October is ending on a traditionally “scary” note in honor of Halloween, but this month’s content marketing updates might give marketers peace of mind as they’re planning strategies for the final quarter of the year. Check out my take on October’s biggest industry headlines and what they could mean for your content marketing campaign. (You can also read the full blog post below!)

Content marketing: Strategic plans and quality material are in demand

  • A pair of in-depth reports indicate content marketing is mainstream. According to Econsultancy’s survey of B2B and B2C brands, 91 percent of companies market their products and services with content, and more than 90 percent say content will become more important to their brands in the next 12 months. 91 percent use content, says EconsultancyThe Content Marketing Institute’s B2B survey found similar results – 91 percent of B2Bs use content marketing, and 54 percent will increase their content spend over the next 12 months.
  • At the same time, Econsultancy found 55 percent of in-house marketers and 58 percent of agencies currently don’t have a strategy for content (though they aim to execute one soon). More, Econsultancy reports the biggest challenges to content marketing success for in-house teams is a lack of human resources (cited by 42 percent of respondents), and 39 percent of agencies admit they lack content creation teams or skills.
  • What do these updates tell us? It’s clear marketers need to focus on quality, sustainable and goal-oriented campaigns. Jumping into content creation without an end game will leave a brand clueless about gauging success. As branded content arguably overpopulates the web, remember that content isn’t competitive – strategic content marketing is competitive. Outline engagement and bottom-line objectives from the start, and partner with content producers who can deliver audience-friendly material.

Format diversity is competitive, good for engaging segments

  • The CMI found the majority of B2B marketers use at least 10 content types, with social updates, website articles, newsletters and blogs taking top spots. B2B content types from CMI
  • What does this update tell us? It’s important for marketers to find expert content creators who can cover a wide range of formats as competitive brands continue to add content types to their marketing rosters. Brafton has interviewed in-house marketers using an array of formats who support the idea that different formats help reach unique audiences. With articles, infographics and white papers, there’s something for every audience – no matter how prospects and customers like to consume information or where they are in the purchase process.

Video content wins with a focus on audiences (not magic bullets)

  • According to the Content Marketing Institute’s report, videos are one of the fastest rising content types used for B2B marketing, jumping from 52 percent adoption last year to 70 percent this year. Growing marketing use mirrors rising consumer demand. A poll from Ask Your Target Market found that more 90 percent of respondents watch web videos, and comScore reported that American web video viewership reached an all-time high in August 2012.
  • Another report from the Jun Group busts the 15-second myth for video ad spots. The company reports that using opt-in questions before playing video ads measurably increases engagement, and completion rates don’t vary dramatically according to video length. In fact, 70 percent of all promotional videos watched ran longer than a minute, and ads longer than 2 minutes were still completed 87 percent of the time.
  • YouTube changed its video rankings in October. A recent YouTube update prioritizes Time Watched over clicks in YouTube search. 
  • What do these updates tell us? Marketers moving into video creation are on the right track. It’s becoming a common marketing practice precisely because consumers want to be able to tune in (rather than read) to get messages online. At the same time, compelling content to hook viewers is essential for engagement and – now – for visibility. As more videos crop up, Google and other discovery portals will work to hold them to the same quality standards as other forms of content. (Interaction metrics will be key since this type of content can’t be crawled). Investing in premium videos and broadcasting the right information for unique audiences will set apart the laggards and the leaders.

Link building only counts when it has an “editorial” nature

  • The much anticipated Penguin update came on October 5 – but it wasn’t as epic as many marketers expected. Instead, Matt Cutts tweeted that the minor refresh impacted 0.3 percent of queries. In light of his comments at last summer’s SES San Francisco, marketers might expect a more aggressive link-scheme-killer still to come.Penguin update
  • Those hit by Penguin in the past and focused on where their content’s links are coming from were probably excited by Google’s release of a disavow links tool on October 16. However, Matt Cutts has advised site owners to proceed with caution. In a Webmaster Help video, he suggested that average mom and pop sites don’t need to use the tool, and it should be reserved for those who have received link warning notices and have shady link networks.
  • Cutts reminded marketers the importance of content driven links in a separate Webmaster Help video. Asked about the value of article marketing links, he said when a person is not “editorially choosing” to create a link with specific anchor text – as is often the case with widgets or article banks – the company isn’t likely to give the link much weight.
  • What do these updates tell us? Penguin was and is focused on rewarding site content that gets merit-based links. The long awaited disavow links tool is not a “get out of Penguin jail free” solution for removing a few problem links … it’s an advanced tool for seriously in trouble sites. There are no easy ways to backtrack from paid links or dicey reciprocal link schemes, and inorganic links that aren’t necesarily black hat (like widget links) won’t help SEO. Marketers best consider Google’s longstanding advice that valuable link building is rooted in creating “compelling content on your site and the web in general.” Then, aim for social sharing as one strategy to win organic links. (According to the CMI, 87 percent of B2B brands already use social for content distribution.)

High time for ecommerce brands to create visual content for social marketing

  • Pinterest was named one of comScore‘s top 50 web properties in its most recent ranking report, and the site beats out Facebook in terms of networks used for shopping. A Bizrate study found 70 percent use the visual network to decide what to buy. Though the social giant may be moving in on Pinterest’s product-friendly boards …
  • Facebook started testing its much anticipated Want feature in October. This gives companies creating visual content around their products an option to create Collections people can “Want,” translating into a virtual wish list for friends of fans to see.
  • What do these updates tell us? Marketers – especially those in the ecommerce industry – should start creating and sharing high-resolution images of their products or invest in graphic content that captures creative ways to make the most of merchandise.
  • PotteryBarn was one of the first Facebook partners to receive the Collections and Want capability.The popularity of product-friendly Pinterest (where users are encouraged to gather items for home decor boards or fashion boards) and Facebook’s moves toward Collections suggest social commerce could take off. There’s no better time to start a Pinterest campaign with the 2012 holiday shopping season just around the corner. Plus, a Burst research report found more than half of holiday shoppers “Like” or follow brand products on social media (including Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest), so social campaigns can clearly give brands an edge this season.

With November bringing the official start of this year’s holiday shopping period, marketers should be ready with tailored content and social promotions to make the most of this busy season. Stay tuned for next month’s content marketing recap.