June Traffic and Income Report – $31,073.42 - Skillful Cook
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June Traffic and Income Report – $31,073.42

Income Report for June collage.

Greetings! Bjork here, checking in for Skillful Cook’s monthly traffic and income report.

For those of you that are new ’round these parts I’ll provide a quick explanation of what these posts are all about.

Back in the summer of 2011 Lindsay and I were chatting about her food blog (the one you’re reading!) and what the future held for it. She had started Skillful Cook as a hobby but was diligent about consistently posting new recipes and improving her food photography.

The blog was growing (slowly but surely) and had just hit an exciting milestone: 6,000 page views in one day (before that the average was around 800).

Google Analytics - August 2011

I had been involved with the blog from a distance but started to take more interest as I learned more about internet-based businesses.

At the time I had just finished listening to a book called Crush It by a social media and wine expert (a strange combination, I know…) named Gary Vaynerchuk. In the book Gary talks about building a personal brand and creating an income from your passion, using the internet as your platform. This was information source #1.

I had also just recently read an article by a food blogger that talked about monetizing a blog. The basic gist of the article was “you can’t make money from a food blog.” This was information source #2.

Needless to say, these two information sources were conflicting. As Lindsay and I were talking about this we came up with the idea of doing an experiment to see which information source was right. We called it The Food Blog Money Making Experiment (don’t judge the name…I think we ran out of creative juices by the time we got around to naming it).

We published the first post in September of 2011 with total earnings of $21.97. Here's the screenshot from that post (also...don't judge the fact that it has a typo). 🙂

Total Blog Income for August 2011

So what happens between $21.97 and $31,073.42?

To be honest, nothing too exciting. We haven’t discovered any secrets, connected with any influential stars, or discovered any shortcuts to success. We are probably inefficient in a lot of the things we do and I’m sure that we’re missing a lot of opportunities to grow the blog beyond where it currently stands.

The one thing that has happened is a lot of posting, commenting, photographing, failing, recipe testing, learning, applying, failing, succeeding, and repeating.

I find Seth Godin’s reflections on his 5,000th post (5,000!!!) to be fitting.

“While it’s tempting to swing for the fences and hit a grand slam, particularly on post 5,000, I’m going to resist, as I try to resist every day. Drip, drip, drip.”

Seth Godin

It’s exhausting to swing for the fences every day. It’s much more sustainable to swing for consistent singles, and sustainable and consistent (and continually improving) are what win the game when you’re building a blog.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the numbers for June.

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.


Total Income: $35,571.06

*We didn’t have the totals for Swoop at the time of publishing this post, so we took last month’s income and adjusted for traffic.


Total Expenses: $4,497.64

P.S. 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

Viewability Update

In last month’s report, I talked about an advertising term called viewability. In the report, I shared that the viewability of our BlogHer ads (these are the first ads you see in the sidebar if you’re reading this post on a desktop computer) was really low.

The first step we took to improve the viewability of these 160×600 ads was to move them down the sidebar. This seems a bit counterintuitive, but in last month’s report, I share how this actually can improve viewability.

We moved the ads down by breaking out the tabbed widget dealio we had in the sidebar and giving each tab its own space.

Increasing Viewability Skillful Cook Sidebar.

I made this change on July 4th, and since then the viewability has gone up 14% (that's the average between the two ads). Mission partially accomplished! I say partially because we still have some work to do to get that to a good number, but it’s an improvement nonetheless.

Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)

Do you know that song by The Byrds (or is it Pete Seeger (or is it from the book of Ecclesiastes))?

Regardless, the phrase is true for the advertising industry, but a better way to put it would be like this:

Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There Is a Quarter)

One of the things that took me a while to learn with advertising is that there are advertising quarters that have an impact on the revenue you earn from your blog. Each year is divided up into four quarters.

