Advice to New Bloggers
Getting started as a new (WoW) blogger can be rather daunting. You have all these ideas, thoughts and opinions that you want to share, but really have no idea how to go about it. Hopefully these tips and links will help you out!
Takin’ care of business basics.
- Choosing your host. When started out on a new venture, you might want to test the waters first before you dive into any bigger obligations like a domain and hosting. I would recommend that you have a blog hosted by a service provider. I used Blogger initially, but I quickly moved to WordPress and I liked it there much better. I found that WordPress had better offerings for templates, more customizability, superior commenting system plus great stats tracking – all for free. Win.
- What’s in a name? Names are important. It will be a major part of your identity in the WoW blogging community, so you better like it. A tricky part about naming blogs is that you can paint yourself into a corner if you’re not careful. The initial name of my blog was Holy Discipline – I had a priest. She had points in the holy tree and the discipline tree. That’s what I went with. Not very clever or interesting, but it worked well enough. I was confident that I was so in love with priests and healing that I wouldn’t ever deviate (majorly) from writing about Anea and my exploits while playing her. This wasn’t the case at all and lead to an identity crisis a couple times as I tried to find something that fit better. Eventually I settled on “Oh look, an alt!” since I felt that gave me a little more wiggle room in what I wrote about. If you feel that it won’t bother you to have a “specific” name, go for it! Clever names get attention so if you have more creativity than I did (gawd, I hope so) utilize it.
- Focus! Focus! Decide what you will write about. Are you a healing guru and want to share all the numbers you crunched? PvP more your bag? Is leadership your forte? Do you have a million alts and want to write about them? Are you a comic or artist? Just like to talk about anything and everything? Get an idea of what you’ll write about first. You may think, “I’ll figure it out as I go along!” and while optimistic, this will often backfire. Even just a general idea is good – my “topics” are many and varied and are pretty much only things that happen in game, thoughts that occur to me or accomplishments I want to share. Pretty vague (Aoirselvar nicely calls it the “human interest” story) and perhaps it doesn’t appeal to everybody, but I enjoy it. There are several specialized blogs and they rock at it as well. Pick what makes you happy and that you’ll be able to write about semi-often. But don’t be afraid to deviate every once in a while!
- Lookin’ good Don’t have an ugly blog. That may sound terse or obvious, depending on how the tone came across. While the quality of the writing is always the most important aspect of a blog, if it’s an eyesore, people may click the red X up in the corner before they read your content. A very easy way to snazz up your blog is to have a personalized header. This doesn’t have to be anything uber fancy – even just a screenshot of your character can personalize a blog and give an idea of who you are.
- Don’t set a regular schedule. “That’s right, don’t. Oh, it will work out OK for you at first – you’ll have a ton of ideas just waiting to get out and you’ll just be dying from eagerness until your next regularly scheduled post day……and then you’ll run out of ideas. or you’ll hit writer’s block. Or you’ll get sick. Or, or, or, or. There are a million different things that can and will keep you from blogging and if you DID set up a schedule then you WOULD feel bad about not keeping it.
If you’re blogging, it should be because you enjoy blogging. Things that make it less fun (like, say, wracking your brains at 11:55PM because you need to have something up on your site by midnight to meet that arbitrary deadline you set for yourself an all you can think about is how your cat seems to think your shoelace right now is the best thing ever and that really doesn’t relate to WoW at all, does it, and oh my gosh it’s 12:05AM and your life is over you’ve turned into a pumpkin!) should be avoided.
Think quality, not quantity or punctuality.” (From Splat)
- On titles: “Make your post titles informative and concise. This will increase the amount of traffic you get from search engine.” (From BobTurkey)
- Write down ideas as they come to you. You may think that you will remember it the next time you sit down at the computer, but nine times out of ten, it will completely evade your mind and you’ll be sitting in front of an empty screen, in fury or sadness, because you can’t remember the awesome post idea you had earlier. Keep a pen and paper handy, jot a note in your phone, write a text to yourself, whatever you prefer. Just document the idea you had somehow. You’ll be happy you did.
- Stockpile post ideas. In the beginning, you’ll probably have so many post ideas you won’t be able to post fast enough. Don’t be fooled! Somewhere down the road, you will hit a roadblock and figure it’s the death of your little fledgling blog. Fear not! If you’ve listened to the previous tip, you’ll have scraps of paper floating around your desk, old saved texts and notes on your phone or possibly an inky tattoo on the inside of your hand with a post idea. Reach for one of those! If you want to elaborate on an idea, go ahead and start a draft to get an idea down and save it for a rainy day. Drafts are lifesavers. Ask any blogger.
