So you’ve been reading blogs for a while, and you want to know how to start a blog. It’s really easy, it pays off long term in your career, and it’s a great way to meet awesome people. I’m going to tell you all the things I wish somebody would have told me way back when I got started blogging in 2002.
Updated 2016/09/05 with my latest favorite plugins. I’ve been updating this whole post over the years – I try to keep it pretty relevant since new blogs pop up all the time.
It’s pretty big, so here’s a table of contents:
- Decide why you’re starting a blog
- Why you gotta have your own domain name
- How to pick your domain name (hint: don’t)
- Getting a web host for WordPress
- Quick WordPress tweaks for best practices setup
- Choosing a visual theme
- Create your core pages: about, contact
- Blogging: what to write and how to write it
- Advanced: my favorite free WordPress plugins and tips
Decide Why You’re Starting a Blog
People decide to get into blogging for different reasons. Understanding exactly why you’re doing it will help you determine what kind of blog you need to write and how you need to set it up:
- Make a Little Money Immediately: if you want to be paid by the word right now, without hassling with finding an audience, look at the kind of posts MSSQLTips.com runs, and then register to write for them. They’ll pay you by the article right from the start, and you can make over $100 per tip. It will be a long, long, long time before your own blog will be paying you anywhere near that much money. The drawback: you don’t really own your material here, so you can’t use it to build your own following.
- Build Up Name Recognition: If you want to get a lot of eyeballs quickly, sign up for a blog author account at an established site like SQLBlog or SQLServerCentral. They won’t pay you to blog, but because those sites already have huge readership numbers, they’ll get you the most name recognition in the least amount of time. Starting your own blog is going to mean toiling unappreciated for months or years before you hit the “big time” – or whatever that means for blogging. However, you don’t really own your place on the Internet here either.
- Blogging for Career Success: If you want to make a personal investment of your time in order to gain long-term career traction, then you need to write your own blog under your own domain name. It’s not going to pay off for a while – in fact, it’s going to cost you around $150 per year, and it’s going to suck up some of your time.
You don’t have to pick just one of those reasons & methods – you can write both for yourself and for other sites. (That’s the approach I took when I got started.) However, that’s MORE work, not less work. I highly recommend starting with your own personal blog under your own control, though, to build your own brand and benefit your career.
If you’re going to blog to make money or gain name recognition quickly – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that – then you can stop reading here. The hosted blog site will handle the plumbing for you.
The downside is that you don’t really own that. You can have a falling out with somebody, you can get pissed off, you can get pissed on, or the site might get bought by somebody that decides to festoon ads all over your content. If you decide to publish a book later, and you include snips of your blog entries in the book, you won’t have to worry about content ownership. Perhaps the worst problem, though, is that when a company wants to associate their name with your good content, they won’t be paying you – they’ll be paying your blog host. In my personal case, I was approached by a company (Quest Software) who wanted to hire me as an evangelist. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have gotten that opportunity if I hadn’t been running my own blog with a large following, but on the flip side, Aaron Bertrand got hired as an evangelist for SQL Sentry even though he blogged at SQLblog.com.
So if you’re doing this for long-term career success, then listen up and repeat after me: “I am blogging for my long-term career success.” This drives the rest of the decisions you’re going to make. You’ll be tempted to take shortcuts along the way, and they’re not going to work.
Why You Gotta Have Your Own Domain Name
When you decide to start off on your own, it’s really tempting to use a blogging service like WordPress.com or Medium. These sites have all the plumbing already set up for you, and they take care of all the tricky parts about web hosting. On the other hand, you end up with a blog domain name that looks like this:
The problem with that name is that you never really own it. The provider can change how your blog looks, change how it works, or just plain go out of business. A company that seems huge today may be nearly gone tomorrow, and it’s already happened in the blogging business – think GeoCities and Tripod. When you get fed up and want to change blogging providers, your web site name will change to:
You’ll start over from scratch in the search engine rankings, people will have to move their bookmarks, and you’ll lose a lot of what you’ve worked for. If you’re going to take the hosted service route, just save yourself a lot of heartache and go right back to the first step where we talked about writing for a SQL Server blog community site like MSSQLTips or SQLblog.
Getting your own domain name costs about $10/year and just a tiny amount of work, but it is totally worth it. I use GoDaddy.com for my registration, and I use Namedroppers to help pick domain names. Give Namedroppers a list of key words that you might want in the domain name, and it’ll mix and match to show which ones are taken and which are available.
It can be intimidating trying to pick a web site name – there’s so many choices! – but I recommend that you….
