Setting Goals to Grow Your Traffic and Income

Today’s podcast is about setting goals to grow your traffic and income.

Pamela, one of our readers asked this question:

Darren I’ve been blogging now for 12 months and I’ve seen some growth in my traffic and more recently income – but I’m finding it hard to know whether I’m going well or not because I don’t know where a 12 month old blog should be at?

Maybe it’s too hard to give a number but do you have any advice on what kind of goals I should be setting myself for my blogging when it comes to traffic or income?”

This is a great question that ProBlogger readers often ask. It may be a bit hard to answer when it comes to specific numbers because no two blogs are alike. There are many factors that go into blogging.

I do think it is useful to have goals. Today I’m going to make some suggestions on how to set those goals based on how I did it back in 2004 when I began to monetize my blog.

In Today’s Episode Setting Goals to Grow Your Traffic and Income

Listen to this episode in the player above or here on iTunes.

  • In 2004, I started to experiment with AdSense ads and Amazon’s Affiliate program
  • I noticed my traffic was growing, but I wondered how much traffic I actually needed
  • This is before Google Analytics – most blog stats were freely viewable through Site Meter
  • I knew I needed to do something different and stop comparing my blog to other blogs
  • I decided to compare my monthly traffic to the traffic of my blog from the previous month
  • My initial goal was any uptrend – I was happy with this for the first few months
  • I realized my blog was growing about 5% every month – gently trending up over time
  • I decided to set goals that were a bit more aggressive
  • My first goal was to double my traffic percentage or to go up 10% instead of 5%
  • There were times when 10% growth was easy, there were also other months where it seemed possible, but by having that goal, I could see if I was on track and it helped me grow my blog faster
  • I did the same thing with my AdSense income – I knew AdSense income would increase with traffic increases, so I made my income goal more aggressive – if my traffic goal was 10%, I would make my income goal 15%
  • I did this because I knew there were a number of ways to increase AdSense by using it better – changing placement, size, color, optimizing ads
  • I also started selling ads directly through advertisers and using other networks like Chitika
  • I found that by running other networks and optimizing AdSense sometime I increased my income by 50 or 100 percent
  • Compare monthly stats from month to month or each month from year to year
  • See how you are trending, then set goals that are slightly more aggressive
  • Percentages will vary, at some stages growth is easier
  • You can apply these techniques to many different stats – social media, subscribers, bounce rates, the goal is to be better each month
  • Setting goals is fantastic – being aggressive and having something to aim for can stretch you
  • Think about the strategies to get to those goals – not just the end result – where will the traffic increase come from? What blogs, content, posting frequency, etc.

Further Resources on Setting Goals to Grow Your Traffic and Income

Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript

Hey there and welcome to Episode 135 of the ProBlogger Podcast. My name is Darren Rowse. Today, I want to talk about setting goals as a way to grow your traffic and income.

The idea for today’s podcast was stimulated by Pamela, one of our wonderful readers, who wrote to me this question. “Darren, I’ve been blogging now for twelve months and I’ve seen some growth with traffic and more recently income on my blog. I’m finding it hard to know whether I’m going well or not because I don’t know where twelve months of blogging should be at. Maybe it’s too hard to give a number, but do you have any advice on what types of goals I should be setting myself when it comes to traffic or income?”

This is a great question, thanks Pamela for asking it. You can ask your questions over on today’s show notes at where I do have some suggested reading and further listening on this particular topic.

This is a really great question, thanks so much for asking, Pamela. It’s one that I know ProBlogger readers do ask, at least quite a few of them do ask me when I meet them face to face. I remember asking myself this very question. As I think Pamela gets to in her question, it is a bit of a tricky one to answer when it comes to specific numbers. I can’t tell you how much traffic a twelve month old blog should have or how much money it should be making because no two blogs are alike and no two businesses are the same. There are many factors that you would have to weigh up to give a specific answer like that.

As I think I’ve shared before, I know bloggers who make a full time living from their blogs who got to that level with hundreds of daily readers and then others who were not full time until they had tens of thousands of daily readers. There can be that much variation in how much traffic you need to make a full time income. It depends a lot on the model that you have, the income streams that you use, the readers that you have, how engaged they are, how much work you put into your blog, there’s so many factors.

I do think it’s useful to have goals. I want to make some suggestions today on how to set those goals for you by telling you how I did it back in 2004 when I started to monetize my blogs. It was 2004 for me, I’ve been blogging for about eighteen or so months when I started to experiment with putting some AdSense ads in my blog and started to experiment with Amazon’s Affiliate program. I remember at that very time asking exactly the same question, how much traffic do I need to get to a full time living for this? That became my goal. After a few months, I could see there was some potential there, my income was growing, my traffic was growing but how much traffic was I going to need?

