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.
Chapter 1:Double Down on Video Content
Is video really “the future of content marketing”?
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”.
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.
First of all, YouTube is more popular than Facebook, Instagram… or any other website on the planet besides Google.
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.
And the vast majority of those views come from videos that I published over 6 months ago:
In fact, this video that I initially published in 2016 still gets a respectable 21,472 views every month.
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.
(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.
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.
But 40.9% come directly from the Suggested Video sidebar.
To get more views from YouTube Suggested Video, optimize your video description and tags around a growing, popular topic.
(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.
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:
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.
And because I’m reading from a tight script, my final video is super crisp.
Chapter 2: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:
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:
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.
So I decided to run an A/B test that pitted my blog feed vs. a homepage designed for conversions.
Which boosted our homepage conversion rate by 60.5%.
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.
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:
And here’s a real-life example of this newsletter in action:
That simple newsletter got a 42% open rate and a 12.3 % CTR.
Content Upgrades are still a great way to build your email list.
In fact, we still use them here at Backlinko.
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.
Which is why we offer the same resource (a guide to SEO in 2020) to each of them.
And even though this resource isn’t quite as targeted as a Content Upgrade, it still converts really well.
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:
Not only did that email get a super high open rate:
But hundreds of people replied to that email to say that they enjoyed the newsletter:
Chapter 3: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.
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.
That post picked up quite a few social shares the week that it came out.
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.
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:
And share our methodology so that others can re-run the analysis on their own.
I also take pains to write up the results in a way that doesn’t misrepresent what we found.
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:
Second, visuals give other bloggers something to embed into their posts. Which can lead to contextual backlinks, like this:
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.
Which got picked up by a handful of tech-focused news sites.
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.
Considering that I only have 35,188 followers, that’s an organic reach of 115.4%.
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.
Here’s a real-life example.
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.
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.
Today, my profile is optimized to turn browsers into followers:
It’s also optimized for LinkedIn SEO. Specifically, I’ve added about 30 skills to my LinkedIn profile.
Which helps my profile show up when people search for “SEO”, “content marketing” and other keywords that show up in my profile.
Chapter 5: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 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.
This single post brought in 25,643 visitors in the first week from email, social media and SEO.
Sure, the content was really good. But in my opinion, this guide performed so well because of its 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…
… from 27 total videos.
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.
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.
But it continues to bring in targeted visitors every month.
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.
And because that content was basically me documenting what I learned, people liked it.
Chapter 6: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.
Or comparing two trends against each other:
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.
This is Google’s way of showing you terms that are starting to blow up.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Chapter 7: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)
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.
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.
And because my video content was repurposed for YouTube, it racked up over 100k 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…
…and reused that tidbit (with updated numbers) as a LinkedIn post.
Bonus Chapter: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?
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.
Which is why I recommend publishing content with a specific goal in mind: links OR shares.
For example, when I published this guide to copywriting, I was aiming more for social shares than links.
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.
Experiment With Tweetstorms
Buffer recently found that Tweetstorms lead to more impressions and engagement… and fewer clicks.
And Naval Ravikant actually turned one of his Tweetstorms into a multi-episode 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.
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:
Or like this:
(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.
“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.
And when I wanted to write a post about getting more YouTube subscribers, I jotted down what worked best for me.
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.
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.
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
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.