February Traffic and Income Report - $13,114.95 - Skillful Cook
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February Traffic and Income Report - $13,114.95

Income and Traffic Report - February 2014 collage images.

Hey there friends! It’s Bjork, checking in for Skillful Cook’s monthly traffic and income report.

I have many roles here at Skillful Cook. I consider the most important to be my role as CTT (chief taste tester). It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it. Along with my role as CTT, I also partner with Lindsay to figure out ways to grow Skillful Cook: grow the traffic, grow the income, and (probably most importantly) grow our connection with you, the readers!

In these monthly reports, I give a behind the scenes look at Skillful Cook. I share what’s working and what’s not working. In this post, I want to take some time to share what we think might work. It’ll be a sneak peek at the projects and ideas that Lindsay and I are talking about over the dinner table and working on in our free time.

Most of these projects are still in the “currently building and a little bit embarrassing” stage. Some of them might turn into something really cool and some of them might be things that we sweep under the virtual living room rug. My hope in sharing these projects is that you’re inspired to create new things and continually reinvent yourself (and your blog).

But first, the numbers.


Total Income:: $16,601.21


Total Expenses: $3,486.26

Net Profit: $13,114.95

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

Display Advertisers

As expected, February was another low month for display advertising. This happens for a number of reasons, but the primary reason is the ad budget cycle. Jason from Pro Blog School (and 100 Days of Real Food) does a great job of explaining why this happens in this post –> I Freaked When Ad Revenue Dropped in January. Now I Know Why. I won’t repeat what he wrote. Just be sure to check out the section called “The Ad Budget Cycle.”

We’ve started to see earnings recover as we've moved into March, which is always a good feeling.

Requests, Impressions, and Earnings.

Hosting Expenses

We pay a lot for hosting. As a matter of fact, over the past few months, our hosting bill was higher than what we paid per month for our first home!

I’ve been trying to find the sweet spot with hosting, making sure that we have a sufficient server without overspending. My gut is that we’ve been on the overspending side, so I decided to test out a more affordable plan and see how it plays out. I’m keeping a close eye on how this change impacts the site load time in Google Analytics.

Here’s a screenshot of the site load time for Skillful Cook. The arrow points to the day we switched the server to a more affordable plan.

Site Speed in Google Analytics.

That tiny little note icon you see below the arrow is called an annotation. I’d recommend using those often in Google Analytics to keep track of changes that you make with your blog. This allows you to easily track changes and see the impact that they have on your blog.

Note: Here’s a tutorial from Google on how to add an annotation in Google Analytics.

You can track load time in Google Analytics by going to Behavior > Site Speed > Overview.

Behavior - Site Speed - Overview.

I should say this because I’m sure that many of you noticed: Skillful Cook’s site load speed is terrible. Like, really bad. I think it’s due to the number of pictures, the quality of the pictures (general pretty high), and the number of ads that we run on the site. All in all, it makes for really slow load time.

Have you ever checked the load time on your site? What is it? What have you done to help improve it?

I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section. I’ll be sure to let you know if we find some good solutions.


RPM stands for page revenue per thousand impressions.

I’m going to start including Skillful Cook’s RPM in every income and traffic report. I think it’s an important metric for people to understand, and it’s a great way to track how effective you are at monetizing the page views on your blog.

In February we had an RPM of $7.95.

Skillful Cook's February RPM.

If you want to learn more about RPM (and some other important advertising terms) then be sure to check out this post on Food Blogger Pro.

Why is RPM important? I talked about it in last month's report, but it's an important concept so I want to be sure to explain it again. I think the coolest thing about RPM is that it helps to show what you could have earned in a given month. For instance, I can look back at a previous month and use the RPM from that month to project potential earnings.

