What makes a weaver bird's nest unusual? It is bottle-shaped and hangs upside down in thorny trees.
But, there is something more to it.
Scientists have discovered that a weaver bird takes several days to identify a proper location in the shrubs to build its nest. Then, with every twist of a twig, the bird begins making it. The opening to the nest is vital here - it must be large enough for it to enter, yet small enough to ward off predators. It is a work of art in the real sense.
Here's the real kicker though - some weaver birds build their nests within a day!
For marketers, as the year draws to a close, it is the nest-planning (aka content planning) season. The best content strategies are planned for months so that it is easier to execute. The execution might take a few hours or could be over in a few minutes. But, it is the planning that needs to be spot-on for flawless execution.
So, we asked the marketing weavers of our times what their content plans are for 2020, and we were surprised at how they had already figured their roadmap.
But first, we wanted to know what worked for them in 2019 so they could use the learnings to move forward in 2020. Here's what we learned:
What Content Worked For You In 2019?
1. Customer-created Content
Marketers prefer customer-created content. It elevates them from being consumers of content to actual producers.
John Colascione from Internet Marketing Services Inc. has enough reason to believe that it has worked wonders for them. He remarks, "In 2019, we encouraged our clients to become thought leaders by producing content and information on chosen topics in their respective industries, a strategy that worked well for us."
2. Originality Trumps Everything
Being original helps you build genuine relationships with clients. When you produce authentic content, your audience knows that it is valuable due to the cohesive efforts of like-minded individuals, and it is not a ripoff from an existing piece. Research reports are one such marketing collateral. They are a compilation of opinions, thoughts, and feedback from several individuals.
Elizabeth McCumber, a senior writer and content strategist at Wpromote, is quite upbeat about it. She states, "One content marketing tactic that has continued to generate success for us is conducting and sharing original research. We've found that pieces based on original research (such as our B2B report), generate as much as 10X the leads when compared to forms of content without research and analysis.
While this tactic might seem intimidating to some, whether you work with a top tier partner or conduct a less formal survey, when you ask the right people the right questions, you'll get a goldmine in return. Pieces built from research have been wildly helpful for us across teams and can be used to support everything from presentations to sales decks.
More importantly, reports grounded in original research provide a great deal of value to the reader. You'll be able to answer the questions your audience already has, spur them to think about new perspectives and validate your insights, providing much more value than thought leadership alone."
3. YouTube Can Be Bigger Than PPC
A lot of brands do not invest in videos despite their ability to give them the best leads that could put PPC ads to shame. And, the best part is videos have a longer shelf life and if done well, can move to the top of search results in no time.
Matthew Ross, co-founder, and COO of The Slumber Yard, explains, "Creating YouTube content is a lot more cost-efficient than strategies like PPC ads or traditional print marketing. In other words, you can get in front of potential customers that are searching for related services or products for a meager cost. So far this year, our in-house content has attracted over 2 million views for a fraction of what other marketing strategies would have cost."
4. Trying Out Newer Initiatives
For marketers across the globe, it is about producing quality content over quantity.
Tamas Torok, a marketer and an author, says, "We realized that it's tough to stand out in our niche (software development). The amount of content published is insane, while the time our target audience can spend on consuming content remained the same. So we took a different approach in 2019. We decided to publish less, but 10x better content, to make it the best content of the internet for that topic/keyword.
We started doing interviews within our industry, talking with tech leaders who shared their expertise. This interview content works exceptionally well since it's coming from a legitimate source (someone who has overcome the challenge in the past). Honestly, writing about something you have no idea about is the worst thing you can do since your audience will recognize it, and the quality of the post won't hit the mark to rank, get noticed, and shared.
We also launched our podcast this year. It's an experiment with a new content format since our audience doesn't have much time to read, so we provide an audio version of the interviews they can listen to during their commute.
For the past three years, we have been publishing the State of Software Development report, which is a research-based content (with more than 700+ participants). So far, this has the most significant impact on our content marketing performance (gets links, shares, and generates leads)."
5. Social Media Isn't Out of Bounds Yet
Engaging with your audience in a targeted social media outreach is still in vogue, and marketers continue to invest in it. However, a few marketers are yet to buy into the concept of influencer marketing.
