So. I’ve come full circle. My blog has had its first birthday plus a few months (I started this blog in November 2018). And boy have I got news for you.
To give you a quick recap, I write these reports because I found them super inspiring when I was first looking into starting a blog, but when I was trying to get an idea of reasonable benchmarks and goals I ran into some issues.
The reason I ran into some issues is because apparently about 99.9% of bloggers don’t do income and traffic reports from the start, they tend to do them later when they are already successful (fact: I just made up that statistic but it sure feels true).
The gold standard for most bloggers was/is the shining beacon of hope that is Pinch of Yum, who truly did record everything from the start, one or two (months/years?) of Tumblr tumbles aside. But here’s the catch, the older a traffic and income report is, the less relevant it is.
And by older we’re not talking 10 years, even 1-2 years can significantly reduce how effective the information in a report is. After all, Pinch of Yum would probably be the first ones to tell you that back in the day when they started up, it was much easier (less congested) to get traffic, but much harder to monetize it (cautious advertisers weren’t convinced ads on the Internet would work).
So here I am with my embarrassing beginning blogger stats hanging out. And that is absolutely fine. No “How I made 1 squillion quid in my first year of blogging” clickbait here, just the plain honest truth. Now, on to the exciting bits. If you’re late to the game and would like to catch up on my previous reports, you can check them out here:
- Food Blog Traffic & Income Report Q1 Y1
- Food Blog Traffic & Income Report Q2 Y1
- Food Blog Traffic & Income Report Q3 Y1
- Food Blog Traffic & Income Report Q4 Y1
(For more recent reports just check out the blog income reports page)
I Qualified for Mediavine!
Sing it! For those of you who have read my previous reports, you’ll know that getting into Mediavine has totally been my aim since day one. They are an Advertisement Management company that pays some of the best rates. You need to have 25,000 sessions in a 30-day period to qualify with them, and I had originally estimated it would take me two years to get there.
However, lo and behold I managed it just weeks after my blog turned one year old! More on the hows and the whys below, but for now, just let me get it out there that this is my last quarterly report.
No really, it’s because before I thought the reports were kinda boring as I had no income to report, so I just did one report every three months. Now that I have some skin in the game, I ‘ll be changing it up to monthly reports, as well as looking into adding affiliate links and all that jazz.
- November – 3 posts
- December – 2 posts
- January – 4 posts
9 posts! 3 of which were actually radical updates of some horrific older posts. But not more horrific than that figure, which is truly awful over a three-month period.
In my defense, I took the Pinning Perfect course and my laptop pretty much died (I had to get a new one, it was so slow I would be waiting for a minute for text I had already typed to appear and forget about using editing software). I took a few weeks off over Christmas, was sick, my kids were sick, and I was also doing some mini-Facebook courses.
But that number sucks, seeing as how I used to get two posts out a week, later reduced to one because (1) life and (2) life with a fulltime job and a family. I’m hoping that this is the only time I’ll ever have to post that number. Blogging is like the lottery if you’re not in you can’t win, and without a wide spread of content bringing in traffic, you’re not going to do as well as you could have.
I mean in the same time period last year I got out 21 POSTS! Granted, most of them were rubbish that needed to be redone later, but still.
- November: Page Views 28,390 (November 2018 1,460)
- December: Page Views 28,503 (December 2018 1,486)
- January: Page Views 37,752 (January 2019 1,862)
- Average Monthly Views: 31,548
October my blog really exploded and I gave myself a big well-deserved pat on the back. Then my traffic started to trend downwards and the decline continued into November. But luckily it was still enough to apply to Mediavine and a few weeks later I had been ACCEPTED!
Unfortunately, the downward trend continued into December, so even though RPMs (Revenue Per Mille) were great, I didn’t earn massive amounts of money (still not complaining though). This was due to a few factors:
- I had a pin go viral in November, and I didn’t realize for ages because I was not looking in the right places in my Google Analytics. So it’s not that I had a big drop in traffic, rather that my viral pin traffic died off and I dropped down to my normal level of traffic.
- My previously somewhat slow theme became very very very slow when Mediavine placed ads on my site. Like ten seconds to load slow. This was half due to the fact that my theme was rubbish, and partly due to the fact that I’m an idiot and had thought I had selected speed optimization for mobile and desktop in my Mediavine control panel, but I hadn’t saved the settings.
- I only had one recipe prepared for Christmas. I need to have more seasonal content available next time around as the last financial quarter is so valuable.
I changed to a much lighter theme, Generate Press, which I had seen well reviewed in the Mediavine Publishers’ Group on Facebook, but still didn’t make much headway with my site speed.
I reached out to Mediavine and they very kindly pointed out that I was obviously a bit dim (they didn’t, they have the best customer service, but I sure felt dim!) and hadn’t correctly saved the desktop and mobile optimization settings, and they were also super helpful and pointed out other ways to speed my site up.
FYI if you’re flailing around trying to figure out how to speed up your website and you have a fast responsive theme and good hosting, then the low-hanging fruit that remains is on Google Page Speed Insights under “Opportunities”.
I fixed most of my remaining issues through reoptimizing my images with ShortPixel to serve them in WebP format, and by combining and configuring AutoOptimizer and WP Rocket.
Between everything I managed to get my site speed under control and under 3 seconds which is not bad at all if you are running ads. I can see that I could shave about another 0.4 – 0.6 seconds off but it’s really getting into the nitty-gritty technical stuff and I’d rather hire someone more skilled than I am to do it at some point in the future.
171 subscribers! While this looks like a good increase in my subscribers from the last quarter (122), it’s an area that has been causing me issues for a while and will continue to cause them.
