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Episode 1: How To Use The Three Stages Of Blogging Success To Create Your Blogging Strategy


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It’s hard to work out how to turn your blog into a business and work out what strategies you should use for traffic generation and monetisation to get there.

Something I discovered in my own blogging journey is that there are three stages of blogging success – but what most people don’t talk about is that these aren’t stages you go through one at a time – you should always be working through them concurrently. Even from day one.

As I start each new blog, I always make sure I do this from the beginning and it keeps bringing me success over and over again.

Below, learn how to do this by understanding the three stages of blogging success – growth, monetisation and scaling – and how to work through these stages CONCURRENTLY to help you save time to get your blog to where you want it to be.

Welcome to my FIRST EPISODE of the new Digital Nomad Wannabe podcast, Make Money Blogging. I am so excited to share my latest venture with you because I have some great content that can really help you.

If you find this podcast helpful, the best way to encourage me to keep going is to subscribe and leave a review here. I really appreciate it!

Here’s an overview of what we talked about today:

  • [3:49] The first stage of blogging success – Growth
  • [5:02] The second stage of blogging success – Monetisation
  • [8:19] The third stage of blogging success – Scaling
  • [9:44] Why you need to think about these stages concurrently
  • [10:48] How you can make sure you work through these stages concurrently
  • [14:18] Common pitfalls
  • [17:43] How to use these three stages to have more success with your blog

This episode is sponsored by Build Blog Freedom Fast Track, my 10-week program that shows you the 20% of blogging you need to do to get 80% of the results step by step. Learn exactly how to have blogging success by using my exact strategy!

Click here to listen now!

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Links Mentioned In This Episode

This episode, I have also been able to supply a transcription. Unfortunately, I just don’t have the time to always make this happen, but I know how much it helps people who have trouble with my accent, hearing difficulties or listening to English so I hope this is something I can do more consistently in future.

Make Money Blogging, Episode #1 Transcript

Episode 1: How To Use The Three Stages Of Blogging Success To Create Your Blogging Strategy

This is the Make Money blogging podcast, episode one with Digital Nomad Wannabe founder, Sharon Gourlay. In today’s episode, I’m going to talk to you about how to turn your blog into a business. I’m going to do that by talking about the stages and strategies you need to think about.

Now, this podcast is most likely to benefit you if you want to think more strategically about your blog, you want it to be your sole income source, or at least a major one, but you get really stuck on big picture ideas of how to get there.

It’s going to help you set the scene for very specific advice and strategies that I’m going to teach you in other episodes because you can make as many small changes as you want to your blog, but it’s really not going to have the impact you want unless they lead to the important big changes that you need for your blog to become whatever it is that you want it to be.

So, today you will learn the three strategies of blogging success and how you can use these to create your own blogging strategy to get from where you are right now to where it is you want to be. We are talking about the general path and strategy you can use to turn your blog into a business.

This will help you understand how to bring together all the strategies you might have thought about already, like SEO, social media and monetisation, so that you can have success overall.

This episode is sponsored by Build Blog Freedom Fast Track, my 10-week program that shows you the 20% of blogging you need to do to get 80% of the results step by step, learn exactly how to use SEO to get traffic and then how to monetise that traffic with affiliates in a passive way once you have it set up. So that you can hit all of your blogging goals.

Basically, my course shows you exactly what you need to do to achieve the three stages of blogging success that I am going to talk about today.

About six years ago, I remember reading many articles about reaching blogging success and the stages of getting there. I read so many articles, because at the time, I was desperate to have success. But I was also very disheartened and upset and ready to quit my travel blog, which was my main focus at the time, because I’d worked so hard and not had the success I want.

The one thing that all the articles I read had in common, was that there was always a period right before bloggers got the success they really wanted, that they felt like nothing was working and they wanted to give up and that certainly held true for my own journey as well.

However, I really don’t think you need to go to that place to have success because what leads to this problem is a lack of strategy and really understanding how to get to your own vision of success.

Something I consider constantly while designing my blogging courses is how to get success in the quickest way while avoiding those nasty feelings like overwhelm, failure and wanting to quit and I’ve realized it really comes down to three stages and that the biggest mistake I see bloggers making (and that much includes myself), is thinking that these are sequential stages rather than stages you work through, at least partly concurrently.

So now I’m going to walk you through these three stages and how to work on them concurrently to have blogging success. All the work you do today when you work on your blog should all be related to these three stages. Otherwise, it’s never really going to get you where you want to go.

