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How My Blog Traffic Grew 20% During a 3-Week Vacation (or How to Take a Vacation Without Losing Traffic)

This is a guest post from J.D. Roth. J.D. writes about smart personal finance at Get Rich Slowly. He has been blogging since 2001.

200711162216The summer doldrums — most bloggers fear them. It’s not just that traffic tends to be lower, but bloggers are people, too, and need to take vacations. Yet even when big-name bloggers take a break, their traffic falls. Imagine what things are like for mortals like us!

Yet it doesn’t have to be that way. In July, I spent three weeks traveling to London, Dublin, and New York. During that time, my blog didn’t lose traffic. In fact, it gained readers. Here’s how I did it.

Begin planning early

I often see bloggers post requests for guest entries just days before they leave town. This isn’t enough time. It’s not enough time for guest authors to write anything, and it’s not enough time for you to edit it. When preparing for a vacation, you don’t want to prepare days ahead, or even weeks. You want to plan months in advance. Because I knew that I was leaving on July 14th, I began planning for my absence in April.

Be organized

To make things easier, I created a spreadsheet listing the slots that needed to be filled. I post either once or twice a day at Get Rich Slowly, so I had a two-column grid covering the days I would be gone.

Grsvacationgrid

As I accepted guest posts, I slotted them for a particular day. The schedule changed frequently, but modifications were easy because I was using a spreadsheet.

Adjust your schedule

Planning for a three-week absence takes work. Even when filling the space with guest posts, each entry must be edited, formatted, and scheduled. In the weeks leading up to your vacation, slow your daily production. If you post twice a day, but back to just once a day. Use the extra time to write pieces for your absence, or to edit the guest posts that you’ve received.

Plan beyond your return date

When I returned from my trip, I was exhausted. I didn’t want to write. Fortunately, I didn’t have to. Instead of just planning three weeks of guest posts, I had planned four. I knew that I might be in a time crunch upon returning, so I made sure to have extra posts ready to go.

Aim high

Here’s the meat of this strategy. In order to keep your readers interested, and in order to maintain traffic, you need to offer top-notch content. To do this, you need top-notch authors. It’s always smart to ask colleagues — bloggers in your same niche — if they’re willing to contribute. But better yet, ask people who seem out of your league. What do you have to lose? At worst, they’ll say “no”. At best, they’ll say “yes”, and you’ll have made them aware of your site.

I decided to ask for posts from big-name writers I admire, including Penelope Trunk, Malcolm Gladwell, and Liz Pulliam Weston. These folks aren’t small potatoes. Each is a published author who also writes a regular newspaper or magazine column. Because I knew these people were busy, I kept my e-mail brief. I introduced myself, described my site (emphasizing its subscriber numbers, which are its strength), and explained the situation. Most importantly, I pointed out that a guest post at Get Rich Slowly might introduce their work to a new audience.

Not everyone will be willing or able to lend a hand. But some will. Trunk and Weston both agreed to provide posts. And while Gladwell couldn’t do so, he did grant me permission to excerpt several pages from one of his books.

All because I had the courage to ask.

Final touches

Once you’ve assembled your collection of guest posts, place them in an order that makes sense. You have a feel for the rhythm of your blog — attempt to duplicate it with the posts you’ve gathered. Some of the guest articles will be better than others. Don’t cluster the good stuff together. Instead, space things out, using the best articles as tent poles to hold up the weaker entries.

200711162218It’s a good idea to recruit a recruit a trusted colleague or a loyal reader to act as editor while you’re away. There may be long stretches during which you have no access to a computer. During my trip, it was comforting to know that there was somebody around to put out fires. (And there were fires! The very first post of my vacation stirred up a hornet’s nest.)

Enjoy your holiday

This may sound like a lot of work, but it’s really not. And it’s worth it. If you start early, and work on the project a little at a time, you’ll find that it comes together with ease. Best of all, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your holiday because you’ll know you’ve left your readers with quality content.

