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…