September Traffic and Income Report - $12,419.02 - Skillful Cook
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September Traffic and Income Report - $12,419.02

September Blog Traffic and Income Report collage images.

Hi there friends. Bjork here, checking in for my monthly traffic and income report.

Every month I put together a report that includes a behind-the-scenes look at Skillful Cook. I focus on two things (1) the income and expenses and (2) the traffic. I also include any tips or tricks that we’re learning as we continue to find ways to grow the blog. Our hope with these reports is that they provide insight and inspiration as you start and grow your own blog (or business or non-profit).

Before I jump into the numbers I wanted to share a video Lindsay and I watched last night. It's from a YouTuber named Devin Graham. Devin creates breathtaking videos that usually involve extreme sports and locations. Some examples are World's Largest Rope Swing, Trike Drifting, and World's Most Insane Rope Swing Ever.

His videos project a carefree, relaxed, party-with-your-beautiful-friends kind of vibe. The “good life,” right? Well, yes and no...

Good life? Yes. Carefree, relaxed, party-with-your-beautiful-friends? Not so much. Check out his recent behind the scenes video called Fighting for your passion - Inside Look at what I do for a living to get a little glimpse into the insane amount of time and work that goes into each one of his videos.

As you can see, the good life that Devin refers to is the focus, get up early, work-incredibly-hard-at-something-you-love “good life.” Or, as he says it:

“It's a crazy amount of work. I absolutely love it…I'll keep on doing it 'til the day I die, but the things I do, and the reason why I'm able to do it, is because no one else is willing to do it.”

Devin Graham

I love that last part: the reason why I'm able to do because no one else is willing to do it. The video does an incredible job of painting a realistic picture of what it takes to build a business around your passion. Kudos Devin, and thanks for the inspiring video!

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


Total Income:: $14,919.50


Total Expenses: $2,500.48

Net Profit: $12,419.02

If you're interested in learning more about the kind of content on Food Blogger Pro, we encourage you to download this free ebook, “16 Ways to Monetize Your Food Blog.”

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

Embedded Recipe Ads

September was the first month that we had embedded recipe ads in our posts. These are listed as “Swoop (BlogHer)” in the numbers above. The total income from the in-recipe ads was $588.60. It's a little less than I had hoped for considering the fact that the ads are pretty invasive for the reader. The program is still in beta, so we'll let these ads run a couple more months to see how things play out.

Time Doctor

In last month's post I talked briefly about some friends that have joined on with Skillful Cook to help out with things like Pinterest, submitting food photos to food sharing sites, and searching other websites for images that have been stolen from Skillful Cook (and not properly credited). We're using a software called Time Doctor to easily track and submit time worked. This way they can work when and where they want but still easily communicate back to us how much time they've worked.

Food Blogger Pro

Food Blogger Pro continues to chug along. It's been really fun to walk alongside food bloggers that are starting up (or polishing up) their blogs. We're currently working through a series called 6 Essential Plugins for Food Blogs.

We've been intentional not to include the income from FBP on our monthly reports because we want these reports to focus on income that comes directly from Skillful Cook. For those that are curious, FBP averages about $2,500 in revenue per month. A lot of that will eventually go back into the website as we continue to look for ways to build tools and resources for the members.


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

Traffic Overview

September Traffic Overview.

Top Ten Traffic Sources

September Top Ten Traffic Sources.

Revenue Streams as Percentages

Revenue Streams as Percentages in a graph.

Thoughts On Traffic


Elizabeth from Sugar Hero comment.

Elizabeth left a great comment about Pinterest on last month's income report.

Here's the part I wanted to address:

“Are you at all worried that so much of your traffic comes from Pinterest?”

A little over 40% of the people that visit Skillful Cook are coming from Pinterest. That's a really big slice of our traffic pie, and it's scary to think about what would happen if, for whatever reason, that traffic vanished.

So, yeah, it does indeed worry me a bit. :/

Much like streams of income, it's good to diversify your streams of traffic. This is something that's on our radar, and we're going to be focusing on building out some of Skillful Cook's other social media profiles, starting with Facebook. I'll be talking more about specifics of how we're doing this in next month's report.

What Am I Doing Wrong?

