Monica Lent published
Motivation. It's probably the thing people struggle with even more than coming up with ideas or pushing publish after days of writing.
Questions about how to stay motivated to write regularly on a blog are among the most common I receive in response to the Blogging for Devs newsletter:
At the beginning, blogging can feel a bit like screaming into the void.
Especially when writing a blog post takes hours of your free time, and you have no idea whether people are even interested in what you have to say.
My recommended strategy for getting motivated is to find blog post ideas that you're excited to write, and cover topics or angles that are proven winners in your industry.
The result is a double dose of motivation:
In this article, I'm going to cover 7 techniques for uncovering compelling tech blog post ideas with proven interest from the technical community.
Let's start 🚀
With the rise of static blogs, few devs bother to set up a search function on their website. There aren't that many articles, so what's the point?
If your site doesn't have search, you're missing out on a treasure trove of topic ideas that people are clearly interested in reading.
Because when someone types a phrase in your search box, they're telling you exactly what they want to find on your site, but can't.
Over time, you'll be able to find patterns and generate ideas from people who're already interested in your content.
For example, here's a sample report from my travel blog which tells me what people were searching for during a week in July:
There's also a section called the "Searches with no results" which tells me what people hoped to find on my website, but couldn't find. These are prime candidates for dedicated articles, if I have the knowledge to write them.
This technique works for any kind of blog, whether it's a tech blog, travel blog, or any other kind of website for that matter.
Here's how to set up search on your static site so you can start getting these useful reports.
Here are some resources for popular static site generators:
With Algolia's free "Community" plan, you'll get a weekly email report with popular searches and no result searches, making it easy to stay on top of what people want to read on your blog!
TIP — You can also set this up via Google Analytics' Site Search feature. Here's how,
but in short you'll just track the value of a query parameter like
It appears you could do this with Simple Analytics' Events, though the feature is marked as experimental.
So why not do it on purpose by strategically learning which topics and angles resonate with those communities? 😁
Jokes aside, it can make a huge difference for the exposure of your blog, your profile, and your ideas to get picked up on HN or Reddit.
But like any community, there are certain subjects that tend to get a lot of attention — and some that just won't. Luckily, there are some easy ways to figure it out without spending your life there.
You can use Hacker News' Algolia instance to search for the top stories.
These searches reveal common topics and trends that HN'ers love to talk about: how terrible it is working in an open office, the demise of Google's search quality, the importance of touch typing, and much more.
Again, I'm joking a little bit but the more time you go through these results, the more common threads you'll find of topics that developers just love to discuss.
As you learn which topics really resonate with this community, you can write content with your own unique take on the subject with a much higher chance of the post getting picked up.
The same technique works for Reddit.
In a lot of cases, the top posts for an entire year on Hacker News or popular Subreddits tend to be more news-focused.
If you find that's the case, try looking for "Last Month" or "Last Week" for a sample of posts on topics you could also write about. Or, share your own take on the news and blend in with the stories that tend to top for an entire year.
You can also try analyzing smaller or related subreddits, using this tool for finding related subreddits.
More resources: This Hacker News analysis breaks down the best time and day to post on HN, though I'd personally love to see a topic analysis for top posts.
Twitter can be an excellent place to test ideas worth expanding on in a blog post.
Instead of writing an entire article up front, validate your idea with a tweet and go from there.
For example, I recently asked on Twitter for recommendations for blogs by people in the tech industry with a unique voice or writing style.
Dear Tech Twitter:— Monica Lent (@monicalent) August 27, 2020
What is your NUMBER ONE favorite blog by someone in tech, who has a *distinct writing style*? Where you read their articles for their *unique personality or voice*?
(Pls no list of twitter handles, direct link to the blog is 👍)
I wasn't expecting this tweet to generate so much chatter, but it's a great indication of interest by developers to discover truly quality technical blogs.
If I decide to write an article about this, I've got a strong signal to go on that people will like it (plus a ton of material to work with thanks to all the responses!).
You can also source ideas from other people's tweets that pick up traction.
Not everyone's got thousands of followers to start with, but observing the reception of tweets by more popular accounts can be illuminating as well. For example, I posted a poll about the ethics of using open-source software by large tech companies:
👋 Question: Have you ever decided NOT to use an open source package for a library/framework/tool, etc. because you did not agree ethically with the practices of the parent company developing it? (Pls RT for more data 🤓)— Monica Lent (@monicalent) June 3, 2019
After the poll received over 2,000 votes, someone took the idea and did a writeup on it:
As along as you reference the original tweet or otherwise credit the source, there's nothing wrong with expanding on an idea you saw take off on Twitter or another platform.
