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Organic search results are more trustworthy and relevant than ads but the majority of marketers would still choose paid search over SEO according to a new report released by BestSEOCompanies.

The study, titled ‘SERP Success: Comparing Google Ads vs. SEO’, polled 496 business owners and 522 search engine users to compare and contrast opinions about Google Ads usage and SEO methods.

There are benefits to both approaches and the two tactics can often work in tandem, and in an ideal world marketers would make use of paid and SEO to deliver the return on investment (ROI) and results their companies crave.

The effectiveness of the two tactics is not in question as 87% of respondents said SEO works for them. 90% said the same for Google Ads. The vast majority also believe they are “worthwhile”, “beneficial” and “important”. On average, marketers are spending $2,314 on SEO and $2,466 on Google Ads.

However, when asked what they would choose if only one tactic was possible, 64% of marketers would opt for Google Ads compared to 36% for SEO. This is despite the gains in key metrics that organic methods can provide in the long term.

A separate study by BrightEdge found that of all the site traffic across the web, organic search was a driver of 53% while paid was responsible for just 15%.

Marketers may prefer paid search as it is generally easier to track and measure compared to SEO, and can support campaigns from a standing start whereas organic needs more time and commitment to deliver results.

While marketers prefer paid, the consumers polled for the survey showed a strong inclination for organic results as they are deemed more trustworthy and relevant. This is backed up by the fact that 84% said they regularly click on these results compared to the 45% who do for paid search.

In fact, organic search results are more popular than any other feature in Google SERPs, way ahead of images, top stories, featured businesses, featured snippets and popular products.

More worrying for marketers is that only 11% of users believe search ads are relevant to the queries they input into Google despite the latter’s use of a “Quality Score” to improve the quality of ad content.

The good news is that marketers don’t have to choose between the two in reality as SEO and paid search methods such as pay per click (PPC) complement one another and can be used alongside content marketing to improve the quality of campaigns.

Marketers do, however, need to get some sort of documented roadmap or list of tactics down as only 30% say they implement a SEO strategy to boost their organic rankings according to another study by the Manifest.

Skill gaps could be contributing to the problem as SEO is a difficult undertaking to manage effectively as a small or micro business. SMEs are by and large, work on SEO in-house and on a part time basis. Working with an agency or outsourcing activities to professional freelancers could help.


B2B marketers are getting better at serving customers at the top of the funnel by creating brand awareness and educating audiences but are still missing out on deepening relationships further along the cycle, according to a new study released by Content Marketing Institute (CMI).

The ‘B2B Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends – North America’ study found that brands are going from strength to strength in their ability to nurture new leads and reach wider audiences.

More than two-thirds said that they had success in this area compared with the 58% who said so a year ago.

In contrast, just 45% of B2B marketers surveyed said that they have been able to use content marketing to build a subscribed audience, while strengthening loyalty and generating revenue have also been more of a struggle compared to the three most cited goals: brand awareness, education audiences, and building trust.

“Getting attention is great, but marketers must keep that attention. Kudos to those who are creating lasting impressions and super fans,” CMI’s general manager Stephanie Stahl said.

She noted that brands should look at competitors that are “doing it right” and take inspiration from successful strategies and campaigns to nurture long-term relationships as consumers are now “all too ready to swipe left”.

One way that companies can improve their efforts is by outsourcing larger projects to agencies and other third parties as smaller internal teams are now the norm.

The study found that 50% are now outsourcing one content marketing activity or more, and ‘creation’ is the most popular activity, with 84% doing so.

The need for outside assistance is also highlighted by the fact that 32% of B2B marketers say that there isn’t a single full-time person assigned to their content marketing efforts.

Perhaps more interesting is that the top performers rely even less on internal personnel as only 13% have a full-time employee, while companies generally rely on a mixture of team structures to get the job done.

Moving on to data and analytics, 80% of respondents are now using metrics to keep tabs on the performance of the content they publish, and this is a good habit to get into as 95% of ‘top performers’ are evaluating data on a regular basis.

While tracking metrics is commonplace, only 43% of B2B marketers are measuring the return on investment from content marketing campaigns, and many are not establishing key performance indicators (KPI) to link data with marketing objectives and wider business goals.

Top performers are again at the vanguard, with 67% evaluating ROI and 83% monitoring KPIs regularly.

Only 14% of all respondents said that their ability to demonstrate AI is “excellent” and more than a third admitted that they are average or poor in this area.

CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose urged B2B marketers to stop thinking of content marketing as only a means of creating leads or an opportunity and instead aim to “AMAZE” audiences to really reap the benefits.

He concluded: “Treat your audiences as customers because that is the way you can lean into data acquisition and personalize your experiences.”


Matcha released its first annual Content Marketing Benchmark Report last week with the aim of helping smaller enterprises navigate the complexities of creating and publishing content. The report analysed data from hundreds of SMEs and the plethora of articles and ads they posted in 2018.

Several recent studies have espoused the benefits of using long-form content as a central pillar in marketing campaigns, and Matcha’s research found they were again among the most effective for driving positive actions. Editorial output, which is typically longer than 750 words, helped to deliver the best reader engagement, with an average of more than four subheadings and almost six images for consumers.

The use of visual aids and subheadlines to break up large blocks of text is believed to be crucial in guiding the reader’s eye and keeping them interested as they scroll down the page. Mixing high-quality prose and fact-based written content with high-resolution images, infographics and catchy headlines is recommended for small businesses aiming to optimise their marking materials this year.

The study also found that “listicles” are particularly effective at keeping reader’ engaged while ensuring output is efficient and meets the needs of users. In-depth analysis of content presented wholly or partly as a list resulted in an uptick in several key metrics, including scroll depth, rates of engagement, click-through rate (CTR) and cost-per-click (CPC). They also perform extremely well on social platforms.

While Facebook has endured a difficult 12 months due to fake news and data privacy scandals, it still leads the way content promotion. The study showed when content is placed alongside ads on the platform, CPC plummets to just $0.19. In contrast, when ads are used on their own, CPC rises to $1.72. Click-through-rates on content ads also see similar remarkable rises.

Matcha also found that licensed content has now caught up with original content in terms of engagement. Licensed content is defined as materials from third parties that brands syndicate from publishers to release across their own channels. It can be distributed by social, email or elsewhere. The study noted that this process is perfect for SMEs, as it enables smaller teams to publish articles with consistent, high quality in a more cost-effective way while taking less time and resources to support.

“This report is invaluable for small businesses, particularly in e-commerce. For the first time, they have a research-backed roadmap to grow their businesses using content marketing,” Matcha CEO, Fynn Glover said. “Great content is a critical ingredient for acquiring and keeping customers. Now, SMBs know exactly what to expect in terms of performance.” Matcha’s full report promises to help small businesses to avoid making the “wrong turns and wasting times” while urging them to use the insights to come with a documented strategy on a robust roadmap for their content marketing efforts. It also outlines why SMEs and e-commerce shops need to embrace content marketing and defines what separates good content from great content.


The complex and sprawling nature of departments in large enterprises makes it more difficult to create and distribute content marketing materials and measure the success of campaigns, a new study published by Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has found.

The Enterprise Content Marketing 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report for North America posits that implementing strategies and managing campaigns is more challenging for large corporations compared to small and medium enterprises due to the complexity of core operations.

These larger enterprises usually have several office locations, product and service lines and multiple functional silos. The study found that the sheer scale of these companies makes it especially challenging for each department and team to know what content is being created, the audiences that are being targeted and the metrics that should be tracked to determine success or failure.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents said coordinating content marketing efforts across several brands