New Rules of Content Marketing in 2021

Mackenzie | January 05, 2021 | Content Marketing

The world of digital and inbound marketing is fast-moving. What was best practice one year is often outdated by the next. There's a lot to keep track of with changing search engine algorithms, new privacy policies, and changing consumer habits. One marketing tactic you can't afford to fall behind on is content marketing. 



What is Content Marketing in 2021?


It will come as a surprise to absolutely no one that in 2021, content marketing remains an integral component of any successful marketing strategy. When it comes to digital and inbound marketing, there is no tactic more successful or compelling than content marketing. 




Well, think about your daily routine. I'd bet that no matter who you are, or what your job title, you spend a good portion of your day consuming content. 

  • Maybe it's a video tutorial that teaches you how to use that new tool at work. 
  • Maybe it's a newsletter from your favorite news outlet that keeps you up-to-date with all the goings-on in the world. 
  • Maybe it's your best friend's Instagram story. 
  • Maybe it's your family group chat, where you share funny videos, interesting articles, inspirational quotes, and more. 


It doesn't matter what it is, we are all consuming content in some way, shape, or form, every day. That makes content marketing a powerful, successful tool for any company. 


In 2021, content marketing has some similarities from the past, but it's changed quite a lot too. Whether you've been blogging for years or are just stepping into digital content marketing, here are Evenbound's New Rules of Content Marketing in 2021. Take a look, and implement something new. All of these rules are meant to help you create more compelling, more successful content. 


What are the New Rules of Content Marketing in 2021?


Let's take a look at what's changed, what's the same, and where you should be focusing your content marketing efforts in 2021 for the best results. 


Content length doesn't matter. Content quality does. 


From Google's John Mueller himself (via Twitter), the best way to write content has nothing to do with content length


In 2020, content strategists were obsessed with word count. If your blog didn't reach 1,500 words, we all thought it wouldn't have a hope of reaching that first page. 




Luckily, Google is saying we're wrong. The concept of "comprehensive" content threw us all for a loop, but upon further clarification, we're learning that comprehensive does not equal long. 


Google has made it clear that it prioritizes the best content for the query. 


For example, if you want to know how many feet are in a mile, Google is going to prioritize the results that answer that question. And it's probably not a 10-page blog. 


If you want to know how the concept of a mile was invented, or what makes a mile, you're going to get a longer answer. Here, Google has prioritized Wikipedia's result for Mile. This page gives you the whole history of a mile, different types of miles, and more. 


Search engines are always trying to match the best answers to every query. And Google has made it clear that achieving a certain word count doesn't affect that. While you can still enforce a word count to ensure your team is putting out good, comprehensive content, your writers should never be writing just to add length. 


This point flows very well into this next rule of content marketing in 2021:


To develop high-ranking content, you have to consider search intent


Search intent is another topic that will dominate content marketing in 2021. Search intent refers to the objective a searcher is trying to accomplish when they type in a query. 


An example I love to use to illustrate search intent is this blog I wrote about "the breakup email."


Just looking at the keyword "breakup email" you might assume it's an email you write to break up with a romantic partner. 


But, when you type that keyword into a search engine, all of the results that pop up are related to sales. A breakup email is the last email you send a prospect — it's a last-ditch effort to get them back before they break up with your company. 

Understanding the search intent behind a keyword is essential to writing content that ranks for that keyword. If I had written a blog that was actually about breaking up with a romantic partner over email, it would never see the light of day for that identified keyword because it didn't match the query's search intent. 


To write content that ranks well, you have to understand what searchers are looking to learn when they type that keyword into the search bar. That's their search intent. 


When you understand the search intent for your identified keywords, you know exactly what you need to write to give those searchers the information they're looking for. 

In 2021, good content marketing is focused on topical relevance and authority, not just SEO


Topical authority and topical relevance were new trends in 2020, and they're going to take hold in a big way in 2021.


The term topical authority refers to a company or website's perceived authority in a subject or subject area. For example, a site like Runner's World would have huge topical authority when it comes to the topic of running shoes.

They have content about how to pick a running shoe, different types of running shoes, how to choose a running shoe for different weather conditions, how to tell if your running shoes are too old, and more. They have content on virtually any question you might have on running shoes. They are the topical authority for running shoes. 

Why does this matter? 


Websites with more topical authority are given preference, both by other content strategists in the industry and by search engines. If you're writing a blog about finding a running shoe, you're likely to link to Runner's World because you know their content is trustworthy, useful, and correct. 


Since everyone is linking to Runner's World, and they have pages and pages of content related to that topic, site visitors are likely to remain on their site to learn more about finding the perfect running shoe, rather than navigating away to a different website. 


And when Google is looking for an answer to a question on that topic, Runner's World will have it. Because they have so much content that people on the internet are engaging with and appreciating, they will end up at the top of those search results. 


(Not just the first two organic search positions either, they also managed to grab the People Also Ask. That's serious authority.)

