Content Marketing in 2020: The Definitive Guide

Content Marketing in 2020: The Definitive Guide

This is my complete guide to content marketing in 2020.

In this all-new guide you’ll learn:

  • How to promote your content
  • Content formats that are working right now
  • The top content marketing trends in 2020
  • New content creation strategies
  • Lots of advanced tips, strategies and techniques

So if you want to get more traffic from your content this year, you’ll love today’s guide.

Let’s get started.

Content Marketing This Year

Chapter 1:Double Down on Video Content

Double Down on Video Content

Is video really “the future of content marketing”?

Yup!

In fact, the number of businesses that use video as part of their marketing is up 38% since 2017.

And 72% of consumers say that they now “prefer videos” over text-based content.

So if you want to get started with video marketing — or double down on what you’re already doing — this chapter is for you.

In this chapter I’ll give you some of the tips and takeaways that I’ve learned from producing hundreds of hours of video content.

Nail Your Video Intros

It doesn’t matter if you’re making a video for YouTube, LinkedIn or Twitter…

When it comes to creating an awesome video, your intro is HUGE.

And there’s evidence to back this up:

YouTube’s internal data has found that a strong first 15 seconds can “keep viewers watching”.

YouTube Creator – Playbook tips

Which means you want to avoid starting your videos off with a fancy, animated logo.

Or spending 30 seconds explaining why your video’s topic is important.

(Which is a mistake I made back in the day)

Instead, jump right into your content, like this:

Focus On YouTube

Facebook video posts are a thing. So are Instagram videos.

But if you want to get the most eyeballs on your video content, you definitely want to focus on YouTube.

Why?

First of all, YouTube is more popular than Facebook, Instagram… or any other website on the planet besides Google.

SimilarWeb – Top websites ranking

But most importantly, YouTube videos can get views YEARS after you upload them.

(The same can’t be said for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… or any other social media site).

For example, my channel currently gets about 200k views per month.

Backlinko – YouTube – Channel Views

And the vast majority of those views come from videos that I published over 6 months ago:

Backlinko – YouTube – Top videos

In fact, this video that I initially published in 2016 still gets a respectable 21,472 views every month.

Video SEO – YouTube views

Optimize for Suggested Video

The other great thing about YouTube is that it gets your content in front of NEW people.

For example, according to my YouTube Studio account, 149,209 unique people see my videos every month.

Backlinko – YouTube Channel – Unique viewers

(Most of which are people that have never heard of Backlinko before)

And the best way to get your videos seen on YouTube?

Optimize for “Suggested Video”.

As you probably know, Suggested Video is the section on YouTube that’s to the right of the video you’re watching.

Suggested Videos

As it turns out, it’s here (not search) where most of the views on YouTube come from.

For example, 28.3% of my views per month come from SEO.

Backlinko – YouTube traffic from YouTube search

But 40.9% come directly from the Suggested Video sidebar.

Backlinko – YouTube traffic from Suggested Videos

To get more views from YouTube Suggested Video, optimize your video description and tags around a growing, popular topic.

Match popular video metadata to rank in "Suggested Video"

(That’s right: you want to optimize your video around competitive keywords).

When you do, your video can show up next to a video that’s already getting lots of views.

When you optimize your video around competitive keywords, your video can show up next to a video that's already getting lots of views

Work Off of a Script

Let’s face it:

Getting in front of a camera can be intimidating.

In fact, the first time I got in front of a camera I suddenly forgot how to speak!

Which led to unfocused sections of my video, like this:

The solution?

Read from a script.

This simple step was a complete game changer for me.

Instead of worrying about what to say and how to say it, all I need to do is read from my pre-written script.

Brian video script

And because I’m reading from a tight script, my final video is super crisp.

Chapter 2:Promote With Email

Promote With Email

Email marketing is as old-school as blowing into NES cartridges.

But it’s still an important content marketing trend in 2020.

(Especially when it comes to sharing new content).

In fact, according to The Content Marketing Institute, 79% of marketers state that email is their most effective content distribution channel.

And in Chapter 2 I’ll show you how to build your email list, how to promote your content with email newsletters, and more.

Replace Your Blog Feed With a Homepage

If you run a blog, your homepage probably looks something like this:

Blog homepage

I’m not going to say that this approach is “bad”.

But it’s definitely not optimized for conversions.

In fact, the Backlinko homepage used to be a blog feed:

Backlinko – Old blog homepage

This was great for helping people find my latest blog content. But the conversion rate on that page was pretty terrible.

