During the AGS forum held in Dubai May 25-26th 2021, we couldn't talk to Jitendra Vaswani, a famous SEO, affiliate marketer, influencer, and founder of BloggersIdeas, as India where he resided at that moment, was on lockdown. But who needs offline interviews when things can just as easily be done on any virtual platform.
AV: Hello Jitendra!
Jitendra: Hello! How are you?
AV: I’m good, thank you. So, let’s do it?
AV: First of all, thank you very much for agreeing to record the interview again. (Our first interview didn’t record, due to a technical glitch) I’m really sorry for the last time! And you were kind enough to redo it from scratch. Thank you!
Jitendra: Sure, sure. Hope it works this time.
AV: So, we are going to have an unusual theme for today’s interview. People always sing praise to what they do in their industry. But this time let’s talk about the things you don’t like, or hate even, about affiliate marketing: the job, the niche, the technical side of things — whatever keeps you awake at night. I’m not serious, of course, because if we didn’t like our jobs, we wouldn’t be doing it. But let’s add some fun to this conversation. And before you begin, Jitendra, please, tell our readers who you are and what you do. And then - to the hate part.
Jitendra: So, my name is Jitendra Vaswani, I’m an affiliate marketer and I’ve been in the business for 7 years. I’m a digital nomad, I love this laptop lifestyle, because I prefer freedom over money. My life goal is to have that freedom, travel the world, visit all those beautiful places and ultimately just be happy. And I think what’s really important on this journey is to be kind to others. But you’re asking what I hate about my work, right?
AV: Yes, please.
Jitendra: Sometimes having to handle a team is what bugs me. Like, you build all those expectations, you anticipate your team to act in a certain way, and they don’t, they just don’t! (laughs) It makes me hate them! Seriously, like, why are you doing this, pal? Of course, it’s not hate in the bad sense, I’m joking, but it’s something that makes you anxious. You know? So, sometimes when things don’t go according to the plan I get pissed off and really frustrated. Especially after you train your team on a subject matter, you explain everything to the detail, and even then they make mistakes. And I’m, like, come on, we’ve already talked about it!
AV: And how big is your team?
Jitendra: Roughly, like 20 people right now. It’s SEO guys, content writers, web developers — I have a lot of blogs so I need someone to take care of all of my s***. Can I say s***?
AV: Sure. We’ll mark it with an asterisk.
Jitendra: I also have a guy who handles things whenever there's some hacking attack. And on top of that I have three business partners. We’re very happy with this structure. So, this is my team. And I must say I’m very invested in their training. Every day there’s a new strategy we are working on and we’re updating the SOPs (standard operating protocol/procedure - ed.). We also do a lot of A/B testing, which is very important for an SEO niche website.
AV: And for how long has your team been that big?
Jitendra: I’d say, from 2020.
AV: So you started hiring in the beginning of the pandemic?
Jitendra: Lockdown completely changed my life, I must say. I wasn’t able to travel anymore, I was locked inside my room. When the lockdown was first announced, I wasn’t even home — I was in Thailand. Some time in March, I came from an event where I was speaking — it was the European Summit, in Portugal. That was the last conference I attended live before the pandemic hit, and actually it was a great conference, Portugal was beautiful that time of the year.
And so I was in Thailand when people started talking that this COVID thing was pretty much real. But it was alright, and there were very few cases registered there. And so I had the opportunity to revise my business and close some of the roles that needed closing. Hiring people when the world is going to s***, if you give them the opportunity to work remotely, it is not such a hard thing.
AV: And since we’re talking about hiring, what do you hate about it?
Jitendra: Oh, that’s a good question. Well, I’d say that when you hire people they show a lot of will and enthusiasm. Gosh, they show so much enthusiasm, like: “I can do this, I totally can do this! I really want to work with you! You’re an affiliate rockstar”. I understand that because what they see comes from social media. But they don’t know that behind the curtains there’s a lot of hard work waiting for them. There’s a lot of frustration, stress, and it’s all behind the scenes. So, let’s say I give them a chance, they get their first task and — what do you think? — in a month all that enthusiasm just straight up disappears. I’d say this is what I hate the most. If you want to work with me, you have to be ready to persist and show your motivation instead of expecting things to come easy.
