This guest post is one that I’m excited to publish – it’s by Tina Su from ThinkSimpleNow.com – a great blog that I’ve been a big fan of. In it Tina will share some of how she’s grow her blog from 0 to 2000 subscribers in just 90 days.
How I Got 2000 Subscribers in 3 Months
Hi, my name is Tina. I started a little blog called Think Simple Now on September 27th, 2007 with zero experience in blogging, internet marketing or writing. By the time Christmas came, 3 months later, I had 2135 subscribers.
I’m new to blogging, in fact, I read very few blogs. I also do not follow any blogs on blogging, with the exception of a couple of articles read from doshdosh and problogger very early on.
I often get asked how I did it, and I decided to compile this article as a record of my experience with hope that others might benefit from what I’ve learned. I want to show you that it is possible to achieve your blogging goals starting from scratch, using my case as a live example. I’ve learned that there are no real secrets to blogging success, all it really takes is a deep desire to do so, along with an urge to action.
I have three important reasons why my blog has been successful:
- Concrete Goals & Focus – You can’t get what you want if you don’t know what you want.
- Content Creation – Where I spend most of my time. Content and understanding your audience is king.
- Getting the Word Out – Actionable tasks I did to market my blog. All are easily reproducible by anyone. But only focus on this after area 2 have been in place. Without content, all your marketing efforts will be ineffective.
Each step builds on the last, so it’s important to follow them in order. Let’s break each step down into details.
1. Concrete Goal & Focus
It is important to understand why you are starting a blog. What is your motivation?
I had 3 motivations (in order):
- To share my knowledge and experience through my own personal growth on topics surrounding personal empowerment, mental well-being and finding happiness. These are the topics I spend my free times thinking, reading and talking about.
- My dream is to work in the self-improvement field. I have many product ideas around ways to improve lives. I wanted to create my own audience, before working on these ideas.
- Achieve my financial goals such that I can leave my job and commit to my self-improvement ventures full-time.
Defining my target niche and the topics I wanted to cover was tricky, but ultimately vital to the success of any business or project. I originally wanted to start a blog around things I’m interested in: self-improvement, photography, technology and entrepreneurialism. I realized that a messy combination of topics might confuse people. Ultimately, if I wanted more subscribers other than my family and friends, the site cannot be focused around me, but rather focused around what my audience needs and wants. My target niche is health/wellness or personal growth. My topic areas are: creativity, clarity and happiness.
We cannot get what we want if we do not know what we want. Sure, you can say, I want to be rich or happy. But what does that mean? It is important to set clearly defined goals before you start any new venture. Your goals need to be measurable and dated. I find it helps to regularly come back to evaluate my goals. I do this monthly in a traffic journal recording my progress: unique, page views, subscribers and revenue.
For example, my goal when I started was:
By December 31, 2007, I would have 1000 uniques, 2500 page-views monthly, and 100 RSS subscribers.
This goal was revised on October 22 after reaching the original goal:
By December 31, 2007, I would have 5000 uniques, 20,000 page-views monthly, 400 RSS subscribers, $100 in ad revenue.
The new goal was reached on November 29th. At this point, RSS subscribers had reached over 1500.
Summary & Action Items:
To summarize, the following are the major points for the area of ‘Concrete Goal & Focus’. If might be helpful for you to answer these questions (on paper or type in a doc).
- Why – What is your motivation? Why are you starting this blog? What are you doing that’s unique from existing blogs?
- What – Who is in my audience? What topic areas will I cover? Describe my blog using 3 words.
- Goals – Set a specific and measurable goal with a date. Come back to evaluate this goal and your progress periodically.
2. Content Creation
We all know that content is the most important piece, but how do you generate content such that people will want to read, reference and subscribe to it?
First, recall the last time you subscribed to a blog. What was it about the content that made you want to subscribe? The reasons will likely fall into one or more of the following:
- Highly value-packed content.
- It provides practical solutions to a perceived need you have.
- You enjoyed it. It was highly entertaining.
- You personally connect with the content and style of writing.
- You felt inspired and motivated.
Now, put yourself in the position of a reader to your site. You know who they are from exercises above. Ask yourself, which of the above situations can your content satisfy? Keep these points in mind when writing. Always write with the intention to generate value and produce work that will benefit others. If you don’t, it will show in your writing.
I obsess over my content, not only because I feel responsible for my readers and want to give them the best quality that I can produce, but it is the only way a new reader coming to your site will want to stay and come back.
Try different styles and test which your reader responds to the most.
The following are tips related to content creation that’s worked well for my blog:
- Intention – Set the intention to generate the best and most valuable content possible. Hold nothing back when you’re writing. Your honesty and genuine intentions will shine through in your writing. I like to write as if I’m talking to my best friend, giving them the best I have.
- Use Personal Examples – People love stories. This allows them to relate with you on a personal level and connect with you as friends.
