Scott Hanselman

Blog Interesting - 32 Ways to Keep Your Blog from Sucking

June 04, 2007 Comment on this post [35] Posted in Musings
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Blog I blog for me, mostly so I can Google myself later.  But, I also enjoy the back and forth, the connections, with you, Dear Reader. I like being able to kick ideas around with a collective of peers and smart folks. I also would like this blog to not suck.

Recently Richard Campbell and I were chatting about what makes a blog, technical or otherwise, suck less. Here's what I came up with, with Richard helping as scribe.

Stay relevant

  1. Know your audience
    • Use analytic tools like FeedBurner or Google Analytics to figure out who is reading your blog, so you can occasionally post things that certain folks might like. Also, try using Google Maps Guestmap.
      (Hello Afshin in Iran and Rad in Kenya and Merrill in Sri Lanka!)
      Personally I also avoid blogging too much local (to my town) stuff because most of my readers AREN'T in my town!
  2. Keep overtly personal information out of your tech blog
    • I enjoy posting about my son and my spouse, as many of you have (or will have) similar situations. However, I avoid blogging things like "I had a cold today" and "I need to change the oil in my car." Anytime you can tie personal stuff into the 'point,' (whatever your blog's point is) that's a good thing. Personally while I may like you a lot, I do find ongoing stories about this wonderful man/woman/emu that you met on to be a little dodgy if I started reading you for your deep knowledge of HTTP.
  3. Don't apologize about not blogging enough
    • Don't bother posting things like "I'm sorry, I've been busy doing stuff, I'll try to blog more." If this happens all the time readers just might float away.
  4. Steer clear of politics
    • I've found, after blogging about a certain election, that politics on non-political blogs (as well as religion) are not worth digging in to. Just as with my VERY good friends with whom I disagree, as well as my boss, I just avoid these topics.
  5. Don't Blog Bile
    • I know that it might be thought of as a cop-out to say "if you can't blog anything nice, don't bother blogging," but that is a personal rule. It's a useful rule for life in general. Your blog is not only a record of who you are on the 'net, but it's largely indelible thanks to Google Cache and the Wayback Machine (not to mention all the USENET Archives) so try to avoid bashing or bad-mouthing folks. I googled a fellow who submitted a resume recently, found his blog, and while perusing his archives found a post with a title like "Fred Jones, the CTO of Some Company is a dick and an ass-hat." Let's just say I didn't need to follow up with a phone screen. 
  6. Think before you blog
    • Know what kind of blog you have. Are you a food blog? A generalist? A newsperson? A link-blogger? This doesn't mean be constrained by labels, but it does mean you should think "what am I trying to accomplish by blogging this..." before you post.
  7. Don't post throwaways
    • I try to have a minimum length to a post. If you don't think about your blog post, likely no one else will either. If I want to save a link, rather than posting "I want to save this link, so I'm blogging it to remember" I use a service like Unless you're a link blogger, but then you'd batch them up.
  8. Avoid "excessive quoting"
    • Some popular bloggers can get away with this, but I think that quotes make up more than 30% of a blog post (or, gasp, 70% or more) than you really have to ask yourself "am I providing value here?" Notice how I didn't link the the words "Some" "Popular" "Bloggers" to some of the ones I'm thinking of? See Rule 5 Above. :)

