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Why it’s Sooo Hard to Get Your First 1,000 Blog Subscribers

It took me a long time to get my first 1,000 email subscribers.

Way too long, if you ask me.

And there is no single reason to explain why it happened the way it did.

I was studying part-time, and looking after my two young boys (2010). My blog started off as a hobby and I had no idea that I would eventually turn it into my livelihood.

My blog wasn’t very good in the beginning. I didn’t have a viable niche or market. I was just doing it because I loved doing it – there was no way I couldn’t not do it.

Much like most people out there, isn’t it?

And round about this time, or should I say this number (1K); things really started to take off for me.

Clients found me (instead of me having to chase them). Lo and behold, I was making a pretty decent income as a result of my blogging efforts. It gave me credibility, showed my skills and put me in front of all the businesses.

And that this why I feel that it is crucial to set this goal for yourself and reach these numbers as soon as possible.

Now, you might say that you don’t have a relationship with the big bloggers, nobody knows who you are and so on …

Let me tell you something, I have grown my own list substantially without having any relationship with the A list bloggers. I am an introvert and I hardly spend any time on social media. I find it very hard to engage in small talk, so you’ll never see me sharing personal stuff on Twitter or Facebook, either.

So, if I can do it, so can you.

If you are more social than I am, you will find it much easier. The trick is to try and naturally build a relationship with others by leaving comments on their posts and interacting on social media. But don’t let this be the starting point for your list building.

Having relationships with popular bloggers is not a pre-requisite for reaching the magic number. Let’s look at what is:

  1. You need a clear goal for your blog. Do you blog as a hobby, or  are you building a popular blog? Do you want your blog to support your business? (This is why I do it now.)
  2. Your initial impressions shouldn’t be less than – impressive. It must not across as amateurish, tacky or worse, as if it has a spammy feel to it.
  3. A blog with a wordpress.com or blogger extension doesn’t work. Come on, if you want to be taken seriously, you need to get yourself a self hosted domain.
  4. Does your site pass the 3 second test? Meaning, the first time visitor isn’t able to answer these 3 questions within a few seconds of landing on your site.
    1. Who are you? (Have a brief author bio on your sidebar and a killer About page)
    2. What is your blog about? (Title and Tag line)
    3. Why should they care? WIFM: What’s in it for me? (Spell the benefit)
  5. You need to be writing for a targeted audience. If your visitors are not sure that the blog is for them, they are not gonna stay for long. (Having an ideal reader profile and a niche helps tremendously.)
  6. Don’t be like anyone else. When you don’t have a unique selling proposition, people don’t see why they should read your blog over someone else’s. You need to stand out.
  7. Display social proof. If you have a good amount of comments and social shares happening, it is a good idea to show off your numbers. Not so much, when you are new or not getting much traction.
  8. Have an incentive for people to sign up like an ebook, report, white paper or a webinar. I actually sign up to blogs regardless, but I reckon I fall into the minority. People are rushed and they forget. You have to remind them.
  9. Make it easy for them to subscribe. Add a feature box under your header or an opt-in form on the top of your sidebar. People are used to seeing the subscribe boxes in these locations. Don’t ask for too much information, either.
  10. Always focus on the reader. Tell them why it would be in their best interest to sign up. Don’t assume they know.
  11. Give people a reason to trust you. Add credibility with the display of testimonials, sites you have guest posted on or featured in and a clients list if you have some big names on it.
  12. Create high quality material. At the end of the day, people subscribe to read your content. If you are giving them generic content devoid of any human voice or perspective, they are going to dump you. Make it scannable and easy on the eyes to get brownie points.
  13. Every now and then, attract people by writing ‘epic’ posts. Display your best posts on the sidebar to help them find your most popular content.
  14. Let people know that you exist. In the beginning, you need to spend 20% of your time writing content, and 80% promoting it. The best and the most profitable way of doing that is through guest posting. It doesn’t require any financial investment, but it does require a lot of time. (Remember, there is no such thing as free traffic, you have to pay with time or money.)
  15. Stop spending too much time on social media or reading articles that say you should. Stop reading other blogs (“for education”), obsessing about game search engines, scratching your head about analytics, latest plug-ins, testing and what not. In short, you are procrastinating – big time. You should be creating content and promoting it instead.
  16. Learn the basics of copywriting. If you are running a blog, some things are mandatory: clear benefit (niche and audience), professional looking site and copy that converts. With so many bloggers writing about consumer psychology and conversion (Derek Halpern’s Social Triggers, Neil Patel’s Kissmetrics, Greg Ciotti’s Sparring Mind or Amy Harrison, Copywriter’s site for example, there is no excuse for writing bad copy.
  17. Get over your negative view of marketing and don’t feel icky when you self promote. Let’s just think about it for a sec – you have services that help solve problems. Aren’t you doing people a disservice by not telling?
  18. Have the right mindset. Learn from others, change your mind when warranted, take responsibility and stop blaming others for your lack of success.

