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A new year in digital, and there are many more talking points for Content Marketing. With January almost a distant memory what better way to plan the rest of the year than by reading what the experts will be doing as part of their Content Strategies this year. Well, that’s exactly what we’ve done.
There’s plenty for us to sink our teeth into. Whether it’s strategy, planning, creation or promotion, over the next year we are likely to see developments, advancements, new techniques, new platforms, but above anything else, some awesome content.
If you’re a regular reader of the Koozai blog, you’ll have seen my previous expert-driven post on the Current Issues in Content Marketing. Even though 6 months has passed since this was created, there’s still relevant information in there, so it’s worth a read if you haven’t yet done so.
But this time round – it’s all about 2014, so let’s kick off by introducing you to the line-up.
Heather has 20 years experience in marketing and runs SuccessWorks, an SEO copywriting company. She developed the SEO Copywriting Certification programme for best practise in SEO Copywriting.
Lyndon specialises in Content Marketing management. When he’s not producing persuasive and influential content he is either training content marketers or speaking at International conferences.
What interests me the most at the moment is what 2014 has in store for Content Marketing. I want to know what the experts will be doing, what they think of developments as well as pitfalls to avoid. Here’s what they said…
Ann H: I’m working on a new book, so my resolution is to stop procrastinating and actually write it! (I’m deep into the procrastination stage. Because writing is horrible.)
Doug: Sleep less, eat less, blog more.
Simon: To really focus our efforts designing as many campaigns as possible the other way around, or ‘target first’ as we like to call it. That means rather than creating what you think is a great content idea then trying to find someone receptive enough for it (irrespective of how groundbreaking it is) to design content specifically for people/influencers. The ‘conversion’ is much, much higher that way and its really how digital PR should work, in my opinion. Also to include a more rounded breakdown of tactics as part of the marketing process for each campaign – so not just influencer outreach, but paid content advertising and social amplification also.
Heather: My resolution is to try new things – and I’m happy to report that I’ve already accomplished this goal. I wrote an SEO Content Writers’ Manifesto a couple weeks ago and my designer turned it into a beautiful graphic. I’ve received emails from people thanking me for writing it and saying how much the manifesto inspired them. They planned to print it out and post it on their office wall for those days they needed a little motivation. I’ve even had requests to turn it into a poster. (If you want to see the graphic, go to this page and scroll down to the bottom). Trying something new was a very positive experience. Plus, it’s fun to know that the manifesto was so inspiring. It was a definite win.
Kelvin: I’m going to try and work on ‘bigger’ content, rather than writing a couple of dozen blog posts. So I’m asking myself, how can I turn that into an ebook? And rather than just an ebook, how can I package that up in an interactive way that’s really going to stand out?
Ann S: I need to get more organized and probably focused. I never pass on any guest blogging or interview request. I produce way too much content to make the most of each piece. But I promise that myself every year
Barry: My resolution is to craft more content that really resonates with the target audience, really dig into what makes our audience tick, and not be afraid to go out on a limb a bit to see where it takes us. No one likes a bland, safe corporate blog – our clients want to stand out from the crowd and do something exciting and ambitious that aligns with their audience. That could take the form of a comment about the state of their industry, or it can be a daring piece of corporate transparency about internal processes. The idea is to create content the audience will love, and to go places other companies aren’t (yet) daring to tread.
Lyndon: I don’t have one, as I am focused on continual improvement which fails 90% of the time, but the 10% keeps me going. Right now it’s to create as much content as possible.
Joe: To focus more on our subscribers. How we can attract them? How we keep them longer? How can we deliver better content to them? Our subscribers drive the majority of our revenue, so they are the most important aspect of our business.
Ann H: Increasingly: Brands sweat the small stuff, which (it turns out!) is the big stuff. They pay an increasing amount of attention to story, voice, language and writing – which defines their social and content presence in 2014 and beyond. Second, 2014 really will be the year of video. Companies will quit thinking of video as “hard” or “expensive” and they’ll figure out ways to consistently produce it. Lots of new apps and platforms are evolving to help companies create video easily and inexpensively. Third, this is the year that Content Strategists and the Content Marketers align.
