If there’s anything marketers have learned in the past several years, it’s to prepare for anything.
This year, we’re grappling with an ever-changing digital landscape, potentially paradigm-shifting tools (like ChatGPT), and more. And it’s only February.
So, how do you prepare your content marketing strategy for 2023 to help your business grow organically this year?
To find out, we asked the experts what they see on the horizon.
Keep reading to learn about their top insights.
Trend #1: A Deeper Focus on Your Audience
Although AI and automation continue to rock the content landscape, 2023 will be a year of going back to the basics. Namely, creating content that puts the needs of your target audience first.
Does this sound familiar to you? There’s probably a good reason for that.
According to the 2023 State of Content Marketing report, audience research was the top factor leading to content marketing success for 47% of businesses.
And 44% said that improving the quality and value of their content was also important.
Need more evidence?
Just take a look at Google’s recent core updates. The helpful content update alone shows how crucial it is for content marketers to know and understand their audience. Google looks for content that:
- Gives users a satisfying experience
- Lives up to its promise
In other words, just like your audience, Google values content that was designed primarily to help by answering real, relevant questions in a way that makes sense.
So, how do you create audience-oriented content?
To begin with, you could simply look at what’s already ranking. This is called the search intent analysis, which can help you better understand your audience’s content expectations.
To do this, you can simply google your target keyword and take notes about pages ranking first. You can look at:
- The intended audience (e.g., beginners vs. experienced users)
- The content’s structure and article type
- Questions and topics covered in the content
- Length and presence of visuals & other elements
- Headline type and structure
But to elevate your strategy, Kyle Byers, Director of Organic Search at Semrush, suggests getting to know your audience more directly.
Have conversations with your audience. Then take what you’ve learned and use it to improve your content. The more valuable you can make it, the better your results will be.
Then, using what you learn, try to answer three key questions when creating any content:
- What are my audience’s needs, challenges, and pain points related to this topic?
- How can my content provide more value than what’s already available online?
- What is my audience actually saying about it—for example, on social media or at industry conferences?
One brand that does audience-focused content well is U.S.-based ecommerce site ModCloth. They target millennial women with unique, usually feminine, vintage-inspired designs.
ModCloth’s blog targets those customers with these three tactics:
- Appealing to their core audience’s interests (styling vintage-inspired outfits in everyday life)
- Attracting new traffic from organic search by targeting trend-specific keywords (“A-line dress,” “peter pan collar,” or “cute teacher clothes” to name a few)
- Drawing attention to their products to increase conversion
On the B2B side of things, the business messaging app Slack produces content that shows they understand their audience on a deeper level and have a content strategy for different personas.
They use audience-specific topic clusters to guide users toward the most relevant content.
Within those clusters, they share tips and guides to help teams streamline their processes and hit their goals.
So, what do Slack and ModCloth have in common?
They both have a keen eye on their audience’s questions and needs related to their niche.
Then, they create lots of content to answer those questions in an accessible way, strengthening their relationship with them in the process.
Trend #2: Improving Content Quality Will Be Your Top Priority
As mentioned above, 44% of marketers said that improving content quality and value was a key contributor to content success.
In 2023, that will be even more important. And it’s something that’s within reach for companies of all shapes and sizes, says Semrush Marketing Content Lead Margarita Loktionova.
It doesn’t matter if you head up a Fortune 500 company or run a small family business—you can create content that offers real value to your audience. Get it right and you’ll see more website visitors, click-throughs, and conversions.
That’s why this tactic is quickly turning into the number-one success factor for generating meaningful traffic, engagement, and conversions. And a staggering 53% of our survey respondents state that improving content quality helps them rank higher in search.
So, how do you improve your content quality?
In short, be authentic.
In other words, focus on people and what they actually need or what they relate to. Then, create content that answers that need, while also aligning with your brand story.
Other attributes of quality content include:
- Real-life experience and expertise
- Unique insights you can’t find anywhere else
- Easy-to-follow steps and practical advice
- Great user experience: e.g., readability, structure, visuals
- A relevant and consistent tone of voice
One well-known example of authentic content is the #AerieREAL campaign. Starting in 2014, Aerie, a women’s intimate apparel and lifestyle brand, set themselves apart from their competition by making—and, crucially, fulfilling—two promises:
- Stop digitally altering models’ photos
- Use more diverse models with a variety of backgrounds, styles, and body types
Then, they applied this to their whole content strategy, on their site and on social media.
