"A detailed report of Homemade Hooplah's income for February 2016 (18th month of blogging)."
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 February!
(Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links and I will earn a small commission if you make a purchase through those links. These are all products I have used and personally recommend. Thank you for your support!)
First Things First, How About That Income?
- MediaVine: $5,2210.10 (went up 296%)
- Amazon.com Associates: $0.56 (went down 93%)
- Food Blogger Pro Affiliate: $5.80 (same)
- Tailwind Affiliate: $0.50 (same)
Total Income: $5,226.96 (went up 100%)
February broke December’s record of highest monthly income for Homemade Hooplah (which is awesome – huzzah!) but I gotta be honest, February shouldn’t have ended up this way. In fact, February’s revenue should have been should have been downright dismal, for multiple reasons. For example:
- February being a short month does matter. Those few days can mean anywhere from $50-$300 revenue potential loss.
- RPM for ad revenue was still suffering from the new year slump, hovering in the $3-$4 range. To compare, it was $6+ in November.
- I was not accepted for a single sponsored post opportunity, despite applying for about five of them.
- Affiliate sales were also at an all-time low. Actually, I don’t think it’s been this low since summer of last year.
But despite all of those factors, February 2016 ended up being my best month to date… so, why? What in the world happened?
Well… I had a post go viral. And I don’t mean “viral” in the sense that many bloggers will throw around the word for a popular post, I mean viral in the sense that hundreds of thousands of people shared one of my posts within a very short period of time. That’s why MediaVine revenue was so high this month – all that traffic equated to tons of ad delivery by my site. However, going viral was definitely a learning experience. I talk more about the highs and lows in the traffic section below.
Secondly, What About Those Expenses?
- Virtual Assistant: $160.00 (Need a VA? Contact sky.fisher(a)ymail(dot)com for info!)
- WPopt (hosting): $152.85
- GiveawayPromote.com: 115.98
- Buffer: $50.00 (monthly plan)
- Giveaways and Loops: $50.00
- Adobe Creative Cloud: $49.99
- Meet Edgar: $49.00
- Facebook Post Boosts: $42.74
- Tailwind: $10 (annual plan)
- Dropbox: $9.99 (monthly plan)
- CrowdFire: $9.99
- BoardBooster: $15.00
Total Expenses: $705.54
In February, I made one major change to my business strategy: I hired a Virtual Assistant to help me work “chore threads” on Facebook and keeping my Buffer queue full. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since October, and I spent a few months reaching out to multiple people and groups about it, but the responses I got all seemed to be the same: either the rates were very high (one group even asked for more than I made at my last management job) or they were only available to help me 1-2 days a week. This meant I had to pass on all of them, because for a Virtual Assistant to be a true asset to me I needed someone that could be available three days a week plus a little extra work on the side. Don’t get me wrong, I was more than willing to pay fairly for someone’s time, but it was surprisingly difficult to find someone that was a good match for the workload and my budget.
That is, until I saw an “open request” post in one of the Facebook groups I’m in. It’s a type of post where if you need help with anything at all, whether it’s advice or service or a review, you can post a reply in the comments and see if anyone is available or interested. And on this fateful day, Facebook’s algorithm not only allowed this post to be shown in my news feed but also showed it to me at the exact moment someone commented that they were looking to get started as a VA. I messaged her as fast as I could, and as they say, the rest was history – she was available for all the work I needed and her price was more than fair. We’ve been working together for most of February (and now all of March) and she always completes the work on time and is great about notifying me of any issues. I still have a busy workload each day, but instead of treading water with daily tasks I’m busy doing other things to help advance my blog. Her help as been worth every penny.
My VA is also looking for more work – if you’re interested, contact sky.fisher(a)ymail(dot)com. I highly recommend her! If you can, please tell her I sent you.
To loop all of this back to the topic of expenses, that was my major change this month – paying my Virtual Assistant for all her help as well as increasing my Buffer to the business plan so that my VA can help manage my queue.
Other notes on expenses:
- I (finally) started a new monthly giveaway series. It’s been my plan to host monthly giveaways for quite some time now, and February was the first month for that. I also paid to promote the giveaway through GiveawayPromote.com.
- I participated in my first Instagram loop giveaway, and the results were way beyond my expectations. Hoping to join in on more of those in the future!
- I finally started to fill up my MeetEdgar queue, and so far, I’m loving the results. It’s great to see organic engagement on older posts.
- Since I’ve begun to use BoardBooster more, I had to increase my plan to account for my higher monthly pin quota.
