As we reach the end of the year, there are two things we can say for certain for 2020:
- Content marketing will become even more important
- Content creation and distribution will change radically
There’s a reason Seth Godin calls content marketing “the only marketing left” – it’s authentic, useful, and perfectly suited for the internet generation.
But while few can doubt the effectiveness of content marketing, the channels, tactics and tools marketers use to create and distribute content will continue evolving in 2020 and beyond.
What content marketing trends should you watch out for? How should you change your marketing strategy to keep pace with these changes?
Let’s find out.
Here are the top 10 content marketing trends you need to look out for in 2020:
- Results-focused content
- Video and live-stream take center stage
- User and search intent drives content creation
- Conversational marketing continues to evolve
- Content gets tailored to voice search and smart devices
- Personalized content gets a shot of steroids
- Podcasts keep catching on
- Topic-focused content to build authority
- The battle for the snippet
- Data-driven content creation
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[Content marketing trend #1] Results-focused content
The competition for content is so fierce now, you need a way to stand out.
By finding new ways to help your readers get faster results.
Chris Von Wilpert from Content Mavericks is creating filterable list posts, like this:
Instead of reading through a massive list of metrics to track content marketing success.
Now all his readers have to do on the post is:
- Select their primary content marketing goal.
- See the 2-3 metrics they need to track.
The result: Content that is easier to consume AND focused on getting readers to their desired result of faster.
How to use this trend:
The process is simple:
- Identify list posts on your blog getting traffic.
- Turn them into filterable list posts based on the result your reader is looking to get from that topic.
Here are a few examples:
- A list of content distribution tools with filters for the type of tool and if the tool is free/paid/new:
- A list of content distribution platforms (with filters for the type of platform, if the platform is free/paid/new, and if the platform is part of a signature strategy):
- A list of editorial calendar tools (with filters for the type of business and if the tool is free/paid/new):
To create results-focused content like this, it’s not hard. But you will need a developer to help you out.
- Determine what filters you want your post to have (think from your readers perspective: What filters will help my reader get to their desired result faster?)
- Link your developer to this article
- Ask them to study the examples above and do it on your post.
[Content marketing trend #2] Video and live-stream take center stage
Aside from blog posts, video content has been the go-to content for brands to create throughout the past few years.
(Video content is the second go-to content type after blog posts | Source)
The reasons for this go hand-in-hand:
The modern consumer increasingly expects to receive video content from their favorite brands, and video keeps audiences engaged longer than any other type of content.
Live-stream audiences continue to grow as well, with 80% of respondents to a LiveStream survey saying they’d rather watch live video than read a blog post. Moreover, LiveStream found that 81% of respondents watched more live video in 2016 than 2015.
How to use this trend:
Invite your audience to get in on the fun, developing video UGC featuring your products in action.
As Jesus Meca of Real Focus Marketing explains:
“If you create the right message and help your customers create video reviews for your brand, you will create an army of mini-influencers that will help you create more exposure for your brand.”
Another key factor to consider is where you publish your video content. Here are some platforms where you could post your videos:
- Your own website
Here’s Brian Fanale, of My Lead Systems PRO:
“We believe that in 2020, YouTube is going to be the place where business owners thrive most. Contrary to the over-saturated and expensive ad platform over at Facebook, YouTube video ads are relatively an untapped goldmine. Additionally, because it’s video, there is a much better ROI for business owners if they can create catchy, quality, engaging video content.”
In terms of video structure, you have a number of options, such as:
- Q&A sessions
- Product demos
- Interview with experts
Note that, in many of these examples, you aren’t necessarily doing all the talking. Whether you’re engaging in conversation with a team member, an expert, or your audience in real-time, you’ll want to be interacting with others through most of your video content.
Finally, it’s important to repurpose your video content in a variety of formats.
In many cases, you’ll be able to transfer the content fairly easily. For example, an interview session can quickly be converted to audio-only content, and can also be transcribed into text.
In other cases, the process might involve using the video content as a basis for text-, image-, or audio-based content—but will need to be tailored for the format in question.
[Content marketing trend #3] User and search intent drives content creation
In the broadest sense, there are 4 types of web searches:
- Informational: Broad queries used when the user is looking for information (e.g., “why do zebras have stripes” will return thousands of results, any of which will likely provide the answer the user is looking for)
- Navigational: Specific queries used when the user wants to visit a specific site (e.g., instead of typing “Facebook.com,” the user just searches Google for “Facebook”)
- Investigational: Such as “Best headphones in 2019”, “Bose reviews”, etc.
