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3 Lessons I Learned Building 4,000 Subscribers in 12 Months

Posted By Darren Rowse 15th of November 2009 Blog Promotion 0 Comments

A guest post from Glen ViperChill.

I’ve read a lot of blogging success stories in my four-year blogging history. Sadly, they’ve always been about other people, rather than me. And, when I do see them, although they are real, I get a sense that the owner didn’t have to work as hard as I have. I see people getting big on Digg yet my domain is banned for no reason or linked to by Seth Godin and getting ‘famous’ overnight. I don’t want to sound bitter, but it just seemed like success was happening to everyone else.

Once I had this realisation, I decided that if I wasn’t going to get featured on Digg or Delicious for my new site, I would work on:

  • Being the most authentic blogger in my niche
  • Providing the best content that I can
  • Interacting within my community as much as possible.

And what happened? In one year I managed to build my blog to just over 4,000 subscribers. Sure, it isn’t the success story that everyone else raves about, but it’s realistic and it is attainable. Or maybe I’m being hard on myself, because I don’t see that many blogs reaching these numbers either.

1. Getting 500 Subscribers is Much Harder than 1,000

Some of you might be completely confused by that statement and to others it will make perfect sense; let me explain. When I look at my own stats, I can see that it took me 5 months to reach 500 subscribers (which isn’t a bad rate of growth at all). Can you guess how many it took to reach 1,000? Just two.

You see, when I first started out, I was a complete nobody in my niche. I was fairly known in the internet marketing industry but totally unheard of when it came to personal development. Because of that, I had to establish a brand. I went with a logo people would remember, a unique design, and a desire to focus on content that simply helped people be who they want to be. Everything I would write would have the focus of helping people get what they want out of life.

From there I started commenting on other blogs, being active in Twitter and writing the best articles I could. I worked hard, but within a few months I was at the 500 subscriber mark. Once you get to this stage, things start getting much, much easier because when you’re trying to promote content that has no audience, you have to find people who might want to read it and show up where they are. Once you have an audience and write great content, they’re going to start sharing it for you.

If you’re struggling to get your first few hundred subscribers then don’t worry, as they’re far harder to get than the next few hundred. With the 5 months left in the year I managed to grow my site by another 3,000 subscribers. How’s that for exponential growth.

2. If You’re Going to Guest Post, Vary Your Audience

I have been one of the most active guest posters on the internet in the last few months and for one simple reason: guest posting works. It gets you out there in front of a new audience and just as importantly, an audience that understands blogs and what they are all about. If someone subscribers to another blog in your niche, there’s a good chance they will subscribe to yours if you’re writing great content. One thing I have noticed some people do is “piggyback” off a certain blog and try to write there as often as possible.

This is usually for big blogs which can help you get a lot of traffic and subscribers quite quickly, but things will soon die down. If someone has seen you guest post on a site 5 times and still haven’t subscribed, they probably won’t when you write your 6th article. There are a few benefits to varying your guest posting which include:

  • Reaching a new audience: If you’re going for the same sites all the time, you’re going to reach the same readers. By varying your activities you can reach new eyeballs that want your content.
  • Creating new connections: Guest posting shouldn’t just be thought of as something you can do to benefit your own site, but also something you can do to help the author of another site. Most bloggers love free content in return for a backlink so if you can help as many people as possible, there’s no harm in that

3. Find Ways to Collaborate with Others

As a blogger, I’m quite sad about the rise of Twitter in a way. Instead of the hundreds of backlinks a good blog post could get a few years ago, it will now get hundreds of tweets. Sure the tweets can bring you traffic, but they are not going to help your post move up the ranks in search engines. Even as a way for collaboration, people are focusing on twitter communication rather than working with people via their blogs. Usually these writers are coming from the scarcity mindset and if they link to other bloggers they’re going to lose readers and help their “competitor” grow.

First of all, if you think of other bloggers in your niche as competitors then you have a totally backwards mindset. Secondly, I’m here to tell you that collaborating with other bloggers in my niche has been one of the best things I have done. To begin with, I created a list of the top Personal Development Blogs. This ranks all of the blogs by their statistics and of course helps my site visitors find other amazing blogs to read. This page has been linked to by hundreds of websites and it has helped put me in touch with tons of other bloggers.

On top of that, I also ran a series called the Personal Development face-off. I had the idea thanks to Daniel Scocco doing this in the blogging niche and thought that the content generated here would be excellent. Even though I was featuring two other bloggers on my site every week, hundreds of people emailed me to say how much they loved the series. This positioned me as someone who was at the top of my industry because I had all of these top bloggers taking time out to work with me and because I was sharing the best content in the niche.

