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Specific Targets vs. Sustained Growth: Blogging Goals

“When you started blogging for money, what amount of traffic were you aiming for?”

This was a question asked of me recently in conversation by a newer blogger. The reason they asked was that they were wanting to come up with a number to aim for, at which they knew they could become a full-time blogger.

As I reflected on the early days of my own entrepreneurial blogging, I realized that I never had a goal like that. My goal was never a certain amount of traffic, or even a certain amount of money.

My goals were always more about growing my blog’s readership (and income) by a certain percentage each month. The percentage that I was aiming for varied a bit over time, but the goal was sustained growth over a long period of time.

I realized early on that, even though my first blogs had relatively small readerships and income levels, if I could increase traffic and income by 10-20% per month over a year—or even longer—the idea of ‘exponential growth’ would take over.

The calculations

Here are the calculations that were behind my goals.

Early on I was earning $10 per month. It didn’t seem like a lot but I realized that if I could increase that by 20% every month over a year, I’d be earning $89.16 per month at the end of 12 months.

That’s still not a massive amount (as much as a part-time job in those days, perhaps), but do the calculations on 20% growth each month over another 12 months, and at the end of that time you’re earning $794.96 per month.

Do it for another 12 months and you’re up over $7000 per month.

Do the same calculations on 30% growth and after three years you’re earning over six figures a month.

Is it realistic?

I can only really speak for myself, but this approach certainly worked for me—particularly early on in my blogging.

Each month my goal was to see increases in my traffic and income. I never really set a specific monthly goal, but in the back of my mind, I was always looking for at least 10% growth as a bare minimum—though I was aiming much higher.

Some months I scraped in at the 10% level, while other months it would be a lot higher—some months early on saw my income jump up over 100% in a month!

Of course, there were also occasional months where things went pear-shaped, and for one reason or another traffic and income fell. The key in these months was to not give up—to keep aiming to get things back up to where they were previously.

Today, things are a little different. After a number of years of blogging, this kind of growth can get more difficult from month to month. I’m still aiming for growth each month but due to the nature of blogging, my income is up and down depending upon what products are being launched and what we’re promoting.

Having said that, over time my goal is still sustained growth. I’m just looking less at month-by-month figures, and focusing upon quarter-by-quarter and even year-by-year results to see that upward trend growth.

What’s your approach?

How do you approach goal-setting with your blog? Are you looking for specific amounts of traffic and or income, or do you approach it some other way?

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. Congratulations for managing to increase your earnings with time!

    I have never set a goal. I simply want to have more readers.

    To tell you the truth, only now I’m seriously paying attention to my blog. My attention was mainly concentrated on promoting my websites. However, after reading a few very enlightening posts here and learning a few important details, I started writing longer posts and having better results.

    So, now I’m very interested on improving these results. Your example is quite encouraging!

    • Gregory C. says:

      Same here, readers growth comes first.

      Glad to see Darren still posting quality stuff as usual, not that I mind the guest posts, but just glad to see a Problogger original post after reading all of the quality updates coming out of Darren’s Google+ account.

  2. Tom Ewer says:

    Hey Darren,

    This was an interesting post that got me thinking. I must admit that I have never targeted myself to grow x% month by month, because my potential earnings are so volatile at the moment. I am concentrating on just one young niche site (and an unmonetized blog that obviously isn’t relevant to this topic!), so my earnings tend to take a jump every time I begin to perform well for a keyword in Google.

    I think that trying to impose short term goals would probably discourage me, as I might not hit them, despite the fact that I’m going in the right direction. Instead, I focus more on the long term. I don’t know how long it is going to take for me to reach my goals, but I have to pluck a relatively arbitrary date out of there otherwise I would have nothing to aim for! I actually wrote a whole article about this on my unmonetized blog.

    As long as I have the “feeling” that I am progressing towards that long term goal, I am happy, and I am more than willing to be patient to get there. I know that sounds very wishy washy, but it works for me!

