How to start a WoW 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!

Now that we’ve covered the nuts and bolts about how to set up a blog, and Frostheim’s advice on how to make a blog that doesn’t suck, we’ll get into promoting your blog.

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.

Leverage Friends

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.

Guest Appearances

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.

Videos

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.

Linkbait

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.

SEO

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]

In Conclusion

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.

How to Start a WoW Blog Series
Part 1: Nuts & Bolts Part 2: Blogging Advice Part 3: Promoting Your Blog Part 4: Monetizing Your Blog
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  1. Steevnash says:

    This is me… attempting to reverse the downward spiral of non-commenters!

    Great guide so far Frostheim, a pleasure to read

  2. Zandt says:

    I’ve been seriously debating on starting a WoW Blog in the last few months, and I play often enough that I can provide a consistent stream of blog posts. I enjoy writing, it’s been a hobby of mine for about 12 years but I never wrote a blog before. I’ve been reading WoW Insider for a little over a year now and I’ve read probably 90% of the posts that go up. I love Scattered Shots even though I rarely play a hunter. I just love reading blogs that so clearly displays a person’s enthusiasm for the topic they’re writing about. Seriously great “How to start a WoW Blog”, Frostheim!