How to maintain a technical blog?
I have been working in commercial development since 2011. Since the end of 2012 I have been developing for iOS. I wrote my first technical article on Habré at the beginning of 2017 about the approach to localization of mobile applications . Then I released several more articles on iOS development on Habré and at the end of 2017 I moved to a new company and decided to blog about solution architecture https://medium.com/@ nvashanin , where he began to describe general concepts, responsibilities of an architect, his skill set, etc. By the summer of 2020, the number of views of my articles exceeded 800 thousand, and the amount of time that people spent reading was more than 6 million minutes, or about 12 years of pure time. The flagship article was translated by other people into different languages: for example, Polish or Spanish .
In this article, I will tell you about my path to a technical blog - from ideas to regular publications. I’ll tell you about what you can write about, how to write and how to format articles, as well as how to make money from them. For example, I managed to buy a watch for the money that the blog brought. The article is suitable for those who are just thinking about writing articles, and will also be useful for those who are already actively writing.
I became interested in developing towards a software architect back in 2016. At the beginning of 2017, I visited the first three-day intensive in my life, where a seasoned architect spoke about the basic concepts. Towards the end of the intense, we were united in teams that were supposed to take the proposed problem, come up with an architectural solution for it, and defend it in front of other teams. Honestly, then it turned out badly for me.
I was already a team leader for several years, then I moved to another company and found out that there is a separate branch of development - architects. To do this, I had to work as an architect on my project and go through an assessment through a committee of mature architects. I passed this committee only the second time, six months after the first attempt. The total percentage of passage in the company to this position was about 25%.
And at the end of 2017, when I began to informally act as an architect on a large project, along the way I started a blog in which I began to write about career development. I wanted to figure it out myself. And also to help those who are in a similar situation and are thinking about where to go after the Timlid position, except for the management branch. This is the main motivation why I started blogging. Let's look at what else could be the reasons for this.
Why keep a tech blog
I often hear the question: “Why do I need a blog?”. Here are just a few reasons - and they are relevant not only for the IT sector.
Pump knowledge. If you are interested in some topic and you want to better understand it, write an article. So you can improve your own knowledge and put them "on the shelves". I started a blog because I wanted to structure my knowledge of software architect work.
Create a personal brand. Even as a developer, you are in the community. If you are known in the community, it will be easier for you to find a new dream job, achieve growth, increase income and gain the respect of other professionals from your field.
And also, competently developing your personal brand, you can become an influencer - that is, a specialist whose other members of the community are listening to their opinion. One of the striking examples is the case of the guys from Rambler. In 2016, they managed to recommend VIPER as the best architecture for the presentation layer on iOS and an alternative to the more classic MVC and MVVM among the Russian iOS community. And all thanks to sensible speeches and useful articles. A lot of companies and developers have dragged VIPER themselves, some still use it.
Promote your company. Creating a personal brand is always closely intertwined with the strengthening of the company's brand.This is a win-win situation: you help attract the best personnel, set a good example for your colleagues, talk about the product and useful insiders to the market, and the company encourages you one way or another.
Of course, it is important that the management of the company also recognizes the value of this story and maintains the activity of employees. We at Cardsmobile are now actively working to strengthen the HR brand in the market, and perhaps my articles will help motivate guys from the team to share knowledge, write articles and to speak.
Make money. Most start a blog to earn money. This is a common reason for travel or beauty, but, paradoxically, IT blogging rarely goes for money. Although there are still opportunities: I bought a watch for the money that the blog brought to me - although I did not set myself the goal of making money.
What to blog about
The question that everyone who decides to start a blog is: "What to write about?" Most often, the topic for articles suggests the very reason why you decided to start a blog. If you decide to pump - write articles about what you want to understand. If you strengthen the brand of the company and your own, tell us about your work, projects, applied technologies.
For myself, I have identified the following areas - or categories:
Reviews. Saw a new technology - try to explain it in the format "from A to Z". Find out what they are talking about at relevant conferences, what is now in trend. Almost everything new has great potential for research and deep immersion. Reviews of read books are also good.
