How have new web tools influenced content marketing?
Content marketing sure used to be different, huh? Keywords and hyperlinks were on a gilded pedestal they’ve since fallen from, and nobody had even conceived of “10X”, let alone used it in a conversation.
Our industry has moved on a lot since then, and the tides are turning yet again. Google is no longer the only major player directing how we in the industry conduct our business, not with web tools appearing to change the game, anyway.
Let’s briefly explore how content marketing has changed over time, and dig into some new ways you can optimise your content for the future.
From then to now: The evolution of content marketing
Digital content has seen many forms. Pre-2010, regular content with a hyper-strong keyword and links focus was king, as were “black-hat” SEO tactics like keyword stuffing and link buying. Smartphones weren’t a thing yet, so we didn’t need to be mobile friendly – it was a little bit Wild West, if you ask us.
But Google changed all of that when it started actively penalising websites that didn’t produce quality. Its Panda and Penguin updates culled a lot of those bad black-hat tactics, leading to an industry-wide push towards user value – blogs were growing more and more into educational tools, not advertising.
Now it’s 2017, almost 2018. Facebook states it has 1.37 billion daily active users, WordPress stats show there were 91 million posts by its users in October 2017 alone, and Deloitte says smartphones are in 84 per cent of Australians’ hands.
It’s a brave new world, but it isn’t hanging around for long.
New tools change content marketing again
The players have finally caught up with the game-changer. Google updates used to direct content marketing, but now designers of all sorts are producing marketing tools that have affected what constitutes “professional” content.
So what happened?
- Creative skills were productised
In ye olden times, if you wanted an infographic or video, you’d need to find a designer, carefully brief them, go back and forth making tweaks, then finally fork out for the invoice. You might have even pulled your hair out.
Nowadays, it’s not so time consuming. With free image tools like Canva, marketers can quickly produce high-level Facebook graphics, Twitter ads, infographics, whitepaper PDFs, even book covers – all with easy-to-use templates and drag-and-drop, user-friendly interfaces.
And videos are easier, too. Apps like Wave, Wideo, Nutshell and Screenr all make creating product demos, social media videos or motion graphics a breeze. You can even use apps like Nutshell on your smartphone.
- Content marketing toolkits are commonplace
Software company Newswhip put it really well: In the past, content marketing was an arms race. If your competitor had a sweet new analytics tool, you had to have one, too. Now everybody has a suite of content marketing tools (often called toolkits), and they just aren’t that special anymore.
SEO checklists, apps and toolbars are easy to find and often even free. Knowing your SEO basics isn’t a USP anymore, not when anyone can log onto Google Analytics and produce insights, or buy a BuzzSumo license to scan social media for useful data.
Marketers who want to stand out need to do a lot more than provide basic reports, which is where our next section comes in…
How to compete against the future
One thing in content marketing has remained the same throughout history: Marketers need to stay on top to stay on top. You have to compete not with your rivals, but future rivals who don’t even exist yet. It’s about keeping up with trends, and investigating new technology as it becomes available.
But let’s be specific. These are some new ways to optimise content marketing in 2017-18 (and beyond).
– Think with 10X
We can’t understate the importance of 10X. While creating content that’s 10 times better than your competitors has gotten harder thanks to Canva and Wave, the idea of 10X still exists – it’s just that the bar is higher.
If your competitors are producing short slideshow videos and quirky social graphics, you must create professional web videos, interactive infographics, animated web pages or unique research results – whatever you can think of.
So long as you research your competition, know your audience and focus on creating unique, valuable (let’s stress that again: valuable) content, you’ll always be able to create something that is 10X better than what else is out there.
– Play with new strategies
Speaking of researching and doing better, 10X isn’t your only option. For example, at Castleford we often use the strategy of 2X – that is, creating content that only competes directly with the top pages in a given search result. It doesn’t create widespread, viral results, but it does give us cost-effective, long-term traffic.
You can also think intelligently in order to compete in a high-competition space. For example, a Small Wins Strategy works wonders for those in tourism (a notoriously difficult space if you aren’t Lonely Planet). This is the concept of targeting hyper-niche topics that less users are searching for, but which also have less big-name competitors on the results.
You can read more about it in our article titled “Content Marketing For Tourism: How To Win When You Just Can’t Rank”.
– Ensure your SEO is on-point
If everyone has an SEO toolkit, you can’t relax your standards even for a moment. So ask yourself these questions:
- Is your site mobile friendly?
- Do you have a keyword strategy that you are actually using?
- Is your load speed fast enough across all devices?
- Is your website designed to contemporary UX standards?
- Are you using web analytics and making decisions based on evidence, not subjective opinion?
- Do you have all the relevant social media channels to your audience, and are you publishing valuable (again for those in the back: value value value) content regularly?
If you aren’t sure about any of these, grab yourself an SEO checklist or hire a specialist to help you out. It’s important you have your foundations set if you’re going to compete on a higher-level playing field.
Content marketing has changed, is changing, and will continue to change. That’s just the nature of the game.
It’s important that you always keep up to date on the world of content marketing to stay ahead. We recommend subscribing to blogs like Moz, Search Engine Journal, Content Marketing Institute and, of course, Castleford, to keep informed of the major developments.
Use new technology, take risks and read reports. The future is coming, and with these tips, you’ll already be there when it arrives.