Thursday, 21 April 2016

Thoughts on Blogging- One Year In

As the blog turned one year old recently, it was suggested that I write about some of my experiences with starting and growing a blog over the 12 months it has been going. Hopefully you will find some of the information and advice useful if you are thinking of getting into wargame blogging, or those of you more experienced than I am will get a kick from reminiscing about your own starts into the world of blogging.

This will be some general advice on what my motivations and thoughts were when I decided to start blogging about 40k and what I have learnt over the course of the year. I like to think that St Andrews Wargaming has come a long way in the last 12 months. I have a decent regular following who comment and contribute and get a decent number of hits each month on many of my articles. There are obviously many blogs out there that are a lot more successful than mine (many of which will be mentioned below as they helped with my inspiration) and this is not the only way to blog, it's just what I have found works for me. I certainly don't want this to come across as an egotistical "This is how to Blog!!!!", as I have been doing this for a relatively short period of time.

The Burning Eye posted a nice article back in February on "Getting into Blogging" and I would recommend reading that, as it contains a lot of valuable information, some of which will be similar to the information here.

Before I start, I want to give a big thanks and shout out to Dave from "Confessions of a 40k addict" and Alex at "From the Fang". They were kind enough to give me advice on blogging when I was thinking about starting, and much of the evolution of St Andrews Wargaming is based on that initial advice. If you are thinking of starting your own 40k blog, you could do a lot worse than looking to these two highly successful blogs for inspiration.

To start off, the best advice I could give to anyone thinking of starting a 40k blog (or other such gaming blog) is this- DO IT! If you have a passion for the hobby and want to share it, go ahead. Your opinion is as valid as anyone else's (unless of course you play Tau or Eldar, in which case, shame on you!). I am always on the look out for new takes on 40k and new blogs to read.

Now that you have decided to get into the world of 40k blogging, hopefully you will find some useful advice in my subsequent ramblings.
random picture!


What's in a name?
There is a serious affliction that can affect a lot of 40k bloggers. There you are, all excited and ready to get started, then suddenly it's all over and you are left with a feeling of trepidation, dread and fear. I speak of course about premature appellation- naming your blog too early. As Nick has mentioned in his post, choosing the right name is key for your blog. To repeat his advice (seriously, go read it), pick something simple and hobby related that people may reasonably be searching for.

It is well worth while taking some time to think about what you want to call your blog. It is much easier to take the time at the start to think about this than to try and change it down the line. When it came to naming my own blog, I didn't put a huge amount of thought into it. I was so eager to start blogging that I just threw together something simple down to set up a Blogger account and get going. Yes, St Andrews Wargaming does exactly what it says on the tin, but I doubt it is a search term that comes up all that much in relation to 40k. Plus, what happens when I move? I will need to keep the name, even though it may no longer be that relevant. Don't be like me or Rob. Rob's was too long and unwieldy and quite a mouthful (ladies........), so he changed it from "From the Horus Heresy to Infinity and Beyond" to "30Kplus40K". The new name is a lot snappier and more likely to be remembered.

So learn from our mistakes. Take just a little time to think about the name of your blog. Once you have decided on a name, google it! Is there another blog or hobby page with the same name or a similar name, is it unique enough? Ideally, in time when you google your blog name it should be near the top on the front page (ideally within the first two or three hits). It may take some time, but it's a great feeling when you google the name of your blog and it's the first result.

Once you have a name, you can get your blog started. I use Blogger for mine for a few reasons. It's free, my girlfriend used it and said it was easy to use and most of the blogs I was reading at the time used it. I don't know if there are better platforms out there, but it works for me. I am reasonably computer savvy, so Blogger is really easy for me to use (I haven't done any programming since the last time I used a VCR, so it's great for me).

Why Blog?
Perhaps this should have been the first entry in the article, but I really wanted to get the importance of the name thing across.

Obviously, you should have a strong passion for 40k and want to share your work, your thoughts and progress as you go. One of the best pieces of advice that I was given was to use the blog as a record of your achievements and hobby progress and to help keep your hobby motivation high.

I had been into 40k since the release of 3rd edition when I was in high school. I played throughout high school and much of my uni career (which was a long time!), so had a good background in it. When I moved to St Andrews for work, I kept up to date with 40k, mostly through White Dwarf, but stopped playing and stopped regular painting for a good while. I was still new in St Andrews, so hadn't really built up a good social circle outside of work, so tended to spend my weekends back in Glasgow visiting friends or working in the lab. I knew there was a 40k club at the uni, but the website said they met on a Wednesday night from 8pm to midnight, far too late for me on a school night, so I never gave much thought to going. One Saturday afternoon, I was heading in to the lab to do some work, when I passed someone carrying a GW case. I stopped him and asked where he was going and he told me he was heading to the uni club. I tagged along and my 40k fire was rekindled. I became heavily involved in the university club, making new terrain for them and running several campaigns. I loved discussing the new model releases and new rules. I began to write up battle reports from the campaign games and reports from the campaign to share with the rest of the club and got a good response from this. I finally had something to do with my free evenings and weekends, getting my armies painted and making new terrain. The progression to blogging was quite natural from this. I think the catalyst was signing up to attend Blog Wars 9. I figured if I was going to Blog Wars, I may as well have a blog! So that was part of my motivation for starting this blog.

For me, the blog is a way to share my views on different aspects of 40k. To talk about new codices and rules changes and to share my battle reports and some of my terrain work.

