Why and How to do a Quarterly Report for Your Blog

A guest post by Srinivas Rao.

Last week I found myself here at Jean’s blog digging through the archives and writing essays in the comments of a couple of posts. When I looked at the 4 critical components to a blog’s success and my ridiculously long response about some of the things that have helped the growth of my blog, I made reference to the quarterly report and marketing plans that I publish on my blog. The idea of doing a quarterly report is basically one of the few things I got from my $150,000 vacation ( I mean MBA), at Pepperdine University. For the purposes of this post I’m not going to talk about how to write a quarterly marketing plan for your blog. I’m going to discuss 3 reasons why and show you exactly how you should do a quarterly performance report.

3 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD BE DOING A QUARTERLY REPORT

First, let’s talk about the why. I’ve said before that a blog is a phenomenal personal development tool. It’s a great way for you to track progress towards any goal. I’m guessing if you are reading this blog, one of those goals is to actually grow your blog. So, wouldn’t it make sense to to track your progress towards that goal. Well, you have the perfect tool to track progress towards that goal, YOUR BLOG.

  • Visible Progress: If you are one of those people who is checking your analytics everyday or every hour, do me a favor and STOP. Checking your analytics doesn’t cause your blog to grow. In fact I’d recommend two things for early stage bloggers:
    • Don’t even look at your analytics
    • Don’t look at RSS stats for the first 3 months

One of the most frustrating things about blogging is that there is a tremendous lack of visible progress when you first start out. Another thing to consider about analytics is a principle from market research. The value of data increases exponentially when the sample size increases. So, your analytics are useless until after about 3 months. If you stop worrying about the stats and only check them once a quarter, you’ll realize you are in fact making visible progress. It also sets you up perfectly to write the quarterly report.

Insights: If you want to grow your blog, you’re going to have to understand what works and what doesn’t . There are things that work in the early days of your blog that won’t be as effective as you grow your blog. You’ll also be able to understand what your biggest traffic sources are. For those of you who know me I think I deserve a nobel prize for my inner circle idea (even though I stole it from Malcom Gladwell) which I can’t stop talking about. It was only one of my quarterly reports that made me realize I was doing something wrong with twitter and that enabled me to come up with this concept. As a byproduct the amount of traffic I get from twitter has increased dramatically. I also came to the realization that I should be writing to the edges of my niche when I saw that my post on a fitness blog was one of my greatest traffic sources. The insights that going this process will provide you is mind blowing.

Accountability: One of the things that I realized that going through this process does for you is make you accountable to all the bloggers who read your blog. When I wrote the first marketing plan, another blogger came across it 2 months later and left a comment. I realized I hadn’t done many of the things on it so I got to work ASAP.Now, let’s talk about the how.

How to Write Your First Quarterly Report

Some people do this report on a monthly basis. I recommend you look at Pat Flynn’s Monthly income reports for some excellent insights. Part of why it’s valuable for somebody like Pat to do this on a monthly basis is because he has a large enough sample size on a monthly basis to work with because he has a ton of traffic. The way I do this quarterly report changes a bit every quarter and it will for you too. Let’s look at the 3 basic components of a quarterly report.


I usually put a marketing plan out at the beginning of every quarter and absolutely feel free to look at my previous plans and reports. The first part of my quarterly report is always a report of performance against my plan to grow the traffic. I recommend using this framework for traffic analysis written by Corbett Barr. Here’s some specifics of what I include

  • Traffic Analysis:
    • A Snapshot of analytics from this quarter and one from the previous quarter for comparison purposes
    • A round up of all the guests post I’ve written over the course of the quarter
    • A summary of key insights and lessons learned
    • For the traffic analysis I recommend using lots of visuals so not only you can see what worked, your audience can too.
  • Income Report: In the income report, I generally do a report of all the sources of income that I have over the course of the quarter. For those of you just starting out you may not have much to report here. I’m going to give you one piece of advice that Dave Navarro gave me in this interview. All you need to worry about is making your first $100 online. If you haven’t listened to that interview, I’m going to have a shameless plug here. Listen to it. It’s so good that I’d have no issues selling that interview for $30.00 since it enabled me to launch my first mini product and make 5 times that amount.
  • Plans/Goals for Next Quarter: The final part of my report is always a list of all my goals and plans for the next quarter. Sometimes I’ll assemble them into a powerpoint deck and make the deck available for download via scribd. It’s really up to you what you do with it. I intend to actually turn my quarterly marketing plans into a free ebook that people can download to use as a framework to grow their own blogs sometime in the next several months.

