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The Slow Grind Of Building A Successful Blog

9 November 2009 9 Comments

Building a successful blog is a long, slow process.  It takes determination and consistency.  Most people struggle to make money online through a blog because 1) they see the slow growth and give up or 2) because they see how hard it is to monetize traffic (what little traffic they have) and give up.  The most important thing you can do to build a successful blog that can actually make money is to blog about something you are really, really interested in or blog about something related to work or preferably both.

From my perspective, you should have two goals that you should pursue in tandem as you grow your blog.

Engaged Readers

Your first goal, and by first I don’t mean most important, should be to develop a regular readership.  This readership should be fairly engaged with you and your content.  The discussion that arises through your readers typically comes in the form of comments.  If you are not getting any comments from your readers then perhaps your content isn’t interesting enough or it does nothing to elicit an actual reaction from the person reading.

Comments are crucial because they add content.  Content can be indexed by search engines and it can elicit further reactions from readers in addition to the main article or post content.

You should measure your level of engagement as you grow your blog over time.  The best way to do this is to measure the number of comments per post.  Hopefully as the number of engaged and regular readers grows, you will see more and more comments per post.  This is a good sign of a successfully growing blog.

Some blogs have such good commenting and discussion that it becomes a primary reason to visit a blog. For example, I regularly read ZeroHedge partly for the actual posts but even more so for the witty and interesting comments from their large readership. Their readers are a big asset to the blog.

Search Traffic

The other kind of growth that a successful blog will see is search traffic. This will be a function of the quantity of your content (how much content your produce) and the degree to which your content targets specific keywords or topics (seo).

There are two reasons you want your search traffic to grow. First, search visitors will occasionally be converted into regular readers. Second, search visitors tend to be the visitors that click your ads which means your blog makes money. While this isn’t the only way to make money, it’s certainly the easiest through a system like Google’s Adsense. Search traffic overwhelmingly clicks on my Adsense ads much more than my regular readers (over the last 30 days, search traffic is 57.7% of my total traffic yet 97.6% of all adsense revenue come from search traffic), which makes sense if you actually think about it.

In order to grow your traffic, I don’t believe in spending a great deal of time trying to intentionally target specific keywords and optimize your content in order to get an article to rank higher. This will result in your quality of content being lowered which is bad business. Also, interestingly, my articles that bring in the most search traffic were articles that I did not intend to be “search allstars” – it just happened. The articles that I did create specifically for search traffic tend to not bring in much search traffic.

Search traffic tends to do better when your blog is being regularly updated. I don’t have much proof for this, but I’ve definitely seen better performance when my blog is having new content regularly added. This would mean that Google potentially gives your website a bump in preference or ranking if it’s an “active” site. This would make sense, but again it is only a guess on my part.

The best formula for success is to make sure your site is optimized for search but don’t spend much time on the actual content. I know some blogs that attempt to blog about “hot topics” on Google just to capture the short term boost in traffic because of the popularity of a specific keyword. I think this is pretty pointless, because that article you spent time working on doesn’t provide much value and it doesn’t become an asset after the day is over. Your content should become the assets of your site and hopefully will draw in search traffic for a long time.

Content

More important than anything is your content. I’m a believer that blogs should be more than news sites. Why compete with Drudgereport or CNN? Blogs should offer an opinion, and an educated, interesting opinion is best. Your opinion should be backed up by facts and data but you should take a position and you should be interesting. If not, why would someone read what you have to say?

Subscribers

I don’t place the huge emphasis on subscriber count that many bloggers do, but obviously, a higher count is better. First of all, I’d rather readers come to my actual website than read the content through an RSS reader. If they are on my site, they can comment, add to my traffic statistics, click on ads, etc. These are all good things. Because of this, I don’t jump through hoops to try and get people to subscribe. I give them the option if that is their preference. That’s it.

