Traffic and Income Report - October 2015 - Skillful Cook
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Traffic and Income Report - October 2015

October Income Report collage of four images.

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

Before we jump in I wanted to provide a quick reminder that we’re closing off enrollment to Food Blogger Pro this Thursday at 11:59 pm CST. That’s soon!

Click here to sign up for Food Blogger Pro before the doors close.

The next public enrollment won’t be until the Spring of 2016.

More on that in a bit, but first, the official intro...

What are these reports all about, anyway?

Let me explain…

The first time we wrote a post like this was way back on September 5th, 2011. We wanted to figure out if it was possible to create a business from a food blog.

Here’s a quote from that post:

Thanks for taking a peek at the inner workings of Skillful Cook. We’re excited to learn more about creating an income from a food blog. Every month we’ll check back in and share what we’ve learned, and in the meantime, please let us know if there is any information (traffic, specific analytics, additional resources) we can share that would be helpful or interesting for you to know. For now, please accept our invitation to join us in this venture!

My favorite part of that lil’ blurb? The last sentence: “…please accept our invitation to join us in this venture!”

We’ve loved meeting, connecting with, and hearing stories from people that have followed along with these reports over the years, each “joining us” in their own unique way.

One thing that we’ve learned as we’ve continued in this journey is that the most important thing is the process, not the destination. It’s about falling in love with the work that you’re doing and figuring out ways to continue doing it each and every day.

True, there are times when it will be a struggle and you need to push through, but The Goal should never be reaching the goal, The Goal is to have goals that you truly love working towards.

If you love the work or love the feeling that you feel after you do the work, then you’ve arrived. You can still have goals, and you should, but you’ve reached The Goal if you love working towards your goal.

Does that make sense? The difference between The Goal and the goal?

Achieving The Goal (capital G) is internal. It’s controlled by you. It’s mindset based. You never check it off your list. It’s the process.

Achieving the goal (lowercase g) is external. It’s list based and can be checked off a list once you achieve it. It’s the destination.

We have a tendency to focus on goals and not as much on The Goal. People will do things, often for years at a time, that aren’t a good fit for them and don’t align with their passion, skills, or abilities. All in the name of reaching a goal.

So how do get closer to The Goal?

Reflect, refine, and repeat.

Reflect on your work. Where do you feel like you experience flow? What do you enjoy doing the most? What are the things you look forward to working on?

Refine your work. How can you make small shifts that allow you to do more of those things that you enjoy and where you experience flow. You should be looking for ways to increase the time you spend on things that align with your passion, skills, and abilities. It doesn’t have to be a drastic change. What’s one small habit or task you can refine?

Repeat #1 and #2.

As you do this you’ll continue to discover work that isn’t a good fit for you while being able to focus more and more on work that is a good fit for you. And the more you enjoy the work you do the more you’ll enjoy the work (obvious but important). This is The Goal, and achieving it will help you reach your goals.

It bears repeating that you’re not looking for easy work, you’re looking for work that “fits you.” Oftentimes the work we enjoy the most is a little bit challenging - it’s work that stretches us and makes a bit uncomfortable.

My hope for these reports is that they encourage you to continue moving towards The Goal, which in turn helps you achieve your goals.

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

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.


*Federated Media is delayed with releasing earnings reports, which means we don't have hard numbers when we publish these reports. We estimate earnings by using CPM earnings from last month and multiplying that by the traffic we experienced this month.


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.

Traffic Overview

Blog Traffic Overview.

Top Ten Traffic Sources

Blog Traffic Sources.

Mobile Vs. Desktop Vs. Tablet

Mobile vs. Desktop vs. Tablet.

Top Traffic Channels

Top Traffic Channels.
Takeaways and Things we Learned

Why The Open and Close For Food Blogger Pro?

One of my favorite marketing concepts is Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. It comes from wine-guru-turned-social-media-guru Gary Vaynerchuk.

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook is a boxing analogy. The best way to win in boxing isn’t by coming out and throwing right hooks. It’s by doing lots of little jabs. The idea crosses over into marketing like this: Most people throw right hooks (asking) without doing any jabs (giving).

The switch to an open and close for Food Blogger Pro allows us to have two seasons - a giving season (jab) and an asking season (right hook). Right now we’re in the asking season (our “ask” is signing up for Food Blogger Pro). You’ve probably noticed this if you follow along closely with what we’re doing here on Skillful Cook or on FBP. We’re emailing, mentioning it on social, and pushing for sign-ups in ways that we normally don’t (like at the beginning of this post).

