Content marketing is constantly changing. Your content strategies that work today won’t necessarily get you the results you need in a few months. So, as we all shake off the summer holidays and get back into work mode, what does 2016 have in store for this exciting space?
As the leading content marketing business in Australia and New Zealand we can ask some of our talented and hard-working content marketeers to look into their crystal balls and tell us where the industry is headed.
Below are 14 predictions for the New Year from writers, content promoters, content strategists, account managers, salespeople, company directors and even our amazing CEO, Sue McCarty…
1) AI to play a bigger role in search
With the continued rise of first-time searches in 2015, thanks to mobile search and voice assistants like siri, I believe search engines (particularly Google) will invest even more into developing artificial intelligence (AI) to process search queries. In October last year, it emerged that Google’s RankBrain was using AI to process 15% of unique searches daily.
With machine learning techniques designed to map speech patterns and the nuances of different languages and dialogue, this fairly new technology will provide users with more accurate results for unique searches. What does this mean for content marketing? This coupled with the Hummingbird Algorithm, I predict we’ll see an even greater decline than we have in the past 2 years in measuring keyword rankings for ROI. Content will cater to context and questions as opposed to key phrases and terms.
2) Short-form video to help brands get to the point
I predict that short form video will continue to boom (think stop motion animation and snapchat video), with the ever increasing need for brands to push their message in a matter of seconds rather than minutes, often forcing them to think outside of the box to do so, which simultaneously makes them stand out from the pack.
However, regardless of the channel you use, the most important thing to remember for 2016 is that regardless of your company size, the industry you sit within, or the product and service that you offer – your audience is now more empowered than ever. Understanding them at the deepest level possible and giving them the content they actually need, when they actually need it to form part of their purchase process, is the approach that will drive the most profitable action.
3) 5G to drive more video content on the go
Video will become even more of an irresistible force than it already is. As mobile and tablet devices continue their relentless rise, and we transition towards lightning-fast 5G and cheaper mobile plans, video content is what is going to keep customers clicking.
The advent of Facebook Live, Twitter video embeds and short, sweet, easily digestible Vines mean that video can only become a more powerful player – and that’s without even mentioning the behemoth of YouTube. Whether it’s B2C, B2B or H2H (human to human) video looks like being the fast-rolling bandwagon to leap aboard in 2016.
4) Visually-rich content to become the norm
We’re going to see brands taking greater advantage of visual content in 2016. The brain can process images 60,000 times quicker than text, and when you want to get a message across quickly and with a high rate of retention, visual stimuli are a great way to do it.
We’ve seen an increased focus on this in the past year or so, as we’ve adopted inline images, video, Twitter and Instagram embeds into the majority of our editorial content, as well as unique info images, infographics and video blogs to drive up engagement. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I predict more businesses will now look for visual content that is in line with their brand and marketing messages.
5) Multi-platform out-reach to encourage more user-generated content
The continued development of user-generated content will be a big focus of 2016. With brands focussing on encouraging their customers to review and recommend their sites, users will rely more and more on brand advocates in their purchase decisions.
Successful digital marketeers will use that content in their email campaigns, on their site, as well as on social media platforms. In 2016, it will be very important for companies to create multi-dimensional content strategies to ensure that they are leveraging these brand champions.
6) Lazy users to demand quicker answers
2016 will be the year laziness hits a new peak. The Knowledge Graph will get smarter, and more search results will be answered without having to click through to a website. Content marketing has moved from broadly covering as many areas as possible, to answering niche questions (currently), and finally an ultra-niche focus to really differentiate yourself from the competition. People are lazy and expect to have their question answered in the first result, so it’s up to brands to meet that expectation.
7) Ephemeral marketing to step up to the plate
I predict that in 2016 ephemeral marketing will be taken much more seriously. Platforms like Snapchat allow audiences to receive exclusive content only available for a short period of time. It creates a sense of urgency around engagement and allows a more unique experience as the content is only presented in such quick intervals. With people having less and less time to consume the traditional styles of communication, such as blogs, I think these easily accessible bites of information will start to take center stage and be taken more seriously by major brands and news outlets than ever before.
8) Content amplification to combat content saturation
The main focus for content marketing this year will be around content amplification. With so much great content out there we’re getting to the point of content saturation. Therefore, it will be very important to be extra clever in finding ways of getting the information in front of the right people through the right channels (whether it’s through social, paid promotion, through influencers etc).
I also think it will be very important for the content to be a lot more in depth and digging into key topics rather than over the surface. At the end of the day, websites should be valued on their utility. Diversity through different content types will also be very important in order to cater to increasingly demanding audiences.
9) Quality to continue to trump quantity
The everyday marketer (by which I mean not just big brands) is finally starting to realise that just pumping out content and ramming it down every possible channel isn’t going to work anymore. Not wasting resource on irrelevant ‘filler’ content, but creating fewer, yet much more valuable pieces of content will be the key to success in 2016.
Focus will therefore be on diversifying content strategies to include a broader range of content types (particularly ‘bigger’ content such as video, which will boom in 2016), and making sure each piece of content published is unique and personal to a defined audience.
Amplification strategies will also be tightened up as marketers realise that the best return from their promotional dollar isn’t simply maximum visibility, and concentrate efforts on the channels that give the best ROI.
10) UX to take centre stage for website overhauls
I oversee our website rebuilds so I’ll limit my predictions for 2016 to that area:
1) website nav bars will continue to get smaller and more concise. Largely driven by mobile users, it will be interesting to see how brands handle this, whether they choose to highlight particular products and services or stick to the ‘storytelling’ route we are on, only time will tell.
2) animations, graphics and UX best practice will play a more central role in web design from the outset, rather than coming along as add-ons once all the big decisions have been made.
11) Content marketing to get more human
Knowing that modern digital audiences are more discerning than ever, and that Google’s ability to determine meaning from content is constantly increasing and gaining depth, I believe that more ambiguous (i.e. difficult to track) strategic focuses like brand authenticity, education, and positive social sentiment will be the focus of winning brands. Thus, I think 2016 is going to push brands towards more humanistic content types that have the user as opposed to the search engine in mind – things like interactivity and user experience particularly as they relate to engaging media like video and graphics.
12) Facebook to break into more B2B content marketing plans
My prediction for 2016 is that social media will drive more content strategies. LinkedIn is a no-brainer when it comes to B2B interaction, however I’m thinking that Facebook is going to become an even more important player in this space. Changes at the back end of last year will have significant effects on how companies use their Facebook page to gain visibility in the online space. Good thing we’re expanding our Content Promotion team to help our customers maximise return from their social media presence.
13) Social promotion to win more marketing dollars
More demand for social promotion!! The recent Facebook and Google partnership allows Google to index Facebook’s content and publish it in its public search results. This means that a strong social presence on Facebook will become increasingly important for businesses in 2016 in terms of SEO and making the most of your wider content marketing strategy.
14) Interactive content to drive stronger engagement
My prediction for 2016 is that we will see interactive content on the rise. It turns the viewer into an engaged user and the mere task of clicking or interacting will stimulate a memorable experience with your brand. When people interact with something they retain / learn more, which is crucial for building relationships and driving conversions.