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The Power of Blogging with A Long Term View

Posted By Darren Rowse 25th of November 2008 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

Today Duncan Riley, Founder and Editor of The Inquisitr, looks at the time it takes to establish a blog and why it’s not a quick process.

It’s a long tail to the top if you want to blog and win.

How many times do we see headlines like “get rich blogging” or “1 post a day is all it takes.” Blogging has long been sold as a panacea to everyones ills, but the reality is often far from the hype.

On The Inquisitr recently I took a look at 10 Myths of blog marketers and debunked them all, but there’s one interesting one I want to take a step further here on Problogger: the time it takes to establish a blog.

Take it as a given up front that you will not get rich overnight from blogging. But how long does it take? I’ve always subscribed to the view that any blog needs a good 6-9 months to establish itself based on my experience in previous blogs and blog networks. The Inquisitr ended up being true to form, and it was our 7 month that things really took off in terms of traffic and actually making a profit. Jason Calacanis, CEO of Mahalo and the founder of the Weblogs Inc blog network though thinks its longer, and commented recently that he puts the number at 2 years. The semantics may be a case of how “established” you would term a blog to be. I’m not about to spend Christmas on the Caymans from The Inquisitr, but in 2 years time…well, you never know.

But why does it take so long?

The answer is remarkably simple: long tail content.

Let me explain upfront that I’m taking liberties with the term long tail. Eric from Photography Bay touched on the subject on Problogger back in June. when he looked at posts over time, as well as targeting long tail niche topic areas.

The reality is: the bigger your archive of posts, the big your distribution of traffic is, and the higher it grows with time.

Digital Photography School

In Darren’s post November 18 on Digital Photography School he offered lots of stats and graphs, but there’s one that stood out for me: his search engine traffic graph:

Notice how over time the search engine traffic grew and grew. By no means am I precluding other facts, such as great content, extra RSS subscribers, email newsletters or any other method you can and should be using to promote your blog. But if you take away all of that, why the really steady growth over the time? The explanation is more content on the site.

The Inquisitr

To break it down some more, here’s two sets of figures from The Inquisitr, the first image shows July 2008 (our 3rd month), just before we had our first decent traffic increase. The second shows November 1-19, 2008

Notice the key difference marked is between the number of pages receiving traffic over this time: 2,210 pages vs 6,180. Yes, there are other factors involved in our increasing traffic, but having more content over time has a cumulative affect of more page views across the site.

The Base

Internally we use a term called “base” to describe the scenario of days where we have little to no content going up on the site. We try not to have any days like that, but when they do happen they tend to be on weekends. The base figure is the amount of traffic your blog gets without fresh content.

The long tail of content on your site improves your base. For example, every month our base figure has gradually gone up, from less than 1000 page views in our first month, through to 2,000, 3,000, 5,000 and today it’s around 9-12,000. In part, base is a measure of the effectiveness of your long tail of content, the more you have, the more natural search or referral traffic you’ll get on a quiet day.

Balancing quality and quantity

Some reading this will see the post as a justification to fill a blog with rubbish, and lots of it, but it’s not quite that easy. Quantity undoubtedly helps, but quality should always be a factor. You still need to gain links and search engine traffic, and putting up rubbish for the sake of volume doesn’t cut it. You need to balance both: if you’re doing 1 post a day 99% of the time that’s not enough content, but you shouldn’t be doing 25 posts a day, unless you’ve put on a team of paid writers (as I have) to generate it for you.

Conclusion.

I do sometimes wish you could get rich quick from blogging, but the sad truth is that it can’t be done. With enough time and patience you can build a successful blog, although it may take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. The key is to keep at it: you need to keep posting even when the chips are down and you believe that you’ll never make it. The bigger your base of content, the better your base traffic number over time, and the better chance you’ll have of long term success.

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. I totally agree with you here. Even on a page where you rank high on high traffic words, in the end that traffic will be nothing compared to all the longtail traffic.

