Blogging for Devs

Why Blogging as a Developer Could be Your Best Career Move Yet

Monica Lent published

I can't even begin to summarize everything that has come my way as a direct result of blogging as a developer.

Job opportunities and consulting work. Speaking gigs at conferences around the world. Even the financial freedom to bootstrap my own company full-time. All of that and more came as a result of blogging.

I've also worked as a hiring manager and seen how much a coherent tech blog with just a few articles can help a developer stand out from hundreds of other candidates.

In this post you'll learn:

  • Why blog as a developer?
  • 5 tips for starting your developer blog the right way
  • How to grow an audience for your blog
  • Resources for improving at blogging as a developer

Why blog as a developer?

  • Enhance and differentiate your job application.
    I've seen it with my own eyes: the job market for junior developers is tough. According to a 2020 survey by HackerRank, only 31% of companies confirmed they've hired a bootcamp graduate. Having a well-written technical blog can help you stand out more than most education (formal or informal) will in a skills-based field like tech.

  • Become a better communicator. Without a doubt, effective writing is one of the most important soft skills for developers that can not only help you land a job, but succeed and move into positions of leadership and influence in a company.

  • Build an audience and personal brand. When I surveyed developers subscribed to my newsletter, this was the number one reason they said they wanted to get better at blogging. Learning how to market yourself as a developer is the best way to get in the foot in the door at your dream company, hands down.

  • Reinforce your knowledge by teaching others. Right after building an audience, learning by teaching is the second most popular reason developers want to get better at blogging. That exactly how my friend Robin started and grew his blog into a cornerstone of his career.

  • Apply your blogging skills to future projects. One oft-ignored aspect of blogging as a developer is that those writing and content skills aren't just good for personal branding they can help you bring attention to projects or products you're building on the side. Learning how to write content that gets people talking is one of the most universal skills you can pick up today.

5 tips for starting your developer blog the right way

1. Host your developer blog on your own domain

The reason for this is simple: You own it.

It's just you and your website. And you can choose to do whatever you want with it. And isn't that freedom why we became developers in the first place?

Social media can change "the algorithm". Google can put more ads on top of your search results. Twitter can suspend your account. Medium can run out of funding (awkward 😬).

But your domain (and eventually, your email list) are YOURS.

You can always change your hosting, your domain registrar, your email list software.

But you won't have that freedom if you lock your audience into a third-party platform.

Plus, as you pick up backlinks, those will enhance the authority (and chance of ranking in Google) of your domain not another platform.

2. Set up your site and stop tweaking

I get a lot of questions through the Blogging for Devs Newsletter about which tech stack is the best for a developer blog.

Here's the truth: it doesn't really matter.

As long as you've got the basics down and will feel comfortable tweaking things as needed, you can run a successful tech blog on WordPress just as well as on Gatsby, Hugo, or even Jekyll.

One thing I want to be clear on: there is no shame in being a developer who blogs on WordPress. Being a mature developer is about knowing when you should be solving a problem with code or not, and that applies just as much to building your own technical blog as it does to other software.

Whatever tech stack you choose, do not fall into the mistake of spending more time tweaking your theme than actually writing content.

If a less sexy framework helps you combat that temptation, even better.

3. Learn SEO (more than just meta tags)

You don't have to be famous on social media to grow a readership for your website.

In fact, having this mindset is one of the first things I try to shift when I talk about blogging with developers.

Instead, developers would be better served learning SEO so they can build sustainable traffic to their websites.

Unfortunately, most developers are under the impression that SEO is "taken care of" as soon as you have some meta tags set up on your website and this couldn't be further from the truth.

SEO is a key component in selecting topics, structuring the content, building internal and external links, and more.

But the payoff is huge if you learn it because 99% of devs can't be bothered.

If you happen to be using Gatsby, do check my Gatsby SEO guide to ensure you don't make any of the most common mistakes.

4. Spend time on your headlines

There are a number of reasons why being able to craft compelling blog post headlines matters, but here are two of the most important:

  • Having a great headline improves your click-through rate. It doesn't have to be clickbait to be a good headline. This will help you not only when sharing on social media, but it's also a ranking factor in Google.

  • Most people share content based on the headline. Even Twitter has put in a notification for people who share content without reading it. The reality is, that's just how it works. If your headline sucks, no one is going to read what you wrote.

