Hello. My name is Servando Silva and this is my story. The story of how I turned my favorite hobby – desktop computers and games – into a profitable blog and how I created one of the biggest authority tech blogs in my country 6 years ago.
As of now, you can forget my name already. It doesn’t matter for this post. The importance relies on the things I did and how I did them without even thinking of a blog. In fact, I didn’t know about the blogosphere at that moment. I thought blogs were ridiculous websites where you could upload the photos of your last party and your funny cat.
Oh boy, I was so wrong. Nowadays I respect the term “blog” and “blogger“.
The start. A fun hobby.
So, here’s how I started back in 2003. I was 15 years old and my main hobby aside from going out with my girlfriend was playing video games. I knew playing games wasn’t going to take me anywhere in the future, but video games are very addictive, specially for people like us, bloggers or internet surfers as we tend to be a group of tech savvy and kind of unsocial creatures of the night.
Now, I wasn’t the casual gamer with an Xbox or a Play Station. I had been there before, and I had moved into something a little more interesting: i.e. Computer Games. The original reason I moved from consoles to computers was because of the graphics, and while I don’t want to start a fan-war here, I was very interested in computers just because I wanted to know how could a PC beat a console in graphics.
What was behind that graphic power?
Why were the games much better looking?
What do you need to achieve that and how much do I have to spend for a powerful computer?
Eventually, all these things and thoughts brought me to different blogs and forums; forums where I started learning from other people like me and after a couple of years I was the one who was teaching the others and being an authority on big tech sites.
It isn’t really that difficult. I mean, if you really like something so much and you spend a few hours a day reading, learning, commenting and testing things eventually you’ll become a master. Perhaps even better than many other people that have been into it for years, but who lack of passion.
Well, guess what? many of the big forums that I was writing and participating for are based on 1st world countries like USA and Germany. I never had the opportunity to share this kind of hobby with the people around me and my country – I live in Mexico, but I’m Korean. It’s hard to explain – but one day I found a person talking about the same things in the very same forum as me, and he was writing from Mexico too!
This was very exciting because now I could add him to MSN Messenger – I still used it – and have a great chat, and perhaps, even arrange a meeting and talk about computers together. In fact, I remember he was the first to send me a message and he asked me about my thoughts and my location.
I got to meet him after some weeks and we had a great talk. It was wonderful, because he was 30 years old and I could still talk to him as if he was a teenager excited about games and computers as I was. By that time, I was already 17 and he introduced me to a couple of things I didn’t even know we had in mexico:
- PC Stores that actually sold DIY computer parts for gamers and enthusiasts
- A mexican forum/community
Obviously, the best thing was to know there was a whole community in Mexico that talked about the things I loved. So I quickly registered at the forum and started posting like hell. Even though people didn’t know me at the time, they definitely knew I was an “expert” on the area thanks to my 2 years background.
Well, one year passed and then 2 very important things defined my life as a tech blogger back in 2006.
The first thing was that I was 18 years old, and it was time to choose my career and a decent college to keep studying. I had no doubt; I wanted to study something related to computers.
The second thing was a mere casualty and even today I thank anyone involved in it. Remember that great forum in Mexico where I could talk with people about computers? Well, the owner decided it was time to do something else and there was an announcement: the forum was going down and they would convert it into a computer web store in a few months.
The news was very sad for me, because I would have to be happy commenting and sharing information with foreign people only. No more local relations. No more people in the same country and no more local chats about prices, market and whatever…
After a few weeks I started my career as an electronics engineer. That was great, but I still missed the forum. One day I received an email from my old friend, the one I got to know in a foreign forum and the one that introduced me to local forums and stores.
I can’t really remember the email at this moment but in a few words, he wanted to start a new forum with some friends and fill the gap that was left behind the old Mexican forum. He wanted to know if I was interested in being part of the crew due to my knowledge and pro-activity.
Of course, I said YES!
My first tech blog
So somewhere between August and October 2006 we started our first computer blog and of course we included a forum – we used IPB (invision power board) for that. We called it: Tech4PCs. And I don’t link to it because I don’t think it’s related in any way to the Famous Bloggers niche.
I was very happy to be part of it and I was very excited to start writing some great content and forum discussions. The team started with around 15 people, of which only 10 of them worked. So we quickly “fired” those extra 5.
We started preparing some computer guides and we even put some reviews online with things and parts we bought with our money. It was very cool, even if we had to pay for it. I remember I even used an article I wrote for my homework at college.
