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 May!
First Things First, How About That Income?
- MediaVine: $3,381.32 (went up 43%)
- IZEA: $900.00
- Amazon.com Associates: $34.66 (went down 2%)
- Food Blogger Pro Affiliate: $5.80
- Tailwind Affiliate: $0.50
Total Income: $4,322.28 (went up 52%)
Income climbed back up this month (score!) and the reason for it came down to two main points:
- I landed two sponsored posts this month, each paying $350. In addition, one of the sponsored posts included a “food prep” video (the first one I’ve ever made) and they paid me an additional $200 for it. I know I probably could have gotten a little more money for making the video (because goodness, that thing took me forever to edit) but I made the “mistake” of being upfront with my contact and letting her know that this would be my first video. So, of course, she took that fact into consideration when negotiating payment with me – as she well should. And really, I’d always rather be honest about my experience & capabilities than promise something I’m not 100% I can deliver on. $200 seemed like a fair price for me to learn “on the job.”
- Halfway through the month, base ad revenue (finally) started to creep back up from the pit of dispair that is Q1. The ads on this site are a necessary evil, and maybe one day I’ll figure out a way to move past them, but for now they serve as my financial peace of mind. It’s nice to have a revenue stream that I don’t have to “actively” work for, like how it is with sponsored posts (or, now, sponsored videos). I remember my old boss saying during a quarterly company meeting that the sign of true success is “being able to make money while you sleep,” and to me, that’s what ad revenue is. It’s especially nice when ad revenue is strong enough that I’m not left checking my stats every day and panicking when I don’t see enough to cover my car payment. So, basically, a higher base RPM brings up my quality of life significantly, and that was May in a nutshell: much less stressful.
However, speaking of ad revenue, there was also another big development that cropped up near the end of May that I’m still dealing with: I learned that I had been missing out on a ton of revenue potential dating all the way back to December 2015.
Like, seriously. That’s more than six months of income potential I completely missed out on.
And what’s worse is that I have no one to blame for it but myself. I willfully ignored all the advice I was freely given to address it, and as you can probably imagine, I felt like such a dummy when I finally started working toward fixing the problem.
You can read more about what happened and how I’m addressing it in the section about “wrangling in-content ads” below.
Secondly, What About Those Expenses?
- Virtual Assistant: $164.00 (Need a VA? Contact sky.fisher(a)ymail(dot)com for info!)
- WPopt (hosting): $152.85
- MOZ: $99.00
- Buffer: $50.00
- Adobe Creative Cloud: $50.00
- Meet Edgar: $49.00
- Facebook Post Boosts: $24.10
- Giveaway: $30.00
- GiveawayPromote.com: $14.99
- BoardBooster: $30.00
- MailChimp: $25.00
- Tailwind: $10.00
- Dropbox: $9.99
Total Expenses: $708.93
Expenses stayed about the same for this month, and I expect they will remain the same for the foreseeable future. As much as I would like to, there are currently no services or fees that I can cut from my repertoire right now.
The only thing that did change in May was that I ran and promoted a small giveaway to run in conjunction with a Linqia campaign. That particular Linqia campaign ran over into the first week of June, so the profit from the sponsored post won’t show until next month’s income report.
Thirdly, How Was The Traffic?
- Total Visits: 409,664 (went up 7%)
- Total Page Views: 533,624 (went up 9%)
- Average visitors per day: 13,215 (went up 4%)
- Average pageviews per day: 17,214 (went up 5%)
- Best day: May 15th with 18,863 visitors / 24,638 pageviews
May’s traffic finally managed to crawl back up above 500,000 pageviews, but as happy as I am about that, I don’t think it will last. I keep hearing about the “summer slump” in the blogging world, and I totally get it – no one is sitting at their computer looking up recipes because they’re outside at the beach or grilling or doing a million other things that you can only do in warm weather. Heck, I wish I was outside doing those things instead of writing this income report.
I know that traffic will begin to rebound again in July, August, and September… it’s just whether or not I can keep morale up as pageviews grow stagnant until then.
