In today’s interview series, We have Harsh Agrawal, a ProBlogger and Entrepreneur from India. Harsh is the guy behind famous blog ShoutMeLoud.com. On ShoutMeLoud.com, Harsh covers topics related to blogging, seo, making money, web hosting, affiliate marketing and social media marketing.
Apart from ShoutMeLoud, Harsh owns some niche specific blogs. I would also suggest checking his personal blog at DenHarsh.com. Harsh has been able to earn thousands of dollars every month from his online blogs.
Harsh has given good amount of time in answering my interview questions. This interview is 3000 words plus long. So I would suggest you have a cup of coffee with you while going through the interview. I’m really thankful to Harsh for accepting my interview request and for his time in answering my interview questions.
Without any delay, lets start the conversation I had with Harsh Agrawal.
1. First of all, please share a bit about you, your online portals and how you get into blogging?
Harsh: Hey Anil, Thanks for having me on your prestigious blog and here is a little intro for your blog readers.
I’m Harsh Agrawal, a Professional-blogger based in New Delhi- India, and have been blogging since last quarter of 2008. I started blogging as a hobby, and soon it turned into a passion and later a profession. I started blogging career with first blog ShoutMeLoud.com and later on added many more blogs to make sure that I don’t put all the eggs in one basket.
My main blog ShoutMeLoud.com is for any new-comer and for any existing blogger who wants to start blogging to make a living out of it. Blogging is not consider as a main-stream business in India, and I aim to streamline blogging in my country and help millions of bright and young mind to make most out of it.
I’m one of the living proof that one can make a easily sustainable earning with Blogging, and opt it as a career option. With ShoutMeLoud, I share all my techniques and ideas that helped me to make over $45000 a year. Just to be clear, this blog is for people who believe that they can work and earn money online, and are pretty serious about it.
On my personal front, I’m just another average guy who is doing what he likes. I’m a B.tech Graduate, and I love traveling, photography and learning new things.
2. We all know about Harsh Agrawal and ShoutMeLoud.com. But how difficult it was for you to choose between the blogging and a job in a MNC company? What were the deciding factors here?
Harsh: This story happened around April- July 2009, when I was working for Convergys in Gurgaon and decided to quit the $300/mo salaried job, and opt for blogging. That decision was quite easy, as I already had another job offer from Accenture in my hands. The toughest time was at the end of June 2009, when I had to decide between joining Accenture or opt for blogging as my profession.
It was not an easy decision, as in India people would usually call you a fool for not joining one of the top MNC like Accenture. More over, blogging was not a widely accepted job or social-media was not so popular term in that era. Since I had no experience of running a business, and as a young graduate Engineer it was not an easy decision to miss out an oppurtunity like Accenture and I was in big dilemma.
But, by that time I was confident about the future of Blogging and online marketing, and I could see the great potential in coming days. After lot of discussion with family, friends and taking advices from many professionals, I decided to listen to my inner voice, and opted for professional blogging as my career. If you would like to read more about it, here you can find my blogging journey of 5 years.
3. Please share moments that you feel are the best and worst moment you had so far in your blogging journey? And was there a time when feel you should give up blogging?
Harsh: I feel funny answering this question, as I always consider myself as a student and I made a lot of mistakes which is quite embarrassing at time. When I started online, I had no prior knowledge of how blogging and online money making works, and I was just doing and experimenting with things which I was coming across and reading.
For example, I read about that WordPress was a better blogging platform, and moved my blog from BlogSpot to WordPress. It was a great decision, but I was unaware that without SEO, WordPress or any other blogging platform is more or less the same. One of the silliest mistake which I used to make was not asking for help.
I used to be one silent learner and reader, and was shy to ask for help. Later on I met “Mani Karthik” who was a SEO blogger that time, and he helped me setting up “All in one SEO” plugin (read installation guide) that time and that’s the point I started getting into SEO.
Why I consider this mistake is because of my introvert and shy nature of not asking experts for help, and later on I learned that “If I won’t ask, answer will always be no”.
Another worse moment or I could say scariest moment for me was Google Panda update. I was doing pretty good back then in terms of money, but due to Google Panda algorithm update, I lost almost 50% of my search traffic, and I was spectical about future of Blogging.
That’s the time when I worked day and night, and tried to figure out what I’m doing wrong and how could I get lost traffic back. After 2-3 months of hard-work, my blog recovered from Google Panda penalty, and blog is growing since then.
4. Harsh you were working from home for many years. How you were able to keep the productivity and motivation towards work for several hours every day during all these years? Do you use to maintain a checklist of tasks on day to day basis?
Harsh: Working from home and keeping myself motivated is not easy, but every day I ask myself one question: How do I want to see myself tomorrow?
I’m a student and I will be a student till the time I die, and when you have a curious mind, you are always willing to learn and try new things. I never let my blogging career become boring, as I keep trying something new. More over, I maintain a balance between my professional and personal (Social) life, which helps me to keep moving forward.
I don’t have a daily checklist, but I maintain a goal list and every day I try to reach one step closer to my goal.
