Bjork here, checking in with our monthly traffic and income report.
“Traffic and income report?!?” you say. “I thought this was a food blog?”
You’re right! It is. So what does traffic and income have to do with a food blog? Well, a few years ago Lindsay and I decided to experiment with creating an income and building the traffic to Pinch of Yum. In a moment of (un)inspired brainstorming we decided to call it “The Food Blog Money Making Experiment.”
And here we are, 1,246 days later, continuing on with our experiment.
What have we learned? Well, the biggest thing we’ve learned is that there’s a lot to learn. And there always will be. Which is why we keep coming back every month (even if it’s literally the last day of the month) to report on the things that went well, the things that didn’t go so well, and the things that we think might go well moving forward.
For the most part, the report format has remained unchanged from when we first started. The biggest changes happen when we find ways to add some value, like in April 2012’s report when we started to include traffic numbers and screenshots from Google Analytics, or in April 2013 when we started reporting the blog’s profit instead of revenue (net profit = income – expenses).
Today marks another phase in the evolution of our income report format because we’ll start to include some other insights around blogging that don’t have to do with traffic or income.
We’ll also be welcoming a special guest that will start to make appearances on these reports.
Her name is Lindsay. Do you know her?
A few months ago I asked Lindsay if she would be willing to add her voice to these monthly reports. I knew that Lindsay, as the primary content creator, has insights to offer that would be incredibly valuable to the people who are reading these posts.
Sure, I do a lot of stuff behind the scenes for Pinch of Yum. But it’s really Lindsay that has grown this thing into what it is today, not me. That’s why I’m really excited that Lindsay (although initially hesitant) agreed to be a part of these monthly reports.
One last thought I wanted to share before we dive into the income report. It’s a Tony Robbins quote I recently read that really resonated with me. It’s also an important concept to understanding if you’re wanting to build your blog or website into a business:
“Once you have mastered time, you will understand how true it is that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year – and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade!”
Lindsay and I have talked before about a similar concept that we call one percent infinity, or written with math symbols, 1%∞. The idea with 1%∞ is that you focus on making small improvements every day over a long period of time. It’s all about getting a little bit better, every day, forever.
1%∞ alleviates the pressure and negative self-talk that can often weigh us down when we’re pursuing big goals. It’s paying attention to the little details (did I get a little bit better today?) while at the same time remembering your long-term hopes and dreams (if I continue getting better each day, then someday I’ll be able to work on my website full-time…or whatever your goal is).
Our hope for these monthly reports is that they can be part of your 1%∞. That they help you move a little bit closer to your hopes and dreams, whatever those may be.
And, once again, I’ve written a short essay before we’ve actually gotten into any of the real content. Let’s take a look at the numbers.
A quick note: Some of the links below are affiliate links. All of the products listed below are products and services we’ve used before. If you have any questions about any of the income or expenses you can leave a comment and I’ll do my best to reply.
- sovrn – $5,211.25
- Bluehost – $4,255.00 –> this income comes from a page where we show people how to start a food blog in three easy steps.
- Tasty Food Photography – $3,435.25
- Sponsored Posts – $3,150.00
- Yellow Hammer Media – $2,964.20
- BlogHer – $1,912.99
- Ziplist – $878.89
- Go Sugar Free Course – $666.29
- Google AdSense – $643.74
- Genesis Theme – $546.68
- Everyday Healthy eCookbook – $342.00
- Amazon Associates – $326.28
- The Blogger Network – $344.28
- The Creamy Cauliflower Sauce eCookbook – $252.00
- Elegant Themes – $167.00
- How to Monetize Your Food Blog eBook – $87.50
- AWeber – $26.10
Total Income: $25,209.45
- Support Staff – $1,664.77
- eBook Affiliates – $889.00
- Media Temple (Hosting) – $689.00
- Food Expenses – $578.05
- Amazon S3 and Cloudfront – $497.16
- PayPal Transaction Percentage – $223.26
- GoDaddy (Domain Names) – $175.62
- MailChimp – $150.00
- Facebook Advertising – $122.74
- Dropbox – $99.00
- Sucuri – $89.99
- Coworking Space – $85.00
- LeadPages – $67.00
- ViralTag – $53.90
- Adobe Creative Cloud – $53.55
- Photography Equipment – $41.30
- PayPal Website Payments Pro – $30.00
- QuickBooks – $26.95
- VaultPress – $20.00
- Time Doctor – $19.98
- E-Junkie – $18.00
- HelloBar – $15.00
- Backupify – $12.00
- Travel – $10.95
- Stream – $2.00
Total Expenses: $5,634.22
Net Profit: $19,575.23
Below are some screenshots from Google Analytics. You can click on these images to view a larger size.
