If my life were a fable, it would be the story where our heroine searches high and low for books on social media and web presence that go well beyond the basics, yet aren’t too technical for a general reader to understand. There she would be, sitting on the threshing floor sifting through a mountain of chaff, looking for that proverbial grain of wisdom: genuinely new and useful information about social media tools, written for non-programmers.
When I find those books I consider it my duty to share them, and boy, do I have a book to share today. Technical Blogging: Turn Your Expertise into a Remarkable Online Presence, written by Antonio Cangiano, helps technically-oriented entrepreneurs in any field develop and maintain a successful blog. If you already have a blog, or even an idea for a blog, and want practical information about how to optimize it, promote it, monetize it, and scale it, this is the first book you should read.
Building Your Blog
Technical Blogging begins where most blogging books begin: by helping you define your blog topic, audience, and goals. Setting up your blog gets a full chapter, and goes into some detail about general settings such as choosing a permalink structure, and which WordPress plugins are essential. (He also covers Blogger sites, but WordPress users will get the most out of this section.)
The book assumes a certain amount of knowledge: you need to know what a blog is, how to post, and how to add widgets, plugins, and themes. From there, he heads right into site analytics, using FeedBurner to increase blog subscribers, creating an email newsletter, understanding on-page SEO, and writing great content.
I’ve set up numerous blogs over the past seven years, and even in the chapters I thought would be purely review, I found a tip or two that was so good I immediately had to implement it. Throughout, Cangiano manages to cover highly complex topics with clarity and simplicity. He never drags the reader too far down into the weeds on any subject, but gives an excellent overview of the most important points to remember, and encourages bloggers to keep their long-term strategy in mind. As he says,
“Trying to do too much is the surest path to burnout and failure.”
Growing Your Blog
The entire second half of Technical Blogging is devoted to the critical practices of blog promotion, site analytics, building a readership community, monetizing your blog, scaling it, and refining your overall social media strategy. Throughout, the material is well-organized, clearly written, and accessible to a wide audience of non-technical bloggers.
One of the most helpful tips I found was for using site analytics to track blog growth. Cangiano suggests creating a spreadsheet with columns for several key indicators: pageviews, unique visitors, average time on site, feed subscribers, and email subscribers—then updating it just once a month. This allows you to stay on top of long-term trends without worrying about numbers from week to week.
Above all, Cangiano stresses a farsighted approach to building a successful blog, experimenting as you go with new ideas but pacing yourself for the long haul. He offers lots of helpful information on link building strategies, developing a promotional workflow, dealing with comments and criticism, and when and how to monetize your blog.
If you write in a highly technical niche this book is definitely for you, but I would recommend Technical Blogging without reservation to anyone who wants to be smart about building a blog that lasts, and is ready to go beyond the basics.