Thirdly, How Was The Traffic?
- Total Visits: 1,184,026 (went up 312%)
- Total Page Views: 1,475,966 (went up 341%)
- Average visitors per day: 40,828 (went up 313%)
- Average pageviews per day: 50,895 (went up 315%)
- Best day: February 23rd with 192,411 visitors / 240,620 pageviews
This is the part of the income report I’ve been both excited and dreading to write. I think every blogger has the goal of going viral one day, where they spend their free time dreaming of what it’ll be like when it finally happens to them, and for the most part, going viral was everything I expected it to be. Wonderful. Crazy. Stressful. Some hiccups. And absolute and complete pure luck.
Instead of writing paragraph after paragraph to document the whole event, here is how “going viral” all went down for Homemade Hooplah, in timeline form:
- February 18th: It’s 12PM and I don’t like the photos I’ve taken for the recipe that is supposed to go up tomorrow. As a last resort, I decide to throw together a recipe I’ve been meaning to make for some time: a parfait using Baileys and Oreos. When the new photos and posts are done, my dear friend Olivia helps me come up with a suitable name: Baileys Cookies and Cream Parfaits.
- February 19th: The Baileys Cookies and Cream Parfaits goes live. Crickets are heard around the internet, because all of my new content seems to tank these days.
- February 20th: Around 9PM, I notice a small influx of visitors from Facebook to the Baileys post. A quick search on Facebook shows that tatertots & jello has shared the Baileys post on their Facebook page. Traffic started out at 50 active users on my site from that post, but slowly trickled down to 30 by the time I went to bed. And really, all of this was totally normal – most Facebook shares start strong and fizzle out quickly.
- February 21st: I wake up and find that there are 150 people on the Baileys post from Facebook. By 1PM, the post had 6,000 shares. Active users on the page kept creeping higher and higher: first 200, then 300, then 400. By 4PM, there were 600 active users and 11,000 shares on Facebook post. By 6PM, there were nearly 900 active users and 45,000 shares. It seemed like the post was gaining 2,000-3,000 shares every 20-30 minutes. I linked the post in some of the Facebook groups I’m in, since it seemed to have good sharing power and to see if anyone would like to try sharing it on their wall. A few people did, and according to them, it had excellent engagement on their pages, too. That night Homemade Hooplah peaked at around 1200 active users at one time. I went to bed thinking it was certainly a nice day (100,000 pageviews!) but to mentally prepare myself for traffic to start the inevitable fall back down to reality the next day.
- February 22nd: My site went down for a bit in the AM, but when it came back up, there were already 700+ active users on the site again. And it continued to climb and climb… until that evening, when my site finally started to buckle under the pressure. The active users on my site kept drastically yo-yo’ing between nearly 2000 to 400, back and forth and back again, which seemed to be a clear indicator that something wasn’t right. My host worked on fixing the issue but wasn’t able to nail down a cause before traffic slowed down enough that the site steadied itself on it’s own. Total pageviews for the day: 228,968.
- February 23rd: This most popular day of the viral surge, and at the highest point, I capped out at 2281 active users on the site at one time. However, once prime time rolled around my site began to buckle again, yo-yo’ing between 2000+ active users and 200-400. It was a frustrating time, but as the previous day, once night fell and traffic slowed, traffic stabilized on its own. On this day I also received a note from MediaVine, letting their clients know that due to a bidding error by one of their advertisers, ad revenue would be lower than normal until they sorted things out. I was bummed that this issue with MV just happened to coincide with the biggest traffic boost my site has ever seen, but what can you do? These things happen. Total Pageviews for the day: 240,620.
- February 24th: Traffic from Facebook finally begins to slow down, and it’s at this moment that my host and I discover what has been causing all the problems on my site: my beloved Related Posts Pro plugin. I’ve always known that a self-hosted related posts solution can cause a lot of strain on your site, but up until then I had never had any issues with this specific plugin – but then again, I had never had this much traffic before. As you can probably imagine, I was certainly kicking myself for deciding to “roll the dice” and sticking with a plugin that was a potential ticking time bomb. With RPP removed, I noticed a significant drop in traffic to the two pages RPP had been recommending to readers from the Baileys post (Orange Creamsicle Cocktail and Chocolate Cream Pie Martini) so I quickly vetted a few “off site” options for displaying related posts. I settled with Contextly, and though it’s expensive, so far I’ve been happy with the results and reporting.
