World of Warcraft blogs are unique in the blogging universe (I refuse to say ‘blogiverse’): You have a potential audience of 13 million players, but can only seem to reach fifty or so a day.
There’s a disconnect here. How is it possible that so few people are interested in your guide to Ret Pally gear? How can the comical stylings of Kachunk, Clown of Orgrimmar, go unnoticed by so many? You pour your heart and soul into your posts and then ten people read it.
Of the ten, no one comments.
Not too long ago- I just checked, and it was July- I practically had a heart attack if my site reached the lofty heights of a hundred visitors. I’m not ashamed to say I threw an impromptu party the day it reached 1,000 daily hits, the two of us crowded around the monitor with a hastily-purchased bottle of wine after I noticed it had reached 850 earlier in the evening. These days, I give my stats the slit-eye if they don’t get over 2,000 by noon.
I’m not the least bit embarrassed about my love of the numbers. The more visitors I’ve had, the more people maybe, possibly, perhaps heard something I said and laughed, or picked up the right gear, or- please, Jeebus- re-specced to Discipline.
People don’t like to talk about their WoW blog traffic for the most part; it’s taboo, like talking about your salary or embarrassing sexual ailments. But I am a shameless self-promoter, and my capacity for embarassment is bottomless. With a little work, you can be a shameless self-promoter, too!
And before you ask, yes: I wrote this post to get more blog hits.
See? You’re learning already.
Lesson #1: Know Thine Enemy
You need a way to track visitors to your site so that you can better judge what posts are of interest to the community, and what posts are of interest to no one but yourself.
It doesn’t matter in the slightest where your visitors are from, what connection type they’re using, or any personal characteristic; what you’re looking for here is trending, not Big Brother.
Your key stats are (a) what pages get the most traffic? and (b) what keywords drive the most search engine traffic to your page? We’ll go into detail on the whys of that in a moment, but those stats must be accessible to you in some way.
Lesson #2: That Social Networking Show
You must have a blog Twitter account. You must have a blog Facebook account. Use them. Befriend others whom you actually like. When you create a new post, add it to both.
Show off your new posts clearly. “New post! This is the Title: short link” works well for me.
Don’t bother with “please RT!”. They will or they won’t; you’re a strong writer whose work speaks for itself.
The same goes for reposting your original announcement; one in the morning and one in the evening works well to hit the day and night crowds, but that’s where it must end.
They will or they won’t.
Lesson #3: The Almighty Holler (or Why No One Cares What You Had For Lunch)
The content of your blog is up to no one but you.
However, the desire to read your blog is shared- or not- by the rest of the world. If you’re reading this, you
could be home now probably want more of the latter and are willing to reconsider on the former.
You have something to say that is interesting to people who want to read it. You do. This is an indisputable fact. There are far more people out there who read blogs than write them. We just have to crack the acorn of your brain and get to the juicy, readable meat that’s inside.
If you tell a story about yourself, it must have parts that could be applied to other people. This means you DO NOT write about the great gear you’re working on unless you simultaneously talk about how all the brutha’ ret pallys out there could benefit from it, and, if you’re wise, include an amusing anecdote or two about the comedy of errors you’ve run into along the path of acquisition along with links to Wowhead.
This isn’t a diary. No one cares what you had for lunch.
Start specific, get more general. If you start blogging about everything under the sun, it’s difficult to target your audience.
If, however, you start with a niche- ‘Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About DK Tanking But Were Afraid To Ask!’- you gain readers who are interested in your topic, and who then, y’know, recommend you. I know, I know- heaven forfend. And almost every specific topic in WoW, luckily, is practically impossible to exhaust! It’s wonderful!
Once you’ve got your base readership down, then- and only then, and maybe not even then!- start to branch out. Define who you are, even if who you are is a bank-altin’ gold monger, or a WoW blog-link repository, or a pretty dress FIEND!
Niche is king.
Be self-deprecating. You’ve got problems… lots of ‘em! And nothing is funnier or more charming to read than someone who can laugh at themselves.
