Search engine optimization (SEO) is not an exact science. Despite this — or perhaps because of it — plenty of people claim to be SEO experts and try to sell you a strategy that will improve your blog’s Google rankings. But when it comes to the tech space, in particular, many SEO thought leaders lack direct experience and expertise. They often do not know how to translate general SEO insights into the realm of technical content writing.
At Wizard on Demand, we write content primarily for developer audiences. Over the past five years, we’ve been able to score front-page Google rankings for our clients for articles on a range of technical topics.
Seeing your content rise to the top of Google results is a satisfying experience: it proves that you’re on the right track and producing something that your users find valuable. Solid Google rankings are also a key component of most B2B marketing strategies, as customer acquisition through organic search is effectively free compared with driving leads and signups using paid ads. So today, we’re sharing some tips on how to get your technical blog to rank high on Google. Spoiler: it all boils down to understanding your audience and speaking to them in a way that feels sincere and well thought out.
What’s the role of Google rankings in today’s tech landscape?
New concepts are constantly making their way into the tech space. DWH, NLP, SaaS — who can claim to know what all those acronyms stand for? To stay on top of what’s relevant, most people turn to the Google search engine. For instance, ever since ChatGPT was opened to the public, interest in related search terms — like GPT, large language models, and Transformers — has been on the rise.
With hundreds or thousands of people searching for a certain term every day, the usefulness of a high Google ranking is apparent: a first-page result will drastically increase your visibility to a large audience. According to research by Backlinko, the number-one result in a Google search has a click-through rate of 27.6%, and there is a steep decline in clicks the lower the result is on the page. Depending on the intent behind the search, that visibility can reap different benefits. For example, specific high-purchase-intent search terms may directly translate into conversions and sales.
A top-page result can also act as a trust-building exercise between you and your audience. By demonstrating to readers that you can, say, explain a complex concept in easily understandable terms, you position yourself as an expert in your field. It also means that you understand their problems and take them seriously. Purely SEO-geared content can easily just bounce off a technical audience. But by identifying their pain points and speaking their language, you show your users that you “get them” — and that you can be trusted.
Let’s explore what a good strategy looks like in theory before we turn to some specific examples from our agency.
What makes a good strategy for ranking an article?
In the world of SEO pseudoscience, many factors have been suggested to lead to results in terms of Google rankings, such as the number of backlinks from other web pages to your site. However, instead of arguing about whether links work, we prefer to focus on creating the best possible pages for what the user is looking for. At the end of the day, a good user experience is what Google and other search engines have to prioritize to keep their users coming back to them.
By taking this approach, we have identified a method to get your results to rise to the top that is simple but relatively hard to do: identify your audience’s needs, down to the minute details, and produce content that addresses them.
The ultimate goal of any content strategy should be to provide the best possible experience for the reader. All of your efforts should be targeted toward that goal:
- Your blog should discuss topics that are on your users’ minds.
- It should meet the readers where they are by a) using acronyms and concepts they understand and b) including explanations, links, and other material to illustrate new concepts.
- The design of the blog should be user-friendly and use elements like images and illustrations to support the story — not distract from it.
- The same is true for textual elements: use lists, subheaders, and paragraphs to structure your text and make it more readable.
- Finally, design your blog with the user experience in mind, and test it like you would your product.
Case study 1: identify a need and cater to it
Three years ago, we wrote a guide to AWS Lambda for our client Serverless. Ever since, the blog post has been ranking among the top results for the search term “AWS Lambda,” drawing an average of 3,500 readers every month. In most locations, the blog post ranks right below Amazon’s own landing page and perhaps the Wikipedia entry. We believe the reason for this successful campaign is that we delivered on the promise of the title: to provide the “ultimate guide” to serverless computing with AWS Lambda.
When we were researching potential topics for our client Serverless, we realized that Amazon’s own page — still the top result when you search for the term “AWS Lambda” — wasn’t actually very helpful for addressing what we identified as the search intent behind the query. When people search for such a broad term on Google, they are generally looking to gain a comprehensive overview of the topic. Amazon’s page, however, is more of a landing page than an informative guide and does a particularly poor job of explaining the underlying pricing model.
