Every month I post a summary of how Homemade Hooplah is doing both in traffic and income. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m trying to become a career blogger and I thought it might be interesting (and helpful!) to chronicle how this crazy idea of mine is doing from a business perspective. You can view past income reports here.
So without further ado, let's see how Homemade Hooplah did for April!
First Things First, How About That Income?
- MediaVine: $2,365.20 (went down 28%)
- TapInfluence: $300.00
- Amazon.com Associates: $25.37 (went up 93%)
- Food Blogger Pro Affiliate: $5.80
- Tailwind Affiliate: $0.50
Total Income: $2,706.87 (went down 25%)
Correction on 5/28! Math is hard and I had to fix my numbers after posting. Sorry about that!
Income went down again this month (boo) primarily because traffic also went down again (hiss).
On the upside, I was able to land a few sponsored posts this month – however, most of them didn't publish or payout until next month. I'm hoping all of these new opportunities means that sponsored posts will start becoming a regular occurrence again. I only jumped on the sponsored post bandwagon last fall and it was amazing how much it stung to do without those opportunities in the early part of this year.
Secondly, What About Those Expenses?
- Virtual Assistant: $254.00 (Need a VA? Contact sky.fisher(a)ymail(dot)com for info!)
- WPopt (hosting): $152.85
- MOZ: $99.00
- Buffer: $50.00 (monthly plan)
- Adobe Creative Cloud: $50.00
- Meet Edgar: $49.00
- Facebook Post Boosts: $44.00
- BoardBooster: $21.30
- MailChimp: $25.00
- Tailwind: $10.00
- Dropbox: $9.99
Total Expenses: $765.14
Compared to last month, expenses for April were much more reasonable – and a big part of that was because I didn't host or promote any giveaways. The lack of giveaways is a bit of a bummer to me, because I really do love hosting giveaways and giving something back to my readers, but I also knew that I had some big expenses coming up soon (more on that later). I had to sacrifice the monthly giveaway in order to give my funds a little more breathing room.
And overall, that was my general theme for April expenses – do everything a little bit less. Less giveaways, less Facebook Ads, less BoardBooster goodies, etc etc. I also finally get rid of the paid version of CrowdFire, simply because I didn't have the time to make full use of it.
I even tried to find more monthly services and fees to cut, but it seems like CrowdFire was the only “dead weight” in my expense list – everything else has a clear purpose and I use it multiple times a week (if not daily). I certainly wish some of these services were cheaper, but these services charge what they do because they work.
Thirdly, How Was The Traffic?
- Total Visits: 382,933 (went down 29%)
- Total Page Views: 489,538 (went down 28%)
- Average visitors per day: 12,764 (went down 27%)
- Average pageviews per day: 16,318 (went down 26%)
- Best day: April 9th with 18,401 visitors / 23,147
Yeesh… here we are again with more numbers that are going down, down, down.
Now, 490k pageviews is still a very good thing and I'm not going to try to pretend like it's not. All I have to do is look at last April's income report and feel extremely and utterly thankful for just how far I've come. And I am so, so thankful. It's been a battle to get here and I already feel like I've won.
However, 490k is still four times less than the 1.6 million pageviews I had in February, and it's 200k less than what I had just last month. Granted, almost all of that traffic was thanks to my first ever viral post, but I was really hoping I'd be able to “cling to the magic” for longer than two short months. And, don't get me wrong – that Baileys Parfait post is still in my top 1-3 every day. But at the rate things are going, it looks like I'll be back to the same traffic slump I found myself stuck in during January and February.
… And there I go again, being all negative and stuff. I do take some comfort in the fact that I've heard April was a slow month for a lot of bloggers, not just me, and that statistically April is the second worse month of the year in terms of traffic and ad revenue (with January taking the top spot of that honor). I just wish I could have maintained the momentum of that Baileys Parfait post for a little while longer to coast me through the various whims and waves of the advertising market.
To give you an idea of what I'm talking about: Check out this graph of the Baileys Parfait traffic from the beginning of March to the end of April. It's “glory days” have clearly come and passed passed, but here's to hoping that it makes a resurgence during the winter months!
Newsletter Changeups and Mistakes
When I write these income reports, I'm usually working off of a written list I've kept throughout the month of all the important things that happened so that I can turn around and tell you about them. And one of those big topics (that's underlined four times, I might add) was the subject of all the big plans I had for my newsletter.
Becuase oh, I had big plans. I was going to clean up my mailing list and get rid of all those subscribers who don't read my emails (because all those unread emails still cost me money, ya'll). I was going to create special interest groups within my mailing list and create tailored RRS-feeds based on those interests. And I was going to offer exclusive free recipes if anyone signed up for these special RSS emails.
