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, lets see how Homemade Hooplah did for January!
(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: $1,319.39 (went down 59%)
- Linqia: $191.20
- TapInfluence: $725.00
- IZEA: $350.00
- Amazon.com Associates: $8.29 (went down 69%)
- How to Monetize Your Food Blog eBook: $6.00
- Food Blogger Pro Affiliate: $5.80 (same)
- Tailwind Affiliate: $0.50
Total Income: $2,606.18 (went down 42%)
January’s income potential can be summed up in three words: “Well… it’s January.”
The beginning of a new year is always a little painful for bloggers, but at the very least, the downfall is dependable. Between January ushering in the beginning of Q1 (and thus the start of the fiscal year for many companies) coupled with consumer spending being significantly lower than what it was a mere 30 days ago (thanks to everyone being broke after the winter holidays), companies just aren’t spending money right now. They’re too busy counting their profits from Q4 (can you blame them?) and making plans for managing their resources in Q1 and on. And while all of this makes good business sense for the companies, it ultimately means a few penny-pinching months for bloggers. Companies not spending money = no payment for ads or promotion.
So while I was expecting January ad revenue to be much lower – which it was, even from my beloved MediaVine, though I can’t blame them for the whims of the industry; rates were down for all networks this month – what did surprise me was the amount of sponsored post opportunities I received. And even more surprising was that they were all for the Super Bowl, asking that I make party appetizers and drinks around their products for the “big game.” Maybe it’s because I’m not really a sports enthusiast, but I totally would have put my money on Valentine’s Day being the big consumer draw for this time of year. Shows what I know! I guess Valentine’s Day is more about the presents while the Super Bowl is more about the food.
Mental note: be thinking about the Super Bowl in January 2017. Start making dip and beer recipes in November.
Big thanks to TapInfluence and IZEA for giving me the opportunity to make some fun party foods for the biggest sports event of the year. They definitely helped make January’s income a little less bleak.
Secondly, What About Those Expenses?
- WPopt (hosting): $152.85
- Adobe Creative Cloud: $49.99
- Meet Edgar: $49.00
- Tailwind: $10 (annual plan)
- Buffer: $10 (monthly plan)
- Dropbox: $9.99 (monthly plan)
- CrowdFire: $9.99
- BoardBooster: $5.00
Total Expenses: $296.82
My expenses were identical to December except for one thing: I finally started paying for BoardBooster. I’ve had BoardBooster running for quite some time, and I use it to help keep my content “evergreen.” I have a few campaigns set up that will continuously repin my pins to popular group boards, and let me tell you, it is so nice to know that BoardBooster will handle that whole process for me without me having to lift a finger.
Now, for anyone that’s been reading these income reports for a while (is that you? if so, THANK YOU!), I’ll bet your wondering: so, which service am I using? Is it BoardBooster or Tailwind?
My answer: I use them both. And I’ll tell you why.
Tailwind vs BoardBooster
Overall, I think of Tailwind as my proactive pinning tool. I love using Tailwind’s statistics, their board lists, and their queue system. I’m also one of “those” people who routinely delete low performing pins (ex: after 1 week, I’ll delete all pins with 3 interactions or less) so Tailwind’s pin inspector’s tool is extremely valuable to me. When I have a new post, I use my board lists and set up an interval (of 1 day) to “pollinate” my new post across all of my boards. If I’m on a direct page and I’d like to pin their content to one of my boards, I’ll use Tailwind’s browser extension to schedule it.
One important thing to note here is that I do not use Tailwind to repin from Pinterest. This is because Tailwind doesn’t actually repin – it essentially creates a “copy” of the source pin, resulting in a brand new pin – and that whole process breaks the chain of repins. Pinterest’s algorithm is a mystery and forever changing, but one thing that seems certain is that pins with high repin counts result in more repins, but only if the pin chain remains intact. Pinterest sees a chain of repins as a measure popularity, and it’s in Pinterest’s best interest to show their users pins that have proven to be popular. So whenever possible, make sure you keep the pin chain going, for both the health of your pins and the source pin. Tailwind, unfortunately, is not capable of doing this.
