Welcome to my 25th monthly blog update, all about what I got up to behind the scenes of Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen in July 2016.
Apologies that the post is a bit late this month. One of the reason I blog is that it is something I can fit around the boys and the summer holidays have meant that the balance between blogging and spending time with my family has shifted. We’ve been having a great summer with Daniel’s 6th birthday (keep an eye out for his cake over the next few days), a trip down to London and lots of days out, but it has meant that I’ve not had as much time on here as I usually do.
As you know (if you’re a regular reader) I’ve been slowly moving towards earning money from my blog so as the blog building has been a bit quiet, I thought I’d share some tips for getting started with sponsored posts instead.
A little bit of background (skip this if you’re a regular reader, I say the same thing every month!)
For anybody that’s new to these updates and is wondering what on earth I’m going on about, I write these posts each month as a way to keep me focussed on building my blog (fear of sitting down to write the report and finding I have nothing to say is great for ensuring I keep trying new things). It is also to try and help other bloggers (or people thinking of getting started) to learn from what I’ve tried and to copy the good bits and avoid some of my mistakes. I also share all of my blog’s key stats so you can see how it’s going and decide whether my advice is worth listening to or not!
What I got up to in July…
I said in my report last month that my priority in July was to ensure that I fulfilled all of my paid work to a high standard and on time, and as a result I don’t have lots of new tips for you as I’ve not tried out many new blog building ideas. However, I realised that I’ve never really talked about paid work before as it’s something I’ve grown little by little with no one big thing to write about each month. I’ve now reached a stage where I have a few paid posts each month (I suspect I could have more but I’m limiting how much I take on at the moment as I don’t want to over-commit myself before Josh starts school) so I thought it might be useful to pull together all the things I’ve done to get started with paid posts on my blog.
Where to find sponsored posts
I’ve not yet reached the point where I want to go and pitch to companies to work with them, all of the companies I work with are actively looking for bloggers to work with and I’ve found them/they’ve found me through one of the following…
- Most of my opportunities have come though my contact form, which you can get to from my main menu and PRs and companies use to email me directly about working with them. The important thing about having a contact form is that you need people to find you in the first place – I’ve found that the number of companies I’ve had contacting me increased significantly once I’d reached the top 100 of the Foodies 100 (as they publish a list of the top 100 blogs on their site so you’re much easier to find). I also have my blog listed on My Taste Top Food Blogs and Top 100 Food Blogs so companies can find me through those too.
- Another place I’ve consistently found sponsored post opportunities is though the Flea Ents Bulletin Board Facebook group. It’s run by the people behind the Foodies 100 and they post a number of opportunities in there which you can apply for.
- You can find opportunities though the #PRRequest hashtag on Twitter. There’s a very mixed bag on this hashtag as it’s used by a lot of people for a number of different reasons, but in amongst everything else there are companies searching for bloggers to work with. It’s how I discovered that Oven Pride were look for a food blogger to work with on a number of recipe videos, something that I’m now working with them on for the next few months.
- I know some of the companies I’ve worked with come and read the comments and I’ve had a couple of instances where I’ve left a comment on a blog or social media post and then had the company come and approach me about working together.
I started working with Oven Pride after discovering they were looking for bloggers when they used the #PRRequest Hashtag
Have some examples of your work
Several people I’ve worked with have asked to see some examples of my previous work. If you’re just starting out then you won’t have any paid work to show them, so instead make sure you have some examples of what posts could be like on your blog to show them instead. For example, if you want companies to send you products to review then write reviews of products you’ve bought yourself so you can show them examples of what your reviews would be like and also have an idea of how popular they are amongst your readers.
When I was just getting started I also took some posts where I wrote a recipe in return for being provided with just ingredients. I decided quite early on that I wasn’t going to continue down this route as I was committing a lot of time and effort to them and not really getting anything in return for it all, but they are a great way to build up a portfolio of work to show other companies. Whilst I don’t take these opportunities any more, I don’t regret the ones I did take and would do it again if I was just starting out.
