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!
Well folks, here it is! My fourth quarterly blog income report. Bowl of Delicious brought in a whopping (well, for a side income at least) $3631.34 in October, November, and December of 2015. That’s an average of over $1200 a month!
For all my new subscribers and visitors: if you are confused right now, let me briefly explain what this is.
Every three months, I put together a quarterly report on how much income my blog generates (you can read the archives here). The end of 2015 marked my two-year anniversary of blogging. To give you an idea of how far this blog has come in those two years: my total income for my first three months blogging was $23.25. The first three months of my second year of blogging brought in $1000.06. And it continues to grow and grow! It’s my hope that these posts will help other bloggers, particularly those just beginning (or those interested in starting a blog), get a realistic idea of how much money you can make blogging, especially as a side job (I’m an art teacher full time), how specifically to generate revenue, and to hopefully learn from my mistakes.
So without further ado, here’s how I made $3631.34 in three months! (And if this isn’t your thing, I completely understand. Browse my recipe index for your next cooking adventure!)
In this post, I’ll:
- Give you a breakdown of my revenue sources for this quarter, month by month
- Compare income from 2014 to 2015
- Analyze my goal from 2015 and announce my new goal for 2016
- Answer your questions
Revenue Sources and Quarterly Income Report
Here’s a breakdown of my total quarterly income for the months of October, November, and December of 2015:
Google AdSense: 350.82
Amazon Affiliates: 116.14
Gourmet Ads: 532.40
Total Income: $3,631.34
Total Views: 406,720
RPM (revenue per thousand visitors): $8.93
And here’s a breakdown of each month:
Data analysis and Comparison: 2014 vs. 2015
I have to admit: I’m a bit of a data nerd. I LOVE logging into my WordPress dashboard and Google Analytics to look at my daily views, compare months to each other, see what posts are getting the most traffic, etc. And I think that paying close attention to data and trends has been one of the factors that has made my blog keep growing for the past couple of years.
Looking at the data from 2014 and 2015 has me extra geeked out and excited. For one thing, there are very obvious trends that I can learn from and some very large growth areas from one year to another.
Let’s cut to the chase. Here’s a snapshot of my income broken down by month from 2014:
And here’s 2015:
So what can we learn from this? LOTS of things. Here are some important things I’ve gleaned from looking at both of my years, and what I’m going to do moving forward based on my analysis (besides: holy cow that’s a lot of numbers and my eyeballs hurt).
My RPM skyrocketed by adding more sources of revenue. RPM is how much money you make per 1000 views. In the beginning of 2014, my RPM was only $0.98, with only one source of income. By the end of 2015, my RPM was $10.61, with eight sources of income. Looks like I averaged at around $1.00 RPM per source of revenue.
It was easy to add different sources of revenue in the beginning. However, there are a finite amount of income sources a blogger is able to use, and I’m beginning to be tapped out. For example, the industry standard is to have no more than 6 ads on any page (otherwise, you risk turning into one of those super obnoxious ad filled sites that take 14 hours to load. You know the type.). I currently have four ad networks- Google Adsense, BlogHer, Gourmet Ads, and Sovrn. I could, theoretically, add two more so that I have one ad block for each, but since I’ve become comfortable with these, I don’t want to focus my energy on that.
The revenue I make from ads is based almost purely on the traffic I get to Bowl of Delicious. The more people see the ads, the more money I make- pure and simple. There are some small things you can do to optimize ads, such as placing them in visible locations and increasing page load time, but in general, more traffic = more money from ads.
My other revenue sources from affiliate links (like Amazon and Bluehost) and sponsored posts are more fluid. If I seek out more sponsored opportunities, or write a very compelling reason for people to buy products I’m affiliated with (like on my how to start a blog page), I make more money from these sources from the traffic I get. SO, moving forward, I won’t be focusing my energy into adding more sources of ad revenue, but rather paying attention to affiliate and sponsored sources in order to increase their conversion.
My traffic increased. A LOT.
- I had 4,671 total views for January 2014, and 140,778 total views for December 2015. Whoa. That’s over 3000% growth in two years!
- My growth in 2014 went from 4,671 to 49,724. That means my traffic grew over 10x in 2014.
- My growth in 2015 went from 76,550 to 140,778. That means my traffic almost doubled in 2015.
- My total yearly traffic from 2014 to 2015 went from 228,669 to 1,163,887. That means traffic grew about 5x from one year to the next.
What does that mean? Well, it means that, much like my RPM, traffic slows down in growth over time. During my first year of blogging, I “figured out” SEO (Hah. Yeah, right- I still have TONS to learn about it), started getting accepted to Foodgawker more, began using Pinterest, Facebook, and other social media to promote my blog, and began to build a loyal following (hi, all you awesome people!).
During my second year of blogging, I continued to tweak posts to be better optimized for search engines, tried to increase my presence on social media, and continued to build a vast library of recipes and posts that helped drive traffic. But growth definitely tapered off.
So, while I grew 5x the amount of traffic from 2014-2015, I certainly don’t anticipate that my growth will be that high from 2015-2016. I’m hoping to double the traffic. In order to know how to do that, it’s helpful to see where my traffic came from.
Here’s a comparison of my top ten traffic sources from 2014 and 2015:
I’m surprised that my top traffic source continues to be from Google. Most food bloggers’ main source of traffic is from Pinterest, which certainly increased from 2014 to 2015. In addition, I got a lot more traffic from Facebook- paying attention to social media accounts in 2015 really paid off. In 2016, I’m going to focus on harnessing the power of social media even more.
