First Month: Building Something From Nothing

first month of bloggingPhotography by Daniel Morris

These tips apply to any blog or website with modest traffic levels (0 — 200 per day) and under 100 subscribers.

If this doesn’t apply to your site, you might consider familiarizing yourself with these growth tips so they can be utilized if you embark on a new project in future.

I certainly can’t guarantee how much your site will grow in terms of numbers, but I do want to suggest that, unless you rely on SEO alone, the growth actions I’ve outlined should create real results on any site.

This post outlines the growth actions I’d recommend to anyone hoping to build an established site from a modest starting point.

Some thoughts on starting growth

Cases like the rapid growth of Freelance Switch and Zen Habits can make new bloggers feel quite inadequate. The subscriber bases of these sites have grown by the thousands in a very short time.

I want to suggest that these sites (and others like it) are not good points of comparison for us. It’s much easier to grow a blog quickly when you can leverage an existing profile or audience.

It’s also much easier when you have money or multiple people working on a site.

Both Freelance Switch and Zen Habits were blessed with a number of these advantages. This doesn’t take anything away from them, as many other sites begin with the same advantages and don’t do so well.

However, I want to stress that these sites aren’t a useful benchmark, as their startup situation is not comparable with our own. In other words, it’s not a level playing field.

Most of us, as was the case with this blog, will have to grow a readership from nothing. It’s a gradual process, but a very rewarding one.

Building something from nothing

If you don’t mind me embarking on a metaphor, it could be useful to think of your site, in this stage of growth, as a tourist attraction in the middle of a wild forest.

It’s a beautiful attraction, but there’s simply no way for potential visitors to find it. There are no paths, no roads, no signs. At this point, you’re relying on visitors stumbling across the attraction by accident.

The actions that follow are about building paths, roads and signs to your site. In the beginning, this will be almost entirely up to you. In some ways, this can make the task even more satisfying.

Here are my suggested actions for this period of growth:

Write a week’s worth of posts before you open the doors

You wouldn’t open your tourist attraction for business if the ticket booth or guest-house was nothing more than a timbre frame, would you?

New visitors need to be impressed by your blog, and there’s nothing less impressive than a sense of emptiness.

As there are no time constraints, try to spend more time than usual making your first few articles outstanding. Use them to communicate what your site will offer.

Join a forum

If you can’t find a forum for your niche, you’re probably not looking hard enough. I built my readership, in the early stages, almost entirely through my presence on the Authority Blogger Forums.

By placing a prominent, yet not overbearing, link in my post signature, I was able to encourage a number of curious click-throughs from forum users who’d enjoyed my posts.

If you can manage it, joining two (or more) forums can help you reach a new pool of potential readers.

I’ve discussed Finding New Readers in Forums before, but the crux of my advice is: post lots, make your posts valuable, connect with other forum members, and help others as much as possible.

Comment prolifically and thoughtfully on similar sites

Many potential readers are to be found reading other blogs and websites in your niche. The best way to draw them back to your blog is to leave a thought-provoking comment, or to answer the questions of other commenters.

I’ve written in detail on finding new readers through comments before, but the gist of my advice would be to: focus on both well-known and lesser known sites in your niche, post comments with value, engage with other commenters, demonstrate your skill in the niche, and most importantly, comment frequently (but only as long as you can continue to maintain the quality of your comments).

Start hunting out guest-posting opportunities

Guest-posts can bring dozens to hundreds of highly targeted visitors to your site (depending on where the post appears).

In the early stages of my blogs growth I guest-posted prolifically. Most of the sites I targeted were not ‘out of my league’, so to speak — they were more established than mine, but not so established that they wouldn’t take a chance on a new blogger.

One strategy I found very effective was to write a post on the Authority Blogger Forums offering to guest-post for anyone who asked.

Even if I wasn’t well-versed in the topic, I found I could research enough for one post with relative ease.

You could launch the same request on a forum dedicated to websites or blogs, or alternately, make the same offer on your niche forum (where at least some of the users will have blogs and websites).

If you want to be proactive I’d suggest pitching guest-posts to certain bloggers via email. My advice would be to stay away from the A-list for now, and be mindful of your inexperience.

