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How I Hacked The Mainframe

How to Write a Technical Blog Post: Part 3

This post originally appeared on The Quick Left Blog

Part 3: Publish

In this three part series, we’re exploring what it takes to break into the technical blogging space. In the first part, we looked at initial steps you can take when preparing to write. In the second part, we explored how to to get into a good writing flow during the actual writing itself. In this, the third and final part of this series, we’ll talk about one more aspect of how to write a technical blog post: getting as many people to read it as possible.

Survey Your Kingdom

So you’ve generated your blog post idea, thought about your long-tail keyword, written your blog post, proofread and edited it. It’s time to think about pushing your little bird out of the nest and seeing how she flies.

First, take another look at what you’ve written. Is there anything you left out? Are there parts you’ve included that don’t really belong? Maybe you can split them out and use them for another post. Your readers will appreciate it if you stick to a single topic. It makes for an easier time digesting what you’re talking about.

Along the same lines, take a look at the length of your post. If it’s really long, consider splitting it into a series. I’ve found that the best length is around 750-1000 words. After that, posts tend to lose focus, and readers tend to check out. Plus, when you’re publishing a series, you have more chances to promote yourself.

When you’re sure that you’ve got your post(s) tightly focused, you’re almost ready to publish. There are just two more things to consider: SEO and scheduling.

Optimize for SEO

Since you want to get as much traffic as you can once your post goes live, this is a good time to go through your post and make sure that you’ve done what you can to get good Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Here are some things to consider. Is your long-tail keyword phrase in all of the following places? The page title, main headline, repeated a couple of times in the body, the meta description and page URL? It’s also a good idea to include several images (don’t forget the alt tags - set one of them to your keyword phrase), links to pages internal and external to your site, and a set of relevant meta keywords. For fun, you can also view your page as it appears to a search engine bot using SEO Browser.

Build The Buzz

Ok. Your content is all set. All that’s left is to put it out into the world. Before you click “publish” think about how you’re going to do send it off. A blog post is not like a software product. A soft launch is usually not a great idea.

When I’m thinking about releasing a post, I recall my days in the music industry. There’s some common wisdom in that industry about releasing an album that goes like this. You want to slowly build the buzz, like a swelling wave, in the weeks before the album drops. Then, you drop it right when the wave is at its peak. The number of sales you make in the first week is greatly indicative of how well the album will sell over time.

While this wisdom may not fit exactly for tech blog posts, as they can stay relevant or even become more relevant as the industry changes, it’s still worth thinking about “the wave swell” when getting ready to publish a post. Good ways to build the buzz include: reaching out to influencers before you publish, discussing your topic and related topics on Twitter and Hacker News, and piggybacking on trending hashtags to get people thinking about what you’re writing about.

Ideally, by the time you go live, you’ll just be continuing the conversation that’s already been happening. Your post will come out right on time.

Schedule Release

Going along with the idea of building the buzz, be intentional about when you plan to publish your post. You can probably configure your blog platform and social media accounts to publish content at a specific time.

Find out the times when your target readers are most likely to see that your article came out, and publish then. Follow up with scheduled tweets.

If you know there’s an event related to your post coming up, plan to publish just before or after that event. For example, you’re writing about a new feature in Rails 5 feature and it’s coming out on Christmas, plan to publish your post during the week surrounding Christmas.

If you’re a prolific writer, you can space out your posts to build on your own buzz. If you have two posts ready to go, don’t publish them a day apart. Give the first one a little time to get some traction, then hit your audience with the second just as they’re beginning to forget about you. This works especially with a series.

Spending a little time to think about when you should publish you post can go a long way toward getting your voice heard by a wider audience.

Shout It From The Rooftops

This final point is probably obvious, but you’ll want to promote your work as extensively as possible once it finally goes live. Here are some good places to self-promote:

At a minimum, I recommend promoting your post on Twitter, Hacker News, Reddit as soon as it comes out.

If your blog allows comments, or if you post to Hacker News or Reddit, you’ll probably begin to get some questions and hear some opinions. Take the time to respond to them. The more you engage with people, the more they will appreciate and share your writing.

Wrapping Up

Over the course of this three part series, we’ve followed the entire cycle of how to write a technical blog post. Starting from the barren field of your mind with nothing but doubts in part one, and we traveled through the process of how to actually write posts in part two. With this post, part three, we’ve come all the way to the end: SEO optimization and self-promotion.

I hope this series has given you the tools you need to enter the world of technical blogging. Although blogging can seem overwhelming at first, it’s actually not as difficult as it seems. Once you’ve written a post or two, you’ll begin to discover a process that works for you. People will start to recognize you around the web (and around town). At that point, you’ll be building on your past successes. Promotion will get easier too, because people will already be familiar with your work.

Best of luck to you in your writing career. I look forward to reading what you come up with!