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69 Questions to Ask to Review Your Blog

With the end of 2008 hurtling towards us many bloggers are beginning to cast our minds forward into the new year ahead to set goals, make resolutions and come up with strategies and plans to grow their blogs in 2009.

While looking forward and planning to improve your blog is something well worth putting time aside for – I’ve found that you can drastically enhance the forward thinking that you do by doing another step first – reflecting upon the past.

The mistake that many bloggers make in only looking forward is that they often fail to capitalize upon and build upon lessons that they’ve already learned.

An Example

I spoke with one blogger this morning who I think illustrates this perfectly. I won’t name him as I don’t want to cause embarrassment but he emailed me to tell me about how he was about to completely relaunch his blog in the coming days. He’d put up a holding page where his old blog had been, was going to launch a completely new design with new branding, he was changing the name and tag line of the blog, was going to change his posting frequency from 3 posts a day to 2-3 posts a week and most strikingly was changing the topic of his blog quite significantly.

When I emailed the blogger back to ask his reasoning for the drastic change of his blog he responded by saying that ‘it’s time for a change’. He reflected that he thought his readers might be bored and he himself wanted a change. His reasons didn’t go much beyond this.

Now don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with reinvention and changing course with your blog – what this blogger is doing could be a very smart move – but a smarter move would be to do a little reflection on how his blog had been going, identifying what was working and what wasn’t and building upon the good stuff – instead of effectively knocking it all down and rebuilding on the rubble.

How to Reflect on the Progress of your Blog

So how does one reflect upon the past experience of their blog in order to work out how to evolve it and build upon its strengths to go forward?

Below I’ve begun to develop a list of questions that a blogger wanting to do some reflection upon their blog might use to undertake such an exercise. By no means is this list exhaustive and by no means am I suggesting that bloggers ask each one – some will be more relevant than others depending upon the blog, its stage in the life cycle and the goals of the blogger.

I would recommend bloggers wanting to do this type of reflection set aside at least a few hours to do this exercise (or a series of hour long sessions over a few days). That might sound like a lot of time but the lessons that you learn by doing this could make any planning you might do for 2009 and beyond much more effective. For some of these questions you will probably need access to your blogs metrics/stats package but for many you might find it less distracting if you were offline with a pen and paper.

General Questions

  1. What goals (formal or informal) did you have for your blog in 2008?
  2. What goals did you meet?
  3. What successes did you have that you didn’t set goals for?
  4. Which goals didn’t you meet for your blog in 2008?
  5. What failed on your blog in 2008? What mistakes did you make?
  6. How have you innovated in 2008?
  7. How have you invested in your own learning as a blogger in 2008?
  8. What do you want readers of your blog to ‘DO’ after reading your blog?
  9. Do Your Readers actually Do what you want them to do?
  10. Would YOU read your blog?

Traffic

  1. How did your traffic change in 2008?
  2. What was the biggest source of traffic in 2008? Why was it big?
  3. What types of traffic didn’t grow in 2008?
  4. Take some time to analyze traffic sources including search engines, social bookmarking, other referring sites, direct traffic – are they trending up or down?
  5. Where did you promote your blog in 2008?
  6. Did the promotion pay off?
  7. What search terms are people typing into Google to arrive on your site?
  8. What seasonal traffic was their in 2008?
  9. How many pages were people viewing on your site per visit?
  10. How much time did you put into building traffic, promotion, marketing, SEO in 2008?

Content

  1. How many posts did you write over the year?
  2. Which months did you write the most posts and which did you write the least? Why the ups and downs?
  3. Which posts had the most traffic in 2009? Why do you think that was?
  4. Which posts got the most comments? Why might that have been?
  5. Which posts were linked to most by other sites?
  6. What topics most energized you in 2008?
  7. Which posts drained you most?
  8. What type of posts have you been writing lately (voice, style etc)? How long are they?
  9. How much time did you put into writing content in 2008?
  10. Are key pages (About page, Contact page, Advertise page etc) up to date?
  11. What calls to action did you have on your blog in 2008? Did they work?
  12. What ‘need’ does your content fulfill for readers? What problems does it solve?

