Building My Blog – May 2016

Welcome to my 23rd monthly blog update, all about what I got up to behind the scenes of Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen in May 2016.

This month I’m going to be sharing an awards update, my new photography boards and a little bit of technical geekery (embedding excel calculations into wordpress posts).

building my blog may 2016 title

A little bit of background…

For anybody that’s new to these updates and is wondering what on earth I’m going on about, I write these posts each month as a way to keep me focussed on building my blog (fear of sitting down to write the report and finding I have nothing to say is great for ensuring I keep trying new things). It is also to try and help other bloggers (or people thinking of getting started) to learn from what I’ve tried and to copy the good bits and avoid some of my mistakes. I also share all of my blog’s key stats so you can see how it’s going and decide whether my advice is worth listening to or not!

A big thank you

A couple of weeks ago I discovered that I made it through to the final 5 in the Britmums Brilliance in Blogging Awards – Best Food Blog category so I need to say a massive “thank you” for all of your votes, I wouldn’t have made it though without all of your support xx.


This means I’ll be heading down to London for the Britmums Live conference on the 25th June and then the awards are announced in the evening. If you’re also going to Britmums Live then let me know as I’d love to say hi.

While I’m busy celebrating achievements, I also discovered that I’m the Foodies 100 Blog of the Month for June. There are around 5000 blogs in the Foodies 100 so it was a huge honour to be selected. I’ve done a little interview with them which you’ll find here if you’d like to take a look.

New food photography boards

Recently I’ve been scrolling through the pictures from some of my favourite food photographers (as I do regularly) and I’ve been increasing convinced that the boards I’ve been using could be better. Previously I’ve used laminate floorboards stuck to MDF, but these really lack the texture of real wood and also have a slight shine which can make lighting a photograph awkward.

I decided I needed to get some real wood and after browsing a few local garden centres (there was a lovely lady in one who I’m convinced thought I was mad as I explained that I wanted planks of wood to make a pretend table top, but that they had to look a bit worn and manky). In the end I opted for buying some decking planks from B&Q (the fact that they’re stored outside and therefore open to the elements helps them to look weathered). They were an absolute bargain – a 3m board was only £9 and in my local store they have a woodshop where they cut them to size for you so I got them to cut them down into 1m strips which I lay side-by-side for photography. I’m still on the lookout for more different textures/colours of wood to use, but I’m already a lot happier with how much easier it is to take pictures on the new boards than the old shiny ones.

Mediterranean Vegetable Lasagne 5

One of my new boards in use in my recipe for 3-minute Mediterranean vegetable lasagne

If you’re after some cheap boards, I’d definitely recommend heading over to B&Q or you local builders merchants, as there’s a huge selection of wood and it’s all pretty cheap, especially compared to what you can pay for antique table tops. If you’re more DIY minded than me you can then paint them whatever colour you want (there’s absolutely loads of tutorials online for creating boards with all sorts of different colours and effects – search “food photography board tutorial” on Pinterest and you’ll come across all sorts).

Embedding an excel calculator in a blog post

OK, this is a bit of a geeky one that very few (if any) of you will want to try but I thought I’d mention it just in case you’ve been desperately wanting to add a calculator to a blog post and didn’t know how!

My birthday cake recipe is very popular and I often get comments asking for the ingredients needed to make it in different sizes. I’ve tried out a few different sizes and within reason you can simply factor the ingredients up or down to the size of the tin. To save me having to get my calculator out each time someone asked, and also so that people could get an instant response rather than waiting for me to reply to my comments, I decided to embed a calculator directly into a post. All they now need to do is enter the size of the tin and the number of layers and it lists out all of the ingredients you need.

Here’s an example if you want to have a little play and see how it works…

Embedding an excel workbook is really simple…

  1. If you don’t already have one, create a Microsoft one drive account online.
  2. Upload the file to your one drive account.
  3. Select the file and click “embed”. If you want to embed the entire workbook, simply copy the code on the righthand side of the screen into your wordpress text editor.
  4. If you only want to display a section of the workbook (I only wanted to show the inputs and outputs and hide all of the ugly calculations), select “customise how this embed will appear to others” and specify the range of cells you wish to show. Also, tick the box saying “let people type into cells”.
  5. Copy the embed code and paste it into your text editor in wordpress.

