Summary: Matticus, a popular World of Warcraft blogger shares how to start blogging and how to buid a super popular World of Warcraft blog from scratch.
This is a guest post by Matt "Matticus" Low, who runs one of the most successful blogs about massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft, World of Matticus. Matt also runs several other websites around the same subject, including forum and other blogs.
As Matt also writes for WoW.com (a top 500 blog in the world, the new WoW Insider), he's the right man to explain how to build a warcraft blog by telling his story, how he started blogging and how he built a super popular World of Warcraft blog from scratch. Don't let the gaming topic fool you even if you're not even remotely interested in games or WoW, as there's a whole lot to learn for all of us from Matt's advice.
This amazing post emerged when Matt announced his limited Want a Free Guest Post? -offer and I jumped on the opportunity. As my own blogging more and less started by blogging about World of Warcraft, I was intrigued on how he built a successful WoW blog, so I asked if he could share how he ended up building a blog around WoW and how it all has turned out for him...
How to Build a Super Popular Warcraft Blog from Scratch
The holiday season is steadfastly approaching us. In the spirit of giving, I decided to publicly offer myself as a guest poster for any blog provided they get in touch with me with a topic of their choosing. Zemalf, unlike many of the other bloggers, requested that I write about my adventures from the beginning to where I am today.
Hi, my name is Matt. I write a blog about World of Warcraft. Currently, the blog is approaching 5000 subscribers. Every month brings about 130000 visits.
But I didn’t get there overnight. When I got involved with blogging 2 years ago, no one knew who I was or gave a crap about what I did.
How did I get from there to where I am now?
The simple answer is good old fashioned hard work. I’ll go ahead and explain my (what I consider) milestone thoughts. They’re hardly unique. I just took principles that others have developed and adapted them toward my WoW blog.
Laying the foundation
I wanted to start a blog about my time in World of Warcraft. Looking around the WoW blogosphere during the summer of 2007, there wasn’t anything interesting I could find that was relevant to what I did in the game. You see, I play a type of character called a healer (specifically a Priest). Our job is to make sure our allies stay alive so that they can do their job (which is to blow up dragons). There weren’t that many blogs around that dealt with that sort of thing.
When it comes to gaming blogs, there are two essential traits that you have to have if you want to be a somebody.
- Stand out: For one thing, you better be damn good at what you do. You don’t have to be the greatest, but you need to represent some kind of authority. Do something unique and unheard of. Be an expert at something. If you’re not an expert, then pretend. Fake it until you make it (a strategy that I adopted).
- Write well: Basic spelling and grammar are aspects that don’t have to be mentioned. Perception is important and one way to develop a solid reputation is by taking care in how you convey information. Not only that, a writer needs to have a solid personality. Be emo. Be angry. Be cheery. Be determined. Whatever you decide to do, don’t be boring.
With blogs at the time, the people behind them were either really good at the game or really excellent writers. It was rare to find bloggers who were an authority and were coherent.
I wanted to get involved with it and I felt I could do a great job. I’ve played the game for a long time and I had the desire to share my knowledge of the game with anyone that was willing to listen. I wanted to help players get better and teach them what I knew. With any luck, maybe I’d learn a thing or two as well from any visitors I receive.
Put in the investment
Many bloggers that start out usually opt for a free blog from Blogger or WordPress.com. The idea here is that if they don’t like it or if they run out of motivation, then there’s no loss and they can just leave their sites abandoned after.
However, I knew I wanted to be in it for the long haul. I wanted to spend at least a year engaging in the craft to see if I had the skills and the drive to do it. But I knew if I didn’t have the risk of losing something, then I would stop caring. So what I did was I created a risk of loss.
In other words, I bought web hosting for about $108 for a whole year. For a first year student in University, a hundred bucks is a pretty significant loss. That’s about 25 lunches. Or 80 cups of coffee. Or 30 bargain bin DVDs. The point is, I deliberately set myself up with a situation where if I decided to give up, I would suffer a loss that mattered to me. I did not want to waste my money.
By going for a yearly subscription, I could go hard for a year and then see if I wanted to renew after that. I had 365 days to see if I could pull off this blogging thing.
