Content marketing in 2020 was characterized by swift changes in strategy and how quickly brands could adapt. In 2021, that adaptability could prove to be just as relevant.
Content drives brand awareness, demand and revenue when it’s done right. So how can you do content right? Take note of these trends which will shift the way businesses tackle content marketing in 2021.
Here are the top 5 content marketing trends you need to look out for in 2021:
- Topical authority will replace keyword research
- Value-driven content will rise to the top
- Original research will be popular
- Content will become more interactive, engaging, and (hopefully) fun
- Increased adoption of AI
Bonus guide: The ultimate growth marketing playbook
The exact 41 strategies we used to grow from 4-figure to 6-figure traffic in one year.
1. Topical authority will replace keyword research
How well do you know the subjects you speak about on your website?
Google will be placing more emphasis on depth of expertise compared to other factors such as link building. Backlinking was once the primary factor when it came to building authority in the SEO landscape but now expertise is growing even more in importance.
As Eduard Klein explains:
“When marketers talk about authority, they talk about building backlinks. This is still the case, but as google gets smarter about semantics, link relevancy will likely decrease over time. Organisations that cover a topic with the most depth will own the future traffic flow for related queries.”
Google doesn’t reward your ability to just create content for one keyword, but instead focuses on how well that content fits into the context of your site.
“You can see Google is trying to go in this direction with E-A-T (Expertise-Authoritativeness-Trustworthiness) for websites that fall into verticals that cover topics within Your-Money-Your-Life (YMYL – health, finances, state of mind). Even though it’s not a direct ranking factor, there are secondary signals that Google’s algorithm is able to qualify to help with determining how information aligns with E-A-T.”
What to do
Showcase how well you know a topic by publishing long-form content on your website. Instead of publishing content on a whim, instead build your content around pillar pages.
These pillar pages can offer the foundation for expertise on a specific topic and then you can augment these posts with other content pieces that build from that.
Also collaborate with subject matter experts (SMEs) when producing content to have them weigh in on things. The value of a SME extends beyond the content they can help you create but also enables you to repurpose content into other formats and eventually build a community.
Moz’s long-long-form blog post on the machine learning revolution is a great example of extra-long content that doesn’t bore the reader. They conveyed their expertise not only through words but through well-presented research and illustrations that help readers understand the limitations of machine learning algorithms at the time of writing.
Read this next: Is SEO Dead? The Answer Is Yes, And No
2. Value-driven content will rise to the top
Customers are bombarded with different types of content every day, meaning that they will become more picky when choosing where their attention goes.
“Hopefully we’ll see the end of gated content for everything but the best and most original research. The cycle of giving away emails for bad ebooks and guides over.”
People will be unwilling to share their information in exchange for mediocre content so brands need to showcase their value immediately.
“Brands should think about new ways of bringing value to their consumers apart from the product itself, and content marketing serves the purpose perfectly. If you can change the underlying perception of a potential user towards your brand to a more value-driven, preferably in a monetary term, you’d have a better chance converting them down the road.”
What to do
Creating valuable content requires you to understand the needs of the customer and why they might want to interact with your brand in the first place.
Offer practical suggestions in your content instead of simply showcasing what your product can do, showcase how it can help to solve their problems.
If you’re a D2C brand that sells fitness gear, you can produce content that highlights not only how using your product can help achieve more success in the gym, but also how exercise can produce benefits such as stress reduction.
Spiker also offers another way for brands with a SaaS-style product:
“Offer a more useful tool like a Chrome extension or a freemium version of the product if your goal is sign-ups. Otherwise, lean heavily into education and brand awareness content.”
Always think of the end-consumer when producing content and how the content will benefit them in the long run, not just grow the reputation of your brand or help you meet specific quotas.Read this next:How Frank Body Used Content Marketing to Make $20 Million in Sales
3. Original research and studies will be popular
With the internet being a sea of content currently, it can be difficult for brands to stand out by producing content on their own. Jeremy Moser of uSERP explains the challenges which thought leadership has created and how original research can help.
“Original research/studies (much like this!). Content marketing is incredibly saturated with “thought leaders” and “influencers” however, they aren’t exactly helpful in determining what works and what doesn’t in an ever-evolving digital landscape. On the contrary, original research gives you deep insights into what industry professionals and startups alike are doing; good or bad.”
As companies seek out ways to help their customers, they can reach out to them as well as established leaders in their industry to help create content.
What to do
The goal of any research study is to discover more about a problem and crowdfund answers to either understand it better or come up with a solution.
Research starts by having some curiosity, either to confirm or deny your suspicions about a certain hypothesis or to uncover what the market thinks about a specific issue.
Start by issuing surveys and studies to your audience or experts to gain their insights into a problem.
Next, publish that research and share it with your audience or community. The great thing about research as Moser points out is that it can be repurposed in a number of ways. Graphs, charts and quotes can become social posts, summaries can be put into video format and more.Read this next:11 Biggest Content Marketing Mistakes I See People Make (Yes, Even You!)
4. Content will become more interactive, engaging, and (hopefully) fun
Content needs to catch the user’s attention, otherwise they won’t consume it, and it won’t be beneficial for anyone. Interactive content does that quite well.
Don’t believe me? Well, 96% of consumers who start BuzzFeed contests actually finish them.
How’s that for engaging?
We want to smile, laugh and relish in aha moments when we’ve suddenly found the answer to a problem we’ve been having. In 2021, this will be even more critical, especially as B2B brands continue to adopt marketing practices typically reserved for the B2C space.
The Hustle, a vastly popular business trends email newsletter, is another example of fun and engaging content. The tone of their business-related content is already jovial, but throw in some GIFs and memes here and there, and you’ve got yourself a Hustle-level engaged audience.
What to do
One way of making content more interactive is by using different formats. Things like quizzes, short-form videos and infographics are great ways to get the message across without boring your audience.
“The average span time of 8 seconds leaves very little time to catch people’s attention. As it is easy to read at a glance, snackable content is a nice way to stand out. You can use multiple formats to attract your audience: short videos, infographics, GIFs, visuals… “
He continues, “B2B can also take inspiration from B2C, where stories and short video clips are skyrocketing in popularity. Of course, there will always be the need for in-depth content in B2B marketing. Snackable content is a nice way to complement long-form content and to make your audience lives’ easier!”
You don’t need to turn your entire content strategy upside down to be more interactive. Adding new content types to your strategy is a good starting point.
5. Increased adoption of AI
Experts have been saying for quite some time that robots will be doing more human jobs as advancements in technology continue. Massimo Chieruzzi of AdEspresso believes that we’re moving one step closer to that being a reality.
“OpenAI’s GPT3 has already proven to be capable of writing decent quality content at scale. While this content is clearly not enough for high-quality blog posts, the lower end of the market and SEO spammers will start adopting it massively for content production increasing the noise in the SERP.”
According to a McKinsey survey, a small group of respondents coming from a variety of industries attribute 20% or more of their organizations’ earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) to AI. That’s a significant indicator about the impact and growth of AI in 2021 and beyond.
“With classical programming and systems, you input rules and data, and you get answers. With ML you input data and answers, and it learns the rules.”
What to do
Brands are already using AI and ML in content marketing for tasks such as content analysis, optimization and A/B testing.
Creating high-quality in-depth content that establishes your brand at the top of your industry won’t be possible with the current capabilities of things like GT3.
However, several SaaS tools are available that can help you to create better content for your users and many of them use artificial intelligence in some capacity.
SparkToro is a new(ish) tool by Rand Fishkin (Ex Moz) that helps you find any audience’s sources of influence: who+what they follow, visit, read, watch, & listen-to.