If you’re a long-time reader of the WHU, this is the final article that will appear on the site. The website will continue to exist indefinitely, though, and I’d encourage you to explore the History of the WHU, and to use the resources below to continue to be an excellent, dues-paying hunter.
What follows is a list of alternate hunter resources where you can get current hunter info.
The Grumpy Elf – I haven’t followed this blog personally, but it comes recommended by BigRedKitty, the “Godfather” of hunter bloggers.
Scattered Shots – This is the Hunter column over on WoW Insider. Currently it is vacant due to some cutbacks at WoW Insider. But this blog has had a long line of accomplished hunters write under the “Scattered Shots” banner, including the creator of the WHU, Frostheim.
Other Hunter Resources
Female Dwarf – Zeherah is a staple of the hunter community and an amazing theorycrafter. Her online spreadsheet for maximizing your character’s dps is an incredible tool.
Ask Mr. Robot – Similar to Female Dwarf, but slightly larger in scope to include other classes, Ask Mr. Robot helps you maximize your character’s dps by managing spec, gear, gems, and other minutia that goes into your character.
Petopia – THE place to go for all things pet-related, Petopia will help to track down rare tames, view animal skins, and generally anything you’d ever want to know about pets in WoW.
WoW Biology 101 – A decidedly different and cool approach to pets in WoW, in-game hunter Banya is a real-life zoologist, and uses her knowledge to provide an unparalleled glimpse into WoW through the eyes of a pet-lover. Here you can learn about WoW animals, their real-life counterparts, enriching both your understanding and appreciation of the game and the world around you. It should also be noted that Banya runs a site called Art and Rhinos that has all sorts of fun stuff on it!
Elitist Jerks Forums – A small but dedicated community of hunter trying to get the most out of their class. I often visit this site to check in on the latest achievements in hunter soloing and tanking, or to dig into the details of our dps and PvP viability.
Warcraft Hunter’s Union Facebook Group – With about 700 members, this remains a great hunter-specific place to chat and ask questions. It’s a closed group, so you’ll have to request admittance (this is to deter advertisement spammers)
WHU Guild – An all-dwarven-hunter guild on the Icecrown server, though the website that spawned it is no longer being updated, the guild remains open and active.
RogerBrown – A hunter in the guild Method, a guild that boasts several world-first PvE kills. Roger is an excellent source of information about the highest levels of raiding. You can follow him via his live raiding video feed, or through Method’s website.
Durendil – A soloing hunter with a TON of world-first kills under his belt, Durendil is a great place to start when researching the world of hunter soloing challenges. He also seems to post regularly on Elitist Jerks, chronicling his endeavors, and has a blog that compiles his kills.
Michele Morrow – Michele is a longtime friend of the WHU, and a raid leader and hunter. But she’s also an accomplished actress, blogger, podcaster, and gamer. There are several ways to follow her. The easiest is probably her Twitter account and Facebook page. She is also currently the host for BiteSize TV’s new nerd variety show on Hollywood Blvd called “Chaotic Awesome,” writer for Hello Giggles and the newest addition to SyFy’s hit series “Heroes of Cosplay”. She’s also currently producing a wonderful WoW documentary with Nerdist Industries and Legendary Pictures.
General WoW Information
MMO Champion – A frequently-updated news site, this is probably one of the most frequented WoW websites on the internet.
Wowhead – The most comprehensive catalog of in-game items, quests, NPCs, maps, and other information.
Icy Veins – Also a general news site with a lot of other resources, but Icy Veins is also known for its excellent boss guides for PvE hunters.
World of Wargraphs – This site collects meta-data on player trends in both PvE and PvP, as well as other aspects of the game like professions, races, and levels. An excellent source of information to gauge general trends in the player base.
Warcraft Logs – This is one of the most popular log sites on the web currently. Using this tool, you can analyze your own dps, the dps of others, or track large amounts of data to see which classes are performing well on specific encounters.
WoW Insider – Also useful for news and views, WoW Insider boasts an excellent collection of ongoing blogs for each class.
FatbossTV – In Mists of Pandaria, this became my go-to place for video strategies on bosses (along with Icy Veins for written strats). In the past I’ve used Tankspot, but their updates were much less timely. That may have changed since I last checked.
Comprehensive as this is in its coverage, I’m sure there’s some great stuff that I missed. Feel free to recommend blogs, sites, or individuals that I should add. Otherwise, best of luck to you in WoW!
Comments Off on How to Start a WoW Blog 4: Monetizing Your Blog
This series of posts was published on WoW Hunters Hall back in 2011. I’m transferring them over here since WHH no longer exists. Information may be dated!
Okay, we’ve talked about the technical details of starting your WoW blog, we’ve given some advice on how to keep up with it and make sure it doesn’t suck, and last time we went over the various ways to promote your blog to get readers. Now we’re going to talk about how to monetize your blog.
The theory here is that you spend hours every week slaving over your blog, doing research and presenting useful information and responding to comments and emails and helping thousands of players improve their game, or at the very least entertaining them for a portion of their day. It is perfectly reasonable to want to get something in exchange for all of that work.
Unfortunately, you won’t.
