When Samantha Ferraro’s career plans didn’t work out, she took a job as a cheesemonger at Whole Foods while she figured things out. She started a food blog, Little Ferraro Kitchen, on the side as a hobby.
As she dedicated more time to it, her site started to grow, she was approached to write a cookbook, and she worked very hard to market herself locally.
Samantha is a savvy businesswoman who understands the importance of connecting with both her online audience and her local community. Today, her food blog is earning $8k per month and growing. She’s also written two successful cookbooks, and she’s a regular on TV.
Keep reading to find out:
Why she created her website
How she landed her first cookbook deal
How she promotes her personal brand locally
How she gets collaborations and sponsorships
Where her income comes from
Her thoughts on SEO
What truly moved the needle for her SEO efforts
What she learned during her audit
How she approaches keyword research and link building
Her content creation process
The tools and resources she uses
Her biggest challenge
Her greatest accomplishment
Her main mistake
Her advice for other entrepreneurs
Meet Samantha FerrAro
I’m originally from NY and grew up in a Jewish family. When I was 14, my mom and I moved from Brooklyn to Hawaii (talk about culture shock!). In my early 20s, I met my husband in Hawaii, and a year after that, we moved to southern California, where we lived for 10 years.
Now we make the Pacific Northwest our home! We have friends all over the country, and I love that I’m able to take account of all of those places and cuisines and share them on my website!
Why She Created Her Website and Books
I started the Little Ferraro Kitchen (LFK) back in 2011 when blogs were just becoming more popular. At the time, I was also going through a few transitions.
I failed nursing school and was trying to figure out what my next move would be, and I was also missing the Jewish foods and culture with which I grew up. So I started cooking those recipes!
Like most OG bloggers, I started sharing recipes as a hobby. It was an outlet for me to share the Jewish foods I missed and the foods I was learning to make.
Fast forward to 2017. We moved from southern California to Washington state and I’m still blogging, but as a hobby because I still had my full-time day job, which was at Whole Foods.
In May 2017, I was approached by a publisher to write a cookbook, and a year later, The Weeknight Mediterranean Kitchen was published, which was featured in Cosmopolitan and Women’s Health.
It happened a few months after we moved to Washington. I remember opening my phone and seeing an email pop up with the subject line, “Little Ferraro Kitchen Cookbook?” I was instantly shocked and thought, “Why me?”
After doing a bit more research and asking other bloggers and authors if Page Street was a real publishing company, I quickly realized it was a legit email.
My husband and I talked about it, as this is something we could do while looking for a house to buy, working full-time, and running the blog. And we thought, why not seize the moment?
We scheduled a Zoom call with the editor and publisher and talked about different concepts based on my niche, spices and modern Jewish cooking, and agreed on Weeknight Mediterranean Kitchen.
At the time, my traffic and ad income was… ok. I was making about $400/month with Mediavine with roughly 40k pageviews, and again, nothing was optimized.
I was still treating the website as a hobby/journal. However, I did gain a loyal reader base with the Jewish community. During that time, I would write recipes for The Nosher, which gave me more exposure to a Jewish audience. They would share my posts on social media and I would also guest post (remember those days?).
During this time, I was getting more noticed locally, teaching cooking classes, doing a regular cooking segment on Seattle’s New Day Northwest, and picking up brand collaborations and sponsored content, all while working my full-time day job. All of these “extras” were happening on my 2 days off. It was a lot!
In December of 2021, I came home from working at Whole Foods and told my husband we needed to think about an exit strategy. It was the retail holiday season, which is always busy with inconsistent schedules, and since it was Q4, I was doing recipe collaborations, cooking demos, and cooking classes all on my 2 days off, and needless to say, I was exhausted, both physically and mentally.
My passion for working at my day job was dwindling fast. At this point, my traffic was 83k pageviews (honestly, that was high for me) and I was earning about $2600 per month from Mediavine ads. But the majority of that quarter’s income was from freelance and collaborations and I knew that if we focused on SEO more, we could definitely grow!
