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 July!
(Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links and I will earn a 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?
- Social Fabric: $150.00 (new)
- The Blogger Network: $119.55 (new)
- Gourmet Ads: $71.32 (went down 34%)
- Sovrn (formally Lijit): $35.29 (went down 33%)
- SwitchAds: $9.91 (went down 58%)
- Food Blogger Pro Affiliate: $5.80
- Amazon.com Associates: $0.94
- Femme / Media Nexus: $0.23 (went down 90%)
Total Income: $397.02 (went up 96%)
During July, there were three major developments that impacted my income strategy:
First off, Media Nexus announced that it was no more. Or, more specifically, they were discontinuing the specific ad network (Femme) that I was apart of. I liked Media Nexus, but in terms of revenue, it wasn't much of a loss – they were 3rd on my backfill (SwitchAds > Sovrn > Media Nexus) and though they had a 100% fill rate, the eCPM was always very poor (around $0.15 – $0.30). For me, they were just a way to make sure I never had an empty ad slot. Once they shut down, I ended up replacing their spot with Google Adsense – but this wasn't ideal, because Gourmet also uses Google Adsense as their backfill. Google has a hard rule of only loading three Adsense ads per page, and that became problematic since I now had six different waterfalls that could potentially call for Adsense. If all six ad slots tried to passback to Adsense at the same time, then Google would permit only three of the ads to load. That's lost revenue potential.
Secondly, I finally mustered up the courage to apply for a sponsored post opportunity (through Social Fabric) – and I landed it. Going in, I was as nervous as I was excited, but it went off without a hitch from start to finish. Even my campaign leader was impressed with how well I did for my first sponsored post, and the only corrections I needed to make were some adjustments to the tags in my social media messages. As an added bonus, I actually liked the product and brand that I was endorsing – which I know everyone says, but seriously half my pantry is filled with their products. Overall it was really fun experience and I'm really looking forward to my next opportunity.
Finally, in mid July, The Blogger Network announced Propel, a new service tier that allows blogs with 10,000 to 80,000 monthly pageviews to take advantage of TBN's ad management and superior waterfall structure. It came with a $99 price tag, but with it you are also granted access to their Build Your Blog Academy, designed to help you get your blog to get over the coveted 80,000 monthly pageview mark.
I saw the email. I read it twice. I was signed up within the hour.
A little backstory: I first learned of The Blogger Network last March, back when I was still heavy in the “research” phase of ad networks. TBN is what's called an ad display management service, which ultimately means they will sign you up for a bunch of ad networks and then manage those relationships for you – and part of that management is creating a superior waterfall structure to optimize your revenue. However, like many other ad management services, TBN required that you have at least 100,000 monthly pageviews in order to join. I was a little bummed about this, but I decided to see it as a goal to work toward. So for the past few months, I've been gunning for 100,000 pageviews just so I could join up with The Blogger Network.
But with Propel, I no longer had to wait to hit that mystical number – I could just go for it. And I'm so glad I did.
I can't tell you how nice it is to be able to view all of my ad revenue in one place, or to have the pressure off my shoulders of analyzing floor prices to maximize my eCPM. My overall CPM also went up about $0.10 with TBN, and although it's still much lower than I'd like it to be, that just seems to be the reality of July (and Q3). The beginning of Q3 is shaping up to be no better than all of Q2, which I guess is to be expected – Q4 is the only period where bloggers feel like they're getting paid the big bucks. But at least TBN was paying me a slightly higher base than the other networks were.
I haven't delved too deep into the Build your Blog Academy yet, mostly just hitting the topics that looked new to me or things I had not given much thought before (but probably should have been), but what I have read has reaffirmed some of the strategies I started in July that have significantly helped improve my traffic.
And speaking of traffic…
Secondly, How Was The Traffic?
