If you are comfortable and satisfied with your blog and how you write, then don’t read this post. For those of you that want more, keep reading.
Not a WoW related post. Feel free to mark as read.
I’ve been blogging for almost 2 years now and I’ve picked up a number of skills and techniques both from reading to trying it out myself. As a result, there are a number of beliefs and worldviews on blogging that I wanted to share particularly to those who have blogs and those who want to try their hand at it.
Just keep in mind that these are all my opinions and not a right-way vs wrong-way. Blogging isn’t an exact science. There’s always an exception to everything.
There are a multitude of mediums these days which people use to express themselves with. Some like to paint. Others like to dance or to write. When it comes to writing, people like to keep journals or in our case write a blog. In my case, the fact that I chose a blog versus something else like a privatized LiveJournal account or writing in an actual leatherbound journal demonstrates that I wanted to be read. I wanted to interact and get into discussions with other people. So when I hear someone say to me that they started a blog just to get their thoughts down, I’m usually a bit skeptical. Blogs are public unless they’re passworded. The fact that they’re public and easily accessible tells me that the person had a subconscious desire to be acknowledged and read.
Point 1: Blog awareness leads to blog readership
The thing about readership is that there’s often never a straight and honest explanation as to why people are not reading your blog.
You’ve written all this great stuff that people could enjoy and learn from.
Why isn’t anyone reading it?
There’s all these great reasons why people would want to come to your blog. But my experience after reading around I’ve kind of boiled it down to 3 reasons:
- No one found your blog
- People found your blog but didn’t subscribe
- People found your blog but didn’t share
No one found your blog: Pretty straight forward here. Readers will not be able to read what they can’t find. How am I (a reader) supposed to like your blog if I don’t even know it exists? This is why it’s a good idea to cultivate good reputation with other bloggers. Yes, this is real life rep grinding at work. This is where linking out is good. Comment on other blogs. If you’re going to email a blogger, read this other post first on emails that I wrote. Make sure you don’t just link the blog, but link a post or two that you feel are your best. Just don’t be upset if you don’t receive a response. Sometimes I see brilliant examples of myself or a few posts get completely blasted. Then I see emails from the same people asking me if I’ll link to their blog. Thanks, I’ll pass.
People found your blog but didn’t subscribe: It’s like picking up a copy of Wired and not having the envelope to subscribe more. Or ordering high speed internet for only a month and not realizing there’s a recurring subscription option. Make it easy for people to subscribe to your blog or at least easily read on a regular basis. Have full feed RSS and email options. Accessibility is king.
People found your blog but didn’t share: I’m a healer. I’m also an officer. I tend to share stuff about healing or guild leadership stuff on Twitter and on my blog. Why? Because I know most of my followers are also healers or are interested in leadership stuff. They follow me because their interests are aligned with mine. I might come across a really slick and polished Elemental Shaman post, but I wouldn’t really share it because it’s the wrong audience. We share stuff because we find it interesting and relevant to other people. Make your blog a place to share and be shared!
Point 2: Getting noticed
Look, we’re all gamers. No one is born with the natural talent or ability to be noticed. No one taught me how to get into marketing, advertising or branding. I’m a Criminology student. Not a day goes by that Wynthea doesn’t continuously remind me that I should have gone into marketing. But marketing and selling your ideas (in the form of your blog) is part of how you get noticed in this business.
A metaphor if you will now:
Here we are just inside Mulgore. My really low level Tauren Druid is surveying the the various Kodos being offered. I’ve got my share of grey Kodos, brown Kodos, or even slightly green Kodos. But they all look the same to me. They’re the same bland and dry Kodo mounts that everyone else has.
Oh my god! It’s a purple Kodo! Holy crap! Kodos aren’t supposed to be purple! They’re supposed to be grey, brown and greenish! Why is that one purple? It’s so interesting because it is purple!
You have to stand out in the giant bell curve of the WoW blogosphere somehow.
I took Seth Godin’s purple cow concept and applied it to WoW.
