Building My Blog – October 2014


Welcome to my 4th monthly update, all about what I’ve been up to on My Recipe Book in October.

Food blog traffic and income report

In this month’s report, I’ll be talking about what I’ve been up to, my plans for November, and the all important income and visitor numbers.

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 October

I’ve been having mixed feelings about the blog this month. I’ve now been writing for about three months and in the middle of October I hit a bit of a lull and wasn’t as productive as I could (should) have been.

I’m sure a lot of bloggers go through the same feeling at some point. For me, the initial excitement of setting everything up had fallen away, and the list of everything I wanted to do to improve and grow the blog seemed overwhelming – I didn’t know where to start. Also, after a successful month in September, I’d seen a drop in my visitor numbers at the start of October which impacted my confidence and motivation.

The great thing about this unproductive week or two is that it made me realise how much I want to turn this blog into something I’m really proud of and that’s not something that’s going to happen without making an effort.

I’ve had to force myself to change the way I think about what I’m doing. Rather than looking around at the blog and feeling bad about all the things I’d like to do but don’t have the time or skills for, I needed to focus on what I can do and try and do it well. Also to look at the areas where I don’t have the skills to do what I want and find ways to build them.

Bloggers – have you ever had a lull and what did you do to get past it?

I’ve an ever growing to do list, but for November I’ve picked three things to focus on that I’m sure I can make progress with. I’ll tell you more later, but first I wanted to share what I did manage to achieve this month.

Launching the Food Blogger’s Calendar

This month I launched the Food Blogger’s Calendar, full of all of the food events I could find.

I love the idea of linking what I’m posting on here to major events and holidays. To get myself organised I pulled together a list of as many as I could find. Rather than keeping it to myself, I decided to create the Food Blogger’s Calendar to share with other bloggers.

I wasted quite a lot of time setting up the calendar. I wanted to find a plugin where I could enter events and then have a diary page on the website where they were all displayed nicely. I tried several different plugins but I couldn’t find one that presented everything in a style that I was happy with.

I came closest with the Google Calendar Events plugin, which (as the name suggests) displays events from a Google calendar in an attractive format on a webpage. I managed to get everything set up in a way that I was happy with, but after a bit of thought I realised that doing it this way was potentially missing a big opportunity for the website.

If someone googles “British Sausage Week” ideally my website would appear in the search results. If all of the events are stored in Google calendar, this is where Google would take people to, not my website. Currently this isn’t a problem as the calendar is simply just a list, probably not what people are after if they google “British Sausage Week”, but over time I’d like to grow it to contain additional information about each event, somewhere worth clicking through to. Also, by having everything stored in a public calendar, there’s nothing to stop someone else simply linking to it using the same plugin in their website and taking everything I’ve put a lot of time and effort into.

Writing a disclosure and privacy policy

Last month I finally got around to writing my disclosure and privacy policy. Not the most exciting page on my website, but I was advised that I should have one so now I do.

If you’re not familiar with what they are, they basically outline how you intend to behave on the site. For example, here’s what I said about including affiliate links…

“I do link with affiliate programmes, this means if you follow a link I have provided to a product and then go on to purchase from that site, I will receive a percentage of the cost. I will never provide a link to a product just because it’s part of an affiliate programme.”

If you’d like to know more about disclosure policies, or need some guidance in writing one for your own site, then I’d recommend visiting www.disclosurepolicy.org. They have a great tool where you can enter certain details of your website and it’ll write the policy for you. I used this tool and then tweaked some of the wording, adding a few extra bits and pieces so that it fitted better with my style.

Finding new readers for my monthly reports.

This month I asked to be included in Matthew Woodward’s monthly income report round-up.

Matt is an SEO expert whose website is full of useful tutorials for setting up and promoting a new website. One of his regular posts is a round-up of reports like this, including reports from some incredibly successful blogs.

I’m always looking for opportunities to find a new audience for my site (last month I started participating in recipe link ups and twitter chats) and this seemed like a great opportunity. Not only to get more visitors, but also to connect with other bloggers.

At the moment I look at little out of place with my income of $3.85 last month (the average for the 14 other blogs included is over $9k). However, seeing myself there at the bottom month after month will be great motivation to get my blog growing and climbing up the rankings.

