Today we’re going to step away from our normal topic of WoW just a bit and talk once again about blogging itself. I might not be an expert in the realm of blogging, but I’ve done enough “blog leveling” of my own to know a few things that I can pass on to other people. If you’ve done some research on blogging before, then you may recognize a lot of what I’m going to talk about here. For that matter, this may all be a repeat of things you’ve read elsewhere. There are only so many types of “blogs” that exist, after all.
What I want to talk about here is some tips for helping you blog in a way that will help you and help your readers. I haven’t decided whether I want to turn this into a series or what, so I guess we’ll just see how it goes. Here are some of the things that we’re going to talk about today:
- Writing Frequency
You know, like the one right above here that listed the things we’re going to talk about? Lists are a great way to keep things organized, or more specifically to appear organized. It can serve several different purposes depending on how and where you use it: a guide or outline to the article you’ve written, steps you need to take in order to accomplish something, a collection of URL links, or nothing more than a simple list.
Lists are important because they show that sense of organization, and they can help you as the author just as much as they can your readers. You can take this article itself as an example. I started this post with that list, though not exactly with those items on the list. I added some and took others away as I was writing.
It’s a simple fact that many readers do not bother to read everything that you’ve written. The more you write, the more they skip. Having a list gives your readers an idea of what to look for and where to look for it. You can see from my list that maybe you already know about lists and pictures, and you’ve already decided on a topic and your writing frequency, so you know you can skip down to the subscriptions section and just ignore the rest of this post.
I would almost be willing to bet that most of the people that read this will skip over the lists section here in particular because it’s such a simple thing. Yet for being such a simple thing, you’ll notice a lot of bloggers never bother with lists at all.
Here’s another topic that shouldn’t be much of a shocker to you. How big you make your paragraphs also has a profound impact on how much readers actually read and how much they simply skim or just skip over all together. Paragraphs that are too small tend to get skipped because they’re small and thus insignificant, while paragraphs that are too large get skipped because of the “wall of text” feel of it.
Generally speaking you want to keep your paragraphs short. Somewhere around three to five sentences works well in most cases. The reason is that it makes things easier to read and because it offers more breaks in the overall text it’s easier for readers to stop reading and come back to it later, or finish up a paragraph real quick before stepping away, and so on. Short paragraphs doesn’t necessarily mean short sentences, though. Say what you need to say, keep the sentences in the paragraphs related to one another, and put the breaks in where they’re needed.
This tip goes back to making things easier for your readers and giving them more control over their reading experience.
Every blog post needs a picture.
This was one of the hardest concepts for me to really grasp the importance of. I just didn’t see why they were important. Sure, they were typically entertaining or helpful in expressing thoughts or demonstrating, but their importance escaped me. I had read in other blogs that offered advice much the same as this article here, and seen that other authors talked about pictures and how they needed to be there even if the picture had nothing at all to do with what you were talking about. It just didn’t really click with me until I started paying attention.
I want to give you some examples here, so I’m going to give you some links to blogs that use pictures and how they use them. Some of them will be WoW/gaming blogs and some will be programming/database related. Those are the only blogs I care to read, so they’re the only ones I’ll be linking for you here. Take a look at the articles I have linked here and notice how the pictures are used.
You’ll see that pictures are used to give you a relative sense of what the article is about, as with Made2Mentor. Though the article in question isn’t related to the picture itself, it’s the concept behind the picture that relates to the concept of the article.
In Big Hit Box you’ll see that pictures are used for several reasons, especially if you look at multiple posts. They’re used to show who the author is or which class the posts are about, they’re used to help explain portions of the article or to emphasize certain points, and they’re used to separate one section of the article from another giving you a bit of a road map to what’s going on.
In Cynwise’s Battlefield Manual you’ll find pictures that help you visualize what Cynwise is talking about. Some things just don’t translate well into words, especially when the thoughts expressed can have different meanings based on perspective.
Mend Pet gives an excellent example, and the reason why it’s there as well. (Go read it, I’ll wait.)
Brent Ozar and The SQL UPDATE Statement are good examples of blogs using pictures to help in explanations to give you a visual idea of what’s being talked about and why.
Tim Mitchell.net gives another example where pictures are used to help give you the feeling that you were there to participate as well. It helps you put yourself into a similar setting or situation so that you can get a clearer picture of your topic.
All of these are merely examples of how you can use pictures in your blog. I use pictures for a number of different things here. I screenshot how I suggest spending talent points so that you don’t have to keep track of a written list. I do my goofy MSPaint pictures to help visualize certain spells or classes, or just to give a little entertainment. As I tend to write huge blocks of text using pictures really helps to break things up as well. In person you almost have to beat conversation out of me because I’m just a quiet kind of guy, but when you give me something to write it’s hard to shut me up.