And in my original vision, I was going to accomplish all of this greatness with ConvertKit. There are tons email services on the market, and ConvertKit is just another horse trying to place in the race for your monthly subscription fee. But what's so special about ConvertKit? Well, they make it possible to do some pretty cool things with your email list, and after reading a few glowing testimonials from other bloggers, I was sold on the idea that ConvertKit was the answer to all my email goals. I fully believed these bloggers when they told me that I couldn't micro-manage or segment my subscribers with MailChimp (my current email service) and the only way to properly do that was with ConvertKit.
So I signed up for ConvertKit (at $49.99/month, I might add) and got to work. And seriously, it was work. I spent upwards of 15 hours working with ConvertKit's less-than-friendly email editor, trying my best to hand-code a responsive email template I could tolerate. I also had trouble linking my existing signup forms to ConvertKit, so each week I still had to import subscribers from MailChimp to ConvertKit. This meant I continued to pay for both services for two months, and I still wasn't any closer to fully detaching from MailChimp and using ConvertKit exclusively.
Then, just the other day (so this part didn't happen in April – sorry! I promise there's a point to bringing it up now!) I discovered something that completely blew my mind:
Everything I was told was that special and exclusive and unique about ConvertKit… could be done with MailChimp using their segments and groups.
So, basically, I found out that I had wasted upwards of 20+ hours on ConvertKit when I could have just stayed with MailChimp and never had to worry about doing without their superb reporting or their wonderful app on my phone or their user-friendly interface or how my forms weren't working or tons of other crap that would totally ruin my afternoon.
To say I was “a little upset” would be an understatement.
Thankfully I was able to get a refund for some of my time with ConvertKit, but let my mistake be a lesson to you – do not blindly trust what other bloggers recommend to you (even me). Always do your own research, and above all, ask the source (so not your best friend or that blogger you admire) if you can't find a clear answer on your own. I could have saved myself so much anguish if I had only taken the time to email MailChimp's support and ask them if these features were possible on their service, and if not, did they have an estimate of when they would be. I could have gotten my answer right then (that it was totally possible) instead of wasting so much time and effort on a solution that wasn't a good fit for me.
The real takeaway here is that not all services will work the same way for everyone. I don't doubt that there are plenty of happy customers with ConvertKit, because clearly, all those bloggers who took the time to write a glowing review about ConvertKit were absolutely thrilled with their service. I signed up for their email lists and I see the emails – I can see that they've got a system that's working for them. It's just that, in the end, ConvertKit wasn't a good fit for me. ConvertKit prides themselves on emails that look like they've been sent “from a friend,” but for me, that meant I was missing all the tools I needed to create emails with a professional polish.
MailChimp, on the other hand, offers me all of that and more.
So feel free to take advice or guidance from other bloggers out there – they've been where you are before and they know how to get you to the next level – but above all, make sure that whatever service or solution they're peddling (especially if there are affiliate links involved) that it's still the right choice for you.
To get back to the point, I still want to share with you all the details of my newsletters plans… but that will have to be saved until next month (or maybe even June). Today I just wanted to go over this whole learning experience between ConvertKit and MailChimp and how easy it is to fall into the hype (I totally did) and how easy it is to get egg on your face (I'd like mine sunny side up, please). It just goes to show that you never stop learning, no matter how long you've been doing what you do.
And, sometimes, the best knowledge you can get comes from screwing up.
New Design, Coming in 2016!
I have some pretty big news: I am redesigning this website.
And when I say that, I mean exactly that: *I* am redesigning this website. For those that might not know, I started my website journey all the way back in 1998, when I was learning to code HTML and CSS during the nights and weekends after school. I even made the current design you're looking at right now, although I “cheated” a bit and made it with Headway Themes (a drag-and-drop page editor). There's a bunch of custom code in this site from me, sure, but the basic site structure was made by Headway. And while I like Headway Themes, I really do, I'm anxious to get on the Genesis Framework so that I can take advantage of their secure foundation for better page load speed and (hopefully) improve my Google search rank potential.
So, I have spent the past two months coding a child theme from scratch. It has been a dizzying ordeal, seeing as how I never took the time to learn PHP and these days everything is done with PHP or HTML5 (similar concepts but not the same version I learned). But even despite all of that… it's been fun. Because I didn't start a food blog because I like to cook – I started a food blog because I like websites, and the whole idea of making a food blog was just so I'd have some motivation to learn how to cook (which, oddly enough, has worked out in the end!)
Fun fact: This is currently version 3 of Homemade Hooplah. The new design I'm working on is aptly named “Four.”
My current goal is to have the new design done by June or July. And, full disclosure – it's going to look different than most food blogs out there. Currently there's this design trend for blogs to have narrow pages with tiny text (which is probably all thanks to Purr, the go-to group for blog designs these days), and while I think their pages are cute, the overall look is pretty… unattractive. Desktop monitors are huge these days and phones are still fairly small – so why not embrace big text that'll be easy to read on both devices? That's the look and general philosophy I'm hoping to accomplish with the new design: big, bold, and approachable.
