Running a blog for a tech startup can be tricky. Not that getting a blog just right is a walk in the park for cosmetic companies, but a tech blog comes with its own set of challenges.
Before we get into the complexities of how to write a tech blog, let’s first tackle the why. Why should a tech startup, facing a multi-front battle to get its product to the right market, devote a portion of its precious time and manpower to set up and run a blog?
If done right, a blog can be an excellent tool for increasing awareness of your product in your market, directing relevant and interested traffic to your website, and positioning your company as a valuable source of information. The last benefit is a significant one. If your audience respects and appreciates your knowledge, it will be more inclined to trust your product too. It’s the type of long-term strategic thinking that elevates a startup above its competition.
Throughout the years, we’ve had our share of hurdles to jump over while running blogs for numerous tech startups and companies. Along the way, we’ve learned a thing or two about what it takes – how to define a tech blog agenda, how to plan and execute it well, and much, much more.
Here we go.
Choosing the Topics
Or: What the hell should I write about?
The default instinct here is to write about your product/service. And that’s unfortunate. While you are proud of your creation and want to share it with the world (and the world should hear about it), a broader approach needs to be taken. As in everything else in life, finding a balance is key.
Writing about your product/service is obviously important for informing prospects, but you have the rest of the website for that; product and solution pages, case studies, and how-to-demos. A too-self-centered blog is very corporate – too Microsoft/Google style. So keep your product posts to release announcements, feature descriptions, and really awesome, eye-catching stats about the benefits your product delivers.
- Strike a balance between self-promotion and providing value.
- Write about important announcements and impressive feature and benefit stats.
The Funnel Perspective
Or: What? Content has a funnel too?
So what else should you write about? Think top of the funnel. Look at the industry you’re operating in and give the people what they want. Remember, marketing mythology says that top-of-the-funnel folks aren’t even aware that they need your product. In order to PTDTF (push them down the funnel) you need to think holistically about the ecosystem your product plays a part in and start exploring this ecosystem in your blog.
Integrations are a trove of content potential just waiting to be exploited. Every tech product works with integrations, plug-ins, add-ons, and/or APIs. Think of integrations as bridges to the rest of your ecosystem, since integrations represent processes and workflows and architectures. Prospects in your market, in any market, are searching Google to solve various difficulties they have in their work and to learn about new ways to improve efficiency and overall performance. Identify these and write about them.
And while we’re talking about the top of the funnel, what about outside the funnel? The best example of outside the funnel would be completing products/services. Every product has other products/services that are used alongside it. Most likely, those completing products/services are more well-known than yours. (If any Intel folks are reading this, we beg your pardon.) So use their ‘star power’ as leverage for your own content creation. It might sound a bit unorthodox, but it makes sense – more people are interested in well-known products than lesser-known ones. As long as they are not competing directly with yours, why not? This will make even more sense when we get to the SEO section.
- Top-of-the-funnel posts address the pain points, trends, and best-practices of your industry.
- Outside-the-funnel posts cover completing products/services.
How & Why SEO Should Play a Role in Your Blog Strategy
Or: Oh no, here we go, SEO again.
Everybody’s least favorite topic. From product managers to engineers, from CEOs to CMOs, from designers to office dogs – if there’s one thing that can bum anyone out, it’s SEO. So let’s try to simplify it by explaining how SEO helps you decide what to write about in your blog.
SEO is basically the marketing world equivalent of, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it still make a sound?” Think of every post you want to write like this: If a post is published on your blog and no one reads it, does it still help you?
That’s the role SEO plays in content creation – finding out in advance if folks are likely to read your post.
You have an idea of what to write about. Great. Just do some simple keyword research to see if there are a sufficient number of searches around that topic. You don’t need to do it yourself. Either your content dude knows how to do keyword research, or you can outsource it. It’s a very cut-and-dried way to make content decisions. If folks aren’t searching for it on Google, drop it.
You may find yourself asking the following question. What is considered a sufficient number of searches to justify writing about something? Only you can answer that, and it depends on the kind of product you’re pushing. If you are a SaaS (meaning you charge a monthly fee and need to drive traffic in order to obtain a certain volume of users), your cut-off number of searches should be relatively high. If, on the other hand, you have a product with a very high price tag, you only need a handful of searches to justify a blog post.
The thinking process here is somewhat similar to PPC. If you run a paid search campaign, you already have many of the insights you need.
- Do keyword research on every topic idea before investing in writing.
- Decide on a ‘sufficient’ number of searches to justify a blog post.
Thinking Long Term
Or: The content ROI predicament
If you are razor-focused on an immediate ROI, dollar-out-dollar-in kind of a deal, it might not be the ideal time to start a blog. Put it on the back burner and come back to it when you have enough breathing room to plan ahead. Content is a long-term game. It’s something you invest in without expecting immediate results. Still, look around – everybody is doing content even though they can’t put it in an excel sheet to calculate its ROI.
Here’s why content is ROI-challenged but still provides tons of added value: A post can have twenty-two thousand unique page views, without a single one of those converting on the session. From one perspective, this is a lead gen failure. But on the other hand, those folks that read it will remember it. Maybe a couple of weeks or months later they will read another one of your posts, and then the following year when they need a product just like yours they will go, “A-ha!” That’s another thing content is challenged by – attribution. Can’t be done.
Or maybe they do a Google search for what they’re after and one of your posts comes up – because you did your keyword research and wrote about relevant stuff that folks search for. You see, it all comes together. And that’s why content is a long-term investment.
A solid piece of content that is informative and objective and that was properly keyword-researched and constructed with an SEO-state-of-mind can carry its weight for years to come. This means it can generate a steady stream of visitors and promote brand awareness without you needing to do anything. It’s called Evergreen Content. Here’s a breakdown from the SEO masters at Ahrefs. It usually requires more investment than a ‘regular’ post, but when done right it’s priceless.
- Content is a long-term investment.
- Content promotes brand awareness.
- Create a few Evergreen pieces.
Who Will Write & Who Will Manage
Or: OMG – Who will write? Who will manage?
Finding the right writers is a real challenge. And finding the right person to manage the content operation is no less of a challenge. This is especially true for technology companies that need to communicate highly technical messages to a highly technical audience. To frame this discussion, let’s divide it into content about your product (bottom of the funnel), and industry-relevant content (middle, top, and outside the funnel).
The middle, top, and outside of the funnel can be outsourced. You’ll need to do a serious search to locate experienced writers that are knowledgeable about your industry. You should ask to see relevant content they have penned in the past to prove their suitability, do a test-run with each, and then choose the best candidate(s). A word of advice: skip writers who claim understanding but are unable to provide written proof for it.
The bottom of the funnel – content that dives deep into your product – is the hardest to outsource, unless you invest in educating your writers by providing demos and detailed documentation of your product. Alternatively, you can have your product/development team write the super technical stuff about your product. It makes sense, since they know it best. But engineers aren’t famous for their writing skills, nor do they have the time to devote to it.
So how do you solve this problem? That’s where a strong content manager comes in. Everybody needs a managing hand, and writers are no different. A content operation cannot run effectively without a manager. You need someone who can guide the outsourced writers and edit their work, and lead your internal team to produce the very bottom-of-the-funnel content, either by interviewing them and ghostwriting, or by applying heavy editing. Or some combination of the above.
- Outsource top-of-the-funnel content.
- Do a thorough recruiting process for your writers.
- For bottom-of-the-funnel content, you need heavy guidance for your internal team or intensive education of your outsourced writers.
- You need a content manager to make it all happen.