Blogging FAQ, Part 1: The Skeleton

If you hang around this blog, or Blog Azeroth, you’ve probably heard my spiel about blogging. You know, how it’s great for improving your writing skills, for boosting confidence, for reflecting about stuff, for giving your skin that sexy, healthy glow you’ve always wanted. If you haven’t heard it yet, you will at some point.

As a result of my lengthy ramblings about blogging and my tendency to frequent corners of the internet that encourage such discourses, I get asked lot of questions about blogging. The same questions often come up (apparently us bloggers all share the same worries when we’re first starting out) so I thought I’d compile the more popular ones (and ask on Twitter if anyone had special requests) and, because I’m nice like that, my answers to them.

As I was trying to give each question the attention it deserved, I realized pretty fast that I had way too much content for one post. Turns out blogging is such a mysterious and complicated endeavour that an FAQ cannot fit comfortably into the ideal 500 to 1000 word length (see below) so we’ve got two parts: Part 1 on getting started and part 2 with all you wanted to know about content.

You get part 1 today and you might get part 2 tomorrow or Friday IF YOU ALL BEHAVE.

Part 1: Blogger’s first questions

1- WordPress or Blogger?

The heartbreaking dilemma.

WordPress and Blogger are the most used blogging clients among the WoW Blogosphere. There is a WoW Livejournal community as well, but for whatever reason, I’ve yet to see any LJ WoW Bloggers associate with the rest of us.

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 has a pretty terrible comment system.

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, posta with subthemes can be cut into two or more logical parts (kind of like this fascinating series!).

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.

If you want some tricks about promoting your blog, DiscPriest has a great guide to blog marketing, and Matticus (with Lodur) has written about blog promotion several times as well.

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, but it’s on the members-only part of the forums.

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.

Bonus Question from Twitter: “Where are mah nudez?

I’ll let you guess who issued that question.

It seems that mah nudez are fairly elusive. I could say more from personal experience, but the PG-13 rating of this blog will not let me. Sadface.

You’ll have to hang tight for the next part, since I’m not quite finished writing it yet…

Update: If you are reading this in the future and are antsy to read the rest (I mean, who wouldn’t be?), please enjoy Part 2 and Part 3.

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36 Comments on “Blogging FAQ, Part 1: The Skeleton”

  1. Rades Says:

    Very nice guideline for new would-be bloggers! I don’t know if you’ll be including it in Part 2, but I’d really recommend a distinct name as being a strong factor when creating a blog. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE MY TREE BLOGGERS, but …there’s an awful lot of tree/leaves/branch/bark names out there. You don’t want to be confused with someone else! (Your blog name is awesome in this sense.)

    • Ophelie Says:

      I hadn’t even thought of that! It is usually including in blogging guides, although naming isn’t a question that comes up. I guess most people have already picked their name by the time they ask questions.

      I’ll add a part about names in part 2. Thanks for the idea! And the thanks for the compliments to my blog name :)

  2. Fannon Says:

    Very good post, Ophelie. And hardly controversial at all. In fact, I think you will find the rampaging Internet Troll hordes to be safely kept at bay.

    I can tell you that as a new blogger, I am obsessed with my pageviews and comments. I constantly am monitoring my Google Analytics (the best thing that you get by using Blogger). I get excited with each new pageview and I literally give a cheer when I see a new comment or when I get linked by a bigger blog such as Bossypally and see my average pageviews triple.

    The one thing with stats is that it seems to be taboo to discuss them. There are a lot of blogs out there, with varying levels of activity. I know where mine is at, of course, but it would be interesting to know how Battle Medic compares to others. There has been a lot of talk lately about ‘Big Bloggers’ and ‘Small Bloggers’, and I’m curious to see comparisons. But no one talks about it. It’s probably for the best, since it would likely turn into another form of ePeen, and we can all do with less of those.

    Speaking of the ideal word count, I seem to be approaching that. What’s the ideal number for a comment? :)

    • Ophelie Says:

      I wasn’t worried so much about trolls as about the discussion veering off the topic of “Blogging FAQ”.