Doug: Native advertising is all the rage and is a logical development as content marketing and publishing crash together like big ships and icebergs. It looks like we’re only at the beginning – but it’s a bit of a worrying trend. As the lines between ‘real’ and sponsored content blurs, we risk losing the trust of our audiences. That would suck.
Simon: I would say the steam train that is ‘content advertising’. One of our clients is a top 3 advertiser with Outbrain and the ROI is proving to be very interesting indeed from an eyeballs perspective. There are a plethora of other platforms raising mountains of cash right now also and so the options will only increase.
Heather: I’m hearing from many companies that want to up their content game this year. They may have an existing blog – and this is the year they want to make it better. Or, they may have tested the content marketing waters last year, and this is the year they want a full-scale campaign. Certainly, many companies are capable of handling this in-house. But I’m also seeing significantly more outsourcing. When I ask people why, the reason I hear is they want an expert who can keep up with Google’s latest changes and provide outside expertise. They are “too close” to their content and need someone to point out the low-hanging fruit.
Kelvin: I don’t think there’s going to be a huge development, but I do think people will get more sophisticated in how they put together content. I think you’ll see more project teams that come together to work on a project then disband, almost how a Hollywood film would.
Ann S: Content from real people. With Google attempting to give more exposure to established authors (and talking about including that factor into ranking algorithm), associating your brand with real people has become very important (and will become even more important). Connecting to “micro-celebrities” in your niche and finding the way for them to represent your brand in their writing will become a hotter topic.
Barry: I expect (and hope) to see more long form crafted content that tells a great story, engages audiences, and adds genuine value to an industry. A great piece of long form storytelling will have a significantly longer shelf-life than ubiquitous ‘top 10’ bite-sized content pieces, so it makes for a smarter content marketing investment. For example one of the pieces of content on The Atlantic’s website is a 9,900 word investigative article about the diamond industry which was originally written in 1982. The money The Atlantic paid for that article has been earned back many times over and it continues to generate value for the site. I also expect to see more interactive content pieces. Big media organisations like The Guardian and the New York Times are investing more in interactive infographics, and I expect that to percolate through to commercial industries. It’s more expensive to make but, as with long form content, it can have a substantially longer shelf-life and serve as a link magnet for years to come.
Lyndon: Hummingbird has created a stir in the SEO crowd, as it should. But really this is nothing new, my focus has always been on creating content for people, rather than the bot. Because of this publishing for the people mindset I have found that those who still practice techniques are getting passed by. I see an increase in the quality of content being available on the web, if you compare the paid for magazine market with the blog world you can easily see the gap in quality of content.
Joe: I believe you will see a number of brands start buying media companies. We haven’t seen much of this (Google has purchased a few media companies), but I believe we will see this trend go big time in 2014.
Ann H: Things that don’t work. And by that I mean: Activities that aren’t tied to strategy, that are poorly produced or badly articulated or written.
Doug: A lot less ‘link-building’, thank Jebus. And fewer annoying requests to submit guest posts about sanitary-ware on blogs about B2B marketing.
Simon: Hopefully volume email outreach.
Heather: Here’s what I hope will happen. I hope companies will stop writing really horrible articles/blog posts because they “have to.” Instead, they’ll write really fantastic stand-out content because they’re excited to share their knowledge with their readers. We shall see.
Kelvin: I think this will depend so much on the companies in question and what their competitors are up to, but I think the decisions about what content to do less of will be made much quicker and based upon data.
Ann S: I am hoping to see fewer ghost writers, especially when content ends up being signed by someone else. This needs to stop.
Barry: I suspect static infographics are probably on a slow decline, though not every market has quite exhausted that tactic yet so again I don’t expect them to disappear soon. The basic infographic image still has some value, but there are signs of audience fatigue and a search engine backlash, so the effectiveness of the tactic is under pressure.
