November Traffic and Income Report - $20,751.47 - Skillful Cook
Our recipes, your inbox. Sign up

November Traffic and Income Report - $20,751.47

November Traffic and Income Report collage.

Oh hai there!

Bjork here, checking in for the monthly traffic and income report for Skillful Cook. We’ve done 39 of these reports over the past few years. We’ve written them everywhere from Cebu, Philippines to Three Lakes, WI to St. Paul, MN.

The location has changed but our purpose hasn't. The purpose is to provide a behind the scenes look at Skillful Cook, including the things we’re doing to create an income from the blog and build readership. What's working, what's not working, and what we think might work.

Before we jump into the numbers I want to review a few items that are important to understand.

It’s a Lot Of Work To Create An Income From a Website Or a Blog.

If you’re planning on starting a blog and working on it for a few hours a week then it will never create a substantial income, or if it does it will take a really long time to get there. Creating an income from a blog takes an incredible amount of time and energy.

It’s Possible To Create An Income From a Website Or a Blog.

I get emails every week from bloggers that have reached different milestones with their blog. Just this month I received an email from a blogger that reached $500/month for the first time and another email from a food blogger that made $40,000 in her first year of blogging. It’s a lot of work, but it’s possible.

We've Had Two People Working On This Over a Long Period Of Time.

Lindsay and I have been working on Skillful Cook since 2010. That’s almost five years that two people have been working on one site. That’s a lot of time and energy! These reports have the potential to be misleading if you don’t keep that in mind. It’s not just one month of work, it’s the cumulative effort of five years.

With that in mind, let’s look at the numbers for November.

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: $28,225.24


Total Expenses: $7,473.77

Net Profit: $20,751.47

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

Robots Are Taking Over The World!

Okay, not really, but they’re starting to take over the digital advertising space.

It’s called Programmatic Advertising. Have you heard about it?

Here’s the quick explanation:

Programmatic ads = machine-to-machine
Direct sale ads = human-to-human

Here’s the longer explanation:

(Warning: generic statement below)

Technology is always advancing.

We know that, but what’s exciting to me is when we can stop, look around, and see it changing right in front of us. For example, right now I can look at the income totals from different ad networks we work with and notice a shift in the top performers when compared to previous income reports.

The most obvious is the change in income that we’re seeing from BlogHer. Over the past few months, it’s continued to perform much worse than previous years, while other ad networks (like sovrn) had stayed pretty consistent.

Why is that?

To be honest, I don’t know all of the reasons, and I’m sure there are many. However, I do know that there’s one element that’s sure to play into things.


Or, to be more precise, the industry shift to programmatic ads.

The traditional way that a company would sell ad space to a merchant would be the direct sales method. Otherwise known as the “can we schedule a time to chat?” or “let’s grab lunch and talk about this deal,” or “can I take you to the Twins game this week to chat about your ad campaign?” method of selling. Face-to-face, phone-to-phone, human-to-human.

Ad networks would sell a block of impressions to the merchant. When the campaign goes live those ads start to show on publisher’s websites that are part of that ad network.

But as technology has advanced (ROBOTS!) so has the ability to track and segment a person’s online profile. This ability to track people, along with the ability to do real-time bidding (think eBay auction for an ad impression), provided a more efficient way for merchants to advertise.

Now, instead of buying a generic block of ad impressions from an ad network, a merchant has the option to bid on impressions for 20–30-year-old active females that live in the Midwest. Or, for a more generic example, the merchant can bid on ads that will show on food-related sites. They might say “we'll pay $1 CPM to show ads on food-related sites.” If another company comes along and decides to pay more (say $1.25 CPM) then ads from the first company won’t show.

Chances are that the advertiser and the ad network will never interface. It’s all done machine-to-machine.

The downside for the publisher (that’s you if you’re a blogger) is that your ads aren’t curated and reviewed as they would be with a direct sales ad network. The virtual filters are a little bit wider, which means that it’s easier for the flies (i.e. crummy ads) to get in.