Community

  1. What recurring questions did readers ask in 2008?
  2. How have your RSS subscriber numbers changed?
  3. If you have a newsletter – how are subscriber numbers to it changing?
  4. Are comment numbers from readers increasing or decreasing?
  5. How much personal interaction did you have with readers in 2008?
  6. What other ways are readers interacting with your blog? (polls, guest posts, forums etc)
  7. Have you kept up with moderating comment spam in 2008?

Your Niche

  1. Is your niche/topic/industry growing or shrinking?
  2. What topics within or around your niche are growing and gaining momentum?
  3. What are other blogs doing well in your niche?
  4. Are they growing or shrinking in terms of traffic and reader engagement?
  5. What are other blogs in your niche ignoring or doing badly?
  6. How were your interactions with other bloggers this year?
  7. What social media sites, forums or other types of sites are ‘hot’ in your niche?
  8. Does your niche/topic energize you?

Design

  1. How does your blogs design look?
  2. Is it dated, confusing or ‘broken’ or is it attractive, functional and engaging?
  3. Is there clutter anywhere on your blog?
  4. Does your blog load fast?
  5. When a first time reader arrives on their blog what impression would they get?
  6. Would a first time visitor immediately know what it is about and how to use/navigate it?
  7. What complaints have you heard most about your design from readers this year?

Monetization (if this is a goal for you)

  1. How much did your blog earn in 2008?
  2. Are your earnings up or down on previous years?
  3. What sources of income does your blog have?
  4. How did your income change over the year? Why did it change?
  5. What lessons did you learn about what methods of making money works best on your blog?
  6. What didn’t work in 2008 when it comes to monetization?
  7. What are other blogs and sites in your niche using to monetize their blogs? What affiliate products are they promoting? What ad networks are they using?
  8. What advertisers are running campaigns in your niche?
  9. What type of affiliate programs have worked (and not worked) on your blog? What type of offers do you readers respond to?

Technical

  1. Is your blog platform up to date?
  2. What features/widgets/tools are readers using on your blog?
  3. What features/widgets/tools are readers not using on your blog?
  4. When was the last time you backed up your blog?
  5. Is your hosting sufficient for your blog? How much downtime did you have in 2008?
  6. What features do your readers ask for or complain about on your blog?

OK – as I say above – these questions just scratch the surface as to the type of reflections that a blogger might do on their blog. I’d love to hear other questions that you’d also ask.

Next week, after you’ve had a little time to do some of this reflecting, I want to follow this post up by outlining a process that I use for planning and coming up with strategies for a blog. Stay tuned to the ProBlogger RSS feed to get this update.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Linda says:

    Some good ideas here. That bit about the niche really made me think!
    There really appears to be a need to have it very clear in your mind just who is your “reader” if you are to be successful

  2. Hey Darren!

    Some great advice! Im going to be saving these questions and reflecting on these myself for my current and future projects! Thanks for the great contributions!!

    I was actually thinking of redirecting the goals for one of my blogs that are doing pretty well so finding this post was great!

    May the New Year be full of Joy and Blessings for you!

  3. Wow, I really don’t need to think up my own questions, these one encompass almost everything.

    I’d just like to say that although these questions are directed at blogging, if you’re working a 9-5, there’s nothing wrong with thinking this way at the office as well – Entrepreneurs who think like entrepreneurs and are goal oriented is expected. Employees who think the same way are going beyond what is expected of them.

  4. I haven’t done any real monetization for my blog, but it’s a goal for me in 2009 to start making money from my blog. I can just come back to some of these questions for reference later.

  5. krishna says:

    Very Very cool compilation of the List. Excellent work darren. I need to tweet this for sure :)

  6. Shanel Yang says:

    Thorough, yet comprehensive. Thanks, Darren! : )

  7. Slim Jackson says:

    First time commenting here. Great post. Perhaps the most valuable one I’ve gotten from your website. Thanks!

  8. Darren,

    Great list of questions. My blog is fairly new so I don’t think all these questions will all apply to me but I’m still going to print them off and spend a good hour or so reviewing my blog.

    Keep up the good work and Happy New year!

  9. Those 69 questions cover all the questions that a blogger can ask himself for further improvement. What a really nice post. You have done it again Darren. Although I love your social media posts the most but this one is very useful too.
    If one asks himself those questions and even acts on 20% of those he/she wi definitely see great improvement.
    Community and Traffic questions are the most interesting one. Imagine someone asking himself the traffic questions when he has no traffic to his blog. LOL.