Building your website's topical relevance in 2021 should be a primary focus of your content marketing strategy. The greater your authority in your specific industry or service niche, the greater your digital presence. 


You can build your website's authority in a few ways, but topic clusters are always a good place to start.


Good traffic beats empty traffic every time


Take a look at your website's top-performing content. It's drawing in traffic, that's for sure, but is it converting leads? 


If it's not, you might have content that's pulling in "empty traffic."


Empty traffic is traffic that comes to your site for a great piece of content, but that has no converting potential. For example, let's say your manufacturing company ranks #1 for the keyword "oranges." Even though holding the first position for that query might pull in a ton of traffic, none of it is relevant to your manufacturing company. Since none of those visitors have an interest in what you're manufacturing, they're not qualified, and are considered "empty traffic."

They are, well…




In the past, content strategists have been obsessed about grabbing that #1 ranking, but in 2021, it's important to consider which #1 rankings you're trying to grab, and why. 


You don't want to beef up your organic traffic with a bunch of empty, unqualified leads. That would be putting effort into content that doesn't actually do anything to grow your company. 


Avoid empty traffic by taking a strategic approach to content development. Every piece of content you develop should be: 

  • Written for your ideal audience
  • Focused on a keyword that's relevant to your business
  • Aligned with that keyword's search intent
  • Designed to draw in qualified traffic


And if you have pieces of content that are drawing in empty traffic, take a look at how you can optimize or adjust them to pull in more relevant, qualified traffic. 

Invest in optimizing your old content


In May of 2020, Google started rolling out a "core" update to its algorithm. There are a lot of takeaways from the update, but for content marketing, one of the biggest changes is how Google ranks fresh new content. 




This article from Neil Patel does a great job of explaining how this core update impacts us all and offers a few great tips about how to effectively optimize your old content.


The big takeaway to keep in mind is that optimizing old content is an easy way to boost your rankings for relevant keywords. Optimizing and refreshing old content is a lot easier than starting from scratch, and it offers a lot of ways for you to get creative. 

  • Can you add an infographic?
  • What about a step-by-step instruction section?
  • Could the article benefit from some accompanying video?


These additions are easy to make since you have the bulk of the content already created. Sprucing up old content and going through it to check for broken links and outdated information is simple enough to do, and can deliver serious results. 


Search engines prefer fresh, relevant, and recently updated content. Schedule time in your monthly content calendar to optimize older blogs that used to perform well or that could perform better. 


Video is more relevant than ever


Video only continues to increase in popularity. In 2021, short-form video is taking over. With the rise of video-sharing platforms like Tik Tok, shorter, more engaging videos are the way of the future. 




The benefit here for you is that short videos are highly shareable. Their shareability means you can get the brand awareness you're looking for by putting effort into short, compelling videos. 


This isn't to say that longer video tutorials and webinars aren't still amazing content marketing tools. Just make sure you have balance, and consider maximizing what you get out of those longer videos. Is there a section you can pull from the longer video into a shorter clip? That's two videos for the work of one. Can't beat that investment. 

Not confident in your video editing skills? No worries. There are tons of free or inexpensive video editors like Lumen5, Vidyard, and ClipChamp that make quality video creation easy. 


Focus on voice search


Voice search isn't new, but trying to rank for it is. 


In the past, it's been difficult to nail down voice search trends. Do search engines prioritize different types of content for voice search? Is there a different query pattern to write towards? There are a lot of questions surrounding voice search, but 2020 gave us a lot of answers. 


This Voice Search SEO Guide from Search Engine Watch is particularly helpful if you're working to boost your voice search rankings. If you're not into reading their whole guide, I'll break down the basics here: 


  • Optimize for long-tail keywords. People completing voice searches are likely to ask their mobile device or home assistant a full question. Develop content that's focused on that entire long-tail keyword. 
  • Give a direct answer. Mobile phones and digital assistants want to be able to regurgitate a simple, one-sentence answer. Then, they'll ask if the searcher wants to learn more. You'll capture a top position for those voice searches if you answer a question directly. If the searcher is interested, they'll keep reading what you have to say. 
  • Create a FAQ page that's crafted for voice search. Question keywords are the most popular for voice search. You can capture a lot of those queries by creating a high-quality, voice-search-optimized FAQ page.


With more and more people investing in home assistants and adopting voice-to-text, voice search has become a small but significant portion of all search engine queries. If you can work to capture voice search traffic in 2021, you'll position your company ahead of the competition for the future. 


Content marketing is a huge portion of any digital marketing or inbound marketing strategy. There's a lot that goes into it, and while these new rules of content marketing in 2021 should help you position your company well for the new year,  there's no single blog that can cover the whole topic in one go.  Feel free to check out some of our other blogs on content marketing, content development, business blogging, and content strategy if you're looking for more content marketing best practices. 


And if you'd like a little help getting your 2021 content marketing strategy off the ground, chat with the Evenbound team. We'd be happy to help you develop a content marketing strategy that gets you more of the right leads. 

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