Content Creation

8 Content Trends for 2021

Freya Kuka
March 9, 2021

We all love content marketing. We know it wins us leads, generates awareness, brings in traffic, and drives sales.

But the marketing landscape shifted dramatically in 2020, fueled by the global impact of coronavirus. The pandemic forced content marketers to update their targeting and messaging, adjust their editorial calendars, and alter their promotion strategies, among many other changes.

content marketing changes B2B organizations made in reponse to the pandemic

(Image Source)

Coronavirus is a graphic illustration of why it’s so important for us to keep an eye on the latest content marketing trends. If we go on doing the same old thing, paying no attention to the world outside our window, we can’t expect to deliver results.

With that in mind, here are eight key content marketing trends to focus on in 2021.

We deliver long-term ROI.

Not fake marketing jargon or typical agency BS.

Trend 1: Webinars to become more timely & Niche

Webinars aren’t a new content trend in themselves – the first ever webinar service was launched way back in 1999 – but they’ve become a far more important part of the marketing mix throughout the pandemic.

How much more important? Well, ON24 saw a 167% increase in webinars run on its platform in the year to April 2020. In a world where in-person get-togethers have become much more difficult (or even impossible), webinars have helped to bridge the gap.

What’s more, they deliver real results. On average, 2-5% of webinar attendees will go on to buy, while 73% of B2B marketers and sales leaders agree they’re effective for lead generation.

So it’s no surprise that 53% of video marketers are planning to incorporate webinars in their 2021 strategies, up 11% on last year.

However, we can’t expect the same tired webinar tactics to keep working forever. Audience behavior has changed, with fewer people prepared to sign up for a webinar well in advance. Indeed, according to ON24, the proportion of attendees registering more than 15 days early plummeted from 28% to 10% between 2019 and 2020, while the number of people registering on the day of the event almost doubled from 10% to 19% over the same period.

percentage of webinar tactics

This speaks to the growing democratization of content. People don’t want to wait for a fortnight to watch your webinar; they’ll search for a solution when they need it, and they expect answers fast.

In a similar vein, the classic webinar format – a 30-minute slide deck presentation, followed by a soft sales pitch and a Q&A session – will change dramatically. Audiences crave interactivity, so expect to see an increase in smaller, more intimate “AMAs”, roundtable discussions, and hands-on explainer sessions.

Trend 2: Podcasts driven by listener experience

Thinking of starting a podcast?

Evidence would suggest it’s a smart decision. Podcasts generate superb engagement, with 80% of people who tune in choosing to listen all the way through, and a further 13% listening to most of it.

percentage of podcast listener experience

There’s also a huge appetite for variety in content, with the average listener having checked out six episodes from four different series in the last week.

Part of what makes podcasts so appealing is their intimacy: it can often feel like we’re overhearing a conversation and learning secrets about the big names we’re listening to. They seem more authentic and less polished than a typical interview.

However, you shouldn’t mistake that lack of sheen for amateurishness. Many of the most popular podcasts are highly informed by data – the creators know what content their users love, and how that content should be presented.

Just as user experience has changed web design from just “creating attractive landing pages” to “giving website visitors the most enjoyable, friction-free path to conversion”, in 2021 podcasts will be increasingly informed by listener experience.

Delivering a superb listener experience means:

  • Understanding your audience by creating detailed personas that take into account their browsing and buying habits
  • Creating engaging, interesting content, free of filler – no more pauses while the host Googles a key fact or anecdote they’ve forgotten!
  • Discussing a single topic per episode, and including a single, clear call to action
  • Being concise, and taking the time to sum up key takeaways at the end

Trend 3: Automation to improve content personalization

If you’re not already using marketing automation software as part of your content creation and amplification strategy, 2021 is definitely the year you should start.

Why?

Because it holds the key to effective personalization, and your audience wants personalized content more than ever. Indeed, up to 36% of shoppers – increasing to 43% among households earning more than $100,000 a year – believe retailers should do more to provide personalized experiences. Two in five retailers accept that improving the customer experience requires immediate action, yet only one in eight believe they are delivering personalization effectively.

Once again, personalization isn’t a new content marketing trend. Brands have been sending “Hi, {name}” emails for years.

However, this sort of skin-deep personalization just won’t cut it in 2021. Increasingly, marketers will need to lean on technology – from automation to machine learning – to better understand user behavior and connect audiences with the content they find most valuable at any given moment.

Part of this will involve so-called hyper-personalization. Leveraging real-time data and AI, it presents individual users with a version of your website that’s tailored to their previous activity and browsing experience.

If they’ve engaged with a certain type of blog content or browsed a certain product category, they’ll see more of it.

Or if they’ve read a bunch of case studies, they’ll be offered a product demo.

This sort of tailored approach is all about delivering more engaging experiences that streamline the path to conversion.

You can even use chatbots to better your customer approach. The data you collect from potential customers’ conversations with your chatbot can be priceless in the long-run. For example, Allen Law Firm, uses a chatbot to let potential customers ask questions and better understand their service.

This can also help the firm gather data that they can use to better their service.

Allen Law Firm homepage

Trend 4: Stick to the concept of EAT

Every SEO expert knows that Google has been shouting about content quality for years. However, throughout those years, the search giant has offered a few different definitions of “quality”.