- On prudence: “In addition to having a bunch of ideas in mind, have multiple posts actually published before announcing to the world that you’ve got this brand new blog. The Internet is littered with the corpses of one-post-ever blogs, and frankly, those bloggers tend to be sort of embarrassed by them. Make sure you’re actually a blogger, not a one-time essayist, before declaring yourself as such. It’s not for everyone, and maybe it won’t be for you — and then your posts can just be guest posts on someone else’s blog, allowing you to be an occasional writer, rather than one tied (or at least perceived to be) a more regular schedule.” (From Ringo Flinthammer)
- Proofread. That may just be one word but it is so important I want to write it about ten times. Write your post – get your ideas out as they come to you. Then after you’re done, re-read your post. Check for spelling and grammatical errors. If you think that something doesn’t flow correctly, fix it. Move sentences as you need to. Maybe remove the redundant bit. Read it again. (When I’m proofreading a post, I like to preview it first, so that it looks different from the writing screen – that way your eyes are seeing something “new” and are more likely to catch errors.) All ok? Go ahead and post.
- On style: “Read a lot of other blogs. Note topics, styles, post layouts you like and don’t like. Also note the types of comments different topics and styles receive. Studying other blogs and the reactions they provoke is a huge help in getting the reactions you want from your readers.” (From Ophelie)
- Pushing the envelope: “If you want comments, be provocative. Most people will only comment if they disagree with you.” (From Tarsus)
- %$&*@#! “The one recommendation I will make regarding content is not to use expletives or put up anything that is Not Safe For Work.” (From Rohan)
- I pity the fool! “Don’t opine about anything you don’t understand. You can use your blog to ask for assistance, but don’t express opinions on things that you don’t have a grasp on.” (From Tarsus)
- “A good blog post is like receiving a letter from a dear friend.” Reflect on that. (From Ophelie)
- Ooh, pictures! Visuals are always fun in a blog. While not appropriate for every post, they can convey a certain feeling that you want to set for your post or capture an event that you may not be able to put into words. Perhaps it’s just decorative! Throw it in there. Make sure it’s not too huge though – some layouts have small text areas, so crop your screenshots accordingly! Don’t steal bandwidth. If you want to post an image, always upload it yourself, whether to your own server or to a free hosting site like Photobucket.
- Cite your sources. I almost didn’t include this one, as a matter of course, but I think it bears telling. If you use an informational source to quote something, link it. If you are inspired by another blogger to write a post on the same topic, throw a link their way. Not only are you networking by doing so, but you’re giving credit as well. This includes art or screenshots you’re using for visuals that you didn’t make or take yourself.
- Only write when (and if) you want to. I think this is something that every blogger suffers from, time to time. We may all start stoutly declaring that we will only write for ourselves, but sometimes we let the pressure get to us and feel like we “ought” or “have to” – sitting squarely in with (and slightly outside of) the “Don’t set a regular schedule” rule is this piece of advice. Don’t let blogging become a chore. You should write because you enjoy it. You may feel guilty for not posting X posts in a week, but if you’re just not feeling it, don’t post. As I said before, a crappy post is worse than no post at all. If you take a few days off because you want a break from blogging, you won’t lose all your readers. We play WoW too – we understand burnout in all it’s forms.
Look & Feel
You’ve picked a layout that you feel looks good. Here are some other things to consider within your layout:
- RSS icon. Get one. Put it at the top. This is the only advice I’ve ever gotten from a particular big name blogger, and rather terse it was. But by gawd, it’s stuck with me all this time. Most browsers do have a little bitty icon in the address bar enabling your viewers to subscribe to your RSS feed, but more often than not, they’d prefer a big honkin’ button to click on. You want to get your content out to as many viewers as possible and make it easy for them. The RSS icon does it. You can find lots of cutesy RSS icons around and those are great attention grabbers, but the default orange one works fine. Just have one.
- On truncated posts: “Personally, if a blog uses truncated posts, unless something really grabs my attention from the word go I won’t bother read past the first section. That’s to see if the rest of the article is worth reading. If the entire post is shown on the page, I will read it and perhaps then stick around a little bit longer. These are especially annoying in a reader, I won’t read the post in a reader if it’s truncated. Try to avoid it.” (From Jaedia)
- Be searchable. “Add a search form near the top too. Some people like to search for particular information, or even old posts, so include a search box, and make good use of post tags/categories.” (From Jaedia)
- Wanna talk about me! Have an About page. Many people are curious about what the blog is about or the character it’s about but also about the writer of the blog. Write a lot or a bit, whatever you’re comfortable with.
