Building my Blog – January 2015


Welcome to my 7th monthly update, all about what I’ve been up to on My Recipe Book in January 2015.

Charlotte's Lively Kitchen - Food Blog Traffic and Income Report January 2015

As always I’ll share with you my experiences and hopefully pass on a few helpful tips, as well as the usual visitor and income numbers.

If you’ve not read one of my reports before and want to know a bit more about why I write them, then take a look at my very first report.

January 2015 – A record breaking month for My Recipe Book

This month I have seen an 800% increase in visitors to my site with over 12,000 people popping by (welcome all!). I put this down to three things (all of which conveniently start with the letter P!)…

  • Photography – I have slowly been improving my photography, which in January resulted in a 100% success rate with Foodgawker (and yes I did submit more than one!).
  • Planning – Essential for ensuring that I posted regularly, which has helped me maintain a relatively consistent number of visitors each day.
  • Pinterest – Crucial in growing my audience this month.

My Family’s Food Blog

When I said before that there were three key factors that led to such rapid growth in visitors to my blog, there’s actually a fourth factor. However, I couldn’t figure out how to make it start with a P so I’m going to write about it here instead!

The final key factor that helped me to grow my visitors so much in such a short space of time is the support of my family, in particular my husband, Jon. Don’t get me wrong, he’s never been unsupportive of the blog. However, over Christmas he started to show a real interest. Not only does he now help me out with things like submitting pictures to food photo-sharing websites, but he also doesn’t mind me spending my Saturday’s cooking, photographing and writing which has helped me to really focus on building the website. We’ve even got to the point where he’s coming up with recipes for me. The first of which was these Apple Crumble Flapjacks.

Apple crumble flapjack recipe

Improving My Photography

I discussed in last month’s report that, after a few months of trying, I had my first break-through with Foodgawker who accepted a couple of my photos. I am pleased to say these weren’t flukes, and in January I had a total of 16 pictures accepted. This included several where I have gone back and re-photographed old recipes.

Not only has this benefitted me in terms of the visitors attracted by the better photographs, it’s also helped to improve the overall look of my site. These old recipes really stood out (in a bad way) in my recipe index, whereas now everything is looking a lot more consistent (and yummier!). Just take a look at my before and after Chilli Con Carne pictures to see the difference.

P1010926

Before

Chilli con carne recipe

After

If I were to go back in time, I would have spent a month or so before I set up My Recipe Book just practising my photography. Whilst you may have the greatest recipes ever, you need to convince people of this by showcasing the finished product with fantastic photos, otherwise nobody will be enticed to try them.

There are a few things I’ve done this month to help me improve my photographs…

  • Setting aside a couple of hours for taking the photos. This may seem like a long time, but given how long it takes to think of, improve and prepare a recipe and then write about it, proportionally the time is small and it is well spent.
  • Taking lots of photos, and I mean hundreds! It has helped me to learn about the different camera settings and what angles work well. Also I try a number of different compositions. Sometimes the picture I have in my mind just doesn’t work on camera or when I see the final picture on my computer. Having so many compositions means I don’t put all my eggs in one basket, and both Foodgawker and Tastespotting are happy for you to submit a couple of photos if you can’t decide on your favourite. It’s also nice to be able to put a range of yummy pictures with each recipe to really make people hungry.
  • Whilst I still have the food set up for the photo, I download the photos onto my computer. There is nothing worse than realising too late that the light was wrong, or that the composition isn’t quite right. Quite often I think the light looks good when I have a look at it on the camera, but on the big screen it looks dull. Being able to identify what is wrong and fix it immediately means that I don’t waste time with sub-standard photos.
  • Spending a bit of time editing my photos. At the moment I do all of my editing in iPhoto, and can often make a number of enhancements. I keep thinking about upgrading to a premium package such as Lightroom or Photoshop but I’m not sure of the benefits v cost. What do you use and would you recommend it?

