Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links to products I highly recommend. If you click on a link and choose to purchase the product, it won’t cost more for you but will help support Bowl of Delicious!
I have a secret. I started this blog in January of 2014 with two intentions.
The first (and most important): to help busy people cook at home more. Since I started consistently cooking whole, healthy foods at home I’ve learned so much and feel amazing. I haven’t been sick as frequently, and I have way more energy. I wanted to spread the knowledge. It’s the teacher in me.
The second: Hey, if I’m putting all of these hours of work into the blog… why not try making a little bit of money from it? And while I’m spreading the knowledge about healthy eating and cooking, why not spread the knowledge of how I’m making a bit of extra cash doing something I love?
So here it is: Bowl of Delicious’s first quarterly income report: How I made $1000.06 in three months. Guys! That’s over ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS! That’s a lot of extra money, especially for doing something that I absolutely love- cooking things and eating things and talking about cooking and eating things!
So if you’re here purely for the recipes, that’s OK! Head over to my recipe index and browse my archives. Or, if you are interested in starting your own blog, head over to my How to Start a Blog page! But if you’d like to hear more about how I’m making money from this blog, read on.
So… what’s in this report?
I’ll break down how I made over one thousand dollars in the first quarter (January, February, and March) of 2015. In addition, you’ll need a bit of background information. I’m writing this report a full year after starting my blog, so I’ll also break down how much money I made in the first year of blogging (spoiler alert: it’s not very much). I’ll also explain how and why I am making money with a breakdown of my sources of revenue.
My goal is to provide a realistic scenario of how much money you can make from a small, beginning blog. Even if you don’t really know what you’re doing, and when you start trying to monetize right off the bat.
You’ve likely heard of blogs making $10K, $30K, or even $100K a month (like Pinch of Yum or Smart Passive Income). This is all very inspiring, and I can only hope to someday achieve such success! But for your average beginning blogger, the process is very slow-going and no where near as lucrative.
So here’s what I hope is a realistic monetization report for a beginning blogger. A thousand dollars over the course of three months is certainly no full-time salary, but it’s nothing to sneeze at, either! Plus, I’ll explain what I’m going to try over the next three months to increase my income, and I’ll report back to you next quarter with how successful I’ve been.
Read on, or feel free to skip to the following sections of the post:
First Quarterly Income Report
Whenever I tell anyone that I make money from my blog, they usually seem a bit confused. “But… how? Why?” they ask. I make my money from a mix of different sources- some advertisers, some affiliate partnerships, and some sponsored opportunities.
Here’s a breakdown of how much money I made from each source for the months of January, February, and March of 2015 for a total of $1000.06. Boy, was I excited to get that extra six cents to push me over the edge!! And don’t worry if this seems confusing- I’ll explain more about what the sources are in just a little bit.
Total Income: $1,000.06
Total Views: 210,392
RPM (revenue per thousand visitors): $4.75
And if you’re interested in a monthly breakdown, here it is:
Here’s a list of the programs that pay me money, and why they pay me money.
Google Adsense: An advertising network by (you guessed it) Google. Easy to set up and create an account, this was the first thing I did to try and passively monetize my blog. Google pays both for impressions (meaning, how many people see the ad, also called CPM) and clicks (meaning, how many people click on the ad, also called CPC). Once you install the ad on your site, there’s no more work for you to do, except for write awesome posts and drive traffic to your blog!
Amazon Affiliates: An affiliate network is one that pays a commission for sending customers their way. Throughout my blog, I have links to various items on amazon.com, such as on my recommended cookbooks page or integrated in my posts with links to cast iron skillets or immersion blenders. Whenever someone clicks on a link that takes them to Amazon, and they purchase ANYTHING (even items that weren’t linked to on my blog), I get a percentage of the sale. So if you click on this link for a nonstick skillet, but purchase something else like oh, I don’t know, a feather boa, I will get a commission for the boa. It’s easy to set up and easy to integrate the links into posts. I don’t make much money from it, but it’s something!