5. As a newbie, you must have made many mistakes. But do you feel you had made few silly mistakes in the last one year as well which you want to rectify?
Harsh: Mistakes are part of life and as an individual we have to acknowledge our mistakes and shortcomings and work on them to fix it. In last one year, unconsciously I have made many mistakes and one of the biggest one is not networking at the right time and right place. These days, I’m working on my inter-personal skills, and creating meaningful relations with people I meet and talk.
6. Harsh you have been able to earn good amount of money every month from your blogs ($5000 to $10000). But most of newbie struggle with earning any income from their blogs. Please suggest some ways that they can use to start making some level of income from their blogs to keep their motivation if they are primarily blogging for making money.
Harsh: One thing which every newbie should know, money will never come easy. If you are coming into blogging to make quick cash, it’s not for you. Instead try other form of online marketing such as CPA or take some online jobs. Blogging is a serious work, and more quality you will put in, more money you will make.
Saying that, It’s also important for a newbie to create a business plan for their blog. A blog business plan will ensure that you reach your goal of making money. Start making goals like “I have to make $100 from blogging this month” and once you reach that goal, think of making $1000 and then $10000.
Once you set a target, you will work towards achieving it. Many professional bloggers share their strategies for making money, and as a newbie you should learn from them. You don’t have to copy 100% system, but figure out what’s working for others and improvise it to create a better system for you to make money.
Most important, don’t limit yourself to AdSense or just one form of monetization technique. There are hundreds of different monetization technique like Affiliate marketing, ad networks like Giveaway.ly, PostJoint, BuySellads, Viglink, try and use all of them and see what works the best for your blog.
“Don’t wait for magic to happen, take proactive steps and experience the magic”
7. Again for newbie’s, most of them struggle when it comes about bringing traffic to their blogs. Please share some tips that they can use to build some traffic on their blogs and at the same time, what kind of mistakes they should avoid committing?
Harsh: As a newbie, define what kind of traffic you need. Undoubtedly Search engines are the best way to get targeted traffic, which is not only quality traffic but will also help you to earn more. Now, this bring down to one simple thing that every newbie needs to learn and that is “Search engine optimization”.
Good thing about SEO is, with 4-5 hours of study you will be clear about basics of SEO. Now, it’s all about implementing it, and practicing it to become better in SEO with every day. If you are not taking SEO seriously, I would like you to ask yourself one question- “What’s one thing that I’m not doing, which is making my pages rank low in Search engine”.
If your pages are not ranking in the first 2 pages of Google, that means you might be missing something.
Apart from SEO, work on the other ways to drive traffic. Your Facebook page, Google plus page and Twitter are a great source of traffic, but you need to learn how to use it for better conversions. Guest post on other blogs and most important comment as much as you can. Commenting will help you to get referral traffic + make better connection with other bloggers + and you will be building links to your blog.
“The key is – Diversify your traffic sources.”
8. What is your approach towards guest blogging? Which things you keep in mind while making decision about selecting blogs for guest blogging? According to you, what is the future of guest blogging keeping in mind the kind of algorithmic updates Google is coming with?
Harsh: Guest blogging is like a magic wand for any blogger. I select blog which are active and most important they have a community around it. It changes with my targets, for example: if my goal is just to build links, I would target any blog which has a good page rank. But, if goal is to get more readers and improve my online visibility, I prefer guest blogging on a branded blog.
Guest blogging is here to stay, and the only way I see it will not be effective, when one is guest blogging on a blog which is working more like an article directory.
9. Do you see any difference in your approach towards blogging today compared to what it was 2 years back?
Harsh: A lot has changed in last 2-3 years, and now blogging is more refine and requires systematic approach. In old days, anyone can start writing and Google will start sending out traffic. These days, one have to take care of all the aspects like blog design, SEO, Social SEO, community building, List building and so on. More over, what has changed the most is “Quality of content”.
One can’t get away with low-quality content, and sooner or later low-quality content blog will not be able to get good ranking in search engines or they will fail to build a community around their blog.
10. ShoutMeLoud.com is one of the most popular blog in India. But you must have more plans to take it to the next level. Please share some plans and challenging you are putting up for yourself to take it further.
Harsh: When I started ShoutMeLoud, I had one vision for my country and that is: Set up blogging as a career-option in India. In western countries, thousands of individuals are living a handsome life due to blogging, and India being the country of smartest people on the planet, I see a great future for Indians to make a living out of it.
One of my most immediate plan is to launch my membership site, which teaches A-Z of make money blogging. Helping anyone who have access to internet, to create a blog which makes money for them.
11. Harsh, you must have tried many monetization methods on your blogs, which monetization methods works the best and worst for you?
Harsh: There are many methods which are working for me, and many methods which didn’t work for me. I will keep it short and simple:
- Affiliate marketing: This is one of the best monetization technique which I recommend to anyone who doesn’t have their product to sell.
- Review: Product review is another high-paying monetization technique, and you will get paid depending upon how popular your blog is, and how great your writing is. If people are listening to what you write, you can make really good income out of it. I usually get offers starting from $500 for single product review, and as a blogger one have to be selective about what product they recommend to others.