You Will Not Make Much Money Blogging About WoW
The crappy truth is that there is not much money to be made blogging about WoW. You will not be able to quit your day job. You will not be able to pay your rent. You will not be able to buy a new computer. If your blog becomes popular you can, however, make about enough to pay your hosting bill and pay for your WoW subscription.
Certainly there are exceptions, but those exceptions aren’t some guy writing a WoW blog — they are entire businesses. WoW Insider makes enough from ad revenue to have a staff of paid writers, for example (and even then, none of those writers are doing this as their day job, it’s just a side gig for people who love WoW). MMO-Champion and Wowhead are positively rolling in the dough. But I’m not aware of any single WoW blog that makes significant money, unless that blog is a part of a much larger business.
The sad part of it is that this is specific to the MMO industry. If you blogged about gardening, or computers, or cooking you would make ten to one hundred times as much for the same level of popularity. So if you’re in it for the money, or expect to make money blogging, find a different topic fast.
I am absolutely trying to crush your expectations as harshly as possible. I am doing this because I’m right.
Warcraft Hunters Union is probably the most popular single class blog in WoW, and if not it’s certainly in the top few. It pays for WoW and its hosting and a nice chunk on the side, but it doesn’t pay my rent. You would need to have 10 times the traffic of the WHU at least before you’re starting to pay the bills with your blog.
Now that our expectations are at a reasonable level, let’s discuss what you can do to try to squeeze out those dozens of dollars that you can make. I’m going to briefly go over the standard ways to monetize a blog with some comments on which work best. I’m going to do my best to write this from a moral vacuum — I’m just going to lay out the blog monetization options and let you decide which you feel ethically comfortable with.
Ads: putting ads on the side or top of your blog is probably the easiest way to monetize it. You do this by signing up for Google Adsense. Google puts the ads in and does a pretty good job of targeting the best ads for your audience. The more traffic your blog gets, the better the ads it gets. The downside is that you will end up with gold selling ads, and there’s nothing effective you can do to block them. Google ads are actually one of the most effective routes of monetization that I’ve found — be sure to use one of their recommended most popular ad sizes to ensure that you get better ads. Also don’t go crazy with the ads. If you have more than 3 on your site, Google will punish you. But even 3 looks really spammy. Personally I’d put the ad ceiling at two ads on a page max.
Donate Button: a classic in the WoW world is the donate button, which you can set up through PayPal. Believe it or not, relying on your loyal readers to chip in ten bucks now and then to keep the content coming is the single worst monetization I’ve seen. Incredibly few people will donate; in general your readers will hold you to an incredibly high standard, always want more, and expect it all for free. I’m not saying this is bad, it’s just the way it is in the MMO world. It’s worth noting that the donation model works better if you have periodic campaigns (I’m raising XX dollars for a new computer). You have to ride a fine line of reminding people to donate, but not doing it so often that you sound like your constantly begging.
Affiliates: the concept behind an affiliate is that you’re promoting someone else’s product. You get a special link code so that whenever anyone goes to that site, it flags you as the one who sent them. Then if they buy something, you get a percentage of the sale. Affiliate commissions for real products range somewhere around 5%. Affiliate commissions for PDF / video downloads tend to range from 30% to 50%. Unlike ads, you only get paid for sales, not for traffic. The danger with affiliates is that most of the affiliate content through places like Clickbank are total garbage or rehashed content that is already available for free. These are typically in the form of guides on making gold or playing the AH or leveling guides. If you find one that you feel comfortable putting your name behind, go for it. But the moment you’re an affiliate your recommendation is suddenly suspicious to even the most loyal readers. The common method of pushing WoW-related affiliate stuff is by doing a review, often coupled with some kind of “promotion” or discount. You can make good money after pushing a new affiliate product, though it comes mostly as an upfront burst. Gold sellers have affiliate programs too, I’m pretty sure, if you’re really into selling your soul. [So much for writing from a moral vaccuum!]
Sponsors: in theory you can get some money by having a sponsor. The idea here is that you get some company to “sponsor” you for a monthly fee in exchange for you talking about that company positively, and including a banner of some sort on your site. I can’t say how profitable this is — I’ve had a few companies try to get this kind of arrangement with the WHU, and they always offer far less than the Google ads bring in. The Hunting Party Podcast has a sponsor, but I don’t know if we even get any money from that at all. But if you have an in with some giant company willing to put up some actual cash, go for it and let me know how it works!
Direct Advertising: similar to Google Ads, but here a company approaches you directly about paying a monthly fee for an ad on your site. In general, they all pay far less than Google Ads and I’ve never found it worth it. After all, those advertisers can target your site through Google Ads anyway — it’s only worth going direct to you if they can pay less for doing it that way. It’s worth noting that if you get at all popular, gold sellers will approach you about this fairly often — I’ve never actually asked what they pay, so I can’t say if that’s a good deal or not.
