How to Win the “SEO vs. PPC” Debate (and When To Use Both)


Believe it or not, some marketers are still taking sides in the “SEO vs. PPC” debate. I can understand the passion on both sides of the aisle, but I’d compare it to an argument about the need for “air vs. water.” Depending on your immediate circumstances, one may be more important than another—but both are necessary for survival.

To those passionately arguing that SEO is better than PPC, or vice versa, I propose a truce based on the potential for incremental gains when we work together

For those seeking answers to the question, “should I invest in PPC or SEO,” buckle up—we’re about to unpack a debate that has raged for more than a decade to help you decide how to prioritize your digital marketing efforts.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is the difference between SEO and PPC?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the art and science of improving your brand’s visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs) to attract more visitors to your web properties.

It’s not limited to just web search engines, though. SEO strategies also improve your visibility in maps search results, image and video search results, shopping listings, app stores, and social media search results.

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising positions your brand in sponsored ad positions on search results pages. Advertisers have more control over the targeted keywords, audiences, and creative, but they pay for each click to their website.

Screenshot of a typical Google Ad
A search ad is most commonly found at the top of the search results.

Many marketers oversimplify the difference between SEO and PPC with a half-truth like, “SEO is free but PPC costs money.” While it’s true that clicks on organic search results don’t cost you money, there’s a good chance that your content won’t rank consistently well unless you invest in people, content, and tools to step up your SEO game. You get what you pay for.

Another misperception is that PPC has to be expensive. Sure, PPC can be pricey if you don’t put proper safeguards in place to protect your wallet. You wouldn’t just leave your debit card hanging out of an ATM, would you? No, you protect it with a PIN and withdrawal limits. Similarly, you protect your PPC spend by setting daily budgets and monitoring your campaigns for wasteful spending on irrelevant keywords.

Which channel is better at increasing revenue?

That’s a trick question. It’s both. 

SEO and PPC can generate qualified traffic to your site and improve your chances of converting more visitors to customers. And surveys conducted by Google and Nielsen suggest that brands get more combined clicks on ads and organic results when both are present on a SERP. Sharing insights and integrating your paid and organic search strategies will yield more growth than focusing all of your resources on one versus the other.


How do you measure the success of an SEO strategy vs. a PPC campaign?

Start with your business objectives. In most cases, the overall aim is to increase revenue, leads, sales, or engagement. Successful SEO and PPC strategies can create measurable impacts on your business, quantified with a few key metrics at each step in the customer journey.

This is not an exhaustive list of the metrics that you can measure, but it does show the similarities and overlaps between SEO and PPC that can be exploited.

The SEO or PPC zealots can each claim superiority in some of these metrics. But savvy marketers realize that neither channel exists in a vacuum and we should focus on the contribution of each channel to shared goals.

Attribution Is the Future Present

In most cases, consumers interact with your brand multiple times before converting. And like snowflakes, no two conversion paths are the same. There are likely multiple touchpoints that must be accounted for to get a true picture of the customer journey. 

Attribution is where the SEO vs. PPC debate loses some steam. The position-based attribution example below shows multiple conversion paths that include “Organic Search” and “Paid Search” touchpoints. In each of these cases, a customer converted only after multiple interactions.

Your proportion of “Organic Search” to “Paid Search” conversions will vary depending on your brand awareness and product offerings. It’s important to keep an eye on your preferred attribution model and use the cross-channel insights to dial in your budgets and prioritize your focus where it’s needed most.


Put your strengths to work while compensating for your weaknesses.

The most polarizing arguments for SEO vs. PPC often fail to recognize each company’s inherent strengths, weaknesses, and resources. What may be easy for one company could be extremely difficult to pull off in other companies with different team structures, historical baggage, or finances.

Here are the most common factors to consider when deciding how to invest your resources:

Your Website & Landing Pages

Evaluate your current website to determine if it will support your goals. Do you have control over the code and easily editable templates? If not, your SEO success may depend on building a new site with best practices baked in. (And that can get expensive.)

Most PPC campaigns don’t need an entire site to support the visitor journey. Landing pages work exceptionally well to convert visitors into prospects or customers without messing with a content management system (CMS). Landing pages can also be a force multiplier when it comes to testing and scaling up relevant, valuable offers and experiences for multiple visitor segments.

Landing pages can enhance your PPC campaigns by delivering more conversions for the same spend. Read about how you can build tailored pages and create killer post-click experiences without bothering your devs.

Time & Money

If you have lots of spare time and very little money, SEO might be a better long-term option. Your free time can be spent creating great content to attract links and visitors, building partnerships to establish authority, and refining your site architecture to make it more accessible to search engine crawlers. 

Conversely, if you need to make a splash right away and are swimming in Scrooge McDuck pools of cash, you could get immediate visibility with a significant PPC investment. Higher budgets would allow you to test your way to better results quickly.

Team & Talent

If your team can create content, build links, establish authority, and share expertise, you have the ingredients for a successful SEO initiative. PPC teams tend to skew more towards the analytical mindset with a hint of creativity. 

Assess the team you have or build the team you want in order to stand out. Thankfully, people haven’t been replaced by AI (yet), so continue to invest most heavily in your talented humans. That said, the learning curves required to excel at PPC or SEO are steep and can take years to climb. It’s nearly impossible for a single person to master both disciplines. Keep your expectations realistic and don’t put all your eggs in one basket. 

Content & Brand Equity

Do you have a content-rich site with oodles of authority and expertise? SEO might look more appealing. Established brands can use their reputations and communities to boost their SEO efforts. A brand new startup doesn’t yet have a foundation to build from.

If you are launching a new site or trying to build awareness for a new brand, PPC might give you the immediate boost you need to stand out.

Competitors

Any debate about the merits of SEO and PPC should also consider the strengths and weaknesses of your competitive set. Think you’ll beat Amazon to the top of Google’s organic search results for a generic term like “board games”? Not likely. However, it is possible to stand out in a local market or niche industry with just a little extra SEO attention.

Similarly, deep-pocketed PPC competitors may seem daunting until you realize there are multiple ways to outsmart and outflank them. There’s no way for even the wealthiest competitors to simultaneously target all keywords and all audiences with the perfect message. 

There are always gaps in your competitors’ strategies wide enough to drive a wedge in. You can begin to exploit their weaknesses and expand your presence once you have a foothold.


Integrate your PPC and SEO data for massive wins.

Another weakness of a diehard SEO vs. PPC devotee is the inability to see the big picture. PPC and SEO don’t exist in isolation. Savvy marketers will understand how to incorporate data from one channel to improve another resulting in better overall performance. In other words, we have more to gain by working together than trying to “win” an intractable debate.

Sharing SEO Data with PPC

Organic search traffic produces mountains of data that PPC marketers can use to improve their campaigns. A few examples:

  • Improve the layout and flow of a PPC landing page with user experience data from site navigation paths and heatmap tracking.
  • Conserve PPC budgets by pausing or lowering bids on keywords with strong organic rankings and limited competition.
  • Expand PPC keywords that align with organic performance and goals. 
  • Improve PPC quality scores and landing page performance by sharing SEO insights such as page speed enhancements, accessibility, and image optimization.

Sharing PPC Data with SEO

Insights from PPC campaigns can benefit SEO strategies as well:

  • Inform SEO target keywords or inspire new pieces of content based on PPC search terms with high conversion rates or ROI.
  • Improve organic search click-through rates by updating page titles and meta description tags based on successful PPC ad copy and calls to action (CTAs).
  • Fill in the gaps in organic search visibility with focused PPC campaigns to capture fast-moving trends in search queries, highly competitive organic results, and topics where you want to control the message.
  • Promote new content to target audiences before it has earned enough organic visibility to stand alone.

Once you connect your Google Search Console to your Google Ads account, you can access a somewhat useful Paid & Organic Report template that shows your paid activity alongside your organic search performance.