Write the blogger a short, polite email outlining your idea in a sentence or two and offer to send them along the finished article if it sounds like something they might be interested in.

If you stress that the blogger can still reject the article one you’ve had a look at it they’ll be much more likely to take a chance.

I never had a blogger reject the article after showing it to them, but even if this does happen once, you can always use the article on your own (or another) blog. A tip: make sure you search the target site to make sure your article idea hasn’t been used before.

Forget Digg and del.icio.us!

Low-traffic sites rarely reach either place, as you need a certain mass of visitors to vote up your articles before a snowball effect gets rolling. Few of us have the raw materials required.

I want to explicitly stress one social bookmarking service that is often overlooked or misunderstood by bloggers and webmasters — though it is starting to get the recognition it deserves.

That service is StumbleUpon, and I want to suggest that it should be your exclusive social media focus in the early growth stage of your site.

One vote for your article at Digg or del.icio.us will never bring more than a few visitors. One vote from a StumbleUpon user has the potential to bring hundreds.

For this reason, I’d suggest pushing only StumbleUpon submission at the end of your posts (for now). Forget Digg, del.icio.us, Reddit and all the others.

They’ll only serve as obstacles for your Stumble link or button. In doing this, you’ll be squeezing the maximum amount of social media juice out of a limited number of visitors.

Kick-start the process by getting involved on StumbleUpon yourself. I’ve written about how StumbleUpon can help grow your blog over at ProBlogger.

Focus on writing viral articles

If your site is new, get into the habit of focusing on potentially viral articles right from the outset. If your site has been around longer and hasn’t yet focused on going viral, your current position will allow you to gain more than you lose by making this transition.

Not every article you write has to be written with virality in mind, but investing time in a few really carefully crafted posts might pay great dividends.

50 Tips to Unclutter Your Blog, which is still somewhat viral, was posted in the relatively early days of this blog and truly helped to get the ball rolling. Don’t save your best ideas for later: you need them right now.

Here are some good ideas for viral articles. I’m also happy to think of some for you.

Let others know about you

Start introducing yourself to other bloggers, offer to help them, or link them to an article their readership might enjoy (preferably by someone else, at first).

If you’ve written something you think would truly by appreciated by the audience of another site in your niche, consider politely pitching the link to them. Don’t ask for a link explicitly, merely suggest it as something the blogger or their readership might enjoy.

Keep your eye open for every opportunity

If you see a group writing project, participate. If a blogger you read is sick, offer to write a post for them (that’s how I got my first guest-posting gig at ProBlogger).

An instinctive sense of opportunity is one of the most important skills any blogger or webmaster can develop, and it will only grow stronger with practice.

Moving into Month 2

The next stage of growth applies to sites with approximately 200 — 300 visitors a day and 100 to 200 subscribers.

If you don’t feel as if those statistics will apply to you due to the nature of your site, you can move into the next stage when you feel you’re ready.

Tomorrow I’ll be outlining strategies to move through the next stage of growth. If you have any questions so far, please ask via the comments on this post.

What I’ve Learned About Social Media Success (Whiteboard)

social media success

A few days ago you might have noticed that this blog’s uptime was a little patchy. This was because a post I wrote — 110+ Resources for Creative Minds — appeared on the front page of Digg and became popular on del.icio.us and StumbleUpon.

I created the post specifically with social media in mind, primarily as an experiment. I wanted to see if it would be possible for me to reach the front page of Digg with a resource post — something anyone with a bit of spare time can create.

If that was the case, I could return to you and outline a model of social media success. The experiment worked, and the above diagram is an attempt to communicate the results.

Keep reading for an analysis of what I’ve learned about social media success.

Time & Effort

The process for creating the post was time-consuming. It took a few hours to gather the links, a few hours to construct the post, and a little longer to make the thumbnail images.

I could have taken less time, but I set myself the target of gathering 110+ resources — mainly to see if I could do it!

One thing you might have noticed if you use Digg regularly is that not every resource post that becomes popular needs to contain so many resources.

I’ve seen posts with 37 resources reach the front page, and so on. Higher numbers maximize your chances, but you don’t need to go all out.