Top Ten Traffic Sources
Mobile vs. Desktop Traffic
RPM stands for page revenue per thousand impressions. RPM shows you the average revenue you earn from every 1,000 page views on your blog. It’s a helpful metric because it allows you to see how effective you are at monetizing your blog.
Below is the RPM that we had for Pinch of Yum in the month of December.
Advertising and Products
If you’ve followed along with these reports over the last few months you know that I’ve been on my soapbox for a while talking about display advertising vs. products and native advertising (like sponsored content). The general idea I’ve been trying to communicate is that display advertising isn’t the most effective way to monetize a blog or website. Numerous sites (like Buzzfeed, for example) have never used banner advertising to create an income (Buzzfeed creates income through sponsored content). I think it’s a smart, bold decision.
Lindsay and I have talked a lot in the last few months about advertising and how it fits into Pinch of Yum’s long-term business plan. To be specific, we’ve talked about getting rid of ads altogether. In December, for the first time ever, the combined total from our two primary products (Tasty Food Photography and Food Blogger Pro) eclipsed the total revenue from affiliate marketing, display advertising, and sponsored content (note: we don’t include income totals for Food Blogger Pro in these reports).
The returns that we’re seeing on traditional advertising (i.e. banner ads) vs other types of income (products like an eBook and Food Blogger Pro, native advertising like sponsored posts, and affiliate marketing) looked like this in December:
But there were two hurdles that we had to jump before we got to the “remove ads completely from Pinch of Yum” finish line:
- Ads are still a significant source of revenue for our businesses (20–40%).
- Removing ads from Pinch of Yum would significantly impact how knowledgeable we are about ads, which would significantly impact our ability to offer value in these reports and with Food Blogger Pro community.
Food blogs are an interesting niche because they have the potential to drive a significant amount of traffic that’s fairly disengaged with the blog itself.
That’s why it’s important to think about the type of traffic (i.e. the type of people) that are coming to your website, not just the amount of traffic.
Types of Visitors
Visitor #1. Information Seeker
You, the person reading this post, are one of the most valuable readers on Pinch of Yum. You’re an information and knowledge seeker. You might have a blog, website, or business that you’re building. You’ve maybe even purchased Tasty Food Photography or be a member of Food Blogger Pro. Or your just curious about this blog’s business stuff. Regardless, you’re someone that’s engaged, curious, and probably pretty sharp. And I’m not just trying to make you feel good about yourself.
Visitor #2. Consistent and Connected
The consistent visitor is also one of the most valuable readers. You might not have a blog or a website, but you consistently come to the blog to read. You have maybe emailed us, left a comment or tweeted to Lindsay. You feel connected to us and we’re connected to you. In general, you trust us to be decent people, and we probably trust you because we recognize who you are and we’ve connected before. We’re friends, even if it’s from a distance. Even if we haven’t ever connected online you’d be able to chat with us pretty effortlessly when we meet in person because you might know a few random facts about us: “How’s the kitchen?” “Have you gotten a dog yet?” “Did Bjork ever change out of that blue hoodie?”
Visitor #3. Gimme and Go
These are the people that come for the recipe and then get the heck out. They don’t know who we are, don’t care who we are, and probably aren’t interested in connecting. This isn’t bad, it’s just a reality. It’s actually one of the main reasons a food blog exists – to provide good recipes that people will enjoy. Again, this isn’t bad. We still really, really, appreciate these visitors, but it’s important to know that these types of visitors are very different than the first two types of visitors.