  • 1st Quarter: January - March
  • 2nd Quarter: April - June
  • 3rd Quarter: July - September
  • 4th Quarter: October - December

Advertising spending fluctuates based on which quarter you’re in. It’s not uncommon to see a big change in just 24 hours because of the change from one quarter to another. On the last day of a quarter, advertisers are spending their remaining budget, and when the quarter resets they’re more conservative with their spending.

Advertising Income Change due to new quarter

Any ideas which quarter is traditionally the best?

Yep! You guessed it (or maybe you didn’t)…

Quarter four.

Why? Because we’re all spending money on gifts (like a Nintendo Sixty-FOOOOOOOOOOUR for our kids). Quarter four advertising budgets are usually bigger because companies know that people spend more money, which is why you’ll traditionally see higher advertising income in the fourth quarter of the year.

So how does this knowledge help you grow your food blog?

Hopefully, with this knowledge, you’ll be less like to stress out if your ad revenue drastically changes from one quarter to the next, and less stress = more productivity, and more productivity = more awesome content, and more awesome content helps you grow your blog.

A Simple Way To Improve Your Blog’s Earnings

A semi-stick figure asking a question to another semi-stick figure.

When I was in college (Go Gophers!) I figured out what I considered to be a pretty nifty “life hack.” When I’d start a new semester I’d ask my professors if they’d be willing to provide feedback on the papers I was required to write for their class. The answer was usually yes, provided I could get the paper to them in time for them to read through it.

When a new paper was assigned I’d aim to finish it a week before the due date so I could print it out, bring it to class, and ask for their feedback. They’d look through the paper, offer some ideas for improvements, and a week later I’d turn in the paper with the updates made. I was never great at writing papers, so it was a simple way for me to give my grades a boost.

It really came down to this: asking.

Your blog can benefit from doing the same. Just ask.

I’ve used this strategy (if you can call it that) quite a few times and it’s usually resulted in an increase in revenue for the blog.

Are you an affiliate for a certain company’s product? Email the affiliate manager and ask how other people have successfully created an income from promoting their product.

Do you work with ad networks? Email (or better yet, call) the support desk and ask if they have any advice for increasing your revenue.

I wrote a post back in March about how we increased Skillful Cook’s monthly income by $1,500 using the “just ask” strategy.


RPM stands for page revenue per thousand impressions. Or, in other words, RPM shows you the average revenue you earn from every 1,000 page views on your blog. It’s a helpful metric because it allows you to see how effective you are at monetizing your blog.

If you have 5,000 page views in a month and you earn $100, then your RPM is $20 (for every thousand visitors, you're earning $20). If you have 1,000 page views in a month but still earn $100, then your RPM is $100 - even better!

Below is the RPM that we had for Skillful Cook in the month of June.

Blog 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.


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

Traffic Overview

Google Analytics Traffic Overview.

Top Ten Traffic Sources

Google Analytics Top Ten Traffic Sources.

Mobile Vs. Desktop Traffic

Google Analytics Mobile vs. Desktop Traffic.

Thoughts On Traffic

A/B Testing Tasty Food Photography Page

I’m really pumped about this update!

We just closed out a successful A/B test on the Tasty Food Photography sales page. The conversion rate of the test page was 137% higher than the original.

Here are the test results (you can click to view the full-size image of the screenshots below):

Google Experiments - Results from A:B Test.

We actually just closed out a different A/B test for Food Blogger Pro (with really similar results). I wrote a detailed post on the FBP blog called How we improved our landing page conversion rate by 138%. The post breaks down some of the details about how these experiments work and what the different metrics mean.

Here is a basic breakdown of some things that we did to improve the conversation rate. If you have a product that you sell (or are going to have one someday) then you should take note of these things so you can implement them in your sales page.

4 Things We Did To Increase Conversions On Our EBook Sales Page

1. We added a (1) buy now button, (2) 30-day guarantee badge, and (3) product image above the fold.

Above the Fold of Sales Page_Before.
Above the Fold of Sales Page_After.

