This is the first interview of my interview series. This summer I have decided I want to post 1 interview every other week. I want to diversify the people I interview slightly each time so that everyone isn’t in the exact same game (as that might become a bit repetitive). Today I proudly present a interview I did with Rohit Palit, an 18 year old from India making $50K+ per month with affiliate marketing. I really enjoy the outcome of this interview, and I hope you will as well!
Who are you? Could you tell us about your background?
I’m just a 18 years old guy living in Kolkata, India. I’m a web entrepreneur. I blog at TechTage about SEO, affiliate marketing, and web hosting.
I was always interested about tech, so it was not unusual for me to start tinkering with websites when I was 9 or 10 years old. Then it’s been a steep learning curve ever since. As I come from a middle-class family residing in a third-world country, I didn’t really have ANY funds whatsoever when I started out, so I had to spend a lot of time initially to start learning the basics while using free web hosts, free software (WordPress for example) and free tools in general.
I was into smartphone OS modding, big time, back in 2010-2011. As I was a huge smartphone enthusiast, my first serious site (with a proper hosting and domain name) was a smartphone community which had a pretty active forum. As it was heavily focused on Nokia’s Symbian OS, it slowly died once Nokia & Symbian did. Though the site didn’t earn me much (only a few hundred dollars in lifetime earnings from AdSense), it helped me learn a lot of things about managing a large website, and that knowledge helps me immensely even now.
What got you started with affiliate marketing?
The earning potential and the opportunity to earn from stuff I love doing anyway. Most of my niche sites are on topics that I’m personally have at least some interest in. This allows me to learn new things everyday while building new sites and researching about new niches.
My blog was basically created purely out of passion, but even it’s well monetized now, thanks to affiliate marketing. One thing I love doing is trying out new web hosts. I really love the technical tidbits, trying out new features, benchmarking websites, etc. So, I’ve been doing that for a long while. Initially, I was writing the reviews without including affiliate links to the host I’m reviewing. It took me some time before I realized what I’m missing out on. Now, most of the reviews (be it hosting reviews, CDN reviews, theme reviews or anything else) are monetized with affiliate links.
Web hosting is generally a shady niche due to the presence of unethical affiliates. Even bigger sites resort to blackhat ways of building links, and often get away with it. The differentiating factor here was the presence/absence of some actual interest and passion. As I am actually very passionate about web hosting, my reviews tend to be more in-depth than other reviews put up on sites that focus solely on the affiliate commissions. Also, the fact that I include actually tested performance metrics has helped my reviews to gain links naturally without any efforts on my part. In fact, my site ranks at the top of the first page of Google for two of the most competitive keywords, SiteGround review & BlueHost review. Of course, a high user-engagement is also a big factor. After all, people don’t tend to leave reading my reviews early after being accustomed to reading short, often made up reviews on thin affiliate sites.
While it doesn’t affect my treatment of any particular company (because I display actual test metrics, and recommend companies irrespective of the commission amount), it allows me to earn something back from the blog. It somewhat justifies the huge amount of time I spend on writing passion-fueled blog posts.
I was pretty late into the Amazon affiliate bandwagon, though. It was only when I realized the potential of large Amazon affiliate sites that I started building out some. The fact that my first ever Amazon site got sold for over $25K only proved I was on the right track. Then I went on to average more than $30K/month from Amazon associates fees alone, so there was no looking back.
I also have other sites that rely on various other affiliate networks (ImpactRadius for example). I don’t feel keeping all my eggs in one basket is a good idea, hence I try to diversify my income sources whenever possible.
How do you balance college and your affiliate marketing business?
I don’t frequently go to college. The college isn’t that great, either. The classes taken by the professors don’t interest me, mainly because they teach with a dull approach and do so only because they have to as part of their job. I mainly rely on self studying and taking help from private tutors.
My business was just a one-man operation casually run by me up until last year. This year though, I took it a step further by incorporating an actual company which’ll help me manage my investments or business-related expenses better. It’ll also give me the option to hire actual employees in the near future if and when needed.