When I left for vacation in mid-July, Get Rich Slowly was averaging 7,500 unique visitors a day. When I returned three weeks later, it was averaging 9,000 per day. (And my subscriber numbers had grown too!) All it took was a little elbow grease and the courage to ask for help.

Movember is Almost Over – it’s Time to Donate!

Day 23It’s been 27 days now that I’ve been growing my Mo for charity and so far the donations have totaled in excess of $1600. I’ve posted another couple of update pictures on the Movember page so you can track my progress. The one on this post was taking on day 23 while on vacation.

There have been a lot of wonderful sponsorships including six premium sponsors who are listed on my Movember page and who will be thanked again in another post here on the blog at the end of the month. To join them simply donate $200.

Whether you donate $200 or $2 your donation will be greatly appreciated. You can make your donation here.

So get your donation in – help me make up for the mockery, jokes and looks of disgust (mainly from my wife) that I’ve endured this month!

PS: Quite a few readers have asked if they can donate via PayPal. Movember don’t accept this form of donation but if you want to donate via PayPal I’m accepting donations to my own PayPal account (send them to darren AT problogger DOT net) and will forward them onto Movember at the end of the month.

Hiring a web consultant – Pros and Cons

The following post on the “Pros and Cons of hiring a web consultant” was written by Lara Kulpa.

There are pros and cons to hiring an outside web consultant.So you’ve got yourself a little start-up blog and you’ve earned some okay money. You spend 5-10 hours a week writing, commenting on other blogs, doing all the things that Darren tells you to do in order to increase your blog’s popularity, but you’re still not raking in the big bucks, or getting the traffic even to come close to that.

Sometimes you even look at your blog, with that free template on it that you downloaded somewhere after spending hours trying to figure out how to install your blog software and make small customizations like the color of your text links, and you think to yourself that you’d really like something more custom.

There are pros and cons to hiring an outside web consultant, an SEO “expert”, or a designer, that you should think about before you make that jump.

Pros

  • A good designer and developer knows what attracts and keeps the attention of your visitors. Research shows that you have less than 3 seconds to get someone to click deeper into your site, and having a good visual appeal is important. Just because you think that falling snowflakes and animated gifs are cute, doesn’t mean everyone does.
  • Search engine optimization is more than just meta tags and keywords. There’s research involved, and while your style of writing might be really good, a copywriter or SEO consultant could very well help make it fantastic as well as effective.
  • Marketing people need to be creative by the very nature of the world, and a consultant will help you come up with brilliant ideas for spreading the word about your site that you likely have never even thought of.
  • Especially if you’re still working a full-time job, have a family to attend to, and are trying to blog for money, you simply don’t have TIME to learn all the things you should know about marketing a website or blog. Hiring a blog consultant or paying for their services will save you an enormous amount of time.

Cons

  • Consultants cost money. Good consultants cost a lot of money, and you will get what you pay for. Phoning up your 11-year-old nephew to have him spam MySpace pages in return for minutes on his cellphone is going to get you nowhere. You need to spend money to make money. Expect to pay anywhere from $40-$200 per hour for quality work.
  • Hiring someone else to do the work for you keeps you in the need for hiring someone else to do the work for you. You don’t learn on your own, and you are forced to rely on someone else to help you succeed (which means trusting a stranger with your livelihood).
  • Anyone with a computer can throw up a website and call themselves an “expert”. You have to do some research on the person you’re looking to hire, and you HAVE to ask questions. Ask for examples, references, and definitely Google them and their company before you sign any contracts.
  • You need to be willing to not only be taught, but to actually put the time into learning and DOING what your consultant suggests you do. Otherwise you’re throwing good money after bad, and you’re going to wind up feeling broke and no further along than you were before. Consultants are there to consult you, and if you’re not willing to put an effort into it, you’re going to make them feel like their words are going in one ear and out the other. If you’re not ready to learn, then you’re going to spend MORE money, paying them to do it for you.

All that said, having a good working relationship with a consultant or company that offers consulting services can give you long-term results that will guarantee you more traffic, more attention, and yes, more money.