As you can see, the only thing on the sales page before was text. Let me say that again: It was only. text. Eesh. What a terrible mistake. :/

Here’s why that was a mistake:

  1. It’s a book about photography and the only thing people saw at first was text.
  2. Studies show that 80% of viewing time on websites is dedicated to above the fold content. Our buy now button was below the fold, where only 20% of viewing time occurs.
  3. There was nothing intriguing about the text that would encourage users to scroll down to the content below the fold (where the buy now button was).

Jakob Nielsen, a User Advocate and principal of the Nielsen Norman Group, sums it up in a summary of a study he conducted:

“The implications are clear: the material that’s the most important for the users’ goals or your business goals should be above the fold. Users do look below the fold, but not nearly as much as they look above the fold.

People will look very far down a page if (a) the layout encourages scanning, and (b) the initially viewable information makes them believe that it will be worth their time to scroll.

Finally, while placing the most important stuff on top, don’t forget to put a nice morsel at the very bottom.”

Jakob Nielsen

As you can see in the quote, it’s also important to include your call to action at the bottom of the page. We made sure to include this as well.

Below the Fold - Final Content on Sales Page.

2. We strengthened our conversion coupling.

I learned this one from Oli Gardner in an article he wrote for Moz called The Most Entertaining Guide to Landing Page Optimization You’ll Ever Read. It’s a bit crass, but it’s indeed entertaining. It’s also educational.

In the post, he talks about a term called conversion coupling.

Conversion Coupling: the bond that exists between the source of a click and the ensuing landing experience.

The two changes we made to strengthen our conversion coupling was to (1) change the header text of the landing page to read “Be Proud of Your Food Photos” and (2) include a cover image of the eBook.

Both of these changes helped the landing page match the affiliate ads that people use, thus strengthening the page's conversion coupling.

Tasty Food Photography - Be Proud of Your Food Photos.
Conversion Coupling - New Sales Page Header.

3. We leveraged social proof.

Buying a product online is a complicated process.

Not technically complicated, but mentally complicated. Internally we’re asking ourselves a slew of questions about whether a purchase is a good or bad idea.

  • Will I regret this?
  • Will this help me?
  • What will people think of me if I buy this?
  • Is this safe?
  • Will I get ripped off?
  • etc, etc, etc…

Social proof is one way that you can help visitors feel more confident about their purchase. We use social proof in three places.

Social proof placement #1 - Overall sales numbers (above the fold)

Social Proof on Sales Page - Above the Fold.

Social proof placement #2 - Monthly sales numbers (below the fold)

Social Proof on Sales Page - Below the Fold.

Social proof placement #3 - Testimonials (this was carried over from the previous sales page)

Social Proof via Testimonials.

And finally, the last significant change we made to help increase conversion rates was...

4. Showcasing Lindsay

The new landing page does a better job of showcasing (the beautiful!) author. This helps to show the personality behind the product.

Showcasing Lindsay.

I couldn’t find any research that shows how including a personal photo impacts conversion rate, but I have a gut feeling that it does. 🙂

If you’re interested in learning about the process we used to do this A/B test you can read the How to Increase Your Conversion Rates with A/B Testing post on the FBP blog.

Other Income Reports

What about you?

I’ve gotten some emails and read some posts on the FBP community forum about other bloggers writing income reports. It’s so fun to see!

If you’re doing an income report (or something similar) could you post a link to the category URL of those posts? For instance, this would the category link for our reports: https://skillfulcook.us/category/making-money-from-a-food-blog

I think other bloggers would like to read through the different reports, and it might help you get some followers as well. Thanks!

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, emailing, and sharing these recipes with your families and friends. We love hearing from you!

We’re using a portion of this month’s income from Skillful Cook to support one of the special projects at the Children’s Shelter of Cebu, an incredible orphanage in the Philippines where Lindsay and I lived and worked for a year.

