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Hello! Hello! I hope your February was spectacular! If this is your first time visiting, WELCOME! I'm April and I've been blogging here since 2008. Just this past year though, I decided to get serious about things - so last August I started buckling down and (inspired by Pat Flynn) also began publishing these income reports as a way to keep myself accountable and (hopefully) help others along the way. If you have any questions or suggestions, please please feel free to ask in the comments or shoot me an email.
Before you get all sad for me, I'll tell you that we took a 12 day vacation in February. Which is basically half the month. Although my husband says I'm not allowed to call them vacations anymore, since we're toting 5 kids around the country in a van. It's a trip. Vacations are for grownups on the beach with fruity cocktails. Hah! While I did keep up my social media presence, I didn't do any blogging or paid gigs while we were gone.
February is also a crap month for pageviews and it seems the world of food blogging is not only suffering from the Februarys, but we're also still reeling from the Pinterest algorithm changes. I do expect it will get a bit worse before it gets better, but I sure hope I'm wrong!
I am still struggling (mightily!) with balance, and went ahead and hired a VA (virtual assistant) on a trial basis. She only started at the end of the month, so definitely check back next report to see how that's going.
I'm still with The Blogger Network (TBN), and Gourmet Ads, and they're continuing to underwhelm. I haven't heard back from my Adthrive application yet, and to be honest the way traffic is tanking, I don't they'd accept me anyway. Word on the street is most bloggers are disappointed with eCPM's right now though, and people are doing everything they can to move away from ad networks as a primary source of income. I also continue to supplement with Infolinks, BuckBooks, and Google Adsense.
I didn't do much work with Social Fabric (SoFab/Collective Bias) this month. Partially because we were away and I missed the time-frame to apply to several of the opportunities. But also because many of the available campaigns were continuations of ones I'd already done (and was therefore disqualified from applying) or were competitors of ones I'd done recently (which also disqualifies me from applying).
I did my first campaign with TapInfluence and they were great to work with - hopefully more opportunities will present soon. I also did several campaigns with Izea (formerly Social Spark). I enjoy working with them as well. The staff is especially pleasant and accommodating. (And local!)
On advice from another blogger, I joined LinkVehicle too, but if we're being honest, I *totally* do not understand it. The dashboard confuses the heck out of me. Another something to figure out when I get a spare minute. Hah!
I also reapplied to Federated Media/FoodBuzz who I have previously worked with. I don't think I'll know for a while about acceptance, but they pay well - so I'm hopeful!
My Facebook page is still (thankfully!) hopping - and I'm planning to put out a series of posts to help others get their engagement going. It can be done, I promise!
As stated above, Pinterest is a bit of a bummer lately, but still a fantastic referrer on the whole, so I'm definitely not giving up on it! I converted my Pinterest account to a Business Pinterest Account this month (it's free!), which gives me access to all sorts of cool analytics, and I'm trying to use them to my advantage. Someone recently told me that repinning pins that have a lot of re-pins already is better than original pins, so we're trying that out. Having access to the analytics allows me to see my best performing pins. I've also added my VA as a user on Tailwind (Pinterest scheduling system), so she's keeping things up for me over there. Right now we're trying out a schedule of 80 pins per day - a pin about every 20 minutes or so. I'll let you know next month how that's going.
Speaking of Tailwind, I applied for my site to be fed into their suggested pins (the page that pops up after you've scheduled something). I have no idea if they'll even let me know about whether I'm accepted, but I figured it was worth a shot.
My VA is also keeping up my StumbleUpon (SU) account. She's doing about 20-30 minutes of stumbling each day so my account is very active and it won't look like pure self promotion if I feed my own pages into the system. In addition to organic stumbling, I also tried a StumbleUpon Paid Discovery campaign. Basically you pay to have your page fed into the StumbleUpon system. You can designate what type of people you want to see it, how much you want to pay, and how long the campaign will run.
I did a $25 campaign with my How to Cook the Perfect Steak article and tinkered a few times with the settings as it was going. I ended up with 218 stumbles (167 paid, 19 earned, 32 unpaid). SU isn't super clear about what earned versus paid means, but as best I can tell, earned means organic stumbles originating from the paid campaign and unpaid means stumbles originating from other sources (i.e. someone stumbling on your site). This is purely conjecture on my part though, so if you know better or differently, please chime in! While I didn't consider this campaign especially successful, I do think I'll try again with more specific parameters and a more "stumble-friendly" post.