Cases. Did something interesting - tell us about it. A common mistake is the feeling that you are not doing anything interesting. Often the opposite is true. Look at your work not from the inside, but from the outside, and fight with Imposter Syndrome .
Work with a heavily loaded back-end — tell us how you make a highload and why exactly. Typing UI - tell us about an interesting animation that you made. Used a new technology in the project - tell us about your experience with it. Your pitfalls and insiders will help others not sit around the problem for hours.
Guides. Take some kind of problem and try to solve it. Describe the solution in detail - you get a kind of guide for those who face a similar problem.
Analytical notes. Form your own opinion about a new technology or a problem that worries the market. I’ll clarify that this format is more suitable for influencers who already have an audience and who are listening to the community.
Articles with humor. Take a serious topic and talk about it in a light manner. Audiences like that.
A couple of topic search tips
Capture peer questions. Most companies have things that will interest the community. It is not difficult to find such topics: analyze what processes and technologies are most often asked by newcomers to talk about - write about it.
Read news and trends. This is an endless stream of new topics for your blog. By preparing an article about a news or trend, you can solve two problems at once: pump your own knowledge and save time for other community members by collecting information for them.
Read comments on other people's articles. This is a storehouse of information that interests and bothers other people.
Remember that unique and brilliant ideas, as a rule, are few. One way or another, everything was already invented by someone. Nevertheless, this is not a reason not to write, because there are few good descriptive texts. My advice: just write, and over time you will learn how to quickly find interesting topics for your blog.
How to write a good article
Share unique content. The main rule of good text is that it must be unique. No one is interested in reading what has already been published somewhere. In addition, according to the rules of some sites - including Habr - publishing non-unique content is prohibited: this is punishable not only by minuses in karma, but also by ban.
Make a plan. An interesting and understandable article begins with a plan and structure of the main thoughts. Thinking about a good skeleton of the article helps me with mind maps.For this article, we got a small mind map, but solid ones sometimes come out. Below is the mind map that I put together to tell on Twitter about my experience in living in the Netherlands.
Make the plan as detailed as you can. Try to highlight all the main ideas that you want to reveal in the article.
Stick to the structure. To make it easier for the reader to navigate the article, use the traditional structure, which consists of an introduction, a main part and a conclusion.
- The main part.
- Conclusions or conclusion.
At the end of the article, briefly state the main ideas that you have revealed in the text in order to put everything in shelves in the reader’s head, or leave room for thought. You can also add useful links to the topic at the end of the article so that interested readers can study the topic in more detail.
Write as you speak. You should not come up with complex designs, if in ordinary life you talk differently - be yourself. At the same time, the text should be literate, without parasitic words and other verbal garbage.
Come up with a big name. There are no secrets to help you choose the perfect wording or heading length. Formulate the title so that it reveals the content of the article and helps the reader make a choice: read or not read. Catchy and incriminating headlines sometimes work - they catch attention, but it is important that the content of the article meets the expectations of the reader. It also makes sense to study the search engine results, in order to understand what topics are most often searched. Always choose a title after you have finished writing the content of the article - it will turn out to be as relevant as possible.
Don't forget about the pictures. Without them, nowhere - dry text without pictures is boring to read. Choose images that are meaningful or funny pictures that add a little lightness to serious fiction.
The caption to the article - the teaser (from the English tease - to tease) deserves special attention. From the name, the mechanism by which it should be selected is clear: it should cause a desire to open a link. This is important, because the first thing a person pays attention to is the picture. A nice visual will gather more attention and transitions.
If possible, duplicate the name of the author and the name of the company in the picture - so they are better considered.
I select pictures for my articles from the Monument Valley game. I subconsciously associate it with architecture and complex design and, in my opinion, is well suited for the title. And in general, this is a very cool game - I advise.
Check the content. I do not publish the written article right away. I have a ritual that I strictly observe - this is a review consisting of several stages.
Spelling, punctuation and stylistics of the text. I advise you to use special automated services: Spelling - for spelling, punctuation and stylistics; Advego - for stylistic text verification; Glavredom - the king of services that cleans text from verbal garbage.For English texts, I use the paid version of the Grammarly service.
