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4 Key Areas to Focus Your Time Upon to Grow Profitable Blogs [And How Much of Your Time to Spend On Them]

A regular question I’m asked by bloggers at different stages of their blogging is how much time they should allocate to different aspects of blogging.

Should you spend more time writing blog posts, promoting the posts, networking, responding to readers, working on social media etc?

Answer this question is tricky as there are numerous factors to consider including the topic of your blog, the type of content you’re creating, the type of audience you’re wanting to attract, your own passions and style as a blogger and the stage of your blog (i.e. if it is new or more established).

I’ll share some suggested splits of time that I think are good starting points for how to use your time below but before I do I want to share the four main areas that I have allocated time to over the last 11 and a half years of blogging.

I cannot imagine being able to grow my blogs to the point that they are at today without any one of these areas.

Priority One – Creating Content

Without a doubt this has always been my number-one priority.

In the lead-up to launching a new blog this is something that I would often put almost 100% of my time into (although you do need to put some time and resources into getting the blog designed and hosted). Once the blog is launched I decrease this to include some of the other activities below, but later on it would never dip below 40-50% of my time and effort.

Without great content on your blog (whether it be written, video, audio, imagery or something else) you’ll never really be able to grow your blog. While it takes time to create quality content I see this time as an investment that has a long term impact upon my blogs. For example the posts I wrote when I first launched dPS have continued to generate traffic and income for years to come.

My focus over the years has always been upon producing ‘how-to’ style content but of course there are other styles of blogs too (entertainment, opinion, news, personal, etc).

Learn more about Creating Great Blog Content: How to Write Great Blog Content

Three Other Key Priorities

While creating content for my blogs is #1 in my mind in terms of where I allocate my time and resources, there are three other areas that have been absolute priorities for me over the last decade or so.

All are essential to me but depending upon the life stage of my blogs each have grown and shrunk in terms of where I’d rank them in importance (I’ll explain more on this below). So I’ll share them in no particular order and give them equal weight:

Promoting Content

Having great content on your blog is great but unless you put effort into promoting that content it can often go unread. While later in the life cycle of a blog your readers can share your content for you in the early days it is largely up to you to grow your traffic – and this takes considerable work.

Once a blog is launched, this area becomes a fairly major focus for me.

For example when I launched Digital Photography School, I’d estimate that I spent about 40% of my time in the first few months promoting my content by engaging in forums, guest posting, networking with and pitching other bloggers, leaving comments on other blogs, engaging on social media and looking for mainstream media coverage.

I also spent a bit of time in this early phase thinking about optimising the site for search engines. I did more ‘on-page optimisation’ than building links – although some of the results of guest posting and networking of course did help with off page techniques too.

Learn More about Growing Traffic: How to Find Readers for Your Blog (recording of a 1.20 hour webinar in which I share everything I know on the topic).

Building Community

Once traffic begins to grow on my blog, I begin to switch some of my time away from promoting into building community and engagement.

It is all well and good to drive ‘traffic’, but I find that a blog really begins to come alive when you have a more loyal and engaged readership.

I know some bloggers are less worried about this than others but I personally find that it is much more satisfying to have readers that come back again and again than just people who come once and never return. I also find this makes monetizing easier too (see below).

In the very early days of a blog there may not be too many readers to build community with so you might not dedicate too much time to this, but as readers grow there will be opportunity to build engagement. Responding to comments, emailing readers, creating more discussion-related content, engaging on social media, etc all can help in this area.

Learn More about Building Community on blogs:

Monetization and Business Development

Not all bloggers want to monetize their blogs and so this area may not be a priority for all, but after a year of blogging I realised it was something I had a passion for and needed to be able to monetize in order to be able to sustain.

There are, of course, many ways to monetise a blog (and I won’t go into specifics here), but one thing I have learned over the years is that monetization is not a passive thing when it comes to blogging.

If you want your blog to be profitable, you need to build the foundations mentioned above (content, traffic and community) but you also need to be intentional about building a business model and creating income streams.

You might get lucky and find a lucrative opportunity lands in your lap, but for most full-time bloggers I know, monetization is a long and slow journey that takes work.

When starting a new blog I am generally thinking about monetisation from day one – however, when it comes to where I put my time, it is usually not until I’ve been blogging for a year or two that I put a lot of effort into this area.

So when I started Digital Photography School, I spend the first two years putting 95% of my time into content, traffic and community. While I did have a few low-level ads and did do a few lower-level affiliate promotions in those first two years, it wasn’t my main focus.

