There's a good rant over on Destructive Reach. It's good both because Saresa is actually posting, and I miss her voice in the WoW Blogosphere, and because the world needs more intelligent, passionate rants like this. But mostly, it's good because I agree with the majority of her points, and what's better than people who agree with us? :-)
In particular, I think Sar nails it with this:
Thing is… [Guides] don’t always get you return visitors or subscribers. People who look for a guide for something are looking for precisely that – a guide for a specific something. If you only write guides, people are going to get mighty sick of reading them. Guides, well… are boring a lot of the time. I am in the process of unsubscribing from people who write guides and analysis and little else, because, frankly, your work (while I admire the effort, time, and dedication it takes to write all that) is boring as all fuck to me.
(teehee Sar said "fuck" :) )
One of the reasons my blogging has dropped off on here is that I'm finding too much of the WoW blogosphere, well, dull. My feed reader looks more and more like a textbook with the "guide to healing Hogger" and the "five strategies for successfully farming lucky rabbits paws" and the like. Sure guides are useful, but if that's all you're publishing, why the hell are you using a blog? Just build a conventional website, make sure you've got some SEO done and get on with it. Blogs are about conversation, and I don't like chatting with academic textbooks, thank you very much.
Leafy's Dark Secret: The Man Behind The Tree
Here's a not-very-hidden secret. I make my living through blogging (but not by blogging). I'm head of blogging for a large UK publisher, where I help train, support and develop our couple of hundred journalists who are blogging. I've been doing that for three years now, and I've learnt some basic techniques that make the difference between a successful blog and a huge also-ran.
My problem with the recent wave of advice that's coming out of some bloggers is that, while the fundamentals are largely correct for a particular style of blogging, it will create a remarkably one-note blogosphere, of the kind I find boring. All things in moderation, as it were. :-) Instead, I'd like to take things back to first principles, the very basics of blogging that you should get right, if you're to maximise both your enjoyment and your audience.1
The 10 Basics of Blogging
- Write about what you care about - blogging is (largely) an enthusiast's game. If you're not enthusiastic, it really, really shows in your writing. If you're not enthusiastic about what you're writing about, you've just bought a one-way ticket to FAIL.
- Learn to link - the basic skill of blogging is to spot something that's interesting. That's where blogging started as weblogs (literally logs of web travels). If you're not linking out to other blogs, you're not joining in the wide conversation that is the blogosphere.
- Write in your own voice - blogging is a personal medium. Write in your own voice. Not in that of other bloggers you admire. Not in the voice you think you should have. Write in your voice. This blog is often sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek and flippant, because that's how I feel about WoW most of the time. It's a fun game to me, and I can't take it too seriously. (Except when I do.) Think of your blog as an extension of yourself, and write like you would if talking to a group of friends.That's conversational writing, and that's what attracts readers to blogs.
- Know what you're writing about, if you want traffic - Niche blogs do better than generalist blogs, unless the generalist blog has several contributors and loads of posts a day (eg this old thing). It's a fact of blogging life. If you're happy with a small but loyal audience, go general by all means. If you want the big numbers, define yourself a little.
- Enjoy yourself - Really, really important. Blogging is a slog, because it takes effort to build an audience. But it should be a fun slog, something you want to do. You should look forward to opening your blog platform and communicating with your readers, and every comment or in-bound link should quicken your pulse a little. You need to be a wee bit obsessed to be a good blogger.
- Keep posting - Regular postings build audience. Simple as that. The post doesn't need to be a 2,000 word magnum opus, though. It can just be a link to another post you found interesting. Get into the discipline of sharing interesting stuff you find with your readers, and this become easy.
- Vary the pace - Imagine heading to the pub with a friend who only every gave 10 minute speeches, but never did any chit-chat. That's what your 1,000 word posts only blog is like. Vary the pace. Old media publishers have know this forever. Short pieces at the front and back of the mag, longer pieces in the middle. Vary the pace. Make things more interesting for your readers.
- Read and comment on other blogs - the best single way to become a better blogger is to read and get involved in the conversations happening in the blogosphere. Leave comments elsewhere if your immediate reaction is short. Link and react on your own blog if your reaction is long. You will absorb by osmosis the best techniques of other bloggers just by reading their work.
- Answer comments - Duh. Blogs are a conversation. If you talk to friends down the pub, but ignore everything they have to say, you'll probably find that they stop inviting you.
- Remember that you're doing this for fun - You're not going to make a living WoW Blogging, so if you're not having fun, why do it? Oh, and if you're not having fun, the readers can tell. And that'll drive them away.
1 Yes, I am aware of the irony of writing a guide in response to a complaint about all the guides out there. I am a contrary tree.