- Total Visits: 59,432 (went up 15%)
- Total Page Views: 76,287 (went up 16%)
- Bounce Rate: 13.08% (went down 76%)
- Average visitors per day: 1,917 (went up 11%)
- Average pageviews per day: 2,461 (went up 13%)
- Best day: July 28th with 3,466 visitors / 4,319 pageviews
Traffic went up in July, particularly over the last week of the month (after I joined Propel), and (for once) I know exactly why that happened: I've been doing more. Participating in more groups, submitting to more link parties, involving myself more in Tumblr and Google+ – these days, it's all about doing more.
This is all because I had a bit of a wake up call in July. When the anniversary of my first year of “self employment” rolled around and I still wasn't able to pay my own car bill, I decided I needed to make some changes – and fast. I left the corporate world to make blogging a career and up until this point I think I was still treating it like a hobby… but no more. These days I put in 10-14 hours a day promoting, brainstorming, and working on projects to help better this blog. It was time to get real like they did on the Real World and up my hustle game.
Below is a rough outline of what my daily schedule looks like right now. The list is always changingand evolving; I cut the fat on tasks that aren't working and focus more of my time on those that do. So far, this is the “leanest” list I have:
- New blog post publishes at 5AM.
- Submit new blog post to food blog submission sites at 6AM.
- Schedule new blog post to social media using CoSchedule. I post to Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, and Twitter between 3-4PM PST. From there I'll schedule up more social messages within CoSchedule for the coming weeks (1 week later, 1 month later, 60 days later, etc). I'll use CoSchedule to specify the calendar day for these posts, but for the time of day, I choose to add the posts to my Buffer queue. More info on how I use Buffer is below.
- Submit new blog post to a bunch of other sites using browser extensions, such as Vingle, Foodie, Chef It!, TableFEAST, Yummly, StumbleUpon, Pocket, and FipBoard.
- Schedule new blog post on Pinterest using Tailwind. I've begun using their new interval feature (pinning 1 day apart at 5PM) and really like it.
- Post new blog post to 10-15 social groups on Facebook and work on reciprocating throughout the day. These groups could be for social media sharing, Pinterest promotion specifically, comments, and more, and the idea behind each of them is “I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine.” They help promote my site while I help promote theirs. I've said this before in previous income reports, but other bloggers truly are your best asset as a blogger. Be involved, helpful, and honest, and you will see the benefit.
- I made the decision to make my Facebook / Google+ / Twitter accounts not just about me, but about delicious recipes in general, so while I'm working through the aforementioned Facebook groups I'll schedule interesting recipes using Buffer. My Buffer is currently scheduled to publish 10 posts a day (1 an hour between 11 and 7) so it's a lot of sharing I have to do! My own posts are also added within this schedule, like the ones I schedule through CoSchedule (mentioned above).
- Submit new content to Tumblr photo grazing sites (See a great tutorial on that HERE. You must be a member of Food Bloggers Central‘s Facebook Group in order to view it).
- Submit to link parties for that day.
- Once my post has been published on my Facebook, I share it to 20-30 groups that are focused on recipes and food. I SHARE my post (as opposed to posting to these groups directly) in order to increase my reach, comment, and like stats for my Facebook page.
- Work on other list of to-do projects to help better the blog, usually rotating between 5-10 things. I typically use CoSchedule to help keep this straight on a daily basis. Lately this has been preparing to relaunch my Twitch stream and creating free eBooks for subscribers.
I'm sure I'm probably forgetting something, but for right now, this is what takes up the majority of my day, every day.
To help me keep track of everything I need to do on post days, I use If This Then That (IFTTT). I created a bunch of rules (that IFTTT calls “recipes”) that state if a new post is detected in my RSS then a to-do list is created within Evernote with all of the above steps. This way I can open up the Evernote app on my phone and easily tick off points as I complete them. It's not a 100% perfect system, as there have been days where some items didn't make it on my to-do list, but it's better than nothing or having to maintain the same to-do list for multiple days.
I've also been doing more “networking” lately by reaching out and connecting with other members of the food blogging community. And out of everything I've done, this has been, by far, the biggest challenge for me. I tend to be quite the loner, and, well… most of the time, I think me and my personality are an acquired social taste. I'm the oil while everyone else in the world is water. I always try, and I think I've got the “dumb friendly southerner” appeal down pat, but connecting (and staying connected) with people has never been easy. Many others in my family seem to have this “loner tendency,” too, making me wonder if it's some sort of weird genetic social tic. I'm still trying my best, though, and so far there are definitely a few bloggers I've had good conversations with. I just hope to keep having more of those good conversations with them in the future.
Social Media Stats
This is a new section of the income report, and it's more for my own curiosity than anything else. I mentioned above that I've taken on a more aggressive social media strategy (because 10-11 posts a day is no joke, let me tell you!) and I was curious how this would impact my growth in these channels, as up until now it's been pretty… well, slow going. Homemade Hooplah is already eleven (!!) months old and many of my accounts haven't passed 100 followers yet. Some haven't made it past 500, and only one has breached 1000. And don't get me wrong – the numbers aren't bad by any means, but they're not all that great, either. Hopefully follower numbers will start to flourish as I keep putting in more time and effort.
- Pinterest : 1136
- Facebook: 858
- Instagram: 726
- Twitter: 437
- Tumblr: 46
- Google+: 53
- StumbleUpon: 46
- Flipboard: 0
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.
This month brings great news, as I finally got back above $5 RPM again with a whopping $5.20 for July (went up 68%). This change is largely in part due to the sponsored post tipping the numbers in my favor, but you know what? I'll so totally take it. Hopefully this number will continue to grow as we move toward the advertising goldmine that is fall. C'mon FALL!!
Like last month, I'm loving these numbers. Pinterest traffic is still going strong (all thanks to Tailwind), coming in with 3,000 more hits this month than last month. That's pretty significant growth!
The “Direct” traffic is always hard to gauge, but if I had to guess, I think it's the influx of visitors I've started to receive from Tumblr. That's the only thing I changed in July that would have resulted in such a big spike in traffic. From what I've experienced so far, Tumblr users love to share what they find, far more than any other social media network out there. It doesn't take long for a single post to have a pretty wide reach, and access is only increased by the ease of use of the Tumblr app. I'm really glad I started to invest more time into into this channel.
Google search is hanging in at number three, and while that's okay, I really wish I knew how to improve it. I'm already going through the proper steps, like using Yoast SEO and making sure every post as a “good” trade. I also analyze my keywords using Google Adwords before I pick them. I've validated my site as mobile and desktop friendly within Google webmaster tools. I've done all of this and yet my growth in Google search has been nonexistent. I'm really at a loss of what more I can do for it other than just “wait and see.”
Most Popular Posts
Most of July's top five are older posts due to some luck in roundup posts or extra attention on Pinterest. I haven't looked too close at the numbers, but I'd bet these posts are the reason why my Pinterest traffic grew so much for July.
- Baked Stuffed Flank Steak – 5,896 Pageviews
- Grilled Honey Balsamic Chicken – 5,278 Pageviews
- Bacon Wrapped Cream Cheese Stuffed Chicken – 4,197 Pageviews
- Red Velvet Cookie Dough Bars – 3,546 Pageviews
- Strawberry No Churn Ice Cream – 2,835 Pageviews
Recognition and Press
As part of the monthly income report I wanted to give recognition to sites that included links to Homemade Hooplah in their articles or content. After all, if it wasn’t for the exposure these sites brought Homemade Hooplah the numbers in this report would be very different!
- Huffpost Taste posted Why You Should Always Bring Food To A Shiva (Or Any Memorial Service) and featured Chicken Enchilada Rice Casserole
- Chocolate, Chocolate, and More posted 20 No-Churn Ice Cream Recipes and featured No Churn Strawberry Ice Cream.
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 August!