At 11:59 pm CST on Thursday (when FBP closes) we’ll switch into a giving season. We’ll publish podcast episodes, do these monthly income reports, create free eBooks, and publish photography related posts on Skillful Cook. Oh, and recipe posts. Lindsay will still do plenty of those. These are jabs - things that we’re giving.

We’re also viewing these two seasons as the marketing season and the member season. Right now, in the marketing season, we’re focused on signing up new members. After this we’ll switch into the member season, focusing in on the needs of the members of Food Blogger Pro.

Before the open and close structure, we were constantly juggling the two things: Trying to market while at the same time serving the members. Giving while at the same time always asking.

While you’ll still see us mention Food Blogger Pro you won’t see much about signing up, at least not until 5–6 months from now.

The Value Of Ads and The Value Of a Niche

We hosted an AMA video chat recently with a focus on blogging and Food Blogger Pro. We had some incredible questions come through. I wanted to talk about one of the questions today because I think it’s a really important concept to understand.

The question comes from Alexa:

Is it possible to turn a food blog into your full-time gig without using ads? I feel like they take away from the “user experience” because they can be so distracting and/or tacky.

The short answer: Yes. 100% possible.

The reason I want to bring this up is that we haven’t done a great job of demonstrating that on Skillful Cook. We’ve done a decent job, but not a great job. At least not in these income reports.

One of the reasons is because we don’t include any earnings from Food Blogger Pro, so at a quick glance it can seem like the majority of our income comes from ads. True, a lot of it does, but it’s about 50/50 when you include Food Blogger Pro in the mix.

Here’s the difference between POY and FBP:

  • Skillful Cook: High Traffic + General Audience.
  • Food Blogger Pro: Low Traffic + Specific Audience.

What’s the best strategy if you’re wanting to create an income from a blog using ads?

A high traffic blog with a general audience lends itself well to monetizing through ads. Most of the high traffic sites or media outlets we use are monetizing this way.

Facebook. Mashable. CNN. Instagram. The Serial Podcast. MSN. Pinterest. ESPN.

You could include Skillful Cook in this group as well. It’s a high traffic blog with a general audience that creates the majority of its income from ads - both native ads (sponsored content) and traditional ads (CPM based banner ads).

The advertising transaction is based on attention economics.

A high-traffic website works hard to build something that people pay attention to and then they sell some of that attention, in the form of sponsored content or ads, to companies that want to give their brand some attention.

In general, the more traffic that comes in the higher the income potential is. With businesses like this, more traffic usually means the potential for more income, regardless of the interests or demographics of the people that are visiting.

One of the things I worry about with doing these income reports is the potential for people to think that this way - the high traffic + general audience + ad-based way we create an income from Skillful Cook - is the best way. It works for us, but it doesn’t have to be how you build your thing. It’s entirely possible to build a blog - even a food blog - and not have an ad-based income.

What’s the best strategy if you’re wanting to create an income from a blog but not use ads?

Serve a specific niche.

Serving a niche will free you from having to play the high traffic + ad game and instead allow you to focus in on creating a solution (by creating your own product or being an affiliate for another company) for a really specific segment of the market. There are lots of people and brands that are doing this, many of which are smaller companies.

Whole 30. Jeff Goins. Simple Green Smoothies. Learn Scrivener Fast.

You can include Food Blogger Pro in that list as well. Our goal isn’t necessarily to increase general traffic to Food Blogger Pro because an increase in traffic won’t help unless that traffic is people from a specific niche - people interested in starting or growing a food-related website.

So if you’re interested in building a food-related blog or website and you know that you don’t want to use ads or sponsored content then I’d really encourage you to find a niche that you’re going to focus on.

Learn everything you can about the people in that niche and focus all your time and energy on helping them solve their problems or improve their lives using three things:

  1. Free content (blog posts, podcasts, downloads, social media)
  2. Opt-in content (email opt-in to get access to eBooks, webinars, video courses)
  3. Paid content (either yours or someone else’s)

Thanks for the great question Alexa!

Emails and Zaps

The closing of Food Blogger Pro has been the first real “campaign” that we’ve done with email. It’s been fun, but man…it’s a lot of work. The majority of front-end work came in the form of segmenting and tagging our email lists.

You might remember in August’s report I shared a bit about the importance of segmenting an email list, especially if you’re sending marketing-related emails. The idea is that you want to send the right message to the right people instead of just blasting your entire list with a generic message.

