Marketing has gone through several revolutions in the past few decades. With the advent of the innovative startup and virtual spaces leveling the playing field for small-time, everyday businesses, content quickly solidified itself as the popular new kid from out of town.
With the ever-expanding reach of the internet and constant, growing accessibility, content has proven its worth time and again.
From its early beginnings in the noughties to its near-ubiquity today, content marketing trends have continued to evolve and adapt at a breakneck pace.
And 2021 is no different.
1. User Experience Is Paramount
The world of SEO content marketing is a complex one. Content is designed for a target audience, but it is distributed via a search engine. Consequently, content caters to Google and SERPs first, and users second.
Expect to see a subtle move away from this tradition in 2021.
Google is the fairy godmother of the internet, and it’s committed to making it a better (virtual) space for everybody. The era of keyword optimization isn’t gone, but it’s slowly becoming background noise.
Going forward, Google search results and SERP rankings will emphasize the overall user experience. Slow site loading times and confusing UX design will kill a content campaign fast.
The best content will need to be optimized and formatted for mobile devices. Images should load quickly and the layout should be easy to navigate. Annoying ad panels and popups will begin to hurt page rankings if they impact the user experience.
2. Livestreams and Webinars
Nobody has the time to pick through a slideshow anymore.
We’ve all grown accustomed to livestreams in the post-pandemic. But this trend was already on the rise before 2020. The value of livestreams and webinars is twofold.
It’s content that is easy to consume. Videos can be watched almost on autopilot without sacrificing comprehension. By contrast, long-form text bodies have to be actively read by users.
On top of that, video content is engaging. Text is static. A video is not – even if it’s nothing more than a person perched at a desk and speaking into a camera.
3. Building Brand Trust
One of the key benefits of content marketing is that it allows you to build your company culture through repeated motifs and consistent branding.
Show, don’t tell.
With the internet saturated with content, your target audience is very picky about what content they consume. If the branding or message doesn’t resonate with them, they’ll up sticks and find what they’re looking for elsewhere.
With the creation of its E-A-T (Expertise-Authoritativeness-Trustworthiness) framework, Google has drawn a line in the sand. SEO can’t hold the fort on its own anymore.
Now, Google is contrasting EAT with SEO in its algorithms. There’s a reason that Forbes and Entrepreneur are such wildly successful, big-name brands. That reason is the expertise they offer, authoritativeness in their messages, and trust in their branding.
4. Lists Like This One Will Become Graphics
Content is already chock full of images. Images break up segments and paragraphs and allow readers to rest their eyes and their brains for a moment between concepts. This practice has become so ingrained that images and text are like salt and pepper.
But the simple truth is that we process images more efficiently than text.
As 2021 progresses and content marketers look to shake up the status quo, expect the ubiquitous list format that’s been a part of every content marketing campaign for time immemorial will shift to the visual format.
A key advantage of this approach is that there’s very little information that gets lost. We break posts and articles up with headers because they’re easy to skim. Visuals achieve the same, with the added benefit of holding user interest.
5. AI Gets Its Feet Wet
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been riding the undercurrent of innovation for some time now. Always on the tip of the tongue of technology enthusiasts and futurists, AI has made magnificent strides – but in all things has generally felt as though it’s not quite there, yet.
We can all feel it. The scales are about to tip. This has several implications. What is content marketing going to look like with the adoption of AI?
Well, AI is not about to replace good content agencies and writers anytime soon. However, in an industry that is at times plagued by bulk, quantity-at-all-costs approaches, AI-driven content creation will quickly emerge, for better or worse.
In addition, AI and machine learning will find their niche in strategy development. Machine learning has already proven its worth when it comes to analysis and A/B evaluation. Just have a look at Facebook Business Ads.
Moving forward, it will become a vital tool for content masters in optimizing their strategies. But that’s not all.
One of the key benefits of AI will be in the generation of outlines and templates, and in the identification of trends. Content creators will then harness the power of machine learning to stay ahead of the game.
6. Content Templates Will Become the Norm
Templates are already found everywhere, from pre-written resumes to task delegation platforms like Trello.
One of the perennial pain points of content marketing is coming up with good ideas and then translating them into published content. This problem is so widespread that one key symptom of it can be found everywhere: dry and repetitive content that isn’t saying much of anything.
Content templates, which include both machine-driven, pre-drafted content, and useable templates for your audience, will become the norm. Expect to see downloadable libraries of templates as a key part of content generation in the future.
One of the key advantages of this development is idea generation. Content marketers will find more time in the day to focus on what their content consists of (i.e. good content) rather than simply whether it exists.