Verification by reviewers. In the areas that I write about - from iOS development to architecture - I have several good reviewers - specialists whose opinion I trust. They are well versed in the topic and can give comments on the content: in iOS - the developer from VK, my good friend from St. Petersburg, and in architecture - the architect from Google in Silicon Valley. If you have no such experts in mind, show the article to the leader or colleagues. Large companies in which the content production process is on stream collaborate with external reviewers.
Proofreading text by a technical writer. I always send English texts to native speakers. They help reformulate phrases so that they sound better in the language of the article. I send texts in Russian to familiar technical writers - they also help with suitable wordings.
As a result, the article was approved not only by me, but also by strict reviewers - which means that trust in such content is higher.
Where to publish the article: site selection
If the company has its own blog, you can start with it. If not, there are two options: existing sites or a blog on your domain.
There are many blog platforms: the Habr is popular among the Russian-speaking audience, and Medium . There are also many platforms for creating your own blog. Each approach has its pros and cons.
+ Advanced SEO, whereby readers will find your article. This reduces the costs, both time and money, of promoting a blog. At the same time, platforms generate traffic not only for new articles: I have not written since last August, but each month my articles receive about 25 thousand views.
+ Ready-made UI, which simplifies the layout of articles . The platforms offer user-friendly editors that integrate a variety of templates and mechanics. In Medium, for example, there is a block with automatic calculation of the time it takes to read the article. Articles are also convenient to read: in the editors, by default, “air” in the text, font variations, headings, convenient work with pictures and much more are provided.
+ Simple launch. The article is being worked out according to a simple scenario: writing - > publication.
- Basic customization of the style. If you want complex layout or custom chips, this option will not work.
- The need to accept all the rules of the blog platform. Legal nuances are not ruled out, and you may also be banned for violation, which will lead to a complete loss of the blog. It's about privacy: for example, you can’t publish private correspondence or make a full copy of an article from another site. Such moments seem obvious, but it’s better to read the rules of the platform at the start.
- Dependence on the demand for the site. If the service is losing popularity, then your blog is losing popularity.
Blog on your own domain
The advantages of popular platforms are the disadvantages of blogs on your domain. And the disadvantages of platforms are the advantages of their own sites.
You can customize the blog as you like, but at the start you will need to invest a lot of resources. In addition, your own site requires a large budget and involvement in the promotion, generation and retention of traffic, while blog platforms themselves generate traffic for you.
If you still want to have your own domain, some sites allow you to set up your own domain name and publish articles under it - this option is available, for example, on Medium. Having appreciated all the pros and cons of both options, I started blogs on two platforms: on Habré and Medium.
How to promote an article
If you decide to start a blog on the platform, the traffic generated by the platform itself will be available to you by default. To promote a blog on your own domain it makes sense to connect an SEO specialist.
There are other promotion formats that can attract readers - regardless of the platform on which you are located. I share ways that specifically helped me.
Send the link to your friends. This is a priori loyal audience.With a high probability they will read your article and like. Such activity can help to break into the daily top, which, in turn, will generate more traffic from the site.
Publish a link on all social networks. Even if you do not have social networks, posts will still generate a certain number of views - at the start this is already good. In my case, Linkedin works best, where I have more than 3 thousand contacts, mostly an English-speaking community. But Instagram, in my opinion, doesn’t work at all for IT blogs.
Send the link to influencers. These can be bloggers, publics and publications on topics similar to yours. Perhaps your article will be added to the newsletter or published in the feed. I had a case with the publication of on the Telegram channel with a couple of thousands of active readers .
Make presentations. Participation in conferences also strengthens your personal brand. You can share a blog link with your audience and thereby increase its organic reach. This is not an intrusive advertisement: the audience that listens to you, by default, is interested in the area that you talk about and write about, and you offer them more useful content.
All these mechanics will help you become an expert in your field and become known in the community. I do not consider myself an influential expert in software architecture, but my blog has a regular audience and it generates new useful contacts. Below are a few Linkedin posts that have grown into interesting conversations.
Linkedin Message Screens
I have a motivating story from a past job. Epam is a big company, and even as an architect, you may never run into CTO. But it still happened to me, and at the time of meeting he noted that he read my blog and liked my articles.
