It’s a long tail to the top if you want to blog and win.
How many times do we see headlines like “get rich blogging” or “1 post a day is all it takes.” Blogging has long been sold as a panacea to everyones ills, but the reality is often far from the hype.
On The Inquisitr recently I took a look at 10 Myths of blog marketers and debunked them all, but there’s one interesting one I want to take a step further here on Problogger: the time it takes to establish a blog.
Take it as a given up front that you will not get rich overnight from blogging. But how long does it take? I’ve always subscribed to the view that any blog needs a good 6-9 months to establish itself based on my experience in previous blogs and blog networks. The Inquisitr ended up being true to form, and it was our 7 month that things really took off in terms of traffic and actually making a profit. Jason Calacanis, CEO of Mahalo and the founder of the Weblogs Inc blog network though thinks its longer, and commented recently that he puts the number at 2 years. The semantics may be a case of how “established” you would term a blog to be. I’m not about to spend Christmas on the Caymans from The Inquisitr, but in 2 years time…well, you never know.
But why does it take so long?
The answer is remarkably simple: long tail content.
Let me explain upfront that I’m taking liberties with the term long tail. Eric from Photography Bay touched on the subject on Problogger back in June. when he looked at posts over time, as well as targeting long tail niche topic areas.
The reality is: the bigger your archive of posts, the big your distribution of traffic is, and the higher it grows with time.
Digital Photography School
In Darren’s post November 18 on Digital Photography School he offered lots of stats and graphs, but there’s one that stood out for me: his search engine traffic graph:
Notice how over time the search engine traffic grew and grew. By no means am I precluding other facts, such as great content, extra RSS subscribers, email newsletters or any other method you can and should be using to promote your blog. But if you take away all of that, why the really steady growth over the time? The explanation is more content on the site.
To break it down some more, here’s two sets of figures from The Inquisitr, the first image shows July 2008 (our 3rd month), just before we had our first decent traffic increase. The second shows November 1-19, 2008
Notice the key difference marked is between the number of pages receiving traffic over this time: 2,210 pages vs 6,180. Yes, there are other factors involved in our increasing traffic, but having more content over time has a cumulative affect of more page views across the site.
Internally we use a term called “base” to describe the scenario of days where we have little to no content going up on the site. We try not to have any days like that, but when they do happen they tend to be on weekends. The base figure is the amount of traffic your blog gets without fresh content.
The long tail of content on your site improves your base. For example, every month our base figure has gradually gone up, from less than 1000 page views in our first month, through to 2,000, 3,000, 5,000 and today it’s around 9-12,000. In part, base is a measure of the effectiveness of your long tail of content, the more you have, the more natural search or referral traffic you’ll get on a quiet day.
Balancing quality and quantity
Some reading this will see the post as a justification to fill a blog with rubbish, and lots of it, but it’s not quite that easy. Quantity undoubtedly helps, but quality should always be a factor. You still need to gain links and search engine traffic, and putting up rubbish for the sake of volume doesn’t cut it. You need to balance both: if you’re doing 1 post a day 99% of the time that’s not enough content, but you shouldn’t be doing 25 posts a day, unless you’ve put on a team of paid writers (as I have) to generate it for you.
I do sometimes wish you could get rich quick from blogging, but the sad truth is that it can’t be done. With enough time and patience you can build a successful blog, although it may take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. The key is to keep at it: you need to keep posting even when the chips are down and you believe that you’ll never make it. The bigger your base of content, the better your base traffic number over time, and the better chance you’ll have of long term success.