The Four Stages of Blogging

Knowing where you’re at on this spectrum can help you focus on the RIGHT things to grow your blog & business.

As a blogger, you (almost) literally have the world at your fingertips.

Thanks internet!

You can write whatever you want, however you want, whenever you want to.

  • SEO
  • Pinterest
  • Podcasting
  • Products
  • Affiliate marketing

The choices, paths, and strategies are endless!

Which is also what makes GROWING a blog so dang hard.

After interviewing hundreds of bloggers (many of which in their first two years), I’ve come to see four distinct stages of growth.

Below I’ll break those out, so you can figure out where YOU are at–and how you might progress faster to the next stage!

Let’s roll 😉

Important Note 1

There are endless stages of blogging–these just happen to be the first four in the beginner stages!

Important Note 2

This post is absolutely designed to help you figure out if our membership community, Online Impact, is a good fit for you!

 

If you are clearly in stage 1–don’t join Online Impact! The ROI will not be there YET.

Important Note 3

Do not let your “stage” discourage you in any way. The differences between the stages has nothing to do with your self-worth (and very little do to with your skill, actually!)

These stages have arbitrary borders, and are really just defined to help you figure out what to do next.

Stage 1 - I Don't Know What I Don't Know

“I am soooo excited about blogging! This is so much fun and it’s gonna be amazing!”

Luckily, starting a blog is still something that attracts people!

It even sounds fun.

The first stage of blogging is made up of a sort of “ignorance is bliss” sorta thing…

  • I’m thinking about starting a blog
  • I’m planning on doing it
  • I’m setting up my site!
  • Weeeee I have a blog post up!
  • Now I gotta make my site look perfect…

We’ve all been there, right? It’s a glorious time!

We have ideas and plans for what we want to talk about, and we might even expect to generate revenue from our blog.

The bottom line though?

We really have no idea what “successful” blogging looks like, or we’re at least unaware of what successful blogging will look like for our blog.

Stage 1 in a Nutshell:

Timeframe: Pre-blog to a few months in.

Characteristics:

  • Don’t yet realize how much TIME blogging will take
  • Think it’ll be nothing but fun
  • Unlikely to have a long-term strategy, much less one they feel confident in
  • Don’t feel the need to get organized

Stage 1 bloggers are all over the place, but they are taking action, excited, and eager to get readers!

Warning! Alert alert!

The red boxes in this post are opinions 😉

What I'd Recommend to Stage 1 Bloggers

Produce more content, even if it’s bad.

Let nothing stand in the way of you hitting publish.

Don’t worry about site issues (nobody’s on your site anyways)–just focus on getting a minimum viable website up and functioning, then produce more content.

You probably don’t realize what it takes to drive useful amounts of traffic or how to start generating income, and that’s ok!

You’ll figure it out as you go along!

And prepare yourself, it’s about to get overwhelming real fast.

At some point in EVERY bloggers journey, they have the lightbulb moment…

Oh, this is not what I thought it was…

Stage 2 - Overwhelm

Woah SEO! And Pinterest? And I need to start paying for ConvertKit and blogging courses and social media tools…

And I realize how bad my WordPress theme is now–and my site just crashed–and I have zero clue how to fix it–AND HOW ON EARTH DO I GET MORE TRAFFIC?

While bloggers in stage 1 don’t know what they don’t know–stage 2 bloggers are quickly realizing what they don’t know–and that’s pretty much “everything.”

It’s overwhelming.

What started out as a fun hobby or “oh I think I’ll make a side hustle out of this!” has turned into rabbit holes.

  • Now I gotta learn SEO
  • Now I gotta build an email list (not sure why yet though)
  • Now I gotta figure out Elementor (but only because some dude named Pete said I should have it. I don’t even know what it really does…)

Stage 2 bloggers do NOT have issues filling their to-do lists!

There’s lots to do, but even more to learn about and look into.

I spent a LOT of money in Stage 2

Stage 2 bloggers often still believe in the “magic bullet,” a course, tool, or strategy that WILL lead them to make money and find success.

Stage 2 in a Nutshell:

Timeframe: Starts around months 2 or 3, and could last anywhere from 6 to 12 months.

Characteristics:

  • Starting to follow meta-bloggers (like me).
  • Finding more and more things to spend money on.
  • Experimenting with ALL THE STRATEGIES
  • Have zillions of affiliate links in their content–but “why am I not making money??”
  • Spending a lot of time on activities and it’s feeling like work.

Stage 2 bloggers can easily get lost and overwhelmed in the different options before them.

 

What I'd Recommend to Stage 2 Bloggers

This is going to sound odd–but just keep doing what you’re doing.