Here's an example: In December, Skillful Cook had an RPM of $15.31. Assuming that (1) traffic to Skillful Cook will be similar in December 2014 as it was in February 2014 and (2) that the RPM will be similar in December 2014 to what it was in December 2013 (which I think it will be), we can project the total revenue for December 2014 to be at (or above, if traffic goes up) $31,955.34.

((December 2013 RPM) / 1,000) * (February 2014 page views)) = Projected RPM

with numbers:

($15.31 / 1,000) * 2,087,220 = $31,955.34

That’s a lot of assuming, but I’ll be interested to see how close I am with that number when I write the December 2014 income and traffic report. 🙂

Grumpy Cat - I Really Enjoyed Reading About That Equation.

Ladies and gentleman, my first ever meme. Linds is going to love that one.


Below are some screenshots from Google Analytics.

Traffic Overview

Traffic Overview from Google Analytics.

Top Ten Traffic Sources

Top Ten Traffic Sources from Google Analytics.

Mobile vs. Desktop Traffic

Mobile vs. Desktop Traffic in Google Analytics.

Thoughts On Traffic


The Pinterest numbers still scare every time I see them. It's not a matter of if those will start to decline, it’s a matter of when those will start to decline.

In November’s report, I talked about our decision to intentionally grow the Skillful Cook Facebook page, but recent changes with Facebook make it seem like Facebook is making it harder and harder for brands to reach fans (without paying a fee for it). This makes it harder to justify spending a lot of time and energy investing in that platform.

One of the projects I’ll be sharing below has to do with a move that will distribute some of the eggs we have in the Pinterest basket.

Projects and New Stuff

I wanted to take some time to share three of the projects/ideas that Lindsay and I are working on. Some of these things might happen, others might not. I'm sharing these so you can see what it's like at the very beginning stages of a project for us. In short, it's not very glamorous. 🙂 I've found that creating something new usually comes about by (1) saying yes and then (2) intentionally taking steps forward every day, even if they're small steps. This has proven to be true so far with these three projects.

1. Studio Space

Skillful Cook Studio Space.

Those of you that follow Lindsay on Instagram or Facebook might have noticed that we’ve been looking into different studio spaces. The studio space would allow us to create a permanent “Skillful Cook space” to set up for photography and video. The latter of which (video) I’d like to chat about.

I've brought up video a lot in these monthly reports. Here’s why I think it’s important: As more and more recipes are posted online the value of a recipe will go down. The supply of online recipes will continue to climb, which means they'll become more of a commodity, which means that there will be lots of display advertising space available because of the massive number of recipes that are available online. For advertisers, a click is a click, regardless of its coming from a popular blog or a brand new blog. If someone is willing to get paid poorly for displaying ads on their site, then the advertiser is okay with that and will happily pay less. The more content that is created the more people there are that are okay getting paid really poorly for displaying ads on their site.

So why is video so important?

Video is important because the thing that’s in high demand online is trust and connection, and one of the best ways to establish trust and connection online is through the use of video. The other advantage with video is that the barrier to entry is higher, which means that fewer people will do it. If you’re able to create something that’s in high demand (trust and connection), and not as many people are doing it (supply), then you’re in a good place.

So far the studio space stuff has been “just looking.” When we do finally decide on a space we’ll have to add a kitchen, which will most likely result in a month with a negative income report (gulp).

Nutrition Label Generator

We’ve been working for a long time on creating a nutrition label generator for Food Blogger Pro. It's a very basic version that is still buggy, but you get what we’re going for.

Nutrition Label Generator.

This is the first time that I’ve ever worked with developers to create a web application. It’s been slower than I hoped, but we’re continuing to move forward with it. I’m excited about the potential of continuing to add web applications like this to Food Blogger Pro in an effort to continue to build the site into an awesome resource for food bloggers.

Coupon Pinch

Coupon Pinch is a deals and discounts site that I’ve been working on that will focus on the kitchen and food niche. The site is still very new. The system is all set up, but lots of the pages are still populated with the theme’s default content. You can take a look, but know that it’s like looking at a house that doesn’t have the walls up yet.