    I was just wondering if you suggest to do keyword research before every post or just post away and it will still catch traffic no matter what?

  2. Another nice one,…thanks Problogger

  3. It takes a lot of time and effort to build a reputable blog.

    I’m not so sure about the long tail effect that the article claims is the main contributor to long-term traffic. Our experience is a bit different: it’s a long-tail phenomenom based on the large number of smallish sites that eventually link to us once. Those small creeks bring us more and more traffic over time, because we go from tens, to hundreds, to thousands of blogs and other sites pointing to us.

    Your mileage may vary!

    fairbloggers.com – where bloggers team up and share ad revenue

  4. Do you remember the quote from the founder of both Gizmodo and Engadget?

    The key to being successful in blogging is showing up every day.

  5. I have long been preaching about this being a long term business. Your PR and Alexa scores will always be in a state of flux and good indicators of what you can charge for your business service now, but in the end it is search traffic for content that will make you or break you.

  6. Darren and Duncan:

    Excellent posting. The best advice is right here…

    “The key is to keep at it: you need to keep posting even when the chips are down and you believe that you’ll never make it.”

    …however, there is a caveat. You cannot simply stick to something and wish that you’ll make a ton of money if your blog is in a dead zone. That is, if your niche is super long tail and your content is super long tail, you’ll never see waves of hungry customers visiting your web site. It just isn’t going to happen.

    This is why understanding supply and demand is so important. How many sites are producing what you are? And, are you unique enough, with enough great long tail content to feed the Google beast? Further, are people actually looking for what you offer? If not, you’ll collapse. This is the importance of keyword and niche research.

    Next, even if you have low competition and you’ve got a way to fill a niche, are people willing to pay for what you offer? If you using Adsense to monetize, for example, is the revenue significant? Do you need *insane* volume to reach even a modest income?

    In any event, your advice is very sound. It absolutely takes time. However, 7-8 months is nothing when you consider the long term results. It doesn’t bother me to invest in a niche blog if I know I can generate a solid income within that period of time. It’s not about getting rich quick, it’s about building a business over time.

    ~ John

  7. Thanks for confirming there are no quick fixes. Life is about hard work, putting in the time and energy to make quality count………………..:)

  8. This is taking into account some other factors. Such as having a good blogging platform and not getting slapped by Google for selling content to name a few.

  9. I also highlight to people who want to start a blog that there is a lot more value in writing an article for their site than writing it for a newspaper or magazine.

    Recognising the impact that one piece written today has tomorrow, next week, next year really changes the mind-set of a writer.

    But it takes time as Duncan rightly points out.

  10. I do agree about the long-term aspect of blog growth, but I still think it is more important to focus on providing content that is as unique as possible, whilst still being of value to your audience.

    I’m sure there are more people like me. I am bored with the number of blogs telling you how to market your blog, how to make a career of blogging, what are you doing wrong with your blog etc… They seem to only ever be referencing or recycling other blogs saying the same thing, which is causing me to actually avoid any blogs of this nature and just find things out my own way, seeing as all the so-called experts out there discovered things their own way.

    This is why I think it is essential to write about something you naturally don’t get bored of. Something that is an extension of yourself at your most informative and enthusiastic.

    So to summarize I believe it is still more important to find your own voice that resonates with a certain group of people and just keep delivering, which after all any service is all about. If it really is as good as all that, your traffic and reputation will grow.

    I don’t pretend to know what I’m doing. My blog is still pretty quiet, but what intereaction and response I get from it I am very happy with. It is only about a year old and I only really put any work into it since May this year.

  11. I totally agree with that “The bigger your base of content, the better your base traffic number over time”.

    I treat my blog as a part of my whole life, I am growing everyday with my blog and my blog is growing everyday with my age.

  12. I think the time it takes also depends on the niche and how big you start out. Your blog is very news orientated and it seems you’ve hit the ground running – lots of posts, fast, by lots of people. After 7 months it seems normal to have so many visits to your blog but it would be very impressive for a little personal blog to have such.