It’s not very intuitive and doesn’t immediately surface any insights, but if you spend some time analyzing the data, you can spot gaps in your keyword coverage and opportunities to improve your overall visibility.

How to win the “SEO vs. PPC” debate

Nobody has won this debate in the past decade. It’s not likely that a winner will emerge in the next decade either. So don’t paint yourself into a corner or limit your career opportunities by picking sides and standing in opposition to the other.

Instead, embrace the ebb and flow of paid and organic search channels. Get comfortable saying, “it depends.” Be prepared to defend that statement with an assessment of your unique situation and healthy discussion. Become a champion for integration and watch your results and your reputation improve.

Landing pages for pay per click



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Cream Cheese Zucchini Muffins | Sally’s Baking Addiction


Using my go-to zucchini bread recipe as the starting point, these soft cream cheese zucchini muffins are deliciously spiced with cinnamon and stuffed with a cheesecake style filling. Before baking, sprinkle with coarse sugar for a little sparkling crunch on top.

stack of cream cheese zucchini muffins

I’ve been holding onto this recipe since last summer and I’m thrilled to finally have it photographed and ready for you to try it!

Zucchini Muffins, Upgraded

These muffins are downright DELICIOUS. Using my absolute favorite zucchini bread (and muffins) recipe– an old family recipe that won 1st place in a state fair– we’re baking muffins stuffed with sweet cream cheese. They taste like dessert! I got the recipe idea from a fall favorite: these pumpkin cheesecake muffins. Here we’re swapping pumpkin for zucchini and skipping the crumb topping. Though you could definitely add it here if desired!

Here’s why you’ll love them:

  • Easy muffin batter using basic ingredients
  • Soft, moist, filled with creamy filling
  • Warm spice flavors like cinnamon and nutmeg
  • Recipe makes just 10, but can easily be doubled
  • Hidden veggies– you can’t taste the zucchini!

cream cheese zucchini muffins


Overview: How to Make Cream Cheese Zucchini Muffins

If you’ve made my zucchini bread recipe before, you know how easy this batter comes together. The written recipe is below, but let’s quickly walk through the steps first.

  1. Make the zucchini batter: All basic ingredients here including flour, leaveners, egg, sugar, and vanilla. Compared to my zucchini bread batter, I add a little more baking powder so the muffins can rise up under the heavy cream cheese filling. I use a mix of brown sugar and granulated sugar for extra flavor– and I actually slightly reduced the amount of sugar since we’re adding the sweet cream cheese filling. Cinnamon and nutmeg add flavor. Use a box grater to shredded the zucchini. I add a little extra zucchini for added volume.
  2. Make the cream cheese filling: You need 4 simple ingredients for the cream cheese filling. Bring 5 ounces of block cream cheese to room temperature, then beat it with 1 egg yolk, sugar, and a touch of vanilla extract. The egg yolk helps the cream cheese filling “set” like cheesecake. Don’t use a whole egg– the texture will taste off.
  3. Assemble: Layer a heaping Tablespoon of zucchini batter into your lined muffin pan. Top with a Tablespoon of filling, then another heaping Tablespoon of zucchini batter. No need to swirl together. I always sprinkle crunchy coarse sugar on top because it adds a lovely contrast on the super soft muffins. I like Sugar in the Raw or white sparkling sugar sprinkles, which you can usually find with the sprinkles in the baking aisle.
  4. Bake: Your kitchen will smell divine!

shredded zucchini with box grater

cream cheese and zucchini muffin batter

Layer the zucchini batter and cream cheese batter together in your muffin liners. This recipe yields just 10 muffins. By the way, here are all of my recipes using zucchini.

Try my zucchini crumb cake next!

cream cheese zucchini muffins batter

zucchini muffins stuffed with cheesecake filling

Possible Variations

  • Carrot, Apple, or Banana: You can replace the shredded zucchini with shredded carrot for cream cheese carrot muffins. I always like a little ginger with carrot, so feel free to add 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger to the carrot batter. You could replace the zucchini with shredded apple, too! This cream cheese filling would be wonderful with my banana muffins batter as well. For banana, carrot, or apple, follow the baking instructions and time(s) written below.
  • Loaf instead of muffins: Use my zucchini bread recipe and feel free to skip the chocolate chips. Add half of the batter to the greased 9×5 inch loaf pan, spoon and gently spread this cream cheese filling on top, then carefully spread remaining zucchini batter on top. Use a toothpick or knife to swirl together, which will prevent the loaf from separating. (Not necessary for muffins.) Add about 5 minutes to the bread’s bake time.
  • Double the recipe: To yield about 20-22 muffins, feel free to double the recipe below by doubling each ingredient. Instead of 2 egg yolks, 1 full egg will work.

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Description

Layer zucchini batter and cream cheese filling together to make cream cheese zucchini muffins. These super soft and moist muffins are deliciously spiced with cinnamon and taste wonderful with a crunchy coarse sugar topping.


Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (190g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup (50g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/4 cups (about 175g) shredded zucchini (1 medium zucchini, no need to blot dry)
  • optional: coarse sugar for topping

Cheesecake Filling

  • 6 ounces (168g) block cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 Tablespoons (36g) granulated sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F (218°C). Spray a 12-count muffin pan with nonstick spray or line with cupcake liners. This recipe yields about 10 muffins.
  2. Make the zucchini batter: Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a large bowl. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the oil, brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg, and vanilla extract together. Whisk in the zucchini. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk or stir until just combined. Avoid over-mixing.
  3. Make the cream cheese filling: Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese in a medium bowl on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy. Beat in the egg yolk, vanilla extract, and sugar until combined.
  4. Spoon 1 heaping Tablespoon of zucchini muffin batter into the muffin cups. Layer with 1 Tablespoon of cream cheese filling, then another heaping Tablespoon of muffin batter– or however much batter is needed to fill the cups all the way to the top. Some cream cheese filling can poke out of the top or on the sides. Sprinkle with coarse sugar, if desired.
  5. Bake for 5 minutes 425°F (218°C) then, keeping the muffins in the oven, reduce heat to 350°F (177°C)* and continue baking for another 15-17 minutes. The total time these muffins should be in the oven is around 20-22 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes in the pan before serving.
  6. Cover leftover muffins tightly and store at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Notes

  1. Freezing Instructions: For longer storage, freeze the muffins for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then heat up in the microwave if desired.
  2. Zucchini: I do not peel the zucchini before shredding, but you certainly can if you’d like.
  3. Variations or Doubling the Recipe: For other flavor ideas, turning this into a loaf, or doubling the recipe, see Possible Variations above.
  4. Why the initial high oven temperature? Like I do for most muffin recipes, bake the muffins for 5 minutes at a very hot temperature. Then, keeping the muffins in the oven, switch to a lower temperature for the remaining bake time. This initial high temperature will quickly lift the muffin tops so they’re extra high, then the centers will bake during the lower temperature bake time. This trick makes beautiful bakery-style muffins every time.

Keywords: cream cheese zucchini muffins

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12 best hikes in the Peak District National Park


The best hikes in the Peak District National Park showcase some of England’s finest and most accessible hillwalking countryside

When we made our move to the country, we very nearly ended up in the Peak District. It was a toss-up between there and the Yorkshire Dales, but in the end, the pull of the Dales was just a touch too strong.

The Peak District, however, came a very close second. Wedged between the northern cities of Manchester and Sheffield, the Peak District National Park may well be England’s most accessible wilderness.

Britain’s first national park is an idyllic landscape with a vast range of natural beauty. The occasionally bleak but eternally beautiful Pennine countryside boasts dramatic waterfalls, deep dales, rocky crags, quaint market towns and cosy villages seemingly untouched by time.

It is one of England’s premier hiking destinations – ideal for micro-adventures – and is supported by excellent infrastructure with a breadth of accommodation, eating and drinking options. 

Best hikes in the Peak District National Park

We’ve handpicked the best hikes in the Peak District National Park to suit all abilities, from breezy afternoon jaunts to more demanding multi-day treks.