This shouldn't be a problem for most people who want to blog about 40k, but my advice would be to keep it positive! Share your passion and enthusiasm for 40k and your armies. That's not to say that you cannot occasionally be negative about rules changes or aspects of the hobby, but I think people are more likely to read and get involved in a conversation if there is a positive spin.

Bringing Something Unique
This is a tricky one. When thinking of starting a blog, it can be easy to look at the wide range of great 40k blogs out there and think "Will I be adding anything new?". Some of the biggest blogs that I follow bring a unique flavour to the blogging community; Confessions of a 40k addict provides free downloads and terrain templates (not to mention Dave's amazing Nids army and Tyranid-themed terrain) and From the Fang runs regular tournaments and posts in-depth reviews on new codices.

For me, I looked at what aspects of the hobby I enjoyed the most and what passions I could bring to the blog.

From the start, this was never going to be a blog that focussed on painting and modelling. I would class my painting skills (fairly I think) as good tabletop or very good tabletop for some of my armies, but I neither have the patience or much of an inclination to dramatically improve my painting standards. For me, painting is a means to an end. I love having a painted army for the thrill of seeing two fully painted armies battling it out on a board with great terrain, a real clash for the table top. There are many blogs out there that showcase some of the phenomenal painting and modelling skills that are out there (NafNaf at Objective Secured for his amazing conversion work, Dave from Confessions of a 40k addict for his aforementioned Nids and themed terrain and Rob from 30Kplus40K are a few standouts for me, but there are plenty more to check out on my blog list). I was never going to be able to compete with these in terms of painting standards, so would need to focus on other things.

When I first thought about starting to blog, White Dwarf was firmly on my mind. This once-esteemed magazine was very formative during my early 40k years. My favourite types of articles were the Mike Walker fantasy articles, the battle reports and the new codex/game edition overviews. If I could bring a small flavour of what I loved about White Dwarf to my blog, I would be thrilled.

I would say that for my own blog, it is the battle reports that bring a slightly unique flavour. Now obviously there are many blogs and other great sites that regularly feature battle reports, so that is not all that unique.
If you allow me a brief moment to be completely egotistical, I think my own battle reports bring something slightly different to the table. As I said above, I love the old White Dwarf (WD) battle reports and wanted to try and copy them as much as possible. A huge thanks for this inspiration goes to the blog Path of an Outcast. When I got back into fantasy, I found his battle reports and was amazed. The maps used were brilliant and gave a great overview of the turn in a way I had not seen since the  good old days of WD and was something that I had not really seen in battle reports online. Swordmaster was kind enough to share the secret of this- Battle Chronicler. This was a way I could try and be unique in my own blog.

I deliberately try to structure my battle reports similar to the WD ones I loved. I put down my thoughts on army selection for the game, I try to describe the games in a semi-narrative fashion with lots of details included, going over my thoughts and reasoning on moves or actions where appropriate. I include the turn overview maps and plenty of photos and include my "after-battle thoughts" where I sum up the results of the game and how my plan worked or could be improved. Sometimes I am even able to convince my opponent to write up thoughts on their army selection and thoughts on how the battle went and include them. The fact that several people have commented of how they remind them of the old WD battle reports is great and helps me think that I am doing something right. Even though they are not always amongst my top viewed posts, they are still quite popular and I hope that they help to bring people to the blog or keep their interest if they have been brought here for other articles.
My recent map experiment. I really like the look of this one.

I was also keen to try and emulate the Mike Walker-type articles that WD used to feature. For those of you that don't know, Mike Walker wrote a series of articles for WD about various different aspects of fantasy at the time. They were funny, thoughtful and very entertaining. I was in no illusions about my writing ability reaching this high level, but when I first started wanting to blog I had several ideas about opinion articles/editorials that would hopefully be funny and entertaining.

It doesn't have to be something that is going to revolutionise the blogging landscape online, even your own opinion or painting style is likely to be unique enough to get started. If you are passionate enough to actually start a blog, I'm sure you will find something worth writing about.

Getting Started
Once I had a name picked out and had set up a Blogger site, I was keen to get started.

I decided to do an initial introduction post telling potential readers who I was, how I got into 40k, what armies I had and give hints about my playstyle. I think this is a good start and gives you a good excuse to ramble and let readers get a flavour of your style.

As I mentioned above, I had a few opinion articles that I had written in advance (or at least had ideas about) and could use posts to showcase the armies that I had and some of my terrain. I already had opinion pieces on White Dwarf, Objectives and my trenches and zone mortalis terrain.

I decided to stagger the posting of these more in-depth articles for the first 6 months or so of the blog. There was no point putting everything out at once and getting rid of (what I at least thought) was my best initial content when no-one was reading the blog.

It really helped me to have a goal to work towards when I started the blog. When I first started writing, I was working towards getting my (relatively) new White Scars army ready for Blog Wars 9. This allowed me to write posts about getting my units painted for the tournament and battle reports for testing my army; analysing strengths and weaknesses in my list and playing around with the army list. Much of my first 3 months of blogging had a strong focus on my White Scars army and the subsequent Blog Wars tournament.
You could be readying yourself for an upcoming tournament, just starting a new army or starting a campaign, or a new codex could just have been released. This could provide you with a lot of readily available content with which to start posting.

How Often to Post and What to Post?
The same advice I got from several sources when starting off was to post on a regular basis. This is vital to a starting blog, I feel. There is little worse than finding a new blog that you like the look of and having to wait weeks at a time for updates.

