Home » Blogging Tips! » Blogging: Behind the Scenes, Part 3

Blogging: Behind the Scenes, Part 3

{Note: Today’s post is not the usual Pretty/Hungry fare.  Normally around here we’re talking about things like cookies, savvy weeknight suppers, and the special splurge recipes that keep life fun (like this one)!  But today’s post is Part 3 in a series dedicated to all the bloggers out there.  Blogging: Behind the Scenes is my monthly write-up about the methods I use to grow, improve, and monetize the Pretty/Hungry blog.  There has been a huge learning curve for me as I’ve trekked through this process!  But I’m hoping that passing along my findings to you will help you grow, improve, and monetize your own amazing blogs.  Of course, if you are not a blogger yourself, feel free to disregard today’s post.  You won’t hurt my feelings one bit!)


Blogging: Behind the Scenes, Part 3 - My monthly write-up of the methods I use for growing, improving, and monetizing the Pretty/Hungry blog  |  prettyhungryblog.com


Wow!  What a month December has been around here.  I saw a big growth in traffic and income, which I attribute to 3 things:

1) I made many more regular submissions to popular foodie sites like Foodgawker and Tastespotting.

2) I submitted several guest posts to Money Saving Mom®, a fellow blogger I greatly admire and who has an awesome readership of joyful, creative, and financially responsible peeps.

3) I decided it was time to write and publish my first e-book. :)


So before I go into detail about each of those items on the above list, here is December’s Income Report, for your viewing pleasure:

Dec 2013 Income Chart for the Blogging: Behind the Scenes series  |  prettyhungryblog.com


Here’s the breakdown:

-The Pretty/Hungry 2014 Recipe Calendar-

Still comprising the vast majority of my income this season was my 2014 Recipe Calendar.  December was the last month I had it up for sale, however.  Yes, it’s possible people might’ve continued buying it into January, but I figured the sales would definitely level off by then and I didn’t want to continue to pay Etsy seller fees for the month of January if only a few people were going to buy a calendar during that month.  So I’ve officially sold out of the calendar this year!  It was a great idea (thank you, Aunt Carolyn) and a much bigger success than I expected.  Turns out people like the convenience of having paper copies of recipes to cook from.  The calendar makes the recipes more easily accessible (And boy, I hear that!  I’m always getting junk all over my I-Pad when I try to cook a new Pinterest recipe that I’m too lazy to print off.)  Also the calendar is nice to look at, with all the pretty photos.  So, all in all, that idea ended up being a winner.

Google AdSense Ads

These ads are located along my sidebar.  I like Google AdSense (as opposed to the myriad of other ad service options out there) because it uses the extreme intelligence of Google to your advantage.   They put customized ads on your site so that readers see ads that relate to their interests and to the content of your blog.  More relevant ads mean more clicks, and more clicks equal more revenue… simple as that!


Blogging: Behind the Scenes, Part 3 (More tips from prettyhungryblog.com about simple ways to make money as a blogger.)

Here’s an example of one of the Google AdSense ads.  They’re so smart! They know how much I love Kroger. :)


Amazon Affiliate Program-

I’m an Amazon fanatic because I’m way too lazy to leave my house to shop for things like Christmas presents and kitchen gadgets.  (Ha! But sort of seriously.)  Anyway, anytime I recommend a favorite Amazon product to you here on the website, they track whether a purchase is made based on my recommendation.  Isn’t that cool?  And then Amazon thanks me for the good review with an advertisers fee.  (It’s a pretty piddly advertiser’s fee, mind you.  I would definitely not call Amazon one of my blog’s big ‘money-makers’, but I still think it’s worth sharing the idea with you.  I’m learning that the little bits here and there can add up.  So diversifying your income streams can never hurt!)

