Pradeep Chopra, Co-Founder, Digital Vidya: Over the years, blogging has gained significant importance in terms of connecting with the target audience in a more organic way. Blogging helps the website to get more traffic which is relevant and conversion oriented. Blogging is an essential component of an overall digital marketing strategy. In this interview, I spoke up with Mohammed Haseeb to know his views on the transformation of blogging and significant approach towards making blogging better.
Mohammed Haseeb started his career as a freelance content writer & web-developer back in 2012. Hustled his way through for 3 years until he finally became zealous for learning advanced Digital Marketing. Most of the learning came via self-learning as he started doing SEO and Social Media Marketing for his clients. And later in 2015, he joined Digital Vidya where Digital Marketing and Digital Product Development came under one roof.
Over time, he was able to build knack in SEO and all other vertices of Digital Marketing. Later, embracing 6+ years of experience, he grabbed the marketing role in one of Asia’s leading tech media publishing company Inc42 Media, where he got the chance to dive deeper into the media industry.
How did you come to know about starting a blog as a career option & how has your journey been so far?
Mohammed Haseeb: Being zealous about the media industry and the love for writing, I started a blog Laffaz in Nov 2017 as a hobby which later turned into a side-hustle and eventually I started feeling over-burdened. I used to take days of gaps time and again but I always returned to make better use of my blog in order to monetize my months of effort.
Initially, I did everything like developing the blog from scratch and publishing content single-handedly, but by the end of the third month, I handed over the backend to my friend Pradeep Singh who managed all technicalities with ease and I felt privileged to have him as a co-founder.
After that, we hired a few interns and trained them to publish content daily. And then, things changed and everything became a piece of cake. Soon, we started getting inbound leads for sponsored content publication from small brands and startups.
Right now, I work mostly on outreach and collaborations. We are doing a lot of stuff for free for small startups, the bootstrapped ones. And we have launched a service for startups who want to get the most out of media publications.
What ignited the spark in you to start Laffaz?
Mohammed Haseeb: I have always been insanely passionate towards writing and reading about startups, especially the media startups where the primary product is content whether freemium or premium. It wasn’t even an idea, it was natural. And the main purpose was to build a platform where I could share my views and invite others too.
What do you do in order to keep yourself updated with the latest blogging trends?
Mohammed Haseeb: Well, I’m an avid reader of Digital Vidya’s blog, it is a goldmine for one to stay tuned of all blogging and digital marketing trends. Next, I read and watch a lot from Rand Fishkin, Gary Vaynerchuk and Neil Patel.
What are the biggest challenges you faced as a Blogger? How did you overcome them?
Mohammed Haseeb: It is kind of impossible to list down all the challenges altogether, but the major ones are:
Challenge 1: Building a Revenue Model
Whenever we come across any business or startup, the first thing that excites us is the product or the problem-solving capacity of that particular business. Though I started out Laffaz.com out of my writing hobby I couldn’t be able to spruce out one single product or service idea which I could put in place to monetize my months of effort. And then I started going beyond reading and laid more emphasis over understanding what all sorts of salable things other media companies are producing. And that’s where I got successful in shooting down my first challenge. After that, I stopped thinking of Laffaz as just a blog, but instead, a media and publishing platform that now boasts over invaluable news and startup stories.
Challenge 2: Resources and time-management
As mentioned earlier, my hobby was turned into a side-hustle, as I was a one-man army working 9-6 for my job and returning home tired and still updating my blog with content till late at nights. Jeez! It was insanely hectic. And that’s where my friend Pradeep Singh, a full-stack developer came to my rescue. And very soon we started hiring interns and trained them to update Laffaz daily.
Challenge 3: Understanding broader concepts
Most of the times we don’t think beyond the industry or domain we are working in. Most of us start blogging out of inspiration that later turns into passion, which is good, but when things start to get tough, we quit. Either because we fail to explore growth prospects or to understand growth in general.
