The world of content marketing can be challenging, confusing, and frustrating, but at least you can never say it's boring. There are always new ways of engaging customers, sharp new trends in competition and user behavior, and new opportunities to find additional visibility. The best performers in the industry aren't the ones who can repeat a process efficiently over and over, but instead are the ones who can adapt their approach fluidly and flawlessly as these new trends and technologies take hold.

2016 looks to be an interesting and dynamic year for the content marketing industry, and if you want to survive, you'll need to pay close attention to these necessary strategic changes:

1. Your content will have to be better. This should go without saying--every content marketer should constantly strive to create better and better content--but quality standards are becoming stricter and more important than ever. According to one recent study by Moz and BuzzSumo, over 75 percent of all content produced ends up getting zero links and zero shares, a painful indication that a piece has yielded almost no positive benefit for a brand. This is because readers are getting pickier, the competitive landscape is getting more crowded, and more businesses are flooding the market with weak content in a desperate attempt to get more visibility. If you want to survive in 2016 and beyond, your content will need to be part of that 25 percent--which means it needs to be better-researched, better-written, and more valuable to your audience.

2. You'll need more videos. Videos have always been popular, but they've taken massive leaps forward in the past few years as higher speed Internet becomes more widely available and digital screens become smaller and more agile. Facebook and Twitter made waves in 2015 by introducing auto-playing videos in user newsfeeds, and Google is now following suit by introducing video ads in its search results. The video trend isn't going away soon, so if you want to take advantage of it (hint: you do), you'll need to start incorporating more videos into your content marketing strategy. They don't have to be professionally produced--they just have to be engaging.

3. Your content will need to anticipate and work with rich answers. Early this year, around 20 percent of all Google queries yielded some kind of rich answer result. That number has increased just in the past year, and is undoubtedly increasing even faster now that Google's machine-learning algorithm RankBrain is processing more complex and ambiguous user queries. Rich answers, which provide succinct answers to queries with no need to browse the actual search results, mean you'll get less traffic from people searching for raw information. You'll need to consider this when selecting your topics; stay away from topics that can be commonly found or succinctly answered. Instead, focus on more complex and multifaceted issues. To hedge your bets, always include a one-to-two-sentence summary that answers your main question--it could increase your chances of being featured in a rich answer of your own.

4. You'll need more visibility outlets than organic social media posts. Organic social media visibility is declining on all fronts, but especially on Facebook, Twitter, and other powerhouses in the sphere. Publicists will tell you it's to improve user experience by filtering out unnecessary posts, but it's no secret that such a move would also increase advertising revenue as more brands seek the exposure they once relied on. Whether you resort to paying for greater exposure, or find new organic outlets to syndicate your content, 2016 will demand that you find new ways to reach wider audiences.

5. New forms of consuming content will dictate new trends. Facebook is leading audiences in bold new directions when it comes to consuming content. Instant Articles, released earlier this year, allows users to read full-bodied articles in the body of their newsfeeds. Next year, the Facebook-owned VR device Oculus Rift will launch and introduce a whole new way to view content. If you want to get the most value from your material, you'll need to capitalize on these new trends--preferably before your competitors do.

6. Aggregated and user-submitted content will demand you find new niches. In other areas of the content scene, apps and platforms are working on ways to include more user-submitted and aggregated content. For example, Twitter's new "Moments" feature compiles user content on various events, news stories, and other happenings into one location. User communities like Reddit rely exclusively on user-submitted content, and are becoming more popular as well. There's a decreased interest in brand- or authority-created content, and a greater interest in average-user-curated and crowdsourced, aggregated content. As a result, you'll either have to find a way to take advantage of these trends or seek new niches for your content.

7. You'll need to start thinking about content AI. It's estimated that by 2030, 90 percent of journalism will be controlled by artificial intelligence systems. Already, it's incredibly likely that you've read several articles on the Internet that--unknown to you--were written by AI programs. By the end of 2016, AI in content marketing will become a very real possibility, and one you'll have to consider integrating into your own strategies and processes.

The earlier you incorporate these considerations into your content marketing strategy, the further ahead of the competition you'll be when users start making their choices. The competition's only going to get fiercer, so you'll need to stay sharp and actively experiment with your strategy until you find a rhythm that works. Run an audit of your existing strategy, and keep watch for more updates as they roll out.

Published on: Dec 30, 2015