My last day at Whole Foods was June 3, 2022. I’ve been working on LFK full-time for a year!
In the last year, I wrote and published my second cookbook, One Pot Mediterranean and now I’m focusing more on SEO, optimizing and updating older content, and making the website a priority.
How Samantha Promotes Herself
As for the cookbooks, my husband Joe is really good at marketing me. For example, my first “big interview” was in 2014 with the Fork Reporter Podcast, which was the top food radio show at that time. We would listen to it religiously every week and one day we called in. They followed up asking if I could come to the studio and do an interview.
Another example is, when we moved to Washington state in 2017, Joe reached out to Bellingham Business Journal, a small publication that focuses on local businesses.
They wound up doing a full-page article on me, my background, and my website and from there I was introduced to other businesses, such as the local grocery store, which has a connection with the local technical college and offers cooking classes all throughout the year with local chefs and restaurateurs.
They asked if I would like to teach cooking classes and I jumped at it. Ever since, I have been teaching several classes throughout the year, which has opened me up to even more recognition locally.
That article also connected me with Alaska Gold Seafood, a seafood cooperative based in Alaska, but which has a warehouse right here in Bellingham. I’ve worked with them for years doing freelance photography, recipes, etc.
And when it comes to other brand collaborations, those are mostly from social media. I’ll get a DM on Instagram or an email from a brand that sees my social media presence, reels, etc.
A good example is Cakebread Cellars. I’ve worked with them for the last year and a half, creating recipes and reels.
We also reached out to friends and family with a reach or connections. When my first book came out, my husband’s friend was a radio DJ, and he connected me to another radio show in New Orleans. We really leave no stone unturned and will always take on an opportunity!
Also wanted to mention that, in 2012, just a year after I started the website, I won the Best Holiday Cookie competition from the LA Times. At the time, I followed LA Times Food on social media and saw that they were holding a contest for the best holiday cookie.
I submitted my favorite cookie, rugelach, which is a Jewish cookie, but gave it a “Christmas flair” with blackberry jam (red) and pistachios (green). A group of the winners were featured in the LA Times and got a private tour of their test kitchen.
Since then, I kept in touch with one of the food editors, who was nice enough to write an endorsement for my first book!
How Much Money She’s Making
My income from LFK is between $6k and $8k monthly. This fluctuates based on what is scheduled for the month but basically, it breaks down as follows:
Freelance and collaborations (Reels, events, etc.): $2k-$3k
Cooking Classes: $300-$500
Cookbook: This last year, I’ve been getting the advance from the 2nd book + quarterly royalties from the 1st book, averaging about $2k/month.
Affiliate: Mostly from Amazon ranges from $200-$300
The site gets over 100k pageviews per month, up 48% YOY and 20% MOY and growing.
Below is traffic starting June 2012, as I don’t think I had Google Analytics installed in 2011 when I originally started, up until June 2023 before UA switched over to GA4.
My husband and I work on the site 4 to 8 Hours, 6 days a week.
Her Top Marketing Strategies
My main marketing strategy is connecting with my local community.
Also, I have been showing up on social media (Instagram stories) and doing cooking segments every few months on King 5 Seattle. This has been instrumental in growing my brand presence!
The Importance of SEO
SEO is very important! I didn’t really focus on SEO effectively until I had my site audit and took a keywords course, at the end of 2022. For the first 10 years, I was just winging it, and now I have a more focused approach.
Because I have posts going back 10 years, I’m making it a priority to get those updated. I’m using KeySearch and Google Search Console to see if some of my old posts are even worth it. If not, they get deleted.
If there is keyword potential, or I think my audience will enjoy the recipe, I do a complete overhaul with ingredient shots, new photos, and step-by-step process shots, and make it as optimized as I can.
As of writing this, I have a total of 513 published posts. Most of them were not optimized before having my SEO audit in March 2023.
Previously, traffic was being driven from some articles that I was lucky enough to get ranked and I have been using KeySearch for the last year and a half, but again, I was just winging it.
