So You Want to Start a Blog…

It’s almost been a year and a half since I “rebranded” Dungeon Solvers from a dead D&D blog I wrote sporadically in college and turned it into one of my primary hobbies. I’m still not sure what exactly compelled me to start writing about D&D and tabletop RPGs again, but it’s been fun.

Since restarting the blog its daily traffic has grown to roughly 2200 pageviews/day. That’s probably not a lot for many, but I’m really happy with the number. I haven’t hit that high on a daily basis ever.

Speaking of which, I’ve been casually blogging since early High School which was… just under a decade ago. That was a tough realization, but let’s not dwell on that.

My point is though, I’ve seen relative success. When I picked this back up I was getting 60-80 pageviews/day. Some of my older blogs would get a couple hundred pageviews/day.

Is some of my success luck? Absolutely. However, I’d like to think I’ve learned something from all of the time spent on this site.

So today, I’d like to talk about a little bit about what I (and I’m sure many others) do to run my blog. I apologize to those of you that were expecting the usual RPG content, but we’ll go back to that on Monday!

Building Your Blog

Start Small

Obviously, you need to start somewhere. However, if you’ve never run a blog before I’d recommend trying it out before you buy into it. Find a free platform to start blogging on and go from there.

For example, I used WordPress.com to make all of my blogs. It’s a free platform, so obviously there are a few catches. For example, you’re really limited in what you can do on it.

But that’s not the point. Start off small and see if you actually enjoy writing. If it’s been a month or two and you’re really enjoying it you can do what I did and move your blog easily to a wordpress.org site. From there you just purchase a domain for cheap and find a hosting service that can migrate your site over to their services.

wordpress customization
It’s actually pretty easy to customize your website with WordPress once you get the hang of it.

For transparency’s sake, it costs me a little over $100/year for my current hosting plan and domain. It’s not a huge expense, but it’s one I would’ve regretted if I didn’t already know I enjoyed it.

If you have that money available and you want to start off on step 2 feel free to. After all, what am I going to do about it?

What Do You Bring to the Table?

There are tons of blogs about D&D and RPGs out there. Why would yours be any different from all of these others?

Well, perhaps you’re going to focus on a specific aspect of D&D, or a certain edition of it. Maybe you’re going to be focused on Horror RPGs! Those could be good niches. You could even make a more generalized blog with advice for DM/GMs.

Pick a niche or an area of focus and run with it. It’s ok to diverge from this niche once in a while, but be sure to stick within it for the majority of the time. There are two primary reasons for doing so.

First of all, eventually you’re going to have people coming to your site on a regular basis. They’re going to be expecting a certain type of content from you. If you jump from say D&D to anime you’re going to eventually dilute both of said niches and lose your original audience.

Is that a bad thing? Maybe not, you may enjoy writing about anime more, but I’d recommend in that case just starting a new blog. Trying to rebrand an old website seems like a hell of a lot of work for a great chance of it blowing up in your face.

Secondly, you want to be considered an authority on a topic. It’s hard to really gain that kind of reputation if you’re all over the place. I’ll talk about this a bit later though.

Though, word of advice, if you find a niche that’s particularly lucrative, don’t go blurting it out. It’s ok to keep some secrets!

What’s Your Goal?

Before you start your blog you need to figure out what you’re looking to accomplish by creating it in the first place. I’m not talking about finding some sort of inner-peace or higher meaning, but why do you want to spend time on this in the first place?

Are you looking to gain a reputation so you can sell your own RPG, supplements or other products?

Are you passionate about writing about your niche or just enjoy teaching people? Is this a new hobby you’re going to do for fun?

Is money what you’re after? A blog could potential become a side-hustle if you market it right, after all.

Are you looking to build up a writing portfolio to get a job in the industry you’re blogging about?

Be honest with yourself as to what your goals are. Any of those reasons (and others) are perfectly valid. No matter what your goals are, be sure that your content is still actually useful to people.

Writing!

Consistency is Key

I’m not going to lie, it’s not easy to crank out 1500-2000 word posts twice a week. It has certainly gotten easier as time goes on and I learn more, but it can be pretty time-consuming. I’d imagine this would be even more challenging for a slow typist.

Regardless, I think one of the best things you can do for yourself (and your blog) is to set a schedule for yourself. Determine how often you want to release articles and go from there. This could be daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc.

Whatever you determine, stick to it!