Here’s the thing about Coupon Pinch: there are thousands of coupon sites out there, and most of them don’t add much value. The biggest thing that I need to figure out with Coupon Pinch is how it can be a value-adding website. What is it about this site that will set it apart from the 1,000,000 other coupon sites that already exist? I don’t have a good answer yet, but I have some ideas.

I’ll be sure to keep you updated on this site if anything significant happens with it.

But Wait, There’s More!

I’ve started to publish a weekly post over on the Food Blogger Pro blog. The posts have similar content to these monthly income and traffic reports. Here are the posts that were published in February:

Feb. 5th: A Huge SEO Tip That Most Food Bloggers Miss
Feb. 12th: Don’t Track Yourself: How to Block Yourself from Google Analytics
Feb 19th: 5 ways to make more money from your food blog
Feb. 26th: The Ideal Search Result for Food Bloggers (and How to Get it for Your Blog)

Because Of You

It’s really true. It’s because of you (yes, you!) that this thing we call Skillful Cook can exist as it does today. Thanks so much for reading, tweeting, commenting or emailing. We love hearing from you!

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 bunk beds.

Children's Shelter of Cebu - New Bunk Beds.

Every kid at CSC has their own bunk bed. It's the one space at the orphanage that they can claim as their own personal space. Almost every kid keeps their books, drawings, photos, and toys tucked away underneath their mattress for safekeeping. The beds in some of the houses are starting to get worn out, so we're excited to help support CSC as they raise money for a new set of beds. 🙂

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  1. Skillful Cook Logo

    As always, thank you for these posts, they make a fascinating read. I’m looking forward to see your numbers later in the year as marketing budgets change!

    I’d be interested to see how you do with your more affordable hosting plan. I’m currently with GoDaddy, and experience constant outages, I’m not happy about it at all. I switched to dedicated hosting in hopes of this improving, but it didn’t. I can just imagine what my load time is…

    take care!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      I personally used GoDaddy and FatCow and both were horrible. Now I’m super happy with InMotion. I mean they still have downtimes but not as many and customer service is superb. Just saying.

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hi Bjork.

    I just checked my site speed and it is on average 20 sec. I think similar to POY. I’m on basic shared hosting plan with InMotion and 10K daily pageviews. So far so good. I mean it’s OK but I don’t think the answer to faster site speed is dedicated hosting, particularly for my blog. The main issue are Lijit ads that are mainly videos now and are slowing the site down. My husband hates them LOL. I emailed Lijit twice in a week to ask if I can opt-out of video ads and no answer.

    Interesting thoughts on videos. Made me think.

    I have the same fears about Pinterest and the same feelings for Facebook. It’s hard to justify spending my time on smth that is so restricted. Lately, I’ve been focusing on Instagram and it has been good to me. Although it’s hard to track the views from IG directly, I have a great connection with my audience there and when featured by other users I see a traffic boost for sure. But mainly I love talking with my readers.

    Thanks for another report! As always great!!! Good luck with the studio space!

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        Totally. Question how professional they are. Totally feel like throwing a towel in and go somewhere else. And I probably will. Just need time to research a good alternative. Seen some bloggers using Gourmet Ads.

        1. Skillful Cook Logo

          I emailed Lijit about the videos as well. They actually did get back to me, and the videos were gone for a while, but since the switch to Sovrn, they’re baaaack. So frustrating! I would love to hear of any other good networks people recommend.

          1. Skillful Cook Logo

            Hi Becky,

            I’m emailing you personally as well to make sure we get the video ads blocked, sorry that they came back through.

            My personal email address is [email protected] – please reach out to me directly with any concerns and I’ll make sure we attend to them immediately.

      2. Skillful Cook Logo

        Hi Jenn,

        I sincerely apologize that you didn’t get a timely response, I’m emailing you directly as well. My email address is [email protected], please don’t hesitate to email me directly.