How to Pick Your Domain Name (Hint: Don’t)
When I first started my site in the 1990s, I had WickedLife.com. At the time, I was into the goth thing (I know, I know) and I thought it was the coolest domain. It was catchy, people liked it, and I had a little following going, but times changed and I stopped being wicked. I realized that wasn’t really the image I wanted to project, and not everybody was going to think it was cute, so I switched to BrentOzar.com.
Back then, I wasn’t blogging about SQL Server – I was blogging about systems administration. Then I got a couple of red-eared slider turtles, and I started writing about those because I couldn’t find any good information on the web about them. I got most of my hits from people searching for how to set up their aquariums, what to feed their turtles, or how to take care of them. I also wrote about a server monitoring program called ServersAlive, and I wrote ASP templates for other sysadmins to track their database servers. Then, over more time, the site’s focus shifted to SQL Server, and here we are today – a lil’ consulting company.
The beauty of using your real name as your domain name is that the site always reflects YOU – your interests, your personal focus, and your career. You don’t have to worry about rebranding some blog, worrying about whether people will find the new one, getting your readers to read a different blog, yadda yadda yadda.
Right now, you might be really deeply excited about SQL Server or .NET, and you might want to pick up a cute, funny domain name like SQLServerTriggerMaster.com. What happens five or ten years later when you’ve started working with Oracle or MySQL, or when Microsoft changes the product name?
This recommendation isn’t a hard and fast guideline. An online persona like SQLAuthority or SQLonIce works for some guys too. Other guys start up a different blog for each of their technology focuses. Whichever approach you take, though, don’t just include technology without personality.
Getting a Web Host for WordPress
It’s free, it’s open source, and it’s THE blogging software out there. Last time I looked, it powered over half of the web sites in the entire world. (Click on The Entire Internet on the right side of this graph.) It’s WordPress.
WordPress.org is the blogging app.
WordPress.com is the commercial hosting company that hosts the app. (They’re not the ONLY hosting company. They’re just one of them.)
There are three common ways to host the WordPress.org app, and I’m going to break it out in terms of your career progression:
Year 1: easy, cheap ($36/year), managed, but limited customization – WordPress.com – the for-profit company that builds the app (WordPress.org). They make hosting really easy, even with a custom domain name, and they manage the plumbing for you, but they limit the themes and plugins that you can use. This is a quick, easy way to get started, and it’s good enough for most folks.
Year 2: customizable, $300/year, but low power – BlueHost.com or WPengine.com – after you’ve made sure you’re going to stick with this hobby, you’ll want to install more powerful plugins and themes. (We’ll talk about those next.) These companies install WordPress on a server for you, and you manage it. Disclaimer: these links are affiliates, so I get paid when you use that.
Years 3+: powerful, scalable, $1200/year – WPengine.com – you won’t need this for the first couple of years, but if you really start to crank up on popularity and hit 100K visits per month, you’ll need to invest in a more powerful server to sustain peak loads (like when we link to you in our weekly newsletter.) For reference, we get around 400K visits per month, and we’re on WPengine’s Premium tier at around $600/mo.
If you go with a third party host like BlueHost or WPengine, then during the purchase process, make sure you choose a WordPress plan. That way, WordPress will be installed & managed for you rather than you just getting some generic control panel.
After setting up your blog, it’s tempting to start working on the way it looks so that it suits your personality. I’m going to hold off on that particular topic for now because it’s a monster, and it involves designing and building a personal brand. I think that’s really important, but it needs to be a separate article. Instead, I’m going to keep going and hit the technical side of blog setup first.
Quick WordPress Tweaks for Best Practices Setup
If you chose WordPress.com for your hosting, you can skip this, because you don’t get these options.
Otherwise, once you’ve got WordPress installed, you’re going to log in at:
And it’s going to look something like this:
Here’s the settings you need to change:
Click Settings, General and change:
- Site Title – make it your name and interests for now, like Brent Ozar’s SQL Server Blog
- Tagline – don’t overthink it, just something like “Sharing what I learn about SQL Server”
- Save changes
Click Settings, Reading and uncheck the box that says “Discourage search engines from indexing this site.” You actually want your stuff to show up in Google.
Click Settings, Permalinks and click the radio button for “Month and name.” This way your blog post titles show up as part of the URL, which may help a little for search engine optimization.
And the plumbing is done! Now let’s make it pretty.
Choosing a Visual Theme
Because WordPress is so doggone popular, there’s a whole cottage industry of designers who build gorgeous WordPress themes. You can see them right inside WordPress by clicking Appearance, Themes, Add New – but that method sucks because you can’t tell which themes are being actively updated, or what features they have.
