I usually prefer to post nothing instead of a post about blogging*, but since Roger brought it up, and I just said two posts ago that there’s nothing to blog about, let’s talk about blogging!
Rather than write something that stands on its own, I’m just going to respond to the parts of Roger’s post that jumped out at me, as if it were a Usenet post.
The Nature of the Beast
“I’ve written several pieces that I’m proud of. However, they never got the traffic I hoped for. That’s the nature of the beast, I guess”
I’ve always been of the mindset that there is blogging, and then there is blogging for success, and the two are totally different disciplines. There is a fairly well-established body of resources and theory on how to attract attention to your site. It falls under a category loosely known as “copywriting.” One of the blogs I follow off-and-on is called Copyblogger. If you go to that site, you’ll know instantly that it’s a blog about blogging for revenue (aka. views), because it has that “generic corporate” look and feel.
If one wants to get traffic, one needs to follow certain rules that involve SEO, keywords, readability, images, links, and many other things like that. None of those rules have anything to do with creative writing, which is what I’m more interested in. I have a WordPress plugin called “Yoast SEO” that regularly yells at me because my posts invariably fail to live up to their potential.
Oh, everyone says that the best way to get attention is to write good content, and to a certain extent that’s true. But if that’s all you do, then you have to rely on lucky breaks. Like when I posted about the Dark Tower movie at the exact time that everyone on the Interwebs was searching to find out how the Good vs. Evil Edition differed from the theatrical release. If one wanted to chase traffic, you need only watch what people search for every day and write daily blog posts that answer their questions. (See: Every for-profit web site in the world.)
See what I did up there? According to Yoast SEO, self-referential or “internal” links are good for business. I also changed the “focus keyword” for this post to “blogging” and I suddenly got a lot of green dots, which I assume is a good thing.
The point I’m trying to make here is this: You won’t know which posts will “hit” or “miss” but there are things you can proactively do to stack the odds in your favor. This is also known as “SEO” or, as I like to call it, “work.” I’m generally unwilling to do a lot of work on something that doesn’t pay out anything in return, and I’m generally happy with where my blog is at the moment, so I don’t do much SEO work except for testing or curiosity. The biggest return I get for writing this blog is an occasional mention in MassivelyOP’s Global Chat column, which is pretty cool and I’m grateful for it, but unfortunately it doesn’t contribute anything toward paying the mortgage.
That’s why new writers should never start blogging because they want fame and fortune. You won’t get it. (Unless you happen to know someone who is already famous.)
So why blog at all? Great question, which is hard to answer. I would say the two most compelling reasons for me to keep blogging are, firstly, that I like to write and it’s a great way to practice writing, and secondly, it’s the main avenue for me to express my weird thoughts and opinions to the world. Nobody I know in real life would ever listen to me talk about what I write in this blog for more than about five seconds. :)
Therefore, an audience, comments and feedback are important. Our writing is an invitation to friendly interaction and an exchange of ideas…
Number and frequency of comments is one of the most universally-accepted measures of a blog’s success. Unfortunately for me, I’m the dictionary definition of a “reclusive writer” and it takes a lot of mental energy for me to monitor and respond to comments. In my personal opinion, it’s one of my biggest barriers to greater success here and generally in life overall. If I had an intern here at Endgame Viable Headquarters, they would very likely be tasked with responding to comments and “building the community.”
For myself, every time I see a new comment has arrived (anywhere on any platform), I have to go through a whole process of, “What wrong thing did I write this time?” “What did I leave out that utterly destroys the entire argument I was trying to make?” “WHAT IF I MISSPELLED SOMETHING?” “What if they don’t like my writing and by extension me as a person??” “How can I bear the shame of even showing my face on the Internet after I read this comment???”
It’s gotten a lot better over time, but that’s the standard thought process of me interacting with audience feedback for any creative endeavor. I have to mentally construct a brick wall around my “artist self” aka. “helpless small child” before I start looking at comments.
Consequently, I rarely write a blog post to begin a conversation. I typically write posts that try to explain my thoughts on a subject, with hopefully a clear beginning, middle, and end. I write them as if I’m writing an article for a magazine someone would read in a waiting room. (Success varies wildly from post to post.) I usually don’t feel any need to continue a conversation beyond what I’ve already written.
That’s not to say I don’t like conversation-starting blogs. I’m just not very good at it myself. Others are quite good. Incidentally, you can always tell the bloggers that want to start conversations because they typically end their posts with a question, to gently lead people into posting a comment. “What do you think about all this, dear reader?” In copywriting parlance it’s a “call to action.” In a way, it’s what Roger did with his post on blogging. :)
Blogging as Therapy
although such concepts are becoming increasingly alien in the current binary climate. This last point paradoxically offers another reason to write. I use my blog as a means to marshal my thoughts and to try and understand what is happening in the world.
I agree with this completely. I write therapeutically about “the current binary climate” on a different blog, though. There is very little audience in the world right now for critical views of both “them” and “us,” certainly not in gaming. (Honestly, there never has been an audience for that in politics.)
Words versus Videos
Being a fan of the written word, I always prefer to read someone’s thoughts than watch a live stream or a video.
I have also observed that the Venn diagram of blog audience and video audience does not overlap very much. My efforts here and on Twitter to gesture nonchalantly at my YouTube channel go completely unrewarded. :)
I will offer this as for why people might go to streaming or videos from blogging, though: It’s generally more time-consuming for me to write a blog post than to record a video. While I don’t know this for a fact, I have a feeling that the pool of video viewers is larger than the pool of blog readers. So going back to the principle of not doing work without remuneration, it makes much more logical sense to concentrate on making low-effort videos than writing high-effort blog posts.
Fortunately, I still like writing. In fact, sometimes I record videos of a new game I’m trying out, and transcribe what I said to make a blog post. (Most of my Snap Judgment posts follow this formula.)
I also have another completely selfish reason for making videos: I’ve never been good at speaking out loud so every video I make is a little bit more practice. I very rarely get opportunities in real life to speak uninterrupted for any length of time.
So what do you think about all this, dear reader? Uh, write a blog post about it! :)
* There’s an old, unspoken adage that if you blog about blogging, you are not really creating content. I’ve heard the same for podcasting about podcasting and I would assume, now, streaming about streaming.
P. S. Regarding time investment, it took me over three hours to write and edit this post. Yoast is yelling at me now because it’s too long.
P. P. S. If only I could count this text for NaNoWriMo!
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