Understand how your blog has grown and the fruits of your blogging labor.
A lot can be accomplished in 365 days, and unless you take the time to evaluate the last 365 days how can you have a proper perspective of what you can expect in the next 365 days?
Do you have a yearly review process for your blog? Not to be confused with a blogging process— have you specifically put together a workflow for measuring how your last year’s worth of blogging has paid off?
Over the past few years I’ve refined my yearly review process. I wouldn’t say I’ve perfected it, but it has been a great way of helping me to refocus on my goals and plan for the future. With technology, tools, and the evolution that blogging is always undergoing, this is a process that is always in a state of refinement.
In this post I want to share with you my current blog review process and, hopefully, it gives you some helpful ideas to add to your own process. At the very least I hope it gives you a starting point to get your own review process going.
Afterall, not every blogger has the same goals and objectives for their blog, so take what you can use, refine it, and come up with your own process.
With that said, let’s get into it!
Set the Date
Step one is to set a date where you have set aside time to go through this process. If it’s not on your calendar it’s not going to happen. Treat it like it’s a meeting with the President—nothing can overlap this time.
I schedule out 4 hours on the last Saturday of the year. I go somewhere I can focus without being interrupted (like the local Starbucks) and bring only my laptop. You may choose to write down your goals in a journal or notebook, and that’s fine. I just prefer everything to be digital.
Next, I’ll navigate to Google Analytics and set a time frame from January 1 of the current year all the way to the present day.
Then I meticulously go through and record all the metrics that are important to my site’s growth. What metrics, you say? I’m glad you asked.
What to Measure
Below are the 8 primary metrics that I look at when going through my Google Analytics for my yearly blog review.
- Sessions: The number of unique visits to your blog.
- Pageviews: The number of pages that were viewed on your blog.
- Pages per Visit: The average number of pages each individual views before leaving your site.
- Average Session Duration: The average amount of time people spend on the site per visit.
- Social Actions: The number of +1s, Tweets, Likes, and other social media actions that Google is able to track.
- Sessions by Channel: The channels that are driving traffic to your site.
- Sessions by Social Network: The social networks that are sending you the most traffic.
- Referral sites: The websites that are sending you visitors because of a direct link to your site.
To make this process super easy I’ve set-up a Google Analytics Dashboard that will display all of these metrics on one page. All I have to do is just set the date range and I instantly have all of these widgets populated with a year’s worth of information.
Want to get your hands on that template? Just add your email below and I’ll email you the link to add this dashboard template to your Google Analytics account in 3 easy clicks.
Now, a little bit about why each of these metrics are important.
Sessions and Pageviews
These are metrics most bloggers want to look at because they are the easiest to grow. Some people consider them to be vanity metrics, but they can give us some degree of insight about whether or not we’re attracting more readers month-over-month or year-over-year.
For those who are unclear on the difference between Sessions and Pageviews, think of it this way:
If your blog were a Mall and each of the individual stores were a page or post on your blog, a Session is when someone makes a visit to the mall. A Pageview is like entering a store within the mall. Someone can visit as many stores as they like (or accumulate many Pageviews) but it’s still considered one visit (or Session) to the mall.
Make sense? Good, let’s move on.
Pages Per Visit & Average Session Duration
The reason I like to measure how many pages per visit my blog is getting is because this will tell me how good a job I’m doing at getting people to explore the site. I don’t want people just visiting an article to get what they need and then leaving.
My goal is to get someone to explore a bit, find out more about what I do and what I offer, and be convinced that they need to come back again soon to get more of what they came for. Not every blogger might have this goal, but it’s one I like to focus on.
This metric is all about how well you’re doing at keeping the visitor’s attention. Attention is more important that views or impressions— Gary Vaynerchuk has been saying this for a while now, and he’s absolutely right.
“…in marketing, we need to be placing importance on attention, not impressions.” -Gary Vaynerchuk
Having more pages per visit means I’m giving more value to the visitor which also leads to higher likelihood that the visitor will subscribe to my newsletter. And this, of course, is a high-value, high-priority goal for any blogger.
More pages per visit also leads to a higher Average Session Duration, and if you’ve read my post on finding your most Meaningful Metrics, you know that the amount of time someone spends on your site is very important.
Now, in order to track social actions you will need to have a social sharing plugin that allows you to track this. If you’re a Social Warfare user this is built right in—you simply need to activate Button Click Tracking under the Advanced settings.
