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Get Off the Plateau: Growth Tips for Mature Blogs

Once the heady days of new-blog success are over, many bloggers find themselves on a plateau. Readership has stalled, subscriptions seem to be maintaining momentum but not growing, and you’re having trouble squeezing more value out of your already-loyal customer base.

What should you do?

There are a number of ways to kick yourself off that plateau and move into a new phase of blog growth. The ones that will work for you will depend on your blog’s niche and audience, where your skills lie, and what you’ve already tried.

That said, I thought I’d set out some of the starting points that I’ve used to change gear on my blogs over the years. You might already have tried some of these ideas, but I hope there’ll be something here that you haven’t experimented with yet.

First, secure your position

You’ve already built a blog with a loyal following, so why not use that as the starting point for your future growth? By looking at what’s working, you can hone your approach in those areas to make it more successful, and potentially identify areas where you could improve.

The other thing that this kind of review will achieve is, potentially, to free up some of your time to focus on new tasks. By looking at what’s working, you can identify what’s not working—and cut your losses. This will help you secure your position, give you the maximum return on your time investment, and give you a clear run at new ideas and markets (which we’ll get to in a moment).

Review posts

Spend some time analyzing which posts are working to help you achieve your goals.

Those goals might be readership figures, long-tail search traffic, social media shares—or something else entirely. But whatever your goals are, work out which posts are working best to achieve each of them.

Once you have this information, you can spend your writing time focused on creating the content that’s working best to maintain your blog’s current position in the market. It’ll give you a solid basis from which to spring forward using the other techniques we’ll discuss.

Review promotions

Some promotional channels are bound to be working better than others. Identify those, and cut your losses with the channels that aren’t performing as you’d expect or hope.

Again, we’re shoring up your current position here, so it’s important to face the facts about what’s working to attract readers to your site, and what’s not.

Review conversion funnels

Whether yours are sales funnels, or free conversion channels, review them to ensure that their working optimally. We have some great content here on ProBlogger to help you do that (have a look at How to Optimize Your Sales Funnel for Success).

Look at systematising your approach so that it’s as scalable as possible, with a view to growing your readership and conversions in the future. Then set aside regular time in your schedule to do whatever you need to do to keep those cogs well-oiled.

Review design, categorization, and usability

If your blog’s outdated, your content categorization is hazy, or the site makes it difficult to navigate through content and offers, you’ll have trouble growing your audience.

The fact that you’ve grown your blog to its current point isn’t reason to skip this step—it could well be that elements of design, categorization, and usability are whats’ keeping your blog from shifting up a gear. Tweaking categorization can have significant implications for organic search traffic, for example, and design considerations can make or break your users’ ability to find what they need.

Secure your blog’s current position using these techniques. Then, it’s time to look at growing your blog.

How will you grow?

Growing a blog, like building it from scratch, usually requires a multi-pronged approach. You might get lucky with one technique that’s wildly successful, but it’s probably best to try a few of these ideas—though you don’t want to spread yourself too thin—and see what works.

Find ways to reengage

Again, start with your current, loyal fan base. Find new ways to reengage with your existing readers, and to deepen loyalty, and you may well see sharing and traffic rise.

Consider these options.

  • Create a free subscription offering (such as a course or series of regularly emailed bonus material) or reward (a giveaway, competition, etc.).
  • Try new engagement initiatives. Perhaps it’s time you tried running a weekly video interview, a contest that spans your Facebook page and blog, or a podcast that features a Q&A with your own readers?
  • Survey your readers to find out what they’re thinking about, and what they need. This can do a lot to create a sense of engagement beyond the everyday blog comments and social media interactions. It can also provide valuable information that you can use to approach new audiences.
  • Perhaps a new product could help you to reengage with your readers, and give them something to talk and tweet about at the same time. Building out your existing product offering to fill any gaps in readers’ experience can deepen loyalty and boost buzz that can attract new readers from segments you haven’t already met through your product offering.

Find new markets

For most mature blogs and brands, tapping new markets is a necessary part of a growth strategy. This can be intimidating for some bloggers who are comfortable in their niche, with their current readers, but branching out can open up a world of possibilities for your blog.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Try reaching a new market using a particular promotional channel. For example, you might write some guest posts to be published on blogs in a complementary, but different niche from your own. So, for example, I could promote Click! (and Digital Photography School) via guest posts about kid photography on mommy blogs, or smartphone photography sites. They’re not key market spaces for DPS, but could be good ways to reach new segments of the general photography market.
  • Alternatively, you could take a look at niches or topics that are related to your blog, and look for opportunities within them. I might, for example, read about the growing market for iPhone lenses, and decide to create content for DPS on photography using iPhone lenses specifically to capture that market segment.
  • Another approach is what traditional marketers call “product line extension.” This involves developing new products that reflect your existing core offering, but open it up to new markets. So far, we’ve developed ebooks for Digital Photography School. What if we turned some of those products into online courses, complete with videos, post-processing cheat sheets, and so on? What if we developed our own post-processing tools? These new products could open up new markets, and as a handy side-effect, help us to deepen engagement with our current customers, too.
  • If that sounds like a leap you’re not ready to make, why not try different approaches to monetizing your blog as it is, and your existing products? Perhaps it’s time to dip your toes into the affiliate marketing waters—either by offering affiliate products to your readers, or by establishing affiliate programs for your own products. Or maybe you should try advertising or media relations or sponsorships—whatever suits your niche and target markets.

