Building My Blog – December 2014


Welcome to my 6th monthly update, all about what I’ve been up to on My Recipe Book in December.

building my blog december 2014

In this months report I’ll be talking about:

  • Improving my blog design and branding.
  • Improving my photography (crucial to a successful food blog).
  • Getting rid of the adverts I don’t like.
  • All the usual numbers – visitors, page views and followers.

I’ll also talk about my aims for February.

If you’re new to my website, or just these posts and want to know more about why I write them, then have a look at my very first report where you’ll find out more.

What I’ve been up to in December

December was a busy month and I feel like I’ve taken several important steps towards turning My Recipe Book from something that jogs along with a few hundred visitors each month, to something that’s definitely on the up.

As there’s a lot to talk about this month, I won’t go into too much detail with anything. However, if there’s anything you’d like to know more about then please let me know in the comments or drop me an email and I’ll be happy to try and help. I may even be tempted into pulling together a little tutorial for my blogging tips section.

Improving my blog design and branding

Each month I’m included in Matthew Woodward’s income report round-up, a list of reports like this one (but generally earning a lot more!), from bloggers in a number of different niches (recommended reading if you’ve got a blog or are thinking of starting one). Each month he writes a few comments about each blog. This month he wrote this about mine…

“I still believe her design and user journey are holding her back and should be a key area of focus urgently.”

It was a completely fair point (and not the first time he’d mentioned it), I’d let the blog get messy and difficult to navigate. It had to be sorted.

So I…

1) Redesigned my homepage

I’ve changed my homepage to a simple blog page which shows all my recipes (and other posts) in the order they were published, and when you get to the bottom of the page you simply click to look at older posts.

There were two key advantages of this…

  1. The first thing you see at the top of the page is my latest post, so it’s easy to have a quick check and see if there’s anything new.
  2. Changing the design allowed me to have a sidebar (not possible with the old design) where I have included lots of useful bits and pieces such as a search box, email subscription box, and archive dropdown (so you can search for old posts by the month they were published).

There’s a lot more I’d like to do with the sidebar, such as including an “about me” section with a smiley photo, and popular posts links. Is there anything you would like to see?

2) Changed the menu at the top to make it more intuitive and easier to find what you’re looking for

I got rid of the Skills Index, incorporating it into the main Recipe Index.

3) Rebuilt my main index pages

As well as ensuring that everything is in the right place, I added a little menu to the top of each index page listing each of the main categories. By clicking on the category, you’ll jump down the page to the right spot rather than having to scroll through everything to find what you want.

4) Designed a new header and created more consistent branding

If you’re a regular visitor to my website then I hope you’ve noticed my new header.

cropped-Header-logo2.pngAfter getting a quote for £400 for website branding, I decided to take it upon myself to see if I could have a go instead.

I’m a little loathed to admit this as I want to pretend I did something fancy, but I actually designed it in Paint 2 (available from the mac store). That’s right, an updated version of Paintbrush, the little program I used to use for doodling on my computer when I was young. I was honestly planning on buying a much fancier and more expensive program but thought I’d have a go in Paint 2 first and I was pretty happy with the results so I stuck with it.

I’ve since used it to build a new badge for my linkup, the main image for this post, and special pins for Pinterest to show off my recipes.

spiced orange popcorn pin

Adding text to a pin and making the design vertical helps you to stand out on Pinterest

I hope you like the new design and layout. If there’s anything you’re looking for that’s difficult to find then let me know in the comments and I’ll see if I can improve it for your next visit.

Improving my photography

Quite a few food bloggers write reports similar to this one and amongst the common visitor sources for the most successful sites are FoodGawker and TasteSpotting.

My recipe for traditional deep-filled mince pies. A delicious light almond pastry filled with homemade mincemeat – Christmas wouldn’t be the same without them.

My mince pies were featured on both FoodGawker and TasteSpotting in December.

