This is an exciting post for us! September 2014 marks the third anniversary of doing these income reports. We published our first report on September 5th, 2011. That’s exactly 1,105 days ago.
In that first post, we talked about starting something called The Food Blog Money Making Experiment. Here was the idea behind it:
“We thought it would be fun and maybe even helpful if we gave everyone a sneak peek into the earnings coming from Pinch of Yum. The plan is to post total earnings once a month.”
There has been a lot that has happened between that first post and this month’s post. There have definitely been some really big/exciting/significant events (which I’ll talk about in this post), but it’s actually the less exciting stuff that has had the biggest impact on Pinch of Yum’s growth.
If I had to pick one thing that has been the most important thing over the past three years I’d pick grit. The daily grind. The ability to press the publish button again, and again, and again. But not just publishing for publishing’s sake. Publishing while continually improving.
It’s one thing to continually create stuff. It’s another thing to continually create stuff while trying to get a little better each day.
That? That’s awesome. I call it 1% infinity.
You don’t have to create something incredible today. You just have to create something and then let the world see it. Did you already do that? Good job. Now find one itsy-bitsy way to get better and do it again. Create something and then let the world see it again. Did you already do that, too? Awesome. Keep doing it. Forever.
Here’s a real-life example of 1% Infinity.
That’s the first post ever published on Pinch of Yum.
If you look at each post after that you wouldn’t notice huge improvements. You would notice really small improvements. But 1% improvements over five years can really add up!
But it’s important to remember that the goal isn’t to arrive somewhere. We’re there. The destination isn’t the prize, the process is. All of us are currently (and forever will be) in the middle of the process. We’ll never “get there,” which is why it’s important to fall in love with the process, not the allure of the destination, whatever you imagine that to be.
I’ve been rereading one of my favorite books lately. It’s called The War of Art. The author, Steven Pressfield, says it well:
“We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.”
Doing the work for the sake of the work. I love that idea.
With that in mind, let’s jump into the numbers for August. I’ll be sharing some thoughts on August as well as some reflections on the things we’ve learned after three years of The Food Blog Money Making Experiment.
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.
- BlogHer (now SheKnows) – $6,341.52
- sovrn – $5,892.55
- Bluehost – $5,865.00 –> this income comes from a page where we show people how to start a food blog in three steps.
- Tasty Food Photography – $4,077.50
- Sponsored Posts/Speaking – $2,975.00
- Recipe Development/Video – $2,050.00
- Yellow Hammer Media – $1,930.41
- Go Sugar-Free Course – $1,072.23
- Photo Licensing – $960.00
- Swoop (via BlogHer) – $922.17
- Ziplist – $857.57
- Genesis Theme – $905.42
- Everyday Healthy eCookbook – $636.50
- Google AdSense – $544.16
- Gourmet Ads – $511.67
- The Creamy Cauliflower Sauce eCookbook – $378.00
- Elegant Themes – $207.50
- How to Monetize Your Food Blog eBook – $165.00
- Say Media – $176.86
- AWeber – $17.10
- SkimLinks – $8.37
Total Income: $36,494.53
- eBook Affiliates – $1,143.15
- Food Expenses – $729.08
- Amazon S3 and Cloudfront – $410.16
- Media Temple (Hosting) – $350
- PayPal Transaction Percentage – $296.50
- Media Temple (Support) – $237.00
- Support Staff – $153.43
- MailChimp – $150.00
- Apple – $106.05
- LeadPages – $67.00
- Adobe Creative Cloud – $53.55
- PayPal Website Payments Pro – $30.00
- ViralTag – $28.00
- QuickBooks – $26.95
- Time Doctor – $19.98
- E-Junkie – $18.00
- VaultPress – $15.00
- Rafflecopter – $7.99
- Google Apps – $5.00
Total Expenses: $3,846.84
Net Profit: $32,647.69
Thoughts on Income
August was the highest revenue (and profit) month we’ve ever had on Pinch of Yum, but it wasn’t the highest traffic month we’ve ever had (that was March 2014).