Foodie Blogroll Ads

My Foodie Blogroll ad banner appears above the header of my page.  This ad service pays “per view” rather than “per click.”  (This is especially great for me since the majority of my readers come here to read, not shop.)  However, because of the “per view” payment policy, I am required to give this ad banner prominent placement (above the fold on my page).  I worked with a fabulous web designer in hopes that I could keep this ad as non-intrusive as possible… and I hope we succeeded.  Anyway, my only complaint thus far about the Foodie Blogroll ads is that sometimes I pull up my site and the first thing to greet me is an ad for Victoria’s Secret “sexy shirts.”  The images in the ad are not offensive per se, but I don’t care for the overall ‘suggestive’ message.  Thankfully I haven’t noticed anything worse than the “sexy shirts” ad.  For now, it is feedback I’ve definitely sent the folks at Foogie Blogroll and I’m keeping a sharp eye on it.  Most of the time it’s populated with an add for shoes, or St. Jude’s hospital, or yogurt.  I’m good with that!


Blogging: Behind the Scenes, Part 3 (More tips from prettyhungryblog.com about simple ways to make money as a blogger.)

Here’s what the Foodie Blogroll ad looks like when it’s not advertising sexy shirts.


Bluehost Affiliate Program-

I’m a huge fan of Bluehost (my web hosting service), so when bloggers choose it as their web-host based on my recommendation, the company thanks me for the referral with a small commission!  One interesting note: This month marked my first experience observing how Bluehost handles technical difficulties.  (Perhaps you remember a couple of instances around New Years where my blog was down for the count.  Well, apparently it was a massive outage that affected a lot of websites nationwide.)  I was pretty impressed with how Bluehost handled it!  I followed their Customer Service updates via Twitter and the poor damage-control person assigned to their Twitter account was taking quite a verbal lashing.  He (or she) remained very polite, answered as many Tweets as they could with the latest updates, and within a few hours the Bluehost team had restored our sites to full function.  Some people were seriously livid about the outage, but I dunno… I just figure “Stuff breaks.”  It’s going to happen to everyone at some point or another.  They handled it well and I’m pleased about that.  I’ll definitely be observing over the course of this year to see whether it becomes a recurring problem though.

The Unexpected Joys of a Tight Grocery Budget E-book royalties-

Guys, you can totally write an e-book.  (I’ll go into more detail about that process below.)  Anyway, this month I released my first small e-book, which is based on some of the content from my most popular budget posts.  I really enjoyed the process!  Since the book is small I decided to list it for $2.99 and give it away for FREE to Pretty/Hungry subscribers.  (I have a bigger one in the works to publish later this year.)  But miraculously, people have still been buying this one even though I’m giving it away for free.  I have no idea why that might be, but I’m not complaining.


So far, Viglink has not been a high performer for me… but I think that is because I affiliate most of my own links myself.  But, in a nutshell, Viglink sweeps your site for product links within your blog and makes sure you get a commission for recommending them if the links are not already affiliate links.  Viglink saves you the trouble of having to open affiliate accounts with dozens of different online merchants, because Viglink has the affiliate relationships and Viglink pays you your commissions.  Cool stuff!  Google is even a major investor in Viglink… so that gave me the confidence to use it!  You can read up on it more here:)  Like I said, it’s not currently a huge money-maker for my site, but it’s no additional trouble to have it for the rare occasions that it comes in handy, so I recommend it.

-Private Ad-Space Sales-

On occasion, private brands, companies, and/or individuals contact me to purchase ad space on my blog.  If you are interested in advertising with Pretty/Hungry, you can find more details about that here (including the average stats/reach of this site.)

Freelance Food Photography

Lately I’ve been extra hesitant to take on any freelance food photography jobs, just because the time I can devote is so limited (what with a 1-year-old running around here.)  But occasionally my schedule does allow, and when it does, I enjoy it!

