When Stephanie Rutherford was furloughed during the pandemic, she decided to turn lemons into lemonade. She threw herself headfirst into her baking blog, and Stephanie’s Sweet Treats was born. Did she have any prior baking experience? No. Did that stop her? No. And is she currently crushing it? Yes.
The good news is that everyone—from her readers to Google to social media—loves her mouthwatering recipes. The even better news is that she’s on track to bring in over $100k this year, compared with $40k last year. Keep reading for lots of dessert inspiration and to find out exactly how she’s doing it.
In this interview, you’ll learn:
- What inspired her to start her blog
- How much money she’s making
- Where is her income coming from
- Her favorite marketing strategies
- How she views SEO and link building
- Her keyword research and content creation process
- How she achieved her current revenue level
- Her favorite resources and tools
- The biggest challenge she’s faced
- Her greatest accomplishment
- Her main mistake to date
- The advice she would give to other entrepreneurs
Meet Stephanie Rutherford
I’m the owner of Stephanie’s Sweet Treats. I make decadent dessert recipes for amateur bakers. I am a self-taught baker, and I don’t have a college degree.
Before starting my blog, I was a breakfast server at a business hotel, then I was furloughed during the pandemic, and I started to grow my business. It was a blessing during a hard time.
Why She Created Her Food Blog
When I had my son in 2018, I had crippling postpartum depression and anxiety.
I really worked on my baking skills until January 2020. And I thought having a blog could be fun.
After being furloughed, I learned about food photography, keyword research, social media, and SEO.
How Much Money Stephanie Rutherford is Making
I’m on track to make more than $100k this year. This is only my second year of making any sort of revenue. I started my blog in January 2020, right before the pandemic happened. I didn’t make any revenue in 2020, and in 2021 I made $40k.
My income breakdown looks like this:
These are brand partnerships where I make a reel and a blog post featuring their product. I don’t really do freelance work. In the beginning, I reached out to brands. I got their email and then pitched to them. Now I do get a lot of brands who reach out to me. I have now hired a friend to be in charge of my client relations. She responds to the brands who reach out and does the pitching.
This is passive income I receive from the ads on my site. For the screenshot of August, I was on Mediavine. Technically it took me 1 year and 8 months from starting my blog to get on Mediavine.
However, in June 2021, I went hard into building my traffic, and I was at 5k page sessions per month, and by August 2021, I got up to 50k page sessions, which is the minimum for applying to Mediavine.
At the beginning of September, I switched to AdThrive, which is a higher-quality ad network. I was with Mediavine for 11 months before switching. It was incredibly easy to switch over. The ad companies did everything for me to switch from Mediavine to AdThrive.
My income comes from the Reels Play bonus program on Instagram. With the program, you get invited every month. It will be in your professional dashboard. Then, when you make reels that month, select the “Creating the reel” mode to turn on the Reels bonus. Then, you get a small amount of money depending on how many views you have.
Service fee income
I used to offer food blogging coaching, but I don’t anymore.
This is not very much money. However, I do earn some money from people who click on the Amazon links in my blog posts.
My other business expenses are from payroll for myself.
Her Top Marketing Strategy
My main marketing strategy is good video and food photography. For food, people eat with their eyes, so the food needs to look good. In my case, I make desserts that can sell themselves, but you need to know how to make content that will get people to stop scrolling.
I do all of my food photography and video. For photos, I use a Canon EOS 6D Mark ii with a 50 mm lens and a 100 mm lens. For video, I use my iPhone. I took the course Foodtography School, which was very helpful.
However, what helped the most was just practice. It took me a while for me to take the knowledge I learned and apply it to my style. The rules for what works for both Instagram and TikTok are constantly changing for video. However, what remains the same is how to hook people in, in the first 2 seconds. Instagram brings me a lot more traffic, mostly because I have a very engaged audience there.
I also use Google Web Stories to really help grow my traffic. Web Stories allow you to rank on Google without actually ranking on Google. If you can land on the top 4 spots under the web story section when you Google a recipe, it can lead to a ton of traffic. Especially if it’s a difficult keyword to rank for but has a ton of volume.
The Importance of SEO for Stephanie Rutherford
SEO is everything. SEO is more than just keyword research. While that’s also very important, it isn’t everything. Also, knowing how to write an optimized post is crucial as it can help you to outrank other posts that aren’t optimized.
What that entails is knowing the metadata Google needs to read your post to know what it’s about. It gets that from the heading and all of the secondary keywords in the blog post. The only SEO tool I have is Keysearch for keyword research. I also use Google Search Console to keep track of my google organic traffic. I don’t use any other tools.