There is potential upside though in that the performance of ads is what sets the price you (the blogger) is paid, not a person-to-person negotiation. If more people click on an ad and follow through with a purchase (or download or whatever it is the company wants…) then you’ll get paid a better rate, because technology allows for that information to be tracked. If the ads “work” on your site, companies will pay more. The downside is that if ads don’t work, then companies will scale back their spending.

We’ve found the latter to be the most common scenario.

The obvious way to increase your earnings is to place the ad in a more prominent area, like within the post content or “stuck” to the sidebar when people scroll.

The bottom line:

  • Programmatic advertising is becoming increasingly popular. It’s important to understand.
  • It’s harder to have truly “curated” ads when using programmatic ad networks.
  • Display advertising will continue to move towards performance-based pay.

Buzzfeed - I Love You, I Hate You.

I love Buzzfeed.

I hate Buzzfeed.

Or said more succinctly, I hate it because I love it.

Know what I mean?

I hate it because Buzzfeed does such a good job of getting people (i.e. me) to click on an article and read it when I should be doing something else. I love it because the content is usually easy to read and (most importantly) the content is relatable (it’s like they wrote this article about ME!).

Another reason I love Buzzfeed is because of their business model: They don’t have any banner ads on their site. Zip! Zero! Zilch! The only type of advertising they do is native advertising.

For those that aren’t familiar, native advertising is when the advertising is integrated into the real content as opposed to an unrelated ad unit in the sidebar, footer, or header area. Here’s a recent Skillful Cook recipe that’s an example of native advertising.

Native advertising works in ways that banner ads can’t.

Here’s why: When someone goes to this post on Skillful Cook they’re wanting to find one thing: a recipe for eggnog french toast with raspberry sauce. That means they’ll be in the right mindset for hearing about King’s Hawaiian bread.

Native Advertising Example.

When King’s Hawaiian sponsors a post about french toast the chances are much higher that the reader is impacted by that content because they’re their state of mind is in harmony with the ad that's being displayed.

Native Advertising Mindset.

But with a display ad, the user might not be in the right mindset for that product, meaning their interest level (and therefore the effectiveness of the ad campaign) is much lower.

Display Advertising Example.

For instance, if someone is looking for a French toast recipe then chances are buying a new coat will be a distant thought, and therefore a banner ad for a coat won't be very effective.

Display Advertising New Coat.

So if you were a company and you had $1,000 advertising dollars, what would you want to spend it on? 100,000 ad impressions or native content in a blog post or video? I know what I’d choose. 🙂

Bottom line:

  • The native advertising model is an important concept to understand. It’ll become more common as the direct sales method of display advertising continues to decline.
  • While banner based ads are declining in value, powerful native advertising is increasing in value.
  • In order to have powerful native advertising, you need an engaged audience (more on that in the “traffic” section below).


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

Traffic Overview

Traffic Overview.

Top Ten Traffic Sources

Top Ten Traffic Sources.

Mobile Vs. Desktop Traffic

Google Analytics Mobile vs Desktop vs Table.

Google > Pinterest

November was the first time (in a long time) that Skillful Cook had more traffic from Google than it did from Pinterest.

The benefit of traffic from Pinterest is that it can be quick and significant. If something catches on, you’ll see a big spike in traffic. It can happen quickly but it usually doesn't sustain. The image below shows the traffic to Skillful Cook from Pinterest over the past three years.

Traffic from Pinterest: November 2011 - November 2014

Pinterest traffic over three years.

Google is more of a long-term game. It requires a lot of content, a lot of time, and a lot of little things that add up over time. The image below shows the traffic to Skillful Cook from Google over the past three years. No peaks or valleys, just slow consistent growth.

Traffic from Google: November 2011 - November 2014

Google traffic over three years.

