I took John Sonmez's blogging course

After several months of hearing about the benefits of having a blog, I decided to finally start blogging myself. So I went ahead and bought the TechDominator.com domain and started building the blog by using the Jekyll static site generator.

I've been aware for several months about John Sonmez's blogging course, but I was not very keen on taking it. I decided finally to enroll in the course while building the blog. I thought that taking the course in parallel will allow me to apply directly the information I will get.

The thing that I was not expecting and that I appreciated is that each lesson contains assignments that will lead you to take action and gradually build your blog.

In this post I wanted to outline the things that I learned.

Building the actual blog

You should strive for the simplest thing that could possibly work when choosing the platform for creating and hosting the blog, remember that the priority when starting off is to get content out there and not necessarily to build exceptional user experience.

The course will try to push you towards using WordPress as it seems to be the easiest and fastest way to get started according to the course author. I personally chose to use Jekyll to build the blog and to host it on Github Pages.

You should also acquire a domain name from the beginning, the domain name is a part of the personal brand that you are building so it is important to have it from the start.

Approach to producing content

Being consistent and sticking to a specific theme are two key aspects of a successful blog.

First off you have to choose some specific theme to blog about, it can be for example a portion of a framework (asp.net web api Authentication) or it can be about applying some technology to a specific domain (Elixir based backend for online multiplayer card games). Most of the posts in your blog must relevant to the theme that you chose. The reason for this? If you have skin rash would you see a dermatologist or a general practitioner?

Then you must commit to a decent schedule for content production, once a week is usually pretty reasonable. Being consistent in producing content in your blog is very important not many people will keep an eye on your blog if you produce a post every 6 months.

Finally keep in mind that the content as well as the presentation does not have to be "perfect", seeking perfect content will lead you to burn countless hours in over-polishing. According to the course 2 hours per week invested in blogging should be sufficient to produce a blog post per week.

Getting traffic

In order to get actual visitors your blog need to rank up in search engines, the most effective way to rank up is through link juice i.e. other highly ranked sites linking back to your site.

One way to get noticed is to comment on other blog posts, but be careful commenting is not spamming. You must seek to add value through your comments, then you will have the opportunity to plug your blog, get noticed and if you have been producing valuable content consistently over time, other people will eventually link back to your posts.

Also make sure to include your blog's URL in your social media profiles(Twitter, Github, Linkedin, Stackoverflow...) and to tweet about each post you write.

Closing thoughts

The course as some clever advertising in it, but I think it's legitimate since the course is free of charge. Some folks will have the possibility to buy the course's workbook which is cheap and contains some bonus material.

I would recommend this course for everyone seeking a good start in blogging.