Hey you there, the one with the blog. Put down that wrapping paper (keep the eggnog, you’ll need sustenance), it’s time for you to take a quick look back at the year that was on your site, even though we’re heading into the busiest season of the year.
Why? Well, blog-wise it’s great to know what’s happened across 2015, give you an overview of your efforts, point you in the right direction for 2016, and give you a case of the warm and fuzzies when you see how far you’ve come in 12 short months.
Doing a blog audit can also help you create content for the months ahead and give you an advantage when it comes to your social media strategy. Who wouldn’t want to start the new year on the right foot (even if it does mean a few hard truths along the way – you don’t really want to hear that you’ve spent hours on Pinterest for little return, but it’s necessary hearing, right!)? Getting a sense of where you’re at is pretty important to help you know where you can expand next.
So where do you start? It’s such an overwhelming prospect when you think about going over every aspect of your blog with a fine-tooth comb, but as always, if you break it down into smaller tasks, it’s totally achievable. A pleasant beverage alongside wouldn’t hurt…
How to Do an End-of-2015 Blog Audit
Grab a pen and notebook, a fresh Google Doc, a spreadsheet if you’re into that sort of thing, or anything else you’re happy to take notes on or in, and go through each section of your blog thoroughly. What worked, what didn’t, what did you hate, what will you change for next year? As science historian James Burke said once “you can only know where you’re going if you know where you’ve been”. True dat.
“You can only know where you’re going if you know where you’ve been.” – James Burke
So let’s get stuck in.
You’re going to have to look at some stats for this, so open your WordPress Jetpack or Google Analytics and be prepared to dive in. First though, a look through the posts themselves:
- How long were posts? Did you have a variety of word lengths? All long? All short? Which performed better? What would you say your average post word count would be?
- What were the most popular posts? Overall, and for each category of your blog?
- What type of posts worked? What resonated with your audience?
- What fell flat, or just quite didn’t make it?
- Did you write to your niche? Or did you branch out? Was that a wise choice?
- Were you helpful?
- What posts got the most comments/emails? Which one seemed to touch a nerve in your audience?
- What was shared most?
- What did you enjoy writing?
- Where are you sourcing images? Are you making or taking your own? Could you start? What other options are there (you can find a selection of places that have collections of free, no-attribution images here), what program are you using to create and personalise your images? Is it enough or should you try something new? What are your image sizes? Are they optimal? Have you changed blog layout and now some of them are poorly sized? Make a note of them so you can update later with a better image.
- Which day of the week got the most traffic? What were you publishing on those days? Was it consistent with your brand?
- Was your overarching theme this year consistent with your brand?
- What search terms got the most people to your blog? are you providing content for them?
- Does each post have a good image that’s formatted correctly, a keyword-rich headline, and is it pleasant to the eye? Is there enough white space, and are there calls to action where necessary?
- Were you providing enough value?
The nitty-gritty that we usually ignore unless something has gone wrong. Do a cleanout!
- Are your plugins still working for you? What can you delete? What needs updating?
- What do you have as a 404 error message? Can you make it more useful to the reader who finds themselves there?
- Do you have broken links? (one way to find out is to use a broken link checker, or install a plugin that will do it for you). Can you update them?
- What is your SEO plan? Are you inserting key words in all the right places? If you have Yoast installed, is there a green light on the majority of your posts? What can you do to improve in the new year? (Moz has a pretty comprehensive post here on doing a full SEO audit if you feel you need that much depth, and a content audit here).
- Have you filled out the alt-text field on all your images with keyword-rich descriptions? (remember, this is what Pinterest pulls so make it user-friendly)
- What have you been using to track metrics/traffic? Is it working?
- Create a Google Analytics report about what has happened on your site, and who is reading it (and on what device!) Darren has a great tutorial here on how to find the most useful stats in Google Analtyics and use that knowledge to set up your next year of blogging on the right foot.
We eat with our eyes, as they say, and readers will make snap judgements about you and your blog based on how it looks when they get there. What does your design say?
- Is it functional?
- Is it reader-friendly?
- Is it pleasing to the eye?
- Does it describe you and your blog at a glance?
- Have you stayed consistent with colours and fonts?
- Are there any widgets that need removing?
- How is your sidebar working? What can you shuffle around or delete entirely?
- Are you making the most of the bottom-of-the-blog real estate?
- Are the ads old? Can you write to the advertisers and offer them a new deal?
- Are you making the most of your design to point to where you could make an affiliate sale?
- Are there several points on the page where readers can follow you?
- Is your newsletter signup box prominent? Do you have more than one?
- Is that pop-up box worth it?