Instead, I use Themeforest, and I search for themes tagged with responsive and blog, and I sort by popularity. That’s because I want themes that:
- Are selling a lot, so the author keeps them up to date
- Have a changelog somewhere on the page, with updates in the last few months
- Is responsive, meaning it’ll automatically look good on phones and tablets
- Targeted at bloggers, not e-commerce stores
Most themes are around $50, and totally worth it because they’re so gorgeous. Buy it through Themeforest, and you’ll get a zip file. Then in WordPress, click Appearance, Themes, Add New, Upload Theme.
Your theme may come with demo pages – install those, because they’ll give you a lot of fun ideas for the core pages you want to create.
Create Your Core Pages: About, Contact
WordPress breaks content up into two categories: blog posts, and pages. Pages are the stuff that you’ll have on your menus at the top of the site. (Yes, you can also put blog posts there, but let’s keep it simple for now.)
Every blog needs two pages: about me, and contact me. On my personal blog, my about-me page is all fancy and pretty because I stole most of the styles from the theme’s example pages. For years, on our company site, my about-me page was my resume. When you’re just getting started, the resume is easier because you can just copy/paste it.
For the contact-me page, use your theme to set up a contact form that emails you, or just have a list of your name, email address, and phone number. Yes, you’re opening yourself up for spam. Yes, you should be using a spam filter anyway.
What to Write: Be Yourself
I’ve talked to a couple of startup bloggers who’ve asked about what they should or shouldn’t include on their blogs. If you want to talk about it, you should blog about it. If you’re worried that your potty mouth will cause people to avoid your blog, I give you TheBloggess.com, one of the funniest blogs I know. She is gut-bustingly funny and censor-bustingly nasty. If she tried to clean up her act, I’d unsubscribe.
Would you want to go out to lunch with somebody who only talked shop, constant shop, and nothing but shop?
Nah, me neither. I like knowing that the person on the other end of the intertubez is a real human being with a real life that has great days and crappy days. I know other blog readers who say they don’t want any of that personal stuff, and I point those readers toward sanctioned, cleaned-up blogs hosted by corporate sites. If you’re writing a personal site, it should have personal stuff. Not too much stuff, though – I want to know you have kids, but I don’t want to know when they did their first #2 in the toilet instead of the diaper. Save a little something for the family reunions.
I’ve also been asked what to write about in terms of SQL Server content. The big rule of writing is to write what you know. The more you know about the topic, the easier the words will come out. If you try to write about a subject that you don’t already know, even if it’s CLOSE to something you already know, you’re going to have to spend time learning it and getting it right before you can write about it. You don’t have that kind of time, because you need to…
Blog At Least Once a Week
If you’re not expecting to spend an hour a week updating your blog, hang it up. Look at your calendar right now and point at where you could work in that hour a week. If you can’t do it, throw in the towel. Or maybe consider blogging for one of the commercial sites that I talked about early on, because they’ll be thankful to get your blog entries whenever they get ’em, and they have enough other bloggers to make up for your periods of quiet.
In reality, blogging sucks up a lot more than an hour a week, and you can’t just budget a single hour on one day a week to do it. You’ll be responding to comments as soon as they come in, answering questions, tweaking your blog look and feel, etc.
I have a routine that makes it easier: I’m hard-wired to wake up at the crack of dawn, and Erika sleeps in for a few hours. On the weekends, I still can’t sleep in, and if I’m in a writing mood, I’ll spend that time writing blog entries in advance or checking up on my web site metrics. Sounds vain to look at your own metrics, but I’m not doing that to find out if I’m in the “in crowd” yet. I like to find out where my users are coming from, because people will write articles on their own blogs or web sites, and those articles might include a link to me. I can see in Google Analytics when people are coming to my site from another site, and then I can go look at that other site to see what they said. (Brent Ozar is a narcissistic as-HOLD ON A MINUTE….)
Just because I’m writing on the weekends doesn’t mean my blog entries come out on the weekends, though, because you need to…
Post Your Blog Entries on Weekdays
Internet traffic curve looks like this:
Weekdays are high, and weekends are low. It sounds creepy to say that you should only post blog entries when people are looking, but here’s the sad fact: some of us get in on Mondays, look at an avalanche of blog posts that hit over the weekend, and we just hit Mark-All-As-Read. If your blog comes in during the day while we’re working, on the other hand, it stands a better chance of getting read. That doesn’t mean you have to be sitting by the computer waiting to hit Publish: good blog software like WordPress will let you schedule posts ahead of time.
Ask Before You Use Real Names.
