Do you remember the 1990s? Big companies and brands with huge advertising budgets that basically controlled the flow of information dominated the consumer world. Back then, there were only eight ways consumers could get information: through staged events, via direct fax and direct email, over the telephone, through TV and radio, in print, and on display.
Times have changed.
When it comes to the flow of information, today’s consumers now own their own journey. They control that information.
They carry a 24/7 informational device with them at all times, which is great for today’s market-aware and shopping-savvy consumers.
But what does it mean for content marketing? How do the statistics, market trends and predictions hold up in 2017? And what have consumer and B2B content marketers learned from the most recent developments?
Here, in no particular order of preference, is a list of the 30 things we learned from content marketing in 2017.
1. Advertisers have finally relinquished control
Leverage has changed. Ads can be ignored and even blocked. Customers can choose when they talk to salespeople. They expect decent and accurate information, plus content that is outstanding and valuable.
2. It’s not enough for your audience to just ‘like’ you anymore
Marketers have always sought to gain popularity for their products. Companies want their followers to know, like and trust them. But in order to become a more profitable business in 2017 and beyond the goal has to be to create and implement strategies that maintain and even change audience behavior.
3. Evergreen content is the real king
Today’s Internet users love content that never gets old. Aim to create a trusted source for your brand content that doesn’t fall out of date and will always be useful. Your audience will keep coming back to you for years to come.
4. Product integration works
The soft sell works in content marketing too. If you can promote your products through content that really connects with your audience then you have a proven formula for success. Be imaginative. If you’re marketing foodstuffs create content that shows recipes made with your product, or demonstrate a How to X by Using Your Y, etc.
5. Avoid talking about yourself
Thought-leadership blogs are a great way of establishing your authority in your field. But too much blowing on your own trumpet will turn modern users right off. Remember, not many people care about your company or your product. Most of them just care about how you can solve their problems.
6. Content diversity brings clicks
Videos, blogs, apps, guides, news, tools, calculators, articles and infographics–2017 users expect diversity when they browse the web. Now more than ever is the time to try out a range of content and to find out what works for you and your audience.
7. Real content brings more value than ever
If you have thousands of followers on Facebook but your posts are only getting 10 likes each then you’re doing something wrong. Create worthy content that will resonate with your target audience, get more likes and frequent shares on social media.
8. Understand your brand persona
The better you understand your target audience the better you’ll be able to connect with them. That’s marketing 101. But if you can give your audience a reason to identify with you, and for them to think you are just like them, then you’re on to a winner.
9. Let users personalize your content
2017s audiences were constantly looking for something that spoke to them on a personal level. And if they get to have a say in the content you’re providing, or even better, can interact with it, then you’re making a real connection.
10. Be prepared to up your content marketing game
Content marketing is becoming more and more challenging. So many new entrants are going to come into the field and you’re going to see a rise in competition in every channel that can send traffic to content. Professional writers are in demand.
11. Pick a dedicated niche
The rise in competition means content marketers must strive for more uniqueness with the type of content they create. They will have to create higher quality content and become much more niche focused, serving smaller and smaller interest groups, but doing a better job.
12. More video means more traffic
Video has become so important in content creation. Social channels like Facebook have announced their news feeds will become very video oriented. There’s also been a rise in the production of longer videos as opposed to the usual 2 to 5 minutes you can find on places like YouTube. Their effectiveness as a marketing tool, however, remains to be seen.
13. Images have become more important
Now that search engines can actually see and read images, image-based content will also become more effective in creating impactful content. Tired, old stock photos just don’t cut it anymore. Content creation should include dedicated images wherever possible.
14. Keep your content specific
How to Build an App is not a blog post. In fact, it’s the entire blog or even a book. The same goes for topics like How to Get Investors for Your Startup. Content creation should focus on each specific pain point in a process to provide greater detail and add a higher value.
15. Create a unique voice
The users and readers in your audience are developing a requirement for a new take on old topics and a unique voice in your content. Find something that differentiates you from the thousands of marketers who have already written the same or similar content over the last 5 to 10 years.
16. AR and VR content is moving up fast
The success of Pokemon Go proves that Augmented and Virtual Reality can generate enormous levels of user engagement. It’s only a matter of time before they become staple components in content marketing. Act now and get ahead of the trend.
17. Facebook is evolving
Facebook is becoming a powerful lead generation platform. And while a lot of brands still regard it as a secondary platform, that is set to change, and the social media giant is evolving into a serious source of revenue.
