I saw it coming. It was inevitable. The gurus and pundits of content marketing always knew that this bubble will burst sooner or later and that it’s only a matter of time. And, 2017 it was! The year that saw a decline in social referral traffic for the first time in the history of mankind. What? It’s not a hype, it’s the truth! Guess who overtook again? Traffic from Google sites. No surprises.
In August 2018, content social sharing is down to 50% as compared to 2015. Which means your 2015 content approach is 50% less effective now! BuzzSumo analyzed 100 million posts published in 2017. Discovery? It has found that 50% of all content got 4 or fewer shares across all popular social media platforms, which is half of what it was in 2015! Another important finding is the "winner takes all" trend. Social shares are not evenly distributed. Top-quality content from a small minority of sites consistently gains most of the engagement.
On January 11, 2018, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would be updating its news feed algorithm to prioritize content from "friends, family, and groups." This further reduces Facebook engagement for brands and publishers.
Clickbait content is also down. Facebook algorithm changes have a vital role in this. The same is true for worthless listicles. These algorithm changes have affected the type of content that gets shared more and the level of engagement.
Content publication, as you might have guessed, is on the rise. No surprises here as well. What does this mean? Greater competition for engagement, moving forward. It’s becoming even more difficult to stand out because of content saturation.
AI and AR/VR
A CB Insights study shows that popular media companies have made huge investments in AR/VR post-mid-2015. Leading brands have already started using artificial intelligence (or AI) for a more tailored, predictive, and fruitful content production and curation.
Content discovery is changing.
An interesting development, BuzzSumo has found, is that people are finding content through Slack channels and mobile notifications. There is a pressing need to closely monitor where engagement is actually happening. Speaking of that, there is also a market gap for building effective tools for gauging this!
SEO still matters. In fact, a little more.
Considering the 2018 Facebook algorithm changes, SEO has become a little more important than it was in 2017. What we’ll have to keep an eye on in the future is how audio search affects the search landscape, and what it means for content marketing.
Thumbs up for zero+ backlinks!
As far as backlinks are concerned, if you’re getting anything above zero in the current plunging social sharing spell, you’re not doing bad! More than 70% of all content published doesn’t get any backlinks from other sites, BuzzSumo study suggests. Authoritative research and reference content are still gaining more backlinks. Here’s to quality! Moving on from click-baits and pointless listicles, a good direction, we are going in. A market adjustment, perhaps! Your thoughts on this?
LinkedIn sharing is on the rise.
If you recall the definition of content marketing (“…does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.” – Google Dictionary), it seems LinkedIn and content marketing have a deep, natural connection! So, this was on the cards and had to happen.
LinkedIn is the professional networking platform of choice for virtually everyone. People turn on their "work mode" when they are hanging out on LinkedIn. Even with a comparatively modest following, you can expect a more meaningful engagement, which means better conversion rates.
What to do in these changing times? Stick to the basics.
Consistently produce premium quality, original content. Build an audience for your content. This year's Facebook algorithm changes were a wakeup call for content marketers who rely heavily on social channels to engage with their target audience. The organic reach is out of your control, and you’re always vulnerable to policy changes by these networks.
Focus more on direct distribution models.
Emails, messenger groups, etc. You must have read about the $44 ROI for every dollar spent. I’ll not go into the details here. Just remember that focusing more on direct distribution models has compound benefits! So, optimize for people first.
Differentiate between your social media following and your potential customers. With decreasing social share trends for many popular and reputable brands, the importance of producing authoritative content that gets lots of backlinks has further increased.
Encourage and reward user-generated content.
In a Mavrck study, engagement from user-generated content featuring a brand was found to be almost 7X more than brand-generated Facebook posts. So, if you haven't considered surveys, feedback, polls, quizzes, and competitions seriously yet, now is the time to make space for them in your content marketing strategy. Interactive content marketing is the future. If you haven’t already, explore some great tools that integrate well with your CMS.
The future is in quality and value… with new definitions of both.
The flight to quality is a chance for content marketers to raise their standards. A grammatically-correct, plagiarism-free, well-written 500-word post encouraging the use of specific keywords in your content for SEO, for example, was a high-quality, high-value piece at the turn of this century. In 2018, it's one of the hundreds of nice articles on the web providing little to no value to an average internet user in your target audience.
Jay Baer’s advice that you should only publish when you have something worthwhile to say is worth considering. There is a case for creating less, top-quality content, data suggests. The "less is more" content strategy is successfully executed by Brian Dean of Backlinko. Brian Dean has published less than a post per month for the past five years and has driven 4M visitors, averaging 275 backlinks per post.
The future is in adaption. Agility is the key to success.
Going where people are going is extremely important in content marketing. If people are using Slack channels, as data suggests, it’s a no-brainer that you must use Slack channels to reach them, or you’ll stay behind in the competition.
If AI is giving better results and is proving to be effective, you don’t want to lose the competitive edge. And if you’re uncomfortable with change, here’s a reminder: you’ve got competition! If they, even uncomfortably, adapt to change faster than you do, chances are you’ll stay behind. So, be agile. Be adaptive.
We all know that if we take antibiotics continually for an extended period, our body becomes immune to it, and they don't deliver the same results anymore. Same is the case with digital marketing. When every content marketer out there is using the same "Skyscraper Technique" to generate content, and your prospects are seeing the exact same thing over and over again – from you and other content marketers – don’t you think they will become immune to it? Identical email marketing templates, landing page templates, sales funnel, and what not? They say to themselves, “I’ve seen this before.” And, before you know it, they end up shutting off to all of it!
What’s the solution? Zig where others zag!
The platforms have changed, but the basics of marketing and sales have not changed for hundreds of years. Standing out is the key! Show some courage. Be unique! Differentiate yourself from the masses. Learn the essentials from your competitors, but don't copy them. It's essential to zig where others zag… So, you can later brag! 😉
I’d like to know how many of you see the evolution of content marketing the same way as I do. And, in a world where social shares are down, click-baits are down, listicles are down, what content marketing strategies are you testing and would recommend others?
Author: Mr. Awesome – an engineer who loves content marketing and anonymity. In his leisure time, he helps billion-dollar companies become more awesome. Stay tuned for a crispy post every now and then!