Blackhat Whore: I’m not really sure what else to call this. In the world of SEO, sites can rank better if they have a lot of links pointing to them. Some agencies act as brokers, paying you to put links on your blogroll to their client sites. This technique of buying & selling links is part of Blackhat SEO and is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, and could theoretically get your site banned (though the odds of that are small). The sites that are most likely to want to pay for a blogroll from you are online gambling sites, though any highly competitive niche could be interested. They’ll pay you a chunk of cash — $100 to $250 — for putting the link on your blogroll for a year. A couple of these links could easily net you far more than any other monetization methods combined. You can look for these agencies, or if your blog becomes popular they could find you. In general your site needs to be at least pagerank 3 or 4 before they’ll be interested. I figure whenever I hang up my blogging hat I’ll quickly sell out and get as many of these up as I can. [Update: clearly I could not bring myself to do this]
Subscription Model: one of the most profitable models for monetizing a blog is the subscription model. In this model you have your blog divided into a front-end promotional free content section, where you update regularly and give away occasional useful bits of information. Then you have a members area that’s available to people for a small monthly membership fee. This members area usually has a forum where users get personal attention from you, and has a bunch more information that isn’t available to the public, often including PDF downloads. While this is a profitable model in the wider world of the internet, I highly doubt it would work for a WoW blog — there’s just too much information available for free out there, there’s no reason to pay you for your time. Not to mention gamers are inherently cheap when it comes to game knowledge, as we’ve discussed earlier.
After all, what good is spending all that time and work writing regularly if there’s no one to read it?
Step 1: Blog
I need to stress that the very first thing you need to do is blog. I know this sounds obvious, but about half the emails I get from people asking for a link to their blog have published only one or two posts total. Don’t be that person.
You need to build up at least a small backlog of posts before you go trying to recruit readers. When a new reader comes to your blog, they need to be able to poke around a little bit and see what else you’ve written and get a feel for your blog. Not to mention that the backlog demonstrates that this isn’t your first day on the job — after all, most blogs never get past those first few posts.
I recommend having at least a dozen posts under your belt and live on your site before you start trying to promote your blog. Try to make sure that you have a good representation of articles up too — if you have a dozen tiny posts about how you’re starting a WoW blog and why… well, people won’t care. But that doesn’t mean that every one of your posts has to be some massive manifesto on mechanics either. The idea here is to have a sampling of all the kinds of things that you’re going to talk about. This way visitors are more likely to see something that they’ll like, and they’ll have a better idea of what your blog is about.
If people follow a link to a blog and see that there’s almost no content there, they’re less likely to come back, and more likely to ignore links to that site in the future.
One of the first things that you can do, even during that first dozen post period, is to tell your friends and guildmates about your blog. Encourage them to check it out and blatantly ask them to comment on the posts. Some will, most won’t, and just keep badgering them about it.
Having even just a few comments on your posts helps make your blog feel lived in, and makes it a little more likely that other people will comment.
A note on comments: it’s worth noting that a teeny tiny fraction of your readers will comment on your posts. The WHU, for reference, gets around 20,000 visits on an average day, and posts average around 30 comments. In fact, the number of comments on blogs across the internet is in steep decline. It used to be that commenting was a common way of interacting with information and authors; however, these days social media (facbook Likes, Twitter tweets) is the more common way of interacting with information. This is also why having those social icons at the bottom of your posts is so vital.
The Alpha Gamer
When I worked in the table-top game industry, there was a lot of talk (and great market research, believe it or not) about the Alpha Gamer. These are the small number of uber gamers who tend to proselytize about the stuff they like, and they are disproportionately responsible for directing people to your product (or in this case, your site).
The idea is that you need to promote your site so that people can find it in the first place. But the vast majority of the people who find it will read it, enjoy it, and perhaps come back to read more. But the Alpha Gamers will read it, enjoy it, and feel the desire to share it with others. They’ll put up a link on their guild forums; they’ll Tweet about it; they’ll discuss it on other WoW forums; they’ll recommend it to other WoW players in-game. They may even comment!
Each of them may be responsible for a handful more people visiting, or even dozens more. But in the end the impact of the Alpha Gamers is far greater than any other kind of promotion: and of course the only way to get the Alpha Gamers to promote your stuff is to write good stuff that captures their interest.
You still need to promote your site so that more and more Alpha Gamers can find it, but keep in mind that a huge amount of a successful site’s traffic really comes from recommendations from these Alpha Gamers.
In a way, your promotion efforts are really targeted at the Alpha Gamer — or at creating more Alpha Gamers.
Hunters Only: WHH
[Update: of course WHH no longer exists, which is why this article is living over here now.]
If you’re a hunter and writing a hunter WoW blog, then you’re life is easy. Just submit your site to the WoW Hunters Hall and get your hunter-related articles highlighted here. You have instant access to thousands of hunters who check here on a daily basis for hunter-related news.
This instantly plugs you in to the hunter community and gets you eyes on your content and the jump-start you need. From there it’s up to you to write stuff that enough hunters care about to share.
You can still pursue other the other ways to promote your blog that we’ll discuss below, and by doing so you’ll increase the visibility of your blog; however, with the WHH alone you are going to get far more visibility than over 90% of the WoW blogs out there. It’s good to be a hunter.
Beg for Links
The standard method of promoting a WoW blog is begging for links. In this method you email other sites and ask them to include a link to your blog. I think this is a very viable and useful way to spread awareness of your site, though I never did this for the WHU. On the other hand I did beg for WHH links.
A couple key tips here is to write a short, polite request. Don’t use a standard form, be sure to demonstrate that you’re actually familiar with their site (beyond just knowing the name). Write intelligibly. I can’t tell you how many requests I get that go like this: “Hi ur blog is graet im a big fan i just started my own blog and could u link to it?”
