In today’s interview, we have Harsh Agrawal, the name behind the famous blog ShoutMeLoud.com, the go-to resource for all topics related to blogging, SEO, web hosting, affiliate marketing, and social media marketing.
In addition to the ever-popular ShoutMeLoud, Harsh also has several niche blogs. We would also suggest checking his personal blog at DenHarsh.com.
Harsh was kind enough to answer the questions in detail. To really benefit from his thoughts, we recommend you grab a cup of coffee and read this interview in detail.
Cloudways: Hi Harsh, let’s start with a conventional question – Who is Harsh Agrawal? What’s his story?
Harsh Agrawal: For those who don’t know me, I run the award-winning blog “ShoutMeLoud”. I started ShoutMeLoud out of my love for writing and passion for trying new technologies. I had no idea back then that there are things like affiliate marketing or PayPal.
My first ever online income was $10 or $15 and I got that by helping an Australian gentleman with his Google webmaster tool issue. This was the time I discovered PayPal. I was delighted and called my friends to tell them that making money online is possible.
Within months, ShoutMeLoud started making money with the help of AdSense and affiliate marketing. In fact, after a few hours of work, I was making close to what my job was paying.
This was the time, I realized how amazing it would be if everyone knows that they can follow their passion and make money at the same time. There were hardly any blogs that gave practical advice on growing a blog and making money from it. To address this gap, ShoutMeLoud moved from being a tech blog to a blog that helps the audience become professional bloggers.
I have dedicated more than a decade of my life to my mission of helping others have a successful journey in blogging. Like any other journey, this has been full of learning and challenges. When I look back, it feels like it was all worth it.
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Cloudways: You run an industry-leading website that helps beginners setting up their blogs. How did this all happen? What led you to start such a great initiative?
Harsh Agrawal: I was fortunate enough to discover blogging just after completing my degree in engineering. Out of curiosity and passion for writing, I started blogging about technology on a BlogSpot blog in 2008.
However, BlogSpot had many limitations and soon I shifted “ShoutMeLoud” to WordPress. Around the same time, I discovered that my passion can also make money. I decided that the world should know about this as it could help a lot of people to follow their passion and make money at the same time.
With this mission, in the past 10+ years, ShoutMeLoud has touched millions of lives and earned numerous awards.
The journey also gave me an opportunity to speak at many international conferences such as Affiliate Summit West (Las Vegas), Inorbit (Slovenia), and WordCamps.
Cloudways: What was the initial purpose of ShoutMeLoud back in 2008? In your opinion, how could a blog have such a positive impact on so many?
Harsh Agrawal: ShoutMeLoud started as a hobby blog in a one-room apartment. The reason ShoutMeLoud had an impact was simple: I was always transparent from day one about my learning and failures.
In fact, I openly shared my blog income reports so that others could see the financial aspect of blogging.
Apart from the transparent culture, I believe it was our intent and value that made it possible to have an impact on others.
- Intent: To let others know about the legitimate ways of making money and help them adopt blogging as a profession.
- Value: No one should ever lose money because of us.
Cloudways: What is the importance of a blog for affiliate marketers? Are there other channels that could equally help affiliate marketing efforts?
Harsh Agrawal: In my opinion, blogging is definitely one of the riskless ways of making money from affiliate marketing. There are other avenues of digital marketing that complement blogging such as vlogging, podcasting, SMM and email marketing. I can’t imagine anyone blogging successfully, without learning these skills.
The reason I like to include blogging for affiliate marketing is the low capital requirement and the option of growing the efforts over time. The downside is it is slow and requires a lot of learning and hard work. But once it picks up, it could be a full-time profession for anyone.
Cloudways: Should an affiliate marketer leverage content and take advantage of a well-crafted content strategy or focus more on PPC campaigns?
Harsh Agrawal: Well, this is subjective and depends upon the marketer. Both strategies have their pros and cons.
I prefer a well-crafted content strategy and this works best for someone who doesn’t have money to get started and doesn’t want to be in front of a laptop all the time.
At the same time, PPC can be also used along with the content strategy to sky-rocket the income.
What is the one thing you would like to change about the current affiliate industry, Specially with regard to WordPress affiliate industry?
Harsh Agrawal: The industry has come a long way and small players are getting the chance to compete with the big players. At the same time, I do believe that WordPress plugins and theme industry has not yet realized the power of affiliate marketing. They usually add an affiliate program to fill the competition gap but are not doing enough to engage and encourage their affiliates.
Cloudways: What events would you like to recommend for affiliate marketers/bloggers to attend? Do you have any personal favorites that you never miss out on?
Harsh Agrawal: That’s absolutely right, networking has become one of the key factors for success in affiliate marketing. At the same time, events are a great forum where thought leaders in the industry share their strategies and secrets. There is no greater motivation than a great success story.