Tasty Food Photography eBook

Getting myself organised

I’m sure there are people who love planning, I’m not one of them. I’m more of a do-er, I have an idea and I’ll plough ahead with it and then think about how I could have done it all better later. I therefore try to minimise the amount of time I plan. However, in January I decided that I needed a plan. There were two main reasons for this…

  1. I needed to ensure that I was focussing on the right things and not getting distracted (which happens a lot).
  2. There’s sometimes a danger that the website can take over my life, its easy to try and publish post after post, and I wanted to ensure that I also had time in my life to spend with my family and do exciting things like the cleaning.

In January I set myself a target of three posts per week (actually Jon set me the target, he’s good at keeping me on track, I sometimes feel like his employee!), photographing in the afternoon when there was some natural daylight, and then writing up the recipe in the evening. The benefit of this approach was that my site seems to have developed really quickly. Throughout January I had at least 250 visitors to the site daily, which helped to maintain my enthusiasm and kept me motivated. That said, it’s been hard work and I’ve pretty much lost any time I had to sit and watch rubbish on TV (that’s not really a bad thing). This month I’ve really realised that it’s hard work building a blog and it takes dedication to maintain it.

Pin, pin, pinning on Pinterest

Whenever I read reports like this from other bloggers, it’s evident that Pinterest is a very important place to attract new visitors to the blog.

I only started taking a real interest in Pinterest towards the end of December. The reason being that other parts of my blog had consumed my time. I’d tried pinning my recipes with little success and realised that I’d need to spend a bit of time figuring out everyone else’s secret. In January I finally found the time to give Pinterest a bit of love and attention which resulted in it becoming by far my biggest source of visitors.

The basic concept, for those unfamiliar, is that you pin photos of your recipes to virtual pin-boards. Other people can view these boards and if they like what they see they click through onto your site to find out more (or re-pin it onto their boards for others to see). Once again, photography becomes crucial, as Pinterest is all about the pictures.

I’m no expert on Pinterest, but it seems unfair not to say anything about what I did as it’s now by far my biggest source of readers. So, the things I’ve learnt so far are…

  • Try to join as many group boards as possible. These boards have a large number of followers and therefore give you a much wider audience for your recipes.
  • If you join group boards make sure you follow any rules set out by the board owners, some are happy for you to post as much as you like, whereas others have daily limits, or rules about types or recipes or photograph quality.
  • Try to be active every day. Like most social networks, pins have a very short shelf life and will disappear from peoples feeds relatively quickly (although pinterest does have a search function).
  • Create long vertical pins, as they’re more likely to stand out in people’s feeds. There are also some group boards that will reject non-vertical pins.
  • Try creating more than one pin for each recipe. Different images will appeal to different people so having more than one will increase you chances of attracting someones attention.
Pizza dough pins

An example of the two very different pins I have for my Pizza Dough

 

As I said before, I’m still very much a novice when it comes to Pinterest, so I may well change my mind about these tips in future. However, this is what has worked for me so far.

Blog Improvements

As always I’m always looking to enhance my website. This month I have…

Added a subscription popup

Yes, I know that popups are annoying. However, I’ve hopefully offset this by delaying the popup to only appear once someone has been on the site for 30 seconds, and it will only appear once a month.

It’s really easy for visitors to miss your subscription box when it’s over in your side bar. They’re busy reading the post and most will not go looking for somewhere to subscribe. However, if the subscription box is right there in front of them and they like what they’re reading then hopefully they’ll be tempted to add their email.

I chose to delay the popup for 30 seconds after someone enters the site as hopefully they’ll have had a chance to have a quick read and like what they see. It means that those people only visiting briefly won’t see but, but I can’t imagine that someone only visiting for a few seconds would want to subscribe anyway.

I use the Popup Maker plugin along with the Mail Poet plugin that I’ve been using for my emails for a while.

Updating my About Me page

I’ve spent some time this month updating my About Me page and added a link to it on my sidebar, including a new smiley photo.

I’ve also added some nice new social follow buttons just underneath (using the Social Media Feather plugin) so that everyone knows where to come and find me.

