July 2014 Income Report — $428.54

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Posted on Sep 16, 2014 in Career

July 2014 Income Report

It’s time again for my monthly income report! If you’re curious what this is all about, I started a back-end overhaul of the business aspect of my blog on August 1st, and I want to share my results with you monthly. Why share? Well, a few reasons:

  • Accountability: I want you all to hold me accountable. Keep me in check if I stray off the straight and narrow. Turning your blog into a money-making venture is often a delicate balance between authentic and smarmy, and I really want to err on the side of authentic—and I’m hoping you guys will help keep me there.
  • Transparency: I think it’s hard to be authentic when all things financial and traffic related are hidden under a cloak of mystery. I’m hoping by sharing my numbers and stats, we’ll all feel a little more comfortable with the business side of my blog.
  • Motivation: My goal is to make the work I put into this blog “worth” my time financially. The problem is, I love doing what I do here so much that I’d do it for free. That doesn’t really light a fire under me to work on the business side! By sharing my financials every month, I hope to motivate myself to keep on keepin’ on the road to figuring out how to make this blog financially efficient.
  • Inspiration: Maybe along the way, I can figure out a thing or two and help inspire some other bloggers out there to find out how they can make their own blog more successful and profitable. That’d be super cool.

Before we get down to the nitty-gritty, a note: because of how some of my ad networks report, these income reports will run about 45 days behind—which is why you’re just now seeing the numbers for July. Keep in mind, I didn’t start this income project until the beginning of August, so the numbers in this report are from before I started working hard to boost my financials. Okay, onto the stats.

Disclaimer: Some of these links below are affiliate links—meaning I get a few pennies if you happen to purchase through my link. I use and recommend all of these products. Let me know if you have any questions.

Income

Total Income: $741.92

Thoughts on Income

Oh, July.

July is pretty commonly accepted as one of the absolute worst months for ad revenue in the year, and that’s definitely reflected in my ad revenue for this month. It’s probably no surprise that seeing the numbers come in for July was one of the motivating factors to get me to start this whole monetization overhaul—it became glaringly obvious that my blog wasn’t financially sustainable with its current model.

Diversity (again).

I spoke about diversity of income sources last month, but my need to diversify really hit me like a ton of bricks this month. Because there was an industry-wide lull in ad sales in July, and because almost all of my income sources are ad networks, I took a major hit this month. If I had a few other non-ad network sources of income, they could help me balance out any major dips in ad revenue that happen throughout the year.

Welcome, ZipList!

I started transitioning my recipes over to ZipList earlier this year, and it’s been an incredibly slow process (my newer recipes are in ZipList, but the vast majority of my recipes are still housed in my older recipe delivery system). As I get more and more recipes in my ZipList account, I’m noticing my revenue from them creeping up! That’s very exciting and pretty motivating to get off my bum and get my other 300+ recipes transferred over to ZipList.

Curious how revenue works on ZipList? Well, when you partner with ZipList they create a customized recipe box website for your website. So whenever someone interacts with the ZipList website, they are doing it through your customized portal that shows ads that are linked to your account.

For example, say someone wants to save my Vegan Coconut Milk Ice Cream recipe to their ZipList account. They click the “Save” button the recipe.

ZipList

And get a pop-up to save the recipe to their ZipList account. See that add there? That’s generating me revenue! Yay!

ZipList

I also get revenue from a leaderboard add that shows if you access your ZipList recipe box from the buttons at the top of my sidebar.

ZipList

I hope ZipList creeps higher and higher up on my revenue list as I get more and more recipes put in it.

Expenses

Total Expenses: $313.38

Note: I’ve decided to include food costs at a rate of 30% of our total grocery bill. I figure about 1/3 of everything I cook in a month ends up on the blog. And the vast majority of those dishes require speciality ingredients that would be more pricey than if I was doing “regular” grocery shopping.