Lindsay and I occasionally get emails from bloggers asking if we have any advice for ways that they can grow their blog. The emails usually end with some type of “What Am I Doing Wrong?” question.

Oftentimes the answer to that question is pretty simple: nothing.

It's just that they haven't been doing what they're doing for long enough. So how long do you need to work before becoming successful? Until you get lucky.

Luck Is Half Luck and Half Hard Work.

We've gotten lucky with Skillful Cook.

Several times, actually.

For instance, on March 8th, 2012 Jane Wang pinned a photo of Lindsay's Healthy Sweet Potato Skins recipe. Whose Jane Wang? She's the mother of the co-founder of Pinterest. At the time she was one of the most-followed Pinterest users. That pin was the primary factor in the post gaining almost 200,000 total pins.


Pretty lucky, huh? No sarcasm there. Genuine luck.

Devin Graham has also gotten lucky. His videos were picked up by huge sites like Mashable, CNN, and The Huffington Post, resulting in millions of additional views.

So why do some people get lucky while others do not?

One reason might be content. Newer bloggers' pictures, videos, and written content are probably not as developed as people who have been doing it longer. Lindsay looks back at her early posts and laughs/cringes - her pictures, recipes and writing have all improved so much simply because of the amount of time she's spent doing all three of those things. So keep at it. Read books, ask questions, enjoy the process of doing something you love simply for the joy of doing it.

The second, and more common, reason is that luck just hasn't taken notice yet. And a big part of luck is putting on your overalls and work boots and giving 100% day after day. So keep putting on those work boots and feel good about doing something you're passionate about. Luck will notice you soon enough. And once luck sees you it's much easier to get noticed again.


I can't say it enough: Thanks! Without you this little slice of the web we call Skillful Cook wouldn't exist. We really appreciate you stopping by and joining in with what we're doing here.

Until next time!

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  1. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thanks Skillful Cook, Bjork and Lindsay for having these kind of monthly reports, I personally gain so much knowledge in terms of blogging and on how to grow my blog. You too are blessings to us… Have a great day ahead… 🙂

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    While it is a little concerning to think about what might happen if Pinterest suddenly disappeared, I don’t think most people would notice that much traffic change. Pinterest may be the number one way most of us gain traffic, but I think that is because it is the most convenient way for people. If they couldn’t use Pinterest they would be using something else, and probably still finding your site.

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    As always Bjork, impressive numbers. I’m looking forward to the new series on FBP. Because my foodie site is so new I don’t see a lot of traffic yet from Pinterest but I do for my other websites. I’ve been active on there since its Beta stages so its been a useful tool for me. As a food blogger there are niche sites that people should diversify and put their eggs into so that 1) their eggs are not all in one basket should Pinterest ever fall down and 2) so that those who dislike Pinterest (and believe me they exist) will find you and 3) so you are listed in your niche.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      I think the 2nd is especially important. Case in point = me. 🙂 Not that I dislike it, but I don’t use it much (yet).

  4. Skillful Cook Logo

    I am glad you addressed the “What am I doing wrong?” question and that your answer was honest; it’s luck. Well at least part of it is luck the rest is definitely hard work!

    You also mention time, that “they haven’t been doing what they’re doing for long enough”. I think what I’ve found frustrating is that there are blogs out there who gain popularity super fast, like within weeks or months of starting. Then there are blogs that have been around for 1-2 years who are seemingly not popular at all.

    What makes one blog popular super fast and another one seem to never get popular?

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Me too Anna. I find it fascinating when some people have huge followings after a short time. But they might really be hustling for just the numbers which will end up not being long term readers. I know I am not one to ever ask anyone to follow me but other bloggers have no problem asking people and also following people just to get a follow back.

      I also find it fascinating when people who have only been blogging for a couple months expect to make the same about as blogs like POY.

      On a side note: Thanks Bjork and Lindsay. I just found your blog about 6 weeks ago or so and it inspired me to take it from a hobby to a “part” part -time business.

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        Hey, girls. IMHO, every blog has it’s own success and failure story and reasons. Some blogs it’s the recipes itself. I can assure you that dessert blog will climb up faster than a healthy food blog. Just the way it is. People love sweets and eating healthy is work!
        Then it’s how much time you put in. Some people spend 80-100 hours a week blogging.
        Then it’s the photos, and writing style, and usability of the blog.

