Traffic and Income Report - July 2015 - Skillful Cook
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Traffic and Income Report - July 2015

Skillful Cook's Traffic and Income Report collage images.
Bjork Ostrom

Hi there.

Bjork here. I’m Lindsay’s husband and co-lover of Sage. Every month I hop on ye ole’ blog and write up a summary of the things that we’re learning as we grow Skillful Cook as a business.

We’ve been doing these income reports for quite some time. As a matter of fact, this is post #48 in the series, meaning we’re one report away from having done these for four years. And that’s just the income reports. Before we started doing these reports Lindsay had been blogging for almost two years.

It’s been a slow and steady build for us. At a quick glance it might seem like things came together pretty quickly, but for Lindsay and I it feels like a really long time. Is it possible to quickly grow a blog or a website? You bet. We've seen many people do it. Our story doesn't involve any quick successes though.

Ours is a story of slow and steady growth over a long period of time. Day in and day out, post after post, email after email. We’re proud of the house we’ve built, but we’ve built it by laying tiny brick after tiny brick, day after day, year after year.

The fast track to success is a really good place to be if you can find a seat. Just know that seating on that train is fairly limited. There are other trains with plenty of room though, like the one we’re on. This train is always moving forward, just not as fast as some of the other trains. It plods along making steady and consistent progress.

It might not sound very exciting, but here’s the thing with the slow track train: if you’re committed to the long term, if you keep your head down and do the work on a consistent basis, then one day you’ll look up and be amazed at how far you’ve come. Once you experience that feeling, you’ll realize that the slow track isn’t that bad. You'll understand that it’s worth it to make a little bit of progress every day, even if it doesn’t feel like a huge improvement. You’ll start to enjoy the ride more and you won't be as tempted to jump off your train and get onto a faster track (which usually derails your progress).

When you enjoy the ride it’s easier to stay on the train, and the longer you stay on the train the further you’ll get, and the further you get the more you’ll enjoy the ride.

Bottom line: Find ways to enjoy what you’re doing, show up every day, and stick with it for the long term.

Let’s take a look at the numbers for July.

The Numbers

A quick note: Some of the links below are affiliate links. All of the products listed below are products and services we’ve used before. If you have any questions about any of the income or expenses you can leave a comment and I’ll do my best to reply.


*Federated Media is super delayed with releasing earnings reports, which means we don't have hard numbers when we publish these reports. We estimate earnings by using CPM earnings from last month and multiplying that by the traffic we experienced this month.


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'

Traffic Totals

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

Traffic Overview

Google Analytics Total Traffic Stats for Skillful Cook.

Top Ten Traffic Sources

Google Analytics Top Ten Traffic Sources for Skillful Cook.

Mobile Vs. Desktop Vs. Tablet

Google Analytics Mobile vs Desktop vs Tablet.

Top Traffic Channels

Google Analytics Top Traffic Channels.
Takeaways and Things we Learned

Income, Expenses, and Profit Totals

You’ll notice that we’ve stopped totaling up all of the numbers for income, expenses, and profit.

Our hope for these reports isn't to show how much income we're creating from a blog, but where and how we're creating an income from a blog.

It’s much more helpful if you critically examine the sources of income and think about how the blog is earning that income vs. just glancing quickly at an income total. Much like a puzzle, the picture is more satisfying if you figure out how the pieces fit together. It takes more work, but I know that you’ll learn more in the process because of it.

We’ll continue to report sources of income and sources of expenses, but we’ll no longer add up the totals for those.

An EBook Is Just The Beginning, Not The End

Lindsay’s eBook Tasty Food Photography has sold just over 5,500 copies since she released it in March of 2012.

Lately, we’ve started to look at the sale of an eBook a little bit differently than we have in the past. We now view a sale of Tasty Food Photography as the start of a relationship instead of the end of a sales process.

For example, in the past, after someone purchased a copy of Tasty Food Photography, they’d get their download, they’d get a receipt, and then they’d never hear from us again.

Now, after someone purchases Tasty Food Photography, they immediately get this email:

Tasty Food Photography Welcome Email.

At this point, we have an autoresponder series which contains 12 emails with tips, tricks, advice, and bonus content, all of which is focused on improving food photography.

This type of email list is extremely valuable because we know that these people have a really specific thing in common - an interest in food photography.