        1. Skillful Cook Logo

          Hi Alexis!
          I’m surprised by the comments above. You guys have always had good response times and have been very quick about changing things on request. Maybe folks had incorrect email contacts? Could be? 🙂

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Hi Olena,

      I am so sorry that you didn’t get a timely response from us. I just emailed you to make sure we get the issue resolved and block the video ads from appearing on your site.

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    What about promoting via Google + page rather than Facebook? I have seen a TON of busniess pages ‘advertise’ (I wonder if they paid to promote this to their entire viewership, but I don’t know) their jump to G+ on their FB pages in the last 6 weeks or so. Mostly photographers but still. Facebook is making it harder to get anything posted to a ‘wall’ visible to any viewers/likers/friends. I even culled my likes way down in the hopes that I wouldn’t miss stuff but was still missing things. As far as personal pages go, having to ‘tag’ everyone I feel a post is relevant too, no thanks. BTW – Love your site!!

  4. Skillful Cook Logo


    Go colo! Check out the option of getting your own server in a co-location data center in your area. I’ve got a setup where I pay $219 per month and I will own the server after 24 months. Awesome speed and uptime.

    Keep up the good work y’all!

  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    I posted videos for some of my recipes. They are more a ‘fun in the kitchen’ style rather than tutorial type. my kitchen doesn’t have a lot of natural lighting, its old, and pretty uuuuuugly. So, I don’t make many videos. Plus, the iPhone isn’t the best for that. So, a video camera is next on my list.

    I’m thrilled that their might be a studio in your future. But I would assume a studio would have to have a kitchen in it unless you can find some space thats really close. But even then, I know I wouldn’t want to haul me meals to a studio. I think that is why most of the food bloggers I know use their garage, basements, and even have a shed they converted.

    I know what you mean about coupon and savings sites. So it would be interesting to see what you guys come up with. Whatever it is I am sure you will be great!

  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    Very interesting, as always! I can’t wait to hear more about the nutritional label. I’ve tried finding an easy to use plugin, but the ones that I’ve come across seem to be a lot of trouble. Good luck with the studio! Oh and way to go on the bunk beds…. very cool!

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    Shut the front door! I had NO idea it was possible to make that much blogging. Coming from a single income military family (we have 4 kids, so 6 of us) I am always looking at ways to help out in addition to my stay-at-home mom job. The most I’ve made in 1 month of blogging was around $1,200 but it was definitely a fluke. I have so much to learn from you guys. Wow! Now I just need to find a few extra hours a day to catch up on some reading. Thank you for sharing what is often private info.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Another military wife over here:) I would highly recommend joining foodboggerpro.com. Bjork is super helpful and there are a ton of amazing resources.

  8. Skillful Cook Logo

    Awesome! Love your content Pinch of Blog team! Really like how real and personable you guys are. You seem like the type of people who would welcome a perfect stranger into your home to share a cup of tea with them. That’s great! YOU are what makes the internet a safe, fun, and yummy place to visit. Cheers

  9. Skillful Cook Logo

    When I woke up this morning, I opened my email and saw this post.
    I’d like to say, thank Bjork for sharing the super encouraging post all the time! I just had a very low week this month and was feeling a bit worried about everything with my blog. But somehow, I feel much better after reading this post.
    Your post keeps reminding me there’s so many things I can do and I felt good that I can make my blog a bit better every day. 🙂

  10. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thank you so much for your posts! They’re so helpful, and I’m not even a food blogger. Goodluck in all your projects, and I’ll go follow you on Instagram.

    *hugs to you both*

  11. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hi Bjork,

    Very interesting read, as always. I have an ad-heavy site as well, but use a few techniques like async loading to make sure ads don’t slow down the site. I can see you are using it already for GA and BuySellAds, but everything stops for your Lijit ads. You can change your code so that the ads are loaded after the site is finished, which will speed things up. Send me an email if you’d like to discuss.