WordCamps are my all-time favorite because of community participation. For people using WordPress, I highly recommend attending a few WordCamp around you. This is a good place to find WordCamp near you.
Here are a few events that IMO are worth going to at least once:
- Brighton SEO – For SEO oriented stuff
- DMSS Bali
- Affiliate Summit Bangkok
- Affiliate Summit
- Traffic and conversion summit – A must-attend for digital marketers.
- The social media marketing world
- Always check the profile of the speakers.
- I don’t find much value in the virtual tickets.
- Workshops and Mastermind sessions add great value to the conference experience.
- Make a list of people and brands you want to meet and schedule the meetings in advance.
- What do you do? This is the most commonly-asked question at the conferences. So be ready with your 30-second elevator pitch.
Cloudways: What is one key thing that you want new entrants in Affiliate Marketing to do? And what is the one that you want them to refrain from?
Harsh Agrawal: Success comes from continuous learning and trying new things. Once you have learned the basics, do remember that your real competition is with ever-changing technology and ideas.
There are many growth hacks but no shortcuts to making money. While you are on this path, you will definitely make money and you should plan in advance on how you are going to reward yourself and how you will keep yourself grounded.
Cloudways: How do you see affiliate marketing in the hosting industry. What factors should one consider when selecting a hosting provider to promote?
Harsh Agrawal: Affiliate marketing is one of the biggest acquisition channels for many hosting brands and it has been growing in the past decade.
Here are a few things that I consider to be utmost important:
- Affiliate dashboard: The dashboard itself demonstrate how much effort the brand puts into their affiliate program. A good hosting affiliate program usually has everything automated.
- Great product: There is no substitute for a great product. An affiliate can learn this only by trying and constantly using the product themselves. This is the only way to learn about the product.
- Brand reputation: There is good hosting and then there is remarkable hosting. The difference is how a particular hosting provider positions itself in this competitive industry. As an affiliate, it gets easier to promote a brand that takes care of brand positioning.
- Payout terms: It’s important to read and understand the promotion policy. This prevents lost affiliate sales, as many brands cancel the account or otherwise put a limit. At the same time, it’s important to check out the payout cycle and methods. Payout methods such as PayPal or Payoneer are a must-have these days.
- Friendly affiliate manager: I have often found many hidden gems and ideas from affiliate managers. It is not a criterion to miss joining an affiliate program, but something which could help an affiliate significantly.
Cloudways: It’s tough being Harsh Agrawal. With a busy schedule at your hand, how do you manage to get some (me time)?
Harsh Agrawal: I have a simple lifestyle and way of living. I have a few obligations in life, which gives me the freedom to stay creative and try new things. With my fluid working style and defined priorities, I can quickly decide about the various opportunities that come across my way.
A few years back when I was getting bogged down with time requirements of managing ShoutMeLoud, I started implementing some of the hacks that helped me stay focused and save me from shining object syndrome. (I have shared some hacks below).
I also attend a 10 days retreat which is popularly known as “Vipassana”. In these 10 days, the goal of the attendee is to meditate 8-10 hours a day and no contact from the outside world. We are also not allowed to keep phone, talk or have any contact with the outside world. I do attend this once every year and these 10 days help me stay grounded.
Apart from this, I love to travel and like my Instagram account shows, I have been to places such as Antarctica and Africa, to name a few.
However, all this could not be possible if I have not implemented the productivity hacks to create more time for me. After all, we only have 24 hours a day and 365 days a year to do everything.
Here are a few things I could share with the readers:
- Plan your week in advance. Use something like a Productivity Planner or a simple diary. The idea is to design your week in advance to meet your ultimate goal.
- My three most important tasks for the next day are defined in advance.
- I start early because the early bird catches the worm.
- I measure my time spent online using a tool called Rescue time.
- I use Wunderlist to manage my to-do. This hack alone has given me more time and space in my head.
- Disable app notifications from your phone.
- Focus Booster app helps me stay focused on one thing at a time.
- Last but not least, say “No” often. By saying no, you are making space for other important things.
Cloudways: Being an influencer yourself, whom do you consider your inspiration?
Harsh Agrawal: I find inspiration in everyone I meet or read about. It would be unwise to name a few as many have inspired me in one way or another. I do look up to Robin Sharma as his words are a real inspiration. Similarly, David Ogilvy’s life story and his writings have done wonders for my creative soul.
Cloudways: Would you like to share a picture of your work station with our readers?
Harsh Agrawal: Sure, here is how my current home-office looks like:
Cloudways: Last question. Who should we interview next in this series on Affiliate Marketing Experts?
Harsh Agrawal: Adam Connell, founder of BloggingWizard.com could be an interesting person to learn from.
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