This month we are beginning a new series of posts where we will give you a peak behind the scenes of our website. We plan to track visits, new visitors, revenue, expenses, subscriptions and other interests related to growing our blog. In addition to that we plan on tracking our homesteads food production. How much do we grow? How much does it cost us to grow? These are the questions we hope to answer for ourselves by tracking these numbers each month. We hope this accountability will be interesting to you too!
The best part about running this blog is getting to create. I am a firm believer that happiness comes from creating. It is so easy to get into a routine of consuming that I think all to often we forget to create. Whether it is creating recipes, writing, drawing, photography, painting or whatever you do to create – I think we should all spend more time doing it! That is why I enjoy doing this so much. The blog keeps me focused on creating new recipes, instead of falling into dinner ruts where I end up making the same things week after week. It also keeps me writing which is something I have dreaded at times (I feel far to amateurish in my writing) but I really love doing. It serves as a outlet to improve my photography skills (with the help of my wonderful wife) and I am creating a living history for our kids so they can remember the foods they ate as children and see the garden they played in as kids. My hope is this will also inspire other people to do the same for their families.
With that said there is one other thing I hope to create with this blog – a business. Brainstorming , creating, photographing, writing and managing a website takes a great deal of work (and some money) and one day we hope to earn an income doing what we love. Since we have started a family and matured a little (okay a lot) we have begun to shift focus from earning a living to creating income doing what we love. We want our businesses to have a positive impact on our family and our community. Em got the first crack at this when she started her photography business part time 9 years ago – you can see her amazing work on her website emilymcintoshphoto.com. It became her full time profession almost 2 years ago now. She gets to travel all over to photograph weddings and families. She meets tons of insanely amazing people and creates memories for them they will have their whole lives. I am very proud of the work she does and the example she is setting for our kids. Being an entrepreneur – big or small – is another way of creating.
BWA was first thought about as a way to enhance Em’s photography blog. We planned to do web posts relating to our family and community mixed in with her business, The posts were titled “Blogging for Apples.” As the ideas expanded and my interest evolved, the idea of of a separate blog formed. At first we planned to trace the cost of food in grocery stores vs. ability to produce food at home. We would mix in home grown recipes but the focus would be on the hard numbers of producing and sourcing quality food locally. As I got into outlining it though I found it was coming off too preachy. There is only so many angles you can look at and eventually you are just telling people what they already know. I wanted to be able to tell more fun stories. Stories of our struggle to find a balance in how we live and eat that I think many other people could relate to. So we made the jump into starting our website after months of research on how to do it – including how to earn revenue from it. The first hiccup was bloggingforapples was already taken, We settled on bloggingwithapples.com and I am very happy we did!
So without further ado I will start the reporting. We plan to do this every month and hope you will appreciate seeing what goes into creating the website and producing our food!
Garden Report – March 2015
Obviously it is March in Maine, Not much going on in the garden. It is still covered by a foot of snow with no hope of melting soon. The next few months will be loaded with expenses with minimal production. I was able to successfully start growing sprouts indoors. I grew Mung bean and wheat sprouts. You can read about growing sprouts in this post – Growing Sprouts at Home.
- Seeds – $36
- Sprouts – 1.75 lbs
YEAR TO DATE
- Seeds – $36
- Sprouts – 1.75 lbs
YTD COST OF HOMEGROWN FOOD PER POUND – $21
The garden expenses this month were all seeds. Half of that was for sprouts (Mung Beans and Wheat). I also ordered a large packet of beet seeds that were on sale for micro greens and some arugula that was also on sale. Not much chance of getting production up for a few months so I plan to start budgeting my garden expenses for the coming season.
Website Report – March 2015
BWA has been going for 5 months now. Any article you read about starting a blog will tell you focus on creating content first. That is what we have tried to do. We have created 65 posts in those 5 months with an aggressive schedule of posting every other day that we started March 1st. We hope to continue that schedule through summer and hopefully all year. Creating quality content is the key to building viewership and we are striving to get a little better at it every month. We are tremendously thankful for the all support we have been given as we build this website, it is a large part of why it is so fun and easy to keep doing!
Onto the numbers…
For March BWA had 2532 visits from 2058 different users who viewed 3776 pages. This was our 2nd highest traffic month after October of last year which was our first month. It is also more then double our February traffic which was 1142 visits. I attribute the month over growth to the amount of posts we published in March and renewed effort to submit posts to food sharing sites.
In my head I want to grow the website to 100,000 sessions in a month – within a year. We are along ways from getting to that point but part of the purpose of reporting every month is to make sure I spend time thinking about how we can grow this business.