For anyone who’s not familiar with these sites, food bloggers submit recipes to them and if they (the mysterious and slightly unpredictable people at TasteSpotting and FoodGawker) like the picture, it’ll be featured. People can then take a look and see if there’s anything they think looks or sounds yummy, and then click to visit your website and take a look at the recipe.

After a little success with getting a picture published on TasteSpotting in November, I managed to get two pictures published on each site in December, my Mince Pies and my Spiced Orange Popcorn.

If you’re looking to improve your food photography, I’d definitely recommend reading Tasty Food Photography. I read it prior to taking most of my photographs but it was too much to take in all in one go. However, re-reading recently has made helped me to realise what I wasn’t doing as well as I could, and has really helped me to improve my photography.

Getting rid of adverts I don’t like

A few months ago I added Google Adsense adverts to my sidebar. Over time I’ve noticed a few adverts appearing that I wasn’t particularly keen on and didn’t really want to be associated with my site.

I considered removing the advertising as it doesn’t earn me much income. However, I’m keen to see whether it is possible to earn anything significant from advertising so I decided to keep them for a while.

Google Adsense offer you the opportunity to block adverts. You can block adverts based on the industry they’re from, adverts from a specific company, or just individual adverts (by manually reviewing each advert).

The downside to this approach is that it is likely to result in lower advertising income as their are less possible advertisers bidding to appear on your site.

Google Adsense help centre has a useful guide to what can be blocked and how to go about it.

Blog income and visitor numbers

So what difference has this made to the numbers this month.

Visitor statistics

December has been another strong month with visits increasing from 582 to 1550, and pageviews almost doubling from 1133 to 2490 (and I’ll let you into a little secret, I’ve already had more visitors at the start of January than I did in all of December – make sure you come back next month to see what happened!)

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 22.03.16

Total Visits in December 2014

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 22.03.24

Total page views in December 2014

A big driver of the increase has been getting pictures featured on TasteSpotting and FoodGawker and getting more visitors from Pinterest.

You’ll notice that visits have grown more than page views. This is due to the fact that visitors from these sources don’t tend to stay as long or look around the site as much – something that seems to be common across food blogs.

The top ten visitor sources were…

In addition to FoodGawker and TasteSpotting, two other food photograph submission sites also made it into my top 10, Tasteologie and Dessert Stalking. In January I’m going to start submitting pictures to a wider range of these sites and I’ll write a more detailed report about it once I’ve submitted a few pictures and seen whether or not they encourage people to come and have a look around.

In terms of most popular pages/posts, the top 10 (excluding my homepage) are…

The surprise entry in my top 10 was Making mincemeat. In some ways it’s not a surprise as it’s a festive recipe, very suitable for December. However, this was only the landing page (first page people view when arriving at the site) for 14 visits out of the 123 views. The majority of the other views were from people clicking across from my Mince pies recipe – it just goes to show the benefit of well placed, relevant links between posts in keeping people having a look around.

It’s not something I do particularly well at the moment and looking at the impact it had on this post, it’s definitely something I need to give more thought to.

Daddy from daddy birthday cake

A sneaky peek of the birthday cake the boys made for their Daddy

As usual, there’s always a post that I’m a bit sad not to see in the top 10. This month it was A birthday cake for Daddy – my two boys making a cake for their Daddy’s birthday on Christmas eve, with guidance for making a similar cake with your own children. Out of all the posts I’ve written to date, this has been my favourite so far, an absolute pleasure to write. If you’ve not already seen it, I’d love it if you’d take a look.

Followers

I had a big increase in followers this month from 364 to 1086.

The main drivers to this were Twitter and Pinterest. I’d like to say that something brilliant happened to encourage this but essentially it is driven by choosing to follow more people on those networks myself, and for Pinterest, becoming more active and pinning far more regularly.

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 22.03.56

Blog Income

I had another small income this month, again all from Google Adsense, of £1.15.

Blog Expenses

This month I purchased an annual InLinkz subscription needed to run the #FoodYearLinkup, which cost £13.24.

