Omelette Hash Brown Waffle Sandwich
September 25, 2015
Crispy Herb Roasted Chicken with Sauteed Green Beans
October 2, 2015

My Journey As A Food Blogger – Q3 2015

Well another quarter has come and gone as a food blogger, and its that time to pull back the curtains and share what’s been going on behind the scenes! I’d say it’s been another successful quarter for this only being the 6th month that this blog has been live. I had expected this quarter to turn out a little different with the goals I had set for this blog, and It’s been a massive roller-coaster for me.

In my last report, I had some goals that I set for myself, hoping that I could meet them (or get close), and started the quarter off with high hopes that I would get it all done. Well, 3 months later and not everything was done as I had planned out.  This blogging thing is still relatively new to me and It’s such a different experience than what I’m used to!

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Based of my June traffic, my assumption was that my traffic was going to be double of that within 3 months. There was a couple things I didn’t consider based on that months traffic: 1) My analytics code was implemented wrong, so my page views were being doubled, and  2) I had 3 sources of traffic that weren’t sustainable (Buzzfeed, StumbleUpon, and some sponsored campaigns). So keeping that in mind would have helped me set more realistic goals for the next quarter and keep my motivation in the right direction

But now that these numbers are corrected, even though my page views are considerably down from last quarter, they were never that high in the first place.

July

So in July I fixed my Google Analytics code so that page views were being reported correctly. My bounce rate immediately rose to 70-80% and my average page view dropped from 2.5 per user to about 1.25 per user. My first reaction was “Crap. My progress isn’t as good as I thought” and got a little bummed, but then realized after reading a few blog posts on traffic, that blogs normally yield high bounce rate and low page views, especially recipes sites.

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Increasing Traffic

Considering all that July was still a pretty decent month with traffic, I had begun to join some blogger groups for getting posts shared on networks like yummly, StumbleUpon and Pinterest. Because of that, I had 2 big refferrer sources from StumbleUpon for a Summer Snack Roundup I put together, and a Social Fabric Ad campaign was ran for my MorningStar Slider Trio Recipe. So If you’re a food blogger, you need to find groups like this to help spread your reach!

August

Dry Season

August was a frustrating month for me. After June and July, getting a good amount of traffic I was expecting to be on pace to hit 30k page views this month. Other than my ad campaign carrying over into august, I had nothing spike from referrer traffic. I started researching and talking to other bloggers and trying to figure out how to boost my numbers from social networks.

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Increasing Activity on Social Media

Something I hadn’t done yet was automate my social network syndication. Some networks like Facebook and Instagram don’t really need to much of my time as I post on those networks once a day if that. But Pinterest, the site that is really a great traffic source for food bloggers is what I decided I needed to automate first.

 

So I found a site called BoardBooster, which is an awesome site for scheduling, and automating pins that go out to Pinterest. Once i figured out how to use this site, I couldn’t believe how power it was. I’m able to schedule when pins get published, then delete and re-pin unpopular pins (which is something everyone should be doing btw), plus populate my boards with pins based on search queries I define.

Once I fine tuned all these features, I noticed my pinterest referral traffic starting to increase, and wasn’t spending more than 30 minutes a week pinning to my boards, because BoardBooster was doing it all for me!

My next step was using buffer to begin automating my posts to twitter and Google +. This helped me tremendously with saving time posting to Social Media and more time understanding how to get more readers to my site.

Google Search

I also began to notice something. My Chili recipe among a couple others was beginning to move up the ladder on google search results. My recipes were starting to get in the top 10 of results for a few of my recipes.

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So I started to look at some other keyword search tools like Google’s Keyword Planner to see what the traffic from these posts may look like down the road and was pleasantly surprised with what I  saw.

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So if last year was going to be like this year, things were going to start moving up for search traffic as long as google was keeping me in the top 10 range for these keywords. I also notice that the trends were the same for a lot of other recipes: low during the summer. Come to find out, this is the norm for internet traffic in general, everyone is out and about during the summer, searching for recipes. It’s not something I totally understand since being in IT keeps you in front of a computer 8 hours a day, but hey I’ll take it!

