I pay very close attention to what newbies are worried about. It’s basically my job. When it comes to publishing content, the most common anxiety I hear about from new writers is not having enough followers.
They’ve been blogging for a month, maybe two, and are surprised to have only a dozen subscribers — most of which are family or close friends.
What I want to say to them is this: what’s so wrong with having less than 15 followers after only two months?
When I re-launched this blog at the beginning of March 2015, I probably had somewhere between 30 to 50 followers. Keep in mind that I first started blogging at this same address in 2009. It took me over six years to gain 50 followers, max.
I’ve increased those numbers a bit since then, thanks to consistent posting and working in an industry that teaches you how to figure out what people like and don’t, but not quickly. If you’re worried about how quickly your blog is growing, I’d like you to keep reading this post. There are benefits to having a small audience, and downsides to focusing solely on numbers. Appreciate a blog or website’s slow growth. It might actually make you a better writer in the long-term.
Here’s why slow growth means you’re doing something right.
You’re not letting an obsession with numbers ruin your content
I am, despite my inability to add and subtract without a calculator, a data junkie. I love graphs and charts and, yes, even numbers. I keep track of the (very gradual) growth of my blog using spreadsheets. But numbers aren’t what drive me to create. They’re useful in figuring out whether or not what you’re doing is working, but if you start obsessing over them, things can get ugly.
It’s very tempting to convince yourself that a certain number of followers/likes/views means you’re doing your best. But numbers don’t tell the whole story. Above all else, you should strive to create content that is relatable, helpful, and intriguing. You could have a large number of subscribers and get a lot of daily traffic, but if your content is trash, it’s all prety much pointless. If you’re growing slowly, it means several things. Your content is probably improving. You’re probably doing a better job of helping strangers find you, though it’s sometimes hard to figure out what you’re doing right all the time. Generally, websites and blogs that update with new content consistently just tend to grow more and more as time goes on — as long as what they’re posting is worth reading.
You’re going organic — and it’s worth it
Once, I paid about $20 to boost a Facebook post. I also shared that post in a Facebook group the same day. I got more traction organically from sharing the post in a Facebook group than I did from the exposure I spent money on. It wasn’t worth the cash — especially because boosting a post doesn’t guarantee people will actually click through to it. Especially when your blog is still new, and you haven’t mastered everything that goes into a good headline, featured image, etc.
Paying for views has always felt like cheating to me. Really, there’s nothing wrong with it. But I’ve found that any organic traffic I get to my blog — all of it — I feel like I’ve earned it. And I can guess you’ll probably feel the same way. As I’m writing this, about half the daily views I get come from those of you who follow me on WordPress. I gained those followers in a number of ways, but I also earned them through publishing quality content. I would much rather grow slowly and organically than quickly through promotions. I don’t care how many people view my writing. I care how many people take something away from that — whether there’s proof through a new blog subscription or not. Slow growth means you’re reaching people who genuinely care about what you have to say. That should feel extremely worthwhile to you.
You’re getting to know your blog (and your audience) while it’s small
One of the most valuable things I’ve gained in the past two years is a loyal audience. I’m not talking about a million people who read my blog daily, either — hah, like that’s ever going to happen. I’ve attracted a small group of people who like to read my words and write some words in response every now and then. To me, that is much more important in the early days of blogging than a large number of followers. Because no matter what happens, I know at least a few people are paying attention. When I’m feeling down about my blog’s performance, that’s enough to keep me grounded.
Even more important than getting to know an audience as it grows is getting to know your blog or website itself. Before this blog became Novelty Revisions, it went through at least three rebrands. And even since the final rebrand, I’ve shifted the focus from fiction writing to a more broad spectrum of writing topics. I’m still figuring out what all that entails, but I’m allowed to do that because there aren’t a million people spying on me (that I know of). I have the time to completely solidify what my blog is all about as it grows. I also have the time to gain confidence in what I do here before things start to pick up. My confidence shakes when there are too many people. The more solid of a foundation I have, the easier it is for me.
- Use numbers to measure growth over time, but don’t assume they mean you’re doing your best. Numbers grow as content consistently improves.
- People will find, like, and share your content as long as it’s worth their time. There’s nothing wrong with outreach, but if you’re going to tell people to visit your blog or website, always make sure there’s something good for them to read when they show up.
- Appreciate your blog/website, and your audience, while they’re small. With growth comes a shocking lack of intimacy when you’re used to a very small audience. Above all, focus on improving your blog’s mission and editorial principles. Always treat your readers with kindness and respect — these are things they notice and pass on to others when making reading recommendations.
If you want to start publishing content on a blog or website, but don’t know what to write about. check out my tips for creating a blog people want to follow.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.
20 thoughts on “Why a Slow-Growing Blog or Website Is a Good Thing After All”
Good reminder, especially to newbies who might think they’ve got the best thing out there. Well, it just might be, but it’s gonna take time for people to find it…I think if there’s anything blogging has taught me so far, it’s definitely patience…of a sort. I’m busy trying to come up with new ideas, new posts, and take time reading others. Doesn’t do much good to get stuck in your own cranny of the world.
BTW, keep up the good work–this place is full of useful information.
