Posted in Blaugust, Blogging

Blaugust 30- Lesson: Have Real Expectations for Blog Monetization

Today I’m going to talk about lessons learned about monetizing a hobby blog. I don’t generally like to talk about making money from blogging, or what I earn, because I’ve never really blogged with the express intention to make money. Turns out, it’s just something that happened along the way for me.

Back when blogging was all the hype, a hand full of dedicated and very lucky bloggers managed to make a living off of it. Word got around, and then suddenly, everyone wanted a piece of the pie. Just set up your own blog, write a few posts and you’ll have money rolling in!

Only… that’s not how it works.

It didn’t work that way back then, and it really doesn’t work that way now with video often being an overshadowing influence on the written post. Folks have moved away from wanting to make money online with a blog to wanting to make money online streaming or posting YouTube videos.

While I have no authority in the video side of content creation, I’m going to guess it’s probably not any easier to launch a professional channel than it’s ever been to make a living wage off of blogging. I’d never given into the idea that it would be, and that’s why I didn’t try too hard to monetize my own blog.

Lessons About Making Money from Blogging

Lesson 1 – If you’re blogging only to make money, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Especially starting out. You’ll put money into hosting, themes, plugins, etc. and unless you’ve really stumbled upon a lucky gold mine, you won’t see a cent of it back because…

Lesson 2 – It takes a lot of long-term hard work, writing, and research to make any serious money from blogging (or content creation in general). Building a blog and an audience does not happen easily or quickly. There is no “if you build it they will come” magic to content creation. Especially with so much competition.

Lesson 3 – No traffic, no earnings. Focus on building a relationship with your audience before you think about making money from them.

Lesson 4 – Monetizing a blog takes a lot of time, dedication, and patience. If you don’t have all three of these in some fashion, you may want to reconsider your goals for blogging.

When I say reconsider, do I mean quit blogging? No.

I mean you should consider tempering your expectations about what kind of income you hope to get from a blog.

Some Actual Numbers

Even when you start making money from your blog – depending on so many factors I can’t list them all – you may not make very much in the beginning.

I run several hobby/creative blogs. Only my main blog has enough traffic to be monetized. For years, I’ve hosted my own blogs without ever seeing a cent in return – I’ve spent far more on my hosting and blogs than I made. This was a personal choice as blogging is a hobby for me.

But when WordPress notified me that I could try out for their WordAds program, I decided to give it a whirl. The one catch was that I had to upgrade my WordPress package account – which meant that I’d be spending more to host with them. The hope was that WordAds would bring in enough to pay for my hosting upgrade… eventually.

Here are some real numbers from when I first started with WordAds. Keep in mind, my blog was already 4 years old in development before I tried to monetize it.

Are you ready?

As you can see, my very first month (at the bottom) I didn’t even break $2.00 in earnings. I struggled with a lot of ups and downs for months. But I wasn’t focused on my earnings, thankfully, or this could have become really discouraging really fast.

Over time, this trend changed. I’m not sure what caused this, to be honest. I have been bringing in more traffic (thanks to pillar posts), but I’m also seeing that the quality of the ads on my blog (and the CPM) have improved.

It hasn’t been until this year that I began to see a stronger upward trend in my earnings.

Last month, my earnings were $29.33. For some unknown reason, it shot up to $45.02 (so far) for this month. I don’t expect this to be a new average for my blog, but I’d love it if it would be!

Seeing that WordAds only pays out once you hit at least $100, the faster I can hit that payout threshold the sooner I can actually see my earnings. Hosting with WordPress costs me $90 a year for this one blog (this doesn’t count the other blogs, domains and hosting I have). So, generally, this blog has been able to pay for its hosting for the past two years.

This year, I’ve already been paid once. With this unexpected jump, I foresee a second payment, so this actually pays for the cost of the blog hosting with a bit of a profit (which actually just pays for the cost of all my other webhosting). I’m perfectly pleased with this, as small as it seems. When a hobby pays for itself, that’s fine with me!

To Summarize

I’m not saying that it’s impossible to make money blogging. Obviously, there’s some folks who are invested and lucky enough to do so. But it’s more rare than you might imagine, and it takes a lot more work than you expect.