So a key takeaway I got from what I learned up until this point was, Summer’s may be low for traffic, so prepare for it and come up with a plan on how to keep traffic going during this months. Something I’ll need to keep on the calendar come next summer!

September

So this month was really confusing for me. I’ve been struggling with keeping up with 2 posts a week as I haven’t had access to a camera on a normal basis, so some weeks it was tough to keep to my schedule. Beginning of September was still pretty quite, I was averaging about 150 users a day and it was getting really depressing – as I type that It look at that and think “6 months ago I’d be stoked on that number!”.  But late into this month what I learned in August from the keyword planner started to actually happen. My Google traffic was increasing!

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Hardly any “viral” spikes in September. No ad campaigns, the bulk of my traffic was now coming from organic search. For the last 2 weeks I’ve been averaging about 500 page views a day, and I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but with the holidays coming up and what the trends show, this should carry over into the next quarter.

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Understanding Analytics

The one thing I’ve been really focusing on is trying to understand my readers, through any analytics that I can grab. In September, I really started digging through my Google Analytics panel to see how users are behaving, how the get to my site, and what they do once they’re on my site. One panel I started using a lot lately is the Query report. Being able to see how my times a recipe shows up for a search query and what the click through rate on that result, is pretty powerful information.

Before I started using this report, I would be super excited if i found out that I had a recipe in a #1 or #2 spot for a certain search result. After using this report It gives me more insight on what being #1 actually means.

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Sometimes it shows up that high because competition is so low, so be aware of that when keyword planning! If you’re not using this tool, you really need to check it out.

Improving Search CTR

So based on what I’ve seen so far is that people are clicking through, but I would like to increase that number, “crock pot chili” for example, 10k impressions, 500 clicks, when its about 8 results down. How can I increase this number? Well I looks at the search result and realized something was wrong:

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Where the heck is my thumbnail image?! After doing some research on how schema.org data is pulled and how to use the google structured data testing tool, I was able to see that it is including my thumbnail image, but google isn’t loading it. Why? I still don’t know and really need to find out how I can fix this. What’s interesting though, is I’m still getting a good amount of traffic to these recipes even without the thumbnail included, but I know I can increase the CTR with the image. So if anyone has ideas on how to fix this I’d  love to hear it!

Quarter 3 Financials

So this quarter I decided to pull back on some spending. I’m currently using Azure for hosting because I receive credit monthly through a Developer’s account. It’s not the highest performing service, but hey, it’s covered cost and it’s holding up to the traffic so far! I also decided to pull back on spending with facebook ads. It doesn’t seem to really help too much, other than building my Facebook fan number.

Income:

Social Fabric sponsored posts: $240

Linqia sponsored posts: $45

Nasoya Sponsored post: $75

Google Adsense: $53.36

Numus Digital: $38.20

Gourmet Ads: $37.22

Progrids: $9.65

Amazon Affiliate: $4.64 (This primarily comes from my page on Kitchen Essentials)

Bluehost Affiliate: $0 (This comes from my page on How To Start A Food Blog)

Total Income: 503.07

Expense:

Azure Hosting: $0

Facebook Ads: $57.93

BoardBooster: $10

Props: $20

Food: $200

Total Expenses: 287.93

Net Profit: $215.14

Hey! A Profit! Too bad the majority of that money is still sitting in ad networks since I haven’t met the threshold but it is what it is. First year of blogging I’m not too worried about a profit, and don’t expect a profit next quarter as I’m planning on purchasing some new equipment.

Quarter 2 Goals

I set goals for myself to keep me accountable and motivate me to keep going with this blog.

Get 30k Monthly Page Views – Came close 1 month, going to blame google analytic code screw up on this goal I set.

