This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
Welcome to my food blogger traffic and income report for the fourth quarter of 2021. These reports are actually part of a series from the very beginning of my blog in November 2018.
I started these reports because I personally loved reading them and found reports really inspiring when I was thinking about beginning a food blog.
If you love income reports as much as I do, and it’s your first time here, make sure to check out my food blog income report section where I spill all the gory details from the very start of my blogging journey.
October and November went really well this quarter and I was pumped for December, when disaster struck and I ended up feeling quite ill and nauseated for most of the month, to the point where I was just eating super processed plain food and couldn’t even look at food photos.
Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised at how my traffic and income increased in December despite getting very little published!
This is my second report since returning to a quarterly format and I’ve added in this little section as three months is actually quite long in the blogging world, so the answer is usually that quite a bit has changed.
This quarter I:
- Set up a blogging mastermind
- Tried out Clariti
- Signed up for RankIQ
- Got organised!
I began thinking about setting up a blogging mastermind around mid-November when I was really feeling frustrated with how traffic had barely improved since the previous year. It’s a small group of like-minded bloggers in different niches who are all looking to really up their game in 2022, and so far it has been great.
It’s a really fast way to share opinions in a safe space (unfortunately a lot of the Facebook blogging groups have people who provide services to bloggers in them, and who won’t be too happy if they get a negative review).
Bloggers in the group who are stronger in some areas have been helping those who are weaker, we’ve all reviewed each other’s sites, and we’ve set up accountability goals.
I tried out Clariti, the new tool from the Food Blogger Pro/Pinch of Yum group. I thought it was a really nice useful tool and a super neat way to keep track of your content, but I just don’t have enough posts yet to really make paying for it feasible. It’s definitely on the list for later when I can no longer easily keep track though.
At this stage, my blog is making enough income where I’m starting to test out different tools. I’ve seen a lot of bloggers gushing about RankIQ (although they do have an excellent affiliate program so I’ve definitely been reading the comments and reviews with a healthy pinch of skepticism) and I decided to check it out.
It’s a tool for bloggers and content writers, which has a large library of keywords divided by niche which are pretty easy to rank on already. It tells you how long it will take (on average) to rank for the words, and has an optimizer to help you plan the structure of the post, the title, etc., and generates a report you use to write individual posts, based on posts which are already ranking, and theoretically should help you beat them.
So far I’m really happy with it, but it’s early days yet. I’m planning to test it out for a few months and track the results I get from using it before I do an in-depth review. I can say that so far, I’ve been able to plan a whole year of content using it in just a few hours, which has been a great time saver.
I’ve also started the process of beginning a new blog (more news on that to come in later reports) and have used the cool RankIQ feature to ask about adding my niche to the library, so we’ll see how that goes.
As far as getting organized, I tend to veer between flying by the seat of my pants and following a list or spreadsheet for a while. I am also absolutely BRILLIANT at procrastinating so I’d been looking for a tool to help me organize everything for a while.
A blogger from my mastermind group showed us how she uses Asana for her blog and it was such a helpful eye-opener.
Now I use Asana to organize everything in my life, not just my blog. I have everything divided into projects (General To Do, Blog Content, Blog Tasks, Recipe Ebook, etc.) with individual tasks and due dates, all synced to my Google Calendar, and I also use the app on my phone.
It is difficult to describe how much of a relief it is to not be trying to remember absolutely everything and juggle lists and spreadsheets and notes on pieces of paper. I highly recommend using Asana. I’m on the free version but if you work with other people on your blog, or have a VA, you might want to consider the paid version.
- October 2021 Total: 79,320 page views (versus October 2020 87,618)
- November 2021 Total: 83,804 page views (versus November 2020 82,516)
- December 2021 Total: 96,210 page views (versus December 2020 71,286)
- 4th Quarter 2021 Total: 259,334 page views (versus 4th Quarter 2020 241,060)
In my previous report, I spoke about how comparing 2021 data to 2020 data was not always that useful given how much of an “outlier” year last year was. I also spoke about how it might be time to go back to the day job if I didn’t see an increase in traffic soon!
Luckily while traffic wasn’t very inspiring in October and November, December really made strides. I’m hoping that next year in 2022 I’ll be able to see some marked traffic increases. Below you can see the breakdown for my traffic sources throughout the fourth quarter.
- October 2021 ad income: $2,192.69 (versus October 2020 $1,753.58)
- November 2021 ad income: $3,023.27 (versus November 2020 $2.075.92)
- December 2021 ad income: $3,162.90 (versus December 2020 $1,980.82)
- 4th quarter affiliate income: $1,374.64
- 4th quarter 2021 total income: $9,753.50 (versus 4th Quarter 2020 $5,810.32)
- 4th quarter income less expenses: $9226.50 (not including taxes and social security which vary)
(All amounts in this section are in USD)
I was pretty happy with the increase in my income this quarter, especially given that traffic was nothing spectacular until December. Is a little part of me a tiny tiny bit annoyed that I’m not doubling my income every year like some other super successful bloggers? Yes.
