Hello! I’m back for the second edition of the Tomato Boots Growth Report. (We made it through a month, woohoo!) If you missed the June Report, here’s a quick overview of what I’m doing here.
My name is Chet and I’m Lindsay’s husband. I’ve been tasked, (I may or may not have tasked myself), with growing this blog. If you’ve ever tried blogging, you know how hard it is to produce fresh and original content on a regular basis, but unfortunately it (usually) takes more than just the content to grow an audience. That’s why I’m here; my hypothesis is that Lindsay’s content is really good, and thus if I help people to find this blog, they’ll stay. With that, I’ve decided to follow the lead of some of our senior food bloggers, (namely Pinch of Yum with their Income Reports), and will be sharing my learnings every month. Now you’re caught up. July has been a big month for Tomato Boots. Why? Here’s a list of the 4 biggest things that happened in July:
- Lindsay produced! She’s still not where she wants to be in terms of consistency, but is working hard. It takes time to form a routine, according to most ~21 days, and she’s well on her way. In fact, she may be working on a post about Soba Noodle Salad as we speak…
- Our site analytics doubled or tripled in every category. (Page views, unique visitors, and sessions.) Our numbers are small, so it’s not as crazy as it might sound, but is definitely encouraging. More on this later.
- We made some serious updates to the site. I’ll share some of the plugins we’re using later on in the post, but in the meantime we also updated the sidebar along with the header. Additionally, we made lots of small backend tweaks to help improve SEO and site speed. Woohoo!
- We joined Food Blogger Pro. We’ve learned an immense amount in a short period of time thanks to the community there; if you’re a food blogger and aren’t on there, you’re seriously missing out. Everything from site SEO to hosting giveaways to food photography, Bjork and the community are bringing the goods. (NOTE, that link to Food Blogger Pro is an affiliate link. We’re not focused on monetizing quite yet, but affiliate links are kind of a no-brainer as they take almost no time to set up.)
Expenses – $187.65
$187.64 – Food Expenses
$1.00 – Food Blogger Pro – This is much smaller than last month, but that’s because because last month we were getting a lot of the initial things set up. Not counting time, at this point Tomato Boots is cheap to run. As the audience (hopefully) grows we’ll invest more and more with a hope of returns but for now the focus is on content and the most important types of analytics for bloggers in their first year.
Income – $0.00 (In other words, Goose Egg)
We made a conscious decision to focus purely on growth for right now, and both felt that income might be more of a distraction than anything else. We’re both blessed with good jobs, and so for now Lindsay is going to work on creating a blog that she’s proud of and I’m going to work to support her. This is of course not to say you can’t do both at the same time, and we’ll definitely add monetization at some point, but this feels right for now. As I mentioned before, we have affiliate links set up, so pennies might trickle in here and there, but nothing else will bring in money at this point.
General Overview I’m ridiculously happy with these numbers. Not only are people staying on Tomato Boots for nearly three minutes on average, but the number of unique users over doubled, (last month she had 300 uniques), and the number of page views nearly tripled, (last month she had 620 page views). And what makes me most excited about this: we only had five posts in June in total. As the goal is conservatively ~3 per week, this means we were seven posts shy of what will someday soon be a regular-content month. If we get a conservative average of 100 unique visitors per post, this means we would have had another 700 visitors just by posting seven more blog posts. We’ll see if this rings true in the August report. All in all, we’re feeling really good with this. If you were one of the visitors from July, thanks. It means more to Lindsay than you know.
Where’s everyone coming from?
