We’re now well into the new year and if you’re reading this you’re probably running a small business and are hard at work producing content for existing customers and new prospects. 2018 is a little different to other years because a number of significant changes are likely to happen behind the scenes and these will influence the type of content you produce and ultimately how you might go on to distribute it.
So, what is different about 2018?
Advances in technology mean the way content is indexed and ranked will change this year. Firstly, Google is expected to switch over to its mobile-first index before the year’s end. That means we need to be using mobile-first design when we produce our content and thinking of mobile devices when we distribute that content.
Secondly, this is the year machine learning is expected to take over the categorising and ranking of our content to better determine the quality, relevance, and freshness of content. This means online content will need to adapt to mobiles users’ needs and continue to be of exceptional quality.
Taking Full Advantage of Video
Anyone who uses a mobile device on the move knows that reading content is often a clumsy, frustrating experience. And that applies to navigation as well as the content itself. It’s no surprise, then, that many mobile device users prefer video content. This means that if you haven’t done so already you should be considering video marketing as at least part of your strategy.
Embracing video content also means following best SEO strategies for that media type. Since page load times matter in mobile-first ranking, you’ll need to ensure that your content is optimised for fast delivery and embrace HTML5 web technologies over plugin technologies like Flash, Silverlight, and Java.
Produce content to distribute:
- on YouTube channels
- on Instagram, Facebook, and other social networks
- as embedded video in blogs
- as webinars and webcasts / podcasts.
Taking Full Advantage of Images
Those same technology advances will also bring new meaning to the use of images in our content. We’re going to start seeing visual search taking hold—face detection, logo and brand searching, improved OCR (optical character recognition), landmark detection, object detection, and so on. That means that we should also consider producing visual media, particularly infographics since they can communicate several pages of text based information in a simple, colourful and easy to digest one-page or half-page format. As with video content, embed social network share buttons alongside them to encourage your audience to share your content with their friends and associates.
Images can be embedded in:
- email campaigns
- blog articles
- product and service pages
- Instagram and other relevant social networks
- paid display advertising
Taking Full Advantage of Audio
Voice search really took off last year and 2018 is likely to see its use increase further. That’s because those new underlying technologies also facilitate natural language processing.
When producing content to take advantage of these technologies we need to help search engines categorise our content. Schema mark-up and structured data helps make it voice search friendly. Long-tail keywords and full sentence phrases become very important as search engines will be matching user intent with the answers and solutions they are looking more succinctly than was the case previously.
In terms of content for voice search we can also leverage strategies such as:
- Instant messaging “AI” bots
- embeddable audio clips in blog articles and social network posts
- Voice Assistants for webapps (think Amazon’s Alexa, Google Voice and Apple’s Siri)
Also – in the same way that video content is a great way to reach mobile users on the go, creating podcasts and downloadable audio streams including buying guides, reviews, and Q&A content will improve user experience and help you reach new audiences.
Traditional Distribution Methods
The changes outlined above don’t mean that traditional distribution strategies are a thing of the past; they will remain important for the foreseeable future. In the same way that physical books haven’t disappeared since the introduction of e-books, written online content e.g. text-based blog posts, email marketing, online directories and forums and bookmarking sites (think Reddit, StumbleUpon etc) will not become obsolete. It just means that most businesses will not be able to rely solely on these methods if they want to maintain a competitive advantage.
My recommendation to marketers and business owners this year is to step outside your comfort zone and try a few new things from this list.
Remember too that the personal touch in the real world is still needed. Speaking at industry conferences, having a presence at local markets and some printed advertising material may still have worth. Here’s to a successful 2018 for your business!