Making Money

This isn’t going to be a complete blog post. Heck, it may not even be a complete thought. But I’m too excited to keep the news to myself.

We just rolled out our first affiliate program, and I’d love for you to take a look. We’re paying affiliates who refer sales of our eCookbook, titled “Wich, Please: 30 Sandwiches to Help You Win Friends and Influence People” a flat rate of $5 per sale…a whopping 62% of the sales price.

I’ll have more news and information soon, but for now, you can check out the details of this program here.

Happy New Year! It’s time for another monthly revenue report! Each month, we reveal the “behind the scenes” economics of our ongoing quest to turn our food blog, FromAway.com, into our full-time job. We’ll share with you what worked and didn’t work from the previous month, with the idea that the things we learn will save you a few steps on your own path to profitability. As always, please let us know if there are any particular stats or pieces of data you would like to have, and we’ll do our best to answer everyone’s questions.

Here’s the breakdown of the income generated by FromAway.com for the month of December, 2012:

Total Earnings in December: $1,809.25

Were you wondering what this data would look like in pie chart form? I’ve got you covered:

Here are a few notes and explanations of the above:

BlogHer and Google Adsense

The end of the year is always a good time for anyone serving banner ads, and this December was no exception. The ad sales team at Blog Her must have been kicked into overdrive, serving up tons of banner inventory with fairly high-paying CPMs, or cost per 1,000 impressions. We also raked in an extra $50 for a small campaign we did for The Art of Shaving, which required us to “tout” a predefined advertising message eight times before the end of the year. Unfortunately, we came just short of our goal of generating one million banner impressions for the month.

TIP: When you reach a million banner impressions per month, your share of revenue at BlogHer changes from 45% to 54%. This may not seem significant, but with our current traffic levels as an example, it represents a difference of about $200 per month. Thus, hitting a million banner impressions per month is one of our major goals.

We managed to generate 902,859 banner impressions for BlogHer in December. To get to a million, we’re choosing not to add any more ad units to the site; instead, we are focusing on building more traffic.

Google ads were shown instead of BlogHer’s house ads, when there were no campaigns available, generating approximately the same amount of revenue as usual.

Affiliate Sales

It was a good month for affiliate sales; nearly across-the-board, sales were up for the month of December. I’m not sure why, as we didn’t do any additional marketing. For now, we’ll call it a fluke and see what happens next month.

And now, here’s a quick look at From Away’s stats for the month of December:

Notice our average pages/visit? It’s low. This means that people are hitting the site, either through a referral or from a search engine, reading one page, and then leaving the site. We’re simply not doing a good enough job of engaging users and convincing them to browse the rest of the site, which is a design issue that I will be working on in January.

What else will we be working on in January, to drive revenue higher? It’s a bit of a scary month; now that the holidays are over, major national advertisers will be scaling back their advertising budgets, meaning we can probably expect our BlogHer numbers to go down next month, as advertisers are less willing to buy banners. In an effort to mitigate this drop in income, we are going to make a few big moves.

First, we are going to test replacing From Away’s search functionality with a Google custom search. I have mixed feelings about this. I’d hate to alienate users with even more Google ads, and I don’t think that Google’s search is any more robust than WordPress’ built-in search function. On the other hand, some of the biggest food blogs on the planet use it (Elise Bauer at Simply Recipes springs to mind), so there has to be a reason. In January, we’ll test replacing our regular search function with Google’s, to see if the results it delivers are better, or if it brings in any extra money.

More significantly, though, January 1st saw the launch of a big new experiment on our website: A retail, mail-order branch of the blog, selling a collection of our favorite items from the world of food and drink. This may not be a revenue stream appropriate for every food blogger, since it will be rather expensive in terms of time and the initial inventory purchase for each item we add to the shop. But it could be a way to convert casual visitors into customers. We’re keeping an open mind, and trying to approach the new portion of the business slowly, sanely, and with a minimal initial investment. Of course, we’ll report back on its relative success (or failure) at this time next month.