- Are your social media icons in the right order (you might want to put your most popular sites at the front). Are they linked to the right place? Are they the right size or colour?
- Do all the links on your homepage work?
- What can you remove from the design to enhance the look of your blog?
- What are you using for social sharing? Do you like it? are people using it? Can you find something that works better?
- Personal branding: is it recognisable? Have you been using the same branding techniques on your post images?
The umbrella of what you’re about. How’s that workin’ for ya?
- Are the pages and topics you’ve sorted your content into still relevant? Have you moved onto other things? Can you merge some? Nest them?
- Did you share content equally across all or did you find you wrote on a particular topic the most?
- Is the navigation streamlined and user-friendly?
- Are your pages and topics easily accessed?
Our home away from home!
- On what platform did you see the biggest growth?
- Where was the most engagement?
- What did you enjoy the most?
- Have you changed profile pictures and bios lately? How current are they?
- What brought most return for your efforts?
- Where would you like try in the new year?
- Is it obvious on all of these platforms what you’re about? What you can offer people?
- Do all your platforms link to your blog, and are these options obvious and easy to find?
Your promotional strategy
You can’t just “build it and they will come”. Because they’re busy reading someone else.
- How did you get your blog in front of new readers?
- How successful was that?
- What wasn’t worth the time invested?
- Where will you invest your time next year?
- What have you got as an opt-in? Does it need upgrading?
- How are you offering your newsletter or mailing list? Have you been consistent with it, have you been tracking open rates etc?
- Did you guest post anywhere? Was that worth your time? Where could you try this year?
- Did you try to get some traditional media coverage?
- Did you try any collaborations or cross-promotions? Who could you work with in 2016?
- Did you do any giveaways? How did they work?
- What has been your strategy this year?
- What monetization models were you using?
- What has been the most lucrative?
- What hasn’t been worth your time?
- What will you spend your resources on next year?
- What programs, ebooks or courses need updating?
- Can you bundle them together and do a quick lead-up to christmas sale?
- Can you release something quick in time for christmas or new year?
- How has your audience reacted to each monetisation strategy?
- What model have you most enjoyed using?
- What would you consider for the future?
- Did you create any? did you meet them?
- Were you too ambitious? Or not enough?
- What did you have in mind for next year?
- Have you written your future goals and a plan for how to get there?
- How could you learn from the mistakes you’ve made this year to help you reach your goals now?
- How did you feel overall?
- What did you excel at?
- Where did you feel you could have done better?
- Did you enjoy blogging?
- Do you still enjoy it?
- Have you thought about quitting, moving on to something else (like podcasting, for example), do you want to write a book, open an online store… did you think about expanding or moving on?
- What would you like to do on your blog for next year?
- What will you be leaving behind?
A big job, huh? But worthwhile. I hope you finished your audit feeling organized and motivated for a fantastic year ahead!
(if not, there’s always eggnog…)
When I first started reading this post I thought, “Ok, another quick end-of-the-year checklist. I’ll read it quickly to see how I did.” After I started reading I realized this wasn’t a quick read. As a matter of fact, it caused me to do some soul searching.
Finally I had to print it on several pages and paste it on my wall. I fully intend to go through each question thoughtfully to see where I dropped the ball, excelled and what I should do next.
Thanks (I think) for such a thought-provoking post. Now I’ve got a few more things on my To Do list. :)
Haha it’s like a double-edged sword, is it not?! It will get you some real results though, if you take the time to do it. Here’s to a great 2016!
great article. its really helpful to do self audit of the blog. thanks for sharing.
You’re welcome, Revi, hope it helps.
Awesome list. Its hard to find any point that is not there in the list. Fingers crossed hope my blog passes through all the points that are mentioned in this checklist..:)
Wow! Great post with lots of really good questions. I’ve been thinking it’s about time to do a stocktake so this will be helpful. Although I think by the time I get through all of this it will be time for the 2016 one!! :)
haha me too! I suppose it’s good to keep asking yourself these questions on an ongoing basis though. But if you at least catch the glaring issues from this post then it’s a step in the right direction!
Nice post. I find it best to do this twice a year. The big blog check it during the summer. Before January, I usually do a minor check and upgrade. This is what works for me.
Summer seems like a great time to do it without the hassle of holidays to interrupt you! It IS summer here in Australia though, so maybe we’re more ahead than we realise!
What a great list of areas to evaluate.
I hope they’re useful to you, Ginger.
Really thorough! I’ll take the time to do it, I think it will really help seeing what works and where I want to go. Thanks!
These tips are so helpful. I will have to start upgrading and taking better care of my blog. Thanks.