I see a bunch of those messages on Facebook, on LinkedIn — and I give them a chance, why not. And they get their first task and — boom! — things change. This is what I tell them: I provide you with the training, I give you the SOPs, now I’m expecting you to work and deliver on your promises.
AV: And what happens instead?
Jitendra: Well, I wouldn’t say it for everyone, but a lot of new employees have a bunch of complaints, excuses, traumas, life — you know? And to me it’s like an obvious thing: keep your professional and your personal lives very much separate. And just do the freaking work.
AV: Do you think that it has something to do with the industry itself? I mean, affiliate marketing? Because many people say that here people are just generally more “chill” than in other niches, let’s say, digital marketing.
Jitendra: You know, I met a lot of really cool guys here, in the affiliate marketing industry, guys with a great attitude. And they are enjoying this laptop lifestyle, just as myself. But to be successful running a digital business, or even being employed in a digital business, you need to be really professional. You need to focus on your clients and you need to deliver results.
I agree with your point. Affiliate marketing, in many ways, is a chill business. You don’t need to show up at the office every day, you can work from the beach. But as any other kind of business, it needs your attention. It surely provides the flexibility that an office job can’t give but work is work and you have to keep it rolling.
AV: I think right now you’re talking not as an affiliate, but as a business owner.
Jitendra: Yeah, maybe you’re right. The higher you are on the food chain, the more responsibility you get. You’re not only taking care of yourself, you have a team to lead and feed, so to speak. This is actually why SOPs (Standard Operating Protocols/Procedures) are so important.
AV: Tell me more about it.
Jitendra: Sure. So, in 2020 my team got bigger but I didn’t have any SOPs, that was my biggest mistake as a leader. I was away in Thailand, as I said, and I was super anxious about the transparency of processes in my team back home: who’s doing the work, who’s not, who’s doing a good job and who’s dragging the team down.
So me and my business partners decided to create SOPs for everyone so the guys can follow the structure and implement it in all my niche websites. And it made a difference, for sure. It made me more focused. In any case, 2020 changed my business completely and we’re looking at x10 revenue growth since the beginning of the pandemic.
AV: Congratulations on that. That’s great news.
Jitendra: My business partner and I live in the same house because I like being close enough to share ideas when they come up. That’s my philosophy of having a business partner. They must be close enough to ensure seamless communication especially when issues arise. Face-to-face communication is important.
AV: Do you think that maybe you are a control freak?
Jitendra: (Sighs thoughtfully) I would not necessarily agree or disagree with that statement.
AV: Hypothetically if you were, would you say that your role and position pushes you to have such an attitude?
Jitendra: Of course, when running a business I have a lot of things on my plate. Blogs need to be up on a regular basis and we have to track the progress daily and that responsibility falls on me. I have to check how my sites are ranking on Google, if Google is penalizing any of them. Having to track a lot of things requires me to be aggressive towards my team when demanding timely completion of tasks. I give you the best training and tools and what I need from you is results. I alway offer bonuses as incentives and when my team members come to me with issues and need advance payment, I always do it. In return, they have to deliver because that is what I expect. Whenever they have a problem, I take it off them and when I have a problem in the business, I need them to take it off me. I take care of you as family and you take care of my business as a family, that's it.
AV: That sounds reasonable even though some people may say it is a harsh business environment but it is a fair give and take relationship right?
AV: Let’s move along. So, since you are a pro in SEO, whenever anybody is talking about Jitendra, they go to your website and the first picture they see you with Neil Patel. He’s an SEO star and super talented person. I met him once and he has a radiant personality. From my perspective, he is also a really nice guy. Of course when it comes to business he has his strict preferences but as a person in general, he’s very nice. Right?
Jitendra: If you are running a $200 million company, you need to have that kind of aggression. Otherwise, it is not possible to run a company. So many employees do not understand the pressure that their CEO faces. You cannot expect your employee to understand your pressure and aggression. If you hire that person and they do not produce results, the responsibility is yours. Hire long, fire fast.
AV: I agree with that. I haven’t been an editor for too long but I have realized that you have to hire long, fire fast. My question is a follow up to the previous question, so what do you think about Neil?