To ensure that they know it’s me, I’ve also been busy updating each of my social networks to have the same smiley photo and a new header which shows off some of my favourite recipes.

Twitter header

My new social media header

Popular Posts

I’ve added links to my most popular posts (over the past couple of days) into the sidebar. I did this using the WordPress Jetpack plugin which I then customised to make the images larger using some additional CSS (with a lot of help from Jetpack Support who were excellent). The idea behind this is hopefully to tempt new visitors to stay and have a look around the site.

I also added ‘archived posts’ into the side bar to help readers find any older posts.

Blog Income and Visitor Numbers

As already mentioned, the number of visitors has seen a huge increase this month, up from 1,550 to 12,351, with page views at 15,286.

Charlotte's Lively Kitchen total visits January 2015

My Recipe Book – Number of Visits

Charlotte's Lively Kitchen Pageviews January 2015

My Recipe Book – Total Pageviews

The top ten visitor sources were…

Pinterest – 4,404 visits
Foodgawker – 1,961 visits
Direct – 1,855 visits
Tastespotting – 629 visits
Google – 618 visits
Foodgawker (iPhone) – 590 visits
Yummly.com – 427 visits (there was also 26 visits from yummly.co.uk)
RecipeChart – 247 visits
Tasteologie – 224 visits
Facebook (mobile) – 215 visits (predominantly driven by featuring on Recipe Chart’s Facebook page)

Pinterest has become the primary source of traffic, whilst the photo-sharing sites also feature prominently. In addition the frequency of posts has had a huge benefit, with a steady and consistent daily visits of between 250 to 350 visitors during the week and then usually in excess of 400 at weekends.

Charlotte's Lively Kitchen

Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen – Daily Visits December 2014 & January 2015

The spike in daily visits happened when one of my recipes was featured on the top row of Foodgawker (being on the top row has a huge benefit in terms of the number of people that visit), and then the following day RecipeChart featured my Queen of Puddings cupcakes on their website and Facebook Page.

New visitor sources

I’m always on the lookout for new places to show off my recipes and try and to find new readers for my site.

One thing I’ve been doing is submitting my photographs to a wider variety of food photography sharing sites (similar to Foodgawker and Tastespotting) and I’ve just published my ultimate guide to these sites. It looks at how easy it is to submit photographs, how easy (or not) it is to get accepted, and how many people are likely to click and come and have a look at your recipe.

There were two new visitor sources in my top ten in January, both of which are featured in the photo sharing guide…

Yummly

I spotted Yummly in the top ten visitor sources in Pinch of Yum’s monthly reports so thought it would be worth a look.

Submission is really straightforward, you simply need to add a “Yum” button to your recipes, hit it once your recipe is published, and Yummly will come and automatically get all the bits of information it needs directly from your website. The advantage of having a yum button is that other visitors to your site can also “yum” your recipe and I believe the more yums you have, the more visible your recipe becomes on the Yummly site.

I was fortunate that I already have the yum button available in the share buttons plugin I use. However, there are also instructions for adding a yum button on the Yummly website.

I believe that you need to have recipe schema markup to enable Yummly to find what they need (find out more about recipe schema in my August 2014 report).

RecipeChart

I first spotted RecipeChart in Hurry The Food Up’s monthly reports.

Each day RecipeChart showcases a few of their favourite recipes on their website and Facebook page. You apply to join using their contact form and then (assuming you’re accepted) they’ll keep an eye on your RSS feed and if they spot something they like the look of it’ll then be featured.

As they only feature a few recipes each day, it’s unlikely it’ll happen very often. However, when it does it can drive a significant number of visitors for a couple of days.

The great thing about RecipeChart is that once you’ve applied (which only takes a couple of minutes) you don’t have to do anything else, just wait with your fingers crossed!

Followers

This month I have continued to be pretty active on both Twitter and Pinterest and so they continue to dominate with large increases in January (hello all and thank you).

