In the world of career development, there’s a lot of noise implying that a person has to choose to work either in STEM or humanities fields. And there’s the further implication that people who excel in the humanities fail at STEM, or vice versa.
That noise—it’s just noise. Because all over, people are joining those two fields and their specializations together to create something incredibly valuable.
Tech bloggers are among those people.
But you don’t necessarily have to be the best writer that ever existed (typically associated with the humanities) to be a tech blogger. Writing, like any other skill, can be cultivated. So for those of you who are tech bloggers—or are curious about tech blogging—and looking for some tips, this one’s for you. This week, we asked our writers what common issues they face as tech bloggers. This post addresses these issues.
What Makes Me Qualified to Be a Blogger?
So if you’re reading this post, you may already be a blogger. Good for you! But if you’re here because you’re not sure if blogging is right for you, let me convince you.
I think the biggest barrier to becoming a blogger is imposter syndrome. You’ve probably heard (if not said) it before: “I’m just a programmer at Small Tech Company. What could I possibly offer?” Or maybe, “Anything that I’m qualified/interested in writing about has already been discussed. I don’t have anything new to say.”
If you’re worried that everything has already been said, you’re right. There aren’t many topics that haven’t already been talked about. But you can’t let that stop you. You have something to offer that’s different—your perspective, your way of phrasing instructions, or an example from your unique experience.
Simply put: you have to say no to imposter syndrome. All bloggers have it when they start, and they only overcome it by telling it no, too. There’s someone out there that you will help by blogging. You’ve been reading and learning and working in this area longer than someone out there, and your style and your position makes you uniquely qualified to help them. Figure out what makes your perspective special, and imposter syndrome will drift away after a while.
What Should I Write About?
Ah, the writer’s crux. We already talked about how most topics have already been written on. And with so many topics available, how do you choose?
Well, there are two questions you’ll have to answer before you can figure out what to write about.
- What do I hope to accomplish with this blog?
- Who is my ideal audience?
If you’re writing for a company blog, the answer is easy enough. You probably want to increase traffic to your site, and your audience is potential buyers for your product or service. So, you’ll want to pick topics that offer free value to those potential buyers, to establish goodwill and authority.
Your reasons for writing a personal blog might vary a bit. Maybe you want to increase your authority within your field. Or maybe you’re a freelancer and, like a company, you want more people to find your site and solicit your services. Maybe you just want a hobby, an excuse to learn new things, or an outlet to express your opinions and meet new people.
Now you need to imagine your ideal reader. Again, who that is will depend on what you want to accomplish by blogging. Once you have your audience in mind, you can start to brainstorm what topics will attract that audience to your site.
Choosing a Direction
More likely than not, whatever you write about will be something that you’re interested in or have experience with. Let’s say you work in web development and you want to write about frameworks. You can’t write about every framework that ever existed. So how do you choose which frameworks you want to write about?
Well, start asking yourself a few questions. Do you have experience working with any specific frameworks? Maybe you want to write about the most popular frameworks, the best frameworks for beginners, new innovations in frameworks, or which frameworks you think will be obsolete in the next few years. There are a million directions you can choose when it comes to framing your topic. (I haven’t actually counted, but it seems like a legitimate number, right?) So you might say “I want to write about frameworks” and then be paralyzed when you realize just how many there are. But get creative! All you really have to do is narrow it down.
And pro tip: keep a notebook or a document where you can record ideas. That way, you don’t have to come up with a new idea every week when you want to write another post. Speaking of writing…
How Do I Get Started?
To be fair, not all bloggers “prepare” to write in the conventional sense. Some of us—not me, but I’ve heard tell of these mystical geniuses—just sit down at the keyboard and do it. But if you’re new to blogging, doing a bit of light research and outlining can help you speed up the actual writing process.
You might remember being forced to write outlines when you were in school. Those mandatory outlines have led many of us to (unfairly) hate the process of outlining, and we no longer remember how helpful they can be!
