The holidays are a busy time of year for us, but the end of the year (EOY) is an excellent time to stop and evaluate your business progress. What you choose to include in yours will depend highly on your niche, products and service, and goals. But, no matter what you choose to include, the purpose is to analyze progress, look for bottlenecks, and locate any time sucks that took away from your productivity, so you can adjust your strategy to make for an even better 2017.
If you’re a small business (yes, even solopreneurs out there) I know you’re stretched thin, running low on time. It’s the holidays, and it’s a stressful time for everyone. It may seem like this is a waste of time – and the goal of this exercise, at least in part is to identify the places you’re wasting time – so you can just skip it, right?
Wrong. Taking the week off – shutting down the business – to collect and analyze your current state and progress compared to last year, or even last quarter, can make it easier for you grow your business in the next year, simply because you can create an informed plan of action.
What Can You Include in a EOY Analysis?
It’s a good idea to make your EOY analysis as comprehensive as possible. If you’re digging deep into data and crunching numbers, you may as well go over everything from your financials, to the day to day operations of the business to make sure you’ve covered all bases.
Take a look at your financial documents and statements for the year. If you have an accountant, ask them to go over everything with you to give you a clearer picture of where your business is going.
If you don’t have an accountant, go to your accounts and gather your bank statements. If you use something like PayPal or Quickbooks, then you’ll have a quick profit and loss statement you can use to see where you are.
As you look over your finances, pay close attention to your expenses, and where they are coming from. Are you spending a lot of money on office supplies? Could you find a new vendor to save money next year? Are you spending too much on marketing? Can you reallocate funds to the marketing methods you know are working, away from those that aren’t, so you can at least get a higher return on investment?
What was your profit this year? If you didn’t make any profit this year, what are you projected to do next year? What steps can you take to improve it? Some of the answers may not be clear until you’ve gotten a little further in your analysis, so at least keep note of how much money you’ve spent on the various areas of your business. As you move through the analysis, you can decide if those investments were worth it.
With the financial numbers out of the way, it’s time to start looking at the website traffic numbers. If you’re not already pulling together an end-of-month report, it may be worth it t put it on the list of things to do in 2017 so that next year’s EOY analysis is a little easier to do.
Login to your Google Analytics account. Set the dates on the top right hand side of your screen to January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016… or whatever the date you’re doing your EOY analysis on that’s closest to the 31st.
This presents you with a full view of your website’s activity for the entire year. You can change the appearance of the graph by clicking on on various options below the date box, including hourly, day, week, or month. These can help depending on the metric you’re looking at.
Key numbers to consider as you’re reviewing your EOY website activity for your business analysis include:
- Audience Overview: This is the default report you’ll see after you adjust your dates/. This can help you see trends and spot the times of the year that are harder for you to get the kind of traffic you’re used to – which is especially helpful if you’re a seasonal business and some of these things are to be expected. Compare this report to the previous year to see if you’ve grown, and by how much.
- Site Content: This helps you see what was most popular on your site overall, not just on the blog like you’ll see on the content drilldown report. With it, you’ll be able to see which products or services you offer got the most response, letting you know which services or product lines you may want to consider expanding upon or nixing all together in 2017.
- Content Drilldown: This will tell you which blog posts were most popular, along with the most popular categories on your website. Create a compiled list of all your blog posts over the year so you can see which ones were clear winners. Though you may have an idea of what your best performing pieces were, the real data may surprise you. When you know what the most popular content is, you can use it to craft a winning strategy for 2017.
- Social Referrals: This lets you know which social media networks are driving the most traffic to your website. It’s highly possible your traffic isn’t coming from the places you’d expect. It’s not uncommon to find out an outlier, such as a link from anther blog or website that you didn’t even know existed. If you find this to be the case, tweet or shout on Facebook to thank the linking site and share the love with your audience.