That forum started pretty well. After a few months, we had some hundreds of visitors per day already, most of which we already knew from the old forum and had moved to our new website because they still wanted to have a place to chat and share information about DIY computers. I can pretty much say that we filled the gap in a niche that was free of competition in our country, and it was key to our success.
After a few months our staff changed many times with different people I could barely get to know before we fired them. Only about 3-5 people like me were pro-active and hard workers. The rest just wanted to have some fun but didn’t really have any intention to work. That was OK. I’ve found this is a very natural phenomena after all. It’s hard to find a great blogger.
The big leap
So after a few months we gathered a steady traffic of about 500 visitors per day. That’s around 15,000 visits per month. Not bad for a small niche like this. One of my partners and a great friend started contacting some brands, so that we could make some synergy and monetize the forum. Our approach was very simple: we wanted to make product reviews and put some banners on our website.
To be honest, the banners thing didn’t go so well. Brands have a very limited budget for marketing, and they don’t want to spend it on a website created by pure enthusiasts. Instead they throw all their money to big companies that barely made a small article about the brand. Or at least, that’s how it worked before. Living in a 3rd world country you find walls like this.
However, the product reviews were the key to our blog. Since we had all published different reviews from the things and computers we had already, there was a small portfolio and when brands started to see those, they contacted us to know how could they appear on our website.
So we started doing reviews about different computer components including video cards, peripherals, CPUs, RAM memory and more. Our audience loved the reviews, because it was a great way to know if a product was good enough for them, or just to know if the product was well priced and presented a decent ROI.
We decided to change our monetizing strategy. Instead of charging for banners and reviews, we wanted to keep all the pieces we received for review. This would help us improve our laboratory and tests by gathering more and more results, and at the end, we could sell them for a relatively cheap price to our readers and make some money from it. It wasn’t perfect, but we still wanted to get the gadgets and “free” stuff after all. The more reviews we did, the more visits we could get. And that means more brands interested in our site and more products for review at the end. So it was all good.
As a side note: I can tell you that many people wanted to be part of the crew just because of the free stuff, and this is basically what made many of our staff get fired after a few weeks or months. If you put the money before the passion, you’ll find a dead end after all.
A big opportunity appeared after almost a year, when we were invited by some brands to a big event where we could expose our computers and community to thousands of people. By that time, many brands were already working with us including some big names like: NVIDIA, Intel, AMD, BenQ, Kingston, etc.
We did well at the event and got more exposure, and so we kept doing that every 6 months or so. The traffic started growing more and more, and the content we provided was better every time. If I’m not mistaken the traffic statistics grew something like this:
- December 2006: 300-500 visitors per day (12K per month)
- December 2007: 1300 visitors per day (40K per month)
- December 2008: 2500 visitors per day (75K per month)
- December 2009: 4000 visitors per day (120K per month)
By 2008 we already had some big brands paying for exclusive banners on our blog and inside the forum. We even made some enemies because sometimes you just can’t work with a brand. But not only that, we also had some competition at the same niche, but none of them could work as fast as we did, and so at the end they all resigned.
We already had the brands, we had the traffic and we had the power to do reviews and deep articles in our tech blog. We were so powerful that we could even make a brand look good or bad depending on a review, and some brands were scared of us too. In other words, we had became an authority in the niche.
The day I resigned
In January 2010, I decided to resign from the staff. I did this for so many reasons and none of them was really bad.
First of all, I had grown enough in the site to become an authority by my name. I went from being an author in 2006, to being an editor and the person with more product reviews and articles in the blog in 2008. Then I was promoted to administrator and I had direct contact with the brands and even visited other countries to attend events and product launches. I was happy and I had climbed the pyramid.
I’ve learned something very important in the last years: “If you’re the biggest fish in the aquarium, you’re in the wrong one.”
Other than that, I had some minor differences with some people of the staff – not really a big problem – and I was in the final year of my career after 4 years.
So, I made a decision and quit. I had a hole in my heart but I had to move on and focus on my career. So my last year was all about computers in my area mixed with electronics engineering and I was happy. Since I was doing quite well that last year in my grades, I decided to join another tech blog. I didn’t have to try that hard. I was still very fresh in the DIY area and I still read a lot of websites, so when I saw a post in one of my favourite tech blogs about a position for a tech writer I sent an email and started working the next day.
This time I worked for Benchmark Reviews. This is a tech blog based in the US with a great staff and around 500,000 visits per month. In comparison to Tech4PCs (now called HardwareMX, if you want to Google it), that was around 20,000 visits per day. I was happy to do product reviews again and I got to meet new people and different brands that didn’t operate in Mexico.