Thoughts on Expenses

Let’s Talk Hosting

I want to take a second to chat about hosting companies, because I love, love, love my host! I’m with AcceleratedWP, and I pay a little bit more than you can get with some of the big name hosts, but I get such better service that it’s totally worth the extra cash. I used to have a…uh…rocky experience when I was with one of the big name hosts. My site would go down all the time. They were always throttling my site so it loaded super slowly for a lot of people. And whenever I’d have a technical problem, they’d offer to help—but only if I paid them a hefty sum. About a year ago, I switched to AcceleratedWP, and it’s been like night and day for me.

My site hasn’t been down once. My load times became super fast. And my favorite part, they have given me the most reliable, helpful customer service I’ve ever had with a tech company. Because they charge a little bit more, they consider themselves a full-service WordPress host—which means they make sure everything stays running smooth for you. They keep your site secure. They make all your WordPress and plugin updates for you (and make sure nothing breaks). They do backups for you. They fix technical issues that might pop up (but rarely do, because they also monitor your site constantly to make sure it’s healthy).

awp

I became an AcceleratedWP Ambassador last month, but even if I wasn’t working with them, I’d still be singing their praises! I am so happy I decided to spend the money and go with a full-service host. I’m learning more and more than with blogging, just like most things in life, you get what you pay for. And my experience with the cheap hosting companies were exactly that—cheap. To me, the peace of mind of having the technical side of my blog taken care of is totally worth the extra cash.

Take Home Pay

Since this whole project is about making my work time more efficient, I thought it might be helpful to figure up a formula for calculating what I’m earning each month in regular-job terms. In the formula, I subtract my expenses from my income, to get a profit. And then I subtract 30% of that number to account for taxes. That number is my take home pay for the month. To figure the hourly wage, I estimate I work 100 hours per month on my blog, so I divide that take home pay by 100.

Take Home Pay = .70(Income – Expenses)
Hourly Wage = Take Home Pay/100

This month’s take home:

income-takehome

Oh man. It sounds so sad when you break it into an hourly rate! One of my biggest struggles with this monetization project is a block in my own mind—I have to get used to treating myself as a valued professional in this field. If I don’t see myself as valuable, then no one else will. And “selling” my work for three bucks an hour is not giving my work the kind of value it deserves.

RPM

Another way to put my monthly numbers into perspective is to figure up the RPM (revenue per mille). This is the amount of money that the blog makes per thousand impressions. It’s a good number to know, because it helps you understand how effective your income sources are, regardless of your traffic. A blog with only 100 visitors a week, but with a high RPM is actually a lot more financially efficient than a blog with a million visitors a week but a low RPM. It’s not all about traffic! My RPM for July was:

income-rpm

This is where is starts to become obvious that July was a much worse month off than June was. While the income numbers for the two months were only about $50 off, that doesn’t tell the whole story. In July, I had a 10% increase in pageviews over my June numbers—but I made less money, which is why my RPM dropped from the $2.52 of June.

As a frame of reference, decently-earning blogs have RPMs of at least $5. Excellent-earning blogs make $10+. And you’ll even see some rockstar blogs making $15-$20 RPM! I have a long way to go.

Traffic

Here are a few screenshots from Google Analytics from July.

Overview

Traffic Google Analytics

Top 10 Referring Sources

Referrals Google Analytics

10 Most Popular Pages

Referrals Google Anayltics

Thoughts on Traffic

  • I’m not sure how bloggers gained traffic before Pinterest existed, because man, I am sure glad it’s around now! Pinterest is consistently my top referrer (and by a lot). That’s why I’ve been really pumping a lot of time and energy into increasing my Pinterest strategy over the past few months. I haven’t seen a lot of gains (more on those in upcoming reports), but I think the work I’m doing is laying the groundwork for even more referrals from Pinterest.
  • Three of my top 10 most popular posts this month are “how-to” posts. I love developing recipes, but sometimes it’s really fun to break out of the box and write more how-to posts about things that are part of my day-to-day life (like prepping food or making popcorn). It’s good to know those posts perform well!

popcorn

Next Steps & Other Thoughts

Truncated RSS Feed

This change has been, without a doubt, the most controversial of any of the changes I’ve made ever on my blog. Last month, after agonizing over it for years, I decided to try out truncating my blog post in my RSS feeds. What’s that mean? Well, previously, I used to provide my entire blog entry in my RSS feed. So if you read my blog through Feedly or Bloglovin or any other RSS feed reader, you’d get the whole kit ‘n’ kaboodle.