    I’m blown away by how much traffic you get from Pinterest (and how much traffic you get overall 🙂 ). Well done! You’ve posted so many handy guides in the past – have you posted something about how to do well from Pinterest?

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Hi Gath! I’ll just throw it out there that we really haven’t done a whole lot with Pinterest up until the last 6 months. So a lot of that growth has happened over the last 3-4 years because of our readers pinning the recipes (I wasn’t even ON Pinterest until 6 months ago). I don’t usually put text on the photo, but I do try to get at least one photo in the bunch that’s really pinnable- pretty close up, bright colors, vertically aligned, and a good balance of empty space and background propping. It’s also to our advantage that we are promoting RECIPES, which is (I think) the #1 topic for Pinterest searches. 🙂

  12. Skillful Cook Logo

    As always this report is so full of helpful information. But I practically popped out of my chair with fist pumping agreement about the video project. Soooo true about the commoditization of recipes and video establishing trust and connection in a fast effective way. I have been trying to convince my husband (he’s a builder) that we need to renovate our barn so I can bulid a shooting kitchen for video and photography. I will keep close track of this project. Can’t wait to see how yours shapes up!

  13. Skillful Cook Logo

    Bjork, you rock, per usual with these posts! Loved the Food blogger pro links at the end and just spent the 5 mins to set up the google+ thing at the bottom of my search results, worked perfectly. Thank you 🙂

  14. Skillful Cook Logo

    I love how you two are so transparent with your numbers, it is very inspirational. I imagine it is pretty scary when the bulk of your traffic is coming from one source, but at least you are spreading out that risk by working on new projects. You guys are pretty smart in how you do things; always testing and tracking and seeing where you can improve. Congrats on all of your success!

    I’ve noticed the same thing with my fan page too. The reach is terrible unless I’m will to constantly dump money into it. So the amount of time I’ve been spending on it has been minimal.

    I’ve read through all of your income reports and I know you had mentioned that getting one of your pictures pinned by the mother of one of Pinterest’s founders was a pivotal point in your traffic grow, but how did you grow originally to that point? Meaning how did you build your traffic prior to that? It looks like you were getting decent traffic to that point, but from their it really took off. Was it all basically from the search engines and photo sites?

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      It wasn’t huge traffic but really the biggest thing for us in the beginning was food sharing sites like Foodgawker and Tastespotting. At that time more people were using it to “favorite” recipes, so then I would get a few recipes that would live on the favorites page for up to a week and that really helped me get more exposure. I wasn’t on Pinterest, I was barely active on Facebook, and wasn’t doing much for SEO, so I really think that was the biggest thing at that time.

  15. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hi Guys,

    Great points in everything you said here Bjork. Very true on pinterst, facebook, and video. More power to you for noticing this change. If you get coupon pinch actually working, I really love For Me to Coupon (look up the service) It is well worth the price. But only recommend that if you actually see income in. Standing out might be hard, but one thing I have noticed, is bring yourself into it more and you will have better readers. That’s typical with any kind of site though.

    I also see that you are using the clipper theme, did you by any chance see the couponpress theme? I switched my site to that, and love it!

    Good luck and thanks for the income report!

  16. Skillful Cook Logo

    So speaking of ads and things loading slow, when you view this page on an android phone/tablet you are bombarded with pop-up ads directing you to the Play store to download things. Some of them let you cancel and keep reading, but some of them wouldn’t let me and I had to close my browser and load your page again. It was really annoying and if I didn’t already visit this site frequently, I probably would have assumed is was a spam/phishing/sketchy website because of the pop-up ads.

    You might want to look in to what’s causing it because you’ll probably get people on the mobiles reading a lot more if they can stay on your website longer than 5 seconds.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Thank you! We always appreciate hearing feedback like this because we don’t always get the same user experience as our readers and definitely want to know when/why this is happening. Thanks for letting me know Cass!