Side note: you can get a decent job as a writer and still work from home and be happy even if the blog is based in another country. Even though this wasn’t exactly a job.
The Day I went to Hollywood
In December 2010 I got my electronics engineering degree. I made my thesis and finally finished my studies with good grades. Now it was time to get a job and get into the “real job“, wasn’t it?
Well, the first thing I did was to plan a trip to Europe with my lovely girlfriend - which I’ve been dating for 7 years already. She’s a geek. – and my best 2 friends. We planned this trip for March 2011, and so we had 2 months to arrange all the flight tickets, hotel reservations, trains and prepare our stuff. We were leaving for 26 days, so it was going to be a hard but great trip.
I didn’t look into any job before that because how could I go to an interview and say something like: “Hello, my name is Servando, I’m an electronics engineer and this is crazy, but I need 1 month for vacations in Europe, so, hire me maybe“?
However, 2 weeks before the trip I received another email. This time it was from another friend of mine. In fact, it was an old friend I made while working on our Mexican Tech blog. Here’s where you can see the importance of connections and social relations.
This time it wasn’t a proposal for a new blog or project. This time, he told me one big company – which I’ll call A-Brand – wanted to hire him, and they needed an engineer too. So he recommended me and they contacted me by email (again!).
Long story short, I went and did an interview with this A-Brand company (I can tell you it’s the biggest in the Motherboard market) and told them that I was going to make a trip to Europe. If they wanted to hire me, they would need to wait for 6 weeks for my arrival. I really didn’t want to cancel my trip. What if it was the last one I could make before getting a job?
After a few days, the A-Brand contacted me and they told me they accepted my proposal. I’d start as a Field Sales Engineer on April 2011, right after my trip to Europe.
So I went and enjoyed my great trip and got back directly to a job I enjoy a lot. Doing engineer’s stuff, in a big company with great products behind it. This is how I arrived in Hollywood, or to be more exact, this is how I arrived in the Silicon Valley – The Hollywood of the computers and electronics.
This is my History
So, this is how I went from being a PC Gamer addict with lots of free time at high school to Field Engineer in a big Computer’s company at Silicon Valley.
My evolution was like this:
- From PC gamer to forum addict
- From Forum addict to authority at forum
- From Forums to my own tech blog
- From my Tech Blog to a big Authority!
- From an Authority to a bigger blog
- And from this last blog to a job in a Computer Company
That’s it. This is how I went from my favorite hobby 8 years ago to a great job at the age of 24.
I’m not saying this is the only way to achieve it. I’m not saying it was the best or easiest way to achieve it, and I’m definitely not saying you need 8 years at all. This is how it worked for me, and perhaps, for many reasons I could have done it in 3 years.
But the important thing here is that I always kept working and moving into something bigger. I never stopped and I was always hungry and driven by my passion and enthusiasm.
Money was not my motivation.
Promotions were not my motivations.
Brands and free stuff were not my motivations.
A job and even a blog were not my motivations. In fact, I didn’t know about blogs other than from a personal point of view.
MY REAL MOTIVATION WAS MY HOBBY!
And all things just fell into place like a puzzle. I didn’t choose my hobby and I didn’t want that old Mexican forum to close, but in the end, all these things helped me achieve my authority on that niche and get a better life.
The only thing I can rescue from all these events are simple things that most people know but probably won’t do:
And that’s why I wrote a post about how to start a blog and fail after 6 months.
I didn’t want to create a blog but in the end, I had a very successful story. What could you achieve now that you know so much about blogging, SEO, Internet Marketing and all that stuff?
What do you really need to achieve your dreams?
How long did you wait for it?
How much effort do you put into it?
Do you really like it or are you doing it only for the money?
Blogs don’t grow into a thousand readers in a few months (unless you already have an audience, the contacts or so on). You need to work hard, but in the end, you’ll be able to reap the rewards.
I still do a lot of blogging. Even though I’ve moved to another niche based on my passions and addictions – some of them are blogging, internet marketing and SEO, but also I love smartphones, tablets, gadgets and all about computer mobility. I’m still doing this with passion. Perhaps I’m not as good as you in those niches right now, but give me 2 years and we’ll see who’s talking then.
To be honest, I can tell you that being on the blogger side, doing media reviews, working with many brands, being as neutral as possible and achieving an authority in front of thousands of readers is the best side of the fence
So I won’t quit. I’ll just evolve.
My name is Servando Silva and this is my story. What’s your story?
Image © Andrew Bayda – Fotolia.com