The Truth About Food Blogging: costs, social media, and those ads

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The Truth About Food Blogging: costs, social media, and those ads

My Blogging Story

I have been blogging for almost 20 years.

Started in the old-school theme of Blogspot.

Much has changed in the blogging sphere – and the vegan world since that time.

I began blogging to share my passion for vegan cooking, to offer recipes, and also my experiences.

What I did not know at the time was that blogging was developing into big business (for some).

And I went about my merry way. Talking about cooking, sharing my vegan parenting moments, and eventually sharing recipes and better photography.

Without a clue about SEO. And continued blogging for years without SEO knowledge. I just wanted to share recipes, didn’t realize there was so much Google science behind it.

SEO and blogging

Fast forward almost 20 years, I’m still working on SEO, and blogging has become a big business.

For some.

There is a widespread notion that bloggers make a lot of money. And profit greatly from ads and brand partnerships.

Some do.

Costs of a (successful) Blog

What is not known is the costs of maintaining a blog and social media presence. This includes (but is not limited to) domain and web hosting fees, technical support, website plugin fees, security fees, email list provider, video streaming service, and photography.

These are the less costly aspects. More costly? Social media assistants (starting at $300US monthly) and SEO experts ($1K/month and beyond) – because if you are trying to create content that reaches people, you need it.

Who has time to be an expert on FB, IG, Pinterest, TikTok, and YouTube… and still create good content? Each platform has different algorithms and requires SEO knowledge. And, those algorithms are designed in such a way that we need to “boost” our posts on FB, IG, and beyond – in order to have our community actually see the posts.

Additional costs to boost posts… OR you join groups on FB that share each others posts. Yes, there are groups of bloggers that regularly comment on each other’s posts and share them to FB, IG, Pinterest so that they will get some traction. I’ve done it myself, and that cross-promotion drains the joy out of recipe creation.

Blogging and Social Media

Then, we have costs of time and food expenses, which rarely think about because I love my work.

So, we aim to cover some of those costs with affiliate programs and website ads. Wait, you first need to have a large enough social media presence to apply for some affiliate programs. As for ads? Some advertising platforms require a minimum of 100K monthly traffic (and I don’t have that volume after almost 20 years of blogging).

But then ads are frowned upon by many readers. Hey, I agree: ads are intrusive and bothersome. And readers can frown upon sponsored posts: how can we trust bloggers that are always promoting different products?

Blogs and SEO

Let’s get back to SEO for a moment. In order for our posts to rank in Google searches, they need to meet certain criteria, having:

  • a minimum word content (which is why bloggers “chat” in posts)
  • keyphrase – but don’t overdo using that in the post!
  • SEO title – not too long, not too short, but like Goldilocks… just right
  • metadiscription: another goldilocks moment
  • photographs that are branded with those keywords
  • internal and outbound links (don’t get me started on nofollow/dofollow links)
  • decent grammar (for some reason I never have enough transition words) 🙄

I admit that I’m writing today in a moment of a lull. A low. Feeling somewhat discouraged in my online presence or perhaps my business acumen.

Sidenote: Just noticed my SEO plugin is telling me this blog post is a good length. #GoodJob! (it actually says that, minus the hashtag)

Blogging, Social Media, and Cookbooks

I sound jaded. I’m not. I still love my work. I’m just trying to figure out this puzzle.

Despite working very hard at what I do, I feel like I’m running uphill. On social media, with my books, with my blog.

But, Dreena, you’re an accomplished vegan cookbook author! Don’t you make good money with your cookbooks?

I really thought Dreena’s Kind Kitchen would be a bestseller. It has the potential. I’m still honored and stoked that it won the IVFF award. Still, to date, book sales for Dreena’s Kind Kitchen are at about 5k. I have 50K followers on FB, 27K on IG, have been blogging for almost 20 years – and my book has sold just over 5k copies in 6 months.

Authors make an average of $2/book. And so I supplement my earnings through affiliate sales, ebooks, and ads (which currently) about $30-50/day, unless it’s the holidays and ad revenue can triple.

Also, I could affiliate with many brands with sponsored posts on FB and IG. But, it’s not where I want to be in this space. And, I am not judging others doing it. It’s just not where my interest is with this work.

Why Blog, Then?

I don’t have a high volume of blog traffic. Or really huge social media followings. Respectable, but not huge. That’s what she said. (hey, I need some humor here)

So, why blog then?

Because what I do have is a trusted relationship with you, my readers. You trust my recipes, and you trust that when I recommend a product, it’s because it’s one I use and love or would buy again.

And because ultimately I still love my work. I love the process of recipe creation. And enjoy blogging (despite all the SEO rules).

So I share this today for my own need to express. After all, that was the original purpose of blogging.

Also, I’m writing this today to explain why I have these annoying ads on my site (because I receive complaints about them regularly). I’d rather chuck them, but they help offset my costs of blogging.

Finally, I write this for the countless other authors and bloggers out there who are piecing together this puzzle. Who love their work, dream big, and yet still find themselves running uphill. Or at the very least jogging in place.

I realize I am extremely fortunate. This is me explaining, more than complaining. I count my blessings every day. My children are happy and healthy and have many opportunities. I have many opportunities and am able to continue to do the work I love because my husband’s income has largely supported our family.

So yes, I’m explaining, not complaining.

Explaining for myself and others out there doing similar work. There is more than meets the eye. We have dreams and goals and are working towards them.

And one day, we might just get lucky with Google, FB, IG, or youtube. Or get really fit running uphill.

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