Whether I achieve this or not, I’ll be an excellent example to Matt’s readers of how to successfully grow a food blog from nothing, or how you can’t earn a decent income from a food blog unless you make the effort (on the right things). Fingers crossed it’s the first one 🙂

Blog income and visitor numbers

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

Visitor statistics

I’ve had another nice increase in visitors this month from 260 to 330.

GA visits - Oct14

Google Analytics – Total Visits

However, total page views fell from 646 to 579. I’m not particularly surprised or disappointed by the drop in page views. Last month I told many of my friends and family about the site and they came and had a good look around, looking at quite a few pages white they were here. This gave my page views a one off boost. My pages per session is now 1.8 (down from 2.5) which is still pretty good.

So where did these visits come from? The top ten visitor sources were…

It’s lovely to see Google starting to send some visitors my way as they didn’t feature in my top traffic sources last month. This month I’ve started being more conscious of SEO when writing new posts so it’ll be interesting to see if it helps. That said, I’m never going to be the sort of person that writes a post a certain way simply to try and be listed by Google. I’ll always write how I want first and then see if there’s any tweaks I can make to make it more search engine friendly, without significantly changing what I’ve written or how i’ve written it.

One example of what I’ve done is adding more sub-headings within posts and carefully wording the subheadings. This has the added advantage of breaking up my posts and making them easier to read.

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

It was nice to see some of my popular posts from last month still doing well, for example,  my recipes for Marzipan and Cherry Cake, Queen of Puddings Cupcakes and The Healthy Fried Egg.

There was also a nice stream of visitors to my tutorial on excluding your own visits from Google Analytics. I’ve had some lovely comments from others that have used it. It’s great to be able to help others where I can despite being a novice myself.

One post I’m disappointed didn’t make it into the top 10 is my Peppercorn Sauce… with a healthy makeover, with only 13 views. This was a post I put a lot of time in to and was really proud of, so it would have been nice for more people to see it. I guess that’s how it goes sometimes. I didn’t take the time to add it to any linkups or promote it as much as perhaps I should have done, so I’m going to try and promote it more this month to see if I can get it some love.

Followers

I had a nice increase in followers in September and I’ve continued that trend again this month, increasing overall followers across all channels from 173 to 257.

Followers - Oct14

Follower numbers

Once again the majority of that increase has been seen in twitter followers which increased by 78 to 190.

One thing I set out to do last month was to try and grow my followers across other channels. I only managed to grow these by a total of 8 which was disappointing. In hindsight I think I thought that if I had a presence on the other networks, followers would somehow magically appear. Sadly that’s not the case so it’s something I’m going to have to put some more thought into.

Income

Last month I posted my first profit after adding advertising into the blog. This month I didn’t make any changes to the advertising and as a result I have once again only posted a small profit of £1.32.

There were no expenses on the website this month as I pay for hosting annually.

The plan for next month

There’s so much that I’d like to do on the blog and the more I learn, the longer the list gets.

I’ve decided to focus on three main areas this month (in addition to writing more posts of course)…

Improve my photography

I think I’ve now got a pretty good idea of what makes an enticing food photograph. Unfortunately I haven’t yet developed the skills to put it into practice in my own photographs in the way I’d like. Realistically this is only going to come with lots of practice and experimentation so that’s what I need to do.

To push myself, I’ve signed up to complete a 30 day photography challenge. The great thing about this particular challenge is that you don’t have to complete it on 30 consecutive days so it means I can take my time over each step and hopefully develop my skills as I go.

I’ll be posting each of my 30 photos on Instagram using the hashtag #make30photos. If you want to take a look you can follow me on Instagram here.

Do more with the food blogger’s calendar

Last month my aim was to get the Food Blogger’s Calendar set up. This basically involved finding as many different events to include and finding a way to display it all on my website. However, I’ve got loads of ideas for building on the calendar to make it into a really useful resource for others. It’ll take me some time to grow it into something that I can use to interact more with others and to grow my blog, but this month I hope to make a good start.

Identify new opportunities to generate income from the website

Currently my only income is from Google AdSense (I do have a couple of affiliate programmes set up, but I don’t really promote these). Realistically, even if my visitor numbers grow significantly I’m not going to see a big increase in profit from AdSense alone. This month I’d like to look for more opportunities to monetise the website, focusing in particular on introducing more affiliate links.

 

So that’s it for this month’s round up. I hope you found it useful/interesting. I’d love to hear what you think in the comments.

Make sure you don’t miss next month’s update by signing up to my mailing list here.