I can tell you when I read that, my first thought is that the blog must be godawful. Don’t be that person. Here are the standard ways to beg for links:
Ask for a Blogroll Link: You see a site that has a blogroll — a list of other WoW sites — and you email and politely ask to be included in that list. General do this only when you’re site is logically connected to that site — such as you’re writing about the same class. Just search for blogs for your topic (and I hope you already know of a bunch if you’re blogging yourself) and then look at their blogrolls for a bunch more ideas.
Promote Content: you write an article that you think is really good an would be very interesting to readers of that blog (and doesn’t step on their toes — don’t send your SV rotation article to a site that already has their own). Instead of asking for a blogroll, you’re asking them to mention this awesome article that you wrote. Note that 99.99% of articles you write are not that awesome. Really try to have either something incredibly funny or groundbreaking research/theorycrafting, or some insights that are considerably unique.
WoW Insider: WoW Insider occasionally posts roundups of interesting content across the web. Again, for those stellar pieces submitting to WoW Insider can get you a metric crapton of traffic, and honestly the standards are a bit lower here than for getting another similar blog to highlight your content (after all, no matter how big you are, you are not competition to them). You can email the suggestion to WoW Insider Here, and they have a post on how to submit a post to them here. [Update: of course WoW Insider no longer exists…]
WoW Fansite: World of Warcraft has an official fansite program. Your blog will not make the list. No chance. I’m not kidding, they do not add sites to their fansite program.
A standard method for promoting sites across the web is guest blogging. This is where you contact another blog and offer to write a guest article. Some bloggers will never want another voice on their blog. Others will love having a day off from blogging. It never hurts to ask.
If you do guest blog, be sure you pitch the idea that you’ll blog about — don’t just ask to guest blog, instead say “Hey, I’d like write an article about this for you as a guest blog.” Be sure when you’re asking that it’s clear that you’ll get a link back to your blog (typically in the form of a byline “This is a guest post by XXX who writes for www.blah.com”). Also note that you will not be able to post this article on your site — if you’re writing an article for someone else, it’s for them, not you. You can of course mention on your blog that you have a guest blog and quote the intro paragraph or two.
Within the WoW world we also have podcast opportunities in addition to guest blogging. Don’t be afraid to contact your favorite podcasts and ask to be a guest on the podcast. Note that you’ll need to explain exactly why you’d be a good guest, and “I started a blog last week” is usually not a good enough reason.
Be Active in the Community
Another key way to promote any blog is to be active in the online community about which you are blogging. This means posting meaningful comments on other blogs, and contributing to forum discussions. Include your blog link in your forum signature.
It’s worth stressing that this does not mean going to forums and promoting your site “Hey check out my blog!” Rather, contribute and participate in discussions happening and just leave that link in your signature. Some people will check it out.
Note also that if you’re an asshat or a troll, that will reflect poorly on your blog. As a blogger you have to be about twenty times more grown up than the rest of the internet. Don’t feed the trolls — don’t get sucked into those discussions. Don’t rant and rave. Just be helpful and contribute like a grown up.
Also worth noting that this is not something that I’ve ever done for the WHU, but it does help. I just don’t got the time.
Google is the largest search engine in the world. The second largest, however, is not Yahoo and it’s not Bing. The second largest search engine by search volume is YouTube. It’s crazy, but it’s true.
Videos are a great way to promote your site, as long as you put them on YouTube. The number of people who are looking for WoW information and go to YouTube to search is staggering. Make video guides. Make funny videos. Just be sure that every video includes a link back to your site in the description — at the beginning of the description. The very first thing should be a link to your site.
Also, don’t make the description just one sentence. Go for at least three paragraphs, which will make it more likely to be found. Note as well that you need at least three videos in your channel before YouTube will show them in the first page of video search results.
Another great way to promote your blog is to create linkbait: some kind of content that is deliberately created to be the kind of thing that people are like to share, email on. Stuff that makes people say “OMG have you seen this!?”
On the WHU I had a handful of videos that got spread around a lot — videos make great linkbait — including of course the more recent Best Pet video. Another example would be 50 Reasons Hunters Are Better Than Every Other Class, or on the more serious side, the ICC DPS Analysis (you would not believe how many people shared that — for months afterward it was a hugely trafficked article, for the rest of the expansion in fact).
These things typically take a lot more work to create, but they can bring a lot of attention to your blog. And of course there is a side benefit is it’s forcing you to create the kind of content that everyone wants to see… which of course is that it makes your blog better. After all, writing the kinds of things people want to read is what you should be doing.
If you’re really interested in promoting your blog, SEO, or search engine optimization, is one way to go. The idea here is that you write useful guides with information that your readers are likely to look for on search engines. Then you optimize your titles and text slightly to increase the chances that your site ranks well in the search engines for that search phrase.
The idea here is that you’re trying to get your site listed for a lot of different common search phrases, and (assuming your guide is good) a lot of people will come and read your guide. Most of them will then leave, but some will then poke around the rest of your site. If they like what they see, they might just bookmark it or add your feed to their reader.
And the more often then end up coming to your site from various searches, the more likely they are to remember your site and look around and convert into readers.