How To Be A Happier, Healthier Blogger

158962685 7D88120C2A BCan Blogging Be a Health Hazard? If so, how can you prevent it happening to you? In this guest post Lea Woodward from Location Independent explores how to be a happier and healthier blogger.

Ok, so you might not think that blogging is a health hazard but it’s not so much the act of blogging itself that can cause health problems – it’s more to do with the fact that sitting for hours on end in front of your computer blogging or reading blogs, can play havoc with your health.

Some of the more common problems experienced by bloggers (and anyone who spends hours at a computer) are…

  • Eye strain – from tired eyes to those whose eyesight has deteriorated noticably from spending hours in front of the computer screen (perhaps similar to Darren’s problem a couple of years ago)
  • Structural or muscular problems – such as chronic neck ache, increased back ache and RSI.
  • Energy slumps – from needing several hours and multiple cups of coffee to get you going in the morning to those pesky mid-afternoon dips when all you feel like doing is taking a nap.
  • Disrupted sleep patterns – for bloggers who burn the midnight oil blogging late into the night or can’t get to sleep and spend time surfing the blogosphere into the wee small hours.

Whoever said blogging was good for you, eh?

So, if any of these problems sound familiar, here are some things you can try to help you become a happier and altogether healthier blogger:

  1. Always take time to look away from your computer screen regularly. There is a fantastic exercise from the field of natural vision correction which I personally use, called “palming”. It can help ease the chronic strain in your eyes and is great for relaxing tired eyes. Here’s a guide of how to do it.
  2. Regularly stretch your body if you spend long hours sitting at a desk. When some muscles become stronger and tighter than others from being in one position for hours at a time, this results in the postural imbalances that can cause rounded shoulders, hunch backs, tight hip flexors (the ones used when raising your knees up to your waist) and problems with tight lower back muscles. Aim to stretch any muscles that feel tight on a regular basis at intervals throughout the day – it may well be worth consulting a qualified trainer to design a proper stretching protocol for you, especially if you have back, neck, shoulder or other long term problems and chronic pain.
  3. Energy slumps are usually caused by blood sugar imbalances. Typically, too many carbs (bread, fruit, veg) at lunch in proportion to protein (meat, fish, eggs, dairy) intake can cause a spike in your blood sugar leading to a drop – the energy slump you feel. If you feel drowsy 1-2 hours after your meal, this could the likely cause. Try playing around with the ratio of your meals – so if you normally have a heavily carb-based lunch, try adding a bit more protein and see how you feel. Protein helps slow down the absorption of carbs and can help stabilise your blood sugar. Similarly, if you eat too much protein and feel sluggish, try adding a few more carbs to your meals.
  4. Sleep is crucial to good health. Numerous studies have shown how disruptions to sleep patterns can cause long term health problems – and these include going to bed too late, getting too little sleep and generally any disruption to your natural circadian rhythms (sleep patterns). An ideal rule of thumb is to aim to get to bed by 11pm every night to maximise the time your body has to regenerate and heal itself (typically between 11pm and 2am). Whilst the odd late night won’t hurt you, on a long term basis it can result in niggling health problems that never go away, an inability to lose weight, increased stress levels and impair the body’s ability to heal and recover.

As a former health coach and personal trainer, I can’t say I always follow my own rules (I’m writing this at 11pm!) but health is just one of those things…you don’t miss it until it’s gone; so get into some good habits now and see how much more of a successful blogger it makes you!

Lea Woodward is a location independent business coach & consultant. She runs her businesses whilst traveling the world and can currently be found sunning herself on the Caribbean island of Grenada. Next stop? Party time in Dubai. Read more about Lea on her personal blog, or find out more about her location independent lifestyle here.

Web Graphics Training Course (Photoshop)

Web-Graphics-Cd-CoverDo you want to learn how to make great graphics for your blog?