Initially, I was the part of the same loop and used to focus only on content writing and promotion like a parasite. Due to which, I couldn’t lay an effort to create a business plan.
And to come out of it, I connected with a few investors and started discussing Laffaz. And all my challenges turned down. They helped me create a business model and taught me a lot about fundraising.
What are the dos and don’ts you would want to share as a Blogger?
Do’s of blogging
1. Read a lot, dive deep into the platforms which are publishing content similar to yours.
2. Create a product or service: Your content is the best asset to bring users to your blog, but if you really want to monetize that traffic, you need to offer something valuable that your audience would be interested to invest in.
3. Be consistent: Keep your blog or platform updated, I’m not saying that you have to post 10+ articles every day, but you should publish at least 2-3 short articles daily. These articles can be centred around the news related to your niche, any particular resource or short stories.
4. Categorize your content: Sub-divide your content into two categories i.e. Longer shelf-life and shorter shelf-life articles. Let me brief it out a bit more.
(i) Longer shelf-life: Articles which have a high ranking potential for a longer period. For example: 5 Tips to fight depression and boost mental health.
Even if you have a news blog or your primary focus is publishing content around trending topics, there is room to publishing such longer-shelf-life articles. These articles should be SEO focused and long form as they have higher ranking potential in Google and can bring recurring traffic.
(ii) Shorter shelf-life: This includes news articles and trending subjects which have higher shareability. For example: “UAE launches long-residency visa and Gold card”. This type of content is competitive but really easy to write by curation. News articles have higher shareability and you can bring most of the traffic via social channels on such articles.
5. Follow the Pareto Principle: It says, 80% of your results come out of 20% of your efforts. What if you make that 20% as your 100%? I bet you know what I’m trying to convey here.
Let me now talk about the Don’ts of blogging.
1. The first one is… Don’t consider everybody as your competitor, instead collaborate with similar players, especially with the ones who are the veterans in the market and doing a great job.
2. Don’t always blow your own trumpet on your online channels, share content from other similar platforms as well. Social media channels are about community-building. Just like Google, social platforms also have their very own algorithms. Your job is to generate value out of your social channels for the users. This drives likelihood in the users to engage and spend time on your social property. And hence better results!
For example, if you are sharing 5 links from your blog on your Facebook page, then you should also consider sharing at least two links of similar blogs too.
3. Don’t care about analytics initially. This can demotivate you to the level you can’t even imagine. Focus on creating content and brand building, keep your social channels updated. Your blog will start gaining traction over time.
4. Don’t always focus or ponder towards writing long-form content. Let me ask you something, how many times you’ve seen articles of the single paragraph being ranked in Google? I bet you have, many times. You know why? Because those domains either have high Domain Authority or they curate valuable information in the most concise way possible. People have very low-attention span nowadays, and that’s how Google search has been programmed. Understand the user intent and try not to increase the word-count by inculcating redundant information.
To win the game, follow a mixed approach, post both short and long articles. If you are publishing news or content related to trending topics then you can always publish short articles because trending topics are very competitive, everybody is using Google Trends and competitor analysis tools which show similar suggestions and information to everybody. So, instead of wasting time in making your article long form, make it concise.
5. Don’t stick around legacy social networks only. Most of the bloggers have this problem, they think social channels apart from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are not worthwhile. But the problem is that they don’t know how to use other platforms. In my opinion, LinkedIn and Quora are the platforms which have limitless potential for brand building and traffic.
How do you generate new ideas for content on your platform?
Mohammed Haseeb: I follow top-level publications like Forbes, Bloomberg, Business Insider, Arabian Business and many others. I go through their resources and features sections to generate content and product ideas.
Can you describe the three most critical mistakes made by bloggers?
Mohammed Haseeb: Making mistakes is the beauty of growing. But you shouldn’t get habituated of it. Here are the most common mistakes the majority of bloggers make.