That’s where the $2,926.11 from Ultimate Bundles comes into play. This was a photography bundle that Tasty Food Photography was a part of. For those that aren’t familiar, a bundle (in this instance) is a group of digital products that are offered at a super deep discount. This particular bundle offered $555 worth of photography eBooks for $37. The eBook author (that’s us) gets a really generous affiliate commission on these bundles if they include their eBook in the bundle.

It’s an insane deal for the customer and can be a really significant income earner for the author…if it’s promoted to the correct audience.

We knew that the general Skillful Cook readership wouldn’t be a good fit so we avoided sending out a broadcast email to the entire POY list or publishing a post about. The Tasty Food Photography email list, however, was a perfect fit for this, and we knew it could be an awesome deal for those that purchased it. So we sent a basic email explaining the bundle to the TFP email list.

The result? $2,926.11 of affiliate commissions and a spot as the top converting affiliate.

Top Converters for Ultimate Bundles Sale.

We didn’t write any wizardly sales copy and certainly didn’t have any secret internet marketing tricker we applied.

This is a mouthful, but here's why that email worked so well: it was a simple email sent to people we had been consistently talking to letting them know about a genuinely good deal that was aligned with their interests.

Food Blogger Pro Traffic Through The Roof!

Here is the Food Blogger Pro for July:

Google Analytics Total Traffic Stats for Food Blogger Pro.

Pretty impressive huh? 🙂

Take a look at how that’s looks on a chart though:

Food Blogger Pro Traffic Spike from Site Scrapers.

Seems a bit off, doesn’t it?

At the end of July, I logged into the Food Blogger Pro Google Analytics account, clicked on the real-time analytics, and saw that we had over 1,000 “real-time” sessions on the home page. While I’m hopeful that FBP traffic will someday be that high I knew that something was off, as the average daily (total) traffic is usually around 1,000 people.

I checked in with some developers, a consultant, our hosting company, and even asked on the Google Forums, but came up empty in troubleshooting what was going on. That’s when FBP team member Raquel dug into the analytics and found that the issue was coming from two sites that were scraping FBP’s blog.

Traffic from Site Scrapers.


While the issue wasn’t dangerous, it was definitely annoying, as it was really throwing off our analytics.

Enter the DMCA takedown process.

For those that aren’t familiar, DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act. A DMCA takedown is an official notice that you can send to a website or hosting company notifying them that they’re using copyrighted content and request (or demand) that the content be taken down.

Usually, I'd recommend that bloggers be more on the liberal side with sharing their content, as long as it's not the full recipe or full post. The benefit of a link (usually) outweighs the negatives of someone using some of your text or your image. This situation was a bit different though, as the sites in question were essentially replicating the Food Blogger Pro blog.

The next issue was communicating with the hosting company, which was located in China. I used Google Chrome’s translate feature to read through their site, found contact information for their support team, and sent a DMCA in both English and Chinese. I can’t imagine how terrible a poorly translated Chinese DMCA takedown must sound!

To be honest, I have no idea the authority a DMCA holds internationally, but my assumption is always that people and businesses want to do what’s right unless they prove otherwise. In this case, my assumptions held true as the hosting company wiped out the sites after a few days.


250,000 page views in a day is fun, but only until you figure out that it’s robots, not humans, that are creating that traffic. 🙂

Food Blogger Pro Update

Food Blogger Pro officially passed 1,000 members in July. We’ve added eight new courses this year and we’re six episodes into the FBP podcast. It’s been an exciting year of slow but consistent growth (see intro at the beginning of this post).

Here are some of the things that have helped us grow FBP over the past year:

  1. Team Members. Raquel, Beth, and Jasmine make up team FBP. They’re awesome and are a huge part of the reason FBP is able to continue to grow.
  2. Slack. We use Slack for daily team communication. It's super slick.
  3. Intercom. We use Intercom for member communication. It allows us to speak directly to members via chat or email.
  4. SaaS education. I love the posts that Josh Pigford does on the Baremetrics blog. We can’t use Baremetrics (we use both Stripe and Paypal for payment processors), but I’ve learned a lot from following along with their blog and sorting through some of the dashboards on their Open Startups page. While FBP isn’t a SaaS product in its truest form, the concepts, metrics, and takeaways still apply.
  5. Surveys. We're starting to gather member feedback more consistently, which has been a huge win. Check out the FBP podcast interview with Dr. David Darmanin to learn how asking questions to your readers can help you build your blog.

A Better Way To Do Recipe Videos

This is an update that I'm especially excited about.

Recipe Videos.

