Traffic and Income Report – December 2015 - Skillful Cook
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Traffic and Income Report – December 2015

Hi there!

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

Quick story…

We were hanging out at our friends’ house this weekend and they were showing us clips from the movie The Intern.

We weren’t actually watching the movie, just the highlights. Kind of like Sports Center, but with a movie instead of a football game.

Here’s the basic premise:

Anne Hathaway’s character is the founder of a successful e-commerce company. The company has 200+ employees and a sprawling office. And the company is less than two years old.

You hear about explosive growth startups like this all the time.

I love reading about them, I love learning about them, and I love watching highlights from fictional Hollywood movies about them. It’s 100% fascinating and 100% inspiring.

But one thing I found myself thinking while watching some of the clips is how different the story of a business can be. The story of Skillful Cook doesn’t in any way parallel Anne Hathaway’s company in The Intern, and your story doesn’t have to either.

We’ve taken risks, but not huge risks. We’ve grown, but not exponentially. We’ve spent money, but we’ve never taken on debt or outside capital.

It’s always been a long-term game for us. Slow, steady, and consistent. Showing up every day, finding out what works, what doesn’t work, and then doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t work.

These reports are about sharing those things with you. The things that are working, the things that aren’t working, and the things that we’re changing because of what we’ve learned.

We don’t have backgrounds in computer science (teaching for Lindsay and non-profit for me), we don’t live in Silicon Valley (St. Paul, MN…brrrrr), and we don’t know how to code (although I’d like to think that I can).

These reports are a testament to the fact that you don’t need to “fit the mold” in order to build something (a business, a non-profit, a community) online.

We’ve done these monthly reports for over four years now. The first one was published on August 11th of 2011. You can check it out all of the past reports on this page.

Let’s jump into the numbers for December.

The Numbers

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



If you're interested in learning more about some of the ways that you can monetize a food blog, we encourage you to download this free ebook, “16 Ways to Monetize Your Food Blog,” from our sister site, Food Blogger Pro!

a picture of the 16 Ways to Monetize Your Food Blog ebook from Food Blogger Pro and a note that says, 'free download from our friends at Food Blogger Pro'

Traffic Totals

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

Traffic Overview

Google Analytics Traffic Overview.

Top Ten Traffic Sources

Google Analytics Top Ten Traffic Sources.

Mobile Vs. Desktop Vs. Tablet

Google Analytics Mobile vs Desktop vs Tablet.
Takeaways and Things we Learned

The Pinch Of Yum Redesign

The biggest change we recently made is the Skillful Cook redesign.

I wanted to take time in this report to talk about the updates we made, why we made them, the impact that they’ve had, and the changes we’ll be making in the future based on what we’ve learned so far.

But first, a quick walk down memory lane...

Pinch Of Yum Through The Years

I pulled these screenshots from Skillful Cook’s page on You can click on any of the images to see a full PDF screenshot of the page.

These screenshots represent the major design changes we’ve had with Skillful Cook throughout the 5+ years that we’ve been blogging.

1. June 27th, 2010

  • The first-ever Skillful Cook design.
  • Platform: Tumblr
Skillful Cook June 27th 2010.

2. November 20th, 2010

  • The first time we gave any thought to design.
  • Platform: Tumblr
Skillful Cook November 20th.

3. September 29th, 2011

  • Switch to WordPress. First time paying for any type of design or theme (somewhere around $100 for the Thesis Theme).
  • Platform: WordPress
  • Theme: Self-designed Thesis Theme
Skillful Cook September 29th 2011.

4. September 19th, 2012

  • Minor design changes (we did these on our own).
  • Platform: WordPress
  • Theme: Self-designed Thesis Theme
Skillful Cook September 19th 2012.

5. April 15th, 2013

  • First time paying for a professional redesign.
  • Platform: WordPress
  • Theme: Genesis with a custom Child Theme
Skillful Cook April 15th 2013.

