The Support Role: there when you need it

New year, new blog. January is a month of change here on WordPress. New bloggers decide it’s time to start a site and are busy thinking about what their first post should be, while those who have been around for a while consider redesigns and a possible change in direction.

Whether you’ve just started your blogging journey or have a few years’ experience under your belt, both situations can feel a little daunting. It can be more work than you realise and come with a steeper learning curve than expected. For new writers, there may be additional pressure from feeling as though you’re entering into a community where everybody already knows each other; and for established bloggers, there’s the battle to keep things fresh and avoid the dreaded writers’ block.

Luke from Hundstrasse and I were chatting about these things late last year after we got into a conversation about how difficult it can be to get good blogging advice. The internet searches I’d run in the past pulled back plenty of responses to my questions – but seemed to be written by ‘SEO experts’ or gurus who could show you how to make money from your site. Neither were the kind of people we wanted to take guidance from. Where were the answers from people who were actually blogging – and not for profit, but for enjoyment?

The Support Role, Discord, logo, icon, cross, healing, circle

A month or so later and we decided to create The Support Role, a new Discord server where bloggers can come together to learn from each other. We want it to be a place where new bloggers could be introduced to other members of the community and those who have been here a while could possibly make new blogging friends. But not only that: we’re working on making it a group where questions can be asked, advice sought and opinions requested, and real answers are received from peers who know where you’re coming from.

The server has only been active since the beginning of the year and so is still in its starting phase, but already we’ve had some very useful discussions. We’ve also added dedicated channels for streaming, video and podcasting advice for anyone who wants to dip their toes into other areas of content creation. There’s a place to share collaboration ideas if you’re looking for people who would be interested in getting involved in a joint-project, and somewhere for video game press releases if we come across anything interesting.

It may seem strange that I decided to go in this direction with Luke after writing in October 2018 about finding the social aspect of blogging pretty difficult. Although I’m usually fine and can join in if I’m in a chat with a handful of friends, the anxiety starts to creep in when it gets to more than five people or so. But I said in my resolutions post that I wanted to more to get bloggers taking and share our experience, and the server – along with the weekly #BloggerTalk events – feel like a great place to start.

This invitation to is open to everyone so please do stop by and make yourself at home. There are channels for chatting if you feel like talking about the games you’re playing at the moment or sharing your pet photographs; but if you’re more the quiet type, then the group is there wherever you need to ask a blogging question or get some advice. Use it how you see fit and however it’s going to help you make the most of your site.

Thanks so much to Luke from Hundstrasse for being my partner-in-crime and getting the group off the ground. We look forward to seeing you over on The Support Role!

We’re taking part in GameBlast20 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
(*Not guaranteed.)


#BloggerTalk: a weekly community event

One of the most rewarding aspects of blogging is the community. I’ve met some very talented people here and am grateful to now call a number of them friends in real life. As I’ve written before, the secret to blogging success is getting involved – who knows who you’ll meet?

Whenever I have questions or need advice, I’m thankful I can turn to my blogging buddies and pick their brains. But what if you’re just starting out on your WordPress journey and haven’t yet built up that support network? It can be difficult to know where to turn to for unbiased opinions on your site design or guidance about something you’re writing. And what do you do if you’re looking for real answers from people who know what they’re talking about – rather than just the generic recommendations provided by a Google search?

When I started thinking about this late last year, I realised there’s no simple way for us to get good advice about our hobby. You could reach out to other bloggers via email but might not feel comfortable being so direct, and you may not even know who to contact. Whether you’ve been blogging for years or have just taken your first steps, we’ve got a wealth of knowledge and experience here within the community; so how can we share that and learn from each other even more?

#BloggerTalk

As mentioned in my resolutions post yesterday, something new I’d like to try for 2020 is #BloggerTalk. This is a weekly event that will take place over on Twitter between 21:00 and 22:00 GMT every Thursday. There’ll be a different blogging theme each month with a question connected to it both tweeted and posted here at Later Levels each week, and everyone is invited to share their thoughts. This event isn’t strictly for gaming bloggers: everybody is welcome to join in, regardless of what their blog is about.

