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20 Blogging Milestones to Mark Your Journey from Rookie to A-list Blogger

20 Blogging Milestones to Mark Your Journey from Rookie to A-list Blogger

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.

    The Foundation

    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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  5. 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.
  6. 100 subscribers — this milestone probably proves you’ve moved beyond the “friends and family” audience.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

    The Dip

    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.

  9. 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).
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.

    Breaking Out

    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.

  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.

  17. 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.
  18. 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?
  19. 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?
  20. What makes an a-list blogger to you? What milestones will you look for along your journey? Let’s discuss in the comments.

photo by rogilde – roberto la forgia

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  • http://www.seanogle.com Sean

    I really enjoyed this post Corbett, these are all definitely good milestones to think about, and can certainly help pave the way to A-List status.

    However, I think there are some milestones in the higher end of this range that you maybe mentioned. I compared this list to my personal blog, and while I’ve hit the first 17, I’d hardly consider myself to be A-List or anywhere near it.

    I think things like a guest post on an A-List blog or hitting 10,000 page views in a day are good mid range milestones as well.

    Altogether this was a really good compilation though!

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      You’re right, there should be more milestones at the higher end. There’s really probably a whole extra stage that could fit here, but I had trouble thinking of the milestones to include. I guess that’s why I asked for your thoughts here in the comments. Thanks Sean!

  • Raul Sim

    I think the best way to describe an A-List blogger is by the usefulness, uniqueness & style of his content. After all, it’s all about the content.

    I would consider an A-List blogger not by great numbers, but by how much it helps me, in an easy-to-understand way.

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Hey Raul, great point, but there should be something in there about an a-list blogger’s influence being of a certain size, no?

      • Raul Sim

        size doesn’t matter, it’s all about the quality (my opinion)
        however, it’s a good post

  • http://www.selfemployedcafe.com Pawel @ Self Employed Cafe

    Hah, this is brilliant for new bloggers like myself!

    As it turns out I have one more milestone from the foundation stage to complete – #3 (but I am probably miles away from achieving any of the First Signs of Growth one).

    Ah well, sleeves up and back to work on the site for me.

    Thanks for a great article.

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Congrats on the progress. Good luck getting to the next stage, Pawel.

  • http://technblogging.com Sourav

    It seems that I have completed the steps for the foundation with my 1 month old blog. So now I have to work for the growth and prepare myself for the dip.
    Great post. Got some encouragement as a new blogger.

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Congrats! I’m glad to have provided a little encouragement.

  • http://www.theskooloflife.com Srinivas Rao

    Corbett,

    Seeing this post put a big smile on my face because I’ve hit many of these milestones just in the last few days. The Dip is something I’ve definitely experienced and I think it happened earlier this year. For some reason, everybody who had started before me or even around the same time as me was growing faster. One thing I think that people have to keep in mind is that consistency is a powerful thinking. I interviewed Yaro Starak recently and he said you have to think of blogging a snowball that you turn into an avalanche That was a great analogy and one that I’ll be writing an entire post about.

    Lately I’ve been getting a significantly higher volume of guest posts submissions which I’ve realized I need to develop a schedule/process for. I also have been interviewed, so that’s been really interesting. Great stuff here with lots of new things to look forward to. I hope that early stage bloggers will see this and be more motivated.

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      I love the “snowball to avalanche” analogy. Congrats on your recent progress, Srini!

  • http://www.devacoaching.com Sandi

    Happy to see I’ve already reached a couple of milestones and love that the road map is now laid out in front of me!

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Hi Sandi. Let me know if the road map holds true for your journey. Good luck with moving along.

  • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

    Corbett, cool list.

    I have accomplished 90% of those early milestones, the 100,000 subscriber mark will take some few more weeks ;)

    But I wonder if those numbers still count. I know super-bloggers who don’t have a big list, but have both
    a) a full-time income
    b) a raving fan base
    Chris Guillebeau said his email list is way bigger than his rss list, and he’s caring more about that.

