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 August!
First Things First, How About That Income?
- MediaVine: $3,953.31 (went up 28%)
- Linqia: $398.40
- Massive Sway: $300.00
- MassPlanner Affiliate: $40.20
- Amazon.com Associates: $28.16 (went up 126%)
- Food Blogger Pro Affiliate: $5.80
Total Income: $4,725.87 (went up 51%)
When I think back to Q3 2015, I remember having such high expectations for my revenue potential. I had only been blogging for about a year, but I was involved enough in the community to know that bloggers made the majority of their money in Q3 and Q4. So when July rolled around, I was all but holding out my hands, so ready for the riches to start raining down on all my hard work.
Only… that never happened. In fact, I wasn't impressed with the whole end-of-year money train until November and December. Sure, my overall revenue was higher during Q3 (because so was my traffic) but my RPM hovered in the $5 range, which wasn't much better than it had been for months. It wasn't until I switched ad networks started doing sponsored posts that I noticed any eal improvement, and even then, it wasn't the difference I had imagined it would be.
Flash forward to Q3 2016 and my revenue expectations were at rock bottom. Having learned to keep my delusions of grandeur under wraps, I wasn't going to get my hopes up about holiday income until October at the earliest.
Only… this time around, everything is different. Sponsored posts are already starting to roll in. Ad revenue has already gone way up, and I fully expect it to continue to climb as we approach and enter Q4. I also have a few tools in my toolbox that I didn't have in 2015, such as the new design (more on that below!) and posts that are better optimized for better ad revenue.
To sum up August's income: I'm delightfully surprised it's already so high (a 50% increase from last month!) and I'm cautiously optimistic that things will continue to get even better.
Secondly, What About Those Expenses?
- Virtual Assistant: $270.00 (Need a VA? Contact sky.fisher(a)ymail(dot)com for info!)
- WPopt (hosting): $152.85
- Giveaway: $100
- MOZ: $99.00
- Adobe Creative Cloud: $50.00
- Meet Edgar: $49.00
- BoardBooster: $30.00
- The Blog Village: $29.00
- Zapier: $20.00
- MailChimp: $20.00
- CoPromote: $19.99
- GiveAwayPromote: $14.99
- Tailwind: $10.00
- Buffer: $10.00
- Dropbox: $9.99
- MassPlanner: $9.95
Total Expenses: $898.77
As much as I wish they didn't, expenses did in fact go up this month. Here's a quick breakdown as to what happened (and why):
1 – My wonderful VA is now handling comment threads for me, so I pay her a little more each week for her work.
2 – I ran a $100 giveaway for a Linqia sponsored post and paid about $15 to promote the giveaway.
3 – I signed up for a trial with The Blog Village and have decided to keep the subscription running. TBV is run by the awesome folks over at Show Me The Yummy, and they've done an amazing job of diving headfirst into the blogging business and learning the ropes. Now, I'll be honest with you: after subscribing to Food Blogger Pro off and on over the past couple of years, I was skeptical that The Blog Village (which follows the same subscription resource model) would have anything new to offer me. I've been blogging for long enough that it feels like I've tried (and paid for) every resource under the sun, so it's become harder and harder for me to find value in new services. Plus, for anyone that's tried FBP, there's definitely a sense that it was primarily designed for new bloggers, and that the couple that run it have a very “detached” way of interacting with their subscribers. So, you can probably image my surprise to find that TBV is nothing like that. The video tutorials are extremely helpful (even for an experienced blogger) and I absolutely love the fact that they're not only thorough, but also personal. If there's an opportunity for them to talk in front of the camera instead of a disembodied voiceover, they do it, even if it's a tutorial about technical stuff. It ends up feeling like they're more genuine and invested in your success. The TBV crew are also extremely involved with their subscriber community, regularly posting on the forums and keeping everyone engaged. Plus, TBV's dashboard offers social media stats (which meant I could cancel two other services I was using to track that data) and they have an image optimizer / resizer, making it easier to have SEO-friendly image names and the correct image sizes for social media.