Speaking of traffic…

Traffic Vs. Tribes

The #1 question that we get from bloggers is this:

How do I increase traffic to my blog?

It’s an important question to ponder, but traffic to your blog isn’t the first thing you should be thinking about. Engagement is much more important. Especially as advertisers start to realize the value of a “real” reader (or viewer if it’s video) vs. a generic ad impression.

This should be really good news for the “small” blog.

As a blogger with a lower traffic site, you have infinitely more control over connection than you do over traffic.

So, when you’re planning your next post, think about…

The person, not Pinterest.
Their face, not Facebook.
Sharing your heart, not asking them to share.

Is traffic still important? Absolutely. It’s still important to think about crafting content that is share-worthy, but people that think first about connection and second about traffic will be in a much better place long-term.

Another way to say this would be that a tribe is more valuable than traffic.

Here’s what Seth Godin says about tribes in his appropriately named book, Tribes.

“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”

Seth Godin

The health (or, first, the existence) of your “tribe” is critical for the long-term success of your blog. Much more so than a viral post or high traffic numbers.

Video (Brought To Life) The Blogger Star

Video killed the radio star, but video can’t kill the blogger star. On the contrary, I think video will bring the blogger star to life. It’s such a powerful tool for connecting and engaging with your audience (see Traffic vs. Tribes for an explanation of why this is important).

Lindsay and I have finally started to get behind the camera to shoot some videos for Skillful Cook. It’s taken us two years since we first talked about video to actually start doing it.

The biggest thing we’ve learned so far? You have to “just do it.”

The house could always be cleaner, the lighting could always be better, and there could always be a little bit more time.

But if we were to wait for all of that stuff to fall into place then we’d never press the record button.

We’ve been building up our video skillz by doing kitchen remodel updates, but we’ve also gotten some “real” recipe videos shot, a few in the basement and another one in the almost finished kitchen.

Skillful Cook's YouTube Channel.

I’ve published a couple of posts on Food Blogger Pro about our video process, including the gear we use for videos and 3 quick tips for editing in Final Cut Pro.

We still have a lot of learning to do with video though, so I’d love to hear from you: What YouTube channels do you love? What do you like about them? What would like to see from a Skillful Cook YouTube channel?

Because Of You

It’s because of 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 are so thankful for you!

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 consider it a gift from the entire Skillful Cook community, not just Lindsay and I. This month we're supporting CSC in purchasing Christmas gifts for the (over 100!) kids at the shelter.

Children's Shelter of Cebu two young women.

Leave a Reply

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


  1. Skillful Cook Logo

    Yay! I look forward to these income reports every month, they’re so inspiring! Thank you for taking the time to put these together every month and for sharing everything you’ve learned. You guys are the best!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Ditto that! It’s so helpful to be reminded that it took 2 people 5 years to build P.O.Y. And truly 2 people were were committed and invested to the project.

      Sure, I get discouraged blogging time to time, would love to see a huge spike in audience but I took to heart what you said. Life really does come down to people. Real people. I needed to be reminded that when I write a post……it’s engagement…the tribe…the real people that I’d love to meet that count. Not social media. blah.

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        Right on Laura! Two people and a lot of time.

        Social media still matters, but the most important part is the SOCIAL part. 🙂

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    I just want to say thank you for being so transparent and generous with this kind of information. It really is helpful and I love how honest you guys are about what it takes! And also, I loved what you said about TRIBES. I feel like people get so caught up in metrics that don’t really measure what they are seeking to get out of blogging… A bigger audience is not necessarily better, especially depending on what the person is accomplishing. I love what you said about engagement or even, resonance. Connecting is the biggest key and that’s been the most fulfilling for me. Thank you so much again!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      I think the fulfilling piece is SO important. It’s easy to forget why/what we love about the work and focus too much on outcomes from the work.

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    It’s funny to me that these are the articles that started me on the rest of the site. The food pics keep me here, though.

