On this week’s episode of TubeTalk, we're going to unpack the world of blogging, YouTube, brand deals, and everything in between.
As a blogger myself, this topic is very close to my heart, and I wanted to get one of the industry's leading experts who's going to help us navigate those blogging and video world together. Kristen Hills of sixsistersstuff.com, not only created this amazing blog with her five sisters, but has also very successfully transitioned into the world of video. In this podcast you will learn:
- How to use YouTube to provide invaluable content to your other audiences
- How to diversify your revenue streams across different platforms
- How it is absolutely possible to make a successful living from blogging
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From Successful Blogger to Successful YouTuber: Full Transcript
Liron: So this is very exciting stuff, kind of the old blogging worlds and YouTube colliding. So, let's take kind of two steps back, and set the scene for people who don't know you. Let's talk about Six Sisters Stuff. Who is Kristen, in a tweet?
Kristen: Okay. So like you said, I have five sisters, so there are six of us. And we started a blog back in 2011 ,so one of the very first ones to start a blog. And then we started making content, and realized that people really liked food. When we made food, they would come, and come to our blog.
So we decided, okay, let's push food. So we always kind of jump on the trend of, okay, what's working for us? Let's go with that. And so Pinterest came about and we've made a lot of recipes, put them on Pinterest, and then we just started growing. So we were about, we were maybe at 2000 page views a day, we jumped to about 200,000 page views a day. Yes. In a few weeks. Yeah. It was unreal what Pinterest did for us.
Liron: Wow. How long ago was this? Was this still in 2011?
Kristen: Right when Pinterest came out, we were one of the first ones. And so, instead of just like pinning a little bit, we literally had a system where we would pin almost 30 to 40 times a day at the very, very beginning. And so not many people were on Pinterest, and so they saw our stuff constantly. So, I mean it came with work, but that's kind of how we started.
Liron: Unlimited content on a specific platform. And you kind of recognized that really early on, knowing that if you jump onto this, the likelihood is pretty good that people are going to see this.
That was pretty smart. That just before you kind of carry on, you said you, you moved into food. What were you doing on your blog before you realized that food was your thing?
Kristen: Oh, man. So we started the blog because my sisters and I, we moved to different states now. There were, there's six of us, but two of them were still in junior high when we started this blog. And so there was really like the three oldest, we moved away from each other and we needed a way to communicate with each other.
So our husbands kind of suggested, "Oh, you should look into blogging." So we started a blog to share our mommy tips, and what books we were reading that day. And yeah, it started out as a conversation with each other.
Liron: That is so cool. And then people saw your food stuff, and they kind of really gravitated to that. And how did you know that they liked your food stuff over something else, for example?
Kristen: Well, so you'd write about your favorite book, and you'd get two views. Then you'd write about your mom's brownie recipes, and anyways, we'd get 200 views. So I mean 2 views to 200 was huge for us.
Liron: So blogging, did your food thing, understood Pinterest. What was next?
Kristen: We grew Pinterest, and then we jumped onto Facebook and started just pushing our Facebook. On each blog post we'd write about our Facebook. So we've kind of focused on one platform at a time, just slowly grow it. So Pinterest was first, then Facebook, and then the other platforms from there. So right now I think Pinterest, we have like 800,000 followers on there and Facebook is almost at 1.5 million. And so it's just a process, always a process.
Liron: Well, there's always something going on. Okay. Where did YouTube come into play here?
Kristen: We actually started making a few videos in 2013 but he had no idea what we were doing. And so we just kind of made videos for Facebook, and just threw them on our YouTubechannel. And so we just, we did not understand anything.
Then 2017 came, and I knew that that's where the world was going, was video. Everything was video. And so I went to CVX Live in Salt Lake just to learn about it, and I was blown away. I was just in love with the thought of YouTube. And so I did a lot of research. I did a lot of podcasts. I slowly was learning, and then really started figuring out YouTube, and how it worked. And yeah, it just became a huge part of my life, a huge part of the blog. So now with our blog, each sister kind of has a job and my job is YouTube. So that's mostly what I focus on.