Things to Do

  1. Use Spell Check
  2. Pay Attention to Formatting
    • A blog is like a garden, it should be tended to and one should pay attention to the little details. I believe that formatting is important. That means everything from having a little whitespace around your images, rather than butting text right up against them. That means taking the time to include relevant images or free stock photos that help illustrate the point. That means using a picture or visualization when it's more appropriate than prose. Honestly, a thousand words aren't even close to as good as a nice visualization.
  3. Turn on comments
    • If your blog doesn't have comments, is it a blog? I know that Comment Spam is a problem, but don't give up quite yet. A blog without comments is a telephone with no earpiece.
  4. Solve comment spam
    • If you have a problem with comment spam (and who doesn't?) consider paying the folks at Akismet and use their API. DasBlog and SubText and WordPress include this support out of the box. I love it. Getting rid of CAPTCHA and switching to Akismet was one of the best things I ever did to this blog. I get more comments now (that's why I feel more connected now (because folks hate doing CAPTCHA) and I get virtually no spam.
  5. Claim Your Feed
    • Many sites like Bloglines, DiggPodcasts (if you have a podcast), Technorati and others have a "claim" feature where you can get an account at their site, then "lay claim" to your blog. They'll typically give you a token or globally unique id that they will then have you add to your site, usually within an HTML comment so folks won't see it, but they'll be able to retrieve it, thus proving that you have control over the site. Once you've claimed your site or RSS Feed on a site like Bloglines or Technorati, you can re-categorize the site, consolidate subscribers (especially useful on Bloglines) and manually redirect subscribers if you've moved blogs (It's better to use 301 redirects, but not every spider respects them.)
  6. Decide what your Blog's URL is, and use it consistently
  7. Use Simple URLs for popular posts
    • If you've been keeping a blog up for any amount of time, you've likely had "The Popular Post." Sometimes this'll be something simple that you've written and didn't give any though to at the time, but for whatever reason when folks out there in the world Google for "Scottish Interracial Cake Topper," you are right there on the first list of results. If you can, try to use simple URLs to make those popular posts more accessible. Mine ended up being the Ultimate Tools List, but the first version had a ridiculously long URL and that cost me traffic. Now it's always at
  8. Have a Code Garage Sale 
    • I haven't done this yet and setup a Code Garage Sale, but if you have a large chunk of code lying around, or projects that you've never gotten out the door, make a site or section of your blog and fill it with those code remnants. I posted a list of great Garage Sale Coders earlier this year.
  9. License Your Blog
    • If you're going to take the time to write a blog, take 10 minutes and pick a license. I use the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license that says you can, Share or Remix the work as long as you Attribute the original work to me.
  10. Make it easy to subscribe
    • Way more people read this blog via a Feed Reader than by visiting the home page. That's why I want to make it EASY to subscribe. Here's what I do to make subscribing easy:
      • Every post include a Subscribe to this Feed link.
      • There's a large standard Feed Icon at the top of the blog linked to the main feed.
      • I support Feed Autodiscovery, an important and sometimes overlooked option, by adding:
        <link rel="alternate"
        title="Scott Hanselman's Computer Zen" href="" />
        to every page's HTML. This single line lights up your browser's Feed Icon in orange, allowing for easy subscription.
  11. Have your Contact Info Somewhere 
    • Blogging should be two way. Have a way for folks to contact you. I use a re-mailer via my I-name which happens to be =scott.hanselman. It freaks a few folks out, but it reduces spam and lets folks talk directly to me.
  12. Have an About Me page
    • I haven't done this yet. Perhaps I'll do it next. There should always be a "Who the heck is this guy/gal" link, in the form of an About Me page. This page will typically link to the Contact Me page. 
  13. Use a Social Bookmarking Service
    • A great way . If you use a lot, you can configure FeedBurner to regularly (one a week, day, etc) create a rolled-up post of all the links you've bookmarked during some period and it'll inject the post into your Feed automatically. Social Bookmarking is also a great way to get and give links that is a lot less invasive and a "check this out" email. Folks can send me links via by tagging them "for:shanselman." Yet another way to receive information without spam and email.
  14. Decide What's Above the Fold
    • Design your blog for 1024x768 and consciously decide what appears "above the fold." The above the fold rule (no one scrolls down) isn't as valid as it was 13 years ago, it's still all about first impressions. What appears on your blog when one someone just arrives, before they scroll. I've included my picture, my charity, my contact info, my feed, a menu (in gray along the time), a search box, and my sponsors - all before you have to scroll. Those were important to me, and were conscious decisions. Just be aware, rather than letting your blog theme automatically decide.
  15. Integrate Google Search
    • I personally like using Google to search my site, rather than my blog engine's built-in search. Here's an example (Of course, the URL could be much prettier, and that's on my todo list). The point is, make your stuff easy to find, and if you can get Google to include an advertisement or two on your search page, even better. It should look integrated though. Take advantage of Google's theming features and make your search results page look like your blog, not like Google.
  16. Consider Using FeedBurner
    • Lots of folks are were suspicious about outsourcing their Feeds to FeedBurner. Of course, they've been bought by Google so I think we're all less worried about the company going away. What FeedBurner offers is fantastic stats about what folks are reading on your blog, and how they are doing it. It also takes on all your RSS bandwidth, which for me, was crushing.
  17. Tune your Bandwidth
    • If you host your own blog, do think about how your bandwidth is used. Analytics tools can help, but so can just looking at your Page Weight. I found out that my Favicon.ico was my problem. All you have to do is check. For others it might be graphics, so they might tune those graphics, or outsource them to Flickr. For folks who host large files, consider using Amazon's S3 for hosting.