    I think a little personal blog would be at the later end of ‘the time it takes’ to be established – if, of course, the blogger is pro-active in developing their blog. One of the reasons why it takes so long is because the blogger is generally learning as they go and have a lot of things that side track them like the ‘learn how to blog’ culture.

    However, it seems the quicker you get out of the ‘learn how to blog’ culture on the internet, the quicker you can just blog.
    ;)

  13. I couldn’t agree more. It’s easy to lose faith in the early days with low traffic levels, but if you have the content, and Google make a change, you can find that you’re traffic levels sky rocket — literally over night.

    Just need to keep plugging away…

  14. Darren,
    I just bought your book this weekend and it’s great – thank you for generously sharing your “secrets to successful blogging” including this post.

    Liza
    A Maui Blog
    Liza’s Eyeview

  15. I really think the Long Tail works. I use it in business when I am selling accounts. It takes away but down the road it is a winner!

    I think it works in a downturn as well as customers are going to be turned off by the quick phone sale. Clients have a lot of presure on them and the long tail approach will make you look like the “good guy”.

  16. Since my blog is just three months old, my experience is obviously on a smaller scale, but what you say appears to be true. When I review my stats, even my oldest posts get hit a couple of times during the month. It only makes sense that more posts = more hits.

    With that said, I’m not going to post more than three or four times a week – I think reader burnout comes into play – especially if I’m keeping quality content up.

    Cheers

    George

  17. My personal blog was created in the middle of last summer, and you are on point in regard to the number of subscribers to your blog and how expanding the base of your content affects that. The gradual build up of my blog’s hits and subscribers, can definitely attest to the fact that it does take time for your blog to grow and outlive other blogs.

  18. “if you’re doing 1 post a day 99% of the time that’s not enough content

    I thought that 1 quality post a day was a good number to shoot for if your poviding quality content. Up to 5 posts a day if you have short (Less than 250 words). So now I’m at 1 isn’t good enough and 25 is too much, hum. Problogger averages about 2 posts per day, so what’s the percentage of time that 2 posts is enough content?

  19. Thanks. Great perspective. Your articles are always very helpful. Keep it up.

  20. Thank you Duncan for an informative and encouraging post!

    My blog has been going for 6 months, and its progression has been almost a duplicate of yours.

    I had been despairing over it, but your post has helped me see that it’s just the natural progression of a blog.

  21. Assuming the post is true and it takes a while, just how much can a person expect to make for the typical & successful blog? If the point is you will not get rich quickly will you get rich slowly? I need a definition for rich so I have a sense of scale.

    My suspicion is one never gets rich in any classic sense of the term. Maybe a nice supplemental income is possible but rich?

  22. Everyone wants overnight, instant results. The key is a lot of patience and a lot of hard work. I never thought about how more pages would equal more hits, etc. Nice article.

  23. I don’t sell ads nor do I sell products on my blog, rather it’s venue for connecting with readers and presenting our services.

    Our blog is coming up on 2 years and it took about 9 months to start generating contacts but after that it has become our best tool to generate contacts and it gets better the older it is. I post on average 1.25 posts per day.

    In our case the long tail is what drives most visitors to the blogsite, sometimes that tail is very long and it still works.

  24. This is such an excellent post, the harsh reality of a blog being better fit into a long-term strategy is one that many, many miss in their planning. Great stuff.

  25. Content is king, without it your blog is just a collection of empty words. Thanks for keeping us grounded and reminding to just keep at it.

  26. Awesome post. My blog just got hacked, but I will create an even better than the older.

    In general, it takes less than 6 months for my blogs to take off because of my subscriber base.

    Franck

  27. Excellent post, just sent it to a friend who is thinking about starting a blog.

    It’s funny that people think blogs are “get rich quick”, I honestly cannot think of another activity where you put in so many hours for so little return for months or years in the beginning! (OK well I guess it pales in comparison to going to medical school, ha!)