Those of you that have been closely tracking along with what we’ve been doing on Skillful Cook know that we’ve been experimenting with recipe videos for a long time. But it’s a tough nut to crack. On one hand, the need for video content is unparalleled and will undoubtedly be growing. On the other hand, video can be time-consuming, expensive, and frustrating.

There are two truths with recipe videos:

  1. It’s massively important that food bloggers start incorporating video into their content.
  2. It’s really hard (and usually expensive) to create high-quality recipe videos.

Here's my prediction - in a few years, a recipe post without a video will be comparable to a recipe post today that doesn’t have photos.

Video is a huge advantage. It’s not a matter of if it’s important or not, it’s a matter of who will realize how important it is and start implementing it as soon as possible.

We’re in the early stages of trying to figure out a solution to this problem and we’re excited about the possibilities. If you want to follow along with what we’re doing and possibly become an early adopter of some of the things we’re testing you can sign up for our video VIP

Should be fun! 🙂

Because Of You

It’s because of you that this thing we call Skillful Cook can exist as it does today. Thank you so much for making these recipes, leaving comments with your love and feedback, and sharing this food around the table with your families and friends.

Every month we use a portion of the income from the blog to support a special project at The Children’s Shelter of Cebu. We view it as a donation from the POY community, not just Lindsay and I.

This month we’re supporting CSC by donating to their meal fund. Every child at CSC gets three solid meals a day. All 90+ of them! That’s a lot of hungry mouths to feed. 🙂

If you’re interested in learning more about CSC you can check out their website here:

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  1. Skillful Cook Logo


    It looks like you had an incredible month! Your business has grown so much, it’s inspiring to see how much success you have achieved.

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    WOW! Congrats on an outstanding month! You guys are doing a great job on diversifying your income stream. Thanks for the continued inspiration and keep up the great work on the podcast I’m really digging those. I actually plugged your podcast in Jessica’s July income report.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      It’s been fun to follow along with you and Jessica, Jason. Keep up the good work and thanks for plugging the FBP podcast on your report!

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    I would LOVE to see more videos from Skillful Cook recipes. I started subscribing along on your YouTube channel and am always happy to see a new video. Keep it up!

  4. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thank you for sharing the impressive numbers and the transparency! It’s so inspirational just by looking at the numbers in your income reports page and see how far you guys have come so far. For that reason I actually prefer if you could continue to report the actual total income.
    Keep up the great work!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Thanks for the kind words Charlie! We’ll continue providing the general outline but not the totals, at least with these specific reports.

  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    Another month another success! I have my own success too… I got paid by Lijit for $ 25.00 this month and to be honest, I cannot believe it! First time I got income from an ad. I also got accepted from Gourmet ads and it earned $ 6.00 in one day! And it is increasing each day…My site’s view is growing too in the last 2 weeks; Jane Wang posted my Eggplant Boat and from there, I got good views… Thanks for sharing this monthly income… please do not stop doing this.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Congrats Shobelyn! I love how excited you are – I can imagine that Lindsay was this excited when she first started out too! Seeing their growth today and your excitement now kind of links it all together for me what Bjork was saying about enjoying the process and getting into the everyday little successes of it. I hope to join the income making groups in the near future. Working on readership now! Have fun growing your blog!

  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    Love reading these posts, you guys are really inspiring. I do have a question, I use Elegant Theme but don’t understand how to generate an income from them? Let me know.

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    So great to see the growth. Congrats!!! Also love that you guys always donate, what a huge blessing. I was wondering if that bundle was still available?


  8. Skillful Cook Logo

    Your reports are always so inspiring because you never really focus on the totals, you always share your learnings with us. I love your attitudes and how you bring us along for the journey with you. Thank you again, for another dose of inspiration 🙂

  9. Skillful Cook Logo

    Did you guys officially drop BlogHer? Not sure if I missed that in a previous report or not, but I don’t see that line item anymore.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Yep. We switch to FederatedMedia as our “premium” ad network, but even the premium ad networks are starting to switch to programmatic advertising now.

  10. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’ve been working a lot lately on the SEO side of things on the blog and, although I find it incredibly boring (well, who wants to think about keywords and social signals when you just want to tell the world your story). I have at least, begun to understand the value it brings to ones blog. I’ve been at this game now for 3 years and I’ve faced some pretty disheartening scenarios. My blog was shoved in to the deep, dark corners of the web by that blasted google penguin update, because it thought I had duplicate content on my blog. Since then, I have seen my traffic drop considerably as a result.