Jitendra: He’s pretty good. I met him in Bangkok, Thailand at one of the best events in the industry (unclear). He’s very cool, humble and very approachable. He doesn't have any kind of ego. It is all about being kind. I have attended hundreds of events and I have seen some of the speakers have this superiority crazy mindset where they feel everyone is below them. Neil Patel doesn’t think like that. I have his contacts and whenever I want to talk, he responds to me. That’s the kind of relationship I made with him.
AV: That’s really cool. But I have a tiny bit of a provocative question. So Neil Patel is one of the very prominent influencers of Indian origin. Do you feel some kind of competition with him because you are in the same business and have a shared background?
Jitendra: Neil Patel is way ahead of me. I am learning from him because when I got into SEO, I used to learn from his blog.
AV: (excitedly) Me as well!
Jitendra: Yeah, I share his lessons with my team members telling them, “you need to learn this. This is the guy and he’s teaching you for free.” If you cannot learn from him then this industry is not for you, you should quit SEO. He explains everything in detail in a way that even a beginner can understand.
AV: So. Speaking of the competition, you have never felt it. You think that he’s out of your league?
Jitendra: (brief pause) I don’t compare. Everyone has their journey and everyone has their reference point. I don’t want to compare myself with Neil or anyone else in the industry. I just want to learn everything and improve myself. In the end it’s you vs. you.
AV: I totally get it. Thank you for your answer. When you were talking about SEO, my question arose from the fact that you’re both in the same business, right? You don’t have to compare yourself to him but when people are approaching the industry and they start learning from different people, they will eventually compare them. That is the nature of my question. So, do you see yourself as an influencer? Do you position yourself as an influencer? Or are you first of all a business owner?
Jitendra: I don’t think I’m an influencer to be very honest. For the last two years, my social media has not been that much active. In 2018 I was very much active on social media, every day I was posting a lot of things. But for three years, my social media presence has been reduced as I focus more on my blogs. I don’t have time to show my things on social media to be very honest. So I view myself as a business owner who likes to work smartly, dealing with my business partners and giving them the strategies I am learning every day. That’s my role as a leader.
AV: Okay, thank you. The follow up question is about the industry. We’ve talked about it several times. The affiliate marketing industry in general. My question is about the personalities there. The industry gives you the opportunity to rise fast. That means there’s got to be a lot of people that have risen fast and who are yet to get acquainted with the whole responsibility and exposure. What do you hate about the personalities in this industry, without saying any names? And why?
Jitendra: I hate companies who try to scam affiliates like recently in 2021, I was one of the super affiliates for a Wordpress company, I don't want to name them. I was promoting their product and I was ranking very high on Google for their review and the coupon keyword and they f**king cheated me. They took my $20,000-$30,000 and did not pay me. I had an agreement with them and I tried to ask my lawyer based in Canada. I did everything and my lawyer told me, “If you file a case, there are a lot of things that can go wrong there. So just get some kind of money from them.” I got 30% of the money from my affiliate earnings. I made like $25,000 and I only got $7,000-$8,000 after emailing them back to back one month. I guess they got scared that I have a popular blog. Anyways, some people and companies are not honest in this business.
AV: Why do you think this industry attracts such people? People who are there to catch and run like bounty hunters?
Jitendra: Some people are like that. They just want to catch the big fish and try to scam. I would not say that everybody is like that. 90% of the people I have met in this industry are so good, so kind, so grateful, they have empathy. So, I like them and have a good relationship with 92 to 95 percent of them. I never had any kind of feud with any one in the industry to be very honest. I just hate it when people try to scam. Just don't do it, karma will hit you back.
AV: Do you believe in karma?
Jitendra: Of course. It’s true. If I do bad things, God will f**k me for sure.
AV: Do you officially follow Hinduism, the religion that has the concept of karma?
Jitendra: Don’t do bad to others, be kind. 99 % of the time I try to be kind. If someone is dropping hate comments, trying to say something bad they have some kind of poison inside of them and they try sticking it on me. You cannot please everyone. I prefer to work with people who are kind and have empathy in their hearts. I really believe in this. Karma is very very important.
AV: Haha, okay, okay. One of my questions which I didn't ask you last time we tried to have this interview, is this: imagine yourself 20 years ago. Did you have knowledge of the existence of the affiliate marketing industry?
