This guest post is by Brian Milne, a longtime sports blogger and founder of the BallHyped Sports Blogging Community.
We’ve all been there.
You’ve been blogging for months, even years, and your blog is going nowhere fast. Traffic is stagnant. Your subscriber count has dropped off. AdSense is paying just that: cents per day.
So what’s a blogger to do when they hit “the wall?” The most important thing to remember is that every blogger hits it. The key is to break through that wall or scale over it.
To overcome the wall, you have to look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself the question: Have you outgrown your blog, or have you failed to grow with your blog?
Like our blogging platforms (WordPress, for example, has two or three major updates each year), individual bloggers have to evolve as well.
If your blog has plateaued because of a lack of promotion (are you spending as much time marketing your blog as you do writing for it?), content development (have you tried complementing your writing with images, podcasts, video?), SEO improvements (are you using keyword phrases in titles, opening paragraphs, subtitles, captions, and attachment file names?), then it’s on you to grow.
But if your blog has plateaued because your niche is too niche, it’s time your blog’s subject matter evolved.
How niche is too niche?
In today’s saturated blogosphere, all the talk is about niche sites, and niche is a great way to make a quick buck impact: getting your site to rank quickly for super specific keyword phrases, and making a name for yourself in a small industry or at a local level.
But is that micro-level impact your long-term goal for your blog? Or are you looking for something more?
Don’t limit yourself. If your existing blog is going to be a major part of your life, your business, and your brand long term, you need to think long term.
Can you crush through “the wall” with better, or more content? Can you add topics or categories to your blog without it feeling bloated or misplaced?
If so, it’s time to write about something different, which is the easiest way to hurdle the blogging barrier. Write about new topics, with a fresh set of keyword phrases, and it’s only a matter of time before Google starts sending you fresh visitors based on those search terms.
But if, deep down inside, you feel your blog has a shelf life, and you’re unable to expand your content with additional categories under the existing title or URL, it’s time to move on … and redirect/roll up your existing content into a category or tag on a new blog with a broader range of topics. That, in some cases, might be the only way you’ll ever smash through the wall and set yourself up for long-term success.
A smashing success
Suggesting a friend, colleague or family member ditch an existing blog for something bigger isn’t an easy thing to do. And I’d never encourage it unless that blogger knew in their gut they had outgrown it.
I underwent that gut check a few years back when I ditched a somewhat popular regional fishing blog and forum in favor of a statewide fishing site. While that site attracted a much larger audience, and gave me hundreds of new fishing destinations to write about, I quickly realized I was still limiting myself keeping the blog within California’s borders.
But I still had room to grow as a blogger, and instead of rushing out to start a national fishing blog—and redirecting all of my content, again—I focused on developing the content I had. I went from writing a couple posts a week, to writing multiple posts per day. I brought on user-generated content and even created my first ebook.
Next thing I know, I’m signing on with No-Nonsense Fishing Guides to write a second edition of that book for print. That led to another book deal with Wilderness Press, and later, a paid blogging position to cover national and international fly fishing topics for About.com.
I took the same route with my sports blogs, starting off with a Blogger site focused on a small local college, before moving on to create a popular West Coast sports blog, and then the national sports blogging community, BallHyped.com.
So there’s something to be said for building up your expertise on your niche blog, and expanding on those experiences for a larger audience. Just make sure you’re not leaving behind a blog and a niche that has huge growth potential in itself.
Make the move
What’s your gut telling you as you read this?
Is there still room to grow on your current blog? If so, use this opportunity to develop your content and take your blog to the next level.
Or have you outgrown your blog, and feel a need to expand your blogging horizons? If this is the case, you’ve probably been thinking about it for quite some time.
Now the only question that remains is: What are you waiting for? The best thing you can do if you’ve seriously considered expanding your blog is to just do it. Instead of writing another post for a lame duck blog, channel that energy into your new site, because it’s going to take some time to get it set up, alert your existing community, and redirect all of your awesome niche content.
But if you do it the right way, that wall will come crashing down in no time at all.
Have you outgrown a blog? I’d be interested in hearing how you overcame the wall in the comments below.
A former McClatchy senior writer and web editor, Brian Milne has taken his own advice today and is launching the BLOGhyped.com blog promotion network, where bloggers of all genres can share their blogs, get followed links and additional blogging resources. For consultation and content development services, contact Milne via Twitter @BMilneSLO.
Great post Brian. Thanks for rejuvenating the mind set and thanks for sharing these tips. I’ve gained.
Thank you for sharing your experience! I’m only a beginner but I’m sure one day I’ll make use of your advice. The last words of the post gave me energy to act.
I clicked to yr blog and love the “Japan” articles sent in by your friend.
Its beautiful, given time I will visit again to read the rest.
My daughter had Japanese Sensei during her preschool years, and
had been pestering me to take her for a holiday in Japan.. articles such as yours
should be made available for those planning their trips/travel to eg. Japan. It is
very educational and an interesting read.
