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Being ‘Discovered’ vs ‘Slow and Steady’ Blog Growth

Reader QuestionsKumiko asks – ‘I was studying John Chow’s traffic patterns through Alexa and noticed that his popularity really surged after four of his articles were listed on Digg and his traffic went through the roof. He was ‘discovered’ through these and his traffic levels have never really looked back. And receiving a link in one of your posts has done wonderful things for my own traffic!

What were landmark posts or actions that you did in order to receive the traffic that you have now? Was there a single post or link that sent your traffic sky-high and made you a ‘pro-blogger?’

Good question – although not the easiest one to answer as there have been many such moments in the 4 or so years that I’ve been blogging.

Before answering the question from my own perspective let me make a more general observation.

Being ‘Discovered’ vs ‘Slow and Steady’ Blog Growth

Every blog is so different and for some the process of ‘being discovered’ that you write about above is definitely a factor (usually after a big blog or social network site links up).

On the other hand there are also many popular blogs out there where the rise to success was much more slow and steady.

For this second group it is the accumulation of good blogging over a sustained period of time that gets them discovered – one reader at a time, one day at a time and one post at a time. I suspect this second group represents the majority of bloggers.

Speaking Personally

If i were to plot my own blogging experience on the spectrum between being ‘discovered’ and the ‘slow and steady’ approach I’d have to say that it’s differed for me from blog to blog. Here’s how it’s been on three of my own blogs:

LivingRoom

My first blog LivingRoom (a personal blog that I really need to reinvent) was definitely a slow and steady growth blog. While it did become very popular in it’s niche (emerging church/spirituality) there was no major moment when traffic exploded and stayed at high levels. Sure there were moments along the way where I had bursts of traffic but it was a long and slow growth over a number of years of blogging. The growth initially came from regular readers and then from Search Engine Traffic as my ranking in Google increased.

ProBlogger

Here at ProBlogger things have been a little more ‘explosive’ at different times – however the slow and steady factor has definitely played a part. Perhaps the posts that put ProBlogger into the minds of many readers in it’s early days were my posts talking about the kind of money I was earning from blogging. These obviously caused a real stir – particularly when they got onto Slashdot and other large blogs (I’m not sure Digg was on the scene back then).

Also along the way there have been many other occasions where I was Dugg or LifeHackered or featured in mainstream media – however I’d still say that these exciting bursts of traffic were just part of the slow and steady growth that I’ve experienced over 2.5 years of blogging. While the big explosions of traffic are great – the readers they bring in do tend to disappear a few days later and only small percentage stay on. What you do the day after you get on the front page of Digg is in my opinion just as important (if not more) than what you did to get on the front page itself – this is where your day to day readership decides whether to keep coming back or not.

Digital Photography School

Traffic levels at DPS have been somewhat more explosive than here at ProBlogger. Perhaps it is that the topic there is a little more mainstream – but I’ve noticed that the big link ups really do have an impact – and a more lasting one than when they happen at ProBlogger.

Perhaps the post that started it all for DPS was ‘How to Hold a Digital Camera‘ (a post featured on many large tech and social bookmarking sites). I’m almost embarrassed by that – it’s the most basic post I’ve ever written – however sometimes basic is what people are after and for some reason that post was like a call to action for potential readers – the action that they took was to sign up for my newsletter, bookmark the site and subscribe to the RSS feed.

There have been numerous other posts that have done well along the way in a similar fashion – each bringing bursts of traffic (usually from larger blogs and social bookmarking sites) that resulted in more people becoming loyal to the site.

Final Thoughts

Two random thoughts have come to mind as I’ve written this:

Write for ‘real’ people
Writing about how to hold a digital camera might not be the most profound thing I’ve ever written – but it struck a cord, met a need and connected with real people (not those cool web 2.0 types – but people like our parents, neighbors and school kids). Write for real people – after all, it’s not just the web 2.0 crowd who surf the web.

Balance is the Key
While I’m someone who is always on the look out for a way to ‘get discovered’ in a new space I’ve found that it’s the day to day posts that you write that really matter most. While your linkbait might bring in 20,000 new readers from Digg today, what will you write tomorrow and what have you got in your archives that you wrote last week to keep them hanging around? I suspect that many bloggers put so much time and effort into the 1% of posts that are about getting discovered that the 99% of posts that really matter suffer.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Chris M says:

    Great question, followed by a great answer.

