By Edie Melson
One thing I get asked a lot is how to grow a healthy blog. At first, I used to answer with the steps I recommend:
Find a focus.
Be active on social media.
About half the time the person asking the question would reply that they were already doing that, but it wasn’t working. Finally it dawned on me that most people don’t really know what healthy blog growth looks like.
Growing a blog’s audience is an organic process. It’s not a mathematical equation where we plug in the correct variables and success happens in a predetermined pace. So today I’d like to give you some ways to gauge how healthy your blog is.
But first, realize that there are lots of exceptions to how fast a blog can grow. All I’m giving you is reasonable expectations for blog growth. We can all find examples of blogs that have grown incredibly fast, but we should never judge the growth of our own blogs by the exceptions.
That said, I do believe there are reasonable expectations. That growth is predicated on certain variables:
The predictability of blog posts—A blog that’s posted regularly will grow much faster than one that is posted sporadically.
The frequency of blog posts—A blog with fresh content on a daily basis will usually grow faster than one that only offers new content once a week.
The consistent use of social media—If you regularly Tweet and post on Facebook abut your blog more people will hear about it.
The interaction with your audience—It’s critical to answer comments and take time to comment on the blogs of your readers.
I’m a huge fan of growing your blog organically, through relationships and targeted social media. Frequently this will cause your blog to grow slower during the first year or so, but this will give you a solid base of readers and tend to speed growth in the following years.
In this day and time, networking can usually jump start a blog with 20 – 40 followers at the startup. These followers are your first foundation, but not all of them will be part of your permanent foundation. These are friends and associates who want to help a fellow entrepreneur get started. They’re a great help because they’ll spread the word to their friends and associates who will comprise your foundation.
This means your first six months to a year will see little forward momentum. You’ll gain new followers, and loose some of the original ones. It will feel almost like two steps forward and three steps back. But this is a critical time because you’re cementing the core of your audience. I think of this as gathering the snow and solidifying it into a snowball.
During this time, many bloggers get discouraged from the slow growth because they don’t understand what’s happening. When I talk with someone in the first year of their blog, I try to give them insight into this process so they can watch for it and rejoice as it happens.
After stage one comes six to nine months of small but consistent growth. Your blog has enough history at this point to have a proven track record of consistent, valuable posts. This makes your core group more willing to share your site with others.
During this stage is a good time to search out valuable guest posts. Find people you respect and invite them to write a post or ask permission to repost one of their old posts. This stage is like beginning to roll your snowball through the snow, gathering a more solid ball that will hold together when you roll it down the hill.
This is when your blog really starts to take off. Your blog’s audience begins to grow a lot faster and you’ll begin to spend less tie promoting yourself on social media because other’s will be doing it for you. They’ll be talking about your blog because it’s valuable to their followers and friends, not just because they like you personally.
Now the fun is beginning, you’ll find yourself asked to guest post on other blogs, and you’ll be asked permission to repost your older blog posts. I think of this stage as when you push your snowball off the top of the hill and it begins to gain momentum on it’s own.
During this downhill stage you’ll still hit road blocks and times when you have to give your snowball a push. The key is to stay flexible, continue to listen to your audience and don’t let up on the interactions.
As I said at the beginning, this is an organic process and these stages are just loose guidelines of how the growth of a normal blog should be measured. If you’re neglecting one or more of the following things in your blog plan, your blog will probably see slower growth.
A regular posting schedule, with a minimum of one post per week.
The consistent use of Social Media, especially Facebook and Twitter.
Constant interaction between you and your audience by answering comments and visiting their blogs and living comments.
Now I have a couple of questions for you.
Have you seen this kind of growth in your own site?
Where are you in the blogging process, Stage One, Two or Three?
Don’t forget to join the conversation!
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and koratmember.