So you wanna blog?

I’ve seen this in a few places (most recently at Troy’s new blog, Flash of Steel) and wanted to comment on it. There is an article at GameDailyBIZ about starting and maintaining a successful blog. It zeroes in on gaming blogs, but it’s applicable to blogs in general. As blogging is a phenomenon I’m interested in, I was interested to see what new tips I could glean. While there’s nothing really new here, it’s a decent read if you’re interested in blogging. The article lists three steps to a good blog (gaming or otherwise):

Step 1: Create a blog that’s worthy to be read

Readers already choose between a massive number of quality enthusiast press publications. As a result, a fledgling blog has virtually no chance of making it big if it doesn’t provide readers an experience that can’t be found somewhere else.

This is the real trick. This is like making a list on how to be a good golfer and starting the list with “have an excellent golf swing.” It’s the simple fact that no one will read your blog if you’re not providing them with something fresh. There are a ton of gaming blogs you can read out there, and while most are worth a read in their own right, there are a lot more blogs worth skipping. Providing an experience not found elsewhere is tough to do. Regurgitating all the news that comes across the wire won’t do it. There’s other places where people are doing for that already. Casting a wide net and trying to post about everything is also going to be hard to maintain. Find your voice and go with that.

Step 2: Get People to Read Your Blog

This can actually be the easy part of starting a blog, but go about it the wrong way and you will alienate readers much faster than you can garner them. Places like Digg and Slashdot abhor “blog-whoring” and I pretty much avoid submitting my blog to them at all costs (save for links to the monthly Carnival). I have been linked by Slashdot, which is quite a “nerd high,” but each time I’ve been linked there it has been by Zonk, not from my personal submissions. (It is a huge honor to be linked by them, but it has always been a surprise to have Slashdot show up in the referrer logs.) There are other ways to drive people to your site. Using your URL in forum sigs, your email sig, submitting to the Carnival and the Roundtable are all ways to get readers to your blog without blatantly blog whoring. Getting your site URL out there with subtlety is a talent, but persitence will be rewarded here. Make friends with other bloggers, link to their sites, use trackback judiciously and don’t appear desperate and you’ll do just fine.

Step 3: Get People to Bookmark Your Blog

Post Often

If you want to become one of the big time bloggers, you’ve got to consider this a full time job hobby. The best blogs post often, post consistently, and even post on weekends. It is difficult to do this, especially since you will likely not see a sustainable income from your blog for quite some time.

While this advice is by far the most important, I’ve modified it a bit. I think the moment you treat blogging as a full-time job (unless it is your job, natch), you’ve lost sight of why you’re blogging in the first place. Your motivation for blogging should be that your topic of choice is something you’re passionate about. Nevertheless, you’ve got to provide new content on a consistent basis. I’ve found both in reading and writing a blog that consistent posting is the most important aspect of a blog. I’ve tried to get a post a day here on buttonmashing.com, but some times that just not possible. Even still, you’ve got to work hard and produce good stuff. Getting quality stuff out regularly will keep people coming back.

This will actually become easier as you develop your voice and you earn a regular readership. You’ll get feedback from your regulars and that will spur you on to create more content. Is a postive feedback loop that you’ll come to love. Nothing is more exciting than getting your first comments and first subscriptions to your feed. It’s fun and will definitely motivate you to blog even more. The hitch is to maintain that motivation over a long period of time. It’s not easy but it pays off in the long run.

So have a read, start a blog, and have fun doing it. That’s what it’s all about anyway.

Comments

  1. Consistent posting frequency is still important, but it isn’t as important as I think it used to be. The advent of widespread RSS use means consistently entertaining posts are more important. If people read two or three good bits (which might have been posted 2-3 days apart), they will still consider putting your feed into their reader and then they’ll see when you post without having to actively seek you out.

    Just my pair o’ pennies.

  2. I agree with JVM’s post. My RSS feeds have sites that are tirelessly updated on a daily basis.

    Yet there are some that don’t update so frequently. However, since they provide some valuable information I find myself checking regularly to see what news would come up.

  3. Yeah, I read an article recently about how daily updates may actually turn off readers. The theory was that readers feel overloaded with information and don’t want to feel like you’re constantly giving them new stuff to read.

    I know that’s true for me. I recently subscribed to Thrillist, which emails info on a new pop culture phenomenon every day, and I’m already experiencing a sinking feeling every time I see it in my Inbox.

  4. Reminding people who link to you to update their blogrolls doesn’t hurt, either. 😉

    The whole job/hobby distinction depends largely on the intent of the blog. I won’t make much money blogging about my niche interests, but it has served as a good promotional tool for other career opportunities. It lists my professional portfolio and everytime something is published I pause to write about it.

    But I get most of my traffic from hanging out in other people’s comments.

  5. This was a great refresher course. I’m glad that you made this post because it helps to get some reminders and little notes that verify that I’m doing at least some things correctly (at least according to someone’s opinion). I do not find it necessary to post every day, but I still like to at least aim for that because, like you said, I don’t always have the time or I might not always have content. However, even if you miss a day or two every now and then you’re still providing something new on the other days of the week. It’s my procrastination insurance, so to speak.

  6. I’ll definitely agree that updating isn’t as important as it used to, but I still maintain that constant content is important for a blog that is just getting started. Once a readership is built up you can slow on the content, but by then it’s usually better anyway.

    Troy – I updated! I like the new look.

    Matt – I think if you stick to a decent (and fairly consistent) schedule, most people will return often.

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