It’s a brand new year! And with that also comes a whole raft of new content trends for us to get to grips with.
The content trends that worked five years ago might not necessarily work today, and there are always new and innovative trends that brands and marketers employ in their strategies.
Here, we look at four content trends that will dominate 2021, plus a few tips on how you can implement them.
Value-led content will be more important than ever before
The importance of value-driven content is nothing new.
We’ve come a long way from keyword-stuffed articles and hidden text. Great content today is authoritative, well-written, and adds value—in whatever form—to the audience.
But the significance of value-led content has only been intensified in the past few years.
In a world where fake news is rife, exacerbated by Russian trolls interfering in elections and misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, valuable and trustworthy content only becomes ever more important.
While this doesn’t necessarily impact the kind of content your brand is creating, it is indicative of a greater shift to content that is truly, genuinely valuable.
Google’s E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) guidelines are also worth mentioning here. While not a direct ranking factor, Google’s emphasis on E-A-T reiterates what we should be building into our content in order to achieve this high standard of user value.
How can you implement it?
Of course, value is relative—what is important to one person isn’t necessarily important to another. One person’s useful listicle of indoor plant growing hacks is another person’s useless piece of content.
So for brands, this means getting to grips with what really matters to your target audience.
Obviously you already know their pain points—this is what informs how you present your product to your customers in such a way that sells its value and benefits.
But to really deliver genuine value-driven content, you should go beyond that and provide peripheral content that caters to your customers’ interests beyond your product.
Let’s look at HelloFresh as an example.
The recipe delivery brand’s Instagram is replete with tantalising images of the various dishes customers can make at home with HelloFresh’s meal kits, pushing its products to its audience base.
But, as in the example above, the brand also offers delicious recipes that its followers can make at home themselves, without the need to purchase any HelloFresh products.
This targets its audience of foodies and adds relevant, actionable tips they can go away and use. No, this isn’t exactly earth-shattering stuff (although you have to admit that it looks downright mouth-watering), but it’s an example of how content can—and should—add value beyond your product in 2021.
Interactive content will prove even more popular
The “New Normal” of the pandemic gave us a lot of new challenges to contend with, including that of more free time.
With pubs shut, gyms closed, and cinemas silent, we all had to find new ways to keep ourselves entertained.
But there’s only so much sourdough bread you can bake, only so many box sets you can binge, only so many Zoom calls you can endure before you eventually turn back to your phone and the endless stream of content it provides.
But the best content—the content that really captures the reader’s attention—is often interactive.
Interactivity lifts the relationship between content and consumer from passive to active. It encourages reader input, which in turn nurtures a deeper engagement with your content. Rather than simply scanning an article, potentially going in one ear and out the other, interactive content creates an enjoyable, two-way experience for the consumer.
How can you implement it?
For a lesson in interactivity, it’s always worth looking to the bombastic bastion of online entertainment, BuzzFeed.
Its team of writers and content curators are able to determine everything from your ideal partner based on your fast food preferences to whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert according to your makeup choices.
Hyperbole aside, BuzzFeed does reflect the lasting popularity of a simple quiz—its quiz page receives around 178K organic traffic each month. Quizzes are easy to create (there are plenty of free or paid quiz makers available), and are perfect for engaging audiences and adding an educational slant to your content too.
Alternatively, a live Q&A hosted via Instagram or TikTok adds an even deeper level of interactivity too. These kinds of live events are commonplace, particularly in the influencer sphere, and help you nurture a more meaningful connection with your community too.
Content atomisation takes your content further
Content atomisation is essentially taking one big, comprehensive piece of content—blog, video, whitepaper, and so on—and breaking it down into several, more manageable chunks.
The success of this trend lies in that essential principle of good content: accessibility.
Rather than dishing out your content as one, impregnable behemoth, content atomisation separates it into distinct sections—simple, manageable, and easy to understand.
This strategy works particularly well for those brands investing in thought leadership.
You want to communicate value with intelligent, high-level content, but you want your target audience, who might not be used to such delivery, to understand and engage with it.
The benefits of content atomisation are myriad. For starters, stretching your content out gives you more opportunities to rank for key terms. More blogs, for instance, means more space to work in heading keywords, alt-text, and so on.