I think that most bloggers try to post at least once a week, this gives their readers something to keep coming back for and interacting with.
When I first started, I had no set schedule for posting. I just posted what I wanted when I wanted to post it. I figured that I would post regular and post often when I was first starting. I wanted the blog to be showing up regularly in people's blog feeds and in blog networks (more on this below), so that others would be seeing that I was posting regular and posting diverse content. I found that when I was just starting out, I was really motivated and posted often. I got so used to having fresh content for the blog that I have tried to keep that up over the months.

In my first year of blogging, I posted 189 times. That equates to almost one post every 2 days or about 4 times a week. Rob started his blog (30Kplus40K) just a couple of weeks before mine. He posted an amazing 237 times in his first year! This equates to roughly one post every day and a half, or about 4-5 posts per week.

You may think that seems like an awful lot and maybe it is. I found, however, that once I started the blog and started posting on it, I could easily find content to fill it. I was under the impression that the more that I posted, the more people would likely see it and find my blog. If they liked it, they could follow or keep an eye out for new posts.

My advice for someone just starting out would be: Post regular, post often, but post substantial content!

This one can be tricky as the definition of substantial content differs from person to person. I wanted to post regularly, but I didn't want readers to feel like the post was a waste of their time. This would be your own judgement call as to what counts as substantial and I will expand on my own opinions below.

Posting certain topics on a specific day can help you to focus your hobby content. I was inspired by some of the trends on twitter for my own posting. Twitter has certain wargaming hashtags for certain days of the week such as #miniaturemonday, #terraintuesday and #WIPwednesday where users can post images of finished miniatures, terrain and work in progress models, respectively.

Over the course of my first year, I got into some general trends. I tried to post my battle reports on a Thursday. I use Hobby Sunday to summarise my hobby progress (if any) in any given week. To me, this allowed me to create more substantial hobby content as opposed to; Post 1- here is the model base coated, Post 2- here's the wash step, etc. One of my most recent regular postings has been the "Better Know a Blogger" series that posts on a Monday. Even though I have general trends in some posting, these can be adjusted based on different content such as tournament battle reports or codex reviews.

As to the type of content, below are the kinds of things I like to post or have seen posted and my own personal opinions on them:

REVIEWS- Without a doubt, codex reviews will bring in a substantial amount of traffic to your blog. My review of the Ravenwing parts of the 7th edition Dark Angels codex is my most popular article, with over twice as many views as the second most read article, also another section of codex review. Whenever a new codex comes out for one of my armies, I try to get the reviews written up as quickly as possible. Most people will probably be looking for reviews and information right after the release of a codex, so you will most likely get the most traffic around that time. Obviously try to keep too many details about units, special rules and points costs to a minimum so as not to get into trouble.

BATTLE REPORTS- Personally, I like doing battle reports on my blog. For me, the best aspect of the hobby is playing a game with an opponent, trying to out how to win in a game and putting that plan into action, or failing miserably and getting crushed.
A lot of other bloggers out there either don't do them or don't like them. If you are going to start blogging, the choice is up to you. If you are going to do them, I recommend that you take photos of your game. A wall of text battle report is pretty unappealing to me. You could also go the route of doing video battle reports. I don't have much advice on this as I don't like them, so don't do them.

When doing battle reports, it is advisable to ask your opponent's permission to take photos and record notes as this can slow the game down. I've never once had anyone refuse to allow me to do so, but it always helps to ask first. I may have started off slow with my note taking at first, but now I can take quite detailed notes on a game very quickly without slowing the game down much. You don't need to record every dice roll, but particularly funny or annoying dice rolls are sometimes worth recording.

Also note that Battle Reports can take a LONG time to write up. Each of mine probably averages at least 2-3 hours work in total, though it could be even more, I've never really kept a record.

RUMOURS- I tend to stay away from rumours reporting for the most part. Other bloggers like to post rumours of new codex rules changes, etc. There are several reasons why I don't post about rumours. First, there are plenty of huge wargame sites out there that specialise in reporting rumours. My little blog was never going to compete with these big boys. Secondly, I dislike blogs that simply post regurgitated rumours from the likes of Bell of Lost Souls or Faeit 212. If you plan on posting rumours or leaked images, put some analysis onto the page; what will this mean for your army? Are you happy about the proposed changes? At least then there is some content for your readers to look at, otherwise they would be as well visiting the original site.

HOBBY PROGRESS- This will most likely be your main focus on the blog. A blog is a great way to motivate you to finish off those various projects you have been working on for ages and to get armies or terrain completed. I try to put my hobby progress into a once a week post, assuming of course that I have made any hobby progress in that week. I think a lot of people are interested to see how an army or unit is progressing, especially if you are a skilled painter or modeller.

TOURNAMENTS- This is not for everyone. Some people simply dislike going to tournaments or don't have access to nearby tournaments. I find that they can provide me a week's worth of content for my blog. Whenever I have a tournament, I always have several set posts that I run. First I have my army for the tournament. I go over what I am taking and the reasons for taking them. Then I have the battle reports from the tournament (can be anywhere between 3-6, depending on the tournament). Then I will post a review on how my army performed. This is great for evolving your force- seeing what units worked well or which could be cut or improved upon. Finally, I will generally have an "Armies on Display" section where I have photographed any other armies (with permission!) or any painting competitions. I will tend to cluster all a tournament's posts together, posting each battle report within a day or two of the previous one. I think this helps keep reader's interests in reading about how I got on rather than having to wait a week or two between battle reports.

OPINION PIECES- This covers a wide range of topics and types of articles. When I first started, I had a number of opinions pieces ready to go on various topics such as White Dwarf, objectives and objective-based missions and repairing terrain. I was very much inspired by the Mike Walker articles from White Dwarf and tried to copy the style of these (though obviously not as good). I think it is quite nice when you are starting off to have some substantial content that new readers can get to grips with in addition to battle reports or painting progress.