So there you have it. The secret to getting your first 1,000 subscribers.

If you feel confident that you are doing most things right then reaching your first 1,000 should not be an issue for you.

It will happen. One subscriber at a time.

If it’s not happening, you just need to know why not. And fix that.

Have you taken my 3-minute Client Attraction Quiz? Check it out now, it’s awesome! :) 

47 Comments

  1. Suzi
    Posted on March 12, 2013 at 3:36 am

    This is great, and number 15? Have you been spying on me? he he Thanks for all the great information…. now I just need to, ahem, stop procrastinating with reading about reading to procrastinate. 😉

    • marya
      Posted on March 12, 2013 at 3:39 am

      Hey Suzi. Been gulity of that myself, so no judgments. We need to do the best we can. 🙂 Thanks for dropping by. Cheers.

  2. Susan @ Travel Junkette Says :
    Posted on March 12, 2013 at 5:01 am

    Great post, Marya! And I agree — #15 is something I’m sooo guilty of. Quit reading and researching and just get to it!

    • marya
      Posted on March 12, 2013 at 5:51 am

      You said it. Now off you go .. create some awesome content! Thanks for your appreciation. 🙂
      Marya

  3. Andrea T.H.W. Says :
    Posted on March 12, 2013 at 6:34 am

    I have to print this article. Actually even if I’ve been partially hit by the latest Google update traffic is going well but I surely must increase my subscribers. To be honest I don’t know how many rss subscribers I have as I’m using the “natural” WP feed which has no counter and I have little comments probably due to using Livefyre so checking interactions is a bit hard.

    I changed a bit the layout and I’ll see if it works, in the meantime I’ll study this guide.

    Have a great day Marya!

    • marya
      Posted on March 12, 2013 at 8:16 am

      Thanks Andrea. Just to be clear, it’s the email subscribers I am talking about. You need to build your email list if you want to grow your business. Thanks for the compliment, it made my day! 🙂

      • Andrea T.H.W. Says :
        Posted on March 12, 2013 at 5:10 pm

        Yes you were clear about email subscribers. As a matter of fact I’m thinking about deleting the rss feed button.

        Bye! 🙂

        • marya
          Posted on March 12, 2013 at 10:26 pm

          No, no, keep that one as well. Lot of people prefer RSS and that’s ok, too. But you can’t send those people any personal email or offers …

  4. T. A. Woods Says :
    Posted on March 12, 2013 at 7:14 am

    There were definitely some great ideas here that I hadn’t considered: like having links on the side for the guest posts I’ve written and showing my most awesome of all posts on the side. My blog is slowly growing, but it’s at a snail’s pace. I’m hoping that I’m able to kick it up a notch by using some of your tips. Thanks!

    • marya
      Posted on March 12, 2013 at 8:20 am

      Glad it helped. 🙂
      Marya

  5. Marilyn LUinstra Says :
    Posted on March 12, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    Excellent post Marya.

    Thank you for the encouragement. Guest posting. Got ya.

    I have a super small niche. I want to connect with people in Ontario who are interested in the newly burgeoning anti-slavery movement. And, more importantly, start conversations about what we can do about modern slavery(human trafficking). I suppose the scope can stretch beyond Ontario but I am familiar with my own turf. Do you have any advice for me on that?

    • marya
      Posted on March 12, 2013 at 10:54 pm

      Sure, it sounds like something others would be interested in. You can provide a platform for people to gather and support the movement. My question is, would you be looking to monetize this at some point in future? if so, have you got any ideas how you would do that?
      Marya

  6. Linda Kinsman Says :
    Posted on March 12, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Excellent tips Marya. I will come back to read your links within this post; especially # 12 & # 16.

    • marya
      Posted on March 12, 2013 at 10:55 pm

      Thanks! 🙂 Read, then take action, ok?

  7. Sarah Russell Says :
    Posted on March 12, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    What a great list of tips – not just for hitting that 1,000 subscriber threshold, but for running a great online business in general. I’m definitely going to bookmark this post, as my email list is in dire need of some loving!

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • marya
      Posted on March 12, 2013 at 10:55 pm

      Thanks, Sarah. Really appreciate your kind words. Have a great day! 🙂

  8. Carol Tice | Make a Living Writing Says :
    Posted on March 12, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Great post Marya — it’s true, that first 1,000 is a bear. From there, it starts to roll along.

