10 Biggest Content Marketing Trends that Will Dominate 2021

Content marketing in 2020 was characterized by swift changes in strategy and how quickly brands could adapt. In 2021, that adaptability could prove to be just as relevant.

Content drives brand awareness, demand and revenue when it’s done right. So how can you do content right? Take note of these trends which will shift the way businesses tackle content marketing in 2021.

Here are the top 10 content marketing trends you need to look out for in 2021:

  1. Topical authority will replace keyword research
  2. Value-driven content will rise to the top
  3. Original research will be popular
  4. Content will become more interactive, engaging, and (hopefully) fun
  5. Increased adoption of AI
  6. The user experience will be the differentiator
  7. Content templates will thrive
  8. Machine-generated content will be a thing
  9. The advent of content atomization
  10. The arrival of Google’s core web vitals
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1. Topical authority will replace keyword research

How well do you know the subjects you speak about on your website?

Google will be placing more emphasis on depth of expertise compared to other factors such as link building. Backlinking was once the primary factor when it came to building authority in the SEO landscape but now expertise is growing even more in importance.

As Eduard Klein explains:

“When marketers talk about authority, they talk about building backlinks. This is still the case, but as google gets smarter about semantics, link relevancy will likely decrease over time. Organisations that cover a topic with the most depth will own the future traffic flow for related queries.”

Content marketing trends 2021: Eduard Klein on topical authority

Google doesn’t reward your ability to just create content for one keyword, but instead focuses on how well that content fits into the context of your site.

The reason why Google is expected to reward depth of expertise has to with emphasis on the E-A-T and YMYL guidelines. Josh Brown of Helpjuice provides some more details:

“You can see Google is trying to go in this direction with E-A-T (Expertise-Authoritativeness-Trustworthiness) for websites that fall into verticals that cover topics within Your-Money-Your-Life (YMYL - health, finances, state of mind). Even though it's not a direct ranking factor, there are secondary signals that Google's algorithm is able to qualify to help with determining how information aligns with E-A-T.”

Content marketing trends 2021: Josh Brown on E-A-T

What to do

Showcase how well you know a topic by publishing long-form content on your website. Instead of publishing content on a whim, instead build your content around pillar pages.

These pillar pages can offer the foundation for expertise on a specific topic and then you can augment these posts with other content pieces that build from that.

Also collaborate with subject matter experts (SMEs) when producing content to have them weigh in on things. The value of a SME extends beyond the content they can help you create but also enables you to repurpose content into other formats and eventually build a community.

Moz’s long-long-form blog post on the machine learning revolution is a great example of extra-long content that doesn’t bore the reader. They conveyed their expertise not only through words but through well-presented research and illustrations that help readers understand the limitations of machine learning algorithms at the time of writing.

Content marketing trends 2021: Moz' long-form blog post

 

2. Value-driven content will rise to the top

Customers are bombarded with different types of content every day, meaning that they will become more picky when choosing where their attention goes.

Josh Spiker of Growth Content believes this can have an impact on how brands distribute content

“Hopefully we'll see the end of gated content for everything but the best and most original research. The cycle of giving away emails for bad ebooks and guides over.”

Content marketing trends 2021: Value driven content

People will be unwilling to share their information in exchange for mediocre content so brands need to showcase their value immediately.

Kevin Jiang of Nonda.us explains what value-driven content marketing can do.

“Brands should think about new ways of bringing value to their consumers apart from the product itself, and content marketing serves the purpose perfectly. If you can change the underlying perception of a potential user towards your brand to a more value-driven, preferably in a monetary term, you'd have a better chance converting them down the road.”

Content marketing trends 2021: Value-driven content

What to do

Creating valuable content requires you to understand the needs of the customer and why they might want to interact with your brand in the first place.

Offer practical suggestions in your content instead of simply showcasing what your product can do, showcase how it can help to solve their problems.

If you’re a D2C brand that sells fitness gear, you can produce content that highlights not only how using your product can help achieve more success in the gym, but also how exercise can produce benefits such as stress reduction.

Content marketing trends 2021: Fitbit

Spiker also offers another way for brands with a SaaS-style product:

“Offer a more useful tool like a Chrome extension or a freemium version of the product if your goal is sign-ups. Otherwise, lean heavily into education and brand awareness content.”

Always think of the end-consumer when producing content and how the content will benefit them in the long run, not just grow the reputation of your brand or help you meet specific quotas.

 

3. Original research and studies will be popular

With the internet being a sea of content currently, it can be difficult for brands to stand out by producing content on their own. Jeremy Moser of uSERP explains the challenges which thought leadership has created and how original research can help.

“Original research/studies (much like this!). Content marketing is incredibly saturated with "thought leaders" and "influencers" however, they aren't exactly helpful in determining what works and what doesn't in an ever-evolving digital landscape. On the contrary, original research gives you deep insights into what industry professionals and startups alike are doing; good or bad.”

Content marketing trends 2021: Original research

As companies seek out ways to help their customers, they can reach out to them as well as established leaders in their industry to help create content.

What to do

The goal of any research study is to discover more about a problem and crowdfund answers to either understand it better or come up with a solution.