As for BoardBooster, this is my “crop growing” pinning tool. Because I really do think of all my posts as crops: I post (plant) them, I water (share) them, and I nuture (promote) them. With BoardBooster, there are three powerful tools that can help you grow your pins into a fabulous garden:
- Campaigns: You specify a “source” board (typically a secret board, but you can use a public one as well) and tell BoardBooster to routinely repin pins from this board to a list of boards you choose. You can specify how many pins go out and the window of time they should go out. The source pins never leave the source board – BoardBooster will only repin from the source board. I have a source board full of all my longpins and use Campaigns to keep my content flowing on my most popular group boards.
- Scheduler: This is similar to a Campaign, except the whole purpose is to move (not repin) the source pin to a new board. The Scheduler also works in a one-to-one relationship, so there’s only one source board (typically a secret board) and one destination board. So, why would you ever use the Scheduler over a Campaign? If you’ve created a new board and want to slowly populate it with a large list of pins, then you’d use the Scheduler, as it will move the pins from the source board to the new board at a measured pace you can set. Another reason to use the Scheduler is if you’re on Pinterest and you find a popular pin you want to schedule. You’d repin the pin to your source board and BoardBooster will eventually move it to your destination board, all the while keeping the pin chain intact (as explained above, this is very important). Now, there is some debate that secret boards are not ideal to use, but so far I’ve had decent success with it.
- Looping: I’ve only just begun to get into looping, but once you get it set up, it really is a beautiful thing. Let’s say you’ve got an established personal board with a bunch of great pins on it. However, most of your followers never have (and never will) see the content on this board cause it was all added before they started following you. Furthermore, every new follower you get going forward won’t see all the great content you’re curating today. The solution to this problem is Looping. BoardBooster will take pins from your board (in a manner you set, whether it be chronological pin date or random selection) and repin those pins to the same board. After a specified amount of time (ex: 5 days), BoardBooster will then review the old pin vs the new pin and delete the pin with the least amount of repins. You can also set various conditions to prevent the deleting of a “good” pin, such as setting minimum repin counts or comments (ex: you can tell BoardBooster to keep all pins with at least 50 repins or 2 comments). But ultimately, Looping will keep the content on your boards fresh, and furthermore, it will do it’s best to strengthen the repin counts on your board… all without you having to lift a finger.
I’m still experimenting with all of these tools, but so far the results have been promising! I wish I had delved into BoardBooster sooner.
Thirdly, How Was The Traffic?
- Total Visits: 287,246 (went down 23%)
- Total Page Views: 357,249 (went down 23%)
- Average visitors per day: 9,266 (went down 26%)
- Average pageviews per day: 11,524 (went down 26%)
- Best day: January 20th 21,676 visitors / 28,111 pageviews
Like revenue, January’s traffic came in like a lamb. All those cookie posts that did so well in December became old news in the height of the “new year, new me” craze (read: diet for a week or two) that was taking the world by storm. This especially stung for Homemade Hooplah, because I haven’t put any time in building up a repertoire of healthy recipes. But what can I say? I like sugar and carbs.
Traffic began to pick up near the end of the month, but it was an extremely slow climb. It felt like I had to fight tooth and nail for every visitor, and it wasn’t until I began writing this income report that I looked back at the month that I realized there was actually a reason for that:
I didn’t have a single big-ticket feature for the entire month of January. No BuzzFeed posts, no lucky StumbleUpon highs, no good Facebook shares – nadda. All the traffic Hommeade Hooplah received was either organically from Pinterest (all of which were from pins that are weeks, if not months, old) or the small bursts I usually get from my post promotion routine. It seems I’ve taken third party traffic granted so long that I didn’t even realize it was gone there until this income report made me stop and look.
Sadly, being featured by other sites is entirely luck of the draw, so hopefully the odds will be more in my favor in February.
Social Media Numbers
My social media numbers are still moving in the right direction, but it still feels like very slow growth. I’ve been trying to devote a little more attention to each network, and recently my focus has been on Facebook – which, incidentally, is arguably the one that’s the most frustrating.
New Facebook Approach
To help me with Facebook, I joined a few groups that are focused on organically growing likes, shares, and reach, and through reading the group discussions, one thing became painfully clear: my Facebook page sucked. Like, sucked way more than normal. For those that don’t know, Facebook makes it so you pretty much have to “pay to win” in order for your page to be successful – meaning, while you may have 10,000 followers, Facebook is only going to show your posts to maybe 5% of those followers unless you pay Facebook money. But even compared to the scraps that other bloggers were able to get, my page was getting
For those that don’t know, Facebook makes it so you pretty much have to “pay to win” in order for your page to be successful – meaning, while you may have 10,000 followers, Facebook is only going to show your posts to maybe 5% of those followers… unless you pay Facebook money to “boost” your posts. You can sometimes beat the system by sharing great or viral content, but ven then, your reach will always be a fraction of your total follower count. This is what most bloggers have to deal with, but I slowly came to realize that compared to the scraps other bloggers were able to get, my page was getting even less. Forget scraps; Facebook was only giving me the grease on the plate.