I deal with a lot of questions about how SQL Server works, how to improve performance on a server, how to improve a product, and so on. Ideally, I’d blog about all of them, but sometimes people don’t want me to mention their questions or name names. Before you say, “John Smith emailed me asking how to kill a process in a database,” ask them if it’s okay to use their name in the post. If not, just post a general blog article about how to kill a process.
Hint – here’s how to make that easier. When someone asks me a technical question, I like to kill two birds with one stone by writing the email reply knowing ahead of time that I’m going to copy/paste it straight into my blog.
Advanced: WordPress Plugins and Tips
GoCodes Link Shortener – run your own short-links service inside WordPress. Useful to give audiences short resource links for your presentations as described here.
Search and Replace – if you need to change a lot of links or words in your old posts, you can do it on the database side fast.
W3 Total Cache – WordPress ain’t fast. The more plugins you add, the more queries it runs on every page load. Your site will quickly fall over when someone famous links to you. W3 Total Cache helps by caching pages, database queries, and more.
The Jetpack Plugin‘s Subscribe to Comments feature keeps the conversation going. When I read blogs, sometimes I’ll leave a comment if I have a question for the author, if I disagree with something, or if I just want to thank the author for doing a great job on the topic. But I’ll never know if the person responded, because I rarely go back to the same blog entry again to check for updated comments. Jetpack solves that problem by letting commenters check a box to get emailed whenever a new comment is added to that entry. That way, if a user posts a question and then I answer that question in the comments, they’ll get an email notification. That quick feedback helps viewers know you’re paying attention to their comments. Add the Jetpack plugin, then click Jetpack, Settings, Subscriptions, Activate.
Google Webmaster Tools – tell Google about your site, and check back a day or two later. Google Webmaster Tools will tell you about any problems it’s encountered on your site (which shouldn’t be the case if you haven’t done anything nasty in WordPress) and provide you with some interesting metrics about how many sites link to yours, how many people are reading your RSS feed, and so on.
Google Analytics – sign up for web site reports about your site. Google will give you a small snippet of code to put on your web site. The easiest way to make that happen is to install the free Google Analytics by MonsterInsights plugin, which will automatically insert the Google ad tracking code on every page, plus show your Google reports right inside WordPress.
Even if you don’t care how many people are reading your blog, I’d suggest setting up Analytics because if you start caring down the road, you’ll have a nice in-depth history of your site’s activity. It doesn’t cost anything, doesn’t slow your site down, and doesn’t affect your readers.
Google Analytics tracks a ton of metrics about your site. Here’s some quick definitions:
- Visits and Pages/Hits – Visits is the number of people who came, and pages (or hits) is the number of pages that were viewed.
- Bounce Rate – the percentage of people who saw one page and left. Obviously, you want that as low as possible.
- Avg Time – how long people are spending on the site. I don’t think this is really useful for the site overall, but it IS useful when you’re comparing your pages. I like to know which pages people are spending the most time on, because that means they’re reading it carefully and digesting it.
- Entry pages – Entry pages are where people came in, and no, it’s not always your home page. Search engine users will land on whatever page they found in the search engine, and referred people (folks who clicked on a link to you from some other site) land on whatever page the other site linked to.
- Exit pages – The last page the user saw before they screamed in horror and closed their browser (or clicked on a link to go somewhere else.)
I’m a DBA, so of course I love to slice and dice my data, and that’s where Segments come in. Segments break up your audience into groups like Search Engine Traffic, Referrals (people who clicked into your site via a link) and Direct Traffic (people who came straight to your place). If you’re just getting started, then you won’t have too much data to slice and dice, but just make a mental note of that capability and come back to it in six months.
Even if you don’t do anything else to your blog, you’ve already made a big difference in your ability to be found by readers. But there’s a whole lot more, and here’s some of my favorite plugins to take your blog to the next level.
Some browsers have spell check built in, but if you’re not using one of those, copy/paste your blog entry into Microsoft Word before you post it. Look for little squiggly lines under the words, and fix those. It’ll look much more professional.
I know bloggers whose blog posts are completely correct – perfect spelling, good grammar, correct capitalization – but their emails make me think of Mr. Period at Penny Arcade. That’s totally okay – as long as your blog posts are at least relatively period-populated, you’re good to go. We’ll work on your emails in another series of blog posts.
And that’s a wrap!
Now get to it. Blogging was the single best decision I ever made for my career and my personal security. I know it’ll help you, too. If you’re still not convinced, read my post, Rock Stars, Normal People, and You.
Great stuff Brent, as usual. However, I have to disagree about blogging subject matter.
“If you try to write about a subject that you don’t already know, even if it’s CLOSE to something you already know, you’re going to have to spend time learning it and getting it right before you can write about it. ”
Not all of us are a SQL Jedi Knights, in fact some of us aren’t even Padawans yet. I find that I do my best learning while researching something for my blog. I check and double check things to make sure that I’m right and even then I sometimes make mistakes.