Without experimentation, slopiness, and failure–the long-term journey to Stage 4 and beyond might actually take LONGER.

“Cut your teeth,” so to speak.

  • Try SEO.
  • Pinterest.
  • Guest posting.
  • Backlink outreach.
  • That shiny new plugin.
  • All those courses!

But realize this: there ISN’T a magic bullet that’ll give you success.

Not in ANYBODY’S courses.

You probably don’t realize it, but getting out of Stage 2 is all about persistence & survival!

A blogging friend or support group does wonders for Stage 2 bloggers.

Also, stop worrying about your website (Spending $39/month on Leadpages, Pete? Really? 🤦‍♂️) and focus on producing useful & interesting content.

At some point during the overwhelming “this is actually WORK” phase, something special happens…

Stage 2 bloggers fit in nicely in Online Impact.

And if I’m being honest, it’s probably easiest to sell to Stage 2 bloggers, because they see the SEO and monetization courses and can’t HELP but think “magic bullet.”

It’s sexy, and it sells.

The GOOD news is that we’ve spent a ton of time figuring out how to deliver what stage 2 bloggers ACTUALLY need 😉

The Turning Point

Moving out of stage 2 and into stage 3 is a HUGE turning point.

Bloggers start to realize that the challenging parts are actually the important, meaningful parts.

There is zero change in difficulty, but the overwhelm leads to systems of prioritization and organization.

They realize “the obstacle is the way,” (quoting Ryan Holiday’s book).

Stage 3 - Experimenting

I’ve finally started to see some things starting to work! I’m even diving deeper on previous strategies (like SEO or Pinterest), and also thinking about YouTube or podcasting!!

I have people that follow me now!

I really wanna try launching a product now. Maybe a course or downloadable thing or–I dunno.

Stage 3 bloggers are starting to feel way more comfortable with the chaos and hard work that is blogging!

They’ve worked out publishing schedules, got their website to a decent place, and probably even made their first dollar.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is stage 3 bloggers still do NOT have clarity about what their “thing” is.

They’re starting to get clear on strategy and a repeatable, scalable business model that they can focus on–but it’s not dialed in. It’s not proven.

In my Road to $83k post, I detailed my Stage 3 experimentation–the products and strategies I tried were VASTLY different than each other.

I didn’t have “my thing,” (i.e. a scalable & proven business model that makes me happy and is something I can continue to focus on again and again).

Stage 3 in a Nutshell:

Timeframe: Starts around 9-12 months, and could last 3 months or 3 years!

Characteristics:

  • Know blogging “success” is tough, and requires a lot of work.
  • Seen success from various strategies, but STILL not satisfied with where they’re at.
  • Experiment with monetization more.
  • Experiment on a bigger scale, diving into podcasting, YouTube, or multiple platforms.

Stage 3 bloggers might get discouraged looking at what OTHER bloggers have accomplished, and might find themselves wondering if they were cut out for this…

They’re 1-3 years in at this point, and though they’ve made a dollar or two, they haven’t really settled into proven business model.

My stage 3 was filled with TONS of tough experimentation and failure

That uncertainty and lack of a clear focus can be frustrating.

What I'd Recommend to Stage 3 Bloggers

There are two things stage 3 bloggers need ASAP:

  1. Clarity & confidence about what they’re working towards.
  2. A proven business model or product they can improve upon.

Stage 3 bloggers should be intentional and mindful about the “business model experiments” they run (i.e. launching new products, doubling-down on affiliate marketing, etc).

Feedback, accountability, and encouragement are a MUST in this stage.

  • Mastermind groups are fantastic.
  • In-person meetups.
  • Friends also in your space.
These folks help me survive ups and downs

Their ultimate goal should be to find what works and can be repeated, again and again, a little better each time.

I.e. running a business. 😃

Online Impact was pretty much MADE for bloggers in stage 3.

An intentional 1-on-1 strategy call. Group strategy calls every month. Group WORK calls every month. Connection, community, encouragement, and shoulders to cry on.

The entire purpose of Online Impact is to get our members to the point of profitable (and sustainable) & impactful business models.

What else can I say?

Stage 4 - Settle Down & Refine

Whew. There’s still a ways to go. It’s still hard. I’m still not where I ultimately want to be…

But I’ve found something that works, and I’m clear and confident in my vision.

I’m ready to work.

Stage 4 means you’ve totally made it, right? Your blog must bring in $47,000/month and you’ve retired to sit on beach somewhere, right?

Of course not.

Stage 4 is defined by one thing: clarity and what it takes to grow.

You’ve dabbled in podcasting, worked hard at SEO and Pinterest, and tried different monetization methods.

