Guest post by Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing
A lot of people have been asking, and the answer is…
Yes, I’m tired.
You know how people recommend all sorts of massive action when you’re trying to grow your blog? Well, I’ve been doing it all – I’ve averaged about one guest post per week since the beginning of the year, I’m building relationships like crazy, producing videos… you name it, I’m doing it.
Not to mention my full-time consulting practice, a stealth-mode start-up that I’m working on, and planning a wedding.
So yes, unequivocally – I’m tired.
I’m not complaining. I love it, and I’m tired – all at the same time.
So is everyone else who does this. This isn’t supposed to be easy, and that’s okay, because we won’t be tired forever.
It helps to have a light at the end of the tunnel, to know what you’re aiming for. There’s a tipping point, a point where you reach “escape velocity”, and then it all gets easier.
And it’s coming – maybe sooner than you think.
What is Escape Velocity?
Growing a blog is like getting a rocket out of Earth’s gravity.
At first, it’s really hard, because you’ve got no momentum, and gravity is a powerful force pulling you down. After a while, though, as you get higher up and pick up speed, you’ve got more momentum on your side, and the pull of gravity gets weaker and weaker. Finally you find yourself in space, and you don’t need much power at all to get around.
The critical amount of speed that you need to escape Earth’s gravity is called “escape velocity”.
We experience the same thing when growing a blog; at first, it’s like rolling a boulder up a hill. There’s no momentum, no traction, and every step of the way takes excruciating effort.
But then, bit by bit, it starts to get easier. The hill starts to get a little less steep, and you start picking up speed. Passers by stop to help you from time to time, until eventually you reach the point where you can stop pushing for a bit, and the boulder just keeps on rolling.
(My fiancée pointed out that this follows the economic principle of diminishing marginal utility – isn’t it cool to be marrying someone smarter than you?)
We see this with bigger blogs all the time – they don’t have to hustle nearly as much as us newbies to get steady traffic to their site. On the contrary, their blogs seem to grow with minimum effort.
Why is it so hard to get started?
We all know that to grow a blog, you need to be posting great content on a regular basis – otherwise, visitors to your blog won’t have a reason to come back.
The only problem is that when you’re starting out, there AREN’T any visitors to your blog!
One way to get those visitors is by creating great content and posting it elsewhere on the net. This can be done in the form of guest posts, or commenting on other blogs, or a combination of both. However you do it, though, this is a lot more work!
Having to basically run two editorial calendars at once is the first reason why getting off the ground is so hard, but there’s a second reason: you’re starting from scratch.
Nobody knows who you are, so you’ve got to work extra hard to get noticed.
You don’t know what works and what doesn’t, so you have to spend lots of time researching, exploring, and testing (and since you don’t have much traffic, the tests take a lot longer to run!).
You also haven’t been at it long enough to have developed efficiencies that will save you time; you don’t know what steps you can ignore or batch, and writing doesn’t come nearly as easily as it does for someone who has already written a dozen posts.
It’s a lot easier for the big boys, because they’ve already learned their lessons, and there’s enough of a critical mass visiting their own blog that they can focus on that, without having to go crazy with out-posting.
Well, that’s fine – they’ve earned it. And so will we… but when? And why is it so hard to get started?
The Magic Numbers: 1,000 and 10,000
I wanted to know when that “tipping point” starts to happen, so I reached out to Corbett Barr and Jon Morrow and asked them: “When does it start to tip? When does momentum start kicking in, and make this whole process easier?”
Experts often say that it took them “X months” to get there, but I never found that to be very useful. After all, we’re doing different things from what they did, we’re in a different market, and we’re growing at a different rate.
Critical mass is measured in mass, right? So I pushed for the metrics – how much traffic, and how many subscribers? The answers came back in two conveniently round numbers:
10,000 unique monthly visitors, and 1,000 subscribers.
That’s where the tipping point starts to happen, and it all starts getting easier. At 10,000 unique monthly visitors, the fans start doing some heavier lifting, your reputation paves the way, and Google’s increasing comfort level with you starts to really pay dividends.
Likewise with 1,000 subscribers: with a list of that size, you reach a critical mass that allows your good work to be spread far and wide, without your having to do nearly as much work as you did before.
The path matters a lot more than the sign posts…
When planning the outline for this post, it was suggested that I should do a survey of bigger blogs, and see when they felt that they had reached that point of “escape velocity”. That was a good idea, and might make for a good round-up post a little further down the line.
Right now, though, I’m satisfied with the answers that I got from Corbett and Jon; they roughly correlate, and regardless the numbers will vary from blogger to blogger and industry to industry.
What matters is the understanding that the tipping point is there, and that if you keep on doing the right things, and keep on seeing growth (no matter how hard-won that growth might feel), then you’ll get there.
I’m not there yet, but…
10,000 unique monthly visitors might seem like a lot of traffic. It certainly did to me, and it still does (we haven’t reached those numbers yet on Firepole Marketing – but we’re getting there!).
But it does get easier, and momentum doesn’t kick in all at once. It happens gradually, and you’ll see bits of it before you reach that tipping point.
For example, we publish a semi-regular marketing video lesson series. I was close to pulling the plug on this feature, because we didn’t seem to get much traction with them – not a lot of comments, discussion, or anything.
Then we released what could have been the last video in the series, and I was floored by the response; whereas the previous two videos had received 5 and 8 comments, respectively, this one received 27. Everyone was impressed with the quality, the ingenuity, etc. – and all I could think was “but we’ve been doing this for months!”
Momentum does kick in, in little bits at first. These bits of momentum are what will keep you going.
It’s okay if you’re tired; so am I. We’ve got some pretty big goals, and it’s a lot of work to get there, but it’s worth it.
Just remember, it gets easier.
What’s your experience with momentum? Are you starting to see it kick in for you? How much traffic were you getting, and how many subscribers did you have, before you saw it start to get easier? Please leave a comment and let us know…
Photo by chadmiller