I can confidently say this has been instrumental in the growth of my blog. Earlier this year my blog had about 500 subscribers and today it’s at about 1100. This process will enable you to continually make the necessary adjustments to grow. I’d like you to do a few things in the comments.

  • Tell me what else I could do to make a quarterly report more useful
  • If you found this post useful, share it on twitter or Facebook
  • Tell me what your biggest challenge has been with growing your blog

Srinivas is the director of Social Media/Editor in Chief for the Flightster Travel Blog. He also publishes a personal development blog, The Skool of Life and is the co-founder/host of BlogcastFM, a podcast for bloggers.

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53 Responses to Why and How to do a Quarterly Report for Your Blog

  1. Harriet September 29, 2010 at 9:08 am #

    This is a really interesting blog, I didn’t realise that you could do quarterly reports for a blog! Well done on this one, thanks for sharing.
    Harriet recently posted..HTC Desire HD

    • Jean Sarauer September 29, 2010 at 10:49 am #

      Hi Harriet. Committing to doing these reports is powerful because it forces us to think about our objectives and actions.

    • Srinivas Rao September 29, 2010 at 11:50 am #

      Harriet,

      You can pretty much do anything you want with your blog :). To me this is one of the first steps in treating the blog like a business.

  2. Devesh September 29, 2010 at 10:42 am #

    Hey Srinivas,

    What a great post man. You’ve made amazing points.

    When i first started blogging i check my stats 3-4 times a day but now i rarely check my stats.

    Doing reports are great. I haven’t done quarterly reports, but i do monthly reports.

    I like the idea of inner circle. Really great post.

    Thanks for sharing this awesome post rao. You’re really doing awesome work. Just Tweeted !!

    • Jean Sarauer September 29, 2010 at 10:49 am #

      I’m glad you’ve stepped away from the stats, Dev :) Thanks for the RT.

    • Srinivas Rao September 29, 2010 at 11:51 am #

      Devesh,

      The stat-checking thing is like a common disease among early stage bloggers. I think you could develop a product called blogging stats obsession therapy because it’s so bad. That being said, once you step away from it and realize that it’s a really low value activity you’ll start to see the stats take care of themselves.

  3. Hector September 29, 2010 at 11:21 am #

    Srinivas… This is a great post bro. I l’ve heard you talk about your quarterly reports in your interviews at blogcast. Thanks for breaking it down for us.

    Talk soon
    Hector
    Hector recently posted..5 Dreadful Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Building A Business

    • Jean Sarauer September 29, 2010 at 11:29 am #

      This post rocks, doesn’t it, Hector? It’s a resource I’ll revisit many times in the future.

    • Srinivas Rao September 29, 2010 at 11:54 am #

      Thanks Hector. It’s funny because every single time I go through this exercise I gain some new insights and the plan evolves. I was just laying out some powerpoint slides this morning and I realized that traffic is actually a fairly low priority for me in the next quarter. I’m more concerned with taking that traffic and monetizing it and leveraging what I have to make a transition from blogger to entrepreneur. Thanks for listening to the podcast :)

  4. Tess The Bold Life September 29, 2010 at 11:54 am #

    My first thought here is I’m overwhelmed already and this is one more thing. My second thought is I like the inner circle idea. So I’m going to do that. My penquin step and in Dec. I’ll do my report. This is great stuff!
    Tess The Bold Life recently posted..7 Ways to Extend Happiness Today

    • Srinivas Rao September 29, 2010 at 1:01 pm #

      Tess,

      It’s funny because that seems to be a theme I’ve been hearing quite a bit in the blogosphere lately. I think its time I wrote a post about that as well. In my mind the key to dealing with overwhelm is to implement one tip a week. So in the case of doing this report I would say, start with the marketing plan for the next quarter. Then move to the income report a week later, and then wrap it up with traffic analysis the next week. I think people try to do too many things and get nothing done and implementing one thing at a time will help you avoid that.