I think it’s about going with the flow of your audience. If you feel you need to expand topics on your blog, try out a few new posts here and there and see the reaction. If you get good feedback (shares, comments), then you might want to officially announce you are branching out on your site. If not, maybe you could try a post that asks readers what new things they would like to see. That way, your blog can grow!
I definitely agree with this approach – sometimes, all a blogger needs to do is ask their readers for insight. Growing a blog instead of killing it is always going to be my first choice.
Always a hard decision to make because you never know if success is just around the corner or if you’re flogging a dead horse. My advice to to keep trying as long as you have any spirit left. Determination is definitely one of the characteristics of a successful blogger.
Agreed.. Everytime I fret and mummbled.. wondering where my blog is leading me to, I have a passionate blogger who will help boost up my confidence to not despair.. to never to give up.
Thanks for your tips, mine is indeed localized (since its in our mother tongue) > must start looking deeply into the mirror..
It seems to me that you can go in any direction that you want to with your blog. Let’s say you have a niche site about blogging. Why can’t you blog about a different topic from time to time. I personally like it when blogs that I read go off topic with something entirely different.
I agree with you. I enjoy blogs that go off topic once in a while. It stimulates the mind a bit.
This is absolutely true. In fact I have gone through this. I had to ditch my old blog (actually, I sold it) which was in a tech micro niche in order to find a bigger niche with a bigger audience and a lot more to write about. And this is the best decision I have ever made. Earlier I had to wait for days until I get something to write about. But with this bigger niche, you are free to write even more. The satisfaction I get from this is indescribable.
I have recently started a blog on blogging and some life lessons I learned. I have been doing some guest posting and site is picking up speed. Hope I it will be a success.
Thanks for sharing this story which I can relate to.
I need to find new ways to promote my blog. I’m stuck for ideas at the moment.
Can you tell us what you have done to spread your blog to the world?
I had to face the fact that the blog I had been maintaining for four-and-a-half years had plateaued and that I needed to start over. My style had changed so significantly that I was no longer passionate about what I was saying on my old blog. So, I scaled down the posts on the old one and focused on launching a new one. It was hard and grueling, but thanks to the power of social media, I was able to generate the same amount of traffic (and more) to my new blog, even though my old one had a lot of highly-ranked SEO posts.
Challenging piece, for sure! thanks for sharing it.
@Jeff Goins — I think something you said in your comment is critical. You “scaled down the posts on the old one and focused on launching a new one.”
I think one of the mistakes people make is that they don’t kill a lame blog, they just start another one and try to keep them both going. I have seen people try to maintain high quality on 4 and 5 blogs at once. My 2 cents is that this is a mistake. In fact, it’s difficult (for me) to maintain the one that I have.
You can always scale up your business and automate it through outsourcing. Then you’re free to move on without losing your previous revenue streams.
This is definitely one of those very touchy “fine-line” kind of things. I think too many people rush to ditch their blogs when instead they should be working on tearing down the wall. I think that’s because kicking through that wall is hard work! But in my mind, what’s even harder is starting a completely new blog from scratch – at least the old busted blog has some bearings in the search engines and at least a few people know that it exists.
I think a blogger should try everything they can before bailing – it should be the last resort. Sometimes, just letting a blog sit for awhile and then returning with some new ideas or a slight change in direction can do the trick.
I think I also agree: but maybe, as the song goes: You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em …
I’ve been working for over a year on my blog targeted at women golfers… in fact, I’m coming up on 24 months. I’ve got some loyal followers … but a small number. I’ve been creating videos, podcasts, joining forums, publishing articles, etc…. still I cant’ seem to jump over that wall… I’m not going to give up… I just need to find the right angle and I’m sure this will take off… but it isn’t easy plugging away every day… at the same time, managing my life and business.
I feel like my blog isn’t “big enough” for “me”. I find myself with more content than I know how to “squeeze” it all in during the week, and I often wonder if I’m not hiding great content in the mass of posts. I’ve been thinking about expanding my blog – breaking each category down and posting it on a separate subdomain. I’m still not sure what I’m going to do, but I want to be “free” of the “guilt” of overwhelming my readers.
Hi Ashley! I just took a peek at your blog and I love it! I haven’t read anything yet, but I love the design and the overall feel of the blog. So I’m going to dive in right now. See you there!
In that sense, are there advantages to starting off with a broader topic? Or would you say it’s better to start super niche and progressively broaden your scope?
I think sometimes a break is all that’s needed too. With all the pressure to “keep up” and not lose, taking weeks or even months off may lose some reader but you’ll come back wit the ability to generate more readers using new ideas and the passion built up not forcing yourself to write but letting yourself blog when the time is right.
I wonder about this sometimes. I just started a second blog to explore other topics. I decided to write one high quality piece a week for that second blog. I know, that’s against all rules, but I’m doing it anyway. This way I’m able to start slowly and see what happens, without getting overwhelmed. At least, that’s the plan ;)
I did this with my personal finance blog. And it grew to writing for an American Express site, etc… but I decided to move past it. Then I started a social media blog. Now its grown to adding an affordable web design site, a local seo company, and becoming an article writer. Skies the limit.