I’m so glad you find the info here helpful – and I promise, I’m working on ways to make it easier to find the info you’re looking for on the site (a work in progress). You’re right – patience is essential if you want to grow and thrive doing any kind of writing. It’s not easy waiting for results to signal you’re doing something well, but it’s worth the wait!
I am so glad I found this blog and this post. As a writer finally jumping into freelance work, I really needed to hear this today!
I especially love the line “treat your readers with kindness and respect.” I’ve been blogging myself for a few weeks now and have a few followers – if you don’t mind me asking, what are some strategies you use to connect with followers you already have?
I’m so glad you found this blog and that so far it’s helpful for you. :) I am always online (the nature of the job I guess) so I respond to comments/tweets/etc as they come in, or I try to do so as quickly as possible. I sometimes ask questions at the end of post to generate discussion. I try to learn what people are interested in reading about so I can actually be helpful. I’m still learning – up until about a year ago I didn’t have a very ‘talkative’ audience. haha. It’s a process, it takes time, but eventually you find your own rhythm and style for connecting with readers.
I have two blogs. One my main blog, the conversations are always lively and entertaining. I love to engage with readers, which to me is more than a ‘thanks for reading’. I spend time on it and I think when others see the interactions I have with others, it encourages them to comment as well. With my second blog, all travel posts, you can hear crickets. Whenever someone comments, I jump on it. I want to show my other followers that it’s cool to converse. Then again, I should reach out by posting more questions at the end to encourage dialogue.
Head over to their blogs and see what they are up to. Mention something they’ve said, call them by name if they don’t mind. Do things in a meaningful way. It takes time, but it really pays off in quality followers. Good luck :)
Really good & helpful words of wisdom here :)
I’m so glad you found this post helpful. :) Anything else you’re hoping to learn about writing? Let me know how I can help!
Thank you so much Meg, I appreciate that. I can’t think of anything at the moment but if I do, I hope I can remember this.
You’re welcome – no pressure. :) :)
You make some very good points! I’d never looked at it that way before.
Wow, now I’m actually feeling more confident that I’m doing something right.
That’s so good to hear! Yay! :) Keep at it! I honestly believe confidence comes with experience, and time. You’re always going to have moments where you don’t feel 100 percent confident, it happens. But I have had fewer moments like that the more I’ve published.
Nice! That’s good news. I think I also feel that way because I’ve given up on blogging before and that fear of failure hits me sometimes.
Same. Sometimes when you’re feeling down on yourself, you just have to do what makes you happy no matter what. Sometimes that means taking a break – and that’s OK.
“When I’m feeling down about my blog’s performance, that’s enough to keep me grounded… My confidence shakes when there are too many people.” These words are so true. It’s like being responsible for the music at a party. The more people, the harder it is to gauge what the crowd wants. I have a solid foundation of people who I can always depend on to read and discuss my writing, and even when I wonder if it was any good, hearing from them always encourages me.
I remember when I was writing to 4 people. I appreciate every new person that follows me and I get to invest time in talking to them just as I do my older followers because I don’t have a huge following. I get nervous thinking about not being able to have rich conversations because that’s one of my favorite parts of blogging for me.
Sometimes I think, what the heck, when I see others skyrocket so quickly, but I know that my followers are genuine and engaged and that feels really good. Thanks so much for this great post that reminds me of all the good I’ve got to appreciate.
Genuine followers, who love to talk with you and appreciate your work, are so much more valuable then a bunch of empty numbers. I’ve been blogging over eight years and the most important thing to me is that someone who follows me does so because they want to, not because they feel forced to. The more you grow, the harder it is to show people individual attention and care – but my hope is always that I do the best I can to let how much I care show through my posts. :)
You’re so right. I love having conversations with the people who follow and visit my blog, and it gives me a little sense of anxiety that growth means losing that. It’s one of those rock and a hard place situations.
Absolutely. We need to enjoy the small audiences while they last ;) haha
Thank you. This is a really useful post. My blog is a slow grower, I’m adding followers mainly through the daily post community pool and some Twitter / Instagram interaction.
I’ve read a lot about people joining FB groups to help grow – I’ve added myself to some but they are really quite strict and involve sharing / retweeting a lot of other content which almost feels like I would be spamming my current followers – I don’t feel like this will work for me. I’ll focus on building more content, it’s still fairly new and then try some good old actual interaction to gain followers and interest.
I had I’d say around 25 WP followers when I revamped this blog in March 2015. I’ve gotten most of my followers since then organically, simply by posting consistently. Of course there’s some social media interaction and a regular guest posting agreement with another blogger, but that’s about it. It started out very slow – but continues to pick up pace the longer I stay consistent. I know the kinds of FB groups you’re referring to, and I also stay away from those – it feels like cheating to me! If it works for some people, that’s great. But definitely I’d say the most important thing is to keep at it. I mean, you don’t have to publish a new post every day (what kind of person would do that?! ;) ) but I’ve found the more content you build up, the more “present” you are in various communities, the more passion you put behind your blog, the more people will stick around. Every blog is different, but maybe my experience can provide some encouragement. 2.5 years is a long time, but I can honestly say I’m proud of what I’ve built with my followers’ support. Thanks for being a part of the awesomeness! :)