Since one of my reasons for blogging is to document what I’m learning, I intentionally pick topics that I’m not expert at for that purpose.
Even though you gave me advice about using my name as the URL, I chose to ignore it. I think I will eventually move to my name as well and use URL forwarding so as not to lose the readers when I transition.
You know, I almost used Made2Mentor.com as an example of how to pick a blog name that wasn’t your own personal name, but was still long-lasting. No matter where your career goes, that blog name will still fit. I like it. You did good. 😀
And you’re right about how writing on a new topic will make you learn it, but learning it does take time. If you have a few hours to invest in yourself and in the blog, it does pay off. I learn something pretty much every time I write a blog entry because I have to double-check my facts (okay, well, single-check, hahaha). I just wanted to warn readers that when they take on a grand new subject for a post, preparing for it will be exhaustive. If it’s not hard work, you’re not working hard enough, and you’re doing copy/paste style blogging. Some people do that and get away with it, but not guys like you and me.
Keep up the great work, man!
I have to agree with David. My blog was born to be a sounding board so I could straighten out my thoughts. Besides, it’s more fun than explaining SQL Server to my toddler, who keeps stealing back her crayons from me. I don’t really care about hits, I mean sure it’s flattering that someone wants to read my stuff but I do it for me primarily.
I started a personal blog in 1999, over the years my family knows to go there to get news about my kids and my life. Once I really got into “geeky stuff” and started blogging about it they gave me a hard time, had no idea what I was talking about and so I moved my geek stuff to a new blog. I have yet to decide my favorite domain for it I own two and can’t decide but I leave my personal blog at myname.com
I had no idea about posting on weekdays, I use wordpress, and I’m going to take your advice there.
Oh, and I can’t believe you were a goth. Does the Goth Talk SNL Skit hit close to home? 🙂
This picture from college will probably help illustrate it:
Good post! Couple ways you can split the difference on domain names. One is to use Feedburner and publish that URL as your blog URL, then if you change hosting you just update Feedburner and it all works. The other method is to use Blogger (or others I assume) and set it up to point to your domain, usually something like blog.blahblah.com.
Absolutely! I’ll talk about Feedburner in part 3, too. I like it quite a bit.
1. I would pretend to be offended but my last post is about rape, midgets and phone sex calls so you might have a point.
2. I was the only goth chick in my totally agrarian high school where people (true story) drove their tractors to school. It was a rough time.
You, madam, are a gentleman and a scholar – wait, that’s not right. I mean, you’re super polite, because you could have said, “Look, Mr. Smartypants, I ain’t done none of that them there SEO stuff and I’m way the hell more popular than you.”
Not that I’m keeping track of that stuff or anything. It’s not like I make a living managing systems that track numbers and metrics. (sigh)
And your G1 review is freakin’ awesome.
I’ll admit I’m a little behind the curve, but this series is shaping up to be good stuff. Are you going to get into the design aspects of it as well? Themes, fonts, etc. to maintain good readability or is that taking it into the weeds?
Thanks! Glad you mentioned it – that’s the topic of Thursday’s post.
I love your tips..
regular blogging is one of the most important factors in technical blogging. IMO
it’s good to learn new everyday, it will also improve my blog and thank you very much for that.
The good resource is informative and actual
Crazy as it seems, in a world reeking with Blog-Smog, I have done it. I've gone and started my own blog. I've no idea what I'm doing, so I researched and found your very insightful article. I'm not spending my future 6 digit earnings at this point, but I do know what I know, and my clients call all the time with the same damn questions, so my blog is a space where I can answer them once and for all. I type faster than I can answer multiple phone 🙂 I took your advice about my url and registered it on GoDaddy and now plan to publish articles only on weekdays. Thanks!
I love reading your blogs. Thanks for the tons of info! 🙂
I would like to set up a blog software package on my website. Do you have any recommendations that aren’t too expensive?
Bob – yep, keep reading the next page of the article and I give recommendations for that.
This reply written on Sunday, mailed on Sunday and could be deleted by you on Monday morn? 50 years, I have been a genealogist, family historian and a focused specialist for women’s lost lineages. There are stories I can tell. Some already written and are being sent all over the world as e-mails. Mostly, I’d like to see them all in one place.
