B2B Content Marketing 2018: A Year in Review

As each year passes, I find myself saying things like “How is the year over?” or “Time is really flying”. This year was no exception. Just like that, it’s November and just like that, it’s time for 2019 planning. But before we get to planning, we need to take a look back and see what happened this year – After all, how can we learn from our mistakes if we don’t know what they were?

As we head into the end of 2018, I thought I’d take a look back at some key content marketing trends and data points and address what we can do better in 2019.

The Good

93% of B2B content marketers report their organization is extremely/very committed to content marketing. 

Source: CMI B2B Content Marketing 2019 

In 2017, the number of B2B companies using content marketing was at 89%, so this is certainly a positive change. This is purely my opinion but over the past couple of years, it’s felt as if more and more people are understanding the value of a content marketing program.

Next Steps: One of the biggest challenges we have as content marketers is continually proving value and showing ROI (see below). Our job is to continue building out solid programs and figuring out ways to drive leads/sales.

SEO/search algorithms are a top concern for 61% of B2B marketers

Source: CMI B2B Content Marketing 2019

Wow! This makes me so happy. While this number could and should be higher, the fact that 61% of B2B marketers noted search as a top concern means that search has come a long way! What also stands out to me is this came out of a content marketing report, telling me people are also realizing the value content has on search. Yes!

Next Steps: I wrote a post a few weeks ago and in it, noted one of the biggest challenges we face as SEOs is the lack of education around SEO. It can be frustrating seeing misconceptions fly around, basic questions constantly being asked, and bad tactics being touted as new. However, it’s our job to continue educating those around us and continue growing the knowledge of the marketing community.

Content marketing can generate 3x as many leads as paid search

Source: Kapost / Oracle Content Marketing ROI Study

When I came upon this statistic, I thought there was no way it was true. After all, we aren’t always great at measuring content so how can we be eclipsing paid search by that much? Digging in, the study breaks down ROI by looking at investment costs, traffic increases and an assumed conversion rate of 2%. What is also factors in, however, is longevity:

“Content marketing involves modest upfront expenses and low short-term financial results. Only after a number of months, as the operation begins to grow its audience and influence, does it begin to deliver cost-effective results.”

This is a really important note. Content, especially when it involves search, takes time to mature and grow, and even with a promotion strategy, can take time to hit. That’s what we need to be thinking about.

Source: Kapost / Oracle

Next Step: Take a look at your own cost per lead. Has it changed as your content marketing program has grown? When it comes to attribution, we have to look beyond a single click and focus on the holistic results.

95% of B2B buyers consider content trustworthy

Source: DemandGen Content Preferences Survey

This stat actually came out of a 2016 study but it has popped up in a number of 2018 pieces that show similar data. Look, we know we need content to reach our customers but we also need trust to sell our products. By creating good content our audience finds valuable, we can kill two birds with one stone.

Next Step: Continue focusing on content that helps your audience. Need some resources? Here you go:

The Bad

62% of bloggers don’t update old articles 

Source: Orbit Media 2018 Blogger Survey

It shouldn’t surprise me that most people don’t actually go back and update old articles. It’s sad really. We spend so much time creating content and then forget all about it. However, the data in the report shows that “those that do are far more likely to report strong results”. I would agree. It’s one of our most successful tactics here at KoMarketing.

Next Step: Go back and revisit your old content. If you do, you’ll be rewarded. Not sure where to start? Here are some resources:

Only 42% have conversations with customers as part of their audience research

Source: CMI B2B Content Marketing 2019

I read an article the other day about the need to optimize for people, not search engines. The concept isn’t new but what the post called out was the need to talk to customers. If we are really going to give our buyers what they want, we should know what it is they want. Yes, we can use tools and we can talk to the sales team but it’s the actual customers who have the good stuff. Get on the horn!

Next Step: Especially as an agency, getting in front of your client’s customers can be difficult, however, sometimes all it takes is an ask. Ask to sit in on a sales call or ask to set up a content interview. You’d be surprised how open many people are.

Long-form content outperforms shorter content by 40.54%

Source: Orbit Media 2018 Blogger Survey

Why did I put this in the bad? Because while people are writing longer pieces (the average blog post length was up 19% YoY), we are still seeing short content being written. Now, that’s not to say short content is bad. In fact, Ronell Smith made a good case over on Co-Schedule for writing shorter posts. However, he also calls out this:

“The length of your online content should initially be determined by the needs of the audience members you expect to consume the information.”

Yes! The problem is, people put out content because they think they have to. Don’t write content for the sake of writing content, write content with a purpose. Sometimes this means a more comprehensive piece. Know your goals.

Next Step: When creating your next piece of content, think about what you want to get out of it. Is it search traffic? If so, you need to understand the search results themselves, the type of content being shown, and the quality of the content being shown. This will help determine the length and type of content to create.

66% of B2B buyers strongly agree that companies should make it easier to access their content

Source: DemandGen Content Preferences Survey

It should be pretty obvious why this is in the bad. If your customers can’t find your content, there’s really no point in writing it, is there? A content marketing strategy isn’t necessarily dependent on the structure of a site but that structure certainly has an impact. A less flexible CMS means having to put content somewhere you wouldn’t normally put it. It means building a resource section three levels down. None of this is ideal but it happens and we have to figure out how to do a better job of making our content accessible.

Next Step: Ask someone unfamiliar with your site to locate a list of assets. Were they able to do it? If not, it might be time to take a step back and focus on the architecture of your site.

The Ugly

13% of bloggers do not know if blogging drives results

Source: Orbit Media 2018 Blogger Survey

Perhaps I should be celebrating the fact this is only 13% but still…come on! Blogging has been around for too long at this point and if you don’t know whether your efforts are driving results, that’s a bigger problem. Similar to what I mentioned for content length, the real issue here is you can’t know if you are successful if you don’t know your goals.

Next Step: Setting content goals can be a bit challenging however if you are unsure of where to start, here are a few resources:

Only 38% of marketers have a documented content strategy

Source: CMI 2018 B2C Content Report

This is another stat that doesn’t necessarily surprise me but it does make me sad considering 93% of people are committed to content marketing. How can you be committed if you don’t have a strategy?! Don’t answer that.

I realize that content marketing is still growing as an industry and is still growing a primary marketing objective, but having a documented strategy is essential. It helps keep everyone on task, ensures there are goals, and helps us measure results.

Next Steps: As we head into the end of the year here, now is the perfect time to outline your 2019 content marketing strategy. Get to it!

The average reader spends 37 seconds reading a post

Source: Newscred

This stat is from 2016 but I haven’t seen an updated one and I’ll be honest, it just feels right. We know people are lazy and there are plenty of other stats that showcase similar data. What does this mean for content marketers? It means we have limited time to capture the attention of the audience. It means writing content that’s interesting, content that’s easy to digest, and content that’s valuable to our audience. No easy feat but it’s certainly necessary.

Next Step: Want to keep people on your content a bit longer? Here’s a post I wrote to help you get started.

What’s Next in 2019?

I’m not going to make any bold predictions but I can tell you this – if you do each of the items I’ve outlined above, you will set yourself up for success. For the most part, there is no magic sauce that drives success. It really is achieved through a sound foundation with strategy, goals, and measurement. So get on it!

“With little digging, you can see that KoMarketing’s team is frequently educating the SEO industry on best practices through articles, blogs and presentations. If you’re considering hiring an agency you want talented people collaborating to bring you the best search results possible – that’s what you’ll get with KoMarketing.”

— Katie Meurin, SEO Manager at Southern New Hampshire University

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