Did Your Blog Have a Tipping Point? Here’s How My 2 Blogs Grew

Posted By Darren Rowse 19th of November 2014 Blog Promotion, Featured Posts 0 Comments

Time for another reader question from a recent member webinar on ProBlogger.com.

Did you experience a “tipping point” in readership at some point or was it just steady growth?

This is actually a question I often ask full time bloggers who I meet because I love to hear the back story about how their blog broke through to have enough readers to make a living from.

What I’ve found in asking the question is that there are many different pathways to full time blogging.

This can perhaps be illustrated by sharing how my two main blogs grew in terms of readership because they could not really be more different.

Let’s start with ProBlogger

I wish I could show you an actual traffic chart of ProBlogger’s growth but when I started it back in 2004 I didn’t have Google Analytics installed (it didn’t come along until 2006, from memory).

However if I were to recreate it’s growth the chart would have looked something like this in the first couple of years.

blog traffic ProBlogger

You can see the first few months were particularly slow but within the next two months things boomed very quickly.

This ‘tipping point’ came as a result of me mentioning (without any forethought) in an interview that I’d reached a level of being a full time blogger and earning a six figure income from my blogging.

This caused quite the stir back in 2006. While blogging had been around for a few years and the idea of making money online was not new – there were not too many bloggers experimenting with making money from blogs.

The interview in which I mentioned making a six figure income from blogging went viral and was linked to from a number of big sites (one in particular was Slashdot which sent hundreds of thousands of visitors in a day).

Some people saw making money from blogging as controversial (blogging was seen by some as ‘pure’ and not to be monetised) and it also stimulated a lot of other bloggers to become interested in making money from blogging.

ProBlogger was the only real place to talk about making money blogging so subscribers shot up almost overnight and the term ‘ProBlogger’ quickly became a term those making money from blogging began to use to describe what they did.

While I didn’t set out to cause the ‘tipping point’ with that interview my blog here at ProBlogger was never the same after doing so.

A Different Story at Digital Photography School

Digital Photography School was a very different story to ProBlogger in terms of traffic growth.

If I had to chart the first two years it’d have looked more like this (in comparison to the yellow line of ProBlogger).

blog traffic comparison

It took around 2 years to get to the point where dPS was larger than Problogger (today it is 10 times bigger than ProBlogger is) and there was no real ‘tipping point).

I didn’t have Google Analytics on dPS until 8 months after the site began but here’s how growth has looked since that point (this is monthly visitors).

traffic-blog-dps

You can see that there were certainly some months were traffic spiked a little but the growth was fairly steady with no real breakout month that would classify as a tipping point.

The spikes in traffic were usually the result of being featured on other large blogs (usually the result of me networking and pitching other bloggers with links that their readers might find useful) or getting lucky with getting to the front page of sites like Digg or Reddit.

However it is worth saying that while spikes in traffic like these are fun… they rarely convert to long term traffic and are quite fleeting.

As I’ve written about in the past – this gradual but steady growth really came about as a result of a number of different factors:

    • Regular useful content: Daily “how to” posts that solved problems, showed people how to achieve their goals and improve their photography. This has been the main focus of the site since day 1 (I’d estimate over 90% of the content I’ve published fits into this category).
    • Shareable content: Content that I knew was more likely to be shared (inspirational posts, breaking news, humor, controversy (I didn’t really focus on this), grand list posts, and so on. This type of content has never been my main focus but I have mixed it into the publishing schedule at probably around 5% of what we publish.
    • Community: The other 5% of posts was more focused upon community activities like reader discussions, giving readers a chance to show off their photos, debates, polls, etc. We started a forum in time, too, to build this community further.
    • Email newsletter: If there’s one thing that grew the site more than any other, it was that we started collecting people’s email addresses early and began sending them weekly updates/newsletters. Email now sends a bit spike of traffic every Thursday night when we send our newsletter. Read more on how I use email to drive traffic and profit here.
    • Promotion: I defined who I wanted to read my blog and did the exercise of asking where they gathered. This lead me to sites like Flickr, other blogs, and some social networking sites where I developed presence, was useful and in time shared our content. Facebook is the #1 source of social traffic to the blog as a result of some of the strategies I’ve previously written about here and here.

SEO – I’ve never put a massive effort into search engine optimisation but one of the flow on effects of producing daily helpful content, regular shareable content, building community, and actively promoting dPS has been that the content we produce ranks well in Google. This doesn’t happen overnight but naturally grows as you add more content to your site and as your site becomes an authority in the eyes of Google. Knowing some basics of SEO helps but most of it for dPS has come about very naturally simply by trying to create the kind of site that people want to read (which is what Google tries to rank highest).

Further Reading On Content that Drives Traffic: I’ve talked a fair bit about content above – here is a post I wrote on ProBlogger last year that analyses 5 posts I published in the first year that generated a heap of traffic since that time which will illustrate the kind of content that has generated great traffic on dPS since the beginning.

How Did Your Blog Grow?

As you can see – my two blogs have had quite different journeys. Most full time bloggers I meet tend to have growth more similar to dPS than ProBlogger but no two are the same.

What has your blog’s growth been like?

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.
Comments
  1. Thankx Dareen for this awesome article. I am doing some of your ideas

  2. My blog traffic chart looks a lot like your ProBlogger chart – radio silence for ~1.5 years and then slow steady growth (~30% annually) from there.

    I’ve generally found that writing less frequently but trying to more consistently create cornerstone content works best for me. I also heavily emphasize community – responding to comments, fostering community on G+, FB, hosting free hangouts, etc. has been really helpful. When I started out my blog was very serious and a bit dry (I write about kids and sleep which is already a hideously try topic) and things didn’t break out until I put more of my own goofy sense of humor in there. Since I loosened up and have more fun with things, engagement and interest in my content really opened up.

    Quick question, you say, “However it is worth saying that while spikes in traffic like these are fun… they rarely convert to long term traffic and are quite fleeting.” I haven’t really pursued guest posting because observationally I don’t see the guest author getting much exposure in these cases. I feel like you’re saying something similar with this sentence. Am I reading that correctly?

    Cheers!

    • Alex – thanks for the comment. What I was referring to with that sentence about spikes was more about traffic coming in from social media sites like Digg, Reddit or StumbleUpon. While the traffic from these sites is nice/fun it doesn’t tend to stick around long because when people are using those sites they’re generally surfing for fun and with no real intent to find good information.

      I actually think guest posting is a good way to grow your profile because you’d be appearing on blogs which have readers who are used to coming to those blogs for information that hopefully relates to yours. A guest post also lets you showcase your knowledge/expertise/writing and gives people a taste of what they’ll find on your blog.

      You don’t always see massive traffic from guest posts but the traffic that does come is generally what I’d consider a ‘qualified lead’.

      • Hi Darren,

        In regards to Digg, Stumble upon & Delicious – yes you are right they may bring spikes of traffic to your site. My current way of thinking is if I could convert these readers to join up on either Facebook or Twitter, they could perhaps become more regular readers of my blog.

        Obviously it would mean that Stumble Upon & Digg readers would need to notice little ol me first…. sigh. But right now I am happy by each and every view i get to my blog. :)

        Once you have a readership on twitter and Facebook you can always make use of these resources when or if starting another blog or going from hosted to self-hosted.

  3. I was never a fan of SEO myself. Although useful, I find that any kind of SEO “strategy” is BS without some sort of content strategy as well.

    No matter how much site-level and page-level optimization you do, without constantly fresh and helpful content, Google’s not going to like you very much.

    • My opinion (after almost 2 years of www) is that we should stop thinking about what google likes.
      Let’s think about what our readers like / need!

      For example I have a blog about dogs where I write tips and triks for every person that have a puppy. I never cared about Google, I just wanted to provide good content and guess what? That website have more than 3000 visitors / day and other sites where I tried to do whatever google likes, don’t get more than 500.

      • Great comments Diana. I definitely think #1 priority should be to be serving your readers. Google does tend to look after itself if you do this – however there’s no harm in learning a few of the basics too as it can help in your quest for serving as many people as possible.

        Humans first, machines second :-)

      • There’s sort of a paradox because even Google prefers and suggests that you make your website more content-oriented, and for humans rather than trying to adapt to the search engine algorithms.

        Of course, if you put in effort into your content, you will surely get more readers and returning visitors vs. if you put random sub-par content up. Like Darren mentioned, there’s no harm in learning the basics. (In fact, it’s encouraged).

  4. I had a big spike about a year after starting my blog, thanks to a more famous blogger linking to my post in twitter.
    After that, my traffic increased permanently, but now it grows very slowly.

  5. I have the problem that somewhen I don’t what I should write about… so much is already said and I don’t want to repeat others but give useful content…
    Ok my blog is in german but I would like to get more visitors then 400 a month… Now I was in hospital for half a year and I don’t know how to start again with my 2 year old Blog. Do you have any advice to restart?

    For a month I am thinking about how to come back… how to develop a new concept… what I should do on a different way…

    • It’s a great question and one many face Dirk.

      On some levels there are very very few topics that nobody has written about – but there are always new angles. I guess for me it comes down to injecting your opinion, story and experience into the topic. You’re the only you – perhaps there’s an angle in who you are that could differentiate you from others?

      You being in hospital for that length of time is pretty unique – is there a way to weave that into what you do on your blog?

  6. For my first year in blogging I was on a free service at wordpress.com and did basically little to nothing to network or promote. I was just seeing if I had any kind of voice to write at all! I had one post that got shared by a larger blog and that got a couple thousand reads in a couple weeks, but other than that, nothing.Ten readers was a good day. Of course you can’t expect much without putting in the work. Now I’ve moved the blog to self-hosting, and am actually trying to network with other bloggers and promote, and after a few months of work 20 sessions is an excellent day… I admit to some discouragement.

    • It is a long hard slog sometimes isn’t it!

      I think networking and putting yourself out there more is definitely one way to grow what you do Joy – hope it is helping!

  7. Mine was the same as DPS – very steady growth over 7 years with no real tipping point at all.

  8. I very much enjoyed reading your post.

    I have seen a recent increase in traffic, but it didn’t happen by accident. I spent a good deal of time promoting my blog in various ways. I suspect your increases resulted from similar efforts.

    I ran an experiment to see what would happen if I made a concerted effort to promote my blog. My readership increased, which is extremely gratifying. But it came at a cost. My marketing diverted time away from producing high quality content.

    I want a lot of readers, and I want them to see my best work. I have yet to figure out how to do the marketing and still have enough time to produce my best content. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    • Steve – this is exactly the thing that I know so many people struggle with.

      To get traffic without a lucky break almost always means a concerted effort. Whether it be through networking prolifically on social, attending events, guest posting, trying to meet other bloggers…. it all takes time and effort and doesn’t just happen.

      The problem we all face is that key to a successful blog is content and time spent on other activities can encroach on the creation of great content.

      It’s an eternal struggle!

      All I can really advise is to keep aware of this tension and work hard to keep it in balance.

      The other thought is that perhaps there are periods of time where you can concentrate more deeply on one activity or the other for defined times.

      I think back to several years ago when I watched Leo Babauta from Zen Habits grow his profile. He literally burst onto the scene with an intense burst of guest posting on many many blogs (including here on ProBlogger). It was almost as if for a month he appeared on a different blog every day with an amazing guest post.

      He also was producing great content on his own blog during these periods but his guest posting would then stop and he’d focus his efforts solely upon his blogging again.

      I’ve never talked to him about this but it strikes me that he must have worked really hard for a month or two before his burst of guest posting to either produce all those guest posts or have a backlog of posts to publish on his own blog and then he must have switched into ‘promotion mode’ and let it all loose.

      The key though was that it was for a defined period before he got back to serving the readers he’d attracted.

      I saw him do these bursts of promotion several times over a year or two to get his blogging off the ground and create the momentum that he’s now benefiting from.

      • Darren,

        Thank you for your thoughtful response.

        I like your suggestion to establish defined periods where I concentrate on either writing or marketing. This might also prevent “burn out” on one activity by shifting emphasis to the other, periodically.

        I plan to give it a try!

  9. I’ve been blogging for 4 and half years now and the growth has been reasonably steady, although it seemed to plateau for about 18 months, it has picked up again and is building month on month.

  10. I’m still in the early days of my blog. Traffic went up when I started writing more “passionately” and honestly. When I started adding my own art and my own photographic-art I also saw a slow rise, but hey I have no ware near your figures. I find that a picture can speak a thousand words. I have a talent for creating powerful photographic art and I tend to incorporate this into my blogging.
    This way my content is really unique and people do take note. So yes, content has really made a difference not just in uniqueness but in honesty and usefulness. There are just some things you will only find on my blog and that is what I think makes the difference.
    I’m currently focusing more on twitter and Facebook, and have noted that even though I don’t create as much content; my current content is receiving steady views via these social networks.

  11. My biggest blog only earns about 4 figures if I’m lucky, but I am lucky because it has only ever averaged a handful of posts every month–sometimes just a couple. So, I’ve posted very little and done very little to monetize it or even engage my readers, and my traffic has been steadily increasing to where it’s picked up steam into almost respectable numbers.

    There was no real tipping point, though. It seems to be like a ladder where it will get small spikes, which seem to be permanent for the most part. The spikes also seem to be exponential, so that each “little” spike/uptick gets larger and larger. Now every month the increase is more than the total page views the whole first year or so!

    It’s all been organic, and I’ve just focused on creating the best content with the limited time I’ve had for it. My original strategy was to cross my fingers and hope that Google would see the quality of my content and reward me for it with lots of traffic, and Google has done that.

    So, while there’s been no tipping point per se, it’s reached the point where if it’s getting this kind of traffic with this low level of posts, it makes me wonder what it could be if I followed your wisdom and treated it like a business.

  12. I listened to “The Tipping Point” and found it to be quite an interesting book. I have however not been able to really tip my readership or really grow, so my numbers look more like this: __________ with an average of 70 views per day. I almost had a tipping point about a year ago with a big blogger pinned a tutorial on mine which spiked my veiws to over 500 in a day, but traffic was more or less back to normal in a few days.

    Its been really hard for me knowing all the effort I have put into it and it not reaching a lot of people, but every time I think of quitting I have to remind myself how much I love blogging.

  13. Ironically, the one post that drove massive traffic to one of my blogs, over the course of a week was one that was a no-brainer, curated post where I added a bit of commentary. It had to do with something a celebrity did that I really liked and admired. I was shocked at how that went over. On another blog, my two most popular posts are one’s that didn’t take much thought, but obviously they are something people are looking for. When it comes to blogging, I have realized if you write from the heart, share what you find interesting and engage with your readers – success will follow.

    As for SEO and Google? I have never written with Google in mind and it hasn’t hurt me one bit. I’m not a fan of Google, however, they play in the same playpen, so I do make a conscious effort to play nice – but that’s about as far as I go, catering to the demands of Google.

  14. Tipping point!
    For me , it was like I started a blog and the traffic was low (26th Sept). But now its been 3 months and I am getting 2K page vies daily. Is this the tipping point or will there be one within the next three months. I think 3 months is quite a good measurement for the traffic. What do you think?

  15. Up until very recently the engagement and popularity of my blog was pretty non existent.

    I’ve recently introduced an email newsletter including useful information to those who would read my blog and have seen an increase in returning visitors and email subscribers.
    The numbers are still pretty low but the increase is promising and a great motivator for me.

    Thanks for the insightful post Darren.

  16. Great share Darren! I also never had much success with Reddit, people there are just looking for fun stuff so it seems.

  17. Thank you Darren for sharing this great information. I tend to write without much promotion. I just enjoy writing… but wish I had more people to read what I write. It’s interesting to see how traffic changed for you over time.

  18. I’ve generally found that writing less frequently but trying to more consistently create cornerstone content works best for me. I also heavily emphasize community – responding to comments, fostering community on G+, FB, hosting free hangouts, etc. has been really helpful. When I started out my blog was very serious and a bit dry (I write about kids and sleep which is already a hideously try topic) and things didn’t break out until I put more of my own goofy sense of humor in there. Since I loosened up and have more fun with things, engagement and interest in my content really opened up.

  19. Hi Darren.

    My blog grew accidentally. The fourth post I ever wrote was indexed by Google and appeared on the first page of Search. Many subsequent posts had the same success. This was all before I had any inkling of what SEO and sitemaps were. My blog at that time was a free blog on WordPress.com, too.

    When I decided to get hosting, things only improved.

    Wording Well was born.

    My business grew.

    I am loving it, too!

    Thanks for asking how I grew my blog, and for sharing how your two blogs grew, too.

    ~Lorraine Reguly, from Wording Well

  20. Excellent stuff!!!!

    I really like the way you have explained everything!!!!

    Thanks for sharing such a knowledge.

  21. Hi,

    thanks for your information.

  22. My first blog grew accidentally- I was just messing around with personal style in 2010 and style blogging of that sort was just taking off. Within 2-4 months I had major fashion publications link to me.

    My second “blog” (Stylish Sophisticate) is more of a digital magazine on professional style and featuring career stories & personal styles of female founders, lawyers, doctors, CEO’s and etc. We haven’t had any one breakout moment yet, but then again I JUST started in February of this year.

  23. And while some people today are still skpetical as to if blogging actually works and can make money from it, the best way to find out is for them to try it for themselves, and “do the transformation work.”

    Whether you start a niche blog out of inspiration or desperation, never quit and always show up daily by creating “lots and lots of content.” Quality content, that is.

  24. Ours has had a slow and steady climb, but that’s really because we’ve given it a slow and steady focus. I feel we’re at a tipping point now where we’ve got some good plans in place to move forward and we’re empowered with the knowledge that the more we work on the blog, the more it returns us. It’s amazing how everyone and every blog has a unique journey.

  25. I read articles, tips and tutorials on dPS for about 8 months before I even picked up a DSLR. Most of what I learnt about the basics of digital photography I learnt from dPS. Glad to say ProBlogger is helping me learn about blogging now. Thanks, Darren!

  26. I am a regular reader of both of your blogs. Its only the hard work which can get traffic. Without hardwork all other things areuseless

  27. My website is growing slow and steady. It’s almost 2 years old. I predict big things in 2015!

  28. The fastest way to grow a blog is to have steady content/videos along with podcasts. It is no longer enough just posting new articles.

  29. The consistency in good content was the biggest change point for my blogs. For a long time I focused more on SEO and promoting what I’d already written, but found that putting the energy into simply creating more content (and better content) carried more bang for the buck.

  30. I am new to blogging and ready to take it to the next level. Glad I stumbled on this site.

  31. Thank you so much for posting this! I’m still focusing on growing my blog readership and really appreciated your honesty.

  32. I was on this blog since 2009, when I first started blogging ( I’m 17 now) This blog helped me grow my blogs very quickly and my latest blog is about web design and I am happy to say that its almost a succession. Took me 2 months, but with my SEO knowledge I wasn’t worried. This blog really helped me and my latest blog gets 30K views monthly and it all thanks to ProBlogger.

  33. Thanks for the great post! In the past I have put too much effort into creating “unnatural backlinks” and not enough in my content and social media following. I have learned to put more emphasis into creating quality content and becoming an authority site in the eyes of google. Anyway, thanks for the read and happy thanksgiving!

    John

  34. My website is very slow few visitors, hopefully with this article can give a lot of motivation for me. Thank you for sharing …

  35. Hey Darren, thanks for sharing such an inspiring story.

    I started my blog mainly targeting keywords to rank on the search engine, although i was gaining traffic-my content wasn’t generating many leads. However recently I’ve been getting better quality leads- creating social media friendly content. In my opinion blogs are much more enjoyable to read without forcing keywords.I still attempt to rank for long tail keywords, but I’ve found the right balance and i’m seeing good progress.

  36. Tipping point is a nice term you have used to define that period when one starts to peak rapidly. I have just started blogging and I hope for that tipping point to arrive soon. But I wonder, if a hugely liked and viral content could take me there right at the very onset or I have to slog it out for some time before reaching that point?

  37. My blog is still less than a year old and it seems impressions have flat lined, but I hope to hit the tipping point soon. I just hope I don’t have to wait to long.

  38. Awesome post, Darren!

    Interesting how they both grew differently. Do you think that if you didn’t mention income ever that it would have grown similarly to DPS?

    I’ve noticed in the past when I ran marketing type blogs that my articles referencing income or traffic stats always got considerably more traffic and interaction, even when I only earned a few bucks.

    Since then, I’ve moved on to the fitness niche and have been stuck around 350 unique visitors per month for a few months, although the blog only went live in mid-July. I’m sure with more promotion, it will grow even further.

    Thanks for the great post,
    -Gabe “Gains” Johansson

  39. That’s really nice, I have not seen such blog that is growing over years from almost a decade great.

    Just wanted to say thanks for sharing with us.

  40. awesome post as always, from my experience after reaching a peek the growth was steady then decreased for a certain period in turn recovered.

  41. greats topic, i love your post. My website is very slow few visitors, hopefully with this article can give a lot of motivation for me. Thank you for sharing …

  42. Great article about for new blogger.thanks

  43. Hi Darren,

    Really find your articles useful & inspiring. I made sure I ‘liked’ you on FB and pay attention to you in my news feed.

    I have just started writing a blog myself & hope it will be successful like yours.

    Regards
    C

  44. hi , your post is nice thanks.

  45. My opinion (after almost 2 years of www) is that we should stop thinking about what google likes.
    Let’s think about what our readers like / need!

    For example I have a blog about Android where I write tips and tricks for every person that have a Android..

  46. Hello I’ve been site for 2 years now and the growth has been reasonably, it has picked up again and is building month on month, thanks the article …

  47. I would tell that curve of my website is more similar to the ProBlogger one – but unluckly now it is much much more flattened.. :P

    We have to say one think. Luck is also a really impotant factor in our type of business.

  48. Is this still something that happens in 2014? I wonder if bloggers (like myself) that started more recently take a longer time to hit that tipping point, or if the rules are pretty much the same as they were in 2004. Ten years is both a blink of an eye in the real world and a million years in internet terms.

    Judging from what I’ve read out there (on your blog and beyond), the tipping point concept still holds, but I won’t know until I experience myself.

  49. hi, i think this post is really nice

  50. Hi, I’m writing this from Jakarta Indonesia. Thank you for sharing this inspiring article. I started blogging via blogspot in 2007. I just write what I want to write until I checked my sites traffic grew month by month. I just wondering about this facts. I just knew that we can make money from blogging (for 7years I didn’t know about this). I’m still using blogspot untill know. Im not sure if my blog contents are good. But the fact, people were visiting my site. I’m thinking to learn how to add my blog with a good quality content and migration to a new domain .com . Thank you for motivating me!