Shoutmeloud is a blog run by Indian super-blogger (and nicest guy in the Naan store) Harsh Agrawal. Harsh might also be a movie star, but that’s unconfirmed.
Mr. Agrawal started shoutmeloud in late 2008, with just a handful of posts. It has since grown to about 5,000 total posts and 500,000-600,000 visitors per month. Published data suggests that revenue has crested it’s growth phase and is relatively stable at ~$40,000/mo.
Like blog reactor, shoutmeloud is a blog about blogging. It posts an integrated collection of articles designed to explain the formula readers can follow to build a successful business. The articles include reviews of blogging tools, explanations of marketing and promotion, walkthroughs of technical topics, and a variety of tips and strategies Harsh has picked up during his decade long project.
In keeping with the “anyone can do this” message, shoutmeloud has done some neato outreach projects – like, say, driving thousands of miles across the entire land mass of India to host a series of small meet-and-greets with readers and fans. That’s some bananas-level dedication right there.
Shoutmeloud Technical Setup
Because we live in the future, a little Google-fu can tell you an awful lot about the technical setup behind a website. Using these ju-jitsu skillz, I’ve assembled a snapshot of the technical environment running shoutmeloud.
WordPress Hosting Environment
- Host – Kinsta
- Theme – Customized version of The Genesis Framework
- Email Host – Uncertain, probably Gsuite or Zoho Mail
- Click to Tweet: Generates custom links that lets readers share your posts on Twitter with just one click
- Easy Digital Downloads: Kind of like WooCommerce, but dedicated to selling digital download products. A complete sales solution for non-physical goods
- Socialsnap Pro: Integrates your blog posts with your social media presence. Lets people share your posts, autoposts to your social media accounts, provides analytics.
- Table Maker: Ummm…it makes tables.
- Theme My Login: Changes WordPress’s default user login page so it looks like the rest of your site.
- Easy Table of Contents: Lets you split articles into sections and creates a table of contents that can be used for navigation. Automates the process of creating anchor links.
- Jilt: An email marketing platform for people who sell digital goods
- Thrive Comments: A replacement for the native WordPress comment system
- WP Rocket: A popular caching plugin. Unnecessary with Kinsta.
- Author hReview: Let’s you create and place review boxes on your posts
- Custom Youtube Subscribe: Probably adds a “Subscribe” button to WordPress posts. Instead of having to direct readers away from your site, they can subscribe to your YouTube channel directly from a post.
- Jetpack: Security and Backup
- MonsterInsights: A Google Analytics plugin for your WordPress Dashboard
- CovertKit: An email marketing platform, like Aweber or MailChimp
- Advanced Ads (+addons): Allows for customized ad placements and rule sets
- DuracellTomi’s Google Tag Manager: Lets you tag your posts with code snippets. These snippets can be tracked in Google Analytics to give very detailed information of how people use and navigate your site
- Q2W3 Fixed Widget: Creates sticky widgets that stay in the screen area as readers scroll. Blog reactor has these, but accomplishes it via our theme rather than a third party plugin
- Pixel Caffeine: A marketing plugin related to advertising. Lets you manage and track Facebook ad pixels.
- Yoast: The ultimate search engine optimizer for WordPress
Social Media Presence
- Youtube 47.3k subscribers
- Twitter 39.6k subscribers
- Instagram 12.5k subscribers
- Pinterest 487 subscribers
Traffic & Trends
Shoutmeloud has about 500,000 organic visitors a month. This traffic has grown steadily, over a long period of time.
Though the traffic graph above only documents back to 2015, you can see that during the blog’s first seven years, total traffic grew to approximately 100,000 organic visitors per month.
Total traffic numbers peaked in August of 2017 before settling to a baseline of about 400k monthly visitors. Since then, general traffic patterns have shown a gradual upward trend. This upward trend coincides with a similar trend in the number of organic keywords Google associates with shoutmeloud (bottom graph).
In fact, the total amount of traffic shoutmeloud gets from Google correlates strongly with the total number of keywords that Google associates with shoutmeloud.
