Every successful blogger has SOMETHING in common.
When it comes to blogging, the success rate will be very minimal, isn’t it?
Then how do only FEW people will succeed? What kind of attitude do they have in common? How many hours do they work on their blogs?
Curious to know?
Well I’m curious too!
Caution: Reading this lengthy interview (5,000+ words) without having a cup of coffee beside you is dangerous to health
Let me introduce the top 3 young Indian bloggers who shared their blogging success secrets.
Harsh Agarwal: One of the top professional bloggers from India. Harsh has created ShoutMeLoud from the scratch in 2008 and making a living from his blogs now.
Pradeep Kumar: Pradeep is the founder of HellBoundBloggers. Where he talks about technology related stuff and his blog attracts so many guest bloggers every time. One of the best Indian blogs to know about tech buzz.
Sushant Risodkar: Sushant has achieved plenty at the age of just 18. He is a part time blogger, yet making thousands of dollars from his blog SmartBloggerz. It’s a great resource who want to make money online.
I’ve read so many interviews by these 3 guys, but I’ve never found a single post covering all the 3 of them at one place. I’ve tried my best to cover almost everything within 8 questions, you’ll find it really helpful :)
Without further ado, let’s dive in to the interview..
Let me introduce myself to those who don’t know me.
Hi all, I’m Harsh Agrawal a solopreneur and professional blogger. I blog at ShoutMeLoud.com, where I talk about various aspects of creating and managing blogs and I’ll show how to generate full-time income from it. I’m 26 year old and based in heart city of India - New Delhi
This is one question which I believe, I will love to answer even after 10 years, as it brings me back to my foundation day. Starting with my college, I was very much into technology and Networking. I was a typical average student who used to study for the sake of exams, and most of my time used to go on trying new things like learning about Networking, setting up linux servers, trying new software and read & learn new things. I believe, some how this attitude helped me the most later in blogging.
I passed out with a B.tech degree in 2008 and grabbed a nice job as a software engineer at Accenture inn in 2008, thanks to recession in 2008, Accenture delayed all new joining and I was busy doing some side job at an I.T Firm in Gurgaon (convergys) and rest of the time I used to blog on a BlogSpot blog. That time I was not even aware of AdSense or people can earn from blog, I was blogging for the passion and my interest. Later, readers started commenting and at onetime, one of my articles made the Digg front page, and that motivated me a lot.
I used to read problogger.net, dailyblogtips and I have this habit of taking the print-out of every interesting article I found on those blog, and used to carry those print out with me all the time. I used to read them, while going to office, when ever I get time and later in November 2008, I planned to move to WordPress. On 1st December 2008, I was on WordPress and that’s where the real journey started.
Starting few months on WordPress was a roller coaster for me, as I never bothered about SEO and it was a pain to drive traffic. Most of my traffic came via Feeds subscribers and blog commenting. I used to comment like 100-200 every day and that was really massive.
People used to tell me, Harsh you are everywhere and it worked as ego booster to me. I realized, people need articles related to WordPress and how to get started with Blogging and I shifted my niche from hard core tech and web 2.0 to Blogging and WordPress, I shared everything which I learned, starting from how I created ShoutMeLoud, How I made my first $10 from Digitalpoint forum and even now, whenever I get chance I share my income report and share what’s working and what not working for me.
I got inspired by many success stories and I used to read like 10-20 blogs on blogging, SEO and WordPress that time. Weblogtoolscollection was my favorite resource for WordPress stuff and Problogger and dailyblogtips was for Blogging. Also Mani Karthik Daily SEOblog, helped me a lot to learn about SEO in starting days. So this is pretty much how I started and you can read the complete journey here.
I started HellBound Bloggers (HBB) in 2009 and it’s been almost 3-4 years. Like every blogger I started my blogging journey with Google’s Blogger platform and it was the basement for my blog earlier. After I believed I needed a more potential platform I moved on to WordPress.
I just wanted to have a blog to express my views, but also needed a tool to impress others, either way I loved blogging at that time, but it was just a hobby to me.
I learned from many people, I can say hundreds of bloggers, but personally I prefer Arun Basil Lal (from MillionClues.com) and Harsh Agarwal (from ShoutMeLoud.com). They helped me a lot during my initial journey.
I got attracted to blogging when I saw people making huge sums of money with Google Adsense program. I was in 10th grade that time. My craziness towards blogging and the time I used to spend on internet did affect my school results very much (-ve). When I started, my role models were almost of my age like carl ocab, michael dunlop and later when I got to know about many more highly successful and professional bloggers; the list grew big and now it has got many big names in it.
