Welcome to our brand new Food Blogger’s Diary! My name is Levan. I run the geeky side of things for Crazy Vegan Kitchen. Here is where I share the juicy ‘behind-the-scenes’ stuff: food blog income reports, traffic stats, strategies, tips, epic win and (lots of) epic fail moments, and all sorts of first-hand food blogging experiences, both good and bad.
Why Start a Food Blogging Diary?
Neither Amrita nor I have had much prior experience with blogging, coding, and all of that kind of stuff. Like many of you, we are both newborn infants in a majestic world of food blogging. Crazy Vegan Kitchen was started a mere few months ago. In other words, we are absolute noobs and we know it! ☺
FREE EBOOK SERIES! 5 SECRETS FOR FOOLPROOF VEGAN DESERTS
Yet, we believe that the best way to keep learning and improving our craft is by sharing our food blogging experiences with others… both our labored successes and horrible failures. Honesty is the best policy and, in time, we hope that this space will become a good learning resource for all aspiring food bloggers (or just bloggers in general!) Live and learn, as they say!
Our goal is a humble one. We hope to eventually earn a small side income from our food blogging adventures. Something that may help cover the vet costs for our kitties (i.e. our children), maybe? However, this is all secondary to our main aim, which is to keep trying to produce the best quality recipes we can create. That is really the heart of why we do this. 🙂
Now, let’s get down to business!
Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means we earn a commission if you purchase anything through those links. Affiliate links indicated with an * sign belong to Amazon. My wife and I have used all of the products listed below and recommend them based on our first-hand experiences.
Traffic Report: September to early November, 2014
Here is our weekly visitor traffic from the middle of September (when we first started getting organized with our food blogging) to early November
P.S. I plan to post only monthly (not mid-monthly) stats from end November onward, for the sake of organisation.
In September, we started out with about 2000 unique visitors a week – not too bad for a one-month-old blog. We’re now hovering slightly below 12000 visitors a week. Of course, this number is nothing compared to the juggernauts of the food blogging world, but we’re happy with our modest growth nonetheless. We hope that with a little more hard work we can hit 15000 unique visitors a week (cross fingers!) Our average page views per visitor is between 1.6 to 2, a little higher than the food blogging average. Our bounce rate is around 20-22%, which is kinda cool (the lower the number, the better).
I believe this week-by-week increase in traffic was primarily due to three major changes we made to our blogging strategy:
1) We switched from Adele (a free WordPress theme) to the ever-popular Foodie Pro Theme by StudioPress.
I still definitely aim to customize the look-and-feel of our site a little further. I believe our design still needs more work! But overall, spending a little money to buy a premiere blog theme has been worth it – especially for the long haul. In fact, we experienced about a 150% jump in our traffic the very week we switched themes. First impressions count for everything, and prettying up our layout a tad bit seems to have encouraged more people to come to our blog – and more importantly, stay a bit longer!
If you ever considered making your WordPress blog look presentable and gorgeous, I highly recommend you check out the many sophisticated (and affordable!) themes available at StudioPress. These guys are industrial leaders and know a thing or two about making awesome and easily customizable WordPress themes. Simply click on the link above or the image below to check out their full array of beautiful themes!
Our newsletter strategy seems to be working so far. We’ve had a steady increase in subscribers – about 15 or even up to 50 new subscribers a day.
- What we’ve been doing:
- We use MailChimp for everything newsletter related. Some bloggers recommend making the switch to Aweber. I will look into this in the weeks to come!
- If you are thinking of starting an email newsletter, I recommend purchasing Ninja Popups for WordPress. It has tons of features for a really low price compared to a lot of other so-called ‘professional’ pop-up plugins. Now, there’s a lot of controversy surrounding the use of pop ups as a means of gathering new newsletter subscribers. Many people hate them for being obtrusive. Others swear by pop-ups, claiming to enjoy up to a 600% increase in sign-ups. I fall somewhere in the middle: pop-ups can get pretty darn annoying if misused but, in practice, they really do work. As proof, check out the number of newsletter sign ups we had before and after we installed Ninja Popups.
When using pop-ups, I think a good compromise between efficiency / annoyance is to set the cookie expiry date somewhere between 7 to 21 days. What this means is that if a first-time visitor chooses to close the pop-up window, he/she will not be bugged with the same pop-up for the next one or three weeks. I do think I still need to tweak our pop-ups a little bit more, perhaps reducing the rate in which they appear. For now, though, they seem to be working.
3) Pinterest has also been a steady source of traffic for us over the past few weeks. I admit that when we first started this blog, I didn’t pay much attention to Pinterest at all. Our Pinterest account was just kind of sitting there, doing nothing, gathering dust. It was only after reading the income reports of other food blogs that I began to take more notice of the incredible exponential power of Pinterest.
