Most Websites/Blogs Have A Natural Traffic Limit
Since I started building my first websites back in 2005 I probably owned at least twenty different ones, ranging from blogs like this one to niche websites and service-oriented sites. One pattern I noticed over these years is that most websites have a natural traffic limit.
By natural traffic limit I mean an amount of traffic (e.g., 30,000 monthly uniques, 200,000 monthly uniques or 3 million monthly uniques, depending on the site in question) that the website will attract once it’s fully developed and established. The graph below (sorry for my design skills!) illustrates the points:
As you can see, most websites start slow, then they go through a rapid growth phase, and then they reach the natural limit. Sure, they might still keep growing after reaching the limit, but that growth will be minimal in comparison to the previous growth period.
The time that it will take to reach the limit will vary depending on the niche/type of website, as well as with the effort put by the owner. For example, a website on a small niche like “white tea” might reach its natural limit after 12 months, while a blog about technology might take years to reach its natural limit.
Similarly, the limit itself will vary, depending on the the niche and on the type of website. The tea website could have a natural limit of 20,000 monthly unique visitors, while for the tech blog this number could be 5 million or more (TechCrunch should be the reference here…).
Notice that the natural limit number includes all traffic sources (e.g., search engines, direct traffic, subscribers, referrals and so on).
Let me use an example to illustrate the concept. A couple of years ago I had a niche website about the Mafia Wars game (quite popular on Facebook). At one point it reached the first page of Google for the term “mafia wars”, and it also had good rankings for several related keywords. As a result it received around 150,000 monthly unique visitors (despite being a relatively small website, with 20 pages or so), and generated around $400 in Google AdSense.
I tried to add more content and promote the website further, but no matter what I did the traffic wouldn’t grow that much. After a couple of months I figured the website had reached it’s natural traffic limit, so I decided to sell it.
Now don’t get me wrong. Selling the website once it reaches its natural limit it not always the best choice. I only sold the mafia wars one because it was not aligned with the niches I like to focus on. Had it been a tech oriented website, for example, I would probably have kept it as a source of passive income.
The Takeaway Message
The message I wanted to pass is the following: it’s important to know that websites and blogs have a natural traffic limit. Identifying when you have reached it is not always easy, but you should try.
Once you determine that your website/blog has reached it’s natural limit you have mainly two options: sell it if you are not interested in that niche anymore, or put it on auto-pilot to free some of your time so that you can start working on a new project.
Over to the Readers
These are my views, though, and I would love to hear what you guys think about this matter. Feel free to drop a comment below to share your thoughts.
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23 Responses to “Most Websites/Blogs Have A Natural Traffic Limit”
This is true for niche specific sites. If someone has a site on ‘tea’, there are a certain numbers of people who search team everyday. But if it is about a topic which is broad + where things happen and news come in everynow and then (like if it is related to Apple products), traffic can go up and down (let us say when a new iphone or iOS is launched) so it all depends on topic and industry that you are in.
Makes sense. There are only so many people interested in a topic, unless some paradigm shift happens that attracts a group of new enthusiasts. That said, don’t give up before you’re pretty sure you’ve reached that limit!
@Sohail, sure, specific events can affect your traffic, but those happen once in a while, and they don’t affect your overall traffic levels.
For example, even an Apple related blog will have a natural limit. Sure, once or twice a year it might get spikes due to new product releases, but still 10 months out of 12 its traffic will behave normally.
This goes to show that the diminishing marginal return talked about in economics seems to be applicable to not only human beings (baby then adult then senior), or the life of a business, but also to blogs traffic. I find that to be very interesting.
Arpan Kar @ Business Fundas
thats what I feel for my site also…
since I am focusing on management theories predominantly, once the more popular theories are written…my blog will hit an upper limit
It seems weird that this would be the case, especially if you are doing SEO and targeting different keywords.
But I’d have to agree with Daniel’s observation as this tends to happen with my sites as well.
I don’t think this applies to UGC sites.