Some people like to plan out their topics way in advance while others like to come up with them on the fly. Some people like to keep their entire blog focused on a single subject while others like to blog about whatever happens to be on their mind. How you you go about deciding on topics is entirely up to you, it is your blog after all.
What you write about is also your call. How wide a range of topics do you want to discuss and how tightly do you hold to that. My blog is about leveling characters in World of Warcraft, but I have several posts (this one included) that aren’t about leveling or even that aren’t about WoW at all. Sometimes I don’t blog about the leveling so much as I do gearing or farming.
You’ll need to think about these things at some point in your blogging life or you’ll end up struggling with yourself about whether or not you should blog about something because you aren’t sure if it fits in with your blog. Remember that your readers are just as much here for you and who you are as they are what you’re actually writing about. Often you’ll find that your readers care more about you and your valued opinion or perspective than they do the actual topics themselves.
But, the more professional you are in your blogging, the more strict you’ll tend to be towards sticking to specific topics.
How often you write is directly linked to how long you continue blogging. When we first start blogging most of us get really excited and start popping the articles one after another. Depending on what goal you set for yourself it may be one post per day, five per week, once per month, two per day, or any other posting rate you can imagine.
There for a while you’ll probably even be able to maintain that speed. Eventually though, you’re going to run into something that sets you back and for whatever that reason is you’re not going to post on the day you wanted to. A lot of people get so discouraged by this that they stop dead in their tracks right there. The blog dies, no new posts come out, no goodbye post, just over and done. Some people will instead see this as soon of a break from blogging, impressed with their success enough that they don’t mind taking a few days off before getting back to it; and then two months later they post again with “Wow, it’s been a while. Sorry about that!”
The most important thing about how frequently you write and post your articles is that your blog belongs to you and your readers are faithful to you, not your frequency. If you need to take a break, go ahead and do it. If you fall behind in posting for a few days, don’t worry about it. The only blogs that “need” to have a fast, consistent posting rate are ones that are used to generate revenue.
If you’ve fallen behind for a couple of weeks and feel like you need a “filler post”, something that you can post that’s not exactly your greatest work but you need to get something out there, then try to make it something that has at least some amount of value to it, and don’t make promises of when the next post is going to be. The value in the post can be anything, upcoming topics or changes to the blog, something to help us (the readers) get to know you better, your suggestions (and why) for other blogs or articles related to your blog’s focus – basically anything at all that you want to write about that isn’t just “Sorry I missed a couple of days there, I’ll get something new on Monday.”
I don’t know that my thoughts are expressed in the best way here so let me summarize. Basically, write for yourself and don’t worry about sticking to a schedule. Have a schedule so that you have goals to aim for, but don’t worry if you miss one now and then. I started off planning to write one post every day of the work week and I did a decent job of that for a while. Eventually that number dwindled down to a few per week, then to one per week, then to one per two weeks, and it’s been all over the place in between since then.
You also need to realize that the topic of your blog will impact how frequently you can write. My blog focuses on leveling characters, but the problem with that is that there are only so many classes to choose from so while I was able to get a good start at first it eventually started to dry up. There are still several things for me to blog about, but I can’t do it every single day and still post something with enough value to it for me to be willing to put my stamp on it.
Now I just post whenever I want to post, and I’ve loosened my focus just a bit so that I’m not specifically leveling any more though that still remains my primary focus.
June 18, 2010 at 10:05 AM
I find myself in a strange place right now with OM&B. My goal has always been one post per week. I’m having some writer’s block going on, but I came up with the idea of the “Kill Shot Tuesday” screenshot posts. The KST posting at least satisfies my personal quota while allowing me to take more time to break through the writer’s block.
June 18, 2010 at 12:57 PM
Writer’s block can be a real challenge, especially when you’ve got a focused blog. When you’re generalized your block is often caused by too many choices and not wanted to pick one or not being able to decide. With a focused blog it’s more trying to figure out what you haven’t already covered and what hasn’t been beat to death by all of the other bloggers already.
Have you thought of hunting down all of the game’s rare spawns and KST’ing them?
June 18, 2010 at 3:16 PM
Nice idea, but Noche has been more or less still on vacation. The Booty Bay vacation is real and the story is coming to an end this weekend. I’m already working on the post.
I’ve been playing my shaman to get an overall min gearing of 200. Then will come my neglected paladin, my original main.
Noche will be in play every so often, but hunting the rare spawns is not enough action for me. I’ll most likely get into more PVP action.
June 18, 2010 at 11:15 AM
I myself have recently had a mix of writers block, and getting punched in the face repeatedly with work. However, this is a very good guide, and I totally agree with the point about every post having a picture. It really breaks up the wall of text, and provides a bit of tension relief if the subject matter is a bit tense.
How dare you not include my excellent choices in animated gifs on my blog, though… >:( haha
June 18, 2010 at 1:24 PM
Work has been a big stumbling block for me here lately. I used to do all of my blogging at work but for the last 5 weeks or so it’s been very hectic and I barely have any time at all for the blogging.
