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The Three Stages Of Blogging Success (And How To Use Them To Have Success Faster)

Wondering what you need to do to have success with your blog? How to bring together all the strategies you read about like SEO, social media and monetisation? This article is for you!

A few years ago I remember reading many articles about reaching blogging success and the stages of getting there.

At the time, I was disheartened and upset and ready to quit my travel blog because I had worked so hard and not had the success I want. The one thing they had in common was that there was always a period right before bloggers got the success they really wanted where they felt like nothing was working and they wanted to give up.

That certainly held true for my own journey as well.

However, it really doesn’t need to.

What leads to this problem is a lack of strategy and really understanding how to get to our own version of success.

Something I have thought a lot about while designing my blogging membership site, Build Blog Freedom, is how to get to success in the quickest way and while avoiding the nasty feelings like overwhelm, failure and wanting to quit.

And I’ve realised it comes down to three stages. And that the biggest mistake I see bloggers making (including myself) is thinking that these are sequential stages rather than stages you work through, at least partly, concurrently.

In this tutorial, I’m going to walk you through the three stages and how to work on them concurrently to have blogging success.

You will learn...

  1. A definition of success
  2. Stage One: Growth
  3. Stage Two: Monetisation
  4. Stage Three: Scaling
  5. Why you need to work through these stages concurrently
  6. How I recommend you work through these stages
  7. Common pitfalls

1. A definition of success

So what is success anyway?

This is going to vary for everyone and it’s important you define exactly what blogging success is for you.

After all, if you don’t want know what you are aiming for, how will you ever hit it?

 

In this tutorial, I’m defining success the way most bloggers have defined it when I have asked in the DNW Facebook group (join here!).

Success is:

  • Having a business that you love
  • Making enough money from your blog to support you and your family
  • Having better work/life balance and freedom and flexibility to structure life how you want

If you are unsure of your own goals, I recommend you do the 5 Day Goal Setting Challenge which will help you make goals and plan your time so you can reach them. More information here.

2. Stage One: Growth

The first stage is about growth. Not just about growing your traffic but 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 work on effective traffic generation strategies like SEO and Pinterest.

What this is not about is working on lots of different social media channels at once, doing a bit of SEO and hoping that traffic will come and grow.

It’s really hard to do but the best way to grow is to focus on one traffic generation strategy at a time and get that right before moving on to another.

You really don’t need to be on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and everything else all the time. You don’t see me on all of them.

This just leads to blogger burnout.

3. Stage Two: Monetisation

This stage is much more important than the first if you want to reach success. It doesn’t matter if you have the biggest blog in the world. You won’t be able to quit the day job until you can get decent levels of income flowing in from your blog.

Monetisation is so much more than adding some advertisements and affiliate links.

If you want to get to the level of success above, it is about real strategies.

For example, if you want to make great money from affiliate marketing, this is about considering reader intent – 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 not about randomly adding affiliate links where you mention a product and hoping it makes money.

Making great money from working with brands isn’t about sending out some 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 you can meet them that is profitable for both of you.

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

Hope should never be part of a monetisation strategy.

 

It’s not about luck.

Want to learn more about monetisation? Join my free workshop about affiliate marketing: Discover A Simple 4-Step System To Make Money From Blogging Easily And Without Fear Of Failure.

I teach you everything I know about affiliate marketing so you can earn more money from your blog.

Click here to pick a session.

4. Stage Three: Scaling

At some point, if you have been persistent and strategic with your blogging efforts, you are likely to hit the point where you have had some success in the stages above and you may be able to quit your day job or go nomadic.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you are happy with blogging or have what you really wanted.

Often, at this point, it’s working crazy hard and still earning less than you could in a normal job.

It’s easy to wonder why you even bothered.

Then it becomes about scaling to get that better work/life balance and really have more freedom and flexibility.

This can be difficult if you are 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 and have all the elements of success listed above.

Imagine if instead of thinking about this at this stage, you had worked on it from the beginning…

5. Why you need to work through these stages concurrently

The problem with thinking about these stages as being sequential is that:

  1. This leads to a lot more work
  2. It leads to higher rates of burnout
  3. You are 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?