In fact, only 10.22% of the people that visited that page signed up to my email list.

Old homepage conversions

So I decided to run an A/B test that pitted my blog feed vs. a homepage designed for conversions.

Backlinko – Homepage designed for conversions

Which boosted our homepage conversion rate by 60.5%.

Blog style homepage – Conversions

Try This Simple Newsletter Template

What’s the best way to share new content with your email subscribers?

This is something I’ve spent YEARS testing.

Back in the day, I’d send out lengthy emails that really sold my content.

Brian lengthy newsletter

But my click-through-rate on those emails wasn’t that great.

So I gradually cut out bits and pieces.

And every time I deleted a chunk of my newsletter content, clicks went up.

Here’s the exact formula that I use today:

The perfect blog post newsletter formula

And here’s a real-life example of this newsletter in action:

Brian newsletter written with formula

That simple newsletter got a 42% open rate and a 12.3 % CTR.

"Content Strategy" newsletter – Open rate

Not bad.

Topic Upgrades

Content Upgrades are still a great way to build your email list.

In fact, we still use them here at Backlinko.

Content Upgrade on Backlinko post

But there’s one big problem with Content Upgrades:

They’re a giant pain in the butt to maintain!

Every single time you make a change to your content, you need to update your Content Upgrade PDF.

And considering that we make over 500 changes and updates to our content every year, this turned out to be a huge problem.

That is, until I discovered Topic Upgrades.

Topic Upgrades is a lite version of a traditional Content Upgrade.

Instead of a resource that’s specific to that post… you offer something that’s specific to that topic.

For example, take these two blog posts from Backlinko.

Backlinko – Keyword Research and SEO Tools posts

Someone reading about keyword research probably wants the same thing as someone reading about SEO tools: how to get higher Google rankings.

Which is why we offer the same resource (a guide to SEO in 2020) to each of them.

SEO Guide resource

And even though this resource isn’t quite as targeted as a Content Upgrade, it still converts really well.

Analytics Topic Upgrade – Conversion Rate

Send Exclusive Content

If you want people to stay on your email list you can’t just send them links to your latest blog posts and podcast episodes.

In fact, you want to make about 10% of your newsletter content exclusive stuff that you don’t publish on your blog.

For example, I recently sent out this exclusive SEO strategy to our email subscribers:

Exclusive strategy for email subscribers

Not only did that email get a super high open rate:

"New Technique" newsletter open rate

But hundreds of people replied to that email to say that they enjoyed the newsletter:

Replies to Backlinko newsletter

Chapter 3:Publish "Be The Source" Posts

Publish "Be The Source" Posts

Want more traffic from your content marketing in 2020? Try “Be The Source” posts.

“Be The Source” posts are research-backed pieces of content that contain new, interesting data.

(Data that bloggers and journalists can cite in their articles)

In fact, BuzzSumo reports that 74% of people that have published original research content state that it helped them get more traffic.

So if you want to get more links, traffic and shares from your content marketing, then you might want to give Be The Source content a try this year.

And in this chapter I’ll walk you through the lessons I’ve picked up from publishing a handful of Be The Source posts over the last few years.

Focus on New Topics and Trends

A new topic is PERFECT for Be The Source posts.

Why?

Because there’s no data on that topic yet.

So when you publish data from a high-quality industry study, your post has a huge first-mover advantage.

For example, back in 2018, we published one of the first voice search SEO industry studies.

Backlinko post – Voice Search SEO Study

That post picked up quite a few social shares the week that it came out.

Tweets about Voice Search post

But more important than that, because we were one of the first sites with data about voice search optimization, our post has been linked to 1.85K times.

Voice Search SEO Study – Backlinks

Focus on Validity

When it comes to Be The Source content, there’s one big catch to keep in mind:

If you want people to take your research seriously, your data has to be 100% valid.

In fact, publishing flawed results or misleading findings can really hurt your reputation.

Study validity is something that we take very seriously here at Backlinko.

Which is why we usually have a data scientist review our results:

Data scientists reviewing results

And share our methodology so that others can re-run the analysis on their own.

Large scale page speed analysis methods PDF

I also take pains to write up the results in a way that doesn’t misrepresent what we found.

Study results explanation

Visualize Your Findings

Visuals help your Be The Source Content for two main reasons:

First, they make your data easier to understand.

Take a stat like “The average Time to First Byte (TTFB) of a voice search result was .54 seconds (vs. the worldwide average of 2.1 seconds).”

It’s really hard to visualize something like that.

