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Traffic & Income Report December 2020

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

Welcome to my traffic and income report for my food blog for the month of December 2020. As most of us know, 2020 is probably not going to win any year-of-the century prizes any time soon.

Fittingly then, December was a month that DEEPLY annoyed me. After a few months of being sick on and off I then badly sprained my ankle, giving me issues when I was trying to limp between the kitchen and my shooting space.

Suffice to say I’m determined that January, and 2021 in general, will be a gigantic effervescent wellspring of health and I’ll get everything done that I want to.

Oh and did I mention there was a giant Google core update? Seriously, this has been my least favourite month of my least favourite year. Fortunately, at least by the end of the month I was definitely pumped up and planning for 2021 and the website.

Use the jumps below or read on to get into the nitty-gritty details.

Posts

Posts this month: 7

Just two more than last month and two were redos/rewrites! Argh! Honestly, I think between taking some time off to be with my family over the holidays, and my stupid sprained ankle and general bad-blogging-mood, I only did about two weeks of posts. I actually had six prepared but wasnt’t happy with the sixth and have shelved it for next year.

A christmas cake with silver stars and a red ribbon around it
(vegan Christmas cake, one of the recipes I redid this month)

The rest of the time was holidays, elevating my ankle, and doing some tech work on the blog.

I did go through the site and make four separate “buckets” of content. The first one was for content that was fine and didn’t need to be touched, the second for content that had an okay url and a link or two but needed to be updated and/or new photos.

The third was for good recipes but terrible content and photos and maybe a link or two but crickets from Google which I would redo as a new post and redirect the old post with the link juice towards the new one. The fourth was for terrible everything and completely irredeemable, or posts which aren’t really designed to rank (like these income reports) and I deindexed about 16 of them.

I put a lot of thought into these “buckets” and am pretty happy with the decisions I’ve made. Deindexing poorly performing content made me feel a heck of a lot better and I’ve already seen my DA (Domain Authority) go up two points.

Traffic,

December 2020 71,286 Page Views (compared to 85,516 last month and 28,503 in December 2019)

Google graph of traffic december 2020 to the website The Fiery Vegetarian

Yowza. As I mentioned last month, I didn’t think December was going to be a great month for traffic, due to the fact that traffic dipped last year for the same month, and because for some reason vegetarian and vegan food doesn’t do as well around December.

It’s also clearly because until now I’ve been doing my content based on keyword research but not paying any attention to seasonality. Well, those days are officially over. Time to pay attention.

There was also a massive Google core update rolled out this month which made it hard to see what was seasonal and what was Google. Normally, back in the day job, I would keep my ear close to the ground with updates to see what was going on. This update had me baffled.

SERPs have been moving around like scrambled eggs since it began at the start of December. One day I’ll be up five positions for a keyword the next down five. It started in the lower echelons of ranking (all those positions you don’t care about in the third, fourth, etc. search engine result pages) and rumbled its way on up to page one and two.

My rankings are still way more in flux than they would usually be. Luckily, as I had Ahrefs webmaster tools with email updates turned on, I was able to see where I stood. Turns out that I lost quite a few rankings in December. Ouch.

Ordinarily, I would track them down and see if I could turn it around, but I’m committed to producing more content and following my plan to optimize old content, which should improve rankings anyway, and also ensure I stay on track.

top ten traffic resources for the fiery vegetarian website december 2020

Top ten traffic sources this month reflected the dip in organic interest across the board on both social and search channels. One very interesting addition to avenues of traffic this month was grow.me.

Grow.me is run through Mediavine’s script wrapper and is responsible for those little hearts you see on the right, the strip of suggested articles above, etc. It lets people keep all their favourite recipes and articles in one place and adds lots of suggestions for users.

At the moment it’s only available for Mediavine publishers (for free), but Slickstream also do something similar (albeit pricey and heavy to run on your website) if you are interested.

Social

This is where I combine information on growth and tactics used across my social media channels.

Email subscribers 363 (versus 355 in November). I finally organized an exit pop-up this month. After tearing my hair out over trying to integrate Mailmunch with my Mailchimp , I gave up and used the PopupAlly plugin which was way easier.

Of course, it also means that I now have two plugins for email subscribers, one in the side bar through MailChimp, and the pop-up. I’m a fan of keeping as few plugins as possible as they really affect site speed so this is only a temporary solution at best. I also only added it at the last moment so the effect won’t be seen until January’s income report.

Now to add a lead-in for the pop-up (free recipe book, meal planner etc.) that will attract more sign-ups! On my todo list for 2021

Facebook followers 5474 (versus 5270 in November). Facebook was a little quiet this month as I’ve been dialling down my social media efforts in favour of getting more content out, and seasonally it seems that vegan and vegetarian content doesn’t do as well in December no matter the platform.

However, I still continued to accrue my usual 200-250 followers extra per month. I’ve been looking into community building and how that applies to Facebook groups and think I’ll also start a group for my website in 2021.

Some content that definitely did better towards the end of the month was some easy and delicious but “comforting” recipes, such as this vegan miso ramen that went mini-viral towards the end of December.

Side view of two gray bowls full of creamy broth, ramen noodles, spring onions, tofu and sweetcorn
(Vegan miso ramen, look how scratched the bowl was – I only noticed after shooting and had to edit out most of the white scratches.)

Pinterest followers 2582 (versus 2495 in November). Pinterest followers continue to increase at just under a hundred new ones each month. I put very little effort into Pinterest this month apart from my Tailwind queue just playing out.

I noticed when looking at my Pinterest that it seems like just new url pins and new pins are getting any views now, with views trailing off to two-three instead of thousands for repins.

I’m going to look closely into it in January and then examine my tailwind queue and consider clearing it because it’s full of repins and will probably change my strategy to schedule the first pin from a new URL at the time most people are on Pinterest, and then up to four more new pins and that’s it.

