Let's take an inside look at Midwest Foodie's bottom line! Over the last couple years I've poured my heart and soul into coming up with recipes that will make the challenge of getting your family around the dinner table a little bit easier.
Over the coming year, I'm planning to take a deeper dive behind the scenes and share things like this income report. I'll share with you my monthly traffic, monthly expenses and monthly profit.
My hope is that this will inspire other food bloggers wherever they're at in their blogging journey and give my readers a behind the scenes look at what it really takes to run a food blog!
How Midwest Foodie got started (and basically my life story for the last three years):
I started a site called Tattooed Foodie over on Blogger back in early 2016. I like to think of that as my practice blog. I had it for about a year or so and then realized that I REALLY needed to get things moved over to WordPress.
Well, being the least technologically savvy person ever in the history of the world, I completely ruined my blog in the process of trying to move it to WordPress. I could have easily paid someone to fix it, but at the time I was a new mom to a beautiful baby girl and honestly I was just SO overwhelmed!
In less than a month I got a new job, we sold our old house and bought a new one AND we adopted out beautiful baby girl. To say it was a whirlwind would be an understatement.
A couple months after that, my husband got a new job also and was putting in crazy hours at a restaurant that was gearing up for their grand opening. We barely saw each other, we were both exhausted and sleep deprived and to be honest - this was one of the roughest patches of our marriage.
Everyone always talks about how those first few months with a new born are hard but no one ever tells you just HOW difficult it will be. All of the struggles of being new parents were compounded by the fact that the only time we were spending with each other was in the wee hours of the morning when the baby needed to be fed or changed.
Needless to say, with our busy work schedules and my new role as a mom, blogging was LITERALLY the last thing on my mind. I said farewell to Tattooed Foodie and deleted the site. RIP.
Fast forward a few months to the summer of 2017... My daughter is almost a year old and sleeping through the night, my husband cut back his hours at work and I was settling into a routine at my new job. The dust had settled from the newborn baby phase and we finally found our rhythm as a happy little family of three!
So I thought it was time to shake the dust off the old lap top and fire it up again! I was able to salvage about 50 recipes that were previously on my old blog (because they were my tried and true recipes that I've been making for years [10 Minute Lasagna, Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese, Spinach & Artichoke Dip - just to name a few] so I had them all committed to memory.
I set out to photograph my favorite recipes, tweak them til they were just right and get them up on my new WordPress blog: Midwest Foodie! Over the past two and half years I've been (verrrrrry) slowly building my recipe archive, my audience and my social media following.
In January of 2019 I finally had enough page views to be accepted to Mediavine which of course is the goal of all serious food bloggers. It really is a pivotal moment in your blogging career and it gives you a taste of just what you can do with your little corner of the internet!
Currently, my traffic and income continue to increase each month and I'm so excited to see what the rest of 4th quarter brings! I'm planning to post some stellar recipes in the new year to *fingers crossed* avoid the dip that inevitably comes during the first few months of the year...I'll keep you posted on how that goes!
While I'm no where near making my idea of "full time income" yet, I'm really happy to finally be seeing all my hard work paying off and seeing some profit coming in (most months...)!
Why you see ads on my blog:
Speaking of Mediavine, they are my display ad company. Mediavine ads are the main way that I earn revenue through my blog. As much as everyone complains about ads, they're a very necessary part of most bloggers income! Mediavine pays it's publishers a certain amount per 1,000 sessions. So the more traffic you have + the more ads you serve = more money you'll make (in theory).
I've definitely been walking the line between user experience and optimal monetization with my ad placement. And I feel like after some tweaking I've reached a happy medium between enough ads to "keep the lights on" but not so many ads that it disturbs the reader experience.
Most bloggers have gotten some kind of comment or email about, "Why are there so many ads on your site, I just want the recipe!" and well, there's just no way around it. For many bloggers, ads are what keep their business afloat and also allow you as a reader to have access to literally billions of free recipes right at your finger tips.
So, long story short. Ads pay the bills. I appreciate you coming to my site for delicious recipes to feed your family. And I try to be respectful of your time and not serve too many ads.
In October of 2019 my blog saw it's highest amount of traffic!
