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How to Expand Your Blog Audience when Traffic Plateaus

This post belongs to a series on how to grow your blog once it gets past launch phase.

Many bloggers that I chat with tell me that their blogs hit plateaus in terms of traffic after around 6 months of blogging.

Blog-Growth-Plateau

They launch with enthusiasm, great content, significant time invested into networking with other bloggers and the results pay off with a steady growth in traffic. However in time the enthusiasm dries up a little, life gets busy, networks don’t seem to produce the results that they once did and traffic levels out.

It can be confronting and depressing to realize that your blog has stopped growing.

If this describes you - then the time might have come to put some time aside in the coming days to put a more concerted effort into trying some new ways to grow your traffic. The time has come to look for opportunities to expand your audience.

Of course growing readership is a task that bloggers of all levels will be wanting to explore but as a blog grows new opportunities do arise due to your blogs profile and loyal reader power.

1. Partnerships and Relationships with other blogs

Look at your niche and work out what others are doing and if there are opportunities to work with them or cross promote each other.

I’m not just talking here about ‘getting to know’ other bloggers in the hope that they might link to you one day – actually attempt to build more strategic partnerships with other blogs – partnerships that are mutually beneficial to both of you. For example:

  • offer to run a banner ad for another blog in an empty ad slot on your blog if they do likewise for you
  • do a guest blog swap once a month with another blogger – where you write on their blog for a day and they write on yours
  • promote each other’s RSS feeds or newsletters in posts

These types of relationships can really take many forms and are only limited by your creativity. They can feel a little weird at first because effectively you are promoting a competitor – but from what I’ve found there is plenty of room in most niches for numerous blogs and to work together can actually mean everyone grows. I personally don’t mind if another blog in my niche doubles their traffic if I do too!

It gets easier to get the attention of other bloggers once you become established so you might want to raise your sights a little and even begin to cultivate relationships with bloggers a little higher on the food chain than yourself.

2. Reader Evangelism

Once your blog has a core readership (even if it is smallish) you have one of the most powerful forces for growing your blog right in front of you – people who already read it.

The key is to find ways to release and encourage them to promote your blog for you. Here’s something simple that I did last year which worked on my photography blog:

invite-friend.pngI simply added an invitation in my weekly newsletter to pass on the newsletter to a friend.

It sounds incredibly simple – too simple in fact – but it worked. You can see the invitation pictured to the right – notice that I also included an invitation to subscribe for those who got the invitation from a friend.

What I found is that the ‘subscribe’ link got a lot of clicks (you can track this with Aweber) and I started getting emails from new readers who’d had friends recommend that they check out the newsletter and subscriber numbers went up considerably the week I first did it.

There are of course other ways to mobilize readers to help promote your site. Another way that I did it early last year was to run a competition to see who could recruit the most new forum members. I’ve also seen others run competitions where to enter you have to write a post about their blog. Another option is to add an ‘email this to a friend’ link at the bottom of posts.

These competitions and tools do work – but so does simply asking readers to tell their friends about your blog. Of course you need to have a blog worth recommending to a friend for it to really work – the more useful your blog the more likely it’ll be for your readers to pass word of it along to their friends without you asking.

3. Social Media

It can be difficult to have much success on social media sites on a blog that doesn’t have much of a readership – but as it grows a blog can naturally and organically grow in this area as more and more of your readers will be active on these sites.

I wrote a little about this in my post ‘How to Build a Digg Culture on Your Blog‘.

The key at this stage of your blog is to give your readers easy ways to pass your blog on to others. It can also be well worthwhile to do a little familiarization of different social media tools that your readers might find useful (a post about it educating them of the tools) and also be able to promote your blog with.

Then to add social media buttons can also work (although i’d advise just picking a small number that relate to your niche rather than adding every one available).

4. Look a Little Outside Your Niche

There comes a time for some bloggers where they feel like they’ve networked as much as they can within their niche. They know all the other bloggers, they’ve done guest posts on all of the blogs, they have good profile in that niche and there’s not a lot more that they can do to grow their readership through that network.

One of the ways forward out of this situation is to look at surrounding niches and find ways to network and produce content that appeals to those niches.

Example: again, with my photography blog (it’s the one I know best so easiest to pull examples from) I hit a plateau in traffic about 12 months in. At that point I started to think about what connecting points my topic of photography might have with other niches. One that I had some success with was the Mommy Blogger niche by writing a series of posts on How to photograph Children. Writing posts like this and then doing a little promotion to a few key blogs in that niche saw a whole influx of readers from blogs that I would never have previously considered might read my site.

Similarly I had quite good success by pitching some of my posts to sites like Lifehacker and even Gizmodo. These are blogs that were not ‘photography blogs’ but which had some overlap in topic as they were tech focused.

Sometimes lifting your sights a little beyond your immediate niche can have great results and find you a whole new untapped readership.