Increase My Social Media Followers – Not a single social media account got to the goal I set for it. But I got close on Pinterest which right not is sending me the most traffic, so I’ll take that!

3 Posts a week – This is actually a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. The amount of effort I need to do 3 posts a week takes too much time than it may be worth at this point in time.

Step up my photography – My photography has improved. But I definitely need to improve more!

Open up user submissions – I ended up not purchasing the premium version of my recipe plugin. I still plan on doing this but I decided to set this goal back.

Quarter 3 Takeaways

So now that this quarter is completed, there’s a few things I’ve learned:

Summertime Sadness

Summer may not always be full of traffic. I’m going to keep this in mind for next summer and be prepared and have a strategy to maintain speed during that slow time.  Who knows, it may not even be that way next year!

Traffic isn’t everything

I mean traffic definitely is what pays the bills, but at the same time it comes down to what that person is doing on my site while they’re there. At the beggining of the quarter I was getting a lot of StumbleUpon traffic, about 4000 page views in a 24 hour span. What was the result of that? 5 email sign ups and $1.00 of add revenue. Some traffic I’ve found becomes nothing more than a stat boost.

What I discovered is that StumbleUpon traffic gives your site an increase in page views but the bounce rate was almost %100 and with a sub-30 second average time on my site. This may not be true for everyone, but all 3 times I’ve had a huge spike in traffic coming from this site, it was the same result every time.

How Helpful This Report Is

Even though I had goals that I didn’t quite meet. Having this page published kept me accountable, and I hope the information I share helps others out there too! I plan to continue this series every quarter, and recommend anyone out there blogging to do the same. It really helps you take a step back and evaluate where you’re at with your blog and if it’s on the right track!

Plans For The Next 3 Months

Get that 30k Page Views a Month Goal Completed!

I’m keeping this number set and I’m confidant this can be met by December. I think my strategy will change a little and focus on using Pinterest as my main social media account to push traffic to my site.

Expand On Blogging

I want my site to be primarily a recipe site. But I want to try and appeal to dad’s and motivate them to create meals for their families. Currently other than my being a dad, I don’t think that is translating on my site. So I plan on creating a schedule for myself and sticking to it with dad related posts and tie them into cooking.

New Equipment and Props

I think I’ve pushed this off for as long as I could. With daylight dwindling away I need to purchase some camera and lighting equipment to keep the quality of my photos at the level I have them at now, and make them better. I began using props, but I need to include more props, background items and try and focus on finding a balance to appealing to my male readers while not alienating the female readers. I want dad’s to find this site appealing, but let’s face it it’s going to take a little pushing from their other half to get to this site sometimes!

I’m really excited for this next few months ahead! This is my first holiday season actively food blogging so I’m looking forward to what is in store to what will hopefully be a busy and successful quarter for the Dad With A Pan blog!

Keep in Touch

Well, I hope to come back in December and report some great results and share anything I’ve learned along the way. I want to use this series to not only share my results, but also open a discussion for any food bloggers out there to share their stories or ask questions! Feel free to tweet me @dadwithapan or leave a comment on this post!

If you’re interested in keeping up to date with my journey sign up for my Food Blogging Newsletter, I’ll be sending out updates on this series, as well and sharing any tips I’ve found useful during my road to success!

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Derek Campanile
Derek Campanile

I’m an IT professional by day. Home cook for the family by night. Follow my blog for easy to make recipes, how-to’s and ideas to gather the family at the dinner table!

  • How great is this?! Thanks for such an awesome detailed report! I’m a new blogger, too, and I loved reading about your journey so far. It’s definitely A LOT to tackle and take in, and every day I’m jotting down something else I need to investigate. Thanks for all your tips and info here!

  • Jennifer

    Hi, I just signed on with Numus Digital. I’ve tried adding the tags to my blogger template and I keep getting errors. Any pointers on adding these tags. Where? How? I really enjoy reading your blogging journey posts. They are so helpful.

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