Traffic & Income Report September 2020

Food blog income report for month number 23 faithfully coming your way! I’ve been doing these traffic and income reports since starting my blog in November 2018 (if you’d like to check out earlier reports just head on over to the income and traffic reports section).

Coincidentally this is also the 100th post on my blog! Lots of bloggers think that 100 posts is a magic number for Google love – I don’t, but hey, if Google wants to send me more love these arms are open!

This month’s report will be as short as I can make it because September was a pretty dramatic (BAD) month for me and boy am I trying to forget about it and move on.

The short and skinny of it is that my traffic and income continued to spiral downwards (and I found out why – so annoyed – more in the section on traffic).

I was also quite ill for about two weeks of the month and in and out of the hospital, and hugely upset (not going to get into the nitty-gritty here).

Anyway, let’s move on to the numbers and see what went wrong, what went right (so little…), and as usual you can skip ahead to the relevant section if you want to using the jump links below.

Posts

Posts this month: 5

Not bad everything considered. I’m supposed to be aiming for a minimum of two a week, but that’s obviously not happening (yet). The kids did start back at school halfway through September which gives us a few hours of relief for working from home, although sheesh they were just in 9.00 – 1.00.

From October they’ll be in until 2 o’clock. I’m glad they don’t have to do crazy hours at school anymore (last year when we were both working full-time they had to do 8.00 – 6.00), but jeez I feel like we had to spend way more time than that at school when we were kids, so I’m a bit jealous!

I do need to spend a bit more time on the blog so I’ll need to come up with a way to keep them entertained for a few hours after coming home. Any suggestions?

Traffic

Snapshot of Google Analaytics Traffic Pageviews Overview for September 2020

September 2020 60,922 Page Views (compared to 70,453 last month and 14,798 in September 2019)

So. Bad.

The decline I had noticed last month and attributed to the fabled “summer slump”, had become a freefall. I had to take action and dug in deep into my analytics as no matter what I did traffic fell further and further.

I could not see any significant movements in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages, what Google shows you when you type a query in and hit enter) for any of my recipes when I looked at my rank tracking I had set up on Keysearch. Search console showed people were just not clicking through as much and rankings and impressions were starting to drop.

I needed more information so I signed up for an Ahrefs 7-day trial. Ahrefs is a premium tool that I’m very experienced at using from my old day job, but one that I just can’t afford yet as a blogger. I audited my site, rechecked all my rankings, backlinks, etc.

Update: Ahrefs brought out webmaster tools in late September, which is basically some of Ahrefs tools for free! You can set up a dashboard and quickly see how your website is doing, your backlinks, what keywords you’re ranking on, and audit your website.

I HIGHLY recommend signing up for it. In the audit section if you click on a completed audit of a project (your website) there is also a fabulous new tool called link opportunities which is handy for seeing where you can add some extra internal links.

I could not find the problem. It was like I was still showing up in search results the same way, but something had changed about SERPs that meant fewer people were clicking through. So I teased out the posts from my Google Analytics that had dropped the most and searched for them using their main top ranking keywords while in incognito mode.

I saw the problem pretty much straight away. None of my images were being pulled into the search results pages on Google and I had lost all my carousel positions as well as not appearing in image search results, apart from my pins on Pinterest.

It took me a while to figure out why it was happening. Other bloggers suggested it was because Google was playing around and A/B testing images in search results, but it didn’t make any sense as mine were consistently not showing up while all the other results had pictures.

In the end I finally tested my pages with the Rich Results Tool , which is a really helpful free Google tool that shows you what your rich snippets will appear like on the Google search results pages.

I saw that my images were being blocked from being displayed by Google because of my robots.txt file.

Yeah. Remember I said I had a site speed optimization and index optimization at the beginning of August? Well, I had a whole host of issues afterward, some minor and to be expected, some not minor at all, and it turns out they had also blocked the folder that contains my images from being crawled by Google.

