The Evolution of Content Marketing: From the Dark Ages to the Semantic Revolution

The Evolution of Content Marketing: From the Dark Ages to the Semantic Revolution

If you haven’t already heard the marketing adage ‘content is king’, let us tell you now: content really is king. Over the past couple of decades, content has become one of the cornerstones of the digital marketing world, and for good reason.

On the one hand, a robust content marketing strategy allows brands to shape their identity, increase user engagement and build trust with their consumers. But it also boasts SEO-related benefits that are intrinsically linked with content, helping you improve your business’s online visibility in search and drive all-important web traffic.

Content hasn’t always been top dog in the digital marketing world, though - or at least, not to the same extent that it is today. So, we thought we’d take a closer look at its evolution from the Dark Ages to the Semantic Revolution - highlighting what’s changed and forecasting what’s to come.

The Dark Ages

The Google game changer

Looking back 10 years, the content marketing landscape was a very different place and much of this is down to Google. Firstly, Google conducted the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) study that revealed that 88% of shoppers used online research before buying a product.

Nearly a decade on, these figures are undoubtedly higher, but this was a pivotal turning point. Brands marketing online realised the importance of online content and how it can influence a consumer's buying decisions. They also realised they didn’t always have control over how their brand was being perceived online.

This resulted in content marketing becoming a core focus for brands - allowing them to assume greater control over their online reputation and harness the power of keyword-optimised content to increase search visibility.

But it wasn’t as simple as that. In the early 2010s, Google made another game-changing move with the earth-shattering Panda algorithm update that discouraged keyword-stuffing in onsite content. This caused brands to rethink their old ways and focus more on Google’s concept of improving user search experience through content.

Social media frenzy

These weren’t the only contributing factors to the evolution of content marketing during the past decade. Social media’s historic dominance over online content has also had a crucial part to play - becoming a core part of everyday life and online interactions.

Despite its novelty, it was more about the impact it had on how users consume content online, offering a more passive way to digest content on their most frequented platforms. From a brand point of view, it served up a more subtle way to market to consumers through their preferences rather than waiting for search intent to drive traffic to their door.

It also gave birth to the notion of sharable, viral content ideas that strayed from traditional text formats - think gifs, memes and video clips.

The rise of video

Speaking of video, this also had a huge effect on shaping the content marketing that we know and love today. In fact, 72% of people now favour video over text-based content when it comes to researching brands or products.

This isn’t surprising when you think about how visual-centric we are as human beings in general. But, from a content marketing perspective, video content marketing on platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and more opened up a whole new means of engaging and interacting with consumers in more authentic and meaningful ways.

The Semantic Revolution

As we hit our stride in a new decade, all of the above factors have culminated to form a content marketing landscape that prioritises the user experience overall.

Much of this is due to Google’s continued algorithm updates designed to deliver the most accurate and relevant results. This means high-quality content plays a more important role than ever before in giving users the answers they need in a diverse array of formats.

So, how will this look moving forward? Well, let’s take a look at which forms of content and tactics are set to be the front runners for the future of content marketing.

Video domination

For one, video is likely to become one of the most important and influential mediums. With 2019 figures showing users watch an average of 16 hours of video content online each week, this format offers the perfect opportunity to engage with consumers and address their pain points on a more personal level.

The same study also showed that brands already using video enjoyed increased traffic and lead generation as a result. Whether you’re doing video or not right now, this isn’t a trend to ignore, as it’s likely to become an even bigger part of content marketing over the next decade.

Marketing to the mobile masses

Mobiles have undoubtedly become an integral part of all of our daily lives, particularly in terms of how we access and consume content. Recent figures show that 60% of all online searches are conducted on a mobile device, making it clear that this trend isn’t going anywhere.

For brands, this means responsive websites will play an even bigger role in SEO and user experience. To reflect this, online content will need to be optimised for mobile consumption, from blog posts to video tutorials and product pages. The key is to bridge the gap between mobile and desktop usability, ensuring a seamless experience.

With mobile now the medium of choice for the masses, this could also offer up new content marketing opportunities as new innovations in mobile technology - like augmented and virtual reality - become more widely available.

The shift towards customer-focused content

In recent years, there’s been a marked shift towards content that firmly prioritises customer-first content over brand-centric promotional content - and this is here to stay.

With Google’s algorithm continually striving to deliver the most meaningful and relevant content in response to user searches, digital marketers will need to make sure their content does the same - resonating more strongly with their readers than ever before.

With a continued focus on user empathy and relevance, semantics will have a huge influence here. This has already become best practice for some, but we can expect this to become more fine-tuned and more intuitive in the coming years as brands come to truly understand the importance of knowing their audience and catering to their needs.

The world of content marketing isn’t and never will be a static entity. It will continue to change and adapt in line with consumer behaviours and technological innovations over time. But this doesn’t mean you can’t get ahead of the game as we look at what the future of content marketing may look like in the coming decade and beyond.

If you’re looking to take your content marketing to the next level, let Paragraft lend a helping hand. With a team of expert content writers, we have the right skills and experience to get your content marketing strategy on course for whatever the next decade has in store. Get in touch now.