Instead, I worked those first two years on building up my archives of content and building up readership and engagement. With that foundation in place I was ready to start monetizing much more effectively firstly by doing some bigger affiliate promotions of other people’s photography eBooks, and then by creating my own.

In 2009 – three years after launching dPS – I launched our first eBook and wrote about how it generated $72,000 in sales in a week. While some people read that post and then wrote about how I made a stack of money overnight, it is important to realise that it only happened based upon the three years of foundations already built.

Learn More about Monetizing Blogs: Recording of ‘Monetizing Blogs’ Webinar (1.2 hours of everything I know on the topic).

A Word About Maintenance/Tech

The area that I’ve not addressed in the above four foundations of profitable blogs is anything about the tech side of things.

Of course blogs need to be hosted, designed, and have their blog platforms maintained. For me, this has always been something that I have outsourced in different ways (with friends initially, later on through contracting the services of others and more recently through developing a team).

So for me this has not been something I’ve allocated a great deal of ‘time’ to – but rather have allocated resources/money to.

Having said that – it is still really important and not to be ignored!

Life Stages of a Blog and How to Spend Your Time

You can already see above how the life stage of your blog helps to determine how much time to spend upon different activities.

While there are other factors at play also in general, here’s what I’d recommend as a starting point (and I’ll talk in percentages rather than hours as I know not everyone is full time and many have limited time to blog):

Pre Launch of a New Blog

  • 90% of your time on creating content
  • 10% of your time on design, SEO and other technical aspects of getting the blog ready to launch

Of course you’ll probably want to have thought about how you might like to monetize and be thinking about how to build engagement on your blog – but in terms of implementing these there’s not a lot to do in the prelaunch phase.

Launch of a New Blog – 0-3 Months

Depending how much content you have ready to publish from your pre-launch work, you’ll need to keep creating content in the launch phase. It is really important that you have regular and high-quality content going up on your blog.

But at the same time you should be putting considerable time into promoting your posts and blog.

  • 50% of your time on creating content
  • 40-45% of your time on promoting your blog
  • 5-10% of your time on building engagement with the few new readers that might come

Building Foundations

This phase will vary a little depending upon how fast your blog grows and the opportunities that arise but in general I would think you’d be allocating more time to engaging with readers as you get more traffic.

You’ll also want to start being more intentional about monetizing (or at least getting ready to monetize) your blog. This might mean starting to reach out to and network with advertisers, or starting to create a product to sell.

  • 50% of your time on creating content
  • 25-30% of your time on promoting your blog
  • 15-20% of your time on building community
  • 5-10% of your time on monetization

Maturity/Profit/Sustainability

It is hard to describe this stage, as blogs can look very different from one another in how they become profitable. Also at this point many bloggers begin to build teams or outsource different aspects of their blogging.

For example I now have a team of 5-6 people all working part time on my blogs, and also engage the services of 20 or so writers each month for dPS, so my own time is spent more on management and business development rather than upon the above activities.

Having said that, each of the people that work with me put their focus upon one or more of the above four areas and each is a key priority.

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. Hi Darren,

    Excellent!

    Creating problem-solving, usable content has helped me grow my blogging audience, cash gifting team and multiple online consulting businesses.

    People read blogs for some purpose. Some for entertainment but most need their problems solve.

    Solve problems by creating content to draw in readers and grow a profitable blog.

    Factor in major league networking; guest post, comment on posts and of course promote the stuffing out of others to grow your friend base.

    Thanks for sharing Darren!

    PS…..Happy to be back in Thailand as I am much closer to the Aussie time zone and can be a first or second commentator these days ;)

    • Hey Ryan,

      You are so right man. Contents that pose a problem which people are facing and if you are able to solve that problem then they will love your blog.

      This is why “how-to” and tutorial posts are always eye-catching.

      Great comment bro.

  2. Fauzi says:

    Thank you for sharing the tips with us Darren. Although I have been blogging since 2005, but by reading your article, it is like a refreshment for my knowledge that I already forgot. Again, thanks.

  3. Hey Darren, this is an awesome topic man.

    One thing for sure is that I can use these tips apply to my blog to make it more successful.

    Creating content on a regular basis is what is needed to make a blog successful. As you have pointed out in the first point that content creation is your number one priority and this is what we should all adopt as bloggers.

    As I have read on tons of blog that content is king so I guess this should be one of our main focus.

    Thanks for the awesome tips man and keep up the good work.