The numbers above shows a more realistic look at monetizing a hobby blog. Just a reminder that:

  • My blog was already 4 years old at the time I began WordAds – I’d already built a small audience
  • My blog is a more generalized hobby blog without a heavy focus on any one topic
  • I didn’t work too hard to monetize my blog as this wasn’t my focus in blogging
  • Once you join WordAds on a WordPress hosted blog, you can’t advertise with other networks (unless you pay for a business package) – so this is 100% earnings just from WordAds and no experimentation with other networks

I’m sure there are folks out there who know a lot more about all of this than I do. But this is just a look at my experience in monetization.

The bottom line – Blog first and foremost because you love the topic(s) you write about and because you want to connect with other people. If money eventually comes from this, that’s just a cherry on top.

Posted in Blaugust, Blogging

Blaugust 29- Lesson: Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

This was one of those lessons I learned back when I was a freelance writer.

As a freelancer, the idea of putting all your eggs into one basket meant that you blindly relied on one or two clients/gigs to be the foundation for most of your income. When writing for clients the web, you are at the mercy of whomever is employing you for a job. When the job is done, it’s done. So, you want to branch out enough to have other opportunities to fall back on just in case something doesn’t work out.

As a blogger, this is less about making money and more about building an audience and essentially a successful blog. Having focus is good, but when you limit yourself so much that you don’t have room to pivot should you need to, that will only hurt you in the end.

Too Much Focus on One Topic

Take, for example, focusing too much on just one topic. In my case, putting all my eggs in the basket of one video game.

I don’t want to get too much into the politics of the whole current Blizzard/WoW fiasco, but for content creators who were so focused on WoW, and WoW only, this has been a tough time. Not just for the individuals who make their livelihood off of their content – be it written or video – but also the small content creators that began building a focused platform around WoW or Blizzard games.

Those who allowed themselves some wiggle room had the freedom to make other choices and transition into new kinds of content if they felt that was the right thing to do. But those who have placed all their eggs in the WoW basket now have a harder choice to make.

This blog covers a lot more than just FFXIV, for example, and sometimes even strays from just talking about games. I know that even if I chose to put FFXIV away someday (hopefully not anytime soon), my main blog would continue on because I’ve established a wide base of topics there.

Locked into One Platform

For me, the lesson came in the form of closing myself off on to only one platform – namely, Tumblr. In my defense, when I first launched this blog on Tumblr, I had no idea that it would become such an important project to me. It was an experiment in character, story, blogging and social media… and somehow it worked.

For a while.

Due to experiences I’ve had, and due to the Tumblr environment, I began to realize that I needed to branch out if I wanted to keep this project from suffocating due to being locked down too much to one platform. That’s when I made the transfer of the bulk of my content to WordPress and decided to make my Tumblr more of a mirror site. I also began to build up connections on other social media accounts, such as Twitter and Instagram.

It’s taken time for me to earn the same amount of interaction that I used to have on Tumblr in other places. But finally, after months of working at it, I feel like I’m starting to make ground on Twitter. I’ve been much happier for it, too.

Taking part in Blaugust was another step to widen the audience and awareness of this blog, opening it to people in other blogging circles. I have yet to gauge how well this will stick, but it couldn’t have been a bad thing to try, right?

I’m not fully sure where I’m going to take Spot of Mummery in the future – I’ve always just sorta winged it when it came to this project. But I feel like I’ve made some steps in branching out, making new connections and trying new things when it comes to both my blog and the social media accounts connected to it.

Perhaps once Blaugust is over with, I will sit down and figure out some kind of content plan.

But more likely, I won’t. 🙂

Posted in Blaugust, Blogging

Blaugust 28- Using Game Events and Projects as Motivation

Since this is Blaugust’s motivation week, I chose to write a little about two things I latch on to for motivation — especially when I’ve been playing a single game for a very long time, or I write mostly only about a single game. It’s also the weekend, so I’m going to take a little break by writing something shorter for a change!

Game Events

Naturally, if the game you write for has updates and patches, such as an MMO, this could be considered an “event” that would offer a lot of new content to draw upon for topics. When an expansion comes out, that’s even more so. You can make a lot of great series posts blogging about progress through an expansion – just make sure to keep a mind on spoilers if you write about them.