Things Not to Do

  1. "This blog has moved"
    • There is little sadder (considering that a blog is sorted by date descending) than visiting a blog with thousands of fantastic entries and years of great content, only to find the most recent, and final post, is a one liner declaring that "This blog has moved. Please update your bookmarks and subscriptions." Sadly, that's more often that not, more effort than I'm willing to expend. Lord only knows how many readers Scoble lost early on when he changing blogging hosts. He eventually figured it out and got some redirects in place quite a bit later. (No, this doesn't count as Blogging Bile, as I'm just reporting the factual news and Robert and I are cordial. :P )
  2. Don't Break Links - Maintain Permalinks At All Costs
    • This is kind of a continuation of the last tip. Remember that they are called Permalinks for a reason. They aren't Tempalinks. Maintain them. If they are down temporarily and you're hosting elsewhere, issue an HTTP 302, temporary moved. If you need help, ask someone. If your links are moved permanently, issue HTTP 301s, permanently moved. This is just as important for your feeds.  Don't blog that you've moved your feed, just move it. (I am exempt from this, because I blogged about it to spread the word. ;) )
  3. Avoid Split Brain -  Pick a Blog and Stay There
    • Avoid maintaining two blogs. It's just as tacky, if not more so, as having 5 phone numbers on your business card. It makes it hard to find you, and your two blogs will always be fighting each other on Google, splitting your virtual  personality. 
  4. Avoid Crossposting
    • If you want folks to find you, try to keep all your content in one place. While "crossposting" is an attractive concept, ultimately it just waters everything down. If someone really wants your content, consider posting the first 100 words, and a [Read More] link. This not only gives you traffic, but also puts you in control of the article for spelling corrections, updates, etc.
  5. Avoid Category Specific Feeds
    • I used to be a fan of category specific feeds, especially because I have an interest in Diabetes as well as Technology. However, I believe category specific feeds ultimately mean that folks could miss out on interesting stuff, and I figure they want to subscribe to ME, not to a category-subset of me.
  6. Don't Blog to Get Rich
    • Very very very few bloggers can live off the money they make from their blog. Folks who aren't making lots of their blogs also sometimes think that folks with popular blog are making way more than they really are. For most of us, myself included, Blog ads won't make you wealthy, but it can buy you lunch and perhaps an iPod. Don't let money affect your content. Blog well, don't blog for dough. 


  1. Blog Interesting
    • Ultimately this entire list is folly because there's many blogs that I read because they've got great content. They may have obscure URLs or an average layout, but the content is compelling, so I come back.

So, forget this whole list, and Blog Interesting.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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June 04, 2007 19:04

You are right about the monetization of your Blog. I was running AdSense on my Blog for the first year, I think I made about $75. But one thing I did notice is the earnings per click were low and the click-through rate was low. Those two factors affected my real sites earning potential, effectively dragging down my earning per click on other sites. I removed the AdSense from my Blog and the other sites went way up in earning. What I did not expect though was a much higher interest in my professional talent from visitors to the site. My actual earning has go up from interest in my skills from my Blog. So that is my personal experience.
June 04, 2007 19:43
How about keep your ego in check? I would say that's #1.
June 04, 2007 20:30
I disagree with "Avoid maintaining two blogs." That conflicts with "Keep overtly personal information out of your tech blog".