Over time this has evolved into different articles dealing with the evolution of 40k. I really enjoy writing these articles as I think they give a nice overview of how different aspects of the game have changed over the editions. They are quite time consuming to research and type though, so that does limit how often I can post them.

ACHIEVEMENTS- Don't be afraid to share your blog achievements or hobby achievements as time goes on. Just placed high in a recent tournament? Share it. Your blog hit 100 articles/40,000 views, 100 comments? Share it. I've found much of the blog community to be very supportive and quite welcome to hear about your major milestones.

OTHER- This can be anything you want really. I would class my own "other" posts as things like Hobby Costs, Better Know a Blogger, Army showcases, etc. Blog about whatever interests you.

The inspiration for posts can come from many places- the release of new models or rules, an interesting situation in a game, a random conversation with a friend from the local gaming club. When I get an idea for a new post or series of articles, I will generally make a note somewhere with some initial thoughts that can be fleshed out at a later date. This helps prevent me from forgetting any good ideas I may have had.

Getting Your Name Out There
Now that you have your blog set up, have a fair few postings under your belt, how do you go about getting people to read your random ramblings.

Some bloggers are happy to just shout into the void. They use the blog as a means to chart their hobby progress and care little if anyone is really reading it. Others want to try and bring in a decent audience to have a look at their thoughts and opinions and start a conversation about different aspects of the game. I think I fall firmly into the latter category (FAME! I want to live forever, light up the sky like a flame! FAME!).

When you first get started, I wouldn't worry about how many people are viewing your blog or your posts (he said, while checking for the 8th time today how many people were reading this article......). It will certainly take a while for readers to notice your blog at the start, so just focus on getting the content out there on a regular basis and establishing your own blogging voice. There are of course many ways to promote your blog. It all depends on how much time and effort that you want to put into it. Cadian Shock (from Warhammer 40k blog) wrote a brilliant series of articles on using social media to promote your blog. I have read them several times and they are well worth checking out.

Below are some of the ways that I have used to promote the blog and my experiences with them.

BLOG NETWORKS
This is one of the best ways to pull in blog traffic with the minimum of effort. There are various blog networks that you can join and I will talk about some of them below. Many blog networks will not allow you to join until your blog is a certain age (anywhere from 3-6 months). I think this is a good idea. It stops the network from getting bogged down with a host of new blogs that only last a month or two and means that you should have some decent content for people to look through when they do find your blog.
When I discover a new blog, one of the things I like to do is search through their older content. The more content there is, the more likely I am to stick around. This also means that it if your content is much harder to find, I am less likely to go to the effort.

FAEIT 212- This is the biggest source of my blog network traffic and I highly recommend joining it. The blog exchange is prominently displayed on the front page and normally features interesting content. I have discovered quite a few of the blogs that I now follow through Faeit212 (or natfka).

40K KINGS- This is the most recent one that I have joined. It also brings in a fair amount of traffic to the blog. I must admit though, I don't really use this site much as I don't read German. My only issue with 40k kings was that it took about 3 months to reply to my email about joining the blog network, by which time I had forgotten I had even asked to join.

HOUSE OF PAINCAKES- This network brings in a little traffic to the blog (though not a patch on Faeit 212 or 40k kings). It has some interesting articles that are worth reading and it is a good site to check out from time to time.

BELL OF LOST SOULS ALLIANCE GAME NETWORK- Is this even really a blog network anymore? It's buried at the bottom of the page and seems to feature just the same 10 blogs over and over. I emailed to join it a few times, never once got a reply, never once saw my blog appear on it and never once got a single hit from it. I would most likely avoid.

TALK WARGAMING- Tried emailing for several months to get on the blog network. Never got a response.

There were a few others that I tried to get on, but never really got a response from them, so gave up in the end.

FACEBOOK
I find that facebook is a great way to share your hobby content to a wider audience. I am a member of the 40k addicts facebook group and the warhammer 40k gamers facebook group.
I don't post every single thing I put on the blog in the groups as I don't want to be annoying. I think that if you are constantly posting links to your blog, people are going to get annoyed and just ignore your stuff. I tend to limit it to battle reports, reviews or other articles I think will interest people.

This takes very little effort to do. I simply post links with my articles on the pages and write a couple of sentences detailing what the article is about to interest the reader.

This is also a way to find new blog content as well, as many people are doing the same thing. If you are going to join a 40k facebook group, be sure to check out their policy on linking to blogs. A lot of them don't like it, but the sentence saying they don't like it is buried in a long "About Us" text box that I rarely notice or read. As a result, quite a lot of people get arsey with you if you post it them.

Just be warned though, the Warhammer 40k gamers facebook group has recently had a lot of pretty women bots posting some graphic content. It gets deleted fairly quickly, but those of a nervous disposition or with heart conditions may wish to avoid.

TWITTER
There is a huge community of 40k fans on twitter. I joined it back in June and check on my feed regularly to see what is going on. The #warmongers hashtag is one that I follow as many people will post there.
It's great for seeing painted models and work in progress terrain, but I really does not translate into page views for a blog. If I am lucky, a link that I post will be clicked on once or twice, but most of them don't get clicked on at all. It's decent enough if you are interested in or are already on twitter, but I wouldn't go expecting much traffic from it if you are using it to promote your blog.