I also added a subscription pop-up (which I mentioned above), which in turn has seen an increase in the number of email subscribers.

Charlotte's Lively Kitchen social network followers

My Recipe Book – Social Network Followers

 Blog Income

My total income in January increased to £11.13, whilst this is still very low it’s a huge increase compared to previous months so I’m happy.

This income came from…

I only moved to using Gourmet Ads in the last couple of days of the month so it’ll be interesting to see what this changes to in February.

You’ll notice that despite being a member of a few affiliate schemes, there’s no affiliate income. I think I’m going to have to give this area a lot more thought.

There were no expenses this month as I pay for my hosting yearly.

The Plan for Next Month

Usually I’ll outline my three main objectives for the coming month, but this month I’m only going to outline one.

KEEP IT GOING!

January was an amazing month with a big increase in visitors, something I was so proud to achieve. However, in January I had a few big advantages…

  • I re-photographed many of my older posts which suddenly went from being ignored to being quite popular. Everything in February will will take more time and may mean I post less (although I’m going to try not to).
  • I had all of my old recipes to post on Pinterest in one go, there was a lot of initial interest but I don’t know whether interest will die down once they’ve been around a while.
  • I was lucky to be featured on Recipe Chart and on the top row in Foodgawker. I don’t know whether I’ll get any of these little bonuses again in February.

So my aim for February is simple. To work hard, publish posts that I’m proud of, and keep on the look out for new places to share and hopefully find new readers that like what I’ve been doing.

Thank you for reading and please come back next month to see how I have got on.

Charlotte x


Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com



* Assumes an exchange rate of $1 = £0.66

32 Comments:

  1. Fanbloomintastic!!! So much hard work has paid off. Very, very impressed. Also very impressed you’ve kept up the reports. I’ve completely failed to keep up mine. Oops.

    I use Picmonkey for photo enhancement & creating images. It’s good for what I need it for.

    Thanks again for sharing & your honesty.

    • Thanks Clare, I noticed that your reports had gone 🙁 I’ve been tempted to stop a few times, but every time I post one I get lovely comments and it keeps me going.

      I’ve just been having a look at your pictures, your site’s looking really good since your redesign – love it. I keep missing when you have new posts so I don’t stop by as much as I’d like – what’s the best way to keep up to date with your blog?

      • Charlotte, I do a monthly newsletter round-up that you can sign up to and bloglovin is good. I had trouble with the RSS feed feature as people were signing up there thinking it was my newsletter so I removed it. Maybe I should put it back hmmm.

        Thank you for inspiring me to push harder. I think I’ve been coasting for too long and now want to see how far I can push my blog. Seeing how well you are doing in such a short space of time is very motivating. 🙂 x

        • Charlotte Oates

          I’ve found you on Bloglovin now so I’ll be popping by more x

          I’m so glad you’ve been inspired by my reports. Yours was one of the first reports I read when I started and I found it really inspiring (and then you stopped writing them 🙁 ). I found things like Foodies100 which led me to loads of fabulous bloggers thanks to you.

  2. These posts are so interesting and helpful – don’t stop! Helen

    • Thanks Helen, I’m so glad you found it useful. If there’s ever anything you’d like to know more about then just ask.

  3. Fantastic read, thank you so much for sharing! x

  4. Charlotte, that’s brilliant! I am so impressed with your new photos and all those views in the past month. You go, girl!

    • Thanks Mel, I have no idea what happened with the photos, something just seemed to click in January (although there’s an awful lot of rejects that didn’t make it anywhere near the blog!).

      Thanks for your Pinterest tips, they really helped.

  5. Very very cool results!!!! My congratz!!! For photo editing I use lightroom. It really helps to give photos the extra boost they need. Especially if the weather is not too good. I experienced thar pinterest sometimes dies down a little but then all of a sudden goes up again. There’s some fluctuation in it for sure!

    • We were pleased with them. It looks like February’s going to be another pretty good month too so it wasn’t a fluke! I’ve been considering lightroom along with a couple of others.