    Once I have a more stable income, am more experienced, and can better estimate my potential earnings, I will be far more likely to set myself short-term goals. There is no doubting the effectiveness of the strategy you discussed in your post, when used in the right context.

    All the best,

    Tom

  3. J.J. Lancer says:

    As a new blogger fresh out of the womb, this post was rather encouraging for me. Going from my current $0 a month to something like six figures is daunting and incredibly intimidating. This “exponential growth” mindset seems like it will make it easier to see progress.

    In essence, short term goals over long term goals. Right?

    Thanks a lot for this, Darren. I really appreciate the wisdom that you share.

  4. Hey Darren,
    I have been reading your site for a bit now. I have also read yours and Craig’s book, blogging for a six figure income.
    I started blogging only a few weeks ago, but I feel I was fairly well prepared for it. I did a lot of homework and research before going live. Much of that homework was done here. So perhaps that colors my blog plans for growth. However, I aim for percentage growth over flat numerical growth.

    I feel this goal is more in tune with the fluid nature of web readership than trying to get a set number of readers each month.

  5. Thanks for a great post. I’ve been thinking about growing my traffic a lot this month–I’ve been garnering a ton of traffic from blog link-ups, and while my numbers are good and many visits are converting to subscribers, I don’t think I’m building the right kind of community for my blog that way. So I’ve decided to not participate, knowing my traffic will fall by maybe 20% for the month.

    I’m hoping this decision will prove to be wise in the long run. In the meantime, I appreciate this post about the effectiveness of small steps. My community is growing–even if it would grow faster with the link-ups that target the wrong audience.

  6. Setting a target is good because it encourages the human mind to look forward and to work harder. However, when we’re talking about blogging where content forms a huge part of the equation, I believe that producing quality content should be on the priority list rather than setting numerical targets.

    When a blog manages to produce consistently good content (those that help solve a problem, etc), the readership will naturally increase.

    As a freelance copywriter who blogs, I make sure that my posts are informative and entertaining because I want my content to outshine a chase for numbers.

  7. I used to approach each site as a “stock” in my portfolio of virtual real estate. As with any portfolio, there would be “wins” and “losses,” and the idea was simply to have more of them in the “win” category — or work to get the losing sites there over time.

    These days due to Google changes I’ve been focusing more on building authority type sites which will take longer to grow but will hopefully keep their earnings over time instead of smaller sites that can tend to go out of “favor” in the Big G’s eyes these days.

  8. Hi Darren,

    Great post!

    Somehow for me making money from my blogs or website has never been the case- I simply want more readers on my blogs and share the knowledge with people. So far there is no set targeted goal, nor anything about a % of income etc- though am giving it a thought seriously now. I do put up posts, interact, and promote them, but the main income flow comes through the other kind of freelancing work that I do. I guess that plays a major part, and once you are through with that hurdle, you can concentrate fully on your blogs.

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. Brian Yang says:

    Hey Darren, I’d be curious to see what your journey was like to make even your first $1. I think that many people can’t even do that.

    My blog is about about breaking zero and getting that first $1. I think that once you have some steady traffic and sells, no matter how far, it’s pretty easy to keep growing. It’s just a matter of producing more hig quality content and promoting.

  10. I initially started my blog because I love writing on various topics – like most people do. Within a few short few months, I realized that I had a massive audience of 9, 4 family members, 4 friends and a cat. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get people to come over. Then I came across an encouraging statistic which says that almost half of the bloggers who start out writing about their passions, give up within the first year of blogging. I did give up – too many times.

    Until one fine day, I woke up realizing that I am pretty much doomed as this appears to be my calling. I mean why can’t it be something simpler? I am a qualfied lawyer, surely that would have been more lucrative? Universe – I am talking to you here. Anyway, long story short, I am trying to help and inspire bloggers who are in the same situation, and to establish my blog as a writer’s platform.

