I signed up for John Sonmez’s free email course on How To Build A Blog That Will Boost Your Career. This unique thing about this course is that it was delivered via a series of emails.
The first email in the series begins with reasons why you should build a blog and uses examples of successful programmers as testament for doing so. John also goes on to list the benefits of that you might receive eventually from starting a blog and creating posts over time. The first email finishes outlining what you can expect. So the schedule for the emails is 2 per week and you can expect to spend 10 to 30 minutes per lesson.
I think this was a useful introduction to the process and lets you know what to expect over the coming weeks. What I found useful about this email course was that it was delivered in bite sized chunks, so that you are making some progress towards your overall goal on a weekly basis. Some of the lessons have homework at the end to make you take some action and not procrastinate.
Lesson 1: Choosing a Theme
I guess one of the things that can stop you in your tracks from the outset is deliberating over choosing a theme for your blog. By this I mean what the blog will be about, not a presentational theme for the blog itself. John suggests narrowing your focus down and specialising. I suppose the idea behind this is pick a subject and write well on it to make you a recognised figure within the subject matter. This will not happen over night, but at least you have a better chance of getting noticed. For me I have chosen to blog about Xamarin, this is something which I am learning at the moment.
Lesson 2: Creating Your Blog
This lesson essentially leads the through the steps necessary to create a blog. John goes onto to suggest using WordPress and recommends a hosting provider. The remainder of the post shows in detail what you need to do to achieve the end result, which is signing up with the hosting provider and installing WordPress. There is a link to a YouTube video which shows you what you need to do if you prefer to watch a 5 minute video. I had already done this step before the course.
Lesson 3: What to Write About
This lesson concentrates on generating ideas for future posts. John suggests brainstorming a list of 50 items and then not letting this list drop below 30 items. There is a useful bulleted list of the types of blog posts you might write. This was useful to get you thinking about the types of post that you might like to write.
This lesson ends with some homework where you brainstorm a list of posts and then pick your top 3 best ideas to move forward with. I think that this is a very useful technique to kick-start you into taking some action. By producing the list upfront and maintaining a good backlog of post ideas, you ensure that you are never stuck for ideas of what to write about. This would probably be one way for your blog to stagnate over time or just be an excuse for giving up.
Lesson 4: Pick a Posting Schedule
This lesson emphasises that you need to be consistent about blogging and in order to achieve this, you need a schedule. John points out that you won’t get lots of traffic immediately. But over a period of years of regular posts, your writing skills will improve and the traffic will improve too because you have produced many posts.
John makes a suggestion of having a schedule of 2 to 3 blog posts per week. The homework for this lesson is to pick a schedule and actually commit to it by putting it in your calendar. I think that this is a useful technique to make a commitment to blogging and following through. I guess at this stage the important thing is to get into the habit of blogging, so it becomes something you automatically do each week. Another important point was to pick a realistic schedule and not one that you cannot maintain.
There is one idea mentioned that you can ramp up your posting schedule to begin with to build up the amount of content on your blog faster. John also says that you could do this for a couple of months and then fall back to a less frequent schedule. This sounds like a good idea if you are really keen to move forward.
Lesson 5: Getting Traffic
This lesson highlights legitimate ways in which you can improve traffic on your blog. The main technique is to focus on producing high quality content supplemented by useful commenting on other software development blogs. The idea being most commenting systems have a profile, where you can add a link to your blog. So if you are writing comments that add value, people will hopefully want to visit your blog. Again the message here is being consistent and you will reap the rewards of doing so.
Most of the traffic that your blog will get will be via search engine traffic. Search engine traffic takes time to acquire, this is mainly driven by the amount of high quality sites which are linking back to your content. I think the message here is that you have to play the long game.
Lesson 5: Homework
The homework for this lesson was actually to write a post about this course, I think that was a great idea to get started. Whilst nobody will probably be reading this post yet, this piece of homework has again forced me to take some positive action.
Sign up here: http://devcareerboost.com/blog-course.
I have enjoyed this course so far and think that the way it has been broken down in into bite size chunks twice a week was a great idea. It has helped me over some of the stumbling blocks and forced me to take some action. I think doing this email course is well worth your time if you want to start blogging or if you have already started but are still struggling with what to write and being consistent.
There are lots of good tips and the course is free, so what are you waiting for! It’s the new year so take some positive action and thanks for reading. Check out some of the other content on John’s blog, there is lots of interesting stuff on career development as a programmer and other programming related articles.
John’s blog is here: http://simpleprogrammer.com