Monetization | Recommended

How Casey Rooney Grew Her Food Blog’s Traffic 50-Fold in Just 1 Year.

The post was originally published at Niche Pursuits, by Samara Kamenecka

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Casey Rooney is the perfect example of how important consistency and determination are in pursuing success. She’s a part-time teacher and busy mom of three who still found the time to create a lucrative food blog on the side, bringing in more than $7.5k per month.

She shares recipes for other busy moms on Get On My Plate, and her smart strategy enabled her to increase her pageviews from 4k to +255k in just one year.

 

Meet Casey Rooney

I’m a wife (married almost 20 years), mom of 3 (5th grade, 8th grade, and high school senior), part-time teacher/reading specialist, and food blogger! 

I started my career in advertising and marketing, working at an ad agency in San Francisco and several magazine publications in Chicago. 

When I had enough of corporate life’s rate race, I returned to school and got my special education teaching credential. I’m now in my 16th year of teaching. I work part-time (2-3 days a week), and I am blessed to work at the K-8 school all of my kids have attended. 

With two of my kids in ultra-competitive sports and one getting ready to go to college, it’s a constant battle for hours in the day. My calendar is full, but so is my heart! I wouldn’t have it any other way! I love how blogging has given me the flexibility to work on my own time. 

Why She Created Her Blog

I fell in love with blogging in 2008 when my oldest daughter was 3 years old. 

Every week I would document cute photos and family happenings on my blogger.com blog. Friends and family would log on and comment. I used my blog in 2008 like we use Facebook now!

Over the years of “blogging” (basically, journaling), I really started to love sharing things with people–whether it was cute outfits, household hacks, or great recipes. 

When I started posting recipes on my Blogger blog, I noticed those were the posts people LOVED! I did this for several years and truly enjoyed it. But again, it was just like Facebook—I was only sharing with friends and family, and that’s it.

Then life got really busy. I had more kids, went back to school, and had no free time, so my little Blogger blog was left unattended for years.

It wasn’t until the pandemic (fall of 2020) that I felt like I needed a hobby and outlet. I wanted to do it “right” this time, so I bought a WordPress theme and picked up where I left off, posting about fashion, home, family, and food under the URL caseyrooney.com. 

The only way I was getting traffic was from social media. I had never heard the term SEO in my life, nor did I have any aspirations to make money when I started.

As I started reading more about blogging, I realized it could be more than a hobby.

It soon became clear that I needed to niche down and focus my blog on a specific topic. And food continued to be what was resonating with people. 

I spent December of 2020 cleaning up my posts and changing my website format and URL to fit the food blog niche. I launched Get On My Plate on January 1, 2021.

That day I had 275 page views and 73 sessions. Thanks, Mom, Dad, and good friends!

The more I blogged about food, the more I knew I had made the right choice with my niche. I know as a busy mom, getting dinner on the table can be a real struggle, especially when you don’t like to cook.

I love talking to those moms and helping them find ways to put delicious, easy recipes on their table in a minimal amount of time. Seeing my readers’ confidence grow in the kitchen has been so rewarding!

Casey Rooney’s Current Revenue

Currently (as of July 2022), my blog is making just under $8,000. The breakdown is as follows:

Mediavine ads: $6,220 (78%)
Sponsored work: $1400 (18%)
Affiliate income: $314 (4%)

Total: $7,934

Note that these numbers fluctuate a bit from month to month. 

There are some months I don’t do any sponsored work and some months where I make $1,000 – 2,000 on sponsored work. It just really depends on what options are available.  

I typically go through an agency like Sway or Social Fabric for this type of work. 

Her Business Growth Strategies

There are two things that I really attribute to growing my blog fairly quickly: consistency/laser focus, and SEO. 

Consistency: Blogging and growing a business takes hard work and doing tasks that move your business forward… then repeating that every single day. 

I found out quickly that I couldn’t do it all with my busy life.

