What does the latest research tell us about content marketing?

Marketing is changing fast. So fast, in fact, that it’s hard to keep up. That’s according to academic researchers. But they also note that “keeping up” is no longer optional for most businesses today – it’s a must for any organisation that wants to survive.

Content marketing has become one of the must-do strategies for those looking to keep up, at the very least.

Know where you are going

“Content marketing has gone from a technique which would get a business ahead to one that merely keeps it equal,” marketing professor PJ Forrest writes in a recent research paper. “Content marketing is now the industry standard.”

While a wide variety of content types can be effective, “[j]ust any old copy will not work”, Forrest notes.

“One of the worst mistakes a company can make is a failure to be useful,” she writes. “The content can provide value to the target market in many ways such as being interesting to read, teaching or providing knowledge, presenting solutions to problems, or just being humorous or entertaining.”

It’s also critical to have a clear, well thought-out strategy for content marketing, Forrest adds.

“Not having a strategy leads to failure in any type of marketing but businesses often do not realise they should have a strategy specifically for content marketing,” she writes. “Without knowing what the company was trying to achieve it is impossible to measure whether it succeeded or failed… As the old saying goes, if you do not know where you are going you are likely to end up someplace else.”

Build trust by being useful and user-friendly

Today’s cyber consumer has different habits, interests and needs than past brick-and-mortar consumers, write a pair of Italian researchers in a recent issue of the European Scientific Journal. Those differences, according to Giuseppe Granata and Giancarlo Scozzese, have “highlighted the inadequacy of traditional marketing methodologies…”

Internet-based strategies such as digital marketing, e-branding and storytelling, they say, can improve marketing content and help businesses build more lasting relationships with customers. And essential to such strategies is ensuring they are relevant, secure and easy to use.

“A customer is satisfied when his overall evaluation of the experience with a brand and its products over time is positive,” Granata and Scozzese write. “With this in mind, it is about the initial phase of the marketing funnel that marketing experts should pay more attention to. The stage of research and initial information exchange is in fact that in which the perceived value of the brand for the consumer plays a crucial role. A website that offers relevant content and a secure, intuitive and simple-to-use architecture will encourage the user to revisit the site and potentially repeat the purchase.”

One study, they add, “demonstrated the positive relationship between content quality and brand trust.”

Format content with mobile in mind

In a recent article for the Mexican journal Mercados y Negocios (Markets and Businesses), Nancy Church, a retired professor of marketing and entrepreneurship at the State University of New York-Plattsburgh, reviews a range of activities that will become increasingly important for marketers in years to come. In addition to artificial intelligence, video marketing and augmented reality/virtual reality/mixed reality, these include mobile-first/mobile-only strategies.

“In order to provide the best search results in terms of content and quality of websites, ‘Google’s move to mobile-first indexing means the robots will look at your mobile website first before crawling the desktop version’,” Church writes, citing a 2018 study. “In order to rank higher in Google searches, marketers must ensure that the information, images and videos for mobile sites [are] comparable to the desktop version and mobile optimised.”

Church cites further research that recommends that “marketers ensure that their websites are mobile-optimised with shorter headlines and smaller chunks of text, with instantaneous mobile page load times, and with more videos, especially videos presented in vertical format”.

Having a content strategy, always being useful and keeping mobile front of mind are all essential – some would say obvious, today – ways to be successful with your marketing.

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