Building My Blog – June 2015



Welcome to my 12th monthly food blog update, all about what I’ve been up to on Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen in June.

Building my blog June 2015 badge

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

I promised myself I’d try and get this report out in the first 5 days of the month. Sadly I failed miserably (although it is out earlier in the month than the last report so there’s some progress). I’ll have to try harder in August.

June was a pretty productive month so I’ve got a few different things to share with you all. As always if there’s anything you’d like more detail about or if you have any questions, just ask and I’ll do my best to help.

Fixing my Facebook followers

If you looked at last month’s report you’ll have seen that I had a huge drop in Facebook followers. This was down to the fact that I had to create a new page after renaming my blog and start building followers from scratch again.

During June I noticed that there’s an option on Facebook to merge two pages. I didn’t hold out much hope seeing as the names are so different but I figured I didn’t have much to lose so gave it a try. I did everything I could to increase my chances of them agreeing by making the pages as similar as possible (updating the description, website address, etc… to be the same on both) and they agreed! It took about a week for the followers to be moved over and the old page closed down but it meant I got all my old followers back :-).

My new love for Lightroom

At the end of May I decided to try out the free 30-day Lightroom trial, having previously used iPhoto for my photo editing. I can say unequivocally that Lightroom is a massive step forward. The two biggest benefits are:

  • The ability to edit just small parts of the photo, which may for example be over-exposed or lacking in clarity, whilst leaving the remainder untouched.
  • Being able to enhance individual colours, for example if you really want a green or a red to stand out.

DSC_0913-2 DSC_0913-3

Example of Editing in Lightroom

As an example, the above picture on the left is prior to any editing. The picture on the right is post editing. I have over-edited it to show what is possible within Lightroom. Hopefully you can see that the cucumber and lemon have greater ‘clarity’. I have significantly darkened the top right of the photo, whilst brightened the bottom left. I have also put different shading on the sumac. In addition I have made the green and the reds more ‘vibrant’, whilst also altering the exposure around the cheese.

Fattoush Salad Ingredients

Final Photo used in Fattoush Salad Post

If you shoot in RAW format (something I’ve also started doing), then Lightroom gives you the opportunity to make the most of the detail captured. It is also fairly intuitive, and whilst there are a lot of tutorials on Youtube I found that I didn’t need them (at least to get started, I might see what else is possible when I get chance). I am busy writing a beginners guide to food photography, and will provide a bit more detail in there.

Writing my own recipe schema code

GEEK ALERT! If you’re not a coding geek like me then you should probably just skip to the next bit…

In June I took the (probably stupid) decision to write my own recipe schema code. If you’ve no idea what recipe schema code is or why you should be using it (you should) then have a look here. It’s biggest advantage is adding a nice picture to your Google search results…

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 12.42.17

… but it has other advantages too.

Most people use a plugin such as Easy Recipe or Big Oven to add their recipe schema code, where you simply type the recipe into a box and it does all of the coding for you. However, I’ve been pondering having a go at writing my own code for a while and finally decided to give it a go. I actually really like doing it as it means I can lay out my recipes exactly as I want them rather than using the format dictated by the plugin. However there are also several disadvantages…

  • It takes longer (although only about 5-10 minutes once you know what you’re doing).
  • Recipe schema is non-standard HTML code. You add it in the text editor and then if you switch back to the visual editor wordpress helpfully decides you don’t need it and deletes it! The solution is to stay in the text editor but it’s not as nice to look at and making further changes to the post takes a bit longer.
  • Every post is coded individually which means that if any changes are ever made to the standard code I’ll have to go and fix each one individually. If I was using a plugin then the code would only need to be fixed once (and it would be the plugin owner doing it).

All-in-all I feel like it might be a better idea to switch back to using a plugin (although not Ziplist which I’d been using before as it’s no longer supported), what do you think?

If you fancy having a go at coding your own then there’s a guide to the code here. Once you’ve written the code you can copy and paste it into this structured data testing tool and it’ll tell you if you’ve made any mistakes (I always do a quick check on mine as it’s easy to miss out the occasional ” or >).

Sorting out the fuzzy images in my RSS feed

A couple of months ago I started using the RSS image feed plugin to add images to my RSS feed (and hopefully tempt more people to click on them). However, I noticed that whilst other people’s images looked super sharp in my feed, mine looked fuzzy and unclear (better than nothing but not great, especially considering how much effort I’ve been putting into my photography).

I realised that the plugin default settings was to use a thumbnail image rather than the main image from my blog. The thumbnail is only small so was being blown up to appear in the RSS feed resulting in the fuzziness. I’ve noticed that quite a few other blogs have slightly fuzzy images in their RSS feed, so I’d definitely recommend you take a quick look at yours and see if there’s an easy fix.