6. January 26th, 2016

  • Second time paying for a professional redesign. Working with a designer (who designed in Photoshop) and a developer that handled all of the development.
  • Platform: WordPress
  • Theme: Genesis with a custom Child Theme
Skillful Cook Today.

The Redesign: What We’Re Learning

1. Email Opt-In

One of the areas we’re focusing on in 2016 is email marketing.

The first step we’re taking in improving email subscriptions is making sure that we have a clear opt-in for visitors on mobile devices. You can see this area at the top of the page on both desktop and mobile screens.

We’re hooking all email opt-ins into ActiveCampaign.

Email Opt-In (Desktop)

Email Opt In Desktop.

Email Opt-In (Mobile)

Email Opt In iPhone.

The Good with Email Opt-In

It’s easy to see and designed well so it matches the look and feel of the theme.

We’re not using a third party plugin so the opt-in loads quickly and doesn’t require any extra scripts.

It shows up prominently on mobile.

To Improve with Email Opt-In

A free eCookbook doesn’t really do much for people. While the opt-in is an improvement over what we had in the past it’s still a bit too weak of an offering.

The next type of opt-in we’ll be implementing is something that the folks at LeadPages call a Content Upgrade.

The idea with a Content Upgrade is that you’re offering a focused and specific bonus or incentive that aligns with the content of the blog post.

2. “Static” Homepage

Food blogs are unique in that their content is (for the most part) evergreen, meaning a recipe you publish today can still be valuable and relevant two years from now.

We’ve switched to a “static” home page (vs. the blog page as a home page), which allows us to highlight past content that might otherwise get forgotten.

“Static” is in quotes because we can still go in and update the content on the home page.

Skillful Cook website home page.

The Good with a “Static” Home Page

We have more control over the content that we present to visitors.

With the previous design we were forced to show the most recent post, but now we can display relevant content for the given season (i.e. soup in the winter or lemonade in the summer).

To Improve with a “Static” Home Page

The home page feels pretty good overall, with the exception of the mobile version. We're still working on that.

We’ll (possibly) be testing some ad spots as the home page is currently running ad-free. We’ll also need to make sure we stay on top of changing the content on the home page so it doesn’t get stale.

3. Continuous Scroll

Continuous scroll means that a visitor never gets to the bottom of a page because new content continually loads as they scroll down.

One of the ways that content-driven sites are able to increase their ad revenue is by using continuous scroll to increase ad impressions. Mashable is an example of a site that does this well.

We’ve also condensed the comment section and added the option for readers to “load all comments” versus having all of the comments load automatically.

Continuous Scroll on WordPress.

The Good with Continuous Scroll

We have it. 🙂

Condensing the comment section has helped visitors more quickly get into the additional content below a post.

To Improve with Continuous Scroll

The load time for the continuous scroll section is still really slow, leaving some people to assume that they’ve reached the bottom of the page.

After fixing the load time issue with the continuous scroll we’ll start introducing ad units in the continuous scroll area.

4. Multiple Sidebars

Sidebars are becoming less and less important as the shift to mobile continues to grow.

That being said, 32% of Skillful Cook’s 2015 traffic was desktop, so we’re still paying attention to certain desktop design elements (like sidebars).

Having multiple sidebars means that we can pick and choose which sidebar is displayed for which post.

We’re using Genesis Simple Sidebars to accomplish this.

Simple Sidebars in Genesis.

The Good with Multiple Sidebars

We’ll be able to display content that is aligned with the type of post that the visitor is reading.

For instance, an income report will display sidebar content having to do with blogging and photography, whereas a recipe post will display sidebar content having to do with recipe and food-related content.

To Improve with Multiple Sidebars

We haven’t designed the additional sidebars yet. We only have one.

So yeah, that’s a pretty obvious area for improvement.

5. Retina Images

Retina display is a marketing term from Apple. The basic idea is that Retina screens make photos and fonts super crisp. More and more devices, both PC and Apple, have these super high-quality screens.