Jitendra: 20 years ago? How old do you think I am right now?
AV: (Laughing) Maybe like 15 or 17 years ago. There are a lot of industries famous for accommodating young people. But affiliate marketing can boast of a few teenage CEOs.
Jitendra: Sure, I’ve seen a lot of young people there and if you ask me about 20 years back, no I was not aware of affiliate marketing. I didn't know anything about how to make money online.
AV: And when did you find out about it?
Jitendra: Seven or eight years ago when somebody told me about making money online from blogs, I read Neil Patel’s blog on how to make money blogging.
AV: So that’s how you started?
Jitendra: Yeah. I just saw some of these guys such as Neil Patel, Jack Johnson, John Chao. They were writing these kinds of blogs on how to make money online. I started my blog, Bloggers Ideas, and I learned so many things then and that’s how I got to know about this industry. I realized, “Oh my God, this industry is so big, so many people are making money online so it's possible.”
AV: Actually, it is a very interesting question. What do you think was the reason you succeeded so well in the industry? Like you’ve built your own company, you’ve lots of responsibilities and you drive it forward. What do you think was the reason that you, as a person who discovered affiliate marketing 7 years ago from reading a blog of a popular person. What was the reason that you succeeded? What do you think were the key factors of your success?
Jitendra: Focus and a lot of sacrifices I’ve made to run this business. I sacrificed my personal life, I couldn't spend much time with my family because I needed to work a lot. In the beginning when I was starting this business, I worked like 16-17 hours a day to get things running. During meetings and being a speaker I was very shy.
AV: Yeah, like you don't have the weight in the industry to approach everyone when you're new.
Jitendra: Yeah, and now I can approach anybody. Like I approached you on Fb and now we’re friends!
AV: (jokingly) And now I am chasing you for an interview.
Jitendra: Nah, that’s good.
AV: What were the other factors you think were the reasons for your success? I think that’s a question that bothers a lot of people who are starting in the niche.
Jitendra: Sacrifice and you need to stay focused on your journey. Whatever you’re doing in affiliate marketing, google ads, SEO, social media, be an expert in that and be the Godfather of that thing. Hone your skills. Every day, try to learn, implement and try to do A/B testing. I did a lot of A/B testing on my blog and that’s how I achieved success. I meet so many people, I learn from mentors like Neil. I watch all these people who are successful and I try to replicate the things they are doing to be at that level.
AV: So let me quickly summarize it. You think the key factors are:
- You focus on one thing. You don’t split your attention and you don't try to follow every direction. You become an expert in one thing.
- You make sacrifices. You probably have to sacrifice your own time, your time with the family or whatever but you have to be dedicated.
- You meet with people who are experienced in the industry. People with something to share and you gather their experiences, you learn from it and you try to grasp it as much as possible.
Jitendra: Yeah. Try to learn as much as possible from those people. Go to events, go to workshops, try to meet lots of people.
AV: Quick follow up. Very often I heard people having doubts about attending conferences, like, what is going to be my value? What am I going to get from it? Why should I attend? I would like to ask you, why do you think it is important to attend conferences, if you think so? Is it that valuable or is just like a vanity fair for speakers? If you want to get the maximum value out of it, how should you behave, what should you do?
Jitendra: To get the maximum value from the conferences, whenever I am attending any kind of conferences, I know if I am at that place that I need to meet a lot of people, I need to exchange some sort of business card, I need to get the contacts. So many people I’ve seen at the conferences expect some magic out of that conference like they will listen to the speaker and get everything. It is not possible. You listen to many speakers and you try to get one point out of that speech and you implement that strategy in your business. So many other times people come to the conferences for fun, partying and one night stands for having sex. That’s the kind of mindset they have. Whenever I’m at the conferences, I try to get the most out of them because I have spent money, bought a ticket, and I travelled a lot to get to that conference. So, I need to meet a lot of people. Most of the time people don’t focus on the networking, I go deep in networking with people. If I’m meeting you Alexandra, I try to get the business out of you.
AV: You’re a business owner. But imagine if it's a beginner affiliate. They live in India and the event is happening somewhere like in Singapore. They are dedicated to start out in this industry, they want to learn, get experience, meet people and whatever. Would you justify going to this conference? Would you tell them “yeah, that’s something you should do”?