Liron: Wow. Okay. And how many subscribers is your blog, has your YouTube channel got at the moment?
Kristen: Our YouTube is at, we just hit 234,000 this morning.
Liron: Nice. Kind of key message here. You started this in 2017 and that's not so long ago.
Kristen: No, I started, so it hasn't even been two years, and I started with about 8,000 subscribers on there. But the channel was dead. There was nothing happening there.
Liron: No. Of course obviously having the blog as your main platform, you already had an audience there, and Pinterest, and Facebook. So it was easier to direct that audience to yet another location. Do you have a specific strategy that you work with at the moment to move audiences around between the various platforms, or do you kind of see them all as completely separate?
Kristen: So that's a good question. At first I thought, yes, I am going to crush this YouTube thing, because I have a huge audience and I'm going to herd everyone over. And I'll tell you right now, that is not the case. Not even a little bit. Push people over, and get them to subscribe.
But they weren't my followers on YouTube. Like, once I found people on YouTube that watched YouTube , those were my good followers. But I did start by, I guess I want to say I jump started my channel. I did a big giant giveaway with Gleam, and I know YouTube doesn't really love that anymore. But in 2017 it was okay. I did a giveaway, and put it on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, on our blog posts, on our email list, and just to push everyone over to YouTube. So, from there I gained about 10,000 subscribers from that huge, massive push. But my numbers were still the same. I might've gotten to a lot of subscribers, but they weren't actually watching my content.
Liron: Oh, so that's a great little nugget right there. Just because you have a number which is rather large, and that's your subscriber numbers. But that doesn't necessarily mean that those are going to watch your videos, not your audience. Would you do another giveaway of the same nature if YouTube said it was okay, would you think there's value in doing that?
Kristen: I think its value, this sounds ridiculous, but usually if a channel has, you know, a thousand subscribers, I necessarily don't subscribe, because I'm like, oh they're just tiny. And I know a lot of people don't think that, but for me personally, yeah. But if someone has 18,000 subscribers, I'll look into it more like, "Okay, people are following them." So in a way I would do it for the numbers but I'll, I mentally will know that that's not necessarily going to be watching my content.
Liron: So, you're setting your own expectations so it serves a purpose, and the purpose is to give you a nice kind of jumpstart on the channel. It gives you a nice kind of almost some sort of authority I suppose? But you know that these are not going to be your core audience into the future. You're kind of building from there essentially.
Liron: Okay. So what do you do today? I mean, is the blog kind of your main thing? I know each sister has got her own responsibility, her own job, but you kind of, where do you guys focus most of your attention? Is it all on the blog, or are you kind of prioritizing the other platforms just as equally as that blog?
Kristen: Got you. So yeah, our main thing is the blog. But I want to say that YouTube is kind of a separate thing. They work together, but there they're such very different things. So, if you don't mind, I'm going to jump into this just a little bit.
So the blog is our main thing. We post seven times a week. Each sister takes a day, and then my mom also works for us. She takes a day also. And so we have blog posts going out. Then we're also redoing old posts with the correct keywords. Where we first started, we were just throwing up a picture, throwing up the recipe, and Google doesn't like that. They love, you know, helps people out, make sure you have the right words, that kind of stuff. And so we're going back and we're redoing all those.
Liron: Kind of re-optimizing your old content.
Liron: Do you know how many pages you have on your blog, or how big it is?
Kristen: We're close to 4,000 recipes now.
Liron: Wow. Okay. Do you mind sharing kind of any numbers in terms of stats on your blog?
Kristen: Yeah, it depends on the season. Usually holidays, and fall, and Christmas, and even January do really well. Summertime kind of dies off because everyone's busy. So right now we're averaging about 3 million a month, which doesn't seem like a lot when it comes to YouTube numbers. But if you think about it, YouTube, you get one ad usually before each video. On our blog we have eight or nine ads. So we're getting that much more money from our blog compared.