For more information on further activities, access details, and accommodation options, visit the national park website.

1. Mam Tor

Distance: 14km (9mi)
Duration: 3-4 hours
Difficulty: Medium

Mam Tor in the Peak District
Daniel_Kay/Shutterstock Mam Tor at sunrise

Mam Tor is a 517m (1,696ft) hill known as the ‘Shivering Mountain’ following a number of landslips down its slopes. Located near Castleton in the High Peak area of Derbyshire, it offers one of the best hikes in the Peak District and has been described as England’s greatest ridge walk.

The stone-surfaced footpath boasts some of the most accessible and dramatic views in the Peak District. The circular route also takes in the charming villages of Castleton and Hope which make for ideal refreshment stops.

2. Kinder Scout

Distance: 27km (17mi)
Duration: 7-9 hours
Difficulty: Medium-hard

Kinder Scout is one of the best hikes in the Peak District
Irina Poliakova/Shutterstock Kinder Scout is one of the best hikes in the Peak District

This full-day circular hike winds its way around a vast upland plateau with plunging views throughout. En route, walkers will pass the dramatic waterfall of Kinder Downfall, and can complete the hike with an optional but entertaining scramble across Grindsbrook Clough.

The loop can be walked in either direction but most tend to hike anti-clockwise. The route can also be cut short by skipping across the plateau at any point although expect the terrain to be boggy underfoot.

3. Saddleworth Moor

Distance: 12km (7.5mi)
Duration: 3-4 hours
Difficulty: Medium

Saddleworth Moor in the Peak District
SAKhanPhotography/Shutterstock Saddleworth Moor in the Peak District

This wonderful hike traces its way across the northern perimeter of the Peak District National Park connecting the villages of Marsden and Uppermill. The path traces the high moors between the Colne and Tame valleys, a route steeped in local history.

The trail enjoys a fantastic cross-section of classic South Pennine scenery as well as some unique landmarks such as Standedge Tunnel, Saddleworth Viaduct and Redbrook Reservoir.

4. Bakewell to Chatsworth

Distance: 12km (7.5mi)
Duration: 3-4 hours
Difficulty: Easy-medium

The village of Bakewell
Marbury/Shutterstock The village of Bakewell

No visit to Derbyshire or the Peak District would be complete without a jaunt to Bakewell to sample that pudding (just don’t call it a tart!). Aside from the delicious dessert, Bakewell is famed for its nearby idyllic trails threading the pools and meadows of Calton Pastures.

This gentle hike takes in a number of stately homes and charming villages, and offers the chance to spot Chatsworth’s famous herds of red and fallow deer that roam the parkland.

5. The Roaches

Distance: 10km (6mi)
Duration: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Easy-medium

A climber enjoys the view from the Roaches
Sponner/Shutterstock A climber enjoys the view from the Roaches

The Roaches ridgeline is famous for its purple heather which explodes into colour in late summer. The Roaches are also popular with rock climbers and were long used as a training ground for the mountaineers of yore. While climbers and boulderers still frequent the crags, you’re more likely to come across ramblers on this outstanding trail.

The figure-of-eight route takes in a dramatic ridge walk before dropping quickly into a moss-covered gorge before looping back and tracing the gorge on the opposite side.

At one point there was a colony of wallabies residing in the area after a local zookeeper released the animals in 1940 when wartime regulations ordered the closure of private zoos. Unfortunately, after initially flourishing, it’s believed the colony of marsupials are now extinct, although there have been sporadic alleged sightings reported.

6. Chrome Hill

Distance: 10km (6mi)
Duration: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Easy-medium

the Dragon’s Back is one of best hikes in the Peak District
Daniel_Kay/Shutterstock How can anyone resist hiking the Dragon’s Back?

How can one resist a hike along this striking string of limestone hills known as the Dragon’s Back? A miniature massif rises from the surrounding hay meadows near Buxton and provides some of the most memorable views in Derbyshire.

Often referred to as the only true peaks in the Peak District, Chrome Hill rarely disappoint its walkers. The distinctive line of seven serrated summits is said to resemble the giant ‘plates’ found along the spine of a stegosaurus dinosaur.

After topping out on the Dragon’s Back it’s only polite to swap your tales of derring-do over a pint and a pickled egg in the cosy Quiet Woman Inn pub in Buxton.

7. Padley Gorge

Distance: 4km (2.5mi)
Duration: 1-2 hours
Difficulty: Easy

The River Derwent along Padley Gorge
Paolo Sanna 90/Shutterstock The River Derwent along Padley Gorge

This quick and quiet amble through a wooded valley along the River Derwent offers an alternative view of the Peak District. There are no dragons or summits along Padley Gorge; only a wizened forest, babbling brooks, a pleasant cafe and an 18th-century hotel, bar and restaurant (located just off the trail).

The woods look their finest in autumn when the vibrant oranges and reds of the foliage complement the deep greens of the mossed boulders scattered across the valley slopes.

8. Monsal Dale / Monsal Trail

Distance: 7.4km (4.6mi) / 14km (8.5mi)
Duration: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Easy-medium

Headstone Viaduct at Monsal Head
BerndBrueggemann/Shutterstock Headstone Viaduct at Monsal Head

Back to the high trails, this charming path follows a former railway line running through the heart of the White Peak region. It takes in waterside paths and a wooded gorge as well as the Headstone Viaduct, a striking relic of the region’s industrial heritage.

The walk starts and finishes at Monsal Head but can easily be extended to include the villages of Little Longstone and Great Longstone by continuing along the Monsal Trail. Both villages have delightful pubs serving hearty fare.

The entire Monsal Trail – 14km (8.5mi) long and running all the way to the aforementioned Bakewell and its delicious puddings – is well worth considering.

9. Birchover

Distance: 8.6km (5.3mi)
Duration: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Easy-medium

Nine Stone Close Stone Circle with Robin Hood’s Stride in the background
Simon Harrod/CC 2.0 Nine Stones Close Stone Circle with Robin Hood’s Stride in the background

The region encompassing the village of Birchover is a magical landscape, if not downright eerie. The countryside here is littered with primeval burial mounds, dramatic gritstone escarpments, pointed standing boulders and mysterious ancient stone circles.

To top it off, this cryptic landscape is either concealed deep within a murky woodland or exposed on a wild and windswept plateau. Brimming with history and mythology, this not-to-be-missed trail also boasts some of the most fantastical names in England: The Grey Ladies, Nine Stones Close Stone Circle and Robin Hood’s Stride to name but a few.

10. Hathersage and Stranage Edge

Distance: 9.5km (6mi)
Duration: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Easy-medium

Climbers at the top of Stanange Edge
Tom_Sanderson/Shutterstock Climbers at the top of Stanage Edge

This trail takes walkers through the beautiful valley believed to have inspired several literary classics. The trail passes North Lees Hall, a 16th century manor that is thought have inspired Mr Rochester’s home in Jane Eyre, and Stanage Edge where hikers can do their best impression of Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice.

Classics aside, the awesome cliffs of Stanage Edge offer magnificent views across some of the Peak District’s most famous landscapes including the Derwent and Hope Valleys, Mam Tor and Kinder Scout.

11. The Limestone Way

Distance: 74km (46mi)
Duration: 3 days
Difficulty: Hard

The village of Castleton
Steve Meese/Shutterstock The village of Castleton

The Peak District’s best and most famous long-distance footpath could – at a push – be completed in two days. However, it’s far more enjoyable to spread the distance across three or even four days if you really want to take your time absorbing the scenery.

The Limestone Way begins in the village of Castleton and heads southwards, winding its way through the huge limestone plateau of the White Peak Derbyshire dales. Apart from the exceptional countryside, the trail passes through a number of picturesque villages en route to Rocester.