School Uniforms at The Children's Shelter of Cebu.

This month we're supporting the Children’s Shelter of Cebu by purchasing some school uniforms for the upcoming school year. You can learn more about CSC’s special projects by visiting this page on their website.

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  1. Skillful Cook Logo

    WOW! Bjork, your knowledge on all of this incredible. I also can’t even begin to tell you how nice it is that you explain things in terms everyone can understand. You and Lindsay are such a food blogging power couple ;)!

    Here’s the category section for my blogging income. It only has my first report on it so far, but I’ll be posting monthly updates! Also, thanks for linking to my post in Food Blogger Pro about it, I’m excited to share 🙂

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Thanks for sharing the link Christine! You can tell from all the comments on the post that it was helpful for your readers. Way cool!

      Looking forward to watching you grow this thang!

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    Once again, just invaluable, even though some of it (OK, a lot of it) goes over my head (not because of you but because I’m a bit dim on the techy front). Still, I always always pick up something useful from these reports. Love the quote from Seth Godin!

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    Great report, Bjork. I’ve been thinking of doing an income report for my blog too because I’m starting to make (some) money and I’m really curious to see the changes in numbers with other variables (new advertisers, monthly post content, improvement in pictures, social media growth and their conversion rate).

    An income report would really help notate all these small changes that improved/worsened things and might be overlooked if just recorded as raw data in a spreadsheet.

    But, I’ve been hesitant up till now because I didn’t wanna be accused of being a copy cat!!! 🙂

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      You’re exactly right Farah. These reports have been incredibly helpful for Lindsay and I, as, like you said, it provides a way to notate small changes and do an assessment of what worked (and what didn’t) at the end of each month. A big part of the consistent growth with Skillful Cook has to do with the fact that every month we take time to think about what we’re doing to build the blog’s traffic and income. It’s kind of like a monthly review.

      I’d really encourage you to do it, and don’t for a second feel like you’re copying! 🙂 These reports that we do were inspired by another blogger (Pat Flynn – https://www.smartpassiveincome.com/)/. I’d encourage you to take the basic concept, keep what you like about it, and then think about ways that you could make it even better.

  4. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hi Bjork! This information is so helpful and inspiring. Thanks so much for your level of detail in sharing with us.
    I do have a question regarding adsense vs. sovrn and blogher. I applied to blogher but was rejected (for now) because when I applied I had just received my new theme and didn’t even notice that the “comment” ability on my blog had been turned off by the web designer by mistake and that is a requirement of blogher, so I’ll reapply with them in the fall. I do use adsense and sovrn with most of my ad real estate committed to adsense. I notice you make a lot more money through sovrn. Why is that? Do you have more ads set up with them than with adsense?
    Thanks again for all your help.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Boom! That’s awesome Donnie. Congrats on the record high month and thanks for the kind words about the income reports. Both of those things make me so happy. 🙂

      How are you planning on doing the affiliate program through Gumroad?

  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    Bjork! these reports really make my day and give me so much encouragement! I especially like the ongoing conversation about viewability of ads – especially since I’m doing a site redesign this month and have the opportunity to move the ads I currently have around. so glad to know that its not just Above the fold ads that advertisers want. Thanks so much for being so generous in sharing your knowledge!


  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thanks for the mix of practical advice with the bit about persistence and consistency. I think it’s common to feel like there’s some specific thing we should be doing and if we won’t, our blogs won’t take off. It’s nice to know that the day in day out work really does pay off.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      I feel ya Jessica! Sometimes it feels like no matter what I’m working on that I should be working on something else.

      I’ve realized that one of the best ways to “win” is giving 100% to what you’re doing when you’re doing it until it’s done.

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    Very very helpful and informative!! I admire you guys for all the hard work you do to reach where you are now!!
    Hope I can be motivated and follow your lead! Thanks.