Besides that, I had referral traffic from older pins and other social media shares (niched Facebook groups) and was still active on Instagram stories.
When it came to deciding on the SEO audit, after I left Whole Foods in June 2022 and for the following months, I was finishing up the cookbook so I didn’t put too much effort on the site yet. I knew I wanted to work on SEO and had some sort of grasp on it based on what other bloggers would share from their experience. For instance, I slowly started to incorporate ingredient shots and process shots, but I still wasn’t confident in my SEO abilities.
Fast forward to October 2022, we were listening to a podcast with Casey Markee talking about SEO and optimization. Within a few days, we scheduled an audit with Casey and got on the 7-month waitlist.
He helped with cleaning up the backend of things, adding a published date to blog posts, and switching to Feast theme, which led to a huge improvement in speed and performance! We also learned how to lay out posts correctly, the importance of the About Me page, how to optimize category pages, and how to be more intentional with anchor text.
Casey also strongly suggested taking the Cooking with Keywords Course, which has been so helpful.
He strongly encourages you to “write for the reader” and not for the ad company. One of the things we immediately changed was turning off the “jump to arrival” unit that Mediavine has. It’s a feature where if a reader clicks on “jump to recipe”, they get led to an ad and then the reader has to scroll to that recipe.
As a blog reader myself, it is something I didn’t like dealing with, and when Casey mentioned it, I knew I had to turn it off. Another thing I won’t do is pop-up email signups. I’d rather have a reader come back to my site because it’s easy to navigate than maybe get an extra sign-up.
Another thing Casey mentioned when we were doing the audit was that I had a pretty good domain authority, but my organic traffic wasn’t matching up to my DA. So my DA was 49, yet I was only getting about 30k clicks from Google traffic, in which he said that I should be +100k with a DA like that. I knew I had some work to do, but that I could definitely up my game!
For old posts, I use Google Search Console to see what keywords are getting impressions. Then I’ll do a bit more research to see what other keywords I can add into the post when updating.
For new recipes/ideas, I’ll start with a basic keyword search such as “charcuterie” and deep dive into other possible keywords that fit my niche. I look at the potential volume and see what other posts are in SERPs and how they are laid out.
I also use Google, where I’ll type in my main keyword and then start a new word to see what words are being highlighted and searched for.b
Building links has been another main focus for the website recently. During my site audit, Casey emphasized continually adding backlinks and internal linking. I do feel lucky, in the sense that because I’ve had my site for so long, I have acquired some good backlinks, from Washington Post, Huffington Post, MSN, etc.
I’m also submitting recipes to online articles in my niche, like Jewish Journal for example, and other local online sites from local newspapers and magazines and King 5.
I also submit posts to Facebook roundup groups. When it comes to internal linking, we’ve been using Link Whisper to correct anchor text and add more internal links to posts.
Samantha’s Content Creation Process
Right now, I’m focusing on updating old recipe posts, which I’ve been really enjoying. As I’m doing a bit more research into the old posts, I may find some new recipe keywords that fit my niche, and if it’s similar to a recipe I’m already making, I’ll throw that into the day’s work.
For instance, I had a day where I was making a few different charcuterie boards or another day where I did a few different Mediterranean mezze, where I was able to swap out ingredients here and there for different recipes.
Once the research is done, I’ll make the recipe, which involves new process shots and recording short video clips for a reel as well.
After the recipe is cooked, I move to my office/photography room and shoot the hero shots while the food looks its best.
And finally, once that’s done, I’m editing the photos, editing the reel, making pins and web stories, which is new for me.
Some days involve batch cooking days or batch editing days, but I usually need to mix it up, where I’ll be making the recipe and then move onto editing a reel, etc.
For just 1 recipe, it can take anywhere from 7 to 10 hours. That includes shopping, writing and testing/cooking the recipe, shooting short videos for a reel, photographing, editing, and writing the post.
My husband and I split up some tasks. He will do all the food shopping and prep. The night before a cooking day, I’ll leave him an entire prep list that he works through that morning.
