The web is swollen with 2017 round-ups and predictions for 2018; it can only be December. So, in an effort to be twice as merry, we thought it would be a good idea to combine both in one handy article.
First is our own 2018 prediction. Content marketing will continue to do well overall.
But there will be change, even if it’s less disruptive than we’ve seen over the past three years.
1. ROI will be better defined and shift away from shares and traffic
If 2016 was when content marketing hit the mainstream and 2017 when it hit overload, then we predict that 2018 will be the year in which content marketing needs to justify itself.
By that we are talking about return on investment (ROI).
There are many indicators of success, such as traffic or shares. However, there is often little proof of how content affects the bottom line.
A good example is the following statistic from research by Smart Insights: 76 per cent of marketers use website traffic to measure ROI.
This is great if you are Coca-Cola and building brand. But in a B2B context, where you need sales, impressions look like a vanity metric.
Prediction: content will have to bring more to the table than hits. New metrics will come to the fore.
This brings us to…
2. Content marketing strategy will be better defined
Why? Because it has to be.
One constant over the past three years of content marketing research has been the lack of clear content marketing strategy from brands.
This is despite there being a correlation between success and campaigns where the brand has thought out and written down what it plans to do.
Prediction: thanks to the high number of companies engaged in content marketing, more will be forced to innovate and look for marginal gains. Strategic planning will be an easy win.
3. Companies will increase resources for managing their websites
Corporate websites, especially in B2B, were once little more than online calling cards and brochures. A contact page, something for investor relations and a home for the products. Many didn’t even have a blog.
Not any more.
Company websites have become so content rich that they are more like publications. Yet they are still run and structured like a piece of direct mail.
Customers and users need to be able to navigate easily and find what they are looking for.
There are signs this is already occurring. Research from HubSpot found 26 per cent of companies felt managing their website was a serious challenge.
Prediction: we think this will require an architectural restructure for many sites that have become clogged with articles.
4. Content will stop growing because of Google
A couple of years ago, SEO advice was to write and post regularly. If you did, Google would reward you.
Now we know that is untrue (if indeed it ever was).
Instead, it has been shown that content length is a more important metric. Since its Panda algorithm update, Google has penalised thin content (posts of fewer than 400 words).
What Google wants, Google gets. So everyone has been writing more. According to Orbit Media, in 2017 the average post length increased by 18 per cent to stand at 1,080 words.
There is nothing wrong with an in-depth feature. But problems arise when you turn a 600-word idea into 6,000 words of waffle.
Prediction: Google will tweak its algorithm to penalise wafflers, seeking to reward quality rather than length.
What exactly will that be based on?
No idea… but if you find out first, be sure to let us know.
5. The most important platforms will not be your own
Speed is crucial. But there is nothing new in that.
As far back as 2011, 47 per cent of consumers expected a web page to load in two seconds or less.
Since then, mobile has become the most important source of traffic. A responsive mobile site is now essential – and mobile browsers have become increasingly efficient at delivering the goods.
Yet bandwidth will always be an issue. You have the same chance of impaired coverage whether you are in a remote rural location or the middle of London.
Prediction: platforms such as Facebook Instant and AMP will be key for pushing out content. Content syndication will reduce company sites to mere archives.
6. Video will rise and rise
The growth of video is hardly the most original or difficult trend to predict. After all, YouTube is the second most used search engine after Google and has been for some time.
Our real prediction is that YouTube’s silver-medal position will come under threat – probably from Facebook.
Pew Internet found 46 per cent of marketers are planning to expand into Facebook Video.
In short, Facebook won’t take share from YouTube, but will grow it organically from among its own user base.
Remember, more than 44 per cent of US adults get their news from Facebook. While this is worrying on one level, it demonstrates Facebook’s power on another.
Prediction: in 2018, Facebook will be the number one place to upload video.
7. Content marketing will be recognised as the saviour of publishing
If you are old enough to remember classified advertising, you will realise that publishers’ ad-based revenue streams have taken a knock in recent years.
Some publications, such as the FT, have gone for a subscription model. Others, like the Telegraph, something in between. And then there is the Guardian, which still gives away its content free.
Paid content has filled the void. The top 100 publishers globally will collectively generate $3 billion in branded content digital revenue in 2017, according to Polar Media.
Better still, it appears readers are happy with it.
Asked about attitudes to native ads, 56 per cent of consumers said they like it when brands avoid a hard sell. Instead, they think brands are using content marketing to share something “cool” or teach them.
Prediction: expect publications to become increasingly aggressive and innovative in their quest for a bigger share of the content marketing pie.
Top 6 of the most shared content marketing stories in 2017
A list of the best and most shared content marketing stories (outside of our own) over the past 12 months.
This is based on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest. The first two have brought in the highest number of shares for content-related articles. G+ will always be important from an SEO perspective, while Pinterest works well with infographics and visual elements.
This is a guest post detailing a number of frameworks for producing blog content. Some, such as the Skyscraper Technique, are well known at least among SEOs. Others, such as Spaghetti Blogging, less so.
What is impressive is that it makes use of video – visuals as well as copy. This is possibly one reason why it did comparatively well on Pinterest.
The standout is the number of Facebook shares. There are a number of other posts out there on a similar theme, but none of them achieved this kind of cut-through.
Possibly, the only major difference is in the various trademark titles. You are always going to look at a content-production framework called The Hedgehog.
What is interesting about this one is that it is a list. Just that.
OK, there are several paragraphs of introductory copy at the top.
The remainder is simply an unordered list of names and Twitter handles. What a shame. It is a nice idea and a bit of work could have made it far more relevant.
On the other hand, what do we know? It still got around 6,000 shares. One suspects many of those came from people on the list.
“We’re creating more content than our audience can consume.”
“That’s a good topic for our next blog post, whitepaper, infographic, listicle and animated gif.”
In terms of words, this is the shortest article on the list. But, as we have stated elsewhere on this site, content marketing works well with cartoons.
Nowhere is the overload more prevalent than in content marketing itself. There is nothing wrong with posts about content marketing, but it falls down when they start to repeat themselves.
Just enter ‘content marketing’ into Twitter and see what you get back. Ninety per cent of the returns are only a hair’s breadth apart.
Humans evolved out of Africa and a fairly limited gene pool. If you go back far enough we are all related to each other.
The same goes for many content marketing how-to articles.
Like people, there are a lot of them around (probably more) and they are all evolved from the same one or two articles.
That’s why this piece on heathcare content marketing stood out. It explained how to produce content but from a sector specific position.
As a result, it received massive engagement and shares. And this was the other stand out because the piece was published on LinkedIn where it was shared a total of 43 times.
Yet on Facebook the figure was 168,000.
That is quite impressive. In fact, as I write this, it is probably spawning more articles.
Following on from the above post, LinkedIn is easily the best platform for distributing B2B content.
This guest post in Entrepreneur takes a comprehensive look at how to use it properly. It goes from posting, to building up your company page, to how to conduct yourself in groups.
Yes, it helps to be on such as a strong platform. However, it still received a high number of shares.
As a final sign-off, this article is actually about a brand engaging in content marketing.
Advertising Age takes a good look at Marriott’s film work and the way in which it has been used to align the brand with the idea of travel.
Marriott is one of Content24’s favourite brands. Dave Beebe, its former vice president of content, put the company on its current path and has been behind everything from feature films to VR.
Have a great New Year break and we’ll see you in 2018.