When it comes to managing my time dealing with all these, I rely on productivity tools like Evernote and Dropbox to get things done in time, although I don’t prefer to stick to a rigid daily routine. I also hire virtual assistants on freelancer sites like UpWork to handle the laborious tasks for me. I myself only oversee the strategic bits of my overall operation and pay people to handle all other individual bits.
Although that sounds like a dream job, it often isn’t, as you can only outsource so much. I still have to work when everyone else is busy taking a quick nap after lunch, and I still occasionally spend sleepless nights working on or learning stuff. Still, I don’t get frustrated because I try to do only the stuff that I have an active interest in. In my opinion, it doesn’t make any sense to pursue something you’re not interested in, even if it offers financial or other benefits.
So, how do you even determine if you’re passionate about something or not? Well, generally, if there’s something that you taught yourself (instead of being taught by a teacher in a rigid way), and you absolutely love it, and you’re so good at it that you can teach/explain it to someone who has no idea about it, that’s (one of) your true passion(s).
What excites you about making affiliate websites?
The sheer happiness of building a WordPress site from scratch. I care less about the money, the fame, and anything else involved. You know, when you first start building a site with a proper plan in your head, it’s a lot like engineering. You start configuring things and different things start falling into place to finally make the website happen, just the way you intended. Nothing else can replace this feeling.
In fact, to know about this satisfying feeling a bit more deeply, I’d refer to this YouTube video embedded below. It’s actually an INK Talk (kind of like a TED Talk) by Varun Agarwal, who built a million-dollar startup in India while starting from $0. He told a great story of two successful people and how one of them returned to his passion after trying to go in the traditional route. I really recommend you to watch it for some inspiration (the playback will start from the beginning of the story only, so you don’t have to watch the rest of the video).
Apart from this, the financial rewards are really a great bonus that help me feel that I’m not spending time doing worthless things. I’ve read a quote somewhere that said:
”If you don’t find a way to make money while you sleep, you will work until you die.”
Nevermind, that quote is actually from Warren Buffet, which I found out after a bit of Googling. Anyway, the point is that, affiliate marketing allows you to do exactly that. I hardly work a few hours per month on my already successful Amazon niche sites, yet they keep posting consistent earning figures everyday. This is a very exciting feeling and an something most people won’t be able to experience in their lives.
What has made you successful?
Though success is subjective, I think you’re referring to my financial success from affiliate marketing. There are a few key factors why I think I’m successful in ranking and banking from my sites:
- I’ve been building websites since I was literally a kid and I got started with SEO pretty early, too. This has definitely led me to gain a ton of experience about ranking websites. Later, I handled the SEO and overall IM strategy of small businesses, international companies, and big Indian startups. This allowed me to test A LOT of things, so I got first hand experience in ranking valuable websites. I got to know exactly what worked and what didn’t. This sheer experience helps me deal with my own sites now.
- I use an honest approach for my affiliate sites. I primarily try to provide value to the users instead of tricking them into clicking affiliate links. This is probably why the on-site metrics (like time-on-site, page views per visit etc.) are great for my niche sites, and so is the click-through-rate to Amazon (or whichever other affiliate network that I’m using for that site). In fact, my sites have an average CTR of 75-80%. With Google reportedly using user engagement as a ranking factor, it’s important that you focus on providing value to your users.
- I’m pretty passionate about technical and on-page SEO, so all of my sites have top-notch structures and on-page elements that help in the overall ranking process.
- I’ve been persistent since the last 8-9 years about making websites, running them, and monetizing them. As it wasn’t a short-term intrigue-based thing, this persistency actually helped all the acquired knowledge to stay in my head, while also making them it easier for me to apply them on practical cases.
- I don’t waste my time trying to figure what might or might not work without trying it. I don’t like to speculate. If someone from Google says publishing great content is enough for ranking, I’d know from my experiences that it isn’t as simple. I’d still focus on link building and other promotional strategies to grow my site.
If you were to give yourself, as a newbie, a tip, what would that be?
Experiment. Try. Don’t Think.
Nothing will ever teach you as much as your very own experiments, failures and findings. No “guru” is going to teach you the exact strategies of his success whenever there’s money involved between you and that knowledge. No book is going to teach you everything about life until you actually go out and live your life. Similarly, no one is going to come to you and tell you your purpose of life. You just need to start figuring things out for yourself.