I don’t have a typical time table but I work almost 7-8 hrs every day on my blog. Rest of the time, I spend on learning and trying something new. Most of my 7-8 hour work is spent on writing articles, replying to readers Email, editing guest posts and managing blog. After that I spend a lot of time reading and learning from others.
When I first started blogging it was just a hobby for me, so I didn’t give much importance to time then. But after I took it professionally and intentionally, I decided to create a schedule so that I don’t miss anything important anywhere.
Right now I have 2 blogs (public) and 3 blogs (yet to be launched, but still privately active), so allocation of time is very important here. I spent around 40 hours per week and it will increase according to the deals I get. These are the following things I do on/for my blog.
- Comment Moderation: That includes checking spam comments – whether any genuine comments are present there, replying to all the queries via comments, translating other language comments, checking broken links, and also moderating the same for Facebook Comments. (Time allocated: 1 Hour/Day)
- Guest Posts Moderation: This is the most difficult part for me, HBB gets 10 guest posts per day and I’ll try my best to approve all the good ones, but the criteria for selecting them is tedious. I’ll be proofreading them, checking the facts mentioned, checking broken links, adding rel=”nofollow” tag to unessential links, mailing guest author to fix some confusing things, finding a suitable blog post image or screenshot, interlinking with related blog posts, and so on. (Time allocated: 2 Hours/Day)
- Affiliate Marketing: I’m not good in this, but I love the process involved so I’ll be learning affiliate marketing and at the same time applying it somewhere on my blog. (Time allocated: 30 minutes/Day)
- Sponsored/Paid Review Preparation: HBB’s major revenue source it is. We provide exclusive sponsored reviews to various brands (that includes Bitdefender, UPrinting, etc) and we try our best to make it best. We allocate good amount of time for this. We often try the product or service and then prepare the review accordingly. (Time allocated: 2 Hours/Day)
- Writing my own post: Due to some issues I was not able to focus on my own writing, still I prepare posts based on ideas I encounter every day. (Time allocated: 1 Hour/Day)
- Monitoring Social Media Effects: Social Media helps a lot to improve branding, so I often concentrate on them. Interacting with readers on Facebook and Twitter consumes pretty amount of time. (Time allocated: 1 Hour/Day)
- Monitoring Search Engine Optimisation: Fearing Panda and Penguin, I decided to allocate some time for analyzing our search engine results. I usually don’t considered them much, but search engine visitors matters a lot at this stage for us. (Time allocated: 1 Hour/Day)
- Worst-case Scenarios: That includes Security, Budget, Paid Authors, so and so. (Time allocated: 1 Hour/Day)
Honestly, I’ve spent very less time for my blog “SmartBloggerz” from last several months as I’m more focused towards affiliate marketing right now. Earlier, I used to spend like 8-10 hrs. managing my blog “SmartBloggerz” to get as much traffic and earn money but as I learned new ways to make money online; the time I used to spend for my blog reduced drastically. From my 5-6 online hours these days, I spend somewhere about 15-20 minutes and this certainly causes huge backlog of emails, blog comments and blog related work.
My first online income came with Dreamhost affiliate which I earned in december 2008 but I received the money after 3 months. My first in hand cash was from digitalpointforum where I fixed some one Webmaster tool problem and that $10 was my first income in hand from online work.
Before that, I had a big doubt about how people can make money online. Reading about so many online scams, I used to find it funny that people can actually make money and that was me back in 2008. In March 2009, I started monetizing my blog with Adsense, but later on I realized Adsense is just a recurring income source but real money is in Affiliate marketing and Email marketing.
Till now, most of my income comes with Affiliate income and personal blog coaching. These days, I spend most of the time with people who are interested in making money from blogs and I go on with 1-on-1 session with them. Here are some of the ad networks and methods I use to earn from online:
- Affiliate marketing
- Blog coaching
- SEO consultancy
- Private Ads
- Review articles
- Infolinks and Viglink
There might be more, but at this time I can think of only few of these.
HBB‘s major revenue sources include Sponsored/Paid reviews and Direct Banner Advertisements.
Unfortunately HBB and Adsense had a bad past, so we restricted Adsense from our blog. We also believed direct advertisements are far better than Adsense since we can directly communicate with the advertisers or brand owners. There is no place for third party commissions. Moreover we can comfort advertisers for paid reviews or any other deals.
I also love taking their testimony and displaying them publicly. Here is a sample one given by BufferApp team.
