Denise Browning has always loved to cook, but she mostly did it for fun until she decided to go to culinary school. After graduating, she decided to start a food blog as a way to share her Brazilian culture and document her recipes for her children.
Over time her blog grew, and she broadened her niche from Brazilian cuisine to healthy cooking. Although success was not linear and the journey was filled with many ups and downs, her persistence and hunger paid off.
Denise built Easy and Delish into the largest Brazilian blog in the English language and a wildly popular healthy food blog earning 6 figures per year.
Keep reading to find out:
Why she started her food blog
Why she rebranded
What happened after rebranding
What opportunities arose as a food blogger
How much she earns
Where her income comes from
How much traffic she gets
How she markets her blog
Her thoughts on social media
Her thoughts on SEO
Her approach to keyword research and link building
How she creates content
How she developed her email lists
The health challenge she faces
Her favorite resources and tools
Her greatest accomplishments
Her main mistake
Her advice for other entrepreneurs
Meet Denise Browning
I was born and raised in Brazil. I worked for several years as a lawyer before marrying an American doctor and immigrating to the United States in 2002.
I have always loved to cook but only did it for fun in my home country. After a couple of years living in the San Francisco Bay area, I decided to attend culinary school and graduated with honors from the Culinary Arts – Le Cordon Bleu program.
By the time I finished my externship, I was nearing the end of my pregnancy with my first daughter. After spending a few years taking care of my children full time, I started work as a culinary instructor and later on became a full-time food blogger.
In 2007, I moved to San Antonio, Texas with my husband and daughters, where we have been living since then.
Why She Created Her Food Blog
My first 4 years as a blogger (2012-2016), at FromBrazilToYou.Org, were focused on Brazilian cuisine. We had a very modest beginning, full of challenges.
Our name and reputation had to be built from the ground up! Most of our earnings came from sponsored posts.
At the end of 2016, we decided to expand the blog to also include American and other cuisines from around the world, but mostly focusing on healthy cooking. That’s how Easy and Delish came to be in two languages: English and Portuguese!
All the international dishes we cook are easy to make and delish, but most also have a healthy twist. The transition was partly due to my multicultural family and also emails I received from my diverse audience (mostly busy millennial moms) asking me how to cook easy recipes from different world cuisines.
These 11 years of blogging have been full of highs and lows but, overall, they have been very rewarding.
We receive about half a million visitors per month from all around the globe, predominantly from the United States and Brazil. Thanks to advertisements, we earn 6 figures per year.
In addition, I have had several great opportunities to develop recipes for many national and international food brands, among them Bush’s Beans, Nestlé, Parma Ham, and Cacique.
I have also worked as a food and culture consultant for a few multinational brands like Coca-Cola and developed an entire menu for a Spanish food restaurant in Brazil.
My work has been featured in many well-known sources such as The Smithsonian Magazine, Huffington Post, Elle Magazine, and Livestrong, among others.
I have also appeared for local food segments on Univision and Telemundo, as well as SA Live on KSAT 12.
Our mission has been to serve busy moms like me by providing healthy and simple recipes, food trends, and cooking tips, making their lives easier in the kitchen.
Our cookbook was published in 2020. The Complete 5-Ingredient Cookbook: 175 Easy Recipes for Busy People reflects our cooking style and simple approach to food and all the business of life.
Additionally, at the end of last year, I was invited to work as a paid contributor for the Food Network website, where I share mostly Brazilian recipes, some South-American recipes, and cooking techniques.
How Much Denise is Earning
Most of our earnings come from Mediavine’s advertisements. My blog itself is where I devote most of my time and effort to optimizing posts, researching keywords, and developing recipes (my main product/service) suitable for my audience and new visitors.
Our monthly income is variable due to seasonal variations in traffic and changes in RPMs. My average monthly advertisement income was about $13,540, and my annual earnings were approximately $162,446 in 2022. The estimate for this year is higher!
I also earned from ads on my YouTube channel, Instagram influencer program with Reels, and a few recipes contributed to the Food Network website, totaling about $6,500 last year.
My total income was about $169,000 last year.
It could have been much higher if I hadn’t declined more than one offer to write a second cookbook and many sponsored posts because of my full schedule, some travel abroad, and family matters.
It took me about 9 years to achieve this income level mostly from blogging. If my first years of blogging had been in a popular niche, I could have achieved this income level much earlier.
However, when I started almost no one knew much about Brazilian cuisine. SEO was also something quite new that most bloggers didn’t know much about.