- Pictures – Use appropriate and vivid images to go with your article. Whenever possible, always use images, but don’t over-do it. I would use no more than 3 images per article in a typical case.
- Length – I prefer to post less often and write longer articles that covers depth. I post twice weekly and at length 750-1500 words. The length is out of necessity to cover topics thoroughly. I do try to keep things concise. Make sure all content are relevant. Do not be verbose for the sake of length, it will show if your writing and will turn people away. If you were a reader, would you be able to focus your attention long enough to read the whole article?
- Lists – Use numbered lists and bullet points whenever it makes sense. Bold key words. These make reading easy and effective for scanning.
- Short Paragraphs – Be as concise as possible. During editing, see if you get the same point across using less words.
Summary & Action Items:
- Intentions – Have your reader’s best interest in mind.
- Needs – What needs are you fulfilling with your articles? Is it a need that people actually have or one that you think others need?
- Observe & Model – What kinds of articles do you enjoy reading from other blogs? Pick out common characteristics and model after them.
3. Getting the Word Out
Once I was armed with my goal of reaching 100 subscribers and had my content in place, I started to promote my blog. You may have the most valuable site in the world, but no one will benefit if they don’t know it exists.
Offline & Email
I pretty much lived and breathed my one simple goal of reaching 100 subscribers. Everywhere I went, I told people about my goal and my blog, and people were willing to help. This include every physical person I met and anyone who emailed me: co-workers, girlfriends of co-workers, friends of family, person sitting next to me on a plane, new friends I met on facebook, photography clients … everyone.
I added a note about subscribing to my email signature, so it appeared at the foot of every email I sent out. I emailed all of my friends when I launched, asking them to support me by subscribing.
Connecting with People
Connecting with readers and potential readers is an essential part of my blogging success. Not only does it help my blog grow, but I absolutely love it. I have made many good friends this way. When people like you and feel that your content is valuable, they will tell their friends about it. I quickly discovered that many of my readers were emailing links to others, and referring many new subscribers.
I’ve given extra effort to reach out and connect with others. It was a process which I took personally. I made sure every comment was responded to and no emails were left ignored. I no longer respond to every comment due to time limitations, but I still respond to every email. If a comment was especially good, I would email the person to thank them and include a copy of my response to their comments, especially if it contained questions.
I used to email every person who commented with a thank you note and would ask them to consider subscribing. Then I discovered the Comment Relish plug-in that did this automatically.
I also connected with people through facebook, by visiting groups in my niche and befriending individuals. I’ve made some great friendships this way, and was even inspired with new article ideas.
Leaving Your Mark: Comments & Directories
Comment in other people’s blogs, especially ones with related topics. Make sure to leave thoughtful and relevant comments, otherwise, it will be viewed as spam. I found a list of personal development blogs, and made a point to visit every one and leave a comment when appropriate. Again, make sure you are not spamming. Bloggers are often curious of who the commentators are and will visit your site. On popular blogs, you may need to leave comments regularly to be noticed. If your content is good, bloggers will link to you when appropriate, others may even add you to their blogroll.
I’ve submitted articles to article banks, blog carnivals, and rss feed directories. I stopped article bank submissions when I learned about the google penalties for duplicate content. In an effort to save time, I outsourced these three tasks due to their repetitive nature.
Networking with Bloggers
Reach out and meet other bloggers. You never know who you’re going to meet or how you will be able to help each other. I feel that you cannot do it alone, you need a community of friends. “We are stronger together than we are apart“. I recommend keeping a contact list of friends, so it’ll be easy to get in touch with one email. This is also valuable when you need last minute help with social media.
This model helped me tremendously: To get what you want, help others get what they want, first.: In a email reply from Maki, he ended his email with, “Let me know if you need anything,” which left an impression on me. From that point on, I told people about Maki’s site whenever I had the chance.
Since then, I started using it in my emails as well. But it is important to be genuine. Always lend a hand to help other bloggers (within reason) and do not expect anything in return. If they end up helping you, great, if not, I don’t recommend harassing them.
Don’t be shy, people are incredibly kind creatures by nature. Drop them an email to introduce yourself, either make a genuine comment about their site, or ask a simple question. Do not start email conversations with asking to be linked, asking to review your blog, asking too many questions. Avoid philosophical questions, keep emails short, be friendly and honest. Try practicing on me: Feel free to drop me a line to introduce yourself at tina[at]thinksimplenow.com
I linked to other blogs whenever possible in my articles. It doesn’t cost you anything, and helps someone else out. If you feel uncomfortable with this, ask yourself, would you like to be linked by other blogs? If the answer is yes, then remember my motto: “To get what you want, help others get what they want, first.”
Through my linking to other blogs, not only have other bloggers noticed me but I have made many new friends. As a result, I’ve also been linked by larger sites like lifehacker, dumblittleman and lifehack.