Liron: Absolutely. In the blogging world, that's huge. I mean that ranks up there with the best of the best. But that's a great point about being able to serve more than one ad. Look, I run a tech blog, and what I really like about the technology kind of world, and running my own blog is it's my own. I get to control it.
When you are on somebody else's platform, you're pretty much at their mercy. They change an algorithm. You've got to go with it. Your blog is your own. Right now when it comes to kind of revenue, and again, don't share anything, you're not comfortable sharing. Is the ad revenue more lucrative on the blog side just because of the volume? Or is it kind of other opportunities? I mean I know you guys have cookbooks, can you talk to some of those revenue streams?
Kristen: No. I would love to. Okay, so first off we'll start with ads on the blog ads. It used to be our biggest revenue stream. It's not anymore, but it's still a big chunk for us. So I don't know if average month is about, it can be anywhere from 30 to $60,000 a month, just from the blog revenue. It depends. It really depends on the month.
Liron: Ads are passive income, after you've done the work obviously.
Kristen: Yes. Right.
Liron: So, we've got ads on blog, right? What else we got?
Kristen: Then we have, once we started getting an audience, we realized we can make a lot more money if we have our own product. And so that's what we've been starting to do. So we started something called a menu plan and it, it's a membership. So you can sign up, and every week we will send you six recipes and two side dishes and all the ingredients you need to make these recipes.
So all you have to do is you can shop online, you can go to the store, but your grocery list is already taken care of, like it's all done for you. Every week they'll get one of those and then they pay monthly. I think it's depending on what sales are going on. It's about $1,499 per person per month. So that's been our biggest revenue stream by far outweighing the ads.
Liron: Oh, wow. Okay. So people are obviously wanting that customer-specific information.
Liron: They're happy to pay for it if it's delivered to them, I suppose.
Kristen: Exactly. It takes me a good hour and a half to make a shopping list. If I can get one automatically. That is worth my time.
Liron: Thank you very much. Absolutely. Do the same recipes, would they appear somewhere else or is that kind of more exclusive content to people who pay?
Kristen: No, because we have about 4,000 recipes, so lots of times we'll take old recipes that have kind of been buried, because there's a lot of them. And then we'll bring them back up. You can take a picture, fix it a little bit and put it in there. Majority of the time that people have not seen these recipes.
Liron: And again it's not, it's about the convenience. It's about switching my inbox and saying, "There it is." Press print, it's done.
Kristen: That's really what it's about.
Liron: Okay. Ad revenue, we got. Memberships, number two. What else have we got?
Kristen: We have published cookbooks. So, we have seven cookbooks out, and we actually have three more in the works.
Kristen: We weren't expecting to sign three more, but they had some great ideas, and that's kind of where it's go on from there.
Liron: It's funny, every time we speak, "This is the last one." And then it's six and seven, and now we have three more. Okay.
Kristen: I know I really thought this one was the last one. It's a great opportunity and we're grateful to have those published cookbooks. It's a little time consuming to make a cookbook. Thankfully there are six of us. Well seven of us cause our mom and so, yeah. Usually without a cookbook and about six weeks. It's a lot of work.
Liron: I've got to ask this question because it has to be asked, do the hubbies contribute to this process?
Kristen: They, well my husband, he eats the food that counts.
Liron: Someone's got to.
Kristen: No. Yeah. We actually have a few that contribute. So, we have the sister who's in charge of the membership plan, the menu plan. Her husband kind of quit his job, and works on that full time with her. So he works for the company. And then we also have another sister whose husband is our accountant. He takes care of all our money, and all that fun stuff.
Liron: Oh, the fun stuff. Keep it in the family. I mean, that's the one thing is that people really underestimate is the time commitment that this requires. And it definitely has an impact on the family. It's got impact on how you plan, or what you're going to be doing ,and who can and cannot do. So it's a business at the end of the day, and the business needs to be run like a regular business. It's got expenses, it's got an income, its got its ups and downs, and you've got to kind of bob and weave and adjust as you need to.