The best thing about Pinterest? Unlike popular food recipe submission sites like Foodgawker or Tastespotting, Pinterest is fully democratic. How well a food photo gets redistributed is dependent on how many people choose to repin your image. The more repins you get, the more traffic will come your way. It’s like magic!
Crazy Vegan Kitchen’s Pinterest account is still small – but it is growing steadily day by day. Here are some things I did to try and improve our Pinterest visibility.
- I bought a couple of really affordable marketing books specifically focused on Pinterest marketing (a few bucks, at most).
Since I was new to Pinterest, I really needed these books to get started on the nuts and bolts of things. Of the six or seven Pinterest eBooks I bought, I found Melissa Taylor’s Pinterest Savvy: Strategies, Plans, and Tips to Grow Your Business with Pinterest* to be one of the best for a newbie such as myself. With over a million Pinterest followers to her name, this Queen of Pinterest certainly knows what she is talking about!
- I joined more Food Community boards on Pinterest.
Community boards are where a bunch of pinners get together to pin their own photos and/or share the pins of others. These boards have been a steady source of traffic for our blog – not to mention they are filled with wonderful people to interact with! For more information on how to join Pinterest Community boards, check out this useful link.
- Sharing is caring on Pinterest.
I took initiative to repin other people’s food recipes onto my own boards and/or other community boards. This helped greatly in terms of growing our (small) number of followers into something better. Long story short, keep sharing and caring for other people’s pins, and people will gradually take notice of your original creations.
October 2014 Blog Income Report: $48.87
Google AdSense: $25.50
Gourmet Ads: $23.37
Woo hoo! A whole $48.87! It’s time for my wife and me to retire in luxury…. Just kidding!
Seriously though, October’s income turned out better than expected. We’d only started blogging consistently around the end of September, and began monetizing it in the first week of October. So, for all intents and purposes, we’re very happy with the three-week outcome! Before then we didn’t even think about earning any income from our blog whatsoever, so this was all a pleasant surprise to us. Even better, our total earnings thus far for the first two weeks of November has already surpassed the entirety of October, so we can’t wait to check out the final tally!
Google Ads: $25.50.
Crazy Vegan Kitchen has two AdSense image ads that display in the middle and bottom of each food post. We also have one link-ad (i.e. text only) near the top few paragraphs, and another image ad in the sidebar.
Here’s an interesting thing I discovered: whilst the bottom image ad is the best performer to date, the small text ad has actually performed BETTER than some of the other image ads thus far – up to twice the number of click-throughs! I’m not sure why this is so, but it’s something I intend to look into. I may decide to retire one of the image ads in favor of a second text-ad. They’re less obtrusive to the reader anyway.
If you are using WordPress, I highly recommend installing the free Quick AdSense plugin for your blog. This plugin is super easy to use and has in-built automated settings to help all bloggers stick to the golden ‘No More Than 3 Image Ads Per Page” rule set by Google. It’s pretty much set-and-forget stuff.
Gourmet Ads: $23.37
I absolutely LOVE Gourmet Ads! Here’s why:
- We started with Gourmet Ads two weeks after installing AdSense, hence the lower overall returns for October. However, Gourmet Ads has already generated a nice steady return for us in November – almost $50 for the first week and a half!
- Gourmet Ads has EXCELLENT (I repeat, EXCELLENT!) customer service. They’ve responded to every single (annoying) email I dropped them. The longest they have taken to get back to me was a day. The fastest? Ten minutes (for realz!) I don’t know about you but I find this to be pretty darn incredible service. Their staff are really polite and helpful as well, which is fantastic! By far the best people we’ve worked with thus far.
- An excellent ad fill rate of about 99.6-99.8% (from my experience anyway). Good stuff!
- Gourmet Ad gives out a number of free reports – called White Papers – that give great tips for marketing and promoting your food blog. I found these to be really useful!
I don’t know how good Gourmet Ads’ CPM rates are compared to some of the so-called ‘big boy’ advertising networks, but they seem pretty decent to me. Whatever the case, I plan to stick with these guys for the long haul, mostly because they have been a breeze to work with. Their publisher portal is also really well-designed: straightforward, no fuss, with income returns updated every day without fail.
Planned Income Strategies:
For November / December, we hope (emphasis on HOPE!) to hit a tiny milestone of $200-$250 a month in ad revenue with three or more ad networks running at the same time (we’re gonna try signing up to a few more networks, including BlogHer!) We also joined a couple of affiliate programs which we aim to implement into our blog in the coming weeks. We’ll let you know how everything goes next month!
I hope you found the content here useful. Check back soon for November’s blog income reports, traffic stats, and more! 🙂 In the meantime, please feel free to leave your comments or questions below. We’d love to learn as much as possible from the experiences of everyone!
Till next time, stay happy <3