The average attention span of a human being is 3 seconds. Actually it’s probably less. Like it or not, you’re trying to appeal to a mass number of players who don’t even realize they’re standing in the fire. So keep that in mind. I cannot stress this enough. If you want to get noticed, you have to stand out enough so that when you do get found by readers, they’ll want to share it with their friends. They’ll want to email links. Or post your blog on their guild forum. If they’re Twitter savvy, maybe they’ll post it on twitter to help spread it even further.
Point 3: The blogging for yourself mentality
“But Matt! I don’t care about numbers! I don’t care about being read! I only care about me, myself and my thoughts!”
That is totally okay. I’ve offered advice to some people who wanted to get more results with their blog and have been shut down with this line before.
If you want to blog just your thoughts and your reason, hey that’s fine. But don’t be depressed when you realize that no one out there really gives a crap what you’re writing about.
I’m not trying to be mean. I’m trying to give you the honest truth. Hell, there are days where I write crap too.
But one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, eh?
Do you truly think that thousands of people are going to care that you just got the ‘Going Down!" achievement?
Or that you just did Nexus?
Or that you hate this rep grind and you wish Blizzard never put them in?
If you want to excel, you have to put in the work. The same rule applies to blogging and everything else you want to do in life. If you are happy with being ordinary and blogging for yourself, then stay ordinary and disregard everything on this post and throw it out the window.
There are bloggers out there who are satisfied with where they’re at. They’re comfortable with it. And I applaud them for it. But there are bloggers who want more status, who want more recognition, and want to be “a big deal”. They want to be read more. They want to be acknowledged.
More importantly, they want to do this without trying.
No. Doesn’t work that way.
Either put in the hours or be satisfied as a grey Kodo just like everyone else. And I’m going to say it again because I’m undoubtedly going to receive feedback on this.
There is nothing wrong with blogging for yourself
Point 4: Specializing and the niche
I’m a specialist blogger. Anna is a specialist blogger.
I shake my head every time someone asks me if it’s a good idea for them to start a WoW blog on everything.
Do you know why specialists are called specialists? Because they pick 1 or 2 aspects and become really good at it. That’s why they’re special!
Anna’s a kickass Resto Shaman and Paladin. More importantly, she is an RP blogger. The vast majority of the WoW population don’t RP. But for the few that do, Anna is the undisputed Queen. RPers will flock to her blog because they want tips, guides, and other activities to develop their characters in an RP fashion. If I could summarize Anna’s niche, it would be Shamans, Paladins, healing, and RPing.
Remember that you’re not going to be read by everyone. I don’t read Hunter blogs. I don’t particularly pay attention to Rogue or caster blogs. I don’t have those classes and I never will. Understand it and embrace it. Everyone has different tastes and interests. I know some people who read World of Matticus because Lodur is that much more awesome as a Shaman. Some readers are exclusive to Syd because they value her insight and Druidic ways.
By appealing to everybody, you appeal to nobody.
Point 5: Plan ahead and be dynamic
I know it goes against what I just wrote before it. But I’m going to give you a great example here that I’ve noticed.
Gold making blogs and guides.
There are hundreds of gold making blogs and guides. They are all parroting the same thing. The game is set in such a way that the economy of the game in terms of gathering and spending are going to be the same. Personally I think out of all the blog types, economic blogs are the ones that have the highest turnover.
There’s only so many tips and resources you can give to players to make money. It’s not very often that new “products” or “services” are introduced into the game that players can make money from.
By contrast, when No Stock UI was launched, I knew that the addon scene would constantly be evolving. Blizzard would introduce new elements. There would be new addons and other visual toys. It’s a dynamic topic.
Point 6: There is always room for expansion
I’m also not saying that if you choose a topic you are stuck exclusively talking about that topic. I started out trending just towards Priests. After that, I became an officer and wrote about leadership and guild business along with ways to handle loot. I wrote about leadership in addition to healing. I expanded upwards and broke into another audience level. Soon I had tanks and DPS who didn’t come to my blog to be better healers. They came to my blog to learn about other perspectives and how to improve their own guild. It was a gradual process.