Here are the biggest benefits I see to writing an outline:
- It speeds up the writing process. That’s right—because you already know exactly what you want to say and in what order, your approach to writing the post will be much more focused.
- It speeds up the writing process. If you write your outline and realize there’s something you’ll need to research, you should probably research it right then and include the necessary points in your outline. That means that when you actually write the post, there won’t be any curveballs that’ll pull you out of the zone.
- It speeds up the writing process. More so than just sitting down and trying to write, outlining lets you zone in on what topics to include and the best order to present them. If you try to do that while writing, you’ll be trying to multitask, which we now know isn’t possible (no matter what we’d like to believe). If you don’t write an outline, you’ll be generating ideas of what to include while trying to write clearly while trying not to have too many typos while worrying about how much time it’s taking…and on and on. Your post simply won’t be as clean as if you had mapped it out in advance.
- It speeds up the writing process. Period.
Your outline can be as detailed or simple as you want. At the very least, I suggest you plan your post with your headers and any subheads you plan to include.
How Much Detail Should I Include?
Blog posts typically average around 1200 to 1500 words. And surprisingly, that’s not a lot of space. So how do you get all of the information you need in so few words?
First of all, you have to stay on track the entire time. Avoid going off on rants or little side notes if it’s not directly related to the main topic of the post. (This is where an outline comes in handy.)
The next problem is how much detail or background information you need to include for the reader to understand what you’re explaining in the post. The first step to figuring this out is assuming your reader’s knowledge base. What type of person is interested in your blog (generally) and what type of person is interested in this post (specifically)?
Once you’ve answered those questions, you’re equipped to make judgment calls about what kinds of content to include (or, more importantly, exclude) in your post. For example, let’s say you’re not sure whether to include a definition in a post. If your reader’s assumed knowledge base doesn’t include the term and understanding the term is crucial to understanding the post, do include a brief definition.
So maybe your average reader will know specific terms and programs you’re referring to. But what about those readers that aren’t seasoned techies? You can’t just leave them to die, can you? That’s when linking comes in handy! Any time you want to wander off topic about something or want to include a resource for something not all of your readers will be familiar with, add a link to the text. Linking makes it so that not all the pressure is on you to provide every piece of information to every reader at every knowledge/experience level. It’ll help you stay on topic, and, as an added bonus, it’ll boost your SEO score (below)!
How Do I Know I’m Not Just Screaming Into the Void?
Unfortunately, there’s no way to guarantee that people will read and respond to your posts, especially when you’re just starting out. (Pro tip: brushing up on SEO will help people find your posts.) But don’t let that discourage you!
You want to start by surrounding yourself with a positive online community, preferably one that’s likely to comment on or share the post again. Connect with people on your preferred social media, reach out to people you work with, and start building a circle. Then, share your posts with those people. (But please don’t do things that could be perceived as spammy, like submitting your own blog posts as answers to Stack Overflow questions and whatnot.)
Maybe you’ll get a couple likes or the occasional comment. But maybe you’ll still get what seems like silence in response.
It’s probably not.
That’s where something like Google Analytics comes in. Google Analytics, which is compatible with WordPress, tells you how the internet is receiving your post. Even if people aren’t directly responding to your post, Google Analytics will show you how many people have viewed your post, what your bounce rate is, and other useful data about your post’s performance. So you see? Just because no one’s saying anything doesn’t mean that no one is listening.
Again, you probably won’t get much attention right away. But keep creating content consistently and get involved with the right community, and the results will come.
Keep Calm and Carry On
Once you’ve hit publish, it’s time to start the process all over again. And slowly but surely, you’ll see the benefits of blogging, just like our authors have.
Don’t get discouraged if things are a bit rocky in the beginning. Like all things, practice makes perfect. The more you write and publish, the more you’ll improve your process and your product.
Let us know in the comments what blogging issues you have!