Here is the key for both the monetization technique “Recommend something that you are using or you are more likely to use for yourself”.
12. Do you think blog redesign can have any negative impact on a blog ranking on Google search and if yes what kind of precautions a blog owner should keep in mind while going through the redesigning process?
Harsh: SEO implications of blog design could be bad if one is not doing it right. Think of it as, you are not only changing the look, but also changing the architect of your blog. The only thing that one needs to take care of is, which part of yours website bots are able to crawl and index after re-design. It has to be same as old-design or probably better in terms of crawling for bots.
Tip: If you are going for blog redesign, ensure that you implement all latest SEO techniques like Google Authorship, Twitter meta cards, Facebook open graph, faster page loading time.
13. What kind of changes you are expecting in the blogging and seo industry in the next 5 years?
Harsh: Blogging industry will grow and expand big time in coming days, and bloggers will be the prime brand endorsers. Internet is constantly booming, and now people look out for product reviews from bloggers before buying any product.
A good example would be, back in old days TV commercials used to be deciding factor for which phone to buy, and now consumer like you and me prefer to read personal review from bloggers to pick the right smart-phone.
This is one thing all brands are realizing, and that’s the reason you will notice a lot more blogger outreach and blogging events happening. From a blogger point of view, the blog with brand value will get maximum benefit of this change.
SEO industry will keep growing with much faster space, but the traditional SEO will evolve towards giving better user-experience. SEO will not be just limited to link-building or one time optimization, rather it will be an on going process and become more user-centric than search engine centric.
14. Please recommend three SEO tools and WordPress plugins to BloggersPassion.com readers to help them make their blogs more search engine friendly.
Harsh: These are some of the many SEO plugins which I recommend to every WordPress user out there:
- WordPress SEO by Yoast: Best free SEO plugin for complete SEO optimization of a WordPress blog (Installation Guide here).
- Easy WP SEO: Amazing plugin for Keyword optimization and it’s remarkable features are LSI keywords and readability (Review here).
- Google XML Sitemap plugin: This plugin generates a sitemap for your WordPress blog, and auto-updates when you publishes a new blog post. It helps in deep-indexing of your site. You should also add sitemap link in your robots.txt and in the footer of your blog.
15. What kind of activities you used to do for the promotion and branding of ShoutMeLoud on major social media networks?
Harsh: The only approach I take is: I talk with my readers. Social media platform is all about being social and connecting with your blog readers. If you will notice ShoutMeLoud Facebook page, which has over 58K Shouters, you will notice that out of 10 updates, only 3-4 will be blog post and rest of the updates are quotes, images or questions.
I also run contest on my Social-network, and most important I use these social-platform to get feedback and suggestions from existing readers to improve my blog.
16. According to you, most effective link building practice recommended for a blogger in today’s web world?
Harsh: Quality content is the most effective link-building technique today. Create such content that people would love to link to your blog. Quality content + brand promotion will earn you the best links you can think of. Guest blogging is another great way to build links from high-quality blog.
17. Which are your favorite web hosts and any specific reason for choosing them over the others?
Harsh: Selecting the right hosts depends upon your business needs. For any normal WordPress blog, I would suggest to start with Bluehost or Hostgator, and any business blog or a blog whose downtime affects business, one should go for managed WordPress hosting like WPEngine.
For mid-level blog, a VPS hosting like knownhost or Linode is good enough, but they require bit of technical know-how.
18. Do you have some favorite blogs that you use to browse on regular basis? If yes, please share any three.
Harsh: It would be tough to name few blogs, as there are many blogs that I’m subscribe to and read. More over, unlike old days not I rely on content discovery apps like Zite, News360 to discover new content based on my interest.
There are few blogs which I regularly check to keep myself updated with SEO like hubspot, Searchengineland, Moz to name a few. I also love Upworthy blog, where I get really amazing thought provoking content. Apart from these, I love articles on bufferblog, lifehacker which help me to become a better human every day.
19. If you are given a budget of starting a blog under $100, how will you go about it?
Harsh: I will pick a hosting from Dreamhost which will cost me $22 for a year + 1 free domain, pick a good looking theme around $30-40, get blog branding material like Logo + Facebook cover + Youtube intro video from fiverr. In short, I will spend my first $100 to build a blog which gives a feel of a brand.
20. How BloggersPassion readers can stay in touch with you and any message for the blogging community here?
Harsh: Anil, I loved answering all your questions as I felt it’s more like a conversation than an interview. For readers who are reading this, you can get in touch with me via:
- Email: [email protected]
- Facebook: @ShoutHarsh
- Twitter: @denharsh
- Google Plus: +HarshAgrawal
- You can also subscribe to my newsletter, where I share tips which are more personal.
Recently I attended the Wordcamp at Baroda where I got the chance to meet Harsh Agrawal in person (Sharing a Pic from Wordcamp):
If you like this interview with Harsh Agrawal, please do share on your Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook accounts. And in case you have any question for Harsh that I missed asking during the interview, please ask using the comments section.