FORUMS
I regularly post my battle reports on DakkaDakka, as well as posting the occasional link to some reviews I have written. This can be a fair amount of work as people generally don't like you to just post a link and leave it there.

What I do is copy the text from my battle reports before I add any pictures and post that on the forum. I will add a couple of maps and photos to give the reader a flavour of the report and include a link to the report with all the maps and photos that they can use if they want.

Again, I don't post everything that I put on the blog on the forum as they would get quite annoying. I've also found that most people will prefer to leave comments on the forum than on the blog (which makes sense if that is where they are coming from), so I check regularly to see if anyone has commented on my posts.

REDDIT
This is one of the most recent social media sites I have engaged with. I got the idea after reading about Dave's experiences with it on his blog and I decided to give it a go.

I started posting my links to blog posts there about 2 months ago and the number of page hits I received was huge. In just 2 months, Reddit climbed to my second highest traffic source behind Google. I'm not sure how many of this hits actually read the links and engage with the blog, or how many are just an ego-boosting set of useless hits on the blog counter. Again, I don't post every single thing that I write, mostly sticking to battle reports and reviews.

I don't get a huge number of "upvotes" on my articles, the most I have ever had is 59, with most averaging below 15. This is minor compared to some of the top ones that gain several hundred upvotes. I also get a few comments on some of the articles that I try and respond to. I find that the best time to post links is around 5 pm UK time. This means that you are hitting a lot of the American cities after 9 am, which I figure is when a lot of people may be checking it (after their work emails and Facebook perhaps?).

Get Involved!
This part really links into the getting your name out there section above, but I thought it was so important that I gave it its own little section.

For me, the best way to get the name of your blog out there is to get involved with other blogs by reading and by commenting on them. Many Blogger blogs have "Follower" sections on them. Joining these means that any new articles from those blogs will appear on your blog feed. Read and comment on these other blogs, get your name known. If I get a new follower, I will invariably click on their profile and see if they have a blog or what blogs they follow that I can check out.

If someone posts a comment on your blog, always try and reply to them. Even a simple "Thanks" is sometimes enough. I dislike it when you take the time to comment on someone's blog and get no response from the author. Obviously not ever comment needs a reply, but sometimes its a great way to start a conversation on a certain topic. Always try and respond to any questions in the comments section.

Don't be afraid of being corrected or making mistakes. There are several times when I have posted a battle report or review that contains an error. Sometimes I have simply missed something out, forgotten a rule or applied it wrong. Many people are happy to point out any errors and are quite kind about it. You can also get situations where a reader may suggest a tactic or situation you had not previously considered. If I ever get a correction on one of my posts, I always try and fix it in the text and acknowledge the commenter who corrected me.

I am fortunate enough to have a great following of people who regularly comment on my posts (many of whom have their own blogs) and I try and comment on other blogs when I have something to say.

The "get involved" message also applies to other social media that I mentioned above. If someone takes the time to comment on one of your forum posts or social media posts, it is nice to reply. Equally, comment on other people's posts if you have something to add.

Blog Layout
This section details some of my thoughts on blog layout based on what I have seen and what I use on mine. These will mostly be based on Blogger as that is what I use.

Make your blog easy to navigate. As I said above, one of the first things I will do on a new blog is check out older posts. Making this as easy as possible means I am more likely to stick around if I like the content. For my own blog, I have the menus at the top for my battle reports, codex reviews, different armies, etc. These are pretty easy to set up on Blogger. I also like to have a Blog Archive and some Labels that I tag for specific articles. I try to keep number of labels low as I have seen many blogs where the labels run into several hundred, making it hard to find what you want.

You can also include a tab showing your most popular articles, either recent ones or from all your posts. This gives readers a preview of the types of things you post and what is popular. This can be a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy though. Your most popular articles will tend to get viewed more often as they are prominently displayed, which leads them to be more popular, etc. After a while, the list of these articles will stop changing. You may wish to use the most popular articles from the last month to show readers what you are currently working on.

It also helps to have some contact info on the blog page. I have just realised that I have none of this on my own blog page and have corrected it now! There have been several times where I have wanted to contact another blogger directly, but have been unable to find any contact info. At this stage you can either give up or highjack one of their blog posts to comment and ask them to contact you. I have a separate email address that I use for blogging and 40k in general, so don't need to have stuff popping up in my regular email account.

I also like to use jump breaks in my articles (essentially, links to the rest of the article). This allows people scanning the blog to get a quick overview of my most recent articles without having to scroll through tons of text and pictures to get to the bottom. Hopefully, they will find something that catches their eye and draws them in.

Make it easy to read! It's all very well having a fancy font and colour scheme, but if it makes your posts harder to read, what is the point?

Rite Goode Like
This may seem petty and a bit pedantic, but nothing puts me off a blog faster than having to struggle through a blog post that is riddled with spelling mistakes and incomprehensible abbreviations. Obviously mistakes will be made and the odd one here and there is fine, but if I am finding a post more of a struggle to read than enjoyable, I just stop trying to bother. Blogger has a spellcheck function that can be easily used to combat this.

Personally, I like to read through each of my articles again once I have finished writing them. This allows me to check for any spelling mistakes (seriously, I think I spell manoeuvre a different way each time I write it!) and for any awkward wording or ways I could put things better. I definitely do this for any of my longer articles (such as this one). I think the 5-10 minutes it takes to go over it again makes all the difference and improves the quality of my posts.

Finally!
Right now you are probably as happy this has come to an end as I am! I hope you have found some of this advice interesting if you are thinking of starting blogging or are already blogging, or at least that you got a chuckle out of some of the jokes (or even the advice, I'm not picky!).