—a blog? well, there is an ability to answer questions due to experience and there is a gleam of fun in the process. If I post the stories to the web site GROUP HUGG in Ancestry.com? then THEY own everything I post and sell it back to people. Free enterprise? Is it possible to make any money from something so simple and complex as Granny Chronicles? thanks
Judy – I don’t know what you mean by “Granny Chronicles”, but when I search the web for that, I find several web sites and blogs that already exist by those names. You may want to contact those authors to see how they’re doing it. Generally speaking, though, you can make money off blogging, but it’s not much.
I just want to say thanks for the information. I have created a blog name for over two months and just haven’t been able to get started. I have co-authored a book, Pro SQL Server 2008 Administration, and it has been published now. So, I have to get going. I wish I would have read this article before I published a blog name, http://sqllazywriter.blogspot.com/, in the book. Now, I really don’t know what to do about my existing name. Do I add a link to a newly created site using my name or stick with the one that I have? Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
Sylvester – great question! I would add a single post at Blogspot explaining that your blog moved, and a link to the new domain name. That should do it. Hope that helps!
Well, you seem to have some impressive blogging knowledge there! Thanks for sharing it with the rest of the world. I took note of all of this for my new blog. Thanks Brent!
I found your article while doing research as I am embarking on my first paid blogging assignment. Before I continue, thank you for your insight.
Long story short, I will be writing technical articles and have to give the company owner a quote of my fees. Researching this as well, would you have any suggestions?
Primarily, I have blogged about
raising a family,
submitted an article or two here and there and have a private family-only blog.
I played around with cut and paste html code back in my myspace days
Now a days I facebook for networking where I have no use for such code.
I am dissatisfied with the templates I have used on Blogger and hate to admit, have no clue how to create one, not that I’ve taken the time to really try…
Recently, I saw an ad on t.v. for GoDaddy.com and am considering the investment for a domain of my own name. My ultimate goal is to write books, which has always been a dream of mine. I have restrained the content I write about on blogs hoping to save the really good stuff for my New York Best seller. If you have any tips about breaking into print, I would be much obliged. And flattered if you happen to review any of my work.
So now that I have your head spinning, I will say goodnight and look forward to hearing back from you.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Nicole – I wish I could review your stuff, but I don’t have the time to do it justice. If there’s a specific question you’ve got for me, I’d be happy to answer it, though.
Thanks for the response 🙂
What should I be asking for pay as a beginning Technical Blogger for a Manufacturer Distributor? (ballpark suggestion)
What would you suggest for getting a book into print?
Oooo, I have no idea on the salary thing. Your best bet is to check the ProBlogger communities at http://problogger.net and http://problogger.com – they’re pretty active.
My tips about the authoring & publishing experience are here:
Hi there Brent,
I’m just on the brink of retirement and have been into computers forever (VIC 20 C64 of late 70’s) but have never been involved with Blogging. I found this blogg from entering “How to …” into Google.
I’ll be honest, I have a very small pension so I suppose I was hoping to earn at least some money until I read you very informative Blogg.
My question (AT LAST) well two.
ONE: How do people know about a particular Blogg? Do they simply ask a question from the command line or do they in some way know the blogg exists and go to it?
TWO: My area of interest is teaching very basic Electronics and Electrics. I taught these subjects at night school in Ontario for a number of years to all kinds of people with no experience in any of the fields and I found it very rewarding. Do you think these subjects might form the basics of an interesting Blogg or are there so many out there I’d be wasting mine and more important other peoples time?
Bestbregards Len Beasley
This is a great series Brent and one that I referred to often when setting up my own blog. One item that you don’t mention that is rather subtle but possibly very important is the WHOIS information for your domain registration. Some domain registrars offer to use their information for the WHOIS contact data, but most don’t and even fewer do by default. When registering for your domain with your hosting provider, it’s more common for the service to be available but still very rare for it be used by default. Many places require you to explicitly request it and usually charge around $10/yr.
So why does this matter?
Well, by default the WHOIS database is going to contain the same contact information you used to register the domain, including your full name, full address, phone number, and email address. Many people don’t want this information so easily accessible, especially when using a domainname with their real name.
Zach – thanks for the feedback. Call me crazy, but I don’t think there’s a lot of privacy in this world. If you’re going to be on the web, you need to be comfortable knowing that people can find you. If you don’t want to get found, building a web site is probably a bad idea.
I thought I clicked reply, but instead I broke the chain with a new one :facepalm:
While I agree that in today’s age your physical location can ultimately found out, that doesn’t necessarily mean that one wants to make such information easily accessible. After all, information such as SSN and driver’s license numbers can also be had by a determined individual, but we don’t post those on our sites either.
However, whether or not one should provide this information in their WHOIS isn’t the point I was making. The point I am making is that while many first time bloggers may be comfortable in using their real name, they may not realize that by registering a domain they’ve also exposed their full name, address, email, and phone number. I believe it’s something worth mentioning so that the reader is made aware of it and can decide what they are comfortable with.