So when I say don’t blog about everything, I absolutely literally mean that. Because it’s very hard to keep everybody satisfied. You can’t keep everyone happy. But that does not mean you’re forbidden from extending to a different topic or two.
When you feel ready to start branching out your blog into other areas, take that first step. Do it slowly, do it surely. More importantly, do it gradually.
Point 7: Branding
One more thing when it comes to specializing. Be prepared to stick to it for the long haul. Otherwise you’ll have to completely start your brand over from scratch. Like it or not, you and your blog are going to be associated with a name and an image. Once that image is formed, it is extremely hard to shake.
If you’re not sure you’re going to be in it, then pick a neutral name. This is why I named my blog World of Matticus instead of Priests R Us or something. I didn’t know if I’d still be playing a healer a year from now. I still don’t know if I’ll be playing a Priest a year from now or if I’ll even still be playing the game. We can’t predict the future but that doesn’t mean we can’t keep our options open.
When the unfortunate time comes and you decide you’re done and want to shift focus, be prepared to lose people. I’ve unsubscribed from blogs before because they decided to shift topics and I just didn’t have any interest in what they were branching out to. You win some, you lose some. That’s the nature of blogging and it is what it is. It’s about acceptance and understanding what happens.
Point 8: Perseverance blogging
Write often. If you want to remain at the front, you have to stay fresh and new. Not only that, if you stop writing for a few days, it’s going to expand to a few weeks until eventually you decide that you just don’t want to write anymore. If you actually want to be a "hardcore" blogger, you have to get yourself to write something. I routinely stay up until 2 AM and I don’t rest until I have at least something on paper or something that’s almost complete enough I can finish in the morning. Find a way to set time aside for writing and develop habits.
Do it before raids.
Do it while farming.
Write while doing dailies.
To me, blogging is like an itch that has to be scratched. The longer I don’t write, the more itchier it gets until I finally have to sit down and satisfy that itch.
I’m always interested in looking for regular contributors. Several months ago, Lodur came to me and e-mailed me two guest posts. I published them and he received a warm reception.
Then he did something no other guest post or contributor wannabe ever did.
He contributed posts 3, 4, and 5.
Was his blog formatting perfect? Did it meet my standards? The standards were met but the formatting was off slightly. I corrected some errors and gave him some tips. But the primary reason I extended the invite to him is because I could immediately tell he loved to write as much as I did.
Lodur was a purple Kodo in a sea of other Kodos.
Obviously you can’t do much about genuine emergencies. Those will happen. Even just laying down a thought or two about a post is a good starting step.
Point 9: Quality vs Quantity
Here’s another argument that I hear a lot of.
“I prefer to write quality posts as opposed to writing a lot of posts.”
Hey, that is totally your purview. But I want to share with you something I realized early on.
You don’t know what quality is. You’re not going to know what quality is. Every post you write is either going to be a stud or it’s going to be a dud. You’re not writing the same thing repeatedly. You’re writing something new everytime and you’re not going to know if you’re going to hit a foul or if you’re going to hit a home run.
This is why I prefer to run with and write whatever idea I get. I get a thrill knowing it’s either going to fail big or succeed big. And I write it down, and I publish it and I wait and see. Just like this post. I already know it’s going to be frowned upon by many people because their blogging outlooks are different from mine.
Some days I spend 4 hours crafting out a carefully thought out, and well researched post. It gets a handful of responses at best. Other days I spend out 15 minutes to hammer out a quick post before hitting the sack. The next morning I am amazed at the amount of discussion it spawns.
You’re never going to know what constitutes as a “quality” post.
A friend from a different guild once remarked to me that he liked all the posts on my blog because he thought I wrote really well.
I corrected him and said I have an equal number of stinkers as I do winners (probably more stinkers). The ones that you happen to like are the ones that stand out the most. The ones you don’t like fade away thereby seeming as if I write nothing but good posts.
Whatever posting schedule you set for yourself above all else, try and remain as consistent as you can (which is weird coming from me).