BlogHer: A blogging/advertising network specifically for female bloggers or for bloggers who cater toward a female audience. BlogHer is different than Google Adsense in a few different ways. First, they pay based on impression (CPM) only, meaning how many people visit your site and see the ad, rather than click on it. Second, they provide a lot more support in driving traffic to your blog, meaning they will sometimes promote your website for you (since if you get more traffic, they make more money, too!). They also provide opportunities for sponsored posts (I wrote one for ebay, which accounts for my sponsored post income from the above report). You have to apply to be part of BlogHer- I was rejected when I first applied when my blog was three months old (boooo), but after 7 months of blogging they accepted me (yay!).
Swoop: Another advertising network that pays per click. You can see Swoop ads on my recipe cards at the bottom of my posts- they are small, usually bright red or green, and are fairly noninvasive. You can also probably see one or more Swoop ads somewhere embedded into this post. You apply, they give you a code, you add it to your website, and you’re done! It’s the easiest, most passive ad network I use.
Sovrn: I have this to say about Sovrn: meh. Pinch of Yum and other large blogs/websites have a lot of success with this advertising network (which is similar to Google Adsense, but it’s CPM so it pays per impression). I’m no expert, but I think it’s not the best network to use for small blogs, which is why I stopped using it after February. If/when Bowl of Delicious gets bigger, I’ll try it again and report back to you! (UPDATE 9/25/15: In response to a reader’s comment below, I decided to give Sovrn another try. I’ve figured out a few things about it and am extremely happy I did! Stay tuned for the next income report to find out how!)
Gourmet Ads: I love using Gourmet Ads! As you probably guessed by their name, they are an advertising network that caters to food bloggers. Their ads are mostly food products, with occasional other content thrown in there. They pay per impression (CPM) like BlogHer and Sovrn, and they have a 100% fill rate. (This means there is always an advertisement on your site. Some other companies leave the space blank if there is nothing to put there- Gourmet Ads always finds something to advertise so you make more money!). Again, it’s very easy to set up and absolutely no work once you add the code to your site.
Bluehost is the company that I use to host my website (I LOVE IT). I have a page called How to start a (food) blog, in which I refer people to Bluehost. For every referral I send that signs up for a hosting package with Bluehost, I receive $65. I only had one sign-up in this quarter, BUT I am hoping for more sign-ups in the near future! I am focusing on growing Bowl of Delicious’s traffic (see what’s next for Bowl of Delicious), and with more traffic comes more chances for visitors to be referred to Bluehost.
Studiopress (via Shareasale): This is similar to how I make money from
Bluehost, but a little more complicated. My website design theme is called the Foodie Pro theme, which is put out by a company called Studiopress. To run the Foodie Pro theme, you also must have something called the Genesis Framework to make your website run smoothly (also put out by Studiopress). On my How to start a (food) blog page, I refer people to Studiopress and my theme pages, and if someone purchases the Genesis Framework or a website theme from their company, I receive 35% for my referral! Unlike Bluehost, Studiopress uses a third party called Shareasale to track and pay their affiliates. This is actually very simple to set up and maintain- there are just a few more steps you have to go through to sign up for (and understand) the program.
Bowl of Delicious’s First Year- Total Income: $617.93
So now you know how and why I make money from my blog, and how much I made in the first quarter of my second year of blogging. But what about the first year? How did it all get started?
I started off knowing nothing about blogging. I knew three things: I love to cook, I love to teach, and I love a good project. And so, I started this blog.
But any knowledge about internet marketing? Nope. Advertising and affiliate programs? Nope. CSS and HTML and other computer techy acronyms? Uh…. no.
I made myself a goal for the year of 2014. That by December at the end of one year of blogging, I would be making at least $100 a month from my blog monetizing experiment. A humble goal, yes, but achievable. And I am happy to announce that I met (and surpassed- actually, more than doubled!) that goal!
Boom. $100 a month! That’s like, a whole grocery trip. Or a fancy dinner date. Or a night at a bed and breakfast. Or just another sum of money to bring us that much closer to our house down payment.
Here’s a breakdown of the entire year. You will see that as the year progressed, I added more revenue streams, and my traffic increased, causing my monthly income AND RPM (revenue per 1000 visitors) to increase pretty consistently throughout the year:
What’s next for Bowl of Delicious!