Funny enough, right behind Facebook is Pinch of Yum! Lindsay and I have both spent a good amount of time there, and with the amount of traffic they’re getting a comment on their blog goes a long way. Quick tip: be relevant and only leave comments when you have something to say. I’ve had several impulses to comment purely to drive traffic to our blog, and may have even slipped up a couple of times. It’s important for us “newbies” to remind ourselves that being authentic on our own blogs and out in the blogging community is the only real way to build a community. Slow and steady wins the race. One other important thing to note here is we’re getting NO traffic from Pinterest. (Yet we are getting lots of shares, which is perplexing.) Regardless, as Pinterest is generally the main traffic driver, (by no small margin), to food blogs, to me this means we have another huge opportunity that we haven’t tapped at all. Lindsay and I are going to work on a strategy for Pinterest, but in the meantime if you have any tried and true tricks, now would be a good time to share.
Favorite new plugins/tools
- Dreamgrow Scroll Triggered Box – One of our current goals is to build the Tomato Boots email following, and this plugin is something we’re really excited to try. It’s basically a pop-up “subscribe” box that only displays if a reader scrolls down to a certain spot on the page. (You should be able to see it on the bottom right hand corner of the screen now!) This is manually set by percentage. (IE if reader scrolls down 50% of the page, display pop-up box.) It’s too early to report anything here, but we’ll keep you posted on how it’s working for us.
- WordPress Editorial Calendar – This one is really just a convenience for Lindsay. It makes it really simple to schedule posts and, more importantly, helps Lindsay to always know how far out she’s scheduled. Download this, it’s a much better way to view all your content.
- Comment Redirect by Yoast – Commenters are important to a food blogger. Not only does it make them feel like what they’re writing matters, but it also increases engagement in general. (Social proof is big, and comments go a long way here.) This plugin basically allows you to thank first-time commenters. As soon as the reader leavers their first comment, once they hit “submit” they’ll be redirected to another page on your site where you can simply say thanks. Comment below to view Lindsay’s thank you page.
- Optin Forms – For an example of this, see below and if you haven’t already, subscribe. This is another example of things we’re doing to optimize for email sign-ups. Really simple plugin with nice customizability. I haven’t done a great job at integrating it into the site yet, but will spend some time on this over the next few weeks.
First and foremost, (I don’t see this one changing anytime soon), we’re going to continue to focus on content. Lindsay’s goal is 3/week, and she’s working hard to get there. I’d say if she can publish 10 posts this month that’d be a big step in the right direction. My role here: assistant to the head blogger, dog walker, cat litter cleaner, dish washer, etc.
As mentioned above, we have a lot of room to grow on Pinterest. We do have some exciting things happening on there, (for instance, the Tangy Asian Sesame Salad post had 98 pinterest shares!), but aren’t really seeing any growth in inbound traffic. Our main goal here is to have some sort of strategy in place. I should have more on this next month, will definitely share our learnings. If you have tips, do share.
Currently Lindsay has 27 subscribers, which is small. We’re looking into a handful of different options, (contests, guest posting, etc.), and are going to focus on this aspect of the blog throughout the month. I’d be happy if we have closer to 100 subscribers by the end of August. I know this seems really lofty, but between the new plugins as well as some of the other things we’re brainstorming, I think we can do it.
We’re in a pretty good place now, but at the very least I want to automate email newsletters via MailChimp RSS. There are lots of tutorials around how to do this, but I just haven’t taken the time to get it done. Thus far Lindsay and I have been manually creating newsletters in MailChimp and scheduling them to go out, which is fine for now, but is definitely not a good use of time. Once I do it, I’ll share the how.
I’m finishing this post at a Starbucks in Spokane because approximately half of the city is out of power. (Exaggeration, but not by much.) We’re not here because we’re addicted to our electronics and needed a charge, but because we’re feeling committed to this blogging thing and had a goal of getting this post done along with three regular Tomato Boots posts by the end of the weekend. So we left the pooch at home with grandma, (we’re in Spokane visiting Lindsay’s parents), and trucked over to the nearest wi-fi spot to hit the goal. After a month, we’re still feeling committed, and for those of you that are obsessed with starting things like me, this feels big. Crossing my fingers we’re both in this for the long-term, I’m having a blast and side-perk, am eating better than ever. Cheers!