This is the time of year that we naturally start to wind down from working and it is the perfect time to reflect on your last year in business. Learn how to review the past year for your blog so you can strategize for your next best year ever! You’ll review everything that worked and discover what didn’t work, too.
Can’t listen to the episode? Read on for the transcript!
As of writing this, it is officially December, and the holiday madness is in full swing. It’s now past the point where people judge you for having your Christmas tree up, holiday music is always playing, and the magic of the holiday season has officially begun.
Aside from all of the holiday festivities, this time of year is my favorite for a few reasons that have to do with your business.
This is the time of year that we naturally start to wind down from working round the clock on our blogs. With that extra time I often find myself naturally reflecting on the last year.
Last year, this reflecting brought a lot of feelings up and ended up dramatically changing my business because of what I found when I started reviewing my year. I’ll get more into that next week, but for now, I want to give you some guidance on how to review your year.
How to review your year
First, I want to give you some guidance on how you can review your year, specifically for your blog. There are a few main things we’re going to cover:
- Goals (Did you set any last year? How did you do?)
- General Review of what you’re doing
- Content Review
- Review the numbers
- Emotion Review
For the sake of this post, I’m going to be referring to these things specifically through the lens of your business, but you can also tailor this to your personal life or reflect on your personal life as well.
Did you set goals last year? If so, grab those and keep them nearby while doing this review so you can see how you did.
If you didn’t set goals last year, that’s okay. You can skip over this section, but I want you to come back to this at the end when I start talking about setting goals for next year.
If you set goals but didn’t reach them, look at the goal itself. What might have been the reason that you didn’t hit that goal?
Was the goal measurable? Was it realistic? What could’ve been the reason you didn’t hit the goal?
If you set goals and reached them, were the goals something you had to stretch yourself to reach? Were they easy goals to check off your list?
Throughout this process of reviewing your year, be very honest with yourself.
By being honest, you’re able to make changes so next year you can continue growing and improving your blog.
2. General Review
The next thing to review is a general overview of your business and your blog.
This is an exercise that I did over the summer during a coaching program I was participating in, and it really helped me see things in my business that I was doing and wanted to work on.
Start by reviewing everything that you’re doing for your business right now.
You can do this on a piece of paper or in a Google Doc, but I want you to write down everything that comes to mind. This list should include literally everything you do for your business.
You can categorize them into sections like:
- Marketing (promoting your blog posts)
- Sales (pitching brands, promoting affiliate links, etc.)
- Business growth (attending conferences, working on courses, listening to podcasts)
- Content creation (recipe development, food photography and videography, content writing, etc.)
As you’re going through this list, put a star next to the things that you feel really good about and that worked really well this year.
Be really honest about this with yourself. If you’re spending time scrolling on Instagram as part of your business time, then write that down.
We’re going to come back to this list and review it at the end.
3. Content Review
Once you’re done making your list, we can review your blog content for the year.
There are a few questions I want you to ask and answer for yourself:
- How many blog posts did you publish this year?
- What blog posts were your favorite to write?
- What sponsored content was your favorite?
- What blog posts did you get the most feedback on from your readers (social media, comments, or reviews)?
- Looking back, do you feel like your content was well rounded?
- Did you cover enough content that furthered along your brand messaging and/or niche?
4. Reviewing Your Numbers
Let’s take a deep dive into your Google Analytics and your business finances.
Starting with your analytics, we’re looking for trends and data.
You can take all 12 months and average it by 12. You can also check to see when you had traffic spikes because of seasonal content.
When you’re looking at traffic spikes, check to see what the content was. Was it seasonal? Did a pin go viral on Pinterest?
You want to look and see what your top performing posts were for the year and where the traffic for those specific posts came from.
Make a note whether the traffic was organic, from Pinterest, Facebook, or somewhere else.
It’s really important to know where the traffic for these posts came from, so you can make sure you’re putting your effort into continuing what is working.
For example, if you have no posts that are doing well on Facebook, your time isn’t best spent promoting yourself on that platform.
You can break down your traffic into things like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and organic search traffic. If you have another platform that’s driving a lot of traffic include that, too.
Your Social Media Accounts
Take a look at the social media platforms that you spend the most time on, and review the top content from that platform.
Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest all have analytics that you can easily review to see what your top performing pins or posts were.
Take notes of what that content was and any trends that start to stand out to you – specific types of content, the style of posts, or even seasonal content.