Also, in-game events, such as seasonal events, are great motivation to pull from for blog posts. I rarely ever blog about the quests in an event, however. Everyone has done those, so they’re not usually of great interest to other players – unless there’s something funky about them.

FFXIV event quests are different every year, as are the rewards, but they’re usually tame and feel-good events. There’s rarely anything about the quest storyline itself I put into a post. However, if there’s a special experience (like a weird FATE) that is part of the questline, I might focus on that. I also like to focus on community interactions during the event.

For example, the fact that we fought a big blue bomb for Moonfire Faire this year wasn’t a shock – we did something similar last year. But the fact that the community decided to build a tower of the polar bear mounts and had a parade around the island was worth writing about.

Community driven events based on seasonal events are also great to write about. As another example, I wrote about attending a beach party that took place on the site of the Moonfire Faire event.

Projects

Game events as topics for post motivation isn’t anything surprising. But what do you do when you game doesn’t have an update for a while? That’s where what I call a “project” comes in.

I often set a project goal for myself in a game and use the progression I make in that as motivation to blog about it. Writing posts about a project does two things – obviously, it gives me content for my blog, but it also keeps me accountable in reaching for an in-game goal. I know that because I’m publicly “reporting” progress in my blog, I’m far more likely to keep working towards that goal in the long run.

A good example of a project is when I decided I was going to try healing in FFXIV. I’d healed in groups a little here and there before, but I wasn’t comfortable enough to do it consistently, and not for harder content.

Back in last December, I set out to change that. I made an in-character storyline for why Amon could be a White Mage healer. I then started leveling White Mage from level 1 scratch, with the help of my best friend who is a healer main. I documented the process for several months, mostly talking about leveling (sometimes from my character’s point of view), showing off the newest glamours I ran across, thinking about the new spells I got – that sort of thing.

I leveled and practiced playing White Mage just about every night using an Alliance Roulette. Not only was this a lot of fun to write about, but it gave me goals to work towards in game and eventually taught me how to be an okay-ish healer. And here I am writing a post about that process on top of it!

So whenever you set goals that can possibly translate into a project, consider tapping into that as motivation for your blogging!

Posted in Blaugust, Blogging

Blaugust 27- Using Tags for Better WordPress Exposure

In the last post, I talked about WordPress Reader – a feature that all blogs hosted at WordPress.com can take advantage of. Today I want to talk about how to ensure your posts are getting shared on Reader as widely as possible. It’s actually very simple – it’s all about tags.

Think of tags like hashtags on Twitter. These are topics that help WordPress know what your post is about. Without them, WordPress doesn’t know you’ve written a post about “cats” or “music” or “games.” This is where you come in!

How to Tag Your Post

When you create a new WordPress post, you can add tags to it in the Tags section of the right-hand menu. If you don’t see this, click the gear icon in the top right corner and make sure you’re looking at the Post tab. It should look something like this:

You can see that in my tags section, WordPress offers up the tags I most use – of course I use a lot more than this, but these are the ones it’s determined that I add most often. This helps to speed things up, but don’t only go by the suggestions or you could miss a few tags!

Now that you know where to tag, let’s talk about some thoughts about tagging strategy.

Tagging Strategy

Let me walk through my thoughts on using tags. I try to go for both focused and wide topic tags for my posts.

Since I usually write about FFXIV, I’ll use a normal FFXIV post as my example.

  1. This is a FFXIV post, so I use FFXIV as a very focused tag.
  2. FFXIV is a game, so I tag it as Games for a wider audience.
  3. However games include board games, tabletop games, etc. So I focus that down by also adding the tag Video Games.
  4. But there are many kinds of video games. FFXIV is a MMO/MMORPG. So I tag both MMO and MMORPG.
  5. I add some additional tags such as Gaming, MMO Gaming, Gamer, etc. This isn’t required, but it’s good to explore sub-tags and related tags just to see if it helps.
  6. If there’s anything very specific within FFXIV that the post is about – maybe, say, housing – I’ll add a specific tag like FFXIV Housing.

And there you have it – a pool of tags both focused and wide.

Every time you add a tag to your post, your post will appear in Reader on the tag page for that topic. Let’s look at that a bit.

Explore Tag Pages

Within reader, you’ll find a Tags section at the bottom of the menu.