    I’m so glad that blogs like this exist to set up REALISTIC expectations. I would love to see a post w/ numbers about how to realistically estimate future traffic. For example if my blog started at 50 uniques a week, and 6 months later is at 1,000 how long until I hit 50,000?

  28. In the beginning The Inquisitor was “only” getting 1,000 pageviews a day. I don’t get this. Should I shoot myself now? We’ve been blogging for a year about concerts and we get about 500 pageviews a day.

    When do you know when to throw in the towel?

  29. I have been trying to make sure I review most of my posts thoroughly and craft the language so that it is interesting and compelling. A side-effect of this has been that I have moved from 4-5 post a week to about 2 my drafts however are starting to mount. So I expect to be able to get back to 3-4. Some posts are just a compilation of information related to my post topic so those need to go out on a regular basis. I need to find a balance between information blasts and informative, entertaining writing

  30. It is true that one cannot make money overnight by blogging or by just posting a post a day in their blog. Like a tree which takes time to produce sweet fruits, making money from blogging takes time. It is also absolutely necessary to provide good content for the readers as this makes you expert in that niche.

    As I can see from the latest figures (few thousands) of number of blogs created each day, it would be interesting to see, where this all leads to. The blogosphere is getting crowded day-by-day and more popular.

  31. Great article! I use a dial-up modem. So for me it will probably take more than 2 years to get my blogs really going.

  32. Great points. Also the number of keywords bringing in the traffic can also be a good indicator of the base. It keeps increasing over time

  33. Oh dear. I’ve only been blogging a couple of months. Obviously still a long way to go! Must sign off…gotta get blogging…

  34. Time is your friend but also your enemy.

  35. First, let me say Darren desperately needs threaded comments :-) I’ll try to break these up as best as I can.

    Alain Raynaud: I’m not saying it’s the sole reason, perhaps I should have clarified that more and someone saying “that’s not it” is typical when you focus on one part of the jigsaw puzzle. But I am saying that it’s a factor.

    John S. Rhodes: completely agree. Time doesn’t fix bad blogging, and if its a dud 6 mths or 2 years won’t fix it. However the point I was trying to make though is that far too many people expect far too much upfront. I could have easily walked away from The Inquisitr after 3 months based on the page views we were getting, but I had a 6-9 mth vision and stuck at it. Having said that it may not have paid off either, but I thought we were doing the right things.

    Rob: see my comment above. This is one factor I explored, but it isn’t recipe to success alone.

    Coed Fitness Tips: 1 post a day doesn’t cut it unless you’re a brilliant writer with a strong brand. 99.99% of people aren’t, and that includes me. Sure, you shouldn’t be doing 5 posts a day of short rubbish either, but 1 post a day isn’t really a great recipe to success, at least if you want scale.

    John Corey: true, rich can have different meanings, and yes, if we’re talking about mega-wealthy few will ever get to that point. For most people, it’s a decent full time income, that’s always been my goal, and although I wouldn’t say no to millions, I also don’t lust after that level either. As long as I’m enjoying what I’m doing and paying bills, that’s what counts for me.

    Artur | Phoenix Market Trends: corporate support blogs are a little different. The context was stand alone blogs, so either way I take you point.

    melophobe’s concert reviews: 500 page views a day is on the low side. Depends on the niche and how you’re monetizing it. Email me duncan at nichenet.com.au and I’ll give you a free review if you like.

    Matt Gio: spot on :-)

  36. Its best to be realistic when blogging, the best thing to do is wait and see where it leads you.

  37. Like said above, the real key is to be realistic. It takes time to build a lot of content, but it pays off if you stay persistent.