How to monetize your blog
Let's move on to the most provocative topic - is it possible to monetize a blog, and how to do it.
Important disclaimer. Before adding monetization, check the rules of your company - if you are writing from the company, and the rules of the site on which you publish. Moments regarding monetization are most often clearly defined - knowing them, you can avoid the negative consequences: for example, ban and loss of a blog.
Types of monetization
There are two areas of monetization.
Direct. You get paid directly for writing an article.
Indirect. You do not receive money directly for writing an article, but your income is still growing. It works like that. For example, you speak at conferences for money. Your blog with quality articles increases your fame and expertise in the community, and you can increase the price for presentations. Another scenario is possible: if you are developing a paid product, mention it in the articles - this can stimulate sales. It is possible to “monetize” you as a specialist: the image of an expert affects the wages and probability of employment in cool companies.
Indirect monetization is a too voluminous direction, so I will not discuss this topic in detail in this article and focus on direct monetization, on those financial flows that can be touched.
In direct monetization, the key metric is incoming traffic, or rather, the number of views and readings of the article. The number of reads increases revenue and generates the main cash flow. Roughly speaking, if you double your inbound traffic, then with a high probability your income will also double.
An important aspect is the orientation (targeting) of the audience. I’ll explain the example of the British Politics Blog .The traffic to the site was very small, so the author set low advertising prices. But once the author was informed that the Prime Minister of Great Britain reads his blog, and he realized that he could push up the price of advertising to heaven, as the country's political elite read the blog.
So, if you are targeting a specific audience - for example, writing for Android developers or, as in my case, beginner and experienced architects - you can expect good monetization even with relatively low traffic.
I tested several monetization mechanisms. I share their results.
Native monetization of the blog platform. I share my experience with Medium . Each reader or author can buy a paid account for $ 5 and read all articles on the platform. The reader likes the articles he likes - on Medium this is called "cotton." The money that the reader paid for the subscription is distributed among the authors of the articles he liked. The best authors can get good money. At the end of the month, Medium sends a mailing list to all authors, in which it discloses top income figures. In May 2020, the numbers looked like this: the best author received $ 25,000 per month from all of his articles, and for the best article paid more than $ 10,000. I received $ 50 per month for one of the articles - it was published 8 months before I tested the tool.
Screen of the screen with information about how much I have earned on one of my articles
The disadvantage of this format is that the article is available only to those who have a subscription. This did not suit me, so I studied other options.
Affiliate links. You become a member of the so-called “affiliate program” and post affiliate links in your article. If the reader follows this link and buys the product, you get a certain percentage of the sale.
Many software products and stores have affiliate programs - HubSpot has a list of available programs : from Coursera to Amazon. I chose the latter: in each of my articles there are a couple of links to books on architecture. If someone buys them on my recommendation, Amazon transfers me a certain percentage. The mechanics are simple: if you write useful content for your audience, a properly selected affiliate program can make you rich. Links in my articles still generate an average of $ 100 to $ 150 every month - even taking into account the fact that I wrote the last article almost a year ago (but I promise to correct and start writing again!).
My October 2019 Amazon Affiliate Revenue
The disadvantage of this approach is that it is impossible to transfer money from Amazon to the cards of Russian banks. I lived in the Netherlands, so I had no problems with a bank account and withdrawing money. You can make an account on PayPal and withdraw money through it.
Affiliate programs are the most profitable and proven way to monetize. They can bring thousands of dollars every month - provided that you write constantly. Cases confirm: one author made a link invitation to Uber drivers when the aggregator was just starting its expansion and earned $ 50,000, while another wrote an article about Instagram bots on Medium and earned $ 2000.
Referral invitations. If you work in IT, most likely your company has bonuses for inviting employees to the company. As a rule, bonuses range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. For example, if you write complex and interesting things on the Android theme, probably the people who read you want to work with you or in your team and can get into the company through you.
This method of monetization is the most unstable and requires the most time.You will have to filter people and review the resume before the recommendation, as well as present the company and talk about the conditions to the potential candidate. Of course, at some point you can catch the jackpot by making several successful referrals, but the company can stop hiring at any time and your income will “freeze”.
