Internet trends change at least every few months. What industry-leaders once hailed as essential best practices is looked down upon as ineffective or out of style. Picky audiences determine what is viral gold and what gets ignored.
It can be incredibly frustrating for marketers.
Looking ahead to 2018, the content marketing is expected to keep changing. Some marketers will hit their stride as they embrace live video and intent-based content, while others will struggle to connect with audiences with quality posts.
Here’s what 18 leading content marketing experts believe is in store for the industry over the next 12 months, so you can be prepared to succeed while others flounder through the changes.
Influencer Marketing Will Continue to Grow
Influencer marketing has been on the rise for the past few years, and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down.
“People are naturally more inclined to purchase a product on the recommendations of friends, family or even strangers,” Jonathan Chaupin, president and COO of Agency 2.0 writes at Entrepreneur. “Information from ‘experts’ or directly from brands pales in comparison. Online influencers are a trusted voice and act as a bridge between brands and consumers.”
From online product reviews to recommendations from strangers on Twitter or Instagram, customers are more willing to trust opinions from people they don’t know than news from brands themselves. This is why influencers with strong personal relationships with their fans are some of the leading content marketing drivers.
Influencers Will Actually Use the Products and Services They Sell
Liz Papagni, Marketing Initiative Worx founder, points out one of the main problems with celebrity influencer marketing: Most people who sell products online look like they don’t actually use the items they’re promoting. Audiences are catching on and tuning out influencers who are just paid spokespeople.
“In 2018, expect to see influencers that actually use the products they’re sharing with the world,” Papagni writes. “That means they probably won’t be celebrities but instead micro-influencers. These are personalities that have built up a small following on social media due to their dedication to their craft.”
Think less Scott Disick selling protein shakes he doesn’t drink and more local trainers explaining in detail the benefits of a protein shake after a workout.
Successful Brands Will Become Better Storytellers
There’s a significant move away from selling in the content marketing world. Brands want to engage audiences with stories and journeys instead of pushing product messages.
“The power of telling your audience a story is a technique that must not be overlooked,” Carolanne Mangles, digital marketing executive at Smart Insights, writes. “When done correctly with strategic planning – knowing who your audience is, where they are and what story they want to know – will provide great engagement with your content and brand.”
Instead of thinking post-by-post, brands need to weave together narratives and create content based on big-picture goals.
Brands Will Focus on Micro-Moments
Micro-moments, voice search, and customer intent go hand-in-hand. While audiences might be interested in a long-form piece on food poisoning, they likely also want to know whether something they just ate will kill them. These are known as micro-moments.
“[Micro-moments] occur when people turn to their devices (increasingly a smartphone) to act on a need to learn something, do something, discover something, watch something, or buy something,” Jennifer Gwinnutt, digital marketing assistant at Interactive Web Solutions, writes. “The brands that do the best job of addressing our needs in each moment will win.”
Sometimes meeting your customer’s needs simply means getting to the point and then going into more detail later.
Brands Will Target Audiences With Customized Content
Along with increasing the quality of content, marketers are getting better at sending the right content to the right people. This partly has to do with customer intent, but also has to do with stretching the value of your content efforts to increase sales.
“Expect to see more tracking codes in 2018,” Kayla Matthews, senior writer at MakeUseOf, says. “By analyzing the effectiveness of their marketing efforts, marketers can customize content even more over time.”
It’s better for your content to reach a few highly-engaged people than thousands of uninterested viewers.
Creating Better Content
Marketers Will Better Strategize Content Creation
Every year, marketers report dramatic booms in content creation, in part because that’s what the industry needs to stay alive. However, Janessa Lantz, editor at ThinkGrowth, explains that marketers will start to shift away from creating pieces to fill editorial calendars toward creating pieces with strong SEO goals that tie into their marketing plans.
“Content marketers will be spending more time optimizing existing content than creating new content,” she writes.
Google is getting better at spotting real experts and high-quality pieces, and then rewarding brands that create content on that level.
Ephemeral Content Creation Will Increase
Ephemeral content, or content that is only available or relevant for a few hours and days, will grow in popularity as audiences want to know what is important in the moment.
“Historically, marketers have focused on producing evergreen content that can be recirculated to drive engagement for months on end,” Megan James, chief editor at the advertising network, MGID Inc. “That’s changing, especially in the world of social media.”
Audiences covet content that is only available for a short time, like Snapchat videos and Instagram stories. Brands also love this content because it drives immediate results and engagement, meaning evergreen ideas will fall in popularity in the next 12 months.
Content Mills Will Lose Business in the Drive for Quality
As brands strive for quality content and intent-based marketing, they will have to leave the low cost, low quality articles produced by content mills behind. Instead, brands will turn to industry experts and marketing professionals who can create pieces that engage with audiences.
“When a business pays writers, podcast hosts, and actors or presenters relatively more money for their services, it tends to get a better quality product,” Armando Roggio, senior contributing editor for Practical Ecommerce, says. “With a higher rate your business could attract a new writer who is a better, perhaps more experienced, wordsmith.”
Analytics Will Lead to Data-Driven Content Marketing
Analytics tools and software will help brands better decide who to target, where, and why. Brands that feel overwhelmed with the need to follow audiences and meet their needs can use data to make smart decisions.