A lot of bloggers have been talking about getting rid of Tailwind and getting better results when they manually pin but I’ve tried both and compared and there was no difference in my results. There was, however, a big difference depending on the times posted, so that’s something I’ll need to look at it.

My audience is online at an awkward time for me and there is no way I’m getting up at three in the morning to live pin so as long as Tailwind keeps working I’ll keep using it.

Instagram followers 600 (versus 577 in October). I’m pretty much never on Instagram. In fact, I just checked and I only posted once in December! I only recommend spending time on the platform if a) you live somewhere where sponsored posts could be a good fit for you e.g. the US, and b) you love the platform and are happy spending hours engaging on it.

Income

  • December Gross Income: $1980.82(compared to $2075.92 in November and $418.81 in December 2019)
  • December Expenses: $108.05
  • December Profit: $1872.77 (before tax and social security)

(I get paid in American dollars so for the sake of coherency even though I live in Europe, all amounts on this page are in USD)

Expenses:

  • $34.52 – Accountant (based in Madrid, Spain). This is a monthly set fee I pay and they file and organize all my taxes and make payments on my behalf and remind me when I need to send things. Well worth it.
  • $9.99 – Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan. Lightroom and Photoshop are 100% necessary for editing my photos and making process photo collages and Pinterest images.
  • $34.95 BigScoots WPO Starter plan. Quality hosting makes all the difference.
  • $13.60 – Keysearch. A solid affordable SEO tool is crucial to any blog looking to get attention from Google.
  • $14.99 – Tailwind Plus. As I said before, live pinning and the Pinterest scheduler tool are pains, Tailwind saves me a considerable amount of time each month and is worth every penny.

I currently make all my money through ads served via Mediavine, my amazing ad network. As tends to be the case, RPMs were sky-high in December. My average RPM for the month was $34.02 per 1000 sessions ($28.72 per 1000 pageviews), compared to  $30.16 per session ($25.30 per pageview) in November.

I joined Mediavine halfway through November in 2019, so now I finally have some historical data to compare my RPMs and income with! Last year my average RPM for December 2019 was $18.54, nearly half of this month’s RPM!

I attribute that to 1) still being in the “ramping-up” period for ad fill when you join a new ad network and 2) I made a lot of changes during 2020 that increased my RPM.

These changes included things like adding video (some simple slideshow videos I put together with the free Lumen5 tool), increasing line spacing and font, chunking my posts better, writing better more thorough content, playing with my ad frequency settings, and so on.

I enjoyed the big boost to RPM in December and am hoping for even better RPMs next year, but am ready for the great RPM dive which begins in January (normally the lowest RPMs of the year) when. RPMS can fall between 40%-60%.

Review & Goals

So, last month my goals for December were:

  • Aim for ten-twelve new posts and batching photography.
  • Read all my favourite photography resources (Nagi Maehashi The Food Photography Book, Tasty Food Photography by Pinch of Yum) and check out all the goodies on the Bite Shot youtube channel.
  • Organise an exit pop-up for subscribers. No excuses.
  • Start with at least one affiliate, no excuses.

I totally failed at the ten-twelve posts but am now sitting on a very well-researched content plan which includes nine new posts, two redone or updated posts and one income report every month – so twelve posts. Let’s see how January goes time to light a fire under myself!

I did not get around to reading more photography resources so I’m going to move that to January because if I’m ramping up my content production then I’m going to have to make sure my photography keeps pace.

cast iron pan with glazed carrots sprinkled with parsley
(Glazed carrots, one of the new recipes I shot this month. Photography getting better but not there yet.)

I did organise an exit pop-up, although it’s not ideal and was kind of an eleventh-hour thing. I also started with two affiliates but honestly, I’m not sure I’m doing it right and it was also at the last moment – I had a lot of issues verifying my website for some reason.

For next month (January 2021) my goals are:

  • Twelve posts – no excuses.
  • Read all my favourite photography resources (Nagi Maehashi The Food Photography Book, Tasty Food Photography by Pinch of Yum) and check out all the goodies on the Bite Shot youtube channel.
  • FIgure out web stories and do five for my top posts.

And that’s all – I really want to just concentrate on content in January and set the mood for the year. I have my content calendar planned out exactly for the first quarter and mostly for the second one so there are no excuses for me to run out of ideas.

I’ve only included keywords with decent volume, with spaces I can take on the first page of SERPs, to be written about three months before I need them to be ranking to take advantage of seasonal traffic.

I’ve heard in the food blogger groups that webstories can drive a ton of traffic so I’ll definitely be trying them out in January. Still aiming for my first 100k page views month, although I guess it’s a big jump from the 70k I got in December!

I’ve also started an unofficial to-do list for 2021. In an ideal world I would triple my traffic by the end of the year but given growth so far, I’m going to aim for about 2.5 times what I have now. So by the end of December 2021 I should have 175k pageviews (I mean, I’m not going to turn up my nose at more…) minimum.

This is going to necessitate much more content, higher quality photography, capitalizing on content I already have, and basically brooking no excuses.

So some other things I’d like to accomplish during the year (but not to the extent that I’ll sacrifice content creation) are:

  1. Develop a lead-in for growing my subscriber list.
  2. Learn how to effectively engage with my list and send out emails once a month.
  3. Implement Google web stories.
  4. Start a Facebook group for The Fiery Vegetarian.
  5. Start a second website (non-recipe niche).
  6. Learn about and fully implement affiliates.
  7. Hire a VA to manage social promotion, video editing, and possibly photo editing.

I hope you enjoyed this report, if I left anything out or there is anything you’d like to see included in future reports, or you just want to say hi, holler at me below in the comments section!

Here’s to a better year in 2021!

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