Thanks for reading,

 

Charlotte

 

 

 

19 Comments:

  1. HI Charlotte!
    Very nice read, thanks for the insides. Also very interesting to read the stuff from Matthew Woodward!
    I think it makes a lot of sense to improve your food photography until almost all of your photos get accepted at foodgawker and similar websites. They can really boos your traffic 🙂

    • Thanks Howie, I’m going to make a start on my photography challenge tomorrow, fingers crossed the effort pays off.

      Definitely check out Matt’s site, it’s full of great free advice.

  2. What an informative post. I loved reading that! I’m nearly 7 months into food blogging and still learning something new every day. I think your idea of picking just a few things to work on every month is really good. I’ve started doing that the last couple of months too as otherwise it’s just too overwhelming looking at a long “to do” list. Good luck for this month!

  3. Charlotte, you are really organised. I am so impressed! I have been blogging for just under a year and I’ve never even looked at stats from Google! I think I’m just muddling along with this blogging thing, but you have a plan and there is no doubt you will go far. Just keep writing! x

    • Thanks Mel. Before I became a stay-at-home mum I used to build statistical models for a living, I actually find looking at all of the data, trying to understand it and learn from it interesting (not very cool is it!). Also, as much as I adore being at home with my boys, I have the need to feel like I’m achieving something just for me, to reassure myself that I still can really. Looking at all of this data is my way of reassuring myself that I’m making progress and that I can do something well if I set my mind to it.

      You don’t need to look at Google Analytics to see that your blog is doing well. You can tell that just by looking at all of the lovely comments you get on every post. I can’t believe you’ve only been going a year, I had assumed you were so much more experienced.

  4. Well, you’re certainly doing a brilliant job, lovely! I also find data fascinating, but daunting at the same time if you see what I mean. I think if I got into it, I would get obsessed, but you are completely right, if you analyse it all, you know what works, what people enjoy and how to make things better. You go, girl!

  5. Hi Charlotte, I’ve enjoyed reading your posts on growing your blog and hope you continue to grow. Have you read Matthew Barby’s recent post on how he grew his social media following for his food blog: http://www.matthewbarby.com/social-media-strategy/ , you might find it useful.

    Best of luck!

  6. Hello Charlotte,

    You have a nice blog and the improvements will keep coming. Don’t sweat them. Believe me, its like watering a plant..but there is no need to feel disheartened.

    I am very familiar with the ‘now what?’ feeling, and it happens to the best of us many times. When you are designing the blog, there is a tangible goal, and then writing posts seems to be almost simple.

    You have a good start here with the calendar. Perhaps the hardest part is doing something consistently. With food, it is more difficult because if you want to blog about something special or specific, you will have to shop for it, plan when to make it, take photos etc. which can get pretty time consuming. Many times, the dish is eaten before taking photos 🙂

    Having said so much, I would like to say that you have made a great start and are in the right track. The only way to go is forward.

    Wish you the best and look forward to your future reports.

    best,
    pragati

    • Thanks For your lovely comment Pragati. I’m focussing on a few things this month to slowly work my way through my long todo list, as a result I’m feeling a lot more positive about everything.

      You’re so right about the time and planning involved in food, I’d had no idea before I started. I end up eating my dinner at very strange times of day just to have it cooked when there’s some light and then it’s cold when I eat it!

      I’ll be publishing my next report in the next couple of days.

  7. Hi, came accross this through Mathew’s site, really enjoyed reading it as I am somewhere similar with my blog. You are still ahead of me, even though I have had mine for about 6 months now. I’ve just subscribed, and will be reading all your posts from now on!

    • Thanks for your comment and subscribing to the blog, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I’ve just been having a look at your blog and it seems really well written and genuine so I’m sure you’ll progress if you keep working at it.

  8. Hi Charlotte. I just came your ‘building my blog’ pages as I saw you were this months Foodies 100 Blog of the Month – well done. I have been blogging for 4 months now and its great to see where you were at 4 months. I work full time so don’t get to put as much time as I would like into my blog but there are some great pointers here for me to be working on. I cant wait to read all of these – you have grow so much – huge congratulations.

    • Charlotte Oates

      Thanks Chantelle. I have no idea how you manage to fit in blogging around full-time work – I’m impressed! I hope you find the posts useful, please let me know if you’ve got any questions or comments I’m always happy to try and help.

      I’m off to take a proper look at your ombre cake now as I need to make one at the weekend for a friend and I’ve not done it before.

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