Hanging around the ol’ dashboard here on LC.com, wanting to look through the drafts to see if there’s anything worth publishing (answer: no), I checked in on the stats graph that’s included with the default WordPress install.
Looking at stats is fun, but this post isn’t about the specific numbers; rather the happenstance of blogging about something in a timely manner, and the mission of your blog. Using the data above as a springboard, on June 3rd I posted my “Surviving the ARK” write-up, which was essentially a recap of my first “day” in the game. As you can see, it didn’t gain much traction until a few days later, when people started searching for things related to ARK: Survival Evolved. I’m pretty pleased with the spike shown up there, although you can see that the searches that found the “Surviving the ARK” post are all in the vein of “how do I progress”, or “how do I survive“. There’s some SEO hocus-pocus going on here, with “ARK” in the title, and the post residing under “ARK: Survival Evolved” tag that puts me on the front page of a Google search for “ark survival evolved fortitude”, for example.
Levelcapped is a multi-purpose blog. I don’t stick with one game, and I tend to make a lot of conceptual posts that deal with games as a hobby, as a business, and as a culture, so it’s pretty much a grab-bag up in here, and is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. That makes it really difficult to keep an audience, and almost impossible to show up in search results with regularity, unless I’m writing about something very niche, or something very timely. Add to that the fact that I nuked the site around the beginning of the year, and the state of readership here at LC HQ seems pretty much all over the place.
This isn’t a “yay me!” or a “boo hoo me” post either, but one concept I’ve kept an eye on is the multi-purpose blog versus the single purpose blog, and which idea might be the more “successful”*. Each mode has its strengths and weaknesses, and a lot of that relies on the nature of the person writing the blog. For example, I play a lot of games and rarely stick with one for very long. Even the ones I do tend to stick with (Elite: Dangerous currently) are constantly interrupted by other games, which leaves me at a loss for a steady and reliable stream of ongoing experience needed to fuel a single theme blog. On the other hand, there’s a bazillion blogs focused almost exclusively on World of Warcraft, and bazillion – 1 blogs that cater to other games like Final Fantasy XIV, Wildstar, SWTOR, and others. I would tend to believe that the operators of those sites focus exclusively, or at least regularly, on those games to the point where their knowledge of the title allows them to write about them with authority. Me, I’m more a “seat of the pants” kind of gamer, and admittedly my knowledge of any game can be summed up as “I know about as much as I need to in order to not die every five minutes”.
Which blog style is best? That’s a loaded and subjective question because it depends on the author’s preference (duh). I’d guess that a blog that focuses on a single topic — a single game, single theme, single class or role — would draw more regular readers due to the fact that once someone who has interest in that specific topic finds the blog worthy, they’re more likely to return. Of course, if the author stops playing that game, moves to another genre, or becomes burnt out on that role, the entire concept of the blog is shot. A multi-focus blog is a crap-shoot that might pull some people in via a single post, but lose them as a regular reader if they can’t find anything else surrounding that post that they care for, but from the author’s perspective it gives them a lot more leeway in what they can write about, and there’s less chance they’ll stop blogging because a single game or role falls out of focus.
It’s a long winded way of saying “blog what interests you”, whether it’s a single game, single role, or a whole scattershot of topics. Being a slave to the numbers usually isn’t why people start blogging, and a lot of the time people will opine that bloggers shouldn’t be focusing on the reader count. It’s it’s not something we have to ignore or sweep under the rug either. Obsessing over winning or losing readers is a fools errand, but analyzing your stats allows you to parse out what works and what doesn’t. At it’s worst, stats are an interesting barometer to see what works (posting about a hot topic at the right time) and what doesn’t (haranguing people for being assholes…for example), and shows that link-bait isn’t the only way to get people to read your stuff. At best, it allows you to possibly find topics that people seem to like with regularity, allowing you to decide if you want to chase those leads, or stick to your personal preferences.
* Of course, not every blogger’s goal is to have massive exposure and garner all the eyeballs, but no blogger is 100% blase about his or her readership. Success is a personal measurement, and while I’m pretty happy with my recent spike in readership, I miss my old following.