If you only have one blog, but multiple audiences, you can't follow both of those maxims. It's the reason I started a personal blog, so I could write about picking my nose for my non-geek friends who are interested in that sort of thing.

It's challenging though. I update my personal blog much less, now using Twitter more for that purpose.

> Notice how I didn't link the the words "Some" "Popular" "Bloggers" to some of the ones I'm thinking of?

Yeah, but we all know who you mean. ;) And by hinting at it, you've accomplished the effect. One of those people also maintains 2 technical blogs. He violates two of your "ways" but is popular because he's so good at way #32. ;)
June 04, 2007 20:41
#26 ("This blog has moved") is pretty easily mitigated, if you are just switching hosting providers and/or domain names.

1) Use Fritz Onion's (of Viewstate Decoder fame) RedirectModule. When I switched to my own domain (rather than a subdomain of a friend's domain). I picked up my whole dasBlog content folder and dropped it in my new site, and put Onion's module on my old site with some regex redirectors that would redirect all of my permalinks with 301 to their new location. So all of my old permalinks are still valid (at least until my friend deletes that subdomain, but at least Google already updated their index).

2) See #24 (Consider using Feedburner). Since I was using Feedburner, all I had to do was change my Feedburner settings to point to my new domain.
June 04, 2007 20:48
Oh, THAT's embarrassing. Accidentally signed my previous comment with my old URL (old "Remember Me" cookie, apparently), and it would appear that my friend has replaced the default page with my 301 redirect (but left the RedirectModule in place). Whoops...
June 04, 2007 20:56
Haacked, I agree with you about the multiple blogs, especially if they have very different topics and audiences. I have too many blogs right now though and am narrowing them down to about 5 that I keep updated on a regular basis. They include topics on electronic gadgets, training, parenting, bicycling, restless legs... even about blogging itself (though the more I blog the more I realize I have much to learn).

Also Scott, your comment about how they'll compete with each other on Google shouldn't be an issue unless you're trying to make money from the blogs. And even if you are (and there's nothing wrong with that - it helps me pay for soccer registration for my kids and a multitude of those kinds of things)... if the content is different than Google isn't going to care.
June 04, 2007 20:57
"Avoid maintaining two blogs. "


"Keep overtly personal information out of your tech blog"

Well where in the heck do I blog about my daughter then?!

Remember, the blog with the highest page rank is likely how people will find out about you. I've been considering consolidating my personal blog ( with my tech blog ( simply because neither blog is a full representation of me. I am not just my technology. But if I do that, I will split my feeds up by category and "meta-category" (e.g. tech, life, cooking, home remodel, etc ... )
June 04, 2007 21:08
I disagree with "Avoid maintaining two blogs." That conflicts with "Keep overtly personal information out of your tech blog".

My thinking here is more about maintaining one's personal brand. If your goal is to keep things separate, then, of course, keep them separate. Probably the personal blog isn't meant to be found via Google anyway. I'm just pointing out that you can get into a split-brain situation, especially if you want to present a unified front of yourself.

Of course, as with #32, if you're awesome, you'll be awesome at both, so awesome-on, and ignore the others.
June 04, 2007 21:15
@OtherScott - Sure, as I said, I blog about Z occasionally, but it's about balance. Don't blog about personal stuff so much that folks get sick of them, but don't only post code samples, you know?
June 04, 2007 21:22
Well said! I’ve been pretty lucky so far when it comes to negative comments,
June 04, 2007 21:37
Scott, that is the stupidest thing I've ever read. Oh wait, I just read #5. I meant to say, great tips! I'll stop talking trash on my blog this instance! I think there's the challenging line of providing constructive criticism and blogging bile. I still feel bloggers should call BS on what they see as BS, but do so in a respectful conversation inducing manner.

Great post!
June 04, 2007 21:53
@Haacked - LOL!
June 04, 2007 23:15
I have to disagree with the "no two blogs" part as well. For me, my personal blog takes priority over my tech blog. They are two distinct facets of the same person. One is very politially oriented, and one is very technically oriented.