The result? By 2020, they had shown their “28th consecutive quarter of double-digit sales growth.”
On the B2B side of things, Australian neo-lender Jacaranda Finance improved their content by using data to target the most helpful, relevant topics for users, without sacrificing ranking potential.
They achieved this using the following Semrush tools:
- Content Audit to analyze their existing content and highlight articles that need improvement
- Keyword Magic Tool to find and target promising, super-relevant long-tail keywords and questions
- SEO Content Template to plan new and updated content more easily
As a result, they:
- Increased organic traffic by 75%
- Ranked in the top 3 for 150 keywords
- Improved their bounce rate and session duration
The takeaway? Improving your content—whether that’s through a more authentic strategy, more audience-oriented content, or both—is worth the time and effort it requires. And that’s why it will be your top priority in 2023.
Trend #3: Proving Return on Investment Will Be Huge
2023 has arrived and brought with it the economic uncertainty of the past few years. For marketers, that means our budgets will come under more scrutiny.
To get through it, we’ll need to spend the year proving our work’s ROI (return on investment). How will we do it? Marketing Insider Group CEO Michael Brenner says the answer is SEO-driven planning, generating organic search and referral traffic.
Paid ads and social media account for less than 10% of B2B website traffic, leads, or sales. Even for ecommerce, the number is less than 20%. So, what is the largest and most effective source of marketing ROI for brands? In every industry, the answer is organic search and referral traffic.
So, how do you drive organic and referral traffic?
First, think about why you’re creating your content. What’s one of the biggest benefits of having a content marketing strategy at all? It enables you to reach audiences you wouldn’t normally connect with. So make sure you:
- Tell compelling stories while answering the reader’s most important questions
- Align your content with your whole buyer's journey
- Publish consistently
UK-based SEO agency Minty Digital used this approach to help their client, Primethorpe Paving, multiply their online leads. To do this, the agency:
- Performed keyword research to find relevant, high-volume keywords to compete for
- Researched competitor content to compare strategies
- Used their findings to create educational, product-oriented content tailored to their audience
As a result, they quickly grew their client’s domain authority and ranked for more and better keywords. Moreover, Primethorpe Paving increased their monthly leads from only five to 114.
Of course, it’s not enough to simply deliver a solid return on investment. You’ve also got to track and measure it.
According to our survey, 70% of the companies that are extremely successful with content marketing measure content ROI. And 77% of them also measure overall content marketing performance.
However, only 34% of all companies we surveyed believed that they measured content marketing ROI effectively. So even if this is already part of your strategy, you may have room for improvement.
If you need to improve your ROI, take a closer look at your attribution model.
Does it account for all the touchpoints that influenced your customer on the way to conversion? If you’re using last click attribution, probably not. In this case, opting for a multi-step or linear attribution could be more effective.
While it’s more complex, it attributes a conversion equally among all touchpoints. This can give you a more holistic view of your content’s ROI and more data to use when creating a new strategy.
To sum it up, by holistically tracking and reporting on your ROI, you’ll not only prove the value of your work but also gather valuable insights to improve your performance in the future.
Trend #4: Human Content Will Be a Priority Despite the AI-Generated Content Trend
ChatGPT is big news in the content marketing world, and for good reason: With AI-generated content at our fingertips, anyone can create more content more quickly.
But does that mean you should hang up your writer hat and go all in on AI? Not quite, says Julia McCoy, VP of Content at Scale and Coach at Content Hacker:
With the launch of ChatGPT, AI-assisted content production will become a huge player in 2023. It will allow website owners to get content developed more quickly and easily to bring in traffic. But there’s a downside. There will be mass production of non-original, fluffy, and inaccurate content. Humanly-researched, high-quality, unique content will stand out more than ever.
So, what do you do? You create quality content that’s good enough to rise above all the noise.
Applied Sciences company 3M does this on their blog, Inside Angle.
Here, they build on their industry expertise to educate their audience, covering clinical topics in a way that’s accessible to their science-oriented audience.
As one might expect from a market researcher, Ipsos also uses original findings in their content. However, because their scope of research is so much broader, they’re able to cover more trendy topics but with an authoritative edge.
Can you still use this strategy if you’re not a scientist or a market researcher? Of course.
When creating content, lean into your own expertise—or work with other experts. Then give actionable insights that AI can’t provide.
Animalz Content VP Ryan Law suggests using AI and transforming its weaknesses into advantages.
