411 Some Things You Should Know Before You Start a Blog

You’re passionate about some subject and are considering starting a blog. Here’s some things you should know first:

What your blog is about will eventually change to one degree or another. I have noticed many bloggers redefine themselves, some more than others. My blog was initially a way to share a factoring puzzle I invented, but most of the people who visit my blog are not looking for puzzles; they want to find the factors of a particular number. After all, my blog name implies that factors can be found here. To satisfy these viewers, I now give the factoring information for the number 411:

  • 411 is a composite number.
  • Prime factorization: 411 = 3 x 137
  • The exponents in the prime factorization are 1 and 1. Adding one to each and multiplying we get (1 + 1)(1 + 1) = 2 x 2 = 4. Therefore 411 has exactly 4 factors.
  • Factors of 411: 1, 3, 137, 411
  • Factor pairs: 411 = 1 x 411 or 3 x 137
  • 411 has no square factors that allow its square root to be simplified. √411 ≈ 20.2731

When I first noticed that people were visiting my blog because they wanted to know the factors of a number, I resisted changing, but later I gave in. I even edited all my previous blog posts to include factored numbers. Eventually I added the square roots of numbers and indicated if those square roots could be simplified. Still I keep my original intent and publish the puzzles I create.

Coming up with imaginative titles for EVERY blog post can be tedious or even impossible. Many people judge whether or not a post is worth reading by the title. Sometimes a great title pops into my head, but most of the time I’ve got nothing. I started giving my puzzle posts boring titles like “Level 3”  and actually had several posts with that same name. When my stats page told me that someone liked or visited a post called Level 2, I wasn’t sure which post that was. When I started factoring numbers, it solved my problem of giving each post a distinctive title even if it was still a boring name. Now I often use unimaginative titles like “406 and Level 4”.

Blogging uses up more time than you imagine it will. I once read a very long, hilariously funny, grammatically perfect post that the author claimed he wrote during his lunch time. I find that claim very hard to believe because it certainly doesn’t work that way for me. I can spend 15-30 minutes reading or writing blogs, but the clock at my house indicates that I actually spent two hours or more. No matter what clock I use, it’s the same story.

If you write a blog, you will connect with a community of people who read your blog and you read theirs. All that reading takes time. Commenting on someone else’s blog or answering a comment on your own blog also takes time. It may seem like you’re only spending a few minutes at a time, but it really is much longer than that. Family members may complain about other things not getting done or quality time not being spent even if they are trying to be supportive. You will find blogs you want to read even though its writer doesn’t feel the same way about your blog. You will learn so much reading other people’s blogs, and you may want to read more books about a particular subject or even write about it yourself. You will find yourself wishing there were more hours in the day, or that you could actually make some money blogging and cut back on your hours at your regular job.

Most bloggers don’t make money blogging. If you want to make money on WordPress, you have to have enough views, you have to purchase your own domain name, and you have to sign up for WordAds. After some consideration, I took this step in August 2014. I registered my domain name for $18 a year and signed up for WordAds. I also pay another $8 each year to keep my contact information private.

How many views do you have to have to make money on WordPress? Update: Since writing this post, WordPress allows ALL of its bloggers to sign up for Wordads. Now every blog with a registered domain name is a potential money maker, even if it turns out to be just a little bit of money each month. The amount of money that you’ll make will depend on how many views you have and where those views come from. 

Was it worth it to register your own domain name? Yes, the number of views I’ve received after registering is much, much greater than it was before I registered. It is much easier to tell friends and acquaintances to look for Findthefactors.com than it was to tell them that name with wordpress added to it. Even though it cost more money than I might have made back, it helps me reach more viewers, and that helps me meet my original objective. The only drawback is that if don’t renew my registration every year Findthefactors.com could become what they call a parking lot. I would have no control over what people would see if they went to the site. If you read the fine print when you register your domain, this stipulation is made quite clear. Somebody else could put whatever they want on the unregistered site, including adult content. I intend to continue registering Findthefactor.com for the rest of my life. Hopefully my children and grandchildren will also after I’m gone.

If you’re still thinking of starting a blog, do it because you love a particular subject. Do it because it pleases you. There will be days when absolutely nobody else looks at your blog. You will gain some followers, but some of those followers will get discouraged with their statistics and quit blogging and quit reading your blog. You will also get some followers who follow you for the sole purpose of trying to get you to follow them back. Once you follow them, they never look at your blog again. If you blog, you have to do it for yourself, and if anyone else enjoys it, that is a bonus.

I chose WordPress because it allows me to put excel documents on my blog. (Blogspot didn’t.) Unfortunately people who view my blog on their smart phones can’t see those documents. I hope there are a few teachers out there who at least occasionally look at my blog on their home or school computers and print out the puzzles for their classes. That would make my decision to add those documents definitely worth it.

Fellow bloggers, what other things do you think new bloggers should know?

