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Writing It Down: The Importance of Forecasting your Blog’s Performance

Guest post by Christine Pilkington, a digital media veteran who recently launched VancouverMom.ca, a hyper-local blog that shows Metro Vancouver moms the unique, intelligent and beautiful side of their city. Christine also can be found at GoGoMamaGo.com, a blog for mom entrepreneurs.

Eight weeks ago, I launched my second blogging venture VancouverMom.ca and I’m thrilled to say that the site’s initial performance is exceeding my expectations. I’m hitting my pageviews and unique visitors four months early! In my mind, I’m way ahead of schedule and breaking out the bubbly.

Now I know what you’re thinking: either you’re breaking out the bubbly with me or you’re a skeptic and think that I estimated badly. And my response to you is this: It doesn’t really matter. Not really – especially when you consider the more important step I took: I wrote it down.

As a web consultant, I’ve encountered many new web site owners, including bloggers, who were afraid of putting numbers down – fearful of guessing and being wrong. Sure they know what they should measure – pageviews, unique visits, RSS feed subscriptions or whatever – but oftentimes they’re paralyzed with the question: I can guess, but how do I know that my forecast is a good one?

The truth is – you don’t. Unless you have prior experience estimating pageviews or site visits, or know someone who has, your estimate will be a wild guess or just an educated guess at best. There are so many factors that make a new blog successful that in reality, even “experienced” experts are really just guessing.

I’m here to tell you that a wild guess is better than nothing at all. Here’s why:

You get sense of accomplishment

I love that I’m months ahead of schedule and I feel like I’m on track. When I wrote the numbers down, I was giving my absolute best guess at the time. I’m projecting advertising revenues from the site and wanted to know when I could reasonably expect to start selling ads. I admit: like many new business owners, I was relatively conservative but I knew being too conservative wouldn’t serve me well. I still endeavoured to give it my very best guess. Even so, just knowing that I’m out performing those projections has encouraged me to continue – critical for the owner of a new blog.

You create a record

If you don’t write it down, it’s easy for your mind to reinvent history and adjust to a new baseline. For example, I’m touting my success, but the reality is that I have a ways to go before my visits are anywhere close to what a site like Problogger would get. It would be easy for me to beat myself up over my relatively small numbers. But writing it down creates a touchstone. It’s something for me to return to and see how I thought a site like mine should be performing. It’s important for you to have something factual to remind you of where you thought you might be so that you can objectively evaluate how you’re doing.

A record incites action

Suppose I wasn’t doing very well compared to my “fictitious” projections – what then? I might be a bit depressed but I’d quickly move into action, looking for the weakness so I could improve my efforts. If, for example, I were spending too much time on Twitter without results, and not enough on creating better content, then maybe I’d shift my efforts. Only you can determine the type of action that is required; the important thing is that a written record tells you that action needs to be taken. You can adjust your efforts and improve in areas you need to. Alternatively, if you are exceeding your forecasts, you can analyze what you’re doing right and continue to do more of it.

You can see how well you estimate – and improve

In the beginning, you might not be a very confident estimator. You might even be downright bad at it. But writing it down shows you how talented you are at forecasting and you’ll be able to see where improvements need to be made. A record acts like a personal score – you’ll know how you’re fairing and can make adjustments to improve.

It’s simply good business practice

If you’re reading Problogger, you probably aspire to be in the business of blogging. All well-run businesses – large and small – have a forecast for metrics like sales projections, units sold and other key performance indicators. If you’re serious about blogging and plan to run it like a business, then run it like a business. Write it down.

A few closing thoughts: after you write it down, be sure to share it with someone. By declaring your goals to someone, whether it’s a fellow blogger, mentor, friend or spouse, you’ll not only have someone to be accountable to, but you’ll also have someone to share your successes with.

Finally, remember that even if you write it down, these numbers are not permanent. Even the most successful companies get it wrong and make changes so that they can recover from poor performance or expand if they are exceeding targets. Think of your projections as a “living document” that provides a compass for where you’re heading. If you find that you’re getting off track, make adjustments.

Just write it down.

