This was originally written for my blog, but it's been edited and polished for the TNB wiki format.
Most of us bloggers have the same questions when we're starting out. After seeing the same questions pop up over the years, I decided to compile them along with answers based on my own experience.
There are a lot of resources at Blog Azeroth as well as floating around the internet. But I find that most blogging resources floating around are outdated or not really applicable to the WoW community, especially for the vast majority of us who don't blog for profit.
There are three parts, divided into the next three posts in this thread. The first covers basics and getting ready to start. The second covers naming your blog and building content. And the final one covers how to build and maintain a community on your blog.
Blogging FAQ, Part 1: The Skeleton
1- WordPress or Blogger?
The heartbreaking dilemma.
WordPressand Blogger are the most used blogging clients among the WoW Blogosphere. There is a WoW Livejournal community as well, but for whatever reason, the LJ WoW Bloggers usually keep to themselves.
Both WordPress and Blogger offer free and paid service. I use free WordPress and really like it. The only downside I see is the limited freedom to customize my blog’s appearance. Blogger is more customizable for you web artists, but the comment system is less appealing.
2- How do blogrolls work?
A blogroll is a list of links to other blogs you want to share with your readers. I assume that each community has its unique blogroll etiquette, but here in the WoW community, you can add whoever you want to your blogroll, you don’t need to ask for permission.
Direct “I’ll link to you if you link to me” requests to someone with an already-full blogroll are usually frowned upon, however asking other bloggers who are just starting off if they’d like to exchange blogroll links can be a great way to make friends.
3- How often should I update?
To get the most reader activity on your blog, having a post out early in the morning on Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule seems to be the best. Frequent updates on busy days of the week, but not enough to drown your readers. Don’t feel the need to update every day or apologize if you don’t update every day: daily posting doesn’t give the time for your readers to enjoy your posts and will burn you out before you know it.
That said, if you’re not aiming to get the most activity on your blog, it doesn’t really matter how often you update. In this day in age, you’ll mostly be read through feedreaders anyway and your audience will receive your posts as you publish them. And if you write quality posts, people will read them regardless. Take Vixsin for example, who updates 4-5 times a month and became one of WoW’s most respected bloggers by choosing quality over quantity.
4- How long should my posts be?
500 to 1000 words seems to be the easiest to read, but again, if your posts are interesting, people will read them, if your posts are boring, people will skip them, regardless of your word count.
Take these two WoW Blogosphere darlings: Ratshag typically writes very short, in character posts. Tamarind wrote long, long windy mini-novels. Both bloggers could start their own cults for their humongous respective followings. Worry about writing quality posts, not about the number of words in them.
Give topics the number of words they deserve. Don’t ramble on if there’s no need, but don’t merely skims the surface of a fascinating topic either. If you’re wordy and worried about bombarding your readers with too much information, posts with subthemes can be cut into two or more logical parts (kind of like this fascinating series!). Note that in post series, however, the first part will likely get more attention than the others, so select the content for each part strategically.
5- Am I a horrible person if I care about my comments and stats?
Some veteran bloggers will tell you that hits and comments don’t matter. These bloggers are either:
a) In denial b) Forgetting how discouraging it is to feel like you’re speaking to an empty room.
How you feel about numbers and comments really depends on you. Don’t lie to yourself because of what’s socially acceptable to say. If you enjoy writing for yourself, that’s totally fine. If you enjoy a medium sized audience that converses with you (that’s my position!), that’s great too. And if the work that goes into marketing your blog is just as enjoyable to you as writing a blog in the first place, that’s nothing to be ashamed of either.
6- Do I need to add a lot of images to my blog/posts?
Visual readers like aesthetically pleasing blogs and blog posts. Nobody enjoys ugly colours or walls of text. You don’t need to be elaborate, but it’s good to have a blog that is somewhat eye catching. Blog Azeroth has a checklist of elements that should be included on your blog (you do, however, need to introduce yourself to gain access to it).
As for images in posts, some bloggers will tell you that you need to have them, but reality is that forcing an image into a post for the sake of having an image is kinda silly. Post images should reflect the images you want to conjure in your readers’ minds.
Similarly, having a trend in your image choices (for example, when I use images, I usually go with modified screenshots) can add personality to your blog and help you distinguish yourself from the masses. (I have to thank Phaelia for the tip, it’s served me well.)
If you don’t like to use images, don’t worry. As long as you write in a way that is easy to read, divide your post properly and use subheadings (like Larisa, for example), readers won’t shy away from your posts.
Blogging FAQ, Part 2: Content
1- How do I pick a name for my blog and for myself?
This actually isn’t a question new bloggers ask. It’s a question many established bloggers wish they’d asked.