Chris Gernon, CEO of Fugitives Editorial says, "Targeted media through social engagement was the trend of 2019 - Influencer engagement was up, but I'm not convinced that there is a greater return on investment. Targeting specific social media channels with content promotion is the way to go instead of distributing across channels."
6. Enhance Existing Content
A lot of marketers tend to forget the efforts they have already put into existing content and instead start focusing on new content. But, tweaking existing content to include more unique keywords and marketing themes might help build on existing momentum.
Anastasia Iliou, senior content manager at Medicare Plan Finder, says, "In 2019, our content update strategy pushed us forward. We spent more time on updating older content instead of writing new content. We went down to only one or two new blogs per week but continuously worked on older pieces by adding keywords, increasing the length, adding images and videos, etc. We saw significant spikes in traffic on those blogs and subsequently throughout our whole website."
What are your plans for 2020?
1. Quality Over Quantity
For most content marketers, it is always quality over quantity. In our survey, we rarely came across anybody who didn't vouch for it.
Zakiyah Toor, a writer at Awesome Motive, says, "Putting more focus on the quality of content versus the quantity is essential for our content marketing team in 2020. We're hyperfocused on delivering optimized, user-friendly content that teaches readers something new and helps them understanding digital marketing with ease."
Consequently, to separate oneself from all content creating companies out there, we need to increase the quality of our copy. From our experience this year, we realized this: Not any copy sells, only great copy!
For that reason, our marketing strategy for 2020 will continue to develop in the same direction. In essence, focus on excellent new content and optimize existing copy so that it is specific and targeted to the needs and interests of our potential clients."
2. Long-form Over Short-form
It is a universal fact that long-form content performs better than short-form content. A 2000-word blog can capture a lot of insights than a 500-word article.
Ben Taylor, an entrepreneur at HomeWorkingClub, describes his plans for 2020: "We will produce long-form content that will be better than the articles already out there. We've taken top ranking for some competitive terms by really going all out to produce the best and most detailed article on a particular subject. It takes substantial time and effort, but it does pay off."
Tamas Torok says, "We used to publish one research-based content every year. Since this tactic works pretty well, we will double down on it and planning to do three research-based content next year.
We will also publish more podcast episodes, which means that we switch from monthly publishing to bi-weekly."
3. Building Relationships
Businesses work with humans, and humans want to be valued. That is why content must help build relationships.
Khris Steven says, "For 2020 - it's all about being personal, building close relationships, and connecting with my audience more. And this would be deployed using more of email marketing and social media (Facebook groups precisely).
Customers are getting sick of not having a personal connection with businesses and brands as the digital world transitions. They prefer buying from people they know, like, and trust instead of an unknown brand. So, 2020 will be more about building rapport, establishing relationships, and getting to have a personal touch with prospects."
4. Try a Contrarian Approach
You don't always have to go by the flow. Sometimes, a contrarian approach can help create the right kind of noise. It helps people think about it and come up with their perspectives.
Elizabeth McCumber explains, "We're excited to launch a content piece that highlights a group of contrarian perspectives on digital marketing. It's our answer to the 'top trends of 2020' and goes much deeper into each topic."
5. Give Episodic Content a Try
Do you know why Netflix produces its shows in a continuous flow of episodes? Because audience attention can wane, and not everybody can sit through a 5-hour show. But, if it is broken down in chapters or episodes, it helps retain audience interest over a long period.
Rio Rocket, an entrepreneur, is convinced about it. He describes, "I will be working with my clients to create more episodic content. Content divided into many different episodes has always been proven to keep the audience hooked and coming back for more. It is evident in the case of television but works just as well with streaming series and story-based or instructional video series online.
Although podcasts have episodes, most podcasts are not episodic unless they are story-based, but the audio content can be created to fit this format."
6. Don't Forget About Backlinks
While building backlinks have worked for a lot of marketers in 2019, they will continue to be a top priority in 2020, as well.
Sean Clancy explains, "We will continue the backlinking strategy for our clients in 2020, but we are planning on creating more relevant and trending content on our site to generate inbound leads.
