By Andy Betts published October 11, 2017
Content marketing is at a critical inflection point. For it to serve as the fuel and infrastructure for modern marketing departments, some things need to change. Brands are not getting much of a return on that investment. We know this thanks to a survey of 252 marketing leaders at Fortune 500 conducted by BrightEdge (one of my clients).
Some key findings:
- 71% of marketers say that less than half of their content is being consumed.
- Fewer than 9% of marketers report three-quarters or more of the content they produce is engaged with.
- The B2C content consumption rate was slightly better than B2B.
Note: All research in this post comes from the BrightEdge study of Fortune 500 marketers unless otherwise noted.
Content marketing isn’t just about production, but also about performance. Wouldn’t it be great if you could turn your brand into a content powerhouse of the future – today?
Become a leading content marketer (and boost your content consumption rate) by adapting to and adopting these five trends now – before your brand or business is left behind.
1. Convergence of SEO and content
Combining your SEO best practices and content marketing process is easily the most important initiative today if you want to win tomorrow. In fact, only 3% of marketers surveyed view SEO and content as separate disciplines.
Search reveals powerful insights about consumer intent, which can lead to smarter content strategies. Content optimization ensures that consumers are able to discover and consume your content via organic search, which drives 51% of all website traffic, according to BrightEdge proprietary research.
Conversions, engagement, and traffic are the three most important metrics to track content performance, according to the survey of marketing leaders.
The convergence of content marketing and SEO initiatives is what will help brands of the future achieve those critical goals and objectives. It will grow conversions and increase engagement while driving more traffic.
Three tips to adapt to this trend:
- Invest in SEO before (not after) launching content: Better integration from the beginning will lead to better results.
- Consider creating micro content: Small, custom content elements are more highly optimized for specific consumer searches and questions than long-form, investment-heavy content (e.g., webinars, research reports, case studies).
- Let the data guide you: Quit creating content types that don’t work. If you spend 80% of your time on content that generates just 20% of your results, flip that around and invest more time on efforts that have produced results.
2. Content success and engagement
Content that isn’t engaging – in terms of traffic, conversion, and revenue – won’t convert or position well in search engines. It’s that simple. Case in point, only one in five B2C brands produces content that their target audience engages with. For B2B brands, the average content engagement rate was 50%. In the latest research, 71% of marketers stated that half of their content is consumed.
For Google, engagement metrics like click-through rate and time on site can positively impact your organic search rankings (albeit, indirectly). On Facebook, it’s a similar story. Content that attracts the most engagement (shares, comments, and reactions) gets more visibility in more people’s news feeds.
Three tips to adapt to this trend:
- Understand what consumers want: The time is now to create intelligent content. That is, create content on topics and trends relevant to your audience, align it with user intent, and optimize for discovery and device.
- Write headlines that attract engagement: BuzzSumo’s Steve Rayson has done some essential research into headline formulas. Headlines can’t be an afterthought. Headline writing is both art and science.
- Deliver on your headline’s promise: After winning the click, your content must be the best answer to a question, be the most useful resource, or help consumers successfully learn something new or solve a problem.
The key to content success is all about aligning the content you create to match the user experience. As CMI founder Joe Pulizzi says, “creating content that has the primary purpose of improving the life of my user and a secondary purpose of driving the sales pipeline.”
3. Hyperconnected mobile and local
The hyperlocal revolution is here. In fact, 51% of the marketing leaders say optimizing content for local was either a top priority or very important. Still, that means almost half aren’t prioritizing the creation of content effective for local and mobile audiences.
Nearly one-third of all mobile searches are related to location, according to ThinkwithGoogle. If your content doesn’t match that local intent, your content will be harder to find through search, which means your audience won’t consume it.
Two tips to adapt to this trend:
- Optimize for location, device, and speed. Always. Consumers want and expect content that is localized and optimized, and they expect it to load quickly.
- Meet demand for hot topics and format types (such as video or images) or lose potential
4. Voice search
Voice search is the next “next big thing.”
Well, maybe. Even though voice search accounts for at least 20% of all Google mobile searches and 31% of marketers believe voice search is the next big thing, roughly 62% of marketing leaders say they have no plans to prepare for voice search.
What’s going on here?
Obviously, marketers are falling well short of consumer expectations in this area right now. This lack of marketer interest in voice search has the potential to be a serious problem.
After all, by 2020, 50% of consumers will be interacting with voice-activated technology, according to ComScore.
That’s less than three years away.
Two tips to adapt to this trend:
- Align your content with the intent and interests of customers at the right moment of the decision journey. For example, the majority of voice search queries are conversational in nature, so understanding the reason (intent) behind a search question is important to tailor your content for voice responses.
- Keep your brand visible by creating content that answers questions around high-value keywords and topics that matter to your brand. Providing quick, relevant, and fast answers are essential to voice search success. Structure your content so as to provide traditional SEO value and ensure that a voice engine recognizes and understands the content’s context and meaning.
5. AI and machine learning
We’re now moving toward a post-mobile world. Intelligent agents ( chatbots and personal assistants) are changing the very nature of search as we’ve known it. Google used to be a mobile-first company. Now it is moving to be an AI-first company. But Google isn’t the only tech giant betting on AI – so are Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, and others.
Why AI-first? It’s all about understanding consumers – their intent, interests, and interactions – and providing the best possible experience for them along their content journey.
Your audience has so much data available to them right now. Perhaps too much. If leveraged appropriately, AI and machine learning can help you use that data and turn it into actionable insights and content that performs better.
Thanks to machine learning, your brand will earn more visibility and you’ll be ready to make better content marketing decisions to help drive your business forward.
The future of content is all about building a better customer experience. Your massive opportunity comes from connecting the dots on all these elements – combining SEO and content marketing, engagement, hyperlocal, voice search, and machine learning.
By adapting to the evolving way people search and consume content, you are better prepared to get ahead of the curve and provide the content your audience needs in the way they need it before your content competitors.
Spend 61 minutes to go deeper into SEO and content, and hear from Andy Betts in CMI’s webinar: Cover image by StockSnap Connecting Content Marketing and SEO for Better Results.
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