April Traffic and Income Report - $3,291.46 - Skillful Cook
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April Traffic and Income Report - $3,291.46

April Traffic and Income Report collage of images.

Hi there! Bjork here, checking in for the monthly income and traffic report.

Every month I put together a post detailing the income and traffic from the previous month. In these reports I also include tips about the things that Lindsay and I are learning about growing a food blog. Our hope with these reports is that you can learn something new and apply it to your own blog.

We started this journey back in August 2011. None of this happened overnight. Growing a blog to the point of creating a decent income is a lot of work. There have been countless failures and frustrations along the way, and we are consistently battling something that author and speaker Seth Godin calls “the resistance.”

“The resistance is the voice in the back of our head telling us to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise. The resistance is writer's block and putting jitters and every project that ever shipped late because people couldn't stay on the same page long enough to get something out the door.

The resistance grows in strength as we get closer to shipping, as we get closer to an insight, as we get closer to the truth of what we really want. That's because the [the resistance] hates change and achievement and risk.”

Seth Godin

Do you know that feeling? If you do, you're not alone. Lindsay and I are right there with you.

What's the solution for conquering the resistance? There isn't one. It's a constant battle. One that needs to be fought daily. Sometimes we win, sometimes we don't. The key is to continually push back against it. Keep creating. Keep experimenting. Keep keeping on. 🙂

So, let's go ahead and do that by jumping into this month's report. I'll be sharing the usual numbers, some new information (Skillful Cook's monthly expenses), and some updates on changes we've recently made.


Total Income:: $5,242.54


Total Expenses: $1951.08

Net Profit: $3,291.46

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

You'll notice a big change in this month's report: expenses. Seeing as to the fact that these posts are focused on the “business of blogging,” I thought that expenses would be an important element to include.

This month's biggest expense was hosting. We upgraded to the next level of hosting with MediaTemple in order to help the resource usage issues we were having after updating the design of the blog. The upgraded plan is $200 more a month then the previous plan. It's a bit of a bummer to be spending more, but it's necessary in order to maintain a decent load time. Let me know if you have any other questions about the expenses. I'd be happy to explain them.

We've started the process of experimenting with other advertisers, so you'll see that the income list includes Lijit and CPMOnly. We don't have enough data to come to any solid conclusions yet, but we'll be sure to keep you in the loop. We currently have Lijit running as the main sidebar ad, and when there aren't any ads that Lijit can run we show Google Adsense.

Have you used Lijit or CPMOnly before? How's your experience been?

Traffic Breakdown

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

Traffic Overview

Traffic Overview April.

Top Ten Traffic Sources

Top Traffic Sources - April.

Thoughts on traffic

Traffic was almost exactly the same in April as it was in March. However, there were two metrics that I was really excited to see change: pages per visit and average visit duration.

Improved Metrics.

At first glance the changes don't seem that significant, as page views increased by .08 and average visit duration increased by 11 seconds. However, the percentage increase helps to put that in perspective. Page views increased by almost 5.5% and average visit duration increased by almost 18.5%. While it's impossible to know for sure, I would assume that the increase with those numbers can be attributed to the fact that the site is now mobile responsive.

Working with Brands

In last month's report I updated everyone on my dismal progress with connect with brands. In one month I had connected with one brand. The response I received was warm, but nothing ended up developing from it.

I quickly realized that between Food Blogger Pro, my “regular” job, and my work with the Children's Shelter of Cebu, that I personally wouldn't be able to reach out and connect with brands on a regular basis.

So, what then?

Enter the Sway Group.

Sway will fill the gap that I couldn't. They have super savvy folks that work to connect brands to Skillful Cook and handle all of the details that go into the partnerships.

Exactly. What. We. Need.

We're honored to be a part of Sway's roster. As mentioned above, it'll be nice to be able to continue to focus on creating great content and let Sway handle the brand partnerships.

