Success leaves clues.
Today we're going to be following the breadcrumbs to dissect the year that was so that you can see:
What's worked. What hasn't.
And use the information to take control of how your blog is going to do next year.
Doesn't that sound good? Having a bit of say in how this how blog thing goes down?
Stop Focusing on the results
What?! Yup, I mean it! Stop focusing on results.
I always recommend looking at 2 different kinds of metrics for your blog.
Relationship stats and traffic stats. And for traffic stats, we're going to be looking at a whole range of things, most of which are NOT pageviews!
Too often, we try to manage the results we want rather than doing the activities that are going to get that result.
Increased traffic is not an activity.
Increased traffic is a result.
You need to focus on the activities that produce higher traffic in order to see that number go up.
That's where this year end review is a bit different. You're going to use the metrics and information you gather today (and next week in part 2) to make decisions about goals, actions and activities for next year to move the needle, to get the result you're after.
For this exercise, you can check out your entire last 12 months or as many months as you've been blogging this year.
Relationship stats are the forgotten metrics of blogging. They are drowned out by pageviews, twitter followers or the other raw numbers that are thrown around in the blogging world as being the most important or a measure of worth or success.
But relationships build blogs, not follower counts or pageviews. Relationships get you to those other places.
When you're starting out, or if this just never really resonated with you before it might seem like a bit of an odd concept. Let's walk through an example that will illustrate the power of relationships and engagement over numbers.
Say 1000 people extra came to your blog today. That's a huge chunk of visitors for most blogging folk.
That's high quantity traffic.
Now, imagine that 100 people showed up on your blog today and they all commented on and shared your most recent post.
Just imagine, 100 comments, 100 shares. Wow!
That's high quality traffic.
Which of these 2 types of traffic do you think are going to help grow your blog faster and in a more meaningful way?
As you're going through the exercise that follows keep in mind that this is where we want to focus. You're looking for clues that will help with high engagement, the high quality traffic.
For this next section, you'll find the information you need on your blog or on your social media accounts. I'm saving Google Analytics for next week ðŸ˜‰
STAT #1: AVERAGE COMMENTS PER POST
How often do people comment on your posts? You're not so much looking for sky high numbers here, just a consistent upward trend over time.
For each month you blogged in 2014, take the total number of comments for the month, and divide it by the total number of posts you published to get your average comment count per post.
For example: 66 comments/10 posts = 6.6 comments per post for the month
Do this exercise for each month or every 3rd month if that's a lot of posts and comments for you. See how your comments and interaction are trending over the year to get an indication of how engaging your content is to your audience.
Bonus Tip: While reviewing your comment counts, check for the posts from this year that got the most comments. Those posts are often the ones that resonate emotionally with your audience and it's important to understand what about those posts made people feel the need to comment more than your other posts. Understanding the why helps you create posts like that again next year!
You can sort your WordPress posts by comment count to make life easier:
How to improve next year:
- What clues do your high comment posts give you about the type of content that works best?
- How can you increase the quantity of posts like that?
- Brainstorm post ideas that are similar in topic or emotion to the popular posts.
- Add your post ideas into your editorial calendar mixed in with your other content.
- Brainstorm other activities to get more comments and put action items on your calendar so they actually get done!
STAT #2: AVERAGE SHARE PER POST
Just like the last example, we're going to check on your shares per post. Shares are free advertising for bloggers and one of the faster ways to amplify your message.
Once again, you're not looking for numbers in the thousands here, just an upward trend.
For each month you blogged in 2014, take the total number of shares you received and divide that by the total number of posts you published to get your average share count per post.
For example: 124 shares/10 posts = 12.4 shares per post for the month
Do this exercise for each month or every 3rd month if that's a lot of posts and shares.
Were you receiving more shares at the end of the year than the beginning? Or is the trend going down?
Bonus Tip: What are your most shared posts? When checking your average shares, make a note of your top 5, most shared posts from this last year. What about these particular posts was so share-worthy? Did you have a great headline? Was your pin-able amazing? Was it a hot topic? How can you use the information you learn about these super successful posts to create more like this going forward?
