Search engine optimization is an important component of our content marketing work for companies with technical products. The reason it’s important is that it covers the need for promotion — repeatedly displaying clients’ blog posts or website pages in response to search queries entered by potential customers.
SEO is not the only promotion technique that we use, it’s one of the options in our toolbox. However, SEO is a method that’s uniquely suited to our clients’ goals because, after the initial work of ranking a page is done, the distribution becomes effectively free for some time (unless a better competing page becomes available).
In addition, pages ranked organically for positions #1–3 for a given term in a search engine are usually perceived as more trustworthy by most searchers, according to research done by California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (link to PDF). From our experience, this effect is even more pronounced with a tech audience that uses ad blockers and despises digital ads.
The SEO challenges we see in technical companies
Most tech companies have a website, yet they don’t take advantage of SEO for a few reasons.
Some marketing managers are suspicious of SEO, commonly because of how much low-quality information about this topic is out there. If they are suspicious of SEO, then they can’t leverage it, and their company cannot leverage SEO well without marketing folks being on board with how it works and understanding the principles.
On the other extreme, some marketers are SEO-first (or SEO-only) and forget about the ultimate reason why people visit pages online: they want to get value from an informative page in a search result. SEO-only pages that bring no value can be a detractor to the brand, especially when targeting developers and other more technical personas.
Companies with more technical products usually struggle to understand the SEO opportunity for their brand — they incorrectly conclude that low search volume estimates in SEO tools mean there is no opportunity to get leads and sign-ups through SEO. Such companies then delay leveraging SEO until their competitors leverage it — and it becomes too late and too expensive to compete.
And finally, existing SEO firms frequently don’t have expertise with technical topics. They might not (even in 2023) understand that search intent is highly important. Even if they do understand search intent, they might not understand the nuance of intent for technical subjects. For example, a developer doing research needs to be served by a different type of article from someone who is looking to simply buy a product or service, even though the search terms might look similar to a non-techie. This lack of technical expertise ends up wasting clients’ time and budget on building pages that turn out to be irrelevant or mean something completely different from what the SEO firm thinks they mean.