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What to do When Your Blog Plateaus

Posted By Darren Rowse 22nd of November 2007 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

In this post Chris Garrett gives advice on what to do when your blog plateaus.

Blog-Growth-Plateau
As you have no doubt read on Problogger before, the goal for most bloggers is exponential growth. Not all blogs reach this point though. For many of us it is quite difficult enough to find steady growth. What if that growth slows to a halt? What can we do then?

First let us deal with the most common cause of a growth halt. It might surprise you, and you might well think of other likely causes, but in the majority of cases of my coaching clients a plateau is caused by one thing.

The Curse of Churn

I actually witness a disturbing amount of churn in my own blog. While I have no access to Darren’s stats, I imagine he does too. Churn is a part of any blog, in fact many businesses online and off.

Churn is where you have people both leaving and joining. It can be thought of as a leaky bucket, while you are pouring water in there is a loss through the holes in the bottom. If your rate adding new subscribers matches the rate you lose them then you see zero growth. If you add more or less than your rate of loss then you will see either positive or negative growth.

So your very first job is to look for reasons why readers might be defecting. Darren did a great list of why bloggers lose subscribers before so no need for me to rehash that advice here.

For my own blog I know many of the people who join then leave are freebie hunters just looking to download my free “Killer Flagship Content” ebook or do not have time to read every day. I know because when people unsubscribe from the feedburner email I get a notification and ask. If you use feedburner for email subscriptions try the same thing, it can be very enlightening!

Other Causes of Slowing Growth

What other reasons could there be for your growth slowing?

  • Saturation – You have reached as many people in your niche as you ever will. I doubt this is the case but breaking into new markets is worthwhile anyway if you can reach a related audience. Guest post and get links off top blogs in topics that match audiences you wish to speak to and see your subscriber count start growing again.
  • Blurred Vision – Could it be you have lost your way? Check your analytics and comments to see if your blog is turning off readers. If Darren blogged about his obsession with aquatic mammal collecting I am guessing many of us wouldn’t hang around his RSS much longer. Look for patterns in your unsubscribes related to your posting. It could be what you attracted people for is no longer a theme in your blog, or on the other hand you might find a topic that you partially covered before gives you a jump in subscribers. Re-focus on your readers needs and you should start attracting readers again.
  • Lack of Engagement – A healthy subscriber count can mask a rotten blog. As well as seeing a nice feedburner number you also need to keep aware of what your readers are telling you both implicitly and explicitly. If your subscribes are not going down but you don’t quite get as many comments as you once did, or when you post a new article now you get fewer page views as before, then look to see if you have lost your audiences interest. Engagement should be growing not retreating. Audiences do change, but there should be a hard core loyal base that sticks with you. Ask for feedback. What could you change, do better, add or take away? Better to ask now while you still have readers!
  • Looking Inward – I have said it many times and I will keep saying it, commenting is good for bloggers! We see a lot of bloggers who get to a certain level then stop reaching out. They stop reading other blogs, no longer comment, and the outbound links dry up. The problem is by retreating back to the cosy folds of your own blog you drop off the blogosphere radar. When you get busy of course it is much harder to do these things but we must all keep it up especially when we are doing well. I will promise to link out more if you also promise, deal?

Summary

Rather than seeing a slowing of growth as a disaster, rather see it as an opportunity to clean house and prepare for another phase of success. The solutions are simple in many cases. If you listen to your audience in most cases they will tell you what needs to be done.

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 haven’t had the experience yet, with my blogs having steady growth so far, however I am sure once they get big enough something like this will happen.

    I think while blogging, we have to be innovative through out and find new ways to bring in traffic and keep it.

    Giveaways, contests, guest posts are just some of the ways to achieve this.

  2. There is always a lot of emphasis put on content. Customer satisfaction should be top priority as well.

    Content with no readers = no blog

    http://savvmari.com

  3. Thanks for the advice. I am just getting started and I believe I am making more progress by reading the information..before I start having issues. Great information. Thanks.
    Lisa

  4. Other things that could help:
    Survey your audience
    Change your SEO

    Comment on other blogs, that is the key for blog exposure.

