Firstly … congratulations on making it through your first year. A lot of bloggers don’t get that far.
During this evaluation, we’ll take a look at key metrics for your blog, but we’ll also be thinking about what you’ve learned and accomplished over the past year.
Don’t get discouraged if the numbers aren’t – yet – quite where you want them to be. When I first started blogging, it was as a hobby … and it took me several years to start making significant money from it.
While some bloggers do succeed in making a lot of money in their first year, most take much longer. As you go through these questions, focus on what you have accomplished rather than on the goals you’ve not quite managed yet.
(Want to do this evaluation another time? Check out the option to download a free evaluation workbook at the end of the post.)
Whether you published two posts or two hundred posts … was it as many as you wanted?
Did you write lots of posts in the first two months, then not much for the rest of the year? Or did you manage to blog fairly regularly all year?
Hopefully you’ve got email subscriptions set up: if not, check out Ramsey’s post on Blog Tyrant: How to Start a Mailing List and Add Opt-in Forms to Your Blog.
If you can, look back at how your subscribers grew during the year. (You can find instructions for AWeber here and for MailChimp here). Did you see steady growth? Can you identify any peaks and what caused them?
Look at Google Analytics or WordPress.com’s inbuilt statistics to find out whether you were getting more traffic by the end of the year than at the start (hopefully you were)!
Again, look out for any spikes in traffic: what was behind those?
You can use Google Analytics to find out which posts received the most visits, or look on your blog to see which got the most comments or shares.
Find your top three posts and see if you can figure out what made those posts especially popular.
This might require trawling back through your PayPal history or receipts in your inbox. You may want to create a simple spreadsheet to track your blog’s spending, breaking it into different categories, such as:
- Web hosting and domain name
- Email list provision
- Premium theme and/or premium plugins (if any)
- Design, editing or other services
Ideally, you want this figure to be higher than #5 … but if it’s not, that’s very normal for blogs in their first year.
Look at your income from:
- Affiliate marketing
- Product sales (e.g. if you launched an ebook)
- Services provided (e.g. if you write for other blogs for pay)
- Sponsorship from other companies
If you want to dig further into statistics, check out Nicole Avery’s post How to Conduct Your Annual Blogging Review.
I know that it’s easy to feel a little discouraged at this point. Perhaps when you started blogging, you dreamt of quitting your day job by now … and yet your blog hasn’t made a single dollar.
It can also be encouraging to look at everything you have gained, even if it’s not all about the numbers. Here are six more questions to ask yourself:
If someone wrote that your post came at the perfect time for them, or that it helped them with a problem, that’s a real success.
You might want to track down all your nice comments and emails, bring them together into one document, and print them out as a source of encouragement.
Your first year of blogging was probably a steep learning curve at times. I bet you picked up lots of new skills. Perhaps:
- You learned how to register a domain name and set up hosting
- You got to grips with sourcing, resizing and editing images
- You went from initial bafflement to comfortable familiarity with WordPress (or your platform of choice)
- You set up an email list for your blog
- You read a lot about marketing your blog or growing your readership or some other aspect of blogging … and you put it into practice
… or lots more things besides!
Perhaps you wrote a post that you were worried about publishing … but it went down really well with readers.
Perhaps you wrote a guest post for a big blog in your niche … and they published it!
Or maybe you tried something and it didn’t quite work out: what matters is that you gave it a go.
When you started out blogging, you probably didn’t know many (or even any!) other bloggers. During your first year, you likely got to know at least a few.
- You’ve made friends with some other new-ish bloggers on Twitter
- You’ve been commenting on an established blogger’s site and building up a relationship with them.
- You joined a Facebook group for bloggers, like the ProBlogger Community.
- You went to a local meetup … or a bigger gathering of bloggers, like the ProBlogger event.
Sometimes, blogging can lead to some amazing opportunities (Eli Seekins had a great post about this on SmartBlogger recently).
Perhaps your blogging meant that:
- You landed a freelancing gig with a big blog or website.
- You gained some new skills that you used on a job application.
- You came across some interesting people who you’d never have otherwise met.
- You got free products to review.
Perhaps most importantly … did you enjoy your first year of blogging?
Maybe it was the first time you’ve felt able to call yourself a “writer”, because you wrote regular posts for your blog.
Maybe you loved learning new things and putting them into practice.
Maybe you felt like you were finally reaching for your dreams.
While it’s a great feeling to make money from blogging or to see your readership grow, some bloggers simply want to enjoy the process of writing and publishing online … and that can be just as valuable.
Now that you’ve taken a look over the past year of your blog … what are you going to do with the next year?
You might want to think about:
If your current schedule hasn’t really worked for you, you might try posting less frequently and focusing on writing the best posts you can.
Get help: How to Be a More Consistent Blogger
Whether you want to make a living or simply cover your costs, think about how you’ll make money from your blog. Some new bloggers think it’s all about advertising or affiliate income, but those aren’t your only options.
Look at what’s been going well for you … and go further with it. For instance, pick a post that’s already getting lots of search engine traffic and update it to link to some of your other best posts.
Right now, write down three specific actions that you want to take as you move into your blog’s second year:
- One during the next week
- One during the next month
- One during the next three months
Feel free to share them with us in the comments … and good luck for your next year of blogging.