January’s theme is ‘looking forward’ and the first #BloggerTalk question will be announced at 21:00 GMT this evening. Feel free to share your answers in the post comments or in a response published on your own blog, but head to Twitter if you can. The more people involved in the discussion, the more we’ll learn from each other, and hopefully these weekly events will be a safe space for us to talk, hear other writers’ thoughts and even make some new blogging friends.

If you’re a long-time blogger, perhaps you’d be willing to share some of your experience and help guide those who are new. And if you’ve just joined the community, welcome – you’re part of one of the best and most supportive groups out there. I look forward to seeing you all tonight for the first #BloggerTalk.

Save point: goals for 2020

In Monday’s post, I took a look back at 2019 and how Later Levels had done during its third year. I was nervous when I first came up with the idea of publishing an annual blog review but then realised: sharing the information would help me to grow as a blogger, and could possibly be of some use to those around me too.

It’s now time to look ahead to the coming 12 months. Resolutions and goals have never been something I’ve formally considered for the blog in the past, because it’s always been a hobby rather than a career avenue and therefore not something I have to take entirely seriously. But it seems silly not to put the data to good use after publishing an end-of-year review; and there are definitely some trends I should possibly be taking more notice of. So let’s see what I’ve got planned for Later Levels during 2020…

Start: #BloggerTalk

#BloggerTalkAfter several bloggers got in touch this year, I realised there’s no simple way for us to get advice about our hobby. Whether you’ve been blogging for years or have just taken your first steps, we’ve got a wealth of knowledge and experience here within the community; so how can we share that and learn from each other even more? Something I’m going to try in this year is #BloggerTalk, an event which will take place on Twitter at 21:00 every Thursday. There’ll be a post about this tomorrow so look out for details very soon.

Do more: collaborations

As mentioned in Monday’s annual review, seven out of the top-ten posts published on Later Levels in 2019 were the result of collaborations. I think there’s now more interactivity in the community than I’ve ever witnessed before and it’s wonderful to see. This year I’d like to participate in a joint-project each month to continue the trend – but this goal comes with a clause and I’ll explain more about that below. I’m looking for bloggers who also stream for a collaboration post in January, so please get in touch if that’s you.

Continue: blog parties

Fallout Shelter, video game, box artIt’s no surprise that the most popular posts during 2019 were the blog parties. They’ll be continuing in 2020 (dates announced here) but I’m going to start doing something a little differently. The parties are a great way of being introduced to bloggers you might not know yet and seeing just how much support there is within the community, and that’s of huge benefit to writers just starting out. I’ve therefore got a couple of ideas to try and raise awareness of the events among newer bloggers to make sure they feel welcome.

Do less: collaborations

Hang on a moment: didn’t I say above I wanted to do more collaborations? I did, but I’ve also released that sometimes I take on more than I realistically have time for because I don’t want to let anybody down. It leaves me feeling burnt-out and guilty I wasn’t able to focus on the project, so this needs to change during 2020. The collaborations I’d like to work on will be smaller – not necessarily with fewer people involved, but with less time commitment required. Hopefully this will also make them more accessible to other bloggers too.

Stop: worrying about social media

social media, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, icons, screenBlogging is all about conversation so it’s obvious that being active on social media can only be a good thing. I’ve tried to do this more over the past year but it’s just not for me: I don’t always have the time and as I’ve written before, it leaves me feeling anxious. That’s why I’m going to stop worrying about it in 2020. Sure, I’ve got the #BloggerTalk events lined up, but I’m not going to put any pressure on myself. Blogging is meant to be fun so I’m going to concentrate on the aspects I find enjoyable – and make the most of them.

Hopefully I’ll look back on today’s post this time next year and feel a sense of accomplishment at having completed at least some of these goals. Saying that though, it’s important to remember that blogging should be fun and that has always been the ultimate aim for me. As long as I can truly say I’ve enjoyed myself over the past 12 months, then I’ll consider every day to have been a success blog-wise; and that’s just the incentive I need to keep moving forward and carry on writing here at Later Levels.

So what have you got planned for 2020? Whatever your goals, I hope they’re within reach and bring you much happiness once you reach them!

Save point: a review of 2019

Tomorrow is the final day of 2019. It’s a time for taking stock, looking back over our achievements and being proud of our efforts. It’s also the perfect opportunity to consider where we want to go in the future and decide on a new direction for the next decade.

Although I’ve vaguely thought about resolutions and goals for the blog at the start of each year, it’s not something I’ve ever really taken that seriously; and I was nervous when I first came up with the idea of publishing an end-of-year review. But then I realised: sharing this information wouldn’t only help me grow as a blogger, it might be useful to others out there too. So let this be the start of a new tradition. Read on to find out how Later Levels did in 2019 and consider how this could potentially shape the site in 2020.

An overview of 2019
Traffic:

  • Views:   21,696
  • Visitors:   11,032
  • Likes:   4,867
  • Comments:   3,347
  • Best day:   23 March 2019
  • Posts:

  • Total published:   200 posts
  • Most popular:   Gamers blog party: summer 2019 invitation
  • Most liked:   Gamers blog party: summer 2019 invitation
  • Most discussed:   Gamers blog party: summer 2019 invitation
  • My favourite:   Not getting it: video games, sex and bad research
  • Gaming:

  • Played:   56 games
  • Completed:   44 games
  • Reviewed:   18 games
  • Kickstarted:   6 projects
  • My favourite of 2019:   Eastshade
  • Achievements:

  • Raised £612.14 for SpecialEffect as part of GameBlast19
  • Awarded ‘Best Blogger’ in the Normal Happenings’ Blog Awards 2019
  • Awarded ‘Highly Commended’ in the UK Blog Awards 2019
  • Completed the Blaugust 2019 challenge and posted every day for a month
  • Met Chris, TriformTrinity, Dan and Quietschisto in person

  • Views, visitors, likes and comments

    While 2019 saw a higher number of views on average per month (1,831) compared to both 2017 and 2018, the trend overall is decreasing. The decline is most noticeable from August onward and this correlates to a real-life event: I started a career change in the summer and have had less time for blogging as a result. I’ve been unable to interact with other blogs as much as I’ve done in previous years so this could go some way towards explaining the drop.

    Conversely though, the number of unique visitors, likes and comments is actually increasing. So Later Levels may not be getting as many views as it once was but those people who do visit are more willing to interact and get involved in discussion, which is positive. For 2019 we’ve seen an average of 31 readers, 14 likes and nine comments each day – and although these numbers may be small, I think they’re pretty good for three posts a week.

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    Best days and times

    Wednesday mornings have been the most popular times for Later Levels visits in past years, so I was a little surprised to see that change to 06:00 on Mondays for 2019. However, I think I know the cause: blog parties. These have been taking place on Mondays, and a record number of posts and comments were shared at the summer event. This may have skewed the statistics somewhat and so the figures may not be truly reflective.

    So why was Saturday, 23 March 2019 the most popular date? No posts were published on this day so it’s strange; and although there were a few big blogging events for the site that month, they all occurred well before or after this date. The best I can come up looking at the WordPress statistics is that a particular visitor from the UK checked out an awful lot of posts from that day – although I’m unable to say who they were and what they were looking for.

    Popular posts

    It’s no surprise that the blog party posts performed the most successfully during 2019. I’ve been running these events since March 2017 and they’ve remained popular throughout the past three years, and it’s great to see new bloggers participating in each one. The parties are currently taking place in March, June, September and December, which explains the spikes that appear in the graphs shown in the first section above.

    It’s pleasing to see that seven out of the top ten posts for this year are the result of collaborations. I do wonder however what the future for such projects holds; take a look at this post over on Adventure Rules which excellently sums up the situation. As for the search terms, perhaps I should consider writing more articles about tattoos because related phrases appeared more than once. There are no rude terms to share this year but maybe we’ll get lucky in 2020.

    Friends and commenters

    The WordPress statistics show an average of 17 comments and 24 likes were left for each post published during 2019. The lovely people mentioned in the tweet opposite deserve a round of applause: between them they left a total of 179 comments so we clearly had a lot to talk about. It’s awesome that I’ve had the chance to meet one of them in real life this year – Quietschisto from RNG – and it has been a pleasure working with Gao Li on the GIFs for our GameBlast20 streams.