“It was a truly great collaboration. The HellBound Bloggers (HBB) Review was a great writeup of Buffer I think. It was very concise and yet at the same time it gave readers all the details they needed to know about the App. Definitely a fantastic job, traffic from your site was really good. Anyone planning on working with you on a post is very recommended to do so I believe!”
Bloggers can make decent income only after making their blog standard, it should be generating good traffic and should have some readers. They can try Google Adsense (of course, the king), and I think for almost 60% of the bloggers it won’t last long. So they can try Sponsored/Paid reviews and BuySellAds (for Direct Advertisements). But don’t concentrate much on paid reviews because Google won’t appreciate it.
They can also do freelancing works through their blog, like logo designing, WordPress theme designing and so on.
Talking about ‘SmartBloggerz’, I make money mostly from ad sales, sponsored reviews and then few of my affiliate review pages hosted on the blog. The other blogs which I own secretly are all affiliate blogs which makes me money promoting affiliate offers on them.
Overall, my top income source is ‘affiliate sales’.
A blogger who is starting out should definitely focus on getting more targeted traffic. More traffic will certainly mean more money being generated from the blog. For this, I highly suggest to improve search engine visibility of your blog posts by building backlinks regularly and promoting it on social media sites. Also, do not rely on Adsense only for generating income from your blog; You should also consider writing product reviews on your blog which has an affiliate offer. To find related offers, you can search amazon associates, clickbank, markethealth, clicksure, plimus, commission junction etc.
In the initial days, it was mostly commenting and Social bookmarking sites that used to drive traffic. Digg and stumbleupon were the biggest sources of traffic for me and I simply used to write article and promote them via Social network. Later on, blog subscriber (feed and Email) became another source of traffic for me.
I was not much into SEO those days, but I believe due to unique article, I used to receive decent traffic from search that time, and believe me when you are not blogging for money or anything else, even 50-100 visits a day is satisfactory for me and for anyone.
I made lot of mistakes and that starts from not having a firm foundation. As I mentioned, my reason to start blogging was to learn and share what ever I know. And since, I used to write about technology, I never bothered about presentation and article quality. I just wanted to write and share my ideas and knowledge, without thinking if I’m delivering the message for everyone and in a perfect tone. Later on, after learning from professionals, I started realizing my blogging mistakes and that changed everything for me.
After migrating my blog from blogger to WordPress, I keep on changing my blog themes which was another big mistake. To create a brand, one should always give a Face to it from day one and that’s something I missed in the first few months. But, as we say best learning comes from own mistakes, and that’s how I learned.
For First Question: It was really very difficult at that time, I had no readers and HBB lacked good exposure. At first I manually started to mail and share my blog posts with people close to me, then they started to share with their friends. After few months we got some readers, then I started to work on SMO and SEO. After that we were blessed with good guest authors, which was the turning point for us.
For Second Question: They are limitless, I did all the possible mistakes a newbie could do. Some of them include:
- Migration from Blogger to WordPress: Without knowing the exact process of migration I simply dedicated a day and did the migration. The result, I lost my RSS feed subscribers and tonnes of broken links (permalinks damage). Nightmare for me.
- Didn’t care about any niche: Even though I owned a Technology blog, I wrote almost everything there. Right from Philosophy to Cinema. I should have picked a proper niche and focused on the main content. Glad we didn’t have much readers then to witness that.
- Didn’t care about SEO: I didn’t care about SEO that much. Basic SEO is essential for every blog and that is a MUST. I didn’t know anything about SEO at that time and it was confusing in fact, bloggers around me sharing stuffs like ‘meta’ tags, ‘sitemap’ confused me a lot at that time. I should have optimised my blog a bit for search engines.
I can mention endless mistakes here, but don’t want to affect HBB with my stupid mistakes
For Third Question: The bitter truth is, I thought of quitting several times. :
I never worried about my blog stats, my revenue, or even negative comments, but my academic life was pretty messed up and unfortunately my parents decided blogging was the reason for that. I stopped blogging for few months (say 2-3 months), but I again started to blog because it made me incomplete without it.
I remember this very well…When I started, I used to take help of Entrecard.com to bring traffic to my blog. Side-by-Side, I used to comment on forums like digitalpoint and spam on chat rooms.
The worst mistakes I made as a newbie I would say were:
1. I didn’t stick to any single topic in the beginning and was just hopping from one subject to another. Most of the time whatever appeared to me trending, I used to post about it on my blog.