For instance, if I’m sending a Food Blogger Pro marketing email I don’t want to send that to people that are already members of Food Blogger Pro.

We use two primary tools to accomplish this:

  1. ActiveCampaign (for email and segmenting)
  2. Zapier (for automating the tagging of contacts)

A quick note: If you’re just getting started with your blog, then ActiveCampaign is probably more than you need. I’d suggest starting with something a little less feature-heavy (and more affordable) like MailChimp.

Call me a nerd, but I get pretty excited about how these two tools can work together.

Here’s an example of how this works:

  1. We send an email out to our email list about joining Food Blogger Pro.
  2. Someone decides to join FBP.
  3. They sign up using PayPal (or Stripe).
  4. We have a “Zap” (that’s what Zapier calls an automated process) that connects PayPal with ActiveCampaign. This allows ActiveCampaign to get “pinged” and update the contact as having signed up for an FBP membership.
  5. Next time we send out a marketing email about FBP the contact won’t get the email because they’re tagged as a member.

Here’s what that Zap looks like in Zapier:

Zapier and ActiveCampaign Example.

And here’s an example of what tags look like in ActiveCampaign:

ActiveCampaign Tag Example.

You can see how those two tools can work together to create some really cool combinations, which in turn help you craft more intentional and deliberate messages to your subscribers.

Both ActiveCampaign and Zapier are pretty intense, so if you decide to use them be sure to dedicate some time for learning.

Countdown Timer

This is a quick fun one to end on because I know I’ll get a lot of questions about it.

The countdown timer!

I’m referring to the one we’re using in the beginning of this post (and below as well).

Here’s why we’re doing that:

Our readers and subscribers come from all around the world, so saying that the doors close at 11:59 pm CST is only somewhat helpful. It requires a lot of math and/or Googling. The countdown timer is nice to have because it shows exactly how many hours and minutes are left. It’s a much more visual representation than just the words 11:59 pm CST.

I went deep into research mode trying to find a way to put a countdown timer into emails and blog posts. I had seen some other people do it but couldn’t figure out what they were using. Then I came across MotionMail. It was exactly what I needed!

It’s super easy to use. You pick the date you’re counting down to, the time zone, and the design elements (fonts and colors) and then it creates a countdown timer in the form of a GIF.

Here’s an example of the settings for the timer that you see below:

MotionMail Countdown Timer Settings.
countdown timer

Any ideas what this countdown timer is for?

The time left to sign up for Food Blogger Pro of course! 🙂

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 really appreciate you.

This month we’re donating a portion of Skillful Cook’s income to the Boxes of Love project here in the Twin Cities.

Lindsay’s cousin Aaron and his wife Erica work for Cru Inner City which is the organization that helps organize this project. We really value the work that they're doing to make the Twin Cities a more love-filled place.

Men carrying boxes.

Each Thanksgiving they partner with local churches to deliver Boxes of Love, which includes a complete holiday meal for hungry families, enough for a family of six.

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  1. Skillful Cook Logo

    You are right, enjoy the process; enjoy the journey. Thanks for this reminder as I am getting very impatient lately, writing all these post and nobody looks at them…

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Haha, I’m going to pop over now to read your blog. Don’t be discouraged, keep going. Just like Nemo….just keep swimming just keep swimming…….I think doing what you love is vital. I’ve met so many fun people blogging and have made some $$$ and gotten incredible product for free. And it keeps in line with what I do in my real life (English teacher) and helps with professional hours. So yes, I guess looking at the glass half full is always best. Good luck to you!!

      Love this post as always Bjork, you and Lindsay never cease to inspire me.

    2. Skillful Cook Logo

      That is a great way to get people to read your posts – made me want to go over and read it right now too! And I share your growing pains – building an audience is hard! I just try to write as if I already have a large and loyal audience who depends on good, consistent content from me. 🙂

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thanks so much for another great indepth report Bjork! I have been wondering about your emails for FBP and how you customize and personalize them and forgot to ask during Food Blog U in Cancun! I definitely want to up my game in that area and will be looking into the resources you mentioned to do it! Excited about the new content you guys will be working on for FBP – it’s hand’s down one of the best blogging resources out there! Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Hey Mellissa! Shoot. It would have been more fun to talk about it in person. 🙂

      The gist of it:

      With FBP (members only) we use Intercom – – for the member only emails (and those little messages that pop up sometimes when you login). It’s super slick for sites like FBP or SAAS companies.

