Content marketing in 2015 – What’s new and what’s overdue?

20152015 is on the horizon and it’s my turn to join the bandwagon, thinking about what content marketing in particular and digital marketing as a whole might mean in 2015. Here goes. 

2014 retrospective – Content marketing grows up

If you hadn’t heard of content marketing by the beginning of 2014, you’ll know about it now. This year has seen a massive increase in the amount of brilliant content being uploaded to the web, driven by Google’s algorithmic insistence on a top notch user experience.
While the quality side of things is great for users, the quantity element means there’s more media noise out there than ever, and it’s increasingly difficult to get heard. If you haven’t joined the content marketing revolution yet, it’s time to up your game. If you’ve already upped your game what can you do? More of the same? It’s a tricky one.

Marketing integration – Joining the dots for 2015

Unless you integrate your efforts intelligently it’s less likely than ever that your marketing efforts will bear the required fruit. What does integration mean? It’s about achieving more than the sum of the parts.
If you use the same creative treatment for your email campaigns, off the page ads, postcard direct mail campaign, landing page and so on, the combined impact delivers a better response than if you created a different treatment for each. If you drive the same special offer through multiple media, you’ve also integrated things. Big brands do it all the time. If you’ve ever seen a TV ad, noticed a similar radio advert and spotted posters and POS materials promoting the same special offer, that’s what they’re doing.
Get it right and integrated work costs less, takes less time to develop, drives better results and pleases your audience more. All of which is great news for your bottom line.

Figuring out search intent… and fulfilling it

You could guess. Plenty of people do. But in 2015 it’ll benefit you to answer the questions people are most likely to ask about products and services like yours. And knowing the buyer intent hidden behind the search query, whether it’s an old-style keyword-driven search or a new-style semantic search, will help you decide how to prioritise new content which really does fulfil people’s needs.

Knowing the truth – Studying your results

Have you been marketing in a vacuum? If so, it’s time to do things the grown up way and attempt to attribute ROI directly to individual marketing activities. Otherwise, how will you know what works best and what to drop? The same goes for targeting, segmenting and AB testing, things direct marketers have been doing since the 1950s. It’s high time they went mainstream in digital marketing. Enough of the fluffy, airy-fairy stuff, already. In 2015 you’ll need to know the truth, even if it hurts.

Does great content always attract backlinks?

The theory goes like this: you write amazing, irresistible content. You promote it through social media. People read it, love it, share it and link back to it. It seems simple enough and it is… in principle. But in real life you have to do something genuinely exceptional to attract backlinks.
Getting people to engage at all is difficult enough – as you’ll know if you’ve been blogging for years without winning so much as a single blog comment. It isn’t unusual. So don’t be disappointed when your brilliance doesn’t bear fruit. The message for 2015 is to keep up the good work, persist, learn from your failures and harness any content marketing successes to deliver more of the same.

Will the ‘next big thing’ be semantic search?

The internet changes all the time. It’s an incredibly fluid landscape and the way we market our wares within it changes just as often, just as quickly and profoundly. While nobody knows what the next big thing will be, one thing is certain: there will be a next big thing!
What new doors will content marketing open in 2015? The semantic search door has already been busted wide open and Google is about to walk through it. Will next year be the year semantic search – the holy grail of the search experience – changes content marketing forever? If so it’ll open up a whole new world of contextual natural language queries, making understanding the intent behind people’s searches and answering them more important than ever.

What about the role of keywords in SEO?

I keep hearing people say there’s no need for keyword research any more. Really?! Search engines are using keywords in increasingly sophisticated ways to deliver search results perfection. Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update, which improved natural language search, has kept words in general and keywords in particular firmly on the menu. They’re not going away any time soon.

Will more of us pay to advertise online?

Some digital marketing experts feel that distributing content better – ie. in a better-targeted way – will be big in 2015, providing new routes through which to compete for people’s attention. If the pundits are right, distributing content via paid social media might be de rigeur by this time next year, putting brands with deeper pockets at a distinct marketing advantage.
By all accounts paid search is big on the agenda for next year, too. Which means bidding for popular keywords will probably go sky high. Subtlety will become a vital attribute via which you can still make pay-per-click work. If your main keywords are too expensive to bid on, you’ll need to think outside the box and ferret out some cheaper, longer tail terms – which display clearer buyer intent – to bid on instead.

Will content budgets increase?

The more competitive the arena, the better you have to perform to make an impact. As a rule better quality content costs more than sub-standard stuff, simply because it takes longer to generate. With a bit of luck I’ll see a slew of new clients whose amateur copywriting skills are no longer good enough to out-compete others in their sector.

Dumping SEO for upstream direct response advertising

Some mainstream digital marketing agencies are giving up on SEO and natural search more or less altogether, using things like tightly targeted upstream ‘off the page’ digital direct response advertising to drive visitors to their websites instead. Is SEO dead? Of course not, although it’s certainly becoming more difficult to win top search results positions via optimisation alone.

Will backlinks still have SEO value?

Backlinks are just as easy to manipulate as keywords once were. But search engines are – rightfully – reluctant to stop using them as indicators of a website’s popularity. When they’re honestly given for a job beautifully done, they work a treat. But you can still buy thousands of crummy, low value backlinks for next to nothing. And you can easily buy good quality links if you pay a bit more money. As long as you stay under the Google radar, it’s still perfectly possible to win great search positions through paid links.
Whatever happens in 2015 it’ll be interesting to see how the Big G’s algorithm copes with continuing backlink piss-takes.

Going old school to catch up with offline marketers

Digital marketing still hasn’t caught up with direct marketing. If every digital marketer learned the fine art of DM, the digital marketing world would be a much better place. Come on people. The information and knowledge is out there, yours for the taking, and it’ll change your marketing life for the better. Guaranteed.

What about your own digital marketing predictions?

If you think I’ve missed a trick, leave a comment and let me know…
In the meantime if your company needs professional proofreading support, blogging, a press release or fresh marketing-led content, I’m here.

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