Photography by Francois Schnell
Once you’ve read and digested the growth outline in The First Month: Building Something For Nothing, this article represents the next step.
It aims to be a plan of action for sites with a more established and regular readership: 200 — 300 visitors per day on average, or under 200 subscribers.
If the statistics for your site are different, but you still feel you’re in this ‘newly established’ growth bracket, these tips should still be of use to you.
I want to stress that it’s not necessary to move into the next phase of growth within one month. I’ve organized the series in this way because it roughly tracks my blogs progression, which is a base for this model, but I’m well aware not everyone has the desire or the time to pursue growth via a ‘blitzing’ method.
In other words, take all the time you need to aim for the next stage of growth, and re-align the time frame to something that fits well with your personal goals.
Here are my suggestions for the growth of a newly established site:
Broaden your social media focus
I’d suggest adding buttons for Digg, Reddit and del.icio.us at the bottom of your posts, and perhaps even at the bottom of your feed.
Now you have a more established readership your chances of success on other services besides StumbleUpon are not worth ignoring.
In the first month stage of growth, you probably began to get a sense of what works on StumbleUpon and what doesn’t. In this growth stage you can refine these skills and, in doing so, may achieve some success on other social media services.
Success on any one social bookmarking service can be pushed along by having an active profile on the service you’d most like to see success with. Through this profile, you can start to build a connection with social media influencers who may be willing to give your articles a leg-up.
A new approach to guest-posting: quality over quantity
You will reach a point in your growth where guest-posting on small sites or sites that aren’t well targeted to you will no longer be worth the time investment.
You’ll know when you’ve reached that point, because your gut instinct will question whether the traffic received was worth the time it took to craft the article.
At that point, I’d suggest aiming higher with your guest posts. Use your experience as credentials: tell more prominent bloggers how many times you’ve guest posted before. Have you written for any sites they might now? Include that information in your email. You don’t need to aim for the A-list, but you can aim to reach a bigger audience.
Maintain your focus on commenters
At this stage of growth I would suggest continuing to respond to every comment, if you can. It helps create a comment culture on your blog and allows you to create a long-term relationship with individual readers.
I’d also recommend connecting with readers in other ways: through social media, IM, email, and so on. Unless you go wildly off-topic, it’s difficult to get to know readers on more than an informational level via comments.
Pack value into each article
Before sitting down to put words on the screen, ask yourself: “What does this have to offer my target audience?” In other words: is it something they will find useful, or interesting, or entertaining?
All viral content is built from this simple base. Good content provides value. Viral content provides outstanding value.
Many bloggers and webmasters would love to do this but feel they don’t have the time. If that’s you, consider cutting down your post frequency in order to write higher quality articles.
The big myth that stops people from doing this is that if you don’t post for a day, your subscriber count goes down.
This isn’t true. Your subscriber count is actually determined by the number of people who accessyour feed on any given day. On days when you don’t post, those who already read your last post yesterday will not read your feed again. It doesn’t mean that large pockets of your readership are unsubscribing each time your feedcount drops. This is why it generally goes down over weekends, and surges on Monday, too.
Something to think about: when Copyblogger first started out Brian Clark only posted around twice a week. Now that the site has cracked the Technorati 100, post frequency is still generally three or four a week. Unless you’re a site built around ‘scoops’ (like the big gadget blogs, for example) you simply don’t need to post prolifically.
Do something buzz-worthy
Creating a spectacle or giving away something for free both make you interesting. You could start a tips project that runs for 40 days, or give away a service without expecting anything in return. You might also run a unique and innovative competition.
These initiatives, aside from creating buzz around you and your site, can also make a stronger impression on readers than any email or comment, particularly when helping them with a problem or giving them something for free.
Let’s face it: these kind of actions rarely happen on a personal level when it comes to Web 2.0. An impersonal tutorial might solve that niggling problem you’ve been having, and a download page can provide you with something for free, but how often does this transaction take place between two individuals alone?
The scarcity of this kind of interaction (between relative strangers) makes it special.
Moving into Month 3
The next stage of growth in the series will broadly apply to sites with around 300 — 500 daily visitors and 200+ subscribers.
In other words, the Third Month stage of growth should apply to sites who are somewhere in the middle of their niche: not quite towards the top, yet far from the bottom.
In other words, you may well be half-way there.