      With POY and FBP (newsletter and RSS only) we use ActiveCampaign (the one I talk about in this report). It allows for slick stuff like segmenting, meaning we can make sure to not email people about signing up for FBP that are already members.

      Let me know if you have any other questions with it!

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    I wish I could spend more of my time doing things that better aligned with my Goal.
    Going to reflect, refine, and repeat, for sure.

  4. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hey guys! Another thorough income report and I love it 🙂 I cant recall info on FBP about FPB traffic so I am asking, but if I overlooked details just let me know! I was curious if you have the same type of data regarding traffic sources for FBP. I would think the majority of your traffic comes from the traffic that was already built from POY but I may be wrong! I am constantly mulling over the idea of a more niche site and listing to podcast after podcast to learn how to do that, but of course my traffic isn’t there yet. Could you shed any light on that? Have you find a way other than POY to drive a decent amount of traffic to FBP?

  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    Nice write up as usual. Have you thought about switching to convert kit? It seems right up your alley.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Hey Nate! I’ve looked into a bit, but not a lot. ActiveCampaign is pretty similar. Does ConvertKit have the ability track based on a site cookie? That was a huge part of the reason we switch to AC.

  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    You’ve convinced me! I’ve been a long time reader and follower and just signed up for Food Blogger Pro. Love reading the income reports and learning about the different tools you use. My boyfriend started a SAAS company (for influencer marketing and blogger outreach) so it’s interesting to see the overlap in tools (I noticed you use Intercom for FBP – a tool I’ve been getting familiar with as I help with his business). Quick question – In the income part you breakdown the ad income by network and show the Adthrive income – I thought Adthrive managed all the ads? Do they still show the breakdown by certain networks and that’s why you show those ones? Just signed up with Adthrive so was not sure how that worked.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      **In the income part you breakdown the ad income by network and show the Adthrive income – I thought Adthrive managed all the ads? Do they still show the breakdown by certain networks and that’s why you show those ones?**

      Yep. That’s it (that last sentence). I know they have different tiers of service. The one we’re on allows us to use the different networks we were a part of before signing up. Not sure if this is still how they’re doing it.

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        Would you recommend using something like Adthrive even if you don’t have a ton of traffic? I’m averaging about 27k page views.

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thank you so much for sharing all this detailed information about your business. It is such a wonderful source of inspiration and I love your sentiment about enjoying the journey. Spot on! Thank you for all that you do 🙂

  8. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thanks so much for the information! I’ve just started a food blog, and I find your story super inspiring. I think it’s great that you guys are so transparent about the process, and I really appreciate these reports.

  9. Skillful Cook Logo

    Love your reports!

    It’s definitely possible to create an income without ads. Although I’m not a food blogger, I make a good full time income from my blog and less than 10% of my revenue is from ads! I’d still be totally fine if I didn’t have them. I choose to keep them because I don’t think they detract too much from the experience and I don’t mind the money for little additional effort. Most of my income is from my own product.

  10. Skillful Cook Logo

    Dude really i mean its soo much traffic from pinintrest really did you do hoodoo or vodoo lol just incase you start any pinintrest program just fill me in okay bjork

  11. Skillful Cook Logo

    Wow! Great work. Talk about setting your eye on the prize! I commend you on setting a goal and doing so much more! Congrats!

  12. Skillful Cook Logo

    I love what you say here about the Goal and the goal, it’s so perfect. I might even print it out and save it as a reminder to stay focused, inspired, and celebrate the steps along the way.

    Thanks for a great recap of your monthly happenings, love what you both do here!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Hi Sara! Our team member Abby does all the scheduling and she uses ViralTag to schedule for its ease of use. There are several other tools that she uses as well (BoardBooster, for one) and she outlines them in our Pinterest course on Food Blogger Pro. Hope that gives you a good starting point!

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        Why is that? It seems to me like that’s obviously why people read these posts, among other reasons, so that decision only forces us to pull out our calculators. It’s like the concept of why Infographics are so popular – studies show people want the numbers and the information in a compacted format that is easier to absorb in a quicker amount of time.

  13. Skillful Cook Logo

    Lindsay, Love, love, love your past income reports. Sop inspiring to see your “side hustle millionaire” progress from your humble beginnings as a teacher turned full-time blogger. So glad good peeps like you are in my line of work as a fellow blogger and side hustler because with you virtually in my life now, you and others keep me inspired and hopeful to achieve side hustle millionaire status very soon with the LORD’s help. Thank you for just being you and please whatever you do my friend, don’t change anything about you! (smile)

    🙂 🙂 🙂