Are Blog Subscribers the Only Success Metric?

By: Guest | October 4, 2012 | 

Today’s guest post is by Jayme Soulati 

If your blog was ranked (how does that even happen?) and suddenly had a ton of subscribers, would that change your outlook on blogging?

Would you love every minute of it and revel in your success?

Or would it suck the joy out of it for you?

Let’s back up…when you launched your blog, was it your goal to earn 500 or 1,000 subscribers in 12 months?

Didn’t think so.

But just like any popularity contest, numbers – votes – matter, right?

And eventually, you start feeling a little “less than” when looking at your stats.

What’s easy to forget, however, is the blogs that launched at zero and are now incredibly successful with a gazillion subscribers (usually) took a long and, sometimes, very calculated road to get there.

Big Numbers are Hard Work

Some of what transpired on that roadway to earn a katrillion subscribers may have included these mile markers:

  • Deploying the latest bells, whistles, widgets, and plugins to spiff up the house and make it attractive and enticing.
  • Mastering analytics, either with Google or Clicky (or a combination of both), to know who’s coming to visit, where they’re landing, how long they’re sticking around, and what content is being perused.
  • Writing with keyword SEO juice and link love as second nature.
  • Entering contests to become the biggest this and the best that.
  • Applying for ranking with the Ad Age Power 150 to get that awesome badge in the sidebar of your blog.
  • Writing consistently about topics that are specialized to a niche audience.
  • Cultivating community with authentic engagement every day.
  • Migrating from freebie to Feedblitz (or other RSS publishing options).

Live to Write or Write to Live?

Now think again about the reason you launched your blog…was it to:

  • Walk the talk and understand what all the hoopla is about?
  • Write because you have something to say?
  • Become a thought leader on a topic or profession?
  • Share your passion about a hobby or cause-related issue?
  • Create and build a fabulous community that supports you?
Fast forward to today – is your blog on track with your original goals? Are you happy and content, no matter the number of followers you have? Or, are you just going through the motions without rhyme or reason, concerned because you haven’t hit the big time?

The bigger question to ask yourself is this: Do you really care whether you have a boatload of subscribers?

More Subscribers Means More Accountability

Being a blogging superstar isn’t a walk in the park. When a blogger hits the big time and earns a ton of subscribers or has a large community commenting, said blogger has to be there to reply, engage, comment, and return the favor.

A blog with oodles of subscribers also has to become more accountable, and that takes oodles of time and money.

Here’s why:

  • You need to be consistent in publishing.
  • The posts must have authoritative content that leads and bleeds (that means it’s provocative).
  • You must provide thought-provoking, influence-building, genuine, original, and authoritative material.
  • You should respond to every single person who stops in to say anything.
  • And install all the new bells, whistles, plugins, and design requirements to keep everything fresh.
  • You’ll most likely invest in an IT firm, team, or professional who can help with the backend.
  • And you need to master analytics, big data, and the next big gizmo, to lead the community to it.

It’s also important to make the distinction that a high number of subscribers does not a community make. Not every subscriber will engage and leave comments, for example. And you might have a rich, lively, and loyal group who does just that.

Consider also that if each person who subscribed to your blog (if you had 1,000) commented on each blog post, you’d probably crash the server!

So, rather than getting caught up in subscriber-numbers as a metric of “success,” look back at the lists above, rediscover why you started writing in the first place, and be true to your school.

If it’s all about the numbers, and you have the time to invest, then definitely go for it.

But if you’re blogging mainly for the love of craft, your consistency and passion will enable real, organic growth, with more subscribers rolling in on a daily basis.

Jayme Soulati blogs at Soulati-‘TUDE! and is everywhere on the Interwebz, starting with @Soulati.

  • And, thanks to @dannybrown , @nemultimedia  Jason Konopinski for the tips this week over at my house about the need for Responsive Design! Your blog has to be mobile ready!