So how could the blog have less total page views in August than it did in March 2014 but still make $12,000 more?
It comes down to the blog’s RPM. RPM shows how much a website earns for every 1,000 page views.
In March Pinch of Yum’s RPM was $9.99.
In August Pinch of Yum’s RPM was $16.70.
There’s a number of factors that play into increasing your blog’s RPM. Some of them are things you can control, other’s are not.
Here are some things we had control over that helped to improve our blog’s RPM:
- Improved our ad waterfall (see tip #1 in this post).
- Improved our sale’s page conversion rate (see A/B Testing Tasty Food Photography Page in this post).
- Diversified our ad networks (i.e. started working with a few more ad networks).
- Added an ad unit in the sidebar.
These are some things we didn’t change but still had an impact:
- The advertising quarter. Ad networks pay better or worse depending on what quarter of the year it is.
- The month within the quarter. Advertising networks pay better or worse depending on what month it is. For instance, July and January are really crummy months for advertising revenue.
One thing that’s important to consider as you grow your blog is diversifying your sources of income. At this time Pinch of Yum has four broad income categories:
- Affiliate Marketing
- Internal Products
Here’s what the break down of those income sources looked like in the month of August:
Pinch of Yum Income Sources as Percentages
“But Bjork!” You say. “Why is ‘Products’ such a small percentage of the blog income? Don’t you recommend products as one of the best ways to create an income from your blog?”
Good catch! I’m a big believer in creating your own product or service that you can offer to your readers, but when you look at the above graph you can see that “Products” is actually the smallest of the four main income categories.
The reason that products are the smallest percentage in that graph is that it doesn’t include one of Pinch of Yum’s primary products, which is Food Blogger Pro. Technically it’s another company, but we’ve dedicated a lot of time and energy towards growing Food Blogger Pro into one of the product offerings that’s tied into Pinch of Yum. Here’s what the graph looks like when we include revenue from Food Blogger Pro.
Pinch of Yum Income Sources as Percentages (including Food Blogger Pro)
Why do we not include Food Blogger Pro in the standard income report? Our assumption is that most bloggers won’t have the time or energy to build and maintain an entirely separate site from their blog. Maintaining and growing a blog is hard enough on its own. We want these reports to reflect practical things that bloggers can do to increase their income, and developing a totally separate business in addition to maintaining a blog is not necessarily practical for most bloggers.
That being said, we’re more than open to share information about Food Blogger Pro. If you have any questions about the site you can let me know. I’ll do my best to answer them in the comments below.
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
Thoughts on Traffic
Pinch of Yum has almost fully recovered from our summer slump. As mentioned before our highest traffic month has March 2014. August page views were still 11% below March, but the general trend is upward.
A Look Back – Reflecting on three years of creating an income from Pinch of Yum
It’s strange to think back to that first post we wrote for these income reports. It doesn’t really seem that long ago, and at the same time so much has happened between then and now.
Thirty-six of these monthly reports have been written. In that time, Lindsay and I moved to the Philippines, moved back to Minnesota, bought a house, sold a condo, left jobs that we loved (Lindsay working as an elementary school teacher and me working at a local non-profit) to start new jobs that we love (Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro).
One thing Lindsay and I believe to the core is this:
You are the reason that we are able to do what we are now doing, which is blog about food and teach about food blogging.
Sure, there’s a handful of people that come for a recipe, print it off, and then never come back. We’re thankful for those people, too, but we’re really thankful for you. The people that are connected to the blog, read the posts, follow our story, and truly engage in this community in one way or another.
Our gratitude runs deep. Thank you.
Three-year review of blog stats
An interesting question was recently asked on the Food Blogger Pro forums: “How long before you get traffic from Google searches?”
The question piqued my interest so I jumped into Google Analytics to see what the answer was for Pinch of Yum. In short, the answer was a long time.