26 thoughts on “411 Some Things You Should Know Before You Start a Blog

  1. I agree with all of your blog points, but especially the one about the time. Oh, the time! I don’t think a lot of people realize just how many hours can be spent not only tinkering with your own blog, but building and interacting with a community. Totally worth it though. 🙂

  2. I had noticed the changes in adding paragraphs about factoring of numbers, but hadn’t thought about how they came about.

    The biggest evolution in my mathematics blog since I started is that the “Reading the Comics” posts have become my most popular and most common things. I didn’t know what niche I might have, but that’s apparently part of it. I haven’t sprung for a site name of my own yet, but do keep thinking about whether it makes sense to.

    • Springing for your own site name is a big decision. Since the mathematics comics are so popular on your site, you could consider a site name that has the word comics in it to help people remember the name and find it. You are actually allowed to register more than one site name for a blog, but you have to pay for each one. There’s no multi-name discount either.

      • Might be sensible, yeah. I figure ‘Nebus’ as part of the name is good what with it being rare and distinct and, well, my name. If there were a way to fit ‘Comics’ in the domain name in a way that didn’t suggest I drew them … hm. Must consider.

        • I’m really not an expert on blog names. Adding “Comics” might not even make a difference. I do know that the reason I found your blog in the first place was because I was searching for math comics.

          Also, https://nebusresearch.wordpress.com/

          will still work after you register another name. I think “.wordpress” just makes a blog more complicated to find.

          It looks like you are also already using http://nebusresearch.com/

          and it directs people to your math blog as well.

          • Oh, yes, I do have that. I’d had that first, actually, so I could develop my PHP and database skills. For some reason though PHP takes a weird ten seconds or so to start up, which makes it a useless site for showing anything I want people to see. I’m not even sure who to ask about why it behaves like that.

  3. I’m actually reading up more on blogging…before I get back into it. Drafting a new plan and all that. Got some books from the library re: blogging and social media. “Professional Blogging for Dummies” “The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging” “Smashing WordPress” (just starting) and to-read “No-One Cares What you had for Lunch”. Gotta go back and get the next batch: Bloggers Bootcamp, The Twitter Book, and the WordPress Bible.

    So, I’m putting my moving sabbatical to good use 🙂

  4. Your blog gets a lot more visitors than mine! 18,000 views in a month is 600 a day, which is a lot! It’s a shame that it still isn’t enough to earn some money. It would be nice to at least cover the expenses of registering and running a domain name.

    Excellent advice, by the way. The only thing I would add is that the WordPress.com community is very special, and I would recommend using it over Blogspot or WordPress.org, because of the number of people you will reach.

    • Even though it probably seems like I was complaining, I really wasn’t. My initial objective is still being met. I just sometimes wish I could spend less time on the things that bring in money and more time reading, writing, and learning. Getting paid to do those things would be fabulous.

      You have many more followers than I do, and you get many views, too. You also get many more likes and comments than I do. If those things are part of the mystery equation, maybe you would make money using WordAds. Since it appears that you’ve already registered your domain name, you have nothing to lose.

      • Iva, your post didn’t come across as a complaint 🙂

        I don’t think I could make money from my blog, and that isn’t what it’s for anyway. It’s just my personal soap box 🙂

        I run a high-traffic website for my day job, so I know what is involved in making a decent income from advertising. It’s not just about numbers, it’s also about focus (thinking about what kinds of adverts or products visitors to your website might be interested in.) If you could find a product to sell or advertise on your site, you might generate a much higher income than just generic adverts. With the volume of traffic you have, you ought to be able to generate a non-zero revenue.

        As an aside, I can’t see any adverts on this page. Should there be any?

        • I don’t know that I want to focus my time on selling products anyway.

          WordAds only occasionally puts ads on my site to generate money for WordPress. I haven’t met the necessary “minimum traffic requirements” to have ads put on regularly that would allow me to earn any.

  5. What a great post! I especially like how all the clocks in your house have conspired together to make you think so much more time than you thought has passed.

    It’s been a real pleasure experiencing how your blog is evolving. This kind of change is something that I struggle with. I started out just wanting to post bookmaking instructions, but now I’ve become more interested in content and what motivates the making the books,

    Some things about blogging have surprised me. For instance,if I’ve done a somewhat monochromatic blog or two, I want the next ones to be colorful, and after numerous bright posts, I look to make a post that is more visually subdued.

    I’ve appreciated how color and visual whimsy has moved into your work. It was interesting to me that when I started noticing the visual playfulness of some of your posts, that I felt more invited on to the page.

    Thanks for this post. I enjoy hearing the sound of your voice on the page.

    And thanks for this blog. I love the constancy and the rhythm of the numbers and the factors showing up on my screen.

    • Thank you for sharing your personal experiences blogging and reading my blog over such a long period of time! I will see what I can do to add color more often to my posts, although visually subdued may continue to be the norm. Some puzzles beg me to color them while many of them just don’t. I added color to puzzle 414 just because of your comment!

      It’s true that I was first attracted to your blog because of the beautiful graphics in your post https://bookzoompa.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/pieces-of-pi/

      • My son has made me aware of that using colors with math should be done judiciously. I used to try to color code things for him, to help show connections between concepts, and he would tell me that adding color became just one more element to decipher and thus
        one more challenge.

