Happy new year friends! My first post of 2015—an other exciting edition of my monthly income reports! Yay! Up until now, I’ve been running about 45-60 days behind on these reports, because of how some of my ad networks report earnings. However, I’ve made some changes to some of those sources, and I should be able to come much closer to real-time reporting with my income. My hope is that I can play catch-up over the next few months, and come early Spring, I’ll actually be able to post my income from the month only a week or two into the next month. That’ll be fun! And make it easier to talk about the changes I made.
But for now, I’m still a few months behind. Let’s talk about October’s income.
Disclaimer: Some of these links below are affiliate links—meaning I get a few pennies if you happen to purchase through my link. I use and recommend all of these products. Let me know if you have any questions.
- The Blogger Network — $926.27
- Sponsored Content — $500.00
- BlogHer — $352.30
- souvrn — $141.03
- Amazon Ads — $129.76
- Amazon Affiliates — $87.18
- Yellow Hammer Media — $77.56
- How to Monetize a Food Blog eBook Affiliate — $60.00
- Swoop — $58.63
- Adsense — $29.02
- Zulily Affiliates — $2.28
- GourmetAds — $0.25
Total Income: $2,305.65
Thoughts on Income
Fourth Quarter Bust?
I’ve been hearing for months now that the fourth quarter (October, November and December) of the year is when advertising revenue peaks. I was so excited when the calendar flipped over to October. I was frequently (obsessively?) checking my ad revenue only to find that the numbers were horrible. Rotten. Worse than numbers I had seen before I had optimized my blog. In fact, my BlogHer numbers were the lowest they had been in over a year—and as you’ll see below, I had some of my highest traffic ever.
It was a big emotional hit to take. Now that I’m almost through the entire fourth quarter, I can tell you that the numbers have definitely rebounded, but October’s reports were hard for me to swallow. I had set expectations for what I thought I was going to see in October, and those expectations were not met. It was a scary time! Now I’ll know for future years that the fourth quarter is great, but it doesn’t happen with the flip of a switch. It’s a slow transition!
One of the biggest things I learned from the How to Monetize a Food Blog eBook (If you haven’t read it yet, DO IT. It’s, quite literally, life changing.) is that you can’t just drop some ad code in your website and expect to make lots of money. You need to be constantly monitoring your current ad networks, searching for new ad networks, and reevaluating your monetization strategy. One of my biggest mistakes before is that I dropped some ad code into a widget in my sidebar, and hoped it would make me rich (ha!). It takes high-level monitoring to really make sure your ad spaces function at their highest potential.
I’ve been adjusting and moving and switching ad spaces and ad networks nearly constantly over the past few months. What that allows me to do is to fix issues as they come up, instead of scrambling to figure out what happened when a check comes 60 days later and it’s 1/4 of what I expected. It’s not exactly proactive, but it isn’t reactive either.
That means that when I see a particular ad network performing poorly, I adjust things. My first reaction might be to freak out (yup) and pull all ads from the network, but I’m learning that you have to really pull back and assess the long-term implications of changes like that.
For example, BlogHer’s numbers were incredibly low for me. My first instinct was, “Bah. I’m done with them!” but then I started thinking about all the other benefits of being part of BlogHer (a wonderful community, high-quality ads, sponsored content opportunities, etc.) and realized that the ad revenue was just a small part of why I enjoyed being part of a BlogHer. So instead of jumping ship, I rejiggered. I adjusted the ad sizes and displays with BlogHer, so I’m still participating, but they aren’t taking up quite as much prime real estate. It leaves the doors open so I can up my participation with them again in the future, if I wish, but also is helping me to optimize my ad spaces for the current inventory of ad networks.
- Food Expenses — $325.62
- AcceleratedWP (Hosting) — $30.00
- ViralTag (Pinterest Scheduling Service)— $29.00
- CoSchedule (Editorial Calendar)— $10.00
- DropBox (Cloud Storage)— $9.99
Total Expenses: $404.61
Thoughts on Expenses
Groceries get expensive.
I started doing recipe development for my December recipes back in October, and you can see a steady increase in my food expenses. I usually post 2-3 recipes per week—for three weeks in December, I posted a new recipe almost every single day. It was exhausting and expensive, but also totally worth it! I am so proud of that work and proud of the buzz it’s created about my blog.
