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.