7. Quality Over Quantity
When it comes to content marketing vs traditional marketing, content wins the race by a wide margin. Traditional marketing is a scattergun approach – throw enough advertising at somebody and something is bound to stick.
Content marketing, by contrast, focuses on the quality of the message. Customers and clients seek out content on their own rather than being the hapless victims of an ad break.
Now more than ever, businesses are recognizing the importance of delivering the right message. While some continue to default to mass marketing approaches, this approach grows less effective by the day.
The simple reason is that the internet is saturated with messages. Hammering out content by the bucketload isn’t going to cut it.
With more and more users bombarded with options no matter where they look, one of the crucial content marketing trends to come will be value-driven content.
Email marketing works, but in the era of personal privacy and data protection, audiences are more reserved than ever about handing out their contact details. Only the content with the greatest value will succeed in getting that all-important data out of their users’ hands.
8. Gamification of Content
Gamification is powerful.
Every successful social media platform on the internet is gamified. From notifications to follower counts to post counts, there are subtle tricks everywhere to keep users engaged.
Content will follow the trend of gamification in short order. Interactive, living content will rule supreme.
Whether it’s interactive videos, quizzes and puzzles, animated gifs, or outside-the-box ideas like a choose-your-own-adventure blog post, gamified content is one trend that’s inevitable.
9. Content Marketing Trends Learn from Social Media
The average attention span of an internet user is around 8 seconds. Yikes.
Social media platforms are a powerful learning tool for content marketers. They’re the most successful of internet businesses, period.
If Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok have shown us anything, it’s that users go bananas for bitesize content. All three platforms have a deep understanding of the importance of novelty in the human psyche.
Instagram reels are generally up to 15 seconds on average, while TikTok limits its videos to one minute at the maximum. And both platforms have a user base that was unthinkable a decade ago.
The core trend that will migrate to content marketing?
Engaging, light-hearted, and above all, brief messages are effective.
10. Grassroots Research and Surveys
Any piece of content is a drop in the ocean. Increasingly, an overreliance on industry “experts” is becoming a watered-down tactic that doesn’t yield fruitful results.
The insight of industry leaders like Jobs, Gates, and Musk are found everywhere. Their insights simply don’t carry the same weight they used to.
Instead, content creators are relying on in-house, grassroots research. While such data is more time-consuming to produce and evaluate, the core benefit is that it providers users with a unique take on what is generally a common subject.
Your research is your own.
Crucially, grassroots research and customer surveys as content provide two advantages. Firstly, there’s a fair chance that good research will pay for itself with third-party backlinks.
If your methodology is sound and your findings insightful, then others will naturally incorporate it in their content. That’s free marketing on top of your own.
Secondly, customer surveys and the content that it creates are great for building trust and interfacing with your audience directly. Rather than remaining passive observers, those who are the most invested in your content become a part of the process.
11. Snap Content
Long-form content is good content. Or so we all thought. But, as we discussed above, social media has shown that brief and easily consumable content has the potential to spread like wildfire.
The notion of snap content, or content atomization, involves taking a traditional long-form piece and breaking it down into smaller chunks.
For instance, a white paper can be broken into a series of emails. Each delivers a core part of the message. One of the great things about snap content is that you get more miles per gallon.
A paper broken down into a dozen emails feels like more to consumers. It can run for a longer stretch of time without requiring more input. This can even be taken a step further by cutting out extracts and snippets of content for use on social media.
12. Podcasts Will Keep Getting Bigger
Podcasts are intimate and connect with listeners on a personal level. One of the key differences between other content styles and podcasts is that podcasts can be consumed passively.
This is why they’ve become such a huge hit. They’re listened to while driving to work, exercising at the gym, and walking the dog through the park.
This means that podcasts are an excellent new medium for content campaigns if there’s a palpable demand for audio content in your niche. And if not, maybe that’s just because nobody else has figured it out, yet.
SEO Isn’t Going Anywhere
Ultimately, content is a relative newcomer in the marketing sector. Trends such as the ones listed here represent not a shift away from content, but its evolution.
The key to the puzzle is that virtual spaces are a landscape of shifting priorities and new innovations. As AI becomes more widespread, it will redefine the whole environment, much the same as social media redefined the way that we interact with one another daily.
Content Marketing Fits the Bill
Content marketing trends are just that – trends. In spite of everything, search engine optimization is the beating heart of content. Without it, nobody would find anything.
Interactivity and novelty are the new king and queen, and those content aficionados who understand that fact are the ones who steer the boat.
Contact us today for a consultation on search engine optimization, content marketing, and business consultation.