Frostheim blogs at Warcraft Hunters Union, writes the Scattered Shots column for WoW Insider and is a host at the Hunting Party Podcast. He’s been playing WoW since vanilla and been blogging about it since BC.
In the first part of How to Start a WoW Blog, I went over all the nuts and bolts and technical information of hosting, blogging platforms, Wowhead tooltips and addons. Now with that out of the way and my thoughts on how to build a blog that has a chance as success.
A lot of people have a lot of things to say about blogging, so here’s my qualifications for giving you advice on writing your WoW blog: I write for a scary number of blogs, both in my free time as a WoW fan, but also as part of my day job. I write the most popular hunter blog on the web, Warcraft Hunters Union. I also write the second most popular hunter blog, Scattered Shots at WoW Insider. On any given day some 25,000 people are reading my blog posts; on good days that number is well over 100,000.
Blog on a Schedule
The most valuable piece of advice I have to offer is this: blog on a schedule. Decide to blog every Mon/Wed/Fri, or just every Saturday, or every day of the week. Any schedule other than “when I feel like it” is fine, but that schedule should be concrete and non-negotiable.
Setting yourself a schedule accomplishes two important things.
The most important is it makes you blog. It forces you to blog, even when you don’t feel like it, even when you’ve got no ideas for what to blog about. Because that absolutely will happen; it’ll happen a lot. Part of being a writer is to suck it up and write even when you’ve got nothing. You learn to dredge the depths and pull something out of nothing.
But if you don’t have that set-in-stone schedule, then you just won’t write. And that not writing will happen more and more often and very, very soon you won’t have a blog at all. True story:
Over at Warcraft Hunters Union I get quite a lot of new hunter bloggers emailing me and asking for a link to their shiny new blog with it’s two posts — one introducing their blog, and one blogging about some topic of relevance. On average I get at least one of these a month. I tell them all the same thing: I don’t link to brand new blogs, but if you’re still blogging regularly in three months, email me again and I’ll put up the link.
To date I have had one single hunter email me back in three months. The rest vanished into the ether.
But blogging on a schedule has a side benefit other than forcing you to actually blog. It allows you to better attract readers — and there’s a difference between traffic and readers. Traffic is a count of the number of people going to your blog. Readers are the number of people who follow your blog regularly and read everything you write.
Readers, as a rule, prefer to know when their blog will be updated. The more often they go to your blog hoping to find a new article and don’t see one, the less often they’ll go to your blog. Some of them will stop checking back (and by the way, the vast majority of people go to your blog manually, and do not subscribe to your feed). By having a schedule you can manage expectations. If you update every Saturday they’ll only check your blog once a week, and every time they check they’ll be rewarded with a new post. Every action on their part is rewarded with positive feedback.
Frostheim’s Topic Ratio
Early on when I was just starting Warcraft Hunters Union, I determined right out of the gate that I’d blog every Monday – Friday, and I had a theory on what kind of topics I would blog about. It was the magical ratio for bringing in new traffic, converting that traffic to readers, and keeping those readers happy. This was my topic ratio:
20% of blog posts must be crunchy guides or useful in-game information
20% of blog posts must be off-topic (but WoW-related) stories or humor
That was it. The idea here was never to go too long without posting the kind of crunchy useful stuff that makes the site an actually valuable game resource, but also never to go too long without posting something that’s actually entertaining and enjoyable to read.
After all, if your site is nothing but crunchy facts, then it’s something that players only need to read when they’re looking at optimizing some aspect of their game play. You only go to a reforging site when you’re wondering about how to reforge new gear, after all. But those random off-topic (but still WoW-related) stories of raid failures and triumphs, funny or entertaining posts — that’s the stuff that people really enjoy reading.
Keep in mind: the vast majority of people reading blogs are reading them from work, because work is boring and they’re looking for a little moment of escape.
A Word on Writing
One of the great things about blogs is that the tone is very conversational, which make them far easier to write quickly. While it would normally go without saying that you should understand the basics of writing, since this is WoW we’re talking about, I fear this section is needed.
Do not write your blogs in leet speak, or lol speak. Do not use WoW abbreviations like lol or ppl or plz. Unless you’re quoting someone or being ironic, that behavior will drive the vast majority of your readers away. I know these are all WoW players also, and many of them write like that too, but it’s just plain hard to read and, frankly, makes you seem stupid. Yes it does.
You don’t have to know what a split infinitive is and it’s fine if you tend to always use them; but you should be able to construct a sentence and follow the basic rules of grammar. You should understand things like punctuation, paragraphs, capitalizing the first word of sentences and I — really basic stuff here. Proper writing makes your blog easier to read, which in turn makes it more likely people will read it.
Some general advice on blog formatting. First of all, the general common wisdom of the web says that every blog post should start with a picture of some kind. This is very good advice, and really helps make your posts more interesting to look at. That said, I really don’t follow this rule at all over at Warcraft Hunters Union. I do for other blogs I manage, however.