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Yeah, subscribers numbers are becoming outdated, as I wrote about last week. Although, maybe you could use a number that includes RSS subscribers and your email list. I suppose it all depends on what your definition of a-lister is.

  • http://www.IAM-U.org Asatar Bair

    Great post, Corbett! I hope to be climbing this ladder soon.

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      I’m sure you will, Asatar. Good luck.

  • http://ankitkumar.in Ankit

    Now, I have something like progress report checklist. :)
    Thanks for this post, Corbett .

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Cheers, I hope it’s helpful.

  • http://experimentsinpassiveincome.com Moon Hussain

    I’m in the ‘signs of growth’ section right now. I hope I can push through!

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Just focus on the things that matter: great content, being helpful, connecting with readers and other bloggers, and you’ll do just fine. Be yourself and don’t worry what the competition is doing too much.

  • http://www.grassrootsinternetstrategy.com.au Mel

    Love the list, almost feels like it relates personally to my blog – we just went through the re-design phase but now I feel good to know that it’s more common than I thought. Ah, and how well I remember the heady heady rush of the first organic visitor.

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      The “heady days,” I love it. Yeah, redesigns are pretty common I think. It’s a natural part of the process. Just don’t mistake a redesign as a substitute for great content.

  • http://www.getinthehotspot.com/ Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot

    Great list but it has to be the first comment from someone you don’t know. Moving forward there are some painful parts to progress too – the first troll or spammy comments and the first person to ask you to plug their product on your blog even though you don’t know them:)

  • http://www.grassrootsinternetstrategy.com.au Mel

    I like your point Annabel, maybe a milestone should be when you stop wanting to look at spammy comments in case some of them are real, and accept that you need to install Akismet!

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      These are great, Mel and Annabel. The spam and trolls are definitely a sign you’re growing, or that you wrote about a topic spammers are interested in ;) Installing Akismet is definitely a milestone to watch for.

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  • http://www.drinkwhat.com steve

    Congrats! Keep it going! For me, I’m still trying to get to the growth part.

  • http://www.bloggingteacher.com/?utm_source=comment&utm_medium=comment&utm_campaign=comment Paul Cunningham

    That all looks very familiar. I think I’m pushing through the dip on both my blogs right now. A few signs of breaking out, but not enough yet. Funny how we all basically experience the same things when you get right down to it.

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Yeah, I think the signs of progress are similar for most of us. That’s good for blogs about blogging, like we have, right Paul?

  • http://www.LifeAtThePoles.com Abby

    I’ve tackled 1-4, but 5 may be an issue. I haven’t quite figured out how a very personal blog can produce a viral article, since I’m not typically writing to solve a problem, provide lists and so on! I guess I’ll just have to find out, huh? (:

    Still, this is a great progress report list, and it’s fun to see what you’ve done and what you have ahead of you still! Thanks for taking the time to write it all out!

    As for what’s missing, I’d like to see traffic included, but I’m thinking that might be a bit harder to benchmark. A great list even without that!

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      That’s a good question, Abby. The fundamentals of attracting visitors are the same for all kinds of blogs, whether personal or not. If you want to build a big audience, you’re going to have to give them something useful or valuable. Entertainment can count as value, but you have to be consistently and undeniably interesting.

  • http://blog.sysil.com Stanley Lee

    I’ve been a blogger for about 7 months. Initially, I have a few other bloggers visit my site, but most visitors I know. I currently can’t really keep track of how many subscribers are on my site, although I could install Google Analytics on my blog site. My blog has been in a rut in the last few months, as I’m not getting many comments/retweets/fb shares during the past 4 months. I am in the process of finding places where I can guest post, or finding potential interviewees to boost both bloggers’ traffic while providing readers some answeres from a different point of view. What are your thoughts?

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Hey Stanley, if you’re really trying to grow your site, you should definitely install an analytics package. If your traffic isn’t growing, I would first suspect that you’re not providing enough unique value to your new readers. You have to positively answer the question “why should I read your blog, when there are millions of others out there?” Try asking some outside parties for opinions of what your blog offers to them. You might be surprised that they don’t see things like you do.