Research starts by having some curiosity, either to confirm or deny your suspicions about a certain hypothesis or to uncover what the market thinks about a specific issue.

Start by issuing surveys and studies to your audience or experts to gain their insights into a problem.

Content marketing trends 2021: Survey

Next, publish that research and share it with your audience or community. The great thing about research as Moser points out is that it can be repurposed in a number of ways. Graphs, charts and quotes can become social posts, summaries can be put into video format and more.

 

4. Content will become more interactive, engaging, and (hopefully) fun

Content needs to catch the user’s attention, otherwise they won’t consume it, and it won’t be beneficial for anyone. Interactive content does that quite well.

Don’t believe me? Well, 96% of consumers who start BuzzFeed contests actually finish them.

How’s that for engaging?

We want to smile, laugh and relish in aha moments when we’ve suddenly found the answer to a problem we’ve been having. In 2021, this will be even more critical, especially as B2B brands continue to adopt marketing practices typically reserved for the B2C space.

The Hustle, a vastly popular business trends email newsletter, is another example of fun and engaging content. The tone of their business-related content is already jovial, but throw in some GIFs and memes here and there, and you’ve got yourself a Hustle-level engaged audience.

Content marketing trends 2021: Fun content by The Hustle

What to do

One way of making content more interactive is by using different formats. Things like quizzes, short-form videos and infographics are great ways to get the message across without boring your audience.

Adrien Lemaire of RingCentral also suggests creaking snackable content to cope with the decreasing attention spans people have in the modern, smartphone-driven age.

“The average span time of 8 seconds leaves very little time to catch people's attention. As it is easy to read at a glance, snackable content is a nice way to stand out. You can use multiple formats to attract your audience: short videos, infographics, GIFs, visuals... “

He continues, “B2B can also take inspiration from B2C, where stories and short video clips are skyrocketing in popularity. Of course, there will always be the need for in-depth content in B2B marketing. Snackable content is a nice way to complement long-form content and to make your audience lives' easier!”

Content marketing trends 2021: B2B can follow B2C

You don’t need to turn your entire content strategy upside down to be more interactive. Adding new content types to your strategy is a good starting point.

 

5. Increased adoption of AI

Experts have been saying for quite some time that robots will be doing more human jobs as advancements in technology continue. Massimo Chieruzzi of AdEspresso believes that we’re moving one step closer to that being a reality.

“OpenAI's GPT3 has already proven to be capable of writing decent quality content at scale. While this content is clearly not enough for high-quality blog posts, the lower end of the market and SEO spammers will start adopting it massively for content production increasing the noise in the SERP.”

Content marketing trends 2021: Increased adoption of AI

According to a McKinsey survey, a small group of respondents coming from a variety of industries attribute 20% or more of their organizations’ earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) to AI. That’s a significant indicator about the impact and growth of AI in 2021 and beyond.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning will be altering the game in several industries, simply because computers are changing the way they think as James Chadwick of Pencil explains:

“With classical programming and systems, you input rules and data, and you get answers. With ML you input data and answers, and it learns the rules.”

Content marketing trends 2021: Machine Learning

What to do

Brands are already using AI and ML in content marketing for tasks such as content analysis, optimization and A/B testing.

Creating high-quality in-depth content that establishes your brand at the top of your industry won’t be possible with the current capabilities of things like GT3.

However, several SaaS tools are available that can help you to create better content for your users and many of them use artificial intelligence in some capacity.

SparkToro is a new(ish) tool by Rand Fishkin (Ex Moz) that helps you find any audience's sources of influence: who+what they follow, visit, read, watch, & listen-to.

Content marketing trends 2021: SparkToro

Clearscope is an AI-powered keyword research and content optimization tool that helps you create the best and the most comprehensive content.

Content marketing trends 2021: Clearscope

 

Growth marketing playbook

Bonus guide: The ultimate growth marketing playbook

The exact 41 strategies we used to grow from 4-figure to 6-figure traffic in one year.

 

6. User experience will be the differentiator

When creating content, especially SEO content, many marketers have been known to focus on catering to Google. But Google will be catering much more to its users.

Rather than just optimizing for keywords, Google will focus on the overall user experience with the goal of creating a more delightful web. While this will include things such as the UX design, site load time and more, how content gets delivered to users will also be critical.

The best information will still be given priority but if that information is just as in-depth and presented better somewhere else, except that somewhere else to be higher in the rankings.

What to do

While focusing on creating high-quality content should be a priority, don’t neglect things such as how fast your page loads, the positioning of images and the mobile responsiveness of your pages.

Another thing to consider is making your content as personalized as possible. Personalization has been shown to have a positive impact on UX.

One way of taking personalization beyond the design stage is through conversational marketing. Adriana Stein of IDI says

“People want to feel heard and appreciated as an individual and they have the power to ask for that, because there is so much market saturation. Mass media marketing is dead. People want communication at a 1 to 1 level in a manner that's relevant for them. Especially due to COVID-19, empathy plays a strong role in making sure that customers are satisfied with your marketing and communication strategy.”

