I’ve worried way too much about how many blog posts I should have.
I lay awake at night wondering, puzzling and pondering:
What’s the magical number to escape the Google sandbox? How many articles until Mediavine accepts me? What’s the minimum number of posts a blog should launch with? At what point is a niche blog “finished”?
Thankfully, the answer IS NOT “it depends.” There are measurable milestones in the lifespan of an info blog.
[By “info blog,” I mean a blog written by an authority figure (you) to answer frequently asked questions searched by online Readers. E-commerce sites, like product review blogs and Etsy stores, are not included.]
Here’s my short answer, based on my experiences plus research over the last year. You can verify my answers (and do some of your own research) by visiting the Income School YouTube channel, the Moz SEO blog, and original research at Backlinko.
Here are my personal blogging post milestones:
- Launch with 2
- Sprint to 30
- Run to 50
- Jog to 100
- Trod to 200
(Full confession: With my No. 1 site-from-scratch, I am at 82 articles in 10 months. I have another website around 36, one more at 28, FLUB at 16-or-whatever, and a website I purchased and overhauled somewhere around 180 (but half the posts are useless from an SEO perspective). So really, I’m still jogging to 100!)
Launch with 2!
When you launch a new website, you only need two posts. (And neither should be the default “Hello World!” WordPress placeholder).
One post shows you’re more than a placeholder. Two shows you’re not an accident.
You only need two posts because no one is going to read them.
There’s almost no scenario in which your blog will receive significant organic traffic for the first three months.
Even if you’re writing guest posts, building backlinks, optimizing for search, commenting in forums, and posting madly on Pinterest and Facebook Twitter, you probably won’t get more than a trickle of traffic in the first 1-3 months.
And that’s ok. Oaks come from acorns.
The only scenarios in which a new blog might receive significant traffic are:
- If the blog is the content marketing arm of an established brand.
- If you’ve spent 20% of your time writing and 80% of your time hyping it up (not recommended for new websites!)
- If some of your content goes viral.
- If you’re paying for clicks with PPC campaigns.
In fact, if you’re playing the long game by simply waiting for Google to drive organic traffic, it’ll be 3-12 months before your website has any audience at all!
So go ahead and send your website live. Besides your mom, no one will read it for a few weeks, anyway.
Here’s my “Bare Necessities” punch list for a website launch:
- Home Page
- About Page
- Contact Us Page
- Post 1 [Your Title]
- Post 2 [Your Title]
So long as I have those 6 pages, there’s nothing stopping me from going live.
Sprint to 30
Once your website goes live, you need to write, write, and write some more. You need to front-load your content. Get to 30 posts as fast you can – without sacrificing quality!
I’m also assuming you’ll be writing these posts yourself.
Which you should definitely do! You can’t manage a blog without having been in the trenches yourself. You can outsource content creation later. At first, you need to wear all the hats and take all the punches.
If you publish 3-4 blog posts a week, it’ll take 2-3 months to hit 30 posts.
Three months is a serious commitment. It’s enough time to form a habit. It’s enough time to fix some of your early mistakes. It’s enough time to decide if this blogging thing is for you.
At 30 posts, you finally have a real website.
- There’s enough content to capture a Reader’s interest.
- Search engines can begin to understand your blog’s niche.
- You’ll have a balanced mix of response, staple, and pillar posts.
- It’s enough content to begin earning organic backlinks.
- You can drive traffic to your blog via Pinterest, YouTube, or social media channels.
- You can solicit guest posts by showing you’re a “real blogger.”
However, 30 posts probably isn’t enough to start generating meaningful organic traffic.
For one, your blog probably isn’t old enough to escape the Google “Sandbox.”
(Google emphatically states there is no enforced Sandbox. But there IS a natural waiting time of 3-12 months for a virgin site to rise through the SERPs.)
And 30 posts is still a really small website. Half your content might not even be indexed!
With only 30 posts, it’ll be difficult for RankBrain, one of Google’s most important algorithm ranking factors, to categorize and interpret your website.
Plus, your E-A-T (expertise, authority, and trust) will be minimal.
Basically, think of a 30-post blog as prepubescent. All the parts are there – but the real growth is still ahead!*
*This analogy sounded a lot more perverted than I intended.
Run to 50
After publishing 30 posts, you can slow down. Publishing 3-4 good blog posts a week (as a side hustle) is extremely hard work!
(Because I’m not talking about 600-word editorials. I’m talking 1,200-2,400-word response posts with original images and graphics, scannable formatting, and cited sources.)
Some of the best novelists in the world don’t write more than 1,000-1,500 words a day – and that’s their full-time job! (And they don’t have to learn Canva, either.) If you average 2,000 words per post and you post three times a week, you’re in Jack London territory!
So anyway, posting 3x a week may not be sustainable. You probably have a day job, a family, a hobby or two. You can slow down to 2x a week if you need to.
At that pace, you’ll hit 50 articles in another three months, or roughly 4-6 months after launching your blog.
At 50 articles, website navigation really improves.
- You now have post categories and Most Popular articles.
- You can interlink amongst posts and create topic clusters.
