Yo! Bjork here, checking in for my monthly traffic and income report.
The goal for these posts is to offer readers an all-access pass to the “business” side of Pinch of Yum. We share the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly involved with growing a website and turning it into a business. This is our 27th traffic and income report. You can browse through all of the previous reports in the Making Money from a Food Blog archive section.
I focus on two things with these reports (1) the income and expenses and (2) the traffic. I also include any tips or tricks that we’re learning as we continue to find ways to grow the blog. Creating an income from a blog or website isn’t something that happens overnight (or even after a few months). The reality is that it takes an incredible amount of work.
As a matter of fact, the “incredible amount of work” topic has been a consistent point of conversation with Lindsay and me lately. This past week we had a handful of days that were spent working early in the morning until late at night. By no means is this always a negative thing (see the September report about working-incredibly-hard-at-something-you-love) but it becomes a negative when that “work incredibly hard time” starts to steal away valuable moments and life experiences.
Example: Lindsay and I have a beautiful Fraser Fir Christmas tree in the corner of our living room. For six days straight it had one ornament hanging on it. One. Ornament. We had planned on decorating the tree the day after we got it, but we rescheduled our Christmas decorating twice during the week, opting instead for work that we “had to do.” Sad, but true.
We (I’m talking to you and me) walk a fine line. On one hand, we are incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to build things (like a blog, business, or non-profit) and be rewarded for our hard work and dedication. On the other hand, we are blessed to have people and experiences in our lives that can give back to us in ways that a blog, website, or business never could. The allure of the tangibleness of numbers and growth can draw us away from the less tangible (but often more rewarding) time spent doing things like decorating a Christmas tree with those we love most.
Where do you feel like you lean when you walk that line? Do you lean towards working all the time? Spending time with family and friends? Or do you feel like you’re pretty balanced? I’d love to hear your thoughts and any advice you might have for me.
Speaking of tangibleness of numbers, let’s take a look at the numbers for November.
- BlogHer – $4,335.26
- Tasty Food Photography – $3,771.65
- Swoop (BlogHer) – $1,747.49
- Bluehost – $1,495.00
- Lijit – Federated Media – $1,340.40
- Ziplist – $900.99
- Google AdSense – $567.34
- The Creamy Cauliflower Sauce eCookbook – $560.25
- Genesis Theme – $242.80
- Elegant Themes – $182.00
- Thesis Theme – $122.43
- Foodie Theme – $51.00
- CPM Only – $47.14
Total Income:: $15,363.75
- Lawyer Fees (Trademark Application Process) – $1,550
- Media Temple (Hosting) – $750.00
- eBook Affiliates – $630.65
- Amazon S3 and Cloudfront – $367.33
- Bookkeeping – $300
- Support Staff – $234.25
- Food Expenses- $228.13
- PayPal Transaction Percentage – $215.56
- Recovery Software – $69.00
- Adobe Creative Cloud – $53.55
- PayPal Website Payments Pro – $30.00
- ViralTag – $28.00
- QuickBooks – $26.95
- Time Doctor – $19.98
- VaultPress – $15.00
- E-Junkie – $15.00
- Props/Utensils – $9.60
- Rafflecopter – $7.99
Total Expenses: $4,550.99
Net Profit: $10,812.76
Thoughts on Income
Ouch. Huge dip in BlogHer income when compared to October. We made $3,000 less from BlogHer despite having 10,000 more pageviews this month. I sent an email to BlogHer to check in and they reassured me there was nothing wrong on our end (yea!) but that it was just a down month for their ad revenue (boo!). It serves as a good reminder of how unstable the ad industry can be.
The decrease from BlogHer provided motivation to revisit the ad units on Pinch of Yum to make sure everything was optimized. The reality is that most ad units are not making as much as they could be. I found this to be true with Pinch of Yum after reviewing our advertising setup.
The biggest change I made was adjusting the backup ad code (also called default ad code) for the BlogHer ads. Previously, if BlogHer didn’t have any paying ads, it would default to in-house Pinch of Yum ads for Tasty Food Photography and Food Blogger Pro. For instance, if the 160×600 BlogHer ad in the top right corner didn’t have an ad to show, it would show an ad for Tasty Food Photography. Last month this ad received just over 750 clicks. The Tasty Food Photography page has around a 1% conversation rate, so that means we were earning around $140 from that banner. Ready for some math?
Estimated earnings from the in-house ad = 750 (total clicks) * 1% (conversion rate) * $19 (cost of eBook) = $142.5
That ad was shown just over 800,000 times, so…
CPM for in-house ad = ($142.5 / 800,000) * 1,000 = $0.17 CPM
That’s a pretty low CPM, so I replaced that in-house ad with code from Google AdSense, which traditionally performs better than $0.17 CPM. Check back next month to see how that change turns out. 🙂
We recently received an email from BlogHer informing us that using third party backup ad code is something they no longer allow. They’ve grandfathered in those that used it before, but new BlogHer applications must use BlogHer’s default ad code, called PubMatic. The PubMatic CPM was $0.88 in November, which is pretty good. Here’s what BlogHer had to say about it:
BlogHer pays a service fee for every single ad impression that passes through our ad code, including premium advertising, programmatic and backup advertising from our partners at PubMatic, mobile advertising, and even unpaid PSAs. We also must pay that service fee for non-network backup code, and we lose the ability to sell the inventory that is being filled by your other providers in PubMatic’s programmatic exchange.
