Brand Biz: Redesigning? Here’s what you need to know from an SEO pro

At CookIt, we help bloggers think outside the blog format—we help them think bigger! Often, this means that the blogger needs to redesign her blog in order to build a “house” big enough for all her ideas. But what about all the traffic and links she’s built up over the years? What if she wants to change the name and domain of her brand?

We went to Arsen Rabinovich, founder of Top Hat Rank, a digital marketing agency with expertise in SEO, for the answers to these and other questions.

How risky is it to change your domain/url if you want to change the name of your blog?

Arsen: We try to avoid changing URLs as much as possible. However, sometimes you just can’t, like when changing your domain name during a re-brand.  For this specific reason, Google provided us a “change of address” procedure and submission through Google’s Search Console (http://bit.ly/2zV16Fd). When doing this, both sites need to be up at the same time. You’ll need to validate the new domain via Search Console and update the old domain with redirects (301) from the old domain to new domain.

What about a blogger’s links — can she take them with her?

Arsen: Yes, if the migration was implemented properly, the redirects will continue to pass “authority” from external backlinks to your new site. Accurately handled redirects are vital!

Does SEO play a role in the redesign process? If so, when? How?

Arsen: Not so much in the design process. We tell our clients to go through the design process without getting us (SEOs) involved. You want to design for the user, for the conversion, NOT for SEO. Once the site is wire framed/designed, we come in and mark it up with proper HTML and schema before it goes into production (coding the design into a theme).

Any tips on plug-ins bloggers should be using in their redesigns?

Arsen: The premium version of Yoast SEO is probably the best SEO plugin for WordPress. However, if you are using another plugin and it’s working, I would not recommend swapping it out. Always make sure your plugins are up to date. Not paying attention to this will create many issues and in some case get your website hacked.  So keep them updated.

We know SEO is a long game, but how long until a blogger begins to see results after the redesign?

Arsen: Again, when handled correctly, your redesign should not only retain rankings but help the site grow further. Post-launch, keep an eye on your Search Console to make sure that the daily pages crawled by Google (http://bit.ly/2zT9JjO)  are always trending upwards. This is a good indicator of a successful migration.  

Cooking the Books: Thanksgiving Classics

You know it’s November when you start digging out those tried and true Thanksgiving recipes passed down to you from your mother and your grandmother. There’s always the classic pumpkin pie or the sweet potato casserole with fluffy marshmallows that you can’t help but make each year because come on, it’s tradition!

There’s no way to get around the classics, so we’ve rounded up our favorite classic recipes (with a twist!) from our favorite cookbooks!

The Prize-Winning Turkey

Unfortunately more often than not, too many Thanksgiving turkeys suffer from dried turkey syndrome. Enter Samin Nosrat’s spatchcocked turkey recipe from her cookbook, “Salt, Acid, Fat, Heat.” The secret is seasoning it two days before and using lots of herbs and butter.

The Creamiest Mashed Potatoes

We would trust Julia Child with our lives so of course we had to include her famous garlic mashed potato recipe from her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volume 1. It includes a rich béchamel sauce and lots and lots of garlic.

Not Your Traditional Pumpkin Pie

You’ve heard of pumpkin pie, but why not try something different this year like carrot pie from Joshua McFadden’s Six Seasons cookbook? Topped with candied ginger and toasted pecans, it’s sure to be a hit.

Cranberry Sauce That’s Here to Stay

Most of our childhood memories involve cranberry sauce from a can, but when made from scratch it’s so delicious! It also makes for great leftover turkey sandwiches the day after Thanksgiving. One of our favorite cranberry recipes comes from Nigel Slater who references Glynn Christian’s “Real Flavours” version that’s served warm with additions of roasted black peppercorns, mace and lemon, grated orange or cardamom.

What are your favorite cookbook recipes this Thanksgiving?