- Blogroll. Having a set of links in your sidebar is a great way to showcase blogs you particularly enjoy or find helpful or informative. I’ve found many an awesome blog from other people’s blogrolls. You don’t have to have a million – if you do want to have a lot, perhaps put a few in the sidebar, then make a whole different page to have the entirety of the blogroll. (Much like I have done.) Make sure you clean it out from time to time, getting rid of the dead links.
- On being categorical: Use categories. This could also be part of your “getting started” brainstorming. Some people have very elaborate and clever category names, but they can be vague. Some people have very obvious and clear names, but some find them boring. Pick a style that you like and list them in a sidebar somewhere. If people enjoy a post from a certain category, it should be easy for them to find more posts under the came category.
- Tags too? Wut? Tags are more specific ways of, well, tagging a post. I have a Dungeon/Raid category – I could tag the post “Naxx” to be more specific about what the post is about. I do use tags, but I think that sometimes they can be more trouble than they’re worth – use at your own risk.
- Be stalkable. Readers can always comment on your posts, but if they have a question or just want to drop you a friendly line, make sure they can. You can list an e-mail address (whether personal or a special one you make for your blog) or use a contact form, but make sure it’s visable.
- Uber leet. Many people like to link their character’s Armory profiles – feel free! If you want to be fancy, you could make little icons for each character.
- :( Where are all my comments? You won’t get many comments for a while – maybe not for several posts. Don’t worry! They’ll come with time. Don’t let this discourage you.
- On censorship: “Avoid the urge to censor your comments. Spam is one thing, criticism is another. Related – take everything in your comments with a grain of salt.” (From Tarsus)
- Do reply! It took me a while to catch on to this one (bad Anea!) but from what I hear in the blogosphere, it’s important. Reply to comments you get as best you can. If you can’t reply to each and every one individually, let your commenters know that you appreciate their comments. If people think that their comments are ignored or aren’t appreciated, they’ll not bother next time. Half of blogging is the discussion!
- Don’t judge your writing by the lack of comments. Sometimes your posts are just fine, but people don’t comment for one reason or another, even if they like the content. Perhaps they are busy, can’t think of anything constructive to say, they don’t want to say something “stupid” or they don’t feel “clever” enough to comment. (I am guilty of this sometimes, but especially on Righteous Orbs.)
- No one likes spam. Be sure to filter out spam and manually delete any that may have slipped through your filter. WordPress provides you with Akismet, which will catch 99% of spam you may get.
Get your name out there!
- Read other WoW blogs. Reading other WoW blogs is useful, not only because you can get ideas for your own blog and content, but because you will get an idea for how huge and diverse the community is. Reading other WoW blogs will help you immensely in the beginning with post ideas. I suggest subscribing to blogs with an RSS reader, such as GoogleReader. Within it you can categorize posts to your liking and easily keep track of when blogs are updated.
- Comment on other blogs. This is a great way to get your name seen by other people – not only the readers of the blog you’re commenting on but by the author of the blog. If people are interested in what you had to say in the comment or are just curious, they’ll click over to your site. Don’t write lame comments only to get your name out though – that will make you look bad. Write sincere thoughtful comments and the same will be done for you. Commenting on other blogs is a huge networking tool – don’t underestimate it.
- Tweet tweet! There is a great WoW community on Twitter. If you want to meet not only bloggers but other people who play, this is a great way to do it. Reading posts on a favorite blog is great, but it’s really awesome to be able to “talk” to the author in a social setting such as twitter. Almost seeing the blogger in his natural state, if you want to think of it that way. For me, the sense of community deepened once I got involved with Twitter. It’s a massive network – even if you start out only looking at one blogger’s Twitter profile, you’ll see that they follow dozens (sometimes hundreds) of other people, many of whom are bloggers themselves. It just spiderwebs out from there. If you do join Twitter, consider Twitterfeed – once set up, it will automatically send out a tweet when you publish a post, notifying all your followers that there is something new to read on your blog. Convenient!
- Blog Azeroth. Write an introductory post on BlogAzeroth – then check out the Shared Topics – or even suggest your own!
- On self-promotion: “If you’re the type to post on forums, put a link to your blog in your signature.” (From Ophelie)
A Final Word of Advice
- Tuesdays. Post on them. People need something to read during maintenance, right?