You'll see in the traffic report below that Yummly is starting to pick up (yay!). I've joined a Facebook group for Food Bloggers where we Yum each others content and I think that is helping. If you're interested in joining, shoot me an email and I'll see if I can get you in. I'm also part of a group for general social media help (FBHEO - Food Bloggers Helping Each Other), but I don't use it very often as it's more time intensive. Maybe something for the VA if she needs extra hours!
Google+ (G+) still doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, but I'm on there and try to post a few times a week at least. One day I'll figure it out. Or not.
Twitter. Twitter is just kind of 'there' for me these days. I have it hooked up to my Instagram account, and I use it for paid tweets, but I don't rely on it as a source of blog traffic. I recently heard about an ebook with an amazing program for making your Twitter account crazy worthwhile (How to Grow Twitter for Bloggers), but I haven't finished reading it yet. The process takes time that I don't have right now, but by all accounts it works.
Instagram is mostly for me, and for keeping my Facebook page personalized. I know a lot of people are using it to get traffic, but that's not been my focus yet. When I remember to, I will post food and direct people to the blog, but not as often as I should.
I've officially decided to quit Constant Contact. Their product has great potential, but it's a little glitchy and the customer services is sorely lacking. I keep hearing great things about Mad Mimi, so I've signed up over there. Keep your fingers crossed, it looks promising!
I barely touched the ebook this month, which makes me sad because it's about 80% done. But with the vacation trip, and work piling up from my day job (wholly unrelated to blogging), I just couldn't get to it. I'm putting a deadline of March 31st on myself though to get it wrapped up. Especially with the need to diversify becoming more apparent. For those of you just tuning in, I'm using Canva (free!) to write it.
I make a teensy tiny bit of money from affiliate sales (Amazon and BuckBooks) and am going to try to branch out a little more in this area. Especially with respect to my own ebook when I finally wrap it up. Some of the book resources listed below are affiliate links too - but you can be sure I won't recommend anything to you that I wouldn't recommend to a friend!
I have been reading Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income for years and highly (highly!) recommend his site. You could literally read for months straight and still not get through all his content. I definitely suggest signing up for the newsletter as you get a his ebook for free when you do. Recently I've started listening to his podcasts too and they're brilliant. Seriously, this guy is a gold mine of knowledge that he gives away freely.
Recently someone suggested I check out Pinch of Yum, a pair of food bloggers with not only a beautiful site, but also tons of food blogging resources. I haven't read their book yet (Tasty Food Photography) but keep hearing great things about it.
Paula Rollo and Becky Mansfield (both wildly successful bloggers) from Blogging on the Side just released their book Blogging on the Side. Another one I haven't read yet, but it's in the queue and getting good reviews from others.
Thoughts and Things To Do
- This month was a bit discouraging and I don't think March will be a whole lot better, but I'm determined to keep moving forward and learning from my missteps. On my to-do list in the coming months is: finishing the ebook, redesigning my header/sidebar, creating a media landing page/media kit, finding a printer-friendly option for my recipes, and find more ways to diversify income.
- I am absolutely in *love* with my Lowel Ego lights (purchased last month). I don't have to worry about having daylight any more and that has taken a huge amount of stress off. I'm also seriously thrilled with the vinyl backdrops I got from Swanky Prints and can't wait for an excuse to order more. You can see them both at work in this Lemon Cookies post. I took those pictures at 2AM on my coffee table!
- This was the first month I started collecting receipts for food shopping. I noticed I was buying foods specifically for blogging and cooking more than my family could eat (whereas in the past I fit it all into our grocery budget). So now if I'm buying specifically for a post, I will itemize the purchase.
- How about you? Did you try something new this month that worked? Do you have any questions about what's happening here? Hit me up in the comments!
FEBRUARY 2015 - EARNED: $1,231.07
Money I earned during this month, but have not necessarily been paid yet. For example, most advertising companies don't pay until 30 - 90 days after your impressions, and many sponsors don't pay until your post has been live for 30 days.
Google Adsense: $31.99
The Blogger Network: $204.36
Amazon Affiliate: $1.10
Gourmet Ads: $39.23
Social Fabric: $190.00
Clever Girls: $0.00
FEBRUARY 2015 - COLLECTED: $2,397.03
Money that actually made it into my pocket this month.
The Blogger Network: $486.57
Gourmet Ads: 102.41
Social Fabric: $1,365.00
FEBRUARY 2015 - EXPENSES: $297.51
Izea membership: $1.00
Constant Contact: $33.00
Amazon gift card for contest: $10.00
StumbleUpon Paid campaign: $25.00
Camera card: $36.59
Groceries/post items: $149.10