What works for the Information Seekers and the Consistent and Connected groups?
Visitors in group #1 and #2 are types of traffic that affiliate marketing, sponsored content, and products are best suited for. It’s these people that we think of as friends (or, at the very least, virtual friends). We give advice or offer solutions that we know work well, and they trust us that our recommendations are good.
This can be true for recipes, like when Lindsay writes a sponsored post for a brand she likes and recommends, OR with business-type transactions, like when we suggest people read Tasty Food Photography to learn how to improve their photography skills or purchase a certain camera that we really like.
Affiliate marketing, sponsored content, and products are awesome for our Information Seekers and the Consistent and Connected friends, but ads, unfortunately, are a big two thumbs down for these types of visitors. They’re a distraction from connection and siphon off little bits of trust instead of build on it. Ads, in terms of creating an income, are more suited for the Gimme and Go types of visitors.
What works for the Gimme and Go group?
For this group, ads make a lot of sense as a monetization strategy. Remember, this is the group of people that come for a recipe, print it off, and go on their merry way. They aren’t seeking to solve any deeper problem and probably won’t be coming back tomorrow morning to see if there’s an update on our kitchen remodel.
The visitors will get what they want (in this case, the recipes) and display ads won’t affect their trust in our brand because they’re not really looking to develop a lasting relationship with the blog or the blogger. They need the recipe, and once they get it they have what they want. Transaction complete.
If it wasn’t for the Gimme and Go group, ads wouldn’t make much sense. But with a food blog, there are a lot of Gimme and Go-ers on the site every day (at least we know this to be true for Pinch of Yum).
Takeaway for Bloggers
So what’s the takeaway for bloggers and website owners? It’s important to think of the types of visitors that you’re trying to reach, not just the amount of visitors.
For example, one of the reasons that we write these posts each month is because we know that you, the person reading this, is a really valuable person to our business. We try to pack as much value into these posts as possible because we hope to keep you coming back.
One of the reasons that Lindsay writes posts in a personable way and opens up about our life is because she really values the connected reader that comes back to the blog on a consistent basis.
How many is significant, but who is significantly more important.
Individual Courses on Pinch of Yum
Individual courses are a hot topic around our two-person office these days. We are really excited to offer individual courses to the Pinch of Yum audience, but we still haven’t figured out the best way to do it.
Let’s back up and start from the beginning.
For those of you that don’t know, Bjork and I have a website called Food Blogger Pro that is a training resource for food bloggers. It has a super easy to use nutritional label generator, an active community forum, and over 300 training videos.
Food Blogger Pro is not only a valuable resource for people who are looking to start and grow a food blog – it’s also a great place for our new video courses to live.
So when I promoted my new course on Artificial Lighting last week, I sent readers directly over to Food Blogger Pro where they would be able to get more information and access the course as a part of a membership.
Well, sort of. The problem is that we know a lot of Pinch of Yum readers aren’t food bloggers, or they might just prefer to purchase an individual course over a membership site.
We had actually anticipated this, so in the weeks leading up to the course launch, Bjork and I tried to set up a way for Pinch of Yum readers to access individual courses directly on the Pinch of Yum site.
AND IT WAS A PROCESS.
We started by experimenting with integrating individual video courses into Pinch of Yum using the Sensei and WooCommerce plugins. After $200+ in purchases, $500 in development costs, testing and reviewing by a beta team (thank you, dear ones), and much deliberation, we decided that it wasn’t ready to launch.
Everything worked, but it didn’t work well (extremely slow, mucky, not a super slick design), and we knew that if we were going to do it, we wanted to do it right.
So until we get this figured out, the only place we are offering those new courses is on Food Blogger Pro, even though we know this isn’t the best fit for a lot of readers.
I’d love to hear if you’ve purchased individual courses on other blogs and what that experience was like. Or if you’ve used certain WordPress course plugins before that have been successful for you. Ideally, we’d like the courses to integrate into Pinch of Yum as opposed to being hosted on a third-party site, but right now we are still working through the details of how to best get those individual courses available directly on Pinch of Yum.