This correlation happens for two reasons:
- The shoutmeloud team is creating and posting more content, which gives Google more pages to index. With more pages to index, Google – over time – links more and more keywords to specific pages in the shoutmeloud inventory. So, as people search, the likelihood that Google will return a page from Shoutmeloud increases. ProTip: Create a lot of great content
- As time goes on, Google assigns an increasing amount of authority to the pages on shoutmeloud, and to the site as a whole. That makes each page more likely to rank higher in the search results for any associated keywords. And the higher you rank, the more traffic you get from search.
Read More: Is Ranking #1 On Google Overrated?
The traffic graph shows three major spikes in the total number of users coming from Google. These spikes happened in early 2016, late 2016, and mid 2017.
Well, because I’m neither Harsh Agrawal nor Google, I can’t say with certainty. But, I have some (experienced & evidence based) ideas.
First, a review of posting activity during this time does not show any sudden spikes in the amount of content being published. So, the traffic spikes were not caused by a new rush of content for Google to index and rank.
Yet, there is a sudden increase in the number of keywords that Google is associating with shoutmeloud, and this increase in keyword numbers correlates with the increase in traffic.
Second, I looked through the posts on shoutmeloud from around these timeframes, and there are no announcements of big speaking events, conventions attended, new marketing initiatives, or anything like that.
Plus, even if those things had happened, remember that our graph is showing us the traffic that comes from organic search, not from ads, facebook, other sites, etc. So, whatever magical, mysterious event occurred, it had to result in Google sending more traffic to shoutmeloud.
Well, if there wasn’t a bunch of new content for people to read, and there was no major marketing event inspiring people to search for shoutmeloud in Google, something else must have happened.
Guess what? Something else did happen. And it happened at almost exactly the same time as the spikes we see in the traffic graph.
Google’s Panda algorithm launched on January 11, 2016. After the launch of Panda, Google started a slow series of tweaks and updates that would ultimately become known as Penguin. They started deploying these tweaks – on a large scale – in June of 2016. By September, the updates had pretty much made it to all of Google’s datacenters.
Google’s Fred update launched in March of 2017 and was rolled out over the next several months, with significant tweaks in June and August.
These events all correlate with the large traffic changes to shoutmeloud.
In a nutshell, changes to the Google algorithm affected how well shoutmeloud’s pages were ranking for a bunch of different searches. When the rankings got a boost, traffic went up. When they went down, traffic went down.
Popular Pages & Search Engine Performance
Shoutmeloud gets a disproportionate amount of traffic from a relatively small number of pages. This is normal and common for sites across a wide variety of niches.
Typically, only a small percentage of posts will ever gain significant traction or satisfy the magical Venn diagram of reader interest, search rankings, and satisfaction of search intent.
It’s actually not very common to have the top ten pages this close in terms of total traffic. This indicates that shoutmeloud does a good job spreading traffic to multiple page hubs, ensuring that they’re not relying too heavily on a very small pool of content.
Still, the traffic generated by these top ten pages is non-trivial. If shoutmeloud’s total monthly traffic is about 600k visitors (organic traffic + referrals), then these ten pages account for nearly 30% of the total traffic. Put another way, if shoutmeloud only had these 10 pages, they would still get roughly 150,000 visitors a month.
Most Linked Pages
Interestingly, the ten pages that get the most search traffic are not the pages that get the most links from other websites.
The top-traffic and top-links pages are different because the pages driving a lot of traffic most likely rank well for a broad selection of different keyword phrases. That means those pages tend to turn up in a wider variety – and bigger number – of search results. They’re also the ones most likely to experience positive changes in search performance over time.
Search Performance Over Time
I’d argue that this broader metric – change in search performance over time – is a better way to judge the effectiveness of a site’s content strategy than analyzing the performance of a few highly ranked pages.
Having a lot of decently ranked pages is more likely to bring traffic than having a few highly ranked pages. Plus, as your site gains authority and trust, all of those decently ranked pages will start to become well ranked pages, and your traffic will grow accordingly.
Looking at shoutmeloud over time, this is exactly the pattern we see.
