December Traffic and Income Report - $16,573.88 - Skillful Cook
Our recipes, your inbox. Sign up

December Traffic and Income Report - $16,573.88

December Blog Traffic and Income Report collage.

Yo! Bjork here, checking in for my monthly traffic and income report.

I focus on two things with these reports (1) the income and expenses and (2) the traffic. I also include any tips or tricks that we’re learning as we continue to find ways to grow the blog. Creating an income from a blog or website isn’t something that happens overnight (or even after a few months). It's taken Skillful Cook a long time to get to this point...hours upon hour (upon hours).

If you've read any of the previous traffic and income reports then you're probably familiar with my thoughts on the time, energy, and work involved with building a blog. In last month's report, I mentioned the struggle that Lindsay and I face with always working. More recently, Lindsay posted on burnout and peace, where she reflected on “working through that thing called burnout.”

Why do I always mention something about how much work goes into building a blog in these reports?

Good question, thanks for asking.

I'm intentional about mentioning this because it helps provide context around these numbers that we're sharing. For instance, Lindsay shared at the end of this post that she logged over 13 hours from the time she first started working on it to the time she pressed publish. Yoiks! That's a lot of time for one post. But here's the thing - it's not abnormal for Lindsay to spend 6-8 hours on every post by the time the recipe is tested, the food photographed, the post written, and the content edited. With 3 posts a week that means 18-24 hours a week on just the posts. That doesn't include responding to emails, social media, fixing computer problems, communicating with sponsors or going for long walks on the beach around a frozen lake with her husband.

In short, both Lindsay and I want to communicate that earning substantial income from a blog is possible while also giving a realistic look at what it takes to get there.

With that in mind, let's jump into the numbers for December.


Total Income:: $19,829.98


Total Expenses: $3,256.10

Net Profit: $16,573.88

If you're interested in learning more about some of the ways that you can monetize a food blog, we encourage you to download this free ebook, “16 Ways to Monetize Your Food Blog,” from our sister site, Food Blogger Pro!

a picture of the 16 Ways to Monetize Your Food Blog ebook from Food Blogger Pro and a note that says, 'free download from our friends at Food Blogger Pro'

Thoughts On Income


December was another low month for BlogHer when compared to September and October numbers. It's a major bummer, albeit an expected major bummer, as the advertising industry is known to have huge swings that correlate with the retail calendar. We can always expect January to be a low month in terms of advertising income, but I was a bit surprised that December was also a low month.

As mentioned in last month's report, we decided to leverage AdSense a bit more on the blog. This change was made by updating our BlogHer ad code so AdSense ads would show if BlogHer didn't have any ads to show. It looks like that decision will yield $1,000 a month more in AdSense income with our current traffic, which is great!

We recently received an email from BlogHer informing us that using third party backup ad code is something they no longer allow. They’ve grandfathered in those that used it before, but new BlogHer applications must use BlogHer’s default ad code, called PubMatic.

One of the disadvantages with more AdSense ads was an increase in low-quality ads. Do recognize this lovely lady?

Tiny Belly Ad

The ad might have a decent CPC, but it looks do I say it...crappy?

Whenever I see these type of ads pop up I go into AdSense and block them. I'll share how I do that at the end of this post.

Are Ads Worth It, and If So, When Do I Install Them?

I've noticed a few different conversations, on Facebook and the Food Blogger Pro community forum, about whether or not ads are worth having on a site, and if so, when to put them on. It's a good question and one that I wanted to talk about here in this post.

If you're looking to create an income from your food blog I'd suggest putting advertising code on your site as soon as possible. I understand that this hurts the user experience and can slow down the load time of your site, but it's important to understand how advertising works and to experiment with ad code and different advertising networks when your blog is just getting started.

The long term ideal for any website is to become a self-sustaining site, or in other words, to create “in-house” products and services that are sold under the branding of the blog or website. You the blogger then have complete control of the pricing, the promotion, and overall success of the product. When you have your own product or service, your raise becomes effective when you do. However, the reality for most bloggers is that it's a struggle just to create the content for the blog, let alone create products and service that can be sold to readers.

Thus the need for advertising.

When running ads from an ad network there are two general categories: CPM and CPC.