At the very bottom of the Tags section, you can enter a tag, such as “Games” to add it to your followed tags. This allows you to come back to that tag page and see all the other blogs that have used this tag in their posts (including your own).

Below is an example of the tags I follow. You can add a tag and remove a tag at any time.

Research Your Tags

Use this tag pages to do research on the tags that you use in your own posts.

See which tags seem to have a LOT of new posts popping up frequently. Maybe those are popular tags, which could be good (because lots of people are interested in them) or bad (because your posts get lost in all the other posts).

See which tags seem to rarely have any new posts in them. This could be good (you’ve got a niche you can corner and explore) or bad (there isn’t much of an audience for this tag on Reader).

Use this to determine which tags serve your posts the best. Feel free to explore!

Also, while you’re on those tag pages, you can see who your blogging peers are and what they’re writing about. Use this as an opportunity to network!

Follow other blogs who use similar tags. Leave likes and (even better) comments on their posts.

This helps to build interaction between yourself and other bloggers on Reader. This may take some time and effort on your part, but if you have a newer blog and you’re looking to build an audience, connecting with other bloggers is a good place to start.

Not everyone will always respond or follow back. But some will, and you never know who might become a blogging friend from just a few comments exchanged. It’s always great to encourage new bloggers that you stumble across in tags, because that makes the community as a whole stronger.

So now that you know about tagging and a bit about tagging strategy, next time you create a post, start building that list of suggested tags. It only gets easier as WordPress learns the tags you like to use the most!

Good luck!

Posted in Blaugust, Blogging

Blaugust 26- The Importance of WordPress Reader

You can think of WordPress Reader as a cross between an RSS reader with a touch of social media vibes to it. If you own a blog hosted on WordPress.com then your blog is automatically connected to Reader, which helps to boost your posts to other WordPress bloggers (as long as you tag them properly).

You can even add RSS feeds and YouTube feeds (I’ve checked this!) to Reader, making it a great stream of content similar to an old skool RSS reader. You can not only follow other bloggers, but follow tags that you’re interested in, giving you access to new blogs that have similar interests.

I personally think that Reader is absolutely brilliant – all the usefulness of a RSS reader, the ability to Like and comment on other bloggers’ posts, and none of the drama that springs up around a social media site.

So why is it that I feel like Reader is extremely underutilized?

I might be wrong, but sometimes it seems like the users who make the most of Reader are bot accounts and those marketing blogs that follow you hoping that you’ll follow back. If this is the case, then that’s a shame because it’s a great system to help get your blog more traffic – but only if the community adopts it as a whole.

When I was making the choice between whether to make my secondary blog a WordPress.com blog vs. a WordPress.org blog, the major reason I chose WordPress.com was due to the exposure that Reader brings. Without the proper interest and social media presence, it can be difficult to build your first audience as a blogger. Sometimes it feels like you’re just blogging into the void on a self-hosted blog.

Reader helps with that – again, as long as you’re using tags on your blog posts – and can assist in getting your posts out there in front of other bloggers who are interested in the same topics. In fact, Reader accounts for quite a bit of this blog’s traffic so far. Here’s a look at my referrals since January:

This is a newer blog that has only been out there since December.

My top referrer is (thankfully) search engines, but that’s because I got a little lucky by writing a couple of posts that the search engines picked up on. But my second and fourth highest referrers are Reader and the WordPress app. Now, I’m going to guess that the app usage has to do with those who have followed my blog or are finding it through discovery – both related to Reader. So I’m going to lump them together.

That’s a pretty good chunk of my traffic that I wouldn’t have otherwise had without Reader.

About Reader

If you’re not familiar with Reader, when you log into your WordPress.com blog, you’ll find a button in the top left of the WP menu bar.

Clicking it will take you to the newest posts of the sites and blogs you’ve followed. Here you can like the posts, click to read the posts and even comment on the posts.

Looking at the menu, you can see there’s a lot more to Reader than just this.

Conversations show you comment threads on posts written by bloggers you follow and encourages you to add your own comments.

Search lets you search all of Reader based on topic or tag. From there, you can find new blogs based around that topic that you can follow.

My Likes shows a list of posts that you’ve liked in the past.

Lists – I haven’t messed with this yet, but now that I’ve looked at it, I could find a use for it. I’m guessing this allows you to group blogs and sites that you follow into lists.

