July 2016 Income: Analyzing Traffic Sources
Welcome to my once a month income report for bloggers and freelancers. If you’re new here and want to catch up on my progress, feel free to browse my previous income reports here. If you're looking for help on how to start your blog, check out my resources page.
Hiiiiii! How has everyone's summers been going?! Getting outside lots?
It's that time of the month again: income report time!!! I've been creating these monthly posts for other bloggers and freelancers for about five months now. FIVE MONTHS?! Woah, I've really kept this thing up, huh? If you want to catch up on the other income reports, I’ve got one, two, three and four up on the blog so you can check out my past progress!
Sidenote: if you're here just for the food, I'm sure I've got another recipe up my sleeve to tide you over 'til I post a new one tomorrow 😉
So where do I even start this month? I feel kind of lost now that I'm not in school for the first time in my life! I finally get to start “adulting” and working full time on the creative things I love like this blog, but it can be hard to stay motivated when you have very little structure and have to create it for yourself. I think that's what being an entrepreneur is all about: having the motivation and foresight to see the possibilities that lie in the future and know what needs to be done in the present to achieve them!
I've been SO busy this summer that growing the blog has fallen off my radar slightly. I mean, I think it's good to take a bit of a break from strategizing about something when you work so intensely on it. I just finished a Master's degree for crying out loud. This girl deserves some fun! 😀
On top of having a bit too much of a social life this season, the infamous summer traffic slump has also gotten in the way, and it's helped I've had more than enough paid work come my way that I haven't really had to seek it out on my own yet. However, I know that as a freelancer that could change, so I'm going to have to not only spend the fall season creating new content, but also looking for new ways to diversify my income using the skills I already have.
I'm thinking of starting to teach some cooking classes, and I'm also going to start experimenting with people photography. My cousin has asked me to take some photos at her wedding, and soon I will be doing a fall photoshoot with a friend's daughter as a way to build a different kind of photography portfolio. As a freelancer I have to wear so many different hats. No pressure, right?
Here’s a breakdown of my income from this month:
- $100 from advertising (Google Adsense, Gourmet Ads, Chicory and AOL Ads)
- $2244 sponsored blog posts and sponsored social media posts
About a third of my sponsored posts for the month came from blogger networks such as Food Bloggers of Canada and Social Fabric. I also signed up for a couple other blogger networks like Pollinate Media, Activate by Bloglovin' and Tap Influence this month based off a recommendation from Culinary Hill‘s Meggan Hill in her article on sponsored posts for the ever-helpful Food Bloggers Central website. I haven't received any work from there yet, so I will report back on that next month!
The remaining sponsored post opportunities I received this month were through emails directly from my site, and PR agencies I have worked with in the past on similar types of sponsored campaigns for different clients. I CANNOT STRESS THE IMPORTANCE OF RELATIONSHIPS FOR BLOGGERS. Everything these days is ALL about networking and professionalism. If I do a good job on one campaign, odds are I will be top of mind for the next campaign. This is usually the case for me, but it is also the result of two years' worth of relationship building, and it's also a result of me asking if the brand has a budget if a press release is sent my way. About 50% of the time I usually end up getting a job out of simply asking then sending my media kit.
By the way, I'm thinking of making a media kit template in the near future since mine has been so helpful in pitching myself to brands. Let me know in the comments if any of you would be interested in that!!
Of course, the simple successful blogging logic that I follow usually remains that if you try harder, your work will become better. And if your work gets better, you will naturally attract more followers/readers/traffic with the right marketing. And once you attract enough readers and feature professional content (read: photos), then that is what is going to make brands want to work with you.
This is honestly such a difficult concept to grasp because it is so circular. To attract brands that will pay you for your work, you need to have quality content. But to have quality content and promote it properly, you usually need to have money. But to make money from your work, you need to have a large following, which again demands quality content. Thinking about it too much can make your head spin. Which is why – BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING – make sure your story-telling, photos and recipes are the absolute best they can be, and be honest with yourself. Brutally honest. Your success is ALL ABOUT YOUR CONTENT. It's not about the money you're making – it's about your community and the quality of your work!
But seriously, let's talk a bit more about the money LOL. The goal I have set for myself as a full-time freelancer is to make at least $2000 a month between jobs for my blog and freelance writing/photography/food styling opportunities. This month I hit it right on the money (pardon the expression!) and exceeded my goal by a couple hundred bucks.