    •  @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing  Jason Konopinski  @nemultimedia Two of the best design decisions that I made were installing Genesis as my framework and running a responsive theme.  My list is growing and conversions are steadily increasing. 

      •  @jasonkonopinski  Jason Konopinski Good for you that you’re so in touch with the back end and analytics. Aunt Gini would be so proud! @ginidietrich 

        •  @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing  dannybrown  and I spent some time talking about analytics and measurement during this  week’s episode of the podcast. 

        •  @jasonkonopinski  dannybrown Oh, yes, I saw that and have it bookmarked to listen. Can’t wait…!

      •  @jasonkonopinski  @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing  Jason Konopinski A huge Genesis fan as well!

    • jonbuscall

       @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing  Jason Konopinski  @nemultimedia The thing about responsive (and, yes, I have one) is that we’re looking for one size fits all. I still think a custom mobile theme can be very useful. Some responsive themes are tougher to navigate than WP mobile themes.

      •  @jonbuscall  @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing Certainly! If you’re in the position to hire a developer to build out a custom theme, that’s absolutely an option. The appeal of responsive design is out-of-the box functionality. 

      •  @jonbuscall  Jason Konopinski Hah. I got nothin’. Am just along for the ride on this discussion!

  • Yeah, we all have our reasons don’t we? And they often get all caught up in what everyone else is doing and telling us to do! The trick is to stay true to your core. What works for others isn’t always going to work for you. Nor would you want it to! Good reminders. 

    •  @Carmelo Hi, Carmelo! Great to meet you…love that…”stay true to your core.” ECHO. 
      What we also need to do is be mindful of the tech — mobile tech IS altering our course a tad, and the early adopters will do their blogs a favor with friendly design for smart tech.

      •  @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing Nice to meet you too, Soulati! And yes, very important to have our content reach the devices people are using.

  • Consistency in publishing: I took a 10-day break and my traffic practically fell off the map. In the past, there were times when I didn’t write for months at time, yet an old post happened to get linked in a hot discussion somewhere, and traffic took off.  I’m just calling it all an experiment. 

    •  @barrettrossie And, look what happens when you’re rockin’ it! Know what else? You’re a big Triberr Chieftain, too; managing the tribe like you own it (you do). I like that and you’ll reap rewards in spades as a result! 
      Now, don’t go disappearing another 10…I’ll have to come and show you who’s boss!

      •  @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing  @barrettrossie Careful Barrett, that boss is bossy. 😉

      •  @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing @thejoshuawilner  She does take control, don’t she? 😉 

    • jonbuscall

       @barrettrossie How much of that traffic was really meaningful ? When I reduced my posting schedule I didn’t really see much of a dip in traffic that stayed on the site, just a dip in the 1 second visits from social media / rss pings

      •  @jonbuscall Jon, that’s hard to say because I’m just ramping up. Though I joke about it, it’s just an experiment at this point. I’m not really selling anything, just practicing, and giving potential clients a chance to see that I can occasionally engage people. Does that make sense, or is it weak? 🙂 At any rate, some changes are coming. 

        • jonbuscall

           @barrettrossie  @jonbuscall I’m curious to see how it pans out. At least that will be a follow-up post !
          Best of luck.

  • ErinMFeldman

    @Soulati You’re welcome!

  • jonbuscall

    I think it’s still important to talk about the biggest metric of them all: sales! Or at least, really good lead generation. 
    Blogging for conversation, insight, development, self-awareness, etc, is incredibly important and something that’s drive me a lot of the time. But I do try to stay aware of the fact that blogging, unless you’re careful, can be a time suck. Scheduled time for commenting, reading and writing keeps me focused. Of course, there are times when client work takes over totally, but a blog is an important part of our business armoury. Let’s treat it like that too and remember to check those really important numbers in the blog / business equation. 

    •  @jonbuscall You got something secret on sales, Jon? It’s the always ROI discussion, isn’t it? What’s new in Sweden we don’t know about here! Isn’t all social media a time suck, really? Without the clear goals to guide us, we can get lost all day.

