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How Successful Bloggers Survive Without Google Adsense – The JarusHub Story

Suraj Oyewale, popularly known as Jarus
In June 2015, our accumulated
revenue from our blog, JarusHub, reached one million Naira. One million naira
(not dollar) in two years of running a blog is not big money, as that is what
some blogs make in a week, but it appears to have become the fad to celebrate
“first million”. We just want to join the fad. 
But more importantly, we think our experience is teachable.
HOW IT STARTED
In 2007 as a corps member, I
joined Nairaland, Nigeria’s biggest online forum with a view to contributing to
discussions of interest. In 2008, when I started working in an oil and gas
company, I became quite active on careers section of Nairaland, giving careers
and job search tips based on my experience.
My contributions sat well with
many readers and by 2009, I was voted the second best poster on the careers
section of Nairaland. By 2013, I had become hugely popular on Nairaland,
especially on politics, education and careers sections, that when I decided to
open my independent blog, I had a steady following.
I did some background work before
floating the blog, read materials on the internet and  consulted well known gurus like Seun Osewa of
Nairaland, Jide Ogunsanya of Ogbongeblog and Zainab Ayeleso, for expert advice.
I sought advice on everything, from the name to give the blog to the platform
to use. The advices given by all of them were helpful, but it wasn’t everything
I took. For example, I defied Seun’s advice that I use Bloggers platform
instead of wordpress.
I came up with several names like
Jarus Arena, JarusHub etc. I finally settled for JarusHub and on March 17,
2013, the blog went live.
I sought out to run a general
blog (politics, health, entertainment, news, careers, etc), but within first
few weeks some things happened that made me to refocus the blog.
First, because I had (and still
have) a 9-5 job, I was hesitant to publish posts on politics because of the
sensitivity. I had the network to get me political scoops that will be close to
what you get on Sahara Reporters, but I knew that could land me into trouble.
In fact, the first interview we had on JarusHub was with Professor Pius
Adesanmi, a well-known social critic, and he came down hard on then President
Jonathan and his handlers in that interview. The interview travelled quite far
as I got to know that the President’s Media Adviser, Dr. Reuben Abati, read it.
Few days after I published that
interview, I tried to interview the CEO of a top bank in Nigeria on her
careers, but he turned down the invite, principally because he had seen a
recent interview I published and didn’t want to associate with a blog where someone
came down hard on the President in a country where vindictiveness is rife.
Second, I realized that articles
I published on careers got more views than on other areas. My article, Common
Interview Questions & Answer Tips, traveled quite far in those early weeks.
Third, although I can discuss
politics, I’m at my best when discussing career issues.
Fourth, I got some feedback from
other bloggers I asked to review the website that I was better off narrowing
down my niches.
A recent workshop organised by Citypulse Nigeria in collaboration with 9jaMentors
For the above reasons, I decided
to focus squarely on careers.
OTHER EVOLUTIONS
The first thing that changed, as
I explained in the foregoing paragraphs, was the focus, from a multi-niche blog
to one focusing on careers.
The catchphrases and slogans of
the blog also changed over time. The slogan I opted for for the blog at
inception was “Nigeria’s Blog on the Block”. Later, I changed it to “Bridging
Career Information Gap; Mentoring a Generation to Success”. I still use that
today, but our favourite slogan today is “The Bridge to Your Career
Potentials”. We also use “No one Knows Corporate Nigeria More than We Do”,
depending on the focus of the post.
We have also used slogans like
“Nigeria’s Most Influential Career Portal”, given the caliber of people we have
attracted to the blog and its offline events, and “The Forbes of Nigeria”,
given our renown for coming up with Top 10 this, Top 10 that, like Forbes.
When I decided to focus mainly on
careers I still found it difficult to drop politics, so I came up with the
catchwords “Career. Mentorship. Political Economy”, since political economy
marries politics and careers (economy).I just didn’t want to drop the political
part.
By 2014, I was courageous enough
to fully discard the political economy part, and changed the catchwords to “Careers.
Mentorship. Management”. Management and leadership lessons are another area I’m
very comfortable studying and writing on, and what’s more, they are close to
career. In fact they are intertwined, as top publications that we follow like
Harvard Business Review, Forbes etc focus on careers and management.
Today our favourite slogan is
“The Bridge to Career Potentials”, while we also address ourselves as knowing
Corporate Nigeria more than anyone, on the sales pages of relevant products.
“Careers .Mentorship. Management” are our catchwords.
Our About page has been updated
more 50 times to take care of these evolutions, just as we have also changed
our inception logo to something that reflects our current focus. Of course, the
blog design has changed a couple of times as we learned more.
The evolution continues as we
learn more. We continue to get opinions on things we can do better. I have had
a number of people, including a writer for Forbes Africa, review the blog and
offer advice as our journey continues.
CONTENT STRATEGY
I enlisted some of my friends,
who are high-flyers in their careers, to write for me.  I was writing most of the articles initially
and publishing three to four posts per day. 90% of our articles are original
and it was only on very few occasions that we republished articles from other
sites.
I also used my modest network to
get some top professionals for interview. I have interviewed personalities like
Nuhu Ribadu, Segun Adeniyi, Pius Adesanmi, Abimbola Adelakun, to mention a few.
I have also interviewed CEOs and GMs of top companies like Accenture,
StanbicIBTC, Proshare, Global Analytics, etc. The quality of our content made
us attractive to people.