Mistake #1: Being Adsense focused
People start blogging to generate income through Adsense while creating a revenue model at first place is a better thing to do instead. Adsense easily gets approved when you consistently post content and drive traffic. And the most important thing most bloggers don’t know is, they need to generate at least 1 million page-views every month to earn decent income out of Adsense. And with that said, you can earn a lot more by monetizing these 1 million visitors.
Mistake #2: Not thinking of blogging as a business
Most of the bloggers these days start blogging out of passion and influence. They start blogs around the subjects they feel confident writing about. But later they get tired. Remember, blogging is not just about writing, and when you grow, you’ll not be the only person writing the stuff. Create a business plan or connect with like-minded people and mentors over LinkedIn for guidance.
Mistakes #3: Not collecting data
One important factor in determining the market value of any platform or product is its userbase. Your userbase includes your daily visitors, subscribers and customers. You should collect user data by placing email subscription forms or by running free product giveaways. This data is your ticket to fundraising which can help you grow and drive revenue.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful startup entrepreneur?
Mohammed Haseeb: The top three skills that pave the way towards success in blogging according to me are:
1. Understandability of Audience:
Bloggers who know their users’ intent are the ones armoured with the right content ideas. They know what to write and how to reach the audience. Which is why they are able to drive maximum results out of minimal efforts.
2. Product conceptualization:
Writing content and driving traffic is might be the initial goal of blogging, but it is not the end goal. If you can conceptualize a product or service around your niche and content then you’d be able to generate revenue.
3. Digital Marketing:
Your blog is a digital platform and to drive traffic and readership, you need to reach your audience digitally, and that’s where digital marketing comes into play, without having hands-on of digital marketing, no business can sustain today.
How do you drive revenue from your business?
Mohammed Haseeb: Being a media platform, LAFFAZ actively covers the startup ecosystems of India & MENA, that’s why we always had an advantage of accumulating quality users who are more likely to reach out to us for advertising. So, we started by creating a brand marketing avenue called LAFFAZ BrandBooster under which we help startups from India and the MENA regions to leverage our reach by publishing their branded stories on our platform.
Apart from this, we also have partnered with various organisations in Dubai and UAE to help startups in India, as well as those across the globe to tap into the UAE markets by participating in various events happening in Dubai and UAE. On top of that we help them setup their businesses in UAE’s free economic zones whilst offering discounts on the pricing given by our partners.
What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Mohammed Haseeb: Obviously, Digital Marketing, out of that the favourite ones are social media marketing and search engine optimization.
How important is the knowledge of Digital Marketing for a successful stint at blogging?
Mohammed Haseeb: The digital era comes with a condition of targeting and addressing users or customers digitally. Which is why we have tons and tons of businesses who process payments online and invest in digital advertising. The same thing goes with blogging too. Your chief product is the content that users consume. Blogging has become extremely competitive and one needs to be in sync with the latest means of content promotion and digital marketing techniques to keep the consistency of traffic and building userbase.
Would you like to share a few words about the work we are doing at Digital Vidya?
Mohammed Haseeb: As everybody knows that Digital Vidya is one of the earliest players that started providing Digital Marketing education and that too in the online mode that bypasses logistical concerns. It is the most modernized way of providing education that one could leverage a decade ago. Moreover, Digital Vidya has made successful leaders, entrepreneurs, and startups out of their consistent efforts of making individuals digital marketing ready. Throughout my tenure at Digital Vidya, I witnessed numerous students finding ways to their heartfelt jobs and career options.
The instructor-led courses provided by Digital Vidya are very comprehensive and foster hands-on learning among students.
Talking about corporates, Digital Vidya holds an enormous track record there as well.
Apart from courses, the Digital Vidya blog is also an invaluable asset which is freely accessible to anybody wanting to gain basic knowledge of Digital Marketing.
Are you inspired by the opportunity of Digital Marketing? Start your journey by attending our upcoming orientation session on Digital Marketing for Career & Business Growth. It’s online and Free :).