I have two distinct audiences as well. They are both me, but I recognize that people who are interested in my politics (and there are a number of them), would start rolling their eyes at the technical mumbo jumbo. At the same time, those who like to read technical stuff don't care a lick about my politics.
June 04, 2007 23:19
I have to disagree with some of this post. Although most of the recommendations are good, I think a few (particularily #2 regarding personal info) completely go against what I believe true blogging is about. Another questionable one is "think" before blogging. I have been blogging for years now with the approach "here is what is on my mind at the moment" a lot of which is pretty spontanious and random. It may not make for the most fluid read, but at least it is 100% genuine. As far as not keeping a blog personal, that again is what I believe a blog should be - personal experiences. I think you and <a href=""Jeff Atwood</a> do a great job and keep it pretty personal - much to my enjoyment.
Keep up the good work!
June 04, 2007 23:32
@Mark - Valid points and thanks for your feedback! I personally like to think first, blog second, but that's largely stylistic. As with all of these, Rule 32 is the only really valid rule!
June 05, 2007 5:35
good sites
god be with you hoho
June 05, 2007 9:31
Have you tried doing a google search for

"how black hair works"? With or without quotes, your choice.

If not, you should :)
June 05, 2007 12:12
LOL. Jeff is a trouble maker. Jeff, if it weren't for rule 32, you'd be on the receiving end of many ass whoopings I bet. ;)
June 05, 2007 12:55
Interesting, as always. One thing that confused me was the "Things not to do" section - perusing the subtitles, I get the impression that I should not maintain permalinks at all costs, and not pick a blog and and stay there.

I think Jeff Atwood gave the advice that you should also try to follow a schedule, to give your blog a pulse so to speak. While it's unlikely that most blogs will beat at Jeff's pace (caffeine?), it would help avoid the sad E.R. style drawn out beeeeeeep that is my blog. It's about making a commitment that I, for one, have not made yet.
June 05, 2007 20:25
@Einar - Thanks for the feedback. I've updated the titles to hopefully make things clearer.
June 06, 2007 4:59
When providing a list of N items in an advice column, blog or book, i've recently discovered that N should be a prime number.

43 folders, 37 signals, 7 habits of successful people, 5 people you meet in heaven, 7 thinking hats, 101 (everything).

32 is an abyssmal choice of number. So very very UNprime.

Either drop one of your items, or add five more.

June 06, 2007 6:13
Some good advice, Scott, thanks. One of your rules that I'll add a vote for is #3, "Don't apologize about not blogging enough." These days, I have a couple hundred RSS feeds. I'm not hanging on anyone's next post. Post every day (quality!), post once a month -- either way, I'll be happy to read it, as long as it's worthwhile. Reading a post about how you broke your favorite hockey stick in February, and are just getting out of your months-long depression over it is nothing but obnoxious.
June 06, 2007 14:40
I think the conversation this post has started is quite interesting. On one hand, I agree that the unified branding front is a wonderful marketing tool, while on the other hand, I think you start putting some governance on the whole Web 2.0 buzz. If I want to share pictures of my little one with some notes about her first steps in order for my extended family to read, should I break away from my "tech" site and offer a "personal" blog? In this scenario, as already stated above, I think separation is a necessity. The problem, if you want to consider it a problem, is often times your personal information is indexed and reveals a different, non-techy front to you.

For instance, they might realize your a parent, a member of various organizations that have absolutely nothing to do with the technology front, however, this empowers and propels the entire social networking aspect of the Web 2.0 front. What to do...?

In this case, I suggest separating the content into two different blogs, or utilize different technologies in this instance. I read above that someone uses Twitter for their social aspect. Is this really so different than simply having another Blog? I don't know, but it begs the question...are we turning into a society that is trying to brand ourselves on the Web and will eventually stray away from a centralized site that the user can discover all of your hobbies?