However, things are going to start getting challenging as I will now have to set aside some extra funds each month to pay off my taxes in April. This is especially challenging as I'm now in a rush to pay off my $10,000 student loan, which will start collecting interest in March. Now let's talk traffic!
Here’s a breakdown of my traffic from this month:
My Google traffic has gone from around 3000 in June to 7300 in July, which is a great improvement. However, it basically rose to what my Google traffic was before I changed my URL to better match my branding. So far in August, my Google traffic has risen to over 11,000 visitors a month so I'm glad to see it is growing past the point where it had previously plateaued. Proof that good SEO practices really do pay off over time!
My Pinterest traffic has also risen to over 9000 visitors per month now in August from the 5300 you see above, so I'm glad to see that I seem to be making permanent changes in terms of gaining traffic from good sources that will probably provide long-term returns. It's great to get the Buzzfeed and MSN round ups as well as see some recipes go viral, but it's nothing if you can't have that traffic coming back consistently.
I also have this theory that when your Google and Pinterest traffic rise, so does your direct traffic. Google and Pinterest are both search engines after all, so people are most likely finding you after either browsing for recipes, or searching for something specific. Ever notice that once you have been on a site you find through Google or Pinterest you tend to go back to that handy article you found more than once? Or you send it to someone else in an email or on social media?
For instance, let's say I was looking for a Watermelon Poptail recipe (because, let's face it…who isn't? hehe). I Google it, then find my Watermelon and Coconut Water Poptails recipe on the first page (in theory of course…right now I think I'm at the top of page two). I may take a look at the recipe at the time and decide it's useful, then bookmark it for later, or type it into my Internet browser at a later date when I go to actually make the recipe. For instance, usually a highly visited recipe will save itself in your browser as a top hit, as you can see here when I went to search for jalapeno poppers.
Or I may even send myself or someone else the link to find it on a different device. Either way, the traffic is no longer coming from Google or Pinterest at this point though it originally came from there. So in the end, I truly believe that search engines like these are the absolutely best source of traffic, and will definitely also be a factor in your direct traffic going up alongside the other growth.
So how do you get more Google traffic? Besides proper SEO practices, just give it time! I have been doing as much keyword research as I can to improve my traffic, as well as looking at Google Trends, then seeing what the competition is and keeping in mind seasonal ingredients, and when people are looking for certain recipes. I also try not to feature recipes on my blog that I know are basic recipes or recipes that people have been making for years. For instance, everyone has a favourite burger or chocolate chip cookie recipe. Why do something to death when you can be original? Let's face it, you'll never show up on the front page of Google with either recipe.
The way I get around this is if I really want to do a burger or cookie recipe, then I will do a spin on a favourite, like creating a Jalapeno Popper Cheeseburger or White Chocolate Chip Funfetti Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches. They're both unique plays on classic recipes, though I don't know what being too unique would do for your Google traffic if people aren't necessarily searching for it every month.
Anyways, planning ahead definitely helps with recipes – at the end of the day you want to have the best pictures, the best food styling and the best story-telling to stand out from the pack. Food blogging (or blogging of any kind for that matter) is so oversaturated these days and you absolutely need to be the best you can be if you're hoping to make money from this tough but rewarding industry.
Now that we’ve talked about the money and web traffic, it’s time to talk about my goals for the upcoming month and for the long term!
What I Accomplished Last Month:
- Continued to build strong editorial calendars by season with recipes that have been well-researched for SEO
- Created my first recipe video (FINALLY!)
- Got Snapchat (also FINALLY! My username is thegirlonbloor; Send me snaps!)
- Experimented with my Pinterest scheduling, going from 80 pins per day to 110 pins (I have over 180 boards, most of which are group boards that I belong to)
- Optimized my website for site speed, including removing some plugins and re-uploading old photos
Goals for the Upcoming Month:
- Incorporate more personal story-telling and photos into my recipes
- Find new ways to diversify my income in relation to work I’m already doing on the blog (e.g. freelance photography/videography, cooking workshops, social media work, etc.)
- Pitch ideas to all kinds of food publications to increase my freelance writing and photography income
- Start to create long pins for Pinterest
- Create monthly meal round-ups to re-promote older, evergreen content
- Collect market research to better understand what kind of recipes my audience wants
- Create a portfolio tab to replace my Work With Me page
And there we are, the end of Income Report #5. Thanks so much for reading! How are you preparing for the fall and winter months as a food blogger? What are some of your upcoming goals and strategies? I'd love to talk all things blogging in the comments!
*There are no direct affiliate links in this post, but there may be some located in other pages I have linked to in this post