2020 Content Marketing Trends To Watch

With every new year comes countless suggestions from the experts about where you should spend your marketing budget for the coming year. But which trends should you jump on, and which ones should you skip? As a content marketing agency it’s our literal job to know what’s new and noteworthy when it comes to 2020 content marketing trends.

Before we dive in, it’s worth acknowledging that many of these trends aren’t actually new. Several of them have been gaining momentum over the past few years and will continue to increase in popularity in 2020.

Now, let’s look at our top 2020 content marketing trends.

#1. Long-Form Content

Despite the fact that we live in a fast-paced world where people love soundbites and quick hits of information, there’s a growing appetite for more long-form content.

This type of content is meant to be useful and informative for the reader and is usually published on a blog. We typically define long form as being over 1,000 words, as that’s much longer than the average post of 300 to 500 words. An analysis done by the Hook agency shared that the optimum post length in 2020 is 1760 words

This drive for longer posts is as much about being able to take a deeper look at a specific topic as it is about search engine optimization (SEO). Google tends to reward long-form content in search results as it provides a more complete job of addressing a topic. Plus, with Google’s stated focus on E-A-T (expertise, authority and trustworthiness), the longer the topic, the more likely that is to happen.

Plus, long-form content also provides more opportunity to include backlinks, which also improves your ability to rank for your desired search terms on Google.

#2. Smart SEO

When it comes to getting content to rank on the first page of a Google search, competition is fierce.

Many times when we talk to potential clients, they’re looking for a way to “beat” Google, and that’s simply not possible. Instead the focus should be on creating quality content that addresses the needs of your audience.

With Google Core Updates over the past two years, they’ve made it abundantly clear that the quality of content is paramount when it comes to ranking. Your content needs to answer the questions your audience wants answered.

Consider if they’re looking for general information or more specific how-to instructions. Or if they’d prefer multiple ideas to be shared at once or more in-depth content that focuses on one concept at a time. Once you have an idea of what kind of searches your audience perform, then you can intentionally create content to answer those questions. 

While it’s natural to think you should be focusing on the most popular keywords, many times that’s not the best strategy. The more popular a keyword is, the higher the competition and volume will likely be, making it harder for you to be found in search results.

One way to work around this is by placing more focus on long tail keywords. These are keywords that are three or four-word phrases and are more specific to your product or service. While they tend to get less overall search traffic, they typically perform better due to their specificity.

Identifying the right long tail keyword is all about thinking like your potential customer and what they’d search for. What stage of the buying cycle are they likely in? What questions are they asking? What information do they want to find?

For example, let’s say your software company sells website maintenance services. Instead of using “website maintenance” as your keyword, try using “website maintenance software and services” or “how to do website maintenance” or even “when to do website maintenance”.

If SEO is unfamiliar territory, there are plenty of tools available to help you see which keywords are a good fit for the topic of your content. Taking the time to research keywords before you create content can go a long way to ensuring it ranks on Google. Plus, the more people that find your content, the more website visitors and potential customers. 

#3. Customer-Centric Content

Customer expectations have evolved, and that’s exactly why the most successful marketers will prioritize their audience’s need for information ahead of the company’s desire to sell products and services.

Creating content that’s useful and fills a need is what will help your company get the best ROI on your content marketing, because for it to be effective it needs to be consumed by your target audience.

The focus has shifted to having the needs of the customer dictate the content strategy. A potential buyer may want to know about specifications or features and benefits, but they also want to know how what you’re selling addresses their personal journey or challenges they’re facing.

To be truly customer-centric with your content marketing, create content based on your audience’s feedback. By listening to what your customers are telling you and looking for new ways to incorporate their ideas into your content creation, you’re not only building more loyalty, but you’re providing a brand experience that makes them feel valued. 

#4. Video and Live Streaming Content

There’s no disputing how powerful and influential video can be. While YouTube was the first major platform for video content, other options like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and now, TikTok have followed suit and give consumers even more options for consuming video content.

