How accurate were our 2018 content marketing predictions?
In January 2018 we asked our experts what they thought would happen in the world of content marketing over the following 12 months.
So what actually came true in the end? Let’s find out.
Prediction 1 – Content will fulfill more than one purpose
Did it come true? Yes!
We predicted that 2018 would see the ‘perfectisation’ of content – that is, content would be created to fill as many functions as possible instead of the typical one or two (functions like going viral on social, ranking in search, etc.).
Thanks to developments like the following, we can say this is definitely true:
- Mobile page speeds became a ranking factor this year, meaning SEO content also has to be mobile-optimised.
- Smart speaker adoption rates grew further (Edison Research says 5 per cent of Aussies now own a smart speaker), increasing the importance of voice search SEO.
- Google experimented with “zero results” pages for certain queries, which showed only featured snippets – no links – reinforcing the importance of ranking in this position.
In short content marketers can no longer put all their eggs in one basket.
Prediction 2 – There will be closer alignment between content marketing and marketing automation
Did it come true? Hard to say
Our second guess was that marketing automation would take greater hold in Australasia’s mid-market businesses.
There’s definitely growth in the area – Hubspot’s revenue grew for three quarters in a row this year – but it’s unclear whether there was a breakout in adoption rates. It seems like more of a consistent growth, although we’ll see more data as 2019 rolls around and the big research agencies look backwards.
Prediction 3 – Decision makers will become more strict on aligning business goals to marketing
Did it come true? We think so
Next, we predicted that companies in the region would try harder to align their marketing activities with wider business goals – bringing sales and marketing a little closer. Indeed, last year the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) noted only 19 per cent of marketers believed their business metrics aligned with marketing work.
Well, there’s a lot more alignment than that now – says Hubspot data. Its State of Inbound 2018 report shows 47 per cent of businesses believe their marketing and sales teams are generally aligned, with teams in Australia/NZ having some of the highest alignment rates.
Sales and marketing are vital partners in a business and the more they are aligned, the smarter your organisation can work. It’s great to see this happening!
Prediction 4 – Machine learning will start to impact content writing
Did it come true? Not as much as we predicted
Machine learning was predicted to impact the content world in greater force.
There’s been no breakout adoption of AI in content production as far as we’ve seen, but there are a lot of examples of growth. The machine learning industry is expanding rapidly – with a compound annual growth rate of 44 per cent between 2017 and 2024, according to a Zion Market Research prediction – and it now features heavily in analytics and marketing automation.
But as for robots that write content? While companies like Forbes are using AI to create specific types of report, it’s still very early days. Watch this space, though, because it’s coming.
Prediction 5 – There will be an increase in small marketing automation companies offering niche services
Did it come true? Yes
We reckoned there’d be a growth in smaller companies offering marketing automation services the big players can’t do as efficiently.
There’s definitely innovation happening in this space, in line with machine learning growth as we outlined before. Except a lot of the startup action is happening outside of the typical centres like the US or UK. We’ve seen new companies forming in the Czech Republic (Roivenue) and the Philippines (Smartech).
It’s very exciting to see what’s happening overseas. The more tools we have to play with, the better the results we can achieve.
Prediction 6 – 2018 will be the year of VR
Did it come true? Big time
VR and its cousin AR (augmented reality) are exploding. Statista projections saw the market size almost double from US$14.1 million to $27 million 2017-18, and expects that to balloon to a staggering $209.2 million by 2022.
As for VR in marketing, there are so many awesome examples of this available right now. Hubspot put together a fascinating list that you should check out some time – you’ll see VR isn’t really being used ‘casually’ right now, as one might use, say, a blog article. But for campaigns and big 10x content pieces, it’s still fresh enough to be astounding – and that’s what 10x marketing is all about.
Prediction 7 – There will be more voice strategies in 2018
Did it come true? Definitely
We’ve already covered this prediction so you know where this point is going. Smart speaker usage is up and, as added proof, a Bright Local study found that 58 per cent of consumers have used voice to find a local business within the past 12 months.
If you aren’t considering voice SEO in your current strategy, it’s not too late to start.
Prediction 8 – More businesses will use a documented content strategy
Did it come true? Yes, but not to the magnitude we predicted
We predicted that more businesses than ever – as many as 75 per cent of them – would be using a documented content strategy by end-of-year 2018.
