A Guide to Technical Blogging For the Web

Circuit Board - A Guide to Technical Blogging For the Web

Technical blogging is a great way to share your expertise while building a potentially valuable readership. It can help you to document projects, or provide guidance to other web users. You can also monetize your content, or use your blog to market your services.

While technical blogs have the same general characteristics as non-technical blogs, refining your blogging technique will help to make the technical content of your blogs more accessible.

Structure

When it comes to structure, the same rules apply to technical blogging as they do with non-technical blogging.

The goal of your structure should be to make the information easy to scan, and easy to digest.

We know that readers look at web pages in predictable patterns; their gaze follows an ‘F’ shape on the screen. First, they scan the top line and then track down the left-hand side. They will then scan across the center, looking for relevant information.

A clear structure — with plenty of white space — is very important when you’re writing about a technical subject. If you cram lots of detail into every paragraph, your reader will quickly become fatigued. The principle of adding white space applies to technical blogging as it does to paper documentation.

Each time you begin a new post, try to follow a conventional structure that readers find easy to scan. You should include:

  • An introduction, which frames the piece and explains what’s to come. It usually makes sense to write the introduction after you’ve written the body copy.
  • Use a logical heading structure, and ensure your CSS is formatting the headings appropriately.
  • Use numbers for procedures or a set number of list items. Use unordered lists for everything else.
  • Incorporate placeholders for relevant images, graphs, or infographics. Aim to have some kind of visual element every 500 words.
  • End with a conclusion, which sums up the information you’ve presented, or invites questions on the blog. Don’t leave the reader hanging.

Resources:

Here are a couple of good articles for blog structure:

Titles

Assuming you want your title to encourage clicks, it makes sense to follow conventional wisdom when it comes to formulating titles.

Titles need to promote the article without sensationalizing it. When writing technical blog posts, it’s important to be accurate in the title and summarize the content and purpose of your post.

There are three easy ways to make your titles more appealing, and these all lend themselves well to technical blogging:

  • Technical blog titles work best when you use specifics.
  • Incorporating an eye-catching number can make your title look more compelling.
  • Promote the type of content you’ve written. Make it clear that it’s research, a how-to guide, or a review.

Topics

The web is already brimming with great technical content. Indeed, we may be way past saturation point when it comes to adding content to the web.

When every technical website is throwing out a couple of posts a week, trying to shout above the noise doesn’t always work.

Being technically accurate isn’t enough; what will you offer that is new?

Think about your particular niche and your reasons for blogging. If you’re writing for yourself, your topics are going to be different than they’ll be if you’re writing to attract new business.

Knowing your audience is important because you also need to pitch your content at the right level. There’s no point in using your blog to market your development skills if you essentially write guides for fellow coders.

Here are some actionable tips for topic ideas:

  • Understand Hero, Hub, and Hygiene content. While these content types were developed for video, they work well in planning varied blog posts too.
  • Technical guides work well on the web. But inject some personality into guides; don’t turn your blog into a boring textbook.
  • For technical topics, longer blogs posts tend to perform better. So write the longest posts that you can feasibly create. But make the content dense with detail. Cram every sentence with meaningful content; don’t pad out your blogs with unnecessary words.

Resources

Here are some articles that should help you expand your content horizons:

Research

Authenticity is essential when producing technical blogs. It’s important that you incorporate a research phase to map out your idea.

Even if you’re an expert on a particular subject, it’s still sensible to check out other material so you can add something new to the debate. Unique ideas will make your content more valuable.

Data-driven content works well in a technical context. Research is also essential in finding data and sources to back up your claims.

Start your research as follows:

  • In a plain text file, write a basic structure of what you want to blog about. You might want to create a step-by-step guide, or a list of ideas that you plan to develop. The structure will help you to stay focused and make your content highly relevant to the topic.
  • Look for sources to support each section and plan out which ones to link to. If you’re writing for business, avoid linking to competitors.
  • Always pick out the primary source to add credibility to your claims.
  • Avoid linking to old research or sources, unless you’re writing about a legacy technology. Your definition of “old” may vary to someone else’s. But in general, try not to link to content that is more than three years old.

Resources

Here are some guides for making the research process more effective:

Writing Style

Style

Technical bloggers sometimes fall into the trap of writing dry, businesslike content. But writing a blog post is not the same as writing a corporate business document or a dissertation.

Pay attention to your style and make your writing accessible. When you’re blogging, presenting facts isn’t enough. Good technical blogs are enjoyable to read without compromising on technical detail. Read some competitor blogs to figure out how you can achieve this.

When you need to sink into technical details, use formatting and spacing to break it up. And use modern guidance, not outdated advice. For example, it used to be bad to use more than one H1 per page from an SEO perspective. Now, it’s becoming more acceptable, providing each H1 has equal importance. An old article might tell you unequivocally the opposite.

Here are some more style tips for technical content:

  • Avoid using any language that the average non-technical reader would not understand without a glossary.
  • Never use corporate phrases; readers find them difficult to understand and process.
  • If you do need to use technical terms, use a clear and consistent method of defining them so that a non-technical reader understands what you’re talking about. For example, you could use a small pop-up to explain a term at the beginning. You might expand the term the first time you use it, and then abbreviate it later on.
  • Be consistent. Develop conventions around the ways you use acronyms and abbreviations. For example, if you write HTML 5 at the beginning of your blog, check that all subsequent references are written the same way. Don’t switch back and forth between HTML, HTML5, and HTML 5.
  • Remember the importance of whitespace. Use lists, code formatting, blockquotes, divs, and any other sensible formatting technique that you feel will help.
  • In your final pass, always aim to reduce the word count by removing unnecessary words.

Schedules

When it comes to scheduling technical blogs, there is no hard and fast rule for success. As with every type of blogging, scheduling is about the workload you can handle, and the frequency that your readers are looking for.

If your blog is regularly updated, it probably doesn’t matter exactly how frequently you post. But it is a good idea to space out posts over time to send a signal to search engines that your site is actively growing.

To set up your schedule:

  • Don’t dump lots of content onto your blog at once. Use the scheduling function in WordPress to space your blogs out over time.
  • You can target a specific number of posts per week, or per month. But you could also work on hitting a certain number of page views, and set yourself goals to increase that figure. The advantage of targeting page views is that it encourages you to look at content that works and create more of the same, thus improving quality and relevance.
  • Splitting long guides into a series can help you to spread a good quality article over several instalments.

Conclusion

Technical blogging isn’t so different to writing a regular blog post. But it’s more important to get your sources right. The formatting of your blog will be crucial in making it digestible. And your sources need to be of a high quality.

If you are skilled in writing, there’s no reason why you can’t build a successful and profitable technical blog. And if you’re new to blogging, the best way to learn is to get out there and start writing your new technical blog today.

Header image cropped from Circuit Board by Beear. It is in the public domain. Style image cropped from Fountain Pen Writing by Upsplash. It is in the public domain