        So, now after having encouraged the use of color in my last comment, I am now offering a reason not to use it. Color nearly always draws me in, and it’s been a revelation that it can do just the opposite for other people. Just something to think about.

        By the way, it was a real thrill when you reposted my colorful pi post that you referenced in your last comment. You were the first person to ever repost from my blog. That particular post is one of my favorites, but you were just about alone in noticing it,

        • Usually when I’ve added color it was to make the puzzle look prettier and more interesting, but sometimes color does make it harder to see the clues or is otherwise distracting.

          So far no one has solved the color puzzle for 414. It may look harder than it really is: Think about what you learned in kindergarten about blue, green, and yellow and apply it to what you learned in 3rd or 4th grade about the numbers.

  6. I don’t think there’s anything at all I’d disagree with, but there are a few differences of perspective.

    Firstly, if anything I reckon you probably understate the commitment you continue to make by posting every single day. I wasn’t prepared to tie myself to a schedule; I guessed there’d be times when I’d want to offer a whole batch of pieces, but I knew there’d be many more times when I was too busy or simply didn’t feel like it. So from the start I determined it would simply be a new hobby and not a task done to a fixed schedule.

    There’s a parallel here. A long time ago I entered the world of playing boardgames by post – now of course, via email. An “editor” would produce a magazine on a regular basis reporting on the games played by one’s subscribers, print out copies and post them to recipients. It was fun, and I couldn’t resist launching a “zine” of my own. There were dozens of zines, but sooner or later pretty well every editor burnt out. Many because they lost interest, but most because they committed themselves to producing too big a zine too frequently; typically a zine might last fewer than a dozen issues and be dead within a year.

    My zine “Hopscotch” started in 1980 and is now approaching 300 issues. In 35 years it’s never missed an issue or even been late. So while I know a bit about committing yourself to a schedule, I also know that you have to think very carefully before you tie yourself to a schedule – even a weekly blogging schedule would be too rigid for me.

    Mission creep? That’s surely unavoidable and indeed desirable. Anything that doesn’t change and grow will stagnate. Yours has grown from little more than a daily puzzle and now features a unique line of weird and unfamiliar number relationships. Similarly, I began by concentrating on my current work as a one-to-one tutor but now include a huge variety of things that I’ve been involved with over 50+ years.

    Fortunately, I’ve not the slightest wish to use my blog to make any money. If I did, I’d have been discouraged a long time ago. I’ve still got just a handful of followers, and – as you say – there are plenty of days when no-one in the world accesses my blog, but I figure I’ve got a few interesting things to say and some stories to tell, and the number of reads goes up gradually. There’s another reason why my blog must be a money-free zone. In an amateur hobby I’m free to write whatever I want, good or bad, finely–honed or scrappy. But as soon as I accept as penny then I have a responsibility and a commitment to you; I’ve turned myself into a professional and you’re entitled to demand professional standards from me.

    Books? Well, there’s a lot to learn, and a book seemed a good idea. After a couple of false starts I discovered “Teach Yourself Visually WordPress” by Janet Majure, which has been useful to have in the bookcase

    A couple of things have surprised me. Firstly, I assumed that no matter what the subject matter of your blog is, there’d be hundreds of others built around the same sort of theme, and I took it for granted there’d be some kind of directory or indexing system to make it easy to find them. Now it may indeed be true that there are hundreds of people writing blogs about teaching and learning primary mathematics, but I’ve still been able to locate only a tiny handful, and not one that shares more than a small proportion of my DNA.

    And the second surprise is one to rejoice about. Unlike any other aspect of internet communication I can think of, the blogging world is not dominated by illiterate and offensive morons, but is a friendly place populated by interesting and agreeable people. I may not have found the blogs about primary school maths I was looking for, but I have discovered a lot of pleasant people who’ve got intriguing things to say.

    But you’ve nailed a golden rule, and the bottom line must be your words: “If you blog, you have to do it for yourself, and if anyone else enjoys it, that is a bonus.”

    • Wow! Your comment could be a blog post all by itself! Thank you for sharing your experience blogging and editing a zine for 35 years with us! That is an incredible accomplishment!

      You’re right, how often to post is a legitimate question every blogger has to ask himself. I don’t feel like anybody, except myself, is demanding that I post everyday. Sometimes it is actually inconvenient, but I do it anyway. I agree that blogging as a hobby or as a consistent commitment both have their places.

      You’ve brought up some interesting points about accepting money for a blog. I imagine if I ever do meet the minimum traffic standards that advertisers demand, I might be asked to change what I do in order to continue to meet those standards. Maybe that’s why I haven’t met their standards yet, too. I do like being the one in charge of what I post.

      Thank you for the book recommendation. I’ll see about picking up a copy.

      The tags we put on posts will bring up in the wordpress reader some other people’s posts tagged the same way, but it doesn’t always work as effectively as an index of topics might be able to.

      I agree the blogging world has some terrific people in it, and I have learned so much from many of them, including you!

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