6 Surprising Content Marketing Trends That Are Skyrocketing In 2016, And What You Need To Do In Response

by Neil Patel

Last updated on July 25th, 2017

It’s no big secret that content marketing is changing right now.

I don’t mean “changing” in the little tweaky sort of way. I mean big, massive sea changes.

The tricky thing is, we aren’t very good at predicting the future. Even though we see and feel these changes, we aren’t quite sure what to do in response.

To help cut through the confusion, I’ve assembled my list of predictions, hunches, educated guesses, and flat-out facts about the future of content marketing.

Instead of just saying, “Here’s what’s going to happen,” I’m also telling you, “Here’s what you should do in response.”

Ready? Let’s go.

1. A Lot Of Brands Will Burn Out On Content Marketing

I’m seeing a ton of brands simply give up on content marketing.

Why do people give up on content marketing?

Results. They’re not seeing results.

This is the number one prediction of Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute. Here’s what he wrote:

Simply put, most brands resist telling a truly differentiated story, and even those that do tell one aren’t consistent or patient enough to build loyal audiences over time.

I understand this. It’s hard to measure the ROI of content marketing. Besides, content marketing takes a long time before you begin to see results.

Often, brands and businesses give up right before payday.

give up chart


Here’s what you should do in response.

Keep on doing content marketing. If your content marketing isn’t “working,” don’t keep doing the same thing repeatedly.

Instead, step back, get to know your customer once more, and re-engage with a new strategy.

Often, lasting longer than the competition is one of the best ways to out-market the competition.

2. A Lot Of Brands Will Be Forced Improve Their Game

If your content isn’t getting shared, read, found, or looked at, you have basically two choices:

Choice 1: Quit

Choice 2: Improve

As discussed above, some businesses throw in the towel.

Other businesses improve their content marketing.

Hopefully, you’re in this second group — the content improvers.

If you are, then you have your work cut out for you. In 2016, content marketers will get savvier and better.

Jayson DeMers writes in Inc.,

If you want to survive in 2016 and beyond, your content will need… to be better-researched, better-written, and more valuable to your audience.

Here’s what you should do in response.

Boost your quality, whatever that means and whatever it requires.

Remember, content is part of the entire user experience.

ux plan


Take a fresh look at your customer persona, retool your content, and deliver a stunning experience for that customer.

3. Customers Will Start Paying For Content

Really? In an Internet of everything-is-free, will some people prefer to pay for their content?


There is now so much content available that many customers prefer to pay for curated content rather than waste time and effort collating the existing free content.

This is the same reason you would pay a personal shopper to help you pick out clothes. The professional shopper can understand your style, make recommendations, and give you just what you need and want.

In a content marketing world that is oversaturated with low-quality content, customers are more than willing to exchange their money for top-tier content that delivers exactly what they are looking for.

Online courses like Udemy are a marker of this trend. The burgeoning online course industry as a whole shows you that there is serious money to be made by targeting a niche and creating stellar content.

Here’s what you should do in response.

If you are looking to open up new income streams (and it makes sense with your business model), consider launching online courses.

If, on the other hand, you prefer to intake customers via traditional social and organic methods, then make a concerted effort to organize, curate, and increase your quality.

Content consumers are savvy. They know when they are looking at low-quality content that has been produced simply to pawn a product. Give away your best information, and you’ll gain the best kind of customers.

4. Customers Will Demand Visual Content

Visual content is the new black.

Customers don’t have time for long pages of text. They want pictures — lots of them.

Most social sharing now is accompanied by images, and it’s hard to find a blog that doesn’t have a picture somewhere in the post.

stats visual content


Whether it’s data-driven infographics, charts, screenshots, photos, or customer artwork, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is, you’re tantalizing the eyes and mind with something other than words on a page.

power of visual content


Here’s what you should do in response.

Create more visual content, plain and simple.

Some people will tell you that you need 1 image for every 300 words or so. That’s fine, and in most of my articles, I use more images than that.

Keep in mind, though, that you need to use relevant images. Don’t sacrifice user experience by packing in irrelevant or low-quality images.

5. Content Distribution Will Cost Money

You already know that content marketing is expensive.

Some successful companies are spending more than 50% of their entire marketing budget on content. Most businesses prefer to keep their spending in the 20-30% range.

percent of budget


More content means more production costs, regardless of the size of your organization.

content marketing costs


It’s this high cost of content marketing that causes many businesses to drop out of the game early on. Content marketing has a long-term yield, not a short-term boost.

cost per lead


And now, there’s a new cost to roll into the equation: Content distribution.

iMediaConnection makes this point:

Paid distribution will no longer be a dirty little secret for publishers…. Content can be used to drive many business goals. For that to happen, content needs to get in front of the right people. In 2016, more publishers will embrace the fact that paying for content distribution to targeted audiences is the best way to do that.

At the heyday of organic SEO, few businesses were interested in paying for content distribution. After all, why pay for distribution if organic reach is twice as effective and costs nothing?