Lyndon: To echo my above point about “publishing for people”, rather than churning out content. I see the strategy of creating content that people are not only going to consume, but share and link to. The competition for eyeballs will increase with a rise in the quality of content but a possible decline in the tone, as the lowest common denominator becomes the target. You see this in Huffington Post’s output as they go more Tabloid to compete with the Daily Mail.
Joe: We will see less of brands spreading their content out on every channel, and more of brands focusing on getting super good at one particular channel and dominating.
Ann H: In the best possible way. Google is increasingly trying to surface good, useful, quality content. And Hummingbird is another step in that direction.
Doug: Hummingbird will just continue the trend that sees Google getting better and better at delivering relevance to searchers, so that we can all stop trying to game the algorithm and focus on our real job: creating content that’s relevant to our target audiences.
Simon: In truth no one knows yet, but in theory it should help as Google wants to present more accurate answers. Hummingbird gives them the ability to do that at scale, as Caffeine allowed them to role out at-scale algorithm updates. I hope that it means more volume for the long tail, which will reward good content strategy!
Heather: One huge positive that came out of the Hummingbird update is it reinforces the importance of content. Not just so-so content. Standout, quality content that resonates with the reader. People were already discussing how content marketing was important prior to Hummingbird. But the new algorithm seemed to put a new spotlight on content marketing. That’s a good thing. One of my fears around Hummingbird is people will think “Hey, we don’t need to go through keyphrase research anymore.” Of course, this approach is going to backfire in a number of ways. Keyphrase research is still important. Of course the big challenge/opportunity is that many companies are producing more content (or plan to produce more.) So, site owners will need to work even harder to differentiate their writing and make it pop. It’s not enough to just “write content” and say the same thing your competitors are saying. It’s writing content that’s so unique, helpful and insightful that the target reader can’t help but take the next action step. They click the link on the SERP, read the post/page and do something. If your writing isn’t helping your target customer and enticing them to take action, it’s time to bring in an expert who can help you make it happen.
Kelvin: I don’t think people who are tasked with content marketing should worry about the latest Google update, Google are trying to reward good content, they might not always do the best job, but for most content marketers understanding the latest tweak won’t help them do their job better. Understanding their community better will.
Ann S: In essence, Hummingbird, both the algorithm and infrastructure update aiming at better understanding a natural language, isn’t changing anything. If you were optimising for search engines only in the past, you had been living under the rock for too long. Content marketers have known this for ages: For content to fly, you need to write for people (natural language) while making the page easy to access and understand for search engines (with basic SEO like load time, crawlable URLs, title tags, etc). I am not sure what Hummingbird may be changing in that commonsense approach!
Barry: I’ll be honest and say that a lot of the information about Hummingbird that’s out there is misguided and often plain wrong. It is probably too soon to tell exactly where Hummingbird will take the industry in general, and what impact it will have on content marketing specifically. In the end Google will always want to rank websites that it feels deserve to be at the top, so if you focus on becoming that essential and authoritative voice in your market, your rankings will take care of themselves.
Lyndon: It will cause digital agencies to add to their “About us” pages, that they are Hummingbird compliant. Without actually making any changes. Although the Hummingbird algorithm change is massive, it seems to be having less of an effect than both Penguin or Panda. At least from what I see, I think it is a continuation of change, rather than a big jump. But again, those who don’t change will die. Eventually. One big thing that has gone mostly unnoticed is that more websites are planning for the long term and developing a more thoughtful strategy than hopping from one technique to another.
Joe: The same as every Google update…quality, credible and consistent content wins. Every time. I recommend to stop worrying about all the small things and just deliver amazingly helpful content to your customers.
I think that’s a good way to end if you ask me.
What do you think? Has this got you inspired to find out more tips? If so check out over 220 tips on Content Marketing in 2014 from our most recent Content Marketing #Koozchat. If you’d like to share your thoughts on Content Marketing in 2014, I’d love to hear them, whether you agree or disagree with what the experts have said, leave a comment below.