Building My Blog – September 2016

Welcome to my 27th monthly blog update, all about what I got up to behind the scenes of Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen in September 2016.

This month I’m going to be talking about going to the MAD Blog Awards, early thoughts on using Board Booster for Pinterest and my attempts to fix the problems with my email subscription.


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 September…

Attending the MAD Blog Awards

It seems like ages ago that I told you all I’d been shortlisted in the Best Food Blog category at the 2016 MAD Blog Awards. The awards ceremony was finally held in September at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington.

It was such a fun day (I left first thing in the morning to head down to London which was just as well as a landslide on the railway meant there were severe delays), meeting up with some of my favourite blogger friends, including my roommate for the night Mel from Le Coin De Mel, having my hair and makeup done (for probably the first time since I got married 11 years ago) and enjoying a really delicious 3 course dinner before the awards. In very un-bloggerish behaviour I decided not to take my camera down with me so I could focus on enjoying the evening so I don’t have many pictures to share, but I did manage to get one quick picture of me all dressed up…

Whilst I didn’t win (huge congratulations to Pip from The Slimming Foodie who did), I had such a great time being reminded just how lovely, fun and friendly the people in the blogging community are. Note to you all – I’d love to be shortlisted again next year as I want to go and have fun there again 😉

Being named in the Top 10 UK Food Blogs 2016 by Vuelio

This is actually one for the start of October but I thought it followed on nicely from the MAD Blog Awards so I’ve sneaked it into September’s report.

Each year Vuelio publish a list of top 10 blogs in a number of categories, one of which is food. Since I spotted it a couple of years ago I secretly hoped to one day make it on to the list. I’d thought I might have a chance at sneaking into no. 9 or 10, so it was a complete shock to discover that this year I’ve been added at no. 3. Just to highlight how good it is no. 1 is Deliciously Ella and no. 2 is The Curry Guy, two people I knew about before I even realised what blogs were.

Testing out Board Booster for Pinterest

Last month I mentioned in my plans for September that I was going to test out Board Booster to see if I could use it to increase visits to my site from Pinterest and followers. The main benefit of Board Booster is that you can schedule your pins, meaning that you can distribute your pinning activity evenly throughout the week. This can work in one of three ways:

  1. Board Booster creates secret boards for each of your own boards. You can pin, for example, seven pins to your secret board in one go. Then set your secret board to pin to your actual board one-a-day for the next week (frequency and timings can be adjusted).
  2. Board Booster also allows you to create campaigns. This allows you to pin from one of your boards to multiple boards (useful if you have a number of group boards). You can let Board Booster choose random pins from your boards (i.e. it will select a different pin each time) or you can tell it to pin the same pin to every group board (useful for new recipes) but spread the pins out across a few days (you can even set the time of day if you wish).
  3. You can also loop pins within a board. For example it will take some of your older pins and repin them to the same board and then delete the older (or newer depending on relative performance) pin after a few days

For $5 per month Board Booster will allow up to 500 pins. In theory Pinterest likes you to pin regularly and will therefore reward your improved pinning activity by showing your pins to more people. This should result in more repins and followers.

I only set up Board Booster mid-way through the month, it is therefore too early to draw any meaningful conclusions. At the moment though there hasn’t been a dramatic increase in either site visits or followers which can be attributed to Board Booster. However a positive is that it provides some comprehensive reports on your pinterest activity, including average repins from each of your boards. One particularly interesting metric for Group boards is the repin rate of your pins vs the board average repin rate.

I’m going to continue thoroughly testing Board Booster through October and I’ll be back with a more detailed review soon.

Improving my email performance

I mentioned last month that I wanted to make changes to my email to reduce the amount of time it takes to send each mailing (which is around 2-4 days at the moment and getting ever longer as my mailing list grows). As I’ve looked into the problem I’ve unfortunately also found that my spam score is pretty poor. This means that my emails are ending up in quite a few spam folders rather than in inboxes, so this has been added to the list to be fixed.

Progress on this is slow. Partly because I’m trying to change one thing at a time so I can pick out what, if anything, makes a difference, and partly because email stuff seems to be written in a particularly dull technical way that I struggle to get excited about reading.

I decided the right thing to do first was to focus on ensuring my emails are not marked as spam, as people seeing my email at all is more important than when they see it. My big change for September was adding DKIM to my emails which is essentially some sort of verification that the email is from who it says it is. Once this was added my spam score increased significantly (which is good), however unfortunately I don’t think it has made an actual difference to the number of emails ending up in spam folders. You can find out more about setting up DKIM here for Mailpoet users and if you use a different mailing system then you should find details for them with a bit of Googling. I’ll admit now that I didn’t do most of the setup myself, I checked the box in my Mailpoet plugin and then emailed TSO (my host) to ask for help and they sorted it all out 🙂

The next area I am going to focus on to try and increase my spam score is identifying who is on my mailing list. I have read that an email is less likely to be marked as spam if you know the name of the person you’re sending it to (it suggests some sort of relationship with the person you’re emailing). At the moment I only ask for email address as I felt I had no need for any other information and I wanted to make signup as easy as possible, I’m going to change to also asking for name to see if that makes a difference.

