A Guide to Writing Technical Roundups
What is a technical roundup? Some people call them listicles, since that’s their general format: a list of the best and most useful blogs, frameworks, tools, and so on. Think the best Python blogs or the best computer science blogs, for example. It’s a popular article format for a reason. A roundup offers a short, convenient, and well-structured guide to a variety of topics. A good one gives readers a clear understanding of the subject matter, often with some sort of rating or a scoring system indicating the value of each resource.
We write a lot of useful roundups for our clients at Draft.dev, so in this guide, I’ll provide some insight as to why technical roundups are valuable and how to write one that’s solid.
Why Write a Technical Roundup?
Of course, popularity and simplicity aren’t the only reasons why people create roundups. Let’s talk about the more practical and business-related reasons you might want to create a technical listicle.
Showcase Your Product
Any marketer can tell you that promoting a product can be as hard and tedious as building and producing it. Publishing a roundup of, say, tools compatible with your SaaS is a great way to illustrate the broad usefulness of your product. It’s possible to be even more straightforward and include your product in a listicle with your competitors, though you’ll need to take care that you’re honest and aboveboard in your treatment of the other products.
Readers will generally be sophisticated enough to sniff out flat-out advertising, and the goal of a listicle should be, on some level at least, to inform more than sell. A technical roundup that deals honestly and transparently with its subject is a great way to build trust in your company’s services.
Enhance Your SEO
“Be the most authoritative source, provide the most credible, researched and in-depth information. If the best format for your content is a listicle, that’s fine. But don’t write a listicle without thinking of all the other factors that matter to SEO.” - SpiderGroupUK, Reddit
Roundups tend to perform well on search engines because the click-through rate is high. They tend to answer common queries like, “what are the best tools for continuous integration?” or “what are the best Ruby blogs?” So, when a searcher sees a list post that answers their question, they’re likely to click.
As a company, you can harness these click-throughs to get more eyes on your product. In addition to suggesting the top solutions or tools for a problem, roundups often note which options work best for specific use cases, helping readers narrow their focus and isolate a path forward.
Promote Social Media Sharing
“When you read a great piece of content, you want to share it with friends and family so they can read it too. However, if you post a long editorial on a heavy subject, you’re probably not going to get many interactions…If you post a listicle on the same subject, you’re much more likely to get comments and shares.” - Kristy Snyder, Copypress
Another trick is that people love to share lists they’re mentioned in. Roundups that include solid products, trusted bloggers, and promising startups are easy for those parties to then share on their own social media and newsletters. Organic distribution like that can mean attention from channels you may not have had reach into before.
Hone Your Own Skills
I think we can all agree that the world of tech is fast-moving, hectic even. To be a good engineer, you need to try to stay on top of everything that’s going on in your corner of the industry. Writing a roundup is a great way to pick up the latest news, feel out new trends, and deepen your study of topics you find interesting.
In writing a good, well-researched roundup, you’re going to have to sift through marketing fluff, read detailed reviews, and dig deep into the documentation. Most other engineers won’t have that level of knowledge on the topic.
How to Write a Great Technical Roundup
Of course, it helps to have in-depth knowledge of your field, but that in itself isn’t enough to write a solid listicle. Let’s go over some best practices for crafting a technical roundup.
Think About Your Audience
Before you even begin to gather material for your roundup, you need to know who you want to read it. Is your target demographic software engineers or do you want to reach a more general audience? How familiar do you expect your readers to be with the topic you’re going to cover?
How you answer those questions will determine the depth of your research, the length of the article, even the tone and vocabulary you use. For example, if your site is devoted to backend production, a roundup like “10 Best Ways to Debug in Python” would be appropriate. Knowing what your audience is looking for will go a long way in helping you create a roundup that addresses their specific needs.
Be Picky About Your Research
When you feel confident that you know who your audience is, it’s time to choose material for your roundup. Do your research, and take the time to do it well! You need to display more than a surface-level knowledge of the topic; smart readers can smell hastily thrown-together listicles from a mile away.
For a few examples of well-researched technical roundups, check out:
- The Many Roles of a Startup CTO: More of a business-oriented roundup, this listicle offers clarity into the multi-task reality of a startup and offers recommendations for more resources, as well as a video for visual learners.
- The Best DevOps Blogs: This is a good example of a scored blog, with list items organized according to writing quality, consistency, longevity, technical depth, and usefulness.
Pay Attention to the Structure
One of the main attractions of a roundup is its reliable structure: a list of best tools or blogs or methods, each item accompanied by a short description and an explanation for why you recommend it. Do you want to score each item for easy reading comprehension? Consider what qualities your readers will be most interested to know about each item in your listicle, and rate them accordingly.
Also, don’t forget to include some screenshots—it breaks up your long read into smaller pieces which make the whole article more readable.
Be Intentional About Your Style
The tone and vocabulary you write with will have a definite impact on how your piece comes across. Consider how it matches with the tone of your company overall—are you more formal or more casual? Do you want to be seen as authoritative or edgy or laid-back? Now consider that general perception against the backdrop of the specific listicle you want to pull together. Is this topic better served by sticking to just the facts, or do you want to be more opinionated and expository? Do you want to take the time to define everything and produce, say, a 3,000-word article, or would it be better to keep things short and sweet and rely on readers to look up things on their own? Consider the main goal of your roundup and adjust your voice accordingly.
For a more in-depth discussion of style, check out Draft’s styleguide.
Promote Your Work
Even a good roundup needs promotion to get noticed. No one will read it if you don’t show your work to the world, so this is not the occasion to be modest. Craft Tweets, post on Facebook, add it to LinkedIn, and don’t forget to go beyond social media! Consider submitting to relevant newsletters and forums (though the key word there is relevant. Don’t spam these places if you’d like to have a chance of promoting there again). A sincere, intentional approach to promoting your listicle will go a long way in increasing your audience.
For more in-depth tips specifically about promoting your writing, check out How to Promote Your Technical Blog Posts by Karl Hughes.
Writing, publishing, and promoting a technical roundup can be a fairly simple first step toward marketing your product, promoting yourself as a voice of authority, and building trust with the audience you want to reach. Remember to do your research, choose an appropriate voice, and be smart about how you distribute it. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for listicles that others have written for examples of what a good technical roundup should look like.
On the other hand, if you’d rather have someone else create technical content for you, contact us at Draft.dev.
Build a Blog that Software Developers Will Read
The Technical Content Manager’s Playbook is a collection of resources you can use to manage a high-quality, technical blog:
- A template for creating content briefs
- An Airtable publishing calendar
- A technical blogging style guide