That being said, I think I need to set myself a budget monthly for speciality groceries for recipe development. Some of my most popular posts are simple, easy, budget-friendly recipes—and I have to try to remember that not everyone wants complicated dishes that make my grocery bill skyrocket!
Take Home Pay
Since this whole project is about making my work time more efficient, I thought it might be helpful to figure up a formula for calculating what I’m earning each month in regular-job terms. In the formula, I subtract my expenses from my income, to get a profit. And then I subtract 30% of that number to account for taxes. That number is my take home pay for the month.
Take Home Pay = .70(Income – Expenses)
This month’s take home:
Another way to put my monthly numbers into perspective is to figure up the RPM (revenue per mille). This is the amount of money that the blog makes per thousand impressions. It’s a good number to know, because it helps you understand how effective your income sources are, regardless of your traffic. A blog with only 100 visitors a week, but with a high RPM is actually a lot more financially efficient than a blog with a million visitors a week but a low RPM. It’s not all about traffic! My RPM for October was:
I was pretty bummed about this number. It’s a huge decrease from September’s rocking number. And while my actual dollars and cents isn’t all that much lower, you can really see from this RPM that I didn’t make money nearly as efficiently as I did in September.
As a frame of reference, decently-earning blogs have RPMs of at least $5. Excellent-earning blogs make $10+. And you’ll even see some rockstar blogs making $15-$20 RPM.
Here are a few screenshots from Google Analytics from October.
Top 10 Referring Sources
10 Most Popular Pages
Next Steps & Other Thoughts
Goals for 2015
Since we just kicked off 2015, I figured it’d be a good time to fast forward away from talking about October and post a little bit about my goals for 2015. Just like I do in my personal life, I’ve set myself a list of goals I’d like to achieve in 2015 with Back to Her Roots:
Reach one million pageviews per month.
When I originally wrote out this goal, I actually had it at a lot less than this, but the spike in traffic I’ve seen in the last two months has made me want to strive for an even higher goal! One million is definitely a stretch for me (it’d be an almost 1000% increase in a little over a year a half), but a good goal is one that is hard, but not impossible—and I feel like this one is that.
Launch the redesign, new recipe index, and overhaul content.
January is all about this project. I want to get my redesign launched, and hopefully my new recipe index, too. Throughout the year, I’d also like to overhaul my older content to make it fresh, evergreen and relevant.
Harness the power of affiliate marketing.
I’ve chatted about this before, but affiliate marketing was never really something I put a lot of effort into, but by accident, I started to see some results that made me think it was worth my time. In December, I put a lot of effort into affiliate sales, and let me tell you, it paid off. December is an excellent month for it (because, hello, holiday shopping), so it isn’t a super accurate indicator of the rest of the year, but if I can make four figures (!) from one affiliate program in December, I hope I can consistently get it up to making a couple hundred bucks during the other months of the year.
Focus more on simple food.
I love simple food. I love cooking it. I love eating it. And, what I’ve realized, my readers love seeing it. In the land of Pinterest, where recipe titles are always 3000 characters long and foods are stuffed with other foods and drizzled with chocolate and bacon grease, I always felt like I can to get complicated to compete. Not true. My simple recipes are some of the most popular. And they’re my favorite to cook and photograph. Seems like an obvious direction, eh?
Launch more products.
I’ve been afraid (side note, my word for 2015 is “fearless”—I’m working on it) to launch my own products (printables, ebooks, services, etc) because I was worried about the backlash of selling something I once offered for free, but what the 2015 Wellness Calendar has taught me is that people appreciate hard work, and are fine with paying for good quality items. It has me excited to launch a whole line of products and items in 2015!
Consistently make enough from my blog to cover our expenses.
This is the biggie. When I first started this monetization project, I honestly had no idea just how much money I could make doing this. I thought if I could just get my mortgage paid for each month, that’d be awesome. But what I’m realizing is that goal is too small! My hope is that by the end of 2015, I can consistently cover our monthly expenses with the income from my blog (which is roughly $5000/month).
That about wraps it up for October’s report. I think you guys will be really interested in seeing November and December’s numbers—spoiler alert: they’re pretty great. I learned a ton of stuff in the last part of the year, and I can’t wait to share it with you. As always, thank you so much for your support. Thank you for reading!