2019 was a year filled with a lot of changes for digital publishers. From key players signaling the death of the third-party tracking cookie, to publishers preparing for new regulations rolling out like the CCPA. What’s next? Today we’re going to take a look at the top digital content trends in 2020, according to publishers.
What are the highest digital content priorities in 2020?
SEO won out over all the other options for top digital content trends in 2020, and that result doesn’t come as a surprise.
Publishers that have even a bit of experience with building a website from scratch know that SEO is a worthy investment of time and energy.
The second-highest priority for publishers in 2020 was diversifying revenue streams. The fact 25% of publishers found this to be their highest priority is interesting. Just how investing in index funds is more balanced and less volatile than investing all your money into a single stock, the same applies to digital content.
What were publishers’ biggest challenges in 2019?
The biggest challenge for publishers in 2019 was growing quality traffic. What’s interesting about this being the top response is that it directly ties to the second-biggest challenge for publishers in 2019—increasing revenue. The age-old equation that has maintained its relevance and will continue to be relevant in the foreseeable future for publishers is:
Growing quality traffic = increased ad revenue
In reality, growing quality traffic to your site isn’t easy. Namely, because of all the other answers to the survey questions above. Publishers have to keep up with SEO, monetization, and new technologies and privacy regulations like GDPR and the CCPA.
The third-biggest-challenge for publishers in 2019 was managing website speed, infrastructure, and technical issues. Many publishers are a one-person operation, so if infrastructure or technical issues pop up, they have to address it themselves.
On top of all that, Google recently has emphasized the importance of site speed and SEO by introducing things like Chrome’s badge of shame for slow sites and the Chrome User Experience Report. That’s a lot to manage to stay ahead of the curve. Luckily for publishers, we engineered a solution that drastically improves site speed for users and Google PageSpeed Insights scores—The Site Speed Accelerator.
What digital content trends are most interesting to publishers in 2020?
While the results of this survey question seem like a mixed bag, one response came out on top—mixed revenue models.
As the industry becomes more complex, so does a publisher’s day-to-day. We saw that “diversifying revenue streams” was the second-highest priority for publishers in the first question of the survey. This response gives weight to the fact that more publishers are considering mixed-revenue models as part of their content strategy.
Some ways publishers are diversifying their revenue streams are through:
Where will publishers get info on creating digital content in 2020?
Peers and network connections was the top choice with 19% of respondents saying that’s who influences their opinions the most, and that makes sense.
Who are publishers going to trust more: a third-party with a new program that promises to make them more money? or a fellow publisher who they have known for years and has had success with something different?
They will probably trust a friend over a third-party. As digital content evolves, and especially with the upcoming death of the third-party tracking cookie, more players are going to come out of the woodwork and say things like, “Throw my ad tags on your page, use this tool, plugin, script, or join our consortium of publishers that have access to better ad rates.”
Publishers should ignore this type of advice. There are many scammy players within the industry who are looking to make a buck off of the value you’ve created. Your audience is only set to become more valuable, so protect it at all costs. Remain skeptical and continue listening to the people you trust.
What will be the biggest challenges for publishers in 2020?
Publishers said that the biggest challenge for them in 2020 would be growing site traffic and revenue. It beat the second choice of creating content readers want by a decent margin. In reality, those two choices have somewhat of a causal relationship. If a publisher creates more content readers want, they also tend to grow site traffic and revenues.
The third-biggest challenge for publishers was keeping up with Google algorithm changes. This is a relevant challenge for good reason! Since the new year, Google has already rolled out a big core algorithm update, and they reportedly have admitted to 3,000+ algorithmic updates over the course of a year.
What online resources do content creators use to stay up to date?
Blogs whose content is focused specifically around digital publishing won out by a fairly large margin. Google, Moz, SEMRush, SearchEnglineLand, and our own blog tend to keep a pulse check on what’s going on in the industry at large without inserting obvious bias into the content.
The second and third most popular online resources were nearly a tie, with forums (Reddit, Quora, etc.) just slightly winning out over “other”. Forums being in second place makes sense due to the nature of forums. I’m guilty of this behavior as well. When I want to know the truth about a particular product, service, or topic, I’ll Google the term followed by the word “Reddit.”
In 2020, which platforms do publishers trust the least?
Facebook and Instagram were the top responses in what could be considered an unpopularity contest with this survey question. They were trusted the least—and publishers have grounds for that distrust.
Facebook has a rough history with publishers, so they are not a surprise in the number one spot. The runner up was TikTok. A social platform designed for sharing short videos that is a big hit with Gen Z. TikTok also took a PR hit when they were said to be under national security review due to the app sending users’ data to China.
What tactic was most successful for website growth in 2019?
Writing blogs and articles was the top response for the most successful tactic for site growth by the widest margin of any survey question—71.9% of publishers. This overwhelming response is logical. Most publishers, whether they monetize through display ads on their sites or through affiliate links, they need to write a lot of quality content in order to grow site traffic and earn more money.
While more time and energy is being invested in social media channels and producing video content, the foolproof tactic that has helped publishers grow their sites since the dawn of digital publishing is writing blog content.
What type of content do publishers want to produce more of in 2020?
Many publishers wonder how to write content that is the optimal article length of SEO. Publishers seem to think long-form content will provide more ROI and be harder for search engines to provide without a click from the users to an external site.
We see that the second-most-popular type of content publishers want to produce more of in 2020 is video content. The data is clear that articles with embedded videos perform better with UX metrics like time on site and lower bounce rates.
What digital content trends in 2020 are publishers most unsure about?
The top trend publishers are most unsure about for 2020 is voice search and voice technology. This was the same trend publishers were most unsure about going into 2019 as well, and for good reason. By now, most have seen this statistic floating around the web:
By 2020, 50% of searches will be voice.”
Where did this statistic come from? It actually originated from Mary Meeker’s well-known “internet trends” report, which she quoted from a 2014 interview with the chief scientist of Baidu, who simply said, “In five years time at least 50% of all searches are going to be either through images or speech.”
In 2016, Sundar Pichai also announced at Google I/O that 20% of all US searches are voice queries. What most people don’t realize though, is that Pichai was including “Do Device” actions (EX: “Call X” or, “Send a text message to Y”) that are within the Google App and on Android, along with “classical” searches mixed into that 20% total.
This data is important for publishers to know because purely voice searches on smart devices produce purely verbal answers—which has almost no relation to the business of SEO. These queries are not logged on Google Search Console. On the contrary, when users use voice search commands instead of typing the search on Google’s website, this is a normal web search that is logged on Google Search Console.
Wrapping up the top digital content trends in 2020
2019 was a busy year for publishers, and 2020 seems to be posed to be even busier. With new regulations, neverending algorithm updates, and flashy digital trends trying to compete for consumer attention—publishers will continue to adapt to the changing digital environment while relying on many of the principles that have held true for decades.
What do you think of the top digital content trends from this survey? Let me know in the comments.
Allen is a published author and accomplished digital marketer. The author of two separate novels, Allen is a developing marketer with a deep understanding of the online publishing landscape. Allen currently serves as Ezoic’s head of content and works directly with publishers and industry partners to bring emerging news and stories to Ezoic publishers.