Do you hear that?
That’s the sound of the first quarter of 2017 whizzing past you, rapidly disappearing into the rearview mirror.
Once time is gone, you can’t get it back.
So: are you on track with your goals? Are you working on your content strategy? Do you have a content strategy?
The first three months of the year are over and we’re into the thick of 2017. If you’ve gone off course with your content, or you’re wondering where to go and what to do next, this list of content marketing trends will help to inspire you and get you into the groove of where content is headed.
Here, then, in no particular order, are 11 of the hottest content marketing trends you need to pay attention to this year. Let’s go…
11 Content Marketing Trends Set to Explode
1. Specificity Rules
If there is one immutable law of markets, it is that they change. Markets move, they drift and shift, they fragment, and they wither and die.
And this happens faster today than ever before.
To keep up with the whims of the market and to stay relevant (a topic we will explore in a moment) to your target audience, you have to be flexible. More than that, you have to get specific.
In fact, the experts agree that we’re all going have to get way more niche with our content marketing if we expect to be successful in 2017.
Businesses, especially those that sell mass market products, are already starting to focus their product and service offerings to cater to various segments of an increasingly fragmented marketplace. But this has still yet to translate into their content marketing.
And yet there’s huge opportunity here.
No matter what business you are in, there is without a doubt a specific need, want or solution you are addressing too broadly with your content.
Imagine the impact of creating content so perfectly matched to your audience’s wants and needs that your business looks like the only option for solving their particular problems.
Things like “The Single Soccer Mom’s Guide to Healthy Kid-Friendly Snacks” or “The Social Media Manual for Gourmet Vegan Restaurants.” OK, those examples are really niche, but you get what I mean.
Before you create your next blog post, video, or consumer guide, look at the audience you are serving. How can you tailor what you are already doing to perfectly match the segments of the market you’re already serving with intensely specific solutions?
2. Relevancy is on the Rise
Relevancy is closely tied to specificity. The more specific the solution is to my problem or the answer is to my question, the more relevant, right?
Leaving aside for the moment that fact that Google loves relevant content, if you can demonstrate relevancy to your market, you win. And on a few levels, all at the same time.
Here’s what I mean:
Publishing relevant content shows not only that you have something to say that is ideally matched to help your target audience, but also that you are the company or person best positioned to be delivering that information.
Relevancy is all about capturing attention. Making your content as relevant as possible gives you the authority to hold that attention. And as we move further along into 2017, it is the battle for attention that you want to win.
However, there are some issues with making your content more relevant.
Firstly, creating relevant content can be challenging, especially if you have a regular publishing schedule to stick to. Being relevant implies being somewhat up to date all the time, which isn’t always possible when you are creating engaging content, especially when you are trying to create evergreen content assets.
Secondly, it is more difficult to create relevant content that is also evergreen. You may be forced to update your pillar content every year, or even twice a year depending on your industry.
This is where having a clear content strategy becomes indispensable. Creating more “bite-sized” content which is narrowly focused, up-to-date and relevant is an ideal way to supplement your more in-depth authority pieces and pillar content.
3. Content Hubs Are the Future of Content Marketing
It goes without saying that to make your content marketing successful these days you need a strategy. But as content marketing matures and evolves, it is moving more and more in the direction of a few major players dominating a niche.
Think about Adobe’s CMO.com in the B2B space. Or Moz Blog for SEO. Or Hubspot for inbound marketing. These branded content hubs have become highly influential authority sites in their particular niches. And if you’re trying to break into one of these in 2017, good luck, because these big guys have the market locked up.
There are many benefits of a content hub, but one of the most powerful is having all of your most influential, focused content in one place, which contributes to higher online visibility.
You also become attractive to other authors and influencers in your niche, and your content becomes varied and multilayered, which adds variety and credibility to your site. In fact, 63% of online users view blogs with multiple contributors to be more credible.
In some cases – although this very much depends on your positioning in your market – you can even control and shape the conversation going on in your niche, having the smaller sites link to you and reference your work as a trusted source of information.
Another big benefit is that Google loves sites with lots of pages to index, so if you’re going after sustained traffic, building a content hub is definitely the way to go in the long term.
There is, however, one significant barrier to success when creating a content hub, and that is, of course, actually being influential.
Simply having lots of content on your site is not enough. For that you need a solid content promotion strategy, which gets us on to our next trend.
4. Less is More, but Quality First
There is more content being published now than ever before, around 2 million posts every day.
To be honest, most of these are vanilla that don’t add much value to any kind of conversation.
It has become common advice that to stand out from all this noise all you have to do is publish better, longer, more in-depth content pieces.
In fact, in 2015 Rand Fishkin, the wizard of Moz, spoke about needing to create “10X content” to stay at the top of search engine rankings, citing that the only the top 10% of content wins, collecting all the social shares and links.
But this presents us with a problem too.
Creating high quality content is expensive, and the challenge of proving positive ROI to get executive buy-in is real.
So what’s the solution?
First off, there’s no getting away from producing high quality content. It’s the price to play these days, and it’s a very good thing.
But more than a content production strategy, marketers need a well-thought out content promotion strategy. If you’re going to spend the money to create quality content, you want to get as much mileage out of it as possible.
This not only means repurposing and republishing, but also engaging in other communities and seeking out up and coming influencers to promote your work.
It’s time to get creative, because the competition’s only going to get tougher.