With the introduction of E-A-T and BERT algorithms from Google, we will create new content based on current news, promote this via our social media channels, and create long-form content on these matters. They get a lot of traction, so we want to create pillar content that people will look up to us as thought leaders."
However, Atique Querishi, a Senior SEO Executive at DailyScrawl cautions here, "Getting backlink on exact match keywords is no more necessary, a backlink from a high authority website is most important either on the generic keyword or brand name."
7. Guest Posting
Guest posting is a brilliant way to spread the word around for your brand. The best part about it is you can use the same content on your blog as well, and Google will not penalize you for it.
Atique Quereshi says guest posting will be a priority for him in 2020. "I will work on blog/article submissions on high DA websites with the help of respective authors in a niche industry to obtain backlinks on our brand name."
8. Videos Are Becoming Bigger
Videos are taking over written content. They're becoming easier to create, produce, and distribute.
Anna DiTommaso, the owner at Creative80, confirms it, "We've started to get into video recently as well, and that is something we plan to focus a lot of energy on in 2020. Conversion rates for video are climbing, and people are becoming more and more used to being able to watch a video rather than reading several paragraphs.
I think videos also add some human connection, which has been lost over the last few years with the remote work movement. Seeing someone's face and hearing their actual voice adds some credibility to what they're saying."
Sam Orchard chimes in, "As a fairly small agency, we've resisted branching out into video for a while, as we've not had the in-house resources to produce the high-quality content we need. But we've identified vast opportunities in videos for various clients, so 2020 will be the year that we test the waters."
What will you discontinue in 2020?
A new year needs new plans. It also means shedding the ones that don't need your time and effort. We asked marketers what will they stop doing in 2020, and the responses were quite insightful.
1. No More Viral Content
Do you ever aim to produce 'viral content?' Or, do you know if your content will be viral even before you put pen to paper? We rarely know about it. So stop aiming for the moon and create content that your target audience will love - that is a surefire way of producing content that'll be viral.
Rio Rocket says, "I will focus less on trying to 'purposely' create viral content. When content goes viral, it is usually not purposely designed for that effect, except for campaigns with massive budgets.
Viral content is being slowly being replaced by 'social content' that is shareable as in the case of Coke's campaign - where they put names on bottles which people share on social media that also provides free advertising."
2. Keyword Relevancy Supercedes Keyword Volume
When you go after too many keywords at the same time, chances are you aren't caring enough about search intent. And that can be difficult for your business in the long run.
Sean Clancy is not a fan of targeting too many keywords. He explains, "We are trimming the content scope in 2020. Previously we used to target 15-20 keywords per client next year, and we will keep it under ten and target the most profitable keywords or keywords with the most potential."
3. Vanity Goes Out Of The Window
Marketers care about real metrics. So, any metric that gives them a good idea about the performance of their content keeps them interested. In 2020, marketers want to stay away from vanity metrics.
Jason Lavis of Out of the Box Innovations agrees to it, "Any vanity goals such as overall page views, or anything that can get measured that doesn't lead to revenue or branding goals. It's easy to waste months out of a year without an ROI. If you're doing that at, then it's like a hobby, and there are better hobbies to spend time on."
4. Hiving Off Unproductive Social Channels
Social media is a must-have for all businesses, but it can be a stretch if it isn't optimized. Not all channels work for everybody. For example, Instagram might work best for restaurants and travel companies but not for manufacturing firms.
Anna DiTomasso says, "We're planning on cutting back on Twitter activity significantly next year. For the types of customers we serve, we just haven't seen great results with it. I know it works well for some businesses, but we think it's better to spend that time and energy in areas where we've seen better results."
5. Infographics Don't Sell
Until a few years back, infographics were the rage. However, developing infographics is quite expensive, effort-intensive, and requires a lot of creativity. As a result, a lot of companies may not have the resources to develop them.
Sam Orchard at Edge of the Web has this to say, "One of the surprising areas we've seen a drop in results is through our infographic production despite deploying the same tactics which have previously seen substantial success. We are finding that certain verticals are so overpopulated with infographic content that it's no longer a viable strategy, and so in 2020, we'll be focusing our efforts on other tactics."
What are your content marketing plans for 2020? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will feature them here.