There are volumes of material written on the web about SEO. Don’t get too caught up in it all — you really just need to do the very basics: be sure to use the keywords in your title, and use them in your first couple paragraphs. But if you’re writing about “How to Profit from Vendor Trash” it’s very likely that you’ll be using those words a lot in your article anyway. Just don’t make the common mistake of trying to come up with a clever title like “Gold from Garbage” — that’ll sink your SEO fast. Search engines have pretty much taken clever and engaging titles away from us.
It’s worth noting that for the WHU, this is the only thing I did to promote my blog. It worked out okay.
[Update: I’ve been trying to find time to write a sort of how-to SEO guide over at Doctor McAwesome — there’s a bunch of info there, and a bunch yet to come. You really only need to know the on-page optimization part (SEO kindergarten), which is all written.]
[Update: social media is now a very strong way to promote your blog — which also requires developing a strong social media following]
That concludes Frostheim’s advice for promoting your blog. In closing it’s definitely worth noting that two things will have more impact on getting you traffic than anything else:
Writing good content that people want to read
Posting regularly without gaps
I’m not kidding. Get good content and a consistent schedule and you only need to do a little bit of work to get those first eyes on there. The crappier your content, the more work you’ll have to do to get people to read it. The better your content, the more the Alpha Gamers will do that work for you.
Next time on How to Start a WoW Blog we’ll finally get into monetizing your blog, or how to make dozens of dollars from a popular WoW blog! Seriously, don’t do this for money.
This series of posts was published on WoW Hunters Hall back in 2011. I’m transferring them over here since WHH no longer exists. Information may be dated!
In the first part of How to Start a WoW Blog, I went over all the nuts and bolts and technical information of hosting, blogging platforms, Wowhead tooltips and addons. Now with that out of the way and my thoughts on how to build a blog that has a chance as success.
A lot of people have a lot of things to say about blogging, so here’s my qualifications for giving you advice on writing your WoW blog: I write for a scary number of blogs, both in my free time as a WoW fan, but also as part of my day job. I write the most popular hunter blog on the web, Warcraft Hunters Union. I also write the second most popular hunter blog, Scattered Shots at WoW Insider. On any given day some 25,000 people are reading my blog posts; on good days that number is well over 100,000.
Blog on a Schedule
The most valuable piece of advice I have to offer is this: blog on a schedule. Decide to blog every Mon/Wed/Fri, or just every Saturday, or every day of the week. Any schedule other than “when I feel like it” is fine, but that schedule should be concrete and non-negotiable.
Setting yourself a schedule accomplishes two important things.
The most important is it makes you blog. It forces you to blog, even when you don’t feel like it, even when you’ve got no ideas for what to blog about. Because that absolutely will happen; it’ll happen a lot. Part of being a writer is to suck it up and write even when you’ve got nothing. You learn to dredge the depths and pull something out of nothing.
But if you don’t have that set-in-stone schedule, then you just won’t write. And that not writing will happen more and more often and very, very soon you won’t have a blog at all. True story:
Over at Warcraft Hunters Union I get quite a lot of new hunter bloggers emailing me and asking for a link to their shiny new blog with it’s two posts — one introducing their blog, and one blogging about some topic of relevance. On average I get at least one of these a month. I tell them all the same thing: I don’t link to brand new blogs, but if you’re still blogging regularly in three months, email me again and I’ll put up the link.
To date I have had one single hunter email me back in three months. The rest vanished into the ether.
But blogging on a schedule has a side benefit other than forcing you to actually blog. It allows you to better attract readers — and there’s a difference between traffic and readers. Traffic is a count of the number of people going to your blog. Readers are the number of people who follow your blog regularly and read everything you write.
Readers, as a rule, prefer to know when their blog will be updated. The more often they go to your blog hoping to find a new article and don’t see one, the less often they’ll go to your blog. Some of them will stop checking back (and by the way, the vast majority of people go to your blog manually, and do not subscribe to your feed). By having a schedule you can manage expectations. If you update every Saturday they’ll only check your blog once a week, and every time they check they’ll be rewarded with a new post. Every action on their part is rewarded with positive feedback.
Frostheim’s Topic Ratio
Early on when I was just starting Warcraft Hunters Union, I determined right out of the gate that I’d blog every Monday – Friday, and I had a theory on what kind of topics I would blog about. It was the magical ratio for bringing in new traffic, converting that traffic to readers, and keeping those readers happy. This was my topic ratio:
20% of blog posts must be crunchy guides or useful in-game information
20% of blog posts must be off-topic (but WoW-related) stories or humor
That was it. The idea here was never to go too long without posting the kind of crunchy useful stuff that makes the site an actually valuable game resource, but also never to go too long without posting something that’s actually entertaining and enjoyable to read.
After all, if your site is nothing but crunchy facts, then it’s something that players only need to read when they’re looking at optimizing some aspect of their game play. You only go to a reforging site when you’re wondering about how to reforge new gear, after all. But those random off-topic (but still WoW-related) stories of raid failures and triumphs, funny or entertaining posts — that’s the stuff that people really enjoy reading.
Keep in mind: the vast majority of people reading blogs are reading them from work, because work is boring and they’re looking for a little moment of escape.
