikTok when we don’t really have anybody there, but the future potential of that is pretty great, but it’s not going to earn us as much as like putting in an ad, earning video in a popular piece of content. So, yeah, we don’t, the short answer is no, we don’t. 

Ben Aston

That’s cool. So I want to finish off with a lightning round. Great. And I’d love to know what is the best advice you think you’ve ever received that relates to what you’re now doing? 

Bjork Ostrom

Yeah, I think it comes back to that idea of showing up every day forever, you know, 1% infinity, tiny bit better every day forever.

I took an operations class and one of the analogies they used is rock. This is turning it, not into a lightning round, but I promise it won’t be too long, but like a river and rocks and you want to be continually improving your processes. So like the river comes down and you see the rocks that are there.

You take out the big ones, the re the level comes down, you see the rocks, you take those out again, and you want to get things down to the point where it’s just a trickle. But the only way to do that is incrementally, little by little over time. And I think we can get so consumed by needing to do all the things all the time.

That it can just become crushing but if you think about how do I show up and get a little bit better at the thing that I want to be really good at today and commit to doing that without some outcome of like, you know, in 10 years I want to have a million dollars or something. Like if you’re just like, I’m just going to do this forever.

I think there’s huge advantages for you to see traction eventually if you don’t have a mindset of like, here’s my end game and what I want to get out of it. 

Ben Aston

Which of your personal habits do you think has contributed most to your success? 

Bjork Ostrom

I think it’s trying to continually align to where I work best and where our team works best as opposed to what works for other people. To really easy to look at where somebody got and think I want to get there and here’s the path they took. So I need to take that path, but there’s a thousand different paths that you can take to get to certain points. And. The best way to get there is going to be operating in your own unique strengths and to not feel like you have to bend yourself into what somebody else does just because it worked for them.

Ben Aston

Yeah. Can you share a, maybe one of your personal tools or internet resources that you use regularly? 

Bjork Ostrom

Yeah. I would say the Podcast app and AirPods like that, the most significant mental framework wins if that’s a thing have come from ideas that I’ve heard other people share through audio books or podcasts, and those have been consumed when I’m doing the dishes, doing the laundry.

Shoveling snow driving. And I think we miss a lot of opportunities to be inspired and educated by not plugging in some AirPods and listening to like smart people talk about things that we’re interested in. 

Ben Aston

Yeah. Talking about them. What book would you recommend that you’ve read recently and thought it was super helpful or inspiring?

Bjork Ostrom

Sure this wasn’t recent. So there’s a season where I would like, Hey, I want to read 50 books a year. And now I read like three books a year. Just because of the season that I’m in. Like it’s just a lot of time with family and a lot of work and it’s those two things. The book that I keep coming back to that’s been really helpful for me is War of Art and The War of Art is about how hard it is to like sit down and do the work and some thoughts and advice around how you do that. And would encourage anybody, it’s written kind of from an author’s perspective, but I would encourage anybody who is creating things in the world, businesses non-profit art writing video podcasts to listen to that because it’s, there’s helpful considerations and concepts that he shares in that.

Ben Aston

Cool. Well, tell us one of those helpful considerations, because I’m going to ask for someone at the beginning of their digital media journey, this is, I’m guessing I’m looking for your core advice from your Food Bloggers Pro. What is one piece of advice that you give your viewers, your listeners, your menders for someone at the start of their journey? A lot of what you’ve been talking today has been about tenacity, about keeping going. About getting incrementally better, but what for you is the most significant thing that, that makes a big difference? 

Bjork Ostrom

Yeah. Not related to those things or could it, like, why are you looking at like, like tactical, like here’s a thing you could do or more.

Ben Aston

Yeah. Yeah. 

Bjork Ostrom

So on the tactical side, I would say that being able to plan your work is just as important as doing the work. And so there’s a tool that I use called Things so, by Cultured Code, so that’s the company that makes it, it’s a task it’s essentially a task management app that is based off of getting things done, kind of methodology for a work, david Allen wrote a book about that and I think that sometimes it can feel like planning our work isn’t work and so we just get into working, but I think if we can spend time planning our work and figuring out what the most important thing for us to do is we’re going to be a lot better at it. Like we’re going to shorten that gap of like how long it takes to be successful with the thing that we’re doing and I, you know, it’s, for me, it’s a really simple process of like things. I have things on my phone and syncs to my computer and one of the last tasks that I have for my day is review things for the upcoming day and it’s sort ordering what’s most important.

And it’s spending time kind of building out the steps that we’ll go through in the day, in the following day. And I think it, you know, especially digital  project managers, like they get this, like it’s really important to not just dive into something and just frantically work on it, but to think about what are the steps and what’s the order that you go through.

But I think as entrepreneurs, a lot of times we can get wrapped up in the like heads down, just get into things and don’t spend a lot of time considering what the steps are to go through it. But I’ve found the more time that I spend doing that, the more beneficial and productive my workday is.

Ben Aston

Yeah. 

Bjork Ostrom

That doesn’t come from The War of Art, by the way, that was kind of tied into that. There was a little bit of a question, The War of Art, I would say he talks about this idea of the resistance and the resistance is the thing that we feel that keeps us from like actually doing the work and his, what he says is like, when you feel the resistance, it’s confirmation that you’re headed in the right direction and to not fear that, but to know that’s saying like, Hey, keep going specifically with writing, but I think it’s applicable in a lot of other ways. 

Ben Aston

Awesome. Cool. We’ll be up. Thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your wisdom. It’s been great having you with us. 

Bjork Ostrom

Yeah. Thanks, Ben. Really appreciate it. 

And if you like what you have there today, head to indiemedia.club and stay in touch. Subscribe to that. We’re going to put a link into Clariti as well. So you can get a sneak peek as they are launched in the beater. I think very shortly, but until next time, thank you so much for listening.

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