Kristen: Yeah, yeah. No, it's funny, we're purchasing a house right now and I'm the one whose name is on it. And when they ask what I do, "We're like, yeah, well I'm a blogger, and a YouTuber." And they just stare at me like, "And you make money from that?"
Liron: Yes. Hence I'm buying this property. So where do you see this kind of all going? You've made a transition from the blogging world to other media, but you haven't left your backs. I mean your base is still the blog. What's the next step? Where do you see this going?
Kristen: Well, that's a really good question. So for me personally, the goal is to get YouTube to a million subscribers. YouTube is a little bit different. Like we, we used to make just normal recipes on YouTube, and we just weren't growing. Like I was so frustrated it wasn't working. And then I did a random video about an instant pot, and it just took off. And so then I'm like, oh well maybe I'll do another instant pot video. Took off again. So, third video took off again. I'm like, okay, well we're not going to do other food. We're going to kind of focus on the instant pot.
So once I niche down on a food topic, which was not my goal, like I did not really want to do that. But now that I've done it and seen the progress that I've made, and the tight knit group that's come together to learn about the instant pot, and it's hilarious. It's a blast. And I've loved doing it.
So, we share instant pot recipes on the blog, transitioning back and forth from YouTube to blog, making sure there's instant pot on both. But the next step is hopefully to get some instant pot products, and kind of go that direction to try and push the instant pot more. It's one of the most purchased items on Amazon. And so I figured why not go with that? You know?
Liron: Well, you've got, you've got the hottest thing that it's virtually impossible to get out there, which is an audience. So if your audience kind of loves you, they know what to do, they can see the quality. It's just natural for them to support you and take that step, which is kind of beautiful.
Liron: I also like the fact that you've recognized, "Look, I want to do lots of things." Sit back ,and then you realize that's just not working well, because you're competing with literally every other food blogger, YouTubeare out there. But as soon as you did one that took off, you were smart enough to say, "Well hold on, we may be onto something. Let's test it again, and let's test it again. And then there we go."
If it became the instant pot, I mean I recommend that channel to anybody who buys one. They said, "Hey, before you get started, off you go, this is how, this is how you do it." People want this information, so let's give it to them. So I love the direction, I love the kind of way where you're going with this. So let me ask you, what has got you really excited right now?
Kristen: Oh, man. Well, I am slightly obsessed with YouTube, and just the number game. And my girls and I have a different channel. And so right now after going to, we just got back from a Clamor conference and seeing all the, there was a lot of family vloggers there and everything that they did. After talking with my husband and my girls and I think we might jump back into a channel that we've been working on. So my brain is just going constantly about that. It was so much fun and I love the back end and kind of playing the game that YouTubeplays. It's fun for me.
Liron: Okay. So, yet another often spoken any kind of these, "I love this, I've tried this, this is kind of. Oh, I tried that and it didn't work." And that was okay as well. I mean, you live, learn, and learn quickly, and move on.
Kristen: Exactly. Yeah.
Liron: So if somebody else is kind of thinking, "Okay look, I have a blog, and I'm kind of been cool with Adsense and some sponsored posts, and some brand deals on my blog. And now I'm listening to this and I'm thinking, oh, hold on. There's other opportunities out there." What advice could you give me?
Kristen: First of all, you need a product.
Liron: You're loving this product thing.
Kristen: Oh, my word. I'm telling you right now. Everyone needs to have a product. Everyone, it's a game changer. We've sold, like I talked a little bit about our income but I didn't even go into our Ebooks that we have. We have Ebooks that focus on how to grow a blog. How to, you know, monetize a blog.
Even small E-cookbooks that are specifically niche. So I have an instant pot one coming out soon, and just a little bit of money, like even a few thousand a month, which is huge when it comes to product. All you have to do is talk about it a little bit, and that's all I have to do. It's just passive income, which is my most favorite thing.