  8. Skillful Cook Logo

    Very insightful, as usual! I’d love to see a breakdown (probably on FBP instead of here) on how you have your ad waterfall set up. Do you use your top network for all your ad spots or divide your add spots up between multiple top level networks? Have you made any mistakes and learned any lessons when testing ad networks? I’ve been testing a lot over the past two months but have this nagging feeling that I’m missing something big.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      I can totally relate Beth. I feel like a real ad ninja could get in here and optimize things like crazy. One of my (late) summer goals is to dig into DoubleClick for Publishers and some ad optimization books (can you say “dry reading”) to really wrap my head around this stuff. After (if/when) I do that I’ll be sure to pass along the things I learned.

  9. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thank you for sharing all of these helpful details with us! I started my food blog on blogger back in December 2013 and I recently applied for Adsense and got accepted (A month ago!) Now I need to figure out Blogher ads. It gets very confusing because my blog is on blogger, while most people use wordpress, so my question is, when I move to Bluehost will I also need to buy some special softwares? I will really appreciate it if you can answer my question! Thank you!! 🙂

    1. Skillful Cook Logo
  10. Skillful Cook Logo

    I can only imagine how much time it takes to put together posts like this. Thank you for sharing all of your secrets!

    Also–looks like you need an updated photo of the two of you. Lindsay looks totally different with longer and lighter hair! :]

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      It does take a ton of time, but it’s a labor of love.

      You should see me! I have a beard and I shaved my head…

      just kidding…

      but now that I say… 🙂

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Two things. We had more sponsored post payments then usual and it was the last month of the 2nd quarter (thus better ad network earnings).

  11. Skillful Cook Logo

    I am just blown away by your income reports, seeing the progression from where you started and where you are now. Congratulations on your success and thank you for sharing your knowledge. And this doesn’t even include your income from your successful Food Blogger Pro forum – wow! I know it’s none of my business but just curious why you don’t include Food Blogger Pro in your reports. You guys could start your own digital ad service for foodies if you wanted to. Nice.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Hi Faye! Good question. We both feel like it’s not realistic to include the Food Blogger Pro income on these reports because we want to show people what’s possible with just one blog. We’ve been so fortunate to be able to work together on projects and new ventures like Food Blogger Pro, but the average food blogger is not going to be starting their own membership website in addition to their blog. We want to show what’s possible from just the one site. Does that make sense? Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  12. Skillful Cook Logo

    This is seriously the best blog post I’ve read in a long time. The transparency is awesome, and sharing your tips will definitely earn you loyal readers! You guys are the best and an inspiration 🙂

  13. Skillful Cook Logo

    Wow! Another great month! I always learn something from each of your monthly reports. If you’re accepting fan requests for future topics, I’m curious how you guys do your bookkeeping/accounting for your blog business finances. (Maybe you’ve covered it before, I haven’t gone back to read all of the monthly reports.) We’re only earning a few dollars now on our blog, but just thought I’d ask in preparation for when we hit our $30k+ months too. 😉

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Love that attitude Al. Not if, but when!

      Here’s the quick answer: we have a bookkeeper that has complete “read” access to our business accounts. She can see everything but can’t edit anything. We use QuickBooks to manage our books, so she enters all of the transactions there. At the end of the month she’ll send us questions that she has about where certain transactions should be classified. I’ll also look through the books and let her know if anything should be changed.

      We use a CPA at the end of the year to do our final tax stuff.

      Does that help? Any other questions with it?

  14. Skillful Cook Logo

    Bjork and Lindsay, I love reading these reports so thank you for taking the time to do them! As an aside, I have not been receiving the blogging tips from Bjork lately (since the Mailchimp switch from the main email subscription. hope that helps!) Thanks again!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Thanks for the heads up with that Bri. Did you get the one that just went out last week? It’s possible that you got to the end of the autoresponder series. There’s 17 emails in total right now (I think), so about 4 months of emails until it gets to the end.