When I first started blogging I cared most about how many people visited my blog.
I would login and check my webstats every day (later Google Analytics), hoping to see a bump in traffic, or if something amazing happened, a big spike in traffic.
It wasn’t long however before I got equally caught up with watching another number – how many people subscribed to my RSS feed. RSS was touted as the next big tool for media consumption, and your subscriber count was what really mattered (apparently!).
A year later, my obsession with metrics switched focus again. I believed I had finally found the number that matter most – how many people subscribed to my email list every day.
It was easy to get caught up with this number because I saw what direct response email marketers were doing. They could write a message to their email list and money just came back. It seemed almost like magic.
Bloggers back then were focused on Google Adsense advertising and hence traffic was what mattered most. Email marketing was not a priority to bloggers at the time, everyone cared about SEO and writing lots of articles to up your pageviews so you could make more from ads.
Thankfully most of the blogosphere has caught up with this critical concept today – email subscribers matter.
Most bloggers who spend any time studying how to make money from their blog will have an email optin form. The best will make email a priority.
However, that’s not the right metric to focus on either.
There is one mindset change you have to make. One subtle strategic shift towards the metric that actually matters…
If you’re blogging as a business then there is only one metric that matters.
Strangely enough the corporate world makes this a priority, yet possibly because blogging evolved from a hobby, it has taken a long time for this standard business practice to seep in.
What matters is how many buyers you get from subscribers, and how much they spend.
Or more simply put, it’s return on investment (ROI) that matters most.
It’s called a return on investment because everything you do to acquire a customer is an investment.
That might include writing blog posts and marketing your content, or buying Facebook ads, or creating a Podcast or YouTube channel – it’s all an investment designed to attract people to you and turn some of them into paying customers.
Thinking about ROI is critical to your overall strategy. You need to attract the right type of audience to your blog to get the right type of subscriber to your email list so you make sales.
If you’re not making sales, then everything else doesn’t matter, no matter how much traffic you have or how good your email optin rate.
A 50% optin rate on your landing page that doesn’t lead to any customers is much worse than a 10% optin rate that leads to one sale a day.
The added benefit of this attitude shift is that it forces you to focus on selling, to create products and make offers.
Why? Because you never learn what your ROI is if you never try and sell anything.
No matter how hard you work, no matter how much traffic and subscribers you get, if you never make an offer and never make a sale, your ROI is always zero.
You can’t come to any meaningful conclusion on the performance of your blog as a business tool, if you do not have the most important data points — Are you making sales and how much is each customer worth to you?
Right now if you are feeling bad because your traffic is low or your email list is growing super-slow, you’re paying too much attention (and giving too much emotional value) to numbers that don’t have significant meaning… yet.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to celebrate traffic growth and every email subscriber you get as signs of progress as you climb the success ladder, but understand that until money is made, these numbers are only signposts towards the outcome you really need.
The main variable that should push you into action is how can you make some kind of offer as quickly as you can and then make your first sale.
Once you make sales, then the rest of the data gains real meaning. Before this whether you have 100 visitors a day or 10,000 only speaks to your potential, not concrete results.
With sales coming in you can calculate important things like conversion rates, for example, how many people who join your email list purchase a product (e.g. 5 out of every 100 = 5% conversion rate).
Over time you also learn what an individual customer is worth to you (known as ‘lifetime value’) – how many products do they buy, how many membership payments do they make and how much revenue on average do they bring to your business.
Another benefit of making sales is you can look at your business like a system. Each step, from publishing a blog post, to getting an email subscriber, to opening an email, landing on a sales page and buying a product have metrics that you can calculate.
This allows you to find the weaknesses, see where the system is breaking down, and then go back and fix things.
Ultimately, once you have a good grasp of your numbers, you can calculate return on investment. You can look at what you do to your grow your business – from buying traffic, to writing guest posts, to running webinars – and figure out what the ROI is for each of them.
For most people reading this, the key take away is to understand that until you have a product or service for sale, you have no means of truly gauging how well you are doing.
You should celebrate every little step, from setting up your blog, to attracting your first email subscriber and beyond. However, it’s the day you make your first sale that you truly begin running a business.
I know from working with so many coaching members that people can very quickly get caught up in negative emotions when their traffic is barely growing, or no one subscribes to their email list.
The great thing about getting a little analytical, is it allows you to act like Spock from Star Trek and remove the emotional component. When you focus on the system and the numbers that run the system, your mindset becomes very problem-solution orientated.
You don’t get depressed when your email list is not growing, you simply look at your numbers and decide what needs to change in order to fix the problem. This gains even more meaning when you start making sales, because you realize that the numbers themselves actually have very little meaning until they are correlated with financial outcomes.
Now go get busy and do whatever it takes to get your first offer in front of people and make that sale!