Publisher Interview: James Cave of Portugalist

james standing in front of white wall with pictures of animals

If there is one thing our Mediavine publishers are, besides hard working, it’s inspiring.

Even more incredible is that they are willing to provide tips, advice and share their expertise to help others learn and grow.

The Publisher Interview Series is all about sharing the success stories of how our MVPs started their blog, increased site traffic, grew their audience and the ways that Mediavine has helped change not only their business but also their personal life for the better.

There have been so many motivational success stories we’ve shared already from publishers like Old World Garden and Expert Vagabond just to name a couple of our over 5,800 and constantly growing list of publishers.

Join us on this adventure as we share our interview with James Cave of the site Portugalist, a travel blog all about Portugal and all things Portuguese.

We are excited to have him on the blog, so please say hello and learn about how breaking out of his comfort zone when traveling helped him develop his passion for Portugal and create a path to success!

James Cave of the site Portugalist

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your family, and your everyday life.

Hi, I’m James.

I am originally from Ireland, but after spending several years living the life of a digital nomad, I am now based in Lisbon where I write a travel blog all about Portugal called

How did you get started blogging?

A friend of mine once told me that you get a lot more out of a place by being a blogger: it forces you to go and do things that you wouldn’t normally do.

I had been spending a lot of time in Portugal, and I knew that I was going to be spending more time there, so I decided to start a blog about Portugal.

It meant that rather than doing the same things that I’d gotten into a habit of doing, I’d force myself to go to new museums, and new parts of the country, and to do things that I wouldn’t normally do.

I also knew Portugal fairly well and felt that I could write with some authority on it. I’d lived here several times as an adult, my parents have lived in Portugal for almost two decades, and I spent 5 years living in the North of Portugal as a child.

So, around 2 years ago, I launched Portugalist.

Portugalist logo

How long have you been a Mediavine publisher? How did you first hear about us? What drew you to Mediavine as a partner for display advertising?

I’ve been a Mediavine publisher since June 2018.

It’s hard to be a travel blogger and not hear about Mediavine! Every travel blogger I knew was raving about it, and I couldn’t wait to have enough traffic so that I could finally join.

It actually took 3 applications to get accepted onto Mediavine, but I’m really glad I persisted. It’s so much more lucrative than other ad networks, and the support I’ve received has been second to none.

Describe your experience with Mediavine. What do you love about working with us?

Mediavine has actually made it possible for me to invest time into Portugalist.

For the first 18 months or so of its existence, it was very hard to justify the time I was spending on the site. I made a little bit of money from Adsense and hotel affiliates, but it wasn’t enough to live off – even in a country like Portugal where the cost of living is quite low.

I love that I can write about anything to do with Portugal, and I know that the page will make some money. That isn’t the case when you’re mainly doing affiliate marketing, for example.

With travel affiliate marketing, you end up writing a lot of “top 10 hotel” guides and that gets boring very quickly. This way I can actually write all about Portugal.

A central plaza in Vila Real de Santo António, Portugal.

How has your Mediavine ad revenue changed your life for the better?

The ad revenue from Mediavine covers my living costs here in Portugal, which has meant that I’m now able to focus on the site full-time. Before that just wasn’t possible and I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with the site.

Now, I’m able to try and take it to the next level. I’m working on the site full-time, writing as much great content as I can, and fixing all of the technical problems that I’d been ignoring for so long.

How do you think the blogging industry has changed since you started your website?

I’ve only been blogging for around two years, although I’ve been in the industry a lot longer than that.

Back in 2011 or so, I used to manage the blogger relations for a well-known travel company. I was able to meet and work with many of the most successful travel bloggers and knew a lot about what went into running a successful blog (short answer: a lot of work).

There are so many more bloggers, both travel and in other niches, today than there were back then. I think the general public are also a lot more aware of what blogging is, what SEO is, and that some people make a living doing this.

People don’t look at me as blankly when I tell them what I do now.

