Welcome to my very first income report for Pinch Me, I’m Eating!
This is my first time posting one, because, well, after about a year and a half of blogging, this is really my first month I’ve made any income to speak of. More on that later.
Why post a traffic and income report?
I’m publishing this for a couple reasons.
First, it will help me to keep track of what I’ve been doing to grow and monetize my blog, so I can see what works and what doesn’t.
And second, if any of the things I’m trying out and writing about actually work to help build my traffic and income, it might help some other bloggers get ideas on how to grow their own blogs! I know I, for one, have found the traffic and income reports of other bloggers extremely helpful in seeing my own potential areas for improvement and monetization.
A lot of this is analysis for my own records, so I apologize if it’s a bit long-winded. I’ve included subheadings to make it easier for you to skim past any boring stuff and get right to what you want to read about, if you want to read any of it.
If you’re just here for the recipes, head on over to the Recipe Index to find something delicious!
First, the totals, so you don’t have to scroll down. It’s gonna be a lonnnng post.
Total income for November 2016: $39.70
We’re talking big moneys here! Here’s a breakdown of where that comes from:
Gourmet Ads: $39.28
Amazon affiliates: $0.42 ($3.15 for the whole year, for perspective)
Try the World affiliate: $0.00, plus a free box ($10 ever, for perspective)
The end of the summer slump
I’m going to back up a little bit and talk about October. No wait: September.
In September, I got 6,365 pageviews on my site. I was pretty excited because my traffic had been increasing a bit and I was really waiting to hit 7,000 pageviews so I could apply to be a publisher for the Gourmet Ads ad network.
They actually have a minimum requirement of 10,000 pageviews a month, but they had contacted me twice already (MONTHS ago, it’s embarrassing — and I had to just keep telling them I didn’t have the pageviews yet) and told me to go ahead and apply when I got to 7-8,000 views and they might make an exception for me. So I thought hey, maybe October will be the month I finally hit 7,000 pageviews and I can get some ads on my site.
Well, October came and I hit 7,000 pretty quickly! So I figured I would wait until the end of the month to apply so I’d have a full calendar month over 7,000 — and I actually ended up hitting over 11,000 pageviews.
11,259, to be precise.
That’s right – my traffic almost doubled from September to October.
Everyone talks about the “summer slump” for food blog traffic, but my traffic had been growing (slowly) throughout the summer. I guess when the summer slump ended, my traffic took off.
I feel like I didn’t have much to do with the sudden jump in traffic, but it was encouraging enough that it gave me the kick in the pants to get with the program and start doing a lot of things for the blog I’ve been meaning to do.
What I did in November
- Installed ads on my site
- Updated my newsletter format to something I hope is more helpful and can re-promote older recipes
- Started scheduling a lot more pins on Pinterest, including more from my own site
- Submitted more recipes to roundup requests on social media
- Made a few quick videos to accompany recipes that I put on Facebook
- Made a giant diffuser for shooting with artificial light
- Created a short e-book as an opt-in freebie
Here are a LOT of details on all of those things.
With my super-impressive-to-me 11,000 pageviews from October, on November 1 I applied to be a publisher for Gourmet Ads. I immediately got accepted and installed them on my site.
Good thing I did, because November’s traffic was even higher than October. I’m sure it was mostly due to Thanksgiving. 14,543 pageviews!!!
I will be the first to admit, I do miss the ad-free blog. I haven’t had a chance to try to optimize the ads yet so they’re less intrusive-feeling.
But I finally made a tangible amount of income to start paying back all the hours and money I’ve put into this site over the last year and a half — a labor of love, but also a time and financial investment, with web hosting, domain name, a WordPress theme, and subscriptions to Tailwind and Food Blogger Pro — not to mention the DSLR camera I got last year.
$39 in a month seems like an incredible amount to me for basically “doing nothing” since it’s passive ad revenue, but it will be a while before I can start repaying all the investment I’ve put in since I started the blog.
New newsletter format
Starting with my Nov. 1 newsletter, I changed my newsletter format.