To ensure that people could only type in the input boxes (tin size and number of layers). I originally saved the workbook with all other cells protected. If you try to type into any other cell an error message comes up.

Once again, sorry if this one isn’t for you, I just thought I’d share in case you could do with a calculator of some type on your blog and weren’t sure how to add one in.

All the numbers…

All in all May has been a pretty unexciting month with visitor numbers remaining flat and pageviews up very slightly. I’ve definitely noticed that I have quieter days when the sun’s shining, I suspect that people want to be outside rather then spending hours at a computer browsing recipes on Pinterest!

One thing I’m pleased about is that despite visitor numbers remaining flat there has been a little growth in pageviews. I’ve been actively trying to increase pageviews per session over the past few months by looking at which posts have a high bounce rate and then seeing if I can link to other posts that might interest people viewing those pages. It’s great to see that effort paying off.

Site Visits - Charlotte's Lively Kitchen - May16

Charlottes Lively Kitchen – Visitors

Pageviews - Charlotte's Lively Kitchen - May16

Charlottes Lively Kitchen – Pageviews

If you’re looking at these graphs and wondering what caused any changes in the past you can find all my old reports in my monthly reports index.

So where did all of these visitors come from…

  1. Google – 35,443 (+6%)
  2. Pinterest – 11,937 (+84%)
  3. Direct – 11,172 (-30%)
  4. Yummly – 1,458 (-28%)
  5. Tumblr – 879 (+19%)
  6. Foodgawker 781 (+70%)
  7. UK Pinterest – 521 (-25%)
  8. CraftGossip EdibleCrafts – 375 (-33%)
  9. Dan 330 – 351 (-25%)
  10. Facebook Mobile 340 (+222%)

After an odd few months it feels as though Pinterest is finally settling down again. You can see a huge rise in Pinterest visits (up 80%) but this corresponds to a drop in Direct, overall the level from both has stayed about the same. Sadly the combined level seems to have settled down at about 24k per month compared to peaking at around 30k earlier in the year, but at least it’s starting to be a bit more predictable again (I like predictable!). One thing I’ve noticed is that I’m seeing different boards doing well to the ones that had been doing well before. If you’re using group boards I’d definitely suggest taking a look through at re-pins on each board (or saves as Pinterest now likes to call them) and see which boards are doing well and therefore worth a bit more focus. There’s a couple of boards that had been hugely successful for me and are now performing terribly. I fear that they got too big and Pinterest started identifying them as spammy, I’ve really been cutting back from pinning to those as I really don’t want Pinterest deciding I’m spammy by association (no idea if that would happen but as Pinterest is my 2nd largest visitor source I need to be a bit cautious).


Still pretty boring, although Pinterest leapfrogged Twitter, becoming my 2nd most popular social network.

Social Media Followers - Charlotte's Lively Kitchen - May16

Charlottes Lively Kitchen – Social Media Followers

My plans for June

I always used to share what I had been planning to focus on over the coming month in these reports, but then as I started writing them later and later in the month it because a strange “this is what I’ve already done but I’m not going to tell you how it’s gone for another month” basically it stopped making any sense. Now that I’ve started writing these reports earlier again, I thought it would be worth sharing my plans . So here they are…

  1. I’ve just joined Food Blogger Pro (run by the people behind the hugely successful Pinch of Yum blog). They only open for new joiners every now and again so I thought I really should give it a go while I could. I’m going to be having a good look around and I’ll feed back next month on whether you should be getting your name onto the waiting list.
  2. Making some changes to my Food Year Linkup – over the past few months I’ve been mulling over some changes I’d like to make (nothing too drastic) and I’ve decided to finally get on and do it.
  3. Sorting out my Pinterest – creating some new boards and reviewing the ones I already have.
  4. Improving my photography – all the pinning I’ve been doing over the past few days has given me food photography envy and quite simply I want to get better.

What are you planning for your blog over the next month?