Sometimes I get so deep into the day-to-day that I forget to take time to reflect and learn from the past. Answering that question allowed me to reflect for a moment and reminded me how interesting it is to look at historical data.
As you know, this post marks the three year anniversary of The Food Blog Money Making Experiment, so I thought it would be a good time to zoom out and look at some big-picture numbers from the past three years.
Keep in mind that these numbers only represent the time that we’ve been trying to monetize the blog. Lindsay was working hard on Pinch of Yum 18 months before we even started to think about creating an income.
Monthly Blog Traffic: August 2011 – August 2014
Monthly RPM: August 2011 – August 2014
Quick reminder: RPM is the average income you make from 1,000 pageviews.
Monthly Page Views compared to Monthly Revenue: August 2011 – August 2014
Our hourly wage
I thought it would be interesting to do some estimating on what our hourly wage would be over the past 4.5 years of working on Pinch of Yum.
I used some conservative estimates for how much time we put in each week. For Lindsay, I used 30/hours a week, which is probably a bit too high for when she first started but definitely too low for the current amount of time she puts in each week. I used 10/hours a week for me, starting in August 2011. This time accounts for writing these posts, troubleshooting tech stuff, and responding to emails and comments.
So, here’s what I came up with…
- Lindsay: 30 hours a week for 230 weeks: 6,900 hours
- Bjork: 10 hours a week for 162 weeks: 1,620 hours
- Total: 8,520 hours
- Total earnings: $335,370.13
- $335,370.13 / 8,520 = $39.36
That’s a really rough estimate, but interesting nonetheless! Another thing to consider is that $39.36/hour is before taxes. After taxes would bump that down to less than $30 an hour.
Significant events over the past three years
- August 1st: Started the food blog money-making experiment
- Morning of September 12th: First affiliate sale! 🙂
- Afternoon of September 12th: Learned that our first affiliate sale was actually from me 🙁
- September 16th: First real affiliate sale (yeah!)
- November 24th: Received first ever free shipment of food: Paula Deen frozen vegetables. Made us feel like we won Wheel of Fortune.
- January 1st: Started using the infamous four food images in a square header for income reports. 🙂
- March 28th: Launched Tasty Food Photography eBook.
- April: First month making more than $1000
- June 15th: Relocated to the Philippines. The blog came with us.
- February 1st: Launched Food Blogger Pro.
- April 1st: Launched new design for pinchofyum.com.
- July: First month with 1,000,000 page views.
- August: First month with 1,000,000 visitors and first month making more than $10,000
- August 19th: Launched first ecookbook for Creamy Cauliflower Sauce
- January 1st: First month with 1,000,000 unique visitors.
- May 12th: Launched second ecookbook Everyday Healthy
- June 10th: Lindsay goes full-time on Pinch of Yum.
- September 5th: Three year anniversary of The Food Blog Money Making Experiment.
That brings us to now. 🙂
So what will the next three years bring? We’re not sure, but we’re sure excited about it. We’re honored that we get to be on this journey with you!
Looking for more?
For the last few months, I’ve been writing blog-related posts over on the Food Blogger Pro blog. If you’re looking to dig into some more content you can check out these posts that I’ve recently published:
- Zen Accounting for Bloggers
- Email with Purpose: How your inbox can help you grow your blog
- 5 Things I Learned in my First Month Using YouTube
- The Definitive List of Takedown Notice Forms
- How to Block Bots and Spiders from Google Analytics (in under 5 minutes)
Because of you
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It’s because of you (yes, you!) that this thing we call Pinch of Yum can exist as it does today. Thanks so much for reading, tweeting, commenting, emailing, and sharing these recipes with your families and friends. We love hearing from you!
Usually, Lindsay and I talk about the orphanage where we lived and worked for a year, but this month we’re switching it up and showcasing an incredible nonprofit organization that was co-founded by one of our good friends called EOS International. We’re using a portion of this month’s income to support EOS, specifically their work around helping Nicaraguan entrepreneurs install safe, sustainable, and efficient ovens.
Thanks for reading!