You’ve GONE THROUGH the ups and downs, the overwhelming and frustrating parts–and are starting to make peace with the fact that those never fully go away 😃

Based on what has worked (and hasn’t), you’re starting to see YOUR path to grow your blog.

You’re not 20 miles down the path–it took you this long to FIND the right path.

Stage 4 in a Nutshell:

Timeframe: Starts whenever you’ve kinda proven your sustainable business model, and I have no idea when it ends 🙂

Characteristics:

  • Experimented enough with big things
  • More comfortable not trying new big things–or at least waiting on those initiatives until months or years later
  • More clear on how their business will continue to grow financially
  • Have more confidence in their long-term vision (that it’ll actually work!)

Stage 4 bloggers are starting to understand the “game” they’re playing.

What I'd Recommend to Stage 4 Bloggers

Continue to be patient. There’s still no guarantee of “success,” and chances are high you’ll still have challenges and fires to put out.

But refinement and “front-end” experimentation is now your game.

Don’t waver on the mission or vision. If you have a HIGHLY proven product/service/model, don’t waver much on that either.

Instead, continue to experiment with front-end marketing (like starting a podcast, like hiring a part-time SEO to help out, like getting BACK into Pinterest…), while continuing to make your monetization offer better and better.

You’ve got a business model. Now make it better, more profitable, and get more customers.

Dial it in.

Online Impact is part of my Stage 4 journey 🙂

Bloggers, podcasters, and entrepreneurs in this phase will definitely feel at home in our community–specifically for the community & group call benefits.

But…

If I’m being honest–MOST of the content in Online Impact is geared towards Stages 2 & 3! Our main mission is getting our members to stage 4 as quickly as possible!

We do have ongoing value for once you reach stage 4 and beyond (premium tools, courses on different mediums like podcasting, and group stuff), but at this point you’ll be a happy senior member. 🎆

What to Do With This Information

I can do this…

I can do this…

I’d like to break this stuff down with a simple little “do this do that.”

Side Note: I personally feel meta-bloggers should be more direct sometimes. Bloggers need a bit of leadership in some ways–but that’s a blog post for another day.

If you think you're in Stage 1: "I don't know what I don't know"

  • Don’t spend money on courses, tools, or membership sites.
  • Don’t get bogged down with how your website looks.
  • Do realize that the honeymoon will end at some point.
  • Do produce as much content as humanly possible.

If you think you're in Stage 2: Overwhelm

  • Don’t quit.
  • Do surround yourself with helpful people (and join Online Impact).
  • Do find systems & organization that helps you combat overwhelm.

If you think you're in Stage 3: Experimenting

  • Don’t compare yourself with others.
  • Don’t stop trying new things (especially if stuff fails!).
  • Do get outside opinions & feedback–mainly geared towards strategy (and join Online Impact).
  • Do be patient.

If you think you're in Stage 4: Settle Down & Refine

  • Don’t lose your hungriness, edge, or ability to fight fires.
  • Do think about scale & the future
  • Do interate & adapt
  • Do it again and again and again

Did you enjoy this blog post?

I just made a HUGE update to my ‘How to Create a Blog Plan‘ post, and the 100% free-as-in-beer 12-Week Blog Planner!

That is an interactive email course where you won’t just learn about planning and organizing a vision for your blog–you’ll actually DO it within the program.

And it’s free!

Happy strategy-setting and executing 😉

Online Impact, our membership community for bloggers and podcasters looking to make more money via the internet to improve their life…

Launches Monday, October 7th, 2019!

Click the button below to learn more and join the text message waiting list.

7 Responses

  1. Hi Pete,

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I am a brand new blogger who has minimal support around me so this post was needed. Your content has helped give me the knowledge and insight of what it takes to start a blog and I thank you for being a meta-blogger for those who are just starting.

    I cannot wait till I am at stage 2 and will continue to read your posts.

    Again, thanks 🙂

    1. You really put things into perspective and offered a little encouragement. I’m in the beginning transitions of moving from stage 2 to stage 3, very excited about this. It’s like there is suddenly a light at the end of the tunnel.

      1. That’s actually a decent way to put it, even if the light is still wayyyy to far away and often gets lost–at least you’ve kinda seen it for the first time.

        A+ metaphor Roshanda!

  2. Nice article Pete, these are definitely archetypal phases bloggers go through. Stage 2 it’s definitely easy to feel overwhelmed and feel like you know less than when you started. Usually towards the end of Phase 2 is when the SEO traffic starts to increase and the confidence and motivation starts to come back. It’s important to keep it all in perspective when going through that.

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