Because of my client Panna Cooking’s affiliate program, I’ve begun working with a bunch of recipe bloggers. Many of them have traffic and engagement, but they aren’t always sure why they’re not making money. Below you’ll find 5 of the most common mistakes I’ve found so far and ways you work to try and fix them.
5 Mistakes and How to Make Money With Recipe Blogs:
- Accessories vs. Products (when to promote which)
- Styling & Additional Resources
- Accessories vs. Products (how to promote them)
- Downloadable Recipes
- Newsletters & Segmentation
Accessories vs. Products
The biggest issue I have seen with affiliate links is that the blogger loses track of what he or she is doing. Twice last week (and a few times before) I had recipe bloggers talking about the food they’re making (zoodles, curly fries, etc…) and they all either used or focused their posts around their spiralizers. This is my affiliate link for a spiralizer (and yes you can send me one if you want to since I don’t have one anymore). =0)
Whether it was the person in the video making jokes about it while the blogger spun it or the blogger who had it in almost every photo, neither of them remember to link to where the reader can buy one. The rule of thumb here is that if the tool is a vital part of the recipe, give options. Other times they did link to it, but they forgot to use their affiliate links. There are a few ways to do this.
You can say “here is where you can buy the one that I used in this recipe”, or “here is a cheaper or more expensive option” and give a couple of selling points on each to really drive home the value of it. Another option (and one I prefer) is at the bottom of the post so you can give the reader a reminder to where they can buy it as well. The bottom can sometimes work better because you’ve now given your reader everything they need and are not making them work to find the links again.
Although one of the recipe sites didn’t use any affiliate links and was solely relying on adsense for revenue, the others did, but weren’t getting sales. There could be a separate reason for this altogether.
They were talking about creating spiralized food, but they were then showing table settings for a holiday, cute themed napkins for a dinner party and other things that are fun, but not relevant to the goal of the reader which is to learn how to prepare a specific type of food or recipe.
Some of the dishes need a fryer, others need specific baking sheets or pans. These are the products and tools used to create the dish and reach the solution. Even specific types of oils you can use because of allergies. If you want to make money as a recipe blogger, you’re providing a solution by giving away your recipe for free and to try and make money from affiliate marketing, use your affiliate links to help your website visitor create the dish. We get into selling the accessories and how to do this in the next section.
Now go through your own posts and look to where you mention the required tools, spices, herbs and everything else. Next begin adding your affiliate links and images to match. At the bottom of the post, give a round up of the tools in a list or paragraph (you can find which way your audience reacts best to that using tools like this one (in addition to click and conversion data).)
Styling & Additional Resources
Now that we have an idea of when and how to incorporate the tools into recipe blog posts, how do we make money with all of those fun style things? I give a huge tip in the Downloadable Recipes section below, so make sure to read that and don’t just leave now. This is simple, create a follow up post with all of the fun things and great themed ideas. Since Valentine’s Day is coming up soon, I’ll give you another example from a food blogger I was working with recently.
She found the cutest set up for a Valentine’s Table and a way to display all of the delicious desserts she created for the holiday. She incorporated them into the post naturally (but only through text links) and also tried to set the scene for using them in the middle of the post while she was also giving the recipe. This sounds good right, well probably not.
Here’s a few things to think about:
- The person is there for a recipe, not a table setting.
- Accessories to serve it on are great, but are you showing the image?
- Where should you vs. do you talk about them to your reader?
- Is the recipe year round, seasonal or holiday specific?
- Are you hurting your ability to rank the recipe and your site in the search engines?
People on recipe blogs are there to find out how to make recipes. Although tablescapes and themes may be a great cross over topic, interrupting a reader with random decor items without giving them the full recipe doesn’t help with why they are there. Even if they like the accessories, ask yourself if you’ve ever scrolled back through a long post to find a specific accessory when it wasn’t relevant to why you were there (especially if you didn’t get to see a photo of the products).
Instead of adding the accessories where they do not add value to the reader, add them into a section called “How to Serve”, “How to Style” or “Fun Ways to Plate” or something else. Now the reader knows there is more to the recipe and you’re able to pre-sell why they should buy the accessories. You can also show images of the decor or settings items and even how to style them for different seasons and holidays. Strawberries are great Valentine’s day dessert ingredients, but they’re also perfect in Summer so make sure you do not only do Valentine’s ideas since recipes can be year round. If it’s July and they’re looking for a mousse or meringue, but your cross-sells are all Valentine’s specific, you’ve now lost the potential commissions.
The last point I’ll make here is that the more external links you have, the less link equity your internal links can have. This goes more into SEO but I encourage you to read this post on building an internal linking structure and then go to google and read about link equity and why it may be bad to have a ton of inbound and external links on the same page. Some are good, but don’t go overboard.
Accessories vs. Products (part two)
The next issue I come across is for sites that are dedicated to things like crock pots, instapots (I don’t have one yet either so if you want to buy me one, here’s my affiliate link…hint hint). Many of them have their affiliate links for the tool on the post (mostly at the top which probably isn’t the best) and they ignore everything else thinking they’re going to sell a ton of Instapots. That is where I am guessing the issue is when they say they don’t sell many.