Road Food: Where We’re Eating

 

via 5280 magazine

Since we’re not only foodies here at CookIt, but also travelers, we are always discovering new and delicious places in our hometowns and when we travel. Here are some of the places we’ve been lately and can’t help raving about!

via Westside Today

I was lucky enough to spend a couple of weekends in Palm Springs recently, the perfect antidote to LA sometimes! There was plenty of pool time and vintage shopping, but also a couple of great meals: Workshop Kitchen + Bar and Mister Parker’s were the standouts! Workshop has one of the town’s prettiest patios, and offers creative, seasonal dishes that really deliver. Mister Parker’s, located in the Parker hotel, is a crazy mix of dark wood, flea market art, loud classic rock and traditional French favorites, like steak au poivre. Only Jonathan Adler could pull it off! Laurie, CEO + Founder

via The Village Alliance

I didn’t think I was a frozen yogurt fan until I tried Culture: An American Yogurt Company in the West Village.  Now I want to go every week! They rotate their flavors each week and my favorite combo lately is the dark chocolate with balsamic strawberries. Netanya, Social Media Manager

via Morgan Lone Photography

It feels like we’ve had a slew of visitors lately, giving us an excuse to go to some of our fave and impressive spots. La Esquina’s Brasserie is definitely one of our top picks to impress out-of-towners. When you walk up, it looks like a small diner-like taco spot (which is also very good), but once you go through a door and down some stairs, you’ll come across a massive hidden restaurant. Order a bunch of appetizers, tacos, and cocktails and you’ll be set. Don’t forget about the Elotes Callejeros too! Anna, Brand Strategist

via Star Chefs

We rarely go out for Chinese food, but Denver’s Hop Alley has been a recent game-changer. This modern (yet unpretentious) Chinese restaurant features spicy shared plates and creative cocktails. I’m all about their veggie fried rice, but my husband swears by the Beijing duck roll. Edie, Account Manager

What’s Cooking: November

fall produce

We love this time of year because the produce is abundant and there are so many wonderful things to make! We’ve been spending our free time in the kitchen making large bowls of comforting pasta and soup, roasting our favorite fall veggies, and enjoying sweets with apple, pumpkin and cinnamon. In addition, we’ve been trying out some new recipes like these…

malaysian fried rice

 

A bunch of years back, Zak Pelaccio was cooking the most amazing Malaysian food at Fatty Crab in New York. I was at Fine Cooking magazine at the time, which gave me license to ask him for the recipe for his Malaysian Chicken and Rice (ha!). An eye-opening concoction of tender chicken pieces, crispy rice, fish sauce, ginger and green onions, its name belies its complexity and deliciousness. We still make it every little while, and darn if it isn’t as good as ever. Laurie, CEO + Founder

winter-squash-agrodolce

As a child, I hated squash but now I embrace it. There are so many things you can do with it whether it be roasting it with butter and sage, making a creamy squash soup or my favorite way: roasted and dressed with agridolce like this recipe here. Netanya, Social Media Manager

Now that it’s finally fall and whole lot cooler, I’m breaking out my pasta maker for some comforting bowls of pasta and homemade sauces. This Bolognese recipe is heavenly! Anna, Brand Strategist

Shameless plug, but I’ve been making my curried butternut squash soup on repeat. This soup is easy to throw together, forgiving, and versatile the best of kind of recipe. If I don’t have leeks on hand, I’ll use a yellow onion. If I’m in the mood for spice, I’ll add a tablespoon of red curry paste. Plus, this soup makes delicious leftovers! Edie, Account Manager

5 Things You Didn’t Know About…

Laurie Buckle

She is our constant go-to for new playlists,  a supportive boss who is always encouraging us to think bigger and a resource for all things food. Our #CookItCrew wouldn’t exist without her and we’re so happy to share 5 things you might have not known about her today!

  1. I’m a better eater than cook — a skill I learned when I worked at Bon Appétit, and we had to go to recipe testings twice a day. Each editor at the table had to describe in detail  what they liked or didn’t like about the dish, and how to fix it. The pressure!
  2. Bananas are the bain of my existence. I live in fear of finding them in smoothies, acai bowls, fruit salads, anywhere.
  3. Of all the apps on my phone, I love Shazam the best. I’m always making a playlist.
  4. Baking isn’t a strong suit, but I make one cake very well: Wolfgang Puck’s Gateau au Chocolat. It’s from his 1981 book, Modern French Cooking for the American Kitchen (I’ve made a mess of page 221!), and it never gets old.
  5. I spent 32 years in the corporate world before I realized I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Fancy that!

Brand Biz: Tell Me a Story

olena

“Laurie’s big on creating story, which was completely new to me. She said, ‘Olena, you need your story, and you do have your story, like a very unique story. But you have to tell it. Like, you have to say it.’ ”

–Olena Osipov, iFoodReal

Well, you got that right, Olena! We ARE big on story over here.