5. Social Media is Going Live
One of the most intriguing trends over the past two years is the advent of new innovations in social media platforms.
Social media giants have been merging with agile up-and-comers, like Facebook acquiring WhatsApp and old-guard tech companies getting into the social media game, like Microsoft buying LinkedIn.
This transfer of the buying power of millions of new users is unprecedented and represents an entirely innovative method of cost-efficient customer acquisition.
Almost all major social media platforms have also begun to integrate live streaming video and the “Stories” content format. Instagram and Snapchat Stories, as well as Facebook Messenger Day are redefining how consumers interact with and share social content, promoting visual communication and “jumpstart” chat threads.
Facebook in particular, which launched Messenger Day in early March 2017, is pushing its way into the popular Stories format, as the increasing number of mobile users drives the potential of monetizing this new form of social media.
The potential for using Stories apps like Messenger Day for marketing has already been picked up by some early adopters, but its effectiveness has yet to be proven out.
Where it may prove effective is in the realm of influencer marketing, where influencers could promote products, services and events through this new dynamic social channel.
The development of this trend is definitely one to watch throughout 2017.
6. The Year of Video Marketing
Content marketing influencers have put this trend high on lists of predictions for the future of the industry for the past two years. And it seems that 2017 is truly the year of video.
In fact, according to HubSpot:
- Watching videos accounts for one third of all online activity.
- Video is driving engagement and sales, as 90% of customers report that product videos helped them make a buying decision.
- Mobile video consumption is growing by 100% every year, according to YouTube.
- 87% of online marketers have already integrated video content into their content marketing strategies.
What’s more, earlier this year it was predicted that by 2019, video marketing will dominate 80% of all internet traffic.
Embedding video on website landing pages already increases SEO, because Google owns YouTube, and social platforms like Facebook are optimizing feeds for video to increase overall viewing experience.
If you haven’t yet, 2017 is the year to increase your video marketing budget and start getting visual.
7. The Slow Death of Advertising is Speeding Up
While traditional advertising will probably never disappear completely, branded content, social proof and the effect of influencer marketing is giving advertising a run for its money.
In fact, 72% of marketers currently think that branded content is more effective than magazine ads (source: Custom Content Council), and according to Google Trends, consumer interest in print advertising has declined rapidly since 2014.
Traditional advertising is historically a form of mass communication, and as I discussed before, what consumers are looking for these days is a source of information they can trust to make buying decisions, and crave ways to engage in some kind of conversation about the problems they’re facing.
Not only are consumers more demanding in how they want to be communicated to, this trend also refers back to the points about relevancy and specificity. If you don’t have those two things as the core of your strategy today, your content marketing is going the way of the dodo.
8. Content Marketing Integration with Sales
While sales and marketing departments are still very much completely independent functions in many businesses, content marketing is helping to bridge the gap.
In fact, almost 50% of marketers are looking more closely at the sales process, or what has become known as the customer journey, and have been learning to align their content strategy to map each stage of this crucial process.
Giving customers a “high touch” experience at every step of the buyer’s journey, through the use of social media, newsletters, articles and webinars, is what is really driving engagement, retention, and ultimately sales.
9. Data and Original Research
This trend is related to the idea of publishing less, but better quality content.
Original research also has high authority value as it gives you a genuine way to stand out from the crowd. Instead of publishing “me too” posts about data 50 other bloggers in your niche have already covered, you position yourself as the source of meaningful and valuable insight into your market.
Conducting customer surveys, influencer outreach, reader polls, etc. gives you a wealth of up-to-date, valuable information you can turn into all kinds of content assets, which will then also attract backlinks from other marketers in your niche. HubSpot is an excellent example of this.
10. No Time for Bad Design
As the internet in general becomes more saturated by visuals, and as websites in particular become optimized for conversions (including mobile viewing), consumers are becoming more accustomed to a user-friendly experience when visiting a site.
Bad design equals poor user experience. And, in fact, delivering the best user experience on all browsers to promote better engagement is on the shortlist of modern SEO best practices.
So, if your website or content is driving people away because of bad design, you need to fix it – quick.
With the wealth of affordable professional web development services, as well as low-cost options like WordPress themes, there is no excuse for poor website design anymore.
The same goes for your content.
More and more users are being trained to expect good design and a pleasant experience when consuming content.
So, if you are committed to creating high quality content, the way it is packaged and delivered needs to be high quality too if you want to stay competitive.
11. Being an Authority and Influencer is More Important Than Ever
I’ve touched on this trend a few times throughout this post, but I left it for last because it is arguably the most impactful trend for the future of content marketing.
I’ve already mentioned making high quality content a priority, building towards having a content hub, the importance of original research, having cool new social media toys to play with, getting busy with video, but the deciding factor which trumps all of these is how much influence you have in your market.
A group of industry experts was interviewed recently and they revealed two crucial shifts that are happening in the world of content marketing right now.
The first is that content marketing is going to be a lot harder to do successfully from now on. The second is that it is authorities and influencers who will grab the majority of attention in any niche.
What this means for you and me is that not only do we have to up our game across the board, but content promotion and influencer outreach is going to become a far more critical component of our content marketing strategies than it has ever been before.
Those are the major trends I’ve been looking at over the past few months. Is there anything I left out which you feel is the next big thing for the future of content marketing?
What parts of your strategy can you adjust or add to that will make your marketing more relevant in 2017?
Let me know in the comments!