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The first six months of 2020 are gone — and hardly anyone can remember them. Almost all predictions for business performance at the beginning of this new decade were utterly obliterated by crises like the continuing spread of COVID-19 and ongoing movements for social justice, which have slowed the economy to a near-halt and driven consumers to adopt a radically different lifestyle than most experts could have anticipated in their wildest dreams.
Thus, it is high time that we put forth more accurate predictions to help businesses navigate the upcoming years. Content marketing remains a powerful tool for attracting and maintaining an audience, but businesses need to consider changing their approach to content marketing in light of recent developments in technology, culture and more. Beyond 2020, here are the biggest content marketing trends to guide strategy over the coming years.
The Importance of Intent
There are two very different reasons to pay close attention to intent in the concluding months of 2020 and beyond. For one, search engines are much more focused on understanding what web users mean with different search queries. In fact, Google developed a complex machine-learning tool named BERT for just this issue. BERT is tasked with parsing user intent based on word choice and phrasing patterns, so the search engine can deliver more useful results. For example, humans understand the difference between “sink repair near me” and “how to repair a sink;” the former user is looking for professional plumbing services, and the latter user wants some kind of DIY guide. Thanks to BERT, Google understands the difference, too.
This matters to businesses because content marketers need to start researching user intent and developing content that addresses those intentions appropriately. Asking questions like “What are users looking for when they navigate to this content?” and “What content would answer user questions and concerns?” will help ensure that content remains relevant to users and continues to rank high in search.
However, arguably the more important value of intent in the coming years concerns business intent: What does a business mean to accomplish with the content it produces? By developing goals and working toward those goals systematically — ideally with the help of a comprehensive digital marketing firm like Digital Current — businesses will see and feel greater success from their content.
Video and Livestreaming
Though the trend toward video has been building steam for years thanks to platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Instagram Stories and now TikTok, video veritably exploded in importance thanks to the COVID-19 crisis. Suddenly, divorced from typical society and forced to interact with others (loved ones as well as brands) solely through digital media, consumers have turned in droves to video and live streaming content, which provide a greater sense of connection than printed words and images.
There are pros and cons to investing in video content production. On the downside, the costs to entry are high; brands are expected to offer good production value, which requires expensive equipment like cameras, lighting, set décor and more. On the upside, video and live streaming are more enticing to modern audiences, 80 percent of whom attest to preferring video over blog posts. What’s more, video and live streams tend to hold audience attention for longer and tend to be more effective at audience participation through commenting, subscribing and the like. Thus, it is unlikely that video will decrease in popularity, and businesses should strongly consider adding some element of video production to their content strategy.
Content for Voice Search
Finally, businesses always need to be aware of how evolving technologies are affecting not just their content marketing strategy but their business model at large. It isn’t uncommon for a new technological development to disrupt and destroy industries, like the iPod eviscerating CD sales and online music streaming eliminating the iPod.
One major technological revolution beginning to affect content marketing is the move toward voice-controlled smart devices. Instead of typing out queries and reading through search results, web users are increasingly asking digital assistants to perform web searches and provide answers to their questions. As a result, voice-capable content is receiving higher rankings within search results and is much more prized by consumers.
Understanding user intent is also applicable to addressing voice searches, so by investing in intent-led content marketing, businesses will also improve their voice SEO. However, it is also useful to produce content that is more easily digested through an audio medium, like a smart speaker. Audio content, especially podcasts, give audiences greater access to industry information and give marketing messages a human voice.
Some trends have not been interrupted by the unforeseeable events of 2020, and businesses should focus on leveraging these trends in their content marketing for the rest of the year and the beginning of the coming decade.