Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

What to Do When Your Blog Growth Plateaus

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From Jeff: This is a guest post by my friend Adam McLane. Adam writes daily on issues of faith, church leadership, and youth ministry at adammclane.com. When he’s not building websites for Youth Specialties, he is helping bloggers and brands take their next step at McLane Creative.

With every flash of the cursor your patience wears thin. You sit down to write a post but nothing comes out. Before you begin writing you first chase a series of negative thoughts which have overtaken your mind.

A quick glance at the clock and you mutter under your breath as you take the first sip of your second cup of coffee,“Why do I do this? Am I just wasting my time? Is anyone even reading this? Is what I’m saying making a difference to anyone?”

Blog Growth Plateau

Photo credit: Michael Wifall (Creative Commons)

The cursor continues to flash at you like a red light on a rural intersection.

You need to begin. But the words just won’t flow.

This is a tense moment of self-reflection for a blogger. I know it well. It is not the periodic writer’s block that comes with regularly exercising your creative voice.

It’s deeper than that. It’s a deep dissatisfaction and realization that your content is better than the response it is getting.

Many bloggers mislabel this as burnout. In fact it is merely a plateau. If you fight through it and make some changes, your blog can suddenly hop up to the next step and gain a new, deeper measure of respect from your audience. Give into it? And you’re just another one of the millions of blogs which litter the internet.

Just as a mountain climber would evaluate what equipment it will take to summit to the next step, a blogger must also utilize these times on the plateau to retool.

A plateau isn’t time to quit. Nor is it a time for self-pity. Instead, a plateau is a resting spot to re-evaluate your strategy to summit the next step in your blogging career.

When You’re on a Blog Plateau…

Here are five actions to take when you hit that point of stagnancy:

1. Keep moving forward

Emotionally, it stinks to see numbers flatten and dip or engagement with your posts drop. But you just have to keep writing.

Even if you have to lie to yourself and say that you only blog for yourself, do that.

2. Be playful

The joy of WordPress is that there are bajillions of plugins, themes, and settings to chose from. Several times I’ve nearly had T-shirts printed just so I could learn how build a store for my blog.

3. Spend some money

Nothing will spark your interest in your blog quite like spending some money on a new theme or upgrade your hosting.

This is the same reason I like to walk around REI and debate buying a kayak before deciding on a water bottle instead.

4. Read a book

Are you patronizing me, McLane? No! It works.

Every time I’m experiencing a plateau in my writing I find that reading a book which has nothing to do with what I write about helps.

Something about 200 pages of a Dostoevsky novel convinces me that my writing career is worth continuing.

5. Do something different

Sometimes a blog plateau is a wake up call that you’ve become boring or predictable. Recognize that doing the same thing won’t magically produce different results.

***

A lot of you have asked me about switching to WordPress self-hosted and getting a custom-designed blog, so here’s your chance.

Adam just launched a service that migrates your current blog to a self-hosted WordPress install and customizes any template to make it your own. Find out more at his website by clicking here.

You may also enjoy this book: 31 Days to Build a Better Blog (affiliate link)

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About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. Check out my new book, The In-Between. To get exclusive updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

    Adam, your advice on spending money seems so against what many believe, but it’s worked for me – as crazy as that is.  I’ve got “skin in the game” so I can’t stop now :). I would also add to the list to keep a positive perspective. In a plateau, I try to be thankful that I’m sustaining the current level of activity instead of seeing it drop.
    I like your point: “Even if you have to lie to yourself and say that you only blog for yourself, do that.” I think the exact opposite is also fruitful. If you’re truly blogging for others, you can convince yourself to get your ego and drive for recognition out of the way.

  • http://chriscornwell.org Chris Cornwell

    I think the whole spending the money thing is spot on. I had to do it. Maybe, like Loren said, as accountability to keep going or just to at least give the persona that I am serious about online community. 

    Then there is trying to find the balance of being a writer for me and not anyone else and trying to let go of stats. 

    This online business wears me out sometimes. :-)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      I struggle with that balance, too.

  • http://twitter.com/mclanea Adam McLane

    @21b6239d0b8c0072a553a1a93dd9e88d:disqus I agree. At the end of the day I blog for me. But as your site grow, you develop kind of a co-dependency, right? Not in a bad way… but like a nursing mother. You need to express and your readers need to feed. (Er, that was a gross analogy. Sorry.) 

