From ‘Be like Bill’ to Google’s Knowledge Vault – content marketing trends

Is it time to be like Bill?

Bill is an internet sensation. Bill is loved by some and derided by others, but just keeps on giving advicestick figure at computer representing be like bill that is universally relevant.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few months, chances are that Bill has popped up in your Facebook feed at least once. The brainchild of Eugeniu Croitoru (a Moldovan who insists that his alter-ego is much better behaved than he is), ‘Be Like Bill’ has been re-interpreted the world over, becoming (rather unimaginatively) ‘Bilal’ in Arabic and ‘Jose’ in Spanish.

Seen by most as just an irreverent aside, the meme raises an interesting point about content appeal and usability. “‘Bill’ can be anyone who is smart and has common sense and doesn’t do annoying things. You’ll also notice Bill can be someone who makes fun of himself and jokes about others too occasionally,” Croitoru explains. In an age that aspires to content personalisation, Bill is the antithesis that shows how much value can still be found in broad-reaching content that plays to common human experiences.

Bill is smart. Be like Bill.

Get ahead with Google’s Knowledge Vault and RankBrain 

In true Google style, 2016 will see the development of two complimentary measures that could have content marketers scurrying for a ‘stand up’ in their nearest vegan coffee shop. Google’s Knowledge-based Trust (KBT) is set to revolutionise ranking factors, switching the onus from lightweight buzzwords to raw facts that will be checked against Google’s Knowledge Vault.

If the info conforms to data elsewhere in the Google’s Knowledge Vault, it will be deemed useful to the end user and pushed up the rankings. This is likely to require a fact-checking audit of previously released content to ensure accuracy, relevancy and specificity.

The second change was introduced back in October, when Google announced that 15% of traffic was now being handled by AI system RankBrain. Set to reduce the importance of link metrics as a ranking factor, RankBrain heralds the advent of algorithms that learn, fine-tuning search results through incremental, iterative improvements to pre-existing systems.

The programme will learn more about context with every search, giving content marketers more of an opportunity to steer away from keywords and towards a more natural vernacular.

2016 is the year that we’ll all learn to be human

While this trend was discussed widely in 2015, most businesses just didn’t read the memo. Marketers across the pond will point to the evolution of Super Bowl ads over the last five years or so as evidence of how to get this nailed. But, most of us are working on a budget and need to imbue human emotion to deadline.

So, what are the golden rules to humanising your content? First up, it’s about quality rather than quantity. No one tells their friends: “I’ve read 17 articles today”, but they might just say “I read a great article about [such-and-such]”.

Next, we need to translate a human experience or emotion to readers to add feeling to the brand, rather than just reeling off services and benefits. Sprinkle with a little storytelling, modesty, self-deprecation and relevance, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a convincing automaton.

Moving metrics will overhaul content marketing in 2016

The content marketing wash up from 2015 threw up some unexpected results, with reports stating that content effectiveness was being limited by a lack of overall strategy. While RankBrain and Google’s Knowledge Vault will make Copywriters up their game, we’ll all need to become more sophisticated in our approach to metrics in order to flourish.

While page views have been the de facto metric for measuring success to date, Content Marketing Institute’s ‘B2B Content Marketing – Budgets, Benchmarks and Trends’ indicated that the metrics with the most importance were sales lead quality (87%), sales (84%) and higher conversion rates (82%).

So, the content marketing goal for 2016 has to be building on the fundamentals of pieces that pique interest to create copy that convinces and ultimately converts. This will require a shift in measured metrics, from shares and likes to engagement, reach and audience relevance.