The key ingredient in a resource post is time. If you don’t have a big chunk of time, you can set aside a few minutes each day to work on your magnum opus.

Networking

From what I’ve observed, who you know is somewhat more important than the content you create when it comes to making the Digg front page.

Unless you have a huge readership, it takes a lot of luck to achieve success on Digg without 1) success on other social bookmarking sites or 2) a network of friends who will give your article a leg-up.

I can confidently say that my article would never have made the front page of Digg without support from my StumbleUpon friends and Skelliewag readers over at Digg.

The first lesson I’ve learned from this is that “you only get out what you put in.” Taking the time to build a network of friends on the social media service you’re targeting — even if it’s only modest — will drastically increase the momentum behind your content.

The second lesson I’ve learned is that, unless you have a large readership, you will need to do much of the beginning leg-work yourself.

Send the article to friends, send shouts across Digg, StumbleUpon messages and so on. Once enough people get behind your article things can begin to happen of their own accord.

Category

Unlike StumbleUpon, where content can be democratically recategorized and reviewed as users vote it up, you only get one chance with Digg. Duplicate content is not allowed, so once your article is submitted, that’s it.

If you can, get someone to submit your article who you trust will give it a good headline and description, in addition to submitting in the best-match category (though this is often hard with Digg).

Bad categorizing can hurt your chances of success with a particular piece of content. Returning to StumbleUpon, if I write an article on personal finance and it’s submitted under ‘blogs’ (as is often the case), I will get badly targeted traffic.

If someone diggs your personal finance article by submitting it in ‘Video’ it will probably get buried.

What you can do

1. Get active on the social media service you’d like to experience success with. Make friends, share articles, submit good content, and so on.

2. Create a resource post, or other linkbait that relates broadly to the topic of your site.

3. Call in a favor from social media friends and ask them to vote if they like what you’ve created.

4. Before things start heating up, make sure to shore up your site against bursts of traffic. I learned this the hard way.

If you can’t afford a good host, WP-Cache is a great alternative. I’ve not had a chance to use it, as it was installed after the rush of traffic, but many people swear by it.

How to Get 1,050 Subscribers in 3 Months

email subscribersPhoto by josef.stuefer

By beginning this post with the above figure, I don’t do so to boast. I know there are thousands of blogs that have received more subscribers than this — and in less time.

I highlight this figure (1,050 subscribers in 3 months) to show that you don’t need to have big money, the perfect niche or a staff of writers to quickly develop a 1,000+ network of loyal readers.

This blog exists within a mature and crowded niche, I’m its sole author and I’ve spent nothing on marketing and promotion.

I’ve learned enough from this experience to share how you can get 1,000 more subscribers in 3 months.

Subscribers are people, too!

A subscriber is a person who has elected to have every article published on your site delivered to them. That’s an impressive commitment.

For a reader to make the decision to subscribe, they need to feel that your content is 1) unmissable and 2) tailored to them.

If you can’t quickly describe your target audience then you’ve just identified the key reason why you don’t have as many subscribers as you’d like.

You’re writing about topics, when you should be writing for people.

What this means

Here’s the difference when it comes to subscribers. I’ll use a hypothetical personal finance blog as an example.

Firstly, let’s examine a personal finance blog without a target audience, writing on the topics of: Investing, Debt Elimination, Saving, and Frugality.

Can we imagine a person for whom all these things are of a keen interest?

If you’re in a position to save, you’re probably not worrying about debt elimination. If you’re trying to pay off debt, investing and saving might not have much relevance to you.

Even if you balance these topics equally, your readers will be skipping up to half of what you write.

Secondly, compare this with a personal finance blog written specifically for people in debt. With a target audience in mind, you can ensure every post you write is relevant.

You can skip over talk of saving and investing and provide valuable advice on budgeting and frugality instead.

When an indebted person visits such a blog they can look across the breadth of the content and say: “Everything here is relevant to me.” They’re in a perfect position to decide to subscribe.

Once you work out who you’re writing for you can cut out the topics that aren’t relevant to them. When a visitor feels your articles are consistently tailored to their needs they’ll be much more likely to subscribe.

Hopefully you can see that each post I write is aimed at a target audience (look to the top right corner of the screen for a hint!).

