It was 1st December 2008 when I started ShoutMeLoud, and I started blogging because it was something I enjoyed doing. It took me a couple of months to realize that one can make money from a blog. In 2012, ShoutMeLoud started getting mentioned in media all around the globe.
Six and a half years have passed, and whenever I think about this journey, it all feels like a dream.
I meet people who comment that I work so hard. I want to tell them that to me blogging is not work, but it’s something I enjoy and is a part of my daily life.
In this article, I will share a few major changes I have made in the past 6 1/2 years, which have made ShoutMeLoud the blog that you know it to be today.
Major changes that transformed my blog into a brand:
Changing niche from tech to blogging:
When ShoutMeLoud was started, it was a tech blog. I’m an engineer by education, and I started blogging to share things I have learned while researching various topics when I was in college. I was not an A student, but I was placed in an MNC (Accenture) due to my social-engineering skills. I was just an average student – a back-bencher, so to speak.
My primary goal in starting a blog was to share my knowledge and my unique original ideas with people. A couple of months after starting ShoutMeLoud, the greatest challenge I faced was in driving traffic. Even with 200+ posts, I was struggling to get traffic, despite the fact that in 2009 there were very few blogs on the internet.
That’s when I started learning about the science behind blogging, including matters such as SEO, readership and many other terms that were new to me. Somehow I was able to work through all of this, and so I started blogging about things that worked for me.
I didn’t even realize when ShoutMeLoud shifted its niche from hardcore technology to blogging and online marketing, and that was a major turning point in the history of ShoutMeLoud!
I often read John Chow, but his blog never fascinated me much, as it was all about making money online. His tag line, “I make money by telling people how I make money”, definitely caught my attention, but at that time I was not focused on internet marketing. I was more passionate about sharing my ideas and what I knew online.
Takeaway: You may have started a personal blog for the purpose of sharing your thoughts and perspective, but sooner or later, it’s good to find a niche that defines your blog. It’s good to have a blog that talks about one subject rather than many and varied subjects. This shift will happen when you realize how important your blog is, and how your writing can change the life of at least one person. If you haven’t found the right niche for your blog, try to find it as soon as possible! Here are few posts that you should definitely read:
Persona building: Know your audience
In 2013, I learned about something called Persona, which was a completely new concept to me. Along with a well-defined niche, it is also very important to know for whom you are writing a blog. For years, my blog post was written for multiple types of people with multiple interests, rather than for a clearly defined audience like you.
In the later stages of my blogging career, I realized that what is written on a blog should cater to a specific audience. It was not easy for me to change my writing style, and the shift happened gradually, bringing many changes along with it.
Now whenever I write a post, I imagine the post is written for someone who is sitting in an empty chair in front of me, and I’m explaining the topic to him. For example, while writing this post, I imagine that you are here, and this post is written specifically for you. This one small change improved my writing significantly and made my articles more targeted. I talked about this in my previously published post on how to blog like a pro-blogger.
Image Credit: HubSpot
Investing in a blog: money begets money
My first few investments in my blog were in hosting and premium WordPress themes. After that, I stopped investing in my blog. I was making comfortable money, and life was offering me everything I ever dreamed of.
Somewhere toward the end of 2013, I changed my mindset and started treating ShoutMeLoud as a serious blog and as a business. Afterall, it was the only source for my bread & butter.
My ultimate goal with blogging is to create awareness about making a career & business in blogging. While I was doing that, I was investing very little. I changed my mindset and started spending money on my blog in terms of design, content, and marketing.
Takeaway: Many new bloggers who start blogging to make money or to form a career, wait for some time to buy hosting or domain. They give the excuse that “I will invest some money when my blog makes some money”. If you think that way, change your mindset now! If you are serious about your blog, invest money at the outset, and your attitude toward your blog will change.
I remember a conversation with my doctor when she complained that she was always losing her pen. I said to her:
Money is not everything, but it is an important factor. When you invest money in anything, you get serious about that thing. If you are serious about having a career in blogging, start investing right away in essentials such as hosting, domain name and branding. Believe it or not, you attitude towards your blog will change right away once you have made those investments in it.
With great power, comes great responsibility
I heard this quote for the first time in the movie “Spiderman”. It took me a few months to understand the real meaning of it.
When I was a child, I loved watching the news. I loved how a journalist could turn complicated matters into simpler language that enabled the audience to understand the information. I respect the profession of Journalism because it takes courage to work toward sharing information that is true and correct.
Blogging enables anyone to be a journalist in the sense that you are sharing information to numerous people. You have to understand the power of your writing, as people are going to make crucial decisions regarding purchases or other life matters based on what you have written or writing. You may not be reaching thousands of people right now, but focus on that one person who is reading what is written by you.
I realized this for myself when some of our Shouters sent me emails informing me how ShoutMeLoud is changing their lives. Here are some of these emails:
To be honest, even though I was blogging for passion, I was initially obsessed with ranking, traffic and many other similar issues. After receiving emails such as these, my perception toward blogging changed. Instead of focusing on the ranking, traffic and my ability to make money, I changed ShoutMeLoud’s direction to one that is focused on helping others to make a living from a blog. It was a big turning point in my blogging career, and it would not have happened without these short, sweet emails.