Before you dismiss video or live streaming as a content marketing option for your company, keep in mind that the way you use video for a B2B company is very different than a consumer brand. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t suitable options!

Here are just a few ideas for B2B marketing:

  • Q&A sessions
  • Interviews with experts
  • Webinars and training sessions
  • Customer testimonials or video case studies 
  • Product demonstrations
  • A behind-the-scenes look at aspects of your company

Video definitely takes more work, but it also offers the flexibility to repurpose that content into other formats. It can be converted to an audio file, transcribed and reworked for a blog post, or edited into smaller snippets to be shared on social media.  A webinar can be turned into a whitepaper. There are so many options, so if you’re doing video, think bout how your content can live on in a different format.

#5. Conversational Marketing

The past decade saw the rise of paid influencer marketing, and as a result, it has begun to create fatigue with consumers who want to connect with actual people, not someone who’s getting paid to sell, sell, sell.

It’s easy for B2B marketers to dismiss influencer marketing as they’re usually not working with someone with a large Instagram following to promote a product. However, influencer marketing has changed how we need to engage with our audience as our potential customers now expect to have meaningful and personalized conversations. 

In crafting your content marketing strategy, the goal should be to spark conversations and humanize your brand. In a world that’s driven by automation and funnels, there’s an opportunity for you to stand out by creating lasting connections with potential customers.

Any platform that allows you to open up a dialogue can be a possibility for fostering a relationship and all of your marketing efforts should be examined with a relationship-first mentality.

Many times the real action with conversational marketing is happening on “dark social” where interactions aren’t public. This means it’s critical not to overlook messaging and other channels. Chat and messaging are as valid as comments and shares when it comes to fostering a connection with your potential customers.

#6. Content Tailored for Voice Search

Did you know it’s estimated that in 2020 roughly 50% of online searches will be done by voice search

Voice search refers to the use of voice commands with a voice assistant, an app or a search engine instead of typing queries in on a device. While the technology has been around for some time, the launch of virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa have brought voice search into the mainstream for consumers.

Creating effective voice search results is about anticipating what questions your audience is most likely to ask and creating content designed to answer those questions.

Google favors the top-ranking results when it comes to voice search, so if you have content that isn’t ranking at all, it’s the ideal time to go back and do a refresh on your existing content to ensure it’s optimized for search. 

Webpages and articles that answer frequently asked questions are excellent for voice search, so this may be a great place to start if you’re looking for opportunities to create content designed for voice search. 

Another opportunity to improve voice search is to make full use of snippets. Featured snippets are the boxes you see in your Google search results, and are designed to provide an immediate answer to a query. Snippets can be a paragraph, list or table, and they appear high up on the search page, which makes them very appealing to marketers looking to have their content rank.

Example of a featured snippet

Doing plenty of keyword research, staying within the ideal word count, using headlines and answering more than one question within your snippet, you greatly increase the odds of it ranking through voice search.

#7. Podcasting is Still on the Rise

It’s estimated that 62 million Americans listen to at least one podcast every week. Podcasts are a powerful marketing tool, so as far as 2020 content marketing trends go, it’s no surprise podcasts make the list. 

Not only can podcasting be used to help build brand authority and recognition, but it’s also an opportunity to warm up prospects and create more leads for your company.

While video has a huge place in the marketing world, not everyone is interested in sitting down to watch a video. However, it’s clear there’s an appetite for listening to podcasts, especially as it’s something that can be done while driving, working, cleaning or even exercising.

With the average length of a podcast episode being just over 41 minutes, podcasting provides you with an audience who’s deeply engaged for an extended period of time. There are very few opportunities to connect with your audience for that long, and that helps build an ongoing relationship.

Plus, with podcasts, listeners are connecting with a real person, not just some nameless brand ambassador. Over time, this helps increase the know, like and trust factor for your company.

If you’re considering podcasting as a way to reach your audience, you’ll need a clear concept for your show that they want to listen to. While there’s definitely room in the market for new shows, there are currently more than 700,000 active podcasts. That means you can’t just throw a show together. You need a compelling value proposition and hook for your show that’ll help you stand out.

