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Content Marketing Best Practices for 2021

Businesses now understand content marketing’s significance in driving traffic and leads, yet most fail to leverage it strategically to their advantage. 

What works in content marketing is timeless: relentlessly focusing on adding value to your audience. But amidst the huge shift in the world at large and consumer behavior last year, here are a few specific content marketing best practices and tips to drive home this adage in 2021.

1. Put people first

Marketing has always been about people and relationship building. So in the wake of changed consumer behavior and priorities, marketers need to adjust to meet people in the right mindset.

Brand trust is at the center of purchasing decisions. Your response to these evolving situations, making people feel safe and supported, will determine the same.

As a content marketer, it calls for adjusting your strategy in lockstep with the changed values and routines of your audience. For instance, you could:

  • Help your audience learn new skills through free educational courses,
  • Conduct virtual events and experiences where you try to make your audience feel connected. 

2. Recalibrate expectations from SEO

We’re way past the era of seeing ten blue links on the search engine results page. Marissa Mayer, the 20th employee at Google, announced universal search in 2007 with which you can search across multiple databases across content formats from a single search box:

Additional databases on weather, sports scores, and the like aren’t even included in the above screenshot.

While it addressed the variety of intents and enabled faster decision-making for the user — the search giant soon started competing with publishers. It started serving direct answers, cannibalizing clicks that could have gone to websites. Zero-click searches have now become the new normal. Over 50% of queries now end without a click, like an example below:

These new SERP features lead to the “Pinball Pattern Effect,” where users “bounce” their gazes between the right sidebar and the center column. It also shows that users prefer a visual format in the results.

Not only do richer SERP features cannibalize organic clicks — Google-owned properties (including YouTube, Playstore, and others) also acquire organic clicks.

The May Core update seemed to have further increased Google Play visibility, according to the 7-day mean from MozCast:

Brands and marketers are heavily reliant on Google because it controls an overwhelming majority of referrals on the web (as per data from June 2019). This includes 66% referral visits from and 3.9% from YouTube, among its other properties.

Adapt your content strategy to encompass voice search, featured snippets, and other Google SERP features to build your brand. But lower your expectations in terms of direct SEO traffic to your website. You might need to experiment with paid social media, events, personal brands, and other ways to drive website visitors.

3. Make your content strategy inclusive

About 1.5 billion people started using the internet for the first time between 2015 to 2020. With the decrease in data costs and the increase in smartphone penetration, another billion are set to join by 2025.

Google had launched its Next Billion Users initiative a half-decade ago. It addresses the problems of new users by facilitating learning opportunities, offering online education, and prioritizing inclusion while building technology.

As a business owner, you can do your part by focusing on international SEO and practicing an inclusive content strategy

Merely 25.9% of web users are native English speakers, so you can outsource to translate your content into other languages.

As online video consumption also continues to rise, you can also plan a multilingual YouTube strategy. A year-old study found that more than half of popular YouTube channels posted a video in languages other than English.

SaaS brands like vidIQ have created a separate channel for its Spanish audience that has crossed 104k subscribers — besides over 726k subscribers on their YouTube channel in English.

4. Build interactive experiences

Creating helpful “static” content addressing the pain points of your readers is great. 

However, B2B buyers are increasingly looking for such “show-and-tell” experiences. Here are the top content formats they have been engaging with, according to a 2020 Demand Gen report:

To top these, offering free software relevant to your audience makes for an excellent asset. That’s why Spotify acquired, a free podcast hosting platform, for its audience of podcast creators. Free software also attracts links and brings great brand exposure. Look at the number of links and organic traffic the CoSchedule headline analyzer receives:

Even as a B2C company, enhancing your audience’s content experience by making them interactive can be effective. Co-watching (experiencing live events in groups) and coactivity (related to community activism) were top YouTube trends last year as people searched for opportunities to connect with others.

Integrating interactive content into your strategy could include videos, quizzes, or something as simple as calculators (like the one below calculating YouTube income created by Influencer Marketing Hub).

5. Optimize your content marketing efforts for ROI

Every piece of content you create should have a purpose. Can you justify the investment in your content marketing program? If not, you’ll find it difficult to get buy-in and secure a budget for it.

In the 2021 Content Marketing Institute survey, most B2B brands said they pivoted their strategies due to the pandemic. However, the biggest hurdles to achieving content marketing success were content creation challenges and strategy issues.

These two fundamental challenges could be overcome by:

  • Documenting your content strategy to increase your chances of succeeding with content marketing,
  • Outsourcing content creation to freelance writers (like most B2B organizations) so that you can scale content without overextending the budget.

Brand awareness objectives and analyzing the qualitative data around how content is received will be second in line. Ultimately sales and conversions will come into the picture, though a bit later than usual.

I recommend adopting the KPIs as recommended by the Contently chart below, which considers content marketing ROI in three stages.

Final thoughts

The best practices I shared in this article are starting points to help you build your content marketing strategy. The exact framework will depend on your organization’s current situation and your personal preferences.

Are there any additional content marketing best practices you recommend for business in 2021?

Chintan Zalani is a writer and an ROI-focused content marketer. Get in touch with him at Elite Content Marketer to discuss how to grow your business through content.