Times have changed. The sheer velocity and enormity of the available content has reversed this trend. Now, instead of asking, “Should we pay for distribution?” businesses are asking, “How much can we spend on distribution?”

One Moz writer explains it this way:

Content distribution networks are quickly becoming powerful tools for engaging new audiences and expanding the reach of creative content. This method for online advertising provides content within the context of a user’s experience, making the native advertising feel less intrusive and more like part of a discovery process, all while increasing the odds that users will click-through.

These Moz writers started testing the reach and revenue of their content distribution efforts. Their landing page traffic shot up.

cumulative landing page traffic

Unless something drastic happens to sideline this trend, we’ll probably see a greater reliance on paid channels in order to drive targeted traffic to content sources.

Here’s what you should do in response.

Don’t dismiss paid distribution as gimmicky or wasteful. Instead, try this:

6. Videos Will Be The New Blogging

The most basic and traditional method of content marketing is, of course, the blog.

With good reason. Blogs have and will continue to have a powerful impact, incredible search engine potential, and high conversion and clickthrough rates.

But videos are on their way to replacing the written word.

As SocialTimes reported in September 2015, “The future of content marketing is online video.”

The data-driven proof and predictions make it blindingly obvious:

video fueling strong mobile data growth

Video has been on a meteoric rise ever since its production became manageable, and connection speeds and wireless networks caught up with the demand. In 2015, it was the fastest-growing segment of the content marketing sphere.

what content types grew most


The growth has not slowed. In fact, more industry watchdogs are predicting the domination of video in 2016.

Knute Sands of TopRank made this prediction about the use of video in 2016:

Video is increasingly easy to produce, and likewise becoming the most popular content type across all of social media. But, relatively few content marketers have embraced video as a primary content type in their ongoing efforts. In 2016, we will see nearly all content marketers attempting to utilize video more frequently.

Sands also thinks that search algorithms will begin to tilt towards video content, especially as users embrace video with greater regularity.

Others are saying the same thing:

We’ve already started seeing video come back in the form of Live streaming (Periscope, Blab, Facebook Live). We’ll see more of that along with companies repurposing their content in different mediums such as Slideshare, Linkedin, Medium, Video, and likely even offline magazines.Sujan Patel

The biggest opportunity for content marketers in 2016 is mobile-optimized video content…. According to Ooyala’s Global Video Index from Q3 2015, videos less than 10 minutes in length are watched on mobile 69% of the time.Lorelei Orfeo

Videos could be increasingly important… According to some published estimates, video content will account for nearly two-thirds of consumer Internet traffic by the end of 2016.Armando Roggio

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.Jayson DeMers

Point taken?

Here’s what you should do in response.

Videos. Use them.

Just start, no matter how small. A YouTube channel, a brief series, a tour of your office, a few friendly “hellos” embedded into a blog post.

Video is where content marketing is headed. We’ve been on the video superhighway for a long time, and we’re now realizing that this is the current reality of content marketing.

Many consumers prefer video, and unless you’re delivering it, they’re not going to be engaging with you.


I’ve begun to sound like a track on repeat.

My repeat track is this: Content marketing is changing. You should adapt.

Based on the trends I’ve noted in the industry, here are the critical adaptations you should make during this year:

  1. A lot of brands will burn out on content marketing, so don’t quit!
  2. A lot of brands will be forced to improve their game, so do your best to stay at the top!
  3. Customers demand visual content, so give them what they want!
  4. Content distribution will cost money, so don’t be afraid to spend and test this channel.
  5. Videos will be the new blogging, so embrace video as a major method of content marketing.

What will you be focusing on in 2016?

*Featured Image Source



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Neil Patel

Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg and Hello Bar. He helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue.


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  1. Jill R says:
    December 2, 2016 at 5:21 am

    Thank you for sharing such productive information about Content Marketing and its useful tips. It is equally important to know as how this industry has been changing over the period of time. Purely niche content published here!

  2. Hannah says:
    August 3, 2016 at 4:00 am

    This is correct! As a SEO you should follow what is the trend. I also agree to this: “Videos will be the new blogging..” there are many who try this once and it’s effective.

  3. Anonymous says:
    June 15, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    I love this article. Actually all articles from Neil Patel.

  4. Zsolt says:
    May 25, 2016 at 10:39 am

    I have just shared this article with my friends who are interested in content marketing, because these are really good advice. I read the whole post and learned something new. Thank you Neil

  5. Alex says:
    March 19, 2016 at 1:32 am

    As a SEO and converison optimisation agency we’ve been seing allot of Videos on the SERP in the past months. So indeed “videos are the new black”

  6. Anonymous says:
    March 18, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    Great post as usual, Neil! I want to add a thought: in addition to an increased demand for videos, podcasts are an incredibly rich format for story-driven content and just as easy (if not easier) to produce.
    What are your thoughts on the position podcasting within the content marketing universe? Do you see it as the next big trend after video? And what should content creators do in response?

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