    It probably helps that I can only cook by following detailed recipes due to my lack of kitchen skills.

  4. Skillful Cook Logo

    I know that a lot of people appreciate how much time you take to clearly explain things in these posts. And they are not only informative, but enjoyable to read. Which seems like it would nearly impossible with this sort of content. Last thing, what a wonderful gift this month!

  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thanks for shedding some light on what programmatic ads are. I got that email from Blogher explaining why their ad rates were declining but didn’t know what exactly programmatic was. Makes sense now! A great report as always, Bjork. Thank you.

  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thanks for such an insightful income report Bjork.

    I guess one of the questions to ponder is whether Blogher are likely to move towards programmatic ads – especially now they’ve been bought by SheKnows.

    Nice camera too by the way!! I’ll be a happy girl on the day I can buy a camera like that and still have any profit left 🙂

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Yeah! We’re excited about the camera. The 7D Mark II has live autofocus for video (!!!) which has been a huge win for shooting stuff with movement.

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    As always, an incredibly informative report that never fails to be well balanced with heart. Thanks for continuing with this wonderful segment. You’re helping to shorten what seems like an infinite learning curve…

  8. Skillful Cook Logo

    Bjork, glad once again to read your post. I very much enjoyed the section about building your tribe. My baby blog is still pushing forward with an average of about 20 sessions per day. Although my head knows that it is still very, very early in the game, my heart gets a little sad that I’m not seeing more visitors than I am. But I’m just working on getting more material up, and improving the photography, and just keep telling myself to be patient.

    That being said, it really resonated with me when you said “The person, not Pinterest.
    Their face, not Facebook. Sharing your heart, not asking them to share.” I think that motivation really shines through, and that’s where I try to remain. I know my mom, my co-workers, my neighbors all look at my site, so I think that really helps in keeping my voice true to myself, and also in keeping it intimate and playful. Those who already know me can see me in my writing, and those who get to know me through my blog will get to know the real me – not some internet version of me. And to me, that’s the most valuable thing about this.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Hi Monica! I just want to say that even though it seems backwards, those early days when Skillful Cook only had 20-some visitors each day were some of my favorite times of blogging. I think being so new, having relatively small goals (like trying to get 100 visitors in a day), and then watching myself gradually reach those goals after literally creating a blog out of nothing was really, really rewarding. Sometimes when you’ve been doing it for a while you sort of forget what that feels like. So be patient with yourself and your blog – blogging is a marathon. 🙂 Try to appreciate this season, and celebrate when you hit the next 20 or 50 or 100 visitors – woohoo! Thanks for your comment!

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        You guys are so inspiring. Lindsay, your blog helped inspire to start my own blog recently! Looking at your income report from when you first started doing them, and seeing where they are now is motivating. It’s easy to forget we all have to start somewhere, but coming to your site reminds me of that 🙂

  9. Skillful Cook Logo

    I actually went to a BlogHer meeting in San Francisco about a month ago and one of the founders gave a similar speech about tribes. It makes perfect sense to me. I’ve been reading blogs for 5+ years and the ones that I go back to are those that I can relate with. Feeling that connection is the strongest force that keeps me coming back.

    On a separate note, I’ve been with BlogHer for about 6 months and am also disappointed with the drop in revenue. Are you guys considering leaving them? I’m starting to wonder if I should.

  10. Skillful Cook Logo

    I love this post, especially the video part. I have a fear that people wouldn’t like me the moment they will see me on video. But I real life people seem not to mind me, lol.. I think I should be ok. My goal for 2015 to start doing videos.

  11. Skillful Cook Logo

    I just stumbled upon this site — these income reports specifically — a month or two ago via Reddit, and they really are invaluable for others looking to make money from blogs of all shapes and sizes. Thank you for taking the time to write these each month!