Wrangling Those In-Content Ads
I’m in a few private blogging groups on Facebook where there are open discussions on all blogging topics, from resources to connections to tips, and one topic that comes up quite a bit is ad networks and RPM. There’s always seems to be someone shopping for a new ad network, and naturally, they’re going to ask advice of other bloggers to see which is the best fit for them. And almost always, ad networks are ranked by how much RPM they’re currently pulling in.
And I gotta be honest, I both I love and hate these conversations. I love them because I get a chance to plug MediaVine, a company that is very transparent with their customers and has a very clear goal and strategy for their ad placements. I also hate these conversations because, inevitably, someone who uses AdThrive is going to chime in with a higher RPM than what other MV users are reporting.
Now, I could have a whole discussion on why AdThrive sometimes pays a little more than MediaVine and why I’d still prefer MediaVine’s business practices and model any day of the week, but that’s not the point right now. What I’m trying to get to is that in one of these threads, I was all too happy to share my RPM (which, at the time, was in the $5.50 range) and a current AdThrive member responded to me with one word:
I’d be lying if I said that didn’t upset me. And I know it was just her honest response to the idea that I was getting paid $5.50 RPM while she was looking at about $8, but within minutes I was sending an email to MediaVine to ask them
WTF what was up with the huge disparity. Because at the end of the day, I’m fine with MV’s RPM being up to $1 less than AT on average, but when we’re talking close to $3, that could end up being the difference of my car payment each month. That’s not the kind of potential revenue loss I can argue away with all the warm fuzzies in the world, cause this girl’s got bills to pay, ya’ll.
MediaVine was quick to get back to me, and like always, they sent me an extremely detailed message that was tailored just for my site (part of the reason why I love them so much), but what it all boiled down to was this:
“Honey, you need more paragraphs in your posts.”
Without getting into too much detail here, this is the gist: Some ads will always load on your site, such as the leaderboard (top of page) or the sidebar ads, but there’s one type of ad that’s pretty conditional in its placement: the “in-content” ads. These are the ad units you see loading within the post text itself. These ads can be injected in numerous ways, but with MediaVine, an in-content ad is only injected after a certain number of paragraphs. This makes it so you don’t see an ad after every single paragraph OR that you never see two ads stacked together. With MV, their goal is to keep the ads spaced out enough so that it doesn’t negatively impact the reader experience.
And MediaVine has sent out numerous emails about their in-content ads and how they work with paragraphs. They even wrote a guide about it and distributed it to everyone. And yet, there I sat, head in the sand, thinking the problem didn’t apply to me because my paragraphs were “just fine.”
Oh, how wrong I was.
When I finally sat down and read the guide, here’s the math: On a mobile device, an in-content ad will only be injected after every four paragraphs. On mobile, only a maximum of four in-content ads will ever load, no matter if you have 100 paragraphs. And in order to get the very last mobile ad to load, you need an additional two paragraphs as a buffer, so the post itself doesn’t end with an ad. (Note: I’m focusing on mobile here because, on desktop, ads appear every five paragraphs with a maximum of three ads, which means there’s more paragraphs to worry about on mobile. If you optimize for mobile then desktop will also be optimized at the same time.).
To calculate that out: 4 paragraphs x 4 ads + 2 additional paragraphs = 18 paragraphs are needed in order to have the potential to display every in-content ad available.
When I first started to review my posts, I pulled up my most popular one (Baileys Cookies and Cream Parfaits) to see just how my “best seller” was performing… and was appalled to discover it had only had a whopping eight paragraphs. If you followed along with the math above, that means this post was only ever loading one in-content ad on both mobile and desktop. So for the millions of times that page has been viewed over the past six months, I was essentially missing anywhere from two to three ad slots per page load. That’s like 50% of my potential ad space just… wasted.
Egg, meet my face.
So, that has been my major project for the last month: going through and changing all of my posts to have at least 18 paragraphs. I’m really not a fan of how my posts look now, since I don’t tend to be very wordy (aside from these income reports) and in many cases I had to make each sentence a new paragraph… but what can you do? I need to make a living and this is how I have to go about increasing that.
I’m nearly done with the project at this point, and for my efforts, I’ve seen a significant improvement in my RPM. Instead of hovering around $5-6 I was solidly in the $7-8 category by the end of May.