“With so many different distribution channels available, it will become even more important for companies to measure metrics,” Frans van Hulle, CEO and cofounder of PX and ReviMedia, says. “In order to produce content that sticks, it’s important to figure out what users really want to see and read.”
Additionally, AI tools and machine learning can help brands with targeting and scheduling, reducing the burden on human workers.
Audiences Will Continue to Embrace Video Content
If you brand hasn’t seriously considered testing video content as a marketing tool, then you’re falling behind most other companies on the web.
“I think that video is the future of content marketing,” Syed Balkhi, co-founder of OptinMonster, writes. “If you’re not jumping on the bandwagon, you’re missing out on a cool opportunity to reach your target audience and generate revenue.”
Balkhi experienced the success of video firsthand when he changed the content on his website, List25, from article to video format. This process grew his YouTube channel by 2 million subscribers. Audiences have spoken and they want video content.
SEOs Will Match Google’s Drive for Searcher Intent
Customer intent was one of the top marketing buzzwords in 2017, especially because SEO rankings are on the line for those who ignore it.
“Google now understands searcher intent,” Jeff Baker, director of digital marketing strategy at Brafton Inc., writes. “It doesn’t just use the words typed into the search bar…it reads in between the lines to understand what the searcher truly cares about. It then delivers the content that best satisfies that intent.”
Baker marvels at how far the content industry has come since in the past decade and wonders how most companies got away with such terrible SEO practices. The days of keyword stuffing are over as brands work to create content customers want.
Marketers Will See An Increase in Voice Search Traffic
Brands will start to create content for voice search queries through Siri, Alexa, and Google Home. As personal assistants improve, more customers are using auditory search instead of typing.
“I’m all in on voice search,” Stephen Kenwright, strategy director at Branded3, writes. “It’s going to be massive.”
Kenwright reviews the statistics by Gartner that claim 50 percent of all queries will be voice searchers by 2020. He’s uncertain what that actually means in terms of growth of total queries and whether Google will evolve to better accommodate voice, but he’s optimistic that voice search will boom significantly over the next few years.
Paid Search Will Become More Content-Focused
The content marketing industry is set to expand into the paid advertising world as digital ad providers try to encourage clicks by promoting quality content.
“Content marketing is a big enough market that Google is making significant changes to seize on that opportunity,” Shafqat Islam, cofounder and CEO at NewsCred, writes.
Islam points to Google’s updated AdSense platform, which features in-feed, in-article, and matched content ads. Even from a PPC perspective, Google is approaching advertising with quality content and results in mind.
Live Video Will Grow Through Social Media Streaming
Ashley Ward, corporate speaker at SEMrush, also looks at how the internet has evolved, particularly in content creation and sharing. A few years ago, marketers simply moved print pieces to the web. Today, the internet is full of video, infographics, and live streaming — and that latter communication tool is expected to grow next year.
“Facebook is already a hub for content, and it’s a hub we can all get behind,” Ward says. “Even the smallest of businesses can use Facebook LIVE as a content distribution source.”
You wouldn’t fax your blog posts to your audiences, so why are you sharing old-school video distribution? Consider going live to connect with audiences.
Brands Will Take Back Their Audiences From Social Media
An increasing number of brands have expressed frustration with drops in Facebook reach and social traffic due to the network’s algorithm changes. This is driving some brands to bring their audiences back to their websites.
“You should never rely too heavily on any third-party to distribute your content,” Gary Henderson, DigitalMarketing.org founder says. “Instead, work to build direct connections with your audience through email, membership sites or in-person events.”
You can reach 100 percent of your email list (even if they don’t all open your messages), and you don’t have to worry about staying on top of the latest social fads.
Marketers Will Focus on a Few Key Social Channels
Along with taking back audiences, brands will determine the best possible social channels and platforms to connect with those audiences, instead of chasing every new trend because someone might be there.
“In many ways, I think shiny object syndrome has hurt content marketers the past few years,” Rachel Lindteigen, founder of Etched Marketing, says. “People hear about a new social channel and jump on it because they want to be there. Sometimes their audience is there. Sometimes they’re not.”
Instead of brands asking to connect on 10 different social platforms, look for a strategic focus on two or three. Less sometimes really is more.
AI Tools Will Reduce Burdens on Marketers
Artificial intelligence is moving away from an expensive and complex investment into an affordable opportunity to improve content marketing efforts.
“Consider how much time you and your team spend on mundane content marketing activities,” Paul Roetzer, founder and CEO of PR 20/20, writes. “Things like discovering keywords; planning blog post topics…testing landing pages, scheduling social shares…Now imagine if a machine performed the majority of those activities and your primary role was to enhance rather than create.”
The machines aren’t coming for our jobs, but they are optimizing our processes and freeing up more time for better strategy and content creation.
Fake News Will Enter the Content Marketing World
Marketers have been cautious about the internet for years, but brands that fail to check their sources and publish fake content or bad ideas will face increased backlash and damage to their reputations as the fight against fake news travels across the web.
“In 2018, do yourself a favor: when you’re presented with a stat, check where that stat comes from and then decide for yourself whether it’s credible or not,” Jason Miller, content and social media marketing leader at Linkedin, says.
While he’s referencing content marketing myths and legends, this advice can apply to anything. Before you change your marketing strategy based on a post or publish an idea you find interesting, triple-check to make sure the information is accurate.
The content marketing world of today will look very different by the end of next year, but brands that evolve and remain flexible have the greatest chances of marketing success.