Newbie Bloggers Initiative

Newbie Blogging Initiative: How to get noticed…

All kids love log. And all bloggers love attention. I know I do, attention and log. But as a blogger just how do you get noticed? I don’t know why you are asking me but I’ll give it my best shot…

First off write well and often. People don’t follow blogs that are dead or just downright awful. Once people follow you you’ll find at some of them will link to your blog, both in their blogrolls and posts and your readership will slowly increase. But if you are looking to be more proactive than that then here are a few tips I know other blogs have tried (not me, I’m far too lazy):

  • Find a niche, an alternative view point – give people something to think about and they will come back for more.
  • Get a gravatar and use it when you comment – that way you build up recognition and people can follow your comments back to your blog.
  • Join all the forums you can – post there and people will follow your profile back.
  • Look for well known blogs that may want a guest contributor – get a good guest spot and you’ll get known pretty quickly.
  • Syp from Biobreak contacted up all the other cool blogs and interviewed the owners – this is a great idea to both get known and up your readership in all the right circles.

This message was brought to you by the Newbie Blogger Initiative and Dr Burro’s Dept of Log!.

Newbie Blogger Initiative: Are comments important? Hell yes!

Are comments on your blog important?

Yes. Next question.

What do you mean “Is that it?” You want more? Blimey! You NBIers are a demanding lot!

Look, as far as I’m concerned, right after providing me with a creative outlet/hobby/platform for saying daft things to amuse myself, comments are what blogging is about. Obviously you want people to read your posts otherwise you wouldn’t have written them, but other than a few numbers on a stats page how do you know if people are reading you? Comments! That’s how! You want your readers to be so impressed that they stop whatever they are doing to actually write to you.

So for the love of all that is holy, turn your ruddy comment feature on and make sure anyone can use it (Blogger & Live Journal I’m looking at you – nothing guarantees I will never read a blog again than finding I can’t leave a comment) and reply to them!

Ahhh, replying to comments. Should you, you wonder? You’re busy after all, you have stuff to do, things to write, should you reply to all the comments you get? Well, and this is a personal choice of course, but I would say yes! yes! and double bloody yes! Look, if someone has been good enough to reach out to you, you really owe it to them to say something back, even if it’s a “Thanks for your kind comment!” or “Cheers for that!” Also, unless you are a a huge blog like Massively then the chances are you aren’t going to be inundated with comments so I wouldn’t worry about it taking over your life 🙂 Looking at my stats most posts here never get a single comment and I’d call 2 or 3 on a post a success. Hell, even though I’ve been blogging here for 5 years the single highest commenter has only left a grand total of 56 comments!

If you want my honest opinion, we bloggers should be honoured that people read our scratchings (especially the drivel I offer up!) so the least we can do is say thanks when they leave us a note 🙂

But what to do when a commenter disagrees with you, or is being abusive? Well first off you need to be prepared that if you are posting opinion pieces then you will get people who disagree with your opinions and there is nothing wrong with that – I’m a great believer in allowing such comments through and then replying to them, after all an open dialogue is always a great way to spark debate and that in itself will bring readers to you blog. But if you also attract trolls and idiots who just post crap then feel free to delete it and ignore them – do not take them on because not only is that what they want, but such displays of anger will drive the intelligent readers away from your blog in droves. The golden rule is: Ignore comments at your peril but ignore trolls and idiots at all costs.

As an adjunct to that last point, even though I always advise you always turn your comments on to allow people to interact with you, you must equally always keep some form of moderation in place so that trolls, idiots and spammers can’t just post away with impunity – there is nothing worse than being unable to get online for a day only to come back and find some pillock has spammed a stack of your posts with idiocy and/or filth that has then gone out to any readers following those posts. WordPress has a very powerful but very simple set of moderation functions that help keep my blog free of crap with a combination of ensuring that someone’s first ever comment is held back for my approval as well as comment containing even a single URL is also held back – this way not only can I see that a new commenter isn’t a troll, but I can also intercept any mass Russian lolita pr0n links before they get to my readers. WordPress for the win, I say 🙂

This message was brought to you by the Newbie Blooger Initiative and Dr Burro’s Dept. of Mutual Back Scratching.

Newbie Blogger Initiative: How to deal with writer’s block…

If you’re going write, whether for fun or (possible) profit then you are going to face the dreaded Writer’s Block. Sometimes you’re not in the writing mood, sometimes your’re knackered or have too much on in your day to day life. Other times you want to write but nothing pours forth from your fingertips and every word you tap out comes to you like a pine-cone moving through your lower intestine.Sideways. Whatever the reason and whenever it strikes, writer’s block can be a right bastard and no mistake. It robs your hobby of joy (and your working day of its productive reason if blogging helps put food on the table) and can, if it goes on for any period of time, be a worrying thing to experience. If you have it now, then you also have my sympathy – I’m sure you’re rather not have either, but I can only offer so much.