Tags allows you to add tags (topics) that you’re interested in following. Anytime a blog tags a post with those words, you can see it here. Sorta like using a hashtag in Twitter.

This is so very important, but I often feel so many bloggers just overlook tagging their posts, and miss out on the exposure that Reader can give them! So much so, I plan on writing another post all around tags and the importance of tagging and following tags.

Following Blogs and Sites

An important part of Reader is following blogs. Doing this for WordPress blogs is super easy. As long as you’re logged into WordPress, you’ll see something like this on another WordPress blog, usually in the bottom right corner of the blog’s page:

Clicking Follow adds that blog to your Followed Sites list and allows you to see when new posts come out.

You can also follow sites that are not WordPress blogs – as long as that site has some kind of RSS feed behind it.

To do that, go to Followed Sites and click the Manage button on the page.

This shows you a list of sites you follow. But you can also manually add a site here in the Search or enter URL to follow bar.

And there you go – that site will now show up in your Followed Sites tab!

Next time, I’ll tackle talking about tags, following tags and the importance of properly tagging your WordPress posts so that Reader shares your posts with other Reader users.

Posted in Blaugust, Blogging

Blaugust 25- Should I Choose WordPress.com or WordPress.org?

WordPress is a strange animal. It comes in two flavors:

  • WordPress.com – A site that hosts your blog for you
  • WordPress.org – Where you download the software to install a self-hosted blog on a webhost

When I was making the move from Tumblr to WordPress, I thought and researched about the two options, trying to decide which way to go. I’m not a noob when it comes to WordPress – I’ve self-hosted for many years and also run my main gaming blog from WordPress.com. So, I’ve used both and seen both sides of the road.

Question: So which option is better?

Answer: It depends on what you need from a blog and what you’re looking to do with your blog. Also how much experience and knowledge you have running a website plays a big part of this.

WordPress.com – Pros and Cons

WordPress.com will host your blog for you with limitations based on the package you choose. Know that there is a free option, so if you’re a new blogger who doesn’t have the money to explore webhosting, this can be a good place to start.

Pros of WordPress.com

  • Free option – but with limitations and ads
  • Hassle-free setup and maintenance
  • WordPress.com will always keep your blog up to date – you never have to worry about updates
  • Own as many blogs as you like on one account
  • Peace of mind to known you can’t “break” your blog with incompatible plugins or bad templates
  • You are a part of WordPress Reader – a WP social media that connects all blogs at WordPress.com
  • Easy to select and try out templates
  • Seems to handle high traffic (more on that later)
  • You can use your own domain name if you purchase one and have a paid WP package
  • May be easier to build an audience thanks to WordPress Reader

Cons of WordPress.com

  • Ads on free blogs
  • Space limitations based on your package, especially for media
  • You can’t install your own plugins or templates (unless you pay for the more expensive packages)
  • You can’t edit the coding of your templates (unless you pay for the more expensive packages)

Basically, the limitations of WordPress.com are based on how much you’re willing to pay for your blog. However, while you might feel that not being able to install plugins or custom templates is a bad thing, these are often the very things that “break” a self-hosted blog and require troubleshooting to fix (I’ve been there, done that).

If you’re a newer blogger who just wants to experiment with WordPress without worrying that you’re going to install something that brings your website down (also been there), hosting with WordPress.com means that they take care of all of your maintenance. You’ll always be on the newest version and will never need to worry about updating – or that things will break your blog when it updates.

Also, you have direct connection to WordPress Reader – something that shouldn’t be undervalued. This can help you connect with other bloggers, follow blogs that you enjoy, and get your posts out there using WordPress.com’s built-in social media. Basically, it’s a good place to start building an audience.

WordPress.org – Pros and Cons

When you run a self-hosted blog, you get a lot more freedom. But you also have to support the cost of that blog, the maintenance of that blog, and if something breaks, it’s on you to find a fix (or hope that your website host has support for it).