      I enjoy looking at my stats as well, seeing which posts people read the most and so on. I’m not as fixated on them as I was when I first started blogging (after awhile, you know what the patterns are) but I still get a lot of enjoyment out of them.

      You can see how many google subscribers a blog has by clicking on “more details” in the google reader, if you want to compare yourself to others. I think stat talk is taboo the same way that money talk is taboo- there’s just no way to talk about it without turning it into an ego fest. From what I’ve been told from other bloggers, it seems that the correlation between hits, subscribers and comments is very loose. Obviously, a blog with a lot of readers will receive more comments than a blog with less readers, however, a small opinion blog might receive more comments than a larger yet factual blog. And there’s no defined line between “big blogger” and “small blogger”. These days, I sometimes see people calling me a “big blogger” but I’m really not. My hits stats are actually pretty embarrassingly low!

  3. Rhii Says:

    Another kernel of advice I might add: give your blogging-persona’s name some thought. Don’t use your real name or your main’s name if you’re not comfortable with people looking you up. Use something that’s easy to pronounce and remember, and that no other blogger you read is already using (I wouldn’t recommend start up a WoW blog under the pseudonym “Ophelia” or “Kiva” or “Xzlyrolkzmitz”, but I probably wouldn’t use “Jim” or “Me” either).

    • Ophelie Says:

      I’ll add that to part 2, thanks!

      But..um… “Ophelie” is *not* hard to say. It’s a simple, proper French name. Oh-fay-lee.

      • Rhii Says:

        LOL! That wasn’t why I used you as an example, I was recommending people not use a name you’re already using, not because it’s hard to say! Likewise, “Kiva” is very much like “Keeva” so I’d steer clear.:P

        Xzlyrolkzmitz is supposed to be the hard to say one! :P

        • Ophelie Says:

          Ooooh makes sense! I get told a lot that my name is hard to pronounce (Fimlys actually gave up and calls me Frito Lay) so I just assumed!

      • Rades Says:

        I actually thought it was “oh-fell-ee”!

  4. Keeva Says:

    “You get part 1 today and you might get part 2 tomorrow or Friday IF YOU ALL BEHAVE.”

    But I want it nowwwwww *whiiine*

    You forgot the most awesomest tip for blog images: DROP SHADOWS.

    Drop shadows EVERYWHERE.

    Oh no, I’ve said too much.

    • Ophelie Says:

      I need to finish writing part 2 first ;D

      What do you mean by “drop shadows”? I’ll add a word about that in the main post (with giving you due credit of course), but I don’t know enough about graphics to really sure what the term means.

  5. Brangwen Says:

    Myself and Pewter (from the ‘mental shaman) are LJ writers from way back. I used to do wow blogging on my LJ, but I decided that I preferred to keep it separate and kept my LJ for personal stuff. But you know that Ophie :)

    • Ophelie Says:

      I actually didn’t know that you used to do your WoW blogging on LJ. Or maybe I did, but it never registered. I do find LJ to be nicer for personal stuff and WP for associating with outside world.


  6. Solid post, and very helpful :) And like Fannon, I obsessively check my stats and comments :3 I just like talking to people!

  7. Nube Says:

    /bow
    /ty
    /salute

    Nice Guide,really clear and to the point.
    Shame I try but cant really make what I intend XD.


  8. nice post. I find the formatting of LJ allows for people with personal blogs to be part of a wow community like for instance Wow ladies – a lot of their members do their own thing on their personal blogs, but share part of the Community through Wow ladies as in interest group. The other platforms are more stand alone

    • Ophelie Says:

      That makes sense. It does seem like the community feature of LJ seems to encourage personal bloggers to group together. I’m sure I have seen some very WoW focussed blogs on LJ, but I guess they have their own community there.

  9. saif Says:

    After writing for a year, and updating maybe once a week, I’m wondering if I should up my rate and try to push my blog out. I haven’t really done any marketing at all, because, well, I suck goose-eggs at self promotion, but this is a good guide! Thanks. :)

    • Ophelie Says:

      The marketing guides I linked to give some pretty solid tricks.

      I’ve never put much effort into promoting my blog, personally, but through networking with other paladin bloggers and being fairly involved at Blog Azeroth, I made a few friends along the way.

