Why Should You Have Reports?
We want to know that we’re getting somewhere with the projects we’re working on. Of the many ways you can keep track of this, I find it best to create and store monthly reports of my main projects. Within months of working at an agency and knowing that clients would be waiting on regular updates about their brands, I applied that same thought to the things I was doing on the side.
If you have a website, it’s well worth having an awareness of how much traffic it attracts. If you’re selling products online, it’s helpful to know how this month’s sales compare to last month’s. Whatever your thing is, those comparisons to past performance and always going to be valuable. Whether this is an innocent hobby project or a serious business idea, I promise that seeing regular data will change how you operate.
All of the reports I make are for myself. I share them with Hollie (and I make some for her) so she can see that I’m actually getting somewhere with things, but I would make them even if I was the only person that was ever going to see them. The first couple will take a while to make, but from then out it’s just a series of copy-and-pasting until you have a full picture of your performance.
How Often Should You Do Reports?
It’s safe to say monthly intervals are best for most one-man band projects operated from home (possibly with a handful of remote staff). This gives you plenty of time to get some meaningful data and do something with it. My content-based websites are generally reviewed monthly in this way.
The frequency of the reports depends on how quickly you think you will need to act upon and react to your progress or general market conditions. As I say, content-based ones lend themselves well to monthly reports. However, one of my ecommerce businesses requires weekly reports to properly control the advertising spend.
For some of my websites, I do biannual competitor reports, showing how they perform against similar websites. It wouldn’t make sense to do it any more often than this with the fields I’m in, but others may find themselves in more turbulent ones that need it. The most important thing is that you need to do these frequently enough to get value from them. Too many and it’s a chore, not enough and you’ll miss quick wins.
What Should You Include in a Report?
I’ll break this down based on the main things I’m involved in, as a lot is likely to apply to your situation:
- Time on Site
- Keywords that drove significant traffic
- Significant events
- Profit (if possible in short intervals)
- Returns (if applicable)
- Notable followers
- Key collaborations
As well as all of the data, it’s important to include a list of action points. If your traffic is particularly low, is there anything you can do to improve it? What SEO actions could you take or where could you get some new referrals from? For ecommerce, I may adjust monthly revenue targets based on this new information (potentially pushing for even higher numbers than predicted or pulling them back a little).
Gathering the data is only half the story; you need to know how to apply it.
When Should You Start Reporting?
Now. It doesn’t matter where you are with your project, you should start documenting now. Use today as a benchmark and review things at the end of the month. I do all of my monthly reports on the first day of the new month (or a couple after if I otherwise can’t) and it helps to keep things building – which should always be the aim.