Pictures are big, and I’ve come to realize that as I’ve gone on. I really didn’t see the point when I started. I could see that some blogs had cool pictures and all but they weren’t really me and I didn’t see the value in them. Then I came back to my own blog to read through some of my own posts and I was like, “Dang, where are the freaking pictures? I’m drowning in text here!” And so the MS Paint drawings came to be.
June 18, 2010 at 12:20 PM
Great post, Psyn.
I dislike filler posts, but definitely have needed to have kickstart posts. Sometimes you just have to get *something* out there, even if it’s not up to whatever standard you’re holding yourself to, just to get the flow going again. I don’t keep to a schedule, but I’ve certainly needed to kick myself out of ruts and get things flowing again.
Pictures were a big step up for me. I try to put in something, ANYTHING, into every single post. I think it was Hots and Dots that showed me the value of always having something up, even if it’s not really related. It makes the post look that much more finished, that much more polished. Those times I have to put up a post without a graphic — almost always gear posts, almost always posting from my phone — I never like how they look after the fact.
And while there are times I wish I could write about more than BGs and Warlocks on CBM… let’s face it. I LIKE writing about BGs and Warlocks. :-) If I need to write about something else I’ll call it Cyn’s Guide to something or start up a new blog.
June 18, 2010 at 12:30 PM
It’s true, you really can end up digging yourself too deep into a niche that your not sure what to post next, cause nothing is new on that topic.
I for example have been really in a rut with no new Paladin posts, but fortunately I left the blog open enough to allow for more generalized posts, and of course rants.
I also totally agree with your point about images making the post look finished. I have thrown out a few “QuickPress” posts using the little tool that WordPress provides, but even then I try to put some kind of image in there, if not to use as a header for the post.
But on the point of niches, it’s also good to try and create a niche or style with the images that you use. For example, I loves me some modified animated gifs, they just add a little something to some posts, while on others I’d rather use a static image, but more often then naught, it is an image that I touched in some way, whether it be adding a Terran Marine face to some Paladin armor, or turning Khraden into Hamlet, I try to keep it custom.
June 18, 2010 at 1:45 PM
Filling a niche is how you stand out and draw readers to you initially. Digging too deep a trench though leaves you with no way out.
Modified gifs are cool, but on a personal level I’m not a fan of animated ones because they distract me while I’m trying to read. You can blame it on my Epilepsy, I’m a very visual person and repetition is like a snare for me. If I see an animated gif in my peripheral vision then I’ll read the same sentence over and over without realizing it because my focus is actually the gif.
June 18, 2010 at 1:29 PM
I completely agree with you on that. Filler posts, to me, are ones that provide no value at all to your blog. They’re there strictly because you feel like you need to post something.
Kick-start posts are great, though. They give you something to do as the blogger and they give something, no matter how small, to the reader as well.
June 18, 2010 at 12:49 PM
This is a great post, thanks Psyn. It’s probably bad that I read the section where you talked about not kicking yourself for not posting more and was sort of relieved. “Oh, someone else says it’s okay not to worry about this, I guess I can not worry about it…”
I can also definitely relate to the idea of having a blog with a very specific focus that then needs to branch out, and I’ve been figuring out the picture thing as well. Appearance just counts for so much.
June 18, 2010 at 1:41 PM
That’s not a bad thing. When you start feeling pressure from your blog it’s not longer something fun and interesting; instead it becomes a job, and nobody likes going to work.
Branching out is a good thing, it helps keep things fresh. Being locked into a small niche is a good way of stabbing your own blog in the back because your number of available topics dwindles down to nothing where your only option is to rewrite old posts, branch out and feel like your blog has lost its focus, or give up – and none of those options are good ones.
As far as the pictures go, I really like what was said in the Mend Pet link I have in the article here where she talks about using pictures. Pictures really help with the flow of your articles, even if they’re completely unrelated to what you’re doing. The more obscure it is the more your reader thinks about it actually as they read your article and then try to figure out how that picture was tied in.
June 18, 2010 at 1:29 PM
Great post….I think frequency though is a little important. I get frustrated sometimes when I see the same post on blogs days on end. I say stick to a schedule. If you want to cut back on posting that’s understandable, but be frequent about it, and let your readers know.
June 18, 2010 at 1:37 PM
Frequency is important. I’m not saying to throw the whole concept out the window, but you don’t need to beat yourself up about it if you fall off the wagon for a week.
That being said, I don’t like seeing a “dead” blog either. If I take a look at your blog and nothing ever changes then I assume you’re done and take you off my list. If you haven’t posted for over a month then I might cut you off my list if I’m not a huge fan. Two months and you’re gone unless I talk to you on twitter or something and know that there’s a reason. Three months, and you’re gone regardless.
