There is little doubt that a solid content marketing strategy is necessary for any company that wants to shape its brand identity, attract interest from prospects, and generate an engaged audience. Such a strategy will go a long way towards accomplishing these goals.
All of that said, content marketing is not an area that is easy to understand. The entire concept is in constant flux. The idea of content marketing now looks a lot different than it did 10 years ago and chances are good that what we are thinking about doing today will feel dated 10 years from now.
The good news is that there are a number of exciting opportunities here. Those interested in content marketing will find that there are a number of issues that could have great appeal.
In this blog post, we will discuss some of the most universal concepts of content marketing. We will look at how the practice has evolved over recent years and what will be coming.
The Evolution of Content Marketing
When Google conducted its landmark Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) study in 2011, it found that 88 percent of shoppers use what is known as a Zero Moment of Truth, also known as the discovery and awareness stage in a buying cycle where a consumer conducts research into a product before buying it. Google’s research also showed that word of mouth was a definitive factor in swaying that moment.
The study is a case point in the evolution of content marketing. The moment is the essence of how and why businesses needed to focus on content marketing at the beginning of the decade.
ZMOT was the most compelling evidence that a company’s story is told online—well beyond the control of marketing departments—and it was in a company’s best interest to help shape the nature of those conversations.
The ZMOT study called attention to the need for sound Search Engine Optimization (SEO). In the end, ranking for relevant keywords on search engines became all but essential to bolstering a company’s online presence and holding up during consumers’ Zero Moments of Truth.
That study was far from being the only bombshell Google dropped in the early 2010s. Around the time the study came out, Google also changed its search ranking algorithm to discourage “keyword stuffing”—the practice of repetitively loading a webpage with specific keywords to try to sway search engine rankings.
This change is what is still a continuous effort by Google to offer users a positive, helpful online experience. The shift led to businesses focusing more on producing actual high-quality, meaningful content.
The Rise of Social Media
Content marketing’s evolution was far from being exclusively linked to search engines. Social media’s rise also had a profound impact. As platforms developed into mainstays of everyday life for many people, they presented new challenges for content marketers.
Social media evolved and popularized a different kind of content consumption than search engines. It all boiled down to a matter of “pointed versus passive.”
Consumers use search engines to find content. When a person uses a search engine, they are looking for a specific answer or a specific subject. Social media helped users consume content more passively on their preferred platforms. The content a person sees on their Facebook feed is finding its way to them, not the other way around.
That trend thus incentivized the creation of shareable, attention-grabbing content that could easily be spread across social media channels.
As of 2021, social media is now the primary channel used by marketers, with over 80 percent of marketers using social media. By comparison, only about 40 percent use content marketing and SEO.
Video grows too
Video was another emerging technology as one of the most popular content marketing mediums during the decade, particularly among younger consumers.
As of 2021, roughly 70 percent of marketers said video is now their primary form of media used in their content strategies.
Additionally, almost nine out of ten people said they want to see more videos from brands.
Video is clearly engaging and is easier to follow than blog posts, email newsletters, or ebooks. Most audiences took to it more and more as the decade progressed. By the end of the decade, platforms like YouTube were central to the landscape of content marketing.
Obviously, content marketing underwent several shifts during the last decade, but the practice is far from static. Changes are still coming.
How Content Marketing Will Continue to Evolve
Video was emerging as one of the most—if not the most—important mediums for content marketing at the end of this past decade, and there is little indication that that trend is stopping in the near future.
In 2020, media uploads increased 80 percent, proving how the pandemic accelerated the popularity of video creation and consumption.
All told, the exploration and expansion of video as the preeminent medium for content marketing will likely continue. For most marketers, it will come down to standing out.
This could mean emphasizing the quality of the content that is produced, ensuring it is well-crafted and relevant to viewers. There is also a focus on alternative platforms such as TikTok.
The medium will continue to be a mainstay in the evolution of content marketing going forward regardless of how individual producers and companies manage to innovate when it comes to video marketing.
The prominence of mobile
Statista reported that global mobile data traffic in 2022 will be seven times larger than it was in 2017. Mobile devices only continue to grow, and it is in every content marketer’s best interest to keep pace.
In 2021, 61 percent of Google searches took place on a mobile device, and that trend is not likely to slow down any time soon. Making sure you are optimized for mobile devices will be central to successful SEO efforts. This will apply to a lot of content you create as well.
Blogs need to be easily navigable on smartphones. Readily accessible video content that an audience can watch on mobile devices is also a big help. Prospects and customers need to be able to get as much out of your mobile resources as your desktop ones.
The shift towards mobile will also present opportunities through other emerging kinds of media. Particularly novel mobile technology such as virtual and augmented reality could have a very real place in the future of content marketing.
With more people continuing to rely on their mobile devices, content marketers must do this as well.
Making content more empathetic, purposeful, and customer-first
Google’s ranking algorithm prioritizes the content that will mean the most to searchers. Ideally, the first ranking search result for any keyword is the one that best addresses whatever users are searching for. There will be continuing tinkering with this process.
While nobody knows how the algorithm might change going forward, marketers will need to focus on high-quality content that will register with consumers. It all means understanding an audience and putting considerable effort into how to reach them best.
Content marketing is focusing more on audience enrichment than product promotion. This means content marketing may continue to become more targeted, purposeful, and customer-focused.
But content creation is not easy.
If you do not already, consider investing in a strong optimization strategy for 2022 and beyond. The idea will help you create consistently relevant and high-ranking content without constantly starting from scratch.
More interactive content on websites
There is little doubt that consumers are interested in easily-digestible, interactive content. In fact, 45 percent of B2B buyers say interactive content is one of their top three preferred content types, and interactive content gets twice as much engagement as static content.
Consider how you might implement more interactive content, which breaks up long paragraphs of text and provides the viewer with an alternative method for consuming content.
If you are not sure how to begin, here are three tips to kick-start your interactive content journey:
- Embed an ROI calculator on your website to show customers how you could save them money. An interactive tool immediately shows a product’s value as opposed to relying on text-heavy copy to explain it.
- Crowd-source product innovation. Tap into brand advocates and loyal customers to learn more. Use those insights to create a product roadmap.
- Create a quiz. Not only do quizzes engage visitors, but they also give a better understanding of an audience so campaigns can be more targeted in the future.
The rise of zero-party data
The way cookies and other ad-tracking tools are used in the next decade will change dramatically.
Marketers must continue prioritizing the security of data or risk losing the trust of consumers.
Many marketers are likely to switch from using first, second, or third-party data to using zero-party data, or data collected voluntarily from customers in exchange for value. Zero-party data goes beyond an email address or phone number and instead can include personal context, interests, and preferences, all of which can impact a more personalized consumer experience.
Using zero-party data enables a company to create trust between their brand and its consumers while also ensuring they are delivering the most personalized content possible for customers. As other types of data collection are phased out, you will see marketers shift to zero-party data in the next decade.
If there is anything to take away from understanding the previous and upcoming evolutions of content marketing it is this: do not get too comfortable. New trends and challenges are constantly emerging, and it will always be in your best interest to stay abreast of them.
Above all else, focus on consistently creating high-quality content that your audience will always be able to get something out of.
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