Social Media Numbers
I’m happy to see that my social media numbers continue to go up, and going forward, I’m going to make sure they do. Because you guys, I made a decision near the end of May:
I’m waging war on social media.
And why is that, you might ask? Because brands like high social media numbers, and despite my reasonable efforts over the last year or more, my social media growth (outside of Pinterest, and even that’s only recent) has practically been stagnant. These days, social media is very much a “richer get richer while the poorer get poorer” arena, making it near impossible to fight your way to the top.
We all know the story: the golden age of blogging was between 2012 and 2014, and everyone in the game at that time was able to obtain significant growth as long as they put in the time and effort. Algorithms were kinder, or, in some cases, completely nonexistent. The overall population was smaller, so it was easier to be found and get followers. Posts were seen. Voices were heard.
Flash forward to 2016 and you can put in the exact same time and effort that bloggers did in 2012-2014 and end up feeling like you’re screaming into the void where no one will ever hear you.
And you know what? That sucks. It’s not fair. And I’m tired of it.
So I decided to go all out and use Mass Planner. The tool itself only costs $9.99/month, but between you and me, I would totally pay them all the monies. I am absolutely obsessed with this tool and am seeing significant growth across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even a little bit on Google+ because of it. Mass Planner does so many things that I’d never be able to list them all here, so I highly recommend you check out the site, read over all the documentation, and watch the guides to determine if it’s a good fit for you.
But if you use Mass Planner, I implore you: Be smart. Don’t spam it. Don’t run it 24 hours a day and then wonder why one of your accounts got banned. To do it right: imagine a perfect world where you could devote your entire day to a single social media platform. Factor in breaks, food, sleeping, and maybe even a day off, and then pick a plan and schedule that would mimic your authentic activity. Do all of that and you will see results.
I’m hoping next month I’ll be able to write in more detail how Mass Planner has helped me and the impact it’s had on my follower counts.
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 mentioned last month that my goal was to have a few consistent months of $10 RPM’s, and it looks like I’m getting closer – RPM was $8.10 (went up 28%) for May. Obviously, a big part of this success was due to the sponsored posts, but I’m hoping MediaVine’s RPM will continue to climb as we slowly claw our way toward the lucrative fall and winter months. Plus, I’m hoping that once I get my new site design finished (soon!), and thus my new media kit (hopefully soon!), I’ll be able to start approaching brands directly, which will go a long way towards controlling and increasing my sponsored post revenue.
May was the first full month since Pinterest fixed their issues with their iPhone app, so all referrals from Pinterest reported correctly this month… and yeesh, Pinterest controls a dangerous amount of my traffic.
And I’ve been trying my best to change that fact… but you’d never know it looking at these stats. I pay for MOZ and do my best to analyze my posts and pick great keywords, and yet my traffic dropped from the search giant another 5k this month. Yummly referrals tried to make up for it by moving up 5k, but most days I have no idea if this is because of all the share threads I submit to or just luck of the draw with Yummly’s site search.
I also didn’t get lucky with any features for May – traffic was all relatively low outside of the “expected” sources.
I have no idea if my new focus on “other” social media services will help change some of these numbers, but goodness, I sure hope so!
Most Popular Posts
- Weight Loss Wonder Soup – 57,450 Pageviews
- Baileys Cookies and Cream Parfaits – 56,005 Pageviews
- Bacon Wrapped Cream Cheese Stuffed Chicken – 35,210 Pageviews
- Cookie Dough Dip – 29,735 Pageviews
- Honey Garlic Shrimp and Broccoli – 27,170 Pageviews
Well, after four months, it’s finally happened: Baileys Cookies and Cream Parfaits has lost the spot as my post popular recipe. And, like always, the post that now holds that claim was one I almost didn’t make because I thought, “Who would even want to see this?” Apparently, a lot of people wanted a weight loss soup, and from a blogger that posts a lot of fatty foods, no less. The soup took off on both Pinterest and Yummly, far beyond all of my expectations, and it went a long way in what made the month of May so good for traffic.
I know I say this a lot, but just goes to show that you never know what people will like!
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 June!