You can easily get caught up in the world of content marketing when you work in the trenches. Often, agencies and marketing departments are so focused on meeting deadlines that they’re unable to stop and look at the content marketing industry around them. To solve this problem, we sent a survey on The Current Content Ecosystem to get their perspectives on where they think content marketing is going and how it has changed.
We surveyed agencies, in-house employees, and management officials across all levels to get a complete perspective of the content world. We were then able to compare this information with data from our 2013 State of Content Marketing Survey to see if — and how — the industry is changing. Through a series of questions and open-ended interviews, we discovered the following four trends that are affecting the industry today. To learn about all of our findings, explore the full whitepaper on The Current Content Ecosystem.
The Industry Continues to Move Toward Quality Content
When asked how they expect content to change in the next five years, 84 percent of agencies said they believe content to become more important as a marketing tool, and 79 percent said they believe promotion will also become a more important tool.
While it’s not a surprise that agencies specializing in content creation would anticipate an increase in its value, we also interviewed full-service agencies that offer multiple types of marketing and promotions. Overwhelmingly, people responded that the value of content is set to increase — but does that mean the quality will as well?
“If they’re not receptive to the content and not producing quality content that aligns with the client content we’re creating, things will be thrown out of balance,” wrote Kyle Olson at Digital Third Coast. “There’s so much bad content out there that people will get frustrated and put up a wall to all forms of content. People are smart. Create smart content.”
We asked in-house teams who outsource their content what the most important factor was when selecting agencies or creatives to work for them. Only 9 percent said finding vendors to create high-quality content wasn’t a priority and, instead, mentioned SEO value and cost as top factors. The rest emphasized creating quality content in their strategy. If this ideal is what in-house teams want, agencies will have to rise to meet the demand.
Content Marketing Budgets Are Remaining Stable
Almost 35 percent of agency respondents said content made up less than 30 percent of the total marketing budget, while 20 percent of respondents said that content made up 50 percent of their total marketing budget. A third of respondents said between 25 to 50 percent of their content marketing budget went to content creation, and 23 percent said that more than three-quarters of their budget went to the content creation process. This finding shows that promotion — the process of driving traffic to your content so that customers can move down the sales funnel — is becoming as important to the content creation process as the content itself.
“In 2016, we’re seeing ‘content glut,’ especially in the online space,” wrote Dylan Mazeika at BuyerZone. “You need to be able to promote your content effectively to get eyeballs on it, such as leveraging other audiences, link building from publications, etc.”
This observation paints a clearer picture when you turn the percentages into dollar signs. Twenty-six percent of companies spend less than $5,000 annually on content marketing, while 22 percent spend $5,000 to $15,000, and 13 percent spend between $15,000 to $50,000. These numbers are almost exactly the same as responses in 2013, when 27 percent of companies spent less than $5,000 on content marketing annually and 18 percent spent $5,000 to $20,000.
In-House Marketers Need to See Content’s ROI
When asked how the content marketing budget compared to other areas, 60 percent of respondents said the budget was smaller than most areas and only 30 percent said the budget was larger than most areas or the largest channel. This finding made us ask what was keeping in-house teams from increasing their content budgets and expanding their marketing strategies.
Almost 40 percent of our survey respondents said that their content efforts weren’t very effective or weren’t effective at all. We followed this question by asking them to define effectiveness; 35 percent said they created content to increase search rankings, 13 percent wanted higher volumes of traffic and a better community, and 43 percent wanted increased sales and revenue. In short, while having an engaged community and high rankings is nice, most content creation from the business standpoint needs to be revenue-generating.
“Great content needs to make a user take the next step by clicking a call to action,” wrote Pete Angus at Media Shower. “If a reader completes an article and takes action, it was targeted, timely, and accomplished its goal on providing useful information.”
More budgets than ever are set based on ROI, which means content marketing investment could start to decline if in-house teams and outsourced agencies aren’t able to prove their value.
Visual Content Could Be the Turning Point
Throughout most of our survey feedback, respondents answered with written content in mind, but this area doesn’t do justice to the variety of video, visual, and interactive content that’s also on the Web.
Seventy-three percent of respondents said that they create their content internally, which means they’re limited to internal skill sets. When we asked agencies what kind of content they create, only 16 percent said they create illustrations and only 30 percent said they create infographics. In 2013, the top three most difficult types of content to create were video, interactive media, and infographics. Despite the difficulty of sourcing and creating multimedia content, several of our respondents expressed the desire to create these forms of content.
“I see content becoming more visual and one in a way that delivers your message quickly and concisely,” John Wall wrote.
The content universe is no doubt looking to increase the quality of work — and content that produces concrete ROI. We are interested in seeing how multimedia budgets shift and work into the content marketing industry, and whether agencies will have an in-kind response by increasing their content offerings.