4 Realistic Traffic Goals for Small(ish) Blogs

Big, established blogs have multiple years of performance data. Smaller, newer blogs do not. It can feel like you’re operating in a vacuum. It’s hard to come up with reasonable answers to questions like “how is our content marketing doing?” and “how many pageviews is good for a blog?”

To level the playing field a little, we analyzed 150 million pageviews of data to set some benchmarks for small blogs (those getting fewer than 10,000 pageviews per month). If you need realistic traffic goals for 2021, start with these:

  • Try to beat 6% traffic growth, month-on-month
  • Aim for at least 45,000 yearly pageviews
  • Get at least 11% of traffic from organic search
  • Grow organic traffic by 8% each month
Traffic Goals for Small Blogs (8).png

This article is based on data from our 2020 Content Marketing Benchmark Report.

1) Try to Beat 6% Traffic Growth, Month-on-Month

We found that the median compound monthly growth rate (CMGR) for this group of blogs was 5.92%. In other words, during the year we analyzed, small blogs increased their traffic by about 6% each and every month. Though that growth rate doesn’t sound huge, it’s equivalent to increasing your monthly blog traffic by 88% in a year.

To make this goal a little more concrete, here are two hypothetical examples. Assuming a 5.92% monthly growth rate:

  • A blog starting in January with 1,000 monthly pageviews would generate 1,333 pageviews in June and 1,883 in December.
  • A blog starting in January with 5,000 monthly pageviews would generate 6,666 pageviews in June and 9,413 in December.
Traffic Goals for Small Blogs (14).png

This 6% traffic goal is most useful for blogs that have a couple thousand pageviews or greater. Blogs starting from near-zero traffic levels will be able to grow at a much faster rate: it’s easier to 10X your blog traffic if you’re starting from 100 pageviews, instead of 10,000 or 100,000.

Case in point: the fastest-growing blog in our analysis saw a 68.66% compound monthly growth rate. That’s the equivalent of a blog starting with 50 monthly pageviews and closing the year with around 15,000.

Traffic Goals for Small Blogs (12).png

Big, established blogs have a couple of levers to pull to accelerate traffic growth, like refreshing their outdated content to help it perform better, or—in extreme cases—pruning their worst-performing content.

Without these options, the best growth lever for smaller, newer blogs is plain old publishing frequency. Every published article is a new opportunity to rank for keywords, generate backlinks, accrue visitors, and find out what works with your target audience. The more you publish, the faster you’ll see traffic grow.

2) Aim for 45,000 Yearly Pageviews

In the 12 months we analyzed, these small blogs generated a median of 45,162 pageviews. Dividing by 12 to find the monthly average, we can say that a small blog is likely to stay “on pace” with similar blogs if it can sustain an average of 3,764 monthly pageviews.

This implies getting the same amount of traffic each month, which isn’t realistic. Instead, small blogs are more likely to grow by an increasing amount each month, as traffic from new articles is layered on top of traffic from existing articles. Using our yearly pageview target and our growth target, we can model what this might look like.

A blog growing at 5.92% CMGR and finishing the year with our cumulative average total of 45,162 pageviews would have started out at just 2,525 monthly pageviews:

Traffic Goals for Small Blogs (11).png

We can see how this translates into monthly traffic: instead of a sustained 3,674 pageviews, the blog starts the year with a modest 2,525 monthly pageviews, hits 3,366 monthly pageviews at the six-month mark, and finishes the year at 4,754:

Traffic Goals for Small Blogs (10).png

This is one example of what “average growth” could look like for a young blog—although in reality, growth rates and pageviews are likely to fluctuate up and down from this average each month.

3) Get at Least 11% of Traffic from Organic Search

Across all of the blogs we analyzed (including older, more established blogs), we found that organic search was the biggest source of traffic: 59.22% of all blog traffic came from search. But crucially, blogs with fewer than 10,000 monthly pageviews differed in two ways:

  • Organic search made up a much smaller percentage of total traffic—just 10.85%, compared to the all blog average of 59.22%.
  • Relatively more traffic came from direct sources (traffic from “dark social,” like Slack or WhatsApp, misconfigured tracking parameters, or visitors typing your URL directly into the browser) and referral sources(clicking through your backlinks).
Traffic Goals for Small Blogs (13).png

Traffic from social and email remained relatively constant—and inconsequential—across all blogs we analyzed, accounting for roughly 2% and 3% of total traffic, respectively:

Blog SizeOrganicDirectReferralSocialEmail
All Blogs59.22%18.51%12.71%1.96%3.48%

You probably recognize this finding from your own performance data. Without much in the way of brand recognition, backlinks, or referring domains, it’s difficult to outrank more established blogs. All but the lowest competition keywords are—for now—out of reach, and until they’ve strengthened their domain authority, younger, newer blogs usually struggle to generate substantial organic traffic.

Creating “linkable” content is the best way to strengthen that domain authority. Not all types of content will naturally generate backlinks, so it’s important to allocate the occasional article towards “linkable” content types, like data-driven content or opinionated thought leadership.

4) Grow Your Organic Traffic by 8% Each Month

Thankfully, our data shows that this doesn’t remain a problem for long. With each additional article published and backlink acquired, it becomes a little easier for new blogs to compete for keywords and drive organic traffic. In the 12-month period we analyzed, it was the smallest blogs that saw the greatest rate of organic growth: 8.13% CMGR.

Blog Size (Monthly Pageviews, September 2019)Median Organic CMGR

This is equivalent to a blog starting out at 500 monthly organic pageviews and finishing the year at 1,181—a 136.2% increase, more than doubling monthly organic traffic in a year.

Traffic Goals for Small Blogs (9).png

According to our data, in your first year, organic traffic should be your fastest-growing source of traffic. The best way to help accelerate this curve is to focus on long-tail keywords. We recommend a “bottom-up” approach for newer blogs: start by targeting low-competition, low-volume keywords, and gradually build up to higher-competition, higher-volume terms.

How to Use These Benchmarks

The figures shown here are averages: some blogs performed much better, and others, worse. Hitting the growth rates and pageview targets suggested here is the equivalent of “keeping pace” with other blogs of a similar size.

Whether or not you should aim to beat these averages is down to the unit economics of your business. An agency like Animalz needs much lower traffic volume than a freemium SaaS company, so while we could theoretically underperform these averages with no ill consequences, the SaaS company might need to significantly outperform them.

Thankfully, outperforming these averages is very possible. This data came from a year heavily impacted by COVID-19. With luck, 2021 will be an easier year for blogs to grow.

Visit our 2020 Content Marketing Benchmark Report for more performance benchmarks.