The statement, ‘Content is King’, has been used repeatedly for the past couple of years. But, is content still really the differentiator for your marketing activities these days?
We have seen marketing go through a sea change, from being offline to being almost wholly digital. Traditional marketing channels like TV, billboards, radio, and print media are simply not enough anymore to reach out to one’s target audience.
As of 2020, over 3.6 billion users are using social media and other online channels. The Gen-Z and millennial population seem to be spending maximum time online, approximately 3 hours daily. This makes digital marketing not just an additional avenue but also a must-have in the modern marketing arsenal.
Learn more about the evolution of content marketing in this blog.
While we have seen digital and content marketing becoming a necessity over the years, it was only during the pandemic that businesses seemed to embrace the digital revolution truly. Expected growth of 66% was assumed by marketers in social media content creation during the pandemic. This was followed by blog content and video production at 57% and 50%, respectively.
With many companies now leveraging online platforms, the competition in the digital realm has increased significantly. In this competitive world, content marketing will indeed prove to be the real differentiator. As famous marketer Seth Godin once said, “Content marketing is the only marketing left.” And his words could not have been more accurate.
Content marketing is authentic, helpful, and creates an impact on audiences. It isn’t just a standalone activity; it acts as the starting point for every other digital marketing approach.
Interested in knowing more about the the secret sauce for creating great content consistently? Read this blog
So, what are the key things brands should consider while drawing up their content marketing strategies for 2021? With organizations consistently invested in and improving their digital strategy, here are some recent content marketing trends that we need to keep an eye on in 2021.
1. Focus on your niche and use long-tail keywords
Recently, we have seen the increasing popularity of content that is focused on a particular niche. And marketers are using lengthy guides or long-form content for their audience. The internet is filled with innumerable articles, videos, or posts on any given topic. In this era of information overload, long-form content can help you position yourself as a thought leader and an authority on a particular subject.
Furthermore, you can use long-tail keywords to help your content stand out from the crowd. These keywords ensure that the content is showcased to a targeted and specific user. This makes it easier to rank your content and increase organic traffic, which is good news, especially if you target a competitive space. For finding long-tail keywords, you can leverage tools like:
You can also use Google’s features like:
- People Also Searched For feature
- Google Suggest
2. Build content communities
Since the pandemic broke out, there had been a greater push for building communities for marketing teams. The number of slack communities has grown 2.5 times since 2016. Community marketing is not just about selling a brand or raising awareness; it has more to do with engaging customers to build trust and loyalty. A community provides opportunities for users to collaborate, learn, and network, which in turn helps you to build a strong brand.
An example of building a community that is helpful and offers support is the ProBlogger Community page. It provides seasoned bloggers and new entrants with an option to learn, collaborate and get discounts, enabling them to grow and make optimum use of the brand’s website.
3. Bring in expertise and industry focus
Content marketing is no longer just about creating content to increase page ranking or showcase a strong presence. For customers to start trusting the brand, it is essential to showcase industry knowledge and expertise. Readers and customers are more likely to trust a particular piece of content if an industry expert writes it. According to Nielsen, 85% of customers regularly look for expert-backed content before making a purchase.
Start by creating author bios for your content or get experts onboard for panel discussions, webinars, or videos. It can also help if you collaborate with influencers in your field. Doing this will add to your content’s trustworthiness and help you stand out as a knowledgeable brand and an expert in your chosen niche.
An example of a good author profile is one that is concise and impactful. It has a high-quality image written in the third personand adds value to the blog content.
4. Personalize your content
Personalizing content to be specific to every customer and target group has always been a well-used concept in content marketing. Nowadays, a customer doesn’t have the patience or the time to search extensively for what they want to look up. Therefore, content marketing needs to be more personalized and targeted.
Moreover, brands should be sharing appropriate content and communications with their customers/prospects. The Salesforce State of Connected Customer Report 2019 findings suggest that 73% of customers expect some kind of communication from the brand that caters to their needs.
To start with personalization, it is suggested that you determine a target persona and a stage of your customer journey. Next, think of ways to engage with each persona at his or her appropriate stage. For example, a customer at the awareness stage should ideally be sent introductory emails or links to a particular landing page. A customer who has shown interest should be provided with detailed information about a product or a service. Emails on discounts or offers should also be sent to improve the conversion rate.
5. Create headlines with emotional keywords
To truly supercharge your content, create headlines that grab attention and compel user action. Using emotional keywords will increase your content’s appeal and the level of interaction on all your channels. You can use Google Keyword Planner to help you with the right keywords to be included in your content.