All the numbers…

This month was my best month yet, finally getting back over the 100k mark for page views. It was a lovely feeling to have to extend the axis on all my graphs 🙂

Even more exciting than getting 100k page views again was realising that I’ve now passed the mark of 1m page views since rebranding in May last year. It’s a scarily big number and one that I’m hugely proud of.



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 – 53,607 (+16%)
  2. Pinterest / Referral – 12,572 (+7%)
  3. Direct – 10,369 (-6%)
  4. MSN – 2,795 (+1084%)
  5. Pinterest / Social – 1,765 (+319%)
  6. Yummly – 847 (+66%)
  7. Email – 791 (N/A)
  8. Pinterest UK – 607 (+29%)
  9. Tumblr – 568 (+26%)
  10. Bing – 552 (+12%)

The additional visits this month were driven by growth across the board, which is fantastic as hopefully it means it should be sustainable.

You’ll notice that email has popped up for the first time ever. It’s always been there, it’s just that I only got the option to separate it out in Google Analytics since upgrading to a premium Mailpoet account (which I had to for passing 2k subscribers). I suspect that these had mostly been showing as direct before and you’ll notice that direct visits have fallen as a result.

I still haven’t worked out what the extra Pinterest thing is yet – I really must get on and do that!


My homemade beef burgers were featured on MSN


Nothing exciting to report again this month. I certainly haven’t seen the outstanding growth that some people suggested was possible through Board Booster (although it is early days). There has been a bit of an uptick compared to August, but quite a lot of that is for one particular board so I’m not too sure if there’s something else going on that has nothing to do with Board Booster.


Charlottes Lively Kitchen – Social Media Followers

In case you’re interested in the actual numbers I thought I’d share them too…

  • Twitter – 4012 (+1.5%)
  • Instagram – 4650 (+0.1%)
  • Pinterest – 5456 (+10.7%)
  • Facebook – 1199 (+10.7%)
  • Google+ – 18 (+12.5%)
  • Email Subscription – 2376 (+6.3%)
  • Bloglovin – 92 (+5.7%)
  • YouTube – 19 (+5.6%)
  • Tumblr – 50 (+2.0%)

Plans for October

I mentioned in my plans for September that I wanted to make at least 1 video a week but when it came to it I realised that it was a stupid plan. If I set plans for the amount of content I produce then it results in me simply doing more without really thinking about how to make it better. I’m in such early days with video that at the moment it’s far more important for me to learn and improve, than it is for me to make more and more stuff that isn’t at as high a standard as I’d like. Two areas I’d particularly like to focus on in October are cropping videos square for sharing on Facebook (oh, OK I figured it out a couple of days ago so check back next month to find out more) and to improve the lighting in my videos. Improved lighting will make them brighter and will also mean that my camera can record things more sharply.

As well as getting good at video I’m also going to continue to test Board Booster and start collecting names for my mailing list and see if that improves my spammy email situation.

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. Fab read as usual 🙂 And WOW for getting to be number 3 in the Vuelio chart!! That is some pretty impressive company you are keeping!! Awesome stuff, and very well deserved 🙂 Very interested to hear how the board booster stuff goes next month 🙂 Eb x

    • I know! I have no idea how I ended up all the way up there but I’m very happy about it 🙂

      I’m interested to see how Board Booster goes too, I’m hoping that the regular posting that it gives will have more of a long term benefit.

  2. Wow charlotte…..impressive read as always Board booster sounds interesting, definitely something I’ll be checking out.

  3. Ditto the congrats on getting to no 3 in Vuelio. Another good read. How did you know your spam record? I use mail chimp and tried a quick link pic anda short caption/description to post email which was quicker than writing a weekly email but I found it in my own Junk mail box so and email to me from me ended up in junk! so it has made me wonder about my mailing list.

    I havent tried board booster but have tried tailwind It seemed to help grow followers but my numbers are small so even a small increase in numbers is big for me. Was thinking about trying board booster too so look forward to hearing more next month.

    • I use Mailpoet’s spam checker which you can find here Each mail receiving system assess spam differently and so there’s no guarantee that even if you fix everything it suggests all of your mail will get through, but it should give you a pointer in the right direction.

  4. Woop woop, check you out up there with Deliciously Ella. So happy for you, you’ve worked really hard on your blog and you deserve that xx

    • I know! I’m not entirely sure how I got all the way up there but now I’m determined to try and stay there 🙂

  5. Well done Charlotte….. clearly there is no stopping you! Number 3 in Vuelio? Fab!
    I really enjoy reading your Building my Blog posts…… it’s great to see the ins and outs of the dedicated blog world at work!

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