  10. Vixsin Says:

    Man, now I’m going to miss raid tonight–there’s no way my over-inflated ego is fitting out my office door any time soon!

    ^_^

  11. Zelmaru Says:

    This is very good! I noticed the Mon/Wed/Fri schedule works well. Although I might add… think of your international audience. For me in the United States, I lose the Europe crowd to the pubs if I post Friday afternoon. Thursday night might be a good idea if the post is ready-to-go.

    Re: Images. You’re right. That’s up to you. I would add that SOME themes that you might use require each post to have a thumbnail or other image (to use in a rotating banner or archive mode). My new theme does. For that reason, I struggle and swear every time I have to post and google image search to find SOMETHING usable. It is something to keep in mind if you currently have a theme based around thumbnails or might switch to one someday.

    • Fannon Says:

      Another reason to add images to your site is that it give people another way to find you. I get quite a few hits from Google Images, most particularly from this image of Uldum that I did in my first Images of Azeroth post. But almost all of the images that have been featured on the blog have got a couple pageviews here and there from Google.

      (Sorry for the links, Ophelie. I hope you don’t mind.)

      • Ophelie Says:

        No worries! I have no problems with links as long as they’re not spam.

        And good point about images being a great marketing tool, especially if you’re particularly good with visuals. One of my images gets me a lot of hits, but it’s, um, the giant spoon image…

    • Ophelie Says:

      I’ve never seen a theme that requests an image. That must be annoying! And you don’t even use a free client. You’d think the paid services would at least allow you to choose whether or not you want an image for your post!

      One thing I really hate about images (and I didn’t put it in the FAQ since it’s kind of an advanced topic) is copyrights. The reason I pretty much only use screenshots is that I don’t want someone on my case for stealing their images.

      Good point about the scheduling. I wanted to keep it simple in the post, but there actually seems to be a huge art to it. I remember relaying a question about timing new content guides to Matticus (who is the local expert on blog marketing) and he gave me such an unexpectedly complete answer that I was totally blown away.

  12. Stubborn Says:

    This is an excellent guide, and I wish that it was written two weeks ago before I started. If it had been, though, I wouldn’t have cold-called Larisa (who I happened to have been reading due my current toon being a mage) and spoken to her about it and perhaps given myself a head start by alerting her to my blog and having her link to me a few days later.

    That’s the only thing I’d add to this already-excellet guide; don’t be afraid to speak to long-term bloggers; the few I’ve spoken to (yourself included in a “comment” fashion) have been extremely helpful and polite. The knowledge already possessed by established members of the community is invaluable, and learning from those who’ve already done it is by far the best way to start.
    Thanks for this post!

    • Stubborn Says:

      Man I hate when I see grammatical errors in my comments! *excellent, not excellet…

      • LarĂ­sa Says:

        I’m approached by new bloggers now and then and to be honest it normally does NOT result in any linkage, regardless of their requests. (I reply to all letters politely though.)

        You didn’t ask for linking. You asked for advice. And looking at your work I sensed a talent so I thought I could give you a nod. But that was more about you being special than about the method.

    • Ophelie Says:

      Asking long term bloggers for advice is indeed a great way to get started. Not all bloggers have the time or dedication to give detailed answers to everyone, but those who are publicly passionate about blogging are usually just as eager to discuss it behind the scenes.

      Actually, the best bloggers to ask are those who’ve been steadily writing for 6 months to a year. They’ve been writing long enough to know how the game works, but are still fresh and eager enough to want to talk about it a lot.

      There are actually quite a few blogging guides on Blog Azeroth, if you feel like browning the library and the “tips” forums. I felt like adding my two cents in, though, which is why I wrote my own ^_^

  13. Reverend Zor Says:

    Great guide! I wish I had seen something like this back when I was first building my site and trying to figure out what to do with it.

    • Ophelie Says:

      Thanks :) You seem to have done a fine job on your own though. Blogging since 2008, that’s impressive! And I’m excited to discover a paladin blog I didn’t know before!

  14. Arybeth Says:

    Damn.

    Was trully hoping for yo nudez someday.


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