We loved listening to Olena tell us her story on Food Blogger Pro, from immigrating from Kiev, Ukraine to a small town in Canada when she was 19 (with $100 in her pocket!) to dreaming big and buying her new waterfront home on Vancouver Island with its own studio. That’s what you call making it!

We also loved working with Olena to help her find her brand story, the one that ultimately helped her find her way, better understand her audience, reshape her content strategy and rebuild her website. She’s a graduate of our Brand Bootcamp, and we couldn’t be more proud of her.

What is Brand Bootcamp?

The CookIt Brand Bootcamp is an immersive, one-on-one course in how to shape, position and build your brand. Working with you to understand your goals and vision, we build a blueprint for your growth, ensuring you have all the tools and resources you need to take the next steps and become the influential, successful brand you are meant to be!

How does it work?

We start with your story (of course we do!). Getting there is a process, one that begins with a conversation/interview (as we try to get to the heart of what you believe in, and love to do). From there we go on to research your competition and evaluate your marketplace opportunity, summing up our work in a Positioning Statement that details the “what, who and why” behind your brand story. And that’s just session one!

A deep dive into your current audience sets us up to identify your Target Audience—those new readers who will be key to your growth and expansion. Once we know who we’re talking to, we can work on your Brand Voice, which comprises your personal voice, the brand itself and any team members you work with. How your brand talks to your readers is a defining element of who you are.

Content Strategy and Site Structure are up next. In these two sessions, we build out your plan for growth, helping you transition from blog to a larger, more impactful online resource, more like a magazine. Working with your story, we help you think bigger, and apply that thinking to your content, site design and user experience. By the time we’re done, you’ll have a plan that easily translates to wireframes and a site refresh.

Our last session covers content Production, as well as Growth Strategy. We help you better understand how to create a process for planning and producing content for your new site. (Spoiler alert: We’re big on monthly content themes and planning six months to a year out!) As for your growth, we’ll consider multiple ways to take your story “on the road,” from a podcast to a cookbook to a newsletter series.

Is It Right for You?

Brand Bootcamp is work! It requires guts, determination and a willingness to let go of some things and see others from a new perspective. You’ll come away from the experience with a refreshed way of thinking about what you do, why you do it, and who you do it for. We’ll find your story—the one you will go on to tell the world!

To listen to others who’ve graduated from Brand Bootcamp, head over to Food Blogger Pro and tune into Bjork’s interviews with Meggan Hill and Jessica Gavin. And to hear my chat with Bjork about perfecting your story, listen here.

Cooking the Books: Eating Local by Sur La Table

Cooking the Books

There’s something quite magical about a cookbook that speaks right to your soul, particularly when it’s gifted.

Enter: Sur La Table’s Eating Local. I love this cookbook for many reasons, but mainly because my mom gave it to me when I needed it most in college. I was (very) new to the kitchen, surviving off of eggs, sandwiches, cookies, and coffee. Convenience tipped the scale since time was short. As it happened, I discovered the farmer’s market shortly after the book arrived, and the rest is history.

While I’ve made a handful of delicious recipes from Eating Local, I mostly pull it out for inspiration. If you’re like me, and you’re big on sustainability, supporting your local farmers, and eating seasonally, then this cookbook is for you. I shop at the farmer’s market during the summer months, and subscribe to our local CSA in the winter. Sometimes, though, I draw a blank when our box arrives. Soup? Chili? Gratin? Thankfully, this cookbook never disappoints.

Eating Local also provides year-round tips for storing, preparing, and preserving the best of each season, motivating me to waste as little food as possible. I’m focused on the book’s root veggie dishes right now. Bring it on, fall.

What’s Cooking: October

It’s hard to let go of the Summer season but we’re trying to embrace it with some delicious summer-into-fall dishes. Here’s a few recipes we’ll be cooking up this month.

tomato salad

Since I’m representing the West Coast side of the #cookitcrew, I’m still all about tomatoes. That said, I know the end is near. This is one heck of a way to celebrate that hard fact. Laurie, CEO + Founder

cinnamon rolls

As soon as the weather changes from Summer to Fall, I start craving warm spices like cinnamon and oh, lots of butter. And when I think about those two things, I instantly think of these sweet and fluffy cinnamon rollsNetanya, Social Media Manager

Now that it’s officially October, I’m welcoming all-things pumpkin spice with open arms. This pumpkin pie cookie dough looks insanely delicious, but I’m also eyeing a slice of Natalie’s vegan pumpkin cake. One can never have too many pumpkin desserts, right? Edie, Account Manager