Bluehost is the hosting company that we recommend to new food bloggers on our how to start a food blog page. The affiliate income from Bluehost has almost always been in the top five on the income reports. Before we redesigned Skillful Cook we were consistently getting 600-800 clicks on the Bluehost affiliate links, but after the redesign it immediately dropped to half of what it used to be.

Bluehost Clicks.

So I decided to put my thinking cap on and do some investigation. I wanted to see if I could figure out what the issue was. I first took a look at the traffic numbers to see if the amount of traffic to the page had dropped.

In Google Analytics, I compared the March numbers to the April numbers on the how to start a food blog page.

How to Start a Food Blog Traffic.

As you can see, I found that traffic actually went up. Hmmm... If traffic went up, but total clicks went down, then that means that people are just flat out clicking less. Why though? Well, I did some research and came across this video from Social Triggers, which I think sums up the exact issue we were having with our redesign.

This is the part that really stood out to me:

“What stands out gets clicked. What blends in gets ignored.”

That was the issue. All of the links on Skillful Cook were blending in. This resulted in a drastic decrease in the click through rate (CTR). I decided to make the change right away.

  1. Here's an example of what a link looked like before.
  2. Here's an example of what it looks like now.

Do you see how big of a difference that makes? I'm guessing this change will result in an increased CTR. I'll report back next month to let you know for sure.


I've said it before, but I'll say it again: Thank you!

If not for you this blog wouldn't exist. It really means a lot to us that you come and read the posts, leave comments, or drop an email to say hi. 🙂

Until next time, cheers!

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  1. Skillful Cook Logo

    I am curious…when you guys first started, how much did you actually spend on all the expenses? I’ve been blogging for two months now, and I chose to go in the direction of the more affordable route. I didn’t want to spend (much) money before knowing that I can make money, eventually. I spent $100 on the logo design and $10 on the (yearly) domain fee. You guys seem to spend a fair amount on costs for pro food bloggers…may I ask how far into your blogging you started the monthly spending to run your blog?

    I love reading about your adventures in the Philippines. And your food photos/recipes always make my mouth water.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      We didn’t spend much at all when we first started out. As a matter of fact, for the first year it was just the $10 for purchasing a domain. We hosted the site through Tumblr, which was free. After deciding to switch to WordPress we purchased hosting with Bluehost and also purchased the Thesis Theme. Those were the first two website related purchases. We didn’t start spending money until we knew we were making some. 🙂

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    I have a friend who wants to start a food blog, and I referred her to your page. She’s been reading blogs for years, but said she’s never seen such a comprehensive, open & honest approach to blogging. She loves y’all! And I’m so happy she’s going to blog–she’s a great cook and her husband has great photography skills! Thanks for all you do 🙂

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Awesome. Thanks so much for passing that along, glad to hear that it was helpful for her. Is her site up and running yet? Let us know and we’ll check it out.

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    Any insight on why the design change caused your resource load to go up? Was it Genesis? Trying to wrap my mind around $200 more a month when your traffic didn’t change much and Amazon hosts your images.

    Is $247.50 what you pay your designer monthly for upkeep or for the whole redesign?


    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      I’m not on expert on hosting and resource usage, but from what I can tell (and from what people we hired told us) the increase was indeed from Genesis. I think it’s also possible that it had to do with switching to a mobile responsive design, but I don’t know for sure on that.

      $247.50 was for fixes/updates that we requested after the redesign. We do all of the routine maintenance stuff on our own.

  4. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hey Bjork and Lindsay!

    Great numbers as usual. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to see other bloggers testing things to see what works. 🙂

    I, too, changed the colors of my links on my main blog. They used to blend in with the rest of my site (maroon) but then after watching the same video you did, I changed them to all blue. Just couldn’t go purple like Derek did. Haha…

    Another thing that I think helps is the following:

    1. I always bold my affiliate links to make them stand out even more. It makes them really pop.
    2. I will usually add a call to action box using Thesis Alert Box feature (although I use a custom one now) that also helps the affiliate link stand out.