    • Jean Sarauer September 29, 2010 at 9:23 pm #

      Tess, I like your idea of doing one thing now and another in December. Or like Srinivas suggests, just focus on part of the process per week. Slow and steady . . .

  5. Katie September 29, 2010 at 12:35 pm #

    I’m with Tess – another to-do!!! But great ideas and I’ll definitely be doing this to-do. Funny how it’s the obvious things when pointed out that make the most sense. I’m excited to implement this – printing now.
    Katie recently posted..How to Grow Momentum in Your Life

    • Srinivas Rao September 29, 2010 at 1:03 pm #

      Katie,

      When you do it, please let me know. If I don’t catch it on twitter, please email me when you do it. What I want to do is also put together some case studies on people who have done this, so we can share the results. Maybe we’ll do follow up this post (if Jean is cool with that) next quarter where we do case studies of the effect of your marketing plans.

      • Jean Sarauer September 29, 2010 at 9:25 pm #

        I’d love to see a follow up on this!

  6. Ramona September 29, 2010 at 12:50 pm #

    This is excellent advice. Instead of obsessing daily about my stats and development, I need to know where I start from and where I want to get in 3 months. Then dedicate the energy to making the change. In my case now it’s easy, since everything is down, but in few months it will be different.

    • Srinivas Rao September 29, 2010 at 1:04 pm #

      Ramona,

      That makes me smile :). It’s all about action. There’s really no genius involved in any of this other than the fact that I take little steps every day towards a long term goal.

    • Jean Sarauer September 29, 2010 at 9:29 pm #

      Hi Ramona. I agree with what Srinivas said above to Dev that if you step away from the stats, they tend to take care of themselves. They’re a great directional tool when used sparingly, but looking at them daily will drive a blogger nuts.

  7. Sandra Lee September 29, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    Srinivas and Jean,

    This article is a well written goldmine of advice. The insights you obtained through doing quarterly reports are compelling. You have me convinced on that count alone.

    But I do wonder if it’s actually necessary to publish the quarterly report on your blog?

    My biggest challenge in terms of growing my blog is simply time. I’m not a full time blogger, nor do I plan to be one. So I guess it comes down to using the most skillful and effective methods in the time that one does have.

    Thanks so much for this article.
    Sandra Lee recently posted..Sunday reflection- like a flash of ligtening in the sky

    • Srinivas Rao September 29, 2010 at 1:40 pm #

      Sandra,

      As far as publishing it on your blog, that’s a personal call. I publish it on my blog for a couple of reasons. I think it gives value to people who are reading the blog so they can learn from it and see what I did. It also is a way to get feedback from people , which I think is huge. Publishing it on your blog also enforces some discipline. At this point it’s kind of expected from my readers that there will be a quarterly report. So, I would say it’s not necessary but extremely helpful to publish it.

    • Jean Sarauer September 29, 2010 at 9:39 pm #

      Hi Sandra, I don’t know that I’ll publish a report on my blog, although I do enjoy reading others’ reports.

      Blogging is my art first and the platform for my business second. I really want the art aspect (creativity, encouraging others to march to their own drummers, etc.) to remain front and center.

      I’m definitely going to do reports though. It’s just plain smart!

  8. Keith Davis September 29, 2010 at 2:22 pm #

    Hi Srinivas
    Never even considered this… but I will now.
    It makes so much sense. How do you know how your blog is progressing if you don’t stop now and then to review things.

    Useful brakedown of headings to get current position and plan for the future.

    If you are this well organised, before you became a blogger… you must have been an accountant. LOL
    Keith Davis recently posted..Two way traffic

    • Srinivas Rao September 29, 2010 at 5:26 pm #

      Keith,

      I can barely add :) and I really suck at math for an Indian person. I’m just really good at planning and strategy so that I can surf as much as possible.

      • Jean Sarauer September 29, 2010 at 9:42 pm #

        See, this is why I love you so much, Srinivas. You’re an amazing blogger yet you still make time to surf! You’re proving that a person doesn’t need to sit at a computer 26 hours a day (I suck at math too) to have blogging success.

  9. Peppy September 29, 2010 at 2:31 pm #

    Hello Srinivas,

    I, too, enjoyed this post. I’m curious, though, if you feel reports are productive for any Blogger to implement – I mean one’s that are blogging with a particular goal.

