Thursday 28 June 2018

Top 10 Tips for writing a Blog about Wargaming

There are tons of web pages out there with advice on how to write a blog, and most of them will be pretty much useless to your average wargamer thinking of setting up a new blog. A lot of the advice seems to be tailored to blogs linked to businesses or products and their tips are invariably all about driving up pageviews and generating income. Personally making money is not why I write a blog and over the years I have repeatedly toyed with the idea of sharing some of my top tips for writing a non-profit blog about wargaming.

I have no doubt my fellow wargaming bloggers will have different ideas and suggestions for newbies to the hobby thinking of writing a blog and all are welcome in the comments below. But after 9½ years and nearly 2.5 million pageviews I think I can tentatively say I know a little about writing a wargaming blog.

Pick a platform and a good title 
Here I am on my first tip and I'm already cheating by splitting it into two! So you got up this morning and thought to yourself 'I want to write a blog about my hobby'. Brilliant! But how do you do it and what will it be called? These are important questions that need some serious thought before you start typing furiously and sharing your enthusiasm with the world. A period of research and reflection is needed before you get going because these fundamental decisions will stick with you and your blog, hopefully for many years to come.

There are several ways to create a blog with platforms such as Blogger, Wordpress and Tumbler to name just a few. I've only used Blogger so I can't give an opinion on the others but I guess a lot will come down to which blogs you already enjoy reading and who hosts them. Blogger seems to be a common choice amongst wargamers as does Wordpress but I would definitely suggest a period of careful consideration before make the choice because although it may be possible to transfer your old blog from one platform to another you may have to spend considerable time reformatting old posts once the transfer has happened.

Once you have picked a platform the next and possibly the most important decision needs to be made; what are you going to call your shiny new blog? Whatever you choose I suggest it needs to be something catchy, original and something that you are not going to regret in a few months time! It is possible to rename blogs but that could leave you with a title and a URL that don't match. Personally I think the best Blog names are short, memorable and unique in order to stand out from the crowd. Pretty much the opposite of what I did when I started mine! 

Decide on a publishing schedule 
This may seem like an unimportant bit of advice but the rate at which you publish can make or break a blog (or a blogger). Does your target audience want to read every minutiae of your day to day gaming or would it be better to produce one better quality post per week? I would suggest that daily posts need to be shorter, punchier and preferably accompanied by a photo. A word of warning, daily posting may seem like a good idea when you are flushed with enthusiasm or when you have plenty of time on your hands but eventually this relentless schedule can become a drag on productivity and even spell the end of an otherwise great blog. For a long period I posted daily and it became harder and harder to keep up the pace. I almost gave it all up (several times) until I relaxed my posting schedule to fit around my life. Maybe its worth asking yourself would daily posts be better suited to another format such as Facebook?

For those that want to post less frequently I would suggest that the longer the period between posts the longer and more detailed the posts should be. Weekly or even bi-weekly posts can be much more detailed, in-depth encouraging discussion and feedback from readers. I would also suggest that in such a 'visual' hobby lots of photo's and graphics are almost a requirement but I'll come back to this point later.

Write for yourself AND your audience.
Maybe a tad controversial but I think this goes to the heart of blog longevity and why so many seem to have a very brief lifespan. When writing a blog becomes a chore the question has to be asked, why are you doing it? This links in some way to my previous tip about setting a realistic publishing schedule but really this point is one about motivation, not just time management. What is it that has driven you to the keyboard in the first place? In effect (and to nick a horrible concept from business) what is your blogs mission statement?

Most blog formats have a little section on one side about the author of the site. It’s usually just a few sentences to say something along the lines of "Hi, I'm Joe Bloggs and these are the games I play". Some profile pieces are much more detailed, others are more anonymous (and that’s fine) but often they don't say anything at all about the blog itself. These few sentences are not just your opportunity to say who you are but also to outline what your blog is about.  Now this can be as detailed or as broad as you like but I think it’s important to lay down the principles and goals of the blog.

As a writer a clear guideline of what you want to achieve really helps you keep on target. It can help you decide if that big article you want to write really belongs in this blog or on some other platform. Is a wargaming blog a suitable place for your views on fishing for instance? If you’ve stated that your blog is about wargaming and fishing then that’s fine, but if you haven’t I’d argue it belongs somewhere else. Similarly why alienate your audience by presenting them with content they didn’t expect and didn’t sign up for when they started following your site.

Another advantage of laying down a clear statement of your blogs intentions is that it helps you to find similar content elsewhere on the interweb from which you can draw inspiration and ideas. Your audience will be drawn to your blog in part by the mission statement you have written and in turn you will be able to see what they are interested in and what they follow. If you’re writing a blog called An Anglers Guide to Wargaming then it’s pretty likely that your readers will have a similarly niche interest and either write something like this themselves or follow other blogs with the same obsession. This can be a rich source of inspiration and ideas enabling you to write articles tailored not only to your own interests but also that of your audience.

Decide your Style
Once you have decided what your content will be you need to think about how you are going to present this. The most popular blogs tend to have a distinct theme or a style that clearly identifies and represents them. They stand out from the crowd because they have a clearly defined look that identifies them instantly. If your site is too generic it won't stand out and grab the attention of new visitors that land on your site through a web search or link. Web developers have something called the 5-second test which is based on average first time 'hit' statistics. This states that first time visitors coming to your site via a web-search will stay on the landing page for an average of just 5 seconds before moving on. So you need to grab their attention very quickly if you want to grow your audience.

Theme can also include such aesthetic questions as what colour will your background be? What font are you going to set as your default? What widgets or sidebars do you want to see? or indeed do you want a theme such as the one I use where the widgets are tucked away in a pop-out sidebar? Do you want a traditional format with one post showing after another or would you prefer a 'Magazine style' where multiple posts are visible to the reader when they open your site? The options are seemingly endless but I think its quite important to give this some thought when you are choosing which platform to host your blog. From my experience with Blogger, a wide variety of preset options are relatively easy to access and customization is also available. I guess the same will be true with other blog platforms.

Theme can also include important decisions such as what sort of content you will allow. You may be relaxed about the use of profanities or NSFW images but of course that may limit who can see your blog, especially if your target audience is likely to be younger members of our community (I'm thinking about the Games Workshop crowd, although that may be a bit of a generalisation). Another consideration is how you plan on sharing your Blog Feed (more on this later in Get Social!). If you plan on letting your blog be seen on the likes of Facebook, Twitter or G+ the you could fall foul of their policies if you allow NSFW content. You may be fine with this, but its something to think about.

Work on more than one post at a time
I think this is quite an important tip, especially if you have an 'unpredictable' life where you cannot always guarantee time to sit down and write. It's a good way to organise ideas and develop articles into better finished products before posting. I've always got four or five draft posts at various stages of completion on the go at any one time. I augment this 'multiple drafts' policy by also always carrying a small notebook and pencil with me. I suppose you could use a phone app like Evernote or GoogleKeep but I find it simpler to scribble down ideas in a real notepad (pen and paper doesn't require battery power or a wi-fi connection!)

When I start working on a project or a particular model I immediately begin creating the post that will announce it when finished. It may take weeks to finish something but in the meantime you will be crafting and refining a great post so that when you are ready to publish most of the hard work has already been done.

One of the other benefits of working on multiple posts is that you always have something up your sleeve for those weeks when you otherwise struggle to have anything to write about! I don't know a single wargamer that hasn't had a lean patch for games or painting at one time or another. Sometimes the work/life balance just seems to suck up spare time and before you know it a couple of weeks have gone by with no games, no painting and nothing to write about. Having a couple of posts part ready in reserve can be a life (and blog) saver. 

Be part of the community.
In short link to and read other peoples blogs. We often describe ourselves as a 'community' and its that shared collective enthusiasm for our hobby that for many people make this such a rewarding pastime. By being part of social media and wanting to write a blog you are (hopefully) acknowledging that you want to be part of this community; so embrace it and dive right in.

Meeting fellow bloggers at Salute - Always a highlight
I follow lots of blogs (450+ at last count!) and I try to comment on their posts as much as I can. There have been lots of times when this hasn't been possible (work/life etc) but its those connections that pay the best dividends. Reading and commenting as opposed to lurking will also increase feedback on your own posts.

I was going to list another tip as 'understand your audience' but really it part of this one. Always link to the blogs of your readers (if you can) so you can get a feel for what they write and like to read. There are some really great wargaming blogs out there and a newbie to the hobby and to blogging could do worse than learn from the success of others.

A picture says a thousand words.
Personally I like to see photo's in a blog. Our hobby is very visual and it seems to me to be a shame not to share pictures of newly painted miniatures or recent games or shows. In some way this ties into 'Why are you blogging'. I originally started this blog (nearly ten years ago!) as a forum for my painted miniatures and as a way to improve my brush skills. In the intervening decade the games I play have changed but I still love to include my own photo's in my posts. Anyone that has read my blog will see it liberally scattered with pictures of my painted miniatures, recent games, conventions and places I have visited.

Perhaps one of less appreciated advantages of a photo heavy blog post is that it becomes much more accessible to a wider audience. Pictures really do convey a thousand words and if you are able to use your own photo's then its hard to image any way you could stamp your personality more on your blog. A good photo can enhance a well written post and is an excellent way to 'hook' readers and encourage them to scroll further down the page (see my earlier comments about the 5-second test).

Finally photo's help to quickly define a post and what its all about. This is a benefit aimed squarely at your readers, especially if they are time starved wargamers trying to keep up to date with lots of blogs. It lets them engage quickly with those posts that most interest them when scrolling through their blog feeds. And a good supporting picture means your hand crafted post is more likely to be shared and remembered. 

Encourage Feedback
Always activate comments on your blog and actively encourage feedback from your readers. Part of the point of a Blog rather than a Website is that its an interactive format. New content becomes available regularly and then there is usually a discussion between the author and the readers. A traditional website may well have a comments page but not all sites activate comments with their articles. As a blogger I love reader comments and consider them a highlight of the whole process of maintaining a blog. Its also a useful way of letting you know your not talking to yourself!

Of course the downside of allowing reader comments is that eventually everyone gets a Troll. Someone, who with a few ill judged or spiteful word can make you feet like a bag of shit. Whatever you do, don't respond to these comments (Don't feed the Trolls!). If you're made of stern enough stuff I would also recommend leaving their posts untouched for all to see, often the positive response you receive from other commentators will outweigh the odd negative post. Trolls enjoy having their posts removed because its confirmation they hit a nerve. Let their words roll off your shoulders and ignore them until they starve.

The only exception to my 'don't delete' policy is where someone posts a malicious link or is trying to spam your site with an advert or other junk mail. Thankfully I don't get a lot of this but if you find it becoming a regular problem just activate comment moderation so you can review comments before allowing them to appear on your site. At the end of the day allowing comments can be a double edged sword and you need to be prepared for that. Inevitably some feedback will be hurtful or malicious but I think you need to look on this as a positive thing; You know you've 'made it' when you get trolled for the first time!

Get Social! 
Push links to your blog out to as wide an audience as possible. If you are going to spend time writing great content and sharing great photo's then you want as many people to see it as possible, don't you? I use a great website called which feeds links to my posts out to all my social network sites. All those back-links increase the ranking of your site in web-searches which in turn increases your audience but it also means you are making it easy for your readers to access your site in the way that most suits them.

If you search online and look at other websites 'Blog writing tips' posts they often talk about driving up customers or increasing revenue because really they are aimed at writers of commercial websites linked to a business or a product. But for most wargamers writing a non-profit hobby blog the desire to increase readership has more to do with widening the community we belong to rather than making a fast buck. You could 'monetise' your blog by signing up for adverts but unless your site becomes massively popular (or infamous!) the chances are you won't make much money from advertising and that's probably not why you started blogging in the first place.

Break the rules! 
Whatever you do, don't box yourself into a corner with a load of self imposed rules that you can't break. Whether that's an impractical posting schedule or a niche subject or even a theme, inflexibility can spell the end for a good blog. One option of course is to mothball Blog A and start Blog B if for instance your theme changes or your focus needs to shift due to external work/life issues. Its an option used by many bloggers but of course you run the risk that not all your regular readers and followers will travel with you to the new site. In this scenario you could well find yourself having to build an audience and a reputation all over again.

Phew, this has turned into a monster length post. If you manged to stay with me to the end, thanks! Please leave your comments below as usual, including any suggestions of what you would put in your top ten tips for a wargaming blog. 


  1. A couple of good ideas here. I know I tend to go through bursts of activity, and then some doldrums. Prepping multiple posts for release when I'm lagging is a really solid idea, and one that probably should have occurred to me before.

    1. Thanks, glad it's given you good for thought.

  2. All of this really true !
    Be L'Empereur could be good too ! :D :D :D
    Ok We =>

  3. Good ideas there Lee. Nice post (as usual!)

  4. A cracking post Lee and I think you are being way too modest, your stats speak for themselves. I would certainly champion most of your points. The note pad and multiple ideas is a favourite of mine. I have 46 draft posts, some of which will never see the light of day, but I just tinker away with ideas as inspiration strikes and real life allows.

    1. 46! And I thought I was being good having half a dozen drafts on the go.

    2. That does sound a bit excessive now I think about it. I have just gone and had a look and the earliest is 2013!

  5. Good stuff! I find having a backlog really important, since there will be times when my gaming schedule dries up and I'm suddenly out of material! I tend to use painting updates to fill in these instances.

    1. Its a lesson I've learned the hard way. Over the years I've had my fair share of doldrums with no games, no projects on my desk and nothing to write about. Its pretty much guaranteed to happen to every wargame blogger at some time.

  6. Sound advice...especially number 3.

    1. Its easy to stray from the path particularly if your struggling for something top write about.

  7. Good post, Big Lee. I do wander off topic a bit at times on mine, but you fairly quickly see what readers are not interested in!

    1. Yes... those zero comment, low hit posts stand out like a sore thumb!

  8. Great post Lee and sound advice for everyone.

    Cheers, Ross

    1. Thanks. I aimed this at the newbie blogger but I hoped there may be something useful in there for anyone.

  9. Great Post. Great Advice. Thank You.

  10. Great ideas Lee. My blogging has taken a slide recently due to real life but i try and manage a few good big posts mostly on tournaments attended and stuff that im working on/finished. Unfortunately I seem to suffer from lack of comments on posts even though I try and keep up on contributing on other blogs but mostly I use my blog for me and if others enjoy it thats a bonus.

    1. My hobby time varies a lot so some weeks I have loads to write about and other weeks I'm scratching my head. Having lots of posts in draft does help, especially when I know I'm going to be away on holiday and won't have access to my laptop. I'm going away in a few weeks and I'm already preparing some posts for that period.

      Comments is a strange one. Some blogs get loads other don't and logic says it ought to be down to how much you read and comment yourself, but I don't think that's always the case. You have the right approach though, write because you want to and if someone else also enjoys it that's a bonus.

  11. Cheers Lee, a well written and thoughtful piece, I enjoyed it.

  12. Great post Lee. I think we could take a lot from this for our blog!

  13. This is full of good tips and I thank you for writing it. I am new to blogging so I found it helpful when thinking about longevity. My first time on your blog so I’m having a nice look around. There is so much to go through. 😀

    1. Glad you found it useful. These are my tips but I'm sure other bloggers will have other ideas. Good luck with your own blog, long may it thrive!


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