    As well as getting to know more people within the community, perhaps the length of posts also has something to do with the increase in the number of comments left this year. The average article length is now 827 words compared to around 30 less in 2017 – that’s almost half a paragraph. Perhaps it’s a sign of having more to discuss; or maybe it’s that I’ve grown more comfortable in my writing skin over the past couple of years.

    So there you have it: a round-up of Later Levels’ performance over the last 12 months. But what does this mean for 2020? Come back on Wednesday for a post sharing my blogging goals for the coming year and in the meantime, have a very happy New Year’s Eve tomorrow.   🎉

    Gamers blog party: winter 2019 invitation

    Christmas is less than two weeks away, anticipation is in the air and everyone is getting in the party mood. So put on your best frock and dancing shoes, grab your laptop and join in with the latest blog party here at Later Levels – there’s no better way to celebrate this time of year.

    The rules are simple:

    🎉   Arrive at the party: don’t be shy and stand in the corner – say hello and introduce yourself in the comments below! Give an introduction to your blog to welcome new readers and let us know what you’re all about.

    🎉   Present your gift: think about the posts you’ve written during the past three months and choose your favourite or one which was fun to write. Leave a link to it in your comment and explain why you’ve picked it.

    🎉   Show your festive spirit: a blog party is nothing without good music and video games. Tell us which favourite festive tune you’ve brought with you, and the video game you’ll be playing this holiday season.

    🎉   Be sociable: grab yourself a drink, put on a party hat and get to know your fellow guests! Check back on the comments throughout the day to discover excellent sites and meet new bloggers.

    🎉   Party all day: the comments below will be open for 24-hours until 06:00 GMT on Tuesday, 17 December 2019 so you’ve got plenty of time to meet and greet. Plus your posts will be shared on the Later Levels’ social media channels!

    These blog party events are my way of giving something back to the amazing WordPress community and showing my appreciation for all of your support. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some lovely people and talented writers over the past three years; here’s a little thank you and a way of finding some awesome blogs you may not have come across already.

    We beat the record number of posts shared in a single event at this summer’s blog party, hitting 36 articles and 348 comments. Can we beat it yet again? Have fun – and excuse me while I top up everyone’s drinks and turn the music up louder!

    Secret Blogging Santa: a community event

    Christmas will be here in just a few short weeks. It’s not only a great time of year for wrapping up warm, staying indoors, grabbing a tin of Quality Street and playing video games – it’s perfect for participating in a cosy community collaboration to get you in the festive mood.

    Ellen from Livid Lightning is your Secret Blogging Santa and I’m her little helper elf, and we’ve got just what you need to get your bells jingling. Sign up for this event and you’ll be randomly assigned another blogger to whom you’ll have to ‘gift’ an item from a video game. This needs to be done in the form of a blog post explaining why you chose that object and what makes their site special – and it means someone in the community will be doing the same for you, so we can all share our blogging love and feel fuzzy inside.

    Fancy joining in? Then here’s a quick overview of the guidelines:

  • Read the full details and get in touch with Ellen by Friday, 29 November 2019 using the contacts provided
  • Get ready to receive your assignment on Sunday, 01 December 2019
  • Be sure not to spoil the surprise by revealing the name to anyone!
  • Write a blog post that includes a bio about your recipient and links to some of their posts you enjoyed reading
  • Give everyone a description of your fictional gift and the reasons you chose it for them
  • Schedule your post to be published at any time on Wednesday, 25 December 2019 and look out for your own gift too
  • Check out the full gift list with links to each blog post on the Livid Lightning site in the new year

  • The Secret of Monkey Island, video game, Guybrush, lookout, pirate, Christmas, Santa

    Worried about signing up and then not being able to participate due to other festive commitments? Fear not, friends: each sign-up comes with our exclusive Livid Lightning Gift Insurance Coverage at no extra cost! If you’re unable to complete your blog post on time, simply contact Santa Ellen as soon as possible and your policy will kick in. With a little help from her elves, she’ll make sure Christmas happens by posting a gift for your assignment in your place so nobody has to miss out.

    The aim of this community collaboration is to lift us all and promote others blogs this Christmas. And who knows: you may even meet a new blogging buddy in the process. Let Ellen know if you’d like to join us for festive frolics next month – no need to write to the North Pole, just send her a message. We look forward to hearing from you!