I already had the skills at managing websites. I developed my high school’s website for the better part of three years while I was there. I had to come up with content for the front page that was appropriate for people my age and the parents that watched over them. Having an idea of what an audience expects is a useful skill to have and it continues to serve me to this day.
Finding the time
Did I have the discipline to do it? I was already taking a full course load and had my duties to attend to within the game. There’s only a set amount of hours per day. Writing is a habit that needs to be developed early. If you keep putting off blogging, you’re never going to find time to write the posts that you want to do. You have to make time for it.
Identify possible periods during the day where you can do something. A blog post is an idea that you’ve expanded. If you don’t have time to write a post, then do some brainstorming. During breaks in between classes, I’d start writing into my notebook. Sometimes I’d have several hours in between and other times I’d have a mere 10 minutes. Even a single word contributes to the overall post.
Separate yourself from the pack
Seth Godin refers to this as being a purple cow. A purple cow is unique. It’s different. You pass by a farm, you’ll see a bunch of cows that look a lot like each other. But when you see a purple cow, it catches your attention because cows aren’t traditionally purple! In other words, don’t do the same things everyone else is doing.
- Write often: You don’t have to kill yourself writing 3-4 posts a day. Write often enough that people will come back. Starting out, I set a goal that I would write a post every day for a week. Once I hit that, I would write every day for a whole month. Eventually, I hit a sweet spot where I’d have about 5 posts a week. I couldn’t exceed that without compromising school and other aspects of my life. It was just the right amount. Bloggers at the time wrote whenever they felt like it. Sometimes they would go hard for a few days before disappearing for several weeks and then coming back. There was no consistency. I created an expectation for my readers that there would be something for them to come back to the next day.
- Be visual: When I read other blogs, I felt distracted. I didn’t feel anything. I’d read for about a paragraph or two before thinking to myself that it was time to move on. Remember, I’m a student. If I wanted to read a wall of text and solve my insomnia, I’d whip out my Sociology textbook and give that a go. There was no emphasis anywhere. There was nothing to break up the monotony of words on my screen. I read enough academic journal articles as is. I was determined to set my blog apart from the rest by including simple emphasis. I’d seed posts with at least an image. Bullet points and numerical lists would be squeezed in. As a reader, I discovered that I was attracted to blog posts that utilized these simple tools and stayed longer. That realization was immediately put to use. If they’re going to navigate away from my blog, it would not be because they were reading a giant wall of text.
Those two factors alone helped set my blog apart from the rest. Again, at the time, WoW bloggers weren’t taking blogging that seriously. Many of them had no idea there were blogs dedicated to blogging. I caught on to Problogger and Copyblogger early on and read as much of their work as I could. I was amazed that not many were utilizing their tried and true techniques for writing and blogging. I figured I had nothing to lose so I took the skills they were teaching and applied it to my blog posts.
Many new bloggers feel bad when it comes to the topic of advertising and promoting their work. It’s a taboo feeling, they say. No one likes to brag or toot their own horn for fear of being perceived as cocky or arrogant.
Unfortunately, blogging doesn’t quite work that way. If you don’t vocalize your presence, don’t expect to be seen. If you’re blogging, then there’s a part of you that wants to be read. I don’t know about you, but it’s the readers that have always kept me going. I write so that I can be read. I’m not sure if I’d continue going this strong if I knew I was the only person that read the stuff I wrote. There is a definite relationship between motivation to blog and being read.
As for perception, it’s up to the bloggers to shake off that feeling. There’s nothing wrong with promoting your work as long as you do it the right way. Here’s what I did to make my presence felt:
- Comment often: Bloggers are thrilled to get comments. Why? Because it validates the fact that someone actually cares enough about what we wrote to respond. I picked out a few of my favourite blogs that were related to the content of my blog (healing or being a Priest). Fill out that comment form and definitely don’t forget to include your blog in the URL. Trust me when I say every blogger will always click on a commenter’s website to see where they come from. It’s been proven that being first when commenting yields positive results (but make sure you actually have something to contribute because “Nice post lol” isn’t going to do wonders for your reputation).
- Link out: Trackbacks are huge. Blog software has evolved to the point where we can tell what sites link to us. Bloggers want to know which sites are linking to them. Any comments written by me that were too long were converted into lengthy response posts that linked back to the original. The bonus? On most blogs, the trackbacks appear before the comments, which is strong for visibility.