Over at Digital Photography School I only promote a very small group of quality products to my readers. One of the most popular is a Photoshop training resource called Pro Photo Secrets by a fellow Aussie – Shane Goldberg.

Shane’s photoshop training (via hundreds of great videos) is one of the best quality resources on the market (he offers a free 7 video sampler on this page if you’re interested in the quality of his work).

Today I logged in to check my email (I’m still away on vacation but had to check in to send some photos to family) and an email from Shane caught my eye. He’s just released a web graphics training course and has a special running this week.

The course is called Web Graphics Made Easy and it is for those of you with Photoshop CS3 who want to use it not only to edit images but to create everything from cool buttons, headers, favicons and for those wanting some training on saving files for the web, uploading images etc.

The reason I’m posting about this today (a Sunday here in Australia) is that Shane’s offering this product (it’s CD based) at 50% off for the first 300 sales.

I’m yet to try this myself (although I’ve just ordered one) as I’m on holidays – but having purchased and promoted Shane’s products before I can vouch for the quality of what he does and am looking forward to getting home to my own copy of it. He also offers a money back guarantee which I know he’s good for.

OK – now let me get back to the pool and the last couple of days of my vacation!

This post contains affiliate links

What Blog Platforms Do You Use? – [POLL]

It’s time for another regular Reader Poll.

This week I’m not running it in my sidebar – because I’m allowing you to add options to it and last time I asked this question in a poll we ended up with 30 or so options and my sidebar was WAY to long by the end of it.

So the question is:

‘What Blog Platform Do You Use Most?’

Are you a WordPress (.com or .org) fan, MovableType, Drupal, Blogger.com, TypePad or do you prefer one of the other many varieties of ways of getting a blog online.

If you run multiple blogs on multiple platforms – just choose the one you use most. If you have two that you use equally – pick your favorite. If your platform is not in the list – feel free to add it. (update: due to one user abusing the ability to add options I’ve disabled this. If your platform isn’t in the list – feel free to leave a comment below indicating which one you use and I’ll include it in the results. To the person who decided to take it upon themselves to have some ‘fun’…. nice IP address – looks rather familiar.

Without any more explanation – here’s the poll:

What Blog Platform Do You Use Most?
Total Votes: 1562 Started: 11/16/2007 1 = Added by a guest Back to Vote Screen


One more thing – for those of you interested in the results from last time I ran this poll (January 2006) here they are.

Be Brave – Break Your Blog

Problogger Brave IntroThe following post on ‘breaking your blog’ and setting up test blogs was submitted by Michael Martin from Pro Blog Design.

One of the best kept secrets in design is that we don’t always know what we’re doing. Understanding design theory and color and all the rest of it is one thing, but when you’re backed into a corner, it’s your instinct that takes over.

You get a feeling that something might work, and you roll with it. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, try something else.

This works with designers because we can fix our mistakes. As a blogger however, you may not be so comfortable. What happens if you break your blog? The answer is to set up a blog that doesn’t matter if you break it.

Why Experiment With Your Design?

The best thing about designing on the internet is that nothing is ever quite finished. You can spend weeks building a fantastic design, but long after you release it, you can keep on making changes.

The internet gives us the ability to continually improve our blogs, and we should use that. Is every single aspect of your blog perfect? Not likely.

How would things look with a smaller header? The sidebar on the other side? A different color for links? By experimenting with every idea that takes you, you can decide which work and which don’t, landing you one step closer to perfection.

Setting Up A Test Blog

To safely experiment with your design, you set up a second blog. You copy your theme over to the second blog, and make all the changes there. If things go wrong, then no harm done. Just wipe the slate and start over.

On a free hosted blog, such as Blogger, all you have to do is register a second account.

With a self-hosted blog, such as WordPress, you can either install a second blog on your web server, or locally on your computer. The second option is very easy to do, and preferable because you can use your own text-editor on the files, and it’s much faster.

Installing WordPress on Your Computer

You need to install a web server (Apache), PHP and MySQL. Fortunately, a few nice guys have done all the hard work for you. All you need to do is download and install a single file (Windows, Mac, Linux).