We can use AI by shifting responsibilities: writers become editors, and GPT-3 becomes a writer. Our job is to shape the output to the desired end state we have in mind.
How do you do that? He suggests:
- Fact-checking automatically generated content—including quotes
- Rewriting vague sections to be more specific and remove generalizations
- Scrupulously editing for style, removing extra words and repeated ideas
This way, you can take advantage of the efficiencies of AI. And, more importantly, you’ll still produce valuable, stand-out content, establishing you as a resource readers will come back to again and again.
Trend #5: Ranking Will Be Less Important, but Your Click-Through Rates Will Count
Search engines strive to answer searchers’ questions more efficiently—think featured snippets, related questions, and knowledge panels in search results.
As a result, users may not have the same incentive to click through to see the actual pages.
Because of this, content marketers may need to adjust their strategies to compensate.
Let’s say you’ve optimized two pages, and the results break down like this:
| || |
Which page was more successful?
If you’re just measuring ranking, the answer is Page A. But how well do those results align with your business goals?
That’s why Orbit Media CMO Andy Crestodina says that SEO agencies will begin to focus less on ranking reports, and more on other metrics like click-through rates.
“In 2023, the biggest trend will have nothing to do with how your content ranks.
The biggest trend has everything to do with click-through rates.”
Additionally, content marketers will strive to earn more qualified, high-converting traffic.
There are several strategies that can help with this.
First and foremost, stay at the top of your audience’s mind by creating memorable, useful content geared toward their needs and interests.
And the best part? You don’t necessarily have to be the one to write all of it. For example, U.S.-based financial services corporation American Express does this.
Their Business Class site features journalists and thought leaders from many different industries:
With a strategy like this, you can build relationships with other thought leaders and organizations. And because they may promote their own writing—on your site—you can expand your reach to include their audiences.
But how do you make sure all of this content—written by you or a guest—is relevant to your audience? By connecting with them more directly. You can do this by:
- Building online communities
- Planning events
- Growing your email lists
Another solid strategy is to embrace digital PR. By creating guest posts or being quoted in an article, you can make your brand visible on other people’s high-performing websites.
Also, consider using other content formats.
Videos, for example, can build brand awareness without driving traffic at all. Simply optimize them to rank in Google for keywords that show videos in the results pages.
According to Semrush’s State of Content Marketing report, video remains the most effective content format, followed by written content:
Finally, while optimizing for organic search is crucial, don’t stop there.
Instead, promote your content where your audience is most likely to connect with it—e.g., on Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, or Quora, or by advertising through big tech networks like Google Ads or Amazon.
You might already be doing some of this. When asked, 56% of businesses said they promote their content by sharing it on social media, and a quarter said they supported their content through digital PR.
Of course, the best tactics are the ones that speak directly to your target audience.
With a thoughtful multichannel promotion strategy that meets them where they are, your content marketing will be ready for anything 2023 throws at it.
Trend #6: 2023 Will Be About Buying Growth, Not Just Building It
As content marketers, we often approach growth incrementally. Our goal is to gradually build our audience by attracting them to our site. However, according to Joe Pulizzi, Co-Founder of CEX: Creator Economy Expo, 2023 will shake things up.
Today, with the rise of the creator economy and millions of content entrepreneurs building niche media sites, the opportunities have never been greater for brands to purchase small content brands instead of building audiences.
In other words, think like a media company and add acquisitions to your strategy. This can help you hit your goals more quickly, so that you can focus your content marketing efforts somewhere else.
It’s simple: Your acquisition target has already achieved those goals.
And some major players are already using this strategy.
A relevant example is Semrush acquiring Backlinko, adding more than 500,000 monthly visits!
Semrush isn’t the only one. Back in 2020, Salesforce acquired The CMO Club.
This isn’t limited to larger companies like Salesforce, either.
How many influencers are currently building high-quality niche websites that align perfectly with goals you haven’t hit yet?
In 2023, spend some time thinking about how to best use your resources.
In many cases, working slowly but surely to hit a goal is the best path forward. In others, though, acquisition may be the best choice.
Get Ahead of 2023’s Most Important Content Trends
Are you ready to elevate your content strategy? Because now is the time to do it.
Elevate your content by:
- Taking an audience-first approach
- Producing better-than-ever content
- Rethinking how you measure success
Want to know more about the year’s trends in content marketing?
Download the 2023 State of Content Marketing report.
Then, use what you learn to make this your biggest content year yet.