Oliver Dale is a UK blogger who runs multiple highly successful WordPress powered blogs. He’s someone I personally work with (as a contributor for his blog WPLift.com) and I respect him a great deal.
I reached out to Oliver a few weeks back and asked if he would be willing to do an interview for my personal blog. I thought his insight would be helpful to this readership – especially anyone looking to get a foothold in self-publishing online. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want a chance to pick his brain for my own benefit too.
My Interview With Oliver Dale of WPLift.com
In this interview I ask Oliver how he got into blogging, how he successfully builds community and readership, what money making methods have worked (and which haven’t) and a lot more.
It’s a bit lengthy I know, but it’s packed full of great advice from yet another top blogger. I know everyone isn’t going to make it through to the end, but anyone looking to duplicate what Oliver has accomplished in the blogging world will get a lot out of it.
I know you through WPLift.com (a blog dedicated to helping its readers get the most out of WordPress) but you have a few other blogs that you run too. What got you into the blogging business?
I started blogging back in 2005 when I ran a web design blog called TutorialBlog which I grew really large by writing posts that went viral on social media sites like Digg.com ( When it was good and drove a lot of visitors). I made the homepage of Digg 6 times in one month which really accelerated the blog’s growth. I ended up selling that blog for a substantial amount and ever since I have loved blogging and working with WordPress.
I love the freedom that blogging gives you – thinking up new post ideas, researching them and making them happen is really interesting for me. It also helps keep my skills sharp as Im always learning about new advancements and helping others to learn them as well.
You seem to maintain pretty steady growth on WPLift across RSS subscribers, Twitter followers, Facebook likes, and email sign-ups. What tools and techniques have worked for you in terms of building community?
There’s nothing secret about how I grow the subscriber base – I make sure all the social media account badges are easily accessible so that people can share our content or subscribe to one of our channels.
For growing the twitter and facebook accounts, competitions have worked well for me – generally a company will approach wanting to hold one. Then I will create a widget using Rafflecopter.com which earns people entries into the competition for subscribing and sharing the comptition with their followers.
What has not worked for you when attempting to grow your online communities?
I tried paid advertising for some communities like http://designerstalk.com which didn’t go down well at all. I wouldn’t even try paid advertising for a blog – I think they have to grow organically over time, earn trust with the search engines and gain a reputation on social media outlets. I don’t think you can “force” a community – it has to evolve over time.
Lets talk about how you’ve managed to make money with your blogs. I used to follow your monthly revenue reports on WPLift and I was always impressed with your ability to analyse what was working, what wasn’t, and pivot towards growth. Over the course of your career so far what methods have proved successful when attempting to make money with your blogs?
My first large blog was all about high traffic levels so I was able to sell a lot of private advertising and used Google Adsense. WPLift and my photography blog (photographicblog.com) have lower traffic levels but the traffic is more targetted so I’m able to generate a lot more with relevent affiliate programs. Affiliate income now makes up the majority of income for these sites by a long way.
If you have lower levels of traffic which is coming in from search engines (these visitors convert better because they are actively searching for your keyword) then it’s still possible to make a good income from blogging.
If you are serious about growing a good quality blog, don’t just spam your readers with affiliate links in the hope of catching some referrals – add some value by reviewing a product or gathering a collection of related products together. I wrote a little more about affiliate marketing on blogs in this post: Monetize Your Blog with Affiliate Links, Plugins & Advice
What are some money making techniques that didn’t work or phased out over time?
Adsense used to be great – I was earning really well with it but over time, CPCs dropped and it just didnt perform as well as targetted affiliate offers so I have dropped it from all but one website now.
What trends do you see taking shape in how blogs will continue to be profitable in the future?
Building a mailing list is essential for any blog – If you are just starting out, you should also be building your list at the same time. There are a few reasons – mailing list subscribers tend to stay subscribed and be more loyal than other types of readers ( twitter / RSS ), they are also more responsive – its easy to miss a tweet or RSS update but the majority of people will log on to their emails at least once a week, most people will once a day. If your traffic tanked on the blog because of a Google update etc then you can still drive traffic with mailings.
I also see subscription services becoming more prevalent, such as used on some web design blogs which provide premium content and software in return for a monthly subscription. This makes your blog income more stable as you are able to predict earnings for the coming months more accurately. If you are able to provide some value added content then I think this is a great way to monetise.
What blogging and web related resources have you found to be most helpful?
When I was starting, Problogger was invaluable – it was fun to follow Darren’s journey into pro blogging and see his mistakes and sucesses along the way. Its still a good resources for beginners if you delve back into the archives.
A few others I read at the moment:
I used to read a whole load more blogs but have found myself not keeping up with them as much or found that they went down hill.
What are some mistakes you’ve made as a professional blogger and blog owner that you’d like to warn others against?
1. Not updating WordPress instantly – had to deal with Malware a few times over the years now.
2. Not backing up regularly. I now have a few systems in place for backing up regularly – its easy to put this off untill the first time you lose data so get it done now so you dont have to worry in future. There are loads of options you can use – free plugins to backup to Dropbox or amazon etc.
As a potential hirer of freelance bloggers, what skills and attributes are you looking for?
A good working knowledge of the subject and good english – the amount of applications I get with poor spelling or grammar is un-believable. These two things are essential if you are going to write about a subject with any authority.
I think writers also have to try and go above and beyond what is required – I have hired writers in the past and their first few posts have been great but then the quality drops and you can tell they are just doing the minimum required to earn a payment.
Who do you look up to in the blogging world?
Vitaly Friedman from Smashing Magazine
Collis Ta’Eed from Envato
Darren Rowse from ProBlogger
Any new projects or products coming out soon?
I’m aiming to streamline the websites I own and take on more staff to help with the customer support side of things. I’m also looking to take on my first full-time staff member which will be a programmer so we can push out updates and new themes quicker.
I’ve also just partnered in a new eCommerce venture selling video games online http://FormatGames.com so I’ll be looking to establish that brand and launch our site – WordPress powered of course!
Lastly, I have a big re-imagining of my web design community DesignersTalk.com – It has been going as a stand alone forum for 10 years now and I have decided I want to try something else – will be incorporating community elements with other things like a job market and blog area.
2013 should be another busy year!
Thanks for Reading!
I hope you found the above interview both interesting and helpful. If anything we discussed sparked more questions then please leave them in the comments below. I’ll either answer your questions in the comments or devote a new post to that topic.
Nathan B Weller