    For relative newbies such as myself, where growing a blog is part of a longterm goal, it can be perplexing on what steps are vital while keeping your integrity … I don’t want to feel as though I’m pandering for blog attention. Yet, if I want to reach my goals it needs attention.

    It’s the old “rock and a hard place” problem … does everyone feel this way when starting out?
    Peppy recently posted..Friendship – The Missing Piece of the Puzzle

    • Srinivas Rao September 29, 2010 at 5:27 pm #

      Peppy,

      I do feel that the reports are valuable for everybody, but that’s just my opinion. Some might not think so. I think the key is that it shows you your progress.

    • Jean Sarauer September 29, 2010 at 9:45 pm #

      Peppy, I think if you have goals (which you do) then the reports are actually beneficial to your integrity. Accountability plays a big role in integrity, and these reports make you accountable. Remember, you don’t need to share your information.

  10. Janice September 29, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    Hi Srinivas,
    I am very new to blogging, just starting one month ago, but I love this idea. I am putting it on my list of things to look at in January (after my first quarter :) thanks! Janice

    • Jean Sarauer September 29, 2010 at 9:45 pm #

      Hi Janice. Welcome to the world of blogging! Starting in January seems like a great idea. Wishing you much blogging joy and success.

  11. Jered September 29, 2010 at 2:59 pm #

    Right on, Srinivas.

    I used to check my stats daily, and I would get easily discouraged by declining traffic stats (regardless of the fact that I’d seen a huge increase in traffic over the course of the month).

    Since, I check stats briefly once a month, and I’m getting ready to do my first ever quarterly report for my blog.

    Thank you for suggesting this. Very helpful information.
    Jered recently posted..Managing Risk and Opportunity

    • Srinivas Rao September 29, 2010 at 5:28 pm #

      Jered,

      Thanks for your comments. I think it was your post here earlier that actually inspired me to write this. I”m glad to hear you gave up the daily stat check because it’s kind of a pointless activity that doesn’t really help.

      • Jean Sarauer September 29, 2010 at 9:51 pm #

        Not to mention, if Jered was still checking stats daily and I got wind of it, I’d be forced to kick his butt :) As a matter of fact, if I hear about anyone in this community checking their stats daily, I’m going to smack them. Having depressing stats will be the least of their worries by the time I get through with them!

        • Jered September 30, 2010 at 10:58 am #

          Uh-oh! The claws are out!

  12. Sammy September 29, 2010 at 3:46 pm #

    I like everything that you have shared. I have not been doing most of this as of yet but, you can lose focus when you do not see the growth that your site is making. I am still new in the business and sometimes it is all I can do to get something togather to post. I hope that I will learn everything there is to help make it easier for me and I think that this will help in that cause.

    • Jean Sarauer September 29, 2010 at 9:55 pm #

      Sammy, keep your focus on posting first because that’s essential–but if you can add just one step of the reporting system per week, as Srinivas recommended to Tess, that will ultimately help you improve both focus and growth.

  13. Preeti @ Heart and Mind September 29, 2010 at 4:33 pm #

    Srinivas,

    I think being transparent and sharing with your readers is always something I believed in.

    If you are in to personal development and life improvement blogs like I am, quarterly report might be little too much, do you think? Maybe once a year is more suitable.
    Preeti @ Heart and Mind recently posted..More cool history learning- fun Part III

    • Srinivas Rao September 29, 2010 at 5:32 pm #

      Preeti,

      Fair question and point. It’s really a matter of preference. I know that many of my readers are bloggers. There’s no doubt that there are people who are the blog that could care less about all that. But, the people who have blogs learn quite a bit from doing this. I actually don’t think that once a year is suitable because you wouldn’t have the insights to adjust strategies and implement new tactics. If I hadn’t done this until the end of the year, then I don’t think I would have learned nearly as much. Unless you are just blogging for a hobby and growth doesn’t really matter, I think measuring your progress is important and I feel like this is a much more effective way to do it then looking too frequently at stats.

    • Jean Sarauer September 29, 2010 at 10:00 pm #

      I think Srinivas has a good point about not learning as much if you do the reports yearly. They’re really a valuable tool for making course corrections and setting goals.

