The journey from newcomer to successful blogger isn’t always easy to track. Wouldn’t it be great if there were some milestones you could follow to figure out if you’re on the right path?
From my experience and from watching other people become successful online, I pulled together 20 milestones that might mark the journey of a typical a-list blogger in-the-making.
These aren’t set in stone, and everyone’s specific path will be different, but I thought it would be interesting to discuss what milestones you think should be on this list. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
- Your first comment — getting your first comment is like a toddler’s first steps in the blogging world. Even more important is your first comment from someone you don’t already know.
- Your first retweet — this doesn’t have to be a retweet specifcally, but the first time someone shares a piece of your content on a social media platform is an important milestone. Social media is a part of every popular blog’s growth story these days.
- Getting a link from another site — links are the “currency of the web” as they say, and getting organic (non-paid) links from other blogs and sites is essential to your growth.
- Your first visitor from search — if you’ve attracted a visitor to your site from the search engines, chances are you’re doing something right. Watch to see if those search visitors stick around and/or subscribe to your site for insight into how useful your content is.
First Signs of Growth
After your first handful of comments, retweets and incoming links, you’ll start to experience the first signs of real growth. This is an essential stage because it proves you’re writing about something that might have broader appeal.
- Your first viral article — it is certainly possible to grow a big blog without ever creating a viral post, but not likely. One of the first signs that you’ve created something appealing is when a post “goes viral.” There is no strict definition here, but basically a viral post is one that spreads on its own to a much wider audience than normal.
- 100 subscribers — this milestone probably proves you’ve moved beyond the “friends and family” audience.
- Getting fan mail asking for advice — another great early sign of your growth potential is when readers start writing you to tell you how much they love your site, or to ask your advice on a related topic.
- Receiving a guest post inquiry / submission — if a fellow blogger asks you to consider running a guest post, it means he likes what you’re doing and thinks your audience will be interested in his blog. This is a growth milestone because it means your social proof elements (# of comments, subscribers, tweets, etc.) are influencing how people think of your site.
Every site will experience a dip or two on the journey to becoming popular. Your site’s growth will seem to be stuck at a certain level for some reason. Some won’t get past this stage, and others will fight to find a way out.
- Hitting a traffic / subscribers plateau — your site can be growing along nicely, gaining subscribers, visitors and comments, when suddenly things seem to stall. Is this a peak or is it just temporary? How do you get past the plateau? The answer is different for every site (and a great topic for some upcoming posts here).
- The dreaded “no comments” post — getting no comments on a post is like throwing a gutterball in bowling. They’re common when you first start and then seem to disappear almost entirely. If you happen to write a post that doesn’t attract any comments after you thought you were past that, don’t stress about it. Just figure out why the post wasn’t comment-worthy and move on.
- Watching some of your peers grow faster — this one can really feel like a kick to the gut. You’ve done everything right, poured your heart and soul into your site, and yet some of your peers’ blogs start to grow much faster and leave you behind. It’s potentially painful, but not necessarily a bad thing. Look at it as a learning experience and a time to differentiate your blog.
- Redesigning / repositioning your blog — part of going through the dips will probably involve tweaking things on your site, or even completely redesigning and/or repositioning your blog. Almost every site seems to go through it, and a refresh can sometimes lead to a breakthough.
Once your foundation is laid and you’ve struggled through a dip or two, you should start to watch for signs of “breaking out.” This is where your site’s growth starts to take on a life of it’s own because your readers and peers are pulling for you and bringing in new audiences on your behalf.
At this stage you can focus even more on creating great content, and less on spreading the word yourself. Beware though, periods of breaking out can always be followed by more dips and plateaus.
- Being mentioned in a “top blogs” roundup — when a fellow blogger goes out of their way to acknowledge your site as one of their favorites, you’re definitely doing something right. Just remember that your job is to write for your readers, not for other bloggers necessarily.
- 1000 subscribers — congratulations! The majority of blogs never make it this far. You’ve demonstrated that your site has potential to become a leader on your topic.
- Being asked to do an interview — this is an excellent sign that you’re starting to gain attention and that your content is interesting and/or useful. Interviews are a great way to grow your influence, so definitely make time for them when you can.
- Not having to actively promote your posts much anymore — perhaps the most rewarding part of breaking out is when you notice you don’t have to do as much work to promote your posts anymore. All you have to do is write something great, publish it and seed your social media profiles with a link. After that, dozens or hundreds of your fans promote your content for you. Now it’s time to write even better content and keep the cycle going.
Climbing the A-list Ladder
What’s your definition of an a-list blogger? Is it measured by size? Influence? Revenue? Whatever the case, here are a few milestones any blogger getting close to a-list status might see.
- Being mentioned by someone influential — when someone highly influential who you respect mentions you or refers to you as a favorite blog, you’re definitely making progress up the a-list ladder.
- 10,000 subscribers — how many blogs make it to this level? 1 in 1,000? 1 in 10,000? Probably even fewer than that. Once you’ve reached 10,000 subscribers, you definitely have figured out a formula that works. Is it time to innovate now, or continue doing what works?
- 100,000 subscribers and beyond — you’ve now officially reached superblog status. Have you parleyed your blogging success into financial success? If not by now what are you waiting for?
- What makes an a-list blogger to you? What milestones will you look for along your journey? Let’s discuss in the comments.
The foundation is where it all starts. These first milestones may seem trivial now, but every a-lister-in-the-making has to achieve the basics to start.
photo by rogilde – roberto la forgia