  • Good thoughts Jayme! To address the title question… I definitely do not think that subscribers are the only metric. Big picture, I think the measure of success is related to the site’s goals. Each site’s goals are different, so each measure of success is different. In my case, I know that RSS subscribers is not a good metric. Having a non-tech, non-blogging/social topic, most of my readers will be not be RSS users. I think email subscribers is a better metric in my topic area, but I look at a blend including traffic, bounce rate, etc. (Love Clicky!!!)
    In the end, metrics only have the meaning you give them.

    •  @Adam | Customer Experience I saw my pal @EricaAllison sneaking in a like down there; she’s the one who turned me on to Clicky. It’s awesome. 
      Sounds like you have a handle on your site very well and your audience, too, Adam. I think those are two ways to manage a blog — for whom are you writing and what about and then the subscribers come?

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  • Start at the beginning and ask yourself why you blog and what your goals are. Without that information it gets to be hard to answer many of the questions this post raises.

  • Thanks, Triberrs and Carmelo for weighing in here today! XO to y’all…

  • Soulati

    @ginidietrich did I say that? Dang that’s a gooder!

  • I didn’t know the answer to the question until I read the post. I guess, I must be in the live to write camp. I spent the first year trying to build traffic and then sort of morphed into writing novels and books. (I’ve written 5 since Jan 2010) I still post every day, but I haven’t checked to see if anyone is reading the posts in half a year. Sometime I get comments, Bill Dormann stopped over a few nights ago, but I suspect my views have dropped to almost nothing.  My mom and dad still read.
    So, I guess I write because I like writing. My blog is little part of me that I feed every day and if people want to read it, that is fine, and I’d love more readers, but it isn’t a need.
    I enjoyed the post. Thanks for bringing me some clarity.

    • @ExtremelyAvg Hi Brian ! We know each other from this community and I invite you to stop over to my house to meet the family. That is the blog I am talking about !

      Would be neat to learn more about your writings and where you do that. Thx for the comment!

      •  @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing  @ExtremelyAvg I’ve been over at your site reading about blogging on mobile devices.  🙂

  • Soulati

    @ginidietrich dang I said that too?

    • ExtremelyAvg

      @Soulati You inspired tonight’s post. <Thanks.

      • Soulati

        @extremelyavg Tks for mention, too! I give you a bit of grief and ask for the support of my friend @KDillabough. Let’s see if she agrees!

        • KDillabough

          @Soulati @ExtremelyAvg I did and I’m bringing the megaphone and ladder to get to the rooftops;)

  • Soulati

    @alisonmunn thanks for that!

  • ExtremelyAvg

    @Soulati You did a really nice job with that post. 🙂

  • To further the convo I am on iPhone and this site is using WP Touch. What an amazing user and nav experience!

    Now that I have firsthand feel for what you tech geeks are saying…run to WPTouch pro!

    • @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing Except you miss the cool stuff in Gini’s sidebar with WPtouch Pro and that’s a lot of call to actions and expertise that potential clients may be missing out on.

  • rdopping

    Jayme, late to the party today.
    I just wanted to lend my support to your enthusiasm as a blogger. If more people had your drive there would that much more stiff competition out there. Thanks for asking those questions. It’s always good to go back and discover why you are doing what you do.
    Personally, all the tech talk lately has me thinking and I am investigating to make sure i don’t get lost in the tech shuffle. Slow and steady but that’s not the essence for me. The “love of the craft” and the love of design is why I blog and we have big plans over here at theviewfromhere for the future.
    It is fun, huh?
    Great post. You are a key inspiration for me and my growth in this wild and woolly world. Cheers!

    • @rdopping Thanks so much, Monsieur! Un baguette si vous plait!  Je’taime… OK, so how’s France? Apparently, you miss us and need something to do so our blogs beckon…love that.
      I’m so thrilled when I learn something new, like Feedblitz thingy or the mobile platform technology or what a CTA is…hah, feels like shades of @3hatscomm who is so MIA these days…anyway…I’m so thrilled to pass along the new to you to inspire learning, as well. 
      FWIW…Hey, Davina! Where you at?

