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10 Techniques I Used To Go From 0 To 12,000 RSS Subscribers In Seven Months – With No Ads Or Leverage

Posted By Darren Rowse 21st of June 2007 Blog Promotion, RSS 0 Comments

The following guest post has been submitted by Trent Hamm from The Simple Dollar

Hopefully, that title got your attention a little bit, but it’s true. I launched The Simple Dollar at the very end of October 2006. I had no pre-existing blog that I could use to drive early traffic, nor did I have any personal contacts that I could use. I also had zero advertising budget. But by June 2007, I had 12,000 RSS readers and was generating enough traffic that I had to switch hosting plans twice. How did I do it? Here are a few specific techniques that really helped me build my blog’s traffic over time.

1. Lay some groundwork before starting

By this, I mean plan out your blog. What is going to be your topic area? It should be clearly defined, but not too narrow. Who is your target audience? Look at their age, their ethnicity, their nationality, their cultural awareness. You should also establish some goals – I would focus on having initial goals stated in percentages rather than raw numbers. Something like 10% readership growth per month for the first six months is appropriate. Some people miss the value of laying the groundwork for a blog, but if you’re intending to be successful, you need to be very clear on what you are talking about and who you are speaking to.

2. Listen to del.icio.us

The most valuable content that a blogger can create is the type of content that readers want to come back to time and time again and also that they want to share with others. These pieces will continually provide value to you, and the surest way to identify such content is to know how many people have saved a particular post at del.icio.us. I keep track of this by using Feedburner’s site statistics package and enabling the “flare” that shows this information. Posts that have del.icio.us bookmarks are usually the ones I use as guidelines for what works on my blog – if I try something different and no one bookmarks it, I usually realize that it’s a bad idea. I’ve found that time and time again, del.icio.us is the best barometer of good content.

3. Find your community

When you begin blogging, you may feel rather isolated from other bloggers. Try to communicate with other bloggers in your niche just to exchange ideas and build a framework of connections. Don’t initially go for the most popular bloggers in your niche – some of them are often so inundated with contacts that by sheer necessity they have to filter what they respond to. One good way to get started is to find blog carnivals in your topic area and contact the people running these carnivals.

4. Immerse yourself in a social bookmarking site

Many people have a hard time getting their foot in the door with social bookmarking because they just try to use it without giving back. Most social bookmarking sites are a community of people who enjoy interaction and discussion – if you just pop in long enough to toss up some links and then wonder why you’re not successful, you’re simply fooling yourself. If you want to be successful on a social bookmarking site, get involved. I’m involved in several – I post links to both my own articles and to other things and I’m also involved in many discussions on what others submit. Over time, people start checking in on what you submit on those sites and tend to be predisposed to voting them up, which can in the end merit you a lot of legitimate attention.

5. Don’t give into negativity

At some point, you’re going to be jealous of the success of another blogger. At some other point, you’re going to believe that the game is rigged against you – that there’s no way you can become really popular. Don’t believe a word of it. The blogosphere is the closest thing to a meritocracy that exists for sharing ideas – the things that get you ahead are working your tail off and having good ideas. Whenever you get jealous of someone, think of the time they’ve invested to reach their level of success and respect it instead. Whenever you get down on yourself or on the blogosphere as a whole, remember that by sitting there being negative, you’re wasting time that you could be using to directly or indirectly get your voice out there.

6. Keep an idea box

There are going to be times where you don’t have any ideas. These are dangerous times – ones that can make or break a blogger. To get me through these times, I maintain an “idea box,” which is for me a small collection of items that regularly inspire me. Most of these are books of various kinds, but a few are creative thinking puzzles and games. I usually find that a simple free association helps get me started – I basically just dump everything on my mind right now on a piece of paper, then spend a minute trying to connect that thing on my mind to the topic of my blog. This usually yields two or three avenues to follow and research.