    My goal at this point is to increase my readership, I get an insane amount of pleasure when my posts actually get READ. :) As i say it in my side bar, my blog is problogger meets zenhabits. I guest post on blogging blogs, writing blogs and personal development blogs. Usually I get little traffic from each post itself, but its amazing to have people comment, like and tweet your posts even if they appear on someone else’s blog. So yes, all I aim for at the moment is to have more readers, people who are also struggling with how to find kindred souls for their own blogs. This way we can keep each other motivated to plod along, and not give up within the dreaded 12 month mark. Fingers crossed. :)

  11. Julie says:

    I never started out with the goal of starting a blog for money, and I was just writing about a subject that I loved. However, things at home got very difficult financially and I decided to slap on some Google ads. It was at no real risk to my blog and cost nothing. The majority of people at this stage of blogging/traffic/advertising don’t get their first payout until about 6-7 months later. It wasn’t until April 2011 that I finally began to get a payment every month, and it usually just scraped the 60 pounds minimum payout.

    The obsession with traffic, page views, click through rates, soon becomes a daily obsession. However, I enjoyed watching my stats, especially in times of growth. At about 80,000 page views a month (I reached this in April) the payouts arrived regularly. I then worked out I would need about 500,000 page views a month to possibly make it to what I would consider a part-time wage (taking into consideration I need no bus fare or expenses to get to work). A million page views each month might take me to full time earnings. It is a long mountain to climb, but looking at the specific target in this way I can see how far I would need to go. In one sense it’s realistic, and at least I have a target to aim for, and it makes me work harder.

    I also use Alexa rank to analyze where I am in terms of success against other blogs in the same niche. Each month I like to see an improvement in traffic=earnings, but I was reading on a blog article elsewhere about a site’s natural traffic limit. This was something I needed to take into consideration, and perhaps there was a certain threshold to every blog depending on their niche and relevance. A year by year analysis is probably the best way to go, and I will be analyzing my earnings for April 2012 to see if there is any improvement. I tend to pay attention to page-views rather than unique daily visits and it offers me a better estimate of my potential earnings. But this In terms of how my blog has grown and this may be different for others.

    In the last couple of months I have broken through and achieved some higher earning days, but sometimes it falls back due to a low click-through rate. Earnings daily are a bit up and down at the moment compared to the middle of the year when it was consistent. Maybe I am going through a period of flux and it will settle back down, but you have to get used to fluctuations in earnings with blogging.and it’s probably not for those who need to see consistent results every single day (lucky if you do) and need a guaranteed payout of x amount of money. Consistent results play a part later on when deciding if you want to leave a job and take up blogging full-time, but during the process you have to keep building the blog even in times when it feels the monetary gain has fallen.

    Specific targets help to know how long it may take to travel down a particular path and reach your destination, so I find targets and stats useful, but sustained growth is needed to help sustain ourselves and blog in the long run.

  12. Hi Marya,

    I also think the number of commentators, number of retweets, or number of likes is a better measure of readership than the number of RSS subscribers or the amount traffic. For commentators, I like to see people commenting without a Gravatar image, it shows they are not just other bloggers but that they are ordinary people on the Internet (a much larger potential audience).

    Goals are important and need to be measurable. My starting goal is to have at least 5 regular commentators for each blog post I write.

  13. Rohit Sharma says:

    Be it readers, money or something else your real inspiration are the results.

    I think when our progress becomes measureable it adds lots of inspiration to our work pace. But the real challenge is when we are not able to maintain this rhythm..

    Nice read, Darren :-)

  14. A great article to read. Such an inspiration. Blogging is like doing business. You should have goals and short tem and long term plans. All these will drive you to do better in your articles and the quality of your blog.

  15. I would love to know how you managed even $1. Increasing traffic is my big concern (rather than the cash). My blog does recieve praise from many but gaining new readers is such a challenge. In many ways it is frustrating seeing blogs like your which has soured!

  16. Gayla Baer says:

    This reminds me of the old story my dad used to tell me as a kid – save 1 penny then double it every day for 30 days and you’ll end up with over $10 million.

    It’s amazing at how simple that sounds – I think the main takeaway message was to start with a small, yet achievable goal and inch your way up at a comfortable, yet challenging pace.

    Small doses has worked for me a few times – it’s when I get overly anxious and try to make things happen too quickly that I seem to lose momentum.

  17. Sherlogic says:

    I agree. when blogging for money, it is better not to think too much about traffic. Because it will make a blogger lazy for blogging, because of the amount of traffic the blog is still small. Even a blogger can stop because it causes. I think the bloggers better to attention the content they create, and try to make articles of interest to many readers who are interested, other than that a blogger should be able to take the time to send the articles to social bookmarking or social network.

    sorry for my bad english

  18. This idea to base your goals on a sustained rate of growth, instead of setting specific absolute targets is the more healthier one as well.

    Fluctuations are bound to come and go and what is really important is the trend. Are you making progress at a certain rate or not.

    Specific numbers are often arbitrary, while a growth rate is something that is more relevant.

    Thanks for the great reminder

    Read Aloud Dad

  19. Techstatic says:

    I never really put that much weight on blogging. After reading through these articles, i guess i was wrong… Time to start producing something interesting!

  20. If you don’t have a goal, you’ll never reach it! My biz partner and I tend to set specific goals every year in all areas of our business, including new content we want to add and a target income. Since our cash flow can fluctuate month-to-month (we offer display advertising for a niche market here in Northwest Arkansas), we tend to measure increases in income over the course of a whole year. Since we launched in May 2008, our income has gone up every year. Of course, so have our visitor numbers and page views. But a salary is definitely not our only measure of success. We often need to look back at our original goals — being available to our kids, building a brand we can be proud of, contributing financially to our families — to keep us on track.

  21. Darren,

    Inspiring. And very real.

    I like it. Thanks for that look.

    Peter

  22. Darren,
    Clear article. The final question really make sense to zero down bloggers path.

    In my view, if you are ardor person about writing your goal should sounds, how to reach to understand your knowledge bank. Sky is limit.
    If you are looking for income, first do some ground work, understand traffic patterns and marketing techniques and set your goal. Success will surely follow.
    It’s a cycle I believe : Passion –>Plan –> determination –> execution –> GOAL –> success –> Continue..Passion

    Thanks for sharing – Manickam

  23. It is this kind of great content that has me regularly promoting your material to the 150 participants on the Author Mentor Call that I host. Your material is second to none when it comes to developing a blog.

  24. Rusty says:

    I have not been blogging all that long and was inspired to begin blogging as I have been told by quite a few, “you should write a book”. Since I have had a unique life for so many years etc.. I always laughed it off and though “sure I am not such a great writer”! (I do better talking in person). It was only after I stared up that it was brought to my attention that you can actually earn money through your blog. I personally am still of the conviction (speaking for myself) that the most important thing is content. It sort of bugs me when I surf blogs and you have to search for the content wading through the ads sort of not really understanding what the person might be hoping to communicate. So after having tried adsense for a little bit, I decided to drop it since I felt not so happy with the continual offers that would appear for dating foreign beauties that didn’t exactly go in sink with my content or morals. (I know you can filter these URLs but I couldn’t stay up 24/7 running vigil on the site! Anyways with time this has paid off as I ahve had companies ask to pay me for space now and so I can see that standing up for my convictions is only the beginning of a promising future. I guess in my case, I am enjoying myself and the great people taht I have been able to meet along the way. All this to say, I really like what Darren says here, an incremental growth, “if you build it, they will come” and so will the income! Cheers and the best to you all!

  25. Right now my only goal is to make enough to offset my costs. To me blogging is fun and allows me the opportunity to teach again (something I really miss). Some days I think of growing it to something more but then I fear that will take all the fun right out of it.

  26. ah Freedom says:

    I’m going for traffic. I figure that the more traffic that I attract with my chosen keywords, the more exposure I’ll get from my target market. The more exposure, the more of an opportunity to sell my services.

  27. it’s nice to hear this things from you, and congratulation on earning a lot in just a short period of time, you truly know how to manage your business well.

    - Jack Leak