  • Soulati

    @howiegoldfarb Nice to see you’re finally branding yourself. What a cool gig with @ginidietrich too.

    • howiegoldfarb

      @soulati Sadly the Chief Alien doesn’t fit the business I am now involved with. spent many hrs debating full name or not.

      • Soulati

        @howiegoldfarb But, I’m so glad you finally did good on that! Ask @thejackb — I pushed him hard to brand his name, too. Will bare fruit.

        • TheJackB

          @soulati @howiegoldfarb What is with the naked talk.

        • Soulati

          @thejackb Who said? @howiegoldfarb

        • howiegoldfarb

          @Soulati @thejackb but jack can be anything jackbthat jackbthis. He loses such flexibility with his full name.

        • TheJackB

          @howiegoldfarb @Soulati 🙂

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  • Here’s the rub: Subscribers, traffic, pageviews, AdAge…that’s all fine and dandy, but those are ego-driven metrics. They don’t mean squat if you don’t get something out of them. Find ways to make money from your blog. It may be ads or selling content or providing products or getting paid for reviews. Whatever it is, the numbers will help you increase those dollars, but they won’t sell for you alone.

    • @ginidietrich “…ads, selling content, providing products or getting paid for reviews…”
      What a ginormous statement…something a mid-tier blogger can add to a list and hope to tick off…I’m not making light of this; it’s a huge undertaking, but it’s what has to happen to reach the illusive monetization.

      • @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing  @ginidietrich I make money by selling Gini’s phone number.

      • @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing I’m not sure I totally agree. Yes, it’s a huge undertaking, but we have one client who has 50 subscribers on his blog, but turns a pretty penny from selling things via his blog.

        • @ginidietrich Not totally agree with which, please? Little bloggers who have creative ideas of selling stuff can monetize regardless of # of subscribers? That’s what you’re suggesting, I believe?

        • rdopping

          @ginidietrich @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing That’s the best news I have heard so far. It gives me hope. I have 53 subscribers in 6 months. Not as important as the *right* subscribers and the *right* content for your niche. Awesome post. Awesome comments. Glad for both and to be connected to both of you. Cheers!

  • Hmmmm……on one hand I have far exceeded whatever I thought I would be doing in here. When I first got started if you would have asked if I would make it to 140 posts I would have said ‘probably not.’
    But that’s the dilemma; I am still around but essentially doing the same ol’ thing as when I got in here.
    It’s easy to be the goof w/ a free site and no discernible plan; all I have to do is show up for that, right? 
    I might play one on TV, but I’m no dummy; I see what works and what doesn’t. I know what would needed to be done to take it to the next level. 
    I’m asked all the time ‘then why are you doing this if you aren’t on a path to monetize your existence?’ Good question; probably the easiest answer is I actually like to network, social just opened a whole new avenue for me. It’s easy for me to hang around just for that fact alone. 
    If I was sucking wind in my day job maybe I’d get a little more serious about it. However, just because I ‘know’ I can do something still doesn’t mean I want to. 
    Bottom line, I really don’t look at any numbers except who is showing up at my place; that’s really the only number that means anything to me. If I started stinking it up and chasing everybody off then I might have to reassess my motives and mission. 
    I’ve met some great people; I’ve learned a ton; and I have enough ‘experience’ in social that if I ever decide to make Gini proud and truly become the next A-lister, it won’t be hard to work from the base I already have established. 
    Probably more than you cared to hear and of course it was all about me, but that’s the other thing I’m good at; talking about me……….:).
    Good to see you at Gini’s.