  4. Thanks Darren. I’m just about to start a new blog, so the timing of this is perfect. I’d better get writing!

  5. Steve says:

    Thanks for the tips. I’m starting several blogs and it’s always good to know the direction I should be aiming for as I’m a little hopeless when it comes to SEO and networking, ha.

  6. mj monaghan says:

    I love the simplicity of what you’re outlining. Yet, behind that simplicity is the deep truth that blogging requires work, engagement, and constantly keeping things fresh.

    It’s been great learning some of these things on my own, but it sure helps when you just start to read articles like yours that help get one going in the right direction from the beginning.

  7. Johanna says:

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me, as I’m trying to put more structure into my blogging to make it more effective. Your suggestions really highlighted the need a) for great content b) solid foundations and c) sustainability – wheelbarrow words which stand at the helm of creating a good strategy for a blog that can mature in style.

    In the past I’ve concentrated quite a lot on guest blogging as a way to promote my blogs and my content to different audiences. I was reading again today how Google’s, Matt Coutts is turning less than a favourable eye on guest posting. I understand that this is probably more to do with spam content and content farms, but I was wondering what your view is on bona fide bloggers guest posting in 2014 as a tool for making new connections, increasing traffic and building (healthy) links?

    • Darren Rowse says:

      I think guest posting is still good for getting exposure and building your profile – I just think Matt was saying its not going to help a heap with your SEO. The key is to focus upon quality content in the guest posts – I’d still recommend it as long as you’re doing it for the right reasons.

      • Darren, I think you’re right man. Once you are guest posting for the right reasons then you will be successful with it. Just be sure to write great guest posts and it will be fine.

        Well as for SEO not sure what Matt is going to change next, we just have to wait and see.

  8. Lee cole says:

    Great post! I’ve recently started a blog, which will become a long term project. I was actually wondering if I was spending too much time on certain aspects of it.

  9. Sahith says:

    Hi Darren,

    Nice post, thanks for the detailed description. I have a question. My blog is about a year and half old and I still can’t get enough traffic to my blog. Any ideas?

  10. HI Darren,
    Lovely and clean information. I like your post.
    Thanks for sharing in formation.

  11. Hi Darren, you didn’t mention the List Building Issues where one should focus on too.

    What do you think to reconcile it?

    • Darren Rowse says:

      yep – that’s a good one to focus on although I would say that for me it’s been more a matter of setting up the list and then working on driving traffic to the site to grow the list rather than do too many specific things to get people on it. So for me it isn’t a daily activity.

      The only real regular work for me to do with the list is sending the emails which I do once a week and I’d probably put that into my ‘building community’ category as its all about activating those on my list to try to get them visiting and engaging again.

  12. Brin Wilson says:

    I’d say two other important areas to focus on are continually improving the design of your website (there’s almost always room for improvement) and improving conversions (in order to really make the most out of whatever traffic you get to your site)!

  13. Shamsudeen says:

    Since I started blogging, my main focus has always being creating quality content. I tried harder everyday to better my previous standard. And as time went by and events unfolding, I started feeling more comfortable writing on daily basis.
    Other areas has not be a major concern for me, but I find myself wanting to engage more of blog promotion than writing this year.
    Thanks Darren, welcome back.

  14. Kalen Bruce says:

    I love the ratios you listed of how much time you should spend on different areas. I just hit my 3 month mark a couple days ago for my blog and I have already realized that I don’t put enough time into writing. I spend too much time trying to optimize my blog and re-design it. Now I know that I need to focus less on changing the design; plus, I shouldn’t really be worried about monetization yet, until I grow my blog bigger. Thanks for this post, it’s great!

  15. The one more thing I would like to mention is social bookmarking. New bloggers should bookmark their useful posts on social bookmarking sites.

  16. I think the most helpful take away for me in this post is the amount of time that it all takes. I know that’s not what people want to hear or think about, but it’s so true, and going into the process (or continuing the process) know that it’s going to take time to meet objectives is essential. It also helps to understand the various stages, so thanks for breaking it down in that way!

  17. Saimon says:

    Very nice post. Thank you

  18. Kid says:

    Really good advice here, Darren. I personally have a million ideas come in at once while I’m working on building/promoting a site or blog, and I find time management to be a major obstacle for me, no matter how productive I am I still feel I could allocate my time better. This post is really helpful, thank you.

  19. I’d say more than 50% of my time is spent on social media/community building, which is sort of the same thing for me. Excellent look at times, which we’re all struggling with!