First Stage – Growth

The first stage is all about growth. This isn’t just about growing your traffic, but also about your brand and your blog. Without an effective way to reach your audience, everything else is going to be a struggle. This is where you should work on effective traffic generation strategies like SEO, Pinterest, and whatever floats your boat.

What this is not about is working on lots of different types of social media channels at once, doing a bit of SEO and hoping that traffic will come and grow. It’s really, really hard. But the best way to grow traffic to your blog is to focus on one traffic generation strategy at a time. Get that right and then you can move on to another. I promise you, you really don’t need to be on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok, whatever else is out there at the moment, all at the same time. You don’t see me on all of them.

The only thing this is likely to lead to is blogger burnout. You actually only need one channel working really well to have a huge change in your blogging fortunes and that’s what you should focus on to start with, although you shouldn’t just focus on that alone.

So that is the first stage. It’s all about growth and audience and it is important, but you shouldn’t be working on it in isolation.

Second Stage – Monetisation

This is because the second stage is much more important than the first, if you want to reach any type of financial success, and it is all about monetisation.

It really doesn’t matter if you have the biggest blog in the world, you’re not going to be able to quit that day job, and you won’t be able to get decent levels of income flowing from your blog.

Monetisation is so much more than just adding some advertisements and affiliate links or doing a couple of sponsorships. If you want to reach higher levels of success, it’s about real strategies.

For example, if you want to make great money from affiliate marketing, this is about considering reader intent. It’s about getting people to your blog articles who have a problem that you can solve with a great blog post and an affiliate link.

It’s really not about randomly adding affiliate links where you mentioned a product and hoping it makes money.

Making great money from working with brands isn’t about sending out emails and hoping one day you will get enough offers to make a full-time income. It’s about really engaging with brands, understanding their needs, and being creative with ways that you can meet them, that is profitable for the both of you.

The main thing here is to educate yourself on the monetisation strategies that appeal to you and will work with your audience and make sure you come up with a well thought out strategy rather than just doing what seems easiest and then hoping it will work.

Hope should never be part of a monetisation strategy and neither should luck – because there is nothing about blogging success that is about luck.

I can’t say enough about how important it is to work on both of these two stages of blogging success together. I often hear bloggers saying when they get to x level of traffic, they will think about monetisation. Or when they hit 25k sessions, they’ll be able to get onto Mediavine (which is an advertising network) and suddenly they’re going to be all set.

If you’re thinking this way, you’re really fooling yourself and I know this because I did it too. When I became the most disillusioned on my blogging journey, when I was reading all the articles about getting to success and different stages and the point where I really nearly did quit right before I had success, I was at the stage when I hit about 30,000 page views a month on my travel blog.

It really seems silly to me now, but at the time, I thought if I could get traffic like that, suddenly, I’d be a success. Suddenly, the money would roll in. But that’s just not how it works and when I think about it now, I don’t even know why I would have thought that.

Instead, I had to start back at the beginning again, because I built traffic without any real thought to who my target audience was and the audience I had wasn’t a great one to monetise in the passive way I wanted with affiliates.

I wasted so much time, because I didn’t worry about monetisation from the beginning. Even though the way I defined success 100% was about being able to financially support my family.

If I had thought about this at the beginning, I could have been making much better money at this point. I may have even got traffic even faster since I would have been much more strategic with how I went about things. Instead, I was kind of throwing lots of ways to get traffic to the wall and seeing what stuck.

While 30,000 page views per month was great with only about nine months of taking blogging seriously, I really could have had financial success at that point if I had taken it seriously enough to really worked towards my goals – which was financial success instead of just working towards traffic.

Instead at this point, like I said, I somewhat had to start over again. It took me another six months to hit my first financial goal of $3500 a month.

Third Stage – Scaling

At some point, if you’ve been persistent and strategic with your blogging efforts, you’re likely to hit the point where you’ve had some success in the two stages we’ve talked about so far and you may be able to quit your day job or go nomadic if that’s your goal.

However, this doesn’t mean necessarily mean you’re happy with blogging or have what you really wanted and often at this point, it’s working crazy hard and still earning less than you could in a normal job and it’s really easy to wonder why you have even bothered. I’m yet to hear anyone say that they want to be a blogger to earn a lot less and work a lot more than what they did in their normal job.

But it can very easily happen, and this is where the third stage really comes in which is about scaling to get that better work-life balance and to really have more freedom and flexibility.

This can be really difficult with certain monetisation methods. For example, if you’re caught up in sponsored posts, freelance work, or other work that requires trading your time for money. This is often when bloggers start looking at passive income or products so they can scale without working harder.

