First, a short intro. My name is Chet and I’m the husband of Lindsay who is the writer/creator/chef/DIY’er behind this blog. Everything Lindsay shares here directly benefits me, so please keep coming back and engaging so that she never stops.
I was recently inspired by a, wait for it, food blog called Pinch of Yum. The pictures are beautiful and the recipes all look delicious, but it was something else that got me excited. The husband of the blogger, Bjork Ostrom, started an experiment in August of 2011 to help his wife, Lindsay Ostrom, monetize her blog. The kicker is that Bjork decided to publish a full income report, every single month, highlighting how much came in, where it came from as well as tips and learnings from that month. I spent six hours one night last week going through three years worth of income reports.
I spend my life reading about marketing, business development, growth hacking, etc., and the work that Bjork and Lindsay have shared over the past few years was as energizing and exciting and fun as any of the best content I’ve read. Serious thank you to the Ostrom’s, if we can provide a tenth of the value to one reader that you’ve provided to us, we’ll chalk this whole thing up as a success.
With that, I was already planning on helping my wife with Tomato Boots, and have decided to essentially copy Bjork, (feeling better about this now that he gave the world permission in his June 2014 Income Report), with a twist. Tomato Boots is much earlier stage than Pinch of Yum was when they started monetizing, (they were at ~50,000 impressions/month at the time of their first report and we’re currently barely in the hundreds), and my focus for the foreseeable future will be more on growth than monetization. Of course, the hope is that someday we’ll be able to experiment with making money as well, but for now we need to work on everything from consistency of posting to SEO to a million and one other things it takes to build an audience.
So, each month I’ll be sharing our expenses, site analytics, (good, bad and ugly), key learnings, successes, failures and more. I’ll test often, fail even more and ideally help Lindsay make an impact with this blog.
And so it begins. We’ll call this the “Simple Living Blog Growth Experiment.” (Now I’m really copying Bjork, his first income report was titled “Food Blog Money Making Experiment,” so as a thank you to him, click here to check out their resources page. Seriously, it’s amazing, we ordered bluehost hosting from the affiliate link they provided about a week ago.)
Expenses – Total $415.36
- $294.97 – Sony X3000 Digital Camera (custom photography is everything.)
- $91.39 – Bluehost (Website hosting for one year)
- $19 – Tasty Food Photography eBook
- $10 – Facebook Ads (Total waste of money, as I had no plan/strategy. Learning: always have a plan/strategy.)
First thing to note here: we weren’t using Google Analytics in June. (hence this terrible screenshot, it’s about the best I can get from what’s provided, womp womp) This wasn’t exactly due to naivety, but just goes to show how early we are. This blog has been more than anything just an outlet for Lindsay, and she’s at a place where she’s ready to take it to the next level. Needless to say, Google Analytics is now active, (as of about two hours ago), so these reports/screenshots will be at the very least more robust in the future.
What these numbers represent are total views/month, starting in January 2014 and going through June. Lindsay just started posting again in June, total of one post towards the end of the month, and she ended up with 620 views, 300 unique visitors, and an average view/visitor of 2.07. (In other words, the average person that came to the site visited 2+ pages before leaving.)
For a blog with almost no activity in the past several months, and only one post in June, I’ll take 300 unique visitors as a positive sign. Even more positive, of the 252 people that viewed her most recent post, 12 Things You Should Be Buying in Bulk, shared it. Another way of saying this, nearly 20% of the people that read her post felt it was valuable enough to share. That’s bananas. As Seth Godin would say, she’s found her ten.
Obviously we have a long, long way to go, but there’s definitely reason to believe that we could build a meaningful audience. Go Lindsay!
- There is a TON of content out there for new bloggers. If you’re in the same place as us, start reading/searching. The wheel has already been created, lots of times; do yourself a favor and build off of all the smart people out there who have been at it for a while.
- Editing CSS is hard but surprisingly fun. (Looking into different classes, if you have a suggestion leave it in the comments. Ha, you now know our audience is tiny, so not likely to actually get lots of suggestions, but I can try!)
- Consistency is key. Lindsay has found her ten, (maybe even her 20), but isn’t providing enough content to maintain engagement. She’s now working on backlogging content with the goal of providing 2-3 posts/week consistently, and is confident that a regular cadence is in the near future. (Woohoo!)
- Hosting your own site is a necessity. (We’re using Bluehost which was suggested by Pinch of Yum.) Makes your site WAY more customizable, along with lots of other perks that I’m sure I’ll be learning over the next few months/years.
Newly Discovered/Must-Have Resources
- Tasty Food Photography eBook – Photography is everything for these blogs, and Lindsay Ostrom does an amazing job at teaching the newbies how to add polish to their pics.
- WordPress SEO by Yoast – For the SEO newbies, this WordPress plugin is a lifesaver. It analyzes each post and page of your blog, and gives you specific line items to change to go from bad SEO to good SEO. (Much better than standard wordpress SEO)
- Shareaholic – An easy way to add share buttons to your site with lots of customization options. Also provides some cool tracking and gives you the option to display a “follow my social accounts” pop-up if the reader shares a piece of your content.
- Recipe Card – Easiest way to add nicely formatted recipe’s to your blog. Lots of ability to customize and adds a polish to blog posts.
- Pin It Button – Pinterest is gold for blogs like this one, and this plugin makes it where anytime a reader hovers over a picture on your site a “pin-it button” displays in the top right corner of the image. Hellllooooo virality.
Goals for July
- Support Lindsay in any way I can to give her time/energy to write/cook/DIY/etc. The next time she posts, it’ll hopefully be the start of a consistent cadence. She has two in the queue now, with a goal of three before she starts pushing them live. Should be up and running in the next few days.
- Develop growth strategy. Period.
- Become a part of the blogger community. Most of my time has been spent on business/entrepreneurship/growth-hacking blogs, (see my personal blog here), so want to start allocating more time to this world. (If you have a blog and are reading this, say hi in the comments so I know you!)
That’s all for now. I’ll try and keep these shorter in the future, but no promises.