    • @bdorman264 What I love the most about that statement (and there’s never any pressure to comment where I write so thanks for doing that, Bill) is the fact you recognize perfectly “doing the same ‘ol thing as when I got in here.” 
      So many bloggers don’t have a clue about that, so you’re in a good spot. You’re very aware of your goals and monetization isn’t for everyone…heck, not even sure I can get there without someone pulling me. 
      Thanks for getting outta da cah to be here.

    • @bdorman264 You hit on something rather important. “…the base I already have established”.
      I’m working on a double secret project that involves an app for iPhone and Android. I think it is a good idea and the best part is that when it comes time to tell the world about my app, I have a base. I’ve got a blog of a couple years, and a very solid 2300 real followers on Twitter (I’ve blocked thousands of people who tried to follow me, but they were obviously spammers or nutters). I’ve even done okay with G+ and FB.
      The foundation one builds may not end up supporting the dream one first imagined, but if it is solid, it will be there for whatever dream might come.

      • @ExtremelyAvg  @bdorman264 I think your name is really Henry Wood and you’re a SPY — a double agent, in fact.

        • @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing  @ExtremelyAvg Or a double naught spy………….:)

  • I’m here because of the people I get to share a piece of my life with.
    They also happen to be some of the sharpest minds in all things business on the web. I love that part and these types of people : )
    In the process I get to learn, grow, share ideas and hopefully contribute value to the community in some way.
    For now, that’s enough for me.
    Cheers, Jayme!

    • @Mark_Harai You’re wonderful for coming over, when you’re so far away and so busy building businesses. Thanks for chiming in and showing me ‘raderie. XO!

  • Great post miss, and always nice to see people talking about the value of a blog. It all depends, doesn’t it?
    Can you make money? Yes. Will you make a lot? Maybe. Do you need to make money? No. Do you need a gazillion subscribers to feel successful? No. Can it help if you have a lot of subscribers? Yes. Do comments count? Yes. No. Maybe.
    That’s the beauty – the metrics that matter are the ones YOU define matter. Everything else is someone else’s definition of success.

    • @Danny Brown Oh, that sounds so perfect…the metrics that matter are the ones YOU define. I love that. Thanks, Danny.

    • rdopping

      @Danny Brown Yes. Totally dude. YOU set the metrics. Right on!

  • So, there’s a little discussion going on about how to monetize a blog…who has thoughts on this? Doable for any blogger? Easy or more complex than you imagined? Am thinking a blog post brewing with this community’s help. Or, maybe I’m stepping on some toes, Gini?

  • In the olden days I woulda started hitting Gini’s other posts for commenters. In the olden days I woulda had 100 comments, too. I’m itchin to get there, so I see I have some work to do…

  • So, anyone who wants to bring in a commenter I’ll give them a sucker. (There, that’s 3 more…28 to go.)

  • I think I can count the “likes” from peeps who never said nuthin’, eh?

  • I just want one subscriber. Warren Buffet.

  • Oh, you guys rock for getting me up to 80; I’m good. Thanks, ALL, for all the #RockHot ‘raderie!

  • ContentRambler

    @markwschaefer @ginidietrich Thanks for sharing 🙂 I started blogging to write, but the make-money sounds make it hard to focus at times!

  • Anthrofashnyst

    @jkcallas @ginidietrich I hope not. Because I’m in the toilet then…

  • Soulati

    @writeontrack_l Just tried to invite you to my Globe Spotting tribe, Lorna…Are you on Triberr, please?

  • Oh, goody…we’re creeping up to 90…hope everyone had a great weekend! See you Monday!

  • mclinklove

    @kyleplacy They’re easy to count. So, yes.

  • be3d

    @kyleplacy @ginidietrich Does anyone really think that?

    • ginidietrich

      @be3d Unfortunately MOST really think that @kyleplacy

      • be3d

        @ginidietrich hmm…no, I don’t think so. They may think it’s the most important thing. But not the only thing.

  • chavisa_t

    RT @kyleplacy: Are Blog Subscribers the Only Success Metric? via @ginidietrich

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  • LOL, I’m WORKING ON IT. That. Is. All.