Don’t be afraid of promoting other bloggers. These days, I try to promote great content on other sites as much as possible. It will come back your way.

Glen is the author of ViperChill, a blog on Viral Marketing. He aims to help people create remarkable websites that others just naturally want to talk about.

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, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  1. This is so encouraging to hear! My blog is still very new, and I have a small number of people following it so far. But, I’ve just been made a featured blogger on one site, and also from the same site offered my first guest posting spot.

    I certainly agree with you on the points, work your bum off, and get out there and network with others. Blogging is a huge give and take thing

  2. Thank you so much for writing this post, especially the part on the personal development niche. Reason being, I just recently started a blog in that niche, and found the list a great resource for myself, as well as my future readers.

    I also appreciate your attitude about having a prosperity mindset around showing link love to other bloggers – we get back, what we put out – I’m a real believer in that concept.

    I’d also like to thank you Darren, for providing us more great content via this blog post.

  3. I really do think that email marketing is one of the best ways to generate and income online. Getting as much subscribers as possible is the KEY to success online. Also having a RELATIONSHIP With them is also very very important.

    Thanks for a great article.

  4. karen haberstro-walls says: 11/16/2009 at 2:01 am

    I just discovered your blog this week and I am so inspired and excited. Thanks!!!!!

  5. Very interesting post specially the portion on how to get as many subscribers as you want. Simple but it looks it has a lot of sense. Thanks for the info.

  6. Thanks for the encouraging article. It’s great to hear these types of stories for someone just starting a blog.

  7. I can not agree or disagree about the difficulty in getting 500 and 1000 subscribers as I have not crossed 100 so far in last 5 months. But getting 4000 subscribers in year seems a ‘phenomenal growth’ as well as an achievement to rave about.

    Thank you for this encouraging article.

  8. Thank you very much!
    The post is very useful especially for the beginners like me!

  9. Guest posting and building relationships, that is the key. But good content is also key. I read a lot of guest posts, but I only subscribe to the good writers.

  10. So great to see a “success” post about getting the first couple of thousand subscribers. Makes it feel far more attainable for a newish blogger like me.

    I concur re guest posting and collaborating with other bloggers. I found those both successful strategies for increasing traffic and subscribers. Plus, they are a lot of fun.

    Thanks Glen, great tips. Very helpful.

  11. I thoroughly enjoyed that! it is something we ALL strive for to grow our subscriber base. Thank you for sharing your journey Glen!

  12. Just like that first $1 million is the hardest, right?

  13. Great post! Useful point about collaborating vs competing, and about guest posting too – that seems like a great solution to broadening your audience when few people have heard of you. For those who have used guest posting successfully, have you just been approaching other bloggers with content? Or do you guest post for bloggers you have already connected with in some way?

  14. Good on you, Glen. There are some great truths in what you’ve written. It’ll be a happy day when I reach my 500 reader threshold. Meanwhile, thank you for your encouragement. Best regards, P. :)

  15. I completely agree with your third point. You defintely need to work together with the other bloggers in your niche. i didn’t do this right away but I’ve started to do it now and it is definitely helping.

  16. Glenn – very well written post. I completely agree with the idea of collaboration with other bloggers in the same niche. I really benefitted from it as they shared their tips with me, and also told me what not to do – so I did not have to repeat the same mistakes.

  17. I used to guest post just for building backlinks although the blog is not relevant with my blog. But, it is great to get backlinks that do follow from blogs that have great PageRank like 3,4,5 or more and I think with the SEO getting better then the subscribers will grow automatically.

  18. Do u mind if I translate this post and post it in my blog? OF course I am going to ling the site and the author.

  19. Interesting that you mention Twitter – I’ve been thinking lately that while I love my Twitter followers, engage with them often and find wonderful story ideas – nothing is quite like a comment to know someone has truly engaged with your content. Both are wonderful, but I guess it’s the balance of “awareness and engagement” – both need to co-exist together, but I always prefer when I know something I’ve written has resonated with another. This was a great post – thanks for the inspiration!

  20. I have started my blog last Nov 12, 2009. I’m really amazed how you guys managed to get 500 subscribers in just 5 months. My blog is about 5 days old and until now, there’s only about 1 visit a day. I hope someone here could guide me to increase my traffic and improve my writing skills. thanks.