Page Views: 101,567
> Pinterest: 97.70%
> Facebook: 1.62%
> Instagram: 0.63%
I have been waiting for what feels like FOREVER to get over 100,000 page views in a month so this was a really big milestone for me.
I have been trying to set quarterly goals for myself that are definitely attainable but also are really pushing the limits of what my blog has done in the past. So far, I've been able to meet these goals!
One thing that's helpful is to compare historical monthly data. For instance, comparing where I was in October of 2018 to where I'm at in October of 2019. I actually didn't even add Google Analytics to my blog until July of 2018. So I didn't have much historical data to compare until just a few months ago. During the times when my traffic isn't as high as I want it or I'm feeling discouraged with my monthly profit, I like to look back at where I was a year ago.
Looking back really helps to put things in perspective for me and remind me just how far I've come! For reference, in October of 2018 I had 29,467 page views, 16,269 sessions and 14,637 users. So when you compare the current year to the previous year, things are looking pretty good!
As I mentioned, Mediavine is my main source of income from the blog at the moment. I just started with Amazon Associates in August of this year and have been making a bit of money with that also, but there is definitely room for improvement! Let's take a look at October's stats...
Medaivine: $1,297.08 with an average RPM of $15.81
Amazon Associates: $27.67
TOTAL PROFIT: $1324.75
Nerdpress (site maintenance): $122
Agathon (hosting): $70
Misc Props: $100
ConvertKit (email service): $29
Canva (graphics for Pinterest): $13
Gsuite (email provider): $12
Lightroom (photo editing): $11
Tailwind (Pinterest scheduler): $10
Akismet (site security): $5
TOTAL EXPENSES: $572
GROSS PROFIT OCTOBER 2019: $752.75
The above total does not take into account taxes, which I am anticipating to be 20-30% of the total. So my actual take home money for the month will likely end up being around $450-$500 or so.
It's easy to look and think, WOW $1300 - that's a decent amount of extra cash to have coming in. But in reality, a good majority of that money goes back in to the blog or taxes.
Another thing to remember is that at the end of the year, I'm still going to come out in the red (with a loss) because every month I've been paying most of these same expenses mentioned above and making much less money.
Here's a recap of the previous year since joining Mediavine (pay close attention to the plus or minus sign before the totals!):
- January 2019 - 14,128 sessions | average RPM $6.61
- Income: $93.36
- Expenses: $578.00
- Total: - $484.64
- February 2019 - 17,697 sessions | average RPM $10.71
- Income: $190.05
- Expenses: $793.00
- Total: - $602.95
- March 2019 - 23,894 sessions | average RPM $12.31
- Income: $294.22
- Expenses: $210.74
- Total: + $83.48
- April 2019 - 30,796 sessions | average RPM $11.48
- Income: $353.52
- Expenses: $130.99
- Total: + $222.53
- May 2019 - 39,267 sessions | average RPM $12.19
- Income: $478.83
- Expenses: $121.00
- Total: + $357.83
- June 2019 - 40,314 sessions | average RPM $14.08
- Income: $567.80
- Expenses: $1,268.99
- Total: - $701.19
- July 2019 - 47,067 sessions | average RPM $11.83
- Income: $556.68
- Expenses: $281.99
- Total: + $274.69
- August 2019 - 54,866 sessions | average RPM $13.85
- Income: $759.72
- Expenses: $1,317.36
- Total: - $557.64
- September 2019 - 64,338 sessions | average RPM $14.81
- Income: $915.37
- Expenses: $422.53
- Total: + $492.84
My expenses have varied so much from month to month basically because you can't predict the future. I didn't know I was going to have to drop $700 in March to get a bunch of little back end issues fixed on my site, or $500 in May on a new camera.
Also my audit with Casey Markee (mentioned below) was $750 and my audit with Kate Ahl (mentioned below) was $500. Other miscellaneous expenses include: blog theme, recipe plug in, other misc. plug ins, photography lights, new computer, a few blogging courses and my flight/hotel/ticket to attend Tastemakers Conference in Portland along with various other things.
Also, none of these totals include the tax that I'll need to pay...which I recently learned that I think I should have been paying in each quarter, but I feel like it's too late now so I'll let you know what my accountant has to say about that when I get my taxes done in February. Wish me luck!