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        Hi Lindsay,

        As another website owner, I always love learning about how other sites monetize and it’s awesome that you and your husband puts it all out for your audience to see!

        I wanted to make a comment after hearing what Cass had to say about the popups on Android and I say they are most likely coming from Sovrn. They tend to run a lot of pop-up and redirect campaigns on mobile. You’ll want to email your account manager and opt out of those as they can impact your bounce rate quite a bit.

        Also your hosting costs are pretty crazy! $750 for a server is quite expensive. MT tends to overcharge their servers a bit and the performance isn’t exactly too much better. Have you guys ever tried a cheaper ~$300 dedicated server? If you want to get into the technicals feel free to email me anytime.

        Keep up the awesome job with the blog!

      2. Skillful Cook Logo

        No problem, I just thought you’d like to know! I’m not sure if it’s across all androids or just the nexus family. It happened on my android phone and tablet but not my roommate’s iPad.

  17. Skillful Cook Logo

    As always, thank you so much for putting together these monthly reports! Most food bloggers (myself included) don’t really share the behind-the-scenes stuff — it’s easier (and tastier!) to focus on recipes — but it’s refreshing and so enlightening to read. Thanks for the tips too; keep them coming! 🙂

  18. Skillful Cook Logo

    Okay, I’m new to these income posts so you’ve probably covered this already in the past, but what is the BlueHost revenue source? Is it an affiliate program? Naturally I’m curious since it’s a significant line item under you revenue stream.

    Thanks so much for your help!


    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Yes, it’s an affiliate program. We used them and we recommend them to new bloggers as a hosting service, and whenever someone signs up from our link we get a commission.

  19. Skillful Cook Logo

    Bjork – my wife Amber is my Lindsay and I built her site at Stirlist.com using many of the resources you’ve suggested.

    I do use a dedicated VPS environment. I used to own a hosting company, now I just have friends who understand hosting. If you need any resources, drop me a note, our site doesn’t have enough traffic yet to have loading issues, but I can direct you to some folks who do manage sites like that. Based on your traffic I was just guessing that you could drop costs pretty dramatically. Have you looked at optimizing the .CSS and JS?

    Thanks for your help and advice in all things foodblogging.


  20. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thanks again for these, Bjork, they are so helpful. The two of you do an amazing job connecting with your readers.

    I understand the draw to video, it seems that youtube channels are going to be the next blog wave, but it is tough to put yourself out there even more. I just doubt my ability to be funny/entertaining enough. But it is always hard to not compare yourself to others. I will definitely be interested to see how you two continue to evolve, and maybe I can continue to learn some of your tricks!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      LOL – I keep saying that too, Andrea! I keep telling Bjork he’ll need to go on video with me because he’s the funnier one. 🙂 But there are so many different ways to do video – we are constantly watching different food videos and trying to get ideas for what we could do to create our own style.

  21. Skillful Cook Logo

    Love these articles! Thank you!!

    What commenting system do you use? I am currently using disqus, but it seems to be giving me lots of problems. Any tips on what you find is good or bad?

    Thank you!


  22. Skillful Cook Logo

    This is my first time to find your site from a friend and your info. is so fresh and open. Thanks! That’s refreshing. I also love that you’re giving to a good cause.
    Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing,

  23. Skillful Cook Logo

    Great tips once again … so in depth! As a newish blogger, I’ve been really disappointed with Facebook. Despite interacting a little every day, I’ve had very little response compared to Pinterest. I’ll keep plugging away with it for the moment, but will look to see which other social media it would be better for me to spend my limited time on! Love all your exciting plans … you’re very brave, Bjork and Lindsay! 😉

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Thanks Helen! The Facebook thing is such a bummer. One thing that’s helped me is to post just the picture with text, and then link in the comments. It’s a little obnoxious but I do get a much better reach that way.