I’m still waiting for the rapid growth phase to begin. But hey, I’ve just started out about two months ago 😀 😀
Very interesting discussion. Do you think this is variable depending on how specific the niche is? The broader the niche, it seems, the more opportunities to find new keywords to target, new traffic, etc.
I observed some sites that had a huge growth when started and after months or even years were still growing, but at a very slow rate.
But I don’t believe that sites have a x limit of traffic, however to reach the top it probably will take many years.
I totally 100% agree!
When I hear people talking about number of subscribers, number of members, and of course number of visits, it reminds me, that for me, everthing has a limit. This post today puts it clear and to the point. Nice!
(I sorry my site is in Spanish, I’ve became a loyal reader, I love this place)
I thought one of my sites had reached its natural limit because my traffic seemed stuck around 800 visitors a day for almost 10 months and then inexplicably it shut up to over 2,000 unique visitors a day. It’s hung steady ever since, but I’m hoping it will shoot up again in the near future.
@Chris, I think that is because even if you target new keywords and optimize your pages there are only so many people interested in a given topic, as Courtney also pointed out.
@Jaan, indeed, sites with uger generated content like an online forum or a Q&A site would be an exception to this rule.
@Randa, definitely. I think the two main factors that will affect the natural limit of your website are the niche and the type of website (e.g., blog vs. forum vs. ecommerce).
Your post is very timely for me.
I am a very niche-y blog. I’ve pondered over the last several weeks if I have reached (or am approaching) the upper limits of pageviews/visitors for my blog topic.
I agree for my own niche blog that there is a natural traffic limit. I’m not sure I’m there yet, but I do believe a limit exists.
My traffic always goes way down in summer do to most networks don’t show new tv shows however my personal blog has continually gone up month to month.
I totally agree with your theory. I have been lucky enough to grow one of my smaller blogs to its natural traffic limit after 14 months. It not gets around 10,000 unique hits a month. It is not in my favorite niche but I am not going to sell it as in generates a nice income.
How about dailyblogtips.com? Have you reached that limit yet?
Thanks Daniel – good food for thought. Broadly I agree with you, but there are exceptions. From the post and the discussion I am developing a theory the Niche Imperative or, if I have your OK – the Scocco Niche Imperative, which gives a framework for looking at niches. (Sorry, but I’m planning to write an academic book on blogging in 2012).
The definition: The success of a blog is related to the imperative of its defined niche.
Success can be measured in traffic, income and influence.
Imperative relates to the size of the niche, the value of the niche and the dynamism of the niche.
Defined niche is the niche as defined by the owner, the writers and visitors.
Dynamism of a niche describes whether the niche is growing, static or falling. Another factor in dynamism is how active the visitors are likely to be – so rich, early adopters will interact quite strongly, but only for a certain period of time, while say a niche appealing to mothers at home will be more stable, but interactivity would be less.
So with a game like ‘Mafia Wars’ the dynamic would be a host of early adopters who would grow the niche rapidly.
There would be then be those who become serious players many would stay for a long time and this number would be affected by such things as upgrades to game etc.
The blog would be affected by the game player numbers and whether there was a reason for accessing the blog – sense of community, upgrades to game, tricks or publicity. In most cases people research a game on the net are likely to be newcomers.
In this case the blog would grow and would be dependent on the number of newcomers to the game.
It is therefore wise of Daniel to develop the blog and then sell it on as it is likely to remain static or even find its traffic fall over a period of time.
Flo | Create Your Own Website
This is so true about sites built around a trending topic like in the case of your Mafia Wars site. It is good to get in there when it is still a hot topic, scoop the profits and get out before it goes stale.
I wonder what the person that bought your Mafia Wars site will be doing with it now? Do people still play the Mafia Wars game?
What about tech sites. Sites like lifehacker/gizmodo are technically tech sites and continue to increase their traffic month after month. Even if the traffic doesn’t increase, the income increases because over time they become more and more popular just because of the fact that they’re updated regularly.
The site is growing and making more money but the traffic may taper off. I don’t think that’s such a bad thing 🙂
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