What do you consider your biggest weakness?
The real life in general. I’m a computer geek kind of a guy, right? All of my work happens through computers of some form or the other (even smartphones qualify). So, since my childhood, I’ve had very little experiences with the real life outside of school, and dealing with relatives. I’m not at all a good orator. These words that I’m writing now, I wouldn’t be able to reproduce them if I was answering this question verbally instead.
In a country like India, where you need to bribe Government offices and whatnot to get every single thing done, being street-smart really helps. I realized this more when applying for my driving license (you get those at 18, here). Same goes with when I was trying to form my company. I had to rely a lot on my accountant because I was shit scared of facing new people and explaining things. What if the Government employee who needs to sign on a few of my documents before my company can even get incorporated asks me, “Why should I even bother signing it? What kind of a company is an 18 year old really forming? Show some real world proof of your credentials.” – I’d probably freeze right there. But if he did the same thing over an email, I’d be able to bash his entire ancestry and make him regret for asking the question in the first place.
I see many “SEO gurus” in India giving lectures, speeches etc. in front of a huge audience, and speaking pure crap. Just because they can confidently utter that bullshit, people believe them and they even land big clients etc. Even those who used to come to me a couple years ago asking for help, portray themselves as experts and get away with it. So, one’s real life personality is really important, I think.
When I got contacted by my first big client (a popular Indian startup), they got in touch after seeing my publications on industry-leading blogs. They thought, this 15 year old kid must be a genius in his field, so let’s hire him as a freelance consultant. When the co-founder actually called me, I was kinda very unimpressive and he realized I wasn’t properly being able to express myself due to stress, so he said, “Dude, I know you’re the real deal. You’re trying to make great points, really, but they’re not very clear to me. Just email me the points with brief explanations and then I’ll hear the rest from your on another call.” – that made the job much easier for me and I ended up working with them for around half a year.
I really need to fix this, I’m well aware of it. I’ll slowly try to overcome this nervousness when it comes to meeting random people, talking to them, and getting things done in the real world.
Where do you find yourself most productive? Why?
My personal room. The small place where I can work without distractions (if I close the door, otherwise my little bro just interrupts during almost anything). I used to work mostly on my desktop up until 3 years ago, when I was diagnosed with scoliosis, and since then I face random back pain from time to time if I sit or stand in the same way for prolonger periods. So, desktop isn’t an option anymore. I work mostly from my bed right now. Even the 13,000 words posts that I write, I do them while casually lying on my bed. I have a portable laptop table for the bed, which allows me to place the laptop on it and use it while I’m either sitting or lying on my back.
I think it’s really important to find your own sweet spot. I know some people who hop on a subway train and keep working on their laptop, but I don’t feel comfortable that way. It’s got to do with the way fellow Indians treat you when you’re going against the flow (most people sit in a dull manner or just gossip or listen to music while on a subway). They show extra curiosity and often hamper your concentration in a bad way.
If I really wanted, I could’ve really bought a discreet office for my venture, but even the travel time would be a waste of time for me at this stage. Maybe when I’m running the venture with a couple of employees, I’ll need an actual office, but so far I’m doing good. By the way, even big companies like Automattic do just fine with remote employees, so that’s a possibility too.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on several authority sites right now. I’m still having and building smaller niche sites, but the authority sites are the focus right now. By authority site, I don’t mean the next Engadget or Gizmodo. Just sites that cover a lot of topics under the same broad niche and are usually built with a focus on people and engagement. I’ve got quite a bit of funds ready from site sales and the nice recurring income from affiliate programs, so that’s really helping me to invest freely into new projects.
What are some of the SEO / IM tools that you regularly use?
- Google Trends & Keyword Planner
- Check My Links (Chrome add-on)
- MajesticSEO (Chrome add-on)
- NoFollow (Chrome add-on)
- Microsoft Excel for keeping track of everything.
What is your goal?
There’s more than one particular goal, actually. I don’t know if I’ll actually achieve any of these or even how realistic they are, but they’re goals nonetheless.
- Financial: reaching $1m USD in net worth by either the end of 2017 or by my 20th birthday (so that’d make me one of the youngest self-made millionaires in India). My current net worth is in lower six figures and I’m growing my projects at an exponential rate, so I think if all goes well, I might actually end up achieving this.