When I joined Mediavine I had to get rid of my Mailchimp subscription form pop up which was bringing me several subscribers, a day. So unfortunately now I only get a handful a week. After doing some research it seems that the Convert Kit one is compatible with Mediavine, but I would need the paid version which is 30 bucks a month.
I still haven’t got my first paycheck from Mediavine yet so it’s not on the cards for me right now but over the next few months, I will definitely need to swap to Convert Kit. People have suggested adding a “hook” or offer to my mailing list but I’m actually kinda against doing that.
Mailing lists can get really expensive to maintain and I’d rather people subscribed who were genuinely interested in being kept up to date, and not just doing it because they wanted a free shopping list or a 10 cakes recipe booklet.
This quarter followers increased to 1522, up from 889 last quarter. I’m pretty pleased with this as I’ve been making more of a (still somewhat sporadic) effort with Facebook.
I’m really interested in seeing what happens when I get over 2000 followers as another blogger friend said that Facebook contacted her saying that they had flagged her page as one with a lot of growth potential and that her reach and rate of picking up followers really increased after that.
I was supposed to look into using a good Facebook scheduler this quarter but never got around to it, unfortunately. In fact, I didn’t even realize that my Facebook analytics weren’t “on” until a few days ago. Sheesh.
Now that I have better data about the best times of day to post, a scheduler would be very useful.
The previous quarter saw me finishing up with 683 followers and monthly views of 1.3 million. This quarter I finished with 1,000 followers and monthly views of 926,800. However, monthly views are not a very useful metric in Pinterest as they just mean people scrolled past your Pins but didn’t necessarily interact with them.
To see what has really been going on, you need to look at your traffic from Pinterest through Google Analytics. This quarter, Pinterest has accounted for approximately 22,581 sessions, while in the previous quarter, I received 12,306 sessions.
I’m very happy with this increase. I took Pinning Perfect in December and have implemented most but not all of the advice yet, and I’m very pleased with where I stand with my Pinterest strategy now. As in, I actually have a concrete strategy now rather than flailing around in the dark. I pin way less and spend much less time overall managing my Pinterest.
The only issue is that I can see it is going to take me FOREVER to redo all my old pins the new way, so I really wish I had taken it when I was just starting out, it would have saved me so much time! I picked it up with a discount around black Friday and was able to spread the payments over 3 months so it ended up being just over 80 quid a month.
Instagram oh Instagram. For those of you who have read any of my previous traffic and income reports, you probably won¡t be surprised that I still don’t care for it at all. It’s just not my kind of platform either from a blogger or a personal user standpoint.
This quarter I managed to increase followers to 280 from 215. So bleugh, can’t find it in me to care…maybe one day I will!
The current DA of my homepage is 26. DA stands for Domain Authority and is a bit of a made-up metric, to be honest, but is usually used as a fairly accurate way to predict how websites will rank. The higher your DA the better your chances of ranking, and vice-versa.
DA usually takes AGES to increase and is decided by your blog’s age and backlinks, usually. I do check mine regularly but I get mixed up or confused and don’t remember if it has increased or decreased, so I’m actually going to start recording it in these reports.
You can check your website’s DA with the Websiteseochecker.com’s tool, for example. My DA was much higher at one point, 28 I believe, but got hit by a Moz update.
- November – $40.61
- December – $418.81
- January – $344.86
The exciting part! I have finally started earning income! In November I was only monetized for a few days with Mediavine, but December and January I was obviously earning ad income every day.
I was actually quite surprised by my January earnings, RPM (Revenue Per Mille) dropped quite a bit (as expected in January when companies are advertising less and everyone is broke), but not as badly as I thought it would.
Remember that these are GROSS, not net earnings. Mediavine pays out on a NET 65 schedule so the money earned in one month is not actually received for another few months. My payment from November should be coming into my account this month for example.
I don’t need to file taxes and social security until I actually start receiving the money though, which is why I didn’t bother writing down my expenses before. All that will be changing this month though, so next month I will be able to help everyone understand better what I think is worth spending money on at this stage of my blog’s lifecycle.
I’m pretty happy with how things are going with the blog in general. But certain events in my personal life have made it pretty important that I start seeing some real income from it fast. To this end, I’m really going to be making a push for more content and increasing my RPMs.
For February, my short-term goals are:
- Do the Mediavine RPM challenge. Yo do not have to be with Mediavine to do the challenge and it’s full of solid advice that should not only improve revenue, but also traffic in general.
- Add video. I’ve been told that this can really increase your revenue. I’ll be making just some quick slideshow videos initially with Lumen 5 so we’ll see how it goes.
- Sort out a Facebook scheduler tool and get to know my Facebook analytics so I can schedule posts of the optimum time of day.
- Continue implementing everything I learned from the Pinning Perfect course and make new pins.
- Read Nagi from Recipe Tin’s food photography book. I just bought this a few days ago and can’t wait to get into it. My food photography is definitely much better but there is still a lot of room for improvement. I’m also planning on buying some artificial lights in March with my Mediavine income and this book has artificial light photography tips.
- Increase traffic a minimum of 10% (but aim for 20%).
I mean just look at this photo from November 2018. Oh, the embarrassment! It was originally in my post for Spicy Indian Tomato Soup. I can’t even point out everything that went wrong here.
Now in contrast, look at this reshot photo from November 2019. It’s not perfect, there are some issues with lighting, exposure, “noise” and glare, but it’s much better.
I’m hoping to really rein in my photography and lighting issues over the next few months, as well as work on my composition. Fingers crossed!
So there it is, the first quarter of year two done and dusted. My next reports will probably be shorter and easier to read as they’ll be monthly ones but do let me know if there is anything you think I should be adding to my reports.
I hope you found this report of use, do let me know what you thought with a comment below.