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. Happy new year everyone! This is a great post Darren and something I am actually going to get to work on after writing this post! I have recently launched my first blog and have no real idea of how well I am doing in terms of hits, so by setting aims and keeping a record it will be a great way of monitoring the sites performance and will consequently know how well the site is doing. I Think this post will be the most beneficial to me out of all the ones I have read!
    http://www.studentspayless.com

  2. Great post! I was just thinking of this as I look at my google analytics. But my questions as a very new blogger are:

    1. What kind of numbers am I striving for as a new blogger?
    2. What kind of numbers are considered successful?
    3. What do all the numbers mean?

    I know this sounds very novice to some but to new bloggers I can see a lot having these questions.

    Thanks for the information and I will be sure to write it all down as I start to forecast.

  3. rick says:

    Great post to start the New Year. I am a big fan of data tracking and guesstimating results.

    For new bloggers, Google Analytics has a great feature which allows you to compare your results with sites similar in size/traffic…look for ‘benchmarking.

    Happy New Year to all and best of luck in 2010.

  4. Happy New Year from ‘Websitextreme’, This post was very Informational for me because i am also try the same, Now this should help in my problem, so Once again A Very Happy New Year from Websitextreme and Best of luck to all bloggers for 2010.

  5. Mumbert says:

    Good reminders. I use to use a yellow tablet and actually draw columns. As you can tell, this old fossil predates spreadsheets.
    Now I use Excel and things like Bubbl.us. To Rick, thanks for the tip on G-analytics benchmarking. I’ll check it out.

    Steve Benedict aka mumbert

  6. LisaNewton says:

    I didn’t write down my goals, but I have in my head and have discussed them with someone else.

    But, I do agree having a paper copy is a better motivator. Into my moleskin it goes. Thanks for the advice.

  7. This is a great post! I have been a little worried about putting numbers like page views and unique visitors down, for exactly the reason you mention – I’m scared of guessing and getting it completely wrong!
    But actually, even if I do things wrong – my blog is about sharing everything I’m doing – if I do it wrong, I will learn from it, but so will others who read my blog. It can be much more educational to do something wrong, but only if you learn from it.
    Thank You Christine! I’m going to go add some more numbers to my goals! x

  8. Blommi says:

    I started my new blogging venture, about the same time. I made most of my year end goals, and exceeded a couple. The only disappointment I had was, the new PRs coming out a few weeks earlier than I expected. Much of the work I’d done in that area, had not “matured” yet. Of course, I can chalk that up to be a lesson learned.

    I agree entirely that having a set of goals is a great way to measure progress. So many online measurements we use are based on somewhat unpredictable outside sources. Having a self designed set of benchmarks can be stabilizing.

  9. Great post, but I agree with This Mama – for beginning bloggers it can be really difficult to get a sense of how your numbers compare and what you should be striving for (apart from up, up, up).

    Thanks @Rick, for the tip on benchmarking. It is great that benchmarking lets you make a category-specific comparison, as I would imagine the numbers vary greatly across industries.

  10. Rick Wolff says:

    I’ve returned to ProBlogger at this post, maybe not the best choice. As I start to take up this question for myself, I have a window of guesstimation that goes from 0 to a bazillion. I have no reference for guessing whatsoever. And as such, I’d consider an accurate guess just dumb luck, one too high wishful thinking, and one too low over-caution. While I build readership, I know I’ll rewrite the estimate so often, it’d be a joke, and I’d soon discard it. I have to do a WHOLE LOT of homework on how to even ballpark any kind of prediction I would take seriously. This post doesn’t point to any resource for that. Maybe the comments could?

  11. Nezine says:

    I just came across this blog and found some useful posts.

    Good information here. Keeping a record by writing gives me a sense of purpose, a plan and be organised.

  12. Diego R says:

    I highly suggest those who want to share their goals to register for 43things.com. In this site you are able to set goals/challenges, share them with others, and set up consequences if you don’t follow through.

  13. Nick says:

    Performance tracking of other sites should be the first thing to do if you want to know how well your site is doing.

  14. Dan Smith says:

    I just emailed my wife my goal for the year for pageloads and subscribers (through feedburner), so I feel like I’m off to a good start! Great post and thank you!