*Swagbucks –

Oops, forgot to include Swagbucks income on the graph above but it was worth a little over $15 dollars to me this month.  Anyway, although not directly related to my blog, I have to mention Swagbucks because it’s a worthwhile revenue source for anyone who spends significant time online (whether for work or for recreation.)  You simply create an account for free and start earning Swagbucks.  There are tons of ways to earn them and they can be redeemed for useful rewards such as Amazon gift cards.  My favorite way to earn them is to use the Swagbucks search engine instead of Google.  (There are a few search situations where I still prefer Google, but generally the Swagbucks search is perfectly fine.  And I actually like the Image Search even better than Google!)  My second favorite way to earn them is to do all my online shopping through Swagbucks.  Many popular retailers (Target, WalMart, Amazon…) have an affiliate relationship with Swagbucks, so you can actually earn bucks for every dollar you spend online.  That really made for some hefty rewards during the Christmas season, with all the online shopping I did!


Blogging: Behind the Scenes. Part 3 - My monthly write-up of the methods I use to improve, grow, and monetize the Pretty/Hungry blog.


So, now that you know who the big money-makers were this month, I’ll tell ya a bit more about the 3 items I listed at the top of this post.  These, in my opinion, were the biggest reasons for most of this month’s growth.

1) Foodgawker & Tastespotting-

Are you a food blogger?  A craft blogger?  A wedding blogger?  If you are, and you are not taking advantage of the Gawkerverse, it’s time you start.  The “gawker” websites (and sister-type sites like Tastespotting, etc) are similar to Pinterest in that they provide an ongoing feed of stunning visual images to inspire onlookers and provide them with links to the original published content.  The only difference between these sites and Pinterest is that you have to submit your photos to a moderator for approval before the site publishes them.  There is a bit of extra time involved in the submission process (compared to just ‘pinning’ an image to Pinterest), but that also means these sites provide their viewers with higher-quality content. They aren’t going to send people to spammy links because they’ve checked each and every photo submission to make sure it’s legit.  SO… all that to say, sites like Foodgawker & Tastespotting are definitely worthwhile places to submit your work.  They send considerable traffic my way each month and I’m thankful to have them as a resource.


The "Gawker" website are a terrific way to increase traffic to your blog!


2) Collaboration-

Is there another blogger or online company you admire?  Are there sites you enjoy perusing regularly that you think align well with your own brand?  If so, what do you have to lose by contacting those sites or bloggers and asking to collaborate?  There are so many ways to team up: link-ups, guest-post swaps, interviews, feel free to get creative!  Over the past few months, I had opportunities to collaborate with two bloggers I really enjoy (Natalie Borton of Thoughts by Natalie, and Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom.)  Both of these collaborations were not only fun for me, but provided avenues for me to meet their wonderful readers (and for my regular readers to be introduced to Natalie and Crystal, who are super awesome!)  Collaborations and relationships are so key.  (That said, I repeat the warning I’ve issued before, which is DON’T collaborate unless you are doing so with a blogger or brand you fully support.  Your “stamp of approval” needs to mean something.)


Blogging: Behind the Scenes series


3) Writing/Publishing E-books-

Gone are the days of waiting around for some big-wig to discover you and offer you a book deal.  You can write and publish an e-book even with very limited resources!  (Of course, if it sucks, probably no one will buy it.  But the good news is your readers get to decide whether it’s good, not the aforementioned big-wig who, as of yet, still hasn’t discovered you.)  Amazon offers some great (free!) resources that tell you everything you need to know about the process.  The first is a free e-book called Building Your Book for Kindle, and the second is a free e-book called Publish on Amazon Kindle with Kindle Direct Publishing.  Both are short and helpful resources that take you through the process step-by-step.