A Word on Writing
One of the great things about blogs is that the tone is very conversational, which make them far easier to write quickly. While it would normally go without saying that you should understand the basics of writing, since this is WoW we’re talking about, I fear this section is needed.
Do not write your blogs in leet speak, or lol speak. Do not use WoW abbreviations like lol or ppl or plz. Unless you’re quoting someone or being ironic, that behavior will drive the vast majority of your readers away. I know these are all WoW players also, and many of them write like that too, but it’s just plain hard to read and, frankly, makes you seem stupid. Yes it does.
You don’t have to know what a split infinitive is and it’s fine if you tend to always use them; but you should be able to construct a sentence and follow the basic rules of grammar. You should understand things like punctuation, paragraphs, capitalizing the first word of sentences and I — really basic stuff here. Proper writing makes your blog easier to read, which in turn makes it more likely people will read it.
Some general advice on blog formatting. First of all, the general common wisdom of the web says that every blog post should start with a picture of some kind. This is very good advice, and really helps make your posts more interesting to look at. That said, I really don’t follow this rule at all over at Warcraft Hunters Union. I do for other blogs I manage, however.
If you’re writing a long blog post, you must use formatting to break it up. The wall-o-text is daunting and difficult to read and people lose their places. There are four common techniques to break up walls of text in blogs:
Break sections into subsections with headers. This helps visually and also organizationally. It may also result in you writing a better post.
Use images throughout to help break things up.
Use block quotes to adjust the formatting of a section — as I have with the 20% rules, and the “true story” above.
Bulleted lists are a standby for breaking up formatting — also people like reading short bulleted lists.
There’s no really good rule of thumb about the length of a blog post — lengths tend to vary a lot by author and audience. The common wisdom is that blog posts should be in the 250 – 500 word range, shooting for the middle, because people have short attention spans and won’t read things longer. I disagree with this wisdom.
Partially I disagree because I’m a wordy guy, but also because it’s hard to convey much useful information in 250 words. In addition, if you accept the theory that a very large portion of your readers are looking for a distraction from work, 250 words isn’t going to provide them much of one. That may be fine for generic Yahoo news articles that are a dime a dozen, but you have a very specific niche blog.
I’d say go for an average of 500 words per post. Having a few short posts is fine. Having a few long posts is fine. But I don’t think of posts as being long until they start to go over 1,000 words. That said, the class columns at WoW Insider are supposed to be about 1,250 words… and I almost always go well over on Scattered Shots. Warcraft Hunters Union is also filled with very long posts.
But remember that this is a blog and not Twitter. Posts of under a couple hundred words really don’t count as your blog post for the day — if it’s that short, you aren’t saying anything very meaningful.
If your blog gains any kind of popularity at all, you will have critics. The more successful your blog is, the more haters you’ll have, and the more rabid and less logical they will become. You need to consider them a sign of success.
In particular, my philosophy is that I welcome any logical, fact based disagreement. Discussion is good after all. But you need a solid policy of shutting down the personal attacks and ad hominem arguments. Even if they’re supporting you, nuke those comments in a heartbeat. But beyond that, even the comments disagreeing with you need to stay there. Instead of deleting them, engage them. Ask them for their reasoning, or their research — their proof. Heck, maybe they’ll be right and you’ll have learned something!
But the people calling you names will be there if you’re popular. You just gotta ignore them and keep doing what you’re doing. True story:
When I took over Scattered Shots from the previous hunter blogger, he graciously congratulated me and offered some good advice. In particular he said that a big mistake he made was trying to satisfy everyone in the comments. If he recommended one thing, people would bitch. If he recommended another, different people would bitch. In his effort to satisfy all these trolls and asshats he lost his voice. Rather than saying “Here’s what I recommend” he ended up saying “You could do this, or this, or this, or some people do that.” He stuck to nothing but raw facts. This then hurt the quality of his columns, because he ended not saying anything to offend anyone and as a result didn’t say much at all.
So there’s a fine line between listening to negative feedback and adjusting to it (you can’t ignore everyone who disagrees) and paying too much attention to it (in which case you either won’t write, or won’t write things of meaning).
I have a pretty thick skin, which I also bolster by not reading things like the WoW Forums or ever searching for things written about me. I once wrote something that was blown way out of proportion by a giant anti-fan and got responses, pro and con, across the hunter web… and I didn’t even find out that it happened until over six months later (though, of course, I was aware of all the (mostly positive) comments to the post on my blog — the haters hate to post there though, for some reason).
This made it easier to do the right thing, which is always: don’t feed the trolls.
I’m serious. Don’t engage the trolls — that’s what they’re trying to do, get attention. And they can at times make it really hard, in particular with the troll strategy of posting deliberately misleading or entirely wrong things that they attribute to you. They blatantly lie in hopes of drawing you out to correct them. My policy is if they comment on my blog (or email) in a way that doesn’t violate the commenting policy, I will answer them. If they’re ranting elsewhere on the web, not my problem. If they really wanted a response from me they’d talk to me, rather than ranting across the web, after all. Do your thing; don’t worry about their thing.
But that said, there are actually a lot of WoW bloggers out there who have reached some level of popularity, and then were driven to quit blogging entirely by the trolls and asshats. So thick skin is required.