For example, if your keyword is ‘improve content marketing’, some headline options could be:
- 3 Steps To Improve Content Marketing In 2021
- 7 Powerful Ways To Improve Content Marketing
- Easy Tips To Improve Content Marketing For Beginners
6. Explore Google’s Discover feature
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning are improving suggested content that your customers are likely to see. So why not use some of these features yourself? Google Discover combines news, videos, and other content to fill the feed, and this is based on user interactions and search history.
This feature is available on Google’s mobile pages and when users open new tabs in the Chrome browser. For your content to be eligible on Discover, you need to meet its guidelines and create unique and engaging content. You can explore the Google Discover guidelines and improve your chances of appearing in the feed.
7. ‘Story’ content sells
Today, almost every social media platform has a ‘Story’ feature to enable users to add short videos or image-heavy content that disappears after 24 hours. The popularity of ‘Stories’ started with Snapchat and is now used by Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter (called Fleets). Stories are the most viewed content on these platforms, with Instagram Stories being viewed by 500 million users with 1/3rd of the stories viewed being shared by business accounts.
To create stories, simply use breathtaking visuals or videos to appeal to your target audience. Some other tips could include:
- Using engaging content formats such as polls, questions, or fun stickers
- Adding music or sound for added appeal.
- Using the Instagram effects for added appeal while ensuring the effects do not take the focus away from your key message.
You can further improve interactions by taking a user to your blog, website, or social media post on any topic.
8. Webinars are still relevant
In 2020, webinars were a rage as people utilized their time indoors to learn about new concepts or topics that interested them. As we move on this year, video content and webinars will still play a prominent role in enabling organizations to connect with their audience effectively. And no, it is not going away any time soon!
After a few initial hiccups, most companies have mastered the art of refining their webinars to be engaging, simple, and of just the right length. According to industry experts, webinar formats are now changing to adopt more engaging discussions like a fireside chat, masterclass sessions, or one-on-one interview formats. This is because people don’t just want to sit through a 30+ slide webinar; they want the webinar to be interactive. Brands can also explore going live on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or other social platforms which appeal to the younger audience.
9. Video content is viral
Video content marketing has grown significantly over the past few years. With improved WiFi speeds and the ease of creating video content, many marketers believe such a type of content gives substantial ROI compared to that provided by plain text content. According to Wyzowl’s 2020 State of Video Marketing:
- 96% of respondents claim to have watched an explainer video to learn about a product or a service.
- 84% of respondents think a brand’s video convinced them to buy a particular product or a service.
- 86% of respondents want to see more video content from a brand.
Moreover, many customers are now likely to scour the internet before buying a particular product or service, and 70% of B2B buyers watch a video during the buying process.
It is better to start small and leverage the already existing content by converting it to video formats. A brand can build on it and move on to make more videos on a range of topics as time progresses.
10. Optimize content by focusing on E-A-T
In 2020, Google updated its search algorithm and this got the entire marketing community talking. To ensure that results shown on its platform are relevant to users, Google has described three key factors that will now be considered when ranking pages. The factors are:
- Expertise: Refers to the main content on a website. The algorithm will look for ways to understand if a particular website is an expert on a specific topic or has the credentials to back the information being provided.
- Authoritativeness: This refers to the creator of the main content and will check if the creator has a strong background and is looked at as a leader in the industry.
- Trustworthiness: This refers to how trustworthy the content or its creator or the website is for a user.
To help your content meet the E-A-T principles above, brands can work on:
- Link-building for their pages from credible websites
- Including a bio and credentials of the author on your blog or other content to improve trustworthiness.
- Linking out to other authoritative sources for supporting the stats and data that you have used in your content
- Keeping your site updated regularly with fresh and relevant information
11. Optimize content for voice search
The popularity of home automation and smart speakers has led to a rise in voice search. Comscore predicts that 50% of all searches will be voice searches in 2021, and brands will need to optimize their content for voice search in order to be ranked at the top.
This brings in the element of complete sentences instead of keyword-based searches. For example, a user is more likely to type ‘2021 content marketing trends’ to get the results for the key content trends this year, but a voice query is more likely to be something like, “Which are the top content marketing trends in 2021?” The results need to be optimized as well, as Google will pick up results with compelling headlines and snippets for its voice search results.