There’s a lot that goes into it like:

  • Recipe test,
  • Write blog posts,
  • Take and edit photos, m
  • Make Instagram Reels,
  • Post on Facebook,
  • Manage Pinterest,
  • Make videos,
  • Manage expenses,
  • Answer emails,
  • Do keyword research, a
  • Accept sponsored work…

I tried for a short while and drove myself and my family absolutely crazy!

In my first year (and still today), my goal is pageviews and money-making activities. I made a goal of 500,000 page views before I started to really focus on other revenue streams.

So I sat down and asked myself: What are the main things that move my business forward in terms of page views and money-making activities? Then I made a list which is now what I call my “Weekly Workflow.” 

I decided that spending time doing keyword research, writing and photographing blog posts (posting quality content), doing Google web stories, and an occasional sponsored post were the activities that brought in the most page views and made me the most money. So I focused on that.

That meant I stopped stressing about social media (I only post 2x a week), videos, reels, TikTok, and even perfecting my photography. All of that went by the wayside. Those were time-consuming activities that were not directly adding to my bottom line. 

Once I had all of my “tasks” in order, I created a Weekly Workflow on Monday.com. I plugged in the tasks around work and family activities. For example, I work on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I do smaller tasks then, and save shooting recipes and editing for my days off. 

Casey Rooney

I have stayed laser-focused on this list for nearly a year. From July 2021 to July 2022, my blog grew from 4,451 page views to 255,666 page views. 

Looking back on these numbers gives me chills to think about what is possible with hard work, consistency, and laser focus!

Casey Rooney

SEO: For about 4 months into launching Get On My Plate, I had never heard the term SEO. I was just posting whatever recipes I wanted, hoping people would find me on social media!

I finally learned the term in April of 2021 on a Top Hat Rank Webinar and through the Food Blogger Central Facebook group. 

After that, I dabbled in keyword research here and there and I started seeing the benefit. It wasn’t until the end of September 2021, when I took the course Cooking with Keywords that I started to really focus on proper keyword research.

I tell everyone that the course is “keyword research on crack!” I learned much in that course and started writing better SEO-optimized posts. My traffic began to take off! Only two months later, I had qualified for the Mediavine ad network with 50,000 sessions – a goal that had seemed futile just 4 months earlier!

Today, over 70% of my traffic comes from organic search.

Casey Rooney

Casey Rooney’s Top Marketing Strategy

My #1 marketing strategy is SEO! I like to call it my “anti-marketing” strategy! I used to drive myself crazy trying to post on my Facebook page, in a million Facebook groups, on Instagram, and on Pinterest every day!

Now, I do the bare minimum to market my posts on social media and focus 99% of my effort on SEO–doing solid keyword research and creating fully optimized blog posts. 

I think most newer bloggers spin their wheels with social media trying to find the new, hot way to get their blog posts noticed. While that can definitely get you short bursts of good traffic, I have taken a longer-term approach. 

A great example is Instagram. When I post a recipe, and the post does well, I get a little traffic boost. However, after a day, that traffic is gone. With SEO, people will search daily, and year after year for your optimized blog posts.

The Importance of SEO

My SEO strategy is the most important thing in my business. I look for low-competition keywords with a decent amount of search volume. I rarely write a post that I don’t think I can rank for. 

The process usually starts with a broad idea for a recipe. For example, “pasta recipe.” Because I know I can’t rank for “pasta recipe,” I will go into Keysearch and look for variations on that keyword. For example, “pasta recipe with tuna” or “pasta with lobster.” 

Another thing I do is type the word into the Google search bar and see what automatic suggestions come up. I will write the suggestions down and research them further in Keysearch.

It’s also important to me that I make recipes that *I* want to make and that my audience wants and expects. I am a quick and easy comfort food blogger so I am not going to make a vegan recipe because I think I can rank for it. 

Instead, I look for modifiers I can use to make my favorite recipes. I might not be able to rank for “Sloppy Joes.” But I might be able to rank for “Sloppy Joes Without Ketchup.” Little modifiers like these allow me to keep my blog’s focus on exactly what kinds of recipes I want without veering off into another niche just for the sake of ranking. 