I say this, but I know all of you reading it think you have thick skin. And so did all those other bloggers who couldn’t take it any more. Seriously, be prepared to HTFU and take it.
Of course all that requires you to achieve some level of popularity to begin with. The first step to that is following several of the points above, which will help you to build a decent blog — but most important is blogging on a schedule. It’s also worth noting that the most popular bloggers tend to be the ones who blog most often. That’s not coincidence.
But we’ll get more into the blog popularity in the next part of this series, where I’ll discuss promoting your blog so that you have an audience reading what you write.
This series of posts was published on WoW Hunters Hall back in 2011. I’m transferring them over here since WHH no longer exists. Information may be dated!
I’ve been blogging over at Warcraft Hunters Union for going on three years now, and in that time I’ve gotten thousands of emails. One of the recurring questions I’m asked is about how to start a hunter blog, or a WoW blog in general — or more specific questions about how to promote a hunter blog or tips on improving a blog.
Now that the WoW Hunters Hall is rocking out as a way to support and enhance the hunter community, it seemed like a good place to finally write up a big article on Frostheim’s advice on how to start your WoW blog.
Because there’s a lot to say on the subject, I figured a good place to start is with the nuts and bolts and technical details of getting your WoW blog up and running. We’ll go over the steps of setting up and customizing a blog, and I’ll tell you what I think is the best and easiest way to do things. In part 2 we’ll start getting into Frostheim’s blogging tips.
Choosing Your Blog Software
The good news is that the blog software, or the CMS, that you’ll be using is completely free. The other good news is that there is once choice that is by far and away better than any other: WordPress. Seriously, don’t even bother with anything else. No, not even Blogger. WordPress is the gold standard, is incredibly easy to use, slaughters the competition, and is also free.
I wouldn’t even consider anything else for your WoW blog these days.
But there’s still a choice to be made. There are two ways you can set up a WordPress blog: you can let them host it for you (at WordPress.com) or you can host it yourself (referred to self-hosted, and your info will then come from WordPress.org). Personally, I am very strongly in favor of going the self-hosted route for your WoW blog — you have far more customization options; however, for self-hosted you have to have a web hosting account somewhere. Web hosting is cheap as dirt these days but it’s still a cost, whereas WordPress.com give you less but also offers free hosting.
Here are the pros and cons of each:
Best blog software CMS in the market
Set your blog up in minutes
Default URL will be BLOGNAME.wordpress.com
You can pay to get an actual domain name
Cannot use the thousands of community-created plugins
Cannot edit your theme files
Cannot use Wowhead tooltips
Cannot put ads on your site
Best blog software CMS in the market
Have access to thousands of themes
Have access to thousands of plugins
Include Wowhead tooltips
Customize to the end of time
Must have web hosting
Good web hosting is available for approximately $7 or so a month, and they’ll usually give you your domain name for free when you first sign up. I highly recommend going the self-hosted route, unless you’re truly broke, in which case you can start up with WordPress.com hosted.
Web Hosting & Domain
Skip this step if you’re going with WordPress.com hosting for your WoW blog.
You need to set up web hosting and install WordPress. Don’t worry, this isn’t as scary as it sounds. I’m a big fan of Hostmonster for web hosting. Their support is great and always there — I’ve never even been put on hold to wait for them — and they have a great one-button WordPress installation (something that most good hosts will also have).
Whatever you do, do not get hosting with GoDaddy or any of those free web hosting places out there. It is not worth it! Best case scenario you’ll get limited hosting with ads plastered above your site making it look cheap. Worst case, and a serious danger, is you’re considered to be in a “bad neighborhood” on the web and Google decides not to list your site for any searches.
Be aware that while web hosting is super cheap and you can find it for $7 a month or less, they usually require you to sign up for 1 year’s worth of hosting to get that price. If you go month-to-month you’ll pay more plus a setup fee, so it’s not really worth it.
When you sign up for your hosting they’ll usually let you register an available domain for free (and then you can create email addresses using your spiffy new domain name as part of your web hosting — no extra charge for that). Only consider domains that are .com, .net, or your specific country code (but not .us unless you’re trying to be clever like www.monstro.us (warning, I don’t know if that’s really a domain or not, so don’t go there (aw hell, we know that’s only going to encourage some of you))).
Once you have your hosting, login to the admin area and find out where they have an automatic script installation. For Hostmonster this is called Simple Scripts. Just click that, select WordPress under Blogs, and tell it to install. It will work for about 10 seconds and then you’re blog is ready for you to log in and start customizing. For other hosts this script installer may be called something different, including Fantastico.
Choose a Theme
WordPress offers countless different themes to customize the look of your WoW blog — both the WordPress.com hosted WordPress sites and self-hosted WordPress. For self-hosted you can download the theme and upload it to your site via FTP, or search and install them directly from your site admin via Appearance > Themes.
Go crazy and pick what you like. You can change your theme at any time, and keep all of the information on your WoW blog without having to do any backups (though you should backup regularly, of course). If you are using self-hosted, you can also go into your theme files and change the way things look even further to suit your needs. WordPress.com, I believe, lets you edit the style sheet at least, so you can do some small things.
WordPress.com hosting has made some plugins available, but for the most part all the thousands of neat plugins you see on WordPress.org are only available for self-hosted blogs. You can add a ton of functionality to your WoW blog via plugins — such as the star voting system on this blog.
