The content industry is subject to constant change and, like any complex system in a state of flux, requires a dynamic, adaptable approach. Content marketing is critical to maintaining an influential position in any vertical, and is the most important growth channel for new startups and established brands alike.
Regularly publishing quality content delivers undisputed value. A recent study conducted by HubSpot and Smart Insights demonstrates that more than 53% of marketers achieve a clear ROI from their content marketing efforts, and a further 43% experience enhanced growth opportunities.
In order to remain competitive in the fluctuating content marketing industry, it’s necessary to remain aware of the latest trends and shifts in content strategy. A comprehensive content marketing strategy should incorporate your goals, tactics, research, and metrics, as well as a rolling editorial calendar that schedules topics that support your business goals.
The first step in creating an effective content marketing strategy is to assess the current industry trends. We’ll proceed to break down the top five most important content trends of 2017 and delineate the best method of incorporating them into your content marketing approach.
1. Mobile Content Optimization
Content designed specifically for mobile platforms has become the most effective way for brands to influence and interact with digital audiences. Mobile internet traffic now significantly outweighs desktop traffic- comScore’s 2016 Cross-Platform Future in Focus whitepaper shows that the vast majority of online content is viewed via mobile devices.
Responsive web design alone is not an efficient method of capitalizing on the commonly overlooked mobile audience. Creating mobile-optimized copy requires a new approach to content marketing that eschews most of the traditional content creation paradigms and adapts to changing audience habits.
Jacob Neilsen’s “Golden Triangle” and F-Shaped audience interaction patterns no longer hold true in the new mobile content era. Both of these approaches to content structure are based primarily on eye-tracking studies conducted on desktop users. New eye-tracking studies performed on mobile users by Briggsby demonstrate that mobile content readers focus their attention on the center of the screen, as demonstrated in the following heatmap:
From the evidence provided by the Briggsby study, it’s clear that the most important element of mobile-optimized content is the upper two-thirds of the screen, with 86% of the mobile content audience disregarding anything below this point.
Ensuring your platform is mobile-friendly is essential, as your ranking can be negatively influenced for poor mobile optimization. Structuring your mobile content in a way that capitalizes on the different ways audience attention is captured via mobile content is a powerful way to enhance your brand visibility, and is crucial to successful content marketing in 2017.
2. Facebook Instant Articles
Facebook remains the undisputed champion of content sharing, consumption, and discovery online, and is the most-used social media platform for small businesses. The 2017 Wasp Barcode Technologies State of Small Business Report shows that Facebook is still the number one content distribution platform, despite a marginal decrease in overall usage since 2016.
While the organic reach issue associated with Facebook content marketing remains present, Facebook’s new Instant Articles Analytics comparison tool has proven the efficacy of their self-hosted content delivery platform. By teaming up with Neilsen, Facebook has provided compelling evidence that Instant Articles deliver 20 to 50% more traffic compared to mobile web traffic.
A recent investigation into the effectiveness of Facebook Instant Articles conducted by SocialBakers shows that while Instant Articles benefit from higher traffic levels, they also have a relatively short lifespan, receiving more than 80% of their total views on the first day. The information collected by SocialBakers reflects the effect mobile content optimization has on view duration, with a huge spike in sharing occurring after readers view 50% of the article content.
In order to capitalize on the increased traffic offered by Instant Articles, it’s important to ensure that your content places critical information within the upper third of the screen. The average Facebook user spends only 75 seconds on any given Instant Article, so providing your audience with the main points of your content in an easily digestible format will yield the best results.
The rising prevalence of Facebook-based content marketing has also led to the development of an inversion of the traditional marketing funnel. Promoting high engagement levels with existing customers is becoming as important as generating new opportunities. Statistics released by HubSpot demonstrate that question posts foster higher levels of audience interaction, eliciting feedback and enhancing Facebook engagement.
3. Visual Content Marketing
It’s no secret that incorporating visual elements, info graphics, and images into your content is extremely important when attempting to engage with your audience. While the necessity of visual content marketing is common knowledge, understanding why it’s so effective can provide content marketers with a competitive edge.
The human brain is hardwired to interpret visual data- more than 90% of the information processed by the brain is visual. The brain is able to interpret visual data more than 60,000 times faster than text, which delivers a significant advantage when attempting to capture audience attention in a short timeframe.
The extreme effectiveness of visual content marketing is reflected in a recent study performed by Forrester, which shows that Instagram- the largest visual content platform in the world- delivers 58 times the engagement rate of Facebook content marketing, and more than 120 times the engagement rate of Twitter content.
Another study performed by the Nelson Norman Group on the effectiveness of photos as web content demonstrates the imbalance between audience interest in images compared to text. Eye tracking studies conducted by NNG show that audiences selectively ignore images that are interpreted as irrelevant, such as purely decorative content. Other types of visual content, such as images of products and real people are intensely scrutinized, as illustrated in the eye tracking study below:
Creating engaging and attention-grabbing visual content doesn’t have to be a difficult or expensive process. Freelance content writing professionals typically provide visual content alongside written content. There are also many visual content generation services that offer simple image generation, such as Canva, Stencil, or Venngage.