Point 10: Blog Sensitivity
This is something I get talked to a lot by other people. Every so often I receive a comment or an email and it just sets me off. All the friends around me try to calm me down and not to take it so seriously.
I know that. But it’s still difficult. Why is it so hard? Up to this point, I couldn’t really answer why.
The reason I take comments so seriously is because I care about what I’m writing. I’m passionate about my class and what I do in this game. I love what I do and I’m going to be a little annoyed once in a while.
I understand that it comes with the territory too. It’s a part of the “business” and it’s something I’m going to deal with. Does it make it any easier? No, but that’s the way it is.
If you care about what you write and don’t get offended easily, then man… props to you. That’s a very rare breed. You’d make the perfect blogger. Thick skin isn’t something that can easily be grown. I’ve witnessed promising bloggers start out strong only to receive 1 or 2 negative comments. Their blog then lies abandoned in some blog graveyard somewhere to be forgotten.
When it comes to games especially, just remember that there is always someone out there who is your superior. Accept it and move on.
Point 11: The sixty day test
An average lifespan of a blog is under sixty days. If a blog reaches that point, then the blogger has managed to achieve a state of “rhythm” and regularity with their writing. The actual quantity doesn’t matter. It could be 60 posts in 8 weeks or 8 posts in 8 weeks.
What matters is that they didn’t just drop off the face of the planet.
I run into posts that say “Sorry, will be back soon. Life owned me.”
And then I don’t hear from them again. Too often I come across blogs that say they’ll come back soon. Six months later, I remove them from my reader. Blogs that had such promise in the first month suddenly become extinguished because the blogger realized they just couldn’t do it.
Again, nothing is wrong with that. Blogging is not for everybody. It’s easy to break into but it’s extremely difficult to stay disciplined enough to keep at it because just face it: Not everyone likes to stay inside cooped up doing nothing but writing.
Going back to my earlier case study with Lodur, I apply something similar with guest contributors. I get a lot of applications from people who are excited and want to be a regular and active blogger. But I fail to see the actions that backup that sentiment. They decide that they just can’t commit. Or maybe they come to the conclusion that blogging is a lot more work than they imagined. It’s very easy to say you want to do something. But when you realize the pressure and the responsibility, sometimes it’s not as appealing.
And that’s perfectly alright. This way, they don’t waste their time doing something they don’t like doing.
Point 12: The two question approach to posting
Alright, now up to this point I’ve preached the idea of standing out. But the meat and potatoes of a blog is in the posts you write.
Here’s a simple question you can ask yourself to find out whether or not your post should be written. It’s a fairly simple test.
- If I write this post, is ANYONE going to give a crap?
If the answer is yes, good. Go ahead and write it. Doesn’t matter if people disagree or agree. What matters is if you perceive people care.
Now as a masochistic WoW blogger myself, I ask myself question number 2.
- If I write this post, is someone going to benefit from it in some way?
Note the difference between question 1 and 2. Question 1 is whether someone cares. Question 2 is whether someone’s going to derive something useful.
For me personally, I’ve written countless of strategies and tips. I face a lot of “this is useless, I already know this” or “people who don’t do this are noobs”. On the flip side, I know there are others who comment “Thanks! I didn’t know about this until you mentioned it!” And that’s what keeps me going.
Point 13: My definition of a successful post?
If someone finds something useful out of it and if I make it interesting and compelling enough. I don’t care if I reach 1 person or 1 million.
If I can reach even 1 person, then it’s mission accomplished.
Finally, remember that this is the summation of my experiences in blogging. It’s not going to appeal to everyone. We all have reasons for blogging the way we do. All that stuff up there is the blue colored lens by which I view my efforts in writing. You might agree and you might not. I’m not here to tell you the right way or the wrong way of blogging. I’ve relayed to you exactly what went through my mind as I went from starting the blog 2 years ago to where I am now.
It’s up to you to decide what you want to do. My door’s always open to people who have questions about healing and blogging. I can’t promise the swiftest of answers but I do usually get around to everyone eventually.
Be a purple kodo!
Image courtesy of m3_fs