Fair enough. Thanks!
Is there a way to control which of your contact information is made public? Or is it all or nothing?
Steven – well, that’s a tough call. Theoretically you can control it by being very selective about what you put online, but in reality, sites like Facebook.com don’t always honor your privacy preferences. For example, there’s been one announcement after another about how Facebook has given your personal contact info to other companies. Even if you just access sites via your phone and they send you a text message to confirm your identity, they may be storing your phone number permanently. The reality of being online is that there’s no real privacy.
Oh yeah, I’m with ya on FB. Well, I bit the bullet and setup a site with GoDaddy; they have a special right now. They have an option called private registration, where, for a few dollars more, they use a proxy service to register with WHOIS. The main thing I wanted to avoid was phone and email spam. Hopefully, that will take care of things.
Now, I need to work on importing my blog and setting things up…
You mention Simple Code Embed, but it doesn’t add highlighting onto pages.
However, it’s unfair to blame the plugin for being slow – it’s whatever you embed!
David – whoops! It’s another plugin I use for code embeds – SyntaxHighlighter Evolved. I’ll add that to the list: http://www.viper007bond.com/wordpress-plugins/syntaxhighlighter/
Nice article, I’m thinking about starting a blog, however not sure if I should make it using multiple unrelated categories (Programming, Technology, Personal, Sports, probably movies and Misc meaning anything i came across that I found interesting) or should I stick to related categories like Programming and Technology.
Luis – it depends on your purpose in starting a blog. Right at the beginning of this post, I asked that question. So what did you decide for your answer?
If I have to choose any of these it will be “Blogging for career success”, but there’s more to it. The main reasons I want to start blog is so my future employers or employee have something to take a look when they ask “tell me about yourself” and to develop my communication skills.
Luis – OK, then there’s your answer. Tell them about yourself via the blog.
Do we have experts here for RES, red ear sliders?
Your post goes back a while but it is still extremely relevant! One question for you… how do you go about avoiding all that spam… I get tons of garbage and am looking for a way to beat that… as a new blogger.
Look forward to any insight or feedback,
Andrew – thanks! We use Askimet to block comment spam.
What plug-in (if any) do you use for the code blocks in your posts (example below)?
Norbert – we’ve got our own that we modified over time, but I’d check out WP-Syntax. It’s great.
Great advice Brent, Comprehensive, thorough and quite useful. Once again thanks for sharing your experience.
Thanks for this great article. I just want to create a blog about programming. Nice tips!
very nice article. thanks for sharing such article.
Brent, very nice looking site. I am looking to start blogging and will be taking your advice in getting up and running. Since this article was written in 2008, is there anything else significant in the blogging arena that a first-timer should be paying attention to today?
Thanks, glad you liked it! Unfortunately I don’t have the time this week to really dig into this for an update, so I’d just start here. Good luck!
I have a couple random comments on this.
Blogging once a week would be nice, but it’s not something where you should throw in the towel if you can’t do it from the start. Don’t make commitments, don’t force anything, think of it as an email you wish someone sent to you a couple years ago and write it (this builds on him telling you to be yourself, too). If you don’t feel inspired to write it at the time, it can wait. I’m giving bad advice for getting regular readers who check your site on a schedule, but what I feel is good advice for starting out or accepting that most regulars will just get your RSS feed.
I personally blog about once a month due to work, kids, and the little life I fit between the two, and it’s turning out ok. I tried doing the weekly thing for a bit, and my posts seemed rushed and uninspired. Then I slowed it down, waited for my “the world needs to know about this” moments, and made longer, more thought-out posts that I have more pride in.
Self-hosting isn’t as expensive as it was in 2008. BlueHost.com does it for $6/month with a 12-month commitment, and that includes your domain name. Now you’re talking about $72/year instead of $110. You can even get it down to $48/year if you do a 3-year commitment. I used WordPress.com for my first year, which cost me about $30 with my domain. Then I decided I wanted more features. I wasn’t ready for self-hosting when I started and automatic junk made me feel better. While I don’t regret starting that way, I did outgrow it.
No matter what you do, make sure everything has a Description or Excerpt. You don’t need the SEO plugin for it all, but it helps. If you write this properly then you’ll see your posts eventually get higher in the search engine results than people are better known. The truth of it is that most people read the title and description in a search engine and don’t realize what site they’re going to until they’re there. I’m not the sharpest spoon in the drawer, but I’m pretty high up in some of the search results!!!