Liron: So product, product, product, product, product.
Kristen: Product. Yup. Because that's really where it is. I mean unless you can get amazing brand deals, which there is a lot of money with brand deals. But, product. If you're first starting out and you don't have a lot of stuff, if you, okay, here's the biggest thing. A lot of people I talk to, they're like, "Well I don't know what to do. What could my product be? I'm not good at anything." Like no, if you're blogging, if you're YouTubing, you're good at something. So, go with that.
Whatever videos are doing good, whatever blog posts are doing good. If you have, like instance for food, like we had our brownies were our most popular ones, so we made an ebook of brownies and we sold hundreds of those things because brownies were doing well. So we put them at the bottom of each post. We put it on all our social media and we could just sell it.
Liron: Oh, okay. I wonder if it applies throughout all types of blogs? Because I know YouTube is divided into the whole education, you know the how two channels, and then you have the entertainment channels, the Vloggers, you know, things of that nature. But in the blogging world, is it the same?
Kristen: Oh, definitely. Definitely. I don't know a lot about cars.
Liron: I don't either.
Kristen: So for us, when we first started we knew mostly about blogs. So that's why we did like blogging 101, so you do car mechanics 101. You do the very simple basic things that if someone doesn't know anything about car mechanics, you can easily write an ebook about that. Because you probably know the basics if you're writing a blog about it, right?
You can write another ebook and get more into the immediate or advanced. Your goal with your product is to make sure that it has a lot of keywords that people can search and make sure that it's on like a blog or a platform that people can actually find ,too.
Liron: Okay. Smart. So, it's more of, I'm ranting about this, anyway. Don't assume other people know the basics or know the essentials just because you do. So you might be writing about, I don't know how to file your taxes correctly. And for you it's simple. You just put it in the form. But so many people are so scared of that process. Maybe a product would be a handy guide to finding your taxes correctly.
Liron: And then that might work. My first book was about Instagram. Master Instagram for Business is an example. So it's technology related, but it's not about the news, or stuff that's coming off the blog. So we just got to think slightly bigger than the platform.
Kristen: Yeah. Yeah. So for another example, my brother in law is a physical therapist and he jumped on YouTube not too long ago. And I was trying to teach him and kind of what my rule of thumb is videos of three. If you can get videos of three that have somewhat similar titles, have somewhat similar things involved, then YouTube will notice that, "Oh, that's what they're talking about." And they'll push, they'll push it.
So he did the same thing. So even though his blog or his YouTube channel is physical therapy, once he started talking about like, I don't know, like back pain, he had three videos about back pain and they just took off. And so he's like, well I might as well make an ebook about this. So he literally wrote an ebook about back pain and sold hundreds of them because that's what videos were doing well. So he literally stayed up a whole entire night, finished the Ebook, put it on, and he made a lot of money.
Liron: Okay, hold on. Now we got to demystify this ebook thing. So ebook is completely different to your cookbook. Can you take us through that?
Kristen: Yes. Yes. So with the regular cookbook we usually make them really, really nice. And so we retake all the pictures. We make sure the recipes are good, we send it to our publisher, and then they send it overseas to print it. It's a really long process. Not only that, we only get 10% of our book sales, but if you have your own product, for example, an Ebook, we make simple, easy ones. Like I was talking before, we make a dessert one. And so we have 30 of Your Favorite Brownie Recipes. It's so easy.
You just go into Word, or any type of document, and you just literally put it together like you're making, I don't know, like a blog post almost or you use Canva. That's our new favorite thing to use. Canva has templates for you that you can just use and it makes it look a whole lot prettier.
So, after you get those templates, then you can put it into pdf form, and then put it into something that will sell your product for you. So something like Smashwords, where they automatically will send it out for you. Once someone purchases it, they will send it out for you. They'll take a little fee off the top, but you don't have to worry about it anymore. As soon as you're done with the product, you put it into Smashwords, and you kind of just walk away, other than advertising of course. But it's so easy to do an ebook. If you put your mind to it, you can make one in just a day or two.