When picking a screen and a blog name, you want to go for something that is:
- Easy to remember. - Unique. - Eye Catching. - Relevant to who you are as a blogger.
Look around the WoW Blogging community to get a feel for which names are taken (and which are overused!). You don’t want to end up stuck in someone’s shadow or worse, constantly confused with another blogger. You also want a name that eases your introduction to your readers, that gives them an idea of what to expect when browsing through your blog for the first time.
Some examples of blogs who have excellent names: The Pink Pigtail Inn, Greedy Goblin, The Stories Of O (although I wonder how many people other than me got the reference without having to google it ;D), World of Warcraft Philosophized, Life in Group 5.
On the topic of screen names, some bloggers use their character name. It’s a great thing to do if you want to be recognized in game (you know you’re famous at last when you get recognized in game), but if you want avoid random strangers stalking your armory, consider making up a new name.
2- What topics can I talk about/How strictly should I stick to my niche?
It’s your blog and you can talk about whatever you want. A lot of blogging guides will tell you to pick a niche and stick with it, but my experience is that a niche is something that happens naturally. There are topics you’ll love to talk about and topics that will bore you to death. Posts on certain topics will seem to write themselves while posts on other topics will be impossible to finish. As you get to know yourself and become comfortable with blogging, your blog will end up with a voice of its own and will revolved around certain topics.
It’s also ok for your writing to evolve over time. Blogging guides say “your audience will change”, but your audience will turnover continuously whether you do or not. People come and go from WoW, their interests shift, they look for different things from their blog reading experience.
If you’d like a hand in discovering your blogging self, I highly recommend taking part in the Shared Topics at Blog Azeroth for a few consecutive weeks. You’ll be encouraged to write about a variety topics, all while getting some link love and meeting other bloggers.
3- Can I talk about my guild and my friends?
Oh, the big question! The answer is that there’s no absolute right and no absolute wrong.
There are, however, consequences to your actions. As a general rule, people don’t like being slandered on the internet or having their family secrets exposed to strangers. If you rub a friend, a guildie or a guild the wrong way on your blog, you just might burn your bridges with them forever.
Personally speaking, I’ve experimented with a few approaches and these days I like these two rules:
1) Ask the people involved in the potential post if they’re ok with it going on the blog. If you’re worried about stepping on toes, asking for permission prevents misunderstandings and waking up to cold showers. In cases of conflict, it also forces you to resolve problems instead of using blogging as an escape route.
2) Ask yourself: “If I were applying to a new guild, would I want them to read this?” Regardless of who’s right or wrong, potential guilds see a troubled blogger and label them “drama hazard!!!!!”. Anything you publish can be held against you in the future. If it’s not something you’d want to advertise to a future guild, don’t publish it.
4- Can I be myself on my blog?
You can be yourself, or you can be whoever you always wanted to be, as long as you’re credible in your persona. A common mistake I notice from newer bloggers is that they try too hard to sound professional. Their posts end up looking like college homework assignments and their interest in blogging goes out the window.
It might take awhile for you to find your voice, but writing in a way that feels “right” to you will sound better to your readers and will be more fun for you. Those bloggers from past and present that we love (or in some cases, love to hate)? Larisa, Big Red Kitty, Phaelia, Gelvon, the guys from Righteous Orbs, Big Bear Butt, etc? What makes us feel so strongly about them is that each has such a distinct voice that if you found an unsigned version of one their posts, you’d figure out pretty fast who wrote it.
5- What limits are there in terms of sharing personal information?
Like most aspects of blogging, how much information you volunteer about yourself is up to your personal comfort level and on the image you want to portray. Don’t post your credit card information or WoW account info on your blog (just email them to me instead!)… Maybe leave out your address and phone number too. If you have an uncommon name or live in a town with a population of 10 or less, you’ll probably want to keep those pieces of information to yourself.
Anything else is dependent on your comfort zone. There was a blogger some time back who intended to build their entire persona around anonymity (unfortunately they got tired of blogging before we could see how it would play out). Then you’ll occasionally see bloggers who use their real name, have pictures of themselves on their main page and who are pretty specific with details of how to find them in the real world.
Just remember that anything published on the internet is published forever. Don’t give away anything about yourself you wouldn’t want your roommate, your mom or your boss to know about.
Blogging FAQ, Part 3: Building a community
1- How do I get people to leave comments on my blog?
I think this question is hands down the most asked in this corner of the internet.
Put as simply as possible, readers generally comment for two reasons:
- You’re mistaken. - They have an opinion about your topic.
Oh, you’ll get other kinds of commentators: friends or guildies dropping by to say hi, passerbys thanking you for a guide you wrote. But the majority of the time, comments will be correcting or adding a point to a post or they’ll be reacting to a topic that got their brain hamster running.