But I just look at that as fuel for the fire baby, 2022 double income here we come. The vast majority of my income in this quarter came from ads, which are managed on my website by Mediavine, apart from $1,374.64 generated by affiliate income (see the breakdown below).
Q4 2021 affiliate earnings by network
I don’t usually earn this much from affiliate sales, but due to black Friday specials and Christmas, everyone was obviously shopping a bit more than in other quarters. Yikes, that tiny Amazon income though…
Below you’ll find my usual monthly expenses. I run a tight ship so if it’s in there, it’s because it’s really necessary.
- $34.52 Accountant (based in Madrid, Spain). This is a monthly set fee I pay and includes anything and everything needed throughout the year.
- $9.99 Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan (Lightroom and Photoshop). So crucial. I use Photoshop for making pins and collages, and Lightroom for editing my photos.
- $34.95 BigScoots WPO Starter plan. BigScoots hosting is super fast and they manage all of my issues and silly questions with good grace. I’m perfectly happy to pay for quality and honestly, they save me so much stress by just going in and fixing my mistakes and problems on the managed plan. What more could you ask for?
- $13.60 Keysearch. I love Keysearch, the budget alternative to my other great love, the uber expensive Ahrefs. Check out my keysearch review to see why you need a tool, cheap alternatives, and how I use it exactly.
Next are my one-off expenses. technically you could consider RankIQ a monthly expense but I haven’t decided on whether I’m sticking with it yet…
- $39.65 photography background – I love using vinyl backgrounds as they take up such little space in my tiny Madrid apartment, and was thrilled to find a Spanish company now doing them here at a really great price. Before I used to have to order backgrounds from the UK or China! The quality was great, just as good as more expensive ones I have previously ordered.
- $49 RankIQ monthly payment for December. I really like it so far, let’s see how it goes.
- $25 Clariti. I tried it for a month, liked it, but won’t be using it again until I have enough content to justify it.
- $65.87 Blog cooking equipment and props.
- $68.30 Home office equipment.
So by multiplying my monthly expenses by three and adding on my one-off expenses, my total expenses in the fourth quarter came to $527. This doesn’t include the tax and social security contributions I pay, which vary from quarter to quarter.
RPM stands for Revenue Rer Mille and is the amount of money you earn per thousand page views. In the Mediavine dashboard, the standard view is actually your session RPM, not your page view RPM, which can get a little confusing.
In other ad companies, for example, AdThrive, the acronym RPS is used for session RPMs, with RPM just referring to page view RPMs.
RPMs vary a lot from site to site, even within the same niche, so it’s important to not fall into the comparison trap. That said, it’s still useful to have an idea of what others are earning, although the only RPMs you should be comparing yiours with are your own.
The fourth quarter is usually when RPMs are at their highest. This year December’s RPMs dropped a little, which was unexpected, and November ended up being the RPM winner. Overall I was very happy, especially given the fact that my RPMs have increased substantially since last year.
I’ve included my session RPMs (RPS) from this quarter below and have also added my 2020 RPMs for comparison. Next month (January) brings the start of a new year so I can expect RPMs to be at their lowest point for 2022, as much as 60% less.
|Month||2021 RPM||2020 RPM|
My page view RPMs worked out at $28.75 in October, $37.20 in November, and $33.86 for December.
I’ve definitely been taking it easier on social for a while, and it shows. A combination of 1) I prefer aiming for organic traffic as I feel it gives a better return, 2) Pinterest bombed this year and Facebook is definitely not what it used to be and 3) I just hate Instagram!
Current subscribers: 1209 (compared to 927 followers at the end of the previous quarter, in September)
This is an area I was really lazy at and did NOT understand the importance of for so long (literally around two years) when I first started blogging, and I’ve been playing catch-up ever since. I’ve seen steady growth this year with Mediavine’s nifty spotlight subscribe form, and a freebie mini-recipe e-book to entice people to sign up.
When I hit 2000 subscribers the number below is going to go down as I’m going to clean up the list and remove inactive subscribers. I currently only use the free version of Mailchimp which you have to pay for once it goes over 2000.
I don’t mind paying for a quality, engaged, clean list, but I’m definitely not doing so until I need to!
Current followers 6136 (compared to 5971 followers at the end of Q3 in September)
My activity on Facebook now is pretty limited to posting new recipes to my page and then sharing them with a handful of groups.
I don’t interact much on the groups I’m in (man, vegetarians, and vegans can be MEAN to each other), or spend as much time on Facebook as I used to, or write posts just for engagement or do any of the things that can make a difference to the algorithm.
This was a conscious decision given that even when putting in daily hours of effort, I just wasn’t seeing enough of a return to justify continuing to invest so much time in this platform.
