Content marketing is gaining traction in the life sciences and healthcare industry, but trends in the industry do not always match up with accepted content marketing best practices.

Analytics and new technology are advancing marketers’ understanding of what works and what doesn’t, and staying up to date with recent best practices is essential if you want to make sure your content marketing doesn’t get left behind.

These are five of the most important content marketing trends for 2017 and beyond.

1. Length

Content is getting longer, and people are still reading it. According to research from Orbit Media, the average blog post among regular bloggers is now over 1,000 words long (up 19 percent from last year). Social media giant Buffer argues that the ideal blog post in 1,600 words long.

Research from Moz and BuzzSumo on sharing and linking trends in content shows that although 85 percent of content is under 1,000 words long, longer content acquires more links and social shares than shorter content.

A study from HubSpot further clarified the link between average word count and organic traffic.

(Source: HubSpot)

It is worth noting that the Google algorithm does not appear to literally use content length as a ranking factor. Rather, Google prefers content that is comprehensive and provides value to searchers by answering the questions behind their query.

It so happens that, in most cases, long content is better able to provide in-depth answers to searcher questions. Long content also has more chances to signal its relevance to the search engine, as it can include more related topics and terms by virtue of having more words.
For the simple reason that valuable content is more likely to be shared, both the Moz/BuzzSumo research and the HubSpot study concluded that longer content receives more social shares on average.

Although the internet can appear to be a battle for short attention spans, long content is in many cases more valuable than short content. Savvy content marketers don’t shy away from producing long, authoritative content when the topic demands.

2. Semantic search

With the past few years of updates to the Google algorithm, so-called “black hat” SEO techniques have fallen out of favor. Pointing dozens of links to your website from spammy link aggregators and stuffing as many keywords as possible into your content are no longer viable ways to increase search ranking or online traffic.

Link building and keyword optimization techniques remain relevant. But as Google’s algorithms get smarter and better at identifying high quality content and measuring relevance, SEO experts will need to become similarly more advanced.

New approaches to SEO revolve around semantic search, which Moz describes thusly:

“Semantic search seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding a searcher’s intent through contextual meaning. Through concept matching, synonyms, and natural language algorithms, semantic search provides more interactive search results through transforming structured and unstructured data into an intuitive and responsive database.”

In order to provide additional value to searchers and rank higher in results, SEO experts are increasingly focused on signaling relevance and matching searcher intent.

Keyword approaches to semantic search therefore target words that people are searching for, of course. But they also recognize that many searches are unique, long questions, and that signaling relevance is the key to appearing on these results pages.

How can you signal relevance within your content? Free tools like Answer the Public and Keywordtool.io allow you to identify questions and phrases related to your topic. Even the bottom of Google search results provides semantically related terms.

Paid services such as Moz or SEMrush can also be helpful in the identification of related terms.

Including such phrases alongside conventional keywords can help signal relevance to search engines, boosting search rankings.

As an added bonus, this approach helps create content that is genuinely valuable by answering all possible questions related to a search. Because of this, future algorithm updates should not negatively affect semantically optimized content.

3. Multimedia

Including an image with blog posts and on social media is no longer really optional.

Research from Chute and Digiday shows that visual content outperforms text-only content by 4.4 times on social media.

Similarly, Buffer demonstrated that tweets with images received 18 percent more clicks, 89 percent more favorites, and 150 percent more retweets.

Within content itself, images improve the scan-ability of your content and help engage readers.

But the most invested content marketers are making the transition to video. Embedded videos improve conversion rates on landing pages, and can help improve engagement and reach on social media, among other benefits.

Videos are somewhat more time-intensive to produce than images, but the prevalence of smartphones and the ability to use stock video clips are lowering the barrier to entry.

Similarly, the rise of live-streaming apps like Periscope and Facebook Live means that any moment is an opportunity for video marketing.

4. Personality

People connect with people. Content that’s conversational, uses the second person, and is attached to a specific person is more relatable and engaging.

This kind of writing is a staple of copywriting, but is still being adopted in content. Emails should come from a person with a responsive email address, not a company name and donotreply.

What kind of personality does your company have? As marketer Neil Patel points out, personal messages that are warm and engaging tend to perform best.

When I recently subscribed to content marketer Jay Acunzo, I witnessed an inspiring level of personalization. Within a few minutes of subscribing to his website, I had received a personal message from Jay, which included the following note:

“I wanted to send you a personal note. (This whole thing is me typing. Like right now. Like sitting in a hoodie in my apartment outside Boston on a Friday. This is not an autoresponse.)”

This level of personalization is time-intensive and difficult to execute, and it won’t be possible for everyone. But it is also powerful, and helps you stand out from the pack. I will certainly be keeping an eye out for his Monday newsletter.

Even if you cannot personalize every message, you can inject your own personality. When customers submit an order to your website, does the confirmation message read “We have received your order and will process it shortly?” Or do you take an approach more like Derek Sivers of CD Baby:

“Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved “Bon Voyage!” to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Friday, June 6th.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as “Customer of the Year.” We’re all exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!”

Sivers credits this email with thousands of new and repeat customers.

This tone might be wildly inappropriate for your business, or you may not even take orders through your website. The key question at hand is this: how can you make your company’s personality show in your marketing?

Your success as a content marketer is directly related to your ability to create personal connections with your audience.

5. Repurposing

Content does not need to be produced once and then forgotten.

Old content is not necessarily bad content, and can be promoted as-is or revamped, reformatted, and reused. Because content production can be a resource-intensive process, it often makes sense to re-release content in new formats.

Presentations can easily be turned into Slideshares. Particularly in-depth blog posts can easily be turned into downloadable PDFs. The information from a white paper can be consolidated into a checklist, or used to pitch media outlets on related topics.

Repurposing content requires some creativity and finesse—you can’t hand a white paper to your sales team and call it a day—but is a simple way to extract the most value from your content marketing budget.

CG Life helps life science and healthcare companies grow their business through content marketing. Contact us if you would like our team of experts to help you improve your content marketing strategy.