Make sure your voice isn't crushed by the big sites
With all the changes to the FTW in the past couple months, I thought it might do some good to have Adam from the Space Wolves blog talk about tabletop wargame blogging and how best to promote yourself to your potential readers.
With that, I'll turn it over to Adam.
We've seen the blogosphere grow dramatically in the past few years. But now that there are so many blogs out there, how do you stand out from the crowd? How do you get the most followers? And more importantly, how do you do a better job than the bigger blogs? How do you even become one of the Big Blogs in the first place?
All shall be revealed...
One Man and His Blog
Why did you set up your blog in the first place? Everyone has their reasons. But generally, blog types vary from small hobby blogs to comprehensive resources for specific armies, or games as a whole. Or in the case of FTW, it's a jumping off point into the best of the blogosphere.
So if you're thinking about starting a blog, it's a good idea to plan what you're going to put into it and most importantly, what you want to get out of it. However, the grander your schemes, the more work will be required.
Having seen my Space Wolves resource, my friend Marc has started up Grey Knights of Titan, which he intends to become the same kind of comprehensive resource for the Grey Knights army.
He kind of missed the boat on this one, while I knew Space Wolves would be coming out and started the blog 6 months in advance. So he has some competition. However, he's going to great lengths to deliver varied and high quality content that's better than his competitors.
Which brings us nicely on to...
What Makes You So Special?
So what makes your blog so much better than all the others out there? Perhaps you're the best painter on the planet. Maybe the greatest conversion creator. Maybe you know the game inside and out and aren't ashamed to share your coarse opinion on the matter.
Point is, there's a place in the blogosphere for you so long as you can flaunt your talents and focus on what your readers want.
Tone Of Voice and Content are the two most important tools at your disposal.
Not only are you writing for yourself, but you're also writing for your audience. And often your audience will reflect the kind of person that you are, because they feel an affinity with what you say and how you say it.
Content is King! It's a popular saying among SEOs and web marketing people. Good quality content brings in links, followers and traffic. Obviously you have to do a little PR, like mentioning it on blogs, forums, etc. But if you can produce a well written, well laid out article that's backed up with fantastic photos (preferably of your own armies), then you're on to a winner.
But instead of battling with other blogs to be the #1 Grey Knights resource, for example, it's always best to create something new and boldly go where no blogger has gone before.
I mean, you wouldn't want to create a competitor to Bell Of Lost Souls would you?
Hard work aside, they've had numerous years to grow. It'd be like starting up a corner store and declaring you're going to be the next Walmart -and steal the market from them at the same time. It just ain't gonna happen.
So look out for those opportunities. Setting up shop first can give you a massive advantage if you've got your heart set on becoming one of the bigger blogs.
And now for a quick case study...
2 Years of Space Wolves
I'm still amazed how 2 years of blogging has flown past. But what's more interesting is the progression of traffic to the Space Wolves blog throughout those 2 years.
The greatest irony is how the quality of articles produced in the 1st year were the success to increasing traffic in the 2nd year. So getting off to a good start is clearly very important.
As you can see from the Google Analytics graph below, the site's traffic ebs and flows, but follows general trends.
On September 7th in 2009, the blog ranked 1st in Google for "Space Wolves" just as the Space Wolves rumours had started flying thick and fast. This resulted in a sudden spike in traffic, which died down a few days later. But some people stuck around and kept on reading.
By January 2010 I'd started churning out structured content to a plan, which resulted in a lot more Google search traffic and increasing appearances on people's blogrolls.
In November 2010 I made a few YouTube videos.
The Wolf & Sister comic now goes live every Wednesday. You can clearly see these spikes in traffic.
Currently the Space Wolves blog appears on most blogrolls and ranks in the top 3 in Google for pretty much every Space Wolves related search. So how do I keep increasing my traffic and getting people to follow the blog?
If there's one thing that really bugs me about so many blogs (not just in wargaming), it's how you're often stuck with the latest 3 blog posts and can't easily delve deeper into the site.
Whether you're a hobby blogger or building a full on resource, tags/labels and categories are incredibly important to help people find what they're looking for.
Besides, if your website is useful, easy to use and full of accessible information, then who wouldn't want to follow you?
I'm not going to use my blog as an example of usability perfection, because that would just be arrogant. However, I have received emails from people asking me to write particular articles which are already on the site. So perhaps my usability could do with improving? Or these people are just blind?
Either way, it's something to address. I may produce a video tutorial on how to find stuff using the top bar and side bar navigation.
And on that final note, we'll round up.
So think about what you want to do before you do it.
Make sure your blog name is relevant to what you're focusing on.
Create great content that's well written and well laid out with (your own) photos.
Set up Google Analytics to track events and see what earns you more traffic.
Make sure it's easy to find stuff on your blog with tags/labels and categories.
Best of luck and happy blogging!
There are some great points here folks, take them heart. While most of us do this for "fun," it can't hurt to go a bit deeper and really look at what you are trying to do with your site and for the community overall.
I know I struggle with all of these very topics. Thanks Adam!
Make sure to check out these posts as they might help:
10 things you can do to improve your blog