A few of the recipes I created in return for ingredients when I was getting started
Make sure you do a great job
This probably goes without saying but I always strive to do the best I possibly can on all sponsored posts to the point where I’ve gone back and retaken pictures or remade videos just to ensure they are as good as possible. I also make an extra special effort to promote the posts as widely as possible using photo submission sites, linkys and boosting posts on social media to ensure they are seen by my followers (because you know how unpredictable Facebook can be for deciding whether to show your posts to people!).
I’m now in a position where because PRs/companies have been happy with the work I’ve done I’ve had them come back to me for more work which is fantastic.
Know what you have to offer
There are a lot of food bloggers out there so it’s important to understand why you think a company should pay you to work with them – quite simply, what do they get out of it?
As I mentioned before, I currently only work with companies that are looking for bloggers to work with (this point is even more important if you’re pitching to companies that don’t usually work with bloggers) so I don’t need to convince them to work with a blogger, just that I’m the one they want to choose ahead of everyone else.
The great thing about blogs is that every one is different and each one has something different to offer a company. In order to get a company to want to work with you over and above all the other bloggers out there you need to know what makes you stand out. For me I’d say my biggest selling points are…
- My photography – Not only will the post look good on my blog, but the photographs are also of a high enough standard to be shared on their websites or social media.
- I rank well on Google – some people have a much bigger social media following than me, but within a week or so of them publishing a post visits will die down and that post will get minimal visits from then on. The fact that I rank well on Google means that there’s a chance that their post will rank well and therefore visits will go on and on giving the company ongoing promotion.
- I promote my posts as widely as possible – using Pinterest group boards to get more views on my pins, submitting the recipes to food photosharing sites such as Foodgawker and participating in linkys which grow interaction and social sharing.
Don’t forget to pay your tax
If you’re earning ANY money from your blog no matter how small you need to ensure you’ re registered as self employed. There’s lot’s of information over on the HMRC website so I’d suggest you head over there and have a read.
Tell the world that your posts are sponsored
The official guidance on this is vague which is unhelpful, I’d much prefer it was clearer with a definite set of rules rather than being open to interpretation as then I could know I was definitely doing the right thing. I’d recommend you have a read up of the ASA regulations and make your own mind up on how to declare sponsored content, but I thought I’d share what I do.
Personally I prefer to know up front if a post I’m reading is sponsored by a company or not, on that basis if I’ve been paid to publish a post on my blog then I’ll state it’s sponsored and who by right at the start. I also ensure that this is included in the post excerpt so it’s clear it’s sponsored in my RSS feed and emails.
For social media posts, if I’m being paid specifically to post on social media then I’ll used the #sponsored, #sp or #ad hashtags. If I’m promoting a sponsored post on social media that I’ll use these hashtags where the company is tagged, shown in images or I’m using a hashtag they’ve requested. My theory is that if the company is clear in a social media post then that post could be seen as advertising the company without the reader needing to click through to my blog and see that it’s actually paid for. If the company isn’t clear in the social media post then the company isn’t actually getting any promotion from that social media post so I don’t declare it with a hashtag, as they then click though to the blog post they’ll then see the company mentioned and it clearly declared as sponsored.
An example of how I declare a post is sponsored
Understand follow v no follow links
Whenever I do sponsored posts I always use “no follow” links. If you’re unfamiliar with the difference between the two it’s all down to what Google sees…
When you add a link to your site Google sees it as a little thumbs up for the page you’ve linked too. The more links a page has to it the more Google thinks people are recommending it and so the higher it puts it in the search results. If you use a no follow link then Google basically ignores that link and so the page you’re linking to doesn’t get a boost in its rankings from the fact you’ve linked to it.