Well, there’s been an uptick but not to that scale: CMI polling showed the average number of B2B businesses using a documented strategy rose from 37 per cent to 39 per cent 2018-19. For specific respondents who rate their marketing efforts as highly successful, the number of documented strategies rose from 62 to 65 per cent.
So there’s still some work to be done on this front, but it’s good to see positive change – even if only slight.
Prediction 9 – Reporting benchmarks will change
Did it come true? Yes
We guessed that marketers would need to rethink what ‘good’ organic results mean. Facebook has made it harder for businesses to reach customers organically, and Google continues to push its featured snippets over blue links – going so far as to offer multiple snippets on some pages.
Whether you can say that this is a 2018 issue is up for debate, but SEOs definitely have to think more creatively when it comes to gaining and determining results. How do you keep site visitors high when reach and click throughs are down?
The debate is ongoing.
Prediction 10 – Content marketing will become even more personalised
Did it come true? Yes, but not at scale
This is another of those trends we’ve seen sparking over the past few years and growing in 2018. We predicted that personalised experiences would be more important in content marketing than ever before.
Like VR, personalisation is happening in the marketing space but not quite at the scale it will likely reach in the future. The rise of AI and machine learning means there are more options for personalisation – tuning what customers see on your website to their data profile, for example – but mostly personalised content is being used for specific major campaigns. Think about Coke bottles with your name on them.
The small-scale versions of personalisation are interactive quizzes and drip campaigns. In the former, someone takes part in your interactive landing page and the data they generate directs them to content suitable to their needs. In the latter, only the users who are interacting with your content see more of it further down the funnel. Either way generates less spam, and more meaningful experiences.
Prediction 11 – We’ll see more interactive content in 2018
Did it come true? Yes, but no great leaps
I myself predicted there’d be more interactive content in 2018. We’ve covered parts of this already so we can confirm that while there were no great leaps, there have been big steps.
Two major developments this year were from Apple and Facebook, both announcing 360-degree photo features: Apple users with the latest device can now take 360-degree selfies, and Facebook Messenger users can now share those with each other via the app.
Add that to growth in VR and it’s clear that interactive content is an undeniable ‘next big thing’.
Prediction 12 – 2018 is the year search engines understand non-HTML formats
Did it come true? Hard to say
This is a tricky one. If you look at it like, “Does Google see images as though it were using Vision API or some other image processor” – the answer is no, that’s not a part of search yet.
However, Google and other platforms increasingly value non-HTML formats (images, PDFs, videos etc.) because, while they might not fully understand what they’re seeing, they know that we humans value them. So they are a major part of search, contributing heavily to rankings.
One day Google will be sophisticated enough to watch videos and see images like we do, but that time isn’t here. However, non-HTML content has high value and is a must-have for all contemporary content.
Prediction 13 – Vine 2 will both emerge and fall
Did this come true? Spot on
At the end of 2017, Vine 2 was teased by its original creator Dom Hoffman.
In May 2018, Vine 2 was postponed indefinitely. What a wild ride.
PLOT TWIST: In November 2018 another new app – Byte – was announced by Hoffman that seems to be a Vine replacement. More on this story as it develops.
Prediction 14 – Short-form content will make a comeback
Did it come true? To a degree
With people’s free time shrinking and digital content competition only expanding, we predicted that short-form content would make a comeback.
This is another hard one because there was no real leap, but a definite growth in parts of the industry. Short-form articles will likely never be relevant again, but other short-form content – videos in particular – are becoming easier and cheaper to create, meaning their use is gaining popularity.
As for proof, check this out: A 2018 VidYard report found that 75 per cent of videos published in the past 12 months were less than two minutes long.
Are you creating videos for your business?
Prediction 15 – Personalised content will be geared to whomever is visiting the website
Did this come true? Some of it
We guessed that websites would start tailoring content to individual users, and content itself would increasingly focus on specific stages of the sales funnel instead of targeting a very broad audience.
We’ve covered the personalised website prediction earlier in this article – it’s not happening at scale, but will likely increase as data becomes easier and faster to access.
As for targeting different sales stages, this is happening right now and is very easy to do! In fact, if you’re interesting in tuning content to your own customer funnel, check out our article from earlier in the year titled “How to repurpose content for different stages of the sales funnel”. It’s a great starting point.