That just leaves me to say thanks for reading. As always, if you’ve got any questions then I’m more than happy to help xx

Brilliant blog posts on


  1. I love your Excel calculator. I had a play for 5 minutes, he he! You’re so good! Congratulations for the BiB awards, I was so happy to see your name up there! I’ll see you at BritMums live xx

    • Charlotte Oates

      Thanks Lovely, I wanted you to be there too xx

      I’m glad you like the calculator, I’m very proud of it 🙂

  2. Love reading this all once again! And I still don’t know what a Pinterest board is or why it would get too big!! :'( I think I need my photography to be of a standard first though… So going to get myself some decent boards and learn my DSLR!

  3. Congratulations on being a BiB Finalist, Charlotte – you thoroughly deserve it! Enjoyed reading your update, and love the excel calculator – not in a I’m going to build one way, but a fab tool for people following your recipes. I’ve never seen one on a recipe I’ve used before. Hope you have a great time at the award ceremony and hope you win x

    • Charlotte Oates

      Thanks Sarah x

      I don’t think there’s much call for the calculator for most recipes which is why you probably don’t see them around much but I think there’s quite a few people that have a specific cake idea in mind and need it to fit (also birthday cakes sometimes need to feed a lot more people than a standard cake). I need to add a third calculator for randomly shaped tins, but I’m just testing it to make sure the calculations all work.

  4. This is a great post and I’m totally going to check out your blog as that lasagne for one looks scrummy. It’s 10pm for gods sake!! #brillblogposts

    • Charlotte Oates

      Thanks Fran. Definitely take a look at the lasagne recipe, it only takes 3 minutes of actual effort to make and tastes yummy!

  5. Love how you reflect and analyse. Gorgeous photos too as always. Well done on all your success x

  6. Super useful as always, Charlotte. Congratulations on your achievements. Fingers crossed for the BiBs 🙂 I love your new boards…and that lovely anecdote about the lady in the garden centre. I think most people would think we bloggers were quite mad if they saw the sort of things we get up to on a daily basis!! Eb x

    • Charlotte Oates

      Thanks lovely x

      I was in Homesense yesterday buying cast iron pans and the lady at the counter was asking how you used them. I had to explain I had no idea I just thought they would look pretty in photographs – another day another person in a shop that thinks I’m crazy! I used to be really shy about what I was up to, now I’ve just accepted it and I’ve learnt to live with people’s surprised expressions.

      • Haha – that’s brilliant! I think my Tesco delivery driver must think I’m a bit bonkers with all the mad things I buy!! And I find explaining what I do to most people very hard sometimes…especially those of the older generation. To be honest, I think even my husband thinks I’m a bit mad sometimes! (Though that may not just be the blogging!! 😉 ) Eb x

        • Charlotte Oates

          Oh I’m sure my husband thinks I’m mad and that’s absolutely nothing to do with the blogging 🙂

  7. Good to see that your blog is growing again! Cant wait to read your next month post about Food Bloggers Pro. Give us a little peek if its worth!
    How many pin do you save daily on Pinterest? Just like to know how many times other food bloggers pin, really dont want to be spammy.

    • Charlotte Oates

      I’m saving loads at the moment as I’ve created lots of new boards but they’re all from other blogs/websites. Generally I only pin my own pins on a Sunday (as I’ve found that’s the day that I do best), usually 2 or 3 times across the day across all boards. I’ll always pin anything I’ve got that’s new plus a selection of old recipes that I haven’t shared for a while. I know a lot of other bloggers that pin their own content every day (usually using a scheduling tool such as tailwind) and they’ve not had a problem with being considered spammy so I think you could pin a lot more than I do! Pinterest has an algorithm that decides which of your pins to show people so you shouldn’t appear spammy to your followers as if you pin a lot they’ll just show each pin less.

  8. Love the new boards Charlotte, I like using wood too. I’ve got 2 old building planks that were rotting away in our ruin, OH was going to dump them, a good hose down & a bit of sanding & they’re my favourite boards. Interesting info on Pinterest, I’ve only recently joined boards so I’ll be monitoring how they work for me. Wishing you luck for the BIB awards & look forward to hearing how you get on. x

    • Charlotte Oates

      Thanks Sarah. I always wonder what people think when they come into my house and see random planks stacked up against the wall. Good luck with Pinterest, annoyingly they’ve changed how they show repins recently (it’s now repins for that pin by anyone ever rather than just for yours) so it’s trickier to see which boards are doing well but you’ll soon start to notice if you get a flurry of visits (fingers crossed you do x).

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