Looking for content marketing trends for 2021? You’ve come to the right place. We’ve analyzed thousands of campaigns to distill what’s working and what’s emerging.

Here are some of the biggest content marketing trends we see taking root in 2021 and growing.

 

Building Content Communities

Building content communities helps create word-of-mouth marketing and encourages people to see your brand as a person instead of a business. It’s paying off for B2B marketers and it’s one of our top B2B marketing trends for 2021.

Here’s why:  A University of Michigan study examined the relationship between online communities and sales. They discovered that customers that participated in a brand’s online community spent at a level 19% higher than other customers.

When you think of communities, your mind may jump right to social media, such as LinkedIn or Facebook. However, the same study that companies building robust content communities on their own sites saw the biggest gains. That’s not to diminish the importance of social media or other audience platforms that can help establish trust and credibility, but building communities within your platform lets you keep control and provides a magnifier effect.

B2B marketers that saw the biggest benefits cite such results as:

  • Development of brand ambassadors
  • Faster and more relevant customer feedback
  • Reduce support costs
  • Increased engagement and social sharing

The most successful built content communities on their site and used social to drive new users.

Pro Tip: Make sure your content communities reflect your brand and its customers. For example, don’t use corporate language in your outreach and then create an edgy and ultra-modern experience in your community. Another content marketing trend that’s still true is that you need alignment between sales, marketing, and content for effective conversions.

Improving Your Content Experience

It’s not just the content itself that needs to be optimized. It’s the content experience as well. This incorporates the way your content is structured and looks visually.

  • Is your content layout appealing?
  • Does it use white space and bullet points effectively?
  • Is it easy to read and navigate?

Looks matter. People make decisions about credibility and trust in micro-seconds – literally. You have 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression.

We see way too many pieces that still look like giant blocks of text that make it difficult to consume and even more difficult to pull out key takeaways. Consider using tl;dl (too long-didn’t read) bullet points for fast consumption or brief summaries of key points.

A quick word about your overall website is important here as well. If you’re not optimized for mobile, have fast loading speeds, and intuitive navigation, your content may never get seen. Not only will users tend to move on quickly, but it will also hurt your SEO and lower your search engine rankings. Internet usage is increasingly becoming mobile. If your site takes more than three seconds to load or doesn’t format properly on a smartphone, it won’t matter how solid your content is.

Pro Tip: Don’t judge your load speeds by your desktop design. The average web page can take up to 87% longer to load on mobile. Check your load speeds for mobile on a mobile device.

Content overload

Managing Google’s Evolving Algorithms

Google is always tweaking its algorithm. Three of its more recent announcements look to have the biggest impact on B2B content marketing.

  • Privacy: Blocking third-party cookies on Chrome – the world’s most popular web browser
  • Ranking Signals: Core Web Vitals to evaluate user experience on pages
  • Search: The rise of search intent

 

Third-Party Cookies

Blocking third-party cookies and cross-site tracking will make it more difficult to target users or retarget them based on visits to multiple sites. Google’s not alone. Safari and Firefox have also announced they’re joining the privacy party. This means your first-party data – from your site – becomes even more valuable.

 

Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals takes us right back to customer experience. It measures load time, interactivity, and stability of content. What’s stability?  Google explains it this way:  “so you don’t accidentally tap that button when it shifts under your finger – how annoying!

Combined with measurement of mobile-friendliness, secure browsing, and intrusive interstitials, the algorithm creates an experience quality score that impacts your rankings.

Google has created three new acronyms that sum up their new search signals:

  • LCP (Largest Contentful Paint)
    LCP measures how well that page looks while it’s loading. The majority of your content should load within 2.5 seconds.
  • FID (First Input Delay)
    FID analyzes the level of responsiveness the first time a user interacts with your page. It should take less than 100 ms.
  • CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift)
    Any content shift should be less than 0.1.

Pro Tip: You can check these core vitals using Google’s Chrome Dev tools or the Chrome Lighthouse SEO tool.

Search Intent

More important than keywords is search intent. How people phrase searches tells you a lot about what they’re really looking for. Creating content that matches intent and using best-practices to incorporate search intent into your SEO strategy will help get you the type of traffic you want. For example, let’s say your content attracts a “buy now” B2B customer. Don’t you want them to go directly to a page where they can buy now?  They’re a different customer than someone in the product research phase.