I don’t check blogs every day though, I usually check them once a week except for those that I have in my feed reader which I check every day or so. I don’t demand multiple updates per week, but I want something there with some degree of frequency and consistency or it’s not worth my time to keep looking you up with so many other blogs out there.
June 18, 2010 at 11:59 PM
My problem is I don’t think I have a readership of any kind. How did you get people to start reading your blog? Do you just throw up interesting posts and one day you simply have a readership or is there steps you should take?
June 19, 2010 at 2:03 AM
Advertise. I think just about all WoW bloggers are also on Twitter. We always advertise our new postings and spread the word for each other.
When you post on other blogs make sure you add your website as part of your posting information.
*website* = it turns you name into a link back to your blog…curious people will often follow it, which could lead to new readership
Don’t get to caught up on number of site visits. A lot of people read blogs via RSS feed readers and email. People tend to also go light on commenting unless they feel the need to say something or ask a question you did not ask.
June 20, 2010 at 1:34 AM
Well, it looks like replying to these things in order of posting has come back to bite me. It would have been easier to just say “yeah, what Nochecazador just said. :P
June 20, 2010 at 1:33 AM
Yes, advertising (or Networking) is really the key to getting your readership started. Network using social sites and tools such as Twitter to find people with similar interests and get your name out there. Comment on other people’s blogs and leave comments that are worth reading, and be sure that your url is linked to the name you’re posting under so that people can click your name if they like your comment and then be redirected to your blog.
It’s a big internet out there, and the best way to get people to find you is for you to go out and find people yourself.
June 20, 2010 at 5:29 PM
I don’t agree with the picture thing. A lot of people read blogs at work and appreciate a more neutral background that doesn’t scream out that you’re browsing a WoW blog in your break. Tobold’s is the perfect read-at-work blog!
Regardless of this aspect I also dislike blogs that feel overdecorated, looking like Christmas trees. It hurts my eyes, I lose focus and really don’t want to read tham. Actually I tend to skip them altogether, sticking to the blogs that lock “clean”, simple, straight.
Listing is for good and for bad. It can be efficient but it can also make it a bit de-personalized… All those premade blogging formats bore me a lot. I prefer walls of texts such as Tamarind’s at Righteous Orbs. Maybe I’m a bitt strange in this but I’d like to point out that there’s not just one truth about “how to blog”.
June 21, 2010 at 8:39 AM
Nice points, Larisa. We all have our own tastes and with the internet being the massive, customizable beast that it is it’s a good thing we’re able to have such a variety of styles both in writing and in design or else blogging itself would be boring and dull. As with all of my guides, this is merely an expression of my own opinion.
Wall of text blogs don’t bother me much in particular, but it really depends on their size and how they’re broken up. I can handle a 3,000 word WoText post if it’s broken down with nothing but a few headers here and there, but if it’s straight text then I’m not likely going to bother reading it unless you catch me in the first paragraph. Your own blog is a good example of that, mostly text but broken nicely with bold headers keeps it clean and easy to read.
As far as no pictures, as I said you can use any picture at all and it doesn’t have to be WoW related. If you’re reading at work during your break though, does it really matter what the pictures are about? I guess that depends on your company’s terms, but I’ve never had any problems with it.
I’m with you on the overdecorated part. Our definitions of it probably differ of course, but I feel the same. When I get to a blog that has so much going on that I can’t stand looking at it then I’ll throw it into the RSS reader and never go back to the site. But a blog can look really good and I’ll still go to it. A good example of a blog with a lot of decoration that doesn’t push me beyond my limits is Fel Fire. There’s a lot going on there which would normally be way beyond my limits, but this one doesn’t.
One thing that drives me away from blogs straight away is advertising. If your site loads with ads on the screen then I’m immediately turned off and most likely will leave unless your titles catch me first, and if they’re flashing ads then I’m likely to close the page before I even bother reading your first title.
June 22, 2010 at 2:56 AM
I definitely agree on the ads thing. Since the revenue from them, as far as I can tell, is very, very low, I can’t understand why bloggers find it worthwhile to have them.
My impression is that you mostly find them at self-hosted bloggers. They’re really trying to get back at least something of the money they put into blogging. But if they’re that short on cash, wouldn’t they have done better to stick with the free tools?
I’ve done that for over two years now, and I’ve never regretted it for a second.
June 21, 2010 at 10:20 AM
Pictures are good advice. I need to do more of them.
June 21, 2010 at 2:06 PM
I would use awesome Paint pictures but I don’t have your skill in Paint! ;)
I generally try to use at least one image per post – it’s a personal thing, it just feels better with something breaking off the text.
When it comes to titles/sections etc. it really depends for me. I don’t always write long posts, and the shorter ones I just don’t feel need it. While longer posts will get split in sections :)
Good suggestions overall :)