7. Clear your schedule when you’re in the flow

I generally find that there are some periods where I can just pump out content all day long, while other times I have difficulty writing even a word or two. When I’m feeling it, I try very hard to clear my schedule for an extended period of time so I can ride the wave – I’ve even cancelled appointments because the writing flow was so intense. If you’re serious about blogging and get in the writing zone, ride it for as long as you can.

8. Keep a posting schedule – but make it slow at first

Many bloggers make the mistake of starting off with a posting schedule that they just can’t maintain – I almost did this myself early on. What I’ve found is that over the first few months, you’ll find out that you can write quality posts at a certain rate – your actual posting schedule should be somewhere around 60% of that. Why? You’ll want to use those extra posts for guest blogging on other blogs, getting ahead a little bit, and so on. If you don’t know what your schedule should be at first, try shooting for five posts a week and then adjust it as needed over the first month or two. Once you’re established, though, readers will have some expectations and it will be much harder to switch things around.

9. Get ahead – don’t fall behind

So many bloggers rush to post the latest, greatest idea that they have, but then when something unexpected happens in their life or when they’re having writer’s block, their blog goes dead for long periods before popping up with some lame excuse about why they haven’t posted in two weeks. My solution, one that’s worked well for me, is that I have a large handful of completed posts that I hold onto. When an emergency happens and I won’t be able to post for a while, I set these up to post automatically by setting the date in the future. Similarly, if I’m having a bad case of writer’s block, I post one or two of these to help me over the hump. Then, during my writing sessions, I replace the used ones.

10. Email readers as much as possible

Make it easy as pie for readers to contact you and email them as much as you can. When you’re starting off, I would even recommend emailing people who comment, though that becomes much more difficult as time wears on. Why? These early adopters will likely stick around and regularly comment on your posts, and then new readers will see that you have active commenters and will perceive your blog as an active and lively place. Even better, quite often these commenters will turn out to have great ideas of their own, which can often develop into posts.

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About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Your toilet paper tip is gold :

    “Toilet paper Buy it in bulk from your local warehouse store, then know how to minimize usage. It only takes a few sheets to do the job, so when you use big wads of it, you’re basically flushing money down the toilet.”


    Thanks. One more RSS reader for you.

  2. Thanks for the great tips. I especially like your Feedburner tip for checking on the del.icio.us statistics to see if your writing is hitting a nerve or not. It’s like your own customer satisfaction survey. Congrats on your RSS success.

  3. Thanks for the information. You have a great blog and I’ll be back for more.

  4. The question that always pops into my mind is, “how much time do you spend on blogging”?

    I maintain a personal tech blog on Ruby on Rails and web development in general, but I do have a day job and other things to do.

    How do you fit all this stuff in to your schedule? How much time, on average, do you spend during a week on blogging, networking etc.?

    Ariejan de Vroom

  5. I can attest to the fact that it can be discouraging starting out. Days of blogging turn into weeks, weeks turn into months. Trust me though, if you stick with it you are bound to have success. I found communicating with those that commented on my blogs have been a large percentage of my subscriber base. Simple but informative post =)

  6. Great post Trent,

    Covers so many different aspects of blogging. I related to the posting schedule, last week i decided to ramp up my posting, commenting schedule etc , and because I set it too high I fell behind, now back to 1 a day , until get many of the other critical aspects under control

    Lots of good tips for all bloggers.

  7. Very nice post, Trent. I’ve experienced the same writing flow state you’ve described and I agree with all the other advice. 12,000 subscribers in 7 months is a great achievement, and though most people can’t replicate that, this post will help.

  8. i love this, dont get into negativity, they say your friends make you – I have done a lot of improving in the past year especially when I had a goal and I had others that were not on the same idea I am on. friend make you so I got better idea making friends, but I still hang around my old friends ofcourse

  9. good post. Ive just started my blog recently, Ive incorperated most of those into my blogging so far. The Idea box is a very good idea and holding a few post back. I find it useful sometimes when your having a writers block to post images or videos too.