This is important because you’ll need to be pumping out articles and content, especially when you first start out. I mean, you want people to check out your website when they go to it, right? If you only have a couple of articles they’re probably not going to stay for long.

It’s also important for you. Sticking to a schedule and holding yourself accountable will keep you on-track of completing your goals.

If you find you need to change your schedule, don’t worry about it. Life happens, sometimes our hobbies have to suffer for it. It sucks, but that’s how it goes.

Personally, I’d recommend trying to start a backlog for yourself. Try to have a spare article ready for those weeks that you need some extra time for more important matters.

blogging backlog
My backlog took a bit of a hit this summer, but that’s what it was there for!

Quality > Quantity

Bad writing is going to have people running out the door. Use tools like Grammarly to at least double-check your spelling and grammar and write to the best of your ability. I can assure you that the more you write, the better you’ll get at writing.

Don’t publish an article just to publish something. If you miss a (self-imposed) deadline it’s not the end of the world. I’ve done that a few times here and for the most part, no one cares. Most people would rather read a quality article a day or two late than a rushed one that’s on-time.

If you’re shooting out 2-300 word articles daily that’s a lot of content. However, it’s probably content without much substance. I’m not saying that length necessarily equates to quality, but it’s certainly a defining factor that search engines will use.

Shoot for 1000+ words. Sometimes an article will be less than that and it’s ok, assuming it’s a quality piece. But for the most part, that’s definitely what you want to be aiming for if you want search engines to pick up your articles.

Your Article Needs a Purpose

Every article you write should have a purpose. The reader should learn something from it, be convinced by it, or find some sort of value from what you write. If everything you write ends with “Well this is sometimes good and it’s sometimes bad. There’s no wrong answers or solutions really!” you’re not going to present yourself as knowledgeable on the topic.

Are there situations where a neutral look into a topic is genuinely the best way to go about writing it? Absolutely, but I can’t imagine this being anywhere near the majority of the time.

You want your audience to trust you. You’re writing about this topic for a reason, so you clearly have some insight into it. Know what you want to say when you draft the article and build your case throughout the course of it.

wordpress UI
I always have a few drafts open. It’s nice to be able to move between articles when my inspiration shifts.

Keep Learning

Criticism and Praise

Criticism and praise are two of the most valuable forms of feedback you can acquire.

Praise is easy to stomach. I mean, who doesn’t like to hear that they’re doing well? No one. Hell, someone saying they love my website or enjoyed my article makes my day.

Praise is important because it signals to us that what we’re putting out is quality content that people want to read. Give the people what they want, provided that you enjoy writing that type of content.

Criticism, though, can be difficult to stomach, even if it’s well-thought-out and good-natured. However, it’s valuable as hell to know what you’re doing wrong.

You don’t need to respond to every critical comment, but be sure to at least think about what the person is saying to you. How can you use what they’re saying to improve the article, or write a better one next time?

Of course, you’ll also need to learn how to filter-out shitposts (good and bad) too.

Become a Better Writer (and Update Your Work!)

Writing is a skill. The more you practice, the better you’ll become. Write tons of articles, delete tons of drafts, and of course, read other peoples’ work!

Reading and writing go hand-in-hand. You’ll expose yourself to new ways of understanding certain topics within your niche, and you’ll probably end up improving your vocabulary at the same time.

Don’t be afraid to go back to earlier articles on your blog and edit, or completely redo them after you’ve improved your writing skills. That’s the cool thing about blogging, every article is a living document. Search engines love to see when someone improves an older article and makes it more relevant.

This also ties into how I said focus on quality and not quantity. A site with hundreds or thousands of poorly-written articles is going to be a mess to rewrite and edit.

Conclusions

I’ve gotten questions from new bloggers quite a few times in the past. Honestly, I love giving out blogging advice and none of my IRL friends want to listen to me blather on about it so feel free to contact me!

I mean, that’s how I learned all of this stuff. I visited forums, I reached out to other bloggers, and I read articles. Like any skill, blogging takes patience and it takes some dedication. It also takes some trial and error.

Regardless, I thought it might be helpful to lay the basics out in public. I don’t think I’m some all-knowing entity when it comes to blogging, but I’m confident I’ve got a grip on how it works.

Is there some secret sauce that will make you cook up the perfect blog? Probably not. Have I found it? I’ll never tell.

If you enjoyed what you read be sure to check out my ongoing review for all of the official D&D 5e books and my other 5e character builds!

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