I remember hitting search engines to try and find the answer. I remember asking a number of website owners that I knew were monetizing their websites, how much traffic they had. I remember getting really frustrated because not too many people were willing to talk about that. The answers I was getting were very varied. It was really frustrating.

The other factor was that as I looked around at other blogs—not too many blogs were monetizing back then—but I wasn’t able to see how much traffic they had because this was before Google Analytics. A lot of bloggers were using a tool called Site Meter back then to measure traffic. Interestingly, those stats were pretty much public in most cases. You had to upgrade and pay Site Meter to hide your stats. Most blog stats were freely viewable.

It was really interesting, you could go to almost any blog and click the little side meter link and see how much traffic they had. This was interesting but it was also a bit of a problem that many bloggers fell into at that time because we spent a lot of time comparing our traffic with other people’s. This either left me feeling really depressed because my traffic was so small in comparison to these other massive blogs or it left me frustrated because I had similar amounts of traffic to these other blogs, yet they seem to be making a whole heap more, opportunities were landing in their laps even though we were similar sized blogs.

I kind of fell into this comparison making game. It was a bit of a trap. One day, I realized that comparing my traffic or income to somebody else really wasn’t that helpful. I guess I knew it all along but I had this realization one day that I needed to stop doing that and start focusing on what I was building and start comparing myself to where I’d already been. I’d been distracting myself by clicking on those Site Meter links and comparing all the time. I decided to do something different.

I decided that at the end of every month, I was going to compare the traffic that I had on my blog in that month that had just gone by to the traffic that I had on the previous month. At the end of April, I would compare my traffic for April to March, to the very month before, to see how that compared rather than comparing my traffic to another blog. When you compare yourself to another blog, you don’t really know the full story of what’s going on on that blog, you don’t know why they had that traffic, you don’t know how that traffic is converting in terms of income. When you compare to yourself, you’ve got something that you do know the full story on.

I realized that if I set myself the goal of always increasing my traffic from month to month to always have my record month of traffic. That type of comparison was much more helpful and it would motivate me to work harder each month to build my blog.

My initial goal was any trending up. So far, I beat last month’s traffic by one this month, then I was satisfied with that. That was for the first few months. Whether it was one extra reader or a hundred or a thousand, I was happy. But interestingly as I did this little exercise at the end of every month, comparing this month’s traffic to last month, I realized that my blog was naturally growing by about 5% every month. It was trending up. It was kind of towards the beginning of my blogs and I guess because I was adding more content everyday and I was getting a few new subscribers every day, it was just gently trending up over time.

This happens for a lot of new blogs. That first month or the second month, most blogs do increase in size, it’s just natural. You have more content, you have a few more subscribers, things gently trend up.

Once I realized that that was the normal level for my blog to trend up, I decided to start setting myself goals to get a little bit more aggressive than that. The first goal I set myself to increase my traffic was instead of 5%, I wanted to hit 10%. I wanted to double the rate of growth of my blog. That became my ultimate goal. If my blog had 3,000 visitors a month, I was aiming for 3,300 the next month. If I hit that 3,300 the next month, then the following month I wanted to hit 3,630, and the next month I wanted to hit 3,993, and so forth. I wanted to increase things by at least 10% every month because I knew if I could increase the rate of growth of my blog, I was going to get closer to becoming a full time blogger faster.

There were periods where 10% increases were easy. There were times where I hit 30% from month to month growth. All it takes sometimes is for another big blog to link to you or for Google to change their algorithm or for you to write a post that gets shared around a whole heap. There were other months where 10% seemed like it was impossible, that was really hard. What I found is that by having that 10% figure in my mind, I could see every day whether I was on track to do that. By having that slightly more aggressive goal, it really did help me to grow my blog faster.

That’s what I was doing with my traffic, I came up with this figure. Over time, the number did changes. 10% became 20% after a while and then it actually came back down to 10% for a while too. You’ll find the different stages in the life cycle of your blog, it is easy to grow.

The other thing I did was the same type of thing with my income. Back then, it was largely AdSense. AdSense made up 95% of my income. I realized that if I could increase my traffic by 10% every month, then my AdSense generally went up by 10% too. I decided to set that goal at 15%, I wanted to get even more aggressive there. I realized that I could increase my AdSense earnings in a number of ways, one of which was to increase the traffic to my site. That was kind of underhand with increasing by 10% every month of traffic but I could also increase it even further by getting better at using AdSense, by positioning the ads better, by having ads in different sized ads, by changing the design of the ads. Back then, you could change the colors of them and that type of things as well.

