The end of the year is a great time to reflect, examine, and set new priorities for what’s next, which makes it the perfect time to do a review of your blog business.
If the word review makes you shiver and think of your end-of-year teacher eval meeting, where you have to prove to your administrator that you’re an effective teacher, don’t sweat it. This is your business, and you don’t have to prove anything to anyone.
If it helps, this is not just a review, but also a clean-up, a chance for you to clear out some digital cobwebs, and spruce up a corner or 2 of your website.
And remember, teachers kind of have 2 year-ends, so feel free to do this in December, or June… or both!
I start this process with the review part because that informs the cleanup portion. It takes me a few hours if I do it all in one sitting, but it’s also possible to do a little bit at a time. And there’s no rule that says this has to be done by a certain date.
Finally, before we jump in, this is a big overview-type of process that I recommend for beginners. If you’re more than a couple years into your blog, check out a more nitty-gitty review process (then come back for the cleanup because he doesn’t talk about that).
Gather Your Information
Data, Data, Data
Yes, we’re all data’d out, but this is your data. And it’s not being used for anything except to help you make informed decisions about your blog.
Data is information.
Information is power.
Some things you’re going to want data for are your key performance indicators (KPIs) and can be gleaned from your Google Analytics account.
- Number of page views, sessions, and/or unique visitors per month.
- Traffic sources.
- Top posts and pages
- Total email subscribers by month.
It’s All About the Benjamins (or Washingtons… whatever)
If you want your blog to make money, you need to track where your money is coming from. I can’t stress this enough.
Now is the time to dig in to how much you made and how you made it.
If you’ve been tracking your income and expenses, this will be easy. If not… well, it’s important. In this step we’re only focusing on income. You’d be amazed how many entrepreneurs don’t know how much money they’re bringing in!
I check in on my blog money once a month to update my spreadsheet and move my money to the proper accounts, but even I was surprised at my income when I looked. I normally just put all the numbers in the right boxes, then close it up. This time I actually looked at the monthly and yearly totals and… wow! I hadn’t even realized I’d already surpassed my revenue goal for the year by October.
Sometimes numbers are fun!
The two things you need to know are:
- Your sources of income.
- How much each source earned.
Where Are You Spending Time and Money?
Not as much fun as the income, you also need to know where you’re spending money. If you don’t already, I strongly suggest setting up a business bank account and credit card. This not only helps you track your expenses more easily, but it also protects your personal accounts from legal action (provided you’ve set up an LLC).
You’ll definitely need to know:
- What you’re paying for in your business
- How much you’re paying
You should also do a time audit for your own information. This involves tracking what you do for your blog and can help provide valuable insight into strengths, weakness, and improvements you can make.
The goal is to find out what you’re doing in an average week, and how long you’re spending on it. With the other data you’ve collected, you’ll be able to see if you’re spending your most precious resource, your time, wisely.
Break It Down
Now that you’ve got all your data collected, you can start to scrutinize it. (You have no idea how hard I worked not to use the word “analyze” there, so as not to traumatize you.)
The good news is that you don’t need to make spreadsheets, charts, and tables to get what you need. You really just need to be able to answer these questions:
What trends do you notice? Are there particular post types on your blog (or social media, if you track that) that got more engagement via comments, shares, or sales? If so, when planning ahead you want to plan more of that type of content, and try to determine what’s working so you can use those techniques in other content as well.
You may also notice that certain times of year are peaks or valleys for your readership and/or sales. This is normal, and nothing to panic about. For example, September is a slow month at Side Hustle Teachers because my audience is focusing on back to school stuff. Knowing this is helpful because not only do I not freak out when my stats drop, I also know not to launch something new at this time.
Does your effort match your outcome? Are the places you’re spending your time benefiting your blog? For example, if you’re posting diligently on Instagram every day, are you gaining followers, and more importantly, are those followers becoming readers and/or customers?
While it can be a good ego boost to see our follower count go up, it doesn’t mean much if those followers aren’t clicking over to your blog, signing up for your email list, and making you money. For example, my engagement on Twitter was circling the drain (and I never enjoyed using the platform), so I deleted my account… and it felt great!