As I said at the start, if you are thinking of getting into 40k blogging- go for it! I started just over a year ago and have not regretted it for a single minute. Blogging has helped to improve my gaming and my writing and I have made several new friends that I would not have known otherwise.

I will keep going as long as it doesn't become a chore. Some of the best advice I have heard is that (to paraphrase) "you run your blog, your blog does not run you!". I can't remember who told me this or where I read it, but it is true. Blog because you want to, not because you have to.

Have you been blogging a lot longer than me and have anything to add that I have missed? Comment below and share your wisdom. Totally disagree with something I have said? Let me know too.



34 comments:

  1. I suspect it was Dave who said that!

    Nice article mate, I continue to be jealous of you and Rob's meteoric rises in comparison to my own efforts, though I can certainly add weight to your comment about reddit - I posted my first article up there this week and so far it's brought in over 200 views.

    For me, the best part about blogging is definitely the social interaction, people like yourself, Nafnaf, Alex, Dave and Rob (to name but a few) I would never have known without it, and I value the interaction I have with you all.

    Onwards and upwards pal, here's to the next year! (Oh yeah, my Raven Guard review is going up tonight, which one are you doing next?)

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    1. Cheers Nick, it's been a fun past year!

      Salamanders are the next one I will be working on. We seem to be doing the reverse of one another with regards to the reviews. After that, probably Raven guard, then the new formations (I've already done the White Scars).

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  2. A really good article Mike! And thanks for the several shout outs!

    What keeps me coming back to your blog again and again are two things. One is your battle reports which are just fantastic and give me great nostalgic flashbacks to the glory days of White Dwarf when I had a sub and eagerly awaited it falling through the door! Second is that you have so many rich and diverse armies that your battle reports are invariably all very interesting, its not just your one army against 3-4 of your mates. Your Guard and your Orks are my favourite armies I think, I have every intention of utilising your blue tack painting tip as well!

    Here's to many more years :)

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    1. Cheers Rob, no problem with the shout outs!

      I am very fortunate to have a great local club with many 40k players, so it really stops me playing the same people and armies over and over. I need to get more games in with the Guard and Orks, they are lagging behind the White Scars and Ravenwing at the moment.

      It's great having such diversity amongst the blogs I read. Yours for example always draws me in with the unit reviews and painting skills for your armies. Although we both post at such a prolific rate that I often find myself playing catch up with your reviews.

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  3. My experiences (after two years of blogging) show that.

    1) Reddit is false numbers. Lots of views, zero to minimal engagement.
    2) Facebook is the new major blogging stream. (medium views, medium to high engagemnent)
    3) Twitter has been on a continuous and steady decline. Zero views, insane engagement though (no better place to get answers or chat with fellow artists).

    Latest numbers from our last major peak were.

    Social 68.95% (reddit, facebook, blogger) [all about even] Twitter was only 0.6%
    Direct 19.97%
    Referral 7.85
    Search 3.19%

    For the last year (2015-2016)
    Social (45.5%) 38.29% reddit, 33.25% blogger, 22.32% facebook, 4.15% twitter)
    Direct 21.9%
    Referral 19.53%
    Search 12.99%

    The year before that (2014 to 2015)

    Social 40.62% (61% blogger, 14.49% reddit, 11.28% facebook, 6.28% twitter)
    Referral 29.94%
    Search 15.67%
    Direct 13.77%


    A big thing I'd highly recommend to all bloggers...is get your photo into disqus and commenters...twitter and the like...especially if you got to events! I have literary walked right past fellow bloggers without knowing...because non of us share our mugs! That's not going to happen again!

    This is a short comment, as I just skimmed your massive post, and am still working on mine today! Congrats on a year!

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    1. Thanks for sharing the figures Greg, very interesting. I don't think Blogger provides this much information on viewing sources, just the top 10, which is a shame.

      The photo things is valuable advice. I've starting trying to include them in my Better Know a Blogger series and will need to don one myself. The first time I went to Blog Wars, I had to go by people's armies that I had seen online to try and figure out who they are!

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    2. Btw this post is very good (still going through it!). I have the exact same problem. Sometimes you luck out, but sometimes at the larger events, even knowing their army isn't enough! I met a bunch of great chaps at adepticon this year, just because Al had his face on his twitter, and said he was at the pub. Turned around and introduced myself, instant friendship!

      I don't know if blogger lets you run analytics, but analytics is generally free for most sites. It gives you a heaping amazing amount of data, and it's really interesting to see.

      Things like...

      Reddit loves photo posts. Dislikes posting a lot, or posting things that could be handled within reddit itself. Got a lot of photos from an event? reddit will love it.

      Bloggers love WIP's, techniques, tutorials.

      Forums LOVE battle reports. (reddit likes them if they are attached to a tournament).

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  4. thanks for the advice in this article.

    i really like your battle reports. it would be nice to see some with some "odd" armies.

    one final thing. can you change the colour of the font used in the links. it is hard to see some of the dark grey text on the black background.

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    1. I'll have a think about odd armies- maybe an assault Guard army or static shooting White Scars army.....

      Thanks for the feedback, I'll take a look at changing the colour of the links.

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    2. The red is a lot better. Thanks. odd doesn't necessarily mean assaulty imp guard, but thing like maybe all tank imp guard, not infantry at all.

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  5. Cadian Shock here, thanks for the mention and link! Makes me smile!!! :-))))))

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    1. No problem, as I said, a very useful and informative set of articles.