You can see from the images below that the recent image of overnight oats is much sharper than the green beans.

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 10.45.09   Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 10.45.23

And now on to all the numbers…

Visitors

After the re-name in May I was back to publishing recipes in June, and also ran my second giveaway. I have decided to cut back the number of recipes I post each week from three to two, partly because I wasn’t enjoying it as much when I was posting more, and also to allow myself a bit of time to write some slightly different posts such as the ultimate guide to food photosharing websites part II and my first round up of posts from other bloggers (amazing foods to make with Gin).

Charlottes Lively Kitchen - Visitor Stats

Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen – Visitor Stats

Charlottes Lively Kitchen Pageviews

Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen – Pageviews

The result was my best month yet – just! The big positive was maintaining Google traffic (more about that in a minute), whilst a downside was a significant reduction in visitors from Foodgawker and Tastespotting. In general I have seen a reduction in traffic from Foodgawker over the past few months, is it seasonal? People not liking my recipes? Or is Foodgawker losing it’s magic?

  • Pinterest – 7,515
  • Direct – 5,418
  • Google – 2,875
  • Yummly – 1,669
  • Foodgawker – 577
  • The Prize Finder – 398
  • Tastespotting – 192
  • Twitter – 184
  • Loquax – 171
  • iPhone Foodgawker – 153

Charlottes Lively Kitchen - Traffic Sources

Monthly Comparison of Traffic Sources

 

Google

Whilst I would love to be able to say that re-branding has increased the number of visitors from Google, in truth it started to happen just before the re-brand in May and I feared that I had messed it up by re-branding!

Google Traffic

I’ve made no secret of the fact that one of my objectives from rebranding was to try and grow my traffic from Google. I was worried last month that it could have been a bad decision as it started growing all by itself despite the fact that I wasn’t posting or promoting the site while I rebranded.

Sure enough, straight after the rebrand it dropped (although not nearly as far as I expected), but you can see from the graph that it bounced back higher than ever just a couple of weeks later (phew!). I took a lot of care whilst rebranding to try and minimise the impact on Google and it looks as through the effort paid off.

In all honesty I don’t think it was the rebrand that made the difference, I think it would have grown to the same level on my old domain too as I’m still seeing the majority of my visitors from the UK.

Followers

Instagram is now the most popular place to follow me as our love affair continues. I’m always on the look out for inspirational food photos, and Instagram provides a great platform to find them and for me to ‘showcase’ my own efforts.

Charlottes Lively Kitchen - Social Media Followers

Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen – Social Media Followers

In July I plan to focus on Pinterest. I am going to re-organise my boards, and create three new ones:

  • Inspiring Food Photography: I’m always on the look out for inspiration as to how to style photos and different compositions. I have been experimenting on Instagram with different lighting, inspired by some of the photos I have seen on there.
  • Tips for Food Photography: I find myself reading a number of articles/posts on photography tips, and it would be useful to accumulate them in one place.
  • Food Blog Reports: I enjoy reading how her people are doing and seeing whether there is anything that I should try. Again this will be a useful reference point.

Plans for July

In June I said I’d write a post about how I improved my photography. It turns out it’s harder to write than I expected so it’s still a work in progress, but I’m hoping to get it published in July.

I’ve been a bit slack at adding links to relevant other posts in my recipes. Given that over 80% of my visitors are new to my site, I’d really like to encourage them to hang around and look at a few other bits and pieces (and hopefully click on a follow button or two so they come back again in future!). I’m planning on going back through the most popular of my older posts to add in more relevant links.

As I mentioned before, I plan to re-organise my Pinterest boards and add three new boards focussing on the areas I’m most interested in and that will hopefully be useful for others.

I’m not the only one that writes these reports you know

After writing last month’s report I had a comment asking about other bloggers that produce something similar. Rather than just sending them through I thought it might be useful to add a list here for anyone else that’s interested.

Jessicagavin.com: This is one of my favourite reports. Jessica started blogging in July 2012, reaching 10k page views per month by January 2013 and 20k by June of the same year. In November last year she made the step up to 30k and by May of this year doubled that to 60k. It is Jessica’s husband Jason that started writing the reports in June 2014, and it includes lots of interesting information about how they have grown their blog.

Homemadehooplah.com: Chrisy is trying to become a career blogger, and despite blogging for less than a year she had 69k page views in May! Her posts contain lots of details and tips, and she is very open about what has worked for her. It is certainly well worth a read.