  15. I just started another new blog, and this was perfectly timed – thanks!

  16. Thanks for a great post Christine.
    Forecasting is always difficult but the more you try it the better it seems to get. Overcoming the fear of getting it wrong and having the guts to give it a go seem to be important ingredients in charting towards a more certain future.
    We work with small business owners helping them understand the numbers of their business and forecasting in that regard is also critical. But do you think its easy to get people to have a go at their numbers? It’s like pulling teeth and yet when a small business owner knows how they’re really going, a great deal of frustration and fear disappears from their world.

  17. Excellent post on new year :-)

  18. Yeah, this thing is kinda like competing with our self. Personally I think it help us to stay focused as well.

  19. Uninvoked says:

    Thank you. This is by far one of the best and most encouraging posts I’ve read about blogging since I started my noveling blog in July. I appreciate your advice, and plan to start a notebook today projecting everything through to next year. We’ll see how close I get. ^^

  20. I’m happy with the amount of traffic my new blog is getting, but I’m also very aware of how often I am checking my stats. I do have written goals. My resolution this year is to only reassess them once every couple of weeks instead of every day!

  21. Arie Rich says:

    First of I would like to say Vancouvermom.ca looks like a great site, friendly to the eyes, inviting. This is my first time visiting it and I’m sure to go back or recommend it to someone else.

    I also write it down. Lately I’ve been writing my goals down and I find myself accomplishing them more now when I put them on paper than when I didn’t. Strange, but it must be something about putting on paper. I haven’t finished my 2010 goals list yet, but I started writing it and so far so good…

    Arie Rich
    kmpblog.com

  22. Randy says:

    I have recently launched my first professional site and your post has a lot of merit. I’ve looked at some of the tools available and want to track some key metrics in Excel. I have Google Analytics and several other tools now. I know my site is in its baby phase and the numbers are very low for right now, but I have high hopes for the future. What metrics would you suggest? (ie. visitors, page views, bounce rate, feedburner subscribers, etc.).

  23. Kris Roxas says:

    Well, I’m sure this was meant for more than tracking visitors and stuff, but it can basically all be tracked with analytics programs. I think it’s still a good thing to be able to track progress, though.

    Kris Roxas

  24. Today being the first day of a fresh decade, this is a great time to start blogging. The market is competitive, but imagine how competitive it’s going to be ten years from now! This is a good article to remind us to stop wasting time and commit. Thanks for sharing.

  25. Forecasting is all well and good but things don’t always go to plan.

  26. Blog Tactic says:

    I don’t write those down. I use free analytic tools (that is what it’s for) to see the trends. if the graph is moving up, that means by blog performance is doing well.

    But regardless of the graph performance, I try to make an effort to further improve it.

  27. Agent Deepak says:

    That great tip Christine. I do not write my goals but I keep them in my mind. I Plan ahead even think of solutions if some problem comes. It has been helping greatly.

  28. It is very important to forecast the blog’s performance.. one has to keep up the things ready as per the blogs’ growth.. Analytic tools helps one in estimating and checking the current stats of the blog,,

  29. scheng1 says:

    Your post is similar to what we have learnt in college about business management.
    I guess when we treat blogging as a business, we will do the monthly forecast and budgetary measures to get the blog off the ground.

  30. Ahmad Majid says:

    Best part: “[...W]riting it down creates a touchstone. It’s something for me to return to and see how I thought a site like mine should be performing. It’s important for you to have something factual to remind you of where you thought you might be so that you can objectively evaluate how you’re doing.”

    I’m moving from blogspot to WordPress this year, so this will be immediately useful!

    1000 kudos :)
    Thanks for sharing.

    –AhM

  31. Nezine says:

    When you go into your buisness, online or offline, here is a lot of work that you have to do. Planning is very important but we cannot keep all these things in mind, Agent Deepak; you need to write it down somewhere.

    Things can get pretty hectic and soon the mind will get cluttered and things will be forgotten. Using the online tools is very helpful but even jotting them down on paper is good.

