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.