To give you straight stats: For a page of about 1400 likes, I was routinely getting 20-50 reach for every post. From what I gathered from my friends, this was roughly 100-200 less reach than they were able to net per post. And it wasn’t like I wasn’t trying to have an awesome Facebook page; I was doing all the things you’re “supposed” to do to increase your reach, such as posting numerous times a day, sharing viral posts, etc. I had all the right building blocks but apparently all I could make with it was shanties and shacks.
SO, I decided to take matters into my own hands… or, more accurately, out of my hands: I did what Facebook wanted and started to pay to promote my posts. But before I did this, I had to set a few ground rules:
- I wanted to keep my budget for this very small, not exceeding more than $50 a month. When I broke this down, that averaged out to boosting up to 3 posts a week for $3 a piece. Any excess would be spent on particularly popular posts.
- I would only boost my own posts, because, well, it’s my page. I don’t have the funds right now to boost 10 posts a day.
- To make my own posts more appealing (and worthy of boosting) I would use the Facebook scheduler to post them. This way I could attach multiple photos to the post, which automatically creates an appealing collage. This also eliminated my need to create special square images for Facebook. Because I’m lazy.
Now, before I get into the numbers, I have to clarify – do I recommend that everyone try this approach? Ehh, probably not. If your page and budget are still very small, I would only recommend boosting posts as a last resort. This, for me, was my last resort.
One thing I learned through this whole process is that how you boost your post matters. Facebook tries to make it easy for you by putting a big blue “boost this post” button beside the stats of your post, but by using it, you’re losing out on a wealth of options to fine tune your ad for the audience you want. I mean, how frustrating is it to pay for an ad and then see it show up in your own timeline? Why in the world does Facebook think you’d want to pay to promote your own post to yourself? Without properly setting you ad audience, this can (and will) happen to you.
This next screen shot won’t make a lot of sense until you’ve read the post, but for those that have, these are the settings I currently have for every Facebook ad I create. Is it a perfect setup? Probably not. Is it working okay for me? For the most part, yes. As of yet I haven’t had a reason to make any changes to this.
And as for how this is a quick snapshot for how promoted posts are helping me? To compare, I used November 2015 (shown left) and January (shown right). As you can see, not only did my page manage higher peaks of reach in January, but the average reach for my posts was also much better and more consistent than it was in November. And, oddly enough, paid traffic accounted for very little of this difference. I found that paying Facebook to boost a few posts meant that all of my posts became more visible, not just the ones I paid for.
End result: I went form 20-50 reach per post to 200-500 reach per post, even for the ones that aren’t boosted. Not a bad deal if you ask me!
I’m not done testing the benefits of boosting posts on Facebook, but this is a decent start. I’ll likely keep this same approach for the next few months so I can make a final determination on the full benefits (or disadvantages?) on a broader scale.
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.
January’s RPM topped out at $7.30 (went down 21%). As with everything else in this income report, it can all be blamed on January’s historically low rates. Boo, Janary, boo. Fingers crossed that next month will be a tad bit better!
Long story short, not much has changed on this front. Pinterest still rocks my socks, “Direct” is still infuriatingly vague and mysterious, and Google’s opinion of my site is still teetering between “kinda meh” and “mild dislike.” I’ll be working on a new site design in the coming months, one which I hope will resolve any issues that Google still seems to have with my site. More on that to come soon!
Most Popular Posts
- Honey Garlic Shrimp and Broccoli – 31,319 Pageviews
- Garlic Parmesan Broccoli – 28,710 pageviews
- Bacon Wrapped Cream Cheese Stuffed Chicken – 25,060 pageviews
- Homestyle Sausage Gravy – 20,489 pageviews
- Grilled Honey Balsamic Chicken – 18,675 pageviews
I may not have any “healthy” recipes, but I do have some broccoli, and they were the clear fan favorites this month. I’ll go ahead and count that as a win. Mental note: make more broccoli recipes in 2016.
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 February!