But last month, I made the switch to where the post cuts off after the first photo and a paragraph or two, and then prompts the reader to click onto my blog for the full content of the post.

RSS Feed

Why do this? Well, it’s simple really, and 100% financially driven—views in a RSS feed reader generate absolutely no income for me. If you read my blog in Feedly or Bloglovin, you don’t see any ads. I don’t get any revenue from those impressions. When I was treating my blog as just a hobby, that was fine! My main goal was to just have fun and be creative, and getting my work out to the most eyeballs as possible was part of that. But now that it’s important for me to make my blog financially sustainable, that model just wasn’t good business sense anymore. I was giving my work away for free. And that’s pretty much the worst business decision an entrepreneur can make.

I got some negative feedback about the change—I totally get it is a bit more cumbersome to read my blog now—but after explaining that small changes like these need to happen or BTHR might have to go dark, most understood. I also got a ton of positive feedback, too! A few people said that while they were frustrated at first, they actually now really enjoy reading my blog in its native form on my site! And so many people told me that they didn’t mind the extra click if it helped me out. One friend of mine even likened it to trying to shop local. A lot of us will go out of our way to try to support local businesses in our community, and while I’m probably not a local for you, I consider you guys part of my community. And I’m asking you to go a little (teeny, tiny) bit out of your way to help support me. You can literally help save my business with that one single click.

I also understand that changes like this are calculated risks. I’m going to lose some readers over it. And that’s a bummer, but I have to assume that those readers I lost weren’t really all that interested in my content to begin with. I believe that if someone is truly engaged with my content, a simple click won’t be enough to deter them (at least, I hope that’s the case). I’ll report back more in the next few income reports with the numbers, but I can tell you already, that I’ve seen a dramatic increase in my clicks from the common feed readers—people are clicking! Thank you!

Advertising Waterfalls & Overhauls

Last month, I talked about implementing advertising waterfalls. I’ll be sharing a lot more data on this in August’s income report, but I wanted to just drop a quick note to tell you that, holy cow, I was losing so much cash by not having waterfalls set up! I’ve seen an incredible increase in my ad revenue over the past six weeks. I absolutely cannot recommend this eBook by Kiersten Farse enough. I am so grateful to this book for teaching me all about waterfalls. I just had no idea how much money I was leaving on the table!

How to Monetize Your Food Blog

I’m actually still working on tweaking my waterfalls (and I’m even testing with a company who monitors your waterfalls for you—I’ve given them complete control over almost all the ad spots on my blog), but I’m so happy with the results! Like I said, I’ll be talking a lot more about this in upcoming months when I have the exact numbers, but I think you’ll be surprised by how much money I was losing by just running one ad network.

Affiliate Marketing

I’m slowly diving into the world of affiliate marketing. What is affiliate marketing? Well, say a blogger recommends a product to you. When you click the link to the product, it has a special affiliate code in the URL that tracks your click. When you then buy that product, the blogger gets a small percentage of the sale at no cost to you. It can be a really efficient way for bloggers to earn money, but it can also feel really smarmy if it’s done wrong. I think it’s vital to disclose when affiliate links are being used (see the disclosure at the top of this post), and only really promote products that you truly believe it. My philosophy is that I only post affiliate links for products that I would want you to buy even if I wasn’t making a commission. Like that link up there to that eBook. I do get a commission off any sales from that link, but even if you don’t want to buy through my affiliate link, that’s cool, because I really want you to read that book!

Affiliate marketing is a huge, giant, massive aspect of the online world, and honestly, it’s a little overwhelming to get the hang of. There are affiliate programs for pretty much everything you could think of. To make sure I can wrap my brain around it, I’m currently just trying to use affiliate programs for sites/services that I use the most—and then I’l add on more as I can figure out how to fit them in. Right now, I’m focusing on affiliate programs through Amazon, Zulily, StudioPress, AcceleratedWP, and Oh My Veggies.

