This post is based on episode 131 of the ProBlogger podcast.
A lot of bloggers do an end-of-year-review, where they analyze how everything went in the previous year and set goals for the new one.
But when you set such long-term goals, it’s worth checking in occasionally to see how you’re doing and make sure you’re still on track.
And that’s where the mid-review comes in.
But what exactly should you be checking? How can you tell whether you’re doing well? And what are the warning signs that you might need to make some changes?
Over the years I’ve come up with seven areas that I focus on whenever I’m reviewing my blogs. And today I want to share those seven areas, and the questions you might ask yourself when analyzing each one. Starting with…
1. Your content.
Looking at your posts, what topics, categories and formats have worked well over the past six months? Did your list posts do particularly well? Are you still getting responses to that rant you posted three months ago? Is your audience crying out for more interviews?
You might also want to analyze whether some mediums worked better than others. Did posts with infographics do better than those with just text? How did your audience react to your videos and live feeds? Is the audience you’re attracting with your podcast worth the time it takes to record and produce it?
Don’t forget to look at the length of your more popular posts. I recently looked at my Google Analytics and saw that some of our longer posts have done really well over the past six months, which means I should probably write more long-form posts in the future.
Finally, look at how frequently you posted fresh content. Did you meet the deadlines you set for yourself at the beginning of the year? How did your audience react when you posted more or less often than they expected?
This is a good time to take another look at your editorial plan (or create it if you don’t have one). Do you have enough ideas to keep you going for the rest of the year? Do you need to re-think some of your topics, categories or formats to better suit what your audience? This is the perfect time to make those adjustments to you have a clear roadmap that will take you where you want to go.
2. Your traffic
Take a look at your blog traffic for the past six months. Were there any spikes? If so, try to find out what may have caused them.
About a week or so ago we had a big spike in traffic on Digital Photography School. And nearly all of it was driven by one post: How to Photograph Fireworks.
And that makes perfect sense, as the 4th of July is when America celebrates Independence Day.
That same post has been spiking around this time for years (as well as on New Year’s Eve). And so we now promote it heavily on occasions such as these when everyone wants to photograph fireworks. We’ve also written more content about it to capture more traffic and readers.
On the flipside, were there any troughs in your traffic? Is there a pattern that might help you pinpoint what’s causing them? We often see a dip in traffic the day after Independence Day, presumably because everyone’s recovering from the celebrations. You may also see dips on weekends, or on particular dates. What can you do to make those dips less frequent or less severe?
What’s the overall trend with your traffic? Is it going up steadily, or has it plateaued or even dropped? What about over the past month or so?
If your traffic is dropping, you need to analyze it and see if there’s any way you can reverse the trend. At one point we noticed our mobile traffic on both Digital Photography School and ProBlogger dropping, which was a wake-up call for us to optimize the design of both sites so they’d work better on mobile devices.
Have you been doing anything specific (e.g. writing guest posts, posting more updates on social media, creating more shareable content) to bring more traffic to your site? If you have, was it a good use of your time? And if you haven’t, is it something you could try to bring those traffic numbers back up?
3. Your reader engagement
What do your readers think of you and your blog? Are they engaging with you? Think about the number of comments and emails you’ve been getting, and whether that number has been going up or down over the past six months.
You should also look at your bounce rate and how often people share your content. This will help you determine how your readers feel about your content, and how open they are to receiving more.
What are your open rates like on the emails and newsletters you send out? What kind of engagement are you getting on social media? What’s the most frequent complaint of praise you hear from your readers? Hearing the same message (good or bad) regularly from different readers can help you understand how they feel about you and your blog.
Occasionally I get an email saying “You’re doing too much promoting” or “You’re always trying to sell us something”. I’m sure every blogger gets an email like this once in a while. But if I hear the same thing multiple times from multiple readers, it’s a sign I may need to readdress how much content I charge for and how I give away.
Ultimately, what you’re trying to work out is whether or not you’ve delivered value to your readers. Has their reaction been positive, or do they feel you’ve taken more than you’ve given?
One way to find out how your readers feel about you and your blog is to create a survey and encourage them to take part. This can help you find out not only how they feel, but also what you can do to change how they feel for the better.
You might also want to come up with a community project or challenge your readers can take part in to increase engagement.
4. Your monetization
For those of you who have monetized your blog (or are trying to), you should analyze your income streams and how well they’ve been working over the past six months. (I’m sure you check how much money you’re earning far more frequently.)