December and January are not the same (nor are any two given months). It’s a well known fact that ad revenues in January plummet in comparison to December. Well, apparently it is well known to MOST people. It came as quite a shock to me, a new blogger, when I saw that I grew a TON in traffic in January 2015 but my RPM was much lower (spoiler alert: it happened in January 2016 as well).
The holidays cause ads to be pricier, so RPM is much greater around the holiday season. It also grows significantly in the spring/when the weather turns nicer, when people begin to do more entertaining, grill outside, etc. Makes sense!
This means that I can’t go about assuming that my income is going to be steady from month to month. It also means that there are certain months when I will have to try a bit harder to earn a little extra income. It makes sense, during the “slow”months, to focus most of my energy in getting sponsored posts, and during the high RPM months to focus on driving more traffic to my blog to earn more revenue from ads.
Goals! Goals! GOALLLLLssssss!
This brings me to my goals.
A refresher on my BIG GOAL of 2015 from my first income post: to earn at least $1000 in December 2015. I surpassed that goal by making $1493.13 in December, and reaching the initial goal early in September! Yay!!!!
My new BIG GOAL for 2016 is… (drumroll please…) that in December 2016 I will make at least $4000.
There. I said it out loud. I can’t go back now.
Considering my traffic growth has slowed substantially, I’m going to have to pull out all the stops to make this happen. And I fully understand that it might not happen. But I’m OK with that.
Here’s what I’m going to do.
- I’m going to devote more time to sponsored posts. Clever Girls Collective and Social Fabric by Collective Bias are two networks I belong to that list sponsored opportunities. I’m going to routinely apply for opportunities through these and other networks (if I find any more! Got any suggestions? Leave them in the comments below.).
- I’m going to continue to put a lot of effort into my social media accounts. Maybe this is the year I’ll finally learn how to use Twitter! I’m going to prioritize growing my Facebook and Instagram pages, and pinning more things and joining more group boards on Pinterest. Being more active on social media means more people are likely to follow you. More followers = more chances for people to click to your blog when you post things. More clicks = more traffic = more moolah. Yay!
- I’m going to up the ante on posting frequency to twice a week… eventually. I’ve been so busy lately what with building a house, working a full time job as a high school teacher at an extended day charter school, and all the bureaucratic pleasures of moving across the country (WHY is getting a driver’s license in another state SO HARD?!). When things slow down- probably closer to summer- I’ll start posting twice a week. This will increase the amount of posts I have, which increases the chances that people will to visit my site, find me on Google, or pages like Buzzfeed will feature my recipes.
Oh. What house, you ask? THIS house!! We move in on FRIDAY! (fingers crossed- we’ve had so many delays now.) Eight months of construction and living with my (far too generous) in-laws has finally come to an end. Can’t wait. Can’t wait. Can’t wait.
Your questions, answered.
Last quarter, I started a new section to my income reports that answered great questions about revenue and blogging from comments and emails that I thought may benefit my readers. When I first started blogging, there was SO much to learn- I didn’t know where to start! And I certainly didn’t know what questions to even ask anyone since it all felt so overwhelming. Hopefully, these questions (and their answers) help you out. And if you have a question, please ask away in the comments below (or contact me)! I promise I will answer it to the best of my ability, and it may even be featured in my next income post.
From Shelly on my third income report: I’m curious how you are able to have six adsense for content blocks per page? Google’s rules are three content blocks, three links units, and two search boxes maximum per page. I’ve noticed lots of food bloggers do this same thing and have more than three content blocks per page.
That’s a great question and something that used to confuse me to no end. I can’t believe I haven’t explained this yet on my income posts! The short story is: I don’t have 6 Google Adsense ads, but I do have 6 ads, which is the market standard for the maximum amount of ads. My ads from Sovrn and Gourmet Ads look very similar to Adsense ads.
From Nelson on my first income report: My wife and I have been blogging for 10 months now. I took a look at your first year. You had a fantastic jump by month 6. We’re about there right now in terms of views. Although a bit slower to grow, we’re excited and focused. We keep working hard at improving our photography, stories and site/seo/social optimization. Did you have any high profile mentions at any point that dramatically boosted your traffic in a short period of time? Or was it just a steady growth while building up your list of recipes?
I did have a few bumps that caused a traffic increase around that time. For one thing, I started being accepted to Foodgawker more regularly because I got a DSLR camera and an awesome lens that allowed me to take photos with a shallow depth of field (in other words, those food photos with the fuzzy backgrounds). I was featured on a website called favehealthyrecipes.com and got some traffic from Stumbleupon. A few months later, in September, I got featured on Buzzfeed for the first time, which was HUGE.
I have to say: I think Foodgawker was the catalyst for a lot of these features. When I do roundup posts, I go to Foodgawker in search of great recipes to include, and I think the writers at Buzzfeed and other websites do the same thing. Whole Yum, Tastespotting, Finding Vegan, and Tasteologie are some other food photo link sites that help drive traffic as well!
Also, I think it was around this time I started actually paying attention to SEO. I downloaded the all-in-one SEO plugin and made sure to start adding keywords and good descriptions to all my posts. Now, organic searches are my highest driver of traffic. All in one SEO (this is the one I use) and Yoast are two (free!) plugins I recommend to help optimize your website for search engines.
From Mimi via email: I would like to start my own blog too. I’ve been searching online for information for a while now, and your blog is by far reliable and the easiest to understand. (aw, shucks! thanks!) I would like to ask you some extra advice on the process of food blogging and how you earn money through advertisements?
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