- Transactional: Action-focused searches used when the user wants to do something (e.g., “buy nike sneakers” or “reserve a plane ticket to Maui”)
(Searches by search intent | Source)
While this has been common knowledge for quite a while, recent updates to Google’s algorithms have brought search intent front-and-center with regard to content creation.
Basically, because Google can now detect the type of search a user is conducting (along with more specific aspects of intent), the search engine is now equipped to point searchers to type of content they’re looking for at the given moment.
How to use this trend:
First things first:
Be sure you’ve created content that caters to each type of search query.
Take this anecdote, as told by Robbie Richards:
“I had a roundup post that covered the top tools for performing SEO audits, and for a while it ranked for the non-modified term (SEO audit tools), as well as the modified version “best SEO audit tools”. It was great! But, after the June update, the article lost rankings for the non-modified term, but maintained rankings for the modified variation. Why? Google started to see product pages as better meeting the user intent for the term “SEO audit tools” compared to comparative blog content.”
Richards also tells of a client who was aiming to rank for the term “interactive infographics” on a product page. Despite the high quality of the web page, the team wasn’t able to get it to the top SERP for the term. They soon realized the reason behind this is because users searching for “interactive infographics” likely aren’t looking for a product page; they’re looking for informative content.
(Pro-tip: Search for the term you’re looking to rank for using “incognito mode” to see what type of post ranks highest for the query. You can also add “&filter=0” at the end of the URL to see what other pages Google is considering.)
(Use &filter=0 to find other pages Google is considering)
Long story short, the team created a long-form blog post featuring information on interactive infographics, and shot to the top of Google soon after.
Use search intent as a driver for creating content, as this will tell you what type of content you should be creating in the first place.
(A simple title change can do wonders)
Also, keep in mind that search intent typically aligns with the buyer’s journey. That said, be sure that each piece of content you create for different search intent includes calls to action and other language that will nurture your audience to the next stage of their journey with ease.
[Content marketing trend #4] Conversational marketing continues to evolve
Conversational marketing will be critical for engaging with audiences in 2020 and beyond, for a variety of reasons.
Overall, conversational marketing allows you to engage with your customers in a more “real” way (even when doing so via artificial means, such as a chatbot). By engaging in conversation with your audience, you can learn more about their persona, their specific needs, and their intended goals—all without ever requiring them to fill out a form or complete a set of tasks.
(The state of conversational marketing | Source)
Conversational marketing also minimizes “downtime” throughout your relationship with your customers. This manifests in a few ways:
- Minimizing time needed to learn more about the customer
- Minimizing time and effort needed on the customer’s end to find the information they’re looking for
- Minimizing gaps experienced between engagements (since conversation typically happens in real-time)
How to use this trend:
Invest in the tools that will allow you to converse with your customers in real-time—be it human-to-human or via chatbot.
Once you’ve gathered these tools, you’ll need to ensure they are able to function as your audience expects them to.
There are two parts to this:
Create scripts for your chatbot to pull from when “conversing” with your audience. This involves using your brand’s voice, providing high-quality information, and maintaining a conversational flow throughout your chatbot’s messaging.
Next, ensure your chatbot has a strong library of content, data, and information to pull from when simulating conversation with your customers. Since your audience will be looking for quick-hitting answers, or fast navigation to more in-depth content, it’s vital that your chatbot tool is able to find this content on your site with ease.
This means not only creating the content to fulfill these purposes, but also to organize and tag it appropriately to ensure proper delivery.
As we move into 2020, you’ll want to keep an eye on how chatbot and conversational AI technology continues to improve. If you’re looking for a path to true 1:1 marketing, AI is almost certainly going to lead the way.
[Content marketing trend #5] Content gets tailored to voice search and smart devices
Another key piece of technology that’s going to drive content marketing into 2020 is the smart device.
Specifically, brands are going to become more focused on catering to voice searches via smart device.
Reason being, the use of voice chat is skyrocketing. As of January 2018, the number of monthly voice searches reached over one billion. Moreover, it’s generally understood that 50% of all web searches will be conducted by voice by next year.
As QuoraCreative points out, most smart devices currently answer about 60% of queries accurately and correctly. While this is due in part to the fact that the technology is still being perfected, there’s another reason that’s a bit more under your control…
How to use this trend:
The other side of the above is that brands are still just starting to optimize their content for voice search purposes.