    Regards
    Laksh
    Make money online blog

  10. Are Morch says:

    Great article here Darren. A must read for any blog newbies. I already bookmarked this excellent article. Gave me something work with for the new year.

  11. Rahul Jadhav says:

    Wow great post. Thanks Darren

  12. Debo Hobo says:

    I find myself questioning the progress and direction of my blog quite often. This post should prove useful and I will be working it over the holiday weekend.

    Thanks for the insight Darren:)

  13. Kristen Denzer says:

    Great suggestions. I have one question though, in terms of the niche section, how can you find out a similar blog’s traffic (other than just asking them)?

    Thanks!

    Kristen

    http://www.nonprofitsos.com

  14. Ian says:

    Thanks for this Darren. I am in the process of setting my goals for 2009, so this is a very timely post for me. What a comprehensive and useful list. Happy New Year!

  15. Very thorough and impressive checklist. I’m going to print this out and go down these questions one by one.

    Here’s another question regarding web traffic: Do you get the most from your sources of stats? Are there other services that offer what you need?

  16. Mark Anthony says:

    Cracking post Darren, particularly as I have set myself a target to make my own blog self-financing during 2009.

  17. Sarah Bray says:

    Truly useful post. Just tweeted it. :)

  18. Tracy says:

    Thanks for the reminder to take stock of where my blog is and where I want it to go and giving a great starting point for accomplishing that.

    “What successes did you have that you didn’t set goals for?”

    Is a really interesting question and reminder to always keep the door open for opportunity.

  19. Mike says:

    Jeez! That one’s been pasted in my “Read later and action” Folder! Thanks!

  20. Leslie says:

    I’m really glad I read this. I was planning on going through and evaluating the success of my blog, but there are a bunch of questions up there that I didn’t even think of.

    This will take me some time, but at least I have a good idea of what to look for. My blog is relatively new and has taken off in a very short time (in terms of monetization). It’s tempting to just try to move forward without a full analysis, but I won’t do that now, lol.

  21. John says:

    I’ve been working on getting my traffic up lately, which has been going well… but this list will help to concentrate efforts on other important areas of development as well. Thanks for the great list.

  22. J.D. Meier says:

    69? … Nice!

    I’m a fan of question-driven improvement.

    Great point on checking whether your niche is growing or shrinking.

  23. Darren, you’ve included an important point about which I’ve wondered: how does one back up a blog?! I have my posts forwarded to my e-mail address, so I have a history of my writing, but I do not know how to back up my entire blog site!

    Thanks for all your helpful and comprehensive tips.

    New Year’s blessings!
    Kathryn

  24. That’s a lot of great information to reflect on.

    I definitely need to get the technical side sorted out. I was really worried that I was getting no exit link activity only to find out my stats counter needed to be in the footer to show exit links.

    I am annoyed to say the least as I have now missed a lot of valuable info.

  25. Muzi Mohale says:

    Super guide, after reading this killer contribution am taking a thorough look on my blog. Thank you for the wisdom Darren.

  26. Team Nirvana says:

    As usual, this post rocked the mind out of me.

    What an unusual piece of advice which we could not get even in paid tutoring on blogging!!!

    Thanks a ton Darren for sharing these.

  27. WoW, this is a great list and a great way to not only reflect on what happened in 2008, but do some goal setting for 2009.

    Matt

  28. heCK, DARREN, this is a business plan in the making. A lot of good thoughts here to really cause one to focus about what the future holds and what we’re going to do about it. The niche is the key. If you don’t know who your audience is then you can’t target them. Hence, no target then everything is a target. Result, wasted time, money, and bullets.

  29. Darren,
    You rule. What a wonderful way to close out ’08 and start ’09. I am currently creating a Mogul Mom Manifesto for 2009 and I am most definitely going to ask/answer these 69 questions.

    Thank you so much. I love your blog & am anxiously awaiting for your book to arrive in the mail.