As time went by and more and more pages were recrawled and found to have their images blocked, the issue got worse and worse. After discovering the issue and editing my robots.txt, Google traffic started to trend up pretty much immediately and had nearly recovered by the end of September.

I’m pretty sure that October will see a full recovery and a continued increase in traffic, but man was I mad and disappointed. If there is one lesson to learn here, it’s ALWAYS audit your website after having work done.

Back in the day job, I would never have skipped reviewing a website that had just had major work done. I trusted that I was paying such a large amount of money to an experienced and well-reviewed company that they would also go through a checklist after making all the changes they did but nope.

Top ten traffic sources table for the fiery vegetarian website in september 2020

On the face of it, it can be difficult to really see what was happening from the above breakdown of traffic sources for September 2020.

The graph below of Google-organic traffic from the beginning of August to the end of September paints a clearer picture.

Google graph showing a decline in traffic between august and september 2020

You can more or less see that at the start of August I was peaking at 1,169 sessions a day from Goole alone. That dropped to 356 at the lowest point, in September, before I discovered the issue and traffic started to recover.

I only realised recently that it also affected my Google Discover traffic heavily as well – I usually always have a few posts in Discover and I’m guessing it’s no coincidence I was dropped like I was hot stone when Google couldn’t find any photos to display.

I was in the middle of a great run for my vegetarian feijoada recipe, which didn’t so much tail off as get the chop, brutally and suddenly (man, all the signs I missed…).

Screenshot of Google Discover traffic for the fiery vegetarian website from july 20202 to mid september

I’m trying not to be bitter, but the whole point of splashing out so much cash on site improvements was to position myself better for the valuable 4th quarter of blogging and see a return on that investment. Obviously, that didn’t happen.

Email Subscribers

327 versus (318 in August)

Appalling, but not really my biggest worry right now. I’ve known for ages I really need to test out a pop-up for subscription again but was reluctant to mess up the speed work I had done. I’m waiting to see how traffic improves before making yet another change to the website as if I make too many changes at once it will be difficult to see which one could be causing any issues that arise.

Sigh, I’m abandoning resolving this issue until November (at least).

Push Notifications

1700 subscribers (versus 1600 in August)

No huge increase here either. I’d like to test turning off OneSignal for a while but heck after all the speed work I had done, I shouldn’t have to. I also still need to find out how to track traffic from it – I’m fairly sure it’s something to do with labelling it as an event in GA.

Pin for the traffic and income report september 2020
Pin me to read me later!

Facebook

Followers of The Fiery Vegetarian’s Facebook page bumped up gently from 4,481 in August to 4,663 this month. I still have issues being disciplined about posting.

Really, I need to schedule Facebook posts to my page and get organized, but I always see greater dividends from sharing to groups, which you can’t schedule out. I tried using Later to schedule before and wasn’t a fan.

Do you have a cheap or free social scheduler that works for Facebook that you like? I need recommendations so drop a line in the comments below please!

Pinterest

2,300 followers compared to 2,200 in August, slowly but surely increasing. My Pinterest views have remained rock-steady, not sure whether I’m grateful or unhappy about that.

On the one hand, Pinterest has been incredibly volatile this year, and statistics on pins are really inaccurate, newer pins don’t do as well, and I put in a lot of effort in September to make tons of new pins, which is supposedly what Pinterest tells us to do. So, where’s my Pinterest increase? Wahhhhhh.

On the other hand, a ton of bloggers have been reporting large drops in Pinterest traffic and getting Pinterest bans, so I’m grateful things didn’t go that way!

Instagram

531 followers up from 508 in July

Well if you have read any of my previous reports, you’ll know I don’t particularly care for Instagram. Having said that, I was super impressed by one of my blogging buddies efforts this month, after they said they really wanted to make it to 10k followers so they could post links in their stories and get traffic from Instagram.

If Instagram is your thing you should check her out because The Baking Fairy is killing it. She may even have sparked a tiny bit of Insta-interest in me…

Income

September Income : $1049.21 (compared to $1039.19 in August)

Not good but to be expected with the traffic shenanigans this month. RPMs (Revenue Per Mille, the money you get per thousand page views or sessions) rose to $21.15 per session/$17.51 per page view from August’s (to-be-expected) low of $17.82 per session/$14.73 per page view but it just wasn’t enough to combat the huge traffic dip before I got it under control.