    2. Skillful Cook Logo

      I think it’s a bunch of different things, like ability to create good content and stamina for working hard and deep seeded passion. Some people just pick it up faster and get on the fast track for blog growth. But I think you’d be surprised that most popular blogs that you read have probably been doing it for YEARS AND YEARS. I’m not talking about one year. I mean like 5-10 years! There’s no secret sauce and no get-rich-quick formula: it’s hard work, it’s quality content, and it’s a little luck.

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        I totally agree. It’s always interesting to learn the back stories behind success stories because often when you think someone has had overnight success you learn that it was actually years and years in the making and the long process of preparation to be ready when opportunity hits.
        Congrats @ Suzyhomemaker at turning your hobby into a businesss! That is always an exciting step!
        And thank you Lindsey and Bjork as always for sharing. It was your blog too that inspired me to take my failed cookie company and turn it into a blog that could also be a business.

      2. Skillful Cook Logo

        Hi Lindsay! I am very new at this whole thing and it is encouraging to know that many of these wonderful blogs that I follow have been doing this for years. Gives me a little hope I guess. Even after a few months I feel like I have improved quite a bit though. I already have that feeling about my earlier posts.

        I have a question for you…do you ever take those early posts down, or do you keep them up? I am tempted to take some of my early ones down (or at least update the photos). I cringe when I look at them!

  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’ve never commented before, but I just wanted to say that I always love reading these posts. I love “behind the scenes” type stuff in general, but since starting my own blog this has been especially interesting to me. I know I haven’t really developed the skills I would need to make real money off my blog, but I signed up for the Lijit ad service a month or so ago based on your recommendation of it. I just checked my stats for the first time and I’ve made a whopping 2 dollars and 41 cents! 🙂 Actually, I’m pretty excited about that, which is a little silly, but it’s something! Gotta start somewhere. Thanks for your open and honest posts – they really do give some insight and direction to little fledgling bloggers like me.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Thanks for posting your first comment Cristina!

      I know exactly what you mean. The first few dollars you make from a blog are always really exciting. It’s proof that it’s possible!

  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    this stuff is so great! thanks for sharing…im not a food blogger but found this feature of your blog so freakin helpful and inspiring 🙂

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    Just found your website and loved reading this. Time to peruse through the rest of the site! Congrats on your success!

  8. Skillful Cook Logo

    Putting all your eggs in the Pinterest basket scares the heck out of me but by default, most of us…seem to be there. I try as hard as I can to diversify and do what I can to make sure my content is on other places, i.e food gawker type sites, but Pinterest is such a cash cow to put it bluntly, and nothing else competes, even when I try hard to ‘work’ those other channels; by default it’s my Pinterest that thrives…BUT….

    Twice in the past 3 mos my Pinterest account was shut down for about 24 hours by Pinterest and they have since apologized for their errors. Their site flagged me as spam and I was shut down and upon filing immediate support tickets, it still took 24 hrs each time to get back up and running. I literally lost half my daily page views, twice in a few months. Not a big deal if it happens twice, but if it were to happen permanently what would I do…what would anyone do. Big food for thought.

    Jane Wang – Ive had her luck before. It’s great when it happens 🙂

    And thanks for being so open, as always, and sharing!

  9. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thanks, Bjork! As I’ve told you recently, I so appreciate these income reports – they’re really inspiring and insightful. Congratulations on such phenomenal success with POY this year.

    I love your approach to luck, it’s so true: you have to put yourself into a position (day after day) to get lucky. I can’t wait to hear more about what you guys are doing with Facebook!

  10. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hey, guys. Amazing post! Amazing!!! I agree with everything 100%. I have been blogging for almost a year now and finally last month my income climbed over $600. I thank you so much for inspiration and tips and I mentioned that in my report.:) So, it is possible, you are right. It is half hard work, half luck. It is images, content, stories, recipes etc. All together.
    And yes, being dependent on Pinterest for traffic and BlogHer for income so much is scary! That’s why SEO is important and your own products like cookbooks are important. I just want to mention, I really work on my posts’ SEO and it shows: Google is #2 traffic source for iFOODreal and Pinterest #3. #1 is direct which is quite under my control as well. In my last income report I also share how I make my recipe posts SEO friendly, so maybe it will help you and your employees can do the same.:)
    Just wanted to share helpful info with you and your readers. No bragging.:)
    Have a great weekend!