2. I was just copy-pasting content on my blog.
3. Didn’t start building an email list from beginning.
4. When I started using Adsense on my blog; rather than trying to get real visitors for my blog to make money, I opted for a shortcut which was exchanging adsense clicks with other people. I thought it was easy to cheat until I found my account got banned after some weeks.
AND NO! I never felt like quitting blogging but I did slowdown for sometime to concentrate on a proper strategy and find out some new ways to create my path to success.
Blogging will live forever but the only thing which will change is form of blogging. Earlier, BlogSpot used to be the only platform, later on WordPress became the best platform. Video blogging is emerging these days but with the rise of tablets and mobile apps, blog podcasting will be the game changer.
There is no thumb rule of success apart from throwing your personality and being unique with your blogging. Success doesn’t happen over night , there is always hundred of hours of work behind every success and that’s where blog planning comes into picture. You need to have plan to make your blog a success, if you don’t have a plan, create something unique and something awesome that no one else can do. The key to success is Hard work+smart work.
And Failure is for one, who actually never tried.
Happy to see many passionate bloggers around and at the same time we have heavy competition to survive. Only creative and I-don’t-care-about-money people will move on with the status.
Future of Blogging is secure, like we have newspapers for several years, blogging will also be the same. But the way people read our blog posts will be changed I believe.
I think blogging particularly in India is attracting more people than it used to have something like 3 yrs. back (i.e. when I started). The level of blogging has greatly improved from that time but it still hasn’t yet matched the level of blogs those blogs like from North America and Europe.
The bloggers who are going to succeed will be the one who will have better content which is more trending/breaking/unique and will make other people talk about it. Bloggers should also try to network/meet with other bloggers as much as they can. If you will just sit there hoping for success then you will fail in achieving it.
There is no secret recipe to success and even after 4 years of blogging, I’m far from the success. But, here are few suggestions which I can give from my personal experiences, which brought difference to my blogging career.
Be personal & natural:
When you write an article, people like to read personal opinions. People like suggestions and others opinion and that’s where blogs come into picture. For news, we have many web portals, we have newspaper and TV’s, but when it comes to blogging, we should assume that we are talking to a person. Blogging is one to many interaction and you need to give maximum love and importance to your readers, which form the foundation of your blog.
Listen to your readers carefully:
When they drop an Email with their testimonial – Thank them. When they complain, get into alert mode – Make changes
Consistency is another important aspect of blogging. If I’m reading your blog and I like it, I automatically create an expectations for next article or to read something or learn something new the next day. Have a consistent form of writing, maintain a schedule. If you can’t blog daily, make a schedule and publish atleast 2-3 article a week.
Let me share my story, before Panda updates, I used to publish almost 2-3 articles a day but when Panda hit my blog, I was disappointed. I lost the consistency and the passion to write. I was in writer’s block situation and it was no good. I was in shock and I was not sure what’s working or whats not working. I got few Emails from regular readers and everyone encourages and showed there concern of irregularity.
I realized, I’m being too hard on myself and on my blog readers and I changed things. I changed the way I used to accept guest posts, I changed the post frequency and instead of publishing quantity of articles a day, I made it clear it’s going to be one article a day and only if, it matches the standard or quality. Now, when ever I hit the publish button, I just ask one question: Is it going to help anyone? If yes, go ahead and if no, make changes before publishing it.
I spend hours of time learning about SEO and what works and what doesn’t works and implemented everything on my blog, and things are way better now.
Ups and down are part of blogging career, but what really matters is how you deal with time when your blog is not performing up to your expectation level.
Basics and SEO:
Blogging is fun but not an easy job and that’s where basic knowledge come into the picture. When pro talks about “Power is in Email list”, listen to it. Get the basics right. Make sure your blog have all basic requirement like, a nice design, subscription options, About page, Contact page and a fast loading site.
I used to hate SEO, and I used to think why the hell I need to learn SEO when I’m writing unique articles and believe it, I was wrong. If your content is the king, SEO is the queen. SEO is nothing but just a technique that you need to learn and get started with it. It’s easy and I promise anyone with average IQ can learn about basic SEO in less than 48 hours. You just need to know the basics and see what others are doing and rest is all fun.
It doesn’t matter if you are blogging for fun or blogging for business, you should keep one thing in mind that time is money. The more you respect time, it will respect you. Set your priorities, and even if you are blogging part-time, make sure you are not only doing it right but also doing it seriously. If you are professional blogger or planning to take blogging as full-time career, make sure you maintain the self-discipline which is hard to achieve when you work from home. Without having a clear goal and mindset you can’t achieve it. Have a mentor or have an idle, it makes a huge difference.