  38. Thanks for the illuminating post, which really struck a chord with me. Daily traffic to my blog doubled when I hit the 9 month mark in September and has doubled again since then. I write a post a day and don’t want to do more, or think I need to. What’s most interesting to me, though, is how many posts visitors to my blog read – on any given day it’s between 35 to 45. That means approximately 20 percent of the content on my site is being looked at every day. Some of my most popular posts are months old – definitely a long tail phenomenon.

    Michelle Rafter
    WordCount
    http://michellerafter.wordpress.com

  39. Great post!

    I have never looked at blogging as a way to get rich. If I make a little money at it, great! But I’m very content writing about the things I love: Literature and writing!

    I too have also noticed the “long tail” with my blog. As I write more content, my base keep growing. My blog still only get a tiny fraction of the traffic larger blogs get, but I see every visitor as a positive step!

    Thanks for the great post and keep up the good work!

  40. Thank you. Well said. Quite Inspiring. Your Content is what I come back here for. I always get good quality advice about blogging.

  41. I have two blogs, and the longer running of the two is a recipe blog. It’s definitely the long tail that gets the hits! Especially from search engines.

  42. Great tips for bloggers. I was encouraged by this stats and I will continue to work hard!

    Cheers
    Vincent
    Personal Development Blogger

  43. Nice to see Duncan on ProB – great stuff and good reading.

    BTW, nice play on words on first heading, Duncan, :-) AC/DC fan I suspect.

  44. Great advice.

    Its great that you keep putting forward this message time and again to help people do a reality check when they decide to “blog for money”.

  45. A very inspiring post indeed. Certainly no one can build visitors in just few months time. It takes time and perseverance and a lot of rich content too.

  46. I’m glad you guy’s do all the technical research on these topics so I dont have to. And your explanations make it easy to understand what we should be doing.

    Thanks for all your dedication to the topic.

    Gary McElwain

  47. Michelle Rafter (sorry for being so formal: Darren, time for threaded comments!)

    Absolutely. Another way of looking at it: say every post gets on average 10 page views a day, if you have 1000 posts you’ll get 10,000 page views, if you only have 100 posts you get 1000 page views. I look at our figures now and when we started a post with 100+ page views was a good post, then it went to 1000 (which is still half reasonable), and then 10,000. But if I look back down the list there’s 50 or so posts every day with 100-1000 page views. 10-100 there’s over 1 thousand. You simply don’t get that when you first start a blog because you don’t have a long tail of content.

    Gary McElwain: no probs. I enjoyed breaking it down into facts and figures as well: I’d long suspected this to be the case, but I wanted to prove it in a tangible way, so I got something out of it as well.

    Martin Neumann: good to see you’re still alive. Hope all is well. No, I’m not an ACDC fan, but it just popped into my head. Unfortunately Darren didn’t use it as the master post title…oh well :-)

  48. Agreed entirely – I’ll only add that 2 years is if you know exactly what you’re doing and you get some breaks.

    When the blog takes off, I’ll be in a better position to explain why. Right now, given the fact my audience is only beginning to emerge, my credibility is 0.

  49. I had my very first blog in around March 2004. And just a few days ago, I started another one on blogger. I have less than 10 posts as of today and mighty Google hasn’t even indexed me yet.

    I have already told myself that the approach to blog’s is to be patient and let it grow over time.

    Well, I’ll just have to wait and see.

    –Mark Grejaldo
    markusgrejaldo.blogspot.com

  50. Thanks for an interesting article, Duncan. And of course thanks to Darren for publishing it.

    Your advice to “keep posting even when the chips are down and you believe that you’ll never make it” is encouraging to me. I’m just starting my blog and I found that even if I don’t know exactly where I’m going with it, posting regularly gets me closer to blogging success.

    As far as long tail content, I have mixed feelings. It seems that one has to really hit the nail on the head with long tail content to really make it pay off. That’s just my sense.

    I think if you can supplement any kind of content with a fresh and appealing style, entertainment and/or attention to community, it has a fighting chance. Seems like a lot of the top 100 blogs are not long tail and do just that (like the Huffington Post, for example).

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