Practitioner Marketing From Blogs to Tutorials: How Technical Content Marketing Is Changing
June 25, 2019
Your content marketing strategy may be working for you today. But will it keep working tomorrow?
Given the pace at which content marketing is changing, that’s an important question to ask. The behavior and expectations of content marketing audiences are constantly evolving, and content that was effective a year or two ago may no longer prove compelling.
With that challenge in mind, here’s a look at how we at Fixate have seen the technical content market evolve over the past several years, and where it is headed.
The early days of technical content marketing
Over the five years that Fixate has been in business, we’ve seen the market for technical content grow much larger. We’ve also witnessed significant change in the types of content that are most effective for reaching technical decision-makers.
Early on — which is to say, circa 2015 — there was steady demand for standard blog posts. Publishing articles of around 750 words on your company’s blog was enough to drive substantial traffic from qualified leads, even if those blog posts were not deeply technical.
That was because, at the time, many companies simply had no content marketing plan at all. They didn’t maintain active technical blogs.
It therefore did not take much to stand out from the crowd. All you needed was technical content of some kind, along with a basic commitment to publishing that content on a regular and recurring basis.
You could say that, at the time, running any kind of technical blog was like having a cell phone in the 1980s. It made you techy and sophisticated, no matter how primitive it actually was.
Increasing competition for technical content
By late 2016 or early 2017, we noticed the market starting to shift. As more and more companies established active technical blogs, it began to take more than blog posts to maintain a significant share of voice within the crowded DevOps market.
It was around this time that we began meeting demand for more unique types of technical content and content services. For example, we began doing documentation projects, wherein we reviewed, reorganized and expanded technical product documentation in order to make sure that our clients had an edge over their competition when it came to their online documentation. We also created many “microsites,” or portals full of deeply technical content focused on a particular theme (like APM or DevSecOps).
We continued to produce blog posts during this time, as maintaining active blogs remained critical. However, we noticed that blog posts increasingly needed to be deeply technical and chock full of code in order to attract a significant following. High-level content didn’t rise above the noise.
2019: Blogs are a commodity
Today, having a technical blog is like having a cell phone. Everyone else has the same thing, and it no longer makes you stand out in any way — unless it’s particularly bad or particularly good.
Indeed, we like to say that, as of 2019, blogs have become a commodity. They are something you still need, but they are not enough to sustain a healthy content marketing operation on their own.
So what does it take to stand out today? One big trend we are seeing is a shift toward technical tutorials that are longer than blog posts and go into tremendous depth. Tutorials walk through how to achieve a given task or goal using a specific product.
Tutorials can be published on blogs, but they can also beef up documentation. Thus, they can support multiple fronts within your content marketing strategy at the same time.
Because many companies still lack detailed tutorials — especially tutorials that (like those we produce) are written by IT experts from outside their organization, who don’t approach their products with any preexisting assumptions that could bias the way the content is written — tutorials have now become the linchpin of technical content marketing campaigns that ensure substantial share of voice.
What will be the next big thing in technical content marketing? That remains to be seen, although we have some ideas (hint: interactive tutorials where readers can actually perform the steps as they go through the article). But what we can say for certain is that content marketing strategies that have not been updated in the past year or two are likely no longer enough to achieve distinction.