With the latest Google algorithm change, being an “authority” and staying in your niche is even more important!

Link building is kind of my nemesis and I’d love to be able to spend more time on it. My biggest backlinks come from my #1 and #2 ranking posts. One of the best “strategies” for link building is to have a #1 ranking post! Easier said than done, right!?

I have gone on local TV twice and done one food blogging podcast, which has helped with backlinks and overall authority. Activities like that have really challenged me to go outside my comfort zone. 

Recently, I also hired a VA to do some link dropping for me in Facebook groups. As I mentioned before, I am staying laser-focused on growing pageviews. Therefore, I don’t spend a lot of time right now actively pursuing link building. However, it will definitely be a focus in the future.

Her Email List

I have a small list (just under 1,000), but I’m so glad I started growing the list early. Two things have contributed to my list growth:

  • Offering a useful opt-in incentive I knew my audience would love
  • Lots of places to subscribe on my blog, both within posts and throughout the blog

Content Creation

I try to keep this as streamlined and as simple as possible. While I test several recipes at once, I typically work through one blog post at a time from start to finish: taking photos, editing, writing, and publishing. 

I don’t batch my content. My brain just doesn’t work that way. I need to see a project (post) through from start to finish. 

I do keyword research on Fridays and make a list of all the recipes I need to test. Once tested (and approved), they move over to my main calendar, and I assign a shoot date for the recipe. 

I usually work about 3-4 months in advance, so I started holiday recipes right after the 4th of July this year!

Achieving Current revenue levels

It took me less than one year to reach 50,000 sessions and get accepted by the Mediavine ad network. 

From there, my traffic has continued to grow steadily. Get On My Plate is currently 20 months old and gets 255,000 page views per month. 

Casey Rooney

There are three main tools I use in my business that I feel are essential:

RankIQ

I started using RankIQ in 2022, which has saved me a ton of time with keyword research. It’s a huge database filled with low competition, high volume keywords. It spans multiple niches from food to finance and everything in between. 

If I have an idea for a keyword, I can do a RankIQ search, and tons of ideas pop up! You can also run your written blog post through their optimizer program and it will give you a “grade” on how well you covered your topic and related keywords. I don’t publish any posts without running them through the Optimizer.

Nearly every post I write with Rank IQ eventually ranks on the first page. Sometimes overnight! Typically it takes several months, though.

 

Her Biggest Challenge

My biggest challenge is time. However, instead of using that as an excuse, I use it to my benefit.

Most people have a list of tasks and try to cram them into their limited time. I work backward. I figure out how much time I have each day and fit my tasks into that timeframe. 

This has helped me focus on money-making activities moving my business forward. Before assigning a task, I always ask: Is this making me money or moving my business forward?

Casey Rooney’s Greatest Accomplishment

I’m most proud of being able to focus on the most important business activities and not get caught up in “all the shiny objects.” Not to say I haven’t wanted to or tried to, I just always go back to the main question about how certain activities are moving the needle and growing my blog.

What She Wishes She Knew When She Started

I wish I would have known about SEO from day 1. That would have saved me so many poorly written blog posts that ended up deleting! 

Casey Rooney’s Biggest Mistake

Ha! There are too many to count, but truly nothing I couldn’t change pretty quickly! I firmly believe every mistake is a “learning experience” that can move you forward.

My two biggest “learning experiences” were not investing in a quality, fast, optimized site and a quality host right off the bat. 

My other mistake was chasing after social media clicks instead of focusing on SEO from the very start.

Her Advice for Other Entrepreneurs

If you’re starting out or are a new business owner or blogger, my advice to you is:

  1. Stick with the simple tasks that move your business forward
  2. For bloggers, make SEO your main priority
  3. Get help and invest in your business from the start. When you start making a little money, invest a little more. But be a smart CFO. Don’t waste money on frivolous things. Do invest money wisely on things that will help grow your business.
  4. Be willing to shift, pivot, and fail. If you can’t handle criticism, failure, and change, owning a small business will be tough to handle unless you change your mindset.



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