Another key strategy is to make your target audience obvious. That way, each time a member of your target audience arrives they can see straight away (hopefully before they’ve even started reading your content) that your site is tailored to them.

Summary:

  • Focus on a target audience rather than a selection of topics.
  • Write every post for the benefit of that target audience.
  • Make it clear to new visitors who your blog is written for.

When more is less

The biggest misconception about getting subscribers is that you need to write a lot of articles each week (preferably daily) and that people will unsubscribe if you don’t post enough.

In fact, the opposite is true. Subscribers dislike being interrupted by content they don’t want to read. In terms of getting (and keeping) subscribers, one great post per week is better than five mediocre ones.

That your content is relevant isn’t enough. It also has to be good. To fall back on a common but appropriate cliché: when it comes to subscribers, it’s quality over quantity. Of course, quality and quantity is ideal. If you can make the time, go for it.

Summary:

  • When it comes to subscribers, quality trumps quantity.

So, how can I write good stuff?

My guiding principle is to fill each post with value for the target audience. For example, instead of trying to explain you how to get 1,000+ subscribers in three months, I could have written about a nifty new WordPress plug-in, or the current state of the BlogRush widget. There’s nothing wrong with either of those topics, but it’s clear which one would be more valuable to you.

One post with lots of value is better than a few posts with a little. For a reader to want to subscribe they need to be moved by the value you offer. They need to feel that your content is worth treasuring.

When creating content, let the value principle guide you. Ask yourself: what’s the most valuable thing I can give my target audience right now?

If you find it hard to find the time to write value-packed posts, post less. Yes — even if it means you only post once a week. One value-packed post a week will grow your blog faster than seven posts with only a little bit of value (Tim Ferriss writes at about this frequency and is in the Top 1,000 blogs on Technorati).

People simply don’t link to or vote for posts that aren’t sufficiently value-packed — regardless of how many you write.

Summary:

  • Consistently value-packed articles are required in order to move people enough to subscribe.

How to source-out potential subscribers

Now that I’ve described the process behind creating the kind of content that motivates people to subscribe, the next (and crucial step) is sourcing out potential subscribers.

Potential subscribers are really just members of your target audience. They’ll discover your blog through either of two main paths: links, or social media.

A bite-sized guide to getting links

Breaking it down again, there are two kinds of links: links you make and links you get.

My subscriber count has always jumped when I got a bunch of links (or one link in a highly trafficked location). If you want to get links, you need to:

  • Write an exceptionally value-packed article.
  • Do something remarkable and word-of-mouth worthy.
  • Ask for them.

The second type of links (the kind you make) can be just as powerful. These include:

  • The by-line in your guest-posts.
  • Your forum signature.
  • The linked name that comes with the comments you make.

The most powerful links you can get are those on blogs, websites and within categories frequented by your target audience — preferably the most popular ones. Not all links are equal:

  1. A link with lots of targeted click-throughs is best.
  2. A link with a handful of targeted click-throughs is second best.
  3. A link with lots of badly targeted click-throughs is third best.
  4. A link with a handful of badly targeted click-throughs isn’t worth much.

All these links are better than nothing, but some are better than others. Links are doorways your target audience can use to discover your site. If you’re not getting links, you’re not getting subscribers.

Summary:

  • If you’re writing value-packed content you will generate links naturally.
  • Exceptionally value-packed content will always get more links.
  • Make your own links by guest-posting on popular blogs.

A bite-sized guide to social media

Articles will rarely do well on social media unless they’re exceptionally value-packed or remarkable. If you’re not focusing on value, focus on doing something remarkable.

Luckily, content people want to link to also has a tendency to do well on social media.

Being active on social media will help things along. People often vote for your articles if you vote for theirs: not because you’ve got some sort of reciprocal scheme going, but because it’s an easy way to repay the favor.

I’m certain that having an active StumbleUpon profile has played an integral part in this blog’s growth, for example.

Summary:

  • Writing linkable content will also help you with social media.
  • Put effort into social media and you will be rewarded.

A bite-sized guide to networking

People who like you are more likely to link to you or vote up your articles on social media (and in doing so, source out new pockets of subscribers).