I have no desire for my blog to become a dumping ground for affiliate links, but I also have no problem getting a little bit of a kick-back if I’m the one that referred a new customer to a company. I do know that some folks get skeeved out by affiliate links, and if that’s you, I recommend looking for a browser plugin that’ll strip out affiliate referral codes (they have those for most of the modern browsers).

Social Marketing

I’m still keeping up with my increased presence on social media. I have signed up (and pay for—more on that in next month’s report) two services that help me streamline my social media marketing—CoSchedule and ViralTag. CoSchedule is what I use as my editorial calendar, and I also use it to schedule Facebook and Twitter updates. I use ViralTag to schedule my pins. I’m really loving ViralTag! I can schedule my own pins, as well as other people’s. I really like being able to schedule pins during prime Pinterest usage time.

ViralTag

I do most of my “for fun” pinning in the wee hours of the morning while I’m nursing—not the prime time to get to people. With ViralTag, I can schedule my pins to go up during high-traffic times on Pinterest—say during Monday Night Football. I see such an increase in repins, likes and pageviews when I pay careful attention to the times I post to Pinterest, and ViralTag is helping me with that. I like that I still get to use Pinterest for fun, but I also can leverage it as a social marketing platform for my brand.

A Lesson in Sponsored Content & Going with My Gut

I’m sure you’ve noticed the uptick in sponsored content lately, and I hope you’re enjoying it. Like I said last month, my goal is to make those sponsored posts fit seamlessly into the overall content strategy of my blog (like this recipe for Almond-Crusted Chicken Strips I did for Blue Diamond this past month).

Honey Chipotle Almond-Crusted Chicken Strips

Most of the time, it’s pretty obvious when a sponsored content opportunity either fits or doesn’t. But there are a few that fall somewhere in between that I often struggle with deciding to either pass up or accept.

This past month, I ended up accepting an offer, and I had a good idea of how to incorporate it into my blog and still offer readers a benefit, but something about it still felt off (even though it was with a well-respected company that I’m happy to promote). It didn’t feel quite right. But I proceeded because I thought maybe I was just being oversensitive. Then, the day before the post was to go up, the project ended up falling through, and instead of feeling bummed about the lost revenue, I found myself totally relieved! And that right there was a sign to me that I should have never signed the contract in the first place.

Even though it probably wouldn’t have been a problem for anyone (it’s not like I was shilling cigarettes), it didn’t feel right to me, and I should have accepted that feeling as legitimate from the get-go. I love my blog, and I love that I can make a nice living from it without me feeling “yucky” about it—and I intend to keep it that way!

Feeling Overwhelmed with Possibility

I’ve been feeling incredibly overwhelmed lately with the sheer volume of things I want to do to for my blog. I know I just need to approach it the same way you’d eat an elephant—one bite at a time! I’ve been doing a little bit of work on a bunch of different things (a redesign, eCookbooks, reworking my ad strategy, social marketing, partnering with brands, etc.), and I think I need to devote myself to one project at a time instead of jumping around. This month, my goal is to take my list of improvement ideas and prioritize them. And then, once I’ve figured out what comes first—work on that and only that until it is finished.

I think the site redesign might be #1 on the docket, because I hate how my site is displaying right now! This design was just never made to work with this many ads, and it’s making it a really cumbersome user experience. The design I’m working on displays the same number of ads, but it in a much more elegant and unobtrusive way. Right now, the way my site is serving ads is just a band-aid until I can get my new, clean, fresh design up and running—thank you for being so patient with me.

All done!

So that was the last report on pre-project income—next month, I’ll be showing you the first month’s numbers, and I think you’ll be really surprised by how big of a change one month’s worth of work made! I’m really happy with the difference. I’ll also go into a bit more detail about the big changes I made to see the uptick in income.

Thanks for reading! And please, feel free to chime in and offer suggestions and ideas. I’d love for this to be an open conversation about blog monetization. As always, thank you so much for your support. It really does mean the world to me!