So what makes for high-quality content in 2021? Your best bet is to stick to the principle of EAT:

  • Expertise
  • Authoritativeness
  • Trustworthiness

These are the factors Google says it uses to determine whether a given webpage contains information of a sufficiently high quality to perform well in its search listings. EAT is an important principle across all industries, but particularly so for businesses categorized under the label of YMYL (your money, your life), such as those in the finance and healthcare niches.

To ensure every piece of content you create fits in with Google’s quality guidelines, make sure you do the following:

Step 1: Create buyer personas

You can’t hope to create effective, high-quality content if you don’t understand who your audience is, what their pain points are, and what they want to read, watch, or listen to.

As a starting point for your persona research, check out the Audience tab in Google Analytics to learn about user affinity and the markets in which they work, and use Facebook Audience Insights to better understand their interests and the other brands they engage with.

Google analytics of persona research

Step 2: Conduct search intent research

Carrying out search intent research will help you get a better grasp on the type of information searchers are looking for.

This is important, because it’s no longer sufficient to just write a blog post and repeat a keyword a bunch of times. To generate organic traffic, you need to know – and explain – the topic area inside and out. 

That means using a tool like Ubersuggest to discover similar search terms to your subject matter, and analyzing the search engine result page to discover related questions.

using Ubersuggest to discover similar terms

Step 3: Choose the right content format

Your research should tell you what sort of content works best for your audience. If not, make a reasoned guess. To give an extremely basic example, younger audiences love video, but it tends to be less effective among older demographics.

Step 4: Demonstrate authority

Remember the “A” in EAT. Authoritativeness is important to Google, so don’t make wild, unsubstantiated claims. Support your opinions with facts from credible sources and link to credible sites, particularly those with “.edu” and “.gov” URLs.

Trend 5: Want backlinks? Do original research

Backlinks have been one of the most important ranking factors for a long time now.

But winning high-quality backlinks is hard, and it’s getting harder. Anything to do with paying for links has been effectively outlawed by Google, which makes it very difficult to do link-building at scale.

It’s clear from the data that marketers struggle to generate links. Analyzing a sample of 750,000 blog posts, former BuzzSumo director Steve Rayson discovered more than half had acquired zero external links.

All that content, sat there without a single link!

So what does it take to consistently acquire high-quality backlinks in 2021?

Well, according to Rayson, there are specific content types that tend to overperform from both a link-building and social sharing perspective. Chief among these is original research – in other words, acquiring and analyzing unique data, like the results of a survey, then using your findings to create content.

Despite this, just 48% of B2B brands and only 35% of B2Cs are creating and publishing original research.

percentage of B2Bs and B2Cs creating and publishing original research

If you haven’t been conducting original research yet, make sure 2021 is the year you start.

Trend 6: Influencer marketing to prioritize community

There’s been a lot of negative press around influencers throughout the pandemic. 

But that doesn’t mean you should cancel your influencer search just yet, because done well, it can still achieve fantastic results. In fact, nine in ten marketers say influencer marketing is highly effective, while 42% think it delivers the best return on investment (compared to paid media, SEO, and email marketing).

However, what makes for effective influencer marketing has changed dramatically. 

In 2021, community will be key to successful influencer campaigns. That means brands should stop focusing on the size of an influencer’s following, and pay much more attention to the engagement they generate from that following. Not just the volume of comments or shares they receive, but the quality of those engagements.

As social media strategist and content creator Christina Galbato puts it: “Quality engagement and tight-knit communities matter more when predicting ROI than high follower counts any day.”

Trend 7: Focus on bottom-of-the-funnel content

Content marketing has traditionally revolved around generating awareness – in other words, bringing in audiences at the top of the marketing funnel.

But with budgets constrained by the pandemic and short-term goals becoming more revenue-focused, there will be increased pressure on marketers to contribute directly to their business’s bottom line.

That means concentrating on content at the bottom of the funnel that closely relates to a brand’s core product or service. Content like:

This shift in focus will make it easier to demonstrate the impact of content marketing on revenue generation, while directly supporting the efforts of sales and customer satisfaction teams.

Trend 8: Drive content ROI through remarketing

When you think of remarketing, you generally think about products and services.

For instance: you click an ad for a great pair of shoes. Next thing you know, you’re added to a remarketing list, and that same pair of shoes follows you around the internet!

However, it’s going to play an increased role in content marketing in 2021. As buyer journeys become ever more complex, we’ve all had to get used to visitors coming to our site, finding the answer to their question, then bouncing back off – in many cases, never to return.

To maximize your content marketing ROI, it’ll be crucial to start remarketing to those people. Has a user clicked an ad taking them to your latest article on cold calling? Remarket them with a product demo for your CRM software.

All the big ad platforms offer some form of remarketing, which means it can be an effective tactic across both B2B and B2C. Here’s how it looks setting up a new remarketing audience on LinkedIn:

how it looks setting up a new remarketing audience on LinkedIn

Wrapping it up

Chances are, not all these content marketing trends will be 100% relevant to your business.

Maybe you’re a B2C brand that just doesn’t have the right audience for webinars. Or perhaps you think your market is simply too niche to justify starting your own podcast.

That’s fine; this isn’t meant to be a checklist to inform your content marketing activity. Take the trends that are most directly applicable to your brand, test them out to see what works, and when you land on a winning strategy, do more of it!