Here's hoping I don't screw it up! 😀
A Brand Spankin' New Camera
As big of a deal as this was for me, I can't believe I nearly forgot to mention it – I got a brand new camera this month! In fact, I did a major overhaul of all of my photography tools:
- New camera: Nikon D750 (which still works great with my Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G)
- New lens: Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G
- New tripod: Vanguard Alta Pro (necessary because of the weight of the new lens – good lawd, she's heavy!)
- New color balance / hue helper: X-Rite ColorChecker Passport
- New photography backdrops from The Country Contessa
- New photography backdrops from Erickson Wood Works.
I know, I know – so spendy! I guess you can see where all my excess funds (and more) went to.
After all of this, I'm pretty much set for photography tools for the foreseeable future. I've also begun to reshoot
super ugly old recipes and republishing them. There are more than 200 recipes on this blog right now and yet only a fraction of them receive traffic. My goal is to work on fixing that throughout 2016.
Important note: before I bought my camera, I rented the exact same model and lens from Lumoid. If you're in the market for a new camera, I highly recommend you do this first. Nothing compares to having the camera in your hands, at home, testing it on the same subjects that you work with each and every day. The rental rates are reasonable (and longer rental = cheaper daily fee), the camera I received was in great condition, the packaging was excellent, and the return instructions were very clear. You can even extend the rental if you want to.
One final note: I was also able to borrow a Cannon 5D Mark II from a friend, and between that and the Nikon D750 rental… I had to stay with Nikon. I'm sorry, I know Cannon is supposed the new hotness and all, but the Nikon just felt better in my hands. I didn't notice a difference in picture color or quality (and to cover my bases, that's why I also got the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport) so for me, in the end, it was all about familiarity. I learned to shoot with a Nikon and it looks like I'm going to stick with Nikon.
Social Media Numbers
Where the rest of this income report depresses me a bit, these numbers make me happy. Pinterest continues to grow at a steady pace and Facebook continues to do well thanks to some direct shares from some pretty big pages.
Many things are changing over at Pinterest, and I'll have more to say on that… next month. I know! I keep putting off stuff for next month, but this report is already fairly long and I'm anxious to get back to coding (see above about the new design). Overall, though, I haven't really changed my Pinterest strategy during all of the changes to pin counts and profile display and, so far, all my tactics still seem to be working. I mean, Pinterest has definitely made it harder to me to source good pins… but I'm tempted to say that was their intention. Pinterest wants us to pay to promote pins, and what's the simplest way to do that? Make it so we're blind to the tools that help us effectively promote our content for free.
(I may be just a tad bitter about all the changes Pinterest has made.)
RPM stands for revenue per mille, and “mille” stands for a thousand impressions. It’s a metric web sites use to see how much income every 1000 page views (note: that’s different than each unique visitor) could potentially bring to their site.
More good news here! I managed to get above my $6 RPM goal for a total of $6.14 (went up 16%).
My current goal is to hit a $10 RPM for two months in a row before 2016 is out. I'm still a long ways off from accomplishing a feat like that, but at the same time, it still feels like something obtainable if I work with that goal in mind.
Not many surprises in the traffic sources this month. The frustratingly ambiguous “Direct” is still on top, Pinterest rose about 50k, Google dropped another 10k (yeesh, I just can't please them!), and my Facebook traffic continues to fizzle out in the same way as the Baileys Parfait post.
I did lucky with a few hits on StumbleUpon (the first time in what feels like months) and I finally signed up to be featured on The Best Blog Recipes. Both are great traffic when the surges hit, but like everything, they never last for long. You're always left waiting for the next wave.
In the coming months, I'm hoping to branch out more into Twitter or Instagram, and maybe even Google Plus (that is, if I can tolerate it long enough – oh, Google, I know you tried your best, but it's no Facebook). I'm not sure if those are really the best places to look for more traffic, but brands certainly care about those numbers when they pick bloggers for sponsored post opportunities. Besides, it can't hurt to try – right?
Most Popular Posts
- Baileys Cookies and Cream Parfaits – 75,704 Pageviews
- Honey Garlic Shrimp and Broccoli – 40,779
- Homestyle Sausage Gravy – 35,169 Pageviews
- Bacon Wrapped Cream Cheese Stuffed Chicken – 26,939 Pageviews
- Cookie Dough Dip – 24,090
After all my complaining, we see here that the Baileys post was still my #1 for the month… except it got nearly 50% less traffic than last month. Ouch.
I am currently accepting ideas for the next viral recipe idea! 😀
That’s a Wrap!
That’s all for this month – thank you for reading! Here’s hoping there will be bigger and better numbers for May!