Algorithms and platforms do change though, and I’ll have to revisit this area later on in 2022. Facebook is the kind of thing that ideally I would like a VA to take over from me for.
Current followers: 858 (compared to 817 followers at the end of the third quarter)
Ah Instagram, my ancient arch-nemesis.
I spend very little time here (and it totally shows). I had a halfhearted attempt at reels this quarter, that fizzled out quickly. I do see how handy the reels can be for quick content and repurposing video content, I’m just not interested enough in Instagram to make the effort.
Instagram is very definitely in my “please let a VA handle it in the future” pile.
Current followers: 3754 (compared to 3478 followers at the end of the previous quarter)
You know the way when things are going great in one area, they say they’re going from strength to strength? Well, my Pinterest is going from weakness to weakness.
Pinterest was an awesome source of traffic for me until the great March/April algorithm change. Afterward, even though the traffic was hugely reduced, at least it was stable. However, over this quarter I saw a further slow decline, albeit a slight one.
At the moment I am only pinning two or three pins from new posts set to go out at one-day intervals but obviously, that’s not enough anymore. I’m going to give Pinterest one more shot and revisit the Pinterest courses I have purchased and do everything outlined in them over the next three months and we’ll see if that arrests the decline.
Below you can see all of my 2021 sessions from Pinterest and how much traffic I lost in the update, as well as the slight decrease in traffic from December.
Review and goals
I don’t always accomplish my goals, but they do give me something to move towards. Unfortunately, due to being so ill in December, this was one of those quarters where I did not hit all my targets. Let’s review what I wanted to achieve this quarter:
- Add affiliate links throughout the website and consider more affiliates. (Nope)
- Finish the Mediavine RPM challenge. (Nope)
- Look into why traffic has not increased much compared to the same time last year. (Yes)
- Audit my website. (Yes)
- Schedule time in January to do any outstanding courses I have (There’s one on printables, one on food styling and for sure a million more). (Kinda)
I hate doing affiliate links with Amazon as you really need to spread them throughout your post and recipe card and I never did so I have a big backlog of work to do.
Seeing as how Amazon doesn’t pay as much as it used to, I honestly wasn’t very bothered about it. Until recently (like two weeks ago), when I learnt blogger friends with similar traffic were earning a few hundred dollars extra a month from Amazon and I’m lucky if I even get twenty dollars extra. So this is clearly something I need to actually do.
I only did part of the RPM challenge because as usual, I got a little lost. Things change so quickly in blogging and not all of the challenge has been updated.
In my last report, I discussed how demoralizing I found the fact that my monthly page views were more or less the same as last year. I dug down deep into Google Analytics and discovered that the majority of the issue was Pinterest and Facebook underperforming now, but that also recipes which used to bring in a lot of traffic just aren’t bringing in as much any more.
This led to me doing a full audit of my website and figuring out where to go from there.
Regarding scheduling time in January to do outstanding courses, I’ve moved some of them to February now as January will be my “Pinterest-learning” month.
I’ve decided my goals for the first quarter of 2022 will be:
- Revisit all my Pinterest courses and implement everything faithfully for the entire quarter to see if Pinterest traffic is still salvagable.
- Add Amazon affiliate links everywhere!
- Consider swapping out my Create recipe cards for WPRM.
- Attempt to double my content output.
I love Create but the separate reviews/comments thing is driving me crazy, and I would prefer to have the option for increasing/decreasing portions, changing to metric measurements, etc. WPRM has two sales during the year, one on black Friday and one around the developer’s birthday (from January 24th to 31st, sign up for a reminder here) so hopefully I’ll have decided by then!
Seeing how this is not only an income report before first quarter but also, obviously, a report before a new year, I also have some overall 2022 goals to set:
- Sign up for Nerdpress. It’s pricey but I am just in absolute AWE of the speed that sites with them load at, ads and all. Me me me please! I am just waiting to see how earnings go the first few months of the year before shelling out.
- Consider a professional content audit. I’m only considering thisinstead of doing it because I question the value of getting an audit done while I have a super long list of my own of things that need to be fixed first.
- Increase my content output.
- Double my traffic and income!
- Write a recipe eBook
- Begin my second blog
Some lofty goals here – I firmly believe that the key to increasing my traffic and income lies from hugely increasing my content output, hence my recent moves towards becoming way more organized.
I’ve been wanting to write a short recipe eBook I can sell as a product for a while now but had been a bit stymied as to how to go about it, how to sell it, and how to research whether a market gap existed. The first two issues were taken care of by Food Blogger Pro, the last one I still haven’t managed to resolve yet and will need to look into more.
I have actually already set up my second blog and have left it there percolating for a few months, now in 2022 I just need to find the time to actually get some content on it!
I hope you found this food blog income report useful, don’t hesitate to drop me an email or comment below if you have any questions or feedback. See you after the first quarter of 2022 and happy new year!