4. User Generated Content
Both brands and consumers agree that user generated content is far more influential than brand content. Identifying exactly what inspires micro-influencers to share, however, can be difficult. More than 85% of consumers find user-generated visual content more influential than brand-generated content. This figure is at odds with brand perception of UGC, with only 65% of business sharing the same perspective.
User generated content is far more effective at building trust than brand generated content, and generally manifests in the form of YouTube videos, social shares, comments, and user reviews. The statistics that support UGC are impressive- UGC-based content offers a 400% higher click-through rate, and boasts a 50% drop in cost-per-click
3dcart, a leading shopping cart software and POS system developer, has demonstrated via their analytics suite that consumers are 71% more likely to make a purchase decision after viewing user-generated content. The extremely influential nature of UGC is apparent when viewing this survey conducted by Adweek, which shows the effectiveness of UGC versus professionally-written review content:
While engaging professional writing services is still the most effective method of building trust between your brand and target audience, UGC is able to establish a dialogue with target demographics to enhance social proof. Deploying an effective user-generated content strategy, however, requires specific goals and detailed guidelines in order to deliver results.
Data released by SEMrush shows that more than 86% of businesses have attempted to leverage the effectiveness of UGC to build brand trust. A survey conducted by GoodVid shows that only 27% of these businesses incorporate a comprehensive strategy into their user-generated content marketing approach.
The following four principles can be integrated into any user-generated content strategy to deliver optimal ROI and audience engagement:
- Choose Your Social Space: Each social networking site is home to a unique demographic that may or may not provide fertile ground for your UGC campaign. Social networking platforms such as Twitter and Facebook offer advanced analytics suites that provide detailed insight into the behaviours and preferences of their user base.
- Set Clearly Defined Goals: Launching a content marketing campaign without a clearly defined set of goals makes it impossible to measure effectiveness or reach. Begin by setting benchmarks that make it possible to track the progress of your UGC strategy.
- Instruct Your Audience: More than 50% of social media users want direction or guidelines when creating UGC, but only 16% of brands provide any. Outline specific rules, regulations, and styles to your audience and present a simple, easy to follow set of requirements.
- Give Recognition: Author attribution is just as important when publishing UGC as it is for professionally generated content. Be sure to call out your talented followers to foster community growth, encourage other audience members to create UGC, and highlight brand advocates in a positive way.
5. Quality and Curation Over Quantity
The quality vs quantity argument has dominated content strategy discussions since the earliest days of the industry, but recent changes to the way in which content is consumed and ranked have led to metrics supporting the former over the latter as the most effective choice.
Publishing high quality, curated content has been proven to deliver the most efficient ROI, and allows content marketers to extract the maximum amount of value. The treadmill method of churning out volume until lead goals are achieved is not scalable, as it’s built on the faulty assumption that more content equates to more results.
The rate at which new content is being produced is beginning to render volume-based content marketing ineffective. More than 87 million WordPress articles are published every month, which translates to over three million articles published daily. This figure is also growing steadily, as illustrated in the following graph taken from the WordPress Posting Activity summary:
Low quality content not only harms the reputation of your brand, but can also have a negative impact on your rankings. On the 7th of March 2017 an unconfirmed Google ranking update caused havoc in the content marketing industry, causing a 90% drop in traffic to thousands of volume-based content marketing platforms.
While this update- referred to as the “Fred” update- has not been officially commented on by Google, it has had a profound effect on the viability of the low-quality, high volume content creation strategy. Forensic assessment of the Fred update implies that the algorithm change was implemented to target aggressive monetization tactics, especially low-value content publishers. The following image demonstrates the impact of the Fred update on one such platform:
The number one Fred update SEO tactic provided by marketing industry experts involves publishing content that requires one of the following four attributes: expertise, time, effort, or skill. The Fred update favors content that is structured to provide a solution to a user’s problem over content that is structured to generate revenue, and thus the most effective content for 2017 should incorporate at least one of the five primary elements of successful content creation.
The declining effectiveness of low-value content means that articles provided by large-scale content mills are less likely to provide a solid ROI. The most effective way to take advantage of the most recent updates to the Google ranking algorithm is to engage the services of a professional writer or freelancer. Leveraging the skills provided by professional writing services yields high-quality content that will increase the value of your platform, thereby enhancing the visibility and profitability of your online business.
Ultimately, the most effective strategy for content marketing in 2017 is an integrated approach that combines high-density visual data with high quality written content. To stay abreast of ranking trends and Google algorithm shifts it’s important to ensure your content is high quality by engaging a professional writer to provide informative, well-researched and emotionally engaging articles that connect to your target audience.