The much-vaunted practice of ‘networking’ is ultimately made up of what you do to get people to feel positive about you.

Here are some simple principles I’ve stuck by:

  • Be nice.
  • Don’t ignore people.
  • Be friendly.
  • Treat every person you interact with respectfully.
  • Don’t view others as a means to an end.
  • Help out in the best way you can.
  • Be generous.
  • Don’t take up too much time.
  • Focus on mutual benefit.
  • Give more than you take.

Viewed in this light, every email, comment, message, IM conversation and social media experience is networking. They key is to help people out. Give them something valuable for free, whether it be knowledge, advice, or your time.

Just like we saw with the success of Radiohead’s In Rainbows album, you ultimately get more when you don’t ask for anything. In a world where people only want to give a little less than they can take, being generous will make you remarkable.

The little things

If a reader is moved enough by your content to subscribe they’ll find the button even if it’s hidden in your footer.

In fact, I’ve subscribed to blogs that didn’t even have a subscribe button, either by burning their feed at Feedburner or getting the feed from the address bar.

Little things like button placement won’t make or break your efforts to get subscribers. It’s all the above stuff that matters most.

Despite this, the basic tenet of usability holds true: if you want someone to do something, you better make it as easy as possible.

  • Put your feed button above the fold. This is where people expect it to be and is also the first place they look.
  • Give readers the option to subscribe at the end of your articles. By doing so, you’re catching them when they’ve just read a value-packed post and are feeling most positive about your content.
  • A great looking design can increase a visitor’s disposition to subscribe. We inevitably associate a professional design with how seriously the blogger or webmaster takes what they do. First impressions do count.
  • You can offer another incentive to subscribe. I’ve written about this in detail at Blogging Tips.
  • When do I start showing the subscriber count? When you start to be proud of how many subscribers you have.

Conclusion

This is, in essence, a three-pronged strategy:

1. Work out who your target audience is and write your content exclusively for them.

2. Pack your articles with as much value as possible. If time is a problem, post less.

3. Source out your target audience by getting or making links and writing for social media.

By following this three-pronged strategy my blog grew to 1,050 subscribers in 3 months. There’s no reason why your site can’t grow by just as much, if not more.

If you have any questions about this process please don’t hesitate to ask by leaving a comment.

Got a few seconds? Share on Facebook, Twitter or anything else is always appreciated!

How to Get 1,100 Subscribers in Five Days

growing subscribersPhoto by Hamed Saber

There are two reasons why I’ve used the above title for this post. Firstly, it’s a follow-up to my article on How to Get 1,050 Subscribers in Three Months.

Secondly, because my new blog, Anywired, reached 1,100 subscribers five days after its launch on Thursday.

This post contains everything I’ve learned about starting a second blog while using your first blog, connections and profile as a platform to launch it from.

If you take only one thing away from this post, let it be this point: your first blog is always the hardest. It only gets easier after that.

The recipe for success

When launching Anywired I had no idea what to expect. I had hoped that some Skelliewagreaders would be interested in it, and I had suspected it to be a little easier than starting this blog from scratch had been. I had decided to be optimistic and hope for 100 subscribers in the first week.

Clearly, I had underestimated the value of three factors:

  1. A loyal audience.
  2. A profile in your new niche.
  3. Connections with other bloggers.

These are the three components which made the launch successful. If you can build each of these components, you have a recipe for the successful launch of blog #2.

I think that while many bloggers have ideas for new blogs, they’re discouraged because they think back to how tough it was to build something from nothing.

Through the process of launching a second blog, I’ve learned that you can leverage the many hours of work you’ve done on your first blog (and on other blogs) to make growing you second blog much easier.

A loyal audience

From the comments on Anywired and emails I’ve received, it seems that a large portion of the blog’s new subscribers are NorthxEast readers (thanks, guys!).

It also helps that the blog’s niche (working and earning an income online) is in line with what many readers would like to get out of their blogs: a supplementary income.

If I had started a blog about duck shooting, you can expect that the interest from my readers would have been much less.