Pros of WordPress.org

  • Use any plugins you want
  • Use any templates you want
  • Complete access to template codes for full customization
  • Complete control over your blog install and content
  • No limitation on space – aside from what your webhost limits

Cons of WordPress.org

  • Not free – you must pay for a domain and webhost
  • You will need a webhost and must play by the webhost’s rules about limits on storage, traffic, and server resources
  • Depending on the webhost, you may have to install WordPress on your own (or pay for someone to do it for you)
  • You have to maintain your own blog and ensure blog and plugins are up to date
  • If something breaks, it’s up to you to troubleshoot or find help
  • Webhosts may not be the expert on WordPress when it comes to troubleshooting
  • No direct connection to WordPress Reader
  • It’s up to you to spread the word about your blog and build an audience
  • Depending on your webhost, it may cost extra to have more than one blog (or you must know how to use things like subdomains and add-on domains to set it up)

While self-hosting gives you full creative flexibility and control over your blog, it also puts the responsibility of that blog squarely in your hands. If you don’t have experience with webhosts, coding, troubleshooting websites and things like that, this might not be the best option for you.

I’ve also had issues (many times) where due to how much resources my site was using on a shared host, the webhost actually pulled my blog down. This could have been because I had high traffic one day or because bots were messing with my site. I had to prove that my blog was up to date and that it wasn’t a plugin or something causing the resource issues.

This was really, really frustrating and it did require some know-how to get my host to put my site back up. This happened to me several times, and it prompted me to start shopping around for a new host. Ultimately, dealing with this problem was why I moved my main blog to WordPress.com – I have never had this issue since.

The final big thing to consider is where your audience is coming from. As a self-hosted blog, you aren’t directly connected to WordPress Reader. Sure, people can follow your blog through Reader, but when you write a new post, Reader doesn’t put it out there for other bloggers to read. This is a feature that only supports WordPress.com blogs.

With a self-hosted blog, you have to build your audience using your own social media or ways of getting the word out. This was the major point for me when I fully moved from Tumblr. I’d actually already had a self-hosted Spot of Mummery blog, and it rarely got traffic. So I decided to move it to WordPress.com where I could take advantage of WordPress Reader, and it’s doing far, far better than when it was self-hosted.

I could go on for a while about the experiences I’ve had over the years with both forms of blog hosting. There’s positives and negatives about each one – you just gotta decide what works best for the blog and project you’re building.

And keep in mind, you can always pack up and transfer the content of your blog anytime. This just takes a little know-how, time and work, but it can be done.

Posted in Blaugust, Blogging

Blaugust 24- Creating an Archive Page on WordPress

While I’m writing this quickie tutorial based around the idea of making an archive of posts for a series, you can actually use this for just about any reason. This is how to create an Archive page that automatically adds new posts based on a category you create.

For example, here’s an archive page for Spot of Simmery:

You can create the layout however you like it – such as add an image and columns like I did.

This post is going to focus on how to make that list of posts that automatically update without you needing to come to the page to update it every time.

Step 1 – Create a WordPress Category for your series of posts. Again, this doesn’t have to be a series – this works with any category. You do this by clicking Posts and then Categories. Then create the category you want to use for your archive.

Step 2 – Assign that Category to posts in your series. Remember to assign that specific category to the posts you want to appear on the archive page. You can also go back and assign that category to existing posts by editing those posts and updating them. You can find the Categories section under the Posts tab in the right-hand menu when you’re creating or editing a post.

Step 3 – Create a new Page to serve as your Archive page. Design this page however you like.

Step 4 – Add a Latest Posts block to the page. This is the widget that will list your posts.

Step 5- Set up your Latest Posts block in the right-hand menu. With the new block selected, ensure you’re looking at the Block tab in the right-hand menu. If you don’t see this menu, click the gear icon in the top right corner of the screen.

It should look like the picture to the right.

You can configure it any way that you like, but this is an example of how to make this look like a text list of posts. I don’t enable things like content or images, but you can if that fits your archive style.

I ensure that the order is Oldest to newest so that the readers see posts from first to last in proper order.

Then, enter the category in the Categories box – this is the most important for making sure this displays the posts you want it to show.

Further below that, also take a look at Number of Items. The max number of posts it can display is 100, so that should give you plenty of wiggle room to post a long series if you want. I keep that number fairly high so that I never have to worry about it.

Once you save the page, that block should display the posts in the category that you set up. Every time you write a new post and assign it to that category, the post will show up in that block – creating an archive page that you never need to worry about updating manually.

