Building My Blog – October 2016

Welcome to my 28th monthly blog update, all about what I got up to behind the scenes of Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen in October 2016.

This month I’m going to be talking about bringing back the ads and making better recipe videos.


A little bit of background (skip this if you’re a regular reader, I say the same thing every month!)

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!

What I got up to in October…

Bringing back the ads

You’ve probably noticed that the ads are back. I had Google Adsense (and then later added Gourmet Ads) advertising on my blog pretty much from word go when I launched, but when I rebranded I decided to get rid of it. The main reason for removing the ads was that I had been occasionally unhappy with what had been shown and I thought my blog looked neater and tidier without them.

So why bring them back?

There are a few reasons…

  1. Everyone else has them – OK, maybe not everyone, but when you pay attention to these things you realise that they’re pretty much everywhere. I used to feel that people would be less likely to visit my site if I had ads, but I’ve realised that they don’t bother me on other people’s sites as long as the content is what I want to read (OK, some still annoy me like the full page popups, or the scroll through a million pages for one post to optimise ad revenue, or the slow to load ones), so hopefully they don’t bother people too much on here.
  2. I discovered Mediavine (from Nicky’s monthly reports – which I’d absolutely recommend reading if you don’t already). They seem to take the quality of their ads seriously and looking regularly at a number of blogs that use them I’ve not yet spotted an ad I hate and wish wasn’t there (which was a big problem for me last time around).

But, the big reason is that it’s now worth it. When I stopped I really wasn’t earning very much from them, whereas now my pageviews mean that I can earn several hundred pounds a month which I’m sure you’ll agree is worth having. I only added the ad code on the 31st October so I should be able to give a proper update on how it’s gone in next month’s report.

Setting myself up to make better videos

I feel that I’ve come a long way with my food photography and that my recipe videos are lagging behind. This month I’ve been spending a bit of time researching equipment, styling, lighting and watching a lot of food videos for inspiration. One thing I quickly realised was that my lighting setup wasn’t up to scratch. With photography if the light is bad there are a lot of ways to manipulate it – shallower depth of field, slower shutter speeds and decent editing software, but with videos that flexibility doesn’t exist in the same way.  I decided to invest in a Manfrotto lamp (with a stand and soft box), which I’m currently testing and may buy a second one so I can light the videos more evenly. While I was on a shopping spree I also treated myself to a new Manfrotto tripod (which I’ve been coveting for ages). This particular tripod has an extendable arm making top down videos much easier, and having a second tripod means I can record from two different angles at the same time and hopefully make the videos more interesting to watch and more professional looking.

I’ve been asked to share a bit more about my video set up (a bit like I have done in the past for photography) which I will definitely do in the future, but I’d like to figure a few things out first. Hopefully I’ll be able to share more in the new year (and as always there’ll be little bits and pieces in these reports).

Getting some inspiration

I mentioned above about looking at other videos for inspiration, as part of this I discovered this behind the scenes look at some of the Tasty videos (which you can’t fail to have seen on Facebook) which is really worth a watch…

Also this article about the making of the M&S food ads (which I absolutely love – I can’t not watch when the music comes on, although sadly they’ve opted for more CGI images in recent months), is a really interesting read. Although be warned they make spinning an egg sound simple – it’s not nearly as easy as it looks!

The trouble with finding music to use in videos

There are many sites out there that allow you to use their music for free in your videos. However, every one that I’ve looked at specifies that they’re for non-commercial use. That means that if you’re being paid to make the video, or even if you’re adding advertising on You Tube, then you shouldn’t use it.

Fortunately for my recent collaboration with Oven Pride, they supplied a selection of different music files that I could use. However, for the Norwegian salmon video I had to find music for myself and in the end spent $8 for the music in the video from Purple Planet. Whilst $8 isn’t a lot, you’re only licenced for one use so that means $8 for every sponsored video I make which will soon add up.

I’m in the process of getting some music written for my blog that I’ll have the rights to so I can use it whenever I want to. There may still be times I’ll need a licence for other music (e.g. in my Christmas Pudding video this month I wanted something festive), but hopefully this will be pretty rare.

Cropping my videos square

It might just be me, but I think that videos on Facebook capture your attention better if they’re cropped square rather than rectangular. I guess it’s partly because they fill more of the screen so there’s more to grab your attention, but I also think that they look more professional, like the person that has made the video knows what they’re doing and it is therefore more worth watching.

I finally figured out the square crop this month. I wanted to share the video on both You Tube and Facebook which meant that ideally it needed to be both square (for Facebook) and rectangular (for You Tube). I decided to edit the entire video so that it would work as a rectangle but could then simply be cropped square without much additional work.

To crop the video square I created a new project in Final Cut Pro. In the box that pops up I changed the format to custom and then input dimensions of 1080 x 1080, and then used the cropping tool to fit the video into the square box – it’s a simple as that (although sadly I couldn’t find the same setup options in iMovie).


Before you rush out and buy Final Cut Pro I should mention that I’ve not entirely made my mind up about it yet. There are things I want to do that I can’t and I’m tempted to switch to using Adobe Premier, it’s just a big monthly cost so I need to work out if it’s really justified. Do you use it, what do you think?

Here’s my first square-cropped video and if you want to take a look at the rectangular version for comparison you can find it over on my You Tube channel (NOTE – I didn’t have my new lights for this video).