My key tips on building this element of a successful blog launch would be:

  • Create passionate readers and, as Leo Babauta says, try to be “insanely useful.” (Congrats to Leo on becoming a full-time blogger!)
  • You’ll have more audience transfer if your new niche is of interest to most of your target audience. That being said, a first blog can help even if your new niche is completely different. (After all, maybe some Skelliewag readers are duck shooters!)

A profile in your new niche

Having some degree of respect or notoriety in your new niche can also be helpful. If I decided to launch a new blog in the mountain-biking niche, for example, I’d expect a slow start because very few bloggers in that niche know who I am.

A lot of people know that I’m a freelance blogger, and I also write for ProBlogger and Freelance Switch, both of which are read by people interested in working and earning an income online.

Because I already had a profile in the niche, people were confident from day one that I knew what I was talking about.

My key tips on building this element of a successful blog launch would be:

  • Comment on blogs in your new niche before launching (to develop a bit of name recognition).
  • Write some posts on your first blog that incorporate your new niche (to demonstrate that you know a bit about it).
  • Guest-post in your new niche around the time of the launch.

Connections with other bloggers

My friendships with Darren Rowse, Collis Ta’eed, Jon Phillips and Maki resulted in links and support from their respective blogs when Anywired was launched.

I’ve been very lucky to make connections with influential bloggers, but the launch was also given support by a number of readers, combining to create a grassroots swell of support.

The combined effect was immensely helpful in generating incoming traffic and no doubt brought in a lot of fresh faces and new subscribers.

I’m thankful to everyone who wrote about or commented on the launch. I was truly humbled by the warm welcome.

My key tips on building this element of a successful blog launch would be:

  • Tell blogging buddies about your launch in advance and send them a link when the site goes live. I didn’t ask anyone for a link, but I found people were willing to link anyway.
  • Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get links from top bloggers. Your loyal audience should help you out.
  • Call in favors by asking others to vote for articles on your new blog, or support it in any way they like. You’ll find that if you’ve been helpful to the person before they’re likely to oblige and do so gladly.

Where to next?

I hope this post has allayed some of your fears about starting a second blog, though it’s still essential that you answer five hard questions before starting a new project.

In a month or so I’d like to return to the topic and reflect on what I’ve learned about the actual process of juggling two blogs.

I was considering writing a post simply saying thank you for your support, but I hope this post does the same thing while proving useful. Providing value is probably the best way I can say thanks :-).

The Butterfly Growth Model

butterfly growthPhoto by Unhindered by Talent

With the benefit of hindsight, I feel confident making a statement that you don’t hear often. There is no one-size fits all strategy to grow your blog or website.

More specifically, the kind of work you do must depend on how far your blog or website has already grown to be effective.

I call this idea the ‘Butterfly Growth Model’ because, like a butterfly, your growth will move through two major stages. Each stage of growth needs to correspond with a very different promotion strategy. I’ll outline the secret to this model here.

The two stages

From a layman’s perspective, the two major growth stages of a butterfly are 1) chrysalis and 2) butterfly.

The metaphor describes my own experiences growing my blog over the last six months or so.

The chrysalis stage will be a familiar experience for anyone who has or is growing a blog or website without leverage.

It’s not surprising that it’s tricky: your audience finds you through links, social media and search engines, but your audience is also largely responsible for creating this traffic.

In other words, you can’t get an audience without an audience! In the beginning, you must inevitably function as a promotional army of one, laying down links to your blog like railroad track.

In a matter of days, or weeks, or months or years, your blog or website will enter the second stage of growth: the butterfly stage.

You’ll know you’ve entered this stage when visitors tumble in and your subscribe count climbs incrementally even when you’re no longer self-promoting. You’ve developed an established audience who share the burden of promotion for you.

Some of you will identify yourselves as part of the chrysalis stage, when you’re really at movement number two. Your audience could share the burden of promotion alone, but you don’t let them. You’ve been pursuing the first growth method for so long that you don’t know anything else.

I discovered that my blog was in the ‘butterfly’ stage by accident. For a period I found myself too busy to guest-post, leave comments elsewhere or pitch links to popular blogs.

I stopped self-promotion completely. Despite that, readers continued to link and vote for the content, and new visitors and subscribers continued to trickle in at about the same rate they were arriving when I was spending hours on promotion.