    Great post by the way!

    ~Viva La LiveCrunch

  5. Weird,

    How come whenever I post a comment, it’s awaiting moderation.

    I have quite a few comments to my name.

    John

    Lara Says: Sorry John, it’s not just you – even my own comments have gotten stuck in moderation! I’m doing the best I can while Darren’s away to get the comments approved quickly, but given the holiday tomorrow here in the US, I’ve also been cooking and baking apple pies! LOL

  6. Very well wrote article,
    I think the most important thing, like any business is to ask for feedback. As you put it ‘What could you change, do better, add or take away? Better to ask now while you still have readers!’
    We all work so hard to get readers, but keeping them seems harder.
    Regards.

  7. I have seen this happen to with my blogs.

    I often guage if this is because I’ve saturated a niche by checking out how competitors are doing.

    If competitors still have a good chunk of traffic then I know there’s more out there for me to grab.

    It is then a case of powering up the unique selling points of your blog to steal visitors from your competitors.

    This often needs to be coupled with a more aggressive promotion campaign. I use many of these methods:
    http://www.sitesalary.com/blog/65-website-traffic-link-building-techniques/

    Primarily I work to get a stronger advantage in the SEs over the competitors and do as much viral marketing as possible.

  8. Great post Chris. When I look closely at my blog, I think it was the “blurred vision” and “lack of engagement” that is causing my slow growth. Though my site only gets a small amount of visitors I suspect that many stopped by for my classroom management resource page which although is still there, I have since taken the focus away from.

    About 1.5 weeks ago, I made the decision to refocus my blog and to target a different audience. From suggestions I’ve gathered here and elsewhere, it seems that as bloggers we should strive to blog what we’re passionate about. I’ve noticed that the “successful bloggers” are truly passionate about their topics and I hope that I can follow in their footsteps. Thanks again for the great article.

  9. John Motson, a high level of comment moderation is often needed on the more popular blogs, as they tend to get spammed a lot. It’s nothing personal about you.

    I think the last sentence of Chris’ post says it all: “If you listen to your audience in most cases they will tell you what needs to be done.” Positive or negative growth doesn’t happen for some mystical reason, but as a result of how you interact with your audience.

  10. Great post. I’ve seen a plateau lately. I’ve already identified what my problem has been and that is the lack of posting. I have not performed my job as well as I could. This should probably be one of your points. Posting in a reliable manner does a lot for helping your subscriber count.

    Bruce

  11. Great posts. My blog is in a rut right now, and I’m bored with the current design, I think I’m going to purchase a professional template…

  12. The key to breakthrough when you reach blog plateaus is to innovate. Innovation will make some difference for your blog and take it to a greater height.

    I know that innovating is hard for money but if it can’t be done, the quick and simple fix offered by Chris can be used. Sometimes, when we are at some where high, we tend to forget our basics. If we look back at it and implement it, the results can be great.

  13. It is simply not realistic to hope that your blog readership will increase exponentially over a period of years. It’s easy in the beginning – going from 1000 visitors a month to 10,000 is just a drop in the bucket, but going from 100,000 to 1,000,000 is not attainable for all but a few blogs — there simply isn’t a large enough audience to provide that level of success for tens of thousands of blogs. Setting an unreasonable goal could cause you to become disillusioned and give up before fully developing your site.

    Rather than concentrating on raw numbers, I keep an eye on returning visitors. My goal is to try to keep the percentage of returning readers growing because it means that my site is becoming a portal in its niche, which translates into long-term revenue. I have no delusions that my little niche site will ever achieve 1,000,000 readers a day, but 10,000 seems perfectly reasonable and provides the income to allow me to dedicate an hour or two a day to the site.

  14. This is a great post! I’m still at that first or second dot on your graph up there but trying to keep moving forward and this is some great insight and I will utilize this as I keep on truckin’!