  10. Lots of good tips. My favorite one is writing blogs to post in the future, so your blog never goes “dead” for a period of time. This is a great idea, and I think I will begin building up posts now. Thanks!

  11. Tayfun says: 06/21/2007 at 8:00 am

    Hi Darren from Turkey

    This is my second comment here even i am reading your site since you had 1400+ or 2400+ subscribers ( not sure) .Funny thing is i don’t have any blog yet : )

    I am happy to see how your subscribers grows .
    Keep up the good work

  12. do you recommend encouraging email contact, or contact through the comments portion of the blog?

  13. I liked this list. I’m one of those drop-a-link-at-a-social-bookmarking-site-and-leave type guys. I think I’ll pick one to truly be a part of and see what happens.

  14. I love Trent… he’s probably the best blogger in the personal finance niche.

  15. How many of your subscribers are via feedreader and how many via email? I’m always curious to see how that impacts subscription rates – esp when a blog might not have a tech-savvy audience.

  16. Hi Darren – Thanks for the article. You make me want to get more involved with the social bookmarking sites. This is a great list for anyone who wants to make their blog better. I would also recommend talking with those who are successful (such as yourself) via email or face-to-face at conferences – there’s one in Nov. in Vegas called PostieCon.

    Thanks again for the article.

  17. As always an excellent post at problogger. Love the tips, well laid out and very insightful.

  18. Hi Trent,

    Thank you for your nice post.

    You are highlighting the importance of taking care of the content of the blog posts. To be regular, focused and appropriate. Trustworthy, in a few words.

    It is true that blogging should always start from *communicating contents for making people’s lives better*.

    I wonder if you would be willing to share more observations about the marketing side of the issue. Have you contacted for more popular blogs or website, in order to increase the flow of your traffic? If yes, when? Have you ever considered strategic alliances? Do you believe that if we will be able to build a stronger web of blogs connected to each other, the stronger we will become?

    I am interested in knowing you opinion.

    Congrats for the more than encouraging number of your RSS subscribers!

    Talk to you soon.

    Giovanni Busco

  19. Excellent suggestion. The point is, you have comprised into 10 easy and simple points.


  20. Excellent tips for budding bloggers!

  21. Thanks for the great post. I can definitely attest to tip about keeping the idea box. It’s always nice to have a bunch of ideas to pick from when you get stuck. Keep up the good work.

  22. Wow … great tips! You’ve confirmed a lot of things I’ve been thinking about … like an idea box and pre-writing a set of posts to “dip” into. I’ll be back to this site!

  23. Good tips. I’m working on building viewership for my site, and this has come at an excellent time: it’s going in to full-blown production status this week. Thanks!

  24. This is great information. Definitely will get more traffic to http://pixelspotlight.com/

  25. damn.. it took me 5 days to design my blog, setup ads, setup web tools, and all that and your telling me that’s the easy part? j/k..

    but your right man.. even though all of what you stated is pretty much common sense, people (like me) need to be reminded that webtools and code aren’t the core to success in blogism (is blogism a word?)…

    anyway, nice post man.. cant wait to hear more from you…

  26. sorry.. i forgot to ask you something.. i’m brand new to the blogger community.. i have a blog that doesn’t stress on anything specific… i have alot of interests and i want to draw the general audience.. everyone, you know?

    anyway, i know you mentioned that a blog should be specific to a topic, but it’s so hard for me to be specific when i have alot of interests… will that that limit my success?

  27. Good tips, but 0 to 12000 in only 7 months seems too fishy. How do you know there isn’t any RSS spammers (people who take rss feeds that give out full-text articles and use it on their own mfa blogs)

  28. Nice post dude. I’ll start implementing these rules.
    Check the article Advertise headlines of blog posts in your e-mails to improve popularity of your blog.