- You can build Hub posts that branch out to other
- You can even re-publish or re-write old content!
You might even join up with some good affiliate programs beyond Amazon Associates. You’ll discover common CTAs (Calls to Actions) naturally popping up in your writing, and you can track down matching affiliate programs.
Jog to 100
If you’re writing your blog as a side hustle, it may take a full year to get to 100 articles. That’s an average of two posts per week.
Assuming that an average blog post attracts 500 views per month, then 100 aged posts – that is, posts that have fully ranked in the SERPs – will attract 50,000 views.
What kind of earnings can you expect from 50,000 visits per month?
At the 100-post or 1-year mark, most bloggers seem to get around half of their income from advertising, and the other half from affiliate marketing or simple digital products.
Partnering with a premium ad network like Mediavine, Ezoic Premium, or Monumetric can earn you $30 per 1,000 visits!
That’s $1,250 just in ads from 100 articles!
(This assumes you’re a U.S. based blogger writing for a US or western European audience. Outside of the U.S., unfortunately, ad rates plummet).
Double that for other income, such as sales from affiliate programs, printables, and ebooks. (If you’ve already put together an e-course or similar info product, you could be blowing this estimate out of the water!)
So between all sources of revenue, you’re looking at $2,500 earnings from 100 aged articles.
While that’s not a full-time income (in most of the U.S., anyway), it’s a great start. It’s at least enough to save up for a house down payment!
Trod to 200
Some sites may feel comfortable stopping at 100-120 blog posts. I don’t.
Let’s say blogs follow the Pareto principle: 80% of the traffic comes from 20% of the posts. (I’ve even seen blogs where 95% of traffic came from just one page!)
If that’s true, then out of 100 posts, 20 are driving most of your traffic.
What if you lose your rankings on, say, five of those articles? And their traffic just evaporated?
You just lose one-fourth of your big hitters. That’s roughly 20% of all your blog traffic. When you were making $30k a year, now you’re down to $24k. Yikes!
A bigger website isn’t just about bigger revenue. It’s about diversifying your traffic sources.
It takes most side hustle bloggers 18-24 months to reach 200 posts, even if they outsource some of the content creation. That’s because as a blog grows, you need to spend more time promoting and networking, not just creating.
At 200 posts, a blog should be roughly doubling the performance at 100 posts.
(Research does imply that you hit diminishing returns somewhere after the 200-250 blog post threshold).
So if you were making $2,200 from 100 aged articles, now you’re looking at $4,400!
That’s a full-time income! Assuming $500 overhead per month, you’re profiting $46,800 a year.
(Yes, blogs have overhead. As a rule of thumb, assume at least 10 percent of your blog income will be consumed by overhead).
Congratulations! You’ve done it! Two years of hard work and sacrifice, and now you can quit your job!
Well, reality is more complicated than this^.
IMHO, self-employed income needs to be 20% higher than employed income to be considered “equal.” In other words, $60k self-employed equals $50k employed. That’s because as an entrepreneur, there’s no safety net. There’s no 401(k) matching program or dental insurance. And if your website falls to the competition, parts of your income could evaporate almost overnight.
However, risk and reward aside, a $47k job is an awesome return on two year’s worth of hustling. You can either quit your job and keep growing, or keep your day job and stash the savings away.
What’s After 200?
There’s never really a point at which a blog is “too big.” However, for many niche sites, the optimal ceiling seems to be somewhere between 200 and 500 blog posts.
A good blogger will update or overhaul 20-30 percent of their content every year. Otherwise, it may lose its ranking to hungrier competitors.
At 200 blog posts, you’re overhauling 40-60 posts every year. That’s one post a week! At 400 blog posts, you’re overhauling two posts a week.
Also keep in mind that a healthy blog should post new content at least once a week. Twice a week is even better.
So as you can tell, beyond a few hundred posts, the volume of content creation and brand promotion work isn’t sustainable for a solo operator.
Beyond 500 blog posts, you’re establishing a large-scale authority website more than a niche website. And with that comes all the glory (and headaches) thereof: a content creation team, site migrations, algorithm updates, etc.
When considering how big you want your blog to grow, you need to consider your acceptable risk exposure.
Are you willing to stake your entire income on one blog in one niche?
Or would you rather have two, three, or even 10 medium-sized blogs to diversify your income streams?
Personally, I would never stake my family’s financial well-being on a single small website (yes, even a 500-page website is considered somewhat “small” compared to big hitters like Edmunds, ESPN, HuffPost, Politico, etc.)
It’s a lesson many travel bloggers learned when COVID-19 struck, and their incomes dissolved.
I want a blogging portfolio across multiple niches and demographics. For instance: If my travel blog falls flat during a recession, for instance, I have a how-to-get-out-of-debt personal finance blog that takes up the slack. (Not really, but you get the idea).
So my recommendation is to begin a second blog 9-24 months after you’ve created your first one.
It’s probably not a good idea to start a second blog earlier (I don’t exactly listen to my own advice, though). For many bloggers, your first 3-6 months is just trial and error. You don’t want to clone those failures across multiple blogs!