It can also help you increase conversions by creating different types of content for each stage of the buyer’s journey. Your initial pieces of content could cater to awareness, piquing your prospective customer’s curiosity. Subsequent follow-up content might then build on this, pushing them into consideration and, eventually, their final decision to shop with you.
The diversity of content afforded by atomisation also lets you cater to different types of audience too. Identifying what kinds of content your customer segments prefer can help when atomising your content, letting you create a diverse array of content formats that appeal to each distinct audience, increasing engagement into the bargain.
Beyond this, content atomisation is also great for breathing new life into old content. Finding an old whitepaper or long-form blog, updating it with new information and then re-releasing it as a series of smaller posts on your blog and social.
How can you implement it?
There are lots of ways to atomise your content: videos, mini blogs, social Stories, and so on. While it’s certainly possible to break one piece of content down into a series of the same format, a diverse range of formats work equally well.
For instance, you could begin with a video post, and then opt for a blog post summarising some key points, then include a quiz to test your audience’s knowledge.
Content atomisation has the added benefit of encouraging repeat engagement with your brand and website over time. Hook your audience with your initial segment, and they will return to your site time and again.
Top tip: nurture this further by ending your segment by encouraging your audience to sign-up for email updates when your next piece is published.
AI will impact (but not replace) content creation
The power of artificial intelligence (or threat) to replace human jobs has been predicted for a long time. The march of automation is nothing new, and content is no exception to this trend.
There are several tools available today that offer AI-generated content, albeit to a fairly basic standard.
While the content generated by these tools doesn’t quite yet match that of experienced copywriters and copy creators, we can expect to see low-level, spammy sites use it in 2021 to quickly create optimised content in an attempt to climb the SERPs.
How can you implement it?
Despite the number of AI-powered content creation tools out there, the fact remains that the best content is—for now—written and created by real people. In 2021, you should focus on great content created by skilled pros.
That said, there are a plethora of AI- and machine learning (ML)-led tools that can make your content writer’s life that little bit easier:
- HubSpot: HubSpot’s marketing software uses ML to help creators identify and validate potential content ideas. Receive relevant, competitive topic suggestions based on keywords to build out your content strategy.
- BuzzSumo: virtually every content marketer has used BuzzSumo at some point in their lives. From content ideation to marketing insights, the tool is an essential for anyone creating content in 2021.
- Grammarly: even the best content creators make mistakes. Beyond basic mistakes, this tool is also very handy when you’re writing for UK and US sites, identifying country-specific spelling mistakes that you might otherwise have missed.
- Surfer: perfecting your on-page optimisation can be a delicate line to tread, but this tool helps you nail it, analysing your content against hundreds of on-page SEO signals.
AI won’t completely replace content creators in 2021—we still need the agile creativity of the human mind to make great content. But until then, we can use AI to enhance our work where needed, combining human insight with AI for better results.
Core Web Vitals help us adopt a proactive attitude to content
The Google machine never stops, and what might rank in the top spot of the SERPs last year won’t necessarily rank the following year (unless you have a crack SEO team behind you).
Google is always tweaking and fine-tuning its algorithm, and recently announced that in May its Core Web Vitals will become key ranking signals, along with other UX-related factors.
So what does this mean for your content? In short, it’s not just your written (or otherwise) content that needs to be on-point—it needs to be published on a website that loads quickly (according to its new stipulations) and is ready to use straight away.
How can you implement it?
Rather than waiting for your traffic to take a hit, use Google Search Console to generate Core Web Vitals reports to identify problem areas of your site. These indicate how your web pages perform based on field data from the real world.
These reports can be used to highlight specific parts of your website that require attention, helping you prepare for when new updates are implemented. Google is always tinkering with its algorithm, and such reports let you adopt a proactive attitude towards your own content and SEO so you can stay ahead of the game.
These are just four of the trends that will impact your content in 2021. Some are new, and some are just new iterations of old principles. Regardless, they are still important trends that any brand or marketer would do well to heed as we enter the new year. Need a helping hand? Drop us a line to talk about your content needs.