Jitendra: Yes. I would tell them to go to this conference, it’s a nice conference, go and meet people. I would tell that to my team members and my business partners. When this world is opened up again, come with me and we’ll attend lots of conferences and we’ll network with other people, you can learn. I will tell them that’s the strategy, I will tell them the things they need to do to get the most value out of these conferences. Whenever I attend a conference, I always get ROI. 99.9% of the time I get a profit.
AV: So you have to be actively approaching people and you have to invest yourself in the networking process?
Jitendra: Yeah. Approach people and ask them how you can help them. Ask them many questions, even if you think it’s stupid, it’s okay. Be shameless, that’s it.
AV: Do you think people are willing to answer stupid questions at conferences?
Jitendra: Some are. Many people I have seen at the conferences are happy to help you out if you are being genuinely inquisitive and if you are trying to help them too. Whenever I approach people with kindness, they do help me out.
AV: But imagine it’s someone from our audience like a starting affiliate who is very enthusiastic and they want to do something but they don't have that much to give yet. How could they be of value to those big figures they wish to learn from?
Jitendra: Try to work with them as an intern. Ask them if they need a copywriter, SEO or any kind of programming help. Tell them, “I would like to work for you for free and learn from you.” Many people have approached me like that and I hired and trained them and they are happy to work with me.
AV: Would you back your words, for example, would you be willing to hire an intern who you met at a conference, someone very enthusiastic?
Jitendra: Yes, I would hire them. That’s what I told you: hire fast and fire fast. That ‘s a rule where you hire them when they demonstrate enthusiasm and you give them one chance. There’s no harm in giving one chance to them and giving them a couple of tasks.
AV: You are backing words with your actions because I f**ked up with the first interview and you’re giving the second chance right now.
Jitendra: Because you were kind to me and that’s it. I like it. I told you for me, if I want to talk to someone, I look at their attitude. I don't care how much money you're making and how much I am making. The world needs more love and kindness because it is already going through a lot of bad things right now.
AV: I absolutely agree with you. Actually that’s my philosophy as well. This world does need more kindness. But let’s talk about the things that you hate about this world. (Laughing) Are there things in people's behavior that you hate? For example, if you give them a chance what would they have to do for you to never work with them again?
Jitendra: If they really want to work with me, they need to show some kind of talent and some kind of skill. They need to be very committed and if they promise me to get this work done by today, they should stick to the commitment they have made. Stick to the deadlines you have been assigned. That’s the thing I would look at. Are they very much focused and dedicated to the things I’m giving them, that’s what I would always look for in them. It is a very important factor for hiring or firing anyone.
AV: I see. And I have one last question. So, let's say, somebody from our audience wants to have a chat with you at an event. What is it going to be? Where are you going to go next?
Jitendra: I will be attending the European Summit in Prague in September. I hope I can go there.
AV: (gestures) Fingers crossed!
Jitendra: Yeah, I hope India doesn't have a third wave right now. A lot of people have already lost their lives and it's pretty much sad for me and everyone who has lost their loved ones. I hope we can be done with the pandemic as soon as possible. Yes, if somebody wants to meet me, I will meet with them because why not? And if they want to reach out to me, they can do so through Facebook. I have a blog and I’m already doing some interviews. My articles are live and a lot of things are related to how to make money online through blogs, and how to start a blog. Everything is there on my blog. If they search it they will find it and if they are looking for shortcuts, I don't have any shortcuts. So many of the times people reach out to me, they want some kind of shortcut. I don’t have one!
AV: You follow the regular path!
Jitendra: Yes, I follow the regular path like other successful people, I try to do what they do. That’s it.
AV: Well, thank you very much for agreeing to chat. You know, what’s very insightful is that it was supposed to be something and ended up being something else. I really liked your insights about hiring people, managing a business and what’s important vs what is not.
Jitendra: You got it.
AV: Yeah. I got it. So thank you very much once again for the conversation and let’s meet in Prague.
Jitendra: Sure, let’s do it!
AV: Thank you, once again, and have a great night.
Jitendra: Thank you so much. Bye Bye.
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