These 2 relationship stats are something I personally track monthly to make my life easier, then quarterly (or yearly if you like) I schedule a time to sit down and analyze what I'm seeing.
How to improve next year:
- What clues do your high share count posts give you about the type of content that works best?
- How can you increase the quantity of posts like this?
- Brainstorm post ideas that are similar in topic to the most shared posts and add to your editorial calendar.
- What social networks are you most popular on? Why do you think your content does better there?
- Should you be focusing more of your time on just one or two social networks where you're getting the most traction?
- Were the titles of your most shared posts any different/better/more engaging than your other content (people often share without reading a post all the way through!)
- Did your most shared content have an engaging image or graphic that made it more popular? How can you use this knowledge going forward?
STAT #3: TOP COMMENTERS
People who take the time to comment on your site, again and again are amazing. If you have any of these frequent commenters who visit your site, you'll know the warm fuzzies you get when someone comes back again and again to comment.
These people are very often your best “blog advocates” and often become amazing friends. They are the people who share your stuff, recommend your blog to friends and are just generally awesome in about a million different ways.
Focusing some attention, thanks, gratitude and genuine relationship building time on THESE people will always turn out to be a great investment of your time.
Who've already pulled these people into your world with amazing content or your quirky personality, make sure we're taking good care of them!
To find your top commenters, you can use a plugin to check or you can just check your posts or the comment area of your blog. Create a list of the people who take the time to comment more than once or twice.
There's no exact science to this one, you just want to make sure you know who your blog advocates are and decide how you're going to build stronger relationships with them.
How to improve next year:
- Create a spreadsheet, Twitter list or both of your top commenters and engage with them regularly to build stronger relationships.
- Create a weekly reoccurring task in your project management tool of choice to open up the spreadsheet or twitter list and talk with people!
- Email commenters and say thank you, ask them questions about how you can improve or what they need the most assistance with around your particular topic area.
- Comment on their blogs.
- Brainstorm other ways to say thank you to your blog advocates and add the best ideas to your task list so they get done!
STAT #4: TOP ENGAGERS IN SOCIAL MEDIA
Who are the people in social media that continually tweet, share, pin and comment on your status updates?
Your most active engagers on social media fall into the “blog advocates” just the same as your top commenters do. There will likely be some cross over between the 2 groups too, folks that take the time to comment and engage with you on social media.
Here's why you want to devote more time to building relationships with these engaged folks rather than just trying to get more “followers.”
Let's take Twitter for example. If you're tweeting you're own blog post after it's published, you're going to reach, at the very most, your own follower count number. That's the max and we all know that it's a lot less than that given the lifespan of a tweet.
So, if your Twitter follower count is 1000 people, that's the very most that are seeing the tweet about your new post. Add to this the fact that you're tweeting about your own post, there's not a lot of social proof because you wrote it and you're promoting it.
Now add into this 1000 followers mix, 10 people who are your top social engagers, your Twitter buddies. Those 10 people are very likely to re-tweet your stuff, share your content and chat with you. Your reach is now a whole. lot. bigger. right?
Not only will you reach more people with more engaged followers but your follower count will naturally grow without you having to obsess about it. Remember – the follower count is the result of your increased engagement, not the activity!
Who are your top 10 or top 20 social media engagers? Do this exercise only for the social networks that you use most, not every social network.
How to improve next year:
- Add your top engagers to your spreadsheet or Twitter list or whatever way you're keeping up with people.
- Create a weekly reoccurring task in your project management tool of choice to engage with your top social media folks. Share their stuff, chat with them, you know, be social!
- Brainstorm other ways to say thank you to your social media engagers and add the best ideas to your task list so they get done!
Next week we're going to dive into traffic metrics and I'm going let you steal a copy of the Google Analytics Dashboard set up I use to track important stats at a glance!
Now it's your turn! What relationship metrics do you think are most important for your blog? What have you tried to increase them?