The Continual Trek Towards Mobile
I’m really excited that Lindsay is a part of these income reports because, in reality, she’s the one that’s grown all the traffic to Pinch of Yum. I just report on it.
Before she shares some thoughts below, I wanted to point out something that I often come back to in these reports; the continual trek towards mobile. You can see the percentages from the screenshot in the Traffic section above, but where it gets really interesting is when you compare the numbers from December 2014 to the numbers from December 2013.
Whoa! For those aren’t into numbers here’s what that screenshot is showing you, over the past year, traffic from desktop has increased by 44%, traffic from tablets has increased by 51%, and traffic from mobile has increased 109%.
That means that mobile is growing twice as fast as desktop and tablet!
It’s a clear reminder that we need to continue in our effort to figure out how to optimize a mobile version of the website. Google has also realized this need, as Webmaster Tools users with websites that aren’t mobile-friendly have started to receive warnings.
MORE TRAFFIC! Developing Viral-Potential Recipes
Annnd I sort of hate that I just wrote that as a header. Let me explain:
For a while now, I have had this ongoing internal battle with what I’m going to call “viral-potential recipes.” On the one hand, viral potential is a beautiful thing. I love that after five years of doing this, I can pretty accurately guess what kind of food my readers will like, write a “viral-potential post” that is catered to what most everyone likes, see the clicks, pins, likes, and shares that I am expecting.
Wash, rinse, and repeat, right?
Well, sort of. We DO want Pinch of Yum to grow, and we DO want to see traffic increase, and therefore I DO want to develop viral-potential recipes.
Sometimes I feel icky about choosing between recipes that I really want to make that might be less popular and recipes with high potential for an easy win in terms of virality. Like when I want to make curry lentils and roasted veggies for myself, but I know that yet another Mexican chicken recipe will perform better.
I find that when I focus on the viral potential of recipes rather than my actual LOVE of the food, it leaves me feeling like a mainstream recipe robot which I’m pretty sure is the fast track to killing the life of a food blog.
This month I feel like I’ve finally hit somewhat of a balance with the strategy behind crafting viral potential recipes and passion that comes from sharing the food that I’m really loving. Two tactics that can help in striking that balance –>
1. Make an Editorial Calendar. This month was the first time I’ve EVER done this for Pinch of Yum, and my goal with it was to allow the savvy of viral potential recipes and the authenticity of self-driven recipes to co-exist on Pinch of Yum. It was nothing fancy – just a list of all my recipes for the month that I then transferred to my Google calendar. This is my monthly editorial calendar breakdown:
- 3 viral potential recipes (chicken, Mexican, quinoa, pasta – you know the drill)
- 7 totally authentic “Lindsay” recipes (stuff that just really speaks to my food soul, even if it’s not wildly popular)
- 2 other recipes (seasonal, holiday, sponsored, etc.)
2. Look Back and Analyze. We have an incredible intern (heyyy Abby!) who is using a site called ShareTally to help us analyze the social performance with all of the Pinch of Yum posts each month. Abby made a bunch of cool graphs that help me look at my recipe posts so I can study their reach in different places and learn from their performance to make a better editorial calendar (specifically targeting those three viral-potential posts) for the next month.
In case you’re wondering, my three assigned viral potential posts for this month were the Vietnamese Chicken Salad, the Coconut Oil Brownies, and the Chicken Tortilla Pie. Two out of three-hit the mark!
(And if you’re looking for some viral recipe resources, check out this post.)
Over the past few months, Lindsay and I have been talking about our long term hopes and dreams for these monthly posts. How do want them to impact readers? What do we want the focus to be? What do we hope that people come away with after reading them?
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, one of our primary hopes is that these posts can be part of your 1%∞. That they can help you improve, even if it’s just a little bit, on your journey to build a blog or website (or business or non-profit).
