Welcome to the wonderful world of video game blogging. Though there are millions of video game blogs out there and millions more to come, there’s always room for you to join the party. I don’t have any stats to back this up, but I’m fairly certain that most blogs live a relatively short life, garnering at best a handful of visits a day until the blog owner gets bored of writing. If you have no long-term aspirations for your blog, then leaving it to die after a few weeks or months is fine. With that said, if you have visions of your blog being the next Kotaku, or using your blog as a stepping-stone to work at a blog like Kotaku, you probably don’t want to run the blog that has no readers and stays that way until you eventually abandon it.
In Third Person is not on the level of a Kotaku, Joystiq or Destructoid, but I’ve been able to achieve a certain level of success in the few years I’ve been doing this. To celebrate reaching 100,000 visits, I thought I’d share In Third Person’s secrets to success with you.
1) Define what success is
Before you start blogging, you should ask yourself what success means to you in terms of setting up a blog. Are you looking to start the next Kotaku? Are you looking to score a job in video games journalism? Or are you looking for a place to communicate your gaming thoughts with like-minded individuals? I think that most blogs fail at this step, because people lose sight of why they started writing in the first place and simply let it go. Whatever your aspirations for your blog are, make sure you know what those are from the outset and never forget it.
For me, I started In Third Person as a means of getting video game thoughts out of my head. None of my friends are gaming enthusiasts, I don’t feel comfortable participating on message boards and I had a lot of past experience blogging, which made this the perfect medium for me. I had no big dreams or goals in regards to gaining readers, so I didn’t let the years of roughly 10 hits per day get me down.
2) Map out your plan for success
Now that you’ve defined what success is, how do you plan on getting there? You may not need to document a business plan, but you should have some sort of plan. It’s usually not the best idea to leave success to fate, so devise a plan to help you get to where you need to go. For instance, if your goal is to use your blog as a portfolio piece, you may want to flag posts that you think are really good. Better yet, if a career in the gaming press is something you’re striving for, maybe you should approach all of your posts as if the one your writing will be the one that gets you the job.
3) Be personal
Of the million blogs out there that anyone could read, you have one thing that separates your blog from the rest of the pack: you. You have a voice that people will go out of their way to read and blogging is a platform where users embrace a personal approach to writing. Make sure your opinions and your personality shine through every post you write. Regardless of what you’re talking about, your posts should give your readers a clear understanding of who you are, where your coming from and why your opinion matters. You don’t necessarily need to make every post a hard sell, but if all your posts are bipartisan and you write with the voice of NPR, then you’re not giving anyone a personality to connect to.
4) Be consistent
How often do you plan on posting? Once a day? Once a week? Once a month? Whatever your interval is, stick with it. If you want to gain and maintain a following, you have to keep them interested by delivering content at a relatively consistent clip. For me, I post around 3-4 times a week. For you, you’re free to decide what that interval is. I’d generally advise against making your users wait weeks at a time for a post, but if you’re writing high-quality posts that come out at a consistent rate, then maybe a timing window that large will work for you. The worst thing you can do is let your schedule slip, which will make your readers lose their trust and abandon your blog.
5) Care about the stuff you write
If you were writing for a professional publication, you’d probably be asked sometimes to write about stuff you do not care about. However, if you’re maintaining your own blog, you are free to write about anything you want. Your writing will always shine brightest if you’re writing about stuff you care about. Even if you’re choosing to write about a subject that doesn’t necessarily interest you (such as whatever gaming hot topic is making the rounds), find a way to frame up your post and your thoughts in a way that means something to you.
6) Always keep in touch with your community
When people leave you a comment, you should always do your best to respond to show them that you’re listening. Giving these users a recognition of their comment and continuing the dialogue will help you build two-way communication with your community, one person at a time. Besides building a relationship that way, other users will see all of your previous threads in your comments section and may also be enticed to join the conversation as well. I always make it a note to answer as many comments as I can.
7) Use your metatags and category tags
Google is my best friend. Thanks to the power of Google search, I’m able to drive thousands of people to my site. All you have to do to make your content search engine optimized is to use the metatag and category tag functionality found in your blog interface. Write in a number of key words that best describe or relate to your blog and let the search engines do the rest.
Granted, it took me years to work my way up the mysterious Google algorithm before I saw the results, but having the metatags in place is a necessity if you want the search engines to help your cause. As for category tabs, setting those up will enable you to sort your content into sections for easy access going forward.
8) Hone your craft
In the world of creative writing, proper writing never goes out of style. You should be spell checking and grammar checking everything you write. Beyond that, you should always be striving to be a better writer. Everything that you learned (or ignored) in English class is absolutely valuable here. If you’re out of school and still looking to bone up on your craft, you may want to invest in a writing style guide. You may even want to have someone (or some people) edit your work before you publish. I do not care how badly we as a people butcher the English language when we write or text casually; you absolutely should approach your writing with some semblance of professionalism.
9) Analyze your stats
At first, there might not be much to look at, which is normal for a new blog. However, once you start to bring in some activity, you should absolutely analyze your blog stats. You might find some interesting insights that will help you refine the content you post. For instance, if your posts about Japanese RPGs tend to perform better than your other posts, you may want to consider writing more Japanese RPG-related posts. Or maybe you’ll want to write about other topics that would appeal to Japanese RPG fans. Or you might want to do something completely different with that information. It’s up to you to interpret your data and optimize your blog accordingly. The worst thing you could do is ignore that information and continue down a path that could be better.
10) Have fun
Even though maintaining a blog can be a lot of hard work, you can overcome anything if you’re having fun doing what you’re doing. Regardless of what you ultimately want to get out of this blog, don’t force it if writing doesn’t grant you any personal enjoyment.