- Personal: I want to travel, especially after college. I never imagined I wouldn’t have a scarcity of funds to travel new places, so this makes me excited. But, since I’ll have to deal with college for at least (if I don’t fail or drop out) 2 more years, that won’t be possible in a large scale. Apart from that, I don’t wanna get married, and it’s kind of a personal statement too, for me. Because, I hate the whole concept of marriage and have witness more failed marriages than I can count. Well, I just wanna try to love the same girl and just be in a contract-less relationship for as long as possible. If Indian morals and ethics don’t allow that, well, screw them.
- I want to watch a live Bundesliga home match of Borussia Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park before I die. I also want to be present in a live show of Green Day at some point in the future.
- Physical: Staying fit is a goal. Because, for others, if they don’t stay fit, they’ll get fat. For me, if I don’t stay fit, I’ll die. Thanks to my back issue. I’ve really been putting a lot of pressure on my body lately. Being forced to, rather. I really need to relax more and start thinking about my own health a bit more.
- Tech: When I was a kid, I was always a big PC hardware enthusiast, but never really had the money to buy anything worthwhile. Now, I could really get the best CPU & GPU on the market right now. But, I kinda start thinking about buying anything for my own use. It sounds strange, but it’s largely true. I was using a shitty Fujitsu laptop for 3 years before I realized it was really shitty (it took 49 seconds to open Chrome after boot-up) and after I was done writing the “How I Make 5 Figures from Amazon…” post on it, I really realized that I’m wasting my own time by using that shitty laptop which is holding me back somehow. That’s when I turned to your help for picking up a new laptop and I was suggested to get a MacBook by you, and the logic was that it won’t make any difference even if I buy two of them, and it’ll directly help me become more productive. So far, I’m really pleased with the decision and I wish that I got it earlier. Anyway, I didn’t mention about the tech goals themselves by now. Well, I’m a big fan of what MKBHD (Marques Brownlee, you must’ve heard of) calls “Dope Tech”. So, these are the breakthroughs in tech that seem very exciting to me. One of them is the Tesla electric car. It’s packed with so much futuristic technology that I instantly wanted to get into one the moment I saw it on YouTube. But that’s reserved for later, of course. As I can’t get one (getting one is even pointless in India due to the shitty road conditions and horrible traffic) here anyway. Apart from that, there aren’t really many things on my head right now, but I would wanna be Iron Man, of course (who doesn’t?), but that’s called going out of reality…
- Others: The Government wants us to believe that our tax money actually goes for the welfare of the poor. It’s actually the opposite. So, the poor keep on suffering. And that suffering takes its worst form in a densely populated country like India. When I’m quite established in what I do, I wanna support intelligent people who really need help financially.
Who should I interview next?
Al-Amin Kabir. He’s a very successful six-figure affiliate marketer and blogger from Bangladesh who is an inspiration for thousands of people (his personal Facebook alone has 10K followers). He makes five figures per month from just his Amazon affiliate sites, and runs a very well known blog in the Amazon niche site space – Marketever.com.
He also has the feat of getting felicitated by the prime minister of his country due to excellence in his internet marketing work when he was the CEO of DevsTeam, a Bangladeshi IM company. He have also been featured on media outlets such as Entrepreneur.com and Fox News. And he’s also a regular speaker in various conferences, some organized by even big brands like Payoneer and TeeSpring.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
What I’d like to add is that you’re, in many ways, A LOT more impressive than I am, and are destined for a brighter future for sure. Your clear thoughts on business and running a company made a big impact on the way I think, and I never really got the opportunity to thank you for that, but here I will. 🙂 I don’t think many people are aware of your own successes and they’re just amazing for a 17 yr old. You write pretty awesomely as well, and I enjoy reading your posts, guides and case studies. So, I hope you’ll start blogging here consistently.
Disclaimer: The earnings mentioned in the title is Rohit’s earnings the last 30 days. His sites have started to rank better this month but he is unsure if it will stay consistent. He is usually averaging $20K-$30K month. All of the earnings does not come from Amazon Affiliate, he uses other type of affiliate programs as well.
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