A few notes from me on the subject of writing e-books: Obviously, you want to make sure you start with a good, original concept to write about.  It doesn’t have to be long or overly involved, just original and useful to someone.  You’ll also want to make sure you have a friend who is willing to proofread your e-book and offer you constructive criticism.  Another thing that is very helpful is to design an appealing cover for your e-book, or find someone else to help you with that part.  You don’t need expensive software like Adobe Photoshop to accomplish this.  You can create a simple, chic book cover on Microsoft Paint if you want to!  On a different note, your original work is automatically copyrighted to you by law the moment you create it, but you can register a copyright of your e-book in a number of different ways.  I like the free option of using a company like MyFreeCopyright.  And my last piece of advice on the subject of e-books is to look at this tutorial if you think you will want to give away your e-book for free to select people and sell it to others.  Amazon can list it for a certain price, but they don’t have a method for offering a free “coupon code” or other comparable service to select people.  By using Calibre software to make your book into a mobi file before publishing it to Amazon, you’ll give yourself the flexibility to e-mail the e-book file to select people for free if you want to.  Don’t be intimidated!  If I can read the tutorial and follow the instructions, you can. :)


My tips for writing an e-book of your own!  (It's actually pretty doable.)  :)


Whew!  I think that’s more than enough for this month. :)  These blogging posts sure take a lot out of me, but I’ve gotten some great feedback from you all about them so I’ll definitely keep it up.  Hope this month’s installment has been useful for you!

The nice thing about the methods I’ve detailed for this month is that most of them allow you to begin generating income without a lot of up-front cost on your part.  When I decided to do my recipe calendar a few months ago, printing it involved a significant up-front financial investment on my part… and that can be a little scary.  But running ad banners, collaborating with other bloggers, writing an e-book, and submitting content to traffic-driving sites usually won’t cost much more than your time.  Something to consider!

Happy blogging!




Check out these tips for how to write your own ebook! Its actually pretty doable. #bbts


It doesnt always cost money to make money! Some tips about blogging for a living. #bbts




Note: This post contains affiliate links.  See my disclosure here.

7 Responses so far.

  1. Kimmy says:

    Keep it up Cariss! Great job!

  2. ProteanMom says:

    I love that you took the time to explain where your blog’s revenue comes from. Not only does it add transparency to your whole operation, but it definitely builds reader confidence that you’re going to disclose anything that needs to be. Kudos.

    • Carissa says:

      Thanks, ProteanMom! Posts like these from other bloggers have helped me sooo much, so I definitely want to share the ideas that have worked well for me if it can help someone else!

  3. […] you’ve picked up a trick or two.  See you next time!  (Speaking of next time, you can click here for the 3rd installment of this […]

  4. Lydia says:

    Thanks for sharing this…it’s a fun read! I’ve been considering writing a small ebook using some of my money saving posts and so reading a bit about your experience here has kind of helped motivate me a bit. As for the collaboration thing, I really should try that. I think sometimes though because my blog is on Parents.com’s site, people think I’m actually connected to Parents magazine and it kind of makes them less eager to work with me. (Or at least that’s the vibe I’ve gotten in the past.) Thing is, while my blog is located on Parents.com’s site, I am pretty much on my own other than that. And I’m forced to work at growing my blog just like anyone else. All that to say, again, your post made me realize I should try some collaboration again even if it didn’t work well for me in the past.

    • Carissa says:

      Hi Lydia, The e-book tip has been one of the greatest game-changers for me… I hope you’ll pursue it!

      And I’m perplexed by the responses you’ve gotten from potential collaborators. You would think a connection (even just a perceived connection) with a big name like Parents Magazine would make you MORE appealing to them, not less so. Hmmm…??

      • Thanks for the encouragement! (And as you probably noticed, I’m having fun perusing your blog. You have a lot of great stuff here!)

        As for the collaborators thing, I thought too it was a bit odd. The only thing I could figure is that the bloggers I reached out too were more into helping “smaller” bloggers get their name out there and since I blog at Parents they assume that I don’t really need that leg up so to speak. And I think the Parents thing maybe also makes it look kind of spammy when I contact them if that makes sense. Anyway, it’s okay- just part of what goes with blogging on another site! But I do want to try again.