Naturally, your subscriber count should increase as your blog grows because lots of people do read blog content through RSS. It’s tough to identify a standard growth rate for this though because some blogs do things to incentivize or convince readers to subscribe where I don’t. The growth rate will definitely be a function of how hard you try to increase the count as well as the other factors that go into general blog growth.

What Kind of Growth Should You See?

This is a tough thing to narrow down, but there’s no reason that your blog can’t achieve a minimum of 5% visitor growth each month. This requires work obviously and doing a lot of things right, but assuming you’re doing them, 5% should be a minimum with regards to visitor growth. This would mean if you have 100 visitors one month, you should be able to bump up to 105 visitors the next month; or if you have 10000 visitors one month, you should be able to attain 10500 visitors the next month.

To obtain consistent growth on a website, it takes a great deal of work and even moreso, it takes consistency and dedication. You really have to keep at it in order to achieve any level of success. You often see stats about millions of blogs are created everyday. What you don’t see is how many blogs are closed or deleted every day (probably just as many). If you’re like me, you have a busy life even without adding a blog into the mix. The only way it works is because I’m blogging about something that I’m involved in and have an interest in. If I had tried to blog about travel (even though I really like it), I would have quit long ago because frankly, I don’t travel enough to write consistently about it. I’ve written almost 500 articles now for this blog and honestly, I’m just getting started. Do you have that in you? If not, your blog is unlikely to get anywhere.

Reinvesting Your Income Back Into Your Blog

If you have an established blog getting even a little traffic, you can easily start to monetize your traffic.  Even if you’re only getting $30-$50 per month in income, this is money you can easily reinvest into the blog.  Reinvesting the cash flow back into the blog is just like any business does.  The objective is growth.

Sure I love getting a little extra income each month, but honestly I’m not blogging to earn a few hundred bucks extra a month.  I’m blogging to earn a few extra thousand a month or more.  It just takes time to get there.  In the meantime, I reinvest almost all of my income from the blog back into the blog in an effort to grow it.  How do you reinvest funds into a blog?  You can buy traffic through Adwords (which I don’t do), you can pay for directory listings that will help your blog rank higher in Google, you can pay writers to write content for your blog, you can buy reviews from other prominent blogs, you can buy ads or links on other blogs, you get the idea.

When consistent growth is the goal, it takes effort and some strategy.  Growth is a long term objective; traffic spikes are for the birds.  I want real, consistent, increasing growth over months and years so that I can develop this blog into a real business, a real income stream requiring less and less effort to maintain the income.  I will continue to document the progress towards this goal.

A reminder why I talk about blogging on this site: I believe blogging can be a real income stream opportunity for 20-somethings as long as you approach it as a business and a long term project.

9 Comments »

  • Daniel said:

    How long did it take you to start making money on your site? Is your goal to live off this blog completely? Or just use it as a supplemental income?

  • 20smoney (author) said:

    It took probably 6 months to start getting money in each month. It's still a constant climb to maintain and grow the current income on this site. As I said, I think its a 2-3 year process to get cash flow that is actually worthwhile and easy to maintain.

    My goal is to build this up as a nice income that is supplemental. My ultimate goal would be to have a portfolio of anywhere from 3-8 cash flowing sites, each that take only a few hours a week to maintain (and grow).

    Also, want to help others get there. Hence, the partnership program that I'm starting (link at top left of page). For all of you with similar goals of online income, let's work together.

  • steve the landscaper said:

    The Slow Grind Of Building A Successful Blog

    Thanks for sharing

  • Donna Ross Jones said:

    Do readers turn off when a blog is monetized?
    Donna
    Autismdaybyday.blogspot.com

  • Sean Patrick Hazlett said:

    Kevin,

    I enjoy reading your site. Like you I am trying to become financially independent, especially having lived through the last decade. I am just getting started on my blog as a way to promote a book that I am currently writing and am working hard to build up a readership. You're advice has been very helpful in this regard. Thanks.

    Sean http://reflectionsofarationalrepublican.com/

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