12. PENNINE WAY

Distance: 45km (28mi)
Duration: 2 days
Difficulty: Hard

The Pennine Way in the Peak District
Wutthikrai Busayaporn/Shutterstock The Pennine Way picks its way through the Peak District

Britain’s oldest trail (opened in 1965) traverses some of the finest upland landscapes in England. It is by far the most famous and one of the most popular of Britain’s long-distance footpaths.

The Pennine Way begins in Edale in the Peak District and runs 431km (268mi) northwards, all the way to the Scottish Borders. If you don’t fancy the full thru-hike, the Peak District section naturally showcases the very best of the national park and takes in many of the above trails.


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Quick BBQ Chicken – No Grill Needed!


$4.98 recipe / $1.25 serving

We get a lot of feedback from readers who are trying to cook for families who all have different dietary needs and preferences, especially families with both vegetarians and meat eaters. So I wanted to make a series of a la carte proteins that can be cooked quickly and separately from a meal and added for those who want it. This Quick BBQ Chicken is an easy and tasty main dish that cooks up in under 30 minutes and is great for either serving as a main dish or topping several other dishes.

Overhead view of a plate with Quick BBQ Chicken, mac and cheese, and collard greens

What to Serve with Quick BBQ Chicken

BBQ Chicken is so versatile. I have it pictured above with mac and cheese and collard greens (recipe coming soon), but it also goes great with Cowboy Caviar, Potato Salad, Spicy Sweet Potato Fries, Creamy Coleslaw, or Roasted Broccoli. You can also slice it up and use it to make a BBQ chicken pizza, BBQ chicken quesadilla, use it to top a loaded mashed potato bowl, or a salad.

What Kind of Chicken Can I Use?

This recipe is designed for boneless, skinless chicken breasts OR thighs. It works great with both, but thighs are definitely my favorite, since they are just so tender and crisp up nicely on the edges because of their extra fat. Since this recipe uses a quick skillet cooking method, it isn’t appropriate for bone-in chicken. Bone-in chicken takes much longer to cook, so it’s better for baking, braising, and slow cooking.

How Much Does This Recipe Make?

This recipe is good for about 1 lb. of chicken pieces, give or take a little. If you’d like to double the recipe, just make sure to cook the chicken in batches to prevent overcrowding the skillet, which will prevent the nice browning action that you want.

What Kind of BBQ Sauce Should I Use?

You can use whatever kind of BBQ sauce you prefer. I am not picky when it comes to BBQ sauce, so I just used a Kroger brand hickory smoke BBQ sauce that I happened to have on hand. Sweet Baby Ray’s tends to have pretty good BBQ sauces that are very affordable, too.

A Quick BBQ Chicken Breast on a cutting board with tongs, half sliced.

 

Quick BBQ Chicken

This Quick BBQ Chicken is an easy and tasty main dish that cooks up in under 30 minutes and can be paired with any number of sides. Perfect for weeknights!

Total Cost: $4.98 recipe / $1.25 serving

Author: Beth – Budget Bytes

Servings: 4 ¼ lb. each

  • 1 tsp smoked paprika ($0.10)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder ($0.05)
  • 1/4 tsp salt ($0.02)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper ($0.03)
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken* ($4.63)
  • 1 Tbsp cooking oil ($0.04)
  • 1/4 cup BBQ sauce ($0.11)
  • If using chicken breasts, pound them to an even thickness to ensure quick and even cooking. To pound the breast, place them on a cutting board and cover with a piece of plastic wrap. Use a mallet or rolling pin to pound the thicker areas to an even ½ to ¾-inch thickness. There is no need to pound chicken thighs.

  • Combine the smoked paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Season both sides of the chicken pieces with the spice blend.

  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the cooking oil and swirl to coat the surface of the skillet. Add the seasoned chicken and cook on each side until well browned and cooked through (an internal temperature of 165ºF), about 5-7 minutes on each side.

  • Turn the heat off and brush both sides of the chicken with BBQ sauce. Let the chicken rest five minutes before slicing and/or serving.

*You can use either chicken breast or thighs for this recipe. I used both in the step by step photos below, so you can see each type of chicken through the process.

See how we calculate recipe costs here.


Serving: 0.25lb. chickenCalories: 255kcalCarbohydrates: 1.08gProtein: 27.25gFat: 15.65gSodium: 1165mgFiber: 0.23g

Nutritional values are estimates only. See our full nutrition disclosure here.


The equipment section above contains affiliate links to products we use and love. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

How to Make Quick BBQ Chicken – Step by Step Photos

Chicken breast on a cutting board covered with plastic, pounded with a rolling pin

This recipe can be made with one pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast, boneless, skinless chicken thighs, or a mix of both. If you are using chicken breasts, you’ll want to pound them to an even thickness of about 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick to make sure they cook quickly and evenly. To do this, place the chicken on a cutting board, cover with plastic to prevent splatter, then gently pound with a rolling pin or mallet until the thick end is even with the thinner end.

seasoning for bbq chicken in a small wooden bowl

Prepare the seasoning for the chicken by stirring together 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper.

seasoned chicken pieces on a cutting board

Season both sides of the chicken with the prepared seasoning blend. 

Chicken cooked in the skillet

Heat a large skillet and heat over medium. Once hot, add 1 Tbsp cooking oil, swirl the oil to coat the surface of the skillet, then add the seasoned chicken pieces. Cook the chicken on each side until well browned and cooked through (internal temperature of 165ºF), about 5-7 minutes each side.

BBQ sauce being brushed onto chicken in a skillet

Turn the heat off and brush each side of the chicken with BBQ sauce.

BBQ chicken thigh on a plate with mac and cheese and collard greens

Let the chicken rest for about 5 minutes before serving, or slicing. Enjoy!





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Why Transparent Email Stopped Working For Us and What We Do Instead


When I joined Buffer and opened my new Buffer email account for the first time, the email count read 200.  I was momentarily stunned.
That was way more emails than I’d ever had in one place before.

Usually, when you set up an email account at a new workplace, your inbox is empty at first – people don’t yet have your email address and you aren’t on a bunch of email lists. I was planning on those few days or weeks of email bliss, where your inbox is nearly always zero.

I had known about Buffer’s value of transparency at work and about our practice of email transparency, but what I hadn’t realized was that sometimes the benefit of transparency can become a burden. That’s what was happening with transparent email.

Here’s why transparent email stopped working for us, and what we switched to instead.

Why transparent email wasn’t working for us anymore

Six years ago now, we shared a blog post detailing the exact workflows we used for transparent email. At the time, we wrote:

Our value of transparency extends all the way to the inbox. Every email is public within the team. Every bit of communication gets shared. Everyone knows everything. There are no secrets.

The idea is a sound one, and transparent email did solve a challenge for us. A lot of communication was happening via email, and we wanted everyone to be able to see emails transparently. Having specific email lists that we cc’ed or bcc’ed (click on that link above for more on that system) was a much more efficient way to work than to add each teammate individually.

So what stopped working?

We grew to a larger team size

The purpose of transparent email was to see conversations happening across any team and have all of the context you needed. It worked well for us when Buffer was a team of fewer than 30 people, but around and past that time, it started to get a little bit out of control. By the time we reached a team of over 80, transparent email was no longer easy to keep up with purely because of the volume.

If you look at it from a relationships standpoint, the formula for possible relationships means that at 80 people there were 3,160 possible relationships. Of course, every individual wasn’t always speaking with every other person at the company, but still, that’s a huge number of possible relationships to be communicating via email.

It put the burden of staying informed on the individual

Receiving several hundred emails in a week was a huge burden for teammates. They needed to leverage email to stay informed, maintain a system, and figuring out which conversations were relevant, and we placed that burden on individual teammates, rather than making a change at an organizational level. Teammates became responsible for keeping track of all internal conversations, while at the same time email was still a place for external conversations to come in as well and it was a lot to juggle.

On top of that, the feeling that I had opening my Buffer email for the first time happened to a lot of new teammates, and that wasn’t a great experience.

Filters didn’t always work

The best solution to that level of email was to create lots of filters to sort and organize all internal conversations based on the internal email address that was being cc’ed.

