"Homemade Hooplah's income report for March (7th 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, lets see how Homemade Hooplah did for March!
(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 helping support this blog!)
First Things First, How About That Income?
- Gourmet Ads: $118.32 (went up 420%)
- Sovrn (formally Lijit): $72.25 (went up 767%)
- SwitchAds: $26.40 (went up 1614%)
- GoDaddy Affiliate (from my How to Start a Blog tutorial): $4.80
- Femme / Media Nexus: $1.65 (went up 81%)
Total Income: $223.42 (went up 558.47%)
You guys. I feel like I must be sixteen again, because I can’t even. Literally can’t even. If there was a scale from one to even then I can’t.
March’s success was a huge surprise, and to those of you reading this right now, I just want to say THANK YOU, because you’re part of what’s helped make this month so amazing. I wish I could hand out gift bags every time you load a page.
To put this in perspective, Homemade Hooplah made a very modest $33.93 last month – and I was pretty excited about it. In fact, I’m still excited about it, because it’s the events that happened over the past couple of months that helped make March what it was. That being said, it’s probably a little premature to assume that Homemade Hooplah will continue to make this much going forward, but the fact that I’ve proven that it can be done? Or the fact that this site has gained enough exposure to safely push Homemade Hooplah to the next level? It makes me really excited to see what the future will hold.
Secondly, How Was The Traffic?
- Total Visits: 34,291 (went up 356%)
- Total Page Views: 41,959 (went up 267%)
- Bounce Rate: 26.53% (went down 37%)
- Average visitors per day:1,106 (went up 270%)
- Average pageviews per day: 1,354 (went up 231%)
- Best day: March 16th with 5,026 visitors / 5,892 pageviews
These numbers look great on their own, but when compared to past income reports, they’re downright shocking. For example, in February there were 7,512 total visitors to Homemade Hooplah – while in March, traffic grew more than four times that over the course of just 30 days. And on the best single day in March, there were 5,026 visitors – and that’s just shy of 5,264, which is how many visitors as Homemade Hooplah had for the whole month of December. It’s crazy to think how much has changed.
But that begs the question – what exactly did change? There are a couple different factors at work here, but ultimately it’s been a combination of luck, persistence, practice, and time.
Persistence: Pinterest and Tailwind
I mentioned last month how much in love I am with Tailwind, and my affection for it only grew stronger in March. I love having so much control over my Pinterest account and the stats + metrics that Tailwind provides have proven to be invaluable. I’m averaging 20-30 new Pinterest followers each week and most of my pins are getting (on average) of 5-25 repins – although sometimes far more. My post for Apple Cinnamon Pancakes currently has 4.27k pins, making it my post successful post on Pinterest thus far. Slowly but surely, I’m beginning to feel like I can depend on Pinterest as a reliable source of daily traffic, and I’m sure every blogger out there understands what a huge relief that is.
Another important note: Near the beginning of March, I started using what the community calls “long pins” on Pinterest, which are essentially collages of images and a bit of text. This is opposed to my previous method, where I’d just pin the main featured image and rely on the text description below to explain what the dish was. And as for how the long pins are working out? March was so hectic that I didn’t really have a “controlled” environment to form any solid conclusions, but my gut tells me these new pins are working better. It wasn’t until March that my posts started to regularly receive 500+ repins, and I think it’s been a combination of both Tailwind and long pins that accomplished it.
If you’re interested in creating long pins, check out Canva – they have beautiful templates you can use to create your own collages (and they also have a direct integration to Tailwind). In the near future, I’ll also be writing a short tutorial on how to add “hidden long pins” to your posts, which just means that the long pins are hidden from the reader until they take action to pin to Pinterest. Doing this is personal preference, but I think it saves on the “vertical real estate” of your site, especially considering that your long pin will likely have images you’ve already showcased in your post. I hope to have that out in the next week or so, to keep an eye out!
Luck: MSN Feature
Last month I talked about how a POPSUGAR editor emailed me, asking if they could feature some of my recipes in their roundup posts. After giving her a very enthusiastic YES, I was featured in a Red Velvet roundup near Valentine’s day. The traffic I received from it was good, but beyond that, I was thrilled to have been included at all. It certainly had me looking forward to when they would feature me again.
Almost a month later, I started seeing traffic from a new roundup post on POPSUGAR: 20 Cozy Casserole Recipes. This roundup seemed to perform significantly better, and because of it Homemade Hooplah achieved a new all-time high of 1,222 visitors in one day. Up until that point, my previous record was just over 800 visitors. I even got to see 19 active visitors on the site at one time (another first). I was seriously floored by how well the post performed.
This big traffic spike happened on a Sunday, so when Monday morning rolled around, I tried prepare myself for the inevitable traffic drop. I tend to let my emotions get tied up in how well the site is doing from day to day – which I know isn’t good – and with the impending doom on the horizon, I tried to be rational and focus on being thankful for how awesome the previous day was. So instead of watching my traffic all day like I normally do, I decided I would close everything down and just focus on writing a post or watching Netflix. Anything that would keep my mind busy and my eyes off Google Analytics.
Except, when I picked up my phone, I already had the Google Analytics app open. And before I could close out of it, I caught site of how many people were on Homemade Hooplah at that moment.
It said 85 active visitors.
I started at the screen for a moment, dumbfounded, then sent a quick text to The Boyfriend, pondering if there was something wrong with Google Analtyics. Because clearly there’s no way there could be 85 people on my site at one time. It was just last night that I was forcing him to look at my phone to see my all-time high of 19 visitors.
Once I sent the text, I checked the Google Analytics numbers again. Now there were 95 visitors on the site.
I immediately went to StatCounter to check where my recent visitors were coming from, and my jaw dropped open. MSN had picked up the POPSUGAR article, but with a slightly different name: 20 Cozy Casserole Recipes That Feed a Crowd. And I was so dumbfounded that it look a whole hour for that to really sink in: a link to my site was on an article on MSN! And people were clicking it!
The first day MSN promoted the roundup post, Homemade Hooplah had 5,026 visitors. I continued to receive steady traffic for the next week, and then on the following Monday MSN did another promotion push, resulting in 4,239 visitors for the day. It probably goes without saying, but the MSN feature helped springboard a lot of exposure to the site. Email subs were up, as where pins and Pinterest followers.
The only thing that would have made the POPSUGAR/MSN feature better was if they had used some other post than Tuna Noodle Casserole. Not that there’s anything wrong with that post or the recipe – in fact, quite the opposite; I remember being super proud of that post when it first published in December – but my photography has also grown a lot since then. We always want to put our best foot forward when meeting new people, and while that post is okay, I feel like I’ve got some better ones up my sleeve to wow the masses. But that’s alright – I’ll just hold out hope that maybe my more showy posts will be featured in the future!
Persistence: Improving Photography
And speaking of photography, that’s another thing I worked hard on during March: mastering photography, and more specifically, mastering artificial lighting.
You’d think that living in the Valley of the Sun would be great for natural light, but I haven’t found that to be true. Our house is facing in such a way that none of our accessible windows provide good access to light, and even in the winter the sun seems to hang out directly overhead. Not the best conditions when you’re hoping to capture angled light that delicately “scrapes” across the top of the food, creating that delicious sheen that makes you want to lick your screen.
My solution to this? Invest in some artificial lighting and give up on the window unless by some fluke the timing is just right. From there, I did the following:
- First, I picked up the Platinum Photo Studio by Square Perfect. I liked that it came with two lights (that are extremely versatile), a camera mount, and 2 photo tents + some colored backdrops. The photo tents help create a cocoon of diffused light – perfect for capturing moody dessert photos. The fact that the price was super reduced (72% off, and still is) and available for Prime shipping were also major perks. I shot these brownies and this ice cream using the photo tent.
- I also broke down and finally got the Lowel EGO Light, which is a fan favorite amung most food bloggers. I plan to use this light for “large scale” setups or when my other two lights aren’t doing the job I need them to.
- Finally, I sat down and went through Food Blogger Pro‘s video tutorial on artificial lighting AND reread their ebook on Tasty Food Photography. The shortcuts in the book are helpful and the video definitely helped bring to life all the tips I’ve read about. I’m more of a visual learner, so it was great to watch a photography session unfold from start to finish.
And all this effort must be paying off, because March was the first month that not a single one of my photo submissions was declined by FoodGawker. Rejoyce! The dark times have (hopefully) passed!
Luck: Finding WholeYum and Other New Food Submission Sites
I stumbled across WholeYum by chance – they pinned one of my recipes and I noticed the referral in my site traffic (because yes, I analyze my statics that much). WholeYum is sort of like Tastespotting or Foodgawker, but with a whole food focus, although their definition of what makes “whole foods” is fairly broad.
I liked the site and their submission method, so I submitted a few more recipes… and I was absolutely floored by their Pinterest strategy. WholeYum may have been a new site to me, but they apparently have access to some of the most popular Pinterest boards with 100k+ followers (and sometimes close to 1 million). And if you submitted a recipe on their site, and WholeYum liked it, they would then pin the recipe to these mega boards. Granted, the URL they pinned would be your recipe submission on WholeYum, but still. I was receiving a ton of traffic this way despite the fact that users had to click twice to get to me. At it’s peak, Homemade Hooplah was getting 1000+ referrals a day from WholeYum – the exposure was just that good.