My conclusions at the end of the first year of blogging were this: the more traffic you get, the more money you make. And the more revenue sources you have, the higher your RPM is. So at the start of 2015, I focused on getting even more traffic to my blog (by marketing it more on social media and other websites), and by adding more revenue sources (Bluehost and Studiopress affiliate links from my How to Start a Blog page).
My goal for the end of the first year of blogging was to make $100/month by the end of the year, which I surpassed- actually, MORE THAN DOUBLED!
My new goal is: By the end of my second year of blogging (December 2015) I will be making at least $1000 a month from my blog. Whoa. Saying that out loud (or, actually, typing that silently) is kind of scary. That’s a significant amount of money!
So now I’m all, “what if it doesn’t work?” and “OooOOo I am so excited” and “that sounds almost impossible” and “wow, I could totally start shopping at Whole Foods again if I made that kind of money! Bring it on, free cheese samples!!”
It’s going to be a challenge, and it might not work, but I’m going to give it the old college try and see what happens. And I’m hoping that you, my readers, can benefit from what I try and my successes/failures, and also give me feedback/advice along the way to help me out :-) Because it turns out, having a blog is like owning your own business. Actually, it’s EXACTLY like owning your own business. And this girl here has no official business experience besides this blog. Everything I learn, I’m learning from people like you.
OK. So here’s my plan for the next few months.
First, I’m going to focus a LOT on driving more traffic to my blog. During the first year, traffic increased dramatically from month to month. Now, in my second year, traffic growth is more stagnant. Here’s what I’m going to do to increase traffic:
- Write a new post 2-3 times a week. I had previously been writing 1-2 times per week. The more frequently you post, the more chances there are for people to visit your website.
- Take more pictures in natural light. This may sound trite, but in reality, this is very important for my traffic. I get a lot of visitors from websites like Foodgawker and Pinterest, and my traffic conversion from these sites is only as good as my photographs. Photographs of food taken in natural light are far superior to those taken with artificial light. During the winter, this was a challenge because of the short days, but now that the days are longer, it will be easier!
- Boost my facebook page and get more fans. If you have more followers on facebook, then every time you post a link to your website the higher your traffic rate will be. Here’s a great article on how Giustina from Domestically Blissful tripled her facebook followers in two months. I’ll be following her advice, as well as advice from other bloggers, on how to boost facebook engagement!
- Write quarterly income reports. Like this one! There are two main kinds of people that read food blogs: people who want recipes (most of you), and other bloggers. I’d love to reach a broader audience by writing these income reports to help my fellow bloggers out, and to increase the amount of traffic on my site. Wondering why I am doing quarterly reports, rather than monthly? For one thing, I want my blog to be mostly about cooking and eating healthy things, and I don’t want to deviate too much from that. For another thing, this post has taken quite a lot time and energy! I don’t think I would be able to maintain it on a monthly basis, so I’m focusing on something I know I can achieve for right now.
Second, I’m going to add an additional source of revenue. I’m going to make an e-book to sell on my website! I have an idea, I just haven’t started it yet. It’s a daunting task, but I’m excited about it, and I’m hoping that adding it will increase my RPM. Keep an eye out for it :-)
There are so many other things I could be doing. I could FINALLY figure out how to actually use Twitter (#IStillDon’tKnowHowToUseHashtagsProperly). I could be more active within the blogging community and network better. Sometimes, blogging can feel overwhelming.
But since I do have a full-time job (I’m a high school art teacher in real life- this blog is just a hobby for now), and life is generally busy (this IS a blog about cooking for busy people, after all!), I’m taking baby steps. Next quarter, I’ll report back to you on how this all went, whether or not I was successful, and the different things I’m going to do for the following quarter to boost my blog traffic and revenue (#MaybeI’llFinallyFigureOutTwitter).
So I hope you’ll follow along as I try to continue to make some extra money from Bowl of Delicious! Questions, comments, suggestions, and feedback are welcome- just leave a comment below or contact me :-)