While the end of the year is a time for personal reflection, for brands it’s a time to reflect on the success of your marketing programs and plan for the new year. Your 2018 plan should be full of creative ideas, goals, and strategies. But what’s a strategy without data to back it up?
Before your big year-end planning session, look back at your data to help drive your decision making for the coming year. Analyzing the numbers can help you formulate more strategic ideas—What was effective versus what wasn’t? Are there trends to take into account? How can you try something different to meet your goals?
If this sounds like a big project, we promise it’s not. Following these steps will marry your 2017 metrics with your 2018 strategy for a strong start to the new year.
Review your goals.
It’s time to break out those goals you set 12 months ago (and have hopefully checked in on throughout the year), and see how you fared. Make two lists, one featuring the high points of the year and the other identifying the low points. Once you’ve listed out the goals you’ve met and missed, take a moment to examine why you got the results you did—what obstacles stood in the way, and what efforts led to success? Uncovering what lies behind your numerical goals is the key to understanding how to reach them.
Understand the key metrics.
Not sure what metrics matter the most? It’s time to get cozy with Google Analytics. A good place to start is with users, pageviews, and sessions to get a good sense of your website traffic. Acquisition data is also a great way to understand how people are finding you—from direct to organic to social media traffic, it’s always smart to optimize based on your audience. If you’re new to analytics, find the knowledge you need to get started in our Google Analytics FAQs post.
Don’t skip the social media.
While social media analytics is its own animal, it’s important to consider its role within the big picture too. Developing a social media strategy involves a much more specific look into related data, but there are a few more high-level data points that can guide your overall marketing strategy.
For example, looking at where your following is the largest is a good way to identify where to focus your efforts, but followers don’t always equal conversions. Take a closer look at the channels that lead to your website and see how much of the traffic comes from social. Even further, a breakdown of which platform brought the most visitors is an effective way to see what’s really moving the needle for your brand.
Start with the big picture.
Looking at an entire year of analytics can be overwhelming, so start broad. First look at analytics that represent the year as a whole. In this view, you’ll be able to easily see the trends, dips, and spikes throughout the year.
Look further into the peaks and valleys on your graph and brainstorm with your team what could have caused them, and add them to the high points and low points list. Did a specific campaign cause the August spike in website traffic? What about the month you didn’t get as much content out as you hoped, could that have been responsible for the dip in March?
When thinking about the cause and effects, you can better attribute an action to a result that will help you avoid those mistakes in the year to come. It can also be highly beneficial to compare the entire year to the year before to better understand trends like seasonal traffic drops.
Get into the specifics and understand the whys.
Now that you have a solid understanding of your overall performance, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty. Take a look at your highest performing website pages and content, and try to pinpoint the key reasons why they were successful. Did that blog have a title that helped it succeed in SEO? Was that page the one we put some money behind on social media? Ask yourself questions that can help you look past what was successful, and get to the heart of why it was successful. It’s also necessary to look at your lowest performers under the same type of microscope.
Take a step back.
Now that you’ve looked into all the moving parts and the results they created, take a step back again. Revisit your completed highs and lows list and look at how each piece plays into the larger concept and the overall results. Look at what made the biggest difference in the total numbers, if one mistake was more costly than others, or if a certain tactic was a success that blew the others out of the water. The more you understand how each piece impacts your goals, the more informed your new and improved strategy can be.
Put it all together and set new goals and strategies.
All that quality time with your data means it’s now time to set your new goals. Be ambitious, yet realistic. Your content goals should neither be easy to meet nor impossible — set goals that you could hit if you execute a smart strategy and do it well.
Now, think of what strategies you can implement to meet these goals. Take elements of your most successful tactics and try them again. Toss or tweak the ones that didn’t perform as well as you hoped. Plan your big ideas and content pieces you’d like to execute, but remember the most important piece: your marketing plan should not be a “set it and forget it” deal.
Your plan is a living and breathing thing that will likely change many times throughout the year to accommodate timely content additions and surprise roadblocks or opportunities, so remember to stay flexible in the framework you’ve set.
A quality content strategy is not easy to develop, and there’s no such thing as a perfect one. Every strategy looks different, and each one has its own benefits and challenges. It’s up to you, however, as a marketer, to understand each mountain and valley in a way that allows you to put forth the best content you can.