Start by looking at the overall trend. Has it increased, decreased, or remained steady? Are some income streams (e.g. advertising, affiliate promotions, selling products or services) doing or better or worse than the others? Are there any that you’ve been thinking about trying but still haven’t implemented?
You may need to look at the figures over a full year (or even several years if you have them) to spot any trends you may need to consider.
If you’re selling a product or service, does most of your revenue come from launches or long-tail sales? Some bloggers fall into the trap of focusing too much on the launch of their product. The sales come in quickly at first, but then they quickly die down. The product then sits there until they either discount it or do another launch.
If that sounds like your sales curve, you may need to come up with a way to increase those long-tail sales. Perhaps you could use an autoresponder that sends your newsletter subscribers on offer a month or so after they subscribe. You might also think about making the products more prominent on your website. After all, how can people buy something if they don’t even know about it?
If you’re monetizing your blog with sponsors rather than products or services, you may need to think about approaching new sponsors. Have you seen businesses advertising on other blogs in your niche that could be potential advertisers on yours? Maybe you need to review your media kit as well.
You could even create a promotional calendar in the same way you created your editorial calendar, especially if you plan on launching new products or services. This will help you plan not only the development and launch of your product, but also when to start talking about it to build excitement and anticipation.
5. Your technology
How has your blog been running from a technology perspective? Have you or your readers experienced any outages or downtime? If so, you might want to think about switching to a better hosting provider.
Are you running the latest version of your blogging platform? What about your plugins? Do you need to update them, or perhaps even replace them if they’re no longer supported? Now if the time to get everything up to date so your blog is secure.
Is your blog’s design still working? Could it do with an update, or even a complete overhaul? Is it mobile responsive? (If not , then it needs to be.)
Are there things that simply don’t work anymore, either from a technology or a reader perspective? The last thing you want is for readers to be leaving your blog because they’re annoyed or confused.
Now is also a good time to look at the tools and services you’re using for emails, landing pages and the like. First of all, are you still using them? If not, you can save yourself some money by cancelling your subscription.
And if you are using them, are they worth the money you’re paying for them? Is there something out there at a similar price point that could do a better job? (Remember to factor in the effort it will take to make the switch.)
6. Your productivity
How productive have you been over the past six months? What aspects of blogging did you spend most of your time on, and was it worth it? And if you took the time to set up some workflows, how effective have they been?
Sometimes it’s hard to know just where all that time has gone. A while back I installed a product called Rescue Time, which tracks how you use the time you spend on your computer. It’s a pretty confronting tool to use, but it helped me realize where I was wasting time. It even helped me pinpoint where I was spending time on things that felt productive even though they weren’t.
How can you make better use of your time from now on?
7. Your wellbeing
Finally, it’s time to check the most vital component of your blog – you.
How are you going with your blogging, and with life in general?
It’s an important question to ask, because your blog’s health depends a lot on your own health – physical, mental, spiritual and emotional. And so you should spend as much time (if not more) on looking after yourself as you do on looking after your blog.
A major aspect of our wellbeing is the relationships we have with family, friends, acquaintances and so on. But you should also take the time to think about the relationship you have with your blog.
How do you feel about it? Are you still passionate about the topic? Does the thought of writing a new post excite you? Or does it feel more like a burden you have to bear?
If your passion or energy for your blog is waning (or missing completely), you may need to take a break. You may need a holiday. You may need to get some help. Or you may just need to change the direction of your blog in some way.
You may also need to ‘fill your cup’. Employees in traditional businesses often attend training courses, seminars and conferences as part of their professional development. But as bloggers we don’t have a human resources department booking training courses and seminars for us to attend.
And so we need to manage our own professional development.
Is there a book you could buy that would help you with your blogging? Is there a seminar on new research in your niche you could attend? Is there an event coming up where you could meet other bloggers?
As bloggers we need to keep learning and developing ourselves and our knowledge. Because we can only put into our blogs what we put into ourselves.
Planning for the future
How much time should you spend reviewing your blog? That’s up to you. You could spend days researching and answering all of these questions. But I encourage you to answer at least one question from each of the seven areas.
And then come up with an action plan to address them all.
No matter where your blog is now, I hope your mid-year blog review will help you create a plan to put it in an even better position by the end of the year.
So what area will you focus on first? And what questions will you be trying to answer? Let us know in the comments.
Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash