How to Start Your Own Gaming Blog

There are lots of us out there who love writing. And heck, there are probably even more of us out there who love playing video games! But how do we marry those two hobbies together? How do we make video games look like more than just a little hobby? The answer: blogging.

            Blogs—typically informal discussion and/or informational personal websites—have been around almost since the beginning of the Internet. They provided (and still do provide) a simple way for individuals to express themselves, to let their ideas be heard on the World Wide Web. And with the development of awesome tools like Blogger and WordPress, it became even easier for everyone to have a soapbox.

            Of course, in 2018, blogging looks a bit different. The format is still pretty much identical, but there so many more tools available that let you get your writing out there. Furthermore, blogging has taken a bit of a backseat to a whole bunch of new services that have popped up as time has gone on. For instance, I’d be willing to bet that more people aspire to be a professional YouTube personality than a professional blogger. Heck, some people just want to be a famous face on social media!

            But none of this has stopped blogging from being an immensely popular avenue of personal expression. Blogging is so fun and so rewarding. And because I love it so much, I want other people to know how to do it. That’s why, using my personal experience, I’ve compiled my own piece on how to start a gaming blog. There’s nothing wrong with sharing the joy, am I right?

            Now, without further ado, let’s get crackin’.

The Process

Step 1: Find a good theme for your blog.

The Internet is amazing. It’s such a vast forum of ideas of information. But even though the sheer depth of the Internet is a good thing, there comes a fact that we must all come to terms with: The more voices there are, the harder it is for you to make any noise.

            Because of this, you need to find what makes your blog unique. Is it the particular niche you bring to light? Is it your specific perspective on the topic? There are a lot of voices competing for attention in the gaming sphere, so make sure you’ve got something novel.

            My niche is admittedly a simple one. Since there aren’t too many folks out there blogging about arcade games, I decided to, well…blog about arcade games! It’s simple, but it works. Furthermore, I’d like to think that I serve as the “player’s perspective” for the arcade sector. I praise new games, but I also ain’t afraid to call out crud. Like I said, find your niche. Pioneer a new track and run with it.

            Even so, it’s still just fine to write a general gaming blog. If your thing is that you cover everything, then run with that, too. Of course, if there are already a lot of people writing about your general topics, it’ll be a bit harder to stand out in the crowd. By thay same token, if you’re writing about a niche topic, there are no guarantees that people will want to read your content in the first place.

            In picking your topic, it is also imperative that you pick something you enjoy. While this may sound like a no-brainer, it’s easier to get bored of writing a gaming blog than you might think. I can’t tell you how many times I stumble upon a fun and unique gaming blog, only to go to their home page and see that the writer hasn’t posted in two years. To avoid the premature death of your blog, you have to ensure that:

  1. Your topic is broad enough to be written about at least once a month for years on end, and
  2. Your topic is one that you aren’t exceedingly likely to become bored with. If it’s just a phase, it might not be worth starting the blog.

            Just ascertain that you like what you’re writing about, and everything will be fine. No matter how broad or narrow your gaming-related topic may be, the best of the best are distinguished by raw writing skill. I don’t lay claim to being one of the best writers out there, but I try my best. And as long as you, too, enjoy what you’re doing and do it well, you should be just eh-okay.

Step 2: Write your first article.

Wait a minute—shouldn’t writing your first article come after designing and publishing your website? To that, I say no, mostly due to personal preference. If you write your first article before you create the blog itself, you’ll be able to give what really matters—the writing—the time it deserves.

            Open up a blank document in the word processor of your choice and think. What kind of article do you want to open your blog with? This will be the very first article, and depending on your posting schedule (which we’ll look at later), it may very well be the only post that visitors see on the homepage for quite some time. For this reason—because of that age-old principal of first impressions—you’ve gotta make sure this first article is one that you can be proud of.

            What format do you want your articles to follow? What kind of tone would like to set? At this stage, it’s actually a good idea for your first article to be an “introductory” article. When your website starts up, no one’s going to be reading it. It’s just a fact of the biz! But that doesn’t mean that you can’t start with a first article that hammers out what your readers will come to expect. Think of it as an “About” page that sticks in the search results. While I never wrote an introductory article in this fashion (I jumped straight into my first review!), I kind of wish I had. It really sets the tone for the coming years, ya know?

            And once you’ve got your formatting down, there’s nothing wrong with jumping in and crafting that first article. Make it special! Make it fun! It’ll be the first chapter of what’ll hopefully become a long and incredible journey into blogging.

Step 3: Choose a web platform, design your website, and publish your first article.

If you’re starting a blog, there’s a gosh darned good chance that you’re a writer. That’s your talent; that’s your trade. It’s what you know how to do! That’s why designing a website can often be the most difficult task for some bloggers. Creating a high-quality, visually-stunning website is a huge undertaking. Luckily, there are a bunch of tools out there to help you in 2018.

            I’m gonna be transparent with you all: I know nothing about coding. If I were tasked with designing a website and had nothing but HTML scripts at my fingertips, Wilcox Arcade would never have come into existence. By good fortune, I came up blogging in 2017, where we have Wix, Weebly, and WordPress.

            Though there are probably many, many more website design tools out there, the “three dubyas” are by far the most popular and (dare I say it) most useful. They all offer a ton of features and design choices for the code-averse blogger, and they’re all somewhat in the same price range.

            If you couldn’t tell by the annoying banners on the top and bottom of my site, Wix was my platform of choice. Though I didn’t spend a ton of time thinking about my options (I never plan things out as much as I should), Wix seemed like the best option from what I had seen. Sure, there are tons of WordPress blogs out there, but they all look the same. And sure, there are also lots of Weebly sites, but I thought it was more confusing than I could handle. In the end, Wix—with its plethora of design options and ease of use—was the web design platform for me.

            And no, this isn’t a plug for Wix. Wix is ludicrously expensive, and my site loads offensively slowly. There’s no going back at this point, but at least I can bite the hand that feeds me.

            Before you move on to the next step, there’s one more thing that you have to take into consideration at this stage: a domain. If you want, you can always go the free route. Every web design platform offers a fully free option that gives you a ridiculous domain. If you want to stick with this, that’s okay. You’ll still appear in search results, after all. However, it’s less likely that people will return to your site manually, because who wants to remember and type out an overly long domain?

            Since you probably want your own domain anyway, I recommend getting it through G Suite by Google. (That’s what I use.) It’s pretty much the same price as any other domain service out there, but it offers all of the functionality of G Suite with you domain. I don’t bother with G Suite, but you know…it’s there. You can also get a domain through 1and1.com, which works just as well.

            By the way, Wix also allows you to connect your own domain to your Wix site—for $60 a year. Sure, you get more features (I think?), but you also still have the Wix ads on your site. Like I said, ludicrously expensive. I honestly don’t know how I do it as a 16-year-old with no job.

Step 4: Determine your desired post frequency and build up a good backlog.

This is where things start to get fun again. After sorting through all of the website nonsense, you’ll get to start doing what you love: writing! In my opinion, it’s best to stick to a fairly consistent schedule.

            A lot of bloggers encourage posting every single day of the week, but I really don’t see the point in that. Typically, bloggers who can post that frequently blog for a living—a feat that’s nigh unattainable for most of us. And beyond that, posting every day will most likely hamper the quality and length of each post. Unless you have so much free time that you can spend hours a day looking over each post, it’s pretty unrealistic to post every day.

            My recommendation is to start small. I post once or twice a week, always adhering to a Monday and Thursday schedule. If I only post on Monday, I don’t beat myself up over it. I’m a 16-year-old with a crud-ton of schoolwork and extracurricular activities; I simply don’t have time to post more than twice a week. You don’t have to post more than twice a week either. Just make sure that every one of your posts is as perfect as it can possibly be.

            An especially helpful technique is to have a lot of posts already written and scheduled weeks in advance. If your blog contains articles that aren’t very are dependent on time (such as “how-to” posts), you can publish them whenever you want. It won’t matter! Building up a pipeline of posts will ensure that you never get too stressed trying to meet those all-important deadlines, and you can take more time to look over each individual article.

            A technique I recently adopted was to have three or four “timeless” articles (such as reviews and, like I said, how-to pieces) always ready to publish on Mondays. Then, with Mondays covered for weeks in advance, I use Thursdays for time-dependent news pieces on the latest and greatest arcade games.

            Of course, there’s also not too much wrong with not even having a schedule at all! If you feel the need to only publish as you feel like it, then that’s fine, too. The only problem is that it’s a bit harder to gain regular readers when they have no idea when you’re going to post. Other than that, it’s a deadline-free life that’ll take a lot of the stress of blogging off of your shoulders.

            On the subject of backlogs, definitely make sure to build up a good backlog of published posts, too. Readers are more likely to stick around if they see a blog with more than three or four posts, after all. Get your writing out there and nab those loyal readers!

Step 5: Promote your content on social media.

“What?” you may be wondering. “Why is this step so low on the list? Should social media promotion start with the very first post?” And to that, I say, “Not really.” While you absolutely and totally can open up your social media channels after that first post, it won’t make much of a difference.

            You see, social media is incredibly fickle. Building a strong follower base using nothing but hashtags can be pretty difficult. It just becomes a chore to focus on social media early on in your blogging career. And like I said, people are more likely to bounce right off your page when you only have one or two posts, which makes social media even more negligible at that point.

            But of course, you will eventually need to promote yourself on social media—it’s just the way of the future. Here, you’ve got two options. You can get yourself out on as many social media channels as physically possible and spend little bit of time on each; or you can choose a few channels and do intensive promotion on these select few.

            Because I simply do not care about social media, I only use Instagram and Twitter. I don’t really bother with either channel anymore, though I spend more time on Instagram when I actually do bother. Don’t be me, kids. Don’t be too lazy (perhaps too busy?) to promote your content on social media. It will help. Ya just hafta give it time.

Step 6: Build a community, develop your SEO, and look toward the future.

Once you’ve gotten this far, you know you’re a blogger for life (hopefully). Now, it’s time to do all the fun stuff. Build yourself a community of readers. Talk to your readers. Become friends with them. Just do all of that cool stuff!

            One other thing you’ll have to do at this point, at least in some capacity, is develop your SEO. Use all the tools you have available to improve your ranking in search engines. I know Wix has a lot of tools for it. The other ones probably do, too. I don’t really know. But yeah, search results are actually really important. Find popular topics to write about (or be the first to write about a lesser known topic) and get yourself on that first or second page of Google search results for a certain search term. It’s one of the few ways to guarantee that readers will continue to come to your site.

            With all of that out of the way, it’s time to look toward the future. Maybe you’ll want to start a YouTube channel as a second tier of content creation. Though I despise YouTube personalities and even the platform itself (there’s too much garbage out there), starting a YouTube channel is definitely on my radar. You should think about these things, too. It’s all fun!

General Tips

Avoid unreasonable growth expectations.

Blogging is a very real exercise in patience. It can take a year (or likely much longer) to gain any real traction. Even once you become somewhat popular, there are no guarantees that you’ll have regular readers. But even in the face of this “adversity” of sorts, don’t let yourself get discouraged. If you really, really love the art of blogging, you’ll hold out. You’ll keep putting out quality content; you’ll keep blogging for blogging’s sake. Eventually, people will read it.

Prioritize writing over SEO and social media.

There are so many, many dumb corporate blogs out there that give you really ridiculous tips for improving you SEO. Don’t listen to these articles. Don’t “repurpose” your old posts or anything like that. Aim to write high-quality stuff, and never stoop low with your SEO tactics. You aren’t writing a corporate blog designed to sell products; you’re writing a fun gaming blog.

            With social media, it’s more that it’s just incredibly time consuming. Churning out quality social media content on top of intensive blogging is a lot of work. Whenever you start to feel overwhelmed, cut social media off first. Sure, social media is important in 2018. However, even if you’ve got a lot of people finding your blog through social media, they’re not going to stay if the blog itself hasn’t been updated in months. Your love of writing (and gaming) is why you blog!

Understand that hiatuses will be a thing.

