Building My Blog – August 2014


Welcome to my second monthly blog report, all about what I’ve been up to on My Recipe Book this month.

Food blog traffic and income reportIt’s been school holidays so I’ve had a busy month, which has meant that unfortunately I’ve not had the time to post any new recipes. However, I’ve been busy sorting things out behind the scenes to try and get the website working just how I want it. It’s still not quite finished yet, but I’m pleased with the progress so far. Although every time I think it’s nearly done, I read about something new and want to make more changes.

Peppa Pig House CakeJust to show I’ve not been completely lazy this month, I did manage to make this Peppa Pig house cake for my son’s 4th birthday, which I was pretty pleased with. I used to love my Mum baking and decorating birthday cakes for me when I was little, so I’m determined to do the same for my boys (and random other relatives who are happy to indulge me 🙂 ).

I’d love to put a few cake decorating tutorials on the site, but I’m not sure the best way to write them or lay them out. Have any of you ever written one? Do you have any tips?

I also had a couple of trips away (just around the UK). Firstly to see my Mum and Dad in Somerset, and then to see my sister who was visiting from Australia. I’m sure that’s a good excuse for not posting as much!

What I’ve been up to this month (family and cakes aside)

Well as I said before, posting has been shocking with no new recipes. I did however manage to post my first monthly blog report detailing everything I was up to in July.

Breaking my website (and fixing it again)

The first two days of the month were a bit of a disaster. Firstly I tried to create a custom post type which went wrong, and then I uploaded a corrupted update to my wordpress theme meaning that it could no longer be used.

I won’t go into too much detail as it’s not all that exciting, except to say that I learnt one very important lesson – knowing where my back up files are and how to restore them if I need to. If I’d known this I could have had things back up and running in a few minutes instead of the few days that it eventually took me. Isn’t hindsight wonderful, at least I’ll know for next time.

My host offers free website backups as part of my hosting package, but not all do. It’s definitely worth checking whether it’s included as part of yours, if not there are a number of other tools about that allow you to do it.

Ideally I’d like to change the set up of my site so that I make all changes offline and then upload them when they’re fully tested. This would mean that nothing I do can accidentally damage the live site. I’ve googled it a bit and found a few horribly complex sounding tutorials, so if anyone knows of a nice, straightforward way of doing this then please let me know.

Making my Google search results look pretty

As it’s early days on my blog, I know the chances of getting many visitors through a Google search are pretty slim. However, I wanted to make my search results as appealing as possible, so that if one of my recipes pops up in someone’s search results they might be tempted to click.

I changed the way my recipes appear in Google search results from this…

Ugly google search result

To this…

Pretty google search result

The key difference is the addition of a picture. I don’t know about you, but I’m much more likely to click on a search result with a yummy looking picture next to it than one without.

NOTE – An easy way to check how your posts look in Google search results is to type site:page URL into Google, e.g. I use site:myrecipebook.co.uk. This will also show you exactly which pages are listed by Google (if it doesn’t appear here, it won’t appear in anyone else’s search results). You can also use Google Webmaster Tools, but I like this way as it really quick and simple.

So how did I do it?

You can add something called schema.org to your recipes so that Google recognises them as recipes. It’s too much to explain here, so if you want to understand more there’s a great post on Food Blogger Pro that tells you all about it (it’s where I learnt about it). It actually does a lot more than just adding a pretty picture to your search results, so I’d really recommend reading the post to learn more about it.

The easiest way to add schema.org to your recipes is to use a plugin. There are a few about that have various benefits, but I chose the Ziplist recipe plugin as it was the one that could be customised to best fit with how I want recipes to appear on my website.

Improving the accuracy of my Google Analytics tracking

When I looked at my stats in Google Analytics for July I realised that they were heavily skewed by me looking at (and editing) the site. After a bit of googling, and piecing together a few different tutorials, I managed to find a way to exclude my visits from the Google Analytics data.

Since I couldn’t find one complete tutorial to do this, I wrote my own. So if you’d like to do the same, please have a look.