It doesn’t matter if your blog gets a million page views a month or only a few. Focus on adding value to the lives of your readers with your content. Even if you improve one life or add value to one person through your content, you are doing a great job. And yes, money is important, and initially it is hard to make money with this approach. But in the long run you will make more money than you have ever imagined possible.
Stopped going to unrelated events:
Networking is very important to success in life, and when you are blogging successfully, you will be invited by several brands to be a part of their launch events. Initially I went for many such events, and I loved the fact that I was going to a 5-star hotel (my first time!), getting free goodies and getting that kind of recognition.
It was good until the time I was running a tech blog called “CallingAllgeeks”. I eventually stopped writing for that blog, but the invitations kept coming. I still went for all the events, and deep down I was feeling restless, as I was taking advantage of being a blogger. I never intended to cover the event, or to give the company anything valuable in return. I liked the fact that I was meeting many bloggers at these events, and making so many connections. But from the brand perspective, I was not offering them anything back.
At some point during 2012, I realized that I was not being ethical. I stopped accepting generous offers to attend tech events, and I stopped being a part of them. It was a tough call, as whenever I saw my blogger friends posting a picture of an event, I felt left out. It was one of those feelings I couldn’t ignore, and a greedy side of me kept pushing me to become a part of these events.
Now, in 2015, when I think about this decision, I feel so content. In the last 2 years, I have attended only a few select events, such as ResellerClub event, WordCamp, WordUP, Mohali Bloggers Meet and a few others. I realized that going to events in which I am genuinely interested is adding value to others and to myself.
When your blog starts getting traction, you will get numerous invitations to join tech launches and events. You should take those opportunities when you are going to add some value in one way or another. Refrain from going to any place where you don’t belong.
Free guest post for backlink: – Free is not always good!
When I started ShoutMeLoud on 1st December 2008, I started it as an AdSense revenue sharing guest blog. Around 2010, when blogging started getting traction as a platform to influence people’s decision-making processes, many companies started guest blogging.
ShoutMeLoud was already a popular blog for guest bloggers, and many companies and agencies took advantage of this opportunity and guest posted on ShoutMeloud to earn backlinks. I was quite happy, as I was getting free content, and my blog was being updated daily.
In 2012 ShoutMeLoud got penalized by Google Panda algorithm, and I realized that the guest blogging was one of my biggest mistakes. Don’t get me wrong – guest blogging is indeed a beneficial opportunity for your blog and for the blogging community in general. The problem comes from accepting guest posts from irrelevant companies, blogs or from guests who have posted just for backlinks.
It was around the beginning of 2014 when I rewrote ShoutMeLoud’s guest submission guidelines, and changed the conditions for sharing content here. After all, my blog was started with the intention of helping people, and not as a platform for marketers to market their products.
Do remember that you are responsible for every website mentioned (links) on your blog, as a place on your blog is seen as a vote of trust. If you do not know a person who is asking to do some guest blogging on your blog, I would suggest not accepting such guest post submissions. It’s hard to reject an awesome guest post, but if you care about your readers, this one change will make a positive difference.
Paid or sponsored reviews: Don’t sell your soul!
This is the last but most important turning point in my ShoutMeLoud career. When ShoutMeLoud become a brand back in 2011, I was approached by marketers to advertise their products in the form of ad placements, sponsored or paid reviews. I was not against it, as I was making money from it. To be honest, I actually accepted a few generous offers, and made some money from it. At the same time, AdSense was placed on my blog.
In about mid-2012, one Shouter emailed me to complain about a product he bought after seeing the advertisement on ShoutMeLoud. That ad was from AdSense, and that reader ended up spending about $39 on a bad product. That’s when I realized the importance of ads and sponsored reviews on my blog, and by the end of 2012, I had removed AdSense from my blog. I removed it because I couldn’t control what kinds of ads they were displaying on my blog. I also stopped accepting all sponsored reviews and paid reviews from random companies.
Today I continue to get offers from web hosting companies and SEO companies to promote them on ShoutMeLoud for a handsome remuneration, and I am more than glad to take down their offers.
I’m not saying AdSense is bad, but the problem with AdSense is that you can’t control what ads are being displayed on your blog. If your situation allows, do not use any contextual ads. You can always use affiliate marketing to recommend products that you believe in, and that will help you to make money. The same concept is true for sponsored reviews. You will continue to get offers for paid ad placements and sponsored reviews, and they are going to be lucrative. Before you accept any such offer, however, do try the product and ask yourself if you would use that product yourself or recommend it to someone you know. If not, then it’s better to turn down such offers.
These are the top 7 things that changed the course of blogging for me, and made ShoutMeLoud the brand you know today. You can choose the points which you find relevant to your situation. Some of these decisions are not easy to make, as a there can be a lot of money involved. But if you plan to have a successful career in blogging, and you want to take your blog to the next level, making these difficult decisions will ultimately give your blog a new direction.
For further reading:
- How to motivate yourself for blogging when you are demotivated
- 6 Pro tips to blog like an authority bloggers