Our Favorite Baby Gear: Newborn Edition

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Posted on Sep 15, 2014 in Family

Our Favorite Newborn Baby Gear

baby clothes

Wading through the “must have” lists when making a baby registry is a pregnancy rite of passage. There are so many baby accoutrements that it can feel crazy overwhelming. And new parents will pretty much take any advice they can get on what is really a necessity and what can stay on the Babies R Us store shelves.

Now that I’m a seasoned parent (ha!), I thought I might share a few of the items that we have absolutely loved over the past three months. You really have no idea what you’re going to need/like/use until you’re in the thick of things, so this list actually includes lots of items that were never on our registry, and we purchased when we realized we had a need. My recommendation? Get Amazon Prime now and download the app to your phone—you’ll thank me later when you’re ordering something you didn’t know you desperately needed at 3am.

The crazy thing about babies is they’re all different (go figure), so what’s been a must for us might be something to skip for the next set of parents. But hopefully this list will still help!

Note: this post contains affiliate links—meaning I get a small kick-back from any purchases you make after clicking on my links at no additional cost to you. All of these items are things that we use and love every single day. Thanks for your support!

LifeFactory Bottles

LifeFactory Glass Bottles

Honestly, we ended up registering for these bottles mostly because the come in pretty colors! I’m so glad we picked these though because they are so solid and strong. I’ve dropped them multiple times on our hardwood floors without breaking. They also sell caps to make them into sippy cups and water bottles later. The one caveat is the nipples are way too fast of a flow for most breastfed babies, so we use Dr. Brown’s Preemie Nipples with our LifeFactory bottles and rings. Works perfectly!

My Brest Friend Pillow

My Brest Friend Pillow

I didn’t originally own one of these, but my Lactation Consultant taught me how to get positioned and comfortable using a MBF nursing pillow, and from that moment on, I was sold. It was the best $35 we’ve ever spent. I still use the pillow for many nursing sessions, but don’t rely on it anymore—I can nurse pretty much anywhere—but in those first few weeks, it was a life saver. I love it because if you position it right, you can do totally hands-free nursing with this pillow.

Me Carrier

Olives & Applesauce Carrier

We’re a babywearing family, and I’m a bit of a baby carrier collector. I have seven different carriers, and they all have their merits, but the O&A carrier is my absolute favorite! Not only is it adorable and comfortable, but it’s also the only one of my carriers that I can easily and discreetly nurse in. I’ve been told that as JuneBug gets older, nursing will become easier in some of my other carriers (like my ring sling), but for now, I love my O&A!

Boba 3G Carrier

Boba Carrier

This is Craig’s favorite carrier. It’s comfortable, and very easy to put on and take off. It so easy to use, that we often will transfer a sleeping baby from the car seat or my arms into the carrier without her noticing. Craig absolutely loves this carrier, but I have one major issue with it—it’s difficult for me to nurse in. It requires the adjustment of four different straps to get her into nursing position, and even then, it isn’t very comfortable. Obviously, this isn’t a problem for Daddy!

Munchkin Warm Glow Wipe Warmer

Munchkin Warm Glow Wipe Warmer

When I was putting together our registry, I thought people who bought wipe warmers were crazy. My girl didn’t need warm bum cleaners! And then she made her arrival, and we found out that cold wipes make for a seriously unhappy JuneBug. They would turn middle of the night diapers changes from a minor inconvenience to an all-out scream fest. The wipe warmer solved all of our diaper change issues. We love it! And I’ll never ever judge a wipe warming mother again.

Diapers

BumGenius Freetime Diapers

A lot of cloth diapering families have an extensive stash of various types of diapers, but we chanced it and bought 24 BumGenius Freetime all-in-one diapers while I was pregnant, and I’m so thankful they’ve worked out beautifully for us. I’ve heard horror stories about newborn poopsplosions, and we’ve never had an issue with that! We’ve had a few leaks if she sleeps in late and hasn’t had a diaper change all night, but other than that, we’ve never had any issues.