Later in the month I then found another tutorial by Food Blogger Pro (can you tell I’m a bit of a fan!) showing how to exclude automatic visits from bots and spiders, making my data even more accurate.

Sadly the combined impact of these changes doesn’t make my Google Analytics statistics look great (it turns out I was right and most of my page views were coming from me), but knowing that from next month they’ll be a truer picture of who’s really coming to the site makes it worthwhile.

Improving my comments form

I’ve noticed on several other websites that when I’ve commented, there’s been nothing to notify when someone’s taken the time to reply. I mentioned this to Howie and Dave at Hurry The Food Up (a lovely new food blog, I’d recommend you take a look) as they had this problem. They found the Subscribe to comments reloaded plugin which allows people to sign up to get notifications whenever someone replies to their comment. Now when you leave me a comment 🙂 you’ll see this box

Sign up to comments

All the stats

Visits (I called it traffic last month, but I think visits is much nicer)

Be prepared for the worlds most useless Google Analytics data…

In August I had 94 visits (108 last month) with 501 page views (465 last month).

There are four reasons why this is the most useless data ever (some of which I’ve mentioned above)

  1. The Google Analytics tracking code is included in my theme. When my theme became corrupted at the start of the month no visits were tracked for a few days.
  2. Part way through the month I excluded my own visits.
  3. Later in the month I then excluded automated visits from bots and spiders.
  4. When I excluded myself from my data I only excluded my home IP address. However, when I went away I didn’t bother adding the IP addresses for the other places I was staying (I thought about it, but given I already knew the data this month was going to be inaccurate because of 1-3 I didn’t see much point). This meant that page views jumped at the end of the month when I accessed the site while I was away.

The good news is that the changes I’ve made this month mean that I’ll have much more accurate data to share from next month.

Social Networking

I’m still only on Twitter at the moment so not much to report.

I managed to increase my twitter followers from 33 to 52 this month which was a nice little increase (thank you all).

I’m planning to get set up on some more social networks this month, so should hopefully have more to tell you in September.

Income

Shockingly, last month no-one clicked on my single tiny affiliate link, so income this month was £0

I did have a few expenses though…

  • Premium support for my wordpress theme (one off fee) – £15.54 ($25) – This gives me technical support for my wordpress theme within 24 hours (the other option is to use the forum which can be hit and miss as to whether you get a helpful response). So far I’ve asked two support questions and the support I’ve received has been great.
  • Search and Filter Pro plugin (purchase of plug-in + one year of support and updates)  – £12.22 ($20) – I’ve bought this plugin to help me set up a super recipe search page. Unfortunately I’m having a few teething problems so you can’t try it out yet, but hopefully it’ll all be working soon
  • Tasty Food Photography ebook – £11.83 ($19) – My sister told me that my chilli con carne photograph looked revolting, so I thought I’d better read up on how to make my pictures look more appetising. This book is written by Lindsey at Pinch of Yum, who takes beautiful food photographs. I’m not all the way through it yet, but so far I’ve picked up a lot of tips that should hopefully mean you’ll be seeing much prettier pictures on the site soon.
  • TOTAL – £39.59 ($64)

 

Well that’s it for this month. My main plan for next month is to post more recipes, and then if I’ve got time after that, to set up more social networking, fix my recipe search page, and practice my photography (no more revolting Chilli from me!).

Thanks

Charlotte

5 Comments:

  1. A very honest and well thought out post. Really appreciate the pointers you have given here about making google search results pretty and changing the stats to truly reflect visits. Every day is a school day.

    Really looking forward to returning here and seeing more recipes this month.

    Scurrying off now to look at those links 🙂

    • Thanks Clare, I’m glad you thought they were useful.

      I’m working on lots of recipes at the moment. I’ve got several that are nearly nearly ready, but one thing I’ve struggled with since starting the blog is deciding when to stop playing with a recipe and write it up. I guess I’ll figure it out over time.

  2. Hi, I am just starting my blog. Very early days, but your tips that you have shared are brilliant and something I will be referring back to regularly as I try and grow my site. Your recipes look fab too and I definitely need to learn a thing or two about food photography from you. Thanks for sharing.

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