Platingsandpairings.com: Erin has also been going less than a year and has also reached about 70k page views, and has been featured regularly on Buzzfeed. Again there is lots of useful information to be gleaned from the report, and it is interesting to see how she is growing her blog so quickly.

If you want to give yourself completely unrealistic expectations about how much you can earn from food blogging then take a look at Pinch of Yum. They’re extremely good at what they do and are incredibly successful, they’ve been writing reports for years and they’re choc-a-bloc full of good advice.

In addition to the ones listed here I’ve also set up a special Pinterest board dedicated to blog reports where I’ll add new ones as and when I come across them. If you’re a bit of a blog report addict (like me) then I recommend you give it a follow. Also if you know of any good ones please let me know in the comments section.

Follow Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen’s board Food Blog Reports on Pinterest.

So that’s it from me… see you next month xx


Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

17 Comments:

  1. Always such an interesting read! That’s great about your facebook – do you think it’s worth having one? I don’t at the moment but considering creating it. The photos look fabulous too, will have to check out lightroom! x

    Jasmin Charlotte

    • Charlotte Oates

      Facebook can be very frustrating because despite having nearly 400 followers some posts are only shown to a small % of them. It’s all down to Facebook deciding whether it’s something people want to see in their timelines. It can be a great way to chat with people though and I have a lot of friends and family following my page on there.

  2. As always, fascinating! I must look into the RSS thing. Last time I looked at Bloglovin (a long time ago!), I found my image blurry. So much to do so little time 🙂

  3. I’m finding your monthly reports such an interesting read, always full of useful suggestions. The difference in your two images using ‘Lightroom’ is immense. May I ask if it’s an expensive subscription, at the moment I’ve just been using the editing features in Picmonkey, which is OK for what it is, but clearly Lightroom has so much more capabilities.

    • Charlotte Oates

      The monthly subscription costs £8.57 which also includes photoshop. You can also buy Lightroom as a one-off from somewhere like Amazon for around £100.

      To get the best from Lightroom you need to shoot you pictures in RAW format. You can use JPEG but won’t get quite the same results.

  4. I am fascinated by your monthly reports Charlotte, and totally in awe of what you’re achieving. Amazing stuff, seriously impressive. Is blogging your job? A lot of what you are doing looks ever so time consuming, even writing the report must take you hours?

    • Charlotte Oates

      I suspect us bloggers spend all day being in awe of each other! You write for the Huffington Post, have your own book and get to work with some amazing brands.

      Blogging is not my job but it’s replaced the challenge I used to get from my work which keeps me motivated and is why I put so much effort in. I’m the sort of person that needs to feel like I’m constantly learning/achieving new things and I’ve discovered there’s plenty of opportunity for that in blogging.

      The reports do take a bit of effort to pull together but I get Jon to sort out all the data and make all the graphs and I just fill in the bits in between (he has a long commute and this is his entertainment on the train!).

  5. This is so interesting to read. I found this on #brilliantblogposts and the title caught my eye. We’re all trying to build our blogs and this post gives some really interesting insights. Thank you, Lizzy x

    • Charlotte Oates

      Thanks Lizzy. I’ve always found reports like these from others really useful so I like to share what I can in case someone finds it helpful.

  6. Oh i love this! I am such a stats geek so love looking at these sorts of reports. Might have to write my own, even if it is only for my eyes! #Brillblogposts

    • Charlotte Oates

      If you decided to write your own then make sure you let me know. I love reading these reports from other people and seeing what tips I can pick up.

  7. Foodgawker lost its magic (in terms of sending traffic) a long time ago imo. It used to send thousands, now it’s in the tens.
    When you say you are working on Google, exactly what are you doing in terms of getting your blog seen?
    Thanks for sharing this report – really interesting.

    • Charlotte Oates

      Sadly I never experienced the 1000s of visits from Foodgawker, although at least I did’t suffer the disappointment when they all disappeared!

      I’m probably not doing as much as I could with Google, as when I’ve tried to follow all the tips I’ve found the posts felt awkward and unnatural so I ended up rewriting them anyway. The things I do are…

    • Thinking about my keyword – what am I writing about, what words might people use for searching for it in Google, can I fit those words naturally into what I’m writing?
    • Adding alt text to my images (although this is worded more for pinterest rather than Google) and ensuring that my images have sensible URLs
    • Adding recipe schema to all of my recipes so that Google knows that’s what they are and adds the little image to my search results
    • Making my image size as small as possible (without compromising quality) so that my pages load more quickly
    • Keeping an eye on webmaster tools to ensure there are no issues to be fixed
    • My most popular post on Google (with over 2000 visits so far this month) is one that I never really expected to be popular so I put little effort into keywords, promotion, etc. so I think there’s actually a lot of luck involved.