From the death of websites to Facebook’s lack of reach – content marketing trends

Improved virtual assistants could sound death-knell for traditional website model

We’ve made some pretty bold claims about voice activated search and digital personal assistants at Write My Site. But this one’s set to be a chart-topper. What if the likes of Siri, Cortana, Google voice command or websiteNow et al weren’t just set to grow (stay with me here), but to take over the entirety of the traditional website and search engine model?

Before I chalk you up as just another stat in our bounce rate index, think back 20 years or so to the halcyon days of Mr. Motivator, Britpop and Pogs. Back then, if some scruffy little ‘erbert explained that you could find out all the latest information about a company without using a phone, or checking possibly-outdated paper records, you’d be calling in the witch-finder general.

But, that’s exactly what happened. The company website became the main shop window. We all got distracted by shiny new graphics. Everyone forgot about their initial sense of doubt.

There are two key reasons why this is likely to be the direction of prevailing winds:

  • For users, improving voice activated search technology will suppress the conventional keyword model even further. Developments will herald an age of conversational search based on natural language, and even of ‘anticipatory queries’; a means of using data, prior user behaviour and business logic to eliminate unnecessary search steps by pre-empting (rather than guiding) user decisions.
  • For tech giants already pioneering virtual assistant technology, the model provides the perfect opportunity to keep users on their platform for longer. Answers to search queries will be provided directly by the assistant, bypassing search rankings and opening the door to 3rd party integration of features such as weather and stock market reports, service/product purchasing and news provision. This will mean that no amount of what we know as SEO best-practice will overcome integration (based on financial factors or others) with the platform; a favourable contract could mean you’re the only result shown.

As you might’ve gathered, this shift could be something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the move slots seamlessly into Google’s stated ideals of making content more honest, transparent and forthright than the spammy, clunky keyword-laden approach of yesteryear. On the other, the overall quality of online content may decrease through lack of competition, as the likes of Google, Apple and Microsoft invest in a limited number of preferred partners for their virtual assistant platforms.

What has caused the reach of Facebook articles to plummet?

A study published by the Pew Research Centre  in 2015 stated that 47% of adults use Facebook to source their news.

But, all is not quite as rosy as it seems, so says social media optimisation platform SocialFlow. While publishers are putting out around 80,000 additional articles per month through the platform, overall reach has fallen by 42% proportionately in the period from January to May.

The news is likely to result in a collective sigh from content marketers, journalists and publishers across the industry.


Reach graph 1 Reach graph 2

*Graphs courtesy of SocialFlow

From June 2015 through to January 2016, media reach had been growing steadily, peaking at around 120,000 views per post. So, what has changed?

Well, as things stand, there’s no indication that this shift has been the result of changing user behaviour. Instead, it’s likely to be something to do with Facebook’s algorithm. There are a couple of factors that could have influenced this decision. Facebook could be looking to give additional prominence to personal posts to alleviate the fall in engagement on the platform. It could also be that they’re looking to limit the number of posts per publisher that appear in user newsfeeds. Or, it could be a response to the allegations of political bias levelled at Facebook earlier on this year. During this time, it was found that individuals held much more sway over publishing patterns than previously thought.

In any case, it will make content marketers look again at Facebook as the basis for future campaigns. Thought-leadership content thrives in the fertile ground of the Facebook community. However, the company’s willingness to shift the goalposts without proper explanation could undermine even the most highly attuned content strategy.

Staffing trends show continued content marketing growth

A recent report from Curata has shed light on macro movements within the content marketing industry. The research surveyed 1,030 marketers and execs, over 50% of whom work for companies that generate annual revenue of less than £7.3 million pa.

The key statistic showed that 43% of companies were actively planning to increase the number of content marketing staff on their payroll by the end of this year. This marks a tipping point for content marketing; an acceptance by companies that the default marketing method has progressed into something more holistic and trust-based.

87% of companies represented already had content marketing staff in place. 68% of this figure stated that 1-3 people made up their team. 42% had a senior staff member or executive responsible for content marketing, but by 2017, 51% will have a dedicated content marketing leader.

There is a noticeable deficit in content creation. With 41% acknowledging this as the most important skill-set missing from their content marketing team.

participants chart

*Graph courtesy of Curata

This outlines the breadth of skills required to become a fully-competent, original and imaginative content creator. An effective content creator balances writing acumen with understanding of the target audience and current digital and publishing trends. The industry is still comparatively young  so, for now at least, a decent content creator will remain a precious commodity for any business.

More from: Content Strategy / Social Media / Weekly Round-Up