Social actions are a sign that people are enjoying your content so much that they think other people will find value in it as well. This is a huge indicator that you’re doing things right more so than the number of sessions or pageviews.
This is also a great indication of how well you are scaling your efforts beyond yourself, and getting others to amplify your messages for you.
Sessions by Channel
Also known as Default Channel Grouping, this will tell you which types of traffic sources are giving you the most traffic. The 6 default channel groupings that Google Analytics organizes traffic into are:
- Organic: traffic sent from search engines.
- Social: traffic sent from social networks.
- Direct: traffic that came from people typing your domain into their address bar.
- Referral: traffic that came from another domain.
- Email: traffic that came from an email provider, app, or service.
- Other: traffic that doesn’t fall into any of the previously mentioned categories.
This is essentially a top-level view of where your traffic is coming from. You then can break it down into the two other areas that follow.
Sessions by Social Network
When looking at this metric, I know instantly where I should be spending my time on Social Media. Seeing which social networks are sending you the most traffic allows you to see where your content is best finding its target audience.
For example, if you’re getting 20,000 sessions from Facebook and only 500 from Twitter, you’re probably better off spending more time on Facebook growing your audience than Twitter. Likewise, as I stated in an article for Warfare Plugins, this will also be an indicator of which social share buttons you should offer on your blog.
I’ve said it before, many times: only focus on 2-3 social networks–the ones that are bringing you the highest return. Don’t waste time on social networks that aren’t bringing value just because people say you should be active on them. You’ll be much more effective focusing on fewer social networks.
Sessions by Source
Lastly, I pay attention to what other websites are sending me significant amounts of traffic and determine:
- Is there a way I can get more traffic from this site via guest posting or some sort of contribution?
- Is there a specific post this site is linking to, and if so can I create more posts like this that they would link to?
- Is there a way I can get in touch with the creators of this site and thank them?
Spend some time exploring either how you can get more traffic from these sites or if there are other similar sites that might be able to send you traffic in the same way.
What Got Me There?
Once I’ve recorded all the most important metrics I compare them to the actual actions I’ve taken. What did I do that led to these results? To answer that question, I ask the following questions:
- How many blog posts did I publish?
- How active was I on specific social networks?
- How much did I engage outside of my own site?
The biggest factor for me though is the first one–how many times did I hit “Publish”? If you’re not publishing new content regularly then there’s not a lot of compelling reasons for people to keep coming back. This will have a drastic effect on your blog unless you have a strong Evergreen Strategy.
Once I have gone through these questions, I then go take a look at which posts had the most page views for the year. This will tell me which types of content are the most successful, and which ones I should probably never do again.
To do this you need to go in Google Analytics to:
Behavior > Site Content > All Pages
This will show you which pages had the most visits/views and you can look at what type of traffic those posts are giving you. Take a look at the Avg. Time on Page and Bounce Rate for those top posts to see if they are bringing you high-value traffic.
I take note of which posts are bringing the most high-value traffic (long Avg. Time on Page and lower Bounce Rates) and plan to create more content like that. Conversely, I also take note on which posts brought the least traffic combined with the lowest Time on Page and highest Bounce Rates and keep in mind to create less content like that.
Setting Next Year’s Goals
Once I’ve gathered all of this data, I can decide where my successes and failures were. From there I begin to set next year’s goals, along with specific actions to accomplish them.
My blogging goals usually look something like:
- XXX,XXX amount of Sessions
- XXX,XXX amount of Pageviews
- XX,XXX amount of Social Actions
- XX,XXX amount of visits from Social Networks
- X.X pages/visit
- XX% bounce rate
It’s not enough though to just set goals– you must also come up with specific actions that will bring about your goals. Here are some examples of actions I have decided to take to reach my own goals:
- Write more frequently and consistently (publish “X” amount of blogs per week)
- Spend more time networking (make “X” amount of new connections per week)
- Spend more time sharing other people’s work than my own work
- Read books “X”, “Y”, and “Z”
These are the things you can actually control. You can’t control pageviews and you can’t force people to take the actions you want. All you can control are your own actions–or in other words, your own disciplines.
Unless you take the time to plan out those disciplined actions you’ll never be able to know exactly what worked and how to make it better.
This post will be updated regularly to reflect my most current blogging process. So feel free to check back from time to time as you work through your own yearly review process.