    You did a lot of stuff right in grasping the need to niche blog in service of an audience. Just think what would have happened if you’d done guest posts?? 😉

    • marya
      Posted on March 12, 2013 at 10:57 pm

      LOL … Guest posting. Ah, where do I begin?

  9. Rohit Sharma Says :
    Posted on March 13, 2013 at 5:00 am

    Hi Marya,

    I am glad to see some great motivation flowing out here!

    As per you creating content and promoting it should be the main focus area for the blog success.

    How to decently promote my blogs myself still remains a big honest question for a blogger like me?

    • marya
      Posted on March 13, 2013 at 10:25 pm

      Well, it depends on the nature of your blogs. Also, it is hard to promote a single one, let alone multiple ones. I recommend guest posting but there are other ways .. How do you promote?

  10. Gian Ramos Says :
    Posted on March 13, 2013 at 5:56 am

    When I started my blog it isn’t really my goal to reach 1000 subscribers. I just just like to share my photos and thoughts to the world. But now I realized that if I don’t have a lot of subscribers then how do I know if anyone is ever reading my stuff.:p I guess it would be a great feeling to have 1000 subscribers on my blog. I think I might just consider getting a self hosted domain. Thank you for sharing such helpful tips! You’re really good at what you do. 🙂

    • marya
      Posted on March 13, 2013 at 10:26 pm

      It depends on your purpose, if you want to have a personal blog then you don’t need that many subscribers. If on the other hand, you intend to monetize at some stage, keeping all this would be a great idea. Thanks. 🙂

  11. Chris Lappin Says :
    Posted on March 13, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    Fabulous post Marya! I’m still working on my first 1k subscribers.

    For me guest-posting has been invaluable. Not just because of getting my posts in front of larger audiences, but it’s made me really push myself in terms of editing and improving my writing – there’s more pressure on when it’s going on someone else’s site! It’s also fun connecting with other bloggers and their readers.

    I’m off to critique my blog using your points. Thanks for the virtual kick in the pants! 🙂

    • marya
      Posted on March 13, 2013 at 10:29 pm

      Hey Chris. Good to see you. 🙂 I have guest posted – a lot, still I find it nerve wracking, especially when I am pitching popular bloggers. But it is immensely rewarding as well, so whole heartedly recommend it.

      Thanks for your kind words. Appreciate it!

  12. Jassie Says :
    Posted on March 14, 2013 at 4:35 am

    Hi there…

    Thanks for sharing this post. I have started my blog for fan fiction writing and promoting it. These tips will surely come in handy, for i’m an introvert too. I don’t dwell so much on the small talk either but these tips will surely help me out. Thanks a lot!!

    Cheers,
    Jassie

    • marya
      Posted on March 14, 2013 at 12:10 pm

      Thanks Jassie. And welcome to Writing Happiness! 🙂

  13. Catherine Says :
    Posted on March 14, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Great post. I know I have a lot of work to do on my blog and you’ve given me some great ideas to focus on. Thanks!

    • marya
      Posted on March 14, 2013 at 12:06 pm

      Great! Let me know if I can help more in any way. Cheers. 🙂

  14. Travel Links of the Week - 3/15/13 - Travel Junkette Says :
    Posted on March 15, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    […] Why it’s sooo hard to get your first 1,000 blog subscribers (and how to do it!) from Marya at Writing Happiness. […]

  15. Saturday Edition – What We’re Writing and Reading | Live to Write - Write to Live Says :
    Posted on March 16, 2013 at 11:01 am

    […] Why it’s Sooo Hard to Get Your First 1,000 Blog Subscribers by @WritingH – Truth and some good ideas. […]

  16. Carl Says :
    Posted on March 17, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Great post Marya!

    Being stuck in the blocks reading other people’s blogs (convincing myself it’s for research and knowledge building purposes that will help my own writing!) rather than concentrating on my own content creation is a constant battle for me. One I’m convinced to win!

    • marya
      Posted on March 17, 2013 at 10:52 pm

      This is something most bloggers struggle with. At least I do, BIG TIME. Thanks for your kind words, Carl. Have a great day! 🙂

  17. Minter Dial Says :
    Posted on March 18, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Great post, Marya. Very instructive and clear.

    One question for you (about which I have ruminated for a while): you include no date on your posts. I’d love to know your postion on why?

    • marya
      Posted on March 18, 2013 at 10:23 pm

      Hi Minter. Well, I do this because I feel like putting the dates on your content makes it look dated. Also, as most of my content is evergreen, I feel people don’t need to know when it was posted. 😉 Thanks for leaving a comment. Cheers.

