Hello! I’m back for the fourth edition, (four months in a row, woohoo!), of the Tomato Boots growth report. Before I get started, quick intro for those of you that are new here:
First, my name is Chet. I’m Lindsay’s husband, (in case you’re really new Lindsay is the owner/creator/cooker/writer of this blog), and I aim to help her by taking away some of the stress of actually growing the blog. As most of you probably know, content is king and for food/simple living bloggers like Lindsay, content is also incredibly time-consuming. With that, when she told me roughly four months ago that she was ready to take this whole blogging thing more seriously, I jumped at the opportunity to help. (It’s not that selfless, I basically get to leverage her awesome ability to produce quality content on a consistent basis to learn more about how to grow and maintain a community.) You can view our first three 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 hope this is a good resource.
What Happened in September?
I’m waiting for the day, (seriously think it’s going to happen soon), where I have to somberly explain how/why our numbers didn’t change from the month prior. Fortunately, that day isn’t here yet. To the contrary, September was, for the fourth month in a row, a record breaking month for Tomato Boots. We had 271% growth in unique visitors from August, Lindsay produced more content than she’s ever had in a single month, a couple of her posts went crazy on Pinterest, (specifically Kale Caesar Salad Wraps), and we nearly doubled our email subscriber list.
Beyond that, we also made the decision to add ads to the site, (more on this later), we made a ton of little backend site improvements and we invested in some new camera gear to help with Lindsay’s photography.
All in all, it was another ridiculously awesome and inspiring month. As you’ll see in a bit, our numbers are still small. BUT, we compare our blog to our blog. Building an audience takes time, so for us we’re happy if we see growth. If we see our numbers double and triple, we’re really happy. Feeling like you’re on the way to something is a really good feeling.
And now, for the numbers.
Expenses – $103.54
$25.00 – Food Blogger Pro – This is a $25 well spent, regardless of the fact that we may be eons away from 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.
$32.00 – Camera Battery Charger – Thanks to our beloved pooch, our old camera battery charger was destroyed by way of teeth.
$29.95 – Camera Tripod – Especially helpful for pour shots, a tripod is necessary and something we should have bought day one. This is a nice cheap tripod we found on Amazon and are both impressed by the quality.
$11.59 – Light Disc Reflector Set – Lighting is key when it comes to photography, and these reflectors make it WAY easier to capture natural light coming in from a window to redirect it back to whatever you’re shooting. If you find you have lots of shadows in your photos, (which you probably do if you’re not using something like this), buy now. Love using these.
Income – $15.27
BlogHer – $8.81
Google AdSense – $6.46
If you’ve read any of my previous growth reports, you may be surprised to see the little ads on our left sidebar, as well as this small amount of income from September. After three months of consistent blogging, Lindsay and I agreed that we’d found a cadence that made us both feel more prepared to add another element to the blog. More importantly, Lindsay feels she’s now at a place where she understands her POV as well as the audience she is hoping to serve, which is what we were hoping to find before monetizing.
With that, we’ll now be adding “income” to these reports, which of course also means you’ll see ads on the left sidebar of the site. Our focus will still be largely on growth, but I’ll definitely share my learnings, both the good and the bad, on income as we go as well.
Oh yeah, and we made $15.27! For those of you that have read the Pinch of Yum Income Reports, they made $21.97 in their first month of trying to monetize. That was years after Lindsay, the blogger there, had been producing awesome content. We’re pretty excited to have even come close to their first month of income, let’s hope that a couple of years from now we can be close to where they are now.
September Traffic/Stats Compared to August
I did this last month too, but I can’t help myself. When we started out in June we had 300 unique visitors. In July we had 684, in August we had 1,690, and in September we had 6,273 unique visitors come to the site. To us, this feels huge. An average of 209 people came to our site every single day, which means every hour there were between 8 and 9 people on the site. Again, huge.
As I always say, still years away from having a blog that could support an income or anything close to that, but people are coming and reading and sharing and commenting and then coming back and doing it all over again. For Lindsay, this makes it all worth it.
Where’s everyone coming from?
At this point, it’s absolutely certain/objective that Pinterest is the network for food/simple living bloggers. (knock on wood) We’re still only a couple of months into it but at this point we can average at least 150 people per day just from Pinterest as long as we share a couple of different images to several of our group boards. Thanks Pinterest.
That being said, visitors that come from Pinterest are, according to the date presented in the above image, basically the lowest quality traffic we get. People that come from Google generally look at almost three different pages and are on the site for over 4 minutes and people that come from our newsletter are even better. Those that come from Pinterest almost always bounce, (meaning they don’t look at more than the one page they originally came to), and don’t even spend 30-seconds on the site.
