How to grow your blog like a Fortune 500 company

By Srivinas Rao, Contributing {grow} Columnist

If there’s one exercise that continually causes my blog to grow, it’s conducting a quarterly review.  If you want your blog to turn into a business you have to treat it accordingly. Fortune 500 Companies do quarterly reports, so why not model some of their best practices?

Why You Should Do This

As bloggers we’re often caught up in the day to day activities of writing posts, commenting on blogs and interacting with people across various social media channels and it can feel like we’re not accomplishing much. We have a tendency to focus on how far we have to go rather than looking back at just how far we’ve come. The process of conducting a quarterly review will motivate you to keep charging forward because you’ll get a very clear look at just how much you’ve accomplished.  It will also give you insights into what worked, what didn’t work and what you can do differently.

The Review Process

Conducting a review is something you should expect to spend a few solid hours on if you want to get the most value possible out of it.  The review can be broken up into 3 main categories: traffic+subscribers, revenue, and projects.

Traffic + Subscribers

Traffic is the biggest concern of many early stage bloggers and you should remember that not all traffic is created equal and that quality always trumps quantity. That being said reviewing your traffic on a quarterly basis can give you some deep insights into things you can do differently to increase it.

1. Compare to the Previous Quarter:

Perhaps the most important thing to consider when it comes to traffic is that you are showing a pattern of growth. If you do a comparison and your traffic has declined, then you’ll need  to think about what might be the cause:

  • Are you posting enough?
  • Are you building the right relationships?
  • Is your content worth sharing?
  • Do you need to write more guest posts?

There are a number of factors that could cause your traffic to decline or increase. Choose one area to improve and stick to it over the course of the next quarter.

2. Look at Referral Traffic:

Take a look at where your referral traffic is coming from. You’ll notice that you get much more traffic when you guest post on certain blogs. If that’s the case reach out to the author of the blog and ask if you can be a guest contributor again. Connect with the readers of that blog by visiting theirs.

3. Look at Subscribers

After two years of blogging, all I can say is that your email list is gold.  Every successful blogger will tell you “the money is in the list.” While RSS subscribers are nice and bring people back to your blog, I’d recommend shifting your entire focus to your email list. Many of us neglect our lists because we’re writing so much content for our own blogs.  While the numbers are important, what you need to concern yourself most with is a pattern of growth.  If you’re not seeing growth, then you’ll want to make some adjustments. Below I’ve suggested a few ideas to improve your email list.

  • One simple thing that will help you to improve your newsletter is repurposing content from your archives. Most blog archives are sitting around collecting dust. You can take 5-6 of your best blog posts and make them the content of your autoresponder sequence.
  • Interview somebody well known in your niche and give away the interview as a bonus for signing up for your newsletter
  • Create a free e-book. But make sure it is just as good as something people would pay for. If the things you provide for free are of no value then it’s unlikely anbody will buy from you.

Projects

I usually have between 2-3 project goals every quarter. Here are some sample projects that you could work on over the course of any quarter

  • A Guest Posting Campaign
  • A free E-book or Manifesto
  • A course or product

In the review process you really want to make sure that you have made some progress on at least one of your projects. If you’ve made no progress on any of your projects from the previous quarter, you might want to consider taking some of them off your list.

Revenue

The final thing that I tend to review every quarter is the revenue that I’ve generated. The best way to do this is to break up the revenue by categories. For example you may generate revenue in the following ways:

  • Consulting
  • Products
  • Advertising Revenue

It’s important to break this up into categories so you can get a sense of what efforts are giving you your highest ROI. This helps you to prioritize your revenue generating efforts.

Setting up Your Quarterly Marketing Plan and Goals

Don’t have Too Many Goals

This might seem counter-intuitive, but the more goals you set the less you seem to get done. The list will seem so daunting that you’ll never take any action towards the goals on the list. That’s why I recommend you set less goals. If you happened to get those goals done you can always add more to the list later in the quarter. Set 1-2 Goals in Each Area.

Traffic + Subscriber Goals:

Traffic and subscriber goals are interesting because the end result is really not completely in your control. All you can do is take certain actions to move in the direction of your goal. That being said, I think it can be quite valuable to set a traffic and subscriber goal since it’s keeps you focused on how to grow your audience. For example, you could set a goal of reaching 1000 total subscribers by the next quarter if you are at 500 now. The real value is not reaching the number itself, but learning how to reach it. Once you’ve done it once, you can repeat the process and grow by another 1000 subscribers. Just have a target to aim for over the course of a quarter.

Project Goals

I recommend that you make it a goal to complete at least one project every quarter. Rather than set a number of different project goals and scatter your effort, focus on one and make it your mission to finish it. If you want to write an e-book or launch a product make that your project for the quarter. As I said before, you can always add more projects when you complete one. In fact if you have less things on your list and complete them you’ll be motivated to keep moving forward.

