Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I am Usman Ansari, the founder of CarSpiritPK — a dedicated automobile blog. I am a Computer Animation professional with over 21 years of industry experience in Pakistan but always had a strong affection towards automobiles.
I started the website CarSpiritPK.com back in 2016 in a bid to provide quality automotive reading material for the auto consumers of Pakistan and primarily to shape opinions since the market lags far behind the world dominated by obsolete products and people having little or no awareness for what they should be getting against the money being spent.
The claim to fame for CarSpiritPK has been the opinion-based articles and the genuine content which acts as a path to follow for other blogs and YouTube channels of the country. Today it's a matter of pride for us that content appearing on CarSpiritPK is often copied by leading portals and websites which are operating for years and have traffic twice as much as that of ours.
The growth of CarSpiritPK is perhaps slow but steady as the primary objective is not just to make money. Since we have proudly rejected lucrative offers to promote the obsolete, we have preferred keeping our content unbiased which is the primary reason why articles and stories appearing on CarSpiritPK have got more weight compared to the paid content being published on other pioneering portals.
Currently, the website attracts 65-85k visitors each month and generates ad revenues of around $250-400 USD a month, including the ‘promotional content’ which is approved strictly based on the quality.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I used to write a lot for major publications (including Dawn) before starting this website, as well as other automotive portals & publications, but lately, the manipulation made in the content before it was published made me think that I should have something of my own. Like I said earlier, I never wanted to make quick money by accepting whatever was offered to me against a good sum of money. Unfortunately, most were doing this, so I parted ways and started to publish content on my own platform.
I started learning WordPress and for over 4 years, everything including content creation, graphic design, layouts, frontend, backend, SEO, were all done by myself single-handedly.
Don’t just copy others' thinking if they can do it, you can do too. Patience and dedication are the keys.
I used to work full time in an animation studio the time when I started the website, so after spending the entire day in a job that often required up to 14 hours of work, I used to ‘start’ working on my website after midnight and would wrap it up by 3.00 AM so I was able to work the next day.
Post scheduling on Facebook and WordPress helped me to publish the content exactly when I needed it. I used to promote articles on Facebook in the early days to get people to know about the website and when a decent community was starting to build, I stopped boosting the posts and it was all organic from thereon.
The salary of my animation job was all that I used to finance this project. No investment or loan was ever needed during any stage till now.
Take us through the process of designing your blog.
Initially, it was a bit difficult since nobody knew about it at all so building trust and image were essential. At the same time, I never wanted to look inspired by any existing website/ blog so even the logo had to be unique.
Most newcomers tend to pick names that rhyme with the popular ones in the country such as deals, wheels, etc. And even most logos are heavily inspired using an outline of the side profile of a car while making use of red and blue colors only.
CarSpiritPK is unique, I went for neon green instead of reds and blues so it looks unique and catches the eye. Secondly, it uses flat lines instead of curves so it perfectly establishes itself a unique identity, something that has cemented the fact that CarSpiritPK is all original and is never dependent on imitating stuff.
Even the cover images used for the articles are handpicked and often designed by us to go along with the stories. And since the very first month, even established names and publications have been using these images on their platforms, which are exclusively designed by CarSpiritPK.
Since I have the capabilities to do all these things all by myself (design, tech, content) it saved me a lot of money since hiring resources for each of these tasks would have been too costly. The only thing I needed was the domain name, a hosting provider, and a couple of paid WordPress themes.
Describe the process of launching the website.
From deciding to launch an auto blogging website on my own to its actual launch on 8th May 2016, launching CarSpiritPK.com took hardly 12 days. Selecting a unique name, deciding to go for a certain domain service provider, designing the logo, and warming it up before finally publishing the first article was done in less than 12 days. Within a week of launching the website, articles such as this were getting hits beyond 1k per day.
I don’t remember an exact figure but I believe it all cost me around $100 to $150 to bring things into rolling.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
The key recipe to our growth is originality and genuine content readers find on our website. Simple as that. This means genuine unbiased opinions, reviews & analysis. However, over time, we have taken measures to increase our traffic by inducting technical resources to look into SEO and other technical aspects of the site. SEMrush has been useful for us to analyze backlinks. While we don’t go too deep in the keyword research, the quality link building has brought us some good results. A good old friend of mine Aleem Subhi has been the key person behind most of the SEO things for this website.
Remember, dive into something which is your passion, something which you can give 100% even after spending 10+ hours on your regular job.
Facebook is still the key platform for us and drives most of the traffic. Though efforts were put in other platforms as well, the results were never too fruitful for us. Although our presence is there on Twitter and Instagram etc the bulk of traffic originates either from Facebook or organic Google/ Bing search results.
Since we have been publishing articles regularly and the content itself is unique and genuine, people love to come back. It's kind of hard since keeping in view my daily commitments with the animation job, still, I tried my best never to miss a day for my website without any new content published. The average ratio used to be at least 2/3 articles per day.
Patience and sustainability have been the key. Despite the blog not bringing any financial results in the first couple of years, I kept publishing new and original content every day, literally without any hiccup, before the financial wheel started to spin in February 2018.
Today CarSpiritPK is considered as a trusted source of information on automobiles in Pakistan, as well as other renowned international automotive portals such as Paultan, IAB (Indian Autos Blog), WapCar, Automachi, etc citing us as their source of information on various occasions. In addition, many references on Wikipedia with CarSpiritPK as the source of information further testifies our credibility.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
CarSpiritPK has come a long way since it started back in May 2016. We have over 160,000 followers on Facebook. We have built a reputation as a trustworthy source of information, and are considered among the leading automotive portals of the country. The website gets over 150,000 unique visitors each month with Facebook reaching well over 1,500,000 visitors a month.
We are in the process of introducing many new functions to our website and working towards enhancing its reputation from just an automotive blog to a comprehensive automobile website.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Of course, it’s a constant process of learning and you learn and overcome your mistakes as you evolve and grow. Since I had no background in website development and WordPress-related stuff, I was heavily dependent on plugins which eventually slowed down the performance of the website as the content grew.
At one point in time, the performance/ page speed score dropped to a critical low, but during the same time, I found a useful resource named Abdullah who is currently another stakeholder of CarSpiritPK and is responsible for the technical stuff and maintaining the key areas of the website. Abdullah, being a car enthusiast, has been able to contribute with good quality content as well which has been a prime essence of CarSpiritPK.
During this period I received tons of requests from all sorts of writers that were eager to contribute, but I was too conscious about the quality so I was always too picky in allowing any random content to be published on the site. It may have slowed down the expansion but I am happy even if slow, it's going in the right direction since the content is the heart of what we do. Without quality content, there won’t be any difference between us and anyone else out there.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
TED is indeed the most valuable place to learn and acquire knowledge about key areas. There is no better place than TED I believe.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Launching a product or service may bring better or quicker results but I believe the sort of business we are in requires a lot of patience and hard work. Since it's more of a cause than a business. Still, you need to focus on your goals and don’t get distracted by whatever obstacles come your way. Remember, dive into something which is your passion, something which you can give 100% even after spending 10+ hours on your regular job. Don’t just copy others' thinking if they can do it, you can do too. Patience and dedication are key.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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