With the end of 2008 hurtling towards us many bloggers are beginning to cast our minds forward into the new year ahead to set goals, make resolutions and come up with strategies and plans to grow their blogs in 2009.
While looking forward and planning to improve your blog is something well worth putting time aside for – I’ve found that you can drastically enhance the forward thinking that you do by doing another step first – reflecting upon the past.
The mistake that many bloggers make in only looking forward is that they often fail to capitalize upon and build upon lessons that they’ve already learned.
I spoke with one blogger this morning who I think illustrates this perfectly. I won’t name him as I don’t want to cause embarrassment but he emailed me to tell me about how he was about to completely relaunch his blog in the coming days. He’d put up a holding page where his old blog had been, was going to launch a completely new design with new branding, he was changing the name and tag line of the blog, was going to change his posting frequency from 3 posts a day to 2-3 posts a week and most strikingly was changing the topic of his blog quite significantly.
When I emailed the blogger back to ask his reasoning for the drastic change of his blog he responded by saying that ‘it’s time for a change’. He reflected that he thought his readers might be bored and he himself wanted a change. His reasons didn’t go much beyond this.
Now don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with reinvention and changing course with your blog – what this blogger is doing could be a very smart move – but a smarter move would be to do a little reflection on how his blog had been going, identifying what was working and what wasn’t and building upon the good stuff – instead of effectively knocking it all down and rebuilding on the rubble.
How to Reflect on the Progress of your Blog
So how does one reflect upon the past experience of their blog in order to work out how to evolve it and build upon its strengths to go forward?
Below I’ve begun to develop a list of questions that a blogger wanting to do some reflection upon their blog might use to undertake such an exercise. By no means is this list exhaustive and by no means am I suggesting that bloggers ask each one – some will be more relevant than others depending upon the blog, its stage in the life cycle and the goals of the blogger.
I would recommend bloggers wanting to do this type of reflection set aside at least a few hours to do this exercise (or a series of hour long sessions over a few days). That might sound like a lot of time but the lessons that you learn by doing this could make any planning you might do for 2009 and beyond much more effective. For some of these questions you will probably need access to your blogs metrics/stats package but for many you might find it less distracting if you were offline with a pen and paper.
- What goals (formal or informal) did you have for your blog in 2008?
- What goals did you meet?
- What successes did you have that you didn’t set goals for?
- Which goals didn’t you meet for your blog in 2008?
- What failed on your blog in 2008? What mistakes did you make?
- How have you innovated in 2008?
- How have you invested in your own learning as a blogger in 2008?
- What do you want readers of your blog to ‘DO’ after reading your blog?
- Do Your Readers actually Do what you want them to do?
- Would YOU read your blog?
- How did your traffic change in 2008?
- What was the biggest source of traffic in 2008? Why was it big?
- What types of traffic didn’t grow in 2008?
- Take some time to analyze traffic sources including search engines, social bookmarking, other referring sites, direct traffic – are they trending up or down?
- Where did you promote your blog in 2008?
- Did the promotion pay off?
- What search terms are people typing into Google to arrive on your site?
- What seasonal traffic was their in 2008?
- How many pages were people viewing on your site per visit?
- How much time did you put into building traffic, promotion, marketing, SEO in 2008?
- How many posts did you write over the year?
- Which months did you write the most posts and which did you write the least? Why the ups and downs?
- Which posts had the most traffic in 2009? Why do you think that was?
- Which posts got the most comments? Why might that have been?
- Which posts were linked to most by other sites?
- What topics most energized you in 2008?
- Which posts drained you most?
- What type of posts have you been writing lately (voice, style etc)? How long are they?
- How much time did you put into writing content in 2008?
- Are key pages (About page, Contact page, Advertise page etc) up to date?
- What calls to action did you have on your blog in 2008? Did they work?
- What ‘need’ does your content fulfill for readers? What problems does it solve?
- What recurring questions did readers ask in 2008?
- How have your RSS subscriber numbers changed?
- If you have a newsletter – how are subscriber numbers to it changing?
- Are comment numbers from readers increasing or decreasing?
- How much personal interaction did you have with readers in 2008?
- What other ways are readers interacting with your blog? (polls, guest posts, forums etc)
- Have you kept up with moderating comment spam in 2008?
- Is your niche/topic/industry growing or shrinking?
- What topics within or around your niche are growing and gaining momentum?
- What are other blogs doing well in your niche?
- Are they growing or shrinking in terms of traffic and reader engagement?
- What are other blogs in your niche ignoring or doing badly?
- How were your interactions with other bloggers this year?
- What social media sites, forums or other types of sites are ‘hot’ in your niche?
- Does your niche/topic energize you?
- How does your blogs design look?
- Is it dated, confusing or ‘broken’ or is it attractive, functional and engaging?
- Is there clutter anywhere on your blog?
- Does your blog load fast?
- When a first time reader arrives on their blog what impression would they get?
- Would a first time visitor immediately know what it is about and how to use/navigate it?
- What complaints have you heard most about your design from readers this year?
Monetization (if this is a goal for you)
- How much did your blog earn in 2008?
- Are your earnings up or down on previous years?
- What sources of income does your blog have?
- How did your income change over the year? Why did it change?
- What lessons did you learn about what methods of making money works best on your blog?
- What didn’t work in 2008 when it comes to monetization?
- What are other blogs and sites in your niche using to monetize their blogs? What affiliate products are they promoting? What ad networks are they using?
- What advertisers are running campaigns in your niche?
- What type of affiliate programs have worked (and not worked) on your blog? What type of offers do you readers respond to?
- Is your blog platform up to date?
- What features/widgets/tools are readers using on your blog?
- What features/widgets/tools are readers not using on your blog?
- When was the last time you backed up your blog?
- Is your hosting sufficient for your blog? How much downtime did you have in 2008?
- What features do your readers ask for or complain about on your blog?
OK – as I say above – these questions just scratch the surface as to the type of reflections that a blogger might do on their blog. I’d love to hear other questions that you’d also ask.
Next week, after you’ve had a little time to do some of this reflecting, I want to follow this post up by outlining a process that I use for planning and coming up with strategies for a blog. Stay tuned to the ProBlogger RSS feed to get this update.