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 June!
(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?
- Gourmet Ads: $107.74 (went down 14%)
- Sovrn (formally Lijit): $52.53 (went down 36%)
- SwitchAds: $23.82 (went down 18%)
- Femme / Media Nexus: $2.39 (went down 57%)
- Food Blogger Pro Affiliate: $5.80
- Amazon.com Associates: $6.50
Total Income: $202.78 (went down 23%)
I've been writing these income reports for a while now, and the topic I seem to spend the most amount time analyzing (and complaining) about is how ad revenue relates to the time of the year and current business quarter. This is probably because whenever I see a sharp drop in my ad revenue or fill rate the first step I take is to contact my ad network, because there are cases where low numbers could mean that you site has somehow fallen out of the loop and just needs to be added back to more profitable ad campaigns. And while there have been a few times where an ad network has done this for me, the majority of the time they will only tell me that low ad revenue should be expected given the time of month or position in the quarter.
I've been trying to take this feedback in stride, being mindful of the market and where we are in the quarter so that I can form realistic expectations of what I think I'll be earning for the month. Since I'm trying to make a career out of blogging, being able to form even the smallest predictions on revenue is a big deal for me.
June was the end of Q2, and if I were to believe what the ad networks have been telling me, this means that June should have been a higher-than-normal month, or at least higher than April (beginning of Q2) or May (middle of Q2) – but it wasn't. June actually performed worse than either April or May. In fact, June was my second worse month for all of 2015.
The best way to look at this is through RPM (revenu per mill, where “mill” means 1000 pageviews) and focus only on ad revenue (so no affiliate sales or other income are included in the data). This is a breakdown of 2015 so far:
This is probably where my inexperience comes into play, because I sincerely thought that June (the end of Q2) would perform just as well, if not better, than March (the end of Q1). In my defense, these months are similar in that they don't house any major spending holidays (sorry, St Patrick's Day – people just don't buy a lot of sparkly green shamrocks) and they're both on or around times when families will have time off together (spring break and summer vacation.) I can see the formula that would have made March so appealing for advertisers, but I don't understand why June wouldn't have had the same draw.
In short, I'm really at a loss for what happened in June. I still made a profit this month, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little frustrated with how the market is playing out. The best consolation I've got is that I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that Q4 will have some impressive numbers – but we still have to get through Q3. Will it be just as bad? Or worse, since ad networks will be hoarding extra money for Q4? We'll just have to wait and see. I just wish things were a little more balanced throughout the year, especially since the internet has become one of the biggest marketing spaces – you'd think companies would be clamoring for space all year long.
Secondly, How Was The Traffic?
- Total Visits: 51,647 (went down 4%)
- Total Page Views: 65,301 (went down 5%)
- Bounce Rate: 54.58% (went down 17%)
- Average visitors per day: 1,722 (went down 1%)
- Average pageviews per day: 2,177 (went down 2%)
- Best day: June 11th with 4,046 visitors / 5,259 pageviews
Where June revenue was disappointing, June traffic helped make up for it. I've managed to hold strong at 60,000+ pageviews for the month, landing just short of 70,000 (my next big goal). Traffic went down a little this month overall, but I also didn't have the benefit of a mega feature like last month's BuzzFeed article. Getting featured is always nice, but I really haven't received much attention from the big-name roundup sites, clocking in at less than five big features to date. On the other hand, that makes me even more proud of what I've been able to accomplish traffic-wise, as it's a direct result of the time and effort I have put in. It definitely is the slower route, but here's to hoping that slow and steady wins the race. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'd rather have consistent traffic than traffic that hangs in the balance on whether or not a big-name site will grace me with a link back. Consistency is what pays the bills.
However, that's not to say I didn't get a little help in June…
Direct Link From Fireball Whisky
Back in late May, I posted a recipe for Fireball Whisky Marshmallows that I was pretty excited about. I've been dipping my toes in the recipe developmental waters for most of 2015, but this marshmallow recipe was the first time I ever really had to try to get a recipe right. And that's not to say that I don't always try my best, but sometimes when a recipe doesn't turn out right the first time… that's the end of it. I don't attempt it again. Not gonna lie, sometimes I just don't have the motivation to give it another shot, whether it's because I'm demoralized by the failure or something just wasn't meshing how I wanted it to. Sometimes when it's wrong, it's just wrong.
That just wasn't the case for Fireball Whisky Marshmallows. I was simply in love with the idea, and I wanted to capitalize on all the attention this recipe for Fireball Jello Shot Cupcakes was receiving. You gotta strike while the iron is hot, you know? I'd also hadn't seen another recipe like it before, which was making me have wild fantasies about achieving my first ever viral post (spoiler: it never went viral). So armed with a seemingly endless amount of determination, I made this recipe four times until I finally perfected it enough to post.
I did social promotion for it like normal, with one small exception: When I posted it to Twitter, I tagged the official Fireball Whisky account (@fireballwhisky). And @fireballwhisky actually liked the Tweet! I was pretty excited by that fact alone, and considered my job accomplished and well done.
About a month later, I was watching my Google Analytic Stats on my phone (oh, who am I kidding, I'm always watching those stats. I probably know you're reading this right now) when I saw the “active users right now” number jump up to 35. On a regular day I usually cruise somewhere between 10 to 20 active users, so this was abnormal. I could see that most of the visitors were on the post for Fireball Whisky Marshmallows, and according to StatCounter they were coming from Facebook, but because of the way social media reports data I had no way of knowing where the link actually appeared on Facebook.