But a visual like this makes it easy:

Time to first byte (TTFB)

Second, visuals give other bloggers something to embed into their posts. Which can lead to contextual backlinks, like this:

Search Engine Journal – Voice Search backlink

Promote With a Press Release

This is more of an optional step.

But if your data uncovered something interesting or surprising, a press release can help get your post in front of journalists that cover that topic.

Here’s an example of a press release that we recently published to help get the word out about one of our Be The Source posts.

Newswire – Backlinko press release

Which got picked up by a handful of tech-focused news sites.

MarTechSeries – Backlinko study article

Chapter 4:Get Engagement (and Reach) on LinkedIn

Get Engagement and Reach on LinkedIn

Considering that LinkedIn launched back in 2003, it may seem weird that I’m talking about it in a “content marketing in 2020” post.

Well, that’s because the new LinkedIn is completely different than the old LinkedIn.

The new LinkedIn has tons of cool features (like video posts, active groups and dynamic profiles).

But most important for digital marketers like you and me, LinkedIn reach is GREAT right now.

Let’s see how you can take advantage of LinkedIn this year.

Use LinkedIn Posts to Promote Your Content

Unlike Facebook, organic reach on LinkedIn is insane right now.

For example, one of my recent LinkedIn posts got 40,642 views.

LinkedIn – Post views

Considering that I only have 35,188 followers, that’s an organic reach of 115.4%.

Insane.

But there’s a catch:

For your content to get lots of reach, it needs to be SUPER engaging.
So if you just share your post with a link, it’s probably going to get buried by LinkedIn’s algorithm.

Instead, I recommend this 4-step formula for writing LinkedIn posts that get reach and send people to your latest post.

LinkedIn share post formula

Here’s a real-life example.

4-step formula LinkedIn post

Repost Blog Content as LinkedIn Articles

People actually enjoy the content they find on LinkedIn: “91 percent of marketing executives rate LinkedIn as the best place to find high-quality content.”

Which is why I recommend reposting some of your content as LinkedIn articles.

For example, this LinkedIn article (which was a word-for-word reposting of one of our Be The Source Posts), got over 4,200 views.

Content republished as LinkedIn article

In fact, writing this made me realize that I need to publish more LinkedIn articles in 2020!

Optimize Your Profile for Followers and SEO

Not so long ago, my LinkedIn profile looked like this.

Brian – Old LinkedIn profile

Yikes.

Today, my profile is optimized to turn browsers into followers:

LinkedIn – Brian Dean About section

It’s also optimized for LinkedIn SEO. Specifically, I’ve added about 30 skills to my LinkedIn profile.

LinkedIn – Brian Dean skills

Which helps my profile show up when people search for “SEO”, “content marketing” and other keywords that show up in my profile.

LinkedIn – Brian Dean search stats

Chapter 5:Create More Epic Content

Create More Epic Content

There’s more content published now than ever before.

Which makes it REALLY hard for your content to stand out.

In fact, according to Orbit Media, 47% of bloggers state that “getting traffic and attracting visitors” is their #1 challenge.

So: how do you get your content noticed in 2020?

Epic Content.

Epic content is just like it sounds: it’s content that’s so massive, so in-depth, so impressive, that it can’t help but get attention.

And in this chapter I’ll show you how to use this approach as part of your digital marketing campaigns.

Content Design Is a Competitive Advantage

Design can really help your content stand out.

For example, a few months ago we published this guide to becoming an SEO expert.

Backlinko – SEO Expert post

This single post brought in 25,643 visitors in the first week from email, social media and SEO.

SEO Expert – First week traffic

Sure, the content was really good. But in my opinion, this guide performed so well because of its 8-bit design.

SEO Expert – 8-bit design

In other words: if I published the same exact guide as a text-based blog post, it wouldn’t have done nearly as well.

Quality > Quantity

When it comes to content marketing in 2020, what’s more important:

Quantity? Or Quality?

In my opinion, the answer is: “quality”. And it’s not even close.

Unless you have a massive team of writers, it’s pretty much impossible to create lots of Epic Content.

The fact is: Epic Content takes time, energy and several rounds of edits. It’s tough to scale.

For example, my YouTube channel racks up 232.9K monthly views…

Backlinko – YouTube – Channel Views

… from 27 total videos.

Backlinko – YouTube Channel – Video list

How is this possible?

It’s because I put blood, sweat and tears into every video.

(And it’s not just me: we work with a production team, editor, audio engineer and animator to make videos that come out super professional).

How about another example?

Earlier this year we launched The SEO Marketing Hub.