    I just started a website: webtrepreneur.co.za, which is all about making money online. There are so many of these websites out there, this I know, but what I aim to achieve is collecting a membership, based on the fact that I am going back to the beginning, and writing articles which are not aimed at experienced ‘monitizers’. A website were people don’t arrive in the middle of things. Very slowly working my way up to more technical stuff basically.

    In my opinion, explosive traffic bursts are great for landing people all over your website, but in my opinion, building up a slow membership is a bit more personally rewarding, what do you think?

  2. Kulbir Virk says:

    nice article, I agree that its more important to strive for the daily reader rather than a burst of people that won’t come back. However I still hope that my blog would blow up big like others have.

  3. Rehuel says:

    I’m so happy to read this article. A slow and steady grow is probably more rewarding in the end. Instead of bursts of visitors you will have loyal visitors who will stick with you.

    At the moment I’m trying to get a burst of visitors, without even worrying if they will stay, just because I have a message I want to bring across: A Surinamese girl was crowned Miss India Worldwide and I want the world to know that. I’ll use my blog to help spread the word, even if I go back to the point in my slowly climbing visitor number (100 unique visitors)

    In short, I think getting a burst of visitors is sometimes necessary to bring a message across. You get that burst by being dugg or to have your article featured/mentioned on an A-list blog.

  4. Shaun Carter says:

    Yeah, getting a blog to “blow up” hasn’t happened to me personally but I think it would be a very exciting event. I am re-dedicating myself to blogging after purchasing my name as a dot com and am hoping to win the race sloe and steady… if it blows up along the way, great, if not, then no big deal!

  5. Thanks for this article. This is my constant debate. I started up in late November and have been doing the slow and steady since then. It has slowly paid off. I went from a few uniques a day to clearing a hundred now.

    Yet I still find myself envious of the dugg bloggers. I wish I had thought up some scheme to get me out there. My focus now has been on writing that one “killer” article and let that be my way out there.

    Well, at least this article reaffirms the approach I have taken so far.

  6. Kumiko says:

    Thanks for the answer Darren! It was great to hear about some of your other blogs as well.

    Kumiko

  7. JoLynn says:

    Hi Darren,

    I feel like it’s out of my control whether or not my blog is “discovered” or not. I do know that what is in my control is the quality of my content, my writing, and the time and effort I put into it. I have to keep thinking that if what I am writing makes sense to others then they will tell other people and it will keep going from there. Also, I definitely strive to write for “real people”.

    …On a side note, I wanted to tell you that I have come to use your site as a my first resource for any blogging question that I have, even before google. Whether it’s a term that I’m unfamiliar with or something that I want to learn more about, I come here first and search your site. Thanks so much for all of the info that you share with us, and the time that you put into it.

    JoLynn

  8. It is funny that I want to be a “noticed blogger”, but I never really thought about how I was going to get there. I suppose I follow the “slow and steady” pace, but i think there is a lot to be learned with the “being discovered” state. In my mind, the question is: Do I want to be controversial and eye catching or just be informative? I have found that blogs about some of the most basic things (things that I seem are also TOO trivial) brings the most visitors. I suppose I just keep doing what I do and hopefully, one of my blogs gets “discovered”, else, we do it slow and steady…cheers…matt

  9. Tim says:

    I saw a huge increase in the statistics when I released my first WordPress plugin, Hot or Not Admin Panel. I haven’t noticed much of a “slow and steady” growth, except gradual increases in the search engine referers.

  10. Raj says:

    Both of those factors have their own roles to play in growing your blog to new heights. I prefer the slow and steady approach rather than caring about sudden outbursts. Those bubbles are tough to handle when compared to slow and steady flow of visitors you get. Content plays the most important role and one should not think about anything but writing great articles for first 6-12 months and then look around for other ways of getting discovered.

    My 2 cents!

  11. Matt Jones says:

    Wow Darren its great to hear about your past! … I really had no idea you had so many sites!

  12. Brian Auer says:

    For me, the progress seems to be a little bit of both. The readership is steadily increasing, search engine traffic is more than steadily increasing, and I get a few spikes of traffic here and there.

    Those spikes (and I’m not talking Digg front page type) are fun to ride out for a day or two, but they also help with the long term traffic. They create steps in my traffic, kind of like little power boosts.

    By the way Darren, my first (and largest) spike was from the Digital Photography School. You posted a one sentence link to one of my articles in your Sunday roundup, and I was riding a wave of traffic for a week or more. That spike created a big step in my traffic and it’s continued to grow from there. Thanks again for that!

  13. Ali says:

    I totally agree with a slow and steady growth. But you should also make a plan for yourself as to how slow and steady you want it.