Then I’ll swoop in, get cooking, and from there, it’s all me. I’m the one photographing, writing, editing, etc. One day I’d like to hire writers, but I’d like to get my old content updated first, then work towards that.
Her Email List
To be honest, this is something else I need to focus on. I have a signup form on my website and have it set to RSS feed, and I write up a more personalized seasonal email every so often, but my goal is to create an email sequence
I have an opt-in, which is ok but I want to create something more valuable for my audience. However, I do promote my email list at various events that I attend, such as cooking classes and workshops.
Her Favorite Resources
I think motivation and drive come first, but here are a few of my favorite food blogging-specific podcasts: Food Blogger Pro, Eat Blog Talk, and The Vine Podcast.
Also, I love to reach out to those already in the field via Facebook groups or conferences.
There are a lot of food blogger business groups on Facebook that are full of knowledge and people asking questions because this whole entity is still pretty new. There’s no “blogging college” so to speak, like in other trades, and even 10+ years into blogging, new and older bloggers have questions.
There are so many nuances to running an online business and trends and updates changing regularly that as online business owners, we need to be privy to.
Her Go-To Tools
My most important tools are:
1) People, as it’s the experts and friends in the industry who become the best place to go.
2) TV and social media, as they play a huge part in connecting with my audience and community.
3) Events, so I can network at conventions and events with experts in the field.
Her Main Challenge
My biggest challenge is time management. I am much better at it now that I can focus on LFK full-time.
For the first 10 years, it was more of a passion and less of a business, and now it’s both.
When I was transitioning from Whole Foods to the blog and business, I thought I would implement the perfect work week: admin on Mondays, recipe testing on Tuesdays/Wednesdays, editing on the other days.
But I quickly realized that is not how I work! There are days where I will batch cook or edit, but I work much better with doing things that are priority first and then several different tasks each day.
Her Most Important Accomplishment
I am most proud of three things:
Writing two top-selling cookbooks
Having a monthly segment on a major TV station in Seattle, and
Being able to work for myself
Having the opportunity to write 2 cookbooks was just a dream, but it’s also a huge goal that I’m so grateful I was able to achieve! It shows authority and trust and offers another extension of my business.
When my first book came out, I also had a goal of being on TV. I enjoy public speaking and love getting people excited about flavors and recipes and have gained experience in talking to an audience from my cooking classes and sharing on Instagram stories.
Being a regular on King 5 Seattle has also opened up doors and helped me gain even more experience in front of the camera, as well as allowing me to reach more of an audience.
And being able to work for myself has been such an amazing challenge!
What She Wishes She Knew When She Started
I wish I had known that it could become a full-time job if I focused 100% sooner rather than later.
Also getting a site audit with Casey Markee was eye-opening and I wish I had done that sooner!
Like many bloggers, we all started it as a hobby and didn’t even think making money was a possibility. Even when my first book came out in 2018, I didn’t focus on the website like I could have. I let the website run on its own and I would share whatever I “felt” like sharing.
This was fun and it was a good outlet for me at the time, but if I really understood how SEO, optimization, and overall handling a website would be, at the time, I know my traffic would far exceed where it is now.
Everyone’s journey is different and even though I am a bit late to the game compared with other bloggers who started around the same time as me, I’m really appreciative that it took me years to really understand that this could be a business and we could work for ourselves.
Her Worst Mistake
My main mistake was not making SEO a priority sooner and focusing on optimizing posts properly.
Also, I should have had a network of other bloggers I could connect with. I had some blogger friends over the years, but some have moved on or shifted gears and I really valued the connection.
Samantha’s Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
My advice would be to focus, manage, and plan each workday.
Think outside the box.
Reach out to the best in the industry for help and direction, and don’t be afraid to hire the best in the business! You’re investing in your business in the long run. I held off from getting an audit because I thought I knew what I was doing, but boy was I wrong! Having an audit is both a financial and time commitment and so far has already paid itself off!
Invest in yourself!
Have a plan for each workday. Make a list of tasks to do the night before or first thing in the morning so you stay on task and focused.