How Dahn Boquist and Her Mom Make $160k/Year From Their Side Hustle Food Blog
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Dahn Boquist and her 82-year-old mom thought it would be fun to launch a food blog together. After all, they'd always loved spending time in the kitchen together, so they created their blog—Savor the Best—as a fun hobby and, as an afterthought, they hoped that it would one day earn a few hundred dollars a month.
Dahn was surprised by how much work was involved, but she remained undeterred, with her mother by her side. They started to see their blog grow. First, they got into Mediavine and watched their income double yearly. Last year they made $160k, and this year they’re on track to exceed that.
Keep reading to find out:
- Why she decided to create her blog
- Why she almost quit
- How her site has grown over the years
- How much she works on the business
- Her top marketing strategies
- Her thoughts on Pinterest and SEO
- How she approaches keyword research
- How she creates content
- How she grows her email list
- Her favorite resources and tools
- Her biggest challenge
- Her greatest accomplishment
- Her main mistake
- Her advice for other entrepreneurs
- Meet Dahn Boquist
- Why She Created Savor the Best
- How Much Money She’s Making
- Dahn’s Top Marketing Strategy
- Keyword Research
- Dahn’s Content Creation Process
- Her Email List
- Dahn’s Top Resources
- Her Go-To Tools
- Her Biggest Challenge
- Her Most Important Accomplishment
- What She Wishes She Knew When She Started
- Her Biggest Mistake
- Dahn’s Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
Meet Dahn Boquist
I have been married for over 33 years and have a 32-year-old son. I retired from my job as a cardiac nurse last year after working in the nursing field for 32 years.
My mom has been married for over 58 years and has four children, and I am the youngest. She was a paraeducator, realtor, and care provider before retiring 8 years ago.
Why She Created Savor the Best
My mom ran a care home that provided care for senior citizens for several years. I helped her by providing the necessary nursing services. When she was 70 years old, I finally convinced her that it was time for her to retire.
When she retired, we looked for a new activity to do together. However, I wanted something simple and low-key because my job at the hospital kept me busy, and I was tired of burning the candle at both ends by helping her with senior care.
I had heard that people could make a living from blogging, but I couldn't imagine leaving my nursing career. So I approached Savor the Best as a fun hobby, and our goal was to grow it enough to earn a few hundred dollars per month. We just wanted enough money to do some fun mother-daughter activities.
If I had known how much work it would be before we started, I would not have gone through with it, but I’m so glad we did!
There were days I was ready to quit because I couldn't understand or figure out all the tech stuff. But I would go to my mom's house to tell her I wanted to quit, and she would start showing me what she made for the blog.
She would get so excited about the photography and recipes that she would light up, and that was enough to keep me going.
Since then, we have had steady and consistent growth, and somewhere along the way, we started to realize that the website had the potential to be more than a hobby.
How Much Money She’s Making
We have seen steady growth in our income over the past several years. We joined Mediavine in December of 2015 and earned almost $3,000 in the first 12 months. Our income nearly doubled each year for the next two years.
Then, in 2019, we made just shy of $30k, and our growth continued each year. For 2022, our revenue was over $160k.
This year, we have a 30% growth rate over last year.
The bulk of our income comes from ad revenue, and only about 2% to 3% comes from affiliates. We have a cookbook that I neglected to promote, so I only earned $100 from that last year.
We rarely do sponsored posts, primarily because I don't like them. It always feels like I’m working for someone else, and I stress over the deadlines and demands.
Last year we worked with a company to test a software product for $800, which didn't require much of our time. Aside from that interaction, we are always deflated when working on sponsored posts.
I usually work about 40 hours per week on the business, but the hours fluctuate quite a bit. I’m trying to be available for my father while he navigates some difficult health issues. And I also have a new grandchild that I cherish spending time with.
Recently, my mom has reduced her work hours from approximately 40 hours per week to 15-20 hours per week to assist my dad.
Dahn’s Top Marketing Strategy
Our main marketing strategy for the past two years has been SEO. Before that, our only strategy was to provide quality recipes with good photography.
Until my retirement, I had been busy with my job at the hospital, so learning about the business of running a food blog together with SEO was slow, and it was much easier to focus on Pinterest.
In 2017, over 50% of our traffic was from Pinterest, Facebook, and recipe curation sites like FoodGawker, so that’s where I was focusing my time on marketing.
By 2018, organic searches from Google and Bing started to pick up. However, I had yet to figure out how to market to search engines, so I continued to focus primarily on Pinterest.
A lot of my spare time went into Pinterest marketing for the next couple of years. In spite of that, our search engine traffic continued to grow more rapidly without making any intentional efforts toward SEO.
Today, Pinterest is our top referral, but it only comprises 6% to 7% of our traffic. Google brings in 69%, and direct traffic gets about 18%.
This year, I'm dedicating more time to SEO and focusing much less on Pinterest.
As SEO is what moves the needle for us, it’s my top priority. Our overall SEO strategy includes keyword research, creating content optimized for search engines, optimizing existing content, and leveraging internal linking.
I primarily use KeySearch and RankIQ to find low-competition keywords with a high traffic volume. I double-check the search intent and ensure the topic is relevant to my audience.