When the installation is finished, you need to start your server, create a new database, and then install WordPress.

Problogger Brave1For Windows users: (Mac and Linux users may have to check their own documentation, though things will be pretty similar)

1. To start your server, select “Start WampServer” from the WampServer group in the startup menu.

2. In your system tray, you will see a new icon. Click it and a list of options will appear.

3. Choose the “phpMyAdmin” option. On that screen, there will be a “Create New Database” section. Fill the name “wordpress” into the box, then click “Create”. Now close phpMyAdmin.

4. Click the system tray icon again and choose the “www directory” option. It loads Windows Explorer with the folder where you will put your web files.

Problogger Brave2-1

5. Create a new folder (Called “wordpress”) and copy over all of the WordPress files (Everything that you’d normally upload to a server). Also copy over your blog’s theme into /wp-content/themes/.

6. Open up wp-config-sample.php, and change the details (You can set up a password in phpMyAdmin if you want, but if you’re the only one at the computer, it’s not needed, and it’s one less password to remember!).

define(‘DB_NAME’, ‘wordpress’); // The name of the database
define(‘DB_USER’, ‘root’); // Your MySQL username
define(‘DB_PASSWORD’, ”); // …and password
define(‘DB_HOST’, ‘localhost’); // 99% chance you won’t need to change this value

Problogger Brave3

7. Rename wp-config-sample.php to wp-config.php (The usual WordPress install).

8. Click the icon once again, and choose the “Localhost” option. This will load your web browser. Under the “My Projects” section of the sidebar, you’ll see a wordpress link. Click it and that’s you! Just finish up the WordPress install as normal.

With that done, all that remains is to fill in a few dummy categories, posts and comments. Your local WordPress is ready, and you’re free to experiment as much as you please. Just save a copy of the theme somewhere safe, so that if you break something, you can replace your files with the copies.

Checking That Your Theme Works

You don’t want to upload a design that works for you, but not for everyone else. It is easy to forget that we aren’t all using the same browser, so you should check how your changes look in the major browsers.

The good news is that small changes rarely cause trouble in different browsers. The problems tend to occur when you change the size/layout of certain parts of the page.

The browsers you should install, and test your theme with are:

  • Internet Explorer 7.
  • Internet Explorer 6 (To get this with IE7, XP users should use Multiple IEs, but Vista users need more).
  • FireFox (I also recommended that you check in Opera and Safari, but for the changes you’ll be making, you can often assume that if it works in FireFox, it works in these 2 as well).

All of that may seem a little scary to some, but it’s not. Setting up WordPress doesn’t take long, and the confidence you get from knowing your mistakes don’t matter is unbeatable. You’ll have a better looking blog in no time.

So, what changes have you thought about making to your blog before, but haven’t tried to do yet?

Readers vs Visitors – Whose Needs are You Meeting?

Readers-VisitorsThe following post on meeting the needs of Readers and Visitors is a guest post by Lorelle VanFossen of Lorelle on WordPress.

Smashing Magazine asks Who Is Your Visitor?, using some new research into the preferences and characteristics of the average visitor to your blog and website.

However, since you’d like to comfort most of your web users, you need to know their habits and the profile of your average visitor — to adapt the design and layout to your users’ needs.

…Nothing is more valuable than the statistics you’ve collected with an analytics tool installed on your web-site; however particularly in the beginning of a new project it’s nice to have some good idea of what kind of configuration your visitors will probably use.

In this post we’d like to present the results from recent studies of browser market share, used OS and preferred screen resolution worldwide. Please notice that this data is only an approximation; we’ve used a number of different sources to get the average numbers we present below. Besides, statistics always depends on the readership and the topic of your project.

Their conclusion: An average web user browses with Internet Explorer 6.0 on Windows XP with the screen resolution 1024×768.

They go onto offer more facts and figures to help you determine what the “average” visitor to your blog uses to access your blog and more information on their location and browsing tools, but there is a lot of information left out of the equation.

