Starting a blog is a whirlwind, a hurricane of various tasks, options, and possibilities. Those first moments are pure chaos, you feel like you’re being pulled in every direction at once. You think about blogging during the day, and you dream about it at night.
First thing’s first:
Stop. Take a deep breath.
You can’t do everything at once, you need to set goals to hit as you move forward. I’m not talking about daily or weekly ones either.
Think bigger, more long-term. In fact, let’s look at your first year of blogging. That’s 365.242 days (give or take based on the rotation of the Earth) to hit your blogging benchmark goals.
Here’s what we’ll cover today:
- 8 Benchmarks to hit in your first year of blogging
- How to structure your goals
8 Benchmarks For The First Year of Blogging
A year may seem like a long time, but it goes by really fast when you’re a blogger. As you move into your first year, remember that you’re going to make some rookie blogger mistakes, and that’s normal. You’ll stumble a bit, but you’ll learn to walk and run before you know it when you consider the best practices.
The first thing you should do is look at other blogs. Build a list of must-read blogs that you check consistently.
See how they are set up, look at the way everything is structured. Check back on them as you work on your own blog to find more inspiration that will help you grow and improve your content strategies.
Everybody wants to know what to shoot for, and after reading common blogging benchmarks that are widely known, I realized that everyone could use a set of clear-cut goals to run with in their first year. So, let’s find out what you should be shooting for.
1. Build a list of 500-1000 email subscribers
Plenty of other bloggers will agree that having a strong email list is incredibly important. More than that, as Zac Johnson put it in his post on dramatically increasing your email list, “The money is in the list.” If you want to make money blogging and become successful in that regard, you’ll need to build an email list.
How does a list of 500 to 1,000 in the first year sound?
Relax, it’s not as hard as you would think. It’s about providing opportunities for them sign up.
Little things like a “subscribe to email” option next to the comments, and a single opt-in page will go a long way. People like it to be simple, so don’t ask for anything more than a name and email.
People like it to be simple, so don’t ask for anything more than a name and email.
The bottom line is this:
- Keep opt-in simple
- Provide incentive to give emails
- Always give a clear call-to-action encouraging them to sign-up
2. Consistent and growing traffic numbers
Traffic is one of those things that bloggers always want, but there’s not clear-cut way to get it. There are plenty of things that work like promoting your content, but it takes a lot of elbow grease to get results here.
While it may seem like this is a bad thing, it really isn’t. It just means that you have a lot of opportunities to find success on this front.
It always boils down to writing high quality, useful content. No matter which method you choose to increase traffic, that’s going to be the base step. If you’ve read a few of my articles, you’ll know that I’m also a big fan of Brian Dean’s Skyscraper Technique which involves promoting your content to people who influenced you to write it and asking for backlinks to your blog.
Here are some tips to help you reach this milestone:
- Post consistently and always strive for useful, high quality content that is targeted to your readers.
- Promote anything you write on all of your social media pages to spread the word.
- Reach out to anyone you mentioned or talked about in your post and tell them how they influenced you.
3. Several published guest posts on authoritative blogs
Finding guest post opportunities isn’t difficult, but you’ll need to know where to look, and once you find one, you’ll need to bring your A-game to the table if you want it to be accepted. In terms of finding a top-level blog in your niche, I recommend an amazing tool called AHREFS.
Not only does AHREFS allow you to see an analysis or your site or anyone else’s, but it also allows you to see your top 10 competitors. The exact people you want to submit a guest post to.
When it comes time to create one, be sure to brush up on your SEO and content creation tactics for best results. I recommend reading Rand Fishkin’s post on content creation and SEO over at Kissmetrics.
- Find top-notch competitors in your niche and start pitching guest post ideas.
- Have at least 3 guest posts on major sites within your first year.
4. A base of long-form content posts
As Neil Patel puts it in his post on the ideal length of blog posts: people obsess over how long their blog posts should be. It’s true, I find myself wondering how long any given post should be.
Ultimately the answer comes down to you and your audience, but a good rule of thumb is to always let it flow and make sure you put down only what’s important.
Fluff is useless. When we’re talking about long-form content posts, we’re talking 3,000-10,000 words or more of cold, hard, information.
Say for example you wanted to do a post listing 151 blog post ideas (sorry, already did it), you wouldn’t spend the 8,000+ word post just talking about getting to the ideas. You would dive right in.
And thus we reach the goal of long-form content:
- Write several big posts in the first year that are packed full of valuable information.
- Keep these coming every so often, and remember to trim all the fluff.