    If you want it quick enough there are plenty resources to do so on the internet, and today you could virtually be “discovered” overnight.

  14. Ari says:

    Great post. Obviously this is something everyone struggles with.

    Steve Pavlina talks about on his blog how his traffic exploded and went from 0 to 86,000 hits in his blog’s first five months when he started back in Oct 2004. He recommends submitting your post’s to blog carnivals.

    In my early traffic-building days, I’d do carnivals submissions once a week, and it helped a great deal in going from nothing to about 50,000 visitors per month.

    Unfortunately, blog carnivals havent really worked so much for me. I think Steve’s success had more to do with the fact that blogging was just becoming popular when he started out. I dont think I’ve heard of anyone else generating that much traffic in just 5 months of starting a blog.

    Has anyone else had success with blog carnivals?

  15. Brad says:

    Interesting post! I never thought of blog growth in terms of slow steady progress or “being discovered. If I had my choice, I think I’d rather have slow and steady growth. That way, I can cultivate my style and earn readers’ respect through quality posts on a regular basis – not because my blogg was featured on some other website (although that would nice as well).

    My readers are everything to me, and I want them to stick around. I’d rather have ten regular readers that keep coming back than a one time surge of a hundred readers who disappear and never return.

    Slow is the way to go!

  16. Miles says:

    Great post Darren!

  17. Rangga says:

    it such a painful of being discovered and then forgotten — although there’s long-term effect too e.g. have one page that highly indexed by google for particular “key word”

    always prefer steady growth =)

  18. Steve Nguyen says:

    My site, http://www.beyondbehaviors.com, is definitely an example of one of those “slow and steady” blog growth.

    I think there are a few things bloggers ought to keep in mind:
    (1) The success (whether slow or explosive) comes with what we’re writing and who we’re targeting. My blog has to do with classroom & school crisis management, counseling and crisis intervention, and mental health. So my repeater guests and visitors as well as those who found my site make up a very small percentage of the millions of web surfers since most people aren’t as interested in these specific areas;
    (2) From what I have seen (as a normal web surfer myself), those blogs that eventually make it “big time” have one of two things…
    (a) they offer an interesting service that others highly value (like ProBlogger where Darren shares about blogging tips and ideas for free) and/or
    (b) they contain coherent, well-written, easy-to-understand, and/or interesting things (like http://www.dooce.com where Heather opens up about about her life).

    The blogs (like Guy Kawasaki, Seth Godin, ProBlogger, Dooce, etc.) all have one thing in common, they offer either an interesting service/advice that others highly value or they contain coherent, well-written, easy-to-understand, and/or interesting things.

    I’m hoping that my blog does a little bit of both…in my very small corner of this vast place we call the Internet.

  19. Terry Ng says:

    I think most would prefer fast and steady growth instead of slow and steady. ;)

  20. jhay says:

    Steady growth with occasional traffic spikes would be nice. Especially if those spikes comes in a regular interval.

  21. Mike says:

    My blog is just a couple of months old and I’ve ad a couple of decent spikes from digg and stumbleupon but overall its the slow trickle of readers that keeps the site going. I think the biggest factor is still content. If you have good content you’ll get readers.

  22. For some reason, I always thought you had many more sites than those three. Of course, two of those three are pretty darn successful!

  23. 2.5 years and you’re here? You’re not SLOW and steady!

  24. Excellent post! It’s good to remind bloggers that all that exhaustive effort getting onto social media still means you need to keep blogging the next day. ;-)

  25. Vince Cordic says:

    Posting consistently good information and content is definitely the way to go, but getting an extra boost once in a while doesn’t hurt either. Fortunately the two usually go hand-in-hand.

  26. sylvia says:

    Pssst. That should say chord, not cord. :)

  27. James says:

    A case of steady spikes (every day) would be nice.
    Thanks Darren, it is always interesting to know how things worked with bigger blogs like this.

  28. lee says:

    Darren, thanks for the post. I had actually asked this question in an earlier comment. As a new blogger I see my traffic building steadily, but not in surges. I wondered if I was missing something, but I think I’ll just stay on course and focus on writing good posts for real people. Great information!

  29. My first thought when reading this article was something that I only see Brian Auer talking about. A popular post does not only help in the short run, but also in the long run because of the links it garners.

    When you have a popular post (in our case: it gets a few links..) the links count towards your SER, if they’re not rel=nofollow that is. The benefits of this are obvious.

    So, I guess it’s like Brian says; the popular posts add a step to your traffic/readers.