Who Are Your Average Visitors and Readers?

There is a difference between a visitor and reader. Do you know the difference?

A visitor arrives, usually via a search result or from another blog featuring a link to your blog. They may arrive with a preconceived idea, most typically: Is this the place to find the information I want and need?. If not, they are gone. They don’t care how pretty your site is, how much information you have jammed into your blog, or the subjects you cover. If you don’t have what they need, they are gone. Often in seconds. Yet, they left their statistics behind when they arrived and left.

A reader returns. They return because you offer them something of substance. You give them what they want – repeatedly. You give them value. They like visiting. They like reading what you write. They like how your mind works. They enjoy telling others about what you have to offer, bringing more visitors, which will hopefully turn into readers. A visitor-turns-reader becomes a reader. So what are their characteristics?

A reader stays longer on your blog. They use the various links and navigational aids to dig deeper into your content. They know your blog is the source for their specific needs. Many won’t even access your blog directly, but through feed readers, keeping up with your content on a daily or weekly basis.

Do these studies include feed reader statistics in their analysis? That might change some of the numbers.

A reader stays longer on your blog because you continue to serve them a meal they enjoy. Visiting your site becomes a habit. Still, there are the statistics. How do you serve those who become readers, since they are your most important audience, while culling the stats from anyone and everyone who visits your blog for 2 or less seconds?

You Can’t Please Everyone

The old adage applies to your blog: you can’t please everyone.

Living for many years in the Middle East, I had a huge majority of my readership audience living and working within that area. While I still had a huge English-reading segment of my audience from the United States and the UK, the stats for the country were highest in the one I lived in and wrote about.

While my stats said much the same as the “average” information found in the Smashing Magazine report, the reality on the ground was that most of “my readers” were using 800×600 screens with low resolution on Hebrew-enabled Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows ME, even though this was from 1999-2005. A few I personally met, telling me they were computer whizbangs, had monochromatic monitor (shades of the dark ages of computers!), not color. Dial-up Internet was the only choice, though cable Internet did finally arrive in 2003, it was still slow and intermittent for a couple of years. Few jumped on the Windows XP bandwagon as it was very costly, and the bottom dropped out of the economy. What they had worked. Why change it. It’s too much trouble and might not bring improvement.

If I’d jumped on the “average” description based upon millions of web users around the world, I would have ignored my readers.

They couldn’t handle wide screen designs. They couldn’t deal with massive images, Flash, and other “modern” technologies that took ages to process and download. It took time, years in fact, before newer and more affordable computer technologies were embraced by the population that read my blog. They can handle it now, but not at the time others were jumping off the 800×600 ship into wide screens and high speed bandwidth web designs.

My family history blog services an average reader of 60 years old with not the keenest eye-sight. They aren’t looking for fancy graphics. They can’t stand Flash, bells, whistles, or busy web designs. They want words. They want text. They want content. They want easy-to-read text. They want the meat and potatoes of information.

I serve them a simple and clean layout, focusing on the content set in a good-sized and easily resizable font. Nothing flashing and blinking at them. Colors muted. The categories are spelled out specifically, search term specific and leading them to content they want and need. And they are happy.

Pleasing Your Readers Comes First

No matter what the statistics, pleasing your readers come first. But do you know anything about the characteristics of your readers?

Dig through your blog stats, similar to what was done on Smashing Magazine. Gather the information together and find your “averages”.

Look at how many incoming and outgoing visitor stats you have and compare that to the average amount of time they spent on your site. From that, you can get a feel for approximately what percentage of visitors are readers. You can’t tell how much of your average stats apply to readers compared to visitors, as they are all mixed together, unless you have advanced statistical analysis of your blog’s traffic, giving you data on individual visits. If you do, concentrate on those who spent more than two minutes on your blog.

Then look at your blog’s subject and content. What does your content describe about the type of visitor that comes to your blog?