  32. BloggerDaily says:

    Yeah! And this is an essential step (for me) if I’m looking to improve myself. Nice shot. A record could help us to motivate ourselves to be better and improve the existing performance.

  33. Paul Crowe says:

    When i started my latest blog i decided to try a new approach and not add any hit counters or trackers to the blog, this way i would not know how the blog was performing in that sense but concentrate on building the content.

    I would sitll work on attracting visitors like usual and would have an idea through the subscribers and followers but no acurate stats.

    I did this for 2 weeks of the planned month before i could’nt wait anymore just had to know and to be honest we need those stats to know who we are writing for.
    I guess this was the oppisite approach to Christine and was worth a go at the time…Not quiet as successful ..

    Paul.

  34. Nezine says:

    If you are used to installing counters and trackers, then its quite difficult to do without them. You become used to them!

    I get very excited to check the stats the next day. For someone who has never used them, then maybe its not a big thing.

  35. The idea of writing down your goals is great not only for predicting the success of your blog, but anything else worthwhile in life. There is real power connected to writing down and “owning” our goals.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

  36. hicksgirl93 says:

    a great post. Informative. I use site meter to see where I am with page views, but never thought of writing down a projected number to reach each week/ month. I will definately be putting it into practice.

  37. Hi Christine and everyone,

    I think I’m probably in the camp that find it difficult to see what use it is to set these goals when I have no idea what traffic etc. I may get on my new business blog.

    The visitor numbers I get for my other blogs are all so different, depending upon their niche/topic.

    Even with some experience of blogging I would find it difficult to set realistic goals.

    I notice that you don’t mention any figures. If you gave us all a guide that may be helpful.

    Sorry to be negative, but that’s what I think – I have more of a try it and see what happens kind of approach. Let it evolve.

    Steve.

  38. Hi everyone – thanks for the great comments! I’m a little late to the party since I’ve been celebrating the holidays but I’ll be adding a few comments throughout the day.

    @ This Mama who asked:
    “1. What kind of numbers am I striving for as a new blogger?
    2. What kind of numbers are considered successful?
    3. What do all the numbers mean?”

    I’d like to emphasize that each blog is different and it can be tough to figure out what would be appropriate for your specific blog and how it might perform. I know that’s not the most satisfying answer so I’ll offer up this additional tip:

    Watch your stats for a bit – maybe two or three months. The key ones most people focus on are pageviews and unique visits, but you can also add things like RSS or newsletter subscriptions. Once you have a trend determined, commit to writing it down – and remember that you can adjust as your blog becomes more established.

  39. Fatin Pauzi says:

    Hye, Christine. You would be a great role model for me as a new blogger. Thanks for sharing your experiences here.

  40. First of all Happy New Year to everyone.

    If you want to get the perfect estimation than you should also learn the art of reading of your visitor’s pulse and nerves.

    What they want and in which direction they want to move. To know such move you should open a window or gate on your blog through that such sign will keep coming. Comments or email are the best option for such window.

  41. wifi router says:

    Wow, I am so flattered to read this blog post. I am actually making a New Year’s resolution to post more often to my blog. In fact, I get ideas all the time and you have just given me one here. Yes, things have been busy, but I’ll tell you, ALL of your observations on the marketing aspects of blogging are “spot on”.

  42. I believe if you don’t write down your goals they’re just dreams. I am a believer of writing, the purpose of writing down your goals has a dramatic influence on whether they will be achieved.

  43. I totally agree. With my first blog I wrote down some goals about a month ago (how many visits, advertisers, twitter followers and a few other) I wrote out the next 6 months month by month predicting a 30% growth. Since this is my first site I didn’t really know what to expect but it gave me something to work for. My first month of tracking (dec) I was happy to exceed my goal by 15% It doesn’t mean time to kick back but did give me a feeling of accomplishment!

  44. John C says:

    Just bought your book, I’m about to start reading it, let’s see if there’s some nice tips on how to improve my blogs.

    John

  45. abercrombie says:

    but i think it’s very diffcut for us to make any forcast, to be honest.

  46. Last year I reached my goals for december in may, and was obviously very happy about it. The next step was setting new goals