The green line in the graphic above is a true representation of the blog income from The Conscientious Eater!
What led to that income explosion?
And how can you replicate what we did?
Read on to find out!
(This is Brett, Faith's husband, writing this article. I help Faith out with the back end of her website and with monetizing it.)
I love the internet!
It gives power to everyday people like Faith (and you!) to have a voice, create things of value for people, and earn a small income from the value that they create.
Numerous people have gone before us in this world of the interwebs and "paid if forward" by writing about their successes and failures creating a side income through their food blogs. Their work has been so helpful to us!
My goal in writing this article is to pay it forward to you, our fellow food blogger, by showing you how we have successfully monetized The Conscientious Eater so that you can do it too!
A combination of 4 things led to this article being written:
- Faith crushing it on The Conscientious Eater by creating delicious vegan recipes that are easy to make and use whole food ingredients. She's also creating super-helpful meal prep guides on her YouTube channel.
- Me reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad in May of 2018 which led me to challenge us to see if we could 5x the income from this blog by the end of that summer. (There's a reason this book is The #1 Book In Personal Finance Of All Time. The $5 + time spent reading it has paid off in spades!)
- Faith sending me one of Pinch Of Yum's income reports so I could get started learning how to monetize a food blog.
- Us hitting our goal of 5x'ing the income for this blog in August of 2018... just in the nick of time. =)
If you're an aspiring food blogger, our hope is that this income report will help you just as much as Pinch Of Yum's income report helped us.
Read on to learn from our journey! I'll go into each one of the points above in more detail below, with the end goal of helping you start a food blog or better monetize the one you already have.
1. Faith & The Conscientious Eater
Faith started The Conscientious Eater in 2014 as a way to chronicle her new vegan recipe creations as we prepared to move to "Middle Of Nowhere, China" in 2015.
Faith had no intention of monetizing The Conscientious Eater when she started it, but she figured out how to put some Google AdSense ads and Gourmet Ads on on the site in its early days and we enjoyed the extra $75-$100 a month it provided from 2015 - 2018.
We typically celebrated this little side income by eating a nice meal at vegan restaurants... and that was that.
We didn't know the potential that The Conscientious Eater had at making more money until reading...
2. Rich Dad, Poor Dad
What caught my eye about Rich Dad, Poor Dad in Barnes & Noble one day was that it was The #1 Selling Book In Personal Finance Of All Time.
I'm not much into the finance world, but it piqued my curiosity enough to see what was behind it.
Now let me pause here to say that Faith and I have no desire to be rich, as most people think of being rich. In fact, we have made numerous decisions in our lives based on our Christian faith that would lead us not to be rich. Our desire is to utilize the gifts and skills that the Lord has blessed us with to make money and use that money to bless others.
The concepts inside Rich Dad, Poor Dad blew me away!
I'll paraphrase a few:
- College teaches you how to be a good employee. If you want financial freedom, you need to learn how to be a good employer.
- Employees can only incrementally increase their income through 5% raises. Employers can exponentially increase their income by improving and expanding their businesses.
- Many high income earners give ~40% of their income to the government in taxes. That's like working 5 months of the year for the government!
- A liability is anything that takes money out of your pocket. An asset is anything that puts money in your pocket.
- What many people think is their biggest asset is often their biggest liability - their house.
After reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad I realized Faith's blog was an asset! A small asset, but it was putting $100 in our pocket each month.
And we were the owners of the business! That meant that we could exponentially increase its income by improving and expanding the business.
Then a thought came to my mind...
"What if, while we're in the States this summer, we make a goal to 5x the blog's income?"
Our previous 12 month income average was $93.
We set a goal of $500 / month.
And we literally had no clue where to start.
3. Pinch Of Yum's Income Report
...Faith sent me Pinch of Yum's Income Reports. I still remember Faith saying,
"Hey, there's this food blog called Pinch Of Yum that publishes their income reports. They share exactly how they make money. You could check it out as a place to start..."
After going to their site I was blown away... seriously? Bjork and Lindsay (the creators behind Pinch of Yum) are making over $30,000 a month? That's $360,000 a year! And that report was from 2015.
Their last income report was November 2016. They had $95,000 in income and $28,500 in expenses. Almost $60,000 in profit in a month! WOW!
I learned so much from one report. Here are some key takeaways:
- The main ways to make money from a blog are display ads, sponsored content, affiliate marketing, and selling a product.
- The expenses section showed me what services are worth paying for because they were paying for them.
- Hire quality staff when there's too much to do. It's worth it!
Their highest income was from something called AdThrive. I had no clue who or what that was.