Now there are a metric ton of articles offering advice on writer’s block out there (really – look!) so I won’t waste your time or mine rehashing them. Suffice to say that when the words won’t come then you should take a look at some of these articles – especially if you need food on the table! No, instead I’m going to give you the one piece of advice I’ve always found helpful when I have found myself barely able to type my own name without slipping into a coma. I don’t know where I got this advice from, I like to think a wandering Tibetan monk imparted a nugget of wisdom unto me in my moment of need but we both know that’s not going to be true so I won’t try and pass that off as a likely source. Instead I’ll cut to the chase and say that if you find writing hard, if the posts slow or even stop then the first thing, next and last thing you should do is quite simply this…

Nothing.

That’s right. Do absolutely nothing and then mooch off somewhere to chill.

The muse has left you yes, but she will be back so until then just accept, wait & relax. After all, it’s only blogging. No one is going to die on an operating table, eh? 🙂

This message was brought to you by the Newbie Blogger Initiative and Dr Burro’s Campaign to Chill Out and Live Longer.

Newbie Blogger Initiative: Some great NBI advice from the sponsors

The super talented sponsors over on the Newbie Blogger Initiative forums have been busy posting a metric ton of advice to help all the newbie bloggers out there.

Head over to these posts as well the NBI forum for more great advice and help, and why not show a little newbie love and follow the new blogs – I’m going to read ever one of them and I’ll drop some links for you when I find a post that catches my eye.

Newbie Blogging Initiative: Does Traffic Matter?

No. Yes. No. Maybe. Yes. No. Hope that’s clear.

Look, if you are hoping to take up blogging as a career then yeah, knowing your traffic and how to increase it matters because you’ll want your posts drawing in more readers in order to get noticed and open doors for you. But if like me you’re just blogging for your own personal amusement then as long as someone is reading your posts traffic numbers doesn’t really matter.

I have an average of 40 views a day on this blog which I reckon comes down to between 20 and 30 readers and I’ve had this average for years now. Every now and then a post gets picked up and my daily stats spike, but I doubt I keep many, if any, of the new readers brought in and that is fine with me. I don’t blog to gather readers, I blog to entertain myself, meet folks who like what I do and who hopefully do something similar themselves so I can follow their work.

Of course this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be interested in your traffic – maybe you want to mine the stats (1) in a way I don’t (I look at my blog stats every couple of days but only out of curiosity rather than a desire to analyse and capture the ephemeral ‘something’ that makes one post work and another not) and that is fine, I just don’t want you getting hung up on the numbers. Popularity is an illusion and internet traffic doubly so.

(1) WordPress has an amazing toolset for analysing your blog stats, links and followers. Just another reason to fly WordPress 🙂

Newbie Blogger Initiative: Some advice on blogging…

The whole idea behind the Newbie Blogger Initiative is for the sponsors (there is about 80 of us I think – see a list here) to both enthuse those thinking about starting their own blog and offer advice and guidance to get the going. I’m not sure I’m the best person to do the second half of that but hey ho, I’ll give it a try eh? 🙂

As far as I can see there are two types of bloggers, those who are looking to become professional writers and those, like me, who just do this for fun. If you want to start a blog with an eye on becoming part of the gaming journalism fraternity then the Newbie Blogger Initiative is perfect for you because there are sponsors there, like Justin of Bio Break, who can advise you on how they managed it and what routes you could take. If, on the other hand, you are looking to use your blog to write about all manner of fun and silliness then stick around, I have a Ph.D. in writing nonsense 🙂

Which blogging platform to choose?

I chose WordPress as it is simply the best I’ve found so far. Blogger was too fiddly and LiveJournal was a strange walled garden. WP offers a hugely powerful tool for free that is simple to use and great for allowing readers to interact with. They have a pretty good mobile app too 🙂 In the end it’s going to be down to your own tastes but the number one thing I think you should look for is ease of interaction because you want your readers to see you posts and then be able to comment on them, don’t you?

What to write about?

Anything, everything and whatever the hell you like, the only rule is love what you write otherwise your readers will be just as bored as you are. Write in your voice about what you find interesting and you will bring readers along with you. For me this means my thoughts on the games I play, silly stuff, bad puns, occasional rants and quite a smattering of mild filth & swearing. For you, well that’s up to you 🙂

What not to write about?