Now, I hardly even write again,
as I have freelance writers from Nigeria and India in particular, send articles
to us for publication. We publish the ones that meet our standard and fall
within our theme.
In the first one year of JarusHub
we were publishing two to three articles per day, principally to gain traffic.
After we had become a little popular, we decided to be publishing once per day,
and nil in days we don’t have anything to publish. Now, we publish between four
to five articles per week.
As an amateur blogger in the
early days of JarusHub, I didn’t know anything about scheduling, I just
published an article on the go. Later, I got to know about scheduling, which
makes it possible to schedule articles for the next five days for example.
Currently, our articles are
usually scheduled for 6pm on weekdays, when we know people are on their way
home from work and will likely be surfing the internet inside traffic, and for
5am on weekends, so that when they wake up between 6-8am to surf the net, they
find a new article on JarusHub.
WEBSITES WE LEARN FROM
The most important factor that
has kept us going is seeing the success of other websites, especially abroad.
From Forbes to Bloomberg to Entrepreneur.com, to The Muse to Timothy Sykes to
Glassdoor, and other top American websites that deal, in part or full, with
careers and related issues, we have learnt a lot.
As a matter of fact, I visit
Entrepreneur.com everyday and read the experience of other top bloggers and
entrepreneurs in general.  I study these
websites a lot and I know we can get there too.
PARTNERSHIPS: FROM BLOG TO FULL SCALE START-UP
I floated the blog alone, but
along the line, I read about the need to partner with people. In September
2014, I brought on board two people who made financial contributions.
One of them is an Ivy League
school-trained engineer who works in a Fortune 10 company in North America,
while the other is a humble digital strategist. Both of them had known me from
Nairaland since at least 2008.
We later decided to register a
company, JarusHub Limited, as the corporate vehicle for the blog. In April
2015, I headhunted a guy that I had observed from distance as a highly internet
savvy individual, and he does the operational part of the enterprise, assisted
by a young graduate we hired to assist with running around.
The 4 of us are now partners, and
the last guy a salaried employee. I handle the soft resources of the startup as
Chief Resource Officer (CRO), the partner in North America handles the
international strategy part, the digital strategist guy, who is also in Nigeria
but busy with other ventures, is the second biggest financier (after me) and
the third guy runs the startup on day to day basis. I only have time on
weekends, being one with a 9-5 job.
9jaMentors blog owner, Gson Ebuka addressing participants at the workshop while another facilitator, Jerry Aniebue, warms up for the next session
We decided to open an office in
May 2015, after using lobbies of hotels and restaurants to meet clients for the
first two years. We shelled out N600,000 for 
one year office rent, but it is worth the while.
REVENUE
Since we are not a charity (even
though our free content qualifies as charity. LOL), we decided to introduce
some premium services to pay for our efforts. We learn from other blogs the
world over. I made efforts to apply for Google Adsense but it was not approved
(and still not approved). I learnt it’s because we have our own direct advert
running.
I don’t care much about Adsense,
because I know we are a low traffic blog (our daily views averaged 520 in 2013,
750 in 2014 and 1000 in 2014). I know right from onset that I am into
authority/expert blogging and rendering services is our bestbet to monetization
rather than advert. So we decided to introduce premium services like CV review,
ebooks, etc. Later we saw interview coaching as done by similar blogs in
America and decided to introduce to it too (we are the only one that does
interview coaching in Nigeria today).
In the first year (2013), our
total revenue was – don’t laugh – N76,000, principally from a career seminar we
organized and sale of ebook.  In 2014, it
was N126,000, principally from sale of ebook, print book ( I wrote a book on
careers) and CV writing services, and within the first 6 months of 2015, we
have made about N750,000, principally from interview coaching, bringing our
Total Revenue to date to a little more than one million naira. Actually, we
made more than half a million naira in one month – June 2015 – which is more
than what we made in the previous 27 months of operation (March 2013 to April
2015).
We don’t have Adsense and did not
make a dime from it or any affiliate programme.
Again, one million naira is still
small money, but we are only sharing this to tell our story and let other
bloggers learn from our model, which is authority blogging.
BUT HEY, WE’RE STILL NOT MILLIONAIRES O
Those who know business or
accounting know that revenue is not equal to profit. We only talked about
revenue so far, we are actually still a loss-making startup/blog, as we have
spent more than N2m on the blog/startup to date, which means we are in a loss
position.
In other words, we have spent
more than we made. Our office rent alone gulped N600,000, not to talk of other
costs. So when you see us on the street, don’t think you have seen millionaire
bloggers. LOL
FUTURE OUTLOOK
We are not resting on our oars as
we continue to provide valuable resources on employability and career
advancement which has made Nigerians trust us. We do not believe money is
everything, and this is the reason we never rested in providing valuable
information to Nigerian graduates despite the discouragingly low patronage of
our premium services in the first two years.
We are happier seeing the joy on
the faces of people that visited our blog and gained valuable information than
in the numbers in our revenue account. This is why our biggest joy is not
hitting million Naira in revenue, but our contribution to the career goals of
our loyal readers, which is not even quantifiable in monetary terms.
What do you have to say about our
story????
Suraj Oyewale, popularly known as Jarus, is the founder of JarusHub, a Nigerian blog with focus on careers
and management.

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