If it was on Facebook, maybe it was a link or an image, for example.
Reviewing your finances can be a little time consuming if your books aren’t up to date, but this is a really good time to take a few extra hours to catch up on those.
You want to start by looking at your total revenue, which is the total amount of money that came in. Then you want to look at your total expenses.
You can look at this for your entire year or month by month, depending on what makes the most sense for your business and the seasonality of it.
Once you have those two numbers, you’re going to subtract your expenses from your revenue to find out what your profit was.
When you’re looking at your income, take a note of what types of income you had.
When you’re categorizing your income, also figure out what percentage of each you made for the whole year.
If you have a really detailed spreadsheet or program like QuickBooks, you can easily figure this out, but if not, it’s okay. Even getting a ballpark idea of what your percentage of your income came from different categories is helpful.
It’s also good to look at this to see where you might have had dips in your income so you can plan for that next year.
For example, if you know that during summer your RPMs drop and you don’t have a lot of ad income, that may be a time that you want to try to get more sponsored content or focus your efforts in a different way.
Then take a look at your expenses. You can look at just one month or the year overall.
You want to make sure you note any annual expenses like your hosting, domain, any software you might have like Adobe or Canva, keyword research tools, and outsourcing or working with contractors.
You might have certain months where your expenses were really high. Maybe those were months where you outsourced more or you made a yearly payment for software like Adobe.
What did and didn’t work this year
Now that you’ve looked at all of these parts of your year, you may already have some gut instincts about things that worked really well and things that didn’t do much for your business.
Take that list of everything you’re doing for your business and read it over again. Really pay attention to the things you’re spending time on for your business.
Are these tasks resulting in income for you? Or are these things that you feel like you should do?
This can also be things that you are spending a lot of time on that don’t result in increased traffic.
You may not be making a lot of income from your blog, but make sure that the things you’re spending your time on are really resulting in something – whether that’s traffic, income, or engagement.
Regardless of where you’re at with your food blog, figure out what is important to you to continue doing.
These tasks that are on your list, they really should be resulting in something like connecting more with your readers, which directly correlates to more income, or more traffic, which as your blog grows and you can work with ad networks that leads to income as well or doing these things.
Be honest with yourself here. Reviewing these things will help you make changes that will grow your blog in a more impactful way next year.
5. Feelings review
Let’s take a second to talk about some feelings that might be coming up as you’re doing your review.
Maybe you’re looking at your list, and you’re feeling really bummed.
Everyone is different when it comes to processing emotions and feelings, but I want to encourage you to not just overlook your thoughts and feelings when reviewing your business.
This is your business and you should feel happy about the progress that it’s making and the direction that you’re taking your business.
If you’re looking over this list and feeling a lot of anxiety or stress from it, take note of that so that you can make changes so that next year when you review your blog, you’re not feeling this way again.
Are you feeling discouraged? Dig deep into why.
Are you excited and feeling great about the year past? What specific numbers or data makes you feel that way?
For those of you that have smaller blogs, that might not be your traffic or your income. Maybe it’s the impact that you’re making with your readers and that is so important.
Without really letting yourself FEEL while reviewing these results, it’s hard to make real changes to your blog that will help it grow but also give you more joy.
It’s really easy to get swept up in all of the “should do’s” as a blogger. But this exercise will really show you if those should do’s are moving your business forward.
For me, when I was reviewing my food blog, I realized that Facebook was driving absolutely zero traffic. Less than 0.1% of my traffic was coming from Facebook, so I let that go.
It wasn’t driving any results, and it was taking a ton of time away from my business and my family.
When you do this review, you’re going to be able to see whether things are correlating to traffic and income. If they’re not, I really want to you to just be willing to let it go.
As we wrap up this year, the next few episodes will help you reflect on this year, make plans for next year and hopefully help you shift your mindset on growing your business.
I’m going to be sharing some insights into my business and how this past year ended up being my best year ever. I’m going to share some reasons I think that happened and hope that it will inspire you when planning your next year.
To end today’s episode I want to ask you two final questions that I want you to think on:
- What pivots do I need to make in order for my business to grow?
- What worked really well last year?
I also want to leave you with one final quote to think about. I heard this while I was listening to the book Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt. The quote is from Andy Stanley:
“Everybody ends up somewhere in life. A few people end up somewhere on purpose. Those are the ones with vision.”
I hope these next few episodes will help you to find purpose in your business and start making a plan for next year to be your best year ever!