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.