There were a number of things I could do to increase the effectiveness of those ads but I also learned that I could add other income streams. I began to focus more on using Amazon’s Affiliate program, I started to experiment with other advertising networks. One in particular back then was Chitika. I started selling ads directly to advertisers as well. I decided that through all of this, I should at least be able to get to 15% increase from month to month. It was more aggressive than my traffic growth but the traffic growth actually made it easier. If I could hit 10% traffic growth and increase 5% with tweaks of how I was monetizing the blog, then I should be able to get 15%.

What I found again was that 15% was achievable at that time for me. Again, there are some months where I hit 30%, there were some months where it went up by 50%. I remember one month it went up by 100% because I found this whole other ad network, Chitika, and I had that running along side my AdSense ads. I was able to increase my income quite significantly that month.

That’s kind of the advice that I would give you, Pamela. When it comes to traffic, when it comes to income, compare this month’s stats to last month’s. Similarly if you’ve been going for a while, you could be comparing April this year to April last year. In some ways, that’s a fairer comparison because April always has the same amount of days, February is the only one that doesn’t. Comparing April to June or July, there might be 30 days in one month and 31 in the next. Comparing twelve months ago, you’ll need to change the percentages as well. Hopefully in a year, you’ve grown by more than 10%.

Compare this month to last month, aim for an increase. Once you see how you’re trending what is normal growth for you, you can then set some goals that are slightly more aggressive than what you are normally achieving in terms of growth. The percentage numbers will vary. As I’ve already said, at some stages in the life cycle of your blog, growth is easier than others. 10%, 15% might be way under what you could be achieving naturally. You might be wanting to set 20%, 30%, 40%.

There are other times in the cycle of your blog where things haven’t been going as well or maybe is a seasonal time. Over the summer, some blogs do find that they drop off in traffic. Maybe you want to adjust that to take into consideration some of those types of things.

The other thing I’d say about this type of approach is that you can apply it to many different stats that you have. As you look in your Google Analytics, you can be comparing this month’s bounce rate to last month. Have you improved your bounce rate? You could be comparing this month to last month in terms of how many pages each visitor viewed. Did they go up or did it go down? You could do the same thing with your social media stats. Was the number of new Facebook followers that you had this month higher than the number that you got last month? Was the rate at which people subscribed to your newsletter better this month than last?

I guess ultimately, what we’re trying to do is each month be better than last month to hit our record for the stat that we’re looking at.

The last thing I’ll say in terms of goal setting is that setting goals like this is fantastic, I’m a big believer in having something to aim for. It’s really good to get aggressive with that goal. Your goals need to be realistic which is why I suggest looking at what’s naturally possible, what you’re currently doing. They should also stretch you, so get a little bit aggressive with it. It doesn’t really matter if you don’t quite meet them, sometimes by just having that stretch goal it would take you a lot further.

It’s also important when you’re thinking about goals not just to think about the end result but to think about the strategies that are going to help you to reach those goals. You might say I want 10% more traffic each month. Where’s that traffic going to come from? It’s probably more important for you to then ask yourself the secondary question, where is the increase going to come from? It’s not going to just happen because you have the goal, so what other blogs are you going to offer that you’re going to guest post on or what forums are you going to start to interact with, what influencers are you going to reach out to, what people are you going to send links to the things that you’ve been writing, what shareable content are you going to create?

Just the frequency of your posting needs to change. There’s a whole heap of factors there that can increase the traffic numbers that you get. So yes, have the goal, have the number in mind that you’re after, that 10%, 15% increase. But more importantly than that, every month, sit down and come up with a little list of three or four things that you’re going to do over the next month to take you closer to that goal.

If traffic’s the thing that you need to work on, I really want to recommend that you go back and listen to Episodes 33 through to 37 of the ProBlogger podcast. You can find them all in iTunes, just look for PB33, that’s the start of a little series that I did on finding readers for your blog. I highly recommend that you go back and listen to those four or five podcasts. You’ll see that they each take a different focus on building readers to your blog.

If it’s increasing income to your blog, I really recommend that you go back and listen to Episode 48 because in that one, I talk about how to make a full time income from blogging by breaking down that goal that you have and by diversifying your income streams. I mentioned before that I have one month where my income went up by 100% from one month to the next and that was because I diversified my income for that month. Episode 48 is the one to listen to for that. Episodes 33 through to 37 are ideal if you want to increase the traffic to your blog.

Pamela, thanks so much for your question, I really appreciate you asking that. As I said before, any questions that you have that you want me to tackle in a future podcast or in a future blog post, please ask them in the comments on today’s show notes at I’ll also link to some further reading and those podcasts that I just mentioned that would be great for you to listen to next.

Thanks for listening today and I’ll chat with you in the next couple of days in Episode 136.

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How did you go with today’s episode?

If you have any questions that you would like me to tackle please ask them in the comments below? Also, let me know how you set blogging goals to increase income?

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