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Advices for starting and maintaining a blog

sudiukil profile image Quentin Sonrel ・2 min read

Context

Since a few years now I want to start writing a blog. These few past months I even started putting down some ideas for articles and I feel now is the time to get started, but the truth is: I don't quite know how!

Before asking any questions, here is a (not so) small description of what I'm considering for my blog.

Topic

The blog aims to be a personal blog on which I can write about things I care about.

This blog isn't meant to be about one specific topic or area but most articles will most likely be tech-related (dev stuff mostly). Other topics will draw in my hobbies (cinema, video games, music) or anything else I'd like to write about.

In short: 70% tech stuff, 20% hobbies, 10% others.

Articles/writing

I'm considering writting different kind of articles. Some articles will just be my two cents on a subject, some others will be more like news posts (conveying specific information to the readers), and some will be more like how-tos.

The length of articles will vary depending on their type and their subject. Articles will be written in english and sorted in different categories (most likely articles will be tagged and sortable by tag).

Layout and design

The idea is to keep things simple and stupid: fixed header and footer and any page will either be a list of articles or an article. Navigation will be in the header, footer will contain miscellaneous informations (bio, external links, social media, etc...).

The goal is to keep the layout and design minimalist to focus on the content of the articles. The text width will be fixed to facilitate reading and the blog should be mobile-friendly (responsive).

Also, a classical comment section will be available on each and every article.

Backend/technical stuff

This blog project isn't meant to be a technical project, meaning that once the blog is launched, it should require very little technical maintenance, 90% of the work put in the blog should go into writing articles.

That being said, the tech stack should be chosen accordingly. The current favorite candidates are static sites generators like Jekyll or equivalent.

Ideally, articles should be written in Markdown, to keep both the redaction and the articles layout simple.

Question(s)

Now, here are the two things I'd like to ask:

  1. Your thoughts on what I just described! Anything, really.
  2. Answers or advice for these questions:
    • Is it a good idea to have various topics or should the blog be focused on one domain?
    • How to find, gain and keep readership? That's not an absolute goal (meaning: I don't want to blog to gain fame), but a blog is meant to be read after all!
    • What about social media presence? (any advices and thoughts are welcome)
    • How to make the blog interesting? (kinda broad question, I know)
    • What short and long term goals should I set for the blog?
    • How to monitor traffic and readership? How to see how things are going?

Of course, if you have any other recommendation, it's more than welcome!

Posted on by:

sudiukil profile

Quentin Sonrel

@sudiukil

Working as a consultant in full stack web development. Also: Gamer & streamer / Cinema & music lover / Amateur cook / Beer & tea connoisseur

Discussion

markdown guide
 

Hey hey Quentin! Really good post :)

I definitely resonate with your post.

1:

I agree, both design and the technical aspects of the blog should be simple and low maintenance. As you point out in the first few points, the main purpose of your blog should be its content. So your blog really should get out of your way so that you can create content.

2:

Is it a good idea to have various topics or should the blog be focused on one domain?

I think it's ok to have various topics on a blog. You're probably a multi-faceted person with different interests, so share about those things. You're also going to be evolving in both a person and career, so your blog should also be a living document that evolves with you.

How to find, gain and keep readership? That's not an absolute goal (meaning: I don't want to blog to gain fame), but a blog is meant to be read after all!

Someone once said, a website is like a crack house. You don't know how the people are getting in but they are there. Meaning, most of the time folks will just show up to your website. Naturally, if your intended readership is similar to you, a good source for getting readers is to just hang out in the places you like to hang out like dev.to or Twitter and just be helpful.

As for keeping readership, try having an email newsletter. I've only started doing this, and my readership is super small with my newsletter but the harder part isn't gaining a readership it is staying consistent and maintaining a rapport with your readers.

How to make the blog interesting? (kinda broad question, I know)

Just be yourself. Be human. Be relatable. Your uniqueness makes the blog interesting. Do you have any other interests? Why not merge the two? For example if you're a programmer and maybe can also draw, than include your drawings to illustrate what you're trying to explain in blog form.

