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Traffic & Income Report January 2021

Welcome to my food blog traffic and income report for January 2021. I started this blog in 2018 so this is month 27 and I can't actually believe I've lasted this long!

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Welcome to my food blog traffic and income report for January 2021. I started this blog in 2018 so this is month 27 and I can’t actually believe I’ve lasted this long!

image with four dishes collaged and January 2021 traffic and income report 1277.19 dollars text overlay

I’m excited to begin a new year – and surely it can’t be as bad as the last one – and the blog has had a positive start to the year so far.

I didn’t get sick or injured (a miracle, I know), productivity was great, traffic was great, and RPMs were much higher than I expected. Knock on wood!

Use the jumps below to get to where you want to be or read on for the full low-down on what’s been happening. To view older and more recent reports, simply head to my food blog income reports page.

Posts

Posts this month: 10

I’m pretty pleased with productivity this month. I was aiming for 12 but 10 is fine, better than before, and they were high quality. Seven were new posts and three were complete rewrites and reshoots of some terrible old ones from the beginning of the blog.

lentils in tomato sauce with herbs scattered over piled on spagehtti
(A terrible old photo)

Compared to the seven posts I got out in December, these numbers are definitely going in the right direction but I haven’t 100% got the hang of my time management yet.

I still need to work on batching better as a lot of days I ended up doing testing, cooking, shooting, editing, writing, and promoting all on the same day and it’s just not as productive as batching and wears you down faster.

There are some days I would prefer to cook and some days I would prefer to edit or write or promote, and it’s best to go with the flow or I will mutinously self-sabotage and procrastinate endlessly.

The faster pace also meant that some things that really need to get done were put off and I’m going to have to take a few days off producing content in February to get them done. Oh well, practice makes perfect!

Overhead view of a bowl of lentil bolognese and spaghetti on a grey background
(A new better photo of my vegan lentil bolognese)

Traffic

January 2021 94,994  Page Views (compared to 71,286 last month and 37,752 in January 2020)

Super happy with the traffic numbers this month! Albeit a tiny bit annoyed that I was six page views short of 95 thousand…I am really hoping to cross 100k soon after the wishy-washy traffic of 2020.

March and April and May were all over the place, and then when things had started to return to normal there was the great robots.txt mess (referred to in September’s report) which resulted in tanked traffic for August, September, and October, so I am itching at the bit to see some real growth this year.

I knew from last year that traffic would pick up in January (vegan and vegetarian stuff tends to do well then) but I was still pleasantly surprised.

Traffic was very steady this month, with a few peaks from when I tried out Google’s new web stories. The stories were hit and miss, I’d say for every three I made that one did really well, one disappeared without a trace, and one did okayish.

FYI from everything I’ve heard other bloggers say, it is pointless to do stories for any posts that aren’t on the first page. I’m still on the fence about how I’ll manage them long-term, they seem to peak quickly within one to three days, and they trail off to four views a day.

However, if you’re close to having the traffic to apply to an ad management company, such as my fantastic one, Mediavine, then web stories could be the golden ticket that pushes you over the line.

Note that you should set up a new Google Analytics property for web stories as traffic to the actual stories isn’t monetizable (yet).

google analytics top ten breakdown of traffic sources January 2021

Not a huge difference in my traffic sources this month when compared to last month. You can see that everything increased proportionally, due to the larger amount of people searching for things relevant to my corner of the internet.

The only big difference is with the amp referrals at number 7 and 10. This reflects traffic from stories in the carousel in Google (I think), while traffic from web stories featured in Google Discover was lumped in with direct as usually happens with Discover traffic.

I know I’ve seen some questions and answers floating around in Facebook groups about how to definitively track web story clicks so I’ll have to have a look at that in February.

Social

Here you’ll find all my growth statistics and tactics for social media. I have significantly reduced my efforts here over the last few months as I review what rives the best ROI (which is organic traffic through SEO).

Email subscribers 419 (versus 363 in December). Better than usual with the exit popup, but still rubbish. I need to sprinkle opt-in CTAs throughout articles and create something to incentivize opting in. One day…

Facebook followers 5609 (versus 5474 in December). A slightly larger than usual increase in followers this month. I definitely put in a little more effort sharing my recipes to groups, but that was all. 

Pinterest followers 2695 (versus 2582 in December). Again, a slightly bigger-than-usual increase in followers here. I made very few pins in January and basically let my Tailwind queue play out.

I was just annoyed with all the uncertainty around Pinterest. I’ve tried a million different tactics and been assiduous and although I see consistent Pinterest traffic, it doesn’t really grow.

I mean look at this. The last six months. The two comments on the baseline near November denoted when I tested turning rich pins back on and as you can see the results were not positive so I switched them off again. But basically, consistent traffic, without gains.

I’ve stopped using my Tailwind account as when testing I discovered that not only were impressions in Pinterest Analytics lower (I take Pinterest Analytics with a grain of salt as they are notoriously inaccurate) but when monitoring real-time traffic around the time the pins went live, there really was no traffic coming through.

