Hello! Five months later and I’m back for another Tomato Boots Growth Report. Before I dig in, here’s a quick recap for those of you that might be new here:
I’m Chet and I’m the husband of Lindsay, who is the chief mastermind behind this blog. I stop by once a month to share basically everything about our growth. (From income to traffic, we share the good, the bad and the oh-so-ugly.) Lindsay’s goal with Tomato Boots is to have an impact by helping others, (like you), to live less wasteful and more delicious lives. Put in another way, she wants to be a good steward of our planet, and seeing as she’s going through the process of learning what it takes, she figured she’d share the journey with you all.
That being said, my goal was and is to free her up to work on maximizing the impact she can have. Everything from managing ads to working on being a part of the food blogging community and developing new growth strategies, at the end of the day I’m here to give Lindsay time. And so far, things have been going really really well. You can view our first four months of growth reports here. In month one we had only 300 unique visitors, so if you’re looking to grow a blog from scratch, I’m starting to think we might actually be a good resource! Alright, you’re caught up.
What Happened in October?
Well the day has come. For the first time since we started taking this whole blogging thing seriously, our blog traffic (unique visitors) not only didn’t double, but it actually didn’t grow at all. In September we had 6,273 unique visitors, and this past month we had 6,203. Gulp.
So what does this mean? Did we fail? Have we peaked?
In short, no. We didn’t fail and we most certainly haven’t peaked. In a lot of ways, this month has been a gift, as it’s taught us as much if not more than most months thus far. With that, here are three things I was particularly excited to share this month:
Blogging is Hard
Like any “company” you’ll try to build on your own, you’re not always going to be excited about the way things turn out. What sets those that make it from those that don’t apart is the ability to push through the days or weeks or months that are filled with non-glamourous days. Doors are closed on entrepreneurs far more frequently then they’re opened. Are you able to push through the closed doors? Are we? Let’s hope so.
Blogging is Relentless
About halfway through October we were actually on track for a little over 8,000 unique visitors. This would have been another month of pretty awesome growth, but due to a weeklong vacation to London with no posts in the queue and no time to pin while we were gone, traffic dramatically decreased as should have been expected. The lesson here: blogging is relentless and if you want to “make it” you have to be prepared to do what it takes. Going on a trip? Plan ahead. You’ll be glad you did.
Time is Everything
With every day that passes, your blog (or any business for that matter) is exposed to an unlimited number of new opportunities. There are a million and one different things that could happen that could take your blog to the next level. An influential person shares one of your posts on pinterest, another blog or magazine picks up and features one of your recipes, etc. The possibilities are endless and one of the best ways to open yourself up to these opportunities is by simply being present.
Look at Pinch of Yum as a prime example. Their blog in my eyes is a wild success; they’re grossing $25-40k/month and are seeing over 1 million unique visitors in the same amount of time. How did they get here? How are their numbers so much higher than ours? Time. Hard work. Being present. These are the things they’ve done extraordinarily well. Years and years of showing up which equates to years and years of possibilities.
Alright, now for the numbers.
Expenses – $101.24
$25.00 – Food Blogger Pro – This is a $25 well spent, regardless of the fact that we may be eons away from being good at monetizing this blog. If you’re serious about blogging and your content often has to do with food, you should honestly check it out. (In a sentence, it’s a community/forum of food bloggers with a ton of video resources provided by the one and only Bjork Ostrom of Pinch of Yum.)
$5.00 – VaultPress – Thanks to Food Blogger Pro, I set up VaultPress this past month and have already used it. It’s a tool that links up with your site, (we use WordPress and it’s dead simple to set up), and backs it up daily. There are also security features. Again, if you’re taking your blog seriously, you should probably get this or something like it set up. You’ll sleep better, or at the very least I will.
$71.24 – Elance-oDesk – I’ve officially fallen in love with Elance-oDesk. A community of freelancers from around the world, if you’re ever looking to get help with anything, Elance-oDesk is the place to go. You can either search for freelancers by skillset, or post a specific job that Elance-oDesk will share, and from there you’ll almost always have a good number of proposals within an hour or two. We’re now working with a freelancer from Vietnam to help with a variety of site customizations and he has been incredible.