  21. Great post. Would you mind if I wrote a little article on my increase website traffic blog about this?

    My blog is still very new so I am always looking to get more quality content on it.

    My readers I am sure would benefit greatly from this information. I will of course link back to this blog as being the original blog where I got information from.

  22. I really love your writing style – it speaks to me. Thanks for this – it’s very helpful.

    I have a lot of people following my blog (I actually have fans that track me down at events!), but not many are subscribed to it. Not sure how to rectify that. I placed a “subscribe to e-mails” button in the bottom part of each post, but that doesn’t seem to help much.

    Any suggestions?

  23. These are very good strategies. Linking to other’s blogs is really good because you got a chance to get links from others. Similar to digging your friends…

  24. Glen,

    Great post. I think your guest posting tip is the most useful. People often forget that blogs are meant to interact with each other; and what better way to do that than to guest post? Anyway, I appreciate the info. That being said, how do you feel on guest posting/contributing to my blog network? We’ve also linked to your post here: http://www.onlinemarketingconnect.com/social-media


  25. Agree with you there, “Sharing is giving, and by giving there will be 10x coming back” Guess posting can expand your readers and by connecting to other bloggers, you’ve not only helped them but you’ve help your site to reach wider audience

  26. Glen,

    Thanks for the great, inspirational post. I plan on (hopefully) guest posting on some blogs beginning this year and I think you had a great idea with the guest posting on a variety of blogs. Doing this would be an effective way to tap more than one audience who would be interested in your blog.

    Wesley Craig Green
    The Geek Entrepreneur

  27. 3 Lessons I Learned Building 4,000 Subscribers in 12 Months

    Thanks for sharing

  28. I so agree with the first lesson. Once you get your first 500 subscribers it becomes easier.

  29. Some great ideas. I have just started my newsletter and am waiting to get to 50 subscribers before I send it out. At about 40 now and steadily growing. Will get it out before Xmas anyway. Hoping to get to 200 – 300 over the next 6 months.

  30. Yeah your info helped me a lot.But waiting is so much difficult.

  31. for me it still difficult and i prefer another approach.

  32. True. the start is always the hardest part but if you’re got the Rhythm correct. Going the next steps are very simple.

    For a whole year i started and stopped writing on my blog few times. when i write the peek goes up and when i’m not its no or low. but what i thought was without watching the peeks or anything if you have written a good 50 articles without watching the earnings or subscribers you may have got a good audience with many earning schemes.

    Thanks for the tips!!!

  33. Thanks for the great tips.

    I’ve been focusing on one of my interests (acting) and hopefully it’ll catch on. Best of luck to everyone!

  34. Great post, as always. I have a question though – I keep reading that I should cultivate contacts within my ‘niche’, but I’m a bit concerned that the area I write about isn’t really part of a ‘niche’ – I write about storytelling within modern culture (ie. television, film, books…), so I’ve gone into storytelling blogs and forums, television and film blogs and even forums on fairytales, but none of them seem to fit. How should I go about creating a niche for this subject, or should I resign myself to writing for an audience of one?!

  35. D.I. Telbat says: 11/22/2009 at 5:52 am

    Great post Darren and Glen!
    Thanks Darren for introducing me to Glen and ViperChill. Your posts are always very helpful.

  36. Tip 1: Make a good content
    This point is very important

    Tip 2: Make a brand around your blog
    This point is very important because your visitors return to your blog in the future.

    Tip 3: Get high quality backlinks
    This point is very important because Google is a major search engine.

    Tip 4: Promote your site on social websites like facebook, myspace and news aggregators like Digg.

    Tip 5: Post frequently

    Tip 6: Be patient
    This is the most important tip because only with years of hard work you see a good results.

  37. Great tips. It’s trur too that looking at other bloggers as competitiors is completely the wrong wy to look at things. People should look at other bloggers as free marketing for them. The more respected and viewed your site is by other bloggers the better chance they’ll either intentionally or unintentionally lead their viewers to toyur site.

  38. Hey guys awesome info. I have taken down some great notes just from this post and the comments on building a solid subscriber list.

    I had a list of 9,000 people, but I never truly understood the value in building a relationships with them via email and providing value.

    thank you

  39. It was certainly interesting for me to read the post. Thanks for it. I like such themes and anything connected to this matter. I definitely want to read a bit more soon.

  40. Thank you for sharing your encouraging story. Like you mentioned, 4k subscribers in 12 months is very attainable, and you’re pushing me to work harder and make better stuff.

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