Pins that I live-pinned or scheduled using Pinterest’s native scheduler did much better. It’s a pity because Tailwind was really handy and I have it paid up for many more months, so basically a waste of money.

Through trial and error, I’ve decided that next month I’ll be pinning four pins for each post through the Pinterest scheduler, over four days, to my four best-performing and relevant boards, and we’ll see how that goes.

Instagram followers 642 (versus 600 in December). This could also be labeled the I-don’t-care section. I only value Instagram because a lot of my readers like to tag me there or ask quick questions about recipes. I just checked and I literally only posted three photos there in January.

If you’ve read my previous reports you’ll know that I make very little effort with Instagram because 1) I’m not a fan of the platform, 2) It doesn’t drive traffic, and 3) as I live outside the US in Spain, I don’t get sponsorship opportunities.

Income

  • January Gross Income: $1,277.19 (compared to $1980.82 in December and $337.75 in January 2020)
  • January Expenses: $382.84
  • January Profit: $894.35(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.
  • $9.99 – Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan (Lightroom and Photoshop).
  • $34.95 – BigScoots WPO Starter plan. Quality hosting makes all the difference.
  • $13.60 – Keysearch. A solid affordable SEO tool, crucial for content planning.
  • $14.99 – Tailwind Plus. Sigh. I signed up for a year a few months ago so I’ll be paying this for a while.
  • $254.84 – Camera gear (a new external screen monitor – my camera can’t be tethered, a macro lens, and a collapsible table for shooting on).
  • $19.95 – Creative Food Photography: How to capture exceptional images of food eBook.

This month my expenses were heavy, but sometimes you have to spend money to make money.

I normally try to keep purchases to a minimum, but there were some things I had needed for a while.

I pay taxes quarterly and reserve 20% if my income to pay for them but I usually end up paying less as I can deduct some costs, and it’s this money I use to get things that I need for the blog.

The fact that I’m restricted to making most blog purchases every three months also helps control my urge to randomly buy beautiful crockery. I make a wish list and evaluate it to see which things I really need or which will bring about the greatest improvements versus things I just want because they are so pretty.

I haven’t finished the Creative Food Photography ebook yet, which is aimed at food photographers who already have a little experience under their belt, but it’s already given me some great ideas.

I was pretty happy with my income this month, given that I was fully expecting it to drop to a third of December’s, due to the usual January drop, and it didn’t. My RPM was substantially higher than last year’s, at $16.91 per 1000 sessions ($13.85 per 1000 page views) when compared to January 2020 RPM $11.53 for sessions and $9.13 for page views.

As I mentioned in my last report, my RPM increase can probably be attributed to starting video (albeit simple slideshow ones using Lumen5), increasing my font size and line spacing, better chunking, and slighty increasing my ad frequency.

It’s all due to the fact that in January I had a bit of an epiphany and swapped out my default video for one that had much higher RPMs, and made a bit more of an effort with promoting posts I saw had very high RPMs on Facebook and Pinterest.

Review & Goals

So, last month my goals for January were:

  • 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.

So I didn’t get out twelve posts, but ten ain’t bad. Plus it became apparent to me that I need to batch my cooking and shooting and content or go nuts trying to be more efficient and produce more content. It’s doable, but I definitely don’t have the hang of it yet.

I also need to make myself do a quick Lumen5 video as part of the process of getting a post up, or I’ll be stuck with twenty to do like I am now.

I did reread all my favourite photography stuff and am slightly closer to developing my own style. I think I’m definitely leaning towards more simple photos with props and backgrounds all in white, grey and black.

This will simplify matching my props more, fits in better with colours I actually like, allow the colours of the food to shine, and will be an integral part of perfecting 3-4 standard set-ups I can go to when shooting. I finally started shooting in raw and I can see what the fuss is about.

But those raw files are BIG and I’m using a temporary low-powered low-ram low-memory laptop and I have ended up sitting there tapping my fingers for a few minutes while files load.

The long-term solution is a better laptop, but the short-term is also being more mindful about the photos I take (especially now that I can see the setup better on my external field monitor), and taking more time to take less, instead of setting photos up and clicking away hoping for the best.

I did figure out web stories, so yay, go me!

For next month I’m setting some tentative goals of:

  • 9 posts. I have a lot of videos to do, pins to make, and some tech work to catch up on, so I’ll be using the first week of February to get everything done.
  • Make a staging copy of the site and fix some issues with excerpts, old horizontal images jump to recipe and social share buttons locations. I’ll also be making a static landing page to better showcase my recipes and categories as I get quite a bit of traffic there.
  • Hit over 100,000 pageviews!
  • Work on batching photography, cooling, and content writing so I can be more productive.
  • Force myself to make a new video every time I publish a new post. I hate making videos but they are great for RPM and better for ranking as they “fill out” your recipe card data.

I hope you found this report useful, definitely feeling more positive than I was last month!

If you have any questions or would like to see other items included in the next report, holler at me down below in the comments or send me an e-mail using the contact form (I do check them every day).

Stay positive, let this be the year you see real progress in your goals, and keep on blogging!

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