- Page views vs. Social Ad Campaigns: If you’re doing any kind of advertising on a social media platform, your traffic will likely spike up and down, depending on whether or not your campaign is running, and at what capacity. Changes in traffic are okay as long as you can explain why they happened. Some companies will run a campaign all the time to keep analytics and page views from plummeting, but that’s not always an option for businesses on a tight budget. Likely, the more your spending on your campaign, the more exposure you’ll get t and the more traffic you’ll see as a result. But, if you have to stop the campaign, it’s okay to see a dip in traffic because not as many people are seeing your ads and clicking on them.
- Goal Completions: If you’ve setup your goals in Google Analytics, good job! Look at this report to see how well you were able to meet those goals from month to month. If you met it some months, but didn’t others, what could have influenced that change? If you didn’t setup goals in Analytics, that’s okay, too, but I recommend you do it as soon as you determine what your new goals are, so you can track them with ease in 2017.
Open all the social media platforms you’re active on, and look at their built-in analytics data. See how you’re doing in terms of follower growth, of course, but realize it’s not necessarily the best indicator of success. What you really want to see is engagement – shares, comments, and likes. But, it’s never a bad idea to have an overview report that looks at:
- Follower growth
- Influencers that are following you
- The number of posts you’ve published
- The reach rate – how many people saw your posts, either organically or because you were advertising
- Total engagement
- Engagement per post – how many people were liking, sharing, commenting on each post, on average?
- Engagement per follower – are all your followers engaging with you, or is just coming fro a select few of really dedicated fans?
- Number of clicks – how many people are clicking away from your social media channels to your website?
- Which network is bringing the most traffic to your website? You’ll be able to find this in the Google Analytics referral report.
If you use social media scheduling tools like Buffer, some paid plans feature analytics data to make it easier to create reports, but you can get all the information you need from Facebook Insights or Twitter Analytics.
Reflections on 2016
With all the information you’ve compiled on where you spent money and how much money came in, it’s time to reflect to see what you did well, and where you could make improvements. Some considerations include:
- Did I hire too many employees too soon? Did I make a mistake by not hiring more employees?
- Am I ready for employees? Could my business do better using independent contractors to remove some of my liability?
- What areas did I excel the most in?
- What areas do I need help in? How can I get that help? Do I need to hire a consultant, or can I do it on my own?
- Where did my most valuable customers come from?
- Where did my least valuable customers come from?
- What kind of money did I pay out to vendors? Are there any vendors or services I no longer need? Can I renegotiate service contracts to save money?
- What marketing channels worked the best? How can I keep that momentum going?
- What marketing channels didn’t work as well as I expected? Is there anything I can do to improve their performance, or should I scrap the channels?
- What kind of content performed well on my website? How can I maximize that type of content for my editorial calendar next year?
- What kind of content didn’t do so well? Why didn’t it do well? Can it be edited and improved upon, or should it be scrapped?
- What have I learned?
- What have I accomplished?
- What mistakes were made?
- What obstacles did I face?
Planning for 2017
- How much profit do I want to make this year?
- How much more money do I need to invest in my business? Where should I invest it for the best possible return?
- What social media platforms do I want to focus my efforts on? Are there any I should give up on completely? Do I want to try to everything organically or invest in advertising? How much do I want to invest in advertising?
- What will my social media calendar look like this year?
- What will my editorial calendar look like this year?
- Are there any events I can market myself with?
- Are there any new programs or initiatives for small businesses in my area or my niche that could help me grow this year?
- What tasks can I eliminate or consolidate to improve my workflow, saving time and money?
- What are my goals for this year?
- What can I do throughout the year to make the 2017 EOY analysis process go smoother?
Using the answers to the questions during your reflections on the year, you can now begin to put together the start of a plan for 2017. At this point, you should have a good idea of what your budget looks like, where you’ll need to spend money, where you can save money, and where you can shift money around to get a higher return on your investments.
Do you conduct any kind of EOY analysis for your business? What do you include?
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