  20. Zoe Uwem says:

    Hit Darren,

    Awesome post!
    Thanks for putting this up.

    This is quite timely being that I just got my first blog started at http://www.equippedwriters.com and right now, I’m focusing on creating great content for the blog and also on promoting the content.

  21. Okto says:

    Great post Darren,

    Profitable blog happen because of community trust the information provided. So just as you say above content and community are the important parts. When we start gaining trust we need to find the suitable way of monetization that is accepted by the community

  22. Phuong Le says:

    Nice tips, many bloggers now do not focus on the main things and prefer looking for shortcuts. Content and white hat lnk building are the two main tasks that makes blog rolling.

  23. Azalea Pena says:

    Great post Darren. Infographics are a marketing trend this 2014 but it doesn’t mean that we can all use the data we get from it immediately. You’ve pointed out a list of things to watch out for, to make sure that the inforgraphic you’re using as a source of information is actually legit. Back then, I used to be easily attracted with infographics and with all the data it provides. The effect really got to me so thanks for sharing this, it made me open my eyes.

  24. It’s not often I agree with more than 100% of a post. Not because I’m deliberately looking for problems, quite the opposite – I just find a lot of them. But I’m happy to report I agree whole heartedly with the above. Especially the 10% of time new bloggers should spend on Design, SEO etc. I firmly believe that new bloggers spend far to much time worrying about all the bells and whistles available. I recently wrote about that very subject (not live yet) and used styleandshenanigans.com as an example of how to start a blog. Without going into too much detail I pointed out that if the wife of one of the most successful and popular bloggers on the planet can do without every bell and whistle known to blogging kind then chances are that’s the way to go.

  25. ushaver says:

    i spend 3 month to build my blog, but i don’t get a lot of visitor, so my blog is not profitable, but your post is good mr derren rowse, thank you so much

  26. thanks Darren, always have to remind oneself that it is not an over night success but hours of work and dedication. thanks again.

  27. Kirtu Riba says:

    Thank you Darren for sharing the secrets of your success in Blogging. Blogging is not a child’s play.I envy your impeccable writing.Even though I am not a blogger; I think ,any practitioner can reap abundant profit from this article.

  28. Great article. I love the tips.

    But I must ask, do you know how boring it is to pin your posts? Without even a single graphic it just takes the oomph right out of trying to pin it for other bloggers to find and read. All I’m say is, would it kill ya to have one semi-decent pinnable graphic?

    Ok, that is all. I really do appreciate your site. Thanks for all you do. I love your stuff, but I rarely share it with my communities because it doesn’t translate to social media very well.

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      Sorry Debi! We do know, and I’ve come on board recently to deal with things like this. You’ll find much more Pin-friendly images and content on ProBlogger this year, I promise!

  29. “Having great content on your blog is great but unless you put effort into promoting that content it can often go unread” – this is so true! No matter how entertaining, interesting and unique your content is, if you do not promote it, most probably it will never get the attention it deserves…

  30. Well done. Clear. Concise. On point. Relevant. Thks.

  31. Joel says:

    Great post Darren! It’s really useful reading such candid advice from a successful blogger. I’m in the pre launch phase of my blog currently and I’m doing my best to write as many guest posts as possible and engage with the writing/blogging community wherever I can. This post will be really helpful as my blog continues to move forward.

  32. Jagan says:

    Hi..
    really a great content helpful for all the bloggers. Content is always king for any blog to became more popular and have good traffic.Really need to work very hard,during initial days, later on as days goes off & get good traffic,invest more time on creative developments like that.This too helpful for me to drive my blog successful.

  33. Fabulous post Darren and timely! I just finished attending a blogging panel where I participated as a professional blogger and this post touched on many of the points we discussed. I shall be sharing it with the panel’s host to pass along to members of our audience.

  34. Lunetta says:

    I believe that great money will follow great content in blog sphere. Your posting, again, reminds us the important of content above all aspects. Thanks for sharing it.

  35. Really helpful blog post Darren – thank you. As bloggers there are always many other considerations as well as writing content, but it’s a good reminder to know that ultimately quality content is always the most significantly important factor for a blog. I like how you structure your time between the various different blogging elements – I shall learn a lot from that. Thank you.

  36. Hi Darren,

    Outstanding post chock full of insights. This is one of the best I’ve read in the past month.

    I was wondering what your take is on PPC and if you ever use it in your blog building strategy?

    Thanks,
    Matthew

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