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  6. Happy birthday! The Roost just turned a year as well. The year sure has gone by fast hasn't it. I think the best part about blogging is meeting other hobbyists I never would have engaged with before.

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    1. Thanks, and happy blog birthday to yourself too!

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  7. A great article dude, with some really good pointers for those new bloggers (or anyone looking to increase their exposure too).
    Def important to blog about what you enjoy and focus on that. I don't enjoy writing battle reports and tactics articles, so focus on the hobby aspect a lot more, whereas you and rob cover both of those very well. It is knowing your niche and what you enjoy spending time writing about and interacting with in your spare time that makes a blog successful, as people can see the passion and Interest that goes into each post (which can be seen in abundance in your posts :) ).
    Def important to keep to a regular schedule as well. A really good point you made there :)

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    1. Cheers NafNaf. As you have said, it's important to show your interest and passion, which definitely comes across in your awesome conversions and armies too!

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  8. This article was a great read, thanks for taking the effort to record it all in one place. One interesting thing I find about blogging: I always find two typos after I do each post; it doesn't matter how well it is edited. So annoying :-)

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  9. Great article corrm, I've been at this for about 9 years now and I still learned some new things from it! I've book marked it so I can come back and finish reading this epic post :-)

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  10. Great article corrm, I've been at this for about 9 years now and I still learned some new things from it! I've book marked it so I can come back and finish reading this epic post :-)

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    1. Thanks Joe, glad you found something useful in it.

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  11. Great article. Some friends and myself have recently started a blog, and although we have started slow we hope to put out a fair bit of content.
    Would be great if you could drop by and check us out at Teesside Tyrants on blogger. Constructive criticism is welcome.
    Anyway thanks for posting, and keep up the good work.

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    1. Thanks, hope you found some of it useful. Will check out your blog too, always looking for new stuff to read online!

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  12. Hi corrm,

    Thanks a lot for writing this fantastic article so fast! There are a lot of great ideas and advice and the best evidence that it all works is how popular your blog is and how much it is appreciated by your readers.

    I definitely agree that regular posting is extremely important. It helps if you can cover several hobby areas too. Simply because different people focus on different aspects and if you can provide more content there is a bigger chance somebody is going to find it interesting.

    Hence the question, do you plan what you are going to post about ahead? Do you have some schedule for the blog posts (say, if you have just posted a battle report you are going to make sure next post is going to be about something else, even if you might have another game to write about)?

    Hence, regular posting and diversity should help in getting comments and it is important that they appear because that is how you interact with your readers.

    I wonder if you can tell what kind of topics generate the most of the feedback. From my own experience, it is not that easy to get some about battle reports. I think it is because people have already invested some time in reading it and may not have enough left to leave a comment. Sometimes I learned that "you have already said it all" as my brother usually comments on our games :D

    I find that topics that do not offer a definitive answer and/or allow seemingly endless discussion (rumors are great example of such) may attract much more attention and result in some activity.

    Last but not least, I wanted to thank your for mentioning my own blog and I greatly appreciate the fact that you considered my sharing of experience long time ago worthy. It is indeed great to see "old school" battle reports and it was my own motivation too to write them. To feel a bit like WD battle reporters :)

    Thanks again for the great post and being a constant inspiration!

    Cheers!

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    1. Hi Swordmaster, glad you found it interesting.

      As to how far ahead I plan- I don't tend to think too far ahead about most posts, I would be surprised if more than 2 weeks passed between something being written and then posted. That's not to say I don't have ideas for future posts well in advance, but once they are written they tend to go up quite quickly. For example, I currently have 4 or 5 topics that I want to cover as part of the Evolution of 40k series, but these are very much preliminary ideas. Actually researching and writing these articles takes a while, so I try to fit them in when I can.
      Battle reports tend to get fought on the Thursday at the club and posted the following Thursday. I like to get these written up quickly so that I don't miss too many details or my thoughts on the battle. I try to only do one a week (unless they are tournament battle reports) so as not to overload the reader, as these tend to be much longer posts.

      As to everything else, I just post about whatever I have been working on or what has inspired me recently about 40k. If I get an idea I feel passionate about, I will try and write these up quickly. A prime example of this is this very article. You suggested that I put together something on my version of blogging and it really got me thinking about what I do and how I do it. As a result, I was able to put together something quite quickly based on my initial thoughts. Obviously, I could have waited longer to try and improve it. I forgot to mention what times to post and anything about advertising that I had been thinking about, but that could always serve as a follow up later down the line.

      I totally agree with you though, comments are the lifeblood of any blog. You want to know that people are reading and engaging with what you write. Battle reports can be tricky to get a lot of people to comment on. I find that any report where one key tactical decision changed (or could have changed) the game are good ones, as well as games where you are not expected to win and managed to pull it off are ones where people are most likely to comment.

      I find that the editorials/opinion pieces generate the most comments. This seems obvious as any type of opinion article is going to have people with different view points or who agree with your stance. These tend to lead to good discussions.

      My hobby posts actually seem to get fewer comments. This seems about right to me. My painting skills are not at a level where people will comment to say "wow, that's amazing" and unless I ask questions or seek advice, they don't tend to get too many comments on these.

      No problem with mentioning your own blog, it was one of my inspirations when I first started. I hope it got you a few visits and some regular readers.

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    2. Hey Swordmaster, for some reason your reply went to my email alerts but did not appear on the blog. That's never happened before. I've copied the text and posted it below:

      "Thanks a lot for a quick reply!

      I asked about schedule because I think some kind of structure may help. On one hand you want to be spontaneous but on the other if you have some plan it may help to keep these ideas coming.

