It’s been five years now since the concept of “content marketing” revolutionised the digital search and marketing landscape. Since then, content strategies have developed to become ever more sophisticated, integrated and impactful.
As we launch into 2016, we explore the development of content marketing over the last five years and consider what the next evolution might hold in the year ahead.
Although the practice of content marketing wasn’t new in 2011, we started to see a greater emphasis placed upon it, with marketers really focusing on ways to leverage content strategy with a view to improving digital performance. This shift was precipitated by several key changes in the market. Major shifts in search engine technology, such as the game-changing Panda Google algorithm update, meant that sites were being rewarded (or in some cases penalised) based on the quality of their content in a much more direct way. The advent of paid advertising through social media networks also contributed significantly, as this allowed marketers to amplify their content directly and not rely so heavily on viral distribution.
Perhaps one of the most important concepts introduced in 2011 was the “Earned Own and Paid” media model. The model dictates that content can be thought of in three distinct frameworks:
Owned media which encompasses everything within your control which you generate content-wise.
Earned media refers to coverage gained when customers, press, publications or the public share your content, talk about your brand or discuss you via social media or on other online platforms.
Paid media is when you pay to amplify content or gain coverage. This can include affiliate marketing, display advertising, paid social media promotion or any other paid-for online marketing activity.
2012 saw online marketers begin to turn their backs on ‘spun and churned content’– a now obsolete SEO tactic which involved creating spammy, poor quality content (never intended to be seen by real users), for outreach onto purpose made “article sites” with the sole purpose of artificially inflating a backlink profile.
We saw more advice for defining audiences this year as the demand for original increased. A key tool referenced through the year was how to develop and use persona’s to develop content for your audiences, pain points that those audiences share and topics that they might have in common. This gave an important framework for content creation and publication targeting.
2013 saw a trend for ideas around developing Purpose Driven Content, a concept which dictates that:
“Every piece of content we publish will serve two purposes.
(1). To provide the most relevant answer to the questions your audience is looking for when they search, surf and socialise online.
(2). To tie back to some clearly defined business objective.”
In 2013 overall spend for content marketing increased by a massive 33% coinciding with the growth of social media for content amplification. Paid promotion for content also gained importance as more and more brand content was being produced, competition to get noticed and make sure your content was consumed became fiercer.
Survey data from 2013 found that 87% of marketers adopted social media as a key tactic in b2b content marketing, knocking articles on website into second place. This was the beginning of a continuing trend where amplification opportunities using social were more widely recognised and used.
2014 saw industry pundits discussing the possibility of breaking content into different styles in an effort to help planning. Formats included themes such as such as ‘how to…’ content, shareable visuals, curation and crowd sourcing, behind the scenes, brand building and so on. This was particularly useful when thinking about mobile audiences consuming content on smart phones or portable devices because content needed to be, punchy, easy to consume and innately shareable.
While LinkedIn and Twitter were still rated by content marketers in the UK as the top social media platform, newer platforms were catching up in terms of presenting an advertising opportunity for marketers. Instagram ads launched in UK in September 2014 while Pinterest opened limited trials. These developments increased the scope and type of content which could be promoted as well as opening content promotion up to different audience types.
Finally research from last year has shown that a massive 66% of UK marketers expect their content marketing budgets to increase for 2016. This increase in spend has been underlined by the growing importance of documenting content marketing strategy, many businesses are still talking about content marketing but haven’t formalised this into written plans.
The increase in budgets has heightened the need to measure and report on the impact of content marketing activity. Industry thought leaders such as SEOMoz developed content marketing measurement guides to guide content marketers on what metrics to measure and report using SMART goals. SMART goals are defined as; specific, measurable, action oriented, relevant and time-bound. Setting goals requires a good understanding of what you want to achieve and what relevant metrics can be used to truly measure your performance.
Social media giants Facebook and Twitter continued their expansion into international markets through 2015. For many years international audiences have been adopting and using these platforms and this can provide a ripe audience to content amplification to expand your digital marketing presence. Within Facebook’s paid advertising it is possible to target 25 different countries at a time from a selection of 68!