Imagine if instead of starting at this point, right at the beginning, you’d started working towards passive income streams. So, the third stage is really concentrating on strategies that will lead to more results while you spend less time. It’s about earning passive income and putting processes around what you do and hiring others to do it.

I also think it’s about building a community around your brand and blog that can help you take your blog in whatever direction you want to go.

Why You Need To Think About These Stages Concurrently

So these are the three stages – growth, monetisation and scaling.

Now the problem with thinking about these stages as being sequential, is that it leads to a lot more work. Like I said, it’s kind of like starting over as you get to each level if you haven’t concentrated on all three from the beginning. It also leads to a higher rate of burnout.

You’re also likely to have periods at both the ends of the first and second stages where you really question if the effort has been worth it and consider quitting.

The solution to these problems is that you should always be working on all three stages at the same time.

Stop believing that one stage will automatically feed into the next stage and work on all three at once.

Getting more traffic, as I found out the hard way, definitely does not mean you’ll automatically make more money or suddenly be able to flick a switch one day and money will flow, you really need to understand how to monetise your blog and then work on the growth that will support this.

Likewise, you won’t suddenly hit a stage where your income comes in and grows without you working harder, and thus improve your work-life balance if you don’t actively work on making this happen. So you should also work on scaling from day one.

How You Can Make Sure You Work Through These Stages Concurrently

It really saves so much time and stress if you work on your actual goals from day one and part of this as well is also being really clear on what your actual goals are. Like you might get caught up on earning enough to replace your day job but is your actual goal to work twice as hard for half as much money?

So be really clear on what your actual goals are and make sure that’s what you’re working towards. Make sure you are building a blog that is monetised and that scales. Make sure you hit those big goals – have a full-time income and better work-life balance because it truly won’t happen by itself.

Not sure how to set your goals and then how to make a plan to reach them? Join my 5 Day Goal Setting Challenge here.

So how should you go about this?

With every strategy, consider growth for your blog and make sure it will also lead to monetisation and help you scale. Likewise, for monetisation, will it also scale? Don’t work on these stages in isolation.

Of course, sometimes you just need to make money and you have to drop working on the best long-term strategies, for example, boosting up a passive income via affiliate marketing for short term gain. But it’s important to at least be aware that that is what you are doing and always try to devote some time to your long-term goals.

Even if you just spend a couple of hours a week working on something like building up your passive income using SEO and affiliate marketing. You will get to where you need to be.

This is exactly what I had to do back in 2015. That was the year we left Australia and I was working on growing my travel blog.

If you haven’t come across me before or don’t know my story, that year we left Australia and based ourselves in Malaysia because it’s so much cheaper to live over there. So I just didn’t need to earn as much money to be able to work on my blog full time and we did move specifically with the goal to grow my online business.

In the beginning, I had to work on sponsorships so we had money to support ourselves while I grew my passive income from affiliate marketing. However, even if I only had two hours I could devote to the goal of the passive income a week, I did it.

I was always doing something to grow this and basically over the year, the passive income sources grew and I kept being able to decrease the time I was working on sponsorship, and increase the time on passive sources until it got to the point where I was 100% only interested in my passive income sources and I stopped doing blog sponsorships.

This became extra great not just because I met all the goals I ever had for my blog, but I actually became pregnant in September of that year back in 2015 and I was just so sick. My whole pregnancy was pretty horrible, I could barely get out of bed, and then I had a newborn. All up, I had about a year off from my business and what was really great about building my business in this way was that it kept growing and increasing its profit the whole time.

This meant that when I was ready to come back to blogging, I had a business that was more successful than it had ever been before.

However, if you can at all avoid working on short term gain strategies then do it. Most of us actually don’t need to make $500 from our blog this month when we’re starting out, especially when you have a regular job and your blog is a side hustle or you’re a stay at home mum and you don’t need the income from your blog yet. It would just be nice to have.

I really recommend if you’re in these sorts of positions to be patient and work on these three stages, instead of stuff that will get you a return right now but won’t help you hit any long-term goals. It’s really much better to work on scalable methods of getting traffic and money for the next six months and then earn thousands of dollars per month even when you are not working, than having to work very hard to earn that $500 with no ability to take time off or make time to grow more scalable income.

Common Pitfalls

I also think that not working on these three stages isn’t always about these types of issues. It can actually be about procrastination or laziness or even self-sabotage. You need to stop putting off tasks that will lead to real success to work on tasks you feel comfortable with,  just to maybe get some extra page views or because you want to do it.

I know it is really easy in blogging to get caught up in what I would call busy work rather than work that will lead to the real success you’re after. The most common pitfall I see is definitely just a total focus on traffic to the detriment of everything else and the next is truly believing that you need to be everywhere to have success because you really don’t.