  29. looks like the article made Digg….but most of the comments are negative! kind of puts of spin on the “dont get into negativity” point…

  30. Trent and Darren,

    Thanks for this practical info. I’ll let you know when I get to 12k! :P

    No seriously, one of my biggest stumbling blocks is keeping motivated – your ideas box was great! This is now my little pocket notebook that I keep in my shirt pocket.

    My other motivating factor is being able just to blog for a living from my home office :)

    Take care,


  31. Thanks for the tips! I was just working on creating a blog for my jewelry business, and have messed up in just about every area you were talking about on other blogs I’ve done. Definitely bookmarking this page so I can come back to it for reminders later! Thanks a lot!

  32. Nice article, but (in my opinion) you’re overlooking a critical issue. And that is to ensure you have a reliable web hosting service. Why? It’s 8:55am EST and your site was down when I went to visit. (Tried a couple times, but it was still down).

    Other than that this is a great article. Great job on the 120000 RRS – WOW!

  33. Great tips! I especially agree with the idea that you should ride the “wave” and get a number of posts ready for those times when your muse has dried up and you need material to post – post haste.

  34. another_angel says: 06/21/2007 at 11:40 pm

    Glad someone finally explained this to me. I’m about to start an online crafting company, and the blog will be the heart of the site, so these tips are really awesome! Thanks again! ~A~

  35. This are all general ideas that everyone knows but very little apply.
    Good job of making this article popular and setting a standard.

  36. Is it a problem that I am not a great fan of del.icio.us? Should I just force myself to be one?

  37. I found your post informative. My blog is one from WordPress. Is their platform limiting to implementing some of what you discussed?

  38. Thanks for the post Darren. I’ve been blogging on a personal level for over 5 years now, but since last month, I was hired to blog professionally.

    It’s a daunting thought, but I genuinely love the product and can’t wait for it to launch so I’m sure it’ll go fairly smoothly. Writer’s block scares me terribly, but I’ll start a box of ideas earlier rather than later.

    Could you suggest some books, websites and other tools you use to reawaken your creativity when you’re coming out of a cubicle-land job and need to stretch your creative wings like a butterfly coming out of its cocoon?

    Love the blog.

  39. Learned a great deal, I translate it into Chinese

  40. Trent, this is great, basic advice! One thing I love about the WordPress system is the ability to future-date post publication. That way, I can get on a roll during the weekend or whenever I have a good block of time and crank out some posts. I’ll set their publication dates into the future, spread out throughout the week. In order to keep track of all the post ideas I have, I keep a list in a Google Docs spreadsheet.

  41. Hi Darren,
    Very useful tips for the beginners. The consistency in posting is very important for retaining your visitors.

    Rajesh Shakya
    Helping Technopreneurs to excel and lead their life!

  42. Hey, great post!!! I will definitely implement some of these tips into my own blogging. Having a regular readership is one thing I really lack. I have been concentrating on writing quality posts on a regular, consistent, basis. While this has given my blog more hits than I have ever expected, I think I’ve been ignoring other ways to get my blog into the “public eye”.


  43. david says: 06/22/2007 at 6:00 am

    hey, just wondering how much revenue from sponsored links a blog with 12000 subscribers generates… care to share? a ball park figure?

  44. @Frustrated why would that be limiting that’s what he is using.

  45. Wow. Thanks for that post! That’s given me several ideas on how to improve my blogging.

    Particularly the spreading posts out and making sure they have good/quality/descriptive/wateva content.

    I have a bad habit of posting something as soon as I find out about it – often resulting in three posts on one day, and then no posts for the next two/three days. That’s simply not good…

    But thanks for that! I’ll make good use of that advice!

  46. Good work on the achievement!

  47. Trent, this was a very informative post. As a beginner blogger, these tips will be very useful. I like the posting in the future tip. Come on over and check me out, I would love some feedback.


  48. Brilliant post. Very unique and sensible ideas. Hats off.

  49. Darren,
    Thanks for the great tips, I definitely need to learn to use he social networking / bookmarking sites a little more to my advantage, and also get listed in a few blog carnivals.

    Best Regards,

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