Link building is really important, but I don’t focus much on it. What helps me is appearing on podcasts or doing interviews like this one. The rest is creating unique and eye-catching content that big publications will pick up and link back to you.
I have been featured by the feedfeed (which has a bunch of recipes on their site, they have huge socials), Country Living Magazine, Draper James (Reese Witherspoon’s company), and BuzzFeed. That part, however, is luck and random, so I don’t focus on that. I just focus on making the best content I can. I publish new content on my blog at least twice a week. Sometimes three times during the holiday season.
Stephanie Rutherford’s Email List
I do have a list, and to be honest, I’m still working on growing it. I only started to grow it last month and switched to Flodesk, which I really like.
The Content Creation Process
My process always starts with keyword research. For a food blog, you should never start with making a recipe and trying to find keywords later. Find the keyword first, then make a unique version of that recipe. Sometimes a recipe needs several tries, especially when I don’t have a base recipe for it.
In general, it takes 1-3 times to make a recipe. It definitely is a lot of trial and error. Then, I will recipe test it. The week after, I will shoot the recipe. That includes process photos, hero photos, and the recipe video. I shoot the video on my phone using natural light.
My photos are on my DSLR using artificial light. I also like to write the blog post on the day I’m shoot the recipe, so it’s fresh on my mind. I do recipe testing on one day. Then, on another day, I spend all day making, shooting, editing, and writing. It probably takes me 5-6 hours, depending on the bake. Cookies take less time than a layered cake.
I use the tool Keysearch to do my keyword research. All I do is plug in recipe ideas that I want to make and see if I can rank for it and if it has at least 1000 in search volume. I gather a huge bank of keywords to pull from when I do my monthly planning. Keyword research is fun because it’s all about the possibility of making recipes.
Achieving Current Revenue Levels
It has taken me 2 years to reach this point. Every month, my revenue is bigger than the last. So is my traffic.
The biggest driver in growth is ranking for more recipes on Google. I’m at the point where I can rank after 3 days now, and Google sees my traffic as a valuable source of dessert recipes. Getting more Google traffic is everything because it’s all connected. It helps my Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok, email, and web stories.
In September, I had 240k page sessions: 45% is social, 26.6% is direct (Google Web Stories, Google Discover, or people just looking up my site), and 21.7% is organic.
Her Favorite Resources
The Eat Blog Talk and Blogger Millionaire podcasts are what I utilized the most. The Food Blogger Central Group on Facebook has also been very valuable.
Stephanie Rutherford’s Favorite Tools
My planner is my most important tool. I wouldn’t say I like to organize my life using an online tool. I love writing everything physically out on my planner. I do my weekly, daily, and monthly planning there.
I also use RankIQ to help optimize my posts to get more secondary keywords.
I love Gusto. If your business is an S-corporation, then you need to run the payroll yourself. I also love using it to pay out my contractor. I also use it to pay my quarterly taxes. I only have one person on my team, excluding my husband. My contractor does all of the brand items (pitching and responding to emails), and she also does my Pinterest and Web Stories and writes my weekly newsletter.
Her Biggest Challenge
My biggest challenge has actually been to build a business while being a mom. I only have one child, and he is 4 now. When I started my business, I had an 18-month-old, and it was very hard to do both. It still is. However, this is my passion, and I wanted this more than anything. I worked so hard to get here to make enough money for my family.
Her Greatest Accomplishment
I don’t think there is one most important accomplishment. What I am super proud of is seeing growth every month. That means what I’m doing is working. Last year I only had brand sponsorships as my revenue. I only made $40k last year, which is way more than double this year. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so happy I made $40k last year, but I am proud of how my business has grown.
What She Wishes She Knew When She Started
I wish I had known what keyword research was really about. I used to think you could make whatever you wanted and then just sort out the keywords afterwards. I wish I had started making content with good keywords from the beginning.
Stephanie Rutherford’s Main Mistake
I don’t know if it was a big mistake, but in the beginning, I focused so much on my social media growth on Instagram. I wanted to grow my socials, so brands would want to work with me, so I could make money immediately. In that first year in 2020, I didn’t focus on SEO as much. That’s mostly because I didn’t know better.
I say it isn’t a big mistake because now I do have over 100k followers on Instagram, and when I post a reel, it gets a lot of views, I get more links to it, which means it can rank higher faster.
Her Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
My advice is don’t give up. So many entrepreneurs are in the beginning stage of growing. Many people start a business, but if you’re passionate and you want this more than anything, if you keep working at it and try to learn every single day, then you will get there too!