Personally, I like to put things in their own buckets and prefer separate sites for such activities (personal vs business (in our case technology). Simply tagging these or putting meta data in a single site, although functional, as Scott mentioned, really does brand yourself in a different light. What is a user to do?
June 06, 2007 21:04

Thanks for the great post and great information (as always). I was checking out the google maps guestmap and just picked an icon at random on their guestmap. It linked me to what turned out to be a bestiality school website! So I'd add, not only moderate your comments but moderate the links in your guestmap too. Oh and I second the vote for Akismet. It's caught something like 8000 spam comments in my own blog. I also agree it's good to keep a professional blog professional. For my own blog I have a plugin that hides a category from the main listing so you only see the personal posts if you want to see them. I'm off to move those personal articles to such a category now.
June 07, 2007 1:52
Jess - Would you please email me privately so I can remove that link from the GuestMap?
June 07, 2007 9:52

Thank you, this is very useful information, i have bookmarked it.

June 07, 2007 15:42
Sorry to double post, however, I've been thinking more and more about the unified branding front, which I do indeed agree with. My question, although not directly related to the question at hand, is, "How can I unbrand myself?" For instance, if you've been active in an organization for quite some time that is completely unrelated to technology, let's say knitting for discussion purposes and have been quite involved in the knitting for ages. You've blogged about it, been in usenets, etc.

When someone "Google's" you they find all types of knitting resources. However, now you would like to make a career shift and move into the IT field (for discussion and something we can all relate too). How does one go about rebrandnig? This I think is a key question and not one that is easy to answer. I'd really enjoy hearing some feedback on what you feel the best way to rebrand when making a career shift or transition. I.e, ex gamer turned dba, or ex hacker turned team manager, etc. I think it is a very interesting topic that can lead to many different ideas and suggestions. Any of you have this experience or can share some insight?
June 08, 2007 3:25
Very nice post

More on similar lines :)

To Blog or Not to Blog ....
People who are trying to decide whether to create a blog or not go through a thought process much like this:

1. The world sure needs more of ME.
2. Maybe I'll shout more often so that people nearby can experience the joy of knowing my thoughts.
3. No, wait, shouting looks too crazy.
4. I know - I'll write down my daily thoughts and badger people to read them.
5. If only there was a description for this process that doesn't involve the words egomaniac or unnecessary.
6. What? It's called a blog? I'm there!

The blogger's philosophy goes something like this: Everything that I think about is more fascinating than the crap in your head.

June 08, 2007 10:55
Let's try this once again. Hopefully, with the spaces in the proper places. Why can't I preview the post to eliminate the need for this second post? Also, what is the etiquette for how many posts to leave on your front page. On blogger I have the option of number of posts or days.

If you want to expose different aspects of your personality that's fine. Just follow the lead of or was it ?
June 08, 2007 10:58
Alas. Here's the non-interactive version.

If you want to expose different aspects of your personality that's fine. Just follow the lead of Poor Richard or Isaac Bickerstaff.
June 08, 2007 16:00
Scott, you forgot to mention the most important thing about blogs: How do you tell people about your blog? How to make people know (and tell each other) about my new blog?
Even if you have a very new good blog, people don't always get to know it...
June 18, 2007 5:56
"Some popular bloggers can get away with this, but I think that quotes make up more than 30% of a blog post (or, gasp, 70% or more)"

This is really annoying. Blogs like this one ( tend to quote at a higher than 70% rate. When it is that high, I don't think it's a blog, but more of a way for the "author" to practice their cutting and pasting skills.
June 30, 2007 1:49
hey. this post is a great resource for me. i have just started writing and while i believe i am improving, it is still somewhat scatterbrains.

July 25, 2007 18:47
Don't post throwaways
* I try to have a minimum length to a post. If you don't think about your blog post, likely no one else will either. If I want to save a link, rather than posting "I want to save this link, so I'm blogging it to remember" I use a service like Unless you're a link blogger, but then you'd batch them up.

I totally agree with this one, a blog post should be a carefully written text not a link or a small text. A fine complement for this is to create a tumblog or use services like Twitter, Jaiku or Pownce that are much more "short text oriented".

July 26, 2007 2:07

Thanks for this great post. I am curious to get your feedback on the "7 purposes" of a technical blog I just posted this week. Am I missing any categories?

BTW - congrats on the blue badge!

Comments are closed.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.