We also didn’t have all the social platforms and opportunities we have nowadays. Back then blogging was something quite different than what we experience nowadays.
How Much Traffic Her Site Gets
According to Google Analytics, my site had a little more than 5.9 million pageviews in 2022.
The monthly average was about 493,000 pageviews. As I mentioned earlier, traffic varies from month to month.
I usually work 6 days per week, an average of 12 to 13 hours a day.
Denise’s Top Marketing Strategy
My main marketing strategy has always been to provide easy and delicious recipes consistently. It is my main product/service, so anyone who tries my recipes will be provided with enough information to make our recipes successfully and be satisfied with the result.
This is how I have earned my audience and reputation. It has also opened many doors to working for brands as well as the Food Network and receiving 9 offers to write cookbooks.
I know that many bloggers focus on social media. If you are a new blogger, not earning much organic traffic, it is the best route to go, besides focusing on SEO right from the very beginning. It can earn you good traffic without necessarily ranking on searches yet!
But, I confess I spend very little time on social media because my time is mostly focused on my own blog.
In addition, I have encountered difficulty in finding experienced VAs for each of my social platforms. Fortunately, however, I have a good one for Pinterest! Most VAs can certainly post or schedule content for you, but only a minority of them master the platform enough to provide real growth.
Those who are in popular niches such as vegan food and baking can enjoy rapid growth. However, for those like me who are in a very large niche (easy and healthy international recipes), the work is more demanding and requires an experienced VA.
Her Thoughts on SEO
SEO is extremely important for my business. Without it, I couldn’t attract the organic traffic that I do.
It is the main reason that I devote so much of my time researching keywords and also optimizing and republishing old posts. We have more than a thousand of them, in addition to new recipes.
My main strategy is to use the proper tools to identify technical issues that need to be fixed (technical SEO), research keywords in my niche and their level of competition, and engage in link building (both internally and externally).
I also hire people from time to time to audit my blog. In fact, I have one in progress right now!
I didn’t know anything about SEO when I started blogging in 2012. I gained some organic traffic because I featured popular Brazilian recipes in my blog. But that traffic was nothing compared to what I have nowadays.
I came to learn about SEO mostly in 2018 when I had an audit with Casey Markee. He explained everything to me and suggested I learn more online. I watched many YouTube videos and read several articles online. However, I only started to implement it after my audit and as I learned more about SEO online.
I use mostly KeySearch and Keywords Everywhere for doing my keyword research.
I take into consideration my niche, volume, degree of competition, CPC, and clusters in order to come up with a list of keywords.
My main strategy is to prioritize keywords around or related to posts that already rank on searches. It is a great way to increase my chances of ranking a new post faster and solidifying my authority in that subject.
Link building is extremely important. It creates authority and rankings.
In the past, I hired a reputable professional to build external links for my blog. But it has been a while since I started focusing on internal linking.
I have been using a plugin, Link Whisper, for outbound links, and also Outranking.io for internal linking using different keywords.
Many years ago I participated in link exchanges via recipe round-ups with a group of other bloggers. After one of my audits, I was advised to remove all those links because Google frowns upon that type of practice.
Her Content Creation Process
My content creation process has not been intuitive for a while.
Since adopting SEO as my main strategy, I create new posts around others that I already rank for. After coming up with the list of subjects for posts, I use Frase and also Outranking to write my new posts and rewrite old ones.
But independent of the subject, all my posts use a common format with a description, FAQs, storage, instructions on how to make that particular recipe, etc.
It takes time to research keywords and write an article.
Because I’m a trained chef, recipes are the easiest part of my job. I can create one and test it quite quickly. I understand ingredient ratios well and how to pair them together to convey the flavors and textures the dish must have.
Then comes food styling and shooting and, quite often, recording videos for those recipes. It may take a full day to shoot and record a recipe, or at least 4 to 6 hours if the recipe has only a few ingredients and cooking steps.
Sometimes I have to double the ingredients to be able to shoot the final dish and record the video without being back and forth between the area where I shoot the recipe (near a window) and the kitchen where I record my videos.
Her Email List
I have two email lists that have grown significantly at certain times but which also decrease periodically.
Every quarter we go through our 2 subscriber lists (one in English and another in Portuguese) to remove anyone who has not been opening our email newsletter for a while. Since adopting this practice, my subscriber list numbers have been bouncing up and down.
We usually send at least 2 newsletters per week to my English-speaking subscribers and at least 1 per week to my Portuguese-speaking subscribers.