How much I work:
I work ALL. THE. TIME. I put in 30 hours each week as an Administrative Assistant and likely spend another 30-35 hours each week working on my blog.
You won't find me sleeping in on the weekend or going to bed early during the week. As soon as my daughter goes to bed each night, I'm parked at the computer editing photos until my eyes hurt. On Saturday and Sunday morning I'm up before everyone prepping my recipes and writing blog posts. Our weekend plans revolve around my recipe testing schedule (which I'm trying to get a bit more flexible with).
I try very hard to balance my time between my family and my work. But I'm not going to lie, it's hard. There is so much to be done and there is constantly a slew of new information coming at you from all directions.
It seems like as soon as you've put out one fire, there's a Google algorithm change or a best practice that's been updated. I've found it really important to find the guru in each area of blogging and really focus on the information that they are sharing.
- Casey Markee from Mediawyse is my go-to for all things SEO related. I credit my mini-audit with him earlier this year as one of the main reasons why my blog is where it's at today.
- Kate Ahl from Simple Pin Media is the final word for me when it comes to Pinterest. I had an audit with Kate earlier this year as well that solidified that my Pinterest strategy is helping my blog grow and be successful.
- Andrew Wilder from Nerdpress is my go-to for anything regarding blog maintenance or page speed. I took the plunge in July of this year and purchased his Sleep Soundly plan. So far it's been worth every penny!
Less is More
Recently, I've actually taken a huge step back from recipe testing and shooting and am focusing more on optimizing my content that is already preforming well and making sure it's the best that it can be.
I'm tweaking each of my top 25 posts to be optimized for SEO and making countless new pins each day to get the recipes in front of as many people as possible on Pinterest.
It's been both a blessing and a curse. As it's freed up a bit more time for me on the weekends but it also means that I have less new content coming out on the blog.
Finding Work - Life Balance
Along the same vein as the above, I'm hoping in 2020 to find more of a work-life balance. I've got a pretty good back log of recipes now and I think that I'll be scaling back to 1-2 new recipes per week in an effort to achieve more of a balance between my work life and my home life.
I can feel myself near the brink of burn out and I'd like to allow myself some space to really just relax and enjoy weekends with my family.
My hope is that working on the blog less will actually allow me to create more high quality content. I think sometimes taking a step back can make the whole picture a bit more clear as well.
In 2020 I am hoping to work more on growing my Instagram following and doing more sponsored posts to continue to diversify my income through my food blog.
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with IG as I'm sure most of us do. It seems that the more I try, the less follows/likes I get. Then I don't post for a week and somehow I get 100 new followers. It makes no sense, so I'm trying not to worry too much about it.
However, brands like the IG presence so I'll continue to keep it on my list of to-dos.
My other priority in the new year is video. Believe it or not, I have JUST ONE video on my blog right now. Compared to other blogs my size, that is pretty pitiful.
Personally, I don't watch many recipe videos, so I don't really see the benefit. Also, it's a TON of work to create those Tasty style videos and I don't have the desire/time to put effort into creating my own. Which means that I'll be re-investing some of my 2020 earnings into having other talented folks make videos for me.
Do you guys watch recipe videos? Are there certain bloggers that you always watch videos from? What benefit do you get out of the video? For me, I like to have step-by-step instructions with photos so that I can reference it when I need it and I don't have to keep pausing the video or rewinding.
More Focus on SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
I am continually working on optimizing my posts for search engines as the majority of my traffic comes from Pinterest (which is less than ideal). I love Pinterest and all that it's done for my blog, however getting organic search traffic through Google is always the ultimate goal.
With all the algorithm changes happening across all platforms, it's important for me to diversify the sources by which people find my blog. In the new year I'm hoping to learn more about SEO and really work hard to key word my posts so Google gets them in front of the folks who need them.
Obviously, this is a goal for any food blogger. But specifically I am hoping to have 400,000 page views per month by the end of 2020. I'm hoping that working on the above mentioned items will make this dream a reality for me.
DON'T FORGET TO CHECK OUT MY OTHER INCOME REPORTS!