  15. Great post, Chris. I haven’t hit that plateau yet, but I’ll keep this in mind when it inevitably happens.

  16. I am probably a long way away from a plateau on my blog. I haven’t really gotten to the exponential growth yet either. But each month is improving steadily, so I’ll just keep on plugging away.

  17. Great post, we haven’t reached a plateau yet (and hope never will) but I think a good thing to do is find more people to help out contest wise. As well as continuing to optimize older posts

  18. I have to say that another cause could be the redesign for a blog… sometimes to redesign the blog make this less clear or maybe confused. And also, a redesign could affect the rankings in search engines and it is no longer getting new readers in that way.

  19. Combining ‘saturation’ and ‘blurred vision’, it seems the former will show up because of the latter, that’s obvious!

    Simple words:
    Once our knowledge reaches a limit and can’t think any further and hence nada for the reader; readers tend to move away but novice still show up so effect nullifies and there’s a level.

  20. Thanks for the post. Like many of the others in the comments, I look forward to needing your advice in the future after I have hit my growth spurt.

  21. You read my mind guys!! It’s the second time it happens with you that I think “I have to look for this subject in Google” and you publish a post about it!! Stop it ok? It scares me!

  22. It’s difficult to control this, especially when you are dealing with individuals that may or may not feel the blog is relevant to them over time. It has something to do with their lifecycle, for instance if they are a graduating student, they don’t want to read something about picking classes anymore.

  23. Put me on dot 2. I have seen slow but steady growth over my first few months and hope I have a long way to go to see my plateau. Great post.

  24. Funny, I was going to send an email asking Darren about this today. I wondered if it had anything to do with the holidays in my niche (I’m a Christan Mom blogger) because everyone is so busy.

    This is my first Christmas blogging, so I was going to ask if visits typically go up or down around holidays.

  25. It seems my blog is entirely reliant on social media so I have peaks of ups and downs, there isn’t stable traffic. When I submit a story to digg or SU, I get huge traffic spikes but then it just dies down till I think of another good story.

    Any advice?

  26. I am having this at my blog right now. Thanks for the tips I will see if they will help me get growing again.

    You are right about the reaching out. As soon as I got busy and stoped talking to my fellow bloggers my growth slowed… I hope my old blogging firends will still talk to me…. I might have to find some know one. ;)

  27. It really does go in cycles. I hit a plateu of 18,000 uniques last January. I then dropped to 10,000 for 6 months before hitting 50,000 in September… I’ve plateued there for now.. but i have faith

  28. Thanks for sharing. I wrote just wrote a blog this week on the same topic.

    When you find a blog you like commenting is just a nice thing to do. :)

  29. Some great advice there, Chris. And congratulations of the fantastic success, The Great seducer.

    Steve

  30. Nice tips. Handy in times like this when Google goes out and punishes almost everyone for pimpin their PR.

    But rather than taking it negatively, it’s a whole new opportunity to do something new with our blogs.

  31. I think my other comment is stuck in moderation :-)

  32. Though new, my blog is still steadily growing, so i have not have the problem of a plateauing blog, but i know this will come one day and I thank you for the great information.

  33. My traffic exploded due to use of StumbleUpon. Since then, it’s been up and down, and I’m exploring other sources of traffic. I find it much more difficult to get diggs. I also tried a link exchange, but other sites are shying away from it because for some reason my PR went from 2 to 1 (after my traffic went from 50 to over 1000 a day). I have no idea why my PR would go down. Can I contact google?

  34. When I’ve faced this type of situation in the past I’ve found that it helps to really focus more of my effort on content creation than on some other aspects. Publishing a few high quality posts can help to end the drought.

  35. James,

    You bring a very good point to this discussion. It is very important to keep your expectation as realistic as possible or else you do feel like you might not be moving as fast you should )or even moving forward) and may get discouraged.