Find ways to make more from what works

Last, but not least, look back at the reviews you did at the outset, and seek to optimize what’s working for your blog. Try applying the tactics or techniques that have been successful to other markets or areas within your topic area.

  • To start, you might look at a product that’s sold well, or a promotional approach that worked well to boost readership within a subsegment of your audience. From there, you could develop a strategy to reapply that model in other areas of your readership or would-be readership. If promotion through targeted on-site advertising worked with one of your products, perhaps it would work for other products, or to promote that first product in other markets.
  • Consider becoming an “expert” at some form of promotion that seems especially successful for your brand, but which you haven’t really committed to yet for whatever reason. Try SEO, content marketing, affiliate marketing, email marketing—whatever works for your niche or brand, or appears to work for a new market segment or offering you’ve developed.

Experiment and refine

The process of trial and error—or experimentation and refinement—isn’t just inevitable in getting off the traffic plateau. It’s a valuable process that will help you make the most of your efforts and work smarter to get a foothold in new markets in the future.

This is a grab-bag of ideas, but I hope that some will strike a chord with you. Try one or two of these tactics, track your results, and keep tweaking and improving on your efforts. You might be surprised by what you can achieve.

What tactics have you used to get your blog off a growth plateau? We’d love to hear your advice—share it with us in the comments.

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 have reached this stage in my blogs development so this post is going to be invaluable to me. I think I’m going to start by writing some posts in complementary blogs but not my niche to try and widen my readership.

  2. Emily says:

    Definitely, at least once a year do a Business Audit getting rid of what is not working and not bringing in profits.

    Also, it is great to create add-ons to your current products to see how you can maximize income from it. If it is already selling great, adding complimentary products/services to it that can add more value to your customers is a plus.

  3. Kalen Smith says:

    Thanks Darren. Any business is going to experience slower growth after a while, That is just a phenomenon they have to accept. However, that doesn’t mean you have to just give up. Always working for more readers and subscribers is never a bad idea.

  4. Joey says:

    Great post Darren. This is information that we could all use. I’m hitting a stage where I’ll be implementing a lot of this stuff. Time to switch up a few things on my blog. Thanks again for the info! As always, much appreciated.

  5. This is great advice. Most of the blogging websites really only focus on getting started. We’ve been at it for over 5 years now. My biggest advice is to focus on what works. After slogging about for so long – for us at least – there’s many things that just aren’t worth the effort (guest posting, new types of content areas, affiliate marketing, etc). When your site gets to a certain level, every minute you spend becomes valuable, so it’s important to focus on what makes money rather than what doesn’t.

  6. Chikara says:

    Some interesting ideas in here. I’ve been tempted to bury my old blogs. Maybe I’ll think twice about it. Some of them have been so slow they have ivy on them.

  7. Sean Chang says:

    Great tips Darren.

    I’d think holding offline events can work especially well in some niches as well.

    If marketed well, they may even get mainstream media attention (or at least some local coverage) that can help to introduce the blog to people who otherwise would not have known about it.

    e.g. For a blog on scrapbooking, a scrapbooking marathon may be a good idea. Profits from selling the finished products can go to a charity of the readers’ choice. Done well, this can be a win-win-win situation for blog owner, the readers, as well as the charity of choice. A good way to give back to the society too :)

    Cheers!

  8. Hey Darren how can I guest post on Problogger. I left a message on facebook but till now no reply.

  9. Sarah Kolb says:

    We’re not quite there yet with our blog, but this is a great post to save for a little later down the road when we are.

  10. Joe Boyle says:

    It’s all about giving the reader the experience. If they’re not happy with what you’re providing, they’ll move on to the better website. And they’ll do that every time. It’s proven. People want perfection – they don’t want all of the problems that your website has. It’s common sense.

    Great content is king, and your design is the military. Without one, the other is generally useless. It’s like aiming a gun at your enemy without any bullets. It’s futile.

  11. Kenny Fabre says:

    Darren

    I think blog usability is very important, as you had put it we must make sure as bloggers that our blog is really easy to navigate.

  12. I have reached this stage in my blogs development so this post is going to be invaluable to me. I think I’m going to start by writing some posts in complementary blogs but not my niche to try and widen my readership.

  13. Reviewing the design and usability is a good point. Content quality is what will keep loyal readers coming back- but looks are important for a first impression. To get new visitors- the blog must look fresh and be easy to navigate in addition to having quality posts.

  14. He Darren
    Like always a useful and inspirational post. I often find myself into the same plateau. Traffic is increasing, subscribe is gaining but that next boost which takes your blog to next level is missing.
    Recently I started putting my best foot forward and started talking about SEO and it started working great,…have to work on sales funnel because that is something which I have missing.

  15. Glynis Jolly says:

    Darren,
    This article is good even for beginners. We can get to caught up in doing the same things day after day that soon we start feeling the burnout. Knowing what we have to look forward to helps keep the motivation going.