Back in mid 2015, this heat map is almost completely the same pale blue color. That means not very many of shoutmeloud’s pages were showing up in search results.
Starting in early 2016, and continuing for about 1 year, you see the pale blue being replaced by top-to-bottom bands of darker and darker blue. This shows that pages from shoutmeloud were beginning to show up in search results, and that more total pages were showing up as time went forward – that’s why the blue gets darker.
However, during this time the average performance of shoutmeloud’s pages was fairly evenly distributed – there was no general trend of pages ranking well or pages ranking poorly.
The two most obvious shifts in…blueness…happen in mid-2016 (average color gets darker) and early 2017 (even darker). At these time points, large numbers of pages from shoutmeloud start showing up in search results.
Recalling our discussion from above, these are the same time points where we saw sudden spikes in the number of keywords Google was associating with shoutmeloud and, accordingly, big jumps in total traffic.
By mid-2017, the distribution of pages in the search results has started to change. Not only are more pages from shoutmeloud showing up in search results, but a higher percentage of those pages is starting to cluster near the top. In other words, more of the existing pages are consistently showing up in positions 1-20.
As times goes on, this trend continues.
Looking at the heat map, you see that the various colors of darker blue – which had been spread top-to-bottom – start to group together towards the top and turn orange. That’s happening because the average ranking of each page on shoutmeloud is increasing, and this increase is continuing to drive traffic to the site.
Mr. Agrawal has disclosed that about 80% of shoutmeloud’s traffic originates from search, so the ranking trends we see in the heat map are a positive signal for shoutmeloud’s future growth.
These improving search trends are driven by three primary factors:
- The ongoing creation of new content. At ~5000 posts in ten years, shoutmeloud averages 1.4 new posts per day and 1.96 new posts per working day (not including holidays or weekends)
- The continued refinement of Google’s search algorithms, which are getting better and better at recognizing quality and assigning authority
- The shifting of more and more of shoutmeloud’s pages towards better positioning within Google’s search results
Income & Income analysis
The last published income report from shoutmeloud was in February 2018.
The various income sources listed on the official report can be condensed to three general revenue channels:
- Affiliate sales
- Direct product sales
Typically, high earning blogs tend to both spread their income across these three channels and to show a strong preference for one of the three channels.
Combining the different individual income sources from the official report into these three broader classifications yields the following totals:
- Affiliate Sales: $35,665.75
- Advertising: $4,016.56
- Direct Product Sales: $484.25
About 85% of shoutmeloud’s income comes from affiliate sales. Though the specific affiliate sales channels are not disclosed, a common trend for blogs with large affiliate revenue streams is to show a skewed distribution.
In other words, affiliate-centric blogs tend to make large chunks of revenue from just a small number of affiliate sources.
On his guide to affiliate marketing, Mr. Agrawal includes a screenshot showing his monthly income from a single affiliate.
Because Blog Reactor also participates in a number of affiliate programs, I’m relatively certain that this screenshot is from the Bluehost affiliate program. Though the date of this screenshot and the date of the last income report do not coincide, if we assume that income is relatively stable, then about 1/3 of shoutmeloud’s total monthly affiliate revenue comes from the Bluehost program.
This is not an uncommon finding.
As mentioned, blogs that derive large portions of their revenue stream from affiliate programs tend to earn lots of money from just a small number of programs. Michelle from makingsenseofcents – another blog with an affiliate-centric revenue model – has said that about 50% of her total affiliate revenue comes from Bluehost.
Based on my experience with affiliate revenue streams, it’s likely that the 2/3 of monthly affiliate income that doesn’t come from Bluehost probably breaks down as 1/3 from either another large program or a small number of strong programs, and 1/3 from a large number of lower paying programs. This is speculation based on experience, but has not been confirmed by the shoutmeloud team.
Earnings Per Visitor
Along with the income data posted in February 2018, shoutmeloud also supplied a snapshot of their monthly traffic.
Combining this user data with the income data, we can see that shoutmeloud generated approximately $40,000 from 600,000 visitors. Because I’m a math wizard, I can figure out that shoutmeloud thus generated:
$40,000 / 600,000 = $0.067 per user, for a Revenue per Thousand Visitors of $67
That’s a strong number.