Revenue Goals

When you set a revenue goal, set something that you think is actually achievable. Chances are that if you are a beginning blogger you are not going to make a million dollars by the end of the quarter. Setting that kind of goal and not meeting it will only frustrate you. Once you start with a number in mind, you’ll be able to start brainstorming the different ways that you’ll hit your revenue goal. It could be a combination of the following:

  • Product Sales
  • Consulting
  • Speaking
  • Advertising Revenue

If you have an opportunity to capitalize on low hanging fruit, then do it.  Even if it is not a lot of money it will give you the confidence to keep going.

Deviate from Your Plan (when it makes sense)

One final caveat I’d like to add is that you shouldn’t be afraid to deviate from your plan.  Opportunities will arise, your business will go through changes, and certain actions will make more sense than the ones you originally planned out at the beginning of the quarter. If you’re too stubborn about your goals, you might miss out on fantastic opportunities. For example, if somebody comes to you and asks you to partner with them on a product launch, be open to that because it could lead to many other things in the future.The quarterly review might be a time consuming process, but it’s a very worthwhile one. It will give you a tremendous amount of insight into the growth of your blog and if you act on those insights your blog will continually grow.

Below you’ll find links to sample monthly/quarterly reviews from my blog and two others that I think do a fantastic job of breaking down everything they’re up to.

How do you manage the long-term goals of your blog?

Srinivas Rao is the host and co-founder of BlogcastFM, a podcast to help you take your blog to the next level. He also writes about personal development at The Skool of Life.  You can download his free webinar on the 7 Pillars of Blog Traffic

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  • I love this idea because as a corporate blogger, I was held accountable for certain things to do with the blog on a quarterly basis but now that I am blogging for myself, I hadnt considered the reporting side (other than to keep looking at my traffic every day) because I dont have anyone to send the information to.

    I just started my blog about 2 months ago so I guess my goals are related to getting it up and running. I got a logo and a theme. I matched the ‘image’ across all my networks. I committed to writing something everyday, publishing something twice per week on my own blog and doing a guest post for another blog 1x per week. As of today, I have accomplished both (some days I skip writing, but the next day I will write double to make up for it).

    I imagine that my goals for next quarter will be around the growth of my subscribers (does anyone know how to look at these #’s in WordPress btw?), inbound referral traffic from other sites (like you said, did one of my guest blogs generate more traffic than another), how my activity in social networks is dovetailing into my blog strategy and may delve into an ebook on something.

  • Excellent advice, Mark. It’s hard to think forward without looking back honestly. With the Eloqua blog we track progress regularly. In fact, a blog can’t be treated any different than any other element of the brand strategy. Sales and Marketing have to report and track progress, so should the blog. The metrics may not be identical, but if you don’t know what you do well, you don’t how to do more of it.

  • Srini, this is such a great post; and Mark, bravo as always to the great content you provide and the great community to connect with.

    I like your logical, sequential approach and suggestions, which I will combine with my intuitive, seat-of-the-pants qualitative approach to measurement.

    The most important thing: if you don’t measure, you don’t know.  And I believe that using both quantitative and qualitative metrics are equally important.  For me: I originally set out a 12 month plan with clear quarterly goals, so ongoing measurement, evaluation and adjustment are occurring not only quarterly, but ongoing.  Thanks Srini: great post!  Cheers!  Kaarina

  • Great article and very actionable items — within the framework of “social”. But what about “alternative investment”? Say you’re putting in x hours a day/week/month in SM. If you put in the same hours in direct mail/cold calling/weak leads/resuscitation of previous client relations, would that bring better results? Worth thinking about.

  • Definitely worth thinking about. I think the key really here was to highlight what it takes to grow your blog. I see many people on the corporate side who are great at growing a business  ands somehow they can’t get their head around a blog. Yet it’s just the same things they have always done but in a different context. I think really challenge is that people want a 

    “sure thing” in social media and that’s just not possible. People who take risks are the ones who make progress. 

  • Kaarina 

    I like that you brought up the importance of both quantitive and qualitative approaches to things. I’m not exactly the most quantitative guy, but I know it’s important to measure. You have to know where you want to go in order to get there. 

  • Jesse, 

    You got it. Once you know what you do well, you can do more of it. It’s very simple, but also very effective as most simple ideas are. 

  • If you do this religiously, I am positive you’ll accomplish  all your goals. It sounds like you are already doing the work. As far as measuring subscribers, feedburner  is good for RSS even though it’s really finicky. I’d recommend mailchimp for your newsletter.  At some point I may actually do a product around this whole quarterly review process. 

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  • Talking about goals, I thing setting a monthly or quarterly content goal can be beneficial. Ultimately it is the content that will lead to the success or failure of your blog in the long term.

  • Great post.  Many people assume that since it’s so easy to start a blog, goals and metrics aren’t important.  I would argue that it’s even more important because there are so many blogs out there doing the same thing.  

    I would assume that the vast majority of bloggers out there don’t have specific goals they review, or key metrics they track, so by doing those two things, that should automatically make you stand out!

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