  6. Excellent work, you keep going I’m sure your income will improve vastly 🙂

    • Thanks Ashley. I put income in the report as I know it’s of interest to people but right now it’s not that high on my priority list. Right now I’m focussing on building something I’m really proud to show off and trying to find an audience for what I’ve done.

  7. I’ve just found you via Honest Mum’s blog. This is a fascinating post and really useful to me with some top tips. I’m also trying to get my photography right and it doesn’t always work. There is one on my blog I’m dying to retake. Must do that soon. I’m now going to trawl through your previous monthly updates.

    • Thanks Helen, I’m so glad you found the report useful. If there’s a picture you’re not happy with you should definitely take the time to redo it, you’ll feel happier about every time you see it in your blog. A couple of months ago I cringed whenever I looked at my recipe index and now, whilst there’s still a few I’d change, I feel so pleased with what I’ve published.

  8. Wow! I am super super impressed!!! This is really useful for me…there are a huge number of things that I have never heard of or even thought to do! I am concentrating my efforts at the moment in putting together a recipe book since I have shared a lot of recipes on my site. I now need an income so figured a book would be a good place to start…although it looks as though if I followed your route I would make money anyway! Thanks for all the tips.

    • Thanks Vicki. I keep thinking about a recipe book but I think I need to build up my catalogue of recipes on the blog first. I think there are a lot of different ways to earn from blogging. I’m enjoying trying them out and seeing what works and what doesn’t.

  9. Thank you so much for posting this! It’s so helpful for us newer bloggers to find out what’s working for others.

    That’s an amazing increase from December to January! It must be so exciting 😀

  10. Wow what a difference in your photos! I really need to work on my indoor photos more for my own blog, as I struggle with those, but find outside more natural light ones a lot easier! #brilliantblogposts
    Stevie 🙂

    • Charlotte Oates

      Thanks. They really needed to improve didn’t they! Until a week ago I was mostly taking my pictures inside in front of a big window to get as much natural light as possible, although I did venture out into the garden if I was really struggling. I’ve just bought myself a special lamp so I’m busy figuring out how to get the lighting in the pictures right using that.

  11. Brilliant post with so much amazing advice. You’ve totally inspired me to share recipes on the food sharing sites, thanks. I’m a huge fan of pinterest. Thanks for linking up x

    • Charlotte Oates

      Awww thanks Vicki. I always find your blogging posts so inspiring so it feels great to hear you say that x

  12. Just discovered your site through #BrilliantBlogPosts and fell in love with what you’ve done. This was *exactly* what I needed to read to help me get my hectic-kitchen.com site back on track. It started out well…then took a turn.

    I’ve been reading post after post for hours now and I’ve learned more than I can put down in a short comment. Thanks for sharing so much information…and for making everything so accessible.

    Make it a great day!

    • Charlotte Oates

      Thanks Jeff. My hope with these posts was to make them as useful as possible so that everyone can learn from my successes and failures. I hope they help get your blog back in the direction you want it to go.

  13. Hi Charlotte, these posts are just so helpful! I cannot believe the huge increase, you must of been sooooooooooo happy! Can I please ask how you create your pinterest posts – I know the vertical posts attract a lot more people but I cant find anywhere to create these. Can you help at all? Think its amazing you manage to keep up these reports but its so so helpful, thank you. Chonnie

    • Charlotte Oates

      I create mine on Paint 2 for Mac (it costs about £2 – I’ve got all the fancy tools!). You can also make them in photoshop, or if you’re looking for a free program online I know a lot of people use Pic Monkey and Canva (I particularly like canvas out of the two – there’s some really lovely styles and fonts on there. I use it to create posters for school events).

      • Oh fab I am using Canva and they are looking good – thank you so much. £2 BARGAIN why spend more when you don’t need to!? Thanks again for your tips and advice, very useful xx

        • Charlotte Oates

          You’d think is was a sensible, thrifty decision to use Paint 2, but I actually own photoshop I just haven’t figured out how to use it yet!

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