    I started my blog as a means to put my recipes down in a permanent form. I have a terrible memory and so, having a blog meant I could archive the food I loved to cook. It soon became more than that as I realised I loved writing. Selfishly it has grown into a blog about me, my life growing up through hardship, abuse and such, and how food has played a huge role in how I have developed as a man.

    Blogging is by no means easy, and food bloggers have one of the toughest niches of all. The recipe development, the photography, the sitting down at the end of it all, eating the cold food you have just photographed for your post, not to mention the small daily battles a blogger must face. Such as the one I am facing at the moment where my canon dslr keeps telling me I have to clean my lense contacts (which I have done a thousand times!).

    I know I have written some really good stuff, stuff that I’ve worked really hard producing, even though I know hardly anyone will read it, let alone find it on the vast cavernous void of the internet but, I keep going. I keep writing and I keep cooking because it’s what I love doing.

    I like to read these posts for 2 reasons really. Firstly it gives transparency to a blog that is rarely seen these days. In fact I don’t think I know of any other blogs that I read that are so open about their finances, and that is refreshing. Secondly It means I have something to chase, a benchmark that I can aim for in the hope that one day I can do this writing stuff for a living.

    Keep up the good work folks, and be warned, I’m right behind ya! ;P

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Adam – I LOVED reading this comment…and love your last sentence. 🙂 We’ll keep an eye out for ya! Keep up the good work man.

  11. Skillful Cook Logo

    What a great month! You have consistently done the work and you are growing! I think it is so very, very kind of you to share data and to encourage with these reports. I have learned so much here. Thank you!

  12. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’m curious about the $79.00 to Overwhelmingly. I clicked on the link and it looks like they manage FB ads starting at $599/month. What type of FB ads do you run?

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Great question Laura. We work with Tony (the guy behind Overwhelmingly), to manage our POY and FBP retargeting ads. I.e. – if someone visits FBP but doesn’t sign up they see an ad on FB. Same with POY’s eBooks.

  13. Skillful Cook Logo

    Great post! So of course even though you’re right, it’s not about the total – I still had to pull out that calculator and see what you guys made this month. Hah! Unbelievable! So incredible. Great job! And thank you so much for continuing to teach us as you learn more and more. I know you guys don’t have to share like that and I really really appreciate it! and

    ps. Yay FoodBlogger Pro – love, love, love the podcasts! Can’t wait for the next one!

  14. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’m not a blogger myself, just a blog reader who finds the behind-the-scenes stuff interesting. That said, clearly you guys have done WAY more research on the subject and know the market MUCH better than I do, but I’m wondering why you are so convinced videos are the future of blogging?

    I happen to like reading posts, as I’m sure plenty of other folks out there do too. In fact, I’d rather read a post than watch a video. I can read a post when I’m standing in line somewhere, or on my work computer, the same is not true for a video. I can skim a post and quickly get the gist, it’s pretty hard to skim a video. You two happen to be cute and funny in both writing and on screen, but the same would not be true for plenty of bloggers I am sure. Someone who can take gorgeous photos and write interesting posts and have a successful traditional blog, won’t always be necessarily as likeable on a video screen.

    Just putting in my two cents that while I realize video blogs, and videos incorporated into traditional blogs, have their place, I just don’t see video-less blogs going anywhere any time soon. Movies have not made books obsolete. People will always love to read.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      I agree with you. I am sure we will see more video on blogs in the future, absolutely. I too think there is room for both “traditional” blogs and blogs that use video. I guess only time will tell! Truth be told, these days when I am linked to a video or a podcast when I just want to skim an article, I get really annoyed and often leave the site even if the content would be good. As you pointed out, when I’m at work or running errands and I just want to skim something, text will always be the best. Even when it comes to cooking, I don’t need to watch an entire video when I could just look at the recipe. I think videos can be good to show techniques that are perhaps difficult or unique… or are targeted to a specific audience (like beginners). I agree that only a small percentage of bloggers would have the personality/je ne sais quois that would make people watch for the sake of watching – that’s what the Food Network is for (carefully selected chefs with personalities perfect for TV). I’ve seen a few fairly well known bloggers do the video log thing and quite honestly, I just skip over that stuff most of the time (even though I read their blogs regularly). Maybe I’m in the minority, but I come to blogs to read and look at pretty pictures.