PlanetWise Hanging Wet Bag

PlanetWise Wet Bags

We skipped the diaper pail and instead just installed a hook onto the side of our changing table to hold a hanging wet bag, and it’s been working perfectly. We really like our PlanetWise wet bags! We have two of the hanging ones, one medium one for the diaper bag, and one small one to hold wipes in the diaper bag.

June Bug

Boppy Newborn Lounger

Baby Girl hates this thing now because it’s so reclined, and she’s a big girl who wants to sit up, but during the first two months or so, we used it constantly! It really was nice to have a soft, cozy, and safe place to put her that was easily portable. She loved lounging around on it outside on the front porch. My one issue with it: the fabric attracts pet fur like CRAZY. We tried to keep it clean, but eventually resigned that it was a losing battle.

The Pout Pout Fish

The Pout-Pout Fish

Best. Book. Ever. This book is just so darn fun. We love reading this one! Other books we love: Giraffes Can’t Dance, The Little Blue Truck, and The Pokey Little Puppy. Admittedly, Baby Girl is going through a “reading strike” right now (she cries when we read to her!), but hopefully that’ll end soon and we can get back to our favorites.

Mortimer the Moose

Mortimer the Moose

Baby Girl is just starting to get really interested in toys, and she started off showing her interest with this guy. She loves the fun patterns on the bottom of his feet. She also loves just staring at his face and feeling all the different textures with her fingers. (Edit to add: I JUST saw that Moritmer is on sale on Zulily today! His sister Muffin is also there.)

Boobease Nipple Balm

Boobease Nipple Balm

“They” say breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt. But the truth is, it’s a learned skill (for both you and your baby), and it does hurt until you learn how to do it properly. Eventually, you’ll get the hang of it and it won’t hurt anymore, but at the beginning? Yowzers. Buy two pots of this stuff. Put one next to your nursing station and one in your diaper bag. Slather it on after every feeding. It’s not sticky, it’s all natural, and it’s super healing and moisturizing.

Zebi Blanket

Zebi Organic Muslin Swaddle Blankets

We don’t swaddle, but we do use this blanket all the time! We have one muslin blanket by Zebi, and a whole pack of the Aden & Anais blankets that show up on every “must register for” list, and I have to say, we prefer the Zebi blankets. The Zebi blankets are more pricey, but they are also a ton softer and a lot bigger. I wish we had more than just one!

Bravado Nursing Bra

Bravado Seamless Nursing Bra

A good nursing bra is a must, and I’m so happy I went with these from Bravado. They are honestly more expensive than any bra I’ve ever owned before, but they are worth the cash. They are supportive, but have no underwire (vital for avoiding plugged milk ducts), and are nice and smooth and seamless, and the do a good job of flexing with an ever-changing cup-size. Highly recommended!

Brica Carseat Mirror

Brica Baby In-Sight Mirror

We originally didn’t have a mirror in the car, but the first time I tried riding in the front seat, I quickly realized we couldn’t see Baby Girl because she was rear-facing, and I kinda freaked out! We immediately ran out and bought this mirror, and attached it to the headrest. It’s nice because the mirror is fish-eye and large enough that you can see her whole body from both the driver’s and passenger’s seats. She also loves looking at her pretty little face in it!

Boon Lawn

Boon Lawn Bottle Drying Rack

I originally thought I’d just wash bottles in the dishwasher, but after our first bottle load, we realized there were tiny specs of food on the bottles—even though we didn’t wash any other dishes with them. And that was the end of that! We immediately ordered this bottle rack, plus the tree and flower accessories so we could hand-wash bottles, and it’s worked perfectly for us. And it’s adorable! I love adorable things.

OXO Tot Bottle Brush

OXO Tot Bottle Brush

I spent an embarrassing amount of time reading bottle brush reviews and asking for recommendations on social media. In the end I took a chance and ordered this one, and it works perfectly. It cleans well, without damaging our bottles or my pump parts, and I love that it has a nipple cleaner and a stand.

Seasoned parents: chime in in the comments with your must-have baby gear items! Help other parents-to-be create their registries.