Add Your Tips

Of course there are many other ways to promote a blog and find new readers. This post could literally go on and on…. and on. I’ve compiled a lot more tips on how to find new readers for your blog here but would love to hear your tips – particularly tips for blogs that have been around before and not just blogs finding their first readers.

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. I agree. I am trying to avoid networking with only the bloggers in the college arena. Instead, I am also attempting to network with bloggers in the financial arena. This is important because there are not very many college bloggers.

    Thanks,
    Nate

  2. Todd says:

    Thanks for the advice Darren. I find myself in this situation currently and I’m struggling to find “partners” in a very small niche group. Even harder if finding folks that don’t feel like you might take away their traffic.

  3. Such a timely post! Thank you. I’ve found myself getting just a little tired of showing up in all the old familiar places (from comments to guest articles to topics on my own blog) and this was just the inspiration I needed.

    I’ll second the asking people to share–I’m always amazed at what a difference just simply asking makes. Something else I find really helpful is to let people know what you’re doing–obviously, when you guest post you’d link to it, but sometimes I get too busy to remember to *always* mention mentions, even the bigger ones. So, if anyone out there is like me and not always reliable about mentioning this stuff, I’d add that to the list, too–let people know what you’re doing, where you’re being quoted, that sort of thing.

  4. Optimize your blog posts for search engines. This should bring you a good amount of traffic if you have good number of posts and do it correctly.

  5. iain h says:

    How about using microblogging services such as twitter and tumblr for example.

    You could also start blog sites on other networks such as squidoo, blogger, wordpress.com, hubpages and link in to your own blog that may add some visitors in.

    If your blog is only aimed at english readers, what about installing the Global translator plugin and promoting to other languages, significant traffic can be gained from Spanish, French and German readers for example.

  6. Writing useful and helpful content… Passing your blogs to popular sites like lifehacker and gizmodo is a great idea. Thank for that Sir!

  7. This has definitely given me some food for thought, thanks!

  8. Mikes says:

    For me i’d stick with the basics. Make your articles unique, readable and sticky. surely the readers would keep on going back.

  9. I think taht doing some reader demographic research will tell you some clue to expand your readership.

    btw: thanks for the “6 month” definition. I am really eager to see what my blog looks when it reach 6 months old

  10. Cat says:

    For the past month or so, I’ve wondered if my blog had reached its traffic potential. Hopefully some of these tips will prove that it hasn’t.

  11. John says:

    I agree that staying in contact with partners is difficult. There are just so many social media sites and networks, it take too much time to stay connected to all of them. Right now I am focusing on twitter and other blogs to spread the word.

    I would rather dedicate more time to writing good content than trying to keep up with the social media since my blog is still young (80 posts).

  12. Terry Heath says:

    I haven’t done it yet, but am looking at how to make an ebook go viral and draw traffic to my blog.

  13. Cyrus says:

    That’s what happen to me now, thank you for the information.

  14. It seems we plateau in all parts of our lives at different times. Thanks for the tips for getting going again.

    My tip is from Frank Kern. Set Goals, Set Deadlines, Work hard.

    Rick

  15. Kristina says:

    I’m just starting to realize how effective simply commenting on others’ related blogs can be. When I check my stats after I’ve left comments on others’ blogs, I immediately see a few readers that came my way by clicking on my comment. I prefer this method of growing my readership, because unlike tooling around with formatting, commenting on others’ blogs is enjoyable, easy, and fast.

  16. RFW says:

    I really enjoyed the tips from you and the commenters. My blog is just at the 6 month point. We’ll see what happens next. But first I’ll try to use your tips.
    Thanks.

  17. Mike says:

    Slightly worrying for me, as I’m just about to hit the six month point! Any other Problogger readers at a similar point, who are interested in working with me in the way Darren suggests?

  18. Nick says:

    I’m definitely nearing this stage now with my site. My traffic hasn’t plateaued just yet, but I have a sneaking suspicion it will in the next month or so.

    This is extremely helpful information and gave me a bunch of ideas.

    Thanks Darren.
    Nick

  19. Mark Dykeman says:

    I think interaction through social media is one of the logical ways to try to grow your readership, especially if you’re a smaller blogger like myself. As Darren knows, applications like Twitter and StumbleUpon can help you to build up networks of other bloggers and social media enthusiasts.

    Blog commenting has been mentioned here at Problogger.net as a means to boost your own blog, as long as you are adding worthwhile thoughts to existing conversations.

    However, I think that the most effective blog audience growth steps are 1 and 2, especially when your readers happen to be successful and well-connected bloggers/social media enthusiasts. I was particularly interested to hear about Darren’s success with point 2.

    One thing that I’d be interested in seeing is the effect of mass media coverage on blog audience growth – I don’t have any experience with that.

  20. I think the hardest part for any blogger trying to be successful isn’t the time when they are new and working hard at gaining traffic.

    It’s that time when the blogger is feeling good about how things are going, they get complacent, then they start a plateau and wonder why they can’t get out of it.