- Be social: Email other bloggers. Say hi and introduce yourself. Strike up a conversation about something. You’ve heard of networking right? This is it right here. The first regular contributor on my blog came about because she had the guts to email me and say hi. You never know what’s going to happen. The worst thing is that you get blown off. But you don’t have much to lose for trying.
The trick is to get your name and your blog noticed. Don’t do it in an underhanded way. Do it within the limits of the system. You don’t have to be just another anonymous reader. If you want to get noticed, you need to take some sort of initiative in order to make it happen.
Have a purpose
Garr Reynolds explains the Japanese phrases as “So what?!” or “Your point being...?”
Why should readers give a crap about what you’re writing?
Have a message. Have a meaning. Organize thoughts around an idea. Throughout my life, teachers have continually drilled into students that the thesis statement forms the backbone of a paper. Blogging’s no different. If you want to have a jumbled mess of thoughts, don’t let me stop you. Some readers might appreciate that. But blogging is something I wanted to take seriously.
Every time I wrote a post, I would always ask myself “What is the point of this?” If I could not answer that question, then I would temporarily shelve it and come back to it later. Rewrite the post or come at it from a new angle if you have to. The post itself doesn’t have to be relevant for everyone. It just has to be relevant for someone.
If even one person found my post useful, it was worth it.
This doesn’t mean abandon the idea.
Don’t be afraid of sucking
Never throw away ideas. There’s no such thing as a bad one. Even if someone else writes a post idea before you do, find a different approach. You’ll never find success if you’re afraid of failure.
When bloggers come to me for counselling or just to chat, one of the questions I get is how I come up with so many ideas. Figuratively speaking, I have a recycle bin instead of a trash bin. I don’t completely reject anything.
It’s okay to be wrong. We’re all human. We’re not perfect. Mistakes will be made. Learn from them and move on.
Develop thick skin
This is the internet. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. At times, you’re not going to like it. Deal with it and move on.
It’s harsh, yes. But you’re going to face critics that will leave you shaking angrily with the desire to track the suckers down and beat the living crap out of them. I get that urge sometimes. You have to control and rein it in. Let it out in private if you have to. Use a stress ball. Scream loudly in angst.
Accept the fact that not everyone is going to like what you have to say.
Understand that no matter what you do, there’s always going to be some jerk that’s after your guts for no logical reason.
Yeah it’s going to sting and hurt. But the best thing you can do is learn from it.
In the end, criticism is a necessity. Pay attention and listen to what others are saying. Don’t expect to start a blog perfectly. I didn’t and I’m still never going to be completely satisfied with it. It’s up to you to decide what is reasonable and what isn’t. Do what you want with the feedback. Take it into consideration or discard it.
So, Zemalf presented me with a few questions that might be of interest.
What I wished I knew about blogging that I know now
Branding is important. I sort of knew about that early on that’s why I picked a name like World of Matticus. If site or game fell through, at least I could re-tailor it to something else. In hindsight, I should’ve picked a name that was relevant for the game. I was afraid that I was going to lose interest in it. Sadly, it’s too late to re-brand the entire community now. You’ll end up losing readers in the process.
Would I recommend you to blog about games you play?
Gaming is tricky. On the one hand, players like to detail their exploits and accomplishments. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s like having an online diary that anyone can come across. But if you have the desire to carve a name out for yourself, it’s going to take a lot of effort and time. That’s true when deciding to “go pro” with anything.
Be prepared for the day when you get bored of the game and lose interest. Gaming blogs seem to have a high amount of turnover. People lose motivation or decide to stop playing. Once that happens, their blog is finished. If you’re the type of player who beats a game within two weeks, you probably shouldn’t write a dedicated blog about it.
In the end, you should only blog about games if you want to. Don’t feel obligated to do so. I never thought blogging about gaming would be this fun. It’s why I’m still doing it.
This is a guest post by Matt "Matticus" Low. Make sure you check out Matt's blog at World of Matticus and in the spirit of commenting often, as Matt suggested, I'd love you to share your thoughts about this post and leave a comment right now.