Backlinko – SEO Marketing Hub

This project was so huge that I have no idea how many hours my team and I spent on it (I stopped counting at 100 hours).

But it was totally worth it.

Not only did The SEO Marketing Hub do well on day 1.

SEO Marketing Hub – First day traffic

But it continues to bring in targeted visitors every month.

SEO Marketing Hub – Traffic

Work With Domain Experts

In some ways, this is the secret to legit “high-quality content”.

So: what does it mean to “Work With Domain Experts”?

Well, let’s say you’re about to publish a post about starting a SaaS company.

There are two approaches to writing this content:

Option A: Hire a random freelancer to write the article.

Option B: Work with an entrepreneur that just grew their SaaS company to 1,000 customers.

The freelancer is going to regurgitate the content that’s already out there.

Sure, the freelancer’s content might be “good”. But it will lack the substance that you can ONLY get from Domain Experts.

A Domain Expert can talk about SaaS from their own first-hand experience: details, examples, beta versions, doubts, partnerships, pricing tests… and a million other things that you ONLY get from doing something in real life.

I think this is one reason that the content at Backlinko resonates with people.

I try to stick to topics that I have first-hand experience with. For example, I didn’t really start writing about YouTube marketing until I spent time growing my channel.

Backlinko – Get YouTube Views post

And because that content was basically me documenting what I learned, people liked it.

Reader's comment on "Get YouTube Views" post

Chapter 6:Jump On Emerging Topics

Jump on Emerging Topics

Epic Content is one way for your content to stand out.

Here’s another one: jump on emerging topics BEFORE they take off.

Question is: how do you find growing trends that are about to take off?

And when you find one, what should you do next?

Well, that’s exactly what I plan to cover in this chapter.

Google Trends Related Queries

Google Trends is GREAT for confirming if a keyword is growing or shrinking.

Google Trends – "pea protein"

Or comparing two trends against each other:

Google Trends – "pea protein" / "soy protein" compare

But it’s not that great at bubbling up trending topics that you don’t already know about.

That is, unless you check out the “Related Queries” section.

Here’s how it works:

First, search for a keyword that you think might be trending up.

Then, check out the Related queries list at the bottom of the page.

Google Trends – "pea protein" – Related queries

This is Google’s way of showing you terms that are starting to blow up.

Very helpful.

Exploding Topics

Google Trend’s Related Queries is helpful and all.

But again, it really only shows you topics that you already know about.

Which is why we recently built Exploding Topics.

Exploding Topics – Homepage

Exploding Topics scans the internet for terms that are starting to blow up. And, if the trend is a real trend (and not just a fad), we add it to our growing database.

Exploding Topics – Keyword overview

Create a Guide

Once you find an emerging topic, what’s next?

You can create a video. Or a list post.

But in my experience, your best bet is to create a guide.

Why?

Because the topic is so new, your guide will instantly become THE guide on that topic.

(Assuming that it’s good 😀 )

For example, in 2018 we published Voice Search: The Definitive Guide.

Backlinko post – Optimize for Voice Search

This wasn’t only the best guide to voice search out there. It was the ONLY guide.

Which is why it got so much traffic on day 1.

"Optimize for Voice Search" - First day traffic

Chapter 7:Content Repurposing 2.0

Content Repurposing 2.0

Repurposing content is a great way to scale up your content marketing… without starting over every time you want to create something new.

(Which is why content repurposing is a hot content marketing trend right now)

That said:

People’s standards for content has gone up A LOT over the last few years.

Which means: you can’t just read an article into a microphone and call it a day.

This chapter will show you how to use content repurposing as part of your content strategy in 2020.

Match The Content To Each Format

Like I said:

Content standards are completely different than even 2-3 years ago.

Back then, you could recycle the content from a single blog post into several different formats.

And it would work.

Today, you need to take the ideas, concepts, and examples from your original content… and adapt it so it’s a PERFECT fit for the new format.

How about an example?

Late last year I uploaded this video to YouTube.

This video was closely based on this post from my blog.

Backlinko post – Increase Website Traffic

Despite the fact that my video used a lot of the strategies from that post, it wasn’t a “copy & paste” type of deal.

For example, I added a short, relatable story to the beginning of the video (which tends to work well on YouTube).

I also ONLY used 9 of the 27 strategies that I thought would work best for the video format.

And I rewrote entire strategies so they made sense on video.

Rewritten strategy for video

And because my video content was repurposed for YouTube, it racked up over 100k views.

"How to Get More Traffic" – Video views

Reuse Specific Steps and Tips

You don’t need to reuse an entire piece of content for this approach to work.