That said, if you’re able to do so before your competitors, it’s your content that’s going to be piping out of your audience’s smart devices in the near future.
There are two keys to making this happen:
First, you need to understand how consumers conduct voice searches. While in text they might type “2020 content marketing trends” their voice query would be more like “What are the top content marketing trends of 2020?” Understanding the nuances of this slight difference can enable you to craft more effective headlines and focus on more specific long-tail keywords within your content.
Secondly, by looking into the voice queries your audience members conduct, you’ll gain even more insight into the type of information and content they’re looking for. This, in turn, can help you not only tailor your existing content for voice-SEO, but also inform your future content-creation initiatives, overall.
Note: This is why adoption of an omnichannel approach, coupled with the use of a headless CMS platform, is so vital by today’s standards. In creating platform-agnostic content, you’ll always be able to deliver said content to your audience—no matter what device they may be using in the future.
[Content marketing trend #6] Personalized content gets a shot of steroids
The modern consumer expects the brands they engage with to provide them a highly-personalized experience across the board.
Your audience don’t want to receive the exact same collection of content that all of your other customers are getting. Rather, the individual consumer wants to receive content tailored specifically to their interests and needs with regard to your brand.
How to use this trend:
Dynamic. Content. Delivery.
Luckily, as the consumer’s need for personalized content increases, so, too, does the development of technology to help brands accommodate to these demands. With these dynamic content tools, you can automate the curation and delivery of highly-relevant content to your individual customers — whether on-site or via email or other channel.
(Of course, you’ll also need to create the content itself—but this goes without saying.)
Check out this example from Northern Trail:
(Personalized content based on preferences | Source)
Here, individual customers receive personalized versions of the brand’s newsletter, including links to completely different articles based on their individual preferences.
In addition to delivering content based on an individual’s overall needs and interests, it’s also important to consider their immediate needs at a specific point in time. This goes back to the importance of considering their position in the sales funnel, as well as any other information that can provide context to their experience with your brand.
Overall, the goal when delivering dynamic content is not just to deliver content your individual customers will be merely “interested in”— but to deliver the exact content that will get them to take further steps in their own buyer’s journey.
Here’s another reason why a headless CMS is essential to content marketing in 2020: It allows for seamless delivery of dynamic content, regardless of how and where your customers engage with your content.
[Content marketing trend #7] Podcasts keep catching on
As Statista reports, the number of podcast listeners has nearly tripled in the last decade — and this number is projected to continue growing as time goes on.
But it’s not just that more people are listening to podcasts — it’s that they’re becoming more engaged with them.
As Forbes notes, podcast listeners are highly likely to complete episodes of their favorite shows — and have an increased chance of engaging further with the brand in question afterwards.
SEJ also explains that, despite the growing consumer trend of podcast-listening, the landscape is still pretty wide open. While the internet may joke about “everyone having a podcast” nowadays, the truth is that most brands have yet to hop on the bandwagon…for now, at least.
How to use this trend:
If there’s a clear demand for audio content in your industry, you need to make it happen.
But, it’s important that you do so intentionally. Creating a podcast for the sake of doing so isn’t going to be effective; neither is whipping up an episode whenever your team has some free time, or whenever the mood strikes.
Instead of haphazardly creating podcast content from time to time, approach your podcast initiatives as you do the rest of your content marketing efforts.
If you’re not looking to create podcast content yourself, you also might consider appearing on other podcasts your audience listens to, as well.
Think of it as “guest posting for 2020”: If having a quick, yet interesting, conversation with a new connect will help you grow your audience, it’s definitely worth a shot.
(Ahrefs’ CMO – Tim Soulo – goal this year | Source)
If guest hosting isn’t your thing, you can also go the paid advertising route. Most podcasts with even a decent-sized following (1,000 downloads per episode) are supported by ads from a variety of companies — providing you the perfect opportunity to spread awareness of your brand.
[Content marketing trend #8] Topic-focused content to build authority
Another way Google’s algorithms have evolved is that they now look at more than just the quality of a single page when ranking said page.
Now, Google considers the context of a given page within the entire site. In a sense, Google now assesses the holistic value of a web page and website from the perspective of the individual searcher.
As a simple example, let’s say there exist two “ultimate guides” explaining the rules of American football. While each guide is similar in quality, one is housed on a website dedicated to all things sports — and the other is posted on a fan site for The Bachelor.