  • CPM = You're getting paid based on how many time someone sees an ad. An example of a CPM based advertising company is BlogHer. Learn more about CPM on Wikipedia.
  • CPC = You're paid every time that someone clicks on an ad. An example of a CPC based advertising company is Google AdSense. Learn more about CPC on Wikipedia

Food blogs aren't the best place to run CPC based ads because the payout on those ads is traditionally pretty low. Plus, in order to perform well, CPC ads usually need to be where people are looking, which means within the blog post content or close to your menu bar. This results in a less than ideal reading experience. For a food blog, CPC ad code should be used in places where CPM based ads can't be used (for instance, as backup ad code).

CPM based advertising is better for a food blog, as the ads can be tucked away in the sidebar, header, or footer (depending on the rules of the ad network). You get paid based on views, not clicks, so you don't have to worry about placing the ads in annoying places where they are more likely to get clicked.

But the issue with CPM ads on a new blog is that you don't get many views, which means you don't get much income. So what should you do if you're just getting started with your food blog? Here's what I'd suggest:

  1. Start your blog
  2. Create some content (20-30 posts)
  3. Install CPM based ad code (you first need to get accepted to a CPM network, if you aren't accepted to any networks, move on to number 4)
  4. Install CPC based ad code where you can't use CPM based ads (or if you haven't been accepted to a CPM based network yet)
  5. Work on creating awesome recipes with high-quality photos
  6. If you finish your high-quality content for the week, spend time working on a product that you can eventually offer your readers

Steps 5 and 6 should be repeated over, and over, and over...

You should also implement affiliate marketing throughout your food blog, but that's a topic for another post. 🙂

In short, advertising is an important element for creating an income from a food blog and should be added to your site sooner rather than later, but if you're interested in your blog becoming a business you need to create a product that you can offer in addition to advertising.


Below are some screenshots from Google Analytics. You can click on these screenshots to view a larger image.

Traffic Overview

Blog Traffic Overview - December.

Top Ten Traffic Sources

Top Ten Traffic Sources - December.

Mobile Vs. Desktop Traffic

Mobile vs Desktop - December.

Thoughts On Traffic

December was the first time in the last few months that Skillful Cook dipped below 900,000 visits in a month. It's not a great feeling to have a down month in traffic, but we try and keep our outlook on the blog in the 1-2 year range, not the 1-2 month range. If there is a dip compared to a month ago, that's okay, if there's a dip compared to a year ago, that's something to be concerned with.

Google Analytics - Demographics and Interest Reporting

We recently implemented demographics and interest reporting on Google Analytics. Here are a few screenshots of some of the data it provides.

Google Analytics Demographics and Interest Reporting - Age.
Google Analytics Demographics and Interest Reporting - Gender.
Google Analytics Demographics and Interest Reporting - Affinity Category.

The data provided in the demographics and interest areas of Google Analytics would be helpful for anyone that is brainstorming products to create, looking to provide reader details to sponsors, or just trying to understand their audience better. Even if you don't think you need it right now, I'd recommend getting it set up today so you have a decent data set by the time you do need it.

There are two things you need to do in order to get access to this information in Google Analytics:

  1. Update your Google Analytics code. Click here for Google's instructions on how to do that.
  2. Update your blog's Privacy Policy. Here's the snippet that we added to POY's privacy uses Google Analytics Demographics and Interest Reporting. Visitors can opt-out of Google Analytics for Display Advertising and customize Google Display Network ads using Google’s Ad Settings page. Users can completely block Google Analytics tracking using Google’s Opt-out browser add-on.

Blocking Low-Quality AdSense Ads

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, we're using AdSense more throughout the blog as backup ad code when our CPM networks don't have ads to show.

The increased number of AdSense ads also means an increase in low-quality ads. I've been slowly going through our AdSense account and blocking the ads that I feel are low quality or damaging to the Skillful Cook brand. There are lots of ways to do this, but here's the process I've been using:

1. Login to AdSense, click on “Allow & block ads”, then “Ads (Ad review center)”

1 - Blocking AdSense Ads.

2. Hover over the ad you'd like to block, click the triangle next to “Block,” and then select “Block this AdWords account”. (This blocks the entire AdWords account for that company. If you'd like to just block the individual ad you can click on the red “Block” bar at the top of the ad.)

2 - Blocking AdSense Ads.

3. Use the arrow in the bottom right to move through the ads.

2 - Blocking AdSense Ads.png.