Be aware that many plugins eat up resources and having too many can substantially slow the load time of your site. Some plugins are light and invisible, some are clunky as all heck. As a rule of thumb, try to only use plugins that truly add value to your site, and resist the temptation to pack your WoW blog with tons of pointless bells and whistles.
Here are some plugins that I recommend:
Wp-Recaptcha: an anti-spam plugin. It stops automated spambots, but not if there’s a person somewhere down the line to fill in the form. Slows but doesn’t stop comment spam.
Trackable Social Share Icons: social media is huge these days, whether you like it or not. This plugin puts those Twitter, Facebook, and other icons of your choice below your posts or wherever else you choose. This can significantly increase the reach of your blog.
All in One SEO Pack: if you’re into SEO stuff, this will let you do your thing. If not, don’t worry about it.
Get Wowhead Tooltips
Every WoW blog needs Wowhead tooltips. This is what lets users mouse over a link and get the item or quest tooltip, as with Explosive Shot. Wowhead makes this incredibly easy, and you just have to add a tiny line to your header. Of course this is only doable with a self-hosted blog.
If you don’t know how to do this, it’s a piece of cake and you can do it all within WordPress. Just go into your WordPress admin and on the left menu under Appearance click on Editor. This will take you to a screen where you can edit your WordPress files. Choose “Header” from the list on the right, and the code of your header will appear in the editing window.
Just copy and paste the Wowhead code in above the </head> line. Thereafter any time you link to a Wowhead item or ability or quest, when users scroll over the link they’ll get the popup.
It’s worth noting that this change your making is specific to the theme that you chose. If you change your theme again, you’ll have to do this process again to get the code into the header of your new theme. Ditto for any change you make to the theme files in the Editor.
Get Google Analytics
If you have any interest in knowing how many people go to your site, where they’re coming from, what pages they’re looking at, what keywords they’re searching in the search engines to find you, how long they stay on your site, what countries, or states, or cities they’re from, or anything else, then you want Google Analytics.
I believe there’s a way to install analytics for a WordPress.com hosted blog, but I’m not familiar with how. Here’s all you need to do for self-hosted though:
First you’ll need to sign up for a Google Analytics account (for free, Here). When you sign up Google will give you some code that needs to go in the header of your website. This works just like it did for the Wowhead tooltips — just copy and paste the code before the </head> tag. Then within a few hours you’ll be able to start tracking usage data in Google Analytics.
For most bloggers Google Analytics is nothing more than an interesting curiosity and a way to measure your WoW blog’s growth, but if you’re really trying to maximize your traffic, the data is invaluable.
Deal with Comment Spam
Comment spam is an issue that every blog has to deal with, including WoW blogs. Thousands of wee robots scour the internet looking for places to stuff in random spam and try to get (useless nofollow) links back to their websites. You will have to deal with this spam: ignoring it is not an option.
If you use WordPress.com, they can make commenters subscribe to some kind of thing and confirm via email. It’s annoying as hell to users (and I certainly typically end up just not commenting on those blogs) but effective. For self-hosted WordPress you’ll probably want to use a plugin solution.
Here are your choices:
Users have to register to comment. This is the only solution I’ve found that blocks 100% of comment spam. Unfortunately for a new blog, it also really makes people reluctant to post.
Use Askimet. Askimet is a heuristic spam detector and blocker that comes with WordPress by default. It’s free for small non-profit sites, but costs money for business sites, or sites with a lot of traffic. If I tried to use this on Warcraft Hunters Union, it would cost me over $500 per month. But for a new blog, it might be a viable solution. It catches most spam.
Use a Captcha. Wp-Recaptcha was mentioned above. This gives the little graphic that users have to fill out when they comment. It blocks a lot of the spam, and brings it down to reasonable levels. With the WHU, with thousands of very visible pages, I only have to deal with a handful of spam comments a day using this method.
Approved Commenters: once nice option that WordPress gives you is that once you’ve approved a comment from someone, thereafter that person’s comments can go through automatically without needing moderation. This keeps the spam bots out, but lets regular contributors get their voice on the page at once. You will still want to use this in combination with a captcha, to stop the hundreds to thousands of bot posts per day from getting through.
Moderation: you can choose to moderate all comments — nothing goes live unless you’ve given it the thumbs up. You’ll still need a captcha to keep the spam to a minimum.
Be aware that you’ll want to set up your spam solution at once. WordPress is so common that the big spam bots deliberately look for WordPress blogs, and the default sample page and welcome post that are automatically put up when you install it — then they spam the heck out of those pages, knowing that you probably don’t have any protection set up yet.
Now You Have a WoW Blog
Okay, there are the very basic nuts and bolts of setting up your very own WoW blog, complete with tooltips. I’m not going to go into any detail about how to actually use WordPress. It’s really intuitive and just by poking around everything should become apparent, but if you have any specific questions, feel free to drop them in the comments here. I’m not a developers, but I’ve used WordPress on a lot of different blogs (and way too many other blogging software options) and if it comes down to how to use it, I can probably help you out.
Next up in part 2, I’ll cover some WoW blogging tips, how to get started, what to avoid, and some basic tips on how to make sure your shiny new blog doesn’t suck.