Finally, when it comes to podcasting, the quality of your audio is critical. Podcast listeners expect high quality sound so this isn’t the place to skimp on your budget. The good news is you can create high quality audio with a relatively inexpensive setup and quality audio editing and production support.

#8. Visual Storytelling

Ever heard the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words”?

The fact is, the human brain processes images up to 60,000 times faster than words.  And that’s exactly why visual storytelling can be one of the most effective forms of content marketing. Images help people better understand complex concepts. 

While there’s nothing wrong with using stock images, carefully select images that aren’t the same as everyone else in your industry. Aim to cultivate a distinct and consistent look for your brand while telling your story visually.

To enhance your visual storytelling, start by looking at the types of images you’re currently using with blog posts and social media. Something as simple as creating images to use within blog posts to illustrate concepts or statistics can go a long way.

As you become more comfortable with visual storytelling, infographics and slide presentations are an excellent way to share more complex, data driven information with your audience. And of course, fun images like GIFs or memes can also help get your message across. 

#9. Authority Building Content

Being an authority isn’t about being the biggest brand or flashiest marketer, but about instilling confidence in your audience. Your target customers naturally trust people they think are authorities, and that trust can then translate into them choosing to do business with you.

As I touched on earlier, Google’s algorithms are designed to focus on E-A-T, which stands for expertise, authority and trustworthiness: 

  • Expertise means your content shows you to be a knowledgeable source of information on a particular area, and you aren’t sharing misinformation or making unsubstantiated claims. If you have credentials that showcase education and expertise, share them. 
  • Authority is all about Google viewing your content and considering whether it’s relevant to your broader industry. Opinions that aren’t widely shared should be backed up by facts and citations. 
  • Trustworthiness is the broadest of the three components of E-A-T, as it covers everything from ensuring your website is safe and secure to showing readers that you’re exactly who you say you are. Sharing reviews and testimonials, or your company’s backstory on your About page are all ways to demonstrate that your brand is reputable.

Coming up with new and fresh ideas for your content instead of revisiting topics that have been done time and time again is what will attract and retain an audience. By taking a done-to-death topic and putting a new spin on it — like including additional research that changes the context, or reimagining a new way of doing something that’s been commonplace for years — shows people that you’re not only knowledgeable but also innovative. 

#10. Quality Over Quantity

You can publish content every single day on your website or social media, but that doesn’t automatically mean people are reading it. In 2020, the focus needs to be on quality over quantity of content, especially for B2B marketers.

This may be debatable as a trend, but I wanted to include it as the reality is that too many content marketing strategies are based on getting as much ground cover as possible, which is a waste of time and resources. In 2020, most B2B companies will get better results by publishing two quality, longer form posts per month, over eight short posts that only skim the surface. Plus, I see too many companies focused on channels or platforms that aren’t suitable for their audience.

Getting smart and intentional, while prioritizing quality is what drives real ROI from content marketing programs. With the average annual content marketing budget being $185,000 in 2019, and 36% of B2B marketers reporting a 2019 annual content marketing budget of less than $100,000, you simply can’t afford to squander your budget on what’s not working. 

If you aren’t sure how your content is performing, start by looking at your website data. Review your Google Analytics to assess what’s working and what’s not for your content marketing.

Then, look at your social media accounts to see what’s hitting the mark. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube all have reporting features available where you can track growth, engagement, views, and so on. You may easily discover that certain channels aren’t worth continuing with, or that you have an unexpected winner that needs more of your time and attention. 

Creating Your 2020 Content Plan

Now that you know what 2020 content marketing trends to watch out for, now’s the time to update or enhance your current content marketing strategy. There’s no need to try to implement all of these trends now, but pick and choose what’s most relevant to your company and can build on what you’re already doing.

Need help with your content marketing strategy for 2020, or your content production? The Scoop team can help. Click here to learn more about how we can work together.