Behind The Scenes of Blogging – The Back End

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Hands-on experience...

Hands-on experience…

If you can turn on a computer, connect to the Web and write an email, you have enough technical skills to start a blog. However, “having” a blog is a bit like “having” a place to live. You can rent, which is usually less responsibilities but also comes with a few rules, like not painting the walls—or you can become a homeowner, but you will be responsible for all the maintenance and repairs. Similarly, in the blogosphere, you can start a blog worry-free on a platform like or or you can run a self-hosted blog.

After a couple of years with, I chose the self-hosted route. This blog is powered by WordPress with the SmartMag theme that I bought and customized myself. The domain name is registered with Namecheap and the blog is hosted by SiteGround.

So why did I make my life so complicated and why did I choose to spend money on a blog? Why didn’t I stay with a free out-of-the-box solution? First, because at one point I realized that I had been blogging for months and I was enjoying it, so I saw it as a long-term investment. Second, because like most bloggers, I wanted to claim ownership, customize my new toy, add a header, tweak categories, maybe figure out a cool function… and oh shit, a bug!

For the first few years, I spent hours tweaking my blog. Nowadays, I tend to focus on content unless I really want to add a new feature or I need to fix something. This is not a case of “I’m a mother now!” but rather customization fatigue. Blogging changed over the years as well, and many early hacks are now integrated with the platform. I can still edit code but if I can find the right plugin to do the job, I go for the easiest solution.

I have this theory that you can recognize new bloggers because they:

  • Display twenty-thousands widgets
  • Have super busy sidebars
  • Proudly add visitor counters and world maps
  • Use 20 different fonts and colours
  • Switch theme every week

I’m not being condescending, I did exactly the same! But as the blog (hopefully) picks up, you tend to clean up and feed readers what they really want—lovely articles, not widgets that display the world’s time zones (presumably, you know it’s late and you should be in bed by now, right?).

Today, I have two to-do list for Correr Es Mi Destino: routine tasks and the improvement plan.

Routine tasks:

  • Keeping up with plugin updates (a one-click task in WordPress) and major WordPress updates (again, a one-click task, although a hold-your-breath moment because updates can occasionally break everything).
  • Backing up all content and data, usually once a week or before every major update
  • Dealing with spam, i.e. emptying the junk caught by Akismet and fine-tuning parameters (usually, this involves blocking Russian IP addresses…)
  • Keeping up with interesting new plugins and trends by reading tech blogs like Noupe, Mashable or Smashing Magazine.
  • Following up on any hosting issue. These days, I’m having troubles with SiteGround because the service occasionally blocks the website for “high CPU usage”, whatever that means.

Improvement plan for readability and functionality

  • Testing a new font, a better archive system, contact form, etc.
  • Updating the various core pages of the blog in the menu bar (i.e. the “About me“, “About this Blog“, “Life in Canada” etc.) These are permanent resources that seem to be the first stop for many visitors.
  • Analyze data. Or at least, wish I could analyze data.
  • Fine-tune integration with social media, mostly Twitter.

I have always found the WordPress community forum very condescending and not helpful at all. When I have a technical issue, I usually go to DigitalPoint, a very busy forum with discussions related to search engines, including optimization, marketing, tools and other technical aspects. It also has a marketplace where you can hire skilled people, if you need to.

So, what did I learn over the years as a blog manager?

  • My own pet peeves as a blog reader taught me that less is more. What truly matters is the content, the rest is just fluff. There are blogs I gave up on reading because I couldn’t decipher the handwriting font or the centered text.
  • It’s important to have some kind of “about me/about this blog” page. Whenever I stumble upon a new blog, this is the first thing I check—yes, I’m curious, I want to know who the writer is! Understandably, some people value their privacy online, You can reveal as much or as little as you want, but do share what the blog is about.
  • If something is broken, Google the issue. Chances are you aren’t the only one dealing with it.
  • Streamline tedious processes like filtering spam (the Akismet plugin in WordPress), scheduling article (Editorial Calendar plugin), backups or social media integration.
  • Open-source software, like Notepad++ and Filezilla, are very useful.

What technical advice would you give to someone starting a blog or managing one? What did your experience teach you?


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Good advice! I agree, the about page is so important!
    Personally, I hate the social media widget or newsletter widgets that keep on popping up over the text… For the moment, I’m happy going the route since I’m not sure yet where I want to take this little blog of mine. Time will tell
    And I love “This is not a case of “I’m a mother now!””. Obv. I can’t relate, but it is a popular “excuse” for anything and everything for some.

    • I must admit that sometime, I feel like screaming “you don’t get it, it’s more complicated WITH A KID!” But honestly, it’s not. It’s just an handy excuse… like anything “demanding” in life. Taking care of a pet, being responsible for aging parents, being a new homeowner, working a tough job, etc. is stuff that can be as hard as having a kid. And it depends on the kid as well, and on how old they are. Some babies are super easy going. Mark was not. But on the other side, he travels very well, so… Bottom line is, we all have something in life that keeps us busy.

      • I understand, I mean, I babysit a lot for long periods of times and doing anything is so much more complicated with a 2 yr old in tow. I just meant some people sometimes go overboard with it, and everything is explained by the fact that they have kids.
        In saying that, I might end up being like that myself 😉

        • Oh, I know exactly what you mean! And it’s usually said with a smug look, as if having kid(s) give you the meaning of life (hint: it does NOT) 😆

          • “with a smug look, as if having kid(s) give you the meaning of life” Yes!
            Or saying having kids enabled you to find yourself as a woman etc. Once again I’m asking myself if it’s a cultural thing, in France I feel like women are more concerned with staying themselves after having kiddos rather that having their whole identity become “mom”

          • Wow… you put it PERFECTLY. It’s exactly that! I’ve been feeling that cultural difference for a while but I couldn’t express it. You nailed it. I always feel that in France, a kid is an addition to the family, while here, a kid is THE family, suddenly he/she becomes the only purpose of the couple.

          • I’m glad you agree, I thought it was maybe me being overly judgemental or something 😉
            And yes, it feels like here everything becomes centered around the kid and your own “status” and “success” depends on how well your precious little one is doing.
            I can imagine it’s hard enough as a couple and as a woman to maintain “un semblant de normalite” without that pressure…
            Now I’m wondering how your Chinese husband see it!

          • He… doesn’t see it, I think. Most of the pressure is on women. It was one of these infuriating moments back when Mark was an infant. We went to the doctor for his vaccinations and the doctor said “oh, you’re so lucky you’re husband is coming with you!” Fuck that shit. As if he was getting a special prize for showing up, while I, mother, was doing my duty.

            I think guys deal with a different kind of pressure, mostly they are told they have to be financially responsible.

  2. I’m pretty happy with my premium theme. Actually, I’ve been looking for something like it for quite a long time now!
    Hosting my own blog costs me around 90 euros a year. It’s not a cheap hobby but hell… it’s so enjoyable I don’t care!

    • A good theme saves you a lot of energy on the long run! My hosting fee is about the same, I think. Problem is, my blog is big, ten years of archives and pictures… I hope my hosting solutions can keep up with it!

    • Much better, thank you! It was a nasty one, just a couple of days of being sick but I felt super weak for a week. Idiotic bug.

      Yes, yes, do back up! Can you install plugins? If so, I can recommend one that will do the job. I’m not sure how it works on (that’s what you are blogging with, right?)

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