To identify themes for the blog post, the Serverless team looked at related search terms, which we promptly included in the article. The final result offers an introduction to serverless computing with AWS Lambda, followed by more in-depth information on how to get started (via both a UI and the CLI) and realistic pricing examples.
We were able to create a perennial high-ranker for a popular search term thanks to intensive research. This allowed us to identify the explorative search intent behind the term and find related questions, which we then answered in the article. By examining what a user searching for those terms would find elsewhere and identifying what was missing from those results, we were able to create the best page experience for the readers.
Case study 2: listen to your users
You don’t always need tricks to identify your users’ pain points — often, they will gladly tell you themselves. Of course, in order to do that, you need to establish communication with your users. A company that does this particularly well is deepset, another client of ours that produces tools for business applications that integrate natural language processing (NLP) capabilities.
In addition to hosting regular NLP meetups, deepset has managed to create a vibrant community on Discord, where they maintain open communication channels with their users and customers. Thus, they were able to identify that users wanted more foundational knowledge about complex topics in NLP. As a result, we produced an introductory article on language models that promptly rose to the top of Google search results, with hundreds of monthly clicks — and not just appearances in search results, but actual visitors driven to the site. Apparently, more than just deepset’s users were interested in learning more about language models!
If you don’t have the type of resource deepset has been able to curate in the form of its NLP community, there’s also the option of conducting user interviews. Through user research platforms such as User Interviews, you can schedule short calls with people whose job description fits your target group. Though this requires some time and money, you can gain deep insights by talking to actual people on the job that you’re trying to target. Often, reality is way messier than we like to imagine, and those potential users can help you identify issues that you hadn’t thought of before.
Case study 3: find topics for your blog through keyword research
Keyword research can be a bit like foraging for mushrooms. There’s no way of telling what will come up — but if you know your craft, you may find some truffles! Tools like Ahrefs help you identify what people have been searching for in certain areas of the world. Plus, they propose alternatives to a given keyword combination. Again, you then need to make sure to understand the search intent behind those keywords so that you can address your audience’s pain points.
We often go through this kind of process for clients who want to publish content for the top of the funnel whenever we think of new articles for them. That’s how we came up with Udacity’s successful blog post on reading a file in C++ (which draws about 6,000 visitors every month), Mailosaur’s top-three ranking post about the structure of an email (230 monthly visits), and deepset’s article about text vectorization (hundreds of monthly visits).
Coming up with a high-ranking technical article
By now, it’s probably clear that we think of technical content production as a complex and involved process. Here are some tips on how you, too, can follow the same process to elevate your content in Google’s search results and the minds of your audience.
- Be clear about a piece’s purpose before you even start working on it. Is it for the community? For existing users? Or is ranking the main goal (and if yes, for which keywords)? Then, design your strategy accordingly. Marketers often try to kill several birds with one stone, such as trying to rank an announcement blog post for a feature high on Google. But in our experience, it’s better to focus on one task at a time. If your announcement post or tutorial also manages to get a high Google ranking, all the better, but that shouldn’t be your goal from the start.
- Try to conceive of Google as a quality-control mechanism. If a page isn’t ranking high, try to identify why that’s the case — and don’t just use “build more links” as a solution to every problem. In many cases, pages rank lower because their content isn’t good enough.
- Don’t rely on your own aesthetic preferences: test your blog rigorously and regularly. Many companies’ blogs come as an afterthought, even as they realize their potential for demand generation. That’s why the blogs of so many companies are not as good as they could be. Don’t be like them! Remember that bringing your best practices from your codebase to your content will bring your business real-world benefits.
Embark on your journey to the top of Google results
Do you want to know how to implement an SEO-aware content strategy in practice and achieve high Google rankings for your technical articles? Book a meeting with us for a no-strings-attached consultation.