4. If you'd like, you can block specific categories of ads in the “General categories” or “Sensitive categories” area.

4 - Blocking AdSense Ads.

A quick warning: be careful about blocking too many advertisers, as the more companies you block the less competition there will be for your blog's ad units, which means the less income you'll earn from AdSense. As always, it has to be a balance between user experience and monetization.

Because Of You

Without you, this thing we call Skillful Cook wouldn’t exist. Lindsay and I can’t express enough how much we appreciate you following along, commenting, tweeting, and emailing to say hi.

We’re using a portion of this month’s income from Skillful Cook to support a special project at the Children’s Shelter of Cebu, an orphanage where Lindsay and I lived and worked for a year. The special project we're supporting this month is new cribs for the orphanage's infirmary.

Children's Shelter of Cebu baby.

One of the most incredible things we got to witness while working at CSC was when children at the shelter met their forever families. In wrapping up this post we wanted to share a video that our awesome friends at Love In Transit made that shows what that experience is like.

As always, thanks for reading. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thanks Bjork for sharing again this month. I love reading these.

    You had mentioned that Lindsay spent 13 hours on one post. When you add up the hours per week she works on the blog (for everything), the hours that you work, and the hours that any support staff work, how many work hours per week are spent on the blog?

    If I had to guess I would say 80 hours. I am wondering how close I am.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Hi Suzy! It’s kind of hard to track because we work on the blog at such random times. But here’s my estimate for the time it takes to run Skillful Cook:

      support staff: 10 hours. me: 30-40 hours. Bjork: 10 hours, including his time as recipe taste tester. 😉 Just kidding.

      That puts our total hours at about 60 hours per week.

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    Reading these income reports is always a breath of fresh air. Sometimes I think I’m crazy and/or doing something wrong when I spend over 12 hours on a post. One of my posts took me 23 hours total. It was an intensive recipe with over a dozen in-process shots, but oh my gosh. I felt defeated! I find comfort in the fact that I’m not alone here! I need to go read Lindsay’s post about burnout. It’s so hard for me to stop working because I genuinely love it. Every minute of it. But knowing when to give yourself a break is (ironically) essential to growing a business.

    Just wanted to say thank you for these posts Bjork and Lindsay! I love reading them.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      I totally hear you on the loving work part. We are so lucky to have passions that can translate into self-created jobs, right? But then the desire to work is almost ALWAYS THERE. I have to remind myself that even though I love it, I am a better person (and blogger) when I take care of myself, stay healthy, and stay deeply connected with the people around me, which means unplugging every now and then. Thanks for your comment Sal! ♥

          1. Skillful Cook Logo

            Thanks for sharing ladies. Me and my wife both blog part time and it takes myself about two days to compose a post whereas my wife does it in ~ 8 hours. I’ll repeat what Kate said above, glad we’re not alone 🙂

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    This is the first time I’m seeing these posts, and holy wow! the info! I love that you are providing this, and truely truely sppreciate it all.

    I really hope that was a hint for an affiliate themed post coming soon!

    Thank you so much!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Hi! This site gave me the information I needed to start my own blog and web site. I knew nothing about blogging and Bjork kindly delivered it all on my iPad while I was sitting in my living room. How easy is that? Even though my blog is about fabric, yarn and thread, and not about food, the tricks of the trade helped me tremendously. I could never thank him enough!

      But now, I am also facing the problem of wanting to work on that blog all the time…

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        Such a fun comment to read France. 🙂 I’m honored that I could play a role in helping you get your site up and running!

  4. Skillful Cook Logo

    These are always my favorite posts and I wanted to thank you again for thanking the time to track and post all of this. You really are helping educate and motivate people to follow their dreams.

    I also wanted to say what an amazing video!! It gave me goose bumps brought tears to my eyes. I can only imagine what it would like to actually be that couple…!!!!

    Keep up the amazing work!! We really appreciate it.


  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    I love that you guys give back in so many ways. Not just monetary contributions to Cebu, but also the inspiration and advice you give to us bloggers. I’ve learned so much from you guys and appreciate the fact you are so giving when it comes to what you share. Thank you for all you do.