So I had to ask myself: who would be linking my month-old post for Fireball Whisky Marshmallows? I figured I'd start my search with the official Fireball Whisky Facebook page and work my way down from there, not really expecting to ever find the source of the link… but there it was, in the first place I looked: a direct link to my blog on the official Fireball Whisky Facebook page, being seen by all their 890,000 followers.
When I checked Google Analytics again, there were now 167 people on my site at one time – a new record!
Traffic stayed good for the rest of the day (resulting in my best day for the month, with 5,259 pageviews) and the post ended up being shared more than 10,000 times on Facebook. Fireball Whisky has since removed the post from their Facebook page, which dropped the share count by about 1000, but as I'm writing this it's still hanging strong at 9,230 shares, making it my most successful post on Facebook by far.
Moral of this story: You can work with brands, even if said brand doesn't actually know you're working together. Just tag the brand's social media account and see what happens – you never know when they might link you back!
Embracing Link Parties
In June, I finally embraced my new obsession: link parties.
For those that don't know what link parties are, there's a stellar explanation over at Food Bloggers Central, but in short: Link parties are weekly opportunities for you to submit a link from your blog in the hopes that the host of the link party will feature your submission the following week. It's a way to connect with other bloggers and drive more traffic to your site.
I've known about link parties since my first few months of blogging, and I participated in a few in my early days, but back then I just didn't understand what the point was. This is probably because I only submitted to a few link parties and gave up before I was ever featured. I made a lot of mistakes like this when I first started blogging, but this was probably the worst of them all: thinking that the only promotion methods that were worth my time were the ones that worked 100%. Link parties are like playing the lottery, in that you can't win if you don't play – and (most importantly) keep playing. You might submit your link to a hundred link parties that week and not get featured in any of them – too bad, better luck next week, because next week might be when you win big and you're featured multiple times. It's a gamble, but a gamble that can really pay off.
If you'd like to get started with link parties, I created a list of link parties that I submit to every week. I really do use this list to submit my content to each week, so there will always be fresh and active link parties to join (no broken links or hosts that have since given up their link party). I'm always looking for new link parties, too, so if you run or host one, leave a comment and tell me about it!
On June 22, I officially launched version 3 of Homemade Hooplah. I originally intended it to have a much different look than previous versions, with the logo centralized and more visible at the top of the page, but this just wasn't working with all the other elements I wanted to introduce. The floating navigation bar for desktop was a BIG priority, as was the slide out navigation on mobile, so I just stopped fighting it and went with what worked. The logo has remained in the top right hand corner, and I'm okay with that – for now.
Overall, I'm extremely happy with the new design and how it flows, and reader response as been positive thus far. But how do I know this? Well, my bounce rate completely plummeted the day the design launched, and that is an extremely good thing. A high bounce rate means that users are only visiting for a short period of time before “bouncing” off elsewhere, whereas a low bounce rate means that visitors land on your site and stay a while. A low bounce rate doesn't necessarily mean that they're clicking more pages, but moreso that they're lingering longer (and hopefully enjoying your content).
Check out the below graph. See that huge dive? That's when the new design launched. Pretty cool, right?
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've already lamented enough about the dismal ad revenue for June, so I'll just get right to it: RPM for June was $3.11 (went down 18%). This figure is a little higher than the RPM in the chart above because it includes all income generated for June (instead of just ad revenue). A minimum of $5 RPM is still my goal, so hopefully Q3 will be a little more profitable.
Other interesting pieces on these numbers:
- The BuzzFeed article from last month still provided decent traffic for June. Bonus!
- Out of my top 10 referrals, the visitors I got from The Country Cook (via the Weekend Potluck link party) browsed my site twice as long as other visitors from other traffic sources (2:03 minutes vs 1:20 minutes or so). This highlights yet another bonus for submitting to link parties – the visitors you receive may be more likely to explore your site!
- WholeYum has been pretty quiet on Pinterest lately, but their old links are still bringing plenty of traffic.
- I still don't know how I feel about Yummly. I continue to try to cultivate my recipes within it, but the traffic I receive is just kind of meh. It barley beats out FoodGawker.
Most Popular Posts
Given what I wrote above, the popular posts for June are in line with what you'd expect. What I do like about these numbers is that the progression from #1 to #5 is more gradual than it's been in previous months. Gradual means that posts are getting the same amount of exposure, which is more of that consistency I keep talking about. If given the choice, I'd always choose consistent traffic over spike traffic. Spike traffic is only good for a day – consistent traffic is good for 30 days or 60 days and many more to come.
- Fireball Whisky Marshmallows – 7,140 Pageviews
- Bacon Wrapped Cream Cheese Stuffed Chicken – 5,397 Pageviews
- Grilled Honey Balsamic Chicken – 4,234 Pageviews
- Fluffernutter Puppy Chow – 2,539 Pageviews
- Baked Stuffed Flank Steak – 2,475 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 bevery different!
- Popsugar posted “Fruit Salad Recipes” and featured “Fruit Salad with Creamy Limoncello Dressing“
- Community Table posted “39 Strawberry Treats to Try This Summer” and featured “No Churn Strawberry Ice Cream” and “Fruit Salad with Creamy Limoncello Dressing“
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 July!