4 – I've been using Zapier to help automate some of my tasks. Zapier is similar to IFTTT except that Zapier can connect directly to your WordPress blog, giving you access to all of your post data, whereas IFTTT is limited to the truncated and summarized data that's in your RSS feed. For example, I use Zapier in conjunction with Todoist to automatically create a promotion task list every time a new post is published. I also use it to automatically create pins for some of my content (as an example, all of the recent pins on my Weekly Meal Plan board were created by a Zap). And, finally, I've set up a Zap to automatically create content within Buffer. One day soon I hope to do the same thing with MeetEdgar – I'm just waiting for ME to allow image attachment in a Zap. My future plans with Zapier is for it to notify me whenever I get a new comment so I can make sure I'm responding to everyone. Overall it's an extremely useful tool and it's helped keep me organized.
So, other than those four things, expenses are the same as they have been for the past few months. And like the past few months, I'm still left wishing I could cut down on the services I use in order to reduce my monthly costs… but currently, I just can't justify it. In fact, I just keep adding to my monthly expenditures. It seems every step I take to optimize or save time in my day it ultimately means I spend more money.
But alas, what can you do? That's business!
Thirdly, How Was The Traffic?
- Total Visits: 398,571 (went up 1%)
- Total Page Views: 495,615 (went down 2%)
- Average visitors per day: 12.857 (went up 1%)
- Average pageviews per day: 15,988 (went down 2%)
- Best day: August 28th with 16,221 visitors / 19,758 pageviews
Traffic remained steady for yet another month, and honestly? I'm happy about it. Of course I wish it was climbing up instead of settling at 500k, but I'd like to think that maintaining the same traffic over the summer slump means that my site has managed to cultivate some longevity. Plus, 500k is a great base to be charging into the holiday season with – one can only hope it will rise up from there and bring me to a new plateau in January!
New Site Design
After more than eight months of work, I finally launched the newest version of Homemade Hooplah on August 15th (called “Four.”) My ultimate goal was to build a site that used less plugins, loaded faster, and had a design that was simultaneously trendy, timeless, and user-friendly.
Do I think I accomplished all of those things? Mostly.
Am I happy with how it turned out? Absolutely.
There are still some tweaks and improvements I need to work in, but on the whole, the site has performed even better than I expected.
Other things I noticed since launching the site design:
- One of the plugins I used to use (LayeredPopups) was making my bounce rate lower than it actually was. Now that I'm no longer using that plugin, I can see my true bounce is a solid 85%. That's a pretty normal bounce rate for a food blog, but it's still higher than I'd like it to be. I'm currently trying to brainstorm ways to get it closer to 80%.
- Since the launch of the new design, my pages per session (ie, how many pages a person views each visit) actually went down instead of up. It wasn't a huge jump, maybe 1.27 to 1.22 (so about 0.04 difference) but this wasn't what I expected to happen. If anything, I expected this stat to go way up now that the site loads better and the navigation is cleaner. However, there's a chance that LayeredPopups was impacting this stat as well, and considering the huge impact I saw on my bounce rate, maybe what I'm seeing here is the improved stat – I just can't accurately see the improvement because the stats were so skewed before. Only time will tell I guess, though I am still actively working on how increase my pages per session to be closer to 1.3 or more.
Social Media Numbers
- Pinterest: 47,673 (up 8,120)
- Facebook: 14,593 (up 225)
- Instagram: 10,899 (up 2,506)
- Tumblr: 6,696 (up 180)
- Twitter: 3,632 (up 313)
- Google+: 367 (up 24)
- StumbleUpon: 276 (no change)
Overall, I'm still really happy with my social media growth. Pinterest continues to climb (thanks to BoardBooster and Tailwind) and Instagram, Twitter, and Google+ are still showing signs of improvement (all thanks to MassPlanner).