All income mentioned is the gross amount, not my net income, and doesn’t take into account deductions for tax, social security, accountant, expenses, etc.

Review and Goals

I am so glad that September is over. Apart from everything that went wrong, the sheer amount of time I wasted pinning down what was going wrong, why it was going wrong, getting back on to the optimization company, being told everything was fine (it wasn’t) or to get on to plugin manufacturers for issues that had only occurred after the optimization…

Basically, a huge demoralizing waste of time. For any site speed work in future, I am definitely only going to go with Grayson at iMark Interactive – I have a ton of friends who have had their sites improved by him, he’s heavily recommended by food bloggers, and was actually my first choice except there was a waiting list.

In future, I will just wait. In fact, I should probably just get on the waiting list now as though my site was initially really speedy after the audit, all the “fixes” of the glitches it caused slowed it down.

Even if you trust whoever is working on your website, don’t make the same mistake I did, always check it carefully after having work done. Check it in incognito mode, check it in search results, try pinning from it, sharing, commenting, anything you can think of.

My goals for September were:

  • Monitor traffic and if it continues to decline to investigate why
  • Reshoot older recipes that do well in fourth quarter
  • Work on batching my photography

Did I get any of them done? Well, I definitely investigated the traffic decline and solved that mystery.

N.B. If your traffic is declining, don’t be an idiot like me and just attribute it to summer slump, seasonal changes, football match, politics…INVESTIGATE!

I didn’t reshoot ANY older recipes (smacks head in disbelief). I realised that as usual I hadn’t prepared any fall/thanksgiving/halloween-friendly recipes so I went a bit pumpkin nuts, but hey, sometimes when the muse strikes you should just go with it. I made some vegan pumpkin bread, spicy pumpkin pickle, vegetarian no-boil pumpkin pasta bake, easy vegan pumpkin pasta…and boy am I sick of pumpkin now!

In October I do really need to reshoot some recipes that do well around this time of year but I also have to get out new content that I have planned and tested so I’m gonna try for 50:50.

I did work on batching my photography, as I’m trying to get into a groove of working on the blog full-time, and I made great strides in improving my photography as well.

I think I learned that it’s okay to be like “yeah, I’m gonna shoot six recipes today” and then after three be like, nope, my feet are killing me and I don’t care anymore, and take a break.

Basically blogging is great but there is zero point in killing yourself doing things you don’t want to do. Do as much as you can and then move on to something else you need to do if you get fed up.

It’s a bit flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, but right now it’s what’s working for me (although I do recognize that I need to get more organized in the future).

I also discovered that I need to put way more time aside for photography – not just a day a week – as the quality of my photos is a thousand times better when I have more time to think about the composition and colours and shots I’d like.

In the future, I’m definitely going to be doing my recipe testing and process shots the days before doing the real shoot, and stretching the shoot to two days if needed. Having everything ready the day before meant that things were much easier to shoot as well (nothing was melting or steaming).

I also discovered some fabulous income reports over at the Midwest Foodie, who is absolutely killing it financially (and not just financially, check out her amazing photography). Her blog is just over a year “older” than mine, so her reports give me hope about where I could be in a year’s time! Anyway, I highly recommend checking ou her excellent income reports.

Next month my tentative goals are:

  • Reshoot time-sensitive recipes (my vegan barmbrack, vegan stuffing, vegan Christmas cake, etc.)
  • Get out one or two more pumpkin-related recipes
  • Keep slogging away at Pinterest and creating a ton of new pins
  • Do/try one new thing (affiliates would be good!)

I hope you found this report useful, it was a bit negative this time and it was hard for me to put out the statistics and income because I felt like a failure, but hey, three steps forward two steps back is still a step in the right direction.

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

Stay positive and keep blogging!

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