- February 25th and beyond: Traffic continues to dwindle each day from Facebook, but the site stays stable. RPM from MV begins to climb… but only after most of the traffic has stopped coming to my site. By the 29th, traffic to the Baileys post is still strong but is clearly on the way out for good.
Yeesh… sorry, that was still a lot of text. But through this whole process, I did learn a few valuable things:
- Do not run a self-hosted “related post” solution. Find a service that will handle the load for you, such as Shareaholic or Contextly.
- If you think you’re going viral, consider shooting your ad network a note – you never know, they might be able to throw more lucrative ad partners your way while the traffic lasts. After all, it’s in their best interest to capitalize on your awesome traffic, too.
- Prepare for people to copy and paste your entire recipe + instructions and paste it all over the internet. I’m sure all the bloggers out there know how much it sucks, and it happened to me – in the very Facebook post that went viral, someone commented that my site was “such a pain in the neck to read through that [they] thought [they’d] make it easier for everyone” by posting the full recipe and instructions. Her response was, of course, followed by a chorus of thanks and praise for how much easier she made it to get the recipe. And as for me, I did everything I could to get her comment removed – I tried contacting the owner of tatertots & jello three different ways and even sent a PM to the commenter, but no one ever got back to me, so the comment with the full recipe + instructions remained. Fact is, most people don’t understand how much it hurts a blogger financially to completely remove any reason for people to visit the site that the content originated from. Some of us pay our bills with money we make from blogging, and we’re only paid if someone visits the site – so in essence, we lose money from our paychecks when our content is completely reproduced elsewhere without our permission. But one thing I’ve learned over the past few years is that readers don’t want to hear anything about this. They don’t factor in hosting costs, or the photography equipment you had to buy, or the time you spent photographing and editing, or the original recipe instructions you wrote (which are, in fact, copyright protected) – they’ll focus on the idea that you can’t copyright a recipe, that they’ve seen a similar recipe elsewhere and somehow that means they can do whatever they want with it now, or the general idea that words and pictures on the internet are free reign. I guess the point I’m trying to make is: going viral is great, but people will be people. The more people that see your content the more likely they’ll misuse it and feel justified in doing it. But at the end of the day, you need to learn to pick your battles and grow a thicker skin. The post still did well for me despite the comment snafu and I can still be happy for that.
Social Media Numbers
Follower counts jumped a little more than normal this month thanks to the monthly giveaway and the Instagram loop I participated in.
And, also, as most of the blogging community felt woe over all the new Pinterest changes (the death of group boards, low repin counts, etc etc) there was one good thing to come from it all: my follower account is soaring. Last December I had a goal of reaching 5,000 Pinterest followers, and I projected this to happen sometime in May or June…. yet here it is, February, and I’ve already met and surpassed that goal. For all of Pinterest’s recent shortcomings and complete backhandedness when it comes to dealing with business owners, this is one thing I have to be happy about. It feels like Pinterest is finally rewarding me for pinning great content and I love that.
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.
February’s total RPM dropped down $3.34 (went down 51%). This stings a bit, but without any sponsored posts I was relying only ad revenue to float me through the month. When I look at my MediaVine dashboard, their RPM is nearly identical to the above number. It is what it is – hopefully March will bring more opportunities so that this number can climb back up to above $5.
If you’ve read this far in the income report (wow, thank you!) then it probably comes as no surprise to see Facebook as my #1 referral. Facebook actually appears multiple times in the top 10 because of the way Facebook is structured and Google reports it, but you can still see the other top referrals shining through, such as Pinterest, MSN, and BuzzFeed. Google is still hanging in at #5, because at the same time that Facebook was driving traffic to my site, so was Google. I’m not sure if this is because Google picked up on what was happening over at Facebook and decided to rank my page higher in searches OR if the Facebook post generated enough word of mouth that more people were searching for that specific phrase. But no matter the cause, my Google-specific traffic has a similar mountain as the traffic graphic above. And like the Facebook traffic, it has since gone back down to what it used to be.
Most Popular Posts
- Baileys Cookies and Cream Parfaits – 976,406 Pageviews
- Honey Garlic Shrimp and Broccoli – 37,918 Pageviews
- Cookie Dough Dip – 33,404 Pageviews
- Garlic Parmesan Broccoli – 27,741 Pageviews
- Homestyle Sausage Gravy – 23,378
Even with the behemoth that was the Baileys post, it’s nice to see some other posts break through and have a decent month. I’m also glad to see that Cookie Dough Dip has managed to claw it’s way back to the top after Pinterest curiously banished it from searches last November. I guess the saying is true – you can’t keep a good thing down for long.
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 March!