Content marketing trends 2021: User experience

Cater to your users instead of just catering to algorithms and you’re likely to see improved benefits.

 

7. Content templates will thrive

Before doing anything, we humans like to take a look at how others have done it before us.

D2C brands focus on using explainer videos and how-to-guides for their products. B2B companies use demo showcases. Another way is to use template libraries.

Hiba Amin of Soapbox explains the value of a template library.

“For businesses that are able to create product-related templates, this is a no-brainer. That's because search intent tends to be stronger, which will ultimately drive more relevant traffic to your website and increase your overall conversion and acquisition rates.”

Content marketing trends 2021: Content templates

What to do

Create examples of how to use your product in certain scenarios and then share them with your audience. Once you have enough examples then you can build a library.

For example, Soapbox has created template libraries for goal setting and meeting agendas.

Content marketing trends 2021: Templated content

Meanwhile, Trello has created Trello board templates for business users and tech teams, including this one for a company overview.

Content marketing trends 2021: Trello's templated content

8. Machine-generated content will be a thing

Another facet of AI is what is known as machine-generated content and it’s pretty self-explanatory. Content that has been created by a machine.

We’ve briefly mentioned that using this content for writing high-quality blog posts is still somewhat far off but there are other uses as James Chadwick explains:

“MGC (Machine Generated Content) will start to be industrialized, starting on Facebook and Instagram. MGC will impact all creative fields, but it will be sharpened first on Facebook and Instagram. The ad auction is nearing a $100 Billion marketplace, powered by testing tools and fast, granular signal. By incorporating most of the data/ML into its own native tools, creative is now one of the few levers Facebook still wants businesses to pull.”

 

What to do

Invest in tools that can help you pick up the slack in areas where your team may not be as versed in creating content.

  • Pencil can help you to create ads using AI. Simply provide raw materials you have to work with such as your brand guidelines, images, video and let Pencil do the work generating an ad.
  • Rasa simplifies the newsletter creation process by pulling content from your blog and other designated sources. The AI also personalizes each newsletter based on the content your readers previously consumed.

AI provides an excellent way for content creators to keep producing large amounts of content by helping them save time and resources.

 

9. The advent of content atomization

Getting content out there will be a bit different in 2021 as social distancing will become the “new normal” and businesses still getting used to the post-COVID content creation process.

The solution?

Content atomization.

According to Contensify’s Vanhishikha Bhargava, content atomization means that you “take one piece of content, preferably a huge, in-depth piece on a topic and break it down into eight or more smaller pieces of content.”

Content marketing trends 2021: Content atomization

Or in the words of Ivan Gomez of Department of The Future,

“Reimagining and repurposing as a primary form of content creation.”

There’s really nothing new under the sun, so your job is to repurpose something old, reimagine something that’s already familiar and present it in a new way, new angle or new place.

So, if you've created an eBook or a white paper, you can turn each lesson into a separate blog post, then you can turn the whole content piece into an email course.

Content production will be a key focus for businesses as we go forward. As businesses search for ways to make sure that their content is valuable, fun and engaging for their audience, focusing on one piece of content and then breaking it down into smaller pieces will allow them to extract more out of it.

What to do

A prime example of content atomization is what Gary Vaynerchuck did with his DailyVee series on YouTube.

Constantly filming his day-to-day activities provided not only a key source of content that helped to grow his brand exponentially through a YouTube video series, but it was also broken down into blog posts, social media captions and podcast clips.

Content marketing trends 2021: Content repurposing

Repurpose your larger content pieces into smaller parts and different formats. As Vanhishikha suggested, ebooks can be broken down into blog posts. Also, snippets can be extracted for social media and you can dive deeper into one of the topics mentioned through video.

 

10. The arrival of Google’s Core Web Vitals

Google’s focus on user experience will extend to more than just making changes to their algorithm and hoping you will adapt. Now, Core Web Vitals will have a greater impact on search results. As Jakub Rudnik of Shortlister predicts:

“Google is constantly refining its algorithm and ranking criteria, and it has already announced that these are coming, likely in 2021. Overall, Google wants pages to load, become interactive, and stabilize quickly. A user from anywhere, on any device, should get a quick, crisp loading experience with your page. If not, your organic rankings will quickly take a hit.”

Content marketing trends 2021: Core web vitals

What to do

Core Web Vitals reports are available in Google Search Console and per Google, “it shows how your pages perform based on real-world usage data (sometimes called field data).”

Use these reports to direct your team on the areas of your website which need to be fixed so that you’re adequately prepared once the changes are rolled out.

Google constantly makes updates to its algorithm but with these reports, companies have a way of continually monitoring what’s happening instead of just relying on traffic reports, or waiting until traffic has taken a huge dip.

 

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Wrapping up

So there you have it. What other content marketing trends do you think we’ll see in 2021? Tweet your insights at us.

Content marketing trends 2021

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Dennis
Dennis

Dennis, whose legal name happens to be just Dennis (it's quite common from where he came from), is a content and digital marketing addict.

When he's not too busy coming up with content ideas and promoting content, you can find him at 5.30am at the gym. Yeap, he's that guy.

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