Having so many filters set up sometimes meant that people would miss out on emails that mentioned them, which isn’t a great result, but we spent a lot of time and energy trying to make these filters work with transparent email.

We created several detailed internal best practices documents filled with different systems for setting up filters and managing email. Our CEO, Joel Gascoigne, even outlined a project for an internal email tool, he wrote:

Email at Buffer is a little like the Wild West. With transparent email, the number of emails we individually receive as a 30 person team could be 5 or 10x the amount someone in a normal 30 person team would receive.

So we built an internal tool for email called Buffmail.

The result of all of this work was more work. Teammates needed to spend more time setting up filters and tweaking them when new teams were created or projects were kicked off. In the end, the issue wasn’t that we weren’t doing transparent email properly, it was that we had outgrown this system and needed to look for a new one.

Our new system for transparent internal communication

In the words of our Director of People, Courtney Seiter, we needed a tool to help us have “calm, deliberate and timezone-inclusive conversation and decision-making at Buffer.”

In addition to decision making, we wanted a space for work-related announcements and discussion in the form of longer, asynchronous conversations.

Our solution: Threads

We’ve mentioned Threads before as it’s a staple in our asynchronous communication. Threads makes it easy to have text-based conversations across the company and clearly mark decisions when they are made. It also works well with Slack; new Threads can be cross-posted to a linked Slack channel, which is a nice benefit.

Why Threads works for us

Threads is a much less overwhelming way for 90 people to communicate. It’s easy to skim a Space (that’s the Threads name for a specific area) to see if there’s any conversation you want to drop into, and there’s also a helpful button to mark something as follow up.

It’s also less likely that someone will miss a Thread that mentions them because of Threads’ notification system. Threads helps take the burden of staying informed off of the individual. If someone needs to be looped in, it’s easy to tag them, and if someone wants to skim a space, they can do so without getting alerted to every conversation.

How we set Threads up

In Threads, there are different “Spaces,” and anyone in that Space will see all of the Threads (discussions) created there.

We’ve set up Threads to have Spaces that everyone should be a part of, and other, optional Spaces depending on a teammate’s team and location.
Here’s how we’ve set up our Spaces:

Team Spaces

Any space that starts with “Buffer-” is intended for all teammates to permanently join with notifications on. For us, these spaces are:

  • Announcements: For team-wide announcements
  • Inclusion: To discuss diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Joel’s Memos: For thoughts from our CEO
  • Recognition & Praise: For celebrating and recognizing teammates
  • Retreat: For retreat info
  • Time-off: For vacation plans and time off
  • Town-Hall: An asynchronous space for town-hall questions for our CEO and leadership team
  • Updates: For area updates

Area Spaces

Each Area has its own Space with the naming convention Area-AreaName, e.g. Area-Marketing. These Spaces are intended only for those who work daily in that area to join. Teammates can view any Area Space anytime but we ask that they view only and not join any area they don’t work in directly. We do periodic cleanups to help stick to this guideline.

Project Spaces

We have a small number of Project Spaces with the naming convention: Proj-ProjectName, e.g. Proj-Pricing. These are for projects that touch many different teams and have a finite end date.

Geographic Spaces

We have several geography-related Spaces, e.g. Geo-UK and Geo-Canada, for discussion about the Buffer teammate experience specific to those countries.

Help Spaces

We have two help Spaces, Help-People and Help-Tools. Help-People is for questions or help around things like benefits, moving, and other life changes. Help-Tools is for when a teammate needs help with any of the tools we use at Buffer.

When we make new Spaces

To avoid having too many Spaces, we currently default to trying to write a Thread in the best-fitting Space before creating a new Space. If after that is given a try it still feels like this topic needs a new Space, then we’ll create it.

We’ve been using Threads for over a year now and are still feeling like it was very much the right decision and choice to move away from transparent email. If you liked this blog post, check out this post where we talk about asynchronous communication and why it’s so important for remote work.





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Fresh Berry Cream Cake | Sally’s Baking Addiction


Using any soft/light cake recipe of your choice, you can create a delicious fresh berry cream cake. I recommend using my white cake recipe below or you could even try chocolate, pistachio, or a 6 inch cake instead. This minimally decorated naked-style cake is layered between fresh and fluffy whipped cream and piled high with juicy berries.

fresh berry and whipped cream cake

Channeling my strawberry shortcake cake with this one!

Tell Me About This Fresh Berry Cream Cake

Using practically any soft/light cake recipe of your choice, you can create a naked-style cake with three lovely layers of whipped cream and fresh berries. If decorating layer cakes makes you nervous, this cake is FOR YOU; no complicated decorating involved!

I chose my vanilla flavored white cake because it’s ultra soft and sponge-like, which pairs beautifully with light whipped cream and summer berries. Heavier cakes would make this difficult to cut and serve. I have a list of other cake flavors you can use below.


This cake is:

  • Towering tall with whipped cream and berries
  • Light, fresh, and naked-style
  • Very easy to decorate– less is more!
  • Celebrating the season’s fresh flavors
  • Adaptable to many cake flavors

fresh berry and whipped cream cake

fresh berry and whipped cream cake

Use Any Cake You Love

Let’s talk cake flavors. As I mentioned above, I use my white cake recipe. I divide the batter between 3 round cake pans. I used 8-inch cake pans for the pictured cake. Three 9-inch pans work too, but the cake layers will be pretty thin. I love using this white cake recipe because it’s soft, moist, and doesn’t overpower the delicate whipped cream or fresh berries. It’s made with cake flour, egg whites, and sour cream to guarantee the softest crumb. Highly recommended! If white cake isn’t your ideal choice, I have a few other flavor ideas. Most are actually adapted from my white cake recipe:


You Could Also Make a 6 Inch Cake

Don’t want to make such a large cake? You can use this exact decorating technique on a 6 inch cake. I have plenty of 6 inch cake flavor ideas in my 6 Inch Cake Recipes post. (Use any cupcake batter!) Simply halve the amount of whipped cream and berries.


Prepare the Cake Pans

No matter which size round cake pans you use, I always recommend lining them with parchment paper rounds. Cakes release seamlessly from the pans this way:

  1. Make a parchment paper round. Trace the bottom of the cake pans on a large piece of parchment paper. Cut out the parchment circles.
  2. Very lightly grease the baking pans.
  3. Place the parchment round inside.
  4. Grease the parchment round too. Using butter or nonstick spray, I grease the pan AND the parchment. This promises an ultra non-stick environment for your cake. Never any sticking.

3 lined round cake pans

3 cake pans with cake batter

Garnishes for Fresh Berry Cream Cake

  • Whipped Cream: I recommend the whipped cream recipe below, which yields plenty for a 3 layer 8 or 9 inch cake. (See recipe note about a 6 inch cake.) It’s a slightly scaled up version of my vanilla whipped cream. I add a little almond extract for extra flavor, but that’s optional. You know what would be equally tasty? The mocha whipped cream from my flourless chocolate cake— double that whipped cream to ensure you have enough for a 3 layer 8 or 9 inch cake. Interested in chocolate whipped cream? Add 3 Tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 extra Tablespoon of confectioners’ sugar to the recipe below. You could also flavor the whipped cream with various extracts such as lemon extract, orange extract, coconut extract, etc. Leave out the almond extract, replace with 1/2 teaspoon of your desired flavor, taste the finished whipped cream, then fold in more extract if desired.
  • Fresh Berries: Layer fresh berries into the cake on top of the layers of whipped cream. You can use blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, or even fresh sliced cherries.
  • Florals: Use edible flowers or flowers that haven’t been sprayed with pesticides. Avoid strong-smelling flowers as the smell may linger on the cake.