A good think about moving past my first blog (even though it was extremely hard to do) – I learned what I needed to do to grow big and work strategically.
BTW, Darren if you are reading this, I included you in my latest post, Even Bloggers need a Strategic Business Plan
Thanks everyone for the kind words about piece … and good luck scaling that wall if/when you’re faced with one.
Kiesha and Workout without Weights, I agree that it’s a great idea to take a break when you hit that wall. That’s why I love the outdoors, to get away from the computer and recharge. Oddly enough, stepping away from your blog is often the best way to come up with new topics and expand your offering. That’s what I did with my old fishing blog. Instead of blowing it up, I took a breather and focused on doing something different and developing the content I had. I wrote more posts on different topic. Brought on user-generated content and videos. And I created that first ebook. I think you know in your gut when it’s time to take a break or time to bail. And only the blogger can make that call.
This is a great post!
Since my blog is about me and my email list building journey, I don’t think I could outgrow my blog. I cannot say I haven’t thought about that before, but I have changed focus since I started my blog and have noticed a huge increase in results.
Thanks for the post!
I just folded one of my blogs into an existing blog. This is not the first time I’ve done this. After a while, I realized that I didn’t have the time or the traffic to justify keeping the blog.
Thank heavens I haven’t outgrown my blog yet. The amount of work I’ve put into it is astounding, but I’m sure everyone who blogs understands. I finally invested in a theme that allows me to make changes easily and it didn’t cost too much. My next step will be to do something a little bigger, but that’ll happen in June :)
I started my blog first for sharing how to make money online but after that i realised that even i can’t make money myself how will i teach others so i changed my niche and write a random blog about me and my Money Making Life.
I’ve put a lot of work into my blog as well. The funny thing is I have earned more on my micro niche blogs than my general blog about coupons. However, I still have some work to do.
I think my blog is going through growing pains.Somethings feel lopsided or bloated. Other things feel too small to bother with. It’s a time when I just have to plug along and drag it if I have to.
I outgrew my blog about a month ago, just didn’t get that rush from it anymore, as there was so much I had learned about online marketing and social networking that I knew I could do better.
I spent an entire day redesigning my blog, setting up the content so that it’s more convenient for visitors to find what they need, and I am now taking part in blog tours for authors and blogging challenges to make sure I am always connecting with new writers and staying on track. Even though the content is the same, because it’s presented in a more efficient manner (and visually my blog is a huge step up from the old one), my traffic has tripled, and I see a small step in progress each day with my traffic and communication.
I feel like there is still a lot I can offer to my readers, and my blog continues to grow, but I’ve hit a wall in my passion. I feel like I rather do other things with my life concerning writing and following my passions, and writing for the blog has become tedious for the time being. I don’t know if it’s writer’s block or just straight up boredom, but something must be done. Maybe I’ll try to just write through it. I hope since starting this week I’ll have more free time, I will be able to update more often and focus on SEO more.
Great post Milne, But i am sure i just started and there is enough room for growing my blog.I’ll expand it until it hits the wall and then think about your post.
There are two things to learned from your article (at least).
1) Decided what you want to do or decide if that is still what you want to spend your time on. If not make corrections.
2) Really do that. I loved the example on how you took it from posting several times a week to several times a day! That is what I call “Really doing it!”
Your article is a great reminder to make decisions and focus on the execution of those!
I kinda recognized myself as the addressee of it and from what I read, it is time to consider a change!
It seems to me you that you make a great point. Sometimes a blog needs a shot in the arm… A little bit of freshness and some new “attitude” can possibly rejuvenate a slightingly stagnant blog .
Like you pointed out I think taking a step back 2-3 times a year and really looking at the “big” picture can be good for this.
Hi Darren, why don’t you write a post yourself. I can always see guest posts here? Any way lots of good information on this post. well done.
Great Post! Been working on growing my blog and I think this will help me out a little.
Thanks for the share. New site looks great!
I started blogging last year and kept up with it every week until mid-December. Then I got bored with it; and with the topic. If I’m bored, I’m sure my readers (if there were any left) were too. I got off topic more often than I stayed on it and it was becoming “musings” instead of information. When I found myself in a “funk” I stopped writing because I hate whiners. Don’t know if I’ll ever restart it. The first few were informational and, I think, helpful to anyone considering retirement or newly-retired. Now that I’ve cycled through three years of 7/24 365 days, I don’t have much new to add.
Excellent blog. I would only add that if you are new to blogging you might not know enough to make an informed decision. You need to accept that there is a steep learning curve requiring much experimenting and testing. So give yourself an adequate trial period because initially you just don’t know enough to properly access.
I like to write series that explore a topic in depth, but there came a time when I was tapped out of series ideas. So I held a contest where readers were to suggest new topics, with some of my ebooks as prizes. There were some great ones that kept me going for six months, and my readers and I really enjoyed them, plus they felt good about contributing. Donna Cunningham