  • Anonymous

    Great tips! My favorite point was read a book. For some reason, the words of others – fiction or non – tend to serve as a mental reboot for me that helps me see things differently. Great stuff.

  • http://twitter.com/melissa_rae Melissa Brotherton

    I am totally in a blog plateau right now! With everything else going on in my life, it’s been hard to find the desire to continue to go at it. I have been contemplating a switch to WP.org from WP.com. A change and a new design may be just what I’m looking for. :)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it, if you’re someone who likes total freedom with design.

  • http://www.fakingcreativity.com Jonathan Malm

    Tip number three is perfect! Drop $30 bucks on a new template, and you’ll find something to write about. Plus…I get bored with my design all the time. I need variety. :) great tips!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      me, too, Jonathan.

  • Franis Engel

    “Spend some money” is a funny point.
    Wonder what it says about our culture about how sacrificing something is so effective to make us sit up and pay attention!?

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Good point – nonetheless, there’s something that happens in us when we spend a buck on something. We tend to take it more seriously.

  • http://shewritesandrights.blogspot.com Bethany Suckrow

    I love the “read a book” point. It’s always good for me, but regrettably, it’s always a last resort. I don’t know why; I love to read, but always tell myself that I don’t have the time. When I do, I’m always more productive with my own writing! 

    • http://twitter.com/mclanea Adam McLane

      Yup. I love grabbing my kindle and going for a long walk on the beach. That always manages to inspire me. 

  • http://www.thegreatnessmind.com Parin Patel

    Nice Tips! Especially like #4: Read a book and #5: Do something different. Change is always good!

    I’d also add “Watch a movie or TEDTalk or [insert whatever inspires or peaks your interest here]“. Sometimes you just need to watch and listen to something instead of read. And at a minimum, you’ll be inspired and might even get some new article ideas.

    Another point I’d also add, is: Ask Others For Their Feedback/Opinion.

    Ask your friends who you know read your blog and see what they think. Do they think your blog has become boring? Are they still even reading it? What would they, as a reader, like to read or see?

    I’ve done this with my friends before and I’ve gotten everything from very critical feedback to a spark for some potential new ideas.

    What do you think asking others for feedback Michael, Jeff? You could even run a survey/poll on your site to hear directly from your readers.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      I like the idea of asking for feedback, especially since blogging (for most) is a service industry. But one question: Who’s Michael? ;)

      • http://www.thegreatnessmind.com Parin Patel

        LOL, oh dear! That’s a good question Jeff lol, looks like my brain read “Adam McLane” at the beginning and transformed it to “Michael” by the end of the post in my excitement to post a comment!

        So sorry Adam! Let me rephrase:

        “What do you think asking others for feedback ***Adam***, Jeff?”

        And yes, I agree, blogging is a services industry. I believe getting feedback and hearing from your community is always a good thing. :) 

        • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

          :)

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  • http://livingthebalancedlife.com Bernice Wood

    I actually just began a new blog, but did not put an end to the previous one. The second blog actually complements the first. I do agree, one has to keep moving forward! But doing something different works well!
    Bernice
    Frustrated with the ever-present mess?

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      I did the same thing. My old blog is still going, but I don’t contribute to it as much as this one.

  • Hunguponretro

    Great post. I could easily relate to all the points – but especially looking at the clock wondering  “What’s the point? Does anybody read it anyway?” I will power through this plateau, make some changes to my blog and perhaps my content, and hope to come out the other side. Thanks.

  • http://Troyann.com/ Troyann

    Hi Jeff, Hi Adam,

    Your post showed up literally the day I needed it. I had been on a plateau for a couple of months and felt like I was pushing a boulder up hill (in high heel shoes). When I read your post I KNEW I should just “keep moving forward” so that’s what I did.

    Well.. it paid off big time! Suddenly I’m loose from the plateau and joyfully climbing up to my next level.

    I think my wake up call was that I needed to start “playing bigger” and show that I can hang with the big wigs! ;-)

    Thanks so much for your inspirational words… You certainly helped me today!

    Troyann Williams, Breakthrough Coach for Entrepreneurial Minded Professionals

    PS. I LOVE what you wrote about “I like to walk around REI and debate buying a kayak before deciding on a water bottle instead.” ~ LOVE IT… I do that too (but usually in a shoe or clothing store)!!! ~

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