Facebook is really the only one that fell off track this month, and it was all because I didn't land a single feature or share from one of the big foodie pages. It's amazing how big of a difference those shares make; last month I had a few shares and grew nearly 2,000 followers. This month there were no shares or mentions and I only grew 225. Kinda crazy!
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.
I'm super excited to see that this month's RPM jumped all the way up to $9.54 (went up 54%)! My goal for this year was to somehow get above a $10 RPM, and August has made me think that this just might be possible before the year is out.
C'mon Q4, don't let me down!
Traffic sources remained near identical this month, although there is one increase I'm very happy about:
Google organic traffic grew another 10,000 this month! Which means that for two months in a row I've shown significant growth from Google.
It's been such a slow and steady race for me to improve my search traffic before the holidays, and I'm still using MOZ to optimize and track my posts each week. I'd like to think that this improvement might have something to do with the new site design, but like so many things, the current stats are still less than what I expected them to be. I'm hoping that September will be able to show me, definitively, if the optimized site design had any impact on my Google organic search at all.
Most Popular Posts
- Cannoli Dip – 42,199 Pageviews
- Baileys Cookies and Cream Parfaits – 32,563 Pageviews
- Cookie Dough Dip – 30,905 Pageviews
- Weight Loss Wonder Soup – 23,320 Pageviews
- Homestyle Sausage Gravy – 19,340 Pageviews
The End of Income Reports
So, you guys, I've got some good news and bad news. And because it's what I would want in your position, I'm going to tell you the bad news first:
September 2016 will likely be the last income report I write.
For those who regularly read these income reports, I know this is probably coming as a surprise. Heck, if you had asked me a month ago how long I intended to do income reports, I would have told you forever and ever (and ever). Even now that I've come to this decision, it's still hard for me to grasp. I've been writing income reports for so long that it's difficult for me to imagine this blog without them.
But, you guys, there is some good news here:
The end of income reports will mean that I'll have the time to write more comprehensive and complete guides about blogging. Ultimately, my goal is to write detailed tutorials with cumulative data about I'm doing, what's working, and what isn't.
Because, you see, while I love these income reports, I've also written them like a “blogging journal.” For the past two years it's just been a conscious stream of thought from one month to the next, and while this may be fun to read, I think that makes it hard to garner all the information they contain. If someone were to sit down and read one income report before moving on to something else, they might miss crucial information that was tucked away in an income report from four months ago. So, the idea would be to organize everything by topic and (hopefully) give readers the exact story / setup / information they need from start to finish.
Plus, there are other a few other things impacting this decision:
1 – I set out to become a career blogger and, for the most part, I've done it. Now, I know I may not make as much money as other bloggers or that someone else may be doing a better job than I am at this whole blogging business, but what matters to me is that my work on this little food blog can pay my bills. I make more now than I did at my last desk job, and for me, that's all the success I need in my corner to feel accomplished about what I do here.
2 – The Husband and I have talked about when I “should” stop doing these income reports. And it's not that I had to ask his “permission” – it's that I know he is a very private person, and as my income I make from this blog becomes a bigger part of both our lives and finances, he does deserve a say in how much I do (or do not) disclose publicly. So, when I bought this topic up, we (thankfully) seemed to be on the same page: that once I made enough to sustain a living, I “could” stop writing income reports. He didn't feel I had to stop if I didn't want to, but if I proved I could make a living from blogging, what more was there to say? And, honestly, I totally agreed with him.
3 – Now for some hard truth: these income reports take me an extremely long time to write and yet are my lowest performing posts. This wasn't a big deal when my site was new and none of my posts performed particularly well, but now that my recipes have clearly become my gravy train, it's become harder and harder for me to justify the time investment these income reports demand. It would be different if these income reports were making money through affiliate sales, but no matter how much I write or link or talk about all the services I love, that effort has yet to translate into a solid revenue stream.
So, there you have it. It's a bittersweet end, but I think it's time. Plus, I'm really excited about writing more focused guides and what that next chapter will bring!
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 September!