I thoroughly enjoyed this setup for two weeks until, in my euphoric high of awesome traffic, I decided it would be a good idea to send WholeYum a thank you note. I genuinely thought they had a genius Pinterest strategy and that they were using their influence on Pinterest in ways that the other big names (coughcoughfoodgawkercough) were not taking advantage of. If I wasn’t sure it was on the wrong side of creepy, I totally would have sent them a fruit basket and a cheerful card. So in my thank you email, I tried my best to make it a humble message so that they wouldn’t think I was just reaching for more exposure, because honestly, I already had that. They were pinning almost every recipe I submitted. I just wanted to give thanks where thanks were due.
A little after that thank you note, they stopped pinning my recipes. In fact, they dropped off of Pinterest altogether for a few weeks. When they finally came back, they seemed to have adjusted their methods and they’ve yet to pin another one of my submissions. I still receive 50-100 hits a day from the posts they did feature, so at least there’s that. I still submit my content to them in the hopes that they’ll pick up another recipe one day. I just hope I didn’t ruin my chances completely by trying to show gratitude. So, word to the wise – even if you’re grateful, sometimes it might be best to just keep quiet and adore from afar.
A few other sites I’ve begun submitting my content to: FoodYub (good traffic) and Foodie. It’s been a big help, since I’ve noticed a significant dropoff in exposure from sites like FoodGawker lately. Having some fresh blood in the mix has been nice.
Time: Good Things Come to Those Who Wait
When I first started blogging, I was desperately searching for a get-popular-quick scheme. I devoured every tutorial or scrap of advice I could find, hunting for the top secret trick that would rocket my site to mega popularity overnight.
But the reality? I just needed to keep at it and be patient. I needed to focus on creating good content. And if you’ve ever read a tutorial about blog promotion, that’s one of the first things they’ll tell you: post great content. But in the beginning, I would just roll my eyes and think “yes yes, create great content, I get it, now tell me how do I get noticed?!”
What I didn’t realize is that creating great content will get you noticed. And the more great content you have, the more attention you’ll receive. It’s probably the least appealing piece of advice because it means you’ll have to wait longer than 30 seconds for results, but I’m coming to learn that the waiting does pay off. This is why most blog guides will tell you to “love what you do” – because you’ll need to do it, a lot, before the good fortune starts pouring in.
Homemade Hooplah is now 7 months old. At the end of March I had over 90 posts. Each one of these posts brings in traffic – some more, some less. By the time I reach 180, using the same logic, my traffic should have naturally doubled in size simply because I have more content to draw attention, and it will continue to grow in that way as my content does. More quality content = more visitors, plain and simple. If having a successful blog is what you want, then the only thing you need to do is never give up – keep working at it and one day it will pay off. I promise you 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.
Although the numbers already speak for themselves, it’s important to note here that March marked the end of Q1 (first quarter). Companies tend to buy advertising revenue in monthly or quarterly blocks, and when the end of a period approaches, it’s not unusual to see companies throw a little extra revenue toward advertising. This was really apparent in my March stats, as everything from fill rate to eCPM was significantly better, sometimes reaching all-time highs since I started this blog.
All this plays a part in my RPM for this month, which was a staggering $5.32 (went up 79%). And unless I get lucky with a bunch of affiliate sales, I expect this number to be much lower in April, since ad revenue tends to crash at the beginning of a quarter (much like it did in January). But for now, this number certainly awesome to admire – a $5 + RPM has been a goal of mine for a while now!
These numbers illustrate many of the points I went over in the wall of text above. MSN made up a third of this month’s traffic, and WholeYum, Direct, and Pinterest were neck and neck for the next few spots. I do wish Google traffic was a higher, but I’m hoping it’ll make a rebound if I can find some way to keep my traffic growing and consistent. Google has it’s own formula for calculating search results, and it is a richer get richer scenario – the more popular the site, the higher in the search results it goes. Here’s hoping I can keep traffic consistent.
Overall this month’s traffic was a complete 180 from what it has been, and I’m really curious to see how the exposure from March will impact traffic in April and beyond. Will it get better? Or will it go back to how it was in February? Is there life after a MSN feature? Only time will tell!
Most Popular Posts
For the first time in three months, Soft and Chewy Sugar Cookies was not my most popular post! It’s not even in the to five this time around, and that’s all thanks to MSN and WholeYum. I’m always happy when a post is popular, but it was nice to see that posts 3 of the 5 posts were all published during the month of March. I’d like to think their success is due to all the work I’ve been putting toward improving my photography.
- Tuna Noodle Casserole – 15,039 Pageviews
- Garlic Parmesan Broccoli – 3,637 Pageviews
- No Churn Strawberry Ice Cream – 2,333 Pageviews
- Apple Cinnamon Pancakes – 1,753 Pageviews
- Shrimp Scampi with Linguine – 1,648 Pageviews
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 April!