12. Focus on intent to rank higher in semantic search
Semantic search is redefining the way search algorithms work, and the use of AI and data to determine the intent and contextual meaning behind a search query is enabling relevant results to be on top. So, optimizing content to be relevant and helpful or intent-based is the way forward for brands. To create intent-based content, brands can:
- Write content in an easy-to-understand language, and not just add keywords to rank higher, and should also ensure that they serve a purpose
- Break content into subheads and bullets to aid readability
- Use a review, Q&A, FAQ, article, or rating schema to make the content more appealing and easy for web crawlers
- Create content that answers a user’s pressing concern
13. Repurpose content across channels
Is a blog written a few years back still engaging and relevant to your audience? If you have great content that can still be used, content repurposing is the way ahead for your marketing strategy. Repurposing is simply the art of repackaging the content into different formats. For example:
- Can the blog or a particular set of blogs be turned into an e-book or a whitepaper?
- Can content for a particular page be used for targeted campaigns on the subject?
- Can your posts be used to create infographics with research and stats?
- Can your webinar topic be transcribed into a blog, a podcast, or an email campaign?
There are several ways to repurpose content and help you take the burden off content writers who frequently need to produce fresh pieces.
14. A/B Testing will become a waste of time and budget
A/B testing is a well-known method to validate the right kind of creative content that appeals to audiences. But with AI and better predictions, many think that A/B testing will become obsolete in the years to come.
According to RJ Taylor, CEO & Founder of Pattern89, “Once machine learning predicts the trends before they happen and provides clear guidance for marketers, why waste money to A/B test something that wouldn’t work as well? Soon, marketers will be able to go all-in on what will work best without having to test the theory.”
15. Cross-channel content will grow
According to Convince & Convert, multi-channel content marketing has become more important than ever. Content marketing in the future will be changing to incorporate multiple channels and will need a versatile approach. For example, your content created for social media can also be leveraged for SMS or WhatsApp messages to a particular target audience.
Depending on user behavior and the channels your brand wants to focus on, cross-promotion and integration of content on more than one channel are likely to trigger a personalized and behavior-driven marketing approach.
16. The older generation prefers reading to watching videos
Although videos and visual content are gaining popularity, a large demographic still prefer content to be textual.
A Twitter poll run by Kunal Shah, Founder of CRED and Freecharge, found that surprisingly, people are still expecting content to be textual and not just visual. This also has a lot to do with the demographic and the type of audience you are targeting.
Although videos are a hit for B2C, B2B buyers prefer reading the entire content via a brochure, whitepaper, or a detailed blog on the subject. The older generation is similarly used to reading and likes content pieces to be in PDF formats so that they can be downloaded and read at leisure.
So, when creating a content marketing plan, make sure that you factor in your audience and the type of content format they find engaging.
17. Prioritize user-generated content
‘People’ stories usually get viral and help in humanizing a brand. While branded content provides an industry perspective, user-generated content is a great way of helping users understand what other customers or audiences are thinking. In addition to case studies, brands can build content-leveraging testimonials and interactive videos amongst other channels to get their customers talking about your product or service.
18. AI will play a bigger role in content marketing
If you are wondering whether AI will replace human writers, the answer is not anytime soon. But does that mean AI is completely irrelevant in the content marketing game? Definitely not.
AI is making great strides in content marketing and even enabling content creators to generate ideas, curate content, and provide insights into the content which is popular among its target audience. In 2021, AI will play a bigger role in enabling marketers to understand which type of content is working best and which content style is preferred by an audience. Although it will still need humans to validate whether it is moving in the right direction, the great strides it is making will surely define the future of content marketing.
19. Interactive content will create greater engagement
Content isn’t just about context and relevance; UI and UX now play a prominent role in enabling content to be interactive and fun. Content need not be in the same read-and-consume format. Interactive content formats like quizzes, GIFs, infographics, or interactive web pages are now gaining popularity.
According to BuzzFeed, 96% of its readers finish a quiz that they take part in, making it highly engaging and effective. Such content is not just more likely to engage the audience, but it is also more likely to be shared with others.
20. Value-driven content will rise to the top
An important trend in content marketing nowadays is to create value-driven content. Many marketers find ways to compel users to share their email ids and other information in order to provide insightful content, with the web page or the landing page acting only as an entry point. In the coming years, this technique will become obsolete, as an increasing number of readers will first want to get value from their content and then interact with a brand.
Offer practical suggestions in your content and focus on your customers’ needs rather than just trying to sell your product. In an age when most of your audiences work remotely, value-driven content will matter as users now heavily rely on online means to get answers to their doubts.
This list is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to content marketing. With increasing demand and competition, content marketing and the digital space will see a barrage of new trends. In 2021, marketing will be all about the impact and the ability of a brand to connect with its audience. Stay focused on what you do best, create value from your content, and do not forget to optimize and improve.