How do we fix this? Using other bloggers that share traffic stats, one thing to note is traffic from Pinterest generally spends less time on the site. It makes sense if you know the common use cases of Pinterest. (Browse, click, browse, click) BUT, looking at Pinch of Yum’s latest income report specifically, they’re seeing people stay for 52 seconds and their bounce rate is a little bit lower at 85%. So, there is room to grow.
One thing we’re going to try here is adding links to other Tomato Boots content earlier on within posts. The goal here will be to reduce the bounce rate by providing ideally tempting copy that leads to other pages within the site. I’ll report back on this in the October Growth Report.
As I personally feel subscribers are hugely important to the success of a blog, I decided to add these stats to my growth reports as well. I’ll try and make an effort to share learnings here also.
We almost doubled our email subscriber list from August, and now have 69 subscribers. This is still a small number, but we’re especially excited to see the email list growing. (Per the “where are people coming from” image above, those that come from our email newsletter are generally the ones that spend the most time on the site.)
How did we nearly double? Simple: AppSumo’s List Builder WordPress Plugin. This plugin adds a super easy to setup pop-up to the site prompting people to sign up for the newsletter. It’s increased our conversion rate significantly. Big thanks to Marc over at Smell My Kitchen for encouraging me to add. One thing to note: be incredibly light on this feature. If someone closes the box, make sure the settings are set so that the box won’t reappear for a long time, if ever. The last thing you want to do is come off as desperate and pushy. We’re going to keep this around for now, as it’s definitely working, and I’d recommend checking it out.
If you’re a chrome user and a blogger, and also have Google AdSense and/or Google Analytics set up, here are two things to install:
Page Analytics (in-page) by Google – This plugin makes it really easy to not only to check your analytics without having to navigate to your analytics dashboard, but if you’re on your site it’ll also show you all of your in-page analytics. This basically means it’ll provide information on which links on your site are clicked and how often. (Note, this is a feature that can be found on your dashboard as well, but this extension makes it much easier.)
Google Publisher Toolbar – This is similar to the in-page analytics tool shared above, but is to track revenue from any AdSense ads you have on your site. Even better, it makes it easy to block certain ads from your site if you don’t like the way they look, and also provides details on which companies the ads are coming from. If you have ads, this is a must-have tool.
Goals for October
Our goal we set for number of posts in August was 10 and we hit eight. In September our goal was to have 12 posts, and we hit ten. This month, we’ll be shooting for 12 again. Three per week is a cadence we’d be really happy with, and for now will remain our goal until Lindsay can find more time! Quality is much more important than quantity.
Food Photo Sharing Sites
If you look at our traffic, you’ll notice that we’re currently getting close to no traffic from the various food photo sharing sites. Why? Because we still haven’t been submitting photos to each of them consistently. It’s such a time consuming task, but an important one. We currently know with a decent amount of certainty that we can get about 200 from the things we’re currently doing, but as of right now we’re not typically seeing more than that. There are some posts that for whatever reason are more popular and bring more people to the site, but on a regular day we sit right around 200. This means if we want to get to 300 or 400 people per day on average, we need to start bringing in traffic from other sources.
So, the goal for this month is to take the time needed to submit photos to food sharing sites.
My goal for September was to start connecting with other bloggers to provide Lindsay with a few guest posting opportunities. Good news! She has three other bloggers that she’s currently talking with and putting together content for. Woohoo! Not exactly sure when any guest posts will go live, but we’re both looking forward to seeing how that helps.
As said in previous posts, if you blog about food and/or simple living and are interested in swapping content, let us know!
As mentioned above, I added the pop-up email subscribe form and we’re seeing much better, (albeit still rather low), conversion rates. Between that and the in-post optin forms and the sidebar email signup box, I feel that our site is pretty well-optimized here.
So what’s next? Time for an ebook! We’re probably not going to get to this in October, so not an immediate goal, but we both believe that creating a cool ebook that we could offer for free in exchange for an email address would be a good way to incentivize signups. You have any thoughts on this?
As always, if you have other ideas for things we could do that we’re not currently doing, let me know!
We’re sitting here now in October and now, after this post, have four months worth of growth reports. We’ve successfully doubled or tripled our traffic every single month. The wealth of resources available to bloggers like us around growth and income has been invaluable, and I hope that these reports offer unique value as well.
With our numbers getting bigger, I’m not sure if we’ll be able to keep up with the crazy growth curve we’ve seen over the last several months, but you can bet we’ll be trying. Thanks to you for reading, it’s the reason we’ve continued on thus far and it’s the reason we aren’t planning on stopping anytime soon.