Last Updated on January 10, 2022 by Jeremy
Whenever a new year begins, we take the first month or so to take stock of the state of our blogs.
Part of this is because ad rates are so low at the start of Q1 that we're not driven to create content like mad. But the other part is that the new year is simply a good excuse to start new blogging habits to get the year off on the right foot.
But some activities that can be done in Q1 are not necessarily habits that need to be adopted throughout the coming year but are rather one-off tasks that could be accomplished during the downtime as well. So in this one, we thought it'd be fun to share a few back-end blogging tasks you may want to consider doing at the start of the year that you may have slacked on in the past!
Check Broken Links
We are of the firm belief that links are what make the (internet) world go-'round, and so much of our site performance, metrics, and even user experience is tied to links working on our sites. While you could argue whether broken links are bad for SEO (some say yes, others say no), we can all agree that a user clicking a broken link is bad news.
So, at the start of Q1, running a broken link check can be a great thing to do to ensure all the links on your site are in working order for the year ahead (note: we attempt to do this quarterly, but doing it yearly is better than nothing at all!).
There are many ways to check for broken links. There are online services (like Ahrefs), desktop-based programs (like Xenu Link Sleuth, Windows only- note it hasn't been updated in over a decade but still works great), and even WordPress plugins (like Broken Link Checker that could even let you fix links within the dashboard itself).
Whichever tool you use is up to you, but we would provide a word of caution on WordPress plugins as they can be quite resource-intensive. If you use these, run them for just a couple of days and then deactivate them to keep your site at tip-top performance!
Update Affiliate Links
Much like how links change on the internet, product listing pages in affiliate programs may also change. But where broken links may register a 404 error that can be tracked in 3rd party services (like those mentioned above), affiliate links may not.
The reason for this is that many companies often do not take down old product pages. Instead, they simply leave a product up, call it perpetually ‘Out of Stock', and your link never registers a 404 error outright. What is left is readers who may go to a product page for an item that no longer exists, is outdated, or, in the case of things like electronics no longer the latest model, and you may miss out on a sale entirely.
Checking these kinds of links can be tricky. If you use the Windows-based Xenu Link Sleuth, you could export an Excel file of all links on your site, and manually check all affiliate links that way. If you use a cloaking tool like Pretty Links Pro, the same could be accomplished by checking all the links in your dashboard (note that some programs, like Amazon, do not allow link cloaking). Or you could use the 80/20 rule and only check affiliate links on your top pages or most expensive products first.
Whatever you choose is up to you, but checking your affiliate links in Q1 is a great practice to adopt. We're always blown away by how many products we have featured that are outdated and need updating when doing these checks!
Optimize Landing Pages and Popular Articles
Much like how affiliate products can get out of date, so to can the pages on your blog.
While we would all agree it'd be impractical to update every single article on your site every year, at a minimum, it is worth looking through all the landing pages in your navigation menu (and perhaps other top trafficked pages) to ensure that no outdated information (and affiliate links) are present. Jeremy, for example, spent a week re-theming his travel blog including a new color profile and optimized homepage as well.
By extension, you could also take this time to look at popular articles, analyze their performance, and find opportunities for growth via keyword research with tools like Keysearch.
Put a Refreshed Focus on Your Newsletter
When it comes to newsletters, bloggers seem to be firmly in three camps. Camp #1 uses newsletters as an RSS blast of their latest articles (what we do). Camp #2 uses newsletters to send out custom content at periodic or set intervals. Camp #3 doesn't use them at all.
But what most bloggers universally agree on is that your newsletter list is one of the few things you can truly own. As such, they are something that we all should be focusing on in a world of increasingly competitive and changing algorithms on search engines and social media. So why not take some time in Q1 to improve your newsletter game?
This could take on an array of tasks. If you have a large list, you may want to consider moving to a cheaper service to save money (we love Mailerlite for this reason). If you have low clicks, you may want to change your approach to engage with your readers more (we created an automation series for our local blog that sends out 10 set emails after sign-up- and yes that means updating those regularly too). If you don't use a newsletter at all, well, now is the time to get started!