  18. Web Development Says :
    Posted on March 21, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    Very good post Marya,
    I like to guest blog. By doing so I get to link to other bloggers and convey my ideas to others.

  19. Dan Says :
    Posted on March 31, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    What other incentives can you offer people to sign up? The reason I ask is I’ve never really been a fan of ebooks or webinars or whatever. When I give a website my email address I do so expecting regular useful content which an ebook is not. It may be useful sure but it’s a one time thing. I’ve always viewed them as things I’ll probably download or skim through once and forget. I see them offered in exchange for an email address so often that the appeal has lost all meaning to me. If I’m trying to get people to subscribe to an email news letter I don’t want a bunch of black hole addresses that are created for the sole purpose of signing up for random junk, but those are exactly the types of addresses I use for this sort of thing. Maybe I’m in the minority on this?

    • Marya Jan Says :
      Posted on April 3, 2013 at 3:57 am

      Dan, if you are working in this field, let’s say you are an Internet marketer or professional blogger, it may seem like ebooks or webinars are over done. However, most readers or subscribers are not professional bloggers themselves and they are not going around signing up to everybody’s list. People still love freebies. Although lack of one has never deterred me from not signing up if I love the site, but I reckon I am not most people. 🙂 You also want to make your freebie irresistable, and also very targetted. This way you minimize people signing up to get the freebie only. But it goes with the territory so might as well accpet the fact that a lot of people on your list aren’t your target market. They are the ones who often unsubscribe first! 🙂

      Having said that, I hear you. Best of luck on your decision, hopefully this was useful.
      Marya

  20. chuck Says :
    Posted on April 3, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    I have a hard time sticking with one comment and becoming “that guy.” I’d love to become the furniture guy but I’d have to restrict myself to one thought or idea for the subject per day for the blog or run like 20 blogs for all of my interests and that seems like I’m writing more than I’m “doing.” Does this sound familiar?

  21. Msdsmiller Says :
    Posted on April 5, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    Hello Marya,

    I think you hit the “nail on the head” with number 14.) even though you may feel that the work is done when the article is posted, that’s only the beginning. However in the process of promoting your content you also get the opportunity to learn about other great content (like yours ; – ) and new information to inspire your next article.

  22. Wasee Says :
    Posted on April 6, 2013 at 3:54 am

    I haven’t even gotten my first 100 subscribers in my blog. To get a 1000 subscribers in my blog is like a dream that will never come true for me.

    • Marya Jan Says :
      Posted on April 8, 2013 at 6:01 am

      Hmm .. why do you say that, Wasee? What are you struggling with? Care to share?

      • Wasee Says :
        Posted on April 8, 2013 at 7:04 am

        For some reason I do not get much traffic. My contents have quality, but I just couldn’t do SEO. And I could not do a lot of link building because no one replies to emails about link exchange. If you have any suggestion, it will be really helpful.

  23. Cameron Chardukian Says :
    Posted on May 18, 2013 at 1:00 am

    Marya how long did your blog take to get going? Do you remember how long it took to get your first 100 or so subscribers?

    • Marya Jan Says :
      Posted on May 20, 2013 at 1:46 am

      Cameron, I have been blogging for nearly 3 years now. During my first year, I was blogging at Marya Writes, my personal blog. Then I moved to my own site in 2011 and so it will be 3 years this Oct. I monetized my blog when I hit the first 1k subscriber mark. Not sure what you mean by get going, butI was lucky enough to attract comments from the beginning, start develeoping my guest blogging portfolio in the first year as well … and have been earning a steady income from 2012. Hope this helps .. 🙂

  24. AdMamu Says :
    Posted on July 4, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    Excellent blog. People who have gone through the initial hick ups can only understand how painful it is to overcome the start up challenges, great to see coming out all that in words.

  25. Building a Business Blog: Killer Resources for New Bloggers Says :
    Posted on October 12, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    […] summarizes what I have read and heard consistently from successful bloggers in all sorts of arenas.Why it’s Sooo Hard to Get Your First 1,000 Blog Subscribers (and why that appears to be the magic […]

  26. Liz Says :
    Posted on July 29, 2014 at 1:25 am

    Hi Marya!

    I really appreciate you writing about this because no one seems to be able to lay it out in black and white. I’ve been blogging for around 4 months and have almost 500 subscribers. So I’m almost there! Need to get my own domain though! I didn’t realize how important that was.
    Eventually I would like to use my blog as an income too but it is SO frustrating when the subscribers just aren’t there to make that happen yet. Thanks again for the advice!!