Similar to the internal search on your own website, you can use a few popular tools to generate blog post ideas based on what people are searching for in Google.
It's a bit similar to keyword research, a concept Blogging for Devs subscribers are already familiar with. You can pop in a "seed phrase" like "react js" and see what kinds of questions people are asking about it.
One popular tool for this is Answer the Public:
You can find lots of interesting questions people are asking, like "What will replace ReactJS?", "Is React SEO friendly?", "What are ReactJS interview questions?"
It's up to you to pick out the interesting topics (as opposed to the purely informational), but starting with topic ideas from a source like Answer the Public puts you on the path of writing about something people are already seeking information on.
In the free Blogging for Devs Email Course, I go deeper into how to write articles that are likely to get discovered via Google.
Writing SEO-optimized articles on topics I enjoy is my favorite, scalable way to grow the readership of most websites.
A backlink is a link from another website to yours. In the eyes of search engines like Google, an external link acts like an "upvote" for the quality of the content on your website.
The reason is, people tend to link to sites that have great information on them, and links act like recommendations for our readers.
By figuring out which posts on website similar to yours are getting "recommended" the most according to backlinks, you can get a good idea of which content your target audience wants to read and refer to.
Here's an example report from an SEO tool called Ahrefs for Netlify's blog:
This gives me several interesting ideas for articles:
The next step is to look at each article, who is linking to it and why, and making a hypothesis for why the article has become a go-to resource for so many websites.
I can also see if any of them are severely outdated, and write a more modern article on the same topic.
Unfortunately, getting the kind of backlink data you need for this analysis is generally not free.
You can use free backlink checkers, but the way the data is presented is usually not super useful. You want to make sure to filter just by blog posts, and be able to sort by posts with the most backlinks.
To try the tool I use, you can get Ahrefs' 7-day $7 trial to analyze backlinks on domains besides yours. Just don't forget to cancel before they charge your card.
TIP — If you want to learn more about how to create content that attracts links from other websites, definitely read my extensive guide: 17 Link Building Strategies for Tech Founders and Developers.
Sometimes, when people want information, they go to Google, type something in, and find an answer to their question. That's where SEO-friendly content comes into play, and you can be there waiting with an answer on your blog.
But not all questions end up in Google's input field.
Many kinds of questions end up in communities, whether it's in Facebook groups, smaller subreddits, or private forums like the Blogging for Devs Community.
Repeat questions in communities are a strong indication that people care about a topic, which you can cover in a blog post.
Here you can see that people in our community often ask about and discuss privacy-friendly alternatives to Google Analytics.
If you have a blog or website that wants to appeal to developers, especially those who blog like I do, then writing a post about "google analytics alternatives" would make a lot of sense.
If you provide a quality and relevant resource, you can also include a link to it the next time a question on the topic comes up.
When it comes to communities, just make sure to respect the norms of a community before going in and asking people what kinds of questions they have about X. Contribute, observe, and notice some patterns.
The more people know you, the more weight your recommendations in any article will carry.
Love it or hate it, software development is an ever-changing field and today's trends could become tomorrow's standard practices.
Apart from staying up to date on news in your corner of tech, you can use websites that expose trends which you can write about.
Getting in on trends is one way to create material that becomes a reference in your field for a specific topic, because you're the first person to deliver quality content about it.
Exploding Topics is an interesting place to find blog post ideas, in particular because you can filter the results by industry.
It's spiritual predecessor, Google Trends, is generally more helpful for validating existing ideas as opposed to discovering new ones when it comes to software (because the trends it surfaces are more global):
For instance, if I find out that "substack" is up 300% this year on Exploding Topics, I can go find more detailed data on that in Google Trends like which regions of the world are interested in it, related topics, and so forth.
There are a lot of people covering trends right now.
Apart from tools like Google Trends and Exploding Topics, if you're an indie hacker, maker, or founder, you may also find the Trends.vc newsletter and the Trends by The Hustle interesting, too. I subscribe to both!
Most of the time, our blog post ideas come from the challenges we face on the job as developers. The key to writing something people will care about is sometimes as simple as finding an interesting angle or story to wrap it in.
That's where doing a bit of research comes can help us package the post in the best possible way.
Plus, seeing similar articles being well-received can be a fantastic signal that there's interest in the topic you're planning to write about.
Do you have some more ideas for places and techniques for finding cool tech blog post ideas?
Share them with me on Twitter @monicalent or respond to the latest newsletter by email!
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