And if you decide there are some posts that you don’t want to include in this archive anymore, all you have to do is edit the post and remove the category.

Posted in Blaugust, Blogging

Blaugust 23- Creating Navigation for a Post Series

Yes, I’m making a series about series! So meta!

This time around, we’re talking about creating navigation between your series posts… and if you even need to. It might seem like a simple topic, but providing your readers a way to move between posts on your blog is important – especially if you aren’t writing a daily series and will have posts in between series posts. There’s a number of ways you can approach this!

WordPress Plugins

For WordPress, there are some third-party plugins that are made just for building series posts and linking between them. You can use one of those – and I have in the past – but I often found it more cumbersome to use in the long run. It’s been so long since I’ve used one – especially since I’m running a WordPress.com blog that doesn’t allow me to install plugins – I’ve just learned how to do without. But if you’re self-hosted, do see if there’s something out there that can assist if you need it!

Link in Post Text

Sometimes a series (such as the Valheim series I wrote about in the last post) isn’t important enough to make a navigation. Or perhaps you can just link to the previous post in the text (like I just did above). Sometimes I do that at the beginning of a post with a short summary of what happened last time.

For example:

The link here leads to the previous post that I’d written. That way, if they missed the previous post, or they are curious about looking back at what you’re referencing from before, they have a way to do that.

Just make sure that the link opens up the previous post in a new tab so that you don’t take the reader away from the post they’re currently reading.

Previous and Next Links

Another way you can approach this is to manually create forward and back links between posts. I do this for my Spot of Simmery posts on this blog. It looks something like this:

So this is post 10, and it links back to post 9 and forward to post 11. Pretty simple. I also have a link to the overall archive page – I’ll be talking about creating an easy archive page next time!

There’s a few things to keep in mind about this approach:

  • You have to remember to continue adding the navigation each time you create a new post
  • You have to remember to go back to the previous post to add a forward link as well
  • If you move your blog or change your URL, these links will likely need to be updated

There are plugins that provide forward and backwards navigation between posts, and some WordPress themes have previous and next post navigation built into the posts already. But those only work when you’re writing a series of posts back to back.

So while manually linking takes a little more work, I find it the best way to move a reader directly through posts in a series.

WordPress Category

One other thing you can do is to create a WordPress category especially for your series. When you do that, every post in your series will appear on the category page, starting with the newest post first.

However, if you want an auto-updating archive page that’s in order from first to last, that’s a topic I’ll tackle next time!

Posted in Blaugust, Blogging

Blaugust 22- Series Posts = Love

As we move into Staying Motivated Week, I want to talk about a topic that personally find related to my own motivation – writing a series of posts. This might seem simplistic and obvious, but hear me out.

Be it a book series, a TV series or a streaming series online, people love series! It’s a great feeling to discover something you enjoy watching or reading and knowing that there’s more of it on a similar/same topic created by the same people/person.

There’s a reason people binge on a series – once you’re hooked, you want to know where it goes or how it ends.

For that reason, I tend to look for topics that I can blog about that organically lead me to writing a series of posts. I do this because:

  • Readers like series
  • Readers will continue to engage with or look forward to my posts if they are enjoying a series
  • It’s easier to come up with topics when you’re writing a series – you already have an idea what your next post might be about

How to Write a Series

Writing a series doesn’t have to be a forced thing. I actually sometimes stumble across series posting without even meaning to. For example – on my gaming blog, I started to capture the experience of playing Valheim through for the first time.

However, so much was happening in the game that to try to shove all the experiences into one post would have been a missed opportunity (and a very long post). I was also playing the game across a several-weekend stretch, which meant that I was recording my experiences over a period of time.

This organically led me to creating a series of posts about the game. This also provided me with quite a bit of content over weeks of time to add to my blog without needing to search for post topics.

This is why I tend to play games with the screenshot key ready at all times. The same could be said of taking pictures of a process happening IRL. This could be a series about a pet growing up. Recording how your garden grows. Restoring something old to something nice and new. Showing how some kind of craft or building you’re making develops. That sort of thing.

If you get a sense that something could make a good series topic, try to record it in some sort of visual way from the start. The worst that could happen is that it doesn’t turn out to be a good series topic, and you’d be left with a number of neat pictures of the experience. No big loss.