      For example, I’ll need to adjust goals/strategies in quarters when I’m creating products vs. when I’m focusing on traffic building. In your case, Preeti, you have seasons of life where you’re needed for more family/teaching duties, so you can factor this into your reports.

      I know from your spending reports that you’re great at record keeping and accountability, so you’d be a natural at this.

  14. Aileen September 29, 2010 at 6:06 pm #

    At the risk of sounding embarrassingly naive, I will say that after reading this I’ve become aware that I do not have a strategy for growth just a a desire for it.

    The idea of a quarterly repost does sound like a great tool. I don’t think I would publish it, but I can see the value in doing it.

    Thank you for this post!!
    Aileen recently posted..Do What You Love or Go for the Money

    • Jean Sarauer September 29, 2010 at 10:07 pm #

      Well, if there’s a place it’s safe to admit you feel naive, this is it :) I could see these reports really helping you put some wheels under that desire of yours, Aileen.

  15. Simon Hay September 29, 2010 at 10:19 pm #

    Hi Jean. This all pretty cool, and I already use the inner circle concept. I have the circle of love list on twitter and I have an inner circle of clients. I love seeing you online.
    Simon Hay recently posted..Healing Responses

    • Jean Sarauer September 29, 2010 at 10:29 pm #

      I love seeing you online too, Simon. You always brighten my day.

  16. Carolee Sperry October 1, 2010 at 5:41 am #

    Thus far I have not been too concerned with stats – I used to be obsessed w/ the numbers but realized I was spending as much time checking different stats as I was writing posts and that my time would be better spent just “doing”.

    I was thinking I should check my blog stats- it’s been a long time…a monthly check sounds productive without being obsessed :-)
    Carolee Sperry recently posted..Use Freewriting to get unstuck

    • Jean Sarauer October 1, 2010 at 9:33 am #

      A lot of bloggers do just what you describe, Carolee–they spend as much time checking stats as doing things that would actually improve those stats. They forget that the long term power of their blogs relies on the value they provide to others in the form of great content and genuine connections.

    • Srinivas Rao October 1, 2010 at 11:46 am #

      Stat checking once a month is reasonable. I kind of login sporadically to see if anything major has happened. I’ll be putting my quarterly report on monday, so I hope all of you who read this will come by and check it out because it will be an actual example of everything I’m talking about here.

      • Jean Sarauer October 1, 2010 at 12:29 pm #

        Srinivas, I hope folks will subscribe to both of your blogs because they’re truly valuable resources. I have a LOT of catching up to do myself.

  17. Briana Ford October 1, 2010 at 7:31 pm #

    This is a great idea. How can you improve your blog if you don’t know what you need to improve on? Do you usually export and save your files when doing this report? Also, do you recommend doing it monthly as well? I get anxious so I think quarterly is too long of a wait for me.
    Briana Ford recently posted..Find Financial Freedom by Renting Out Rooms

    • Srinivas Rao October 3, 2010 at 8:09 pm #

      Hey Briana,

      Whether you do it quarterly or monthly is up to you. I actually don’t do it monthly partially because I don’t feel like there’s enough change on a month to month basis. The anxiety thing is something you just have to get past. Realize that one of the least valuable things you can do is check analytics. That being said, I do export stuff from goolge analytics occasionally, but generally I just use screenshots from things to explain what I”m talking about. But you hit the nail on the head in your comment. How can you improve if you don’t know what to improve. People are generally shooting in the dark with one strategy after another and that’s ultimately what causes half your problems with growing a blog.

  18. Srinivas Rao October 4, 2010 at 3:27 pm #

    For those of you who are interested, here’s my quarterly report that I do which is based on the process above. I’ve been having some issues with hosting today, so I apologize ahead of time if you are having issues seeing it.

    http://theskooloflife.com/wordpress/srinivas-rao/

    • Jean Sarauer October 4, 2010 at 11:42 pm #

      I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that folks read this report! It’s incredibly thorough and so encouraging too. If you aren’t subscribed to Skool of Life and Blogcast FM, I recommend you do that too. I’m way behind on listening to the podcasts and reading posts myself, but that’s why there’s such a thing as bookmarks :)

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