Besides, it’s immensely cheering to reveal some cringe-inducing moment and have ten people comment to say, “Ahhhh, I did that too! God, I was SO EMBARRASSED! lulz”.
Lesson #4: You Gotta Spend Love To Make Love
Here’s a hard thought for every new blogger to keep in mind (and one I absolutely tell myself every day): “No one is coming to my site first.”
Unless you’re the editor of MMO Champion or WoW Insider, chances are exceptionally good that no one is coming to visit your blog without going to another WoW site first. Alex Ziebart, you may skip this bit.
Your job- and it is work, but the most fun you can possibly have working- is to get out into the community.
You MUST become an uber-commenter. Traffic comes from two sources: search engines (discussed further below) and referrals. If you have a thought- any old kind of thought- on a post, on any blog whatsoever… COMMENT!
People will click on the link that is by your name. I swear it.
Always, always, always sign in to the commenting system so that you can associate your name with a clickable link to your website.
You MUST comment regularly on the Big Sites. You MUST comment at MMO-Champion. You MUST comment on WoW Insider. If your particular niche has a well-known forums site (PlusHeals.com for any healers, for example), you MUST comment there.
Don’t worry about looking like a fool. Don’t worry about people arguing with you. Don’t be afraid. Start topics! Respond to others!
Get in there and get dirty!
You MUST refer back to your blog and specific blog posts you have written in your comments, with links. This one is optional for commenting on other people’s blogs, but absolutely required for posting on the Big Sites.
If you don’t have your blog linked in your signature on MMO Champions, you’re missing a goldmine of visitors. You’re not forcing people to visit you; they want to come! Make it easy for them to do so.
You’re not doing it in every post, but if a conversation is going on that directly revolves around a post you’ve written, link to your post.
And hey- you don’t have to say you wrote it. I won’t tell.
You MUST have a blog roll. If someone links to you, it’s gentlemanly to link back to them. It doesn’t hurt you one bit, and the blogging community is a community of the first order. Blog Azeroth can tell you that.
If you link to someone, tell them you linked to them! A brief, nice email (‘Hey, love your blog! I’ve stuck it on my blog roll- come visit at disciplinaryaction.org!”) is always polite.
Nothing makes me sadder than finding a link to myself on someone else’s page when I didn’t even know they existed. I want to shamelessly promote WoW blogs- I have more shameless self-promotion than I can handle, and I enjoy getting it on others (especially the unsuspecting!).
Lesson #5: The Key(words) To Success
On a day that I post, most of my readership comes from subscribers and links. On a day that I don’t post, however, a good 85% of my traffic comes from search engines. You need to ensure you’re creating a blog that plays nice with search engine bots; what good is having the best blog going about goblin gold strategies if your average Googler can’t find it?
Be current. If you’ve written a slew of posts on the Cataclysm changes and you’ve tagged them all “4.0.1″, no one searching for 4.0.3 (or 4, or 5) is ever going to find them. If they do stumble on the post, you’re going to look dated.
When a new expansion comes out, upgrade all your date-specific tags if the content of the post is still current.
Use tags. You should never have a post without a category and tags. Tags are search-engine gold.
Don’t use tags that have nothing to do with your post just because that topic seems to be trending- people will get annoyed at your perfidy and leave- but if you’re talking about Ironforge dwarf tossing, you should include everything you can think of that’s relevant to long-range ballistic shorties.
Think like a searcher. Good posters use the word ‘you’ a lot in their writing. That’s great: you’re putting yourself in the place of your reader and mentally inviting them into your work. Nicely done!
When someone searches on Google, though, they overwhelmingly type in things like “can i fly to tol barad” and “how can i gear for a disc priest in Cataclysm”. See the problem? You have to figure out a way to phrase things so that someone searching in the first person finds your blog written in the second person.
How you do that is up to you.
(u see whut i did thur?)
You don’t have to bump along with fewer readers than you know your writing skillz warrant.
You do have to work to get there… but get there you will! I have enormous faith in the brainpower that drives our strange, WoW-centric branch of the universe. I salute you and want to see you all succeed.
And when you do, link to me.