It turns out AdThrive is an ad management company. "We gotta get ourselves one of them!" I said. But it turns out you had to have above 100,000 pageviews per month to apply for AdThrive to manage your ads. We only had around 60,000.
We couldn't get ourselves one of them. =(
Or could we?
I started Googleing "AdThrive vs" to find their competitors. Up popped "Ad Thrive vs. MediaVine". The reviews for both agencies were both equally positive.
Mediavine only required 25,000 sessions to apply (at the time. They now require 50,000 sessions). We had 41,000 sessions at the time. Check.
People who used them loved them. Check.
People also seemed to love the ~$10 RPM they were able to provide. Check. And dollar signs!
I had the same question. It's Revenue Per Mille or Revenue Per 1,000 (pageviews). So for every 1,000 pageviews that a website gets, Mediavine will roughly pay out $10.
We had an estimated 60,000 pageviews / month in May 2018 and made $100 that month... that's only a $1.67 RPM. Ouch. Not good.
I say we had an estimated 60,000 pageviews because our Google Analytics stopped tracking for a few months that spring. Like I said, we are AM.A.TUERS! We hired a friend to help us get Google Analytics working. Actually, we HAD to get that set back up because MediaVine needed proof of our 25,000+ sessions per month from Google Analytics.
If we got approved by MediaVine, we could potentially 6x our income! Here was our path!
Here are the calculations:
60,000 pageviews / 1,000 * $1.67 RPM = $100/mo with Google AdSense and Gourmet Ads
60,000 pageviews / 1,000 * $10.00 RPM = $600/mo with MediaVine!
And here was our timeline and process for getting approved to be a Mediavine publisher:
June and July 2018 - Learning And Implementing
While we were waiting on our data to roll in again with Google Analytics, we figured we'd use that month or so to learn as much as we could, implement what we learned, clean up the site, and speed up the site.
Learning On Food Blogger Pro
Right at the end of May 2018, Faith said, "Hey, Food Blogger Pro has open enrollment right now. They only do it twice a year. Should we sign up?" She went to foodbloggerpro.com. "There's only an hour left to sign up!"
I took a quick look and said, "They have a 60 day money back guarantee. I'm sure what we learn in those two months will be worth the $58 we would spend for those two months, but that at least gives us a no risk trial. And, let's face it, they are killing it on Pinch Of Yum! (Food Blogger Pro is run by the same couple that manages Pinch Of Yum) Let's commit to 2 months and we can re-evaluate from there."
Worth the $58? More like worth $5,800!
Their classes give excellent 101 level video courses on every aspect of running a food blog:
- Building Traffic
- Social Media
- Food Photography and Photo Editing
- Video Creation
- Generating Income
- Essential Tools and Plugins
- Creating an eBook
- ... and lots more!
Pro Tip: Set the video speed to 1.5x or 2x and fly through the courses!
We watched the vast majority of the courses in those two months and will easily make that money back from what we learned... probably 100-fold.
Food Blogger Pro has ended their open enrollment periods and they're now open year-round!
Click the image below to check it out!
Cleaning Up And Speeding Up The Site
The website definitely needed some work...
- Faith's picture and the Meet Faith page hadn't been updated in 3 years.
- Our old website was SLOW! We upgraded from a shared Bluehost plan to Hostgator's WordPress Optimized hosting plan, which gave it a big boost!
- Shareaholic also really slowed down our site, so we switched to speedier Social Warfare.
- We updated our (old) Foodie Pro Theme to unlock more features. We now use the Brunch Pro Theme.
- We cleaned up the sidebar.
- We signed up for Amazon Associates for affiliate marketing.
Upgrading our hosting plan to Hostgator's Optimized WordPress plan and switching to Social Warfare reduced our homepage load speed from over 8 seconds to 4.5 seconds!
[September 2018 Update] After numerous recommendations we also installed WP Rocket which dropped our homepage load speed from 4.5 seconds to a blazing 1.7 seconds!!! (we do our speed testing on Pingdom)
[April 2020 Update] A friend of ours is letting us host The Conscientious Eater on his Flywheel (owned by WP Engine) account. We're loving how simple everything is with Flywheel, especially the free SSL certificate and CDN, daily backups, and using the staging site.
A Groovy 'Shroomy Twist
After adding Amazon affiliate links to our two most popular pages - Homemade Oat Milk and Healthy Cookie Dough Overnight Oats - and a few other pages, we started seeing some referral money come in from Amazon.
Here's a look at the Amazon Affiliates income for June and July of 2018:
June - $18
July - $15
It was great to make a little extra money just by adding some links!
Then. On August 1. Someone bought $3,240 of mushroom capsules on Amazon within 24 hours of clicking on a link from The Conscientious Eater!