    The best way I’ve found for getting excited all over again is by going to blog or social media conferences. Being around others that are just as excited about it as you are helps tremendously.

  21. Ralph says:

    love this post.. lets see in a couple of months after my blog being at that stage..

    I think that an attitude of constant improvement could lead to avoiding this kind a plateau

  22. Carla says:

    For me, I think partnering with other niche bloggers will be my best bet at this point. I already have two people doing guest posts in the next few weeks but I’m always looking for new partnership opportunities.

  23. Monthiel says:

    Hi, Darren Rowse how are you?

    This is another great post that you wrote. Great tips. One trick that i’ve used so far is commenting in others blogs. This is useful and create relationships with the blogger and the readers of that blog.

    PS: Sorry about my poor english, i am brazilian and i’m still learning how to write in your native language.

    Regards,
    Monthiel

  24. Another idea is to re-invest the money you may (or may not) be making into paid advertising, Adwords, StumbleUpon or other ad network.

  25. Eddie Gear says:

    Thanks for your advise, I always consider them valuable. Since the day I started blogging till the time I started my niche site (Very recently) I found social media and networking a very good means to expand your blog audience. I noticed my site visitors and readers have almost doubled since I joined social media groups. Thanks once again for sharing this with your readers.

    Cheers,
    Eddie Gear

  26. kevin says:

    This is really great information, and applies to any website, not just blogs. Good advice in comments as well. I’ll be revisiting often for sure, great tips!

  27. Great post! Also quite timely. Just started writing on our blog. I tend to get inspired by other bloggers and link to them. You offer great suggestions on keeping with fresh ideas. Much thanks!

  28. Nice post Darren!
    I’ll have to look into link exchanges and guest blogs.
    But it’s hard to find another similar site in a niche.

  29. axel g says:

    Another great post by Darren!

    I especially like the ideas of contacting bigger sites for some kind of exchange and going beyond your niche.

    Inspiring + _+

  30. I like the idea of appealing to readers outside your immediate niche. I think this would work if you have a very specific niche.

    In the Mommy Blog world we frequently use carnivals and “blog parties” via a Mr. Linky to find new blogs to read and new readers for our blogs. This method of attracting new readers has worked well for me recently.

  31. Things I’ve used are:
    - carnivals
    - StumbleUpon
    - blogging at other sites like BlogHer and my local newspaper’s mom site
    - guest blogging of course
    - adding my blog to any relevant blog directories
    - doing a giveaway

    I think a great way to develop original content is to interview others. I find that easier than organizing guest bloggers. Since I write the questions, I seem to have more control. It’s also easier for the writer – very defined what I need from them. Do an interview on something topical and you have something good to Stumble. If it’s a good enough topic you might even be picked up by mainstream media (you never know)!

  32. Greg Pettit says:

    Makes a lot of sense; I especially liked the idea of swapping banner space, although since I’m writing primarily on a corporate blog that’s not likely to happen any time too soon. The one that hit home was networking outside the niche; since our corporate blog is all about accelerated file transfer, there aren’t many of us… and those who ARE around are definitely the competitors.

    But there’s a big relationship between what we do and a lot of other complementary technologies, so I think it’s about time to start looking outward!

    Thanks for the post!

  33. Agent SEO says:

    Great advice Darren! I feel that my blog is still in its infancy stages, but I can already see a plateau in traffic.

    I need to find ways to keep the steady growth. I really liked your partnership & social media ideas and I feel that for me, those two ideas would be most beneficial!

    Thanks…

  34. Thats a fantastic post there. I would also add that you can hold a contest to spread the word about your blog.

  35. SEO Tips says:

    Excellent advice Darren I think one of the main ways of increaisng readership is through competitions these can have extreme benefits if you pull in the right amount of media.

    I am currently experimenting with competitions, free eBooks and WP plugins that I am creating.

  36. Agent 001 says:

    Thats some seriously nice tips. I need to work on them.

  37. Natasha Wing says:

    How do you create that email to a friend link in your blog?

  38. Sebastien says:

    Look a little outside your niche is great advice to expand your blog.

    As Shoemoney says “a company can achieve growth through small degrees of separation between sites, maximizing diversity within a small industry”.

    Shoemoney calls this “The Coke Theory. If you are already making Coke then you can make Diet Coke, Cherry Coke, etc and turn a profit on those as well”.

    If you hit a plateaus try these tips to try and grow your traffic.

  39. Tyrone says:

    Well that was a bunch of great tips, and I think for this a BLOG should have a SEO friendly and a good number of posts.

  40. Sarah says:

    I appreciate all the thoughts here. I’m very new to blogging, and want to increase traffic. I admit, though, I don’t quite understand all the ways to improve search engine optimization, and link backs, and all of this. lol.
    I need to keep reading, I believe. ;)

  41. Darren, thanks for the great content. I’ve been receiving your job offer updates but was happy to find your notes in Facebook that led me to a lot of useful articles. I especially liked the information you shared about networking with other bloggers and plan to get started with that right away!