  12. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thanks so much for another great post! You are SO good at explaining complicated concepts in a way everyone can understand. It’s hard not to get bogged down with overwhelming information, and you make it less overwhelming! 🙂

  13. Skillful Cook Logo

    These posts are fascinating. And this is coming from someone who isn’t a blogger or in the world of advertising.

    To answer your question about Youtube: I subscribe to and watch an embarrassing amount of YouTube channels. What I’ve decided, after a few years of doing this, is that I would rather watch a casual, spur-of-the-moment video with poor lighting and someone’s dog walking by than a polished, overly enthusiastic video that’s sponsored and doesn’t feel genuine. I want to put on some videos in the background while I’m cooking dinner and feel like a friend is chatting away.

    I’ll watch casual over high-production value anytime as long as the personality in question comes across as likable and sincere. Unfortunately it seems like the more popular certain channels get, the more expensive their equipment gets, and the next thing I know I think I’m watching a makeup tutorial but I’m really watching a video sponsored by Wendy’s. For real.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Really interesting Jessica. Lindsay and I have talked a lot about before – how polished should we make videos? YouTube is a strange place where if it gets too polished then it feels produced and big company-ish, but at the same time you want to do a good job with it.

      Fun to hear your thoughts! Thanks for sharing.

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        I have heard the same thing… {we’re planning to begin marketing through videos}… that the more polished you make it the less “real” and connectable it is to people. Shopify has some great marketing tutorials, and they actually recommend that you keep it pretty down to earth, and don’t get too high tech with equipment 🙂 Interesting to hear more perspectives. I totally get the “we want to do a good job” though, because I struggle with the same line of thought. AND, the “just do it”, because I can think of a million {almost} reasons why it seems like a bad time.

  14. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hey Bjork!
    Love these income reports! So interesting to read.
    I’m new to ad networks and was wondering which one or two you’d recommend to start out with? Do you have any posts that you’ve written about starting out with ad networks?
    I applied and was accepted to both Adsense and Svorn. I was thinking about having Svorn and then backfilling with Adsense. If that’s an okay idea, do you know of any step-by-step resources on how to set ads up for the first time (i.e. how to backfill and do the code parts)? Thank you so much!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Sounds like a really good plan for starting Liv.

      It depends on the ad network, but sovrn has a place for passback code when you click on the ad tags area (then click on the ad name). You just drop in the AdSense code in that spot and it’ll passback to the AdSense code when they don’t have an ad to fill.

  15. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hey Bjork! Check out HeyClaire on YouTube. Super creative and talented fashion vlogger that I’ve been following for a while now. Obviously she’s all fashion but she has an amazing way of putting her videos together and editing. Something I can totally see being incorporated into a food video. Super profesh and one of my favorites!

  16. Skillful Cook Logo

    Love the YouTube videos. Suggestion: use glass bowls so that we can actually see the ingredients/process. Might be a weird suggestion but while watching I realized that on Food Network shows etc you can always see the actual contents, whether it’s from a shot from above or through the bowls. Keep it up! 🙂

  17. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’ve been wanting to get into making videos for a while… but the thought of having to prepare food AND do my hair? And wait– add to that, get out of my yoga pants? Too much! I hope to one day have more time to work on the blog, and to spend less time at work– although I am not sure I’ll give up work altogether. It’s tempting, because I love what I do on the blog, but I also really love my job. Maybe that will change once I have a family!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Lol that’s exactly what I think of when considering adding videos. Prepare food AND look good doing it, all while eloquently verbally explaining what I’m doing? I’d need a script supervisor, makeup/hair team, and some stunt doubles 😉

    2. Skillful Cook Logo

      I hear ya! It’s a lot of work to setup/get ready/think about what you’re going to say, etc, etc, etc…

      The fact that it’s hard is one of the reasons why it’s such a good idea to do it! Not as many people are willing to put in the work/time/energy. 🙂

  18. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’m curious about the Facebook ads… What was advertised on Facebook? Thanks! 🙂