  11. Skillful Cook Logo

    Reading this post sincerely makes me want to be a better food blogger. I love what you said about doing it for longer and getting better at it, but enjoying it for the sake of what it is while getting there. I have been blogging for four years, and love doing it, but I have only recently decided to try to monetize and increase my traffic. Doing the same thing over and over and wondering why nothing changes finally got old I guess. I love your tips on monetizing. I am no where near the point that you are in traffic, but your tips help so much.

  12. Skillful Cook Logo

    I look forward to these posts every month- they are so insightful as someone who is slowly moving towards a (ha) profitable blog (someday, maybe!). Thanks for always taking the time to do this and be so transparent. It’s crazy to see how the site has grown since you started tracking it!

  13. Skillful Cook Logo

    I always enjoy these- the push they give me to keep going is great. It can be hard when you are putting in 60+ hours a week- sometimes it’s overkill & others it’s not enough. But you know- when things start rolling in & you see some of your hard work paying off it gives you hope that one can do this as a job. My hubs jokes that he has egg on his face because of all the times when he told me I wasn’t getting anywhere with this & I needed to do something else. I’m just now starting to see the work going somewhere. But you know- every dollar adds up & even though I’m sitting at about 10% of where you are in traffic & income- it’s these reports that keep pushing me. Thank you for that.

  14. Skillful Cook Logo

    As always, great post! These income reports are really so helpful. The Pinterest traffic does scare me a bit too and we are trying out best to get our FB numbers up just in case something happens with Pinterest!

  15. Skillful Cook Logo

    I would actually add one thought to the Pinterest subject. I think it is far better that you have a large % of your traffic coming from Pinterest than Facebook. Do you know why? On Facebook, it’s often people coming from following your actual page. On Pinterest, thousands of different people could be pinning various recipes from various pages and as long as they are attributed correctly, all roads lead to Rome … or POY. 🙂
    I also appreciate the encouragement about sticking with it. We are 30 days in and we are definitely learning as we go. We would love income, but more importantly want a community to actually participate in some of the topics and subjects we plan to write about! We of course would love just a little boost of luck … which we hope will come if we pick the right topics that get picked up by the right group of people. It is fun to see recipes get pinned by new people I don’t know. Very satisfying to think I am “with” them in their kitchens.
    Keep doing this great series on the monthly income reports!
    Lindsay, I saw your photography book … just before ordering it I wasn’t sure if I had to have a fancy SLR or if I could get tips from the book even if I’m just using my iPhone 5 for now.(hopefully just until Xmas) 🙂
    Keep bringing us yummy recipes too. 😉

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Hi Laura! The book is definitely geared towards people who are trying to learn how to use a DSLR, as there is a whole section on the technical aspects and manual controls of DSLR photography. That being said, the other sections on editing, composition, lighting, etc, can still be applied to non-DSLR photoraphy.

      The iPhone 5 is actually a great camera and I think there’s a lot you can do with that while you wait for your DSLR. It’s ideal for stills and close ups, and even though you can’t get the same depth of field as a DSLR, you can take some awesome food photos that capture the color and texture in really cool ways. Check out the Instagram feeds of Baker’s Royale, Foodie Crush, Alice Gao, and Pickyin for inspiration.

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        Well, my Xmas present may just have to come early this year … I love the iphone 5 but the SLR would clearly give me more control. And there will be lots of cooking to do between now and Xmas which means lots of photo ops! 🙂
        In the meantime, I will gift your book to my co-blogger Emily who has a fancy camera already … she can get started right away.
        Thanks for all the inspiration!