If you have a Retina screen (you can find out here) you’ll know when you see a non-retina image. It looks dull, flat, and a bit pixelated. If you don’t have a retina level screen you won’t notice a difference.

We’ve implemented site wide retina images on the new Skillful Cook design using a new feature in WordPress 4.4.

Retina Display as explained by Apple.

The Good with Retina Images

The images - both blog post images and thumbnails - are super crisp everywhere on the site.

Blog posts. The recipes page. The shop. They all have retina images. So easy on the eyes!

To Improve with Retina Images

This isn’t necessarily something we’ll improve, but there are two things to be aware of when it comes to using high-quality images: speed and cost.


Retina images load slower than “regular” images because they’re a heavier file size. This has the potential to negatively impact user experience and SEO.


Because the images are larger in size we have to pay more for hosting and serving them.

Note: We use Amazon CloudFront, hooked in through W3 Total Cache, for our CDN.

Here’s a screenshot of our bill from Amazon Web Services after the switch:

AWS costs after launching new design.

6. Recipes Page

We wanted to build a simple and easy to use recipe page with the new theme, as it’s one of the most popular pages on the blog.

We’re using Facet WP for the recipe page.

Recipe Page on Skillful Cook.

The Good with the Recipes Page

Easy and quick filtering of recipes allows users to quickly find the recipe they’re looking for.

To Improve with the Recipes Page

We still have some tweaking to do with the mobile design of this page.

6. Shop Page

We wanted to experiment with having a prominent shop page that directly linked out to affiliate products.

We’re using Facet WP for the shop page.

Simple Sidebars in Genesis.

The Good with the Shop Page

Similar to the recipe page, it allows for quick filtering of products and allows users to quickly find a product they’re looking for.

It’s also a natural way to integrate affiliate content.

To Improve with the Shop Page

We have a lot of room to improve with the shop page, as the engagement level is relatively lackluster. The biggest issues (I’m assuming) are the name (Shop vs. something like Favorites), the generic images, and the fact that we are not really calling out this portion of the website in any way.

Here's a screenshot of Amazon earnings:

Amazon Earnings after Launching New Design.

You’ll see us continue to experiment with this page throughout the year.

Speaking of continuing to experiment…

1% Infinity Applied To Web Design

If you’ve followed along with these reports (the Food Blogger Pro podcast) then you know that we talk a lot about a concept we call 1% Infinity.

The basic idea with 1% Infinity is that you make small improvements, every day, forever.

Moving forward, we’ll be applying the 1% Infinity mindset to the design and user experience of Skillful Cook.

Instead of big changes every few years (like what we showed in the Skillful Cook Through the Years section above) we’ll be making small changes on a regular basis, testing them, and then applying what we learned to make it an even stronger site.

One More Thing

We’re tossing around the idea of creating a Skillful Cook theme + course offering.

This would be a good fit for someone that doesn’t want an out-of-the-box, publicly available theme but at the same time doesn’t want to pay $5,000+ for a custom-designed and developed theme.

We’re currently in the “gauging interest” stage with this, so if this sounds like something you might be interested in you can sign up here <—

Update 10/27/20: We decided to not create a theme as mentioned above, and instead we've been focusing on a handful of awesome plugins from our sister site, WP Tasty - a recipe card plugin exclusively for food blogs, a plugin to auto-link keywords and maximize affiliate revenue, and a plugin to optimize your images for SEO and Pinterest. You can check them all out here!

Learn more about Tasty Recipes

Because Of You

Lindsay and I fully realize that it’s because you – the readers, commenters, silent observers, and share-with-your-friend-ers – that Skillful Cook is what it is today.

Thank you. We so-so-so appreciate you. From the bottom of our Minnesota hearts.

Every month we donate a portion of this blog income to the Children’s Shelter of Cebu, an orphanage in Cebu City, Philippines that we know and love.

