As part of my [intlink id=”2947″ type=”post”]January-February 2012 downtime[/intlink] (which really turned out to be February-March), I’ve been going through a stack of books, and a virtual stack of ebooks, that I’ve had lying around for way too long. One of the first books from that stack that I read was “Technical Blogging“, by Antonio Cangiano. I bought the ebook through Pragmatic Programmer‘s Black Friday sale back in November, and it’s available through Pragmatic Programmer, or Amazon, of course. Overall, I was quite impressed with the book, and I think it’s going to help me a lot. Before I discuss the book in detail, a quick bit of perspective…
I started blogging relatively recently, about two or three years ago, I think. In retrospect, I’m not sure why I started blogging, as I had no game plan and no intent of making money from the blog. I suspect the impetus was supporting [intlink id=”1565″ type=”page”]my books[/intlink], but that’s probably as much as I thought about it. Eventually I added a single Amazon widget to my site, again as a way to promote my books. In part because of the success of my Learning the Yii Framework series, I was surprised when I started getting decent traffic to my site, and making a bit of money through the Amazon widget. To be completely transparent about the money, I make around a few hundred dollars per year with the site set up as is. I’m not quitting my day job on that, but it is enough to pay for my hosting costs, as well as my [intlink id=”1564″ type=”page”]monthly newsletter[/intlink], and my forum software. After seeing a mist of potential in this area, and with 2012 being the year of legitimizing much of my business, I read “Technical Blogging.”
Like any well written book, it’s well organized, broken down into five sequential parts:
- Part I — Plan It
- Part II — Build It
- Part III — Promote It
- Part IV — Benefit from It
- Part V — Scale It
In my own situation, I had already done parts two and four on my own blog, without ever giving much thought to parts one and three. Clearly, it’s hard to know if your site is succeeding when you’ve established no goals for it! And while my primary goal is to sell more books, after reading just the first part, I was able to come up with other, more immediate and tangible goals.
The book’s structure is sound, but the strength of the book is this: lots of concrete, specific advice. The book has decent breadth in the topics it covers, but always provides exact recommendations. For example, in the Build It chapter, Mr. Cangiano talks about the software and hosting options, from using WordPress to more geeky options like Jekyll. After covering the range of options, you get specific advice:
“Opt for a self-hosted WordPress installation if you are the kind of person who doesn’t mind dealing with a remote Linux box.”
“If you don’t have an IT background or would like to test the waters before committing to something… I recommend Blogger (from Google) due to…”
This approach—presenting the options, with pros and cons, and then making recommendations—continues throughout the book, even when it comes to the money and statistics. Mr. Cangiano explicitly talks about the hits his sites get and is bravely honest about the income, too. He discusses, for example, the effectiveness of various social media sites, and how much he earns from ads vs. Amazon referrals vs. sponsorships. Providing the details, regardless of their personal nature, makes it really easy for the reader to make his or her own decisions. For example, I don’t have any ads on my site now (a la AdSense), which is very much my preference. But I was worried that I was missing out on good money because of this value of mine. Mr. Cangiano, in a table citing his monthly income for a given month, shows that AdSense accounted for only 3% of the total. Knowing that, Mr. Cangiano has saved me from going through all the hassle of integrating AdSense, bothering viewers with random ads, only to make a smidgen of money.
The area in which I learned the most is promoting the blog via social media and other avenues, such as Reddit. All marketing stuff is foreign to me, and I’m just finally getting involved with social media. In fact, I’m in the process of creating a new theme for my site, which will more prominently feature my social media connections (and, more importantly, give more space to the content itself). Over the summer I’ll work harder to implement the social media tools, and I’ve set some goals for where I’d like to be in a year from now.
All in all, I have literally seven pages of notes that I took while reading the book. And while I’ve only begun using this new-found knowledge, I have no doubt that what I learned from “Technical Blogging” will pay off. If you do technical blogging as well, I would highly recommend it!