One great tool we've used to build our newsletter on our local blog is the Chrome Extension Group Leads as it lets us take users who opt to join our Facebook group sign up for our newsletter as well. At 2,000 members per month, we are having an opt-in rate of about 10%- or ~2,400 subs per year!
Get Your Accounting Lined Out
Oh, taxes. Everyone pays them and no one likes doing the work to get them organized. This is especially true for business owners as our taxes are often, well, weird. Q1 is the time when you need to do double tax duty- once to get your previous year's taxes in order and again to get set up for the year ahead.
How you go about this, well, that is on you as everyone approaches taxes differently. All we're here to say is Q1 is the time, so get on it to make the rest of the year easier for you!
Perform a Speed Audit
We're going to be asking some dreaded questions here, so be warned. Are you passing Core Web Vitals? Does your site load in less than 3 seconds (including on mobile)? Do you know what any of this means? If the answer to any of these is no, you may have some work to do in Q1 to ensure your site design is not hurting your SEO and user experience.
Thankfully, Jeremy is a speed freak and routinely has his sites hitting 100/100 on Core Web Vitals and loading every page well under 2 seconds (sometimes even under 1 second)! As such, site speed optimization is one of his favorite topics to write about on This Week in Blogging. So if you need to get started here, we've got a number of articles you may want to check out:
- What Are Core Web Vitals?
- How to Improve Your PageSpeed Insights Scores (Core Web Vitals)
- Fast WordPress Plugins that Put Speed First
- How to Read WebPageTest Results
- Unique WebPageTest Features You May Not Use
- WP Rocket Settings to Make a Faster Site
- 3 Common CLS Issues and How to Fix Them
- Signs it is Time to Change Blogging Hosts
Do you have a favorite speed optimization tip we haven't covered? We'd love to hear about it!
Work on Products
Have you been dreaming of producing an ebook? Course? Printed book? Guided tour? Or some other product associated with your brand outright? The low RPMs and generally perceived “downtime” of Q1 could be a great time to get started on your next big idea.
Trust us when we say you're likely going to be far busier in Q2-Q4, so if you have extra time in winter, now is the time to get creative with a new revenue stream!
Create a Content Calendar
Do you ever find yourself flailing at finding something to share on social media every day? Or perhaps you don't know when you last shared your popular evergreen article? You may be in need of a content calendar for that.
Normally, bloggers tend to think of content calendars for producing new content, but for us, we look at content calendars as a means to stay on top of re-sharing old content we've already produced. Jeremy creates his own content calendar in Excel using a few quick formulas to show the last share date of articles and images, and Chris uses Trello for all his content calendar needs.
Whatever you decide to do is up to you, but staying organized in the new year is never a bad thing.
Batch Draft New Blog Posts
We'll relent that this point is something we've highlighted in many other articles on our site, including making new habits in the new year, and it is worth reiterating again- batch drafting blog posts is a great time saver (and especially handy when you have blogger burnt out but still want to work a bit mindlessly).
In this particular instance, our Q1 approach is a little different. In other articles, we talk about going in, throwing out as much as we can into any given article (without much editing), and moving on. The thought is that having an article 30%, 50%, or more completed makes things easier to get into later on.
For our Q1 approach, we're approaching this concept with volume in mind. Here we focus more on brainstorming possible topic ideas outright, writing them down either as a draft (what we do) or somewhere else that you like to organize your thoughts. You don't necessarily have to go through and put an outline to the tune of 30% or 50% completion, but you're simply giving yourself direction for new article ideas you want to get out at some point throughout the year.
Anything to get over writer's block later on is a good thing to us!
Finish Your To-Do List
To end this one, we circle back to our dreaded to-do list. Every blogger has one (or should have one), and we often find ourselves with a list of things we wish we could do that gets longer and longer as the weeks and months drag on.
You know when is a good time to tackle all those other items you have been putting off? Yep, Q1.
We are purposefully leaving this one vague because we simply don't know what all else may be on your list. Many of the tasks laid out here were on ours, but the list of things could be near endless. We just are here to give you that little push to do them now because if not now, when?
What kind of tasks do you perform in Q1 to help improve your blog? Comment below to share!