If you’re writing a long blog post, you must use formatting to break it up. The wall-o-text is daunting and difficult to read and people lose their places. There are four common techniques to break up walls of text in blogs:
- Break sections into subsections with headers. This helps visually and also organizationally. It may also result in you writing a better post.
- Use images throughout to help break things up.
- Use block quotes to adjust the formatting of a section — as I have with the 20% rules, and the “true story” above.
- Bulleted lists are a standby for breaking up formatting — also people like reading short bulleted lists.
There’s no really good rule of thumb about the length of a blog post — lengths tend to vary a lot by author and audience. The common wisdom is that blog posts should be in the 250 – 500 word range, shooting for the middle, because people have short attention spans and won’t read things longer. I disagree with this wisdom.
Partially I disagree because I’m a wordy guy, but also because it’s hard to convey much useful information in 250 words. In addition, if you accept the theory that a very large portion of your readers are looking for a distraction from work, 250 words isn’t going to provide them much of one. That may be fine for generic Yahoo news articles that are a dime a dozen, but you have a very specific niche blog.
I’d say go for an average of 500 words per post. Having a few short posts is fine. Having a few long posts is fine. But I don’t think of posts as being long until they start to go over 1,000 words. That said, the class columns at WoW Insider are supposed to be about 1,250 words… and I almost always go well over on Scattered Shots. Warcraft Hunters Union is also filled with very long posts.
But remember that this is a blog and not Twitter. Posts of under a couple hundred words really don’t count as your blog post for the day — if it’s that short, you aren’t saying anything very meaningful.
If your blog gains any kind of popularity at all, you will have critics. The more successful your blog is, the more haters you’ll have, and the more rabid and less logical they will become. You need to consider them a sign of success.
In particular, my philosophy is that I welcome any logical, fact based disagreement. Discussion is good after all. But you need a solid policy of shutting down the personal attacks and ad hominem arguments. Even if they’re supporting you, nuke those comments in a heartbeat. But beyond that, even the comments disagreeing with you need to stay there. Instead of deleting them, engage them. Ask them for their reasoning, or their research — their proof. Heck, maybe they’ll be right and you’ll have learned something!
But the people calling you names will be there if you’re popular. You just gotta ignore them and keep doing what you’re doing. True story:
When I took over Scattered Shots from the previous hunter blogger, he graciously congratulated me and offered some good advice. In particular he said that a big mistake he made was trying to satisfy everyone in the comments. If he recommended one thing, people would bitch. If he recommended another, different people would bitch. In his effort to satisfy all these trolls and asshats he lost his voice. Rather than saying “Here’s what I recommend” he ended up saying “You could do this, or this, or this, or some people do that.” He stuck to nothing but raw facts. This then hurt the quality of his columns, because he ended not saying anything to offend anyone and as a result didn’t say much at all.
So there’s a fine line between listening to negative feedback and adjusting to it (you can’t ignore everyone who disagrees) and paying too much attention to it (in which case you either won’t write, or won’t write things of meaning).
I have a pretty thick skin, which I also bolster by not reading things like the WoW Forums or ever searching for things written about me. I once wrote something that was blown way out of proportion by a giant anti-fan and got responses, pro and con, across the hunter web… and I didn’t even find out that it happened until over six months later (though, of course, I was aware of all the (mostly positive) comments to the post on my blog — the haters hate to post there though, for some reason).
This made it easier to do the right thing, which is always: don’t feed the trolls.
I’m serious. Don’t engage the trolls — that’s what they’re trying to do, get attention. And they can at times make it really hard, in particular with the troll strategy of posting deliberately misleading or entirely wrong things that they attribute to you. They blatantly lie in hopes of drawing you out to correct them. My policy is if they comment on my blog (or email) in a way that doesn’t violate the commenting policy, I will answer them. If they’re ranting elsewhere on the web, not my problem. If they really wanted a response from me they’d talk to me, rather than ranting across the web, after all. Do your thing; don’t worry about their thing.
But that said, there are actually a lot of WoW bloggers out there who have reached some level of popularity, and then were driven to quit blogging entirely by the trolls and asshats. So thick skin is required.
I say this, but I know all of you reading it think you have thick skin. And so did all those other bloggers who couldn’t take it any more. Seriously, be prepared to HTFU and take it.
Of course all that requires you to achieve some level of popularity to begin with. The first step to that is following several of the points above, which will help you to build a decent blog — but most important is blogging on a schedule. It’s also worth noting that the most popular bloggers tend to be the ones who blog most often. That’s not coincidence.
But we’ll get more into the blog popularity in the next part of this series, where I’ll discuss promoting your blog so that you have an audience reading what you write.
|How to Start a WoW Blog Series|
|Part 1: Nuts & Bolts||Part 2: Blogging Advice||Part 3: Promoting Your Blog||Part 4: Monetizing Your Blog|