    Happy New Year!
    Heather Allard

    The Mogul Mom

  30. Marelisa says:

    Hi Darren: Yesterday I published the first of three posts on my blog on how to create a blogging business plan, and these questions are great for that purpose. I would add the following:

    -Do I have a carefully crafted marketing strategy?
    - Am I marketing my blog persistently or just hitting the “publish” button and hoping for the best?
    -Do I know how many visitors I want each month and how I’m going to promote my blog to attract those visitors?
    -Do I have a way to measure where my traffic is coming from so that I know which of my marketing campaigns are successful?
    -Do I go on Twitter simply to socialize or am I using it as a marketing tool (in addition to meeting great people and finding interesting information)?
    -Have I built brand recognition? Do I have an avatar I use consistently and is my core message constant, whether I’m writing a blog post or commenting on other blogs?
    -Am I improving my knowledge and implementation of SEO?
    - Have I become a power player in at least one social media (Digg, Stumbleupon, and so on)?
    -Am I making the best use of Technorati (have the appropriate tags to attract visitors from those that use Technorati for searches)?
    -Have I built a community on my blog or do I just get sporadic comments from different people once in a while?
    -Have I created a network of other bloggers I help out and who are willing to help me out?

    Happy New Year Darren!

  31. This has to be the most thought provoking post I’ve read in a long time!

  32. Lew Newmark says:

    Hi Darren.

    This post could not have come at a better time, as I am about to look at goals & direction for my blogs in the coming year.

    I shall indeed take the time to look over your lists and apply them to my decision making process.

    Thanks again for a much needed, relevant post that will make a difference for me.

    Lew
    http://www.fln50.com
    http://www.comicseye.com
    http://www.mlcss.com
    http://www.lnph.us

  33. ehm. thats good question. i always use some of that to do something at my blog.

  34. Alan Hammond says:

    You have a lot of extremely helpful posts, but this one is at the top of my list.

  35. clara says:

    Great post. I have 2 blogs that are still trying to get off their feet. This is a good time to stop and evaluate what I am doing and more importanly, what I should being doing.

  36. Great list Darren. Happy New Year man.

    Here’s 130 more points to consider when evaluating your blog – there may be a bit of overlap:

    http://www.visionaryblogging.com/blog-improvement-checklist/

  37. Shevonne says:

    You definitely know how to catch readers’ attention. 69. Ha

    I am going to go through these tonight to see if my sites are missing anything. Thanks!

  38. One thing that struck me as bad was how many times I had to answer “I don’t know” or “Not sure”..

    Good set of questions, thank you.

  39. A good list to start 2009 with a dormant blog. One of my main challenges has been HOW exactly to know what needs to be changed. Unless one is using wordpress, it’s vey difficult to analyse the site. Anyone here have experience with blogsome.com ?? (operates on the same platform as wordpress.com)

  40. Colin says:

    You certainly have a good list there. They help to put things in context.

    It is important to review what you have achieved before you can set new goals .

  41. JOE GELB says:

    in 2009 i hope to do a few things towards making a bad blog good, to make some other sites dabble and have fun on the internet.

  42. Scott says:

    This is truly valuable content. This is a post that should be printed and used as a basis for the annual business plan and how we use past information to lay groundwork for future business.

    From a marketing perspective when we gain value from content it strengthens our brand.

    Good Work Darren!

  43. Martijn says:

    Darren, you must have started this post and just gotten this jolt of amazing creativity. Not a top-10, not a top-20 but 69 items?

    Great post, and a good checklist to go over at leisure.

  44. Melissa says:

    Thanks for the insightful questions. Really makes you think. Definitely worthy of printing out and keeping on my desk!

  45. uwak says:

    great question give me some great idea for my new articles on my web….thanks darren

  46. Ajay says:

    Hey darren,
    thats really a very useful and thought provoking information to reflect upon. In fact its a best read for a blogger on a new years eve. Will definitely sit and try to analyze these questions myself.
    thanks

  47. This is the best advice I have received for my blog going into 2009. Hands down.

  48. Very Interesting job Darren, i keep it this listo in my desk this 2009.

    tnks “n Hppy nW YR 2009 ;)

    Joel

  49. Precise Edit says:

    As always, your advice and your expertise are right on the money–thanks for the great post! The community and niche market items are especially relevant to us.

  50. Adele says:

    Thanks a bunch Darren – perfect timing. We are having a big snowstorm here in Connecticut – couldn’t even get online until just now and who knows when that will go out again. So now I have your great list to go over to bring in the New Year which it probably is already where you are. Happy New Year!