If people are looking specifically for crock pot or instapot recipes, they probably got one as a gift or already have one and do not need a second or a new one. If they did need one, they’re probably researching and although recipes may be a part of it, they’re looking for reviews. Instead of having an instapot affiliate link in the top of the post, place it at the bottom as well and link it into an instapot store or comparison page where you have all models, versions, variations and accessories available. That goes into the next point.
If they already have the main tool, what else is there? Cookbooks, accessories for making the dishes, etc… My kitchen aid stand mixer for has additional attachments like pasta makers, spiralizers, hooks, splatter shields, etc… I already have the mixer but if I want it to make bread or noodles I’m going to need the accessories. This actually happened recently.
I was looking for “how to make XYZ with my kitchen aid” and found the recipe with a great step by step guide and they showed me how to do it with and without the stand mixer accessories. They walked me through each of the accessories and I was ready to buy, but the only links on the page were for the full machine. (It was a head to desk moment). I went to Amazon and sure enough they are right there. This was a lost commission opportunity for the blogger. Instead of them sharing where to buy the accessory for the stand I already have, they lost out on a commission (to be fair I did shop through their link but normally they would have missed).
When you have a site dedicated to a product or tool that people already have, mention the accessories to prepare the specific dish you’re cooking and explain how they benefit or add value to the recipe and make your readers’ lives easier. Next show them where they can buy it and at the end of the post do a roundup of places and options to purchase the accessory. If you create an affiliate accessories shop, you can also link into there. By doing this you can cross sell instapot cookbooks, crock pot stirrers and anything else directly related to the main tool your site is about. You could even do funny tshirts, aprons and accessories for the overly obsessed. The same goes for blender and smoothie or even coffee sites.
This is one that you may not have thought of. In a couple of the examples above I mentioned people wrote how to style a recipe for Valentine’s, for a romantic dinner or even for a kids party, baptism or bar mitzvah. This is where you can start to have fun.
On the downloadable recipe, if it is virtual and not printed, use your affiliate links where you would in the website. You can use the notes section (especially if you’re using the BootStrapped Ventures plugins….love these!) include pretty links that take people back to your site or directly to the accessories. We’ll use the chocolate strawberry mousse example from above.
If you have a way to make an easy to follow and simple branded redirect, do that, if you don’t, here is a highly recommended service. Once you have your good looking links, now you can bring people back to your site and sell the accessories through your affiliate links or sell the products right from the recipe.
In the notes section, include some wording like “Thank you for trying out our recipe. Check out these links to find styling, serving and other fun options for (insert your recipe here).” You could also recommend complementary recipes to the dish they printed out.
Other options for articles to include in this section may be:
- How to serve it – have a dedicated page with serving dishes, specific cutlery and other releated
- Tablescape ideas to match XYZ events – this could be a post that features table decor items to go along with the theme if the recipe is holiday or if it is event specific
- Decor to set the mood – If it’s valentine’s candles and flowers, a birthday you could try balloons, banners and plates, etc…
The downloadable recipe also gives you a way to remind the person to come back to your blog for more recipes, styling ideas and other tips. You can also mention to join your newsletter and give them another easy-to-type link to find where to sign up for it on a dedicated landing page.
Newsletters & Segmentation
I pretty much covered everything with newsletters in this post (it’s old but still good), but I haven’t really seen many recipe sites actually building niche databases with their newsletters. Almost every tool or accessory like this service and this tool offers the ability to segment your lists. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, lets think about your site and what you write about.
Are you a general recipe site and do you have main categories or topics like Appetizers, Main Dishes, Desserts or even Gluten Free or Low Carb. Now think about what is most important to your regular readers as well as new visitors. Do you get more repeat visitors on dinner recipes, in your desserts section or is it across the board. Are people finding you based on specific dietary needs? Now apply this to how people optin.
Give them the selling points like “new recipes in your inbox for free” or “get my free recipe ebook”. Then under the selling point have a few check boxes to ask them what they want:
- Gluten Free
- Give Me Everything!
Next go into your ESP and make sure the list will set up their preferences (most already offer this).
Now you have targeted lists and entire lists you can mail to. If you have people looking for low calorie and low carb or diet friendly, you can cross promote or sell ad space to fitness brands. If it’s Paleo, why not offer paleo diets and paleo lifestyle products. Gluten free, sell some space or become an affiliate for a Gluten Free foods company. If they only like your cupcakes, don’t bother them with your dinners since they prefer your desserts.
This doesn’t take long to set up and really helps to fine tune your ads and messages so you can show relevant ads and products to the right audience.
If you have any questions about making money with your recipe blog, you can always reach out to me by using my contact form to the right or by leaving a comment below. I’ll also include each of the links for the tools I mentioned below and don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter (before the comments section) if you found this post helpful.
- Panna Cooking affiliate program (and strategies to promote them)
- How to measure and watch your audience engagement
- An email service for newsletters
- A tool to help grow your email list