Total Profit -£12.09

The plan for next month

Before I go I wanted to share my three main aims for January…

  • Rephotograph my older recipes
  • Grow my email subscriber list (I love it when people want to come back again and again)
  • Try out more food photograph submission sites

Thanks for reading,  see you again next month.

Charlotte


20 Comments:

  1. Great insight, I find this really useful, thanks Charlotte 🙂

    • Thanks James. I’m glad you find these reports useful. Almost every month I wonder about whether I should write it and it’s comments like these that keep me doing it.

  2. Incredible how much you’ve grown your blog already! I always find your reports really interesting, and so transparent. Love it! Your food styling is definitely brilliant and I have loved the shots for last months’ recipes! Well done, lovely!

    • I’m glad you like the new pictures. Something seems to have finally clicked this month with the photographs and now every time I post something new I feel really proud when I see it up on the screen.

      Something seems to have clicked with getting people over to have a read too. I’d post my recipes anyway as I use them at home and I like having them laid out just how I want them, but it does feel very satisfying to know that other people are seeing them too.

  3. Well done, onwards and upwards.

  4. Wow, that looks really great! I checked out your pinterest account as well, nice job! In my opinion you are on a good way! Also amazing how you increased your twitter following! Something we cannot figure out really 😉

    • Pinterest is going well, it’s amazing how many people re-pin and visit. I also love the fact that it’s organic, people pin and visit the things that they’re interested in. I’m seeing a lot of visits for my pizza dough in January, which I’d never have predicted would be so popular.

      There’s no real secret to getting more followers on twitter. I made an effort to look for and follow more food bloggers (and other foodie people) and I’ve found that pretty much half follow back (that’s not why I did it, I did it to be more involved in twitter and “get to know” other bloggers but that’s how it turned out). It seems as thought there are a lot of people who go for the you follow me, I’ll follow you approach, but aren’t actually particularly interested in what you’re tweeting. You’ll gain them as a follower but they’ll never send you a message or look at your tweets, which is a shame. I’d rather have fewer followers who are actually interested in what I’m tweeting (or at least some of it, I can be a bit random in my tweets sometimes!!)

  5. I have invested quite a bit of time on my twitter, and it’s a good place to get talking with other runners and build up relationships. As you say, you would rather be engaged with people rather than just follow me and i’ll follow you. I am completely new to pinterest though, still trying to figure it out..

    • I’ve only really started figuring out Pinterest in the last few days on December so don’t have too much advice at the moment. As soon as I’ve got a better idea what I’m doing I’ll share some tips (although I’ve no idea how well Pinterest works for fitness blogs, I can see the benefit for food as it’s very image driven).

  6. It’s a really good read! Definitely keep them going 🙂 and thanks for sharing!

  7. I think you’re doing a great job. love your new header and redesign.

    Couple of thoughts/

    Try https://www.canva.com for graphics.
    Sign up to Skim Links and/or Affiliate Window for affiliates, With AW you get to choose which brands you work with and then can host ads….

    I was saying to Amy the other day, your on to a winner. Your blog is great and your photos look fab now.

    Keep going xx

    • Thanks Claire. I’ll definitely have a look at those. What I’m doing with affiliates at the moment isn’t really very practical in the long term so I’m going to have to rethink it all.

  8. Nice growth Charlotte.
    I would suggest to join some facebook groups and post ur recipes there also.

    • Thanks Nidhi.

      Can you recommend any Facebook groups? I’m a member of a couple but I’m not sure where to find others.

  9. This is such a good idea-and one of the best series of ‘Blogging’ posts I’ve read. My blog is still a baby and like you i’ve had a few ‘whats the point’ moments, but am now invigorated and ready to go! Helen x

    • Thank you so much for your lovely comment Helen. I gained a lot from reading similar posts on other blogs so it felt right to me to write one too. My aim is to make the posts as helpful as possible (without going into too much detail) so hopefully others can learn from my successes and mistakes.

      Just had a quick look at your blog and it looks like you’ve made a great start. I look forward to seeing how you grow.

      I’ll be publishing my next report sometime in the next week so hopefully you’ll come back and take a look.

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