Yea sure, but don’t count on these alone they’ll differ according to your niche and readers.
- Know your Audience: Why? Because they rule your blog by discussing and commenting. You have to interact with them, analyse them, understand them so that you can blog according to their levels. You can also use Feedback plugins or PollDaddy to see how they see your blog – Bad, Medium or Best. Always ask questions to your readers, keep them interactive and busy on your blog. You can also use Google Analytics to see your blog’s audience and their behaviour on your blog.
- Be Creative: This is the best, being creative has more advantages than anything. If you want to be at top or want to survive tough competition then being creative is the only way. You can see how your competition is performing or how your readers are expecting and put your efforts on it.
- Monetize, but don’t SPAM: Generate income wisely, your readers don’t want to see your blog filled with advertisements and popups. So to make a blog successful, the way the blog earns matters and readers should not be affected by them.
- Passionate Niche, Not Popular Niche: Don’t ever pick a niche just because it is popular, you can earn from it and but at one point you’ll feel disappointed. So first ask yourself what you are passionate about, and then pick that niche. I’m sure you won’t get bored and you’ll earn good money as well.
- Branding Matters: It makes your brand recognisable by more and more people. You can start with a good logo and template for your blog.
Well, here they are but honestly speaking I won’t call them as ‘secrets’…
- Try to publish content which is interesting and unique, and will make readers ‘share it’ rather than just reading it and moving on. Re-blogging/Re-writing other blog’s or websites content just to gain search engine traffic and money will affect you at some point of time.
- Avoid the use of auto-blogging plugins, or copy-pasting content. It can cause you trouble in many ways, anytime.
- Manage your blog properly just like a strict teacher by not approving guest posts which has just been written for the purpose of advertising or backlinks. These days more and more people are jumping in the guest blogging bandwagon to gain backlinks but are not submitting quality content. You should have the skills to differentiate what’s good for your blog and what’s not. Also, try not to approve poor comments like “hey, nice post! keep it up.”, “thanks!”, “great post” etc. In this world of competition, it’s just a way to trick you to get baklinks/traffic from your blog in most of the cases.
- Interacting with your blog commentators is a great thing to do. It helps in building community, traffic, friendship and a lot more. Visit your blog commentator’s website and drop a good comment there; you will surely see him/her comment in your new post
- Don’t fill up your blog with too many ads like 10-20 ad slots. Make your content area stand out.
Also as a bonus tip I would suggest newbie bloggers to learn things themselves as much as possible rather than posting and crying for help every time you face some problem. Since it’s a new thing, it’s pretty obvious you will face many problems; so try to overcome them yourself as much as possible. Google is always there for you; search and implement the solution.
I love traveling, photography and nonetheless I have my offline life which I pay close attention to. I play counter strike, I play NOVA 3 on my iPad. I love reading about human mind, psychology and I love to learn something new every day.
That’s about me and thanks to readers for spending time and reading this interview.
I love playing games, not an expert but I enjoy racing games (includes Asphalt and Real Racing). In one way or another I’ll thinking about our blog network and ways to improve it.
But gaming and reading books make me feel light, so I often keep them on my schedule. I also love to play with babies, taking photographs and so much.
When I don’t feel like blogging; Usually I keep myself busy in some gadget, studies (only when the exams date is near ), taking care/loving street dogs, eating chocolates & junk food (because of which I’ve also went into root canal surgery two times ), lying lazily on bed and some other random things…
About Harsh Agarwal: I know Harsh ever since I started Blogging and he was really helpful during tough times. SML is one of the few blogs I have been reading very long, since I know ShoutMeLoud from 2009 I can see the hard work behind its success.
It is always a pleasure to chat with him for any reason. I’m glad to connect with such professional blogger.
About Sushant Risodkar, SmartBloggerz: Though we interacted very less, I know a lot about him. I’ll always be surprised to see his affiliate marketing tactics and earnings. Only people with such brillant tactics can succeed in affiliate marketing, and he does.
I always read his blog to know about those tips. I should say he has good network of readers and guest authors, he does a great job by maintaining everything and still enjoying a good life.
Well, I would just like to see both bloggers get their blog re-designed with some great new standards like the design of ‘theverge’, ‘mashable’ etc. (big headlines, great colors, a good homepage setup).
They both own highly potential tech blog’s and so should get a big overhaul in terms of design going ahead.
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