What’s on your content wishlist? Every December content marketers poke their heads out from their CMSes and analytics tools, survey the past year, and look toward the future with visions of happy consumers who are informed, delighted, and converted by your content. Here’s our year in review and the top 5 content trends to watch for in 2016!
Video + More: The Format of Content Marketing Champions
What happened in 2015: Video became the standard for marketers. Users in both B2C and B2B services are rapidly consuming video across devices. By November 2015, Facebook users saw 8 billion videos daily — doubling the number of video views reported just six months earlier. Video is growing across all demographics, but millennials and (coming soon) their kids have been the biggest adopters.
What’s next for 2016: Just having a video on your website is no longer enough. Quality video content across the consumer journey — and targeted toward key audiences — is already the best-in-class standard for enterprise content marketers. The baby steps we’ve taken with video best practices (short videos! no sound for social!) will grow into fully formed data-driven video strategies. Content marketers will adapt more complex tactics and invest in video overall.
For the real trendsetters: Get into the third dimension with Virtual Reality content. Yes, it feels like 1996 again with the resurgence of VR technology, but with Google Cardboard and Facebook’s Oculus Rift hitting mainstream consumers, it won’t be long before VR is part of our content marketing ecosystems. VR isn’t just for gamers; content forerunner New York Times is already incorporating VR content into reporting, with sponsored VR content from advertisers, and Samsung has just announced a VR web browser. Get ready to bring your content marketing into a new dimension.
The Next Wave of Strategic Planning: Scaling Performance-Driven Content
What Happened in 2015: Content marketers got serious about performance. We’ve seen countless webinars about data-driven content marketing cross our inboxes. The Nina Hale content team was giving talks about data-driven content strategy back in May, and all year we’ve been testing and perfecting new content measurement strategies. We’ll admit that content hasn’t been about the keyword for quite some time, but it’s still important to understand the data that an individual keyword can bring to a sophisticated content strategy. Over the past year content marketers have shifted to thinking around groups (or collections, depending on your source), and we’re ready to scale the data we’ve gathered from those groups.
What’s Next for 2016: Automating, scaling, and accelerating performance-driven content. New investments in content measurement tools like Brightedge, Conductor, Optimizely, and SimilarWeb have provided methods to automate and scale. It’s no longer about intensive discussions on which individual keyword drives the most traffic. We’re entering an era of advanced understanding of how digital content works for individual businesses — and we’re much more efficient when it comes to mapping content to consumer behavior, scaling content initiatives, and measuring performance.
For the real trendsetters: While out-of-the-box metrics can be helpful for those of us who are not analytically minded, the real sea change is coming for customized content analytics. Check out our take on Google Analytics custom dimensions here.
Structuring the Business of Content: Managing What We Make
What Happened in 2015: Quality content on the front end of digital. If you’re online, you’ve noticed that content marketers have stepped it up on the quality front. Google has revised its quality ratings — and published an extensive PDF on what they look at for quality. Across the content sphere, we don’t want users to say, “Look, they have an app.” We want them to say, “That app is so useful!” Content marketers have partnered with digital designers, video producers, programmers, and distributors to create, distribute, and measure high-quality content. It all looks great, and customer experiences are improving!
What’s Next for 2016: Boosting up the back end of content management. Follow the investors’ money: the top high-profile digital startups are concerned with data storage, database management, security, and payment systems. Especially when it comes to consumer information, security and data management are huge concerns in the digital world, and we’re going to see more back-end solutions coming soon. Even though it might not be as sexy as a front-end redesign, these back-end solutions are necessary to keep up with all the front-end innovations.
For the real trendsetters: With the success of small-business-friendly but hard-to-scale Squarespace, waves of new CMS solutions are flashing around the content marketing universe every year, hoping to catch content strategists’ eyes as an easy-to-use CMS for enterprise content. One day we’ll find the perfect CMS for keeping up with rapidly changing content marketing infrastructure: video, top-notch security, data management, content measurement, easy schema markup, paid distribution integration, along with in-store marketing and a very easy-to-use author experience. Fingers crossed for a one-size-fits-all or even a one-size-fits-some.
Branded SERP-Wrangling: Knowledge Graph, Quick Answers, and Everything In Between
What Happened in 2015: Google Quick Answers began showing up everywhere. You know what Quick Answers are — that one-size-fits-all immediate answer that shows up in the search results. If you search for “How tall is Prince?” you receive the following at the top of the SERP:
Personally I love the addition of heights of related personalities, although I’m not sure if Prince is happy about it.
Additionally, branded searches in what we call the Knowledge Graph have gone from being off-the-rack easy to high-fashion couture, with highly tailored search results depending on a brand’s digital assets. Check out what happens when I search for Coca-Cola:
It’s a SERP content bonanza! There’s a map of local distributors, a bank of related images, company information, stock quotes, traditional branded websites, news results, and an integrated Twitter feed. There are so many pieces to optimize! Google representatives have also recently said that more control over your branded search appearance may be on the horizon.
What’s Next for 2016: Lassoing new features and tried-and-true methods to hog tie all digital properties into a more unified and optimized search appearance. In addition to optimizing all of the pieces on the Google search results page, as well as related quick answers results, we’re going to be optimizing for integration across all search properties: that means Facebook search, in-app search, and more. We’re focusing on universal brand content structure, like structured schema markup and more time spent on branded appearance in profiles and search results across channels.
For the real trendsetters: I’m not a betting woman, but I’d put money on seeing video results for branded searches — like a YouTube channel trailer on the Google SERP — incorporated into the Knowledge Graph by the end of 2016. If you’re overwhelmed and wondering where to start with your video strategy, a 15-second brand-focused video might be a good bet.
Finding Your Audience: Programmatic Content Distribution is Here!
What happened in 2015: Native content is advancing, and we’re on the frontlines. AppNexus and Sharethrough announced the programmatic purchase of sponsored content — so users will start seeing content based on their location and their interests. Nativo and TripleLift have been on the programmatic content bandwagon for a while. Just this morning I was served a piece of content about one of my favorite Minneapolis bike shops:
Sponsored content used to be a mass-audience B2C tactic, but with programmatic purchase to direct content toward audiences that really matter, B2B content marketers are now getting in on the programmatic placement.
What’s Next for 2016: A waterfall of new programmatic content technology. All that time you’ve spent developing your content personas? It’s about to come into play when you start holding hands with your media-buying team. Instead of throwing darts at who you think is your audience and hoping you hit the bulls-eye, programmatic display of sponsored content can help you target and optimize to the audience that actually cares. And I may have mentioned this already, but video content in programmatic channels means that the digital sweet spot of cross-channel optimization is nigh.
For the real trendsetters: Watch for content marketers who know how to speak the language of media buyers. Content folks tend to focus on the craft of the content rather than who’s seeing it, but all that is about to change. If you’re not talking to your media team about all the high-quality content you’ve been planning, now’s the time to show up with some Christmas cookies and chat about your plans to be BFFs next year.
We live in exciting times for content creators, and it’s looking more like your content wishes can come true. In the weeks to come, we’ll see more plans, partnerships, predictions, and new content paths. Huzzah for new trends in 2016!