18. Exert your influence
2017 has seen a lot of brands becoming increasingly comfortable with an influencer role and more adept at using that role to attract better leads and conversions and build appreciation levels for their products and services.
19. Get back to basics
The Internet has educated a lot of consumers in the ways and means of marketing and how brands increasingly have to fight for their attention. Remind yourself now and then that the Holy Grail of content marketing is about creating value for your audience, and creating value for yourself as a business and a brand comes in a close second place.
20. Consistency in tone pays off
The online market is a very noisy place. An inconsistent tone across your channels will fracture your brand message and confuse your audience. If your tone is casual make sure it’s casual across all your media. The same applies to formal or academic tones of voice. Choose one and stick to it.
21. Take back control with subscription emails
Sure, we already mentioned that social media are great for generating leads and getting your brand message out there, but Facebook, in particular, has shown that a simple change of its algorithms can have a drastic impact on who sees your content. Opt-in emails and newsletters linked to say, a blog or a web article is a great way to take back control of your existing audience and build a new one.
22. Creation/promotion budgets have flipped
8 to10 years ago, the common budget equation for content marketers was somewhere around 80% spent on content creation and 20% on promoting that content. In 2017 that equation has completely flipped. A lot of really smart companies are now creating less content, but of really high quality, and investing a heck of a lot more on giving that content legs.
23. Strong branding is more important than ever
Using social media platforms to get consumers back to your website is all well and good, but now more than ever, building your brand is crucial. If you have a strong brand that people want to follow and engage with you’ll create a sold, and loyal base from which you can face the challenges still to come in the world of content marketing.
24. Content creation is getting harder and more expensive
Back in the day when websites were new, getting your customers to visit them was easy. Then your competitors got their websites and attracting traffic became more difficult. The same goes for SEO. The first companies to figure out how to optimize content found themselves way ahead of the pack. Pretty soon, everyone knew about SEO, and things got harder. The same goes for social media. Everyone and his great-aunt are on Facebook. Simply the amount of content out there has changed the playing field. Brands will find themselves paying a lot more to create even better content if they want to stand out from the crowd.
25. Creativity levels and production values are forging ahead
Finding new ways to cut through all the noise and clutter of the online markets demands an almost Hollywood-like production style. Brand stories are becoming more compelling and production values are on the rise. Content marketing is becoming about who is the most creative, who has the most reach, and what they have already established through the influencers they work with. Companies who can’t compete with this trend will find themselves relying more and more on paid media.
26. Web economics is driven not by content or publishing, but by social sharing
Research shows that 70% of adult purchasing decisions are affected by what people see being shared on the web. When people share your content they become advocates. They are, in a virtual way, standing up and saying they love and believe in your brand. But they will only do that if they read and understand your content.
27. People love heroic brands
Have you ever wondered why some crappy content goes viral? It’s because that content was created, written or said by someone important and/or popular. Building a heroic brand is all about gaining the trust of your audience.
28. Get to know your elite audience
We all want to drive masses of traffic to our websites. But the thing to remember is that most of those people are casual observers. A small of 2% or 3% of your web page visitors drive your brands true economic value. These are the people who love and share your content the most. Building a rapport with this 2 %, getting to know their names even, is a good and viable marketing strategy for now and in the future.
29. SEO alone doesn’t work
A lot of companies are finally realizing that SEO has its limitations. Sure, you can trick people into clicking on your link, but you can’t trick them into loving and sharing your content. You still have to do the hard work.
30. The key to successful content marketing is and always has been commitment
When a 2016 poll asked US companies how committed they were to content marketing, they came up with the following results:
Not at all committed 1%
Not very committed 6%
Somewhat committed 30%
Very committed 41%
Extremely committed 22%
Commitment is a yes or no answer. You are either fully committed to content marketing or you are not committed at all. Companies who ‘dabble’ in content marketing, which in 2017 is still the majority of B2B marketers, need to make a decision. If they commit they are far more likely to do the work needed to make their strategy a success. If not, other things are going to get in the way.
Digital Marketing 2017: What the statistics say?
A second survey carried out by the good folks at the Search Engine Journal asked more than 200 digital marketers how they work, what they spend and how they measured success.
The people who responded to the survey covered a pretty wide demographic:
7% Social Media Experts
9% PPC Specialists
10% Content Marketers
12% Business Owners
28% Multi-discipline Managers
34% SEO Experts
The answers were collected over a good few months and the culminate data led to the publication of the 2017 Search Engine Journal’s Annual Report.
The figures give an in-depth view of what is really going on in today’s digital marketing world. This is what the survey has to say about what’s changing in the digital marketing industry, and what remains more or less the same.