  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thanks once again for a very informative income report… Congratulations! Even though your traffic is a bit lower compared to previous months, but your income is climbing so high… You and Lindsay always inspired us to work even harder to achieve our goals in terms of blogging. . . And very inspiring that you’re continuously helping the people in the orphanage, you too truly have a wonderful heart…

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    Bjork, I’m not a food blogger. But I love that you crunch these numbers and make them available to the rest of us. I also like that you explain and give your opinion and let us know that it’s all trial and error when it comes to making money on blogs. I especially loved the sweet adoption video. Priceless!

  8. Skillful Cook Logo

    As always, I love to read your insight on monetizing your food blog. I am curious on a couple of things.
    You indicate that Swoop is via Blog Her. It looks like you can apply directly also. Do you think you would make less income with the Blog Her connection?
    With Lijit – Federated Media, do they have a requirement as to where their ads appear? Above the fold like Blog Her? Assume they don’t since Blog Her ads are at the top.
    Lastly, how do you get paid on ZipList? Is that a special partnership that you have applied for?
    Again, thank you so much for providing such great, in-depth info! So helpful!! 🙂

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      *Do you think you would make less income with the Blog Her connection?*

      Not sure, but that’s a great question. I’ve thought about that for sure. It might be something that we’ll have to check out. I haven’t looked into it yet though.

      *With Lijit – Federated Media, do they have a requirement as to where their ads appear?*

      We connected with Lijit and let them know where the ads would be (in the sidebar). Yep – BlogHer is exclusive to above the fold.

      *Lastly, how do you get paid on ZipList? Is that a special partnership that you have applied for?*

      Yep! Here’s more info on the Ziplist Partner program:

  9. Skillful Cook Logo

    Awesome report! I learnt so much about new Google Analytics reporting and blocking ads.

    My blog, as yours, saw much lower income from BlogHer last month which is disappointing. At same time when other advertisers paid well…Hmmm.

    But none of that really matters. Really…After watching that video…Brought tears to my eyes. Blessings for everything you, people, do for those kids!!! Breaks my heart to see so many kids without parents…Ugh, life is so unfair… Then I watched a few more videos and saw Lindsay playing with the kids in this one 🙂

    Have a great day!

  10. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thank you for sharing the blogging tips and the video, too! So glad you are supporting a great cause with your profits and time!

  11. Skillful Cook Logo

    I have to say that I’m very disappointed with Google Adsense. I think thst the last year was an year of junk ads. I noticed it on Skillful Cook, but also to the great website like the Oprah’s one.

    I really don’t know if I will put adsense on my website, because I don’t want that the high standard that I can reach with recipes and post, could be ruined by junk adv.

    I also learned a lot from you and Linsday, from the photography to the website aspect. I really respect you, because publishing the ebook “tasty food photography” you gave a lot of lesson and many people could think : ” what are they doing?” ” they give advice to the competition?”. Well I have to say that from you, I learned that we are not competitors, but just friends.

    Well to finish this looooooong comment, I want to promise that if I ever make a cents from my blog ( something really impossible) I would like to join and help the CSC.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Nope, you are wrong. Adsense is the best in the industry. Google is a $400 billion company with more than 50% of that money coming from adsense, so they definitely know what they are doing. You see ads based on the cookies stored on your browser. So those junk ads are based on the cookies stored on your browser. Next time, try clearing your browser to see if you will mostly see those junk ads.

    2. Skillful Cook Logo

      *Well I have to say that from you, I learned that we are not competitors, but just friends.*

      So true!

      *… I want to promise that if I ever make a cents from my blog ( something really impossible) I would like to join and help the CSC.*

      That made my day. 🙂

  12. Skillful Cook Logo

    Do recognize this lovely lady?…..Too funny! I do remember her. Thank you for the information – so helpful.

  13. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thanks again for the great insight. We have yet to install any advertising on our blog, it is something I really toy around with. If you were going to just start with one “Ad Network” (easy to implement on the site and relatively decent results), what “Ad Network” would it be (or maybe a few suggestions).

    And of course, kudos to you for giving back. Your hard work pays off – your product is great and PoY continues to be one of my favorite blogs to read.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Bjork might answer differently, and obviously this last month was a down month, but from our experience over the last year or so, I’d say BlogHer.

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        While BlogHer is a wonderful network, not everyone who applies gets accepted! What is another good CPM network to use?