    Something you might want to try on future tests……

    Re: Hosting. I was paying $60/mo for just my site that a buddy of mine was doing it for me. Only issue is that I kept having problems…all the time! I got frustrated with it and then discovered WPEngine. When I first started with them, I was only paying $99/mo which was still more than I wanted to pay, but it was worth the added expense.

    Well, then my traffic went up and so did my hosting. I was then paying $250/mo. Since I still could move more sites to it, I ended up moving my wife’s site (she gets may wore PV’s than me because of Pinterest) and a few more sites.

    Anyway, love to see your guys progress!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Hey Jeff,

      Great to hear from you! Thanks for the helpful comment. Really appreciate that. We’ll for sure look into that.

      Just checked out your site and it looks like you guys are really crushing it. Way cool. Keep up the good work and looking forward to chatting sometime this summer.

  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thanks for that video! I changed my links. I think the part of that video that stood out the most to me was passive versus actionable colors. Amazing.

  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    I love the posts you guys write! So inspiring 🙂 I’m in the very early stages of my food blog. I know it will be quite a while before I generate income, but your posts that I read on a regular basis really motivates me to keep pushing at it. Not to mention all the great info you have. I can’t wait to buy your book when I have some extra cash next. Thank you so much!

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    I remember when I made the hosting jump up with my host…it was around a $200 difference as well. There was no middle ground really between the two. But yes, you need the pipes or load times are awful and then…your site crashes a bit. So good call. Thanks as always for your monthly recaps!

  8. Skillful Cook Logo

    I just think you are the coolest folks ever for doing this!
    Really, how awesomely nice of you.!!!
    I’m not a food blogger, (except every week or two when I do share a recipe,) but I am learning SO MUCH from you.

  9. Skillful Cook Logo

    I love the monthly income report posts! I really like that you included expenses as well this month, I never realized how much hosting can cost!

    I love that you both are so transparent and helpful when it comes to blogging, it’s refreshing to say the least.

  10. Skillful Cook Logo

    Well done for another great month. I sincerely appreciate how open and willing you are to share what you are doing and learning with others. I’ve enjoyed your posts this month, thanks!

  11. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hi Bjork and Lindsay,

    I’ve started following your blog just a couple of months ago and want to say, way to go! with the blog income! You guys are awesome!

    However, I hear a little voice inside my head that you shouldn’t really put the figures out there, especially you are living in the Philippines right now. Maybe it’s just me but IF it’s me, I’d be careful with money stuff out in the open for everyone to see, in a place where you are right now because though it might not be that much in the US, it is a huge amount in the Philippines…Take care!

  12. Skillful Cook Logo

    I think I read somewhere on your blog that you used to use Thesis and switched to Genesis.

    Are you still happy with the switch? What caused you to switch from Thesis to Genesis?

    I think I’ve read before that Genesis is a little more user friendly, but other than that I really don’t know the difference between the two. From what I’ve read it seems they’re fairly similar.

    Love the breakdown. Thanks for including the expenses this month.

  13. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thank you for another great post sharing details about your traffic/income. Several years ago when you first purchased Thesis theme (and I know you just switched to Genesis) – did Thesis theme boost your traffic back then or did you purchase it mainly for design/visual advantages?

  14. Skillful Cook Logo

    I love that you included the expenses! It is nice to see what you put into your blog!! Thanks again for these awesome post!

  15. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thanks again for another informative post! It’s really appreciated that you do so much in-depth research and effort into these reports…
    As a new blogger, I’m wondering at what point I should start monetizing my blog. It has only been going since March, so I’m assuming my page views aren’t nearly as high as they should be for a decent payback in terms of adverts. Would there be any penalty to putting a few ads up now? I’d like to start experimenting with the basics.

  16. Skillful Cook Logo

    I totally agree about the resistance. The only solution is to fight back and keep going. When I feel like giving up, a good sleep usually helps. Next day I’m ready to fight again. As long as I’m rested physically, I can do it emotionally then.