I’ve never met a squash I didn’t like, but I’m particularly fond of delicata squash (you don’t have to peel it!!). Now that it’s at the market, I’ll be making this recipe from Athena Calderone’s Eye Swoon. It’s simple, but the flavor combination packs a punch. Renae, Senior Brand Strategist

With the cooler weather sweeping through Denver, we’ve been craving a good ol’ bowl of chili! I found a recipe from one of our very own influencers— Oh, Sweet Basil — and it was delicious! The bacon is everything. Jackie, Senior Account Manager

Lately, I’ve been incorporating meatless meals into our weekly rotation, and I’ve honestly felt a lot more energized. I feel like my body is a fan. I try to vary up the recipes, but I’m really fond of this Caramelized Onion Mushroom and Spinach Pizza recipe, even if it is pizza!  Anna, Brand Strategist

Brand Biz: Are You Ready for an Influencer Manager or Agency?

food blogger

If you Google “How to work with brands,” there are over 932 million search results that show up. When you consider the amount of new influencers that pop up on a daily basis, the number of search results isn’t shocking at all. So as an influencer, you’re probably feeling the pressure to compete with your fellow influencers for sponsored content. You’re probably also searching for the answer as to why brands aren’t answering your pitches.

We get it.

It can be extremely frustrating not hearing back from a brand or not receiving any feedback as to why you weren’t selected. You may have heard an influencer manager or agency will solve all your pitching problems, and that they’ll magically provide you with ALL the sponsored posts. But not every influencer is ready to take that step.

What do you need to know and do in order to be ready? Here’s our tip sheet:

You know that an influencer manager or agency isn’t a quick-fix solution.

Many influencers will seek out someone to pitch brands on their behalf for a few different reasons. The reasons can range from a not liking pitching to not having the time or the right contacts. Usually, the expectation is that sponsored opportunities will begin to roll in regularly. For influencers who’ve grown their audience, consistently produce high-quality content, and are engaging that audience, this can be true. For others, they may need to put in the effort behind-the-scenes to build their brand.

You have a clear strategy for your brand.

Before you start your search for an influencer manager or agency, ask yourself if you actually know your brand story and how it differentiates you from everyone else. Also ask yourself if you think you’re creating the best content possible, with a content strategy based on your brand story. Brands see numerous pitches from influencers, so your first impression counts.

Want to identify your unique opportunity in the marketplace? Drop us a line!

You’ve worked with brands previously.

When you have a few brand partnerships under your belt, you’re telling an influencer manager or agency some important things about you: You’re willing to work hard; you get good results; and you’re most likely reliable. Having these past partnerships in place will only help your influencer manager or agency pitch you to more brands and land you more partnerships.

You’re ready to go beyond influencer networks.

Ask yourself this: Who is an influencer network’s client? Is it you, the influencer or the brand? It’s the brand. So opportunities provided for influencers are going to skew in favor of the brand. Plus, you don’t have someone in your corner who’s working specifically for you. That leads to our next point…

You want someone to be on your team and advocate for you.

How many times have you felt like it’s difficult to negotiate with a brand with your rates? It’s pretty common, especially if you’re using influencer networks. Having an influencer manager or agency puts someone on your team. They’re looking out for you and you’re their #1—not the brand.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About…

Our #CookItCrew is made up of some amazing and talented brands & influencers, and today we’re chatting with Yumna of Feel Good Foodie. Her passion for the food industry and clean eating inspired her journey into blogging, and we’re so glad to learn five things we didn’t know about her today!

  1. I was born in Zaire (now the Republic of Congo) and grew up in Sierra Leone on the west coast of Africa until I was 11 years old. We left in 1993 when a civil war broke out, and we came to Dearborn, Michigan, where some of my dad’s relatives lived. 
  2. I’m obsessed with dark chocolate and have a piece every single day after dinner.
  3. My brother and I have the same name, but his name (Aiman) is the masculine version of my name (Yumna). My name means the right side, and I tell my husband it means I’m right and he’s wrong haha!
  4. I broke my left arm when I was 2 years old and became double jointed because of it.
  5. I was the Female Athlete of the Year in my graduating class of 400. I think it was mostly because all the best athletes just didn’t have the minimum 2.5 GPA to qualify for the award 😉