Every day, our tip line gets a number of requests for link exchanges, publicity, and feedback on whether a post would be good for inclusion in the Daily Quest. We're really happy to be able to direct traffic to bloggers with good information, but sometimes we get requests that leave us baffled, uncomfortable, or both. While it's pretty easy to deal with some of these (gold-selling sites wishing to advertise here are a quick, "No thanks"), some of them come from otherwise well-meaning bloggers who want a link, but who may not get the desired results from one. Naturally this leaves us with a bit of a dilemma, and these are the things I think about while nosing around incoming links and my own list of favorite blogs:
Please don't ask us to link your blog. Ask us to link a post.
Even if we love your site and we read it all the time, we still need a reason to link you that's relevant to a subject we're writing about. Readers dislike getting recommendations like "It's a great blog!" or "You're going to love it!" Uh, why is it a great blog? Why should they love it?
Nothing speaks so loudly or effectively as a great post on a good topic. Moreover, if we're linking a post of yours, your blog's main page should be linked as well. Even if we got dumb and forgot, it should be a simple matter for readers to find your central page (and you've got a design problem on your hands if they can't).
We want to link you. The trouble is usually finding you in the first place.
Many blogs start out strong but decline because the author doesn't market their work, or doesn't already have a reputation for thoughtful commentary to build upon. And by "marketing," I don't mean that you have to hoof it all over the blogosphere telling everyone how great you are, which is the image of it that squicks people.
By marketing, I mean -- you need to create a name for yourself. Get involved with other bloggers and commenters. Post on Elitist Jerks. Join Blog Azeroth or communities like LiveJournal's worldofwarcraft and wow_ladies. Keep up with the Twisted Nether podcast. Read WoW blogs relevant to your interests, and establish a reputation as a commenter (this part is more important than you might think). If you just start a site in the middle of nowhere, don't get involved in any blogging communities, and don't comment anywhere, then we don't have a way to find you outside of getting lucky with a Google hit.
And, if all else fails -- just send us a link. Adam and Alex go through hundreds of blog posts in an average week looking for Daily Quest material. We're always on the lookout for great but underappreciated bloggers. Help us help you!
Give readers a good reason to spend time on your site.
Many of our requests come from people who have recently started a WoW blog and want some traffic. While we're keen to help new bloggers, our readers generally don't find it useful to be linked to a blog with only one or two posts. Moreover, it's not in your best interest to spend time and effort publicizing a site that doesn't have a lot of content yet. Odds are good that any link we give you will result in "boomerang users," who click over, skim through the linked post, and then leave because there's not much else to attract their attention.
If your goal is to build more permanent traffic from incoming links, you're better off devoting your energy toward writing fun, useful, and observant posts. We can help get readers to your site in the first place, but you're unlikely to see a permanent bump in traffic unless you've got content that will keep them coming back. And even then, building site traffic is usually a slow process. It is very rare for most bloggers to see a giant, permanent increase in traffic after being linked from a large site - and the ones who manage it are nearly always older sites with lots of valuable content already there.
Be prepared for mean comments.
People are brave in cyberspace -- but then, if you read the official forums and see the number of level-1 alts trash-talking, you knew this already. Welcome to the Greater Internet F***wad Theory.
If you're really uncomfortable with someone showing up and flaming you, our advice is to blog on a platform like LiveJournal that allows you to keep posts private or semi-private. Alternatively -- as harsh as I'm afraid this is going to sound -- you're better off not blogging. Sooner or later a jerk is going to show up, and you need to learn how to deal with this on both an administrative and emotional level.
The problem with locking posts in this manner is that it's invariably a traffic-killer. Whether you're willing to sacrifice most of your potential readers for the sake of avoiding an occasional jerk is a question you need to answer for yourself -- but we don't think trolls merit that kind of consideration. Moreover, you're depriving yourself of the opportunity to assemble a great list of troll quotes. Among mine are "(You are) beyond terrible," "keyboard-thumping howler monkey," and "can't be trusted with animals, plants, or reasonably intelligent paramecia."
OK, I may have doctored that last one a little bit, but it looks great on a résumé.
Sometimes commenters hate you for completely irrational reasons. Don't drive yourself nuts trying to please people who get their jollies from not being pleased.
Maybe they had a bad day. Maybe you hit a pet peeve. Maybe their reading comprehension is so amazingly bad that you're sitting at your computer wondering how they could possibly have extrapolated your plans for world conquest from the statement, "I like pie." Maybe they're just a jackass and they do this to everyone (i.e., troll).
All valid questions. The answer to each is, "Who cares?"
One of the best bits of advice I got when i started here came from Dan O'Halloran, who told me never to worry about trolls because reasonable commenters would simply mod them down (and, for the record, this has never failed to occur). You're not writing for trolls, or the commenter having a bad day, or the person whose ego you just unwittingly punctured. You're writing for the silent majority, and they're a much more reasonable bunch. Most people who visit your blog will never leave a comment (good or bad), never email you, and never make themselves known, but they are your real audience. Don't alienate your sane readers with behavior meant to antagonize a troll.
Sometimes commenters hate you for completely rational reasons.
"Hate" is too strong a word for it, but you're going to screw up, and you're going to get called on it. This might be unpleasant, but the alternative is getting something wrong without anyone realizing it. That's way worse.
A polite person who takes the time to drop a comment correcting a mistake isn't out to make you look bad, and you shouldn't take it as such; they're your buddy. One of the best things about blogging is the speed with which a mistake can be acknowledged and corrected. If you screw up -- and you will -- just admit it, fix the mistake, and move on. The silent majority knows that people do boneheaded things on occasion, and that a blogger with a history of quality information and effort will keep working to provide that content. You don't lose the farm just because you futzed up.
Note that this only applies to verifiable data (e.g. changes Blizzard makes to spell coefficients, or theoretical DPS gain from a tier bonus, etc.). If it's something a little more subjective, it's almost in your best interests if people disagree with you no matter how well-reasoned your argument was. Commenters don't have to reach any sort of consensus after reading your work. If they divide up and argue the merits of what you've written, then -- as Stephen King once observed -- the tie goes to the writer.
Certain topics are much more likely to get you hits than others.
Good: leveling guides, gear posts, talent choices, how to gem a tier set, why one glyph is better than another, or information on class changes.
In contrast to what most people seem to believe about the online WoW community, basic information on how to play a class is mega-hit territory. Why? Because even if a genius player rerolls or tries leveling an alt, they're squarely back in Newbie Territory on a different class, and they'll go looking for good, solid information.
Bad: Why your guild sucks, why your raid leader sucks, why your server sucks, why your life sucks.
If you've been writing long enough that people get curious about who you are as a person, then stuff like this isn't actually going to send them elsewhere; it's a sort of privilege conferred on bloggers who have already earned an audience. However, if you fill your blog with nothing but this sort of ranting, your traffic's going to go into the toilet and stay there.
The one unshakeable rule I've learned about blogging in general is this: people hate whining. The only people who want to read an angry, expletive-laden rant about how badly the developers are botching your class are people who are just as emotionally affected by patch notes as you are. Everyone else thinks you're a tool.