Young girl with glasses.

This month we’re donating to the school's carpet project. It’s not the most exciting fundraising campaign, but carpet in the Philippines is actually a pretty big deal. Carpet helps the school feel warmer and welcoming for the kids, and new carpet is much needed!

As a side note, Lindsay and I recently booked our flights to go back to the Philippines in late February of this year! We are really excited to visit the orphanage and our old home, and also have the chance to work on some media projects for the shelter. I'm sure you'll be seeing more on that from Lindsay when the time comes. 😉

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  1. Skillful Cook Logo

    I always love reading these every month. When I first found them I think I sat there on a weekend and read them all haha.

    I also watched The Intern this weekend and at first was annoyed at how they treated every woman like she was a baby and might cry at any moment, but by the end it had switched to more woman power so I guess it redeemed itself. Usually I don’t even care about things like that, but it stuck out to me.

    Anyhoo, keep up the great work and the awesome growth!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      OMG i just watched that movie too! LOL! But yes, great stuff lindsay and bjork. Thanks for sharing and giving us inspiration. Love the throw back designs!

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    I love the shop page because I really trust Lindsay’s recommendations. I used it a couple days ago to add a few things to my Amazon wish list.

    This is random, but last week I tried to find a recommendation on the site for a scoop to use for muffins after I made the pumpkin maple muffins and realized it would have been way easier with a scoop, ha. (Lindsay mentioned using a scoop, but not a specific one.) I finally picked one on Amazon after reading way too many reviews for such a simple purchase, so I would definitely consider adding a rec for that to the shop!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Good call! Thanks Sarah! Those are the kinds of things that I think about when I’m laying in bed and can’t sleep… “Gotta add a scoop to the shop…” 😉

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        Ha, oh no! Not trying to contribute to insomnia. 🙂

        I should have said also that the redesign is really nice and makes the site even more pleasant to use.

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    I can’t foresee my blog ever growing so large it’s a full time income earner for me, but reading about strategy and how you were able to grow is inspiring and helps give me new ideas.
    Thank you for being so transparent.

  4. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thanks for sharing this report, you are helping many in ways you can’t imagine (That includes me and hubby.)
    One thing I noticed in the Skillful Cook website pictures from 2010 till now …. Lindsay after five years looks exactly the same 🙂 , you are one lucky girl Lindsay!

  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    Awesome PACKED content this month on the redesign, Bjork! Great job, and appreciate how thorough you were. Definitely keeping all these valuable nuggets of info in my back pocket for when it is time for more than a free wordpress design 🙂
    I love the idea of the continuous scroll and think it is a super smart move for you guys…although it kills my OCD self because I want to reach the end of the page, knowing I have reviewed all the content HA. #ocdproblems

  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    Obsessed with the redesign – especially the infinite scroll. Super addicting and a brilliant move. Sorry if I missed it somewhere, but would you be willing to share what designer you worked with?

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    Great recap, and nice stroll down memory lane. That was cool to see screenshots from the “early days.” The numbers are incredible! Your efforts are truly paying off, keep up the great work.

  8. Skillful Cook Logo

    As always, so interesting, inspiring and so much helpful information. Thank you!

    I was was looking at your design with lots of wanderings. I love the way it looks. I just paid for mine and I am still thinking what might work best. I would love to read more about your new “static” design, how it works better/different for you, etc.


  9. Skillful Cook Logo

    Great update, thanks Bjork!

    I had a ton of questions about the new site design and you’ve answered most of them in this post 🙂

  10. Skillful Cook Logo

    This is fascinating. I, too, appreciate the transparency. Makes me wish I could actually cook (or make up my own recipes) and be creative enough to blog about it!