5. Ask for feedback before (and after) publishing

Imposter syndrome and insecurity about publishing is a very real thing.

And unfortunately, this can get even worse the more traction your blog picks up, because any errors you mistake are on display to even more people.

The best advice I can give you is to develop a network of friends in tech who are happy to give you feedback on your blog posts.

Sometimes you need an extra pair of eyes, a reality check, or for someone to tell you your joke just isn't funny (not that this has happened to me ;)).

Find people you can trust to review the article and give you that confidence to publish and promote your work.

How to grow an audience for your blog

Share your blog posts on social media

This goes without saying, and is probably the main tactic most developers use to try and get eyeballs on their developer blogs.

But there are better ways than just sticking your content in a tweet and hoping it does well. Here are a few tips:

  • Social media prefers entertaining content over educational. For the most part, people don't open Twitter to learn. This is probably why your VueJS Tutorial didn't do as well as you expected. Content that is interesting, controversial, or counter-intuitive tends do to better. As they say, "The medium is the message."

  • Fit your value into the tweet. Sometimes it's better not to link to your post at all, and fit your message into a tweet instead. This can help you build a following on Twitter that will be more open to reading your blog posts, as opposed to a "stranger" asking you to read their blog post.

  • Create a twitter thread instead. If you can create a really interesting twitter thread that gets people to read the entire thread, you can include a link to your article at the end. This way you get people reading your content and you have more time to convince them you've got something interesting to share.

Apart from Twitter, other social media outlets like Reddit, Hacker News, Facebook Groups, and more can be good places to promote. Just make sure you are respectful of the norms and guidelines of the platform you're on.

Syndicate your content

I will be honest: I personally do not syndicate my content.

A lot of developers I talk to have the feeling that syndicating content, also called cross-posting, helps get their content in front of more people.

I believe it creates a fragmented readership because those people will follow you on Medium, ThePracticalDev, and other locations. But worse, if you do have a piece of content take off and it begins to pick up backlinks, those links could go to platforms apart from your own domain.

I still mention content syndication because I know a lot of people do it and many developers feel like "every bit counts". That's just not my take: I'd rather keep content on my own, branded domain and collect links to that.

If you do it, at least make sure your canonical URLs are sorted.

Guest post on popular websites

While the utility of guest posting to build links is a subject of regular debate, you can still get a massive amount of exposure when guest posting on a popular website where your target audience hangs out.

If you're a web developer, that could be somewhere like CSS Tricks or freeCodeCamp.

Here's an example of the guest post pitch form on CSS Tricks.

Check out large, quality websites in your niche within software development and check if they offer a form to pitch a guest post.

Create an email list

Email is a way to reliably reach people who really want to read your content, without a social media algorithm or a Google core update getting in your way.

You can use an email provider like ConvertKit or Mailerlite and collect up to 1,000 email addresses for free.

Speak at conferences

I know this is not a useful piece of advice amid COVID, but it is one of the most effective ways to build an audience in my personal experience.

Most conferences have an open CFP, which stands for "call for papers". Essentially you can write a short proposal about what you want to talk about, with the chance of being accepted to speak at the conference.

My advice is to keep trying because you will eventually get accepted.

Ask for feedback on your submission, have your friends read it, carefully read the submission instructions, and focus on a topic with a great talk title that will give attendees actionable takeaways. Starting with meetups that have video recordings is an excellent way to build up a "record" of your speaking skills.

Resources for improving at blogging as a developer

If you're inspired to take blogging seriously, I suggest signing up for the Blogging for Devs: Free Email Course & Newsletter.

I'm biased of course (!), but I think its the best resource on blogging for developers out there.

You'll learn about SEO, writing sharable content, building an email list in a not-sleazy way, and using your blog to your advantage for your career.

I'm not trying to sell anything at the end, and it's totally free. Really.

Have you had an exciting career opportunity come out of blogging?

I'd love to hear your own stories and how blogging has impacted your career as a developer. Let me know on Twitter @monicalent!

You don't have to be Twitter-famous to grow your blog as a developer.

Take the FREE 7-Day Blogging for Devs Email Course and learn how to grow your blog without an existing audience (!) through great writing and SEO.

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