Ha! If I knew that… Seriously though I would steer away from easy, trolling posts because, well, they are just very dull to read.

How often should you post?

If you are aiming for a career in writing you need to be writing much and often. Look at the output over on Contains Moderate Peril – Roger puts out a good stream of well written posts whereas an amateur like me only really posts in splurges. Whatever you do never feel stressed to post but try and keep something turning over on your blog because nothing kills your readership more than a blog with no new posts. Dry & busy periods are the perfect time to hit youtube and post something silly 🙂

Should you encourage & answer comments?

I find that most professional blogs don’t indulge in replying to comments, or at least not often because their writers are busy writing for a living. Freed from such constraints I have the luxury of following my comments and replying. I *love* comments. I blog for my own creative outlet in the main, but I love to chat about posts and ideas with people who take the time to comment.

How to get noticed…

I can only speak as an amateur here but but I’ve found there are lots of ways to get known and read. Mostly you need to read other people’s blogs, add them to your blogroll & comment on their posts and then people will start adding your blog to their lists and commenting on your posts.. Eventually people will link to a post of yours in their blog and their readers will come over. People will like, tweet & share links to your blog and you’ll start to gain a core of loyal, lovely readers. Or in my case, loyal, lovely and obviously deluded.

What next?

That’s simple. Don’t wait. Open a blog now, Write a post and tweet it out with a hashtag so people can find it. Find other people’s blogs and link to them, comment on them, start building links that will lead people back to you and then keep posting. Once you start is become addictive!

Most of all, just have fun – it’s only blogging after all 😀

Newbie Blogger Initiative: Why I started blogging…

Why did I start? Do you know I honestly have no idea. Back in 2005 I got into growing veg (this was waaaaay back before I’d begun to play computer games like I do now) and I wanted a photo record of my efforts. I did a little googling to find out the best place to do this and came across my first blog. It seems incredible now that there was a time I didn’t know what a blog was (or a WEblog as my old mate Dale Innis stubbornly sticks too :-D) but there was. The blog I came across was called Pumpkin Soup and was rather beautiful and very entertaining and pretty soon this was what I wanted to do – not just put photos of my handiwork on the web, but write about my experiences too. I browsed through the blogroll for further inspiration and began to piece together how I was going to do this whole blog thing myself. To cut a long story short, I soon had a self-hosted WordPress blog up and running and spent a very happy couple of years blogging about my garden, my house extension and my (still unfulfilled) desire to keep chickens.

But everything comes to an end and in late 2006 I discovered the then much hyped Second Life. Soon my tendency to go hell for leather into a new hobby had kicked in and the garden was soon forgotten. The blog became as barren as my veg patches and soon lapsed into a coma from which it has never awoke (it is still out there though).

Yet not all was lost as, from the ashes of blog 1.0 arose a brave new world of blogging, this time about Second Life and, more specifically, about my attempts to tell a story through it. You see, where as my gardening blog had been a record of my efforts and chance to chat with like minded folks, Second Life offered that in the body of the game itself and at first I had nothing to blog about. Until, that is, I hit upon the idea of using the blog for creating and telling stories based on my travels in the amazing virtual world of SL. I had great fun running multiple stories over the years, but as time went on I found myself writing about the wider aspects of the world I loved so much as well as the amazing people I met, and the wonderful things I found or did there.

Since then I haven’t looked back. There have been times when I’ve blogged feverishly, times when I’ve run dry or found myself kidnapped by real life and been unable to blog, but throughout it all this blog has been my friend, my travelling companion through the ever shifting landscape of my online life. In 2011 I left Second Life and found my way into Middle Earth playing Lord of The Rings Online and now I’m moving towards Guild Wars 2 but no matter where I go, this blog will go with me and record my journey. In the end that’s why I blog.

In my next Newbie Blogger Initiative post I’ll pass on some of the lessons I’ve learnt over the years. Frankly knowing what I know, I wouldn’t expect too much 😉

Launching the Newbie Bloggers Initiative

Today marks the start of an interesting project led by Justin Olivetti of BioBreak & Massively. The Newbie Bloggers Initiative is his plan for a group of established bloggers to post a little guidance & advice on blogging to new bloggers or those who want to start their own blog.

There will be posts throughout May from all of the sponsors (of which I am one) with the sole aim of helping people start and maintain their own blog. After all, more blogs means more great reading for us all 😀

Follow all my posts (I’m aiming for one a week, RL willing) on the event here: https://headburroantfarm.wordpress.com/category/blog-stuff/newbie-bloggers-initiative/