    Thanks for sharing that perhaps certain niches have to look at certain database sizes as a success as opposed to “not enough”. I was looking for a sense of what a decent size database would look like in order to know when I’ve started really making some serious headwaves and your comment was very useful.

    Harris, thanks also sharing your success with Stumbleupon. I’ve just started using it and will increase my ad budget. But, I do agree Stumbleupon does bring traffic to your site and I quite like the fact that people get to vote. It’s a great way of knowing if the information I’m writing is touching my audience.

    Darren and Chris that was a great discussion.

    Gisele
    http://www.mybeautymatch.com

  36. this couldn’t have come at a better time! haha I will definitely be implementing such tactics soon in my posts!

  37. This is a great post. Very good observations and advice. I’ve been focusing on growing my blog readership and lot more lately so this was especially helpful for me right now. Thank you!

    Trent

  38. Well I hope I’ve not reached the plateau just yet. I did read what you had to say on your own site about comments and found that more relevant to my current situation. The downside of commenting is that I find sites that I really love to visit.

  39. You just need some money to pump it into advertising and promoting it.. i think that it’s wise to put 20-30% of what u get from your blog back to advertising so that it will continue to grow..

    prolly the server lack bandwidth?

  40. Great advice and tactics here for combating a stale blog.

    I think all bloggers experience this from time to time. Its just a case of pushing on, making your content interesting and giving your readers a reason to subscribe.

  41. I have three or four readers who have been around for most of my blog’s life and I am very attached to them. But they liked the subject matter from last summer . Well the blog is now six months old and I have discovered other things. It really hurt to move beyond my friends in order to achieve more growth. But it had to be done or I would have lost my enthusiasm for blogging. I still have things in there that they like. But my impression is that the new stuff provokes some negative reactions. I wish they would come out and tell me more about their feelings. But they won’t do it.

  42. Hey this is great information, and I would just like to say THANK YOU for all your great tips!!! I am in process of transitioning my blogging from a hobby to pro and have had a lot of questions that you have serendipitously answered!!

    Thanks for providing this service and keep up the great advice :D

    Nic

  43. Well you are right with the Feedburner notification when someone unsubscribe from your blog, you can have an idea whether your blog is enticing to your readers.

    Good post..

  44. I have just gotted started blogging but I have seen growth unexpectadly. I really don’t know where my traffic is coming from. I enjoyed reading this post. For me it shows that I really need to narrow my focus or find a way to separate interests in a way that better serves readers.

    I think that blurred vision maybe a sign that someone is ready to either run multiple blogs or have another page for posts that may not be of interest to the vast majority of readers. I wander, “What is the best method for organized multiple topic posts?”

  45. Great post I have not seen this happen yet but now I know what to do once it has. My posts still seem to be getting good buzz and I am even getting natural backlinks which is nice.

  46. I just started blogging about a month ago. So I have’nt really run into this problem yet. This is definitely something that I need to plan for.

  47. hey, I was wondering why my blog plateau-ed, and was stagnating. Thanks for the tips. I will implement. read my short story “The Cobbler” here:

    http://johnpmathew.blogspot.com/2007/11/my-latest-short-story-cobbler.html

    :)

    J

  48. My blog traffic is far from plateauing – it is showing irregular spikes caused by stumble traffic, though the valleys which I assume are loyal readers are growing more slowly than I like.

    I’ll revisit this article again with a valid plateau complaint / comment when it happens! ;)

  49. Keep pressing on. Focus on other projects but keep pressing. If you have a monetized blog keep holding on to it. Its like real estate, gotta keep holdon. like monopoly.

  50. I climbed slowly from around the 1600 mark (RSS subscribers) to the 2200 mark earlier this year and then to about 2500. Then I got an award nomination and that and other factors have raised it to about 2800 average during the middle of the week. I wonder about the niche spread idea. I have another blog in which I waffle on about hacks and computing tips and such…I wonder whether my more sciencey readership would appreciate some overlap or would I risk losing my niche audience altogether?

    db

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