  • Is it only locals as you serve up a local cuisine of content? Or is it everyone and anyone from around the world?
  • What is their main interest?
  • Is the interest high tech or low tech?
  • What keywords bring them from search engines to your blog and what does that tell you about them and their interests?
  • What keywords and search terms do they use to search once they arrive on your blog? What information about them can you cull from that?
  • What can you assume about people interested in that subject? Their age, lifestyle, habits, etc.?

Add this in with the “average” information from your blog stats and you may start to see patterns.

Then look at your blog and ask yourself: Am I meeting my readers’ needs?

You might be meeting your visitors’ needs and not your readers’. Which one is more important to you? And to your blog?

What to do When Your Blog Plateaus

In this post Chris Garrett gives advice on what to do when your blog plateaus.

Blog-Growth-Plateau
As you have no doubt read on Problogger before, the goal for most bloggers is exponential growth. Not all blogs reach this point though. For many of us it is quite difficult enough to find steady growth. What if that growth slows to a halt? What can we do then?

First let us deal with the most common cause of a growth halt. It might surprise you, and you might well think of other likely causes, but in the majority of cases of my coaching clients a plateau is caused by one thing.

The Curse of Churn

I actually witness a disturbing amount of churn in my own blog. While I have no access to Darren’s stats, I imagine he does too. Churn is a part of any blog, in fact many businesses online and off.

Churn is where you have people both leaving and joining. It can be thought of as a leaky bucket, while you are pouring water in there is a loss through the holes in the bottom. If your rate adding new subscribers matches the rate you lose them then you see zero growth. If you add more or less than your rate of loss then you will see either positive or negative growth.

So your very first job is to look for reasons why readers might be defecting. Darren did a great list of why bloggers lose subscribers before so no need for me to rehash that advice here.

For my own blog I know many of the people who join then leave are freebie hunters just looking to download my free “Killer Flagship Content” ebook or do not have time to read every day. I know because when people unsubscribe from the feedburner email I get a notification and ask. If you use feedburner for email subscriptions try the same thing, it can be very enlightening!

Other Causes of Slowing Growth

What other reasons could there be for your growth slowing?

  • Saturation – You have reached as many people in your niche as you ever will. I doubt this is the case but breaking into new markets is worthwhile anyway if you can reach a related audience. Guest post and get links off top blogs in topics that match audiences you wish to speak to and see your subscriber count start growing again.
  • Blurred Vision – Could it be you have lost your way? Check your analytics and comments to see if your blog is turning off readers. If Darren blogged about his obsession with aquatic mammal collecting I am guessing many of us wouldn’t hang around his RSS much longer. Look for patterns in your unsubscribes related to your posting. It could be what you attracted people for is no longer a theme in your blog, or on the other hand you might find a topic that you partially covered before gives you a jump in subscribers. Re-focus on your readers needs and you should start attracting readers again.
  • Lack of Engagement - A healthy subscriber count can mask a rotten blog. As well as seeing a nice feedburner number you also need to keep aware of what your readers are telling you both implicitly and explicitly. If your subscribes are not going down but you don’t quite get as many comments as you once did, or when you post a new article now you get fewer page views as before, then look to see if you have lost your audiences interest. Engagement should be growing not retreating. Audiences do change, but there should be a hard core loyal base that sticks with you. Ask for feedback. What could you change, do better, add or take away? Better to ask now while you still have readers!
  • Looking Inward - I have said it many times and I will keep saying it, commenting is good for bloggers! We see a lot of bloggers who get to a certain level then stop reaching out. They stop reading other blogs, no longer comment, and the outbound links dry up. The problem is by retreating back to the cosy folds of your own blog you drop off the blogosphere radar. When you get busy of course it is much harder to do these things but we must all keep it up especially when we are doing well. I will promise to link out more if you also promise, deal?

Summary

Rather than seeing a slowing of growth as a disaster, rather see it as an opportunity to clean house and prepare for another phase of success. The solutions are simple in many cases. If you listen to your audience in most cases they will tell you what needs to be done.