Welcome to my 6th monthly update, all about what I’ve been up to on My Recipe Book in December.
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.
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…
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!)
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…
- Direct – 282 visits
- Pinterest – 204
- matthewwoodward.co.uk – 170 visits – inclusion in Matt’s monthly income report roundup
- TasteSpotting – 146 visits
- Foodgawker – 133 visits
- Google – 85 visits
- t.co (twitter) – 74 visits
- m.facebook (facebook mobile) – 52 visits
- Tasteologie – 46 visits
- Dessert Stalking – 29 visits
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…
- Traditional deep-filled mince pies – 466 views
- Building my blog – November 2014 – 206 views
- Spiced orange popcorn – 126 views
- Making mincemeat – 123 views
- Birthday cake (all-in-one vanilla sponge) – 92 views – My two year old’s Chuggington birthday cake
- #FoodYearLinkup – December 2014 – 89 views
- Reindeer Pancake Art – 81 views
- Korma Paste – 69 views
- Recipe Index – 66 views
- Marzipan and Cherry Cake – 65 views
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.
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.
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.
I had another small income this month, again all from Google Adsense, of £1.15.
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.