Sumit Bansal runs Trump Excel, a blog where he shares excel tips and tutorials. First year, he made $0 from his blog. Find out how he turned things around and scaled to a profitable blog.
Revenue of $5,000/mo
Email list size of 22,000
Founded in 2017
Hello! What’s your background, and what is your blog about?
My name is Sumit Bansal and I am full-time blogger from India. I’m run Trump Excel, where I share Excel spreadsheets tips and tutorials.
I completed my graduation and was working with an IT company when I started using Excel spreadsheets heavily. I was learning so many new things every day. At the same time, I noticed that many of my colleagues were asking me the same kind of Excel queries. So I decided to create a blog and start writing tutorials to save time and share what I was learning every day. I started with a blogspot account and wrote my first 10 articles on it. A month later, I moved to WordPress self-hosted site.
Today, I make $5000 a month from the blog. I have an email list of 22K+ subscribers and it’s growing rapidly. My traffic is also growing and I get ~300K+ page views a month as of now.
What motivated you to get started with the blog?
My motivation to start this blog was to share what I was learning about Excel spreadsheets. Since I was a complete newbie with no experience with blogging or online marketing, making money was never the motivation. I didn’t make any money from my blog for more than a year.
I was enjoying the response I was getting and the contribution I was making in helping people learn Excel. It was a perfect fit with my day job and I was any way learning a lot about Excel spreadsheets. Since I used to work with a lot of data, I was never short of blog ideas.
Also, I was quite happy with my day job. I was doing good work and had a good team. My Excel blog was a result of my passion to share my expertise, but since I was not aiming for money, I never focussed on any other idea.
It was after 2 years of starting my blog that I decided to leave my full-time job in 2015. At that point in time I was making half of what I was making in my full-time job. I needed to focus more of my online business and hence, decided to quit.
What is the revenue model for the blog?
Currently, I make money through Adsense and my online courses. Each of these channels contributes about half of my monthly income.
I also create a lot of YouTube videos which further adds to my ad income.
I started making money about 1.5 years after starting the blog. At that point in time, I was already incurring some significant expenses such an Email automation tool and other related subscriptions.
Initially, it was only about $100 a month. But as my traffic grew, so did my ad income. The real boost came when I launched my first online course. That made me believe that I had a real business at hand. So I started working on my second course, and launched it right after I quit my job.
My advice to the aspiring entrepreneurs would be to niche down and focus on your readers/customers problems. Once you have a handle on how you can add value, identify how to monetize it.
What are some strategies you have used for building up the traffic?
I started out by creating a lot of good content. One thing that really helped me was the time I spent on discussion forums. It gave me the ideas of real problems people were facing and I could create content around it. Also, since I had lots of good content, I also left my links in the forums that helped me get referral traffic as well as improved my SEO.
Apart from that, I didn’t really focus on SEO until the beginning of 2017. Till then, I was already getting a lot of traffic. I was getting links from people who were quoting my tutorials in their articles. To further improve my traffic, I did a few guest posts.
I also automated my social media so that the tools posts on my Facebook Page, Twitter, and Google Plus page every day. I visit my social networks to promote my course launches or to share my new content.
How have you grown the email list?
I have an email list of 22K+ people and this is one area where I have worked a lot. I do a lot of A/B testing and find new ways to capture email leads.
I have created specific landing pages to capture emails. For example, I have a free online Excel training course that adds hundreds of new people to my list.
Similarly, I also create post specific lead magnets to get better conversion. For example, I created a tutorial on useful Excel macros, where I offer a free PDF of useful macros in exchange for the email.
I also keep my list clean by deleting anyone who hasn’t opened any of my past 20 emails. Over the years, I have deleted more than 15K people from my list. This allows me to keep my email automation tools cost in check and also gives me an engaged audience.
Since now I am using Drip, I have automated this entire process of deleting inactive subscribers.
I send one email every week, which is about the new tutorial(s) I have published in that week. My emails are quite short and to the point.
My advice for aspiring bloggers is to work on your email list from the very first day. My list is my most prized asset and allows me to build a relationship with them, nurture them, and eventually sell them more courses.
How do you write great content that performs well?
When I get an idea for a topic, I spend a lot of time creating an outline. I create headers and subheaders of the topics I want to cover. I research to see what all is available already and how I can create content that’s better that everything out there.
I also add a lot of images and videos to my articles. This makes sure that the dwell time is high (as a lot of people prefer watching a video over reading text).
One of the things that work for me is to write for humans and not search engines. Even when I don’t have the keyword the recommended times, I seem to outrank my competitors (of course I need to make sure the basics are in place, but I don’t kill myself over-optimization).
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome with your blog? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
One of the biggest challenges that I have faced is the technical know-how of WordPress and running a business on it. For example, to host my course on my site was a nightmare. While the tools were available, I had a hard time getting everything set up.
If I start out today, I would reach out for help and outsource some of the tasks.
Another big mistake I made was investing in many new tools that I didn’t really need. This led to a huge monthly subscription cost that quickly became unmanageable.
After a few months of losses, I decided to cut down to the bare minimum and not invest in tools in anticipation of more growth or earning.
Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I am extremely organized in my work and rely heavily on my to-do lists.
One habit that has done wonders for me is to select only three tasks for any given day. This allows me to consciously pick the top three things I want to tackle in a day. If I am done early, I don’t take up more tasks and give myself a breather.'Big mistake I made was investing in many new tools that I didn’t really need. This led to a huge monthly subscription cost that quickly became unmanageable.'Click To Tweet
Also, I do this a night before. Somehow, this has a calming effect as I know exactly what I need to do the next morning.
Another change that has helped me is using a standing desk. I have been using one for 6 months now and I can feel myself a lot more productive and in a much better shape physically.
What’s your advice for bloggers who are just starting out?
My advice for new bloggers will be to niche down when choosing your topic. For example, if you want to start a finance blog, choose a specific niche, instead of blogging about everything related to finance.
Another advice is to know where your audience hangs out. Make yourself available in those places and interact with them. It could be a Facebook group, or a Reddit community, or a discussion forum. Focus your energy on useful channels only and don’t try and be everywhere.
Where can we go to learn more?