Most business blogs go through a fairly predictable pattern of growth from white belt blog to black belt blog. To make it to the point where your business blog is making a significant income, you'll go through all of these stages. Each and every stage has its own challenges and rewards and of course, lessons to be learned. Just like on the mat in your dojo
Here are the five stages every profitable business blogger needs to go through to reach success, assuming your definition of success, of course, is more sales, leads, and reach.
1. Stepping On The Mat As a White Belt: No traffic, what's a ranking?
You're selecting your WordPress themes, have less than ten posts, and are still experimenting. You're still finding your voice and various options when it comes to starting a blog. You're not quite sure about your branding and you could change themes several times a month. You are a big consumer of knowledge at this stage and perhaps somewhat reluctant to spend on advice – how do you know the good from the bad?
A lot of people underestimate how long this stage can last. Unfortunately, you can be stuck in the zero to low traffic rut for as many as twenty posts, sometimes more.
In order to succeed, you've just got to persevere. Persistence Pays Off. Keep on blogging, keep writing, and do not give up because you think your only reader is your mum. The language of being online is confusing and sounds like gobbledygook and what the heck is a ranking?!
I promise being a white belt blogger won't last forever even if it feels like it, this stage flies by although it may not seem like it at the time.
2. Yellow Belt: A trickle of traffic but no ranking…
At this stage, you'll start to get a trickle of readers coming to your blog from a variety of sources.
- You have a link to your blog in your signature in forums.
- You're commenting on blogs that interest you.
- You're posting links on Twitter and Facebook
- And a link in your email signature
People may be finding your site through totally random Google searches that you're not really optimising for. That can be frustrating – how do you reach your ideal reader? You start looking at SEO and SEO plugins.
At this stage, you start to have an audience, though a very, very small one. Look after them, they can be with you a whole lifetime.
3. Blue Belt: Some traffic, 1-5 pages ranked in Google, and a little trust
Though you're not the go-to person in the industry, you're beginning to get a small following of people who listen to you and trust your advice.
You have a couple of pages that are ranked in the search engines. All that bookmarking paid off! 😉
This isn't as great as you had hoped it would be. At this stage, you'll probably have at least fifty posts, but it still feels great to see some of your pages getting decent rankings and getting google traffic for the things you really want to be found for. If you post once a week it can take a year to reach this stage.
At this stage, you start to see the power of your blog and worry about what happens if Google sandboxes you, you might want to think about subscribing to Activecampaign and setting up a newsletter if you haven't already. If you're still using a free theme or design, you now want to pay for a custom design and move onto Thrive Themes. You may already have a custom theme and now is the time you start exploring and unleashing all of its potential.
You are more choosy in the content that you consume. You start looking for like-minded individuals and forming friendships. You have to adopt the courage of a martial artist and ask for links from other bloggers and comments. Suddenly comments matter. Many bloggers stay in this stage, it's comfortable and there's not a lot of pressure.
4. Black Belt: Moderate earnings and a good reputation
At this stage, you're making just enough money from your blog to support yourself. You no longer panic and break out into a sweat when it comes to guest blogging. You are thinking of becoming a full-time blogger and you get 1 or 2 direct advertising deals. You're getting backlinks without having to beg for them and a higher percentage of your pages are getting ranked for the stuff you want to be found for.
When you review and recommend a product, people take it seriously. People with products come to you and offer you Joint Venture deals. Sales start to come easier because people are starting to trust your reputation. You start thinking more and more about developing your own products. Something beyond that ebook.
The dangers of this stage are you may lack patience and you may feel one day you are the coolest kid in town and the next day you don't have a friend in the world. Despite outward appearances, this can be a lonely stage for a blogger – who is a friend and who is a foe? In this stage friendships that are formed last a blogger's entire career. Typically you have been blogging for 3-5 years.
5. Black Belt 2nd Dan: Strong earnings, a known brand in the industry or niche
At this point, your blog is one of the top 3-5 in your chosen industry. If someone mentioned your name at a conference, more often than not people would recognise the name and you are asked to keynote at the major industry conferences. Life for this blogger is good, it can take up to 5 years to reach this stage part-time and about 18 months full time. Of course, everyone thinks you are an overnight success…
Sadly most blogs never reach this stage and that's okay if you are happy at the other stages. If your blog reaches maturity there are many perks
- high levels of traffic,
- often direct traffic,
- you also get paid more for that traffic.
- Your CPMs from direct advertisers are many times higher than AdSense or the CPMs of other advertising sites.
- You understand the language without thinking, CPM didn't phase you…
- You'll also be selling your own products at a very decent conversion rate.
- You can sense your own mortality and safeguard your reputation, you are more careful in your deals and sometimes you hanker for the thrill of the chase that came with conception and infancy.
These are the five stages in the lifecycle of a successful blogger. The key to moving from one stage to the next is to
- Continually provide great content (sometimes easier said than done),
- To keep learning.
- To reach out and enjoy each step that you take.
- To form close friendships and to aspire but not emulate the 2nd Dan Black Belt
All business blogs start the same way, just like walking on the mat in the dojo for the first time, it's new and exciting, the key to success is turning up, building every time you go onto your site, and moving forward whilst building and learning.
If you are still at the white belt stage and need some extra support then do take a look at the longest-running and most successful business blogging challenge here