But the reality is that the “business stuff” is only one spoke on the wheel of life. I understand that these reports are called “income and traffic,” so it’s implied that the focus is on income and traffic, but I also know that, in the words of Buddha, “We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.”
If we focus on income, traffic, numbers, etc, etc, etc, then we slowly start to become a person consumed by growth, work, competition, etc, etc, etc… The “career” or “business” spoke on the wheel grows, but none of the other ones do. The ride gets bumpy and uncomfortable. When this happens we need to scale back on the career/financial/income spoke or scale up on the other spokes in order to smooth things out again.
Lindsay and I feel like it’s important to include a segment in these reports that talks about things beyond the blog. Things beyond the traffic, numbers, and business stuff.
We hope this little segment fills out the picture a bit in terms of the type of wheel that we’re trying to create and the importance of focusing on all the different spokes, not just the financial, business, or income spoke.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about how gratitude and appreciation impact my view of the world. In short, I’ve tried to be more grateful for things. When I walk outside on a frigid Minnesota morning I think about how good the air feels in my lungs. When I have a tough project that I’m working on I put in some headphones, start Holocone, and think about how lucky I am to be able to listen to such beautiful music.
My goal has been to shift my thinking from “I will be grateful when…” to “I am grateful today because…”
Thinking about the little things I’m grateful for has made a big difference in how I feel.
I’d love to hear from you – what are some little things that you’re grateful for?
IRL (In Real Life)
It’s no secret that I’m a Major Fan of Shauna Niequist, the author of Bread and Wine (a book about food and life that I devoured in three seconds flat). After I read that book, I was so enamored by the idea of having a real-life dinner club just like Shauna – like, having a group of friends who would make time to get together and cook beautiful, delicious food together IN REAL LIFE for no other reason than we love each other and we love food.
The truth is that doing life slowly, and doing it in person, is SO not me right now. It’s more like every single minute of my day is accounted for, every interaction is via technology, every task has a reason behind it, and almost all those reasons come back to building my skills and confidence in the WORK section of my wheel of life.
So in an effort to develop a more balanced wheel and make life count with real people in real life, I just up and did it. I went out and started a dinner club.
Last night was our second official Dinner Club Night. In a rare change of scramble-all-the-time pace, I spent several hours beforehand doing just because things like cutting lemons for the ice water, slow-simmering the beef, ironing the tablecloth (NO I KNOW), getting everything ready.
My shoulders just sort of relaxed that night as I sat around the table and laughed too loud and talked too much and stuffed my face with Liz’s Green Well Salad, and Melinda’s naan, and my made-from-scratch Thai Yellow Beef and Potato Curry. So I guess when I say my shoulders sort of relaxed, I mean that these five hours were some of the most all-around life-giving moments in recent memory.
For most of us, real-life face-to-face connections are something we need more of in our lives. And making that happen requires intentionality. Connecting with people IRL makes your world bigger than the food blog niche on the internet. It requires you to step away and relax your shoulders and breathe in the good things. It gives you a perfect excuse to make a Thai yellow curry completely from scratch, not for the traffic/comments/food blog – but doing it just because. ♡
With all the emails, websites, comments, and texts of my techno-life this last month, it felt really good to intentionally give time to things and people and faces that count in real life.
P.S. OMG that yellow curry from scratch. I can’t evennn.
Because of You
It’s because of you that this thing we call Pinch of Yum can exist as it does today. Thank you so much for reading, tweeting, commenting, emailing, and sharing these recipes with your families and friends.
Every month we use a portion of the income from the blog to support a special project at The Children’s Shelter of Cebu. This month we’re supporting CSC in purchasing uniforms for the teachers that I used to work with at the Children of Hope school. These teachers, both Filipino and American, are dedicated to making a difference in the lives of kids in crisis.
Thank you to the teachers at Children of Hope school who do this incredible, life-changing and life-saving work.
And thanks to YOU, POY readers, for coming alongside us and supporting the Children’s Shelter of Cebu. I can’t even tell you what it does to my deepest heart when I hear that CSC has gained a new donor or supporter who learned about the ministry through Pinch of Yum.
Wowee – you guys are incredible!