Have opinions. If you have a certain opinion that goes against the norm, share it. It's more refreshing to hear what you're doing differently than what everyone else is doing the same.

How to monitor traffic and readership? How to see how things are going?

This is a hard one. I think it depends on what you want to get out of monitoring. Are you doing it to see numbers go up? If so than, you can add Google Analytics or watch your email newsletter sign up increase. If you don't care about numbers, than do you care more about serving your readers. Than are you having meaningful conversations with people online often? Do you get folks sharing your blog posts with others via social media or folks emailing you in to ask questions?

I hope this helps Quentin!

Blogging is definitely rewarding and I hope you'll keep sharing your thoughts and writings for a long time :)

 

Many thanks for this awesome answer, very helpful indeed :)

I noticed your website is made with Jekyll, that's what I intend to use for my blog (I know it a bit already and I really like it), any thoughts on that?

 

Yeah definitely check it out! Jekyll isn't the newest kid on the static site generator scene, but it is reliable. I'd say just choose one and stick with it. After all, it should be about content and not your system for generating your content.

When I first discovered static, I just enjoyed the fact that now I wouldn't be tied to a database and that my posts were portable because I could have SCM.

Feel free to ask me any questions you might have about Jekyll.

 

Hi Quentin, I run a technical blog that I decided to take seriously ~5 months ago. I am no expert but I'll drop my 2c.

Is it a good idea to have various topics or should the blog be focused on one domain?

If you just want to write and have no intentions of building an "audience" and be followed by your friends, blog about what you want. Otherwise pick a broad topic (in my case it's frontend dev) and just write about that. People see consistency and will like that. Google also likes that AFAIK

How to find, gain and keep readership? That's not an absolute goal (meaning: I don't want to blog to gain fame), but a blog is meant to be read after all!

Provide value. And provide value consistently. People might see one post of yours, then see another one next month, and decide they like both and will like more. People rarely just subscribe the first time they see the site (in my case).

Make it easy for Google to index you. No fancy frontend stuff. Server-side rendering. Adhere to basic SEO rules, no need to get highly technical on that, but make the site fast and mobile-first.

What about social media presence? (any advices and thoughts are welcome)

I think Twitter is the best thing for programming-related topics. People share a lot on there. If you are capable of doing videos YouTube is a great driver for blogs as well, if you can transform your posts into videos in some way.

How to make the blog interesting? (kinda broad question, I know)

Working on that as well, no clear answer. I think it depends on who you "talk" to

What short and long term goals should I set for the blog?

I set quarterly goals in terms of visits from Google. I don't track many things.

How to monitor traffic and readership? How to see how things are going?

Just use Google Analytics


You should also aim to write a blog post every X days. Like every week. On a specific day. I write every day but that's not a general recommendation. Twice a week is ideal I think, but any schedule you decide, stick to it.

When you start you'll have a lot of topics in mind. Write one and schedule it for next week.
Then have a queue of 5-6 posts already written and scheduled. This will help keep you consistent. When you have too much content piled up, switch to a more frequent schedule.

I use Hugo. It's pretty cool. And host on Netlify (flaviocopes.com/netlify/). Wrote a bit of how I run the blog on

Those are my opinions, not absolute truths :)
I hope this helps a little bit!

 

It helps a lot, thanks for your answer!

Just a few things:

If you just want to write and have no intentions of building an "audience" and be followed by your friends, blog about what you want. Otherwise pick a broad topic [...]

In any case, most of the content will be focused on the same topic (dev stuff), the rest will be very occasional and I'll see about that in the long run.

You should also aim to write a blog post every X days.

Good advice. I had in mind a fixed schedule for "full" articles, once a week for starters, and then a few "small" articles (quick tutorials or news) to fill the gaps between two "full" articles, on a less strict schedule.

I use Hugo. It's pretty cool. And host on Netlify (flaviocopes.com/netlify/). Wrote a bit of how I run the blog on

I've had a quick at Hugo a few days ago, it's one of the candidates (Jekyll and Nuxt being the other two). Although static sites generators all seems equivalent to me, so I guess I'll just pick the one I'm more familiar with (which is Jekyll). As for Netlify I'll definitly have a closer look at it, thanks!