All the numbers…

I’m excited to say I had another record month for visitors and pageviews 🙂


Charlottes Lively Kitchen – Visitors

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 – 64,221 (+20%)
  2. Pinterest / Referral – 19,684 (+57%)
  3. Direct – 12,719 (+23%)
  4. Yummly – 2,008 (+137%)
  5. Pinterest UK – 1,077 (+77%)
  6. Pinterest / Social – 840 (-52%)
  7. Facebook Mobile – 642 (+39%)
  8. Bing – 586 (+6%)
  9. Email – 502 (-37%)
  10. Foodgawker – 480 (+42%)

I saw a big growth in Google again this month as a few of my posts climbed the rankings on popular search terms, although I saw visitors climb on most of my top 20 posts aside from a few that are really designed for warmer weather. It seems as though the work I put in each month to promote posts is paying off.

I’ve also seen a big growth in visitors from Pinterest (+57%). I’d love to say that this is all down to Board Booster but I’m still not sure. I suspect that some of it is seasonal as a few of my more festive recipes are starting to do well and one of my new recipes (my Millionaires’ Cupcakes) did really well with over 5k repins already (new posts usually have 100-200 in the first month) – I just wish I knew the secret of why it did so well (I suspect it’s down to all the chocolate and caramel) so I could get all of my other new posts doing the same thing!

I’m not going to worry too much about the drop in email visitors because, quite simply, I don’t believe them. I’m pretty confident that there’s still quite a few email visitors showing as direct. I’m also not going to get excited about Yummy finally moving in the right direction as most of those visits happened over a few days when those Millionaires’ Cupcakes went a little crazy on there.



One day they’ll be something exciting to report on followers…


Charlottes Lively Kitchen – Social Media Followers

  • Twitter – 4,077 (+1.6%)
  • Instagram – 4,733 (+1.8%)
  • Pinterest – 6,224 (+14.1%)
  • Facebook – 1,316 (+9.8%)
  • Google+ – 21 (+16.7%)
  • Email Subscription – 2,587 (+8.9%)
  • Bloglovin – 92 (no change)
  • YouTube – 43 (+226.3%)
  • Tumblr – 52 (+4.0%)

Again, I’m not too sure whether to credit the Pinterest growth to Board Booster or not, as quite a few of the new followers were for just a couple of boards (which I think were featured somewhere), rather than my entire profile. I’m going to persevere with it for a while and see whether the growth continues before making up my mind.

The higher than normal growth in Facebook followers was driven predominantly by a little flurry at the start of the month. I guess that my page was shared somewhere, I just wish it was easier to figure out who has done it if they don’t tag you.

That’s all for this month, thanks for reading, I hope you found this report useful. As always if you have any questions or anything you’d like to know more about then let me know in the comments.

Charlotte x


  1. Another informative post full of so many useful tips! Thank you Charlotte! Taking videos seems like a daunting prospect, one however that’s definitely worth getting to grips with. Thank you for sharing your experience:)

    • I totally agree, I have a bit of a tendency to put it off whereas I throw myself into photography. My aim is to get equally as comfortable with both. One issue I need to overcome is that I sometimes want to photograph and video at the same time and the setup for the two is completely different.

  2. What a really interesting read (again). I shall be following what you have to say about video closely. Its something I so want to do next and hope to in the new year but I just havent a clue where to start.

    I was also interested to read what you had to say about Ads. Ive not been very keen to have them but at the same time at one point I have to stop the blog just being an expensive hobby and make some money from it. What sort of page view numbers do you have to have to make it worthwhile do you think?

    As always I look forward to hearing more from you and reading your lovely blog.

    • It depends on how much you consider worthwhile and also how many ads you’re happy to place on your page. Mediavine lets you select how ad heavy you want your page to be, mine is set somewhere in the middle. There’s also an option to change posts so they don’t show in full and you have a “read more” button with an ad underneath which I think can mean good earnings, but I chose not to have this option as I don’t want people to have to click any more than they need to to view my posts. It’s a bit early to tell what my income is as it’s been a bit up and down as the ads bed in but I think it’ll be in the region of $4-$5 per 1k views.

  3. Wow Charlotte, those numbers are mind blowing, well done. Your fajita video is fab, and at one minute is exactly what people want these days. You deserve the success (and £££) lovely lady, you’ve worked damn hard for it xxx

    • Thanks Renee. I’m trying to figure out how to keep the videos as short as possible as people’s attention moves on so quickly these days (mine’s the same – there’s just so much to look at online). I’m terrible with the £££s, every time someone pays me I spot something else I want to buy for the blog (hence the new lamp and tripod) 🙂

  4. What an interesting read (as always!) Charlotte. I was particularly interested to read about your Video development as I’ve tentatively recorded a couple now (I’m on a massive learning curve there too). Fantastic idea to have your own music score written for your own videos as the fee you were charged of $8 for one video would really start to stack up. Off to read the M&S link you’ve put in now.
    Angela x

    • I hope you find the M&S link interesting, although you’ll soon realise that the techniques they use are far trickier than they make them look!

  5. Hello Charlotte,

    Nice job with those numbers. How you got the Google referral so high? We have been a year since we started and not too many visitors:(. Any advice will greatly appreciate it!

    • I’d say it’s down to using recipe schema mark up, having nice pictures and submitting my recipes to as many places as possible to build links. That said I think there’s also a lot of luck involved as I’ve done none of that for my most popular post on Google! If you take a look at this post I’ve written about a really good SEO book. If you work your way though the tips you should hopefully see your recipes start to climb.

  6. Thanks so much Charlotte!
    I really appreciate your comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *