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.
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).
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).
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?
Thanks for the helpful tips Darren!
These will certainly come in handy especially for new bloggers like me who is still trying to get more traffic to my site. Of the 5 things you mentioned above, I think I still need to work on the last three especially Community. Your site is really helpful and the massive amount of information you share is just awesome.
Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for sharing this useful tips. As a new blogger I struggle to get traffic to my site, so I appreciate the massive amount of content on that topic you share. again, thx
Thank you Darren for this post,
As you said you do not put much efforts in search engine optimization, this clearly that spreading quality content will give us the desired seo results.
I think the hardest part for most bloggers is definitely the start. I’ve started quite a few blogs over the years and I found the biggest internal struggle I had was spending a ton of time creating quality content only to have a whole 5 people look at it.
I felt like I was using up all my content gems before I even had an audience – but once you get into the flow that simply isn’t the case. And those pieces of content can be re-purposed when you *do* have a bigger audience.
Keep at it, do something productive every day and you will see results, period.
Darren, someday, you should tell us your “magic formula” for having succes with email newsletters :)
Amazing how DPS hockey sticked at the end … lots of people must have found your content useful and then it went viral!
You seem pretty spot on here and I know the creator of TripAdvisor has your same philosophy. TripAdvisor never spent any money on paid traffic, they put out great content which got indexed by the search engines and sent them free traffic. Doing so made them an authority figure over the internet. They also have an email list of 20 million people that they blast on a weekly basis. You really just have to put in the work and pray that it all pays off in the end.
hi, this post is very nice ,thanks
I believe the success of blog will depend on how good is your content is.. and how useful it is to your readers and also LUCK!
Awesome read… I loved the steep graph of Digital Photography School… Visited the site first time and it looks amazing.
I am actually not in photography thing but your blog is really inspiring… Now i came to know how people get so much traffic only with the power of quality and shareable content
I have been a regular reader of your blog. These tips that you have share are good ones. Especially being regular at posting content and generating content which people like to share. I have just recently started a blog, and hopefully it will grow like your blogs did. :)
hi,nice post ,i like your post very much. thanks sharing
It seems my every blog has a tipping point. So far I have started two blogs. Of which the first one started getting traffic all of a sudden and the second one is much like it in terms of growth. So, I think it will follow the same path.
thanks for sharing this beautiful post.
i follow your tips and other useful things which you share with your reader and new bloggers like me.
Thank you so much for all the great tips you share with us! I’ve been blogging for 2 years but haven’t been nearly as consistent or worked as hard at it as I’d have liked. I’m making some money from it but know I could do so much more. I realize all I need at this point is hard work and consistency, and getting those ideas out of my head and into actual content. I’m ready to commit for 2015 and really go for it! I’m always inspired after stopping by ProBlogger. Keep it coming!
I have started a blog about New moon needs about their baby. My main goal is to promote amazon product there. I got your site in Google search today & fall in love! I will follow you fro to my new journey.
Thanks for the share. I just started blogging a month ago and my first few weeks was bad and I even had a dns issue which affected my website indexing. The issue was resolved and the blog is now good. Am already receiving traffic from search engines like google and bing at least 30per day I still hope for the best.
I attended the Problogger Conference in 2013, implemented what I learned and my site really took off from there. I’m able to live off my site now.
You can see the spike where it happened shortly after PB Event:
(the drop in traffic right before it was when I was making changes to the site)
Thanks PB :)
The hardest past is the first 12 months :-). If you manage to NOT give up in that period, you have a good chance of building a successful blog.
My blog did have a tipping point when I changed the frequency of the posts. SEO matters a lot so does indexing and frequency of the blog.
Your story is so inspiring. But can you share any tips to grow website traffic using only SEO?
Thank you so much will helpful
At many times new bloggers think of quitting. But this article is very motivational for all newbies. thanks for sharing!
At some point of time I was thinking to quit blogging as I was not seeing any results, then I started following and reading many bloggers like brian dean, Pat etc even your blog is the best source for what I needed to be successful. Now I am a full time blogger and earning my bread and butter from it with full financial freedom,
Hi… Can you share your experience… I’m new to this blogging… How can I earn money from blogging..
This article is very helpful. Thanks for posting it – I think what is shows is that it takes time to truly build an audience.