Income – $15.36
BlogHer – $5.67
Google AdSense – $9.69
If you read my first few growth reports, you know that we’re not spending all that much time on monetization yet. September was the first month we used ads, and seeing as they don’t hurt we decided to leave them up. We’re not currently using any other ad networks, (Sovrn is one I’ve been thinking about adding), but this might change shortly. More to come, but for now we’re happy with $15/month as we’re still not putting forth much effort here.
October Traffic/Stats Compared to September
There you have it, the dreaded red. After four months of over-doubling traffic each month, we’ve now felt the pain of a no-growth month and although it’s a bummer we’re still feeling great. For starters, we were vacationing, (after a little bit of work for me), in London from the 23rd to the 31st of October. (Pictures as proof below, although none of them really scream London, but oh well.)
I tell you about London not only to brag about how great our lives are, (haha), but also because as I mentioned above we did not plan nearly as well as we should have. While in London we did a great job of leaving our phones and computers behind, but unfortunately didn’t have anybody pinning for us and also didn’t have any posts scheduled. (As I’m sure our fellow bloggers know, finding time to not only keep up with content but also to get ahead while you have a full-time job is hard.)
So, we decided to be okay with letting it sleep for a couple of weeks. It was hard, and we’re not pumped to have a growth-less month to report on, but we know that had we kept posting, we would’ve been closer to ~8,000 unique visitors, which would have been amazing. More importantly, we also got a little reminder that blogging is relentless.
Where’s everyone coming from?
I’m really excited about this section. First, we over doubled our inbound traffic from Google. We’ve been intentional with post titles and are really glad to see this paying off. Second, we had our first couple of images accepted to FoodGawker, woohoo! As I’ve said in past posts, we weren’t great about sharing to the various food photo sharing sites, and in October we made a better, albeit still not so good, effort. We had two images accepted which drove 51 unique visitors. This is definitely lower than I would have expected, but was still in the top 10. With that, I can imagine if every one of Lindsay’s recipes had an image accepted the numbers would have been significantly higher.
We also had a couple of images accepted by TasteSpotting and were featured in a Diply post but didn’t see a dramatic increase of traffic from either of those. Regardless, really excited that people are finding us and enjoying enough to post elsewhere! Linkbacks are always great, and even more than that, seeing Lindsay’s content on other blogs is like oxygen on the not-so-glamourous days.
Now at 103 email subscribers, we had another 37 signups in October. We’re seeing a steady incline in email signups each month, which to me means we’re doing a decent job here. We’re currently using the following plugins to help with optimizing for email signups:
- Optin forms wordpress plugin embedded into each post. (this is my favorite method, example below)
- Mailchimp “subscribe forms” on our right sidebar and in our footer
- AppSumo’s ListBuilder plugin which displays a pop-up email subscribe form to new visitors. This has collected 48 of our emails, (or a large majority since we started), so we’re definitely going to keep it. Once we have some sort of e-book or other incentive to increase sign-up conversions, this is the tool that I think will help the most.
Other Major Updates
As I referenced in the “expense” section, we used an Elance-oDesk freelancer to help with some site updates. We’re pretty excited about how we’re looking currently. Here’s an overview of the changes we made:
- The way our homepage now displays recent posts is completely different. The funny thing: we used a unique template to set ourselves apart and without realizing it have basically retooled the template we chose to look pretty much identical to the Foodie Pro theme that everyone talks about. Hmmmmm. Oh well, at least it looks great! Now the most recent post has a bigger blurb and all other posts are smaller excerpts. This is helpful so that readers are able to look through more posts which should increase the amount of pages/visit.
- We now have a footer. Crazy that we didn’t have one before, but we do now. Woohoo!
- We now have pagination, or the little numbers at the bottom of each page that allow readers to see previous posts. Again, ridiculous that we didn’t already have this but you live and learn.
- Big one: we decided to move away from Disqus, (our old commenting plugin), and have reverted back to our website themes standard plugin. (with a few small design tweaks) We received feedback from many over the past few months that Disqus dissuaded them from commenting due to the fact that you have to create a Disqus account before being able to comment. Due to this, we decided to make the change to the standard plugin which only requires a name and an email address, but no formal registration. I’m personally bummed, as the Disqus plugin looks and works great, but at the end of the day it’s about what the readers will use, not what I think is great. (der)
I could go on but at this point, if you’re still reading and awake, I feel like it’s my duty to set you free. Keep pushing through those closed doors and we’ll do the same.