When I was first convinced to start writing a druid-themed blog, it was with the intention of creating an audience interested in both druids and high-end raid content. I don't ever recall reading many other blogs geared in a similar fashion until recently, and it's (dare I say) refreshing reading the trials and tribulations of others riding the progression bandwagon in the writings of folks such as Lume the Mad or Chick GM. But before I totally digress, I'd like to just take a minute to step back from Warcraft here and address what I mentioned in the very first sentence: creating an audience.
Here, I am making a few assumptions:
- While bloggers must be writing in some fashion for themselves, they are also writing in a public venue in which they want to be seen.
- You, as a blogger, do not want to alienate a potential audience and you, as a reader, do not want to feel alienated by a particular blog. Here, I'm talking about a potential audience within a topic itself; for example, I wouldn't want to discourage druid readers. Generating interest from anyone else is an added bonus.
- You, as a blogger, want to allow open discourse, in some capacity, and you, as a reader, do not want to be ignored.
Keeping the above items in mind, here are a few suggestions that I try to follow for anyone who's curious or struggling with a fledgling site:
- Update Frequently: I admittedly have a hard time doing this, especially when my schedule lately looks a little something like Go to Work, Come Home, Cook Dinner, Raid, Sleep. But the more often you update, the better the chances are that people will frequently check out your work to see what's new. Similarly, as a reader, I really enjoy following specific blogs and look forward to new content.
- Track Site Statistics: While this offers a work-procrastinating opportunity for every Type A, OCD individual out there, integrating some sort of tracker into your website, like StatCounter, allows you to view a comprehensive breakdown of the traffic your site is receiving: how many hits, unique hits, recent keyword activity, websites that people clicked through to get to yours, popular pages, exit pages, etc. I am generally most interested in the amount of daily traffic as it correlates to days-of-the-week (when most people tend to drop by), where people are coming from (who's linking to me) and what folks typed into Google to get them to my blog (keyword activity). This shows me when it's most opportune to post in order to please the greatest numbers of stoppers-by. This kind of information might also surprise you—a post you might have viewed as silly, inconsequential, or difficult to read may end up being the most popular thing you ever wrote. Go figure.
- Comment: Don't be afraid to comment elsewhere. Discuss. But more importantly, respond. While there are certainly blogs out there with entries generating 40+ comments a day, I'm going out on a limb and postulating that most, or at least many, WoW bloggers don't usually get more than 20 and often less than 10. If folks bothered to leave you some kind of feedback, even if it's something to the tune of HI I LIKE YOUR LAYOUT ALSO O'DOYLE RULES!, it's just common courtesy to respond in some way, even if it's simply a "Thank you". Similarly, if someone comments with a correction or a controversial opinion, before you dismiss him or her outright or call him or her rude, take a minute, recheck your facts, math, whatever, and respond graciously and thoughtfully. We all make mistakes, and we all tend to make incorrect assumptions at one point or another. Additionally, while most theorycrafting is standard, take a minute and ascertain where this person is coming from—are they raiding Karazhan and you're working on Illidan? Different specs, item levels, and levels of raiding might necessitate different rules or ideas. Meet halfway.
- Determine Readability: This goes beyond the basics of good grammar, structure, and spelling. I come from a background of writing dense scientific papers, rather erudite literary critcism and, to balance it all out, humorous nonfiction. It's pretty easy to figure out which of those most people would probably read, and I try to recognize my tendency to write obscenely long sentences and make everything a little bit more conversational. To get an idea of how your writing compares to known standards, the intrepid writer can perform a Flesch/Kincaide test. Flesch Tests are statistical analyses of a selected body of work that utilizes the below formula.
206.835 – 1.015(total words/total sentences) – 84.6(total syllables/total words)
High scores indicate an easier to read document, while lower scores generally indicate denser, more difficult prose. For reference, Reader's Digest scores around 65, a basic insurance policy scores around 45, and Nature would probably score in the mid-twenties. The Kincaid portion of the test scores your writing and calculates the basic grade level of your work (10 being a sophomore level). This post, for example, scores a 43.2 with a 12.0 reading level and definitely isn't hard to read. Most public media caters to a sophomore or lower reading level. It's interesting to see where you end up on the spectrum.
Don't let the math scare you—if you use WP, you can download a plug-in called FD Word Stats. Additionally, going to Tools>Options>Spelling & Grammar>Check Show Readability Statistics will allow you to perform the same tests in Microsoft Word. Just run a standard Spelling & Grammar check, and the stats will display at the end.
So even when you're supposedly writing for yourself, take a moment to reflect on your personal motivations and slip yourself into the shoes of the reader: what do you like to see as a member of the audience?
I have some rather ridiculous WoW related news to report on later, but that's it for now. In the meantime, what do you want to hear from me that I don't already discuss?