Hello, welcome to the finance part of the show. Every month I put together a summary of the financial happenings of our blog, inspired by those folks over at Pinch of Yum. Here at FirstTimeFoods, our goals are to find and make new food, connect with our readers and grow the blog. These posts are about how we’re doing with that last goal. They’re also designed to help cut down on the time it takes you to create your own slice of the web.
Last month’s Income Analysis: November wasn’t so great money-wise, to be honest. But, it was the first full month of tracking the site, and there were still some positive takeaways, including the idea that it’s possible to make money in the first place. These things take time and development. That being said, this month we’ve seen some major improvement!
This month we made $8.30. A 1,594% improvement, which is great!
We had 1,650 visits, which is a 60% increase over last month.
The first questions you may have are, “How?” “How did you do that?” “How did you see such high improvement in a relatively short time?” “What is the magic sauce?”
Well, I’d love to think that we’ll continue to see this amount of improvement each month, but I doubt it. I think it’s natural to see a rapid rate of improvement when you’re just starting out. If you think about it, at the beginning of last month, we were really on NO ONE’s internet radar screen. Then, we spent the whole month letting people know about RLK’s recipes. Even performing a few actions to get the word out will inherently double, triple, quadruple, etc. the awareness of any site. Still, what were those “actions to get the word out”?
I like to balance the sometimes cold, rigid nature of analytics with an easier to understand driving phrase, usually a question. The driver for explaining the traffic we received this past month could be: “How did people get here?” with ‘here’ being http://www.firsttimefoods.com.
Here are the main actions we took this past month to get noticed:
- We submitted to food sharing sites
- We told our friends
> We submitted to foods sharing sites
Referrals are a source of traffic for most websites, including food blogs. The action of a referral happens when one is directed from one website to another, for help or further information. Food submission sites are essentially pools of sources of great food photos and recipes. It can help your traffic to get in that pool so that someone might see and click on your photo and be referred to your site. Some of the top food submission sites are Foodgawker, Tastespotting, Healthy Aperture, and Photograzing, the last one being a service put on by Serious Eats.
These photo sharing sites amass hundreds and hundreds of great food photos that link to talented bloggers’ website posts. Users scroll through the hundreds of photos, clicking (through to) those they like, and in turn, arriving at the food sites.
Right now we submit to those food sharing site listed above, and did so this past month, driving much of the increase in traffic. It’s worth pointing out the slightly darker side of using these sites. It can be a TON of work to keep up with submitting to them, especially when you realize the subjective nature behind which photos are accepted and which are not. In the end, there is a small set of human beings deciding which photos are “good enough” and which aren’t. It can be pretty disheartening to have the first few (or all!) of your photos rejected, but the thing to remember is that it’s just one set of opinions on your photos.
Nowadays, there are even sites specifically dedicated to submissions rejected by the larger food submission sites (see TasteStopping). Luckily, we’ve been pretty successful even with the bigger name sites.
> We told our friends
If you look at the audience overview chart image (below), you’ll see a large spike in traffic near the end of the month. It makes the previous visits look dwarf-like by comparison. This represents the day we announced that we started the blog to our friends and family. Sure, a few people knew prior to this announcement, some friends and of course anyone who’d found the site on their own, but on this day we sent the word out directly. Don’t underestimate the power of telling the people you already know.
Speaking of telling friends things — we’re starting a newsletter, so feel free to sign up! See the small email form in the sidebar that says, “Subscribe!”.
In reviewing the site stats in Google Analytics (GA), I wondered about comparing this month’s numbers with last month’s. Now that it’s been two months, we can do that. Here’s a quick demo:
Let’s just take a random range, say the first 11 days of the month. We’ll compare just the first 11 days of December to the first 11 days of November.
In GA, click the set of dates found on the right hand side of the Audience Overview report; the drop down menu should display calendars that allow you to select new dates. Click the “Compare to:” checkbox. Use the calendars to select the first range of dates, then the second. Click the “Apply” button to update the report.
You can see that for the first 11 days of December (the blue data points), the trends were a decrease in visitors (17.88% decrease in Visits and a 29.55% decrease in Unique Visitors), but an increase in page viewing (46.24% increase in Page Views, 78.08% increase in Pages/Visit, and a 103.84% increase in Avg. Visit Duration). The report shows a net increase in % New Visits. As I mentioned last month, I actually think that an ideal ratio of New Visitors to Returning Visitors is 1:1, meaning 50% new and 50% returning.
The current income streams for the site are: 1and1 Hosting (which can be found on the Resources page), Google Adsense (the ads you see around the site), and Amazon Affiliate Program (the kitchen tools and resources we find helpful). Factually, the only income generator so far has been from Google Adsense. This month, though, we’ve added some website theme affiliate links. These can be found on the Website Themes page. They are:
This month’s lesson: Never stop moving.
Another way to think of this is “Never stop improving.” This month RLK and I worked a lot on the site, developing the recipes, cooking the meals, writing the posts, taking photos, editing photos, submitting photos, etc. I alone worked on five or six different tasks each day that I worked on the site, and I know that she did the same. This isn’t to complain about how much work it is to maintain the site, or to discourage you; it’s to say that there never has to be any down time if you don’t want it. There’s always something you can be doing to improve the content on your site. Even indirect improvement tasks, like learning to take better photos, or researching what competing ad networks have to offer, will translate to better content in your posts each month.
It would be great to push above 2,000 visits next month. This should be a pretty achievable goal, so let’s start there. I’d also like to lower our bounce rate, which has crept up to the low 70’s. Zero would be great, but 50 percent is a number worth shooting for.
We’ll be looking into and adding more income streams as we research them and decide they are appropriate for us and the blog. We’d love to be able to work with food and cooking companies directly, and there are always other opportunities out there!
Thanks for showing up and reading this. Even if you’re only reading this part, it means you spent enough time to get here, so thanks for that. To some, it may not seem worth going through the trouble of documenting the incremental process of the financial development of our blog, but if it helps someone improve their web skills a bit faster, or start their own site when they otherwise wouldn’t have, then that makes it worth it. Thanks.