  30. Dharmendra says:

    Good stuff..building relations with your audience is the most important step to get an ongoing growth of traffic to your blogs.Nothing works better than getting those audiences’ revisits to your site who can find something engaging and useful time and again from you.

    I am also trying to make a genuine and honest approach to build such relations with my audience and so far so good in my favorite subject of Java technology.
    This is Planet Java left for you all to explore at your own pace and will,

    http://planetjavajee.blogspot.com/

    Have fun

  31. ashok says:

    To #15, Ari – carnivals have not brought me much traffic, but I’ve gotten links from them I wouldn’t otherwise have had. Now granted, my blogposts are basically essays and the content is usually specialized, so I’m just grateful for the links.

    Reading this post excited me, because my traffic is just beginning to pick up, and I’m worried about it regressing: it is possible to be wholly ignored online. I know some of the people dropping in, and it’s really neat to see that making one connection at a time is feasible and worth one’s time.

  32. This article is really encouraging Darren. Without doing much ( any really) research before I started blogging I just wrote as me. In my line of business being me is really important. Reading other blogs has given me ideas which I continue to develop. I have a small but regular band of readers and from time to time get a surge. That’s fine….And your comment “sometimes basic is what people are after” particularly works for me!

  33. Michael GR says:

    I’ve just started my third blog 4 days ago, michaelgr.com, a personal one, and the growth has been nice even though it’s only been four days. No big links but already about 600 hits.

    I’ll have to wait and see about which category it will fall under in the long term, though.

  34. Ricardo says:

    I have listened that in the case of blogs when it publishes a adsense publicity east is distributed between which it gives to his space or blog and the person who puts the announcement Is this truth?

    I have seen that it exists other forms to make money from Internet.

  35. Karen says:

    My newest blog is just one week old but it is my favorite of my blogs so far. I would be really happy with traffic period – whether it comes slow and steady or in spikes! :-)

    Thanks for the great info as always, Darren.

  36. Luciano says:

    The question and the answear are good! Here how I am trying to achieve a good traffic: I spot around on the net sites and blogs where I can participate with my comments posting and naturally leaving my web address…this gives a “boost of traffic” to my Blog of about 120 contacts a day for a while. Now I do not do this everyday because I do not want to pollute…at the same tima every single day I update my Blog trying my best to choose well the photos & videos….I did put adsense + amazon following your advice even if it is not really working. But it is not even a mounth that my blog has been completed with ads etc etc….I believe it is going to be well on the long run (I hope).
    Ciao and thanks!

  37. I’m definitely having a slow and steady rise. I’ve noticed something though. I have developed several relationships and found a couple of friends that I never would have met without blogging. It has always been about community for me.

    I enjoy these relationships more than a sudden surge in visitors. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice when my graph shoots up on a particular day, but I know that these long time readers of mine that really appreciate my content will be back.

  38. Valuecdn says:

    Don’t forget the sitemap.xml generation and search engine pinging when you update your blog. Helps a lot for new blog owners and start-up sites.

  39. Curtis Gray says:

    That last sentence is really deep Darren. But seriously, these are the type of posts that people really need to see.

    I personally started to blog because “I was gonna make so much money.” But all those posts about how I wish this would just happen, well, they sucked.

    I for the last week or so have enjoyed writing actual articles. No, I don’t have a readership yet, but now I enjoy it a whole lot more and am more willing to stay on for the long haul.

  40. moonburst says:

    Real articles for the people is what matters most, because it’s real people that the articles actually connect with. All in all if an article were to touch someone, that in actuality would cause the articles to spread for themselves. No matter how miniscule or unbelievably boring a topic might be to someone, there just might be a group of people on the net looking for specific answers to that topic. Nice answer to a not so easy question, Darren. As for now, slow and steady is winning so far. Hehe, will have to read some more of your posts!

  41. SEO Genius says:

    I aim for slow growth rather than an erratic amount of traffic that you can never predict. I prefer the long approach and hope to become reliant on mainly search engine traffic and dedicated readers rather than a digg post on the first page.

  42. Seth says:

    I appreciate this article… After looking at launching a new blog I was trying to hone down my strategy. I think I will take a little of both!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Darren Rowse, creator of ProBloger.com has an interesting article called Being ‘Discovered’ vs ‘Slow and Steady’ Blog Growth. It’s actually a response to readers questions about statistics and making money with blogs. [...]

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  5. [...] Hopefully we will be able to keep some of that traffic and interest. Darren Rowse might call this “slow and steady” blog growth. That it has been over 18 months since its inception is amazing; it feels like only yesterday that [...]

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