This is the top 20 places BWA receives traffic from…
Our top 2 sources of traffic are referrals from foodgawker.com and tastespotting.com. When I publish recipes I submit the photo’s to those sites and others (wholeyum.com etc) and if they like them they publish them and people can click on them to read our blog post. The traffic from Facebook comes from when Em posts a link on either her account or the BWA account and people click on it. BWA post email are subscribers who signed up and clicked on our email link that goes out on days when posts publish.
Our most viewed posts in March were…
Daffodil Cake 314 views
Old Time Chocolate Cake 293 views
Chicken Pot Pie Calzones 195 views
We also had a recipe published by a local magazine in March which was really exciting. Our Slow Cooker Corned Beef in Beer was published by the Bangor Metro. You can check it out on their website in the March issue here.
Revenue For March:
1. Google Adsense – $2.39
Total = $2.39
Expenses For March:
1. Bluehost – $6.95
Total = $6.95
Net For March: -4.56
Our only income in March comes from our Pay-Per-Click Google Adsense Ads. We currently have 3 of them on website. We also setup affiliate links for a number of businesses this month so we are hoping to see our first affiliate revenue in April. Our expenses are minimal, just hosting right now but I am committing to some higher expenses for subscriptions moving forward that will help us grow the blog.
Increasing Revenue – Going over these numbers we know we need to increase our revenue. Our blog is still to small for most ad networks to put CPM ads on it (ads you are paid for visitors seeing instead of PPC which is when you are paid when they click on ads). Until we can get to point where our traffic is big enough to attract better advertising we are diversifying from our PPC ads by using affiliate links. Right now we have affiliate links setup on the side bar and in our “how we started our blog page,” We earn revenue from these links if someone clicks on them and then purchases something from their website.
In researching our site stats I came across an interesting issue I didn’t know about. Our How we started our blog page only received 4 pageviews in March. That is incredibly small amount considering we have our affiliate links in it hoping to earn revenue. So my plan is to prioritize re-making that page and getting it more exposure.
Pinterest – This wonderful site is by far the largest driver of traffic to food blogs. For BWA it is my 10th place driver of traffic. We need to get more involved in Pinterest. We currently pin all our posts to various boards, we have a “follow us on Pinterest” button in the top sidebar of our webpage, and I have a Pinterest plug in on the website so when you hover over a photo you can easily pin it.
My plan to grow our Pinterest traffic is to simply be more involved. The more followers you get, the more people see your pins and have the opportunity to repin so even more people can see. BWA currently has 20 followers – we would love for more people to follow us (you can do that at www.pinterest.com/blogwithapples/). We are going to work on creating more boards and dedicating time to finding interesting pins to go along with our own pins.
We are also going to attempt to join a few group boards and we are also going to start one. If you don’t know – group boards are boards where different people pin things to it with usually 1 person acting as a moderator. The awesome thing about those group boards is they can have huge followings so your pins have a much better chance of getting picked up and going viral. We are going to start a group board for “Antique Recipes & Cookbooks” something very interesting to us(read about our antique recipe collections here). If you would like to be a part of this group board and pinning to it go here for instructions on how to join.
Photography – It seems to surprise people that I take most of the photo’s for BWA despite being married to a much better photographer then I. The truth is we have so much going on we are rarely able to get together to focus on a post. When I am ready for pictures to be done it isn’t unusual for Em to be trying to get a maniac to take a bath or helping another one do their homework. We are not creating these plates just for the website. We are posting what we are actually having for dinner so when the food is done we need to get it photographed (then eaten).
With that said I need to work at becoming a better photographer. I struggle with composition and often looking at the finished pictures I am mad at myself for not seeing a better angle or fixing something out of place. My plan is to research, and read up on food photography (or just make Em do more work).
Site Speed – Another thing I learned from checking up on stats is my site speed is down. Google has a little notification they give on site health. This isn’t good because how fast a site loads directly effects rankings in Google search results. What I learned after researching this is I have been uploading photo’s that are far to large. I can easily adjust images to make them smaller by changing the resolution and size I export them from my editing software without visitors noticing any real change in picture quality. I am hoping that is an easy fix I will start moving forward and then work on going back and fixing older posts.
I am shooting for 50% growth in visits. That would mean we would need 3800 visits to reach goal. In order to get that growth we are determined to get better at everything we do. Creating quality recipes and garden posts will be the focus. Then we will shoot for becoming more involved in the blog, Pinterest, and social media worlds. On tap next month we plan to post an antique recipe for Lemon Pie (if I can get it to work), a healthier make over of a fried chicken wing recipe I have been making, and garden posts on budgeting and seedling starting.
Again I would like to thank everyone who has supported us. We greatly appreciate all the comments and kind words we get from you and we hope to exceed your expectations with what we publish on BWA.
Thanks from all of us!
Jeff & Maniacs
(please note some of the links above are affiliate links and we will earn a small commission if you click on them and then purchase something!)