In fact, you can take one of your best sections from an existing piece of content… and reuse that somewhere else.

For example, I took this interesting mini-case study from my guide to email marketing…

Mini case study from post

…and reused that tidbit (with updated numbers) as a LinkedIn post.

Mini case study reused in LinkedIn post

Bonus Chapter:Content Marketing Tactics for 2020

Content Marketing Tactics for 2020

Let’s cap off this guide with a handful of super actionable content marketing tactics for 2020.

Create Content Designed for Links OR Social Shares

Is it possible to create a piece of content that gets a bunch of backlinks AND social media shares?

Yes.

But it’s SUPER rare.

In fact, when we teamed up with BuzzSumo to analyze 900 million articles, we found that the correlation between links and social shares was… practically zero.

Correlation between links and social shares

Which is why I recommend publishing content with a specific goal in mind: links OR shares.

(Not both)

For example, when I published this guide to copywriting, I was aiming more for social shares than links.

Backlinko – Copywriting Guide

Because my guide doesn’t contain much in the way of original data or strategies, there’s nothing for other bloggers to cite or link to.

But because my guide put a lot of copywriting wisdom into one place, it got shared like crazy. In fact, that post already has over 6,000 shares.

Copywriting Guide – Social shares

Experiment With Tweetstorms

Buffer recently found that Tweetstorms lead to more impressions and engagement… and fewer clicks.

A Twitter thread experiment

And Naval Ravikant actually turned one of his Tweetstorms into a multi-episode podcast.

Naval Ravikant podcast

So it’s clear that there’s something to this format. Tweetstorms combine the short, snappy tweets with long-form content.

And Twitter recently made Tweetstorms much easier to do.

Twitter tweetstorm

Send Super-Personalized Outreach Emails

Whether you’re promoting content or reaching out to a social media Influencer, your outreach emails to work in 2020, they need to be SUPER personalized.

And no, “Hey [Name]” doesn’t count as personalized.

Instead, your outreach emails should look more like this:

Super personalized outreach email

Or like this:

Good outreach email

(That’s not to say that you can’t work off of a script. But that script needs lots of fields that you can personalize).

The analysis of 12 million outreach emails that we recently did with Pitchbox found that personalizing your emails can boost replies by about 1/3rd.

Personalizing email body copy can significantly improve response rates

“Document, Don’t Create”

I first heard this phrase from Gary Vaynerchuk.

And it’s been my content marketing mantra over the last 18 months.

The idea is that, instead of creating content from scratch, you simply document what you’re already doing.

(Gary actually has a full-time video camera document his every move. But you don’t need to take it to that extreme).

For example, when I started sending out press releases to promote some of our Be The Source Content, I wrote up what I learned as a definitive guide.

Backlinko – Write a Press Release Guide

And when I wanted to write a post about getting more YouTube subscribers, I jotted down what worked best for me.

Backlinko – How to Get YouTube Subscribers post

There are two main benefits of the “Document, Don’t Create” approach:

First, your content comes out WAY better.

A few years ago I wanted to jump on the Conversion Rate Optimization craze. But I don’t have much first-hand experience with CRO (outside of split testing on my own websites).

Which is probably why my CRO-focused content didn’t do that great.

Second, documenting is MUCH easier and faster.

After all, you’re documenting what you already do all day.

The “Document, Don’t Create” approach is the main reason that we’ve been able to go from 1 post/month to 2 posts/month.

Because my content documents the SEO work I do every day, I can produce more of it.

Promote Your Content with Partnerships

Want to get more eyeballs on your content?

Try a content partnership.

A content partnership is when you and another business work together on a single piece of content.

For example, I partnered with ClickFlow for this Google CTR analysis.

Backlinko – Google CTR Stats study

This was a win-win for both of us.

I got access to a unique data set. And ClickFlow got in front of thousands of new people.

The best part?

You don’t need to have an existing audience for this to work.

Kyle Byers was able to partner up with Kinsta and Mangools for this blogger survey.

Kyle Byers – Study partners

At the time, Kyle had published 5 posts on his blog. And had 47 email subscribers.
So you don’t need a huge audience to take advantage of partnerships.

As long as you’re willing to hustle and provide value to your partner, this strategy can work.

Now It’s Your Turn

Conclusion

So that’s it for my guide to content marketing in 2020.

Now I’d like to hear what you have to say:

Which strategy from this guide are you going to try first?

Do you plan on creating more video content?

Or maybe you want to test out content partnerships.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.

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