3 Final Success Tips

  1. Level your cakes. Level off the top of each cake layer so both sides are flat. This is important because flat and even layers add stability to your finished cake. You can use a cake leveler or large serrated knife. I always use a serrated knife.
  2. Keep it simple. Make it easy on yourself! I’ve seen many naked cake recipes that call for a soak in simple syrup to prevent it from drying out. You can absolutely take this route, but I don’t find it necessary if your cake is moist to begin with (like the white cake below or any others listed above).
  3. The refrigerator is your friend. Chill this assembled cake in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before slicing and serving. Why? This stabilizes all of your hard work! It helps the whipped cream adhere to the cake layers and ensures a neater slice.

whipped cream in bowl and on whisk attachment

decorating a fresh berry cake

top of fresh berry whipped cream cake

Video Tutorial: Decorating the Cake

Print


Description

This minimally decorated naked-style cake is layered between fresh and fluffy whipped cream and piled high with juicy berries.


Ingredients

  • 2 and 1/2 cups (250gsifted cake flour* (spoon & leveled – sift before measuring)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks; 170gunsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (350ggranulated sugar
  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120gsour cream, at room temperature*
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract (yes, Tbsp!)
  • 1 cup (240ml) whole milk, at room temperature*

Whipped Cream & Berries

  • 2 cups (480ml) cold heavy cream or heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup (5 Tablespoons; 40g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
  • 2 cups fresh berries (any berry or mix of berries)
  • optional: dusting of confectioners’ sugar and/or fresh florals

  1. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease three 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper rounds (see #6 in Cake Baking Tips), then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans. I recommend using nonstick spray for greasing. I also recommend 8 inch cake pans as the 9 inch cakes will be pretty thin.
  2. Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
  3. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until creamed together. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg whites. Beat on high speed until combined, about 2 minutes. Then beat in the sour cream and vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. With the mixer still running on low, slowly pour in the milk until combined. Do not overmix. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick.
  4. Pour batter evenly into cake pans. Bake for around 22-24 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it is done. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before assembling.
  5. Make the whipped cream: Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, and almond extract on medium-high speed until medium peaks form, about 3-4 minutes. Medium peaks are between soft/loose peaks and stiff peaks and are the perfect consistency for decorating cakes. Use immediately or cover tightly and chill in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Yields about 4 cups.
  6. Assemble cake: If cooled cakes are domed on top, use a large serrated knife to slice a thin layer off the tops to create a flat surface. This is called “leveling” the cakes. (Discard thin layer or crumble over ice cream.) Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Evenly spread 1 heaping cup of whipped cream on top. I always use an icing spatula to spread. Arrange a single layer of mixed berries on top. Top with 2nd cake layer. Spread another 1 heaping cup of whipped cream on top, then a single layer of berries. Top with 3rd cake layer. Spread remaining whipped cream on top and garnish with fresh berries. Add a dusting of confectioners’ sugar on the berries, if desired, and/or garnish with fresh florals.
  7. Chill the assembled cake for at least 2 hours (and up to 1 day) before slicing and serving. This time in the refrigerator helps the whipped cream thicken and makes cutting neater and easier. Note that the berries could begin to release their juices if kept in the refrigerator for longer than 2 hours.
  8. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: Prepare cake through step 4. Wrap the individual baked and cooled cake layers tightly and keep at room temperature for 1 day or freeze up to 3 months. Bring to room temperature (if frozen) then continue with step 5. See How to Freeze Cakes if desired. Whipped cream can also be made 1 day ahead of time. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight. If it’s too stiff after refrigerating, stir in 1 extra Tablespoon of heavy cream or even milk to help thin out. I don’t recommend freezing the assembled cake as the whipped cream and berries won’t thaw very nicely. However, you can wrap and freeze leftover individual slices for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature before enjoying.
  2. Cake Flour: If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, use this cake flour substitute. I suggest doing this 3x, then remove 1/2 cup since you need 2 and 1/2 cups in this recipe.
  3. Leftover Egg Yolks: Make some lemon curd! You can add thin layers of it between the cake layers on top of the whipped cream and under the berries. Here are other recipes where you can use leftover egg yolks.
  4. Whole milk and sour cream are strongly recommended for the best taste and texture. A full fat plain yogurt would work instead, though the cake may not be as light. Same goes with a lower fat milk.
  5. Other Flavor Cakes: See above for alternative flavor ideas. Each cake listed yields a 3 layer 9-inch cake. If you want a 3 layer 8 inch cake instead, add about 2 minutes of bake time to its recipe. If using chocolate cake, see those recipe notes about turning into a 3 layer cake.
  6. 2 Layer Cake: I highly recommend sticking to a 3 layer cake for this look. A 2 layer cake would be pretty short. If desired, though, use this white cake recipe (which is 2 layers) or turn any 3 layer cakes listed above into a 2 layer 9-inch cakes by extending the bake time. Use a toothpick to test for doneness. Halving the whipped cream should leave you with plenty for a 2 layer cake. Use a heaping 1 cup of fresh berries.
  7. 6 Inch Cake: You can use this exact decorating technique on a smaller 6 inch cake. I have plenty of 6 inch cake flavor ideas in my 6 Inch Cake Recipes post. Halve the ingredients in the whipped cream recipe and use only about 1 cup of berries.

Keywords: naked cake, fresh berry cake, whipped cream

 

How to Join Sally’s Baking Challenge

Make the fresh berry cream cake using the recipe above or any alternative cake flavor or size. If you’re not into this recipe, here is the alternate July Baking Challenge:

  1. any previous challenge recipe OR
  2. Mini No-Bake Cheesecakes

After you make the fresh berry cream cake or the alternate recipe, email me your recipe photo. Feel free to also share it on social media using #sallysbakingchallenge. For a bonus entry, leave a review on the recipe below!

By emailing your photo to us, you are automatically entered in the baking challenge for the $250 Amazon gift card prize. We keep track of your photos and randomly select 1 winner at the end of the month. The challenge is open to the whole world. Challenge ends on July 30th 2020 at 5pm ET. The winner will be selected at random and posted in the August Baking Challenge blog post on July 31st 2020.

Visit the Sally’s Baking Challenge FAQ page if you have any questions about my baking challenges!

Like pound cake with fresh berries and cream, but much lighter!

slice of white cake with whipped cream and berries



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Pico de Gallo Recipe (Fresh Tomato Salsa)


$2.59 recipe / $0.22 serving

Pico de gallo is one of my favorite fresh summer condiments because it only takes a few minutes to make and it’s just so fresh and vibrant. The flavor just screams “summer!” I’m always so in awe of recipes that have only a few ingredients, but taste so good and pico de gallo is a great example of that. There’s something magic about the combination of fresh lime and salt that totally transforms this bowl of tomatoes, onions, and cilantro. Simple, magic, delicious.

Originally posted 5-22-2011, updated 6-30-2020.

A bowl of pico de gallo surrounded by chips, tomatoes, limes, cilantro, and salt.

What is Pico de Gallo?

Pico de gallo is a fresh salsa made with tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, salt, lime, and cilantro. Unlike most jarred salsa that you find in the store, this mix is not cooked, so the flavor stays very fresh and vibrant, and the texture is less saucy and more chunky. 

How to Use Pico de Gallo

If you’re wondering how you use pico de gallo, the answer is “on everything.” It’s a condiment that can be spooned over just about any savory food for an added boost of freshness. Here are a few things I like to spoon it over:

Where’s the Jalapeño??

Okay, so there is where I diverge from traditional pico de gallo recipes. I, for whatever reason, despite how much I like spicy food, prefer mine without jalapeño, so the recipe below is written sans jalapeño. If you want to make it in the traditional fashion, simply seed and finely dice one jalapeño and add it into the mix.

What Else Can I Add?

Pico de gallo is a great starting point for any number of fresh salsas. Here are some other ingredients you can add to flesh it out and make it into a more complex salsa:

  • pineapple
  • avocado
  • corn
  • mango
  • peaches
  • chipotle peppers

Pico de gallo being spooned over green chile enchiladas

Shown spooned over Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas.