I didn’t even plan it. I was just all excited about the ads, and I thought to myself as I was writing that week’s newsletter, you know what, I’m tired of the RSS feed. I’m going to ditch it.
Prior to that, it was a short intro letter followed by an RSS feed, including a large photo of that week’s recipe, a link, and text-only links to the five most recent posts before that.
I changed it to: A letter that includes a link to and photo of the current recipe, followed by two or three additional helpful links with photos. Some examples include:
- The most pinned recipe of the previous month
- Links to a recent post to which I had just added a video
- A roundup in which one of my recipes was included (link to the roundup and directly to my recipe)
- Post-Thanksgiving, a few recipes that you could use holiday leftovers in.
I’m still figuring out some additional types of helpful content I can include in my newsletters. People have definitely been clicking through on the extra resources though, whereas nobody ever clicked on the text-only links to recent posts. I mean ever.
We’ll see how the new format affects overall engagement over time. It has definitely helped bring some of my older posts to my newer subscribers though.
I even had someone write back to me and comment how much she liked my new newsletter format! I’d call that a win.
If you’d like to see the newsletter for yourself, you can subscribe here.
Stepping up my Pinterest game
Since my traffic boost seemed to be mostly attributed to people making Hollandaise sauce, spinach, artichoke, and crab dip, and pot roast, which despite bringing me no organic traffic became pretty popular on Pinterest (by my standards), I figured I should go all out with Pinterest. (I have been getting some search traffic for the first two recipes mentioned, just not the pot roast.)
Here’s my Pinterest traffic from the beginning of the year to the end of November. Not too bad!
That spike you see is the week of Thanksgiving. I guess that’s when people were actually clicking through all the things they saved so they could actually cook it for Thanksgiving.
And this is just from September through the end of November.
It was sort of a lightbulb moment. Everyone else seemed to say Pinterest was their top or #2 source of traffic, but it wasn’t until it sort of happened by itself that I thought maybe if I put a little more time into it that I could maybe, possibly, repeat that experience and drive traffic to some other posts as well.
So I went crazy pinning stuff — my own and other people’s content. Here’s a breakdown of what I’ve been doing on Pinterest in the last few months, how I’ve increased my activity recently, and how that’s affected my actual traffic from Pinterest.
Pins vs. referrals:
August: 133 total pins, including 79 from my website. 2,286 referrals to my page from Pinterest.
September: 130 total pins, including 77 from my website. 3,612 referrals to my page from Pinterest.
October: 227 total pins, including 117 from my website. 7,142 referrals to my page from Pinterest.
November: 368 total pins, including 152 from my website. 9,028 referrals to my page from Pinterest.
So, since August, I’ve pretty much tripled my total Pinterest activity, doubled the number of pins I’ve pinned from my own site, and my referrals quadrupled.
Granted, there are other factors at play there, including 1) coming out of the fabled “summer slump” and 2) probably most importantly, Thanksgiving.
Only time will tell how much of that increased Pinterest traffic is from increased pinning activity, and how much is simply because certain recipes came into season and everyone was cooking for Thanksgiving.
I also joined some Tailwind tribes, but haven’t analyzed how much traffic and pinning I’ve gotten from that yet.
For reference for next month’s report, I had 767 followers as of December 1.
Other social media
In November, I submitted recipes to a lot more roundup requests, and got into several more than usual. I also sent the roundups out as part of my email newsletter, and they’ve gotten a few clickthroughs.
I started doing videos! My first video was published at the end of October, and I’ve now done three full recipe videos (about a minute long) plus a little video supplement for my crepe recipe.
This was another accident. I just started shooting some video along with my photos as I made the food and then said you know what, I’m going to do this video. And my first one got really good response from my friends/fans on Facebook. So I did a couple more.
I don’t have the timing down quite yet. With the full time job and everything, I find it hard to get ahead of schedule with my posts, so I’ve been publishing the posts and then adding the videos to them later, since they’re mostly for Facebook and Instagram anyway.