People have always been surprised in my case studies that I only work on SEO and not on social media. I do this because I only have a limited time and concentrating on SEO and affiliate marketing will give me the success that I want.

Another common pitfall I see a lot in the DNW Facebook group is following strategies that might make money but won’t lead to true success. The big one is chasing traffic in the hope of making advertising revenue.

While getting money from advertising is great, and I do it myself, it’s going to be a big struggle to earn enough from that to quit your day job or to improve work-life balance. Even with Mediavine that gets written about a lot in my group, your return on advertising is likely to be very low.

Now when I was on Mediavine on my travel blog, I made about a cent per session. So if you get to 25,000 sessions, where you need to be to join up, you might make $250 a month. Now while some people do get higher, if you’re making even $500 a month, you’re doing very well and I want you just to think for a minute about how much time you might have spent to get to that level and how much time you spend on your blog right now. The reality is you probably would have made more by charging $4 an hour as a VA. Now, is that really the success you’re looking for?

If that’s not, just don’t focus on it. I currently make about 85 cents per reader on one of my blogs and 60 cents on another. So that means on average, for every person who lands on those sites, I’m making 60 cents or 85 cents depending on the site. You can really aim for much higher than a few cents per reader on the site and I aim for a minimum of 10 cents and even that is low, but it is way above what you’re going to make from advertising.

I really view advertising as the icing on the cake. I love advertising. I love that money, but it is not my cake. It’s the icing. If you can compare how many readers I need on my site to make $250 from affiliate marketing, when I’m making 85 cents per reader, it’s just 294 readers per month. Now doesn’t that sound much easier than having to get 25,000 people per month on your site?

It really is worth putting more effort into affiliate marketing, selling your own products or there’s other more lucrative ways to make money from blogging out there. Rather than just focusing on traffic for ad revenue. I think trying to make enough money from ad revenue is like running on a treadmill and running really fast for most of the day, because I promise you there are much easier ways.

How To Use These Three Stages To have More Success With Your Blog

Now we talked about the three stages of blogging success, how can you use these to help you have more success with your blog? How should it impact what you do day to day?

Well, I hope you plan out the time you spend working on your blog and try to use it in the most beneficial way possible. If you don’t, definitely go right now or as soon as you stop driving, or wherever you’re listening to me, and go to digitalnomadwannabe.com/goals and sign up for my five-day goal setting challenge to help you.

What is important, is that when you’re working out what you need to do to get from where you are today to your blogging goals is that the work you do feeds into each of these areas.

Ask yourself that if you spend time today making pins and using Pinterest, for example, will that help you with growth, monetisation and scaling your blogging business?

It’s okay if it doesn’t do all three directly. But if it doesn’t lead to the other stages in some way that you can understand and make happen then why are you doing it? Is that the best use of your time?

To follow on from this example, will making pins and using Pinterest increase your growth? If yes. Will that lead to increased profit? You know, will that traffic from Pinterest make money? If it monetise well, does that scale?

Make sure that you’re working on blogging strategies that will help you achieve all three of these stages.

Final Words

So today, you learned all about the three stages of blogging success – growth, monetisation and scaling. You learned how you should work on all of them at the same time. We talked about the types of pitfalls you should be careful of like not chasing traffic thinking it will lead to financial success or only working on tasks that lead to short term gain.

You also learned that when you’re working out which strategies and tasks you should work on for your blog right now that these should incorporate only things that will help you work through the three stages of blogging success.

Now this is a lot to take in, especially if these concepts are new to you. I recommend you think about what we talked about for a few days. Check out your task list and think about what you’re working on and whether it relates or not to the success you’re looking for then maybe listen to this again as you work out the best path forward for you.

You can ask questions about this in the DNW Facebook group at DNWcommunity.com. Anything that’s confusing, I’m happy to help you out in there.

Now make sure you subscribe to this channel because next episode, I’m going to be talking about how to define or redefine your niche, define your target audience and make a great elevator pitch. Now this might sound like stuff you already know but I think there’s a great chance that how you think about these things will change after you listen to this episode, and you’ll get much better at focusing on the right things for your blog.

This is definitely an area where my Build Blog Freedom students have the biggest AHA moments. You can now find it here.

Click here to find all my podcast episodes.

About the Author

Sharon Gourlay is passionate about working online and helping others to follow in her footsteps. She left Australia with her young family at the end of 2014 determined to grow an online business. She succeeded and now supports her family of 5 to live their dream lifestyle.

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