 

Pico de Gallo

This fresh and easy pico de gallo only takes a few minutes to make and adds vibrant flavor to your tacos, enchiladas, nachos, and more.

Total Cost: $2.59 recipe / $0.22 serving

Author: Beth – Budget Bytes

Servings: 12 ¼ cup each

  • 2 tomatoes (2 cups diced) ($1.50)
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion (1 cup diced) ($0.37)
  • 1 lime ($0.50)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro ($0.20)
  • 1/4 tsp salt ($0.02)
  • Finely dice the tomato and onion. Finely chop the cilantro. Add the tomato, onion, and cilantro to a bowl.

  • Squeeze the juice of half the lime over the vegetables in the bowl (about 1 Tbsp). Add a pinch or two of salt, and stir everything to combine. Taste the mixture and add more salt or lime juice to your liking. Allow the salsa to sit for five minutes before serving.

See how we calculate recipe costs here.


Serving: 14cupCalories: 14.13kcalCarbohydrates: 3.03gProtein: 0.5gFat: 0.02gSodium: 56.61mgFiber: 0.92g

Nutritional values are estimates only. See our full nutrition disclosure here.


The equipment section above contains affiliate links to products we use and love. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Close up of a chip topped with pico de gallo, the bowl in the background

How to Make Pico de Gallo – Step By Step Photos

Fresh tomato, onion, lime, cilantro and salt on a cutting board

Since pico de gallo is a FRESH tomato salsa, it starts with all fresh ingredients: tomatoes, onion, lime, cilantro, and salt. I like to do a 2:1 ratio of tomato to onion, so I used two small tomatoes and half of an onion. I also prefer to use a sweeter onion for pico de gallo, so it doesn’t overwhelm the salsa, so I used a Vidalia onion.

Chopped tomato onion and cilantro in a bowl

Finely dice the tomatoes and onion, and finely chop the cilantro (about ¼ cup).

lime being squeezed over the bowl of vegetables

Squeeze fresh lime juice over the diced vegetables. For the amount of pico de gallo I am making here, I used about 1 Tbsp of lime juice, or the juice of half a lime. The great thing about pico de gallo is that you can just make it according to your own tastes, without measuring anything.

stirred pico de gallo in the bowl, salt and limes on the side

Season with a pinch or two of salt, then stir everything together. Taste, and adjust the salt to your liking. I used about ¼ tsp of salt. Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes before serving to allow the juices to extract and flavors to blend. Make sure to give it a good stir just before serving to redistribute the flavor.

Overhead view of a bowl of pico de gallo surrounded by tortilla chips, salt, tomatoes, cilantro, and limes





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Sally’s Baking Challenge Announcement! | Sally’s Baking Addiction


Sally's Baking Challenge logo image

41 Months Going Strong!

Can you believe that Sally’s Baking Challenge has been going strong for 41 months? The first Sally’s Baking Challenge in February 2017 seems like forever ago and I’m just so grateful for the continued dedication and excitement for these monthly baking challenges. 🙂

Participation is growing each month. It’s incredible. Some months see over 2,000! As you can imagine, it’s becoming difficult to properly track the entries on multiple social medias, as well as through email. I’m always afraid we’re missing some and I certainly don’t want to accidentally leave any out.

All Entries Must Be Emailed

My team and I keep a master spreadsheet for each month and we’d love to streamline the process since there’s so much participation! So we don’t miss any entries, we’re narrowing down how to submit your recipe photos. I invite you to share them on social media just as you always have, but in order to formally submit your recipe photo into the running, you must send it via email: [email protected]. With the volume of participation, email is the best way to guarantee it’s properly counted. And we need your email in case you win, too– that’s how you receive your gift card! As we welcome a new baby, I’m taking time off the next few months, so a team member will respond instead of me.

To Sum Up:

  • Feel free to continue to share your #sallysbakingchallenge recipe photos on your social medias, but please make sure you also email us the entry. (Most of you do anyway!) Here’s the email to use: [email protected]
  • We’ll include this updated information in all Sally’s Baking Challenge posts moving forward so there’s no confusion.

Thank you again for your dedication to the monthly baking challenges. This baking tradition wouldn’t be what it is without YOU!

Q: Which Sally’s Baking Challenge has been your favorite?



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How to Create a High-Converting Book Landing Page [with Examples]


So, you’ve written a book. Now, you’ll probably want to get people to read it—which is easier said than done, especially when we’re in the middle of a global pandemic. At a time when many brick-and-mortar bookstores are shuttered and there’s nobody to explore the aisles, helping potential readers discover your books can be tricky. 

If this is your predicament, we have three words for you: book landing page.

Smart use of landing pages (along with digital ad campaigns) can help publishers and authors find new audiences online. With the nationwide change in book-buying behaviors during COVID-19 and the resulting spike in online book sales, it’s no surprise that the digital sphere is taking the spotlight. As time goes on, converting customers over the internet will only become more important.

And landing pages are a key ingredient in that recipe for success.

Why Do Authors Need a Book Landing Page?

You might already have a cross-platform marketing strategy for your book, covering channels like a website, social media, and email marketing. That’s great for exposure, but how do you convince all of those folks to actually become readers? To help your book move actual copies, you need a dedicated page with that singular goal in mind.  

That’s exactly the idea behind a book landing page: a base for your book that is hyper-focused on conversion. Unburdened by navigation bars and other distractions, landing pages steer people directly to your call to action.

Chances are higher that a browser will pick up your book if it’s the only book on a single table in the room, rather than one of many CTAs on display. Then your landing page will do the rest of the work, convincing passersby that buying your book is in their best interest. Just take this landing page of David Lawrence and John Lawrence’s Smarter Marketer, for example:

Image courtesy of Rocket. (Click to see the whole thing.)

Landing pages are handy for all authors, no matter your end objective:

  • If you have an ebook as a lead magnet, your book landing page will drive visitors to a signup form that captures email addresses. 
  • If you’re selling your book, your book landing page will make people want to click the big “Buy” button.

Whether you’re looking to make more sales off of your book or capture newsletter subscribers, a landing page will step up to the plate for you and your book marketing plan. Now here’s how to create one for yourself. 

Editor’s note. Looking to promote an ebook for lead generation? Emily Bauer recently explored genius ebook landing page examples created in Unbounce that’ll help you get more readers to download. Take a look if you want more inspiration!

How to Build a Book Landing Page

Before we discuss book-specific tips, it’s worth it to remind yourself of general landing page best practices

  1. Center your value proposition “above the fold” to quickly and concisely convey the benefit of your product. 
  2. Present a clear call to action, so that visitors to your page know exactly what they should do. 
  3. Keep your page conversion-focused by cutting out clutter and navigation. 
  4. Include social proof and testimonials.
  5. A/B test, A/B test, and A/B test. 

You may already be familiar with A/B testing through running a mailing list (you are running an author mailing list, aren’t you?), but it can also be used on landing pages. When you run tests through a service like Unbounce that automatically splits your traffic and tracks your data for you, you’ll be able to refine your landing pages until you have one that works best for your specific audience—no guessing needed.

Bottom line: make sure that you first stick these fundamentals to stick your landing (page).  

And with that in mind, let’s turn to features that are specific to building book landing pages. Remember that display table your book is placed on? Imagine a website visitor walking over to it. Imagine what else will figure into that visitor’s buying decision. A book is all about what’s inside. Yes, readers may pick up a book because of its look—but you’ll turn casual browsers into actual buyers by the quality of your book’s content.

That’s where a finely-executed book landing page can really shine: it can show your book in action, letting visitors “pick up” your book and “flip through” it to hook them. Here are some ideas to inspire you. 

1. Catch the eye with a striking book cover

Even in the middle of a pandemic, one thing is certain: people will still judge a book by its cover. 

That’s why a striking, professionally-designed book cover is one of the best favors that you can do for your book (and yourself). A great book cover is how you’ll capture a casual browser’s attention long enough to linger by your display table in the first place. 