Some Tips on Series

Don’t rush it. The frequency of your posts will be directly related to whatever the topic is you’re writing about. In my gaming example above, I was writing about a game that I was playing each weekend. I could usually get 1-3 posts a week from that time spent, but the fact that I wasn’t playing every day spread out the content.

Sure, I could have dumped all 3 posts in one day, but that defeats the purpose of creating a series. Get a feel for how often you should post in your series. Don’t overwhelm readers with too much, but also don’t leave them hanging too long or they’re likely to forget about your series (unless it’s really gripping).

If you do need to take breaks or you’re writing for things happening over longer intervals, communicate that to readers in each post. For example, maybe you only want to post once a week about your garden’s development because there’s not enough change happening to post more frequently. You can end a post telling readers to check in next week to see the newest changes in your garden – that way, readers have an expectation of when they can see an update.

If you do that, however, be sure that you make good on your promises! A series can die real fast once the content creator stops meeting the deadlines they’ve promised their audience. If you do need to skip for some reason, let folks know – they’re usually quite understanding.

Try to finish the series (if possible). Don’t leave your readers hanging. If there’s an end or some way to tie up the series, try to do that. For example, I blogged a very short series of how I rescued an abandoned kitten near my workplace.

I wrote about how already had two cats, so I couldn’t keep a third. The search was ongoing for a home. When a home was finally found, I made sure to write about that so that folks would know how the story ended!

Some series may not have an ending simply because they’re ongoing, and that’s fine! But if you leave a series unfinished for a while and don’t intend to come back to it, try to drop a note in the last post you did write to explain that and let readers know that you’ve lost interest or that maybe one day you’ll pick it up again.

Also note – I’m not trying to say that every post you make needs to be something you develop into a series. You’ll start to get a feel for what is series material and what isn’t. Just keep an eye out for topics that can be expanded beyond one post, and take advantage of the series format when you run across a proper topic.

In the next post, I want to go into a bit about creating navigation between series posts and the options you can choose from!

(See what I did there? Building reader expectation – that’s a good way to end a series post! See you next time!)

Posted in Blaugust, Blogging

Blaugust 20- Developer Appreciation – 7D2D: The Fun Pimps

Back during Blaugust 2018, I wrote about the Fun Pimps during Developer Appreciation Week. I noted that my first ever post on their game 7 Days to Die (7D2D) was back in the summer of 2014, and how even then, my gaming group (we call the Posse) was still playing the game years later.

Fast forward to 2021. Two weeks ago, the Posse got together for yet another new game of 7D2D. We don’t play the game constantly, but we’ve played it consistently for the past 7 years. It’s also the game I’ve clocked the most time in over any other on Steam.

Valheim is a very distant second, apparently.

That’s all taking into account that over the past 7 years, 7D2D has not yet left alpha. It’s still being actively developed (hoping for a A20 drop soon!), but it’s still one of my favorite Steam games despite the fact the devs don’t think it’s finished yet. I’d argue – it has bugs now and then, but it plays better than some released games!

All this to say, I would be remiss not to give some appreciation to the Fun Pimps who have created a great survival game that balances building, exploration, zombie killing and strategic tower defense so well. There’s something for every one of the individuals in the Posse to do at all times, no matter what their interests are.

I’m the builder of the team. I make sure my friends have solid walls around them on horde nights. The tower defense part of the game is my main focus, and I’ve taken to building a second “War Fort” so that if something does fall through (thanks to exploding zombies – you read that right), our main base and supplies don’t take the brunt of the damage.

Other people prefer to explore and hunt for supplies. There’s tons of Points of Interests (POI) in the game, and mods such as KingGen add even more variety based on locations that the community has built.

Others enjoy the gardening, cooking, crafting or the mining (think Minecraft with real physics). Yet others love the science tracks where you can build vehicles and traps to slay zombies.

There’s really so much to do in this game, and it just continues to get better. While we haven’t had a release in a while, we’re still patiently waiting and seeing the updates the team provides on their Twitter account. I’m really looking forward to the Alpha 20 drop. Yet another alpha, that’s not an alpha. 🙂

Anyhow, thanks for years of fun Joel and the Fun Pimps! Keep up the great work and we’ll keep playing.

(The best $12.99 I’ve ever spent…)