Content marketing has been a leading strategy for online brands throughout the past several years, especially since the Panda Update of 2011 rolled out and dramatically reshaped what factors contributed to Google rankings. Because keyword stuffing was no longer a viable option for building authority or rank, and because user experience became a more critical component to online marketing success, content marketing campaigns began to evolve and become the central point of a broader strategy that involves SEO, social media marketing, PR, and online conversions.
But, like any online marketing strategy, content marketing is subject to rapid changes and near-constant evolution. Content marketing today is different than content marketing in 2011, and content marketing in 2016 is going to be much different than it is today. There are a number of unanswered questions about the future of content marketing, and while it’s impossible to accurately predict the future in any detail, we do have a few suspicions about how content marketing will evolve over the course of the next year.
The first question I want to address is one of the most common I’ve seen. Anytime someone mentions the future of content marketing, someone is quick to mention the fact that content marketing might not be successful forever. This is driven by a mentality that content marketing is a fad, since in many ways, it developed as a fad.
However, I believe that content marketing is in no danger of dying—at least not anytime soon, and certainly not before 2016. While the rapid growth of content marketing is similar to that of a temporary fad, the fundamental principles behind content marketing are anything but short-term. Content marketing is all about providing value to your customers and building a reputation, and those principles are never going to fade in importance. The types of content that provide the most value and the steps necessary to achieve visibility for that content are going to change, and because of that, content marketing will change.
One of the biggest problems content marketing is going to face in the next year is overabundance. Because content marketing is universally acclaimed as a high-efficiency customer engagement strategy, almost every business with an online presence is using it. For consumers, this is great, because almost any topic you search for has been covered by some brand, somewhere. But for companies, this is getting increasingly difficult. How can you possibly find a topic that someone else hasn’t already done? If a hundred people have already covered a topic, how can you possibly cover it better?
This overabundance could have two serious effects in 2016, as an already-saturated market becomes even more saturated:
Wearable technology has already begun to develop in the form of Google Glass and smart watches, but as the Apple Watch comes out in 2015, market analysts are projecting a sudden growth spurt in the wearable tech industry. Smart watches could very well become the norm, nearly replacing smartphones by the end of 2015, and new forms of augmented reality devices could break down the few remaining barriers between how we interact with the digital world and how we interact with the real one.
Assuming this cultural shift succeeds, more users will start relying on the functionality of these small, attached, mobile devices, instead of consulting their desktops while at home. This will have two immediate effects:
Both of these effects will diminish the need for traditional written content, but at the same time, they will increase the need for content in new forms—smaller, more condensed, more easily accessible forms.
Wearable technology will undoubtedly influence the world of SEO, but SEO will also evolve on its own path. The app-based functionality of smart watches will further the shift from traditional web pages to apps, and the voice search component will increase the importance of semantic search, versus traditional keyword-based queries.
People will also be doing more searches on the go, prompting Google to make updates related to proximity-based user input. This will increase the specificity of local searches, providing relevant results for searches on a block level rather than just a city or region level. It will also increase the need for hyper-local results, stepping up demand for new forms of content for local businesses. For example, special offers and integrated functionality for local businesses could be rewarded in search results because they’re more relevant for wearable tech users.
One of the biggest effects of the content overabundance problem is the fact that consumers are growing tired of traditional forms of content. By 2016, it’s possible that the 400-word written, informative blog post will become obsolete.
Users are unique, and as the resources available online become more diverse and more accessible through mobile devices, users are going to require more and more unique experiences. Because traditional content is stagnant and universal, users won’t feel like they’re getting a wholly unique experience. However, if you can include an interactive factor in your content, you’ll solve the problem of stagnation and you’ll be able to attract more users to an exclusive, individual experience.
Interactive media will take many forms—it could be personalized messages, branching content that users can control, or a single experience presented in multiple mediums—the key is to provide a unique and ever-changing experience that goes beyond the traditional model of content.
It’s not entirely clear how content marketing will fit into the online world in 2016, but there are a few things we know and a few predictions we can make that can shape your strategy moving forward:
Keep an eye on content marketing developments moving forward and stay flexible as content evolves in this new era of inbound marketing.
Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.