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 does not mean you will automatically get more money or will suddenly be able to flick a switch one day and money will flow. You need to understand how to monetise your blog and then work on growth which 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 work on it. You should also work on scaling from day 1.

It saves so much time and stress if you work on what your actual goals are from day 1.

Make sure you are building a blog that is monetised and that scales.

Make sure you will hit those big goals of a full-time income and better work/life balance.

It truly won’t happen by itself.

6. How I recommend you work through these stages

With every strategy you consider for growth, 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 may have to drop working on the best long-term strategies (for example, building up 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 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 passive income using SEO and and affiliate marketing, you will get to where you need to be.

However, if you can at all avoid working on short-term gain strategies, do it! Most of us actually don’t need to make $500 from our blogs this month.

It’s much better to work on scalable methods of getting traffic and money for the next six months and then start to earn thousands of dollars per month even when you are not working. This is preferable to having to keep working very hard to earn that $500 with no ability to take time off or make time to grow more scalable income.

Stop putting off tasks that will lead to real success to work on tasks you feel comfortable with to get some extra page views.

 

I have designed Build Blog Freedom to work through these three stages at the same time.

You work on building passive traffic and income via SEO and affiliate marketing. This is much more scalable and less stressful.

Once you earn enough money to justify your blogging time and quit that day job then I teach you how to scale even further by building your own products or working on building your brand via email lists and email marketing, Instagram, YouTube, making money with working with brands and getting traffic with Pinterest.

The best part is that I’m guiding you on how to do all of this so you don’t have to work it out for yourself. You just have to follow my strategies.

All for just $97 a month.

You can read more about Build Blog Freedom here.

7. Common pitfalls

The most common pitfall I see is just a total focus on traffic to the detriment of everything else.

The next is truly believing that you need to be everywhere to have success.

You really don’t.

People have been surprised that in my Authority Site Case Study, both myself and Leanna are only working on SEO traffic with zero effort into social media.

We do this because we only have limited time and concentrating on SEO and affiliate marketing will give the success as defined above as well as a great platform to launch anything else we want.

Another common pitfall that I’m seeing 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 getting to 25,000 sessions per month so they can join Mediavine.

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 improve work/life balance.

Even with Mediavine, your return on advertising is likely to be very low.

I made about 1 cent per session on my site with Mediavine.

1 cent!

So with 25,000 sessions you might make $250 a month*.

Think for a minute about how much time you have spent getting to that level and how much time you spend on your blog now.

You would probably have made more charging $4 an hour as a VA.

Is this really the success you are looking for?

If it’s not, don’t focus on it.

I currently make about 48 cents per reader on one of my blogs. I have ads on there as well that make about 4 cents a reader. So 44 cents in affiliate marketing on average from every reader I get compared to 4 cents from ads.

And I only make that much from ads on that site because I concentrated on it.

Every article was written to keywords that have a high cost per click and have been optimised to death with advertisements (read more about how to make money money from advertising here).

You are not going to make that much from advertising from a blog that was not built to make the most money possible from advertising.

I view advertising as the icing on the cake. Don’t make it the cake.

 

If you compare how many readers I need on my site to make $250 from affiliate marketing when I’m making 44 cents per reader, it is just 568 readers per month.

How much easier is it to get 568 readers compared to 25,000?

Isn’t it worth putting more effort into affiliate marketing rather than just focusing on traffic for ad revenue?

I promise you. It’s easier.

The pitfall I fell into monetisation wise was sponsored posts.

I wanted money now and that gave it to me but it really took time away from me being able to make passive income. If I had my time again, I would ignore doing sponsored posts and just focus on affiliate marketing and SEO.

* Note, this is from my personal experience, yours might be different. Mediavine reached out to me after I published this and said bloggers tend to make $400-900 per month at the 25,000 sessions. I am yet to hear from anyone in my group who makes anywhere near that top end on 25,000 sessions though. $500 is 2 cents per session (so if your average is 2 page views per session, that’s 1 cent per page view).

Final words

I really hope this article has given you something to think about when it comes to how you are working on your blog and gives you more clarity on what you need to do to achieve your goals.

I highly recommend you consider joining Build Blog Freedom to be guided through this process. You really don’t have to work it out alone.

You can find more details here.

Regardless, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my three stages either in the comments below or in my Facebook group (join here!).

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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