Every now and then I get an email from a blogger that goes something like this…
“Hey Ramsay. Been following your stuff for a while but after a year of blogging I’m still not achieving [insert expectation] and think I’m going to throw in the towel. What do you think?”
It’s a problem that many of us experience from time to time.
So, how long should you wait and what can you realistically expect to achieve in your first year of blogging?
Let’s talk about it.
We all have different goals for our blogs
The first thing that we should address is the idea that every one of us will have slightly different goals for our blog.
Some people want to make money.
Others just want to practice writing.
And then there’s people who have a product or business that they’re trying to grow/promote and have heard that blogging is a good way to do it.
So what does all this mean?
Well, with different goals comes different expectations and measurements of success – what is a good achievement for me might not be good enough for you.
With that in mind I’m going to try and keep this article a bit more general and focus on things that I’ve experienced with my own blogging. That way you can line it up with your own situation and see how it fits.
What can you achieve in your first year of blogging?
Okay, here are a few points that I thought might be good to share with bloggers who are maybe struggling or unsure about what level of progress they should be making by now.
1. A financial loss (but it’s okay!)
This is a pretty depressing way to start a list but it’s really important to acknowledge because it sets your expectations and prevents you from getting disheartened.
If you’re treating your blog like a business then it’s vital to understand that most small businesses make a loss in their first year.
It’s really not until the second or even third year that you start to break even or make a profit.
Ideally during this time you would get your blog set up properly and really establish a solid base that will see you do well into the future.
With all that being said, if you goal is to be making money with your blog then you need to start to see some trickles of income within the first year. We want to know that the blog can become profitable over time. Making a loss in the first year does not mean that it makes no money – it just means that you’re spending cash on investment, advertising, set up and the traffic isn’t quite where you need it.
So don’t worry if you make a loss, but do start to ask questions if it doesn’t make any sales at all.
2. Solid traffic levels that are not dependent on new posts
When you write a new post you usually get a little boost in traffic because you share it with your mailing list and then they share it with other people.
But if you want to check and see whether you’re making progress as a blogger you need to see whether your blog still gets traffic if you leave it alone. We don’t want to be totally dependent on the traffic that comes on publishing days.
What this means is that you need a decent mix of traffic from Google, social media, referring sites and other sources. We want to see a steady growth chart that indicates we are making gains that will last for a long time.
The above screenshot is from my analytics account and shows the growth in traffic over the last year or so. It’s had lots of ups and downs (those publishing days I’m talking about) but overall it is trending up and that is the main thing we want to see.
Again, every niche is different so don’t be discouraged if you’re not getting 1,000,000 visitors a month. The main thing is that you are seeing results in terms of subscribers, sales, etc.
3. Around 500-1000 email subscribers
The more time I spend working online the more I come to appreciate the people who subscribe to my blog (I love you guys!).
Firstly, email subscribers are a massive psychological boost because you have a solid number that shows you that you are making some progress – at least a few people like your stuff!
The actual number itself isn’t that important because each niche is different. What is more important is the idea that you build up a base of people who care about your content.
That being said, if you haven’t started to get around the 500-subscriber mark you need to ask some questions about what is going on. A year is a long time to be blogging and there is no point doing the same thing into the second year if the first year didn’t bring many results.
Some change might be needed.
4. Guest posts on at least three different authority blogs
If you want to cut through the billions of blogs that are out there, you need to develop some pretty meaningful relationships with bloggers in your niche that have authority.
Guest posts are about relationships, and relationships build careers.
– Tweet this quote
Actually, any task you want to achieve in life (business, family, enlightenment, etc.) all depends on the relationships that you build.
Landing a guest post can be a very hard task nowadays – especially if you are new to the scene and relatively unknown. But it’s extremely important to work on getting these because the backlinks, traffic and friendships that you build from doing these posts is priceless.
For example, I’ve done a few guest posts on Copyblogger and as a result I feel like I can email people like Jerod Morris and Sonia Simone for advice or small favors if I ever get stuck. I only feel comfortable doing this because I’ve worked hard to do something for their brand.
Here’s a blogging strategy that includes guest posting if you are a bit unsure about how to achieve this and want to learn more.
In the early days I really noticed that on this blog in particular it took around three or four big guest posts for things to start taking off. For me it was ProBlogger, Copyblogger and Smart Passive Income that gave me a wonderful launch pad into this new career path.
I’ll be forever grateful.
5. A solid base of long-form content on a variety of platforms
When bloggers first start a new blog they really only picture writing blog posts on that one website that the own.
But blogging is actually very different to that.
If you look at someone like Pat Flynn you’ll see him on a lot of different formats. In fact, he has a consistent mantra of be everywhere.
At the end of your first year of blogging you’d ideally want to be able to point to a blog with long valuable articles, guest posts doing the same, videos on YouTube that build trust, a podcast that provides people with an audio format and then a selection of social networking accounts that expand on all of that.
One of the best examples of this is SourceFed which is a YouTube news channel with 1,500,000 subscribers that expanded out into social media, a blog and a lot of real life speaking, etc. in the matter of two quick years.
Not all of us can be as expansive as this, but if you look at how visible they are around the net you get a real sense of what we can start to do.
So what if I haven’t achieved these in my first year?
The first thing to note is that you shouldn’t worry.
Almost every blog will grow and develop at a different pace and, as mentioned, every blog’s growth is meant to be different because we all have our own goals and ambitions.
But it’s very important to keep assessing our progress because blogging really does take a lot of effort.
So when should you give up?
That is a really hard question that I cannot even begin to answer. As an entreprenuer, there is no difinitive way to ascertain when you should make the call to keep fighting or throw it all away. There are countless stories of young businesses that pushed on and flourished, and an equal amount that didn’t.
As long as you have a backup plan and enough money to look after your family, I’m always an advocate for optimism because I know how long it can take to really get a blog to the point where it’s earning big or even just stable money.
What was your first year of blogging like?
Have you been blogging for a year? I’d really love to know what achievements you reached and whether you are happy with your progress. These kinds of problems always give me a lot of ideas for future posts and I’d love to be able to write about issues you’re struggling with.
Please leave a comment and let me know.