A solid content marketing strategy is one of the better ways for a company to shape its brand identity, generate interest from potential customers, and keep an engaged audience. This is a great way to establish authority in your area, improve the legitimacy of projects, and build trust between you and whoever you are trying to reach.
As you can assume, it is worth understanding. But that is easier said than done. Content marketing is not static. The practice landscape is constantly changing. It doesn’t look like it did ten years ago, and it won’t look like it does now ten years from now.
It’s a difficult subject – one with a fascinating past and an exciting future. Out of real interest and forward-looking practicality, it’s important to understand where it was and where it’s going.
Here we get a perspective on both. We’re going to take a look at how content marketing has evolved over the past decade and how it will evolve in the next.
How content marketing has evolved over the past decade
Google changed the game.
In 2011, Google conducted its landmark ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth) study. It was found that 88% of shoppers experience what is known as a zero-moment of truth – a discovery and awareness phase in a buying cycle where a consumer examines a product before buying it. Google’s research also showed that word of mouth was a key factor in influencing this moment.
The study provides a unique point of reference in the context of content marketing development. It shows how and why companies had to focus on content marketing in the early 2010s.
It was tacit evidence that company stories were being told online – way beyond the control of their marketing departments – and it was in their best interests to help shape those conversations.
The ZMOT study highlighted the need for solid search engine optimization (SEO). Ranking for relevant keywords in search engines became all but important to strengthening a company’s online presence and surviving consumers’ Zero Moments of Truth.
However, that study wasn’t the only bomb that Google dropped in the early 2010s. Around the time the study was published, Google’s search ranking algorithm was modified to prevent “keyword stuffing” – the practice of repeatedly loading a webpage with certain keywords to influence search engine rankings.
The change was an ongoing effort by Google to bring positive and helpful online experiences to users. And that’s exactly what it did. The shift that has enabled companies to focus on producing higher quality, more meaningful content.
Social media rose.
However, the evolution of content marketing wasn’t entirely related to search engines. The rapid rise of social media – one of the most disruptive trends in human history – has also had a profound effect on practice. As these platforms became the cornerstone of everyday life, they presented content marketers with new challenges.
With the development of social media, a different way of consuming content has become popular than that of search engines. The difference boiled down to a question of “sharp versus passive”.
Consumers use search engines to find more targeted content. Generally, when you use a search engine, you’re looking for a specific answer or topic. Social media has allowed users to consume content more passively on their preferred platforms. The content you see in your Facebook feed finds its way to you – not the other way around.
This trend has been an incentive to create shareable, attention-grabbing content that can be easily shared across social media channels.
Video made a boost.
Video also emerged as one of the dominant content marketing mediums over the decade, especially among younger consumers. By 2017, over 50% of consumers wanted to see video from brands they endorsed – more than any other type of content.
Video is naturally engaging. In general, it’s easier to follow than blog posts, email newsletters, or e-books. Gradually, audiences became more and more aware of this over the course of the decade. Until the end of the 2010s, platforms like YouTube were the focus of content marketing.
Of course, content marketing went through several changes in the 2010s, but as I said at the beginning of this article, the practice is not and never will be static. There are still a lot of changes.
How content marketing will develop over the next decade
Video content will still apply.
As I just mentioned, by the end of the last decade video became one of the most important – if not the most important – media for content marketing. There is no indication that this trend will stop anytime soon.
As of 2020, 85% of businesses are using video as a marketing tool – up 24% from 2016. And 92% of marketers who use it see it as an important part of their marketing strategy. It’s already a staple in multiple companies’ content marketing, and research shows that base is expanding.
According to a survey by Wyzowl, 59% of marketers who didn’t use video in 2019 expected that they would use it in 2020.
All in all, it looks like the research and expansion of video as a pre-eminent medium for content marketing will continue. The priority for marketers will be to stand out.
This could mean emphasizing the quality of the content you produce – making sure it is enriching, well elaborated, and relevant to viewers. You can also try looking at new platforms like TikTok.
Regardless of how individual producers and companies manage to achieve innovations in the field of video marketing, the medium will be an important pillar in the development of content marketing in the future.
Adaptation to mobile devices will be essential and will open up new possibilities.
According to Statista, global mobile data traffic will be seven times as large in 2022 as it was in 2017. The use of mobile devices is increasing astronomically, and it is in every content marketer’s interest to keep up with this trend.
In 2019, 61% of Google searches were on a mobile device, and this trend shows no signs of slowing down. A website that is optimized for mobile devices is central to successful SEO efforts. And a lot of the content you create has to fit that bill too.
Blogs should be easy to navigate on smartphones. Easily accessible video content that your audience can watch on mobile devices is also of great help. Prospects and customers need to be able to get as much out of your mobile resources as they do with your desktop resources.
This shift towards mobile will also open up new opportunities through new types of media. Newer mobile technologies – like virtual and augmented reality – will occupy a very real place in the future of content marketing.
As people increasingly rely on their mobile devices, so do content marketers.
Successful content is more sensitive, more targeted and more customer-oriented.
Google’s ranking algorithm aims to prioritize the content that means most to searchers. According to Google’s standards, the first search result for a keyword is ideally the one that best appeals to the searched user. And in all likelihood, they will continue to tinker with their process to pursue that interest.
While it is not known exactly how the algorithm might change in the future, one fact remains: marketers need to focus on high quality content that gets registered with consumers. That means you understand your audience and put a significant effort into trying to best reach them.
Amanda Zantal-Wiener, Senior Content Strategist at HubSpot, says: “Where I start to see content turn a corner is in the realm of empathy. In the years to come, marketers will be creating more content that is really in the US to be created.” Attitude to put yourself in the shoes of others – be it their customers, prospects, partners, or anyone else in their audience. You will ask questions like: “What does my audience need from me right now? What can I create that is real? Will you help them ‘This becomes a requirement for marketers when they start brainstorming content. “
Research, outreach, and community engagement become even more important in the context of content creation. Content marketing tends to enrich the audience rather than promote products. If this changing tide is true, then as the practice evolves, content marketing will continue to become more targeted, targeted, and customer-centric.
If there’s one thing that can divert you from understanding previous and future developments in content marketing, it is – don’t be too comfortable. New trends and challenges keep emerging and it is always in your best interest to keep up to date.
Most of all, focus on consistently creating high quality content that your audience can always get the most out of.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2020 and has been updated for completeness.