One of my strategies is to offer my subscribers a freebie to subscribe. My most recent one consists of an automation series of five emails with all the secrets for easy cooking.
How Health Issues Shaped Her Journey
Not many are aware that I have been dealing with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) for 3 decades. I describe it as an enemy living in my own body.
This is a hormonal condition characterized by insulin resistance and is often treated with drugs prescribed for diabetes. Because most of my videos feature healthy recipes, some feel entitled to question the recipe based solely on my looks.
Although I have a very healthy lifestyle, it is very hard to lose weight. They seem to think losing 44 pounds in one year eating a low-carb diet and exercising is no big accomplishment, but they don’t know how hard it is to lose weight and how easy it is to put on the pounds for people with this condition.
The condition makes me feel very hungry most of the day despite eating properly. That hunger made me want to overcome the condition badly, and it showed me that if I can fight against my own body, I have strength enough to overcome all the stigmas and obstacles I face on social media.
Hunger and persistence pay off! I have been running, both personally and professionally, with the same mindset of a champion and will not rest until I cross the finish line.
Denise’s Favorite Resources
I recommend browsing the web and reading different articles about SEO from different sources. Mostly this is how I learned about SEO.
Audits done on my blog by reputable professionals such as Casey Markee (who also has a podcast) and Carl Ross have also helped me a lot!
On YouTube, you can learn a bunch by watching videos from Matt Diggity and Ahrefs, even if you don’t use this tool.
Her Go-To Tools
The tools I used the most to grow my blog are:
KeySearch, for keyword research for my blog
Keywords Everywhere, for keyword research for my blog and also social channels
Frase, for writing optimized blog posts and seeking new ranking opportunities
Denise’s Biggest Challenges
Unlike some big blogs, my blog didn’t become a success overnight. I have had to work very hard to overcome stereotypes and to be taken seriously, although I am a professionally trained chef working in a space where most bloggers are not.
On top of that, I have experienced discrimination because of my foreign accent and even because of my looks.
Additionally, as my business grows, time gets tighter and rest becomes a luxury. It also requires that I hire more people.
I currently have 7 people on my team: a tech guy, a photographer, a writer who writes half of my monthly articles, a video editor, 2 social media VAs (for Pinterest and web stories), and my husband (helping me with YouTube).
However, I could use the help of more people on Facebook and Instagram. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I could keep my sanity.
Professional blogging is a fast-paced, demanding business! It requires a lot of time. Even with all these people helping me, I am able to rest only one day per week, mostly on Sundays.
When I leave on vacation, I have all my work for that time done ahead and scheduled. However, I still have to monitor some of my social media through my phone during my vacations.
Her Most Important Accomplishment
My greatest accomplishment was to have been successful both under FromBrazilToYou and Easy and Delish. In many ways, rebranding is not an easy thing to do! Google is a master at reminding us of that!
The difficulty in rebranding is because I had already built quite an authority in Brazilian cuisine. After I changed my domain to Easy and Delish and had to have thousands of links redirected, Google lowered the rank of the site as a whole and I lost many of my positions to a competitor.
It took me about 8 to 10 months to recover several of those positions. I also had followers who complained about the change. It is easier to rebrand when one has been blogging for a short time and has not built authority on a certain niche.
I had to adapt recipes, republish many old posts, do more keyword research, make changes on my social media, change logos, restructure my site (which was super painful), and find a link between my old brand and the new one. It was a lot of work!
What She Wishes She Knew When She Started
I wish I had known about niche research and SEO for sure! I wish these were a thing at the time I started blogging. My traffic would be considerably higher.
In addition, I wouldn’t have to redo hundreds of posts.
Before you decide what food niche you will be part of, make sure to use a keyword research tool that can show the volume and competition of the main keyword of your niche (e.g. vegan, keto, baking, etc) and know what niches you can grow faster or are most popular among social media followers.
I had to work harder to enjoy a slice of the pie that many popular niche bloggers have.
Her Biggest Mistake
First and foremost, I didn’t start blogging with a professional mindset.
At first, it was a way to share the cuisine and culture of my home country with my children.
Second, if I think in terms of SEO, Brazilian cuisine was a hard niche to succeed in back then because it wasn’t popular in the USA. Even now it has quite a ways to grow compared to Mexican cuisine, for example.
In those years, I blogged exclusively in English and keywords were not very much in my favor.
That said, we helped Brazilian cuisine gain space, and we consequently gained authority, many juicy links, and built a reputation, becoming the largest Brazilian blog in the English language.
Her Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
Also, know the principles of SEO well before crafting your first post!