Social Media & Networks
In the first few weeks, I was getting like 15 hits a day, mostly from my mom and boyfriend. One day, I was blessed with 150 hits coming from StumbleUpon based on a user submit. I was fascinated and was determined to become a power user. You can check out my profile here. I did well on StumbleUpon using the same motto: “To get what you want, help others get what they want, first.” If you want user reviews, give lots of user reviews to others. If you want others to stumble your pages, stumble other people’s pages. Again, do so without expecting anything in return. And, when you do receive something, treat it like a gift and thank the giver.
Just as I was starting to feel de-motivated, my big break came on November 17th when one of my stories made it on the front page of Digg and subsequently on the front page of Del.icio.us. Digg now had my attention. Using the same motto as all my efforts above, I befriended Digg users and became a loyal contributor of the community. I like to Digg top upcoming stories (close to becoming popular), newly submitted stories and ones submitted or favored by friends. If you want to get a Digg user’s attention, start Digging their submissions regularly.
I like to keep a consistent profile across all social media sites I participate in. Use the same avatar image and use the same username. Your image and username is your face to the network, people will recognize you if they find you in other networks such as Mixx, Propeller or Twitter. But if you use different images, it’ll be difficult to keep track for your online friends. Also, I don’t recommend changing your avatar often. Some users on StumbleUpon will regularly update their image, this is really confusing and forces me to remember them by username only.
Summary & Action Items
- Tell everybody and ask for help: in person and over email
- Connect with readers via email
- Install Comment Relish
- Comment on other blogs
- Link to other blogs whenever you can
- Make 5 new blogger or social media friends weekly
- Join StumbleUpon and Digg
I often hear people say things like “I just can’t get people to subscribe. What can I do? My advice is to stop repeating this sentence and start focusing on what it is that you want, instead of what you lack.
Develop the mentality of abundance instead of competition. Focus on your readers, obsess over their experience, have a clear goal and go after it with your whole being, without a minute spent on reasons why you will fail. I have seen over and over again that:
When desire is mixed with faith backed by massive action, the probable becomes possible, every time. No exceptions.
I wish you continued success with your blogging and other life ventures. Keep your head up high.
About the Author of This Post:
Help and support Tina by subscribing to her blog at ThinkSimpleNow.com to get motivational and empowering articles like this one delivered twice a week. She’ll love you for it. :) Read more about Tina here.
Thanks Tina and Problogger…I really have lots of tips after reading the related articles. Now I need to focus in pulling traffic into my blog…
I wish some of you can drop by my blog http://www.nurtureourchild.com and let me how can I improve and attract more traffic with your experiences…I just started my blog on 1st june…still a lot of things especially technical part that I’m really really bad at…can anyone help?!
An absolutely wonderful article with pointed and exacting tips on how to create a successful blog! Thanks for posting it!
This is a very inspiring post and the tactics are also both practical and state-of-the-art. All the best with your blog and lots of great visitors. What’s your goal for Dec 31st 2008? :)
Great ‘how to’ guide here. Glad you included the stumbleupon action. This is one of the biggest traffic sources that we’ve ever used.
Great info and story. I’m about 100 days into my blog and get about 200 -350 visitors a day .
Thanks for the great article Tina. I am new to your blog and was reading some comments there and saw the link to this article.
I just started a new blog in the “personal development” space as well. It’s called Eternal Optimist (http://www.eternaloptimist.com) and your story makes this optimist feel even more optimistic about the future of my blog. :) If, that is, I focus on what I am giving, not what I hope to be receiving.
Hi…very good article. for me the best way to get more subscribers is to participate in forums with your signature link. also blog commenting. Thanks for this insightful post!
Thank you for the wonderful tips.
I do find there is something about blogging that make me give love unconditionally, meaning giving without expecting anything in return. It’s truly great.
Great article! You said that you obsess over your writing and keep your readers in mind. It definitely shows.
Ah! I can’t believe that I havn’t gone through this article here from Tina. But it’s a great one here. :)
Just found your article, thank you! Inspiring words for the new blogger. i’ll be sure to look at your other articles whilst getting myself out there!!
Superb tips ive been looking for that comment plugin. Thanks a million! I can only hope to do as well as you.
A very insightful article indeed. I am sure it will help many budding bloggers.
This is great advice and I would like to congratulate you on your achievement. The advice is sound but what works for some may not work for others. I will certainly give it a try and let you know how it works.
The just getting started, both with blogging and with social networking, and that’s not something I would have thought of right up front.
I think another summary would be to be generous with your content and offer value. All the promotion in the world wont work if you’re not providing useful information of benefit to readers.
Great article Tina. I for one know that content creation is by far one of the best ways. Getting the word out is also just as important because if no one knows about your blog, then there will be no readers.
Keep up the good work.
Nice Work. Setting some goals is the first thing that everyone misses and it is the most important part of you creating online success.
You defiantly nailed it!!