How To Take Your Blog To The Next Level
With the end of the year fast approaching, are you ready to take your blog to the next level in 2014?
Maybe you’re created a “To Do” list ready to put into action on January 2nd or have some blog posts ready for publication so you can take a few well deserved days off for the holidays.
But have you really set aside time to assess your blog a to see how it’s evolved during 2013 and how that stacks up to your prior expectations?
7 Point Year-End Blog Checklist
Here’s a 7 point year-end blog checklist to determine the health of your blog by examining what’s worked and what hasn’t during the past year.
1. Did you achieve your blog goals?
If you didn’t have specific blog objectives, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many bloggers just dive in without considering what they’re hoping to achieve.
The problem is that without goals, it’s difficult to keep your blog on course for success. If you fall into this category, now’s the time to start thinking about what you plan to accomplish next year.
Blog goals can include a variety of different objectives. Among the top 4 objectives are:
- Build a media platform and/or email list.
- Drive sales and lead generation.
- Support search and social media efforts.
- Establish thought leadership.
2. What level of traffic did your blog generate?
To track your blog traffic progress, use Google Analytics or another reputable service. Don’t depend on the tracking included in your blog or hosting plan, as it tends to differ and doesn’t provide enough depth to be useful.
Understand that every media entity’s traffic fluctuates over time based on a variety of factors. Here are the 3 main blog traffic elements to check:
- Examine your top line results, especially page views. Check them for the full year and by month. You’re looking for patterns such as which days are strongest. Also check for seasonality. This is easier if you publish on a regular schedule, whether it’s every day or only on Monday and Thursday.
- Look at the major peaks and valleys. Where were the special events such as promotions, weather, or other factors that influenced your blog’s behavior? Understand the causes of the variance so you know what to do going forward.
- Compare this year’s results to last year’s results. This only applies to a blog that’s been going over a year. Is the traffic growing over time? Are there big points of difference? Do you know what is responsible for them?
3. Has your reader base changed over the past year?
Like any other form of content marketing start with a marketing persona so that you understand your audience. This will help make your content more accessible and useful.
Here are 5 factors to help you assess your blog audience. Where you have information from the prior year, compare this year versus last year.
- Examine your blog visitors. Check the number of visitors, both new and repeat. Look at this by month as well as over the entire year. In general you want this number to keep increasing.
- Assess time-on-site. In the early days of your blog, chances are that people will spend more time. They’re checking it out and seeing who you are. You still want to keep your readers consuming your content.
- Study where your readers are coming from. Your visitors’ physical location is important, especially for businesses that are only focused on one location. It also matters in terms of language usage.
- Analyze where your readers are coming from in terms of source. Are your visitors coming from search engines or from inbound links on other sites. This is particularly important since it may give you insights into where you may have some holes in your content distribution.
- Check what type of device your audience is using. This talks to how your audience is consuming your content. Are they at work or are they on-the-go or are they relaxing in the evening?
4. Which content was most effective on your blog?
Examine your blog content to see what resonates with your audience across these 5 topics.
- Assess your top 10 articles. Which articles are your top traffic generators? The top ones may drive more traffic than your home page. If you’re surprised by what you find, understand why. Consider whether there’s a way to drive more people to those posts and pages. While you’re looking at this, also check the titles. They can have a big impact.
- Check your cornerstone information. These are the major pieces at the heart of your blog. The meaty references you and others continually link to.
- Analyze your core topics, categories and keywords. Do these resonate with your readers? Are they aligned with your business goals? If not, do you need to reorient your blog focus? Also, this is a good place to check your backlinks.
- Consider the different content formats you use. Beyond plain text what do your readers like? Some bloggers create either a short video and/or a podcast at least once a week to diversify their offering and attract a broader audience. Don’t forget that this means you can use other distribution platforms like YouTube and Apple.
- Examine which authors perform best on your blog. Do they have a certain writing style? Some bloggers find that guest bloggers tend not to perform as well. This may be attributable to their following, the editing of their work or other factors.
5. How do you maximize blog content reach to ensure that it reaches its maximum audience?
You must help get the word out about every post you write. You can’t just assume that publishing it is sufficient.
Here are 5 ways to maximize blog content reach.
- Spotlight your blog posts on your owned media. Include your email list, feeds and other communications.
- Share your blog posts on various social media platforms. Check that you’re using the platforms that your audience favors. Also, incorporate social sharing buttons, add images people want to pin, and use ClickToTweet.
- Be active in related forums. Find where your target audience is and participate on a regular basis so that members of the community start to read your content.
- Write guest posts on other people’s blog. By providing valuable content for other blogs and media entities, you can get links back to your blog. Use this as a means of driving traffic to popular posts. (Note: This blog doesn’t accept guest blog posts.)
- Pay for supporting advertising. Where it makes sense and is reasonably priced, promote your blog with related advertising such as Facebook.
6. How is your blog’s technology working?
Your blog needs a strong technical foundation. Here are 5 key technical elements.
- Move off of the free hosting platforms such as WordPress.com or Blogger. Get a good webhost. This is a lesson I learned the hard way.
- Choose a flexible blog theme and keep it up to date. This blog uses a custom theme cloned from WordPressDotOrg’s Twenty Ten theme.
- Include a strong SEO plug-in. I use the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast. I changed during the year and it’s helped keep me focused on the major points.
- Provide for mobile device presentation. Your main options are either a plug-in (I use WP-Touch) or responsive design which is a fancy way of saying make your website adapt to the screen on which it’s read.
- Get some live tech support. My webmaster, Larry Aronson, takes care of most (if not all) of my technical stuff. If you don’t have the financial resources to do this, get someone like Larry to do the hard stuff like setting up your blog, theme and plugins and budget for the difficult changes or updates that are occasionally needed.
7. How much revenue did your blog generate?
Don’t worry if your blog didn’t make any money. It can be difficult to build a sufficiently large audience willing to purchase products and services from you. It’s critical to incorporate a call-to-action and tracking to help build sales.
Here are 4 types of revenues a blog can earn.
- Advertising. This is the traditional form of monetizing a media entity but you need a large base to generate substantial income.
- Affiliate revenue. This is where you get a portion of the sales for products you recommend and/or promote on your site. It can also be a sponsorship arrangement paying a fixed fee for promotion on your site.
- Business sales. This can be direct sales of goods and services. Or you can establish your expertise and people will inquire about hiring you as a consultant. This is how many professionals drive sales.
- Information products. These are products that you create that are related to your blog. They can be downloads or training for which people pay.
Use your year-end blog checklist to better understand your blog’s performance. While analytics is at the heart of this activity, it’s important to create an action list to get your blog on track to succeed next year.
Do you assess your blog on a regular basis? What else would you add to this year-end blog checklist?
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