Planning for the year ahead, one month in

2017 is well underway, January is just about over and you’re probably still wondering how to get through the year without letting everything slip away.

By now you should be executing on your 2017 strategy, which you hopefully formulated in late 2016. The thing is, a lot of people haven’t planned ahead. In fact, I’ve just met with some folks who have started the year with no clue and are vainly seeking out band-aid fixes for what can only described as a gaping flesh wound that is bleeding profusely.

It’s not pretty but it can be saved! And this is how you can take charge of the year ahead, even if you didn’t plan ahead!

Figure out what you want to achieve

Goals, objectives, blah blah. Look at your website and ask yourself: what do you want out of it? Is your goal more traffic? Do you want more ad clicks? Do you want people to spend more time on your site? Do you have an email newsletter and want more subscribers? Do you sell stuff and want more of those things to be sold? (technical jargon here). Whatever it is, work it out and make a simple list.

I want more traffic. I want more email subscribers. I want more people to buy my book….

Work out why you want to achieve that goal

Why do you really want more traffic? What difference does it make whether you have 100 people a month visiting your site or 1000 people visiting? Some goals are superficial and don’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things (do you really care for pageviews?). Now for most websites, more visitors means more ad clicks which means more revenue which keeps the lights on. So that’s understandable. Same for sites that sell things. More product sales, more revenue etc. This is for simple sites, not eBay! When you really try and understand why you want to achieve something, you can figure out if its worth targeting.

I want more traffic because I can get more clicks on my ads which will bring in more revenue.
I want more email subscribers because I want to cement myself as a thought leader in my niche.

How will you achieve that goal

Now you may not have a whole range of tactics ready but you can at least put together a list of top level ideas on how you hope to hit your targets. If your goal is to get more email subscribers, I’d say a good place to start is checking to see how people are guided to sign up for your newsletter. Understand the process, identify blockers. I would say using something like Hotjar or Kissmetrics or similar can help you identify how people use your site and you can figure out why they don’t sign up. The next thing to look at is your current list and perhaps look at open and unsubscribe rates – there may be a pattern you can identify which gives you an idea of where to fix things.

If you want more traffic, look at your content. What’s resonating well? What’s topical? Use keyword suggestion tools and see if you’re writing about the things people are searching for. A friend runs a small business selling himalayan salt and himalayan salt lamps. So I suggested writing content like: ‘what is himalayan salt?’ and ‘what are the benefits of himalayan salt lamps?’ and even ‘debunking myths about himalayan salt’. This provides extra value to readers and can help turn visitors into buyers. Throw in some videos (I use Animoto for quick and easy video production using just the images in my asset library) and you’re really diversifying your content and appealing to a wider audience. The idea is that your content has to address all possible angles. You’re telling them what you sell, why its good and then addressing possible concerns. Boom. You get the idea.

For every thing you want to achieve, there’s a lot of ways to approach them and your results may vary but it’s worth exploring all ideas because you may be surprised by what sticks. Short Instagram videos may turn out to be the most valuable promotional tool in your arsenal – and how easy are they to make?!

How will you measure your success?

Once you know what you want to achieve, why it matters and how you’ll run towards achieving your goals, how will you know if you’ve been successful?

Sure, if your goal is more email subscribers, you’ll see more sign ups. And if you want more visitors to your site, traffic will increase. But it’s a bit more than that. You have to use the right tools to give you the right data so you can know for sure what is going on, whether you’re moving forward or not. Being able to see this clearly helps you decide how to proceed with the rest of your strategy. But just as important is knowing how to interpret the data your tools give you and not just simply to know what is working and what’s not.

You need actionable insights

I once saw incredible stats for a wedding videography business where there was apage that pretty much stole most of the traffic away from the homepage, service page and contact page. It was a simple page listing popular wedding love songs in alphabetical order. But interestingly it had a 90% bounce rate despite receiving 80%+ of the traffic to the website! You’re probably asking about time on page and that averaged around 7 minutes! It’s just a list from A to Z with no imagery, no links to videos or songs, or any sort of search or filtering option. So here we have a page that focuses on content that is in high demand, has a high dwell time but huge bounce rate. What does this tell us? Its popular, keeps people on the site for a long time but they may just leave the site completely without converting.

For me the next step would be to see user flow beyond this page to see how many people go beyond this page to contact the business for a booking. Because a page of this nature should be generating a tonne of leads. So with the data on hand, we can investigate further and make a decision.

The year is yours for the taking

I hope this helps put things into perspective so you can plan ahead for 2017. It may be a month in but the year is not lost. 2017 is yours for the taking – all you have to do is work out what you want to get out of it, why you want it, how to get it and when you’ll know you’ve got it. Simple enough, right?

Let me know how it goes for you. All the best for 2017!

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