    Interesting you have included food expenses. I usually don’t consider that a business expense as I have to eat anyways. But on the other side, I wouldn’t have bought certain ingredients if not for creating a recipe for the blog. So, I guess in a sense it is a business expense…:)

    I also found it interesting your web designer costing less than the web hosting.:)

    Interesting about the link colours. Would be interesting to see the results next month.

    And last but not least, you are right, food blogging is a lot of work and doesn’t happen overnight. I started my own money making experiment too. You are very inspiring, guys! I love your personalities and photography. Good for you! Way to go!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Thank you Olena! When I grocery shop, I always check out with two separate transactions- one for blog related ingredients and one for our regular food (cereal, milk, fruit, etc). That makes it easy to determine the actual blog expenses for groceries. And the web designer expense that’s listed here is just some for a few hours of touch up work on the site that we were paying her to do. It’s not the cost of the full redesign, so in the big picture, the designer did cost more. 🙂 Thanks again for your comment and keep up your good work!

  17. Skillful Cook Logo

    Colors of links being directly related to the CTR…. why didn’t I ever think of that? My links right now are pink. I’m wondering if I should change the color. I’m glad you added expenses. I feel like my expenses are INSANE Bjork! Groceries, camera equipment (not every month), props, $200 hosting plan, and so many other little things. It truly adds up. I spend so much money on food these days!

    Anyways, congrats on a great month you two! Loving the new design elements. 🙂 🙂

  18. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hi Bjork,

    Couple of questions and suggestions you might like to trial 🙂

    Just wondering what you thought of BuySellAds? I saw you tried it one month then stopped.

    I have used a Bluehost MREC on the Right Side which generated pretty good conversions. (Might be worth adding one for a month)

    One more suggestion you might want to trial is around affilliates (Amazon is poor because cookies only last 1 day) For example with your links to amazon for Camera’s you might want to try switching those to a one of the biggest online camera retailers. The commission rates are usually lower but they have a 30 day cookie so you will get credit for more conversions. Same goes for Books – Perhaps trial adding a list of Lindsays and your favourite cook books to Book Depository instead of amazon (Also has a 30 day credit and is more apealing to international conversions due to free worldwide shipping.


  19. Skillful Cook Logo

    You guys are seriously the most awesome bloggers in the universe. And I’m not just saying that. I wish I could be both of you when I grow up (I DO live in Minnesota, does that get me halfway there even though you guys aren’t currently here right now?). Anyhow, just wanted to let you know I use Lijit as backfill on a few of my ads (as 2nd tier followed by Google Adsense) and they are fine. Not great but fine, at least in my experience. I haven’t been able to discern a huge difference in revenue between the two (CPM’s and such). Just thought I’d weigh in on that…will be curious to know if you see a difference. Thanks again for giving insight to all of us bloggers – I should have a handle on all this for as long as I’ve been blogging and yet, most days, I find that I still feel like a newbie!

  20. Skillful Cook Logo

    You *probably* know this already but in case you don’t – Lijit has a “floor price” option that’s kind of hidden in the backup ad code section. Setting a minimum CPM can get you higher paying campaigns… but it can also decrease your fill rate. There’s a happy medium in there, you just have to find it.

  21. Skillful Cook Logo

    Love reading about your income posts, as always 🙂 Interesting info in that social triggers video…makes a whole lot of sense and is the complete opposite of what I have now. Everything looks nice and matches, but nothing stands out. Something has to change…thanks for sharing!!

  22. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hey Bjork and Lindsay!

    First, as a newer food blogger, I want to say that these income reports are both insightful and inspirational. Thank you so much for taking the time each month to share this information.

    I have a quick question about your biggest traffic source – do you know how you get 200,000+ visits from Pinterest? Maybe it’s because I’m a guy (ha) but I just can’t figure out how to make it work for me like other social networks. Is there some kind of voodoo-magic strategy? 🙂 Do you know of any good resources/tips that could point me in the right direction?