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Stay Ahead of the Competition With These 6 Content-Marketing Trends Vibrant new marketing tools such as automation, complex niches and artificial intelligence will help your business lead the pack.

By Matthew Toren

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According to a recent business-to-business (B2B) report by the Content Marketing Institute, 80 percent of marketers use content marketing as part of their business plans. Increase your traffic and return on investment by leveraging these six content marketing trends for 2016.

Related: You Don't Need Much Cash to Implement These 5 Essential Marketing Strategies

1. Automation

Perhaps the biggest trend in content marketing for 2016 involves automation. Internet technology makes it possible to automate marketing strategies through powerful web services and mobile applications, which save you valuable time and resources by posting to your website and social media on a set schedule. Popular ad services such as Google AdSense and Amazon Associates allow you to automate advertising space on your website as well.

Distributing your content across multiple platforms is possible with automation tools. However, duplicate content can impact your website's ability to generate revenue from ads. For example, the popular blogging service Tumblr includes a "reblog" feature, allowing you to publish an exact copy of another user's post on your own Tumblr blog. While this feature is useful in sharing relevant content with your followers, it brings many copyright concerns to the surface -- especially if you plan to monetize your website through ad revenue. Google AdSense policies state that you cannot show ads alongside copyrighted material you don't have authorization to use.

Curata offers a comprehensive set of tools for automating content generation and marketing. The distribution of content to a variety of services, such as WordPress and MailChimp, is streamlined by Spokal's inbound marketing platform. Specializing in content collaboration and workflow automation, ClearVoice presents a unique content studio as well as a flexible workflow software with a built-in marketplace that brings branding, content creation and publishing communities together in one place -- all while meeting your budget, timeline and voice. Seeking something else? Check out 15 Tools to Create Automation in Your Small Business.

2. Complex niches

Established in 2012, Google's Knowledge Graph provides instant answers directly through its search engine service. Google Now, Cortana and Siri use similar technologies to create context-based answers. Users are less likely to click on links in search results when their questions are instantaneously answered by the search engine itself. Traffic to websites with shallow content will diminish in 2016, placing a higher value on complicated niche topics.

Identifying your business's target market helps you curate complex topics relevant to your audience. Rather than filling your blog with generic search engine-optimized content and keywords, create a niche site and establish value using authoritative and informational content. Excedrin, the 2015 Content Marketing Awards winner for "Best Content Marketing Program Strategy," created a comprehensive website tailored to the headache-relief needs of its target market. The pain-relief brand leverages banners, email, educational resources, social media and videos to create a highly effective, media-rich content hub.

3. Visual mediums

Multimedia content has a big impact on your company's credibility. For instance, consumers are more likely to retain information when it's alongside some form of visual medium. According to a recent survey by Animoto, "71 percent of consumers say that videos leave a positive impression of a company." Cisco estimates 70 percent of consumer Internet traffic will be made up of online video by 2017.

Infographics are highly effective visual mediums your business can use to explain complicated processes, facts and statistics. For example, this infographic appeared in the New York Times as an example of an easily-digestible visual alternative to the standard nutrition fact labels found on food products. Combining interactive elements, such as surveys, polls or games, with your content significantly increases user engagement with your brand.

Related: 4 Content-Marketing Methods to Stay Above Your Competition

4. Quality over quantity

The Web is saturated with content, making it very difficult for users to find authoritative and credible content providers. In order for your brand to stand apart from the competition, your content must exemplify your strengths. Instead of publishing five mediocre posts on your blog each week, focus on vetting three or four complex topics offering relevant solutions for your target market. Find the minimum quantity of content your website needs to achieve maximum results without affecting quality, then work form there.

Google recommends creating "unique, specific and high-quality" content to offer a higher value than other websites. Be sure to avoid publishing misinformation or broken links to other web pages. Your content should always use proper grammar without typos or mistakes in spelling. An overabundance of ads and comment spam can also negatively impact the perceived quality of your content.

5. Leverage a network of influencers.

One of the newer trends in content marketing involves influence marketing. Companies enlist key individuals as brand ambassadors to increase market awareness through their personal network of followers. This is most commonly achieved by way of social media. Similar to word-of-mouth marketing, influencer marketing can significantly impact the decision making process of consumers.

Identifying the most relevant influencers for your niche can become a challenge. A variety of web services are available to help engage the right influencers with your business, including InNetwork, Traackr and TapInfluence. LinkedIn is an excellent resource for identifying people of influence already within your network. You can also learn more about influencer marketing with these 4 Ways to Get Influencers to Spread Your Brand's Message.

6. Algorithms and artificial intelligence

In 2016, you can expect to read at least one news article generated by a computer algorithm rather than a person. While freelancers are still the most cost-effective approach for content generation, the emergence of artificial intelligence is already impacting this strategy. Today, the most common use of these computer-generated articles are found in data-driven topics, such as weather forecasts and sports coverage.

Last year, the Associated Press announced its use of software to automatically generate news content for college sports games. Automated Insights' Wordsmith is among the most popular of these content-generation tools. GameChanger, an iPhone app developed by Narrative Science, produces millions of sport recaps every year such as Little League games through comprehensive computer algorithms.

Staying current on the latest trends in content marketing gives you the knowledge your business needs to stay ahead of the competition. The recent development of Web-based marketing services makes it possible for businesses to reach more potential customers without spending a fortune. Keep these trends in mind as you implement new content marketing strategies in 2016.

Which trends are you most interested in leveraging in your business this year?

Related: How to Get 1,000 Visitors to Your Next Blog Post Using an Influencer Group Post

Matthew Toren

Serial Entrepreneur, Mentor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com

Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Vancouver, B.C.

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