To give some comparisons, top ad networks (not Adsense) typically perform somewhere in the range of $30-$50 per thousand visitors, depending on the ad mix and how well targeted the ads are to your user base.
Adsense used to have performance similar to this, but has fallen in recent years. Average reported Adsense earnings are now in the range of $20 per thousand visitors for well optimized sites with A/B tested, high performing ad placements.
YouTube is secretive about their payouts, and forbids people from making public disclosures of their earnings, but they’re alleged to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 per thousand visitors.
Sitewide Conversion Rate
I know that Bluehost pays around $60 per referred signup. This rate fluctuates based on how many people you refer, the specifics of the program to which you’re subscribed, and any special promotions Bluehost might be running. So, the $60 per signup is meant to be an average that takes those variables into account.
If we assume that the other affiliate programs shoutmeloud uses are within this neighborhood, and adjust downward to be a bit conservative, we could reasonably say that shoutmeloud is probably earning somewhere around $40-$50 per conversion.
Because we know both the total monthly affiliate income and the total traffic, we can use this $40-$50 figure to calculate an average conversion rate. Let’s go with the middle value and say that shoutmeloud earns $45 per referred sale.
The math is then:
Total Affiliate Income / Income per Referred Sale = Number of Referred Sales
Which then lets us calculate:
Number of Referred Sales / Total Number of Visitors = Average Conversion Rate
$35,000 / $45 = 778 Referred Sales
778 Referred Sales / 600,000 Total Visitors = 0.0012 or 0.12%
Revenue Growth Over Time
Shoutmeloud’s income has grown steadily over time. Drawing a logarithmic curve over this bar graph would suggest that the most rapid period of growth coincided with the traffic trends we examined above.
Doing some mathemagician work on this raw data tells us that shoutmeloud’s total revenue growth has been about 7,000% over ten years – a compounded annual growth rate of about 55%. I wish I could have bought a couple hundred dollars worth of shoutmeloud stock back in 2009. For reference, investors are happy with annual stock market returns of around 7%, and things are going gangbusters at 10%.
Because shoutmeloud is a mature business, revenue growth has begun to plateau, and the data suggests that total income is stabilizing at around $35,000-$40,000 per month.
What Can Shoutmeloud Teach Us?
First and foremost, shoutmeloud is a powerful example of the positive outcomes that come with dedication and hard work. The team at shoutmeloud started with no particular advantages, special training, or unique insights. Yet, they’ve managed to grow their site to its current size through the power of sticking-with-it.
Shoutmeloud has maintained an average of 1.5 new posts per day for over ten years. That’s crazy. And it’s on top of marketing, social media management, general site maintenance, answering emails, and the million other small tasks that all conspire to steal your content creating time.
Beyond this, though, there are some specific insights you can take from the shoutmeloud case study and apply to your own blog today.
Content Creation Needs a Goal Directed Plan
While shoutmeloud creates new content at an almost unbelievable rate, that doesn’t mean you have to do the same thing.
Let’s run a thought experiment.
We saw above that just 10 posts out of the 5,000 total posts on shoutmeloud generate nearly 30% of the site’s total traffic. If we assume that it takes about 2.5 hours to create a new blog post, that means about 12,000 total hours have been spent writing new content for shoutmeloud, and that about 25 of those hours were spent writing the ten pages that bring 30% of the site’s traffic.
So, for all the pages that aren’t one of the top ten traffic driving pages:
(600,000 visitors x 70%) / 11,975 = Number of Visitors Per Hour Invested
420,000 visitors / 11,975 hours = 35 Visitors per Hour Invested
And, for the top ten pages:
(600,000 visitors x 30%) / 25 hours = 7,200 Visitors per Hour Invested
That’s a pretty big difference.
Now, obviously, it’s impossible to predict which articles are going to be your top ten, and to only write those articles. But, you can – and should – invest time figuring out which articles to write.