I went against Brent’s advice about using your real name on your blog. Partially because my name is too popular to get, and partially because I felt that one blog should have one focus. Even Brent has two blogs with Ozar.me with stuff he says we don’t care about. However, we should all know why he takes vacations, which is advice that’s as good as or better than anything he says about SQL Server.
He doesn’t mention it here, but does in other posts… Syndicate your blog! Early on you will get most of your views from syndication, it’s a morale boost in the start when you need it the most. Then, as time goes on, you’ll realize that your syndicated views don’t go up, they’re at the same rate they were always at. However, your views from search engines and return readers keep going up and surpass your syndicated views.
I think Brent stopped all his syndicated stuff, with my guess being that it was done so he could advertise his services in some posts. As for me, I still syndicate because I don’t have a reason to stop. Someday I’m sure I’ll say something that doesn’t go over well with SQLServerCentral.com or ToadWorld.com, but, until that day, you’ll see me around there.
Pretty much anything I saw here was as timeless as it gets on the internet, and I doubt I would have gotten so far into blogging without Brent’s advice.
I doubt I would have commented at all if the once-a-week / throw in the towel thing didn’t rub me the wrong way. However, it’s giving me a chance to say “THANK YOU, BRENT!!” for all this advice.
Howdy sir. Thanks for the comments!
About the real name stuff – I’m confused. What do you think ozar.me means? 😉 That’s my real name, man.
About syndication – I actually changed my tune once I learned more about SEO. You get penalized if your content appears in multiple places. When people search for something I’ve written, I want it to be clearly visible in the search results as *my* content. That’s challenging at syndication sites when the author isn’t clear. Plus, now I make my living off the content, so I gotta make sure I’m taken care of.
Keep up the good work!
I know you have Ozar.me, BrentOzar.com, and probably even BrentLovesHearingHisOwnName.com (you can say this to someone who was voted as the person you most want to drink a beer with), but I went with SimpleSQLServer.com which sticks to a certain subject and audience. I can see this going both ways.
I think you may have something with the syndication / SEO stuff for certain search engines. That could be why a good day for me is 3 views from Bing/Yahoo, yet I’m in the top 5 for certain search terms in Google and get over 100 views a day from there.
Thank you very much for this information. Good post thanks for sharing.
Beautiful and useful sharing thanks
Brent, I just wanted to say thank you to you and your team for your part of inspiring people to try new things and give back. I went to a conference here in Saint Louis where yet another speaker encouraged people to start contributing to the tech community by engaging in public speaking or starting a blog. The speaker’s name was Cory House. He detailed how he went from an introvert to regular conference speaker in two years. I was inspired.
I actually thought of you and your team’s regular encouragement for people to get involved as I listened to Cory speak. I’ve read this post a few times over the last several years and have thought for a long time that I should start a blog. Tonight I took the plunge. I re-read this article, went to GoDaddy and set up my site. With the tutorial available I have my first post. It won’t impress anyone who visits this site, but hey, it’s just my first post and I have plenty of work ahead of me to get this off the ground.
Aww, thanks! Good, I’m glad we can help inspire – that’s one of our biggest sources of pride and happiness around here. We really enjoy encouraging people to get started with that kind of thing. Good luck on your journey!
Your tips are really useful. Thank you for sharing this with us.
I really like your writing style, very detailed down to the main point, if only I could learn a lot from here,, for that I thank you very much.
GoCodes plugin is no more. If you have a new plugin for codes maybe you could update this fantastic post for those of us coming across it still 🙂
Sheldon – not sure what you mean, working just fine here?
I think I’ve read about other folks still using it, but it’s not in the wordpress repo anymore. The link is dead for me. That’s all I was saying. There are a few alternatives, but seems GoCodes had a great following, but isn’t active anymore.
That link is fine here? Maybe a temporary server error when you were looking?
I followed that link. The instructions there point to a WordPress plugin. The WordPress plugin link is what fails. I’m sorry if I’m dense and missing something 🙂
Hmm, odd – it’s working OK here, but I’m hesitant to post a separate upload zip file for it. Maybe contact him through his contact form?
WOW wish I read this 12 months ago – thanks for the in depth writing on this topic and I have learnt loads! I love the quote ” toiling unappreciated for months or years ” -HAHA yeah rings a bell!
[…] Hopefully I have given some good advice on what to do once you have your blog up and running. However, you may be asking yourself how do I start a blog. Rather than reinvent the wheel, here is a blog post by Brent Ozar that gives some really good advice on how to start a blog. It is a number of years old, but I think still applies today. How to Start a Blog […]
[…] to get as good as you can be at the role. Keep learning and practising new skills, consider blogging or speaking at events to show what you know, and maybe look at getting some qualifications to […]
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