Again, $0.88 is a decent CPM for backup ad code. We might even experiment with just defaulting to PubMatic after this experiment with AdSense.
Black Friday/Cyber Monday
This was the first time we participated in Black Friday/Cyber Monday from the merchant side of things. I really had no idea what to expect but was pleasantly surprised with the result of the “Gobblepalooza” sale that we ran on Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro.
Here’s a screenshot of Food Blogger Pro’s income that helps to give an idea of the huge spike that occurred because of the holiday weekend sale.
The normal per day income from Food Blogger Pro is $50 – $100 dollars. The sale weekend makes the average daily amount seem like zero! It’s by far the most successfully 30 day period we’ve had with Food Blogger Pro. It made me realize two things:
- Time spent marketing a product is well worth it, especially during times when people are in a consumer mindset.
- I’ve done a terrible job marketing Food Blogger Pro.
These two things together have encouraged me to put on my marketing hat with Food Blogger Pro and start experimenting with different types of marketing and promotion. We’re currently experimenting with using AdWords, so you might notice some Food Blogger Pro ads on different food-oriented sites around the internet.
What’s with the lawyer fees?
We started the process of trademarking the Pinch of Yum name and logo! Julie’s Trademarking your Blog Name post inspired us to get in gear and make this happen. Thanks, Julie!
Below are some screenshots from Google Analytics. You can click on these screenshots to view a larger image.
Top Ten Traffic Sources
Mobile vs. Desktop Traffic
Thoughts on Traffic
Facebook, landing pages, and SEO
Pinterest continues to be our number one traffic source. As we’ve discussed before this is (1) great to have a lot of traffic from Pinterest and (2) scary because one small change from Pinterest could make all that traffic disappear. In last month’s report, I shared the steps we took to create a fan gate on Pinch of Yum’s Facebook page.
This month we took it a step further by creating a landing page for the fan gate. It’s a small change that could have a big impact on the number of people that end up liking Pinch of Yum on Facebook.
Here’s why we created the new page:
Before, whenever we mentioned the free cookbook download, we would send people directly to the Facebook page. Now, instead of sending people directly to Facebook, we first direct them to this free cookbook page. This is good for two reasons:
- The page provides clear instructions for people on how to download the cookbook.
- More importantly, it gives us the ability to build up the SEO of a specific page around the “free cookbook” keyword.
For example, we can now create a link that says “free cookbook” and point directly to the landing page (like I did in the paragraph above this one). This is a little clue to Google that the content of that page probably has to do with free cookbooks. Let’s pretend that someone else downloads the cookbook, likes the content and decides to share it with their readers. There’s a good chance the link they create will also point to the landing page and say something like “Pinch of Yum’s free cookbook.” This is another little clue to Google that the page contains information about a free cookbook. The more this happens, the more Google is clued into the fact that this page is a great resource for anyone that is searching for a free cookbook.
We’ve used a similar strategy with the “how to start a food blog” page and the “making money from a food blog” archives page. Trying Googling those. Pinch of Yum might not show up as #1, but we’re probably on the first page. This type of intentional content creation is called SEO, or search engine optimization. In this case, our keyword (keyword is an SEO term for the phrase that you’re targeting), is free cookbook. There are lots of factors that go into SEO, but links are one of the most important factors.
This type of SEO traffic is really valuable because these visitors were actively searching for the content that we’re offering. It’s really hard to motivate someone to download a free cookbook when they came to the blog for a chocolate chip cookie recipe. It’s a lot easier to motivate someone to download a free cookbook if they’ve arrived after Googling “free cookbook.”
If you’re interested in learning more about SEO check out Moz. They have some really helpful and easy-to-understand SEO resources.
Chicken or Egg? Traffic or Ads?
I’ve had a handful of people ask about when they should put ads on their new food blog. The answer is that there isn’t an answer, but in general, it’s better to do it sooner than later. Here’s why:
Starting and growing a food blog is a lot of work, especially in the first year when you’re just getting up and running. It’s almost guaranteed that you won’t make much money at all in the first year. However, even just a few cents a day can provide motivation and show you that at least something is coming back for all the hard work you’re doing.
We started placing ads on Pinch of Yum a little over a year after we started. If I had any clue what-so-ever about advertising at that time (which I didn’t) I would have placed ads on the site much earlier. It’s not that we would have made much from it, but it would have shown us it’s possible, which is one of the most important things when you’re first starting out. The first time we made a dollar from Pinch of Yum was a big deal! It made use realize that we could then make two dollars!
Here’s a graph that shows the traffic on Pinch of Yum over the last four years along with various milestones. You can click on the image to view the full-size image in another window.
Because of You
Without you, this thing we call Pinch of Yum wouldn’t exist. Lindsay and I can’t express enough how much we appreciate you following along, commenting, tweeting, and emailing to say hi. It warms our chilly Minnesota hearts.
We’re using a portion of this month’s income from Pinch of Yum to support a special project at the Children’s Shelter of Cebu, an orphanage where Lindsay and I lived and worked for a year. The special project is purchasing new kitchen equipment for the four different homes at the shelter! It seemed like there was someone cooking all the time when we were at CSC, so we’re excited to provide some new equipment for the homes there.
Thanks again for reading, and hopefully talk to you soon!