Typically, there are four core types of search intent. You should develop content that matches search intent in all areas:

  1. Informational
    Searchers are researching as they begin their customer journey
  2. Navigational
    Searchers know what they need but need to find a source
  3. Commercial
    Searchers want specific information about products and services
  4. Transactional
    Searchers are at the bottom of the funnel and are ready to purchase

 

The Secret Ingredient to Master Google Algorithms

Here’s the secret ingredient that transcends Google’s algorithm changes:  high-quality content. Yup. It’s that simple. Google’s job is to serve up the most relevant results to searcher’s queries. Low-quality content won’t survive the test regardless of how much SEO-juice you pour on it. Google, and other search engines, are always looking for the highest-quality content they can find. It keeps users coming back to them again and again. When you create relevant and valuable content, use SEO strategies, and provide a solid user experience, it produces the best results. That’s one content marketing trend that does not appear to be going out of style.

When marketing your content, pay particular attention to context. With cookies and third-party data being phased it, context will be more important than ever. When you can create links to your content from other trusted sources displaying related content, your likelihood of engagement increases significantly. Contextually-relevant content and ads have 2.2X the recall and generate 43% more engagement.

The Secret Ingredient to Master Google Algorithms - Content Marketing

Brand Purpose

B2B marketers must communicate a strong sense of brand purpose. Understand what a company stands for – especially in difficult times – can make a significant difference. Any marketing, however, has to be more than just surface-level. The purpose has to be reflected not just in content marketing but in how companies act and operate.

It takes a holistic approach at all levels of an operation. The ways companies treat their employees, the causes they choose to support (and those they don’t), and the messages they send to their customers all play an impact in how brand purpose is received.

Brand purpose came to the forefront in 2020. 65% of consumers said they are looking for brands that reflect their values. 43% said they’ll switch loyalties if companies don’t align with their beliefs. For B2B marketers, it’s also worth evaluating your business partners. Who you partner with can be seen as a reflection of your values.

Pro Tip: Brand purpose can be a powerful tool, but it can also be polarizing. Pick your causes and purpose carefully and avoid cashing in on the passing moments unless you’re first. “We’re all in this together” was a strong message until everyone jumped on board. Then, it came off as pandering.

Conduct Original Research

There are a lot of people recirculating the same study over and over. When you do original research, it cuts through the clutter. When it’s relevant, it also can attract a fair number of citations – which provide backlinks to your content and help enhance SEO. When you publish original research on your website, it makes your site the primary source.

People value expert opinions. They’re receptive to studies that are well-done – especially if they’re done by trusted or well-known companies. It can be an effective B2B content marketing strategy for thought leadership or lead generation for gated content.

It’s also a way to stand out from your competitors. Less than 20% of companies will invest the time to produce original studies. Yet, original research, stats, infographics, and thought leadership are among the most cited and shared content online.

 

Agility

After what we all went through in 2020, we couldn’t talk about content marketing trends without discussing agility. During the pandemic, marketers learned how to adapt, evolve, and pivot quickly – or they didn’t remain competitive.

94% of B2B marketers said they had to change their content marketing during the pandemic. 80% of those that adopted a more agile content marketing strategy felt it was effective.

While it’s important to do long-term planning and manage content calendars, it has become just as important to react quickly and change to adapt to current conditions. It’s the only way to remain current and avoid missteps that run counter to the way people are thinking and working at the moment. Not only will it be ineffective, but it can appear tone-deaf and damage your brand.

Tech companies have been applying agile strategies for years in product development and marketing. It’s time we all embraced agile marketing as one of the biggest content marketing trends for the future.

 

2021:  A Strategic Approach to Content Marketing

Your content marketing is an integral piece of your inbound marketing strategy. While it’s important to stay on top of emerging content marketing trends, it’s just as important to invest in a strategic approach to building a content strategy that will stand the test of time. This will continue to generate leads and deliver qualified traffic to your business.

We’re Riverbed Marketing, a B2B marketing agency dedicated to measurable results. If you’re looking to grow your business in 2021, we should talk.

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