I’ve said before that running a blog that generates revenue is not the same as running a hobby blog that costs money. You can’t just write whatever happens to be on your mind and expect readers to flood in. There are some truly great writers out there running blogs that get very little traffic.
Plus, I can’t remember if it was Moz or Backlinko, but one of those two dudes built a monthly readership of over 100,000 people with only 30 posts. That, my friends, is some goal directed, traffic aware content creation.
The Bottom Line is that you need to spend time researching every single article you write, to give each article it’s best chance at becoming a big traffic driver.
- Understanding your niche: Go read this article about how blog content is like ice cream and you’ll start to understand that, regardless of what niche you’re in, there are certain topics you need to cover and certain types of content you need to produce. Not making this content will kill your traffic from the very beginning.
- Doing Keyword Research: If you’re writing an article about “apples” but decide not to use the word “apples” in your article – choosing instead to refer to them as “round, red, hard fruits” – then your article will never show up when people search for articles on apples. Even if your article is the best article in the universe on apples, you won’t capture any “apple” traffic because you didn’t use the same words your audience uses. You should know which terms and phrases your potential readers are going to use when they’re looking for your content. And you should use those terms and phrases when you write.
- Figuring Out What People Are Looking For: Sticking with our apple example, maybe the whole idea of writing that article is dumb, because nobody cares. Or, maybe it’s amazing, because everyone cares and no-one else is writing it. How do you know? Research, yo! You can start with a free keyword tool that will let you see how popular – or unpopular – any given topic is. Unless you have some super compelling rationale, you shouldn’t spend your time writing content nobody is searching for. Later in the game, when your revenue stream is established, you’ll have a lot more room to play with and can get away with publishing “passion” pieces. But, in the beginning, stick to content that has a reasonable chance of succeeding.
Social Media Might Not Be Worth Your Time
In his media kit, Harsh Agrawal says that about 80% of shoutmeloud’s total traffic comes from search. In one of the published income reports, he adds the information that only about 1% of shoutmeloud’s traffic comes from social media. That’s about 6,000 people per month.
From other data published on both shoutmeloud and it’s associated social media sites, we know that (at the time the statistics were created), shoutmeloud’s social media presence looked like this:
- Youtube 47.3k subscribers
- Twitter 39.6k subscribers
- Instagram 12.5k subscribers
- Pinterest 487 subscribers
- TOTAL: 99,887 people
There’s two things to know – 1) That’s a pretty good social media profile. It’s not pewdiepie, but 100,000 people is also no fly-by-night operation 2) It’s up for debate how useful that profile is.
Just 6% of those people ever visit shoutmeloud. And – from a revenue perpective – visiting shoutmeloud is what matters, because that’s where all the affiliate links and ads are. In other words, those 100,000 people are worth $0 if they never leave the social media environment and come to the actual website.
At a conversion rate of 0.12%, those 6,000 visitors attributable to social media are worth
6,000 x 0.0012 x $45 = $324 per month
If it takes, say, an hour a day to deal with updating, liking, tweeting, ringing, or whatever other craziness needs to happen in order to maintain a social media presence, that’s 30 hours a month. Well, $300 / 30 hours is about $10/hr. I’ll leave it to you to decide your own value system, but – for me – that’s not worth it.
I do have to step back for a second and disclaim that there are certain types of sites that benefit from certain types of social media, but that’s out of scope for this discussion.
Now, I’m sure that there are expert marketing ninjas out there who are jumping up and down in their seats and want to talk about building brand presence and increasing market awareness, and, yes, ok, I get that. But that’s a totally separate discussion. My point here is to not treat social media as a traffic source. Google and Referrals are your traffic sources and should be treated as such.
Social media will help you build brand awareness, but the natural follow up becomes – who cares? Can you prove to me that making people “aware of your brand” on Facebook is going to generate any additional revenue? If you can, please – pretty please, with cherries – get in touch with me, because I’d like to interview you.