Some topics will almost invariably attract a lot of attention: sexism, “is it ok to be an asshole?”, WoW news (as long as you’re among the first to post about it). Some other topics are just harder to come up with a response to. If you really want to get a feel for how “discussable” different types of topics are, read a lot of blogs and pay attention to what kind of posts draw your hand to the “leave a comment” section.
As well, if you want comments, leave comments on other blogs, especially other blogs who are just starting out. An excellent (or controversial…) comment on a blog with a lot of readers might draw some attention to your work, but curious passerbys usually won’t stick around and chat.
Bloggers who are starting off just like you, however, will typically return the favour. And you’ll build a network of blogging friends. Networks of blogging friends are good to have.
2- How do I plug my blog while commenting on other sites?
This question is usually worded like this: “Bloggers say that they don’t like when commenters post links to their blogs, but then how am I supposed to advertise my blog by leaving comments if I can’t link to my blog?“
The good news is, pretty much every commenting system has a URL field you can use when inputting your identity. So you don’t have to link back to your blog! The commenting system does it for you. Some self-hosted blogs even have an addon that adds a link to your most recent post in your comment.
What irks bloggers (and makes them say things like “don’t post links to your blog“) are empty comments that don’t contribute anything to the post or to the after-post discussion. (On my blog, I don’t give a s…, but a lot bloggers value a tidy and productive comment section.)
And it’s ok that bloggers don’t like empty comments, because empty comments don’t produce much traffic anyway. Leave smart, or witty, or thought-provoking, or helpful comments. Leave good comments. You want readers to think: “Man, this person is so totally awesome, I wonder what their blog is like“.
3- How do I handle trolls?
A lot of new or low profile bloggers have nightmares of waking up to their blog looking like the WoW forums. Until you become accustomed to internet hostility, that publish button anxiety can completely eat you up inside.
I come bearing good news: the presence of trolls on WoW blogs is greatly exaggerated.
Unless you take a job at WoW Insider or are particularly controversial or dramatic, your blog turning into a Youtube comment section is highly unlikely. (If you want an example of someone’s personal experience, in almost 2 years of blogging, after 2 major /gquits, a couple of WoW Insider links and a handful of spicy topics, I’ve received very little hostility and I’ve never been trolled per say. What few incidents I've witnessed have been more bizarre than hostile.)
But what if it does happen?
- Remember that you’re not alone! The WoW Blogging community is extremely supportive. If you receive comments that upset you, most of your fellow bloggers will be quick to reassure you and build your ego right back up. If you’re shy and don’t know who to speak to, any of the moderators here will be happy to lend you a shoulder.
- Don’t feed trolls! When someone’s fishing for a reaction, don’t give it to them. Unfortunately, deleting comments is a form troll feeding, but if your readers tend to react to trolls, you don’t have much of a choice.
- Never answer a comment while angry or upset. You can be conveniently afk until you decide on the best way to respond. (I actually rarely answer any comment, nice or nasty, until I’ve had time to marinate it.)
- If someone rudely points out a mistake, ignore their tone, correct the mistake and thank them for their contribution. (You can even give them credit in your post if you want.)
- If someone disagrees aggressively (but not trollishly) about something, ignoring their tone and answering with something like “I know there are a few schools of thought out there. Can you elaborate?/What would you suggest?” is very disarming, especially for class or fight strategy disagreements.
- Learn to banter. A silly comment deserves a silly answer. Humour is a powerful self-preservation tool and facilitates building relationships with your readers. It also shows that you don’t take yourself too seriously. People who take themselves too seriously are like giant target signs for drama.
Most blog clients let you choose between levels of privacy and security. If you don’t like random strangers gawking at your work, you can make your posts private or visible to only certain people. If comments make you uneasy, you can set your options to moderate them all. Otherwise you can set your blog to require that comments from new people be moderated, while allowing comments from returning people to go through. You can also request that commenters enter a name and email address, which works as a good deterrent for lazy jerks.
Conclusion and Thank Yous
I’d like to thank Windsoar, Erinia, Rhii, Rades for their question suggestions as well as everyone who commented bits of wisdom for the different FAQ parts on the original posts. And of course, I’ve got to thank the crew at Blog Azeroth, who is my #1 provider of blogging questions and blogging answers.
I know I say it over and over, but the WoW blogging community is a great one to be a part of, whether you want to share your knowledge of the game with the universe or whether you just want to talk to some people about WoW. Blogging’s a fantastic way of perfecting your writing skills (which, I’ve discovered, really comes in handy in the offline world too), of perfecting your gaming skills and to meet like minded people. And contrarily to popular belief, it’s not scary and you don’t have to be a top player or professional writer to have a good time.