  16. Skillful Cook Logo

    Great write up on the “luck factor”. I had one big moment like that in my blog history. Back in March 2012 there was a big news story about the beef filler called pink slime. I had blogged about this many months earlier. When the story came out on ABC News, my traffic skyrocketed. My previous high for visitors in a day was just over 2,000. The next day after the story came out I was over 13,000 🙂 . Unfortunately that traffic boost did not last that long. It was hard to come back down to reality, but it keeps me going hoping for another experience like that.
    Recently I have been finally getting photos accepted by foodgawker after 18 months of decline notices. That has caused Pinterest traffic to increase and I got pinned by someone with a ton of followers so I saw huge increase for one post for a couple days. Also am finding people are linking to posts that got accepted by foodgawker. If the right website comes along with high traffic I could be in for another “luck moment”.

  17. Skillful Cook Logo

    As always, thank you guys for your very insightful income reports. Plus some very wise words about hard work and luck. I keep having to remind myself that I’m only a few months into blogging and should really just be concentrating on developing my content, above all else.

    By the way, I just finished reading a great new book on blogging – How to Blog for Profit (Without Selling Your Soul) by Ruth Soukup. It’s on Amazon (Kindle) and it’s packed full of great, actionable info. I’m not linked to the author in any way! Just thought some newbie bloggers (or even longer term ones) reading your site might be interest in it. It’s also very reasonably priced at around $5.

  18. Skillful Cook Logo

    In your top 10 sources of traffic, I see a website called Recipe Chart. I registered with them last night. Do you have any more details about that traffic? Is it consistent or something that hits big once and a while? I am curious what I can expect out of them, seems like an interesting concept.

  19. Skillful Cook Logo

    Excellent points and observations by all about traffic, and social media, and luck. 😉 Social media is such a slippery slope. Compare, say, Facebook and Pinterest. Pinterest is all about getting out the word, and the totally crazy, mathematical progression of sharing (i.e., the right share means hundreds of their pinners could share, and those followers could share and so and so on…). Theoretically, you could be brand new and have just 10 followers, but your pins might be seen (and clicked through) by hundreds of people. Facebook, on the other hand, is all about reigning it in: if you want to share your stuff to your hard-earned list of Likes, you have to pay Facebook. Most bloggers I’ve talked to say their FB posts reach only 5% to 20% of their Likes, organically. FB doesn’t want sharing to occur unless they’re getting a piece of the action, even when the sharing is just a macaroni and cheese recipe. Many bloggers can’t afford to pay for decent reach on every FB post.

    What would be terrifying for bloggers and creative businesses is if Pinterest starts going that FB route, inhibiting sharing rather than encouraging it. I’m sure they won’t, because it’s just a different sharing model, but, wow, that would really hurt bloggers large (like POY) and small (like me).

  20. Skillful Cook Logo

    thanks so much for sharing all this information. It’s priceless and really appreciated.

    Just one question though. I’m confused how income is made from Ziplist.
    I’m guessing it’s somewhere in the branded recipe box…but where does the income come from? Ads through ziplist?


    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      You’re correct – ZipList serves ads through its own network on the blogger’s branded recipe box (which is hosted by ZipList). The blogger gets a cut of that ad revenue when visitors go to their recipe box via the blogger’s “recipe box” link (like POY has the top) or the save recipe button in recipes.

  21. Skillful Cook Logo

    Just came across your site today when I Googled “healthy pumpkin muffins”. Made your recipe this morning and my family LOVED them…I’m a fan!!! 🙂

  22. Skillful Cook Logo

    I truly want to thank you for this valuable resource. I found your website via pinterest (apparently like a lot of others according to your analytics!) and fell in love with the yummy looking food. Then I saw the Income tab and in my head said “there is no way…”

    I’m in the process of setting up my own lifestyle blog, and I found your monthly reports and encouragement to other bloggers to be admirable. This is the first time I’ve ever seen a blogger reveal “trade secrets” with no ulterior motives, and no immediate form of payment. I hope that this blog karma comes back to you ten fold!

    I look forward to reading more recipes, and reports.

    Thank you again.

  23. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hi Bjork and Lindsay.
    I have a question about food blogger pro.
    Are you using a membership plugin like premise or otherwise to set something like that up? If so..does FBP have any member tutorials once inside about how to set something like that up?…I guess that was 2 questions:)

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      We’re using a different CMS called Expression Engine – along with some custom add ons. We don’t have any tutorials in FBP on creating a membership site. Great idea though!