I've been writing this blog for a fair while now, and I'd like to offer some thoughts and observations for new bloggers or interested readers.
The first decision you need to make is to self-host, or use a hosting provider such as Blogger. The advantage of self-hosting is that you can control everything, down to the exact detail. The disadvantage of self-hosting is that you have to control everything. Self-hosting is also a bit more expensive money-wise, but web space is not very expensive these days. The time costs in setting up everything are a more important consideration.
Obviously, I've opted for using a hosting provider. I picked a template at the beginning and have not really changed it. Maybe the site is not the best looking in the world, or the flashiest, but it's clean and does what I want with a minimum of effort on my part. I don't have to worry about databases, or hand-tuning HTML or CSS or similar silliness.
But there are drawbacks. For example, Blogger doesn't really do trackbacks very well. I've seen other sites have neat little tricks like adding the the person's last blog post to a comment. Or allow you to edit your comment for a few minutes after posting. If you self-host, you can do pretty much anything you can imagine, but it can take a fair bit of work.
If you can live within the confines of a hosted blog, I recommend using a service like Blogger. It's quick and easy, and allows you spend less time working on your website, and more time on writing content. If you ever have a choice between getting a new website feature to work, or writing another post, I recommend writing the post. Content is what will make your site. New, flashy features are nice, but you really have to beware of neglecting your content to work on your presentation.
The second decision you need to make is focus. For example, this is a World of Warcraft Paladin blog. The name in particular, Blessing of Kings, identifies the focus squarely.
Focus is a double-edged sword. On one hand, having direction makes it a lot easier in the early days. It gives you something specific to write about, making it easier to generate ideas for posts, making it more likely you will continue writing. You belong to the community that shares your focus, and that often makes it easier to get inspiration, links and traffic.
On the other hand, sometimes your interests will wander away from the focus. A more generic name and focus allows you to write about anything without being confined. Sometimes I wonder if I am still playing my paladin because of this blog. If I wasn't writing this, would I have switched to another class, or even another game? If I had chosen a different name, would that have made it easier to switch?
I think having a focus is very useful, especially in the early days. It helps establish your identity. But that identity can and will be confining, so consider how you present your focus.
The single biggest thing you can do to improve your blog is to write more. A steady stream of new content is the best way to get more visitors. Ideally, you should aim for one post a day. Of course, that's an ideal. I almost never make that, and I think I average something like one post every two or three days. But I can see the difference in traffic for months where I had a steady schedule of posts versus months with more erratic schedules.
Other than that, my advice is to write what you want to write about. Don't write something thinking that it is what your audience wants to see. If you don't like role-playing, don't write about role-playing. If you don't theorycraft, don't force yourself to write posts with lots of numbers. Write for yourself, and the audience will come in time.
Finally, the one recommendation I will make regarding content is not to use expletives or put up anything that is Not Safe For Work. The vast majority of readers will read your site from work during the hours of 9-5, Monday to Friday. While I weep for the lost productivity of our economy, you should generally avoid posting anything that would cause your site to be blocked by workplace firewalls, as that will prevent most people from reading your site.
Upcoming in a later post
Getting Traffic, Commenting, Advertising, and anything else I can think of.
See Part II.