But here’s why it’s doubly important to get your book cover right: your landing page should be built around your book cover. A strong cover will determine the central theme of the page, and help lay the foundations in terms of the high-contrast colors, styles, and general mood. You might also re-use images from your book cover in the design of your landing page.

A book landing page for Creativity for Sale

Don’t forget to take the testimonials on your book cover and use them as social proof on your landing page. Spoiler alert: readers aren’t going to squint at a book cover just to read someone else putting in a good word for your book. Instead, pull those quotes and integrate them into your landing page design.


2. “Flip it over” for an irresistible book description

What’s the next thing that a curious reader will look at when they pick up a book? Chances are they’re going to read the inside flap to find out the book’s premise. 

Likewise, people who stop on your landing page will want to know what your book is actually about—which is where your book description is going to come into play. On any Amazon product page, the book description is a major conversion factor. It’s a similar case for landing pages.

This book description is not a substitute for (or a carbon-copy of) your unique value proposition. Both should compellingly describe the benefits of your book, how you solve your customer’s needs, and what distinguishes you from the competition. The book description, however, should go “below the fold.” And while you don’t want a wall of text that will scare off customers—or, worse, bore them—the copy for book descriptions tends to be longer than the UVP. 

Even a free ebook needs to prove its worth. Unbounce’s SaaS Optimization Guide uses bullet points to highlight the value of the ebook. Explore the page (and the downloadable) here.

Here are some more pointers to keep in mind as you perfect your book description:

  • Keep it to 300 words or less. 
  • Use bullet points that quickly convey digestible information for readers, especially for nonfiction books.
  • Craft every sentence of your book description with your ultimate goal (remember: conversion) in mind.

3. Offer a “Look Inside”

If you’ve ever bought a book on Amazon before, you’re probably familiar with Amazon’s Look Inside feature: a simple click that allows you to read a sample chapter, skim your table of contents, or browse the index. This is a smart way to let customers check out a book for themselves, which will likely carry them further down the funnel. And it’s something that you can replicate on your landing page. 

For a novel, you might want to offer a sneak peek at the first page or the first chapter of your book below the fold. 

For a nonfiction book, you might want to show off your table of contents or a chapter-by-chapter summary that shows readers exactly how you will solve their problem.  

A full chapter overview of an ebook

This results in a great tactic that really shows your product in action—which is, as you know, also a best practice when it comes to landing pages.

Letting readers see exactly what they’ll be getting will raise their confidence in their purchase, encouraging them to follow your focused call to action without worrying if the price is “worth it.”


4. Host a (virtual) reading

As we mentioned earlier, book marketing has changed during this age of social distancing. Some of the first establishments to close were bookshops and libraries—a hit to authors who rely on nationwide book tours and public readings as a way to promote their just-published books.  

So what can authors do to adapt?

They can bring themselves to the masses online. Though not everyone can visit their local bookstores right now, people can access their laptops (or smartphones) with one click. Instead of a scheduled in-person reading, you may be able to provide a recording on your landing page to capture their interest. Readers appreciate the chance to connect with authors—what better way to do so than to hear a sample of the work in your own voice?

A book landing page with a sample reading

The benefits are twofold: this is, of course, another way to show your product in action. But this is also a clever, prescient way to start building a relationship with visitors. People are increasingly tired of faceless and soulless corporations. They will want to know their hard-won money or email address is going to somebody real—someone they can relate to on a human level.


5. …and follow-up with a Q&A

But you can even go one step further than that. Adding video to landing pages is a proven tactic that boosts both engagement and conversion rates. Remember, a good video on a landing page can increase conversions by 80%.

Authors are in a unique position to take advantage of this. For a book landing page, you have a number of video ideas at your disposal:

  • A book trailer
  • A videotaped Q&A or webinar where you answer frequently asked questions from fans
  • A sample of an interview that you did with a media outlet

Just remember to keep it short. After all, your landing page isn’t a YouTube channel. You don’t want to distract anyone from the objective of your landing page: your call to action.

Get Started Quickly (With a Little Help)

Marketing your book can feel daunting, but it’s okay to rely on others when things get overwhelming. Whether you’re using Unbounce’s templates to make building your book landing pages easier or consulting with a book marketer to see what you could be doing better to promote your book, there’s no reason to go it completely alone.



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July Baking Challenge | Sally’s Baking Addiction


fresh berries and whipped cream on a layer cake

JULY BAKING CHALLENGE

July 2020 Sally’s Baking Challenge Recipe: Fresh Berry Cream Cake (recipe and full details coming tomorrow)

This towering beauty features layers of fresh whipped cream and plenty of delicious berries! This is another Sally’s Baking Challenge recipe where you can let your creativity shine. Use your favorite layer cake recipe (even a 6 inch cake for a smaller version!) and decorate it with fresh whipped cream, berries, and any other garnishes you desire. We’re channeling the March 2018 Sally’s Baking Challenge when we made Naked Cake, only this version uses whipped cream and is totally bare on the sides. Perfect for summertime.


GIVEAWAY

Everyone who participates in the July Baking Challenge is automatically entered. See below for How to Join Sally’s Baking Challenge. We updated how to enter, so make sure you review the pink box below– a separate announcement is going out later today about this too. (Enter via email!) My assistants and I keep track of your photos and randomly select 1 winner at the end of the month. This giveaway is open to the whole world. Giveaway ends on July 30th 2020 at 5pm ET.

1 winner will receive: $250 Amazon Gift Card. Winner will be selected at random and posted in the August Baking Challenge blog post on July 31st 2020.

Visit the Sally’s Baking Challenge FAQ page if you have any questions about my baking challenges!

How to Join Sally’s Baking Challenge

  1. Recipe: On or around the 1st of each month, I publish a new challenge recipe. Sign up for Sally’s Baking Challenge emails so you’re alerted as soon as a new challenge recipe is published!
  2. Bake & Comment: Bake the recipe during that month.
  3. Send: Share your recipe photo with us via email: [email protected]. By emailing your recipe photo, you are automatically entered in the giveaway. For a bonus entry, leave a review on the challenge recipe. Instagram direct messages are hard to track, so please email your recipe photo instead. Feel free to share on social media using #sallysbakingchallenge and tagging me (@sallysbakeblog), but the only way to guarantee you are in the running is sending your entry via email.

Want to subscribe? Sign up for Sally’s Baking Challenge emails so you’re alerted as soon as a new challenge recipe is published.

Let’s Review the June Baking Challenge

June 2020 Sally’s Baking Challenge Recipe: Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches

I challenged you to make homemade ice cream sandwiches this past month and you certainly showed up! I loved the excitement and was so thrilled to see many of you step outside of your comfort zones. The general feedback was that these were MUCH easier than anticipated and isn’t that what these challenges are all about? Testing your limits and realizing you’re completely capable of trying new recipes. Using this recipe, there were mint ice cream sandwiches, caramel, neapolitan, sea salted, black cherry chocolate, cookie dough, strawberry, sprinkle loaded… and MANY happy children. 🙂 What a fun challenge as we kick off summertime. I hope you make these many more times in the future, too!

One of my favorite recipe reviews came from reader Sarah:

“Ice cream sandwiched between 2 perfect brownies. Can it get better?! These are easy to make and taste absolutely amazing. My whole family absolutely loved them. My brother said “this is how all ice cream sandwiches should be!” Will be making again!”

We gathered as many brownie ice cream sandwich photo entries as we could and included them below. (Email is the best way to help guarantee your photo will be included!)

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

collage of brownie ice cream sandwich images

Guess What?

For the first time ever, an alternative challenge recipe was randomly chosen from the giant list of entries! But since the main challenge recipe was our brownie ice cream sandwiches, let’s have TWO winners this month. 🙂

Winners are Nikki for her Lemon Pudding Cakes (the alternative challenge recipe) and Amy for her Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches. Both winners have been notified.

lemon pudding cakes baking challenge winner photo

brownie ice cream sandwich winner image



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