Niall O'Loughlin discusses some of the big changes and trends that will dominate content marketing in 2016.
Content marketing has certainly evolved over the years as Google and other search engines have altered their algorithms to ensure quality rather than quantity wins the day. User experience is now the top priority and tactics such as keyword stuffing and writing hundreds of short and uninformative blog posts are now outdated.
Despite the changes, content marketing has remained relatively straightforward but that is set to change with the advent of new technologies; this means things are going to get a bit more complicated going forward.
The rise of journalistic algorithms
Journalistic algorithms are now so advanced that they can create articles by themselves. As things stand, it still isn’t possible for these algorithms to write on detailed topics due to the complex grammatical rules of language but that may ultimately change. Indeed, you may have already come across an article written by a journalistic algorithm and not even realised it!
This may be desperately bad news for UK freelancers as their livelihood could be threatened by this particular advance. The threat may not become real for a few years yet however as it is still far more cost effective for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to have content written by a human. After all, journalistic algorithms are not yet capable of creating the kind of content a small business needs to get customers. That may change in a few years however.
Users to get even more control with aggregated content
As you probably know, surveying thousands of people is the best way to gauge public opinion; it is used in election polls and is a principle set to become applied to content marketing.
In 2016, it will be possible to take snippets of information from millions of social media profiles in order to learn more about what people need. Twitter is creating Project Lightning which involves collecting posts, videos and images from users in order to create new stories and features.
This trend was introduced on Facebook when the social media giant realised that articles published on the site received more attention than articles published on the author’s website. With Instant Articles, SMEs had the option of publishing their content on Facebook’s platform first.
Google is getting involved in this phenomenon which of course means it is set to become a major trend in the near future.
The rise of long form content
Google released its Knowledge Graph in 2012 but it has only gathered steam recently. If you enter a long-tail search query into the Google search box, you will receive a host of information including answers to common questions on the topic.
This advance means users no longer have to click on websites to get the answers to certain queries. This is bad news for SME websites which may now lose a substantial amount of traffic for particular keywords. The solution is to focus on creating detailed answers to complex topics.
The emergence of interactive content
You are probably already getting used to individualised results popping up when you search for information online and this is something set to arrive in the content marketing world. Imagine content that responds to your prompts; this is about to become a reality in 2016 as Oculus Rift and a host of other virtual headsets are making their way to the market.
In essence, individually tailored content could become the norm in the next few years which is another major challenge for SMEs looking to expand their content marketing efforts.
Visual content will be in demand
Infographics have become an incredibly popular form of content and with internet speeds and wireless connections improving all the time; it is now easy to access higher quality images and videos while on the move.
Written content is a market is that already over capacity so if SMEs wish to distance themselves from their rivals, they will need to jump on the visual content bandwagon in order to give readers information that is easy to digest. Visual content such as videos will separate successful SMEs from the rest.
Competition will be everywhere
Unfortunately, SMEs will have competitors in every nook and cranny of the internet as most small businesses will have websites pumping out content. New technologies, formats and algorithms will reduce the time, effort and cost that goes into content marketing which makes an overcrowded market a certainty. You can only hope to stay ahead by embracing new advances in content marketing and above all, creating the best possible content that solves the problems of customers.
Design will be crucial to customer engagement
It is said that great design is almost invisible and its goal is to ensure the content is easily accessible and fluid. Indeed, great designers have the ability to enable the absorption of information without the person even realising it. Great design and visual content is a must for every type of content you publish. Simply adding images to tweets on Twitter sees a click increase of 18 per cent, a ‘favourites’ increase of 89 per cent and a retweet increase of 150 per cent.
Is your business ready to get ahead?
Designers with the ability to make information easily digestible will be in big demand in 2016 and beyond as their efforts can essentially be the difference between SMEs succeeding or failing. The trends mentioned above are likely to be just the beginning of the new age of content marketing. Certain aspects of content marketing will be placed under grave threat while other departments will thrive. Ultimately, the consumer will be the winner and it’s up to small businesses to adapt if they wish to survive in this new era.
Niall O'Loughlin is marketing manager at graphic design marketplace 99designs.