Scaling Developer Content
Because you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you already know content is a great way to reach software developers. When done well, content helps you build trust, reach new customers, mitigate support requests, and augment your sales process.
But once you see content working, the next question is how much content do you really need to produce? And, if you create more of it, will you necessarily get more traffic or conversions?
This question comes up a lot in our work with developer tools companies, so I thought it would be interesting to quantify this. I spoke to several clients and colleagues in the industry to understand the kinds of results they’ve seen and the correlation between consistently publishing high-quality technical content and traffic growth.
|Company||Content Volume||Monthly Visitors|
|Strapi||1-2 posts per week||150,000|
|Redpanda||3-4 posts per week||100,000*|
|ContainIQ (sold in 2023)||3-5 posts per week||200,000|
|Earthly.dev||3-5 posts per week||230,000|
|LambdaTest||5 posts per week||>1,000,000*|
|Twilio||10-15 posts per week||>3,700,000*|
|DigitalOcean||10-20 posts per week||>5,000,000*|
*Not officially confirmed. Estimates based on previously published data, Ahrefs, and/or SimilarWeb.
This chart is not meant to suggest that publishing frequency is the only factor in generating traffic. All of these brands have been consistently publishing a high volume of content for at least two years, and Twilio and DigitalOcean have been at it for over five years.
Raw traffic numbers are also not the only business goal here. A blog post that attracts 1000 visitors per month, but never leads to a single conversion isn’t nearly as valuable as one that brings in 100 visitors per month with a 25% conversion rate.
Still, I find data like this quite compelling. It’s also interesting to see how companies that have seen success with developer content continue to double down and increase their publishing volume as they grow.
When is Scaling Developer Content the Right Move?
Clearly, publishing more frequently works for some developer tools companies, but is it the right move for every company?
There are basically three things you need to consider to answer this question:
1. Your Goals and Timeline
Typically, developer tools companies start producing content because they want to drive awareness, increase website traffic, and convert more leads into paying customers. These high-level goals are great, but in order to determine how much content you need, you’ll have to get more specific as to how and how quickly your content needs to affect these goals.
For example, if you want your content to help your brand be perceived as a “thought leader” and you have a long timeline, you can probably get away with publishing just one or two pieces of content per month from your executive team.
On the other hand, if you want to rank #1 on Google for highly competitive industry terms and generate 100,000+ pageviews within 12 months, you’ll need to find a way to publish 3-5 new high-quality pieces of content every week. There’s just no way around it.
Nate Matherson, who was the CEO of ContainIQ before it was acquired in 2023, published 225 pieces of content in just 14 months. This took a lot of work to pull off, but the impact on the business was huge. By the end of that period, ContainIQ was receiving over 200,000 visitors every single month.
It’s also important to understand that content efforts compound over time.
Early on, you’ll have to put much more work into it than you see in results, but if you’re consistent and strategic in your approach, you will see exponential results. This creates a huge moat that competitors can’t breach overnight, and it’s the reasons that many companies increase their publishing volume as they see positive results.
“It took us about three months to get to 10k visitors per month, about six months to get to 50k visitors per month, and about 12 months to get to 150k visitors per month.”
2. Your Product and Customer
Next, in order to determine how much content you need, you need to consider your product, customer, and buying cycle.
Some businesses only need a few pieces of content to augment a robust sales function. For example, if you’re an early-stage startup selling a high-ticket software product that CIOs at Fortune 100 companies will buy, you don’t need massive inbound interest or a bottoms-up content strategy to start. You probably just need a few pieces of content to help augment your sales efforts.
But if you’re pursuing a bottoms-up strategy that will reach hands-on practitioners or you’re pursuing a product-led growth strategy, you need to produce a lot of content. Ideally, you want this content to rank well in search engines, get spread on social media, and act as a useful resource for your users. This means you’ll need a high-volume content operation because you’re competing with larger, more mature businesses (like those listed above) that already publish multiple pieces of content every week.
3. Your Budget and Team Strengths
Finally, while most marketing teams want to produce more content, there are almost always practical limitations based on your budget and existing team’s strengths. Producing technical content at scale is a lot of work, and it typically costs 2-3x as much to produce as non-technical marketing content.
You also need to consider whether your organization is ready to start increasing its content output. For example, if your CEO demands to approve each piece of content before it goes live, he’ll perpetually bottleneck your output.
What if We Run Out of Things to Create?
Another concern that developer marketing teams sometimes bring up is that there are only so many pieces of content they can write that directly relate to their industry or product.
This fear comes from either a limited understanding of content marketing or your target audience. There is always more valuable content to create, which is why the top developer-first brands’ publishing frequency typically increases as they grow.
First, you can create content designed to capture all the relevant keywords in your niche. Next, you can explore keywords that relate to other problems your target audience will solve around the same time as they adopt your product. For example, if you’re building a software testing tool, you might start by targeting keywords around software testing, unit testing, automated testing, etc. Then, you can move on to cover keywords around continuous integration, agile development, coding best practices, and upgrading legacy software as all these keywords are closely related to software testing.
Next, you can create content that focuses on your product: how it works, why you built it a particular way, how customers are using it, etc. Tutorials, integration guides, and “how to build X” type content is some of the most popular content we produce for clients of Draft.dev.
Then, there’s opinion-driven content. This kind of content can help differentiate you and define your brand voice. Plus, it tends to be more viral when done right.
Next, you can focus on your customers. Produce case studies, get testimonials and present them in interesting ways, highlight industry news, and interview your customers’ subject matter experts. Making your customers look good always makes your brand look good to them.
You can also explore other forms of media. I still think writing provides the most accessibility and value in developer content, but video is closing in. Some developers tend to prefer video over written tutorials, and webinars work really well for certain businesses. Audio is also becoming increasingly appealing as podcasts are very popular among software developers.
You can also invest in more short-form content or in “spinning” your long-form content for social media. Twitter, Linkedin, and even TikTok are popular with certain subsets of the developer community, but you can also seed content in relevant Slack or Discord groups.
Once you’re publishing enough content on your own site, you can also start to explore syndication partnerships. Cross-publishing your content on Dev.to and Medium is a good starting point, but also consider paid collaborations with other industry sites and newsletters.
Finally, your work in producing technical content is literally never done because the landscape around you is changing all the time. Tutorials get out of date as new software is released, best practices change as trends evolve, and new competitors are constantly joining every developer tool market.
“We have to refresh content nearly every week, to ensure that past content is still relevant. This is especially true for tutorials, where we have to ensure the latest updates in tech or feature changes are incorporated.”
So, if you’re committed to content as a growth channel, you have to be ready to invest in it.
The results of scaling up your content can be fantastic - it’s one of the most consistent and predictable long-term marketing channels - but it’s not necessarily easy to do.
In two years, our team at @Draftdev has created over 1400 pieces of developer-focused content! 🤯— Karl Hughes (@KarlLHughes) June 1, 2023
If you had told me we'd be here a year and a half ago, I would have laughed at you.
It's amazing what having a great team and strong focus can do.
And of course, if you’re looking for help producing more high-quality technical content aimed at software engineers, data engineers, platform engineers, or similar, I’d love to chat. Book a time to talk to us today.
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