Most of us will never, ever get to blog as our main gig. We all have school, jobs, or both to contend with. That’s why, as much as you might like to blog constantly and consistently, it’s may not always work out that way. If real life ends up getting hectic, put the blog down for a bit. No matter how fun writing is, it’s not worth damaging your school or work performance—or your personal life.

Network with other bloggers.

This is very important. Depending on how outgoing you are on the Internet, this may not happen immediately. But let me tell ya: Networking is fun. To find other people out there that are just as passionate about gaming as you is wicked cool. Right now, the only other blogger I’ve really encountered Chad Brenneman of the Blog of Gamer Past. More recently, a friend at school started working on creating her own blog, and we’ll hopefully guest post on each other’s sites. Guest posts aren’t sleazy; they’re mutually beneficial. Get out there and make some friends!

And finally, don’t burn yourself out.

This is perhaps the most important piece of advice that you can pull out of this entire article. Getting burned out is not fun—at all. When you’ve done something you love so much that you actually start disliking it, it can be really detrimental to your mood. Furthermore, blogging too much can actually wear you down physically. It’s not healthy to sit in front of a computer screen all day. Don’t let yourself get burned out. It’ll kill your blog and it’ll kill you.

Tools

1and1

1and1.com offers a lot of services, actually. They’ve got domains, a website builder, online store builder, web hosting, cloud server hosting, VPS hosting, business e-mail services, accounting software, online marketing tools, and web security services. I don’t even know what half of that stuff is, but you’ll still likely find some use for all of it.

G Suite

From Wikipedia: “Gmail, Calendar, Hangouts, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Sites, Jamboard and Vault. G Suite (formerly Google Apps for Work and Google Apps for Your Domain) is a brand of cloud computing, productivity and collaboration tools, software and products developed by Google, launched on August 28, 2006.” I didn’t bother to edit it, because I’m lazy.

SEMrush

From SEMrush’s website: “…SEMrush is an SEO tool that does your keyword research, tracks the keyword strategy used by your competition, runs an SEO audit of your blog, looks for backlinking opportunities and lots more. SEMrush is trusted by internet marketers all over the world. It is also used by a number of businesses, big and small.” Since it’s all true, I once again didn’t bother to edit. I really like using SEMrush. Too bad not all the features are free, heh-heh.

Some Words to Know

Search engine optimization (SEO)

This is essentially maximizing your total number of site visitors by getting yourself  high up on the search results of any given search engine. (But let’s get real: Google is probably the one that matters to you.) If you can get highly ranked for a certain search term (I’m on the first page of results when you search “Black Emperor arcade”), then you can get more organic traffic. What is organic traffic? I’m glad you asked.

Organic traffic

These are the visitors that come your way naturally, through search results. It’s the opposite of them finding you through any paid advertisements or links on other sites.

Bounce rate

This is the percentage of visitors who view one page and leave. If you have a lower bounce rate, you have more visitors sticking around and reading more of your articles in one session.

Conversion rate

A conversion isn’t actually always the same thing, believe it or not. Essentially, it’s the percentage of visitors to your site that are “converted” to what you desire them to do. This can be subscribing to your blog feed, buying something (you’re allowed to produce merch, too), or anything like that. Typically, as bloggers, our conversion rate is going to be the percentage of people who subscribe to our newsletter. After all, that’s keeps people coming back!

Backlinks

A backlink is a link from another website to yours. And yes, this even includes when you include your website in a comment. (I don’t mean promoting your website in people’s comment sections, obviously. Everyone hates that. I mean when you enter your e-mail address and stuff in order to comment on certain websites that don’t require accounts.) Backlinks are good more getting more traffic directed your way.

Conclusion

I hope my humble little “how-to” piece has encouraged you to start a gaming blog of your own. I figured somebody needed to write a gaming-centric piece on blogging, because gaming bloggers tend to be overlooked. Apparently it’s only acceptable to blog about food, travel, and fashion! The more you know, eh kiddos?

            Blogging gets difficult; believe me. But you know what? It’s a lot of fun, too. So get out there and get yourself on the Web. Express yourself! Let everybody know what you think about video games!

            Welp, I’m out. Keep it real, ya sweaty nerds.