First of all... WHAT?!?!? Who does that?!?!?
(By the way, we didn't link to these mushroom capsules on TCE. Amazon gives a commission on anything that someone buys within 24 hours of clicking on an Amazon Affiliate link. It's a pretty sweet deal.)
At 4.5% commission that was $145 on day 1 of August!
Here are those beautiful mushroom capsules in all of their $1,620 per 6 pack glory that our friend bought two of...
Disclaimer: This is the ONLY affiliate link on our site for a product that we haven't bought or used. With a $1,620 price tag, I'm guessing you can understand =)
4. Hitting Our Goal!
August 1 was just a great day. Not only was it Japanese 'shroom day, it was also the day we got accepted to MediaVine! We were on our way!
Their application process was pretty simple. We mainly had to set up Google Analytics so they could read our data, they reviewed our site to make sure it was in line with their publishing policies, and we have to sign the paperwork.
After doing a few more minor things to get our site set up to run their ads, they started managing our ads on August 11.
On August 13, we made $17 on 1,596 pageviews... a $10.65 RPM and over double our best day ever trying to manage the ads on our own!
Then, Faith kept creating more easy vegan recipes and we excitedly checked our dashboard each day... $15, $18, $10, $16, $13... $23! And on it went.
We ended up averaging around $15 a day and totaled $312 for the 20 days that MediaVine ads were on The Conscientious Eater!
So now, without further ado, here are the income and traffic numbers for August 2018...
The Conscientious Eater Food Blog Income Report for August 2018
$312.27 Mediavine (August 11-31)
$169.18 Amazon Associates
$27.49 Google AdSense (August 1-10)
$508.94 Total Income! WE DID IT!
$36.95 - Camera to Laptop Tethering Cable to instantly see pictures on laptop
$35.85 - Food expenses - Cacoa Nibs and Vege Broth
$10.00 - Tailwind - scheduling Pinterest pins
$6.52 - HostGator's Optimized WordPress Hosting
$4.83 - Food Blogger Pro - educational courses on how to run a food blog ($58 averaged over 12 months)
$4.00 - PicMonkey - picture editing
$2.42 - Social Warfare - social sharing buttons and social share count recovery
$2.42 - Tasty Pins Plugin - helps with Pinterest SEO
$1.33 - Domain (theconscientiouseater.com) with Bluehost
$101.90 Total Expenses
$407.04 Net Income
To put into perspective how big of a leap this was, check out the graph below which shows The Conscientious Eater's income from January 2015 until August 2018:
Here's how it looks with blog traffic added:
Notice that our traffic didn't increase from July to August, it was simply better monetizing the traffic that we already had coming to the site by increasing our RPM through Mediavine.
And here's a peek at where the August 2018 traffic came from:
5X'ing our income was a lot of work and learning, but it almost felt too easy. All we really had to do was get approved by a reputable ad agency like Mediavine or AdThrive to better monetize the traffic we were already getting.
Below are the minimum traffic requirements to join Mediavine and AdThrive:
Mediavine: 50,000 sessions (~60,000 pageviews)
AdThrive: 100,000 pageviews
Mediavine vs AdThrive
Are you wondering which ad agency is better? We hit 100,000+ pageviews in early 2020 and made the switch from Mediavine to AdThrive in July 2020 to test it out.
You can read about what went into that decision and the results of the switch in my article Mediavine vs AdThrive - Why We Switched.
January 2021 Food Blog Income Report
It's been about 2.5 years since we 5X'd the income of The Conscientious Eater! Faith is still creating delicious vegan recipes and helping people with plant-based meal-prep on YouTube and I'm still helping monetizing her work on the side.
It's not a full-time gig for either of us by any means, but we both believe in plant-based eating, or at least Plant-Biased eating. We want to continue to help others in their journey - whether it's a vegan recipe, plant biased meal plan, or helping you launch and monetize your own food blog!
So where are we now?
After not spending much time on The Conscientious Eater in 2019 we took advantage of the time we spent in lockdown in 2020 to focus on the website and it really paid off!
You can read about the improvements we've made in the last 2.5 years and some creative ways that we've been monetizing the site in our January 2021 Food Blog Income Report called How To Diversify Your Food Blog Income!
We are so thankful to YOU, our dear readers, for helping make all of this possible. Together, we can help the world eat more plants!
(and make a little money on the side, doing it!)
Was This Food Blog Income Report Helpful?
Our goal with these income reports is to help aspiring bloggers like yourself just like Pinch Of Yum's helped us. If you found this income report helpful, would you mind doing 3 things for us:
- Comment below and introduce yourself.
- Link to this page from your website! To "Pay It Forward" to more people 🙂
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