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  • http://www.nakedgirlinadress.com Naked Girl in a Dress

    Thanks for writing this great post. It is frustrating to blog and not know how to measure your progress so this was very helpful. All I had read previously is to look at number of comments and time visitors spend on your site as an indicator of success early on in blogging. This is so much more helpful because I have reached those two goals (lots of comments and readers exceeding 2 min on ave) and was looking for a new way to define success/progress on my blog.

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Awesome, glad to help. Best of luck!

      • http://www.nakedgirlinadress.com Naked Girl in a Dress

        I just thought of a milestone to add to First Signs of Growth: negative comments. I just received a pretty harsh comment and was actually excited about it because I realized I hit a new milestone.

        It wasn’t criticizing my writing abilities or my site design/layout. The person left a comment because he felt strongly that I was wrong and wanted to voice this opinion.

        This is progress in building a blog: passionate readers.

        • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

          That’s a great milestone for the list, and you’re looking at it in the right way. Negative comments are an inevitable part of growth, and for the most part you should just ignore them (unless there’s something constructive in them).

  • http://malefitnessmodels.net Michael Novotny

    I’m printing this out! I’m on a dip now and working hard to get to growth stage. I don’t get as much comments as I want though, maybe it must be the design of my blog or nature of content.

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Hey Michael, comments aren’t a measure of success for every blog. Some topics don’t attract comments for some reason. Also, some hugely popular blogs don’t even allow comments. It really depends on your site and what you’re trying to do.

  • http://malefitnessmodels.net Michael Novotny

    That’s a relief :-) I was talking to a fellow blogger from the same niche and he just told me to not freak out when people do not comment. Anyway, just subscribed to the RSS on here!

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  • http://www.nakedgirlinadress.com Naked Girl in a Dress

    Corbett~
    I just thought of another milestone: product promotion inquiry. Last week I received an inquiry from a social media promo person for a business. She wants to send me something. She wanted me to review it, but I turned it around to run a contest for readers using the freebie. It is a win-win. I think promoting a contest for a prize will help increase my readership and increase their exposure.

    Thought I would come back to share this as well. In my opinion it is another milestone for blogging.

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Great point! I think that’s a milestone everyone can look forward to. Eventually it can become too much to deal with when it seems everyone is asking you to review their product, but in the beginning it’s fun and certainly a sign of your growth.

      I like how you created a contest out of the opportunity. Hope it goes well for you.

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  • Bryon Blandin

    Great information- I’m in the process of writting a business plan that is incorporating a blog, the listed milestones were a great resource!

    Thanks

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  • http://99niches.com Thomas

    Hello,

    I found your blog yesterday at around noon – it’s now 4:30am and I’m still here. I hope you still have content after I leave/pass out from exhaustion, as I’ve devoured just about everything on your website. ;-)

    Two things:

    @Naked Girl in a Dress – LOL, curiosity is killing me. What on earth could her webpage be about. Great name.

    @Corbett – Perhaps either receiving your first donation (from someone you don’t know!) or first request for advertising/payment for advertising on your blog.

    Your site is also making me strongly consider Thesis. I’ve used free WordPress themes on a couple niche blogs of mine that do well, but as I am just starting another blog I can be a bit more general with, what I see here running on Thesis makes me reconsider the theme I THOUGHT I liked so much. ;-)

    All the best,

    Thomas

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Sorry for absorbing you for 16 hours, Thomas! Hope it’s been worth your while.

      Thesis is a great theme, but it doesn’t look like this out of the box. You have to have a design vision (and perhaps know a little CSS) to really make it work well.

      Cheers, hope to see you around again.

  • http://www.womanseeksworld.com Nicole @ WomanSeeksWorld

    Great article – I started my foray into the blogging world a couple of months ago so it’s good to see Im on the right track! Im glad the whole ‘dip’ thing isnt just me too…Im going to keep at it and hopefully reach A list staus one day!

    Thanks!

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Awesome Nicole, congrats on the new site! Let us know how things go for you.

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