Content marketers, there is a content marketing emergency happening right now. This is not a drill. Please gather your belongings and exit the building in an orderly fashion. Go to your predetermined meeting spots to verify that your co-workers are safe, and start making a plan for the future.
I’m not naturally an alarmist. But there’s blood in the water. And smoke on the water. And fire in the sky. BuzzSumo just published their Content Trends for 2018 and the results aren’t pretty. After analyzing 100 million pieces of content for social sharing, social traffic referrals, and backlinks, the team has one clear takeaway: What most content marketers are doing is no longer working.
“The key takeaway from our research is that it is much harder to drive referral traffic from social networks than it used to be. Social sharing has halved over the last three years and organic reach has fallen, particularly on Facebook,” BuzzSumo’s Steve Rayson told us. “To be in the top 5 percent of shared content you needed just 343 shares in 2017. At the same time, content competition continues to increase with an ever increasing number of articles being published each week.”
So, do we assume crash position and wait for the inevitable?
Heck no! Content marketing isn’t dying; it’s evolving. We can evolve our tactics and strategy to recapture our audience’s attention. Those who hear the alarm and take action will thrive, while those who keep snoozing will go down with the ship. As Rayson told us:
“The lesson for content marketers is that you must have a content promotion or amplification strategy. You can no longer expect to publish content, share it on social and expect people to find it.”
You must have a content promotion or amplification strategy. You can no longer expect to publish content, share it on social & expect people to find it. – @steverayson #ContentMarketingTrends Click To Tweet
Here’s our look at some key findings from the report, and what smart marketers will do about them.
5 Content Marketing Alarm Bells
#1 – Shares Are on the Decline
The Alarm: The median number of shares on content has declined by half since 2015. There has also been a sharp decline in viral posts with hundreds of thousands of shares, and in the effectiveness of “clickbait”-style content.
What You Can Do:. Instead of going after huge share counts, we should focus on getting shares from — you guessed it — influencers who have a relevant audience! Influencer marketing makes sure your content gets in front of the right people, and more than 8 of them at a time. Brand amplification of content isn’t enough to earn shares now — the content needs to come from people your audience already knows and trusts.
#2 – Facebook Is Just Not that Into You
The Alarm: Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but organic reach on Facebook has dramatically diminished in the past year and a half. Facebook shows no sign of reversing the trend, either. Quite the opposite; their stated goal is to have fewer (unpaid) brand messages in people’s crowded news feeds.
What You Can Do: First, start thinking of Facebook as a pay-to-play platform and adjust budget and expectations accordingly. This is also a good time to evaluate how much of your audience is actually on Facebook and actively engaging with content. The report also shows that LinkedIn* likes and shares are up more than 60% from last year — which means LinkedIn may be a better place to focus your attention.
#3 – Search Beats Social for Traffic Referrals
The Alarm: At the end of 2015, Facebook referral traffic finally rose above Google referral traffic. But Facebook’s dominance was short-lived. Now, Facebook is steadily trending down as Google continues to rise.
What happened? Google continued to get smarter about serving up relevant content, as Facebook continued to choke organic traffic from brands.
What You Can Do: The amplification model of “post on social media and ask people to click through” has been obsolete for a while now. Instead, focus on building your search equity with “best answer content” that is optimized for human beings. The more your content captures attention — page views, time on page, low bounce rate — the more search engines will serve you up at the top of the SERPs.
#4 – Backlinks Are Hard to Earn
The Alarm: As we refocus attention on search over social, we have to consider backlinks. Links to your site from reputable 3rd-party sources can be a significant ranking factor. Unfortunately, most content earns zero backlinks — 70% have no third-party links.
What You Can Do: The majority of content that attracts backlinks is high-quality research or reference content from authoritative sources. Work on building your library of stellar content, optimize it for SEO, and you can begin earning backlinks. In the meantime, your great content will help with search visibility even without the linkbuilding.
#5 – There’s More Content and Fewer People Reading It
The Alarm: Here’s the heart of the matter, the alarm bell to end all alarm bells. Content creation continues to climb, while content consumption declines. We have reached peak content. These two graphs, of content created versus pageviews on WordPress.com, say it all:
Notice while the volume of content rises, pageviews peaked somewhere around March of last year and are steadily declining.
What You Can Do: There are three ways you can combat content shock:
- Publish higher-value content at a slower cadence. Take time to deliver authoritative research or reference works rather than lighter, more shallow content.
- Repurpose content that drove pageviews in the past. Combine shorter posts into one big post, refresh the stats and links, and re-publish. Get the maximum equity from your existing content before you create new stuff.
- Capture your audience. When your high-quality content brings all the boys to the yard, make sure to CTA to your newsletter or email list. That way, you have a built-in audience not dependent on social media algorithms or search engine whims. And given how email marketing is still going gangbusters, you have a much better channel for reaching them.
Sound the All Clear
The way people consume content is constantly changing. Your content marketing tactics should be just as flexible. As the BuzzSumo report shows, the marketers who hang onto obsolete methods are losing audience now, and will continue to lose over time.
Interestingly, the “new” most effective tactics are those that have been steadily working the whole time, while some of us went chasing shiny objects: Create high-quality, best-answer content, leverage influencers for amplification & credibility, capture your audience and serve them engaging emails.
Need help creating best-answer content? We’re here for you.
*LinkedIn Sales and Marketing Solutions is a TopRank Marketing client