      For example, I really like that you have a gaming night on Thursdays and then plan to finish the report before the new session and it is published on particular day.

      Then you have Hobby Sunday. Already between the two you can organize writing better and in addition your readers know that they can expect something on that day. It is more likely they will come back and check the new content.

      Your article was very inspirational and informative also because I am looking for ways to improve my own blog. I exclusively focused on battle reports but there are many other topics that can be shared. I have a feeling you may not realize how helpful this post is! :)

      For example, the part about social media. People start blogging due to different reasons but it is safe to assume that those who do have some experience with other internet features. Some of them, myself included, were mainly forum dwellers and I started a blog because I simply wanted to have my reports in one place. In particular when the main forum on which I used to post experienced serious problems at some stage and I was worried I may lose what I have accumulated over few years!

      The blog also allows you to make it more personal, both in the visual look and contents.

      Then I switched the systems and that proved to be an interesting experience. The old forums became very silent, with very few people reading and none commenting anymore. Thanks to the blog I still had some interaction but it is not yet on the level I remember from the time when people were very active on the forums.

      The new system, Kings of War, grows in popularity but it is still quite fresh. And that is why advertising the blog seems to be more important now than before.

      I do so on twitter and still provide links on the forums. I noted, however, that if I post just a link people would follow it but not necessarily comment. That is why I try to give them a bit of a spoiler with a map, army lists and a brief description.

      I am a bit worried, though, that if I start going to different places, even to advertise the blog, I may need to spend precious time on just checking different internet media. While I would better create more content with more variety.

      Another challenge I face is that I am one of those players who stick to one army and prefer to use it against as many opponents as possible. It may look less interesting to see the same force over and over again. At the moment it is not too bad as there are still armies out there I haven't played against. But that is why I tried to make up for it with some "special effects" such as simple gif files that show all turns as some kind of slide show of maps at the end.

      Thanks!"

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    3. Ha! Maybe your blog decided my reply was too long and too boring and tried to hide it :-P

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    4. Yeah, having the scheduled posts is definitely great for keeping the content going. I try to get a battle report each Thursday as I said. Hobby Sunday is a bit more irregular as I don't often get painting or modelling done during a week.

      I think that more varied hobby content would be great for your blog too. You only have a couple of examples under your painting tab, but what you do have is very impressive and shows that you do have some serious painting skills!

      As for checking up on social media, I don't find that it takes me that long. I check facebook a dozen or more times a day anyway, so tend to catch any hobby posts quite quickly. For twitter and forums I have email alerts set up that notify me if anyone comments on my stuff, so that is easy enough to keep track of.

      I am enjoying the Kings of War stuff at the moment. I can't remember if you did an article pointing out the Kings of War system and how it differs from fantasy from a gamer's perspective. If not, I think this would be a great article to do (or to link to in your battle reports). I tried to do something similar with my first fantasy battle report after posting about 40k for so long. I like reading about other game systems, but sometimes I get lost reading battle reports if I am not familiar with the key mechanics of the game. Kings of war is great for this as the basics are free online, so it makes it much easier for people to understand if you can point to the rules and guide them through the changes.

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    5. Hi corrm,

      Thanks for posting my comments on my behalf and for your reply.

      I greatly appreciate that you like my few painting articles and your Hobby Sunday inspired me to move back to it again. I have just collected a new batch of bases from Olympian Games and I really like the products. It may be a good idea to write a post about my take on what seems to be a popular topic - re-basing your fantasy army to be better suited for Kings of War.

      I wrote some short articles about my first impressions of KoW but I have learned a lot in the meantime and it may be a good idea to write about that too. I am currently talking with another blogger on his blog about Multiple Small Units (MSU) approach in Kings of War and hope it will eventually turn into a similar article I wrote about this style of playing for Warhammer.

      But it might be a good idea to combine both, more general description of KoW and then added a personal approach as one of the options to choose from.

      Last but not least, your article about blogging also gave me some ideas about sharing my own experience in writing battle reports.

      My apologies for derailing the discussion a bit from your favorite system but I hope your readers would forgive me. I am just very glad I can discuss the ideas about blogging in general and I believe it shows that your experience is a great help to any blogger, not only the one who is interested in 40k.

      Besides, if I were to get back to 40k (I used to play 2nd edition) it would be Space Elves and something tells me they are not your favorite :)

      Cheers!

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    6. No problem, derail away as long as it leads to a good discussion!

      I quite like the space elves at the moment, but they are so tempting to take a dig it. They are a great army to play against at the moment. If you lose you can just rationalise it as "of course I lost, Eldar are way too overpowered at the moment", if you win you can say "wow, I played great, I beat the Eldar". You can have your cake and eat it too! :)

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    7. It is not surprising to say that the game changed a lot from 2nd edition. I tried to stay in touch through 3rd and 4th but eventually got lost. Now it is very hard for me to understand the details but I still read books, novels mainly.

      I am in awe how many vehicles you now need. Back in 2nd edition one tank was already a huge investment. :) But I definitely can relate to that notion of having a tough adversary to play against and not matter what is the outcome, there is always a very good explanation to it. :)

      Btw, when you said you enjoy KoW does that mean you actually play games in that system too?

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    8. No, never played it. Downloaded the rules, but haven't got round to playing a game yet. Don't think anyone at the club plays it at the moment.

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    9. No worries. In that case I have even more reason to write that article about KoW in general! Are there any particular things you would like to see addressed in it?

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    10. Just general interest in how it differs to fantasy from the last edition. Not rule by rule, but just general mechanics and feel.

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