Start Learning The Technical Side of Blogging
All of those pretty graphs I’ve posted above have taught you something about shoutmeloud. They’ve taught you
- How much traffic shoutmeloud gets
- Where that traffic comes from
- Which pieces of content perform the best
- Which pieces of content get the most links from other sites
- Who is linking to the content on shoutmeloud
- Which keywords Google thinks are important, with regard to shoutmeloud
- How shoutmeloud’s content performs in Google searches
- How that performance has changed over time
If you were a competitor of shoutmeloud, this would be some pretty powerful information to have. What if you sat down and created your own versions of shoutmeloud’s top ten performing articles? Or, what if you looked at the pieces of content that got a lot of links, built better versions of that content, and then reached out to people who were linking to the original?
Capitalism is a rough game. In this rough game, technical analysis is a powerful tool in understanding your competitors and how to position your content in the topic space you occupy. Don’t get me wrong, blogging is mostly about networking, and if you go rogue and start being a jerk to everyone, you will fail. But there’s still enormous value in understanding how your site stands in relation to it’s competition.
That understanding begins with learning how to formulate the right questions.
Don’t just ask how much traffic, but where the traffic comes from. Not just how much money, but revenue generated per hour invested, or per user engaged, or cost per conversion.
Technical analysis is a big, big knowledge space, but it’s valuable information and worth learning. Luckily for you, you can find solid discussion of this type of thinking right on this very blog, with plenty of links to smart people who discuss it in depth.
Now, more than ever before, there are a wealth of tools to help you with this side of blogging – of business building. I’ve tried many, and think ahrefs is the best. You can check them out for just a couple of bucks and see what you think.
Some Things are Out of Your Control
You can’t control Google.
Shoutmeloud had three big traffic boosts in 2016 and 2017 because of changes Google made to its indexing and ranking algorithms. These changes were a boost to shoutmeloud because shoutmeloud is a non-spammy, authoritative site with lots of good content that people like.
On the other end of these algo-related-changes are all the whiners who come out of the woodwork every time some Google change unwinds the gray-area work they’ve done building crappy link farms, slapping up machine-generated Adsense sites, and whatever other low quality, bad user experience sites they’ve concocted.
This whole “you can’t control Google” idea should be both a warning and a statement of empowerment. Do things right, and you’ll be rewarded. Do things wrong and you’ll eventually get the Google hammer.
I mean, what does Google actually want? Google wants to make money. Not just the money they have, more money. Well, the way Google makes more money is by providing a higher and higher level of quality and satisfaction to its users.
If, for example, crappy made-for-adsense sites had been allowed to continue, Google would have made a little money in the short term. More ad clicks = more money in Google’s pocket, right? But, eventually, the public would have lost confidence in Google’s ability to provide what they’ve looking for. Those people would then stop using Google.
Amplified, this is an existential threat for Google, who makes almost all of its ten gazillion dollars per year by showing you ads. A revenue model based on showing people ads needs people to show ads to, right?
Well, if Google can’t deliver the type of experience people want, those people won’t be around to look at ads. Worse, some of those people will be smart and recognize an opportunity to undercut Google at their own game by building a search property that can provide quality results.
You think the blog game is big stakes capitalism? It’s a tiny raindrop next the Pacific Ocean of the search engine game.
All of this boils down to the idea that Google is going to keep getting better and better over time, so you’d better plan for it by creating a quality user experience based around good content and honest intentions. That’s the only formula that will allow you to be like shoutmeloud, and turn Google’s changes in a benefit, rather than cost.
Anyone Can Do This Blog Thing
I beat this drum a lot, but – really – anyone can build a successful blog business. It’s not mysterious, there are no special secrets, and it’s not even particularly difficult. It’s just a formula, and anyone can follow a formula.
It’s probably a little intimidating to see a site like shoutmeloud, with 500,000 visitors and $40,000 per month. Maybe that seems totally out of reach. Well, then stop focusing on that part. Think instead about how shoutmeloud made like $500 in their third month but grew it to like $5000 a month within a year.
Now, that should be encouraging.
Put in the time, learn the important stuff, and ignore all the fluff that doesn’t get you closer to generating revenue. You’ll get there, and probably faster than you think.
Learn More: Starting A Blog? Get Going with Step 1