Marketing posts. If you run a popular blog on a specific topic, companies will want to publish marketing posts or internal integrations for your money, because your target audience is concentrated on your blog.
For example, you write about everything related to Devops, and the company opens new paid courses in this direction. It is possible they will want to buy integrated native advertising on your blog. Personally, I have not tried such monetization, but I have received offers.
Bonuses from the company. Many companies have bonus programs for writing articles. It can be either cash prizes or their alternatives - mobile devices, tickets to foreign conferences or a cool unique merch.
Perhaps if I wrote more articles, I would earn a couple thousand dollars a month on a blog. So far, for the entire time of its existence - since 2017 - the blog has brought me about $ 5,000 through various formats of monetization. With this money I bought a watch, which I already mentioned at the beginning of the article. A nice bonus - especially considering that I did not seriously engage in blogging and promotion, but only wanted to study this direction.
Article length, tags and three more life hacks
In the process of writing articles for the blog, I found some life hacks for myself. They may be useful to you.
Better to finalize an article than to release a raw one. It sounds captainly, but sometimes I had to modify an already published article. This approach destroys your credibility in the eyes of readers and leads to a decrease in traffic. Solzhenitsyn in the “First Circle” describes the rule of the last steps: when 95% of the work is completed, nothing remains, but these 5% of the work are the most difficult in terms of motivation and the most important in terms of reader convenience. Always finish the article to the end, even if it seems to you that it will work, otherwise why is it all?
The optimal length of one article is 7 minutes. These are the Medium statistics . Reading articles with the highest rating on the platform takes 7 minutes. Of course, this is not a universal number. In my opinion, the best timing is from 6 to 10 minutes. This article has enough content to fully reveal the topic, but it is not difficult to read at a time. Much also depends on the site: somewhere, the optimal length of the post is 3 minutes, and somewhere, perhaps all 30 minutes.
Use tags. Almost all blogging platforms offer tagging. Put them to the maximum and focus on the audience for which you are writing. This will allow readers to find your article faster.
Publish your article on Thursday or Saturday morning. Statistic these days, the number of views is 33% higher than on others. The worst day to post is Monday.
Use keywords to optimize your search. Keywords will help bring your article and blog to the top if you publish text on your site.
Life hacking is good, but still, content is the main reason a person will read your article. If the content is decent, it’s not so important what time you publish the article and how many characters it will contain.
Instead of conclusions, or what's next
And then, most likely, you need to write more. Because building a good tech blog is a long process. It’s early to summarize this venture after the first published article, and even more so you should not compare yourself with those who have been writing for a long time. is at the end of this path.
Try to publish at least five articles, and then evaluate the first intermediate results: have you become better at articulating your thoughts, are you growing in number of readers, have you become more readers, or have regular readers.
And beware of the Impostor Syndrome: it can influence your motivation, tell you that it’s not yours, but without mistakes there are no victories, and without trials there is no success.
At the start, come up with topics for several articles at once.So it will be easier for you to maintain motivation and not to abandon the blog. Try to build a long-term development strategy for your blog. For example, I immediately realized that I wanted to write a series of 8 articles on the topic of career development. And he clearly indicated to readers in the first article that there would be a sequel - in the first article. Thus, I prepared the audience for the fact that I will publish more content that they are interested in, and myself for the fact that it won’t be so easy to jump off - because I promised readers new articles. So people can become your regular readers.
The result is the largest article I have ever written. I really hope that I opened the topic and motivated you to start writing. It's a long way, but worth it. Write it right now!
- Grammarly - a service for checking English texts.
- Glavred - a service for checking text in Russian.
- Spelling - a service for checking spelling, punctuation and style.
- Advego - a service for checking style.
- “Write, abbreviate" Maxim Ilyakhov and Lyudmila Saracheva — the best book in Russian for those who want to write clear and concise texts.
- "Text that sells goods a service or brand" Anna Shust is another book find that will help to pump writing skill.
- Million Dollar Blog is a book by Natasha Courtney-Smith, a renowned digital marketing expert.