Sometimes I find keywords in Google Search Console as well. It isn't unusual to find keywords for which a post is ranking but doesn't cover the topic.
I try to look for keywords with a volume of at least 1000 per month, but that is a pretty loose guideline for us. In the past, we have built a good portion of our site on extremely low-volume keywords.
It isn't a fast way to grow, but I feel like we have been able to keep our rankings on them easier than the more targeted, higher-volume keywords.
Another benefit to the lower-volume keywords is that they frequently bring us more traffic than predicted. For example, we have an article targeting a keyword with only 240 searches per year, but we get close to 5,000 pageviews yearly.
Although 5,000 pageviews is a pretty small percentage of our traffic, with several hundred posts like that, the traffic starts to add up.
One disadvantage of this strategy is that you need a lot of posts to get higher volumes of traffic. Managing all the posts is challenging, so I can't say it is the best strategy for everyone.
I don't have much of a game around link building. I will drop links in Facebook roundups that ask for specific recipes, but most of our backlinks happen naturally when a news site or blogger writes an article and includes our recipe.
Dahn’s Content Creation Process
This year, our strategy is primarily around keyword research.
We usually start with an idea for a recipe or an ingredient. For instance, "chocolate chip cookies" has a high traffic volume and competition score. But if you filter out the high competition scores, you can find "chocolate chip cookies without brown sugar" has a nice volume and a very low competition score.
Next, we check the relevancy and search intent, and then we write and test the recipe. If it’s a complex recipe that we have to make or test multiple times, we scale it down and make half or quarter batches until we’re satisfied with the result.
Then, after we refine the recipe, we make it again and get process photos and a couple of hero shots of the final product.
I use a template with standard headings to guide me in writing the copy. Then I usually run the copy through a content analysis report on RankIQ.
The RankIQ report will point out keywords related to the main topic.
If they are relevant to our recipe and I can fit them in naturally, then I add them.
Her Email List
Our email list has 13k subscribers right now. I use Grow.me for opt-ins. The Spotlight subscribe widget will collect between 5 to 10 subscribers per day, and when I use a pop-up, we get between 30 to 45 subscribers per day. I fluctuate with the pop-up and sometimes turn them off because I don't particularly care for them.
I also have an opt-in at the end of all of my WebStories, which collects anywhere from 2 to 20 subscribers per week. It really depends on how often I publish a WebStory and if it gets traffic.
Dahn’s Top Resources
Food Blogger Pro has a plethora of information for food bloggers, with articles about starting, growing, and monetizing a food blog. They have how-to articles and videos about SEO, content creation, social media marketing, food photography, videography, and more.
It's a great one-stop shop with a helpful community. They also have a podcast.
Recently, I have started listening to EatBlogTalk and the webinars on TopHatRank.
Her Go-To Tools
These would have to be:
- KeySearch: I use KeySearch almost daily for keyword research
- Airtable: I use Airtable every day to help me keep track of my workflows, tasks, affiliates, sponsors, finances, contract workers, and so much more.
- Clariti: Managing almost 1,300 posts on our website through a spreadsheet is overwhelming. I’m trying to learn how to use Clariti to organize and keep track of all our posts, keywords, traffic, and tasks.
Her Biggest Challenge
Finding work/life balance has been a major challenge. I thought it would get easier after retiring from my nursing career, but the family was met with some new challenges. I'm grateful that the business offers extremely flexible work hours and that I can prioritize my family first.
Her Most Important Accomplishment
We have been able to use our experience and knowledge to help my son, cousin, sister, and sister-in-law with websites. Seeing them grow and develop a passion for blogging has been exciting.
What She Wishes She Knew When She Started
I wish I had known how much the website's growth potential was when we initially started. I would not have been able to invest more time earlier on, but we could have invested more financially. Our most recent financial investment was an audit on the website, and I wish I had done that sooner.
I also would have been more intentional about networking with others in the food blogging community. It’s an incredible support system, and it feels like the most successful bloggers are the ones who have a network of peers.
We share information about the latest tools and resources, offer advice, and provide emotional support during tough times. This sense of camaraderie has been invaluable in helping us stay motivated and focused on our goals.
Her Biggest Mistake
We have made so many mistakes I don't really know where to start.
We had an audit on the site last year to help me identify and strategize how to fix things, but ultimately, our site has continued to grow in spite of the mistakes.
The biggest problem we ran into in the past was when we had a cheap host. In 2018, the site went down multiple times over a few days. I had to hire my son to help me work with our host because I was working at the hospital and couldn't break away.
I'm grateful for the mistake because it helped us find a great host to work with: Agathon.
Additionally, it sparked my son's interest in food blogging and got him involved in helping me with technology-related issues.
Dahn’s Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
Choose a niche you are passionate about and can stick with. This business takes time and effort to build. You will burn out quickly if you don't love what you do.
Stay focused on your goals and be persistent. There will be obstacles and setbacks, but just keep pushing forward and stay committed.
Finally, always continue learning and growing. Continuously invest in yourself and your business, whether attending conferences, networking events, or pursuing further education.
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