Google doesn’t want people boosting their position in search results by simply buying links from other sites so they recommend that all paid for links are changed to no follow. If Google find that you’ve taken payment for a post and not changed the links to no follow they could penalise your site meaning that you stop appearing in search results. Given that Google is by far my highest source of visitors I’ve no desire to get penalised so I always ensure that the links are no follow.
There are a few ways to change your links to no follow. The way I do it is to go into my text editor and add the words rel=”nofollow” after the URL of the page I’m linking to.
What to charge for sponsored posts
What to charge for sponsored posts seems to always be a popular topic amongst bloggers. I think it’s something that’s actually pretty tricky to work out as every blog is different and the amount of time each blogger will spend on a post will vary, as will the quality of the output and what the company will get out of working with you.
When I’m working out how much to charge for sponsored posts I look at the amount of time I expect it to take (developing the recipe, photographing, writing it up and promoting it) and then multiply it by my hourly rate. I then add costs (ingredients or special equipment required specifically for the post). Finally, I add in a premium for the fact it’s being published on my blog/social media. There are a number of reasons that people want to work with me but one of the key ones is the fact that I have a decent number of social media followers and the fact that I can attract a good level of visitors to my posts. This happens not because of that post but because of the time and effort I’ve put into building it up my social media followers, subscribers and Google rankings in the past. This time is essentially unpaid so I add a premium onto my sponsored posts rate to cover some of this time. This premium also covers investment I’ve made into equipment such as my photography equipment and props, the running costs of my blog and computer software.
I don’t have advertising on my blog and therefore I don’t get any return for simple pageviews. However, it’s worth considering whether you can get additional income for sponsored posts and then discounting this from the fee you’re charging.
All the numbers…
After three very flat months it was nice to see a little increase to what was my second best ever month 🙂
Charlottes Lively Kitchen – Visitors
Charlottes Lively Kitchen – Pageviews
If you’re looking at these graphs and wondering what caused any changes in the past you can find all my old reports in my monthly reports index.
So where did all of these visitors come from…
- Google – 40,797 (+15%)
- Pinterest – 11,655 (+14%)
- Direct – 11,430 (+4%)
- People – 1,026 (+354%)
- Yummly – 653 (-17%)
- UK Pinterest – 525 (+27%)
- Bing – 495 (+52%)
- Facebook Mobile – 447 (-50%)
- Tumblr – 441 (-50%)
- MSN – 335 (+50%)
My Cheese Stuffed Burgers were featured on People at the end of June (which then led to more visits in July) and I think my Peppercorn Sauce was featured on MSN (I didn’t find it on there, but that’s what everyone from there was looking at) which gave me a boost this month, but the biggest boost actually came from increases in Google and Pinterest. I’ve had a couple of recipes start to rank well on Google which has led to a 15% increase in visitors from there – hopefully a sign that all the effort we’ve been putting into SEO over the past few months is starting to pay off.
Yummly is still looking very sad with another big drop (and signs for August so far aren’t great from there either) 🙁
My cheese stuffed burgers were featured on People.com
Last month I predicted that it wouldn’t be long before Pinterest became my most popular social network. I hadn’t expected it to happen so soon, but this month it’s just overtaken Instagram.
In addition to the Instagram/Pinterest switch, I did reach a couple of social media milestones this month which is always a good moment, hitting 1000 followers on Facebook and reaching over 2000 email subscribers. The email subscribers milestone was a bit bitter-sweet though as reaching the 2k mark has meant that I now have to pay for my email plugin, which had previously been free.
Charlottes Lively Kitchen – Social Media Followers
My plans for August
As I said before, my main plan is to enjoy the summer holidays with my boys, ensure I meet all of my paid work commitments, and try and share a few bits and pieces on here too.
Seeing as August is likely to be another quiet month for blog building next month’s report will be similar to this one – going into something I’ve done but not really covered in these reports before. If there’s any particular topics you’d especially like me to talk about then please let me know in the comments.