What are the best and worst parts of blogging for you?

The best part is being able to work on something that’s your own. There are other stresses that go with that, of course, but it’s worth it.

The second best part is when someone e-mails and says how much your site has helped them. That’s always encouraging.

The worst is probably when I break the site by trying to tweak the code myself. Back when the site got very little traffic, it didn’t matter it if was down for a few hours. Now, people actually notice.

What has been your biggest success as an influencer?

Traffic growth has defnitely been Portugalist’s biggest success. The site gets around 100k visitors per month now, which is quite good for a 2-year-old blog, and is continuing to grow.

This primarily comes from Google, and I’m looking at other ways of driving traffic to the site now so that I can diversify things.

Templo Romano Évora, Roman Ruins in Évora, Portugal.

Who are your FAVORITE bloggers. Who inspires you? Why do you like them?

I love bloggers that don’t just write information, but include personal stories in their writing as well. Two bloggers that are great at this are:

What are the most popular 3 posts on your blog?

What tools and resources do you use to manage your blog? What could you not live without? Why?

I use Asana to keep on top of all the tasks that I need to do. It’s actually designed for managed teams, so it will be useful if I manage to grow the site.

Boomerang for Gmail is also very useful for keeping on top of e-mails. I send a lot of e-mails, and Boomerang helps me keep on track of who has and hasn’t replied.

What is your biggest traffic source? What strategies have you used to make that your top traffic source?

Google is my biggest traffic source. I’ve worked in SEO for more than a decade. It can get complicated but, at its core, it’s incredibly simple: Google wants to rank the best result top, so start off by making sure your article is the best result for that particular search.

Write content that’s better than everyone else’s, and that people engage with, comment on, and share.

Backlinks are the other piece of the puzzle. You need to get links from other good quality sites whether that’s through doing interviews like this one, letting other sites know about great content that you have, writing for other sites, etc.

That’s a little more complicated, and (hopefully) if your content is good enough it’ll start to happen naturally, but you do need to give it a kick start initially.

There are plenty of other factors, of course, but, if you can nail those two, you’ll do well with Google.

Do you have any advice for bloggers on how to grow their traffic?

Find a way to get people coming back to your site (easiest example, get them to sign up to your newsletter).

Increasing the number of new visitors is hard and takes a long time, and it makes sense to get people who’ve already visited your website to come back.

This can be tricky with a travel blog, especially one that’s just about a single country like Portugal. Portugal might be something that they’re interested in the weeks or months before and during their trip but, after the trip is over, they’ll soon forget about it.

A sunny day at the beach in Portugal.

Anything else you’d like to add to help other bloggers grow?

Although Google is obviously very important to Portugalist, I like to ask myself what would I do if Google didn’t exist? What would I write about? How would I structure the site or an individual blog post?

On the one hand, yes, you do need to think about SEO. On the other hand, though, ignoring Google and just thinking about the user can lead you to make much better decisions about your site.

What’s the one thing on any restaurant menu you MUST order?

I’ve been writing a lot about Portuguese food recently and, if I don’t have a picture of a particular dish, I have to order it. It has lead to some pretty interesting ordering choices.

Cow’s hoof (Mão de Vaca com Grão) was the most recent one. It actually wasn’t bad.

What actor would play you in a movie based on your life and career?

Some people say I look like Aaron Paul, and he’s a great actor so I’d be pretty happy with that.

Name something on your bucket list.

I’d love to do a coast-to-coast trip of the US.

The Golden Gate Bridge.

What’s your go-to karaoke song?

I always do my best to get out of karaoke.

What’s your favorite place you’ve ever visited and why?

South Africa was a really interesting country that I was lucky to be able to spend a few months in. It’s somewhere that I’d like to go back and see more of.

What’s your favorite quote?

This changes all the time, but I’ve been enjoying George Bernard Shaw’s quote “All men mean well.”

It means that everyone, even the villain, thinks that they’re doing the right thing.

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