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:
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.)
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.