5. A strong presence on social media platforms
When we use the term “social media” we’re referring to things like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. Promoting your blog and its posts is done almost exclusively through social media platforms like these. It’s absolutely imperative that you have a presence on these three sites, and any others in your niche.
There are a lot of specific niche-based social media sites out there, but you’ll want to have a presence on the big three mentioned above. That means creating profiles for each, and using them to promote your content and interact with your readers.
That being said, I recommend you keep yourself in check and don’t become a victim of social media as Adrienne Smith puts it in her blog. She hits the nail on the head when discussing it. Social Media is about being “social,” plain and simple. It is a place where you can meet and interact with your readers and find out what they need so you can provide it through your blog.
You would also do well to remember that your readers should always be able to share your posts. You can easily give them this option using one of the many incredible WordPress plugins available.
- Social media is a tool for expanding and understanding your readers, so use it.
- Employ share buttons on your blog to allow readers to spread your content.
6. At least two income streams
When I say “income streams” I’m referring to the ways your blog makes money. Now, it could very well take more than a year to make money from your blog, but it can also happen a lot sooner. In either case, you’ll want to have several different methods for doing so.
In this case, putting all of your eggs in one basket can end badly. The experts all agree that you should always have money coming from multiple sources. For example, you can sign up with Google AdSense and start making money there, while also joining an affiliate program to make money promoting a product or service that you know and trust.
It’s not enough to just say “I want to make money blogging” though. There are other questions you have to ask yourself, questions that Adam Connell wasn’t afraid to ask in his eye-opening post on how to make money from your blog.
- Always have more than one source of income in case something goes wrong.
- Be patient, it takes time to make money from a blog.
7. Create and sell a product or service
Most bloggers who really make the big bucks are selling something. It can be an e-book, or consulting services, or anything really.
Once you get settled into your niche, you’ll find that your knowledge and your talents are suddenly in high demand. People will pay you for that book you wrote, or for your advice on their issues, be they blogging related or otherwise.
8. Set Goals For Year Two
Now that year one is coming to a close for you, it’s time to look to the future. You learned how to start a blog, you set blogging benchmarks, and you reached them.
Your journey isn’t over though, not by a long shot. Don’t stop here though, keep your plan moving forward into year two and never go into something blind.
In short, always have a plan. Speaking of plans, let’s talk about that, shall we?
The Plan: Your Blogging Roadmap
The best way to tame the chaos of a newly formed blog is to wrangle up all of those daunting tasks and goals and place them into a neatly organized roadmap. After all, let’s remember what the Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu once said:
“A Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
The journey of a blogger is a lot more than a thousand miles, but like any good journey, it begins by taking that first step and knowing where you’re going. You already know how to create a blog, but once you have it up and running, you’re faced with a tidal wave of ideas and goals to reach.
I’ve always been one to set goals myself, but I didn’t consider the concept of a blogging roadmap until recently. In his guest post at Problogger, John Davenport shares the frustration of being swamped with ideas and goals, but now knowing how to tackle them.
The concept of a roadmap like this one consists of three key characteristics:
- An organized structure (a spreadsheet or calendar)
- Clear goals and deadlines
- Personal accountability
Some may say that the last point is optional, but I think it’s important to hold yourself accountable for reaching your goals. If you don’t, then you’ll find reasons to push them back or thing to blame setbacks on.
It’s just human nature, but instead of letting other things become crutches, turn the focus inward and hold yourself accountable for reaching these goals. When setting up your roadmap, there are a number of ways you can do it. It can be calendar with each of the months, a spreadsheet of deadlines, or anything else in between.
What matters is that you give yourself a schedule that is both realistic and detailed. You can also increase the accountability factor by publishing the roadmap for your readers so they know exactly what you’re planning. If they see these deadlines, then you’ll have more of a motivation to meet them.
Doing this also lets you plan ahead. Let’s say you want to write an e-book and have it go on sale in October of a given year. Knowing this goal, you can set a point to begin working on it and set aside time each day to do so.
That’s just one potential example, but breaking everything down into simple bite-sized goals is the best way to handle the overwhelming elements of working from home.
Wrapping it Up
Starting a blog is just the beginning. From there you have to grow it, the same way you water a plant. Just like a plant, you don’t stop watering it after a year, and the same is true of your blog. The first year is all about growth, and that growth should never stop or slow down.
Use your roadmap and continue setting blogging benchmarks as you go to keep yourself moving forward and accountable for your work. Thanks for reading my fellow bloggers and make sure you tell me about your benchmarks in the comments below!