Though both may rank for the term “rules of American football,” the former will definitely outrank the latter. Reason being, in addition to the value provided by the actual page in question, the other content on the website promises to provide much more value to the user than the latter.
How to use this trend:
Kelsey Reeves of Organic Growth Marketing makes it clear as day:
“2020 will be all about building topical authority.”
This is done by creating long-form pillar pages that act as a foundation for your content marketing initiatives — and subsequently building off of this foundation as time goes on.
In creating pillar content, the idea is to cover a wide breadth of topics that fall under a single umbrella. This is done in more basic, general terms — such as defining need-to-know terms and illustrating their importance.
The supplementary content created thereafter is where you’ll get more specific. Here, you’ll dive deep into the individual topics discussed within your pillar post — interlinking to your various pieces of content throughout.
“By creating a full-funnel strategy for every topical area, you’ll create that categorical dominance, helping to build trust and authority on a specific subject which positively impacts rankings.”
[Content marketing trend #9] The battle for the snippet
Earlier, we talked about Google’s ability to sniff out intent for a given search term, and deliver ultra-relevant pages and content accordingly.
In considering search intent, Google often presents further information within its first results page (in addition to the traditional list of search results).
One of the most common widgets presented here is the Snippet:
(We’re going full meta here)
Appearing at the top of results pages for informational searches, snippets provide a brief rundown of the key points within a piece of content. In the above example, our 2019 version of this post was able to grab the Snippet for the term “content marketing trends 2019.”
How to use this trend:
Alice Corner of Venngage tells us that the number of “no-click” searchers is on the rise.
In other words, it’s becoming more and more common for users to search for a longtail keyword, knowing Google will likely present a snippet (or similar widget) that will give them the info they need without their having to click over to a full website.
More solution-focused, longform content that makes the answers to your audience’s burning questions crystal clear.
“Content marketers need to be much smarter about what readers are looking for. This means using more long-tail keywords to target specific ‘how do I…‘ questions, with the content being much more focused on solutions.”
It’s also important to create a concise, yet highly-descriptive, headline for your individual web pages.
In this case, straightforwardness trumps cleverness.
Finally, it’s worth noting that high-quality content is going to attract both “click-happy” and “no-click” searchers alike. While the snippet will help searchers quickly find the general info they’re looking for, there’s a pretty good chance many of these individuals will dive deeper into the actual content at some point in the future.
Here’s Tomas Ratia of Frase.io:
“It is impossible to deny the emergence of the ‘Answer Economy’. With over 50% of Google queries resulting in no clicks, it is clear that Google is not only evolving into an answer engine, but also a walled garden. Consumers increasingly expect fast, specific answers to their questions, whether on mobile or smarter speakers. Creating content that ranks on Google will require marketers to adopt a question-driven content strategy.”
[Content marketing trend #10] Data-driven content creation
Any experienced marketer knows by now that content marketing isn’t something to be approached haphazardly.
That is, a solid content marketing strategy aims to provide intentional and specific value to a specific audience.
The question is:
How are brands determining what value to provide their audiences?
Now more than ever, the answer to that question is data.
(However, many marketing teams have yet to pick up on this…)
As former CMO of Freshbooks, Stuart MacDonald explains:
“Either tracking matters or it doesn’t. You’re in one camp or the other. Either you’re analytical and data-driven, or you go by what you think works. People who go by gut are wrong.”
To put it plainly, the future of content creation has content marketers basing their approaches and strategies almost entirely on hard evidence of what will work — and what won’t.
How to use this trend:
The obvious first step here is to adopt a data-driven mindset throughout your marketing team, and your organization as a whole.
More than allowing just any data to drive your content-creation initiatives, though, you need to ensure you’re focusing on the right data — the data that matters to your bottom line.
To differentiate between metrics that matter and vanity metrics, you’ll need to do a bit of reverse-engineering.
Essentially, this means looking to your past successful content marketing initiatives and identifying the KPIs that typically precede financial gains. Then, determine what it was about this content or campaign that led to these numbers—and look to create additional content that hits these same notes.
As we move into 2020, stop creating the content you think your audience wants—and start basing your content-creation decisions on concrete data.
Curious what 2019 content marketing trends were?
- Authenticity, transparency, and value marketing
- Content personalization and interactivity
- Cross-team input and development
- More collaboration between brands
- Integrations as a growth lever
- Using influencers as an ad hoc content team
- Developing multimedia content with omnichannel distribution
- Capitalization on micro-moments
- Use of chatbots and artificial intelligence
- Use of content cluster