        1. Skillful Cook Logo

          There’s a ton of ad networks out there. I’m not familiar with very many, but I know that Federated Media and BlogHere are pretty popular. Again, I haven’t used these, but it never hurts to try ’em out (as long as they don’t have a contract).

  14. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’ve been going through adsense to block the unwanted ads, it’s such a hassle but it’s well worth it! I love that your income is so diverse. I currently have 3 sources of income and trying to open “new” doors so that all my eggs are not in one basket.

  15. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thank you so much for this. I found it encouraging to hear how long it takes you to do your posts, Lindsay, because I’ve just started my blog a few weeks ago and I can’t believe how long each post is taking me!! I feel like I suddenly have another full time job – and I’m trying to use my mother-in-law’s kitchen right now, too! Eek! Thank goodness she’s pretty cool, although I know she thinks it’s totally weird that I keep zipping outside to take photos of food outside her front door!

  16. Skillful Cook Logo

    AMAZING! You guys are so awesome for sharing so many useful nuggets of information. Thank you!! BTW Lindsey I made your curried lentils last night and they were a HUGE success..i ate them again today for breakfast!

  17. Skillful Cook Logo

    And here I am complaining that I am putting in few hours/ week in my blog, and that is all I do since I am stay at home mom. I am so surprise that is the amount of time you spent on the blog. This information made me stop whining ( shame on me). I am embarrassed, really. Thanks for this info. It inspired me to work harder 🙂

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      “all I do since I am a stay a home mom”. Um, yeah. I think you’ve probably got your hands full! SAHM moms are some of the hardest working people I know. 🙂

  18. Skillful Cook Logo

    What is BlogHer Swoop? I’m on their network and I’ve never heard of that. Thankfully I also added the backcode… at least a year or two ago so I should be OK. Although it’s been hard to see or tell when that’s happening on my end. Thanks for the info on blocking Adsense ads. I hate the same ones!

  19. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thank you so much for this interesting and informative post. I’m just starting the whole ad game on my blog and I have so much to learn! Your traffic and income reports are great and so helpful!

  20. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’m consistently so impressed by the time and energy that goes into every post — and your willingness to share this in your monthly reports! These are so helpful for bloggers like me who are just starting out, and it’s great to be reminded that we can’t just throw crappy posts on the internet and expect people to read them. Thanks so much 🙂

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      lol… a harsh reality! 🙂 I’ve been telling myself lately that great content is worth slowing down for. Sometimes we as a society just try to crank out as much as possible, but quality matters, for sure. Thanks for reading, Kate!

  21. Skillful Cook Logo

    Your monthly income reports are always so insightful. When I first started my blog, I learned a lot from reading your blog. It’s been almost a year now. I was curious where you guys were at year one. Did you guys make any income in the first year?

  22. Skillful Cook Logo

    I always die to read your monthly income reports. Food bloggers like me have soooo very much to learn from you…thumbs up to Lindsay saying ” lucky to have passions that can translate in to self created jobs”. Even I like to work hard and hard to achieve a bit of you.
    I am so glad to say that I go through some of your income reports often. It is so educative and insightful.

    I also appreciate Bjork replying my mails in spite of his hectic schedule. Thanks a lot guys

  23. Skillful Cook Logo

    Another awesome post with so much information to take away.

    I wouldn’t fret too much about the little drop in traffic there – everyone busy getting ready for Xmas anyway so less time to be doing more relaxing things like dreaming up the next yummy treat for the family – more like serve them eggs and fries and let me get out shopping 🙂 With less traffic income is bound to dip a little. Your awesome content will drive it right back up there again anyway.

    Being a newbie to this I can relate how it takes 13 hours to do a post. By the time you have planned it out, been to the market, been out again to get what they didn’t happen to have, set up the recipe, planned the photos and maybe vide, edited the photos and resized them for everywhere they have to go, messed with the theme, fixed the plugin updates that messed with everything else, put the kids to bed, sent them to school, cooked the food and tasted it to make sure it was right, got the kids to vote on it, written the post and checked it out everywhere – 13 hours is travelling on a motorway. And if you are going to do video as well – good luck!

    And given all that you still have the generosity of writing a post like this – well just thank you for your inspiration again. I will be back to check out your advertising tips when I have managed some more posts.

    Take care and good luck for January 2014.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      *Your awesome content will drive it right back up there again anyway.*

      Best compliment you could give. Thanks so much Ian!