Do you perform audits for new SEO clients?
- Always 43%
- Sometimes 33%
- I don’t take on clients 24%
How often should a business perform a full SEO audit?
- 47% Every six months
- 29% Monthly
- 15% Yearly
- 5% Don’t know
- 2% Every five years
- 2% Other
On average, how much do you spend on SEO tools each month?
- Don’t know = 14%
- $5001+ = 6%
- $1001 to $5000 = 7%
- $301 to $1000 = 19%
- $51 to $300 = 31%
- $0 to $50 = 23%
Which metrics do you track when measuring the impact of your work on social media?
- 39% Engagement (comments, shares, likes)
- 31% Conversions
- 13% Traffic
- 9% Don’t know
- 6% Reach
- 2% Followers
Which social media site would you use if you had to choose just one?
- Google+ 2%
- Microblogging 4%
- Visual Networks 7%
- Twitter 12%
- LinkedIn 13%
- Facebook 62%
Do you still consider Facebook to be an effective resource for small businesses?
- 80% Yes
- 18% No
- 2% Don’t know
What is your average monthly budget for PPC campaigns?
- Don’t know = 22%
- $0 to $50 = 17%
- $51 to $300 = 18%
- $301 to $1000 = 15%
- $1001 to $5000 = 12%
- $5001+ = 16%
What is your average CTR for PPC campaigns?
- 4% Under 1%
- 20% 1 to 2%
- 28% 2 to 3%
- 3%+ 20%
- 28% Not sure
Which SERP position for your ads receives the highest number of clicks?
- 1 to 3 58%
- 4 to 6 11%
- 7+ 3%
- Not sure 28%
Do you use a documented strategy for your content marketing?
- Yes 53%
- No 32%
- Not sure 8%
- Not applicable 7%
What is your average monthly budget for content marketing?
- $0 to $50 24%
- $51 to $300 20%
- $301 to $1000 17%
- $1001 to $5000 7%
- $5001+ 12%
- Don’t know 20%
Which kinds of content do you find bring in the most qualified leads?
- Blog posts 41%
- Ebooks, whitepapers 14%
- Podcasts 3%
- Webinars 7%
- Video 12%
- N/A 10%
- Other 13%
Summary of the 2017 SE Journal’s Survey
Search Engine Optimization
Of course, there is definitely more than one way to interpret the provided data; some points speak louder than others. That less than half of SEO professionals always audit a new client’s website, for example. And while six months is reportedly the most common frequency for SEO audits, a large number of respondents said they performed an audit every month.
There are also quite a few ‘thrifty’ marketers out there, with almost a quarter of survey participants claiming to get away with spending less than $50 each month. Typically though, that figure rises to a monthly average of a few hundred dollars.
Engagement is seen as the most valuable form of social media metric, with conversions coming a close second, and as most experts had expected, Facebook still counts as the favorite social network for digital marketers. 80% of survey participants also cited Facebook as an effective source of resources for small businesses.
Pay Per Click
2017 PPC budgets were distributed evenly with almost the same number of marketers spending $50 per month as there were spending $5000. The most common CTR was between 2% and 3%, and the top of the page still proves to be the best place for earning clicks.
The fact that still just a little over half of the respondents said they put their content marketing strategy in writing may be a bit disappointing, but when we consider that despite it’s undeniable popularity, most content marketers didn’t have a big budget to spend, (less than $50 per month), then the result doesn’t really come as that much of a surprise.
The supreme standing of blog posts as the most effective type of content remains unchanged.
2017. Rise of the content marketing bots?
We heard much about bots in 2017. Some experts claim that chatbots are the future of marketing, and there are certainly a lot of brands out there that have started using bots, not only for customer service, but for sales and marketing too.
This phenomenon can be partly attributed to developers improved understanding of natural language, which has made chatbots more human than ever.
The customer expectations have changed, in the meantime.
Consumers want more options and they want real-time assistance. Advanced bots can now perceive context and provide data and relevant information when the customer needs it most. They have become fast and efficient and can help across wide range of channels.
Above all else, chatbots are easier than ever to deploy.
They can be placed anywhere on your website and can provide a real boost to the personalization of your content by mining and analyzing collected prospect and customer data ready to be used in customized emails.
Hubspot’s recent acquisition of Motion.ai is one sign that bots have already found a real role in marketing, and as Hubspot themselves proclaim, “…soon anyone will be able to build a chatbot to communicate on their (customers) terms. No technical skills required.”