I hope you found something in this month’s report that was useful! Check back next month, when we’ll talk about the changes we’ve made, as well as what worked and what didn’t for January. Of course, if you have any questions or comments, or if there is any more specific information you would like, please let me know in the comments.

Please note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you use them to make a purchase. I have used each and every one of the products or services listed above, and recommend them based on my positive experience with them, not because of the commissions that I may earn from your purchases.

Hey everybody! Welcome to another edition of our monthly revenue report. Each month, we examine the things that have been working (and the things that haven’t been working so well) to help turn our blog, FromAway.com, into a means of making a full-time living. With any luck, our experience will help you on your own blog’s quest to profitability.

November was a good month for the site. In fact, it was our most profitable so far. Let’s look at the reasons why, as well as what we’re going to try this month to move the needle ever-upward. Be sure to let us know if there are any particular stats or pieces of data you would like to have, and we’ll do our best to answer everyone’s questions.

Here’s the breakdown of the income generated by FromAway.com for the month of November, 2012:

Total Earnings in November: $1,813.74

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How cool would it be to spend your days driving around, blogging about food from quirky, out-of-the-way places, while getting paid to cook gourmet meals at home? Like many food bloggers, I am always looking for ways to increase the revenue our site generates each month, with the idea that maybe someday, working on our site will be something I can do full-time. In this series, we’ll share what worked (and what didn’t) from the previous month, in a totally transparent look behind the scenes at the business of food blogging. Hopefully, some of the work we’ve done can save you a few steps, in your quest to making your food blog profitable.

Be sure to let us know if there are any particular stats or pieces of data you would like to have, and we’ll do our best to answer everyone’s questions.

Ready? Here’s the breakdown of the income generated by FromAway.com for the month of October, 2012:

Total Earnings in October: $1,242.47

I wanted to take a moment to make a few notes on these items:

BlogHer and Google Adsense

Once again, the combination of ads from BlogHer and Google Adsense were our most profitable relationships for this month, earning a combined $933.68 for the site. That’s a great number (although I feel better when we break $1,000 for the month), but it does represent a decrease from the previous month’s $1,169.04 from these two sources. The question is: Why?

Our traffic was about the same as the previous month. We generated 681,598 banner impressions for BlogHer in October, which is less than the 717,214 impressions we generated in September. Still, it doesn’t seem like a difference of just 35k impressions should create a drop in revenue of almost $300.

I decided to contact BlogHer, and find out. Here’s what they had to say:

It’s usually the case that every month will bring a different amount of revenue, even if your traffic is holding steady. It all depends on how many campaigns are running, what the CPMs for those campaigns are, what types of ads you run (for example, you’re opted out of floating layers, so you won’t serve any ads where the client has requested surveys), and how much of your audience is based in the U.S. Sometimes traffic will rise sharply and revenue will stay flat or fall; other times traffic will dip and revenue will rise. I guess that’s a longwinded way of saying that ad revenue is pretty unpredictable.

There aren’t really any surprises here, though I do appreciate how open BlogHer is about their process. This explanation confirms what I already suspected; that from month to month, the revenue you earn (even if your traffic remains consistent) is entirely dependent on what kinds of deals the ad sales team at BlogHer has been able to make with advertisers. We don’t run “floating layers” on the site, because I believe they negatively impact the user experience, and that’s a careful line you must walk when considering how much advertising you will run on your site. Still, it’s frustrating to not have any direct control over your site’s performance, though our rep at BlogHer did include this little nugget of information:

When you serve one million or more impressions, your revenue share goes from 45% of the gross to 54%. Since you’re pretty close, you might want to consider placing another ad, if you can fit one above the fold, or installing a BlogHer TV widget in your sidebar, to see if you can reach the 1MM impression mark.

This is good news; those nine little percentage points will mean a difference of hundreds of dollars in revenue each month. I don’t want to place any more ads on the site, and I’m not 100% sold on the benefits of the BlogHer TV widget yet, so we’ll focus on growing traffic in order to get to that magic one million banner impression level.