I figure 99% of the people who will see my post will see it after it’s been circling Pinterest for a while anyway, so I’m trying not to stress about it too much, but the goal would be to have the video ready before the post goes live.
Sounds insignificant, but I bought a piece of white fabric and stretched it over a rolling garment rack to use as a giant diffuser for my artificial light setup. I feel like it’s helped a lot, since my artificial light now feels like a big window instead of a harsh spotlight.
I may do a post on my photography setup if anyone is interested.
I finally put together an e-book of 10 Cozy Winter Recipes as an opt-in freebie for my email list, which I published on Thanksgiving.
I’ve been meaning to do this for a lonnnnng time, since I have always heard having a freebie dramatically increases your conversion rate (rate at which people take a specific action — in this case, signing up for my email list).
There’s no reason I couldn’t do it — I’m a graphic designer by day, so I should be able to put together something pretty easily, right? Traffic was high and I didn’t want to let the holiday traffic go to waste without trying to retain some of those visitors, so I cracked down and cranked out an e-book within a week.
I based the e-book topic on the fact that most of my traffic was coming to my recipes for pot roast and baked spinach, artichoke, and crab dip. Had it all been coming to, say, my banana nut bread and scone recipes, I might have done an e-book on baked goods.
I also did an informal survey on Facebook asking people’s favorite format to read recipes — most said they either view them on their mobile device or print them out full page. A couple used recipe cards, but I’m a sucker for recipe cards, so I did both formats.
The full page version looked better on mobile but the recipe cards are recipe cards, and therefore very cool. I sent both versions to the people already on my subscriber list – of the people who clicked to download the free e-book, 66% clicked on the full-page version only, 11% chose the recipe cards only, and 22% clicked on both.
I also put a newsletter signup form (rather than a link) along with a photo of the e-book at the bottom of my three most popular posts (driving about 2/3 of my total traffic) right before the recipe.
Here’s a summary of my subscriber growth for the last few months and which forms they used to sign up.
12 subscribers September – 1 from Mailchimp form, 11 from Hellobar and Sumome popups
18 subscribers October – 1 from Mailchimp forms, 17 from Hellobar and Sumome popups
23 subscribers November – 10 from Mailchimp forms, 13 from Hellobar or Sumome popups
If someone signed up via the Mailchimp form in late November, it means they saw the e-book offer, whereas if they signed up via Hellobar or Sumome, they didn’t.
However, it’s not a completely scientific experiment, since there are two variables at play: first, the e-book offer, and secondly, the new placement of the Mailchimp form at the bottom of a blog post. So I’m not sure which of those factors was the catalyst, but all I can say was the number of people signing up through Mailchimp forms increased tenfold in November while the other two sources stayed consistent.
I will continue putting the e-book offer and signup form at the bottom of my relevant posts. I’m not sure what the best way to do this is, since I do plan on changing up the opt-in freebie for spring, and I’ll have to go back and update each post that contains the form once it changes.
Goals for December
- Keep pinning lots of stuff on Pinterest
- Post more seasonal recipes that will hopefully do as well as the pot roast and the crab dip
- Apply to a blogger network to feel out sponsored post opportunities there (got the idea from The Girl on Bloor’s income reports)
- Don’t stress too much because Christmas and family. If I didn’t have a full-time job, I would probably stress more about the blog because it’s such a high-traffic time for food blogs and I would want to make sure I took advantage of it as much as possible.
Well, that’s it for November’s traffic and income report! I know it’s already the end of December by the time I’m publishing this, but it was a monster of a post.
Hopefully I can get these out in a more timely manner in the future, but as of now, I’m only posting recipes once a week, so I don’t want to take away one of those recipes in order to publish a traffic and income report, so I’ve had to work on this between everything else.
I hope this has been helpful to you, but if not, it’s been helpful to me! I’m excited to see how being intentional about my blog’s growth and really analyzing what works and what doesn’t will affect my site. Please let me know if you have any questions about anything and I’ll try to answer!
If you want to stay in touch, hear about what’s cooking, and stay posted on new income reports, sign up for my email newsletter!