  11. Skillful Cook Logo

    Love the new design, and one again all the details you always share. As my wife just launched her food blog this month we’ve been avid followers of you guys since the $200/month days. Wow its exciting to see you guys continue to learn and share. Thanks again and God Bless. -Brian

  12. Skillful Cook Logo

    WoW! Haven’t visited here for a while and the numbers are still soaring. Thanks for the transparency – really motivational! My blog has earned me a few cents this month and I’m actually quite amazed by it.
    And luckily blogging is not my full time job,,,,yet.

  13. Skillful Cook Logo

    I love your traffic reports! Congratulations on all the breakthroughs you have had! I am blown away by this income report! You show the possibilities that are available by staying in committed action and being open to trying new things! Thank you!!!

  14. Skillful Cook Logo

    I always love seeing these reports. Why don’t you guys include the total amount made on the main image anymore? I miss that.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Hi, Jenna! Glad you enjoy these posts. 🙂 We opted to take the total out of the main image so that the focus is more on ways to improve your blog instead of on one “total” number.

  15. Skillful Cook Logo

    1) Oh, the trip down memory lane. I distinctly remember standing in the stifling hot cafeteria during summer school, comparing our Luna Bars, and hearing your ideas for starting a food blog. And… I totally remember the Yoplait smoothie bag post!
    2) I recall sitting in your classroom, listening to you tell about Bjork’s new idea of making money off a food blog – and me telling you that was clearly impossible. (Oops!)
    3) I love that Bjork has his own little description spot now. Please tell him that he’s not a “former” singer-songwriter. Jacob is still his biggest fan and proudly wears his Bjork Ostrom t-shirt to school all the time.
    4) I’m so super proud of you guys and all you’ve done.
    5) 1% infiinity is an awesome life motto.

  16. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thanks so much for the transparency! It really helps your readers out….and it’s also inspirational! There is really something to be said for the work ethic of “showing up everyday to do what you need to do” and it’s great that what you guys do is something that you love. Pat little Sage for me. 🙂

  17. Skillful Cook Logo

    I love, love, love reading these reports and learning from fellow, experienced bloggers like you guys! I am curious as well about when foodbloogerpro will be open again to more users. (Unless I missed something?) Also, I’d love to hear more about the Philippines. You lived there once? Do tell! – Kori

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Hi, Kori! We will post on the blog when FBP will be opening up to new subscribers. 🙂 As for info about the Philippines, if you search our search bar with “living abroad” or “Philippines”, you’ll be able to read a whole bunch of posts about when Lindsay and Bjork lived there!

  18. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hey Bjork! That quick story deserve a good coffee cup from Costa Rica! Thank you a lot… for be realistic and motivate me with your thoughts and your hard work which is reflected in your POY blog. Congrats and best wishes for you both. God blessed you.

  19. Skillful Cook Logo

    Congratulation on your success of Skillful Cook.

    I admire what Lindsey and you have done blogging. They say imitation is the best form of flattery and while I didn’t copy what you did, I have followed much of your advice when creating my website.

    I don’t have a cooking website or blog. But we do have something in common…recipes. I started RiverKeeper Flies ( in March 2014 and the recipes I develop are for fly tyers to create their own works of art to catch trout, steelhead and salmon. In addition, I provide tips to my readers.

    I looked over my wife’s shoulder as she developed her website (an online video workout – in 2014 using your advice – WordPress, Blue Host, WordPress plugins, photo tips, etc. She doesn’t blog, but used the basics of website development and encouraged me to begin mine as well. And I did!

    While new to the blogging world, I have consistently posted every week and added a second post called Throw Back Thursday Flies. I’m working on providing good content…that’s the most important lesson I’ve learned from your posts.

    And I really enjoy taking photos. All done with a waterproof Pentax to date, even for my macro shots. A friend of mine just loaned me a Nikon 5100…a big step up to say the least!!

    Here are a couple of stats: over 2,100 sessions/month; over 5,100 pageview/month the last 3 months. OK, to put these numbers into perspective, they are nowhere near POY, but they remain consistent and continue to grow.

    So I just wanted to say a heartfelt “thanks”!