Local Ad Sales

Unfortunately, one of our local advertisers went out of business, and so we saw a slight drop in revenue from our local advertisers. We’re actively looking for new sponsors to fill this gap, but as usual, local advertisers didn’t add a ton of money to the site’s bottom line.

Affiliate Sales

Affiliate sales for our top performing partner products, DIY Themes and Bluehost, were exactly the same as the previous month, generating a combined $223.71 for the site.

VigLink

VigLink‘s system of creating affiliate text links for sites you may not have an existing affiliate relationship with has been hit-or-miss so far. The first month we tested the software, it brought in almost $200. This month, it brought in two bucks. We’ll keep running the software for a few more months, to see what develops.

Amazon Affiliate Sales

As usual, Amazon has not been a big moneymaker for us, bringing in just over three dollars for the month. At this point, we are offering Amazon affiliate links not as a way to make money, but as a convenience to our readers, who may want to make a purchase after reading about a product on our site.

And now, here’s a quick look at From Away’s stats for the month of October:

There was a slight decrease in traffic, but not enough to be concerned about.

I hope you found something in this month’s report that was useful! Check back next month, when we’ll talk about the changes we’ve made, as well as what worked and what didn’t for November. Of course, if you have any questions or comments, or if there is any more specific information you would like, please let me know in the comments.

Please note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you use them to make a purchase. I have used each and every one of the products or services listed above, and recommend them based on my positive experience with them, not because of the commissions that I may earn from your purchases.

As a food blogger, you are passionate about food. No matter how enthusiastic you are about the act of photographing and writing about what you eat, however, there’s a good chance that thoughts of making money with your site may have crossed your mind. Its a natural response; your blog is something you work hard on, and as your traffic continues to grow, you probably have taken a look around you and seen that blogs that don’t seem much better than yours have cookbook deals, lucrative advertising agreements, and tons of free merchandise to give away to their readers. The main question is: Can you earn a living as a food blogger? Or, can you even make any money at all?

Unless you find a creative way to hilariously combine snapshots of kittens with reviews of fast food, it’s difficult to earn a living food blogging. At least, it is at first. For most of us, or unless you get lucky with something that instantly sets the world on fire, it will take somewhere between two and five years of consistent, quality posts before you will have the opportunity to start making any kind of real money with your food blog.

We’ve been working on From Away, our food blog about cooking and eating in Maine, for a little over two years now. For most of that time, we weren’t too aggressive about trying to use the site to make money, though it’s something I’ve always dreamed could be a possibility. And why not? How cool would it be to spend your days driving around, blogging about food from quirky, out-of-the-way places, while getting paid to cook gourmet meals at home? As I spent more and more time working on our site, I began to wonder if I could turn it into my full-time job.

We’re not there yet. In my mind, I think I’ve set a monthly revenue goal of about $4,000. It’s a pretty arbitrary number, but to me, it always seemed to be the amount of money I needed the blog to generate per month in order to justify making the site my “full-time” job. We have a long way to go to reach that number. At first, the traffic simply wasn’t there; until you are receiving hundreds of thousands of visitors per month, running advertising on your site probably isn’t worth the trouble. But now that our site consistently receives more than 100,000 unique visitors per month, I’ve been working harder to maximize the amount of money the site makes, while maintaining a good experience for the reader.

When we first began running ads on FromAway.com, the results were pretty abysmal. In our first few months, we made less than a hundred dollars per month. It’s not nothing, but it’s not exactly the payday that would justify quitting our jobs and working on the site full-time. As we learn new tricks and techniques, though, our monthly profits are going up. I wanted to start this column to share what we learn from month to month as we continue adjusting, tweaking, and trying new things, to let you know what works, and what doesn’t, when it comes to making money with your food blog. At the beginning of each month, we’ll look at which programs generated the most income on From Away, as well as any adjustments we’ve made or things we’ve changed. Hopefully, we can help you make more money with your food blog, as we share what works and what doesn’t. As we go along, be sure to let us know if there are any particular stats or pieces of data you would like to have, and we’ll do our best to answer everyone’s questions.

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