Liron: Yeah, it doesn't have to be super duper complicated. Doesn't have to be 10,000 pages. It doesn't have to be. People just want the information, if you can give it to them, and it's cheap enough for them to buy, and that it serves their purpose. Yeah. Do you do any affiliate stuff for the ad sales?
Kristen: Yeah, we definitely do affiliates. It's funny, once we jumped onto YouTube, the affiliates jumped way up because showing people how to use items, they're more likely to purchase. And so yeah, we do, we do a lot of affiliate links on Amazon. We mostly just focus on Amazon because it's the easiest for us because that's where the audiences, especially around Christmas time, we really push our affiliates because there's a lot of money to be made there.
Liron: Sure. Is there anything else that you make money from, or have we covered it all?
Kristen: Mostly sponsors, especially with YouTube . We have quite a bit of YouTubesponsors compared to blog sponsors these days, so that's, that's kind of fun and exciting.
Liron: I thought that was kind of pretty lucrative as well.
Kristen: It depends on the month, but yeah. Yeah, it depends on the brand, and the month, and what the goal is. So for Super Bowl, I was going crazy. And then right now there's not a lot going on in the month of May, June, so not a lot of sponsors. But we already have some coming up for 4th of July, barbecue stuff.
Liron: Can you recall when, when was your first brand deal on YouTube?
Kristen: On YouTube? Yeah. It was a meatball company. I actually went through. Oh, I can't remember what it's called. There's something that that YouTube owns. Is it Famebit?
Liron: It is.
Kristen: Oh, I just applied for Famebit Marketplace. I had really no idea what it was. I heard about it at a conference, and a company found me and they're like, hey, we'll give you $5,000. I only had maybe 70,000 subscribers at the time. We'll give you $5,000 for a video on meatballs. And I was so excited. What a huge chunk of money for a video. So that was my first big sponsor.
Liron: So Famebit, for people who don't know, it's basically like a type of marketplace where influencers will go on, upload their platforms, their profiles, kind of where they have their audiences. And then companies would go into that system and say, we're looking for a foodie in this niche, maybe based in a certain location, and then they'll come match make between between the two. And then you negotiate a price based on reach and subscribers and all of that good stuff.
But you know, a lot of times brands will say, "Hey, here's our budget. This is what we want. Do you accept yes or no?" So 70,000 subscribers or $5,000 bill. Thank you very much. I mean it was, it started the instapot thing by the way?
Kristen: So no, it wasn't instant pot, but my instant pot started getting bigger. So I did put some instant pot recipes in there along with some that weren't. So I made multiple meatball recipes. I told them like, yeah, I'll do it for 5,000 but I'll actually make four recipes because I know that we'll do better on my site. So yeah.
Liron: So you over delivered there with the latter. But see, again, these are company in every niche. Somebody is selling a product into that niche, which means they're willing to pay for that product to be showcased. We always kind of talk about the YouTubechannel, who basically shows people how to take care of their lawn.
I think you would choose, who would watch a YouTube channel like that? Well, apparently a lot of people want to take care of their lawn, but guess what? There are so many companies who have product for lawn care with no outlet, and this person just became their go to person that there's something for everyone.
Liron: If you could have one message on a billboard in the middle of Times Square or an a tweet that everybody in the planet can see, what would it say?
Kristen: One message, huh? Oh, man. No, that's a very good question. My mom always, which was funny, as soon as we leave the door, she would say, "You know, just remember you're not better than anyone else. Treat everyone kind." And so my motto for my girls, I don't tell them that you're not better than anyone else because I thought that was funny, but I always tell them treat everyone kind.
Like if everyone's kind of everyone then this world would be such a great place. And sometimes on YouTubeand blogs and there's a lot of mean people out there on the Internet world. So even with all that madness, even if we treat the mean people kind, you're a win overall.
Liron: Love it, love it, love it, love it. What a great, great message.
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