    2. Skillful Cook Logo

      Love love love this feedback/insight/opinion Susan and Natasha. I’m right there with you when it comes to preferring to skim an article vs. having to play a video, unless it’s this one –

      I think that reality (the reality of skimming written content vs. watching a video) is part of the significance of video, because the most important thing online is trust and attention. The former (trust) can be achieved through written content, but the latter (attention) is much easier to achieve through video. At least in a “dense” form.

      The rise of social media platforms like Snapchat and Periscope are significant because they are attention tools. The open rate on a Snapchat is much higher than an email, and people actually watch it (vs. reading an email)! Same with Periscope. People pay attention!

      If a brand/blog/business is able to capture people’s attention then it is undoubtedly increasing its value online, and one of the best ways to capture attention moving forward is through video, whether it be YouTube, Snapchat, Periscope, or a COD VHS. 😉

      It’s not that people will stop liking written content. That will never change. It’s just that it will become harder to create an income from just written text (or photos) as more and more people are able to easily publish content (and photos) online.

      It’s supply and demand for attention economics.

  15. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’m glad you were able to get those sites taken down. So silly that someone thinks they can use your content to make money for themselves, but it happens all the time, and I’ve had a lot less luck with getting simple articles taken down.

    Thanks for sharing. I’m learning a lot from you!

  16. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thanks so much for sharing as always – I really appreciate what you do here. I also think it’s a great idea to stop totaling the income, because at the end of the day that isn’t what it’s all about.

    My question is: *why* specifically do you predict that video will become so important in the coming years? I have no reason to doubt it, but because you are so well-versed in this field at this point, I’m wondering what perspective you can give us on why you think it will be growing at such a fast rate. Are more people gravitating towards that type of recipe delivery?

  17. Skillful Cook Logo

    These reports are always so inspiring. They push me to keep on building traffic for my blog. I just love it when I see a fairly new blogger starting out, thinking they have what it takes to build a blog like this, so they just up and quit their job. I still work full time and do not make nearly enough money to quit my day job. It would be nice someday to do that, but until then I will be working a full time job. I’m not like other beginner bloggers who think they can earn a living off only making $300.00 a month. At least that is something. It pays for bills, but not enough for a a house payment or rent or to live fully on your on.

  18. Skillful Cook Logo

    Wow great results and that’s not even the food blogger pro income! I’ve been doing recipe videos for over a year, it’s great. Not high quality just a regular guy but over 11K subscribers so far and I didn’t use pinterest which I’m using more of now. My niche is small (starch-based low fat no oil). I’m blown away by how many people make good money and no one hardly sees their face in this day and age of social media, youtube, etc!

    Multiple streams of income is the way to go. I have Amazon associate, blog ads, youtube ads, ebook on Amazon and Leanpub, Patreon page, donations, other affiliate links, coaching. It all adds up!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      **Bjork and Will jump and high five mid-air**

      Love this comment Will. Congrats on a job well done (and an awesome t-shirt).

  19. Skillful Cook Logo

    I really appreciate the train metaphor at the beginning of this post. I’ve watched Skillful Cook progress over the years and it’s been amazing to see you two succeed. But sometimes as a food blogger just starting out it can be overwhelming! It’s nice to know that even though it will take time and a lot of hard work, I can be successful too.

  20. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hi Guys – love reading your reports each month! You guys are so awesome in all that you teach, I believe that is why you do so well. Hey, I have a question, you mention that you use Slack, how is Slack any different from just texting back and forth on our computers? We can insert images and all, is there something I’m missing?

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      We use Slack for our team, not just between Lindsay and I. It allows other team members to track with conversations, share common resources, check back on previous conversions about certain topics, and opt-in to conversations as opposed to being interrupted with a message. It opens up online conversations as opposed to texting or email which is walled off from other team members. It liberates your team’s conversational assets!

  21. Skillful Cook Logo

    I was particularly happy to see the section about video in your post. My wife and I started a recipe/cooking blog a couple of months ago, and I agree with you 100% that recipe blogs without video will soon be obsolete.

    You’re right again, there is no inexpensive way to break into video production. To be honest, even a very average and basic equipment and setup will easily run several thousands of dollars. On top of that, the ROI is a bit drawn out since you need to have a fairly large library of recipe videos to start getting cash-flow-positive.

    That said, there are a lot of great resources out there for anyone wanting to jump into the video production end of recipe blogging. I am more than happy to share the insights that I have gained so far. You can contact me through the contact form on my blog.