What are your income producing activities? Knowing where your revenue is coming from, what specific tasks are moving your audience toward a sale? If 1% of people on your email list buy from you (a very normal statistic, by the way), consider the steps you take to get people on your list. At SHT, a good portion of our sales come from my free training, Profitable Blogging for Teachers, so I would examine the ways people can find this training.
If your blog is not making money yet, not to worry. Since email is far-and-away the most cost effective way to get customers, focus on your list. Even if you don’t have anything to sell yet, build your list. It is a marketing channel that will pay off big time in the future. In this case, you would address the question; What are my list building activities?
Now that you have a big-picture view of your blog, keep the information in a visible place. When you’re considering a new project, reflect on the questions above. Is the new project in keeping with the expectations of my audience? Do I have evidence that my audience needs or wants this? Is this going to build my income?
Pausing to deliberately weigh the costs (of money and time) and the potential returns of each project can prevent you from chasing shiny objects or procrastinating by taking on non-income-producing tasks.
Before we move on, there’s two more things to think about in your end-of-year review:
What did you love about blogging this year?
What did you not enjoy doing this year?
Remember that your blog is your business, and you get to design it in a way that makes you happy. If there are things you loved doing, moments that made you feel great, or connections made that you treasure, do more of that! When you look ahead to next year, plan more of what brings you joy.
Conversely, if there are things that just drain the life from you, feel really difficult, or you put off for as long as possible, find a way to do less of them. Maybe that means those things just don’t get done. Or, if it’s something that needs to be handled, like sending welcome emails to new subscribers, automate it with a tool like ConvertKit, or hire someone to do it for you!
Your business, your rules!
Clean It Up
While you’ve got all your data out and available, let’s see if there are some things on your blog that can be tidied up. This is an important part of your year-end processes because it will make for a much better experience for your readers and can help your SEO results, too.
Amp up your top posts. Once you know which posts are resonating with your audience over time, you’re going to want to maximize them. A few things I recommend is adding more internal links to other blog posts of yours. This will help keep people on your site longer and lead readers through more of your content, building a stronger connection, faster.
Next, do some keyword research to find what people who are interested in that particular content might be searching for, then update your content to include these words or phrases.
Lastly, review your post images. Update them if they’re outdated, and make sure you’re using a plugin like Social Warfare to make pinning and sharing easy.
Update or redirect old posts. If you’ve been blogging for more than a year, you may have some content that is a little dated, doesn’t 100% fit your niche, or you just don’t like. As you grow, this is totally normal.
You have a couple of options for what to do with this type of content. You can always update or improve upon old posts. That’s one of the beautiful things about blogging! If there’s a typo, you can fix it. If there’s something new you want to mention, add it in! No big deal.
But not all content is worth updating or fixing. Sometimes it’s better to just scrap it and move on. However, you don’t want people who find old links to be taken to get an error when they click, so I suggest you use a free plugin called Redirection. This allows you to point the old URL of the post you don’t want shown to another, related post that’s more in line with your current blog niche and standards. This way, when anyone clicks on the old post, they’ll be automatically taken to the new one.
Remove or update dead links. There are few things more frustrating for a reader than clicking on a link and going nowhere (or to an error page). This happens a lot with affiliate links as other sites make updates to their inventory or system.
A tool like SEM Rush’s website audit will give you a list of links on your site that are dead, then you can fix each one. I actually suggest doing this more than once a year, but life happens… so definitely make it part of your end-of-year cleanup
De-junkify your inbox. If you’re like me, you may sign up for a lot of free trials, trainings, etc. I also like to sign up for people’s email lists just to check out their nurture sequence. All of this means that my inbox gets pretty cluttered. Use this time of year to unsubscribe from things that are no longer serving you. This is another thing I recommend you do more than once a year (like daily), but it’s helpful to have a reminder.
The end of the year is a natural time to do a review and cleanup of your blog, but it doesn’t have to be done then. If you’re feeling a little unclear on where you’re going with your business, this process can help illuminate where you’re at, and what your options are.
Remember that in the end, your blog is yours and yours alone. Make informed decisions, but make ones that work for you and your goals, not because it’s what you’re supposed to do or because that’s what anyone else wants.