There is a point when you realize that your audience no longer needs you to make things happen.

Retrospectively, I think a chrysalis becomes a butterfly much earlier than most of us realize. I’m talking a few hundred subscribers, rather than a few thousand. Some of you may already be there, even though you don’t know it.

Which stage are you?

Here are the criteria that I would apply to the two stages:

Chrysalis

  1. Fewer than 500 subscribers. I don’t include daily traffic as a criteria because it’s not a good indication of how engaged your audience is. Good SEO, for example, does not guarantee good content. Just look at the results for a search on ‘Make Money Online’…
  2. Trouble getting more than a few comments on your posts.

What you should be doing

Owners of a chrysalis stage blog or website should be dividing their time evenly between value-packed content and off-blog promotion. Here’s what I would suggest:

  • Comment a few times on other blogs in your niche to demonstrate your knowledge and attract the notice of the blog’s owner. I don’t think even chrysalis blogs and websites should pursue a comments for traffic strategy. The rewards aren’t in proportion to the time spent.
  • Guest-post as much as possible on the most popular blogs in your niche. You do this for visibility, profile and traffic.
  • Create value-packed content and pitch your best links to popular blogs in your niche.
  • Make friends and connections on your social media profile of choice.

You’ll grow fastest in this stage if you’re your own biggest fan. While it’s possible to grow without these methods (possibly by skipping straight to butterfly growth), I truly don’t believe you’ll grow as quickly in the beginning stages.

Having said that, part of using the chrysalis model effectively is knowing when to stop. Once you move into the butterfly model, it’s time to hand over promotional duties to your audience and concentrate on the things that make them passionate about you.

My criteria for the next stage:

Butterfly

  1. More than 500 subscribers.

While I practiced chrysalis growth until about December and 2,000+ subscribers, one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made was failing to start earlier. A lot earlier.

In fact, I’m suggesting that you should start butterfly growth once you hit about 500 subscribers.

This is the point where you acknowledge that your audience is more influential than you are. Give them great, value-packed content and they will champion it with or without you.

What you should be doing

It’s possible to grow a blog or website at an astronomical rate with only one element: value-packed content.

But only once you’ve entered the butterfly stage. Value-packed content won’t stand for much if nobody sees it.

Great content + an engaged audience = all the things that grow a blog or website. Links, social media votes and search engine traffic. You don’t need anything else.

Pitching links to popular blogs is still worth the time because it only takes a few minutes to do so — work potentially resulting in hundreds of visits.

At this point, guest-posting needs to be carefully evaluated. If you’re already well-known in your niche, guest posting will only build your profile to a limited extent.

You might get dozens of click-throughs, but social media could send the same post hundreds of visitors if it appeared on your own blog.

The key difference is this: the traffic you get from guest-posts will be highly targeted if you’re writing on another blog in your niche. The traffic you get from social media is not nearly as well targeted.

I’d suggest only guest-posting on highly-trafficked, highly-targeted blogs, and not doing the same blog more than once a month.

However, Dosh Dosh’s recent milestone of hitting 10,000 subscribers without ever guest-posting shows that this strategy isn’t a prerequisite for success in the butterfly stage. Great content on your own blog is.

The chrysalis stage work you did on a social media profile should be enough to have developed a cluster of readers who actively use social media and will regularly vote for your articles.

From what I’ve observed, having an amicable relationship with a top Digger or other social media power-user is invaluable, but it’s something I’ve never chased and now that I have it, I don’t really know how to use it.

In other words, I can’t provide much advice on this particular point because I’m still stumbling my way through it.

Changing your perspective

This discussion begs a fundamental question: could a butterfly stage blog or website grow quickly without any kind of off-blog promotion? I think so.

In fact, I’d suggest that if you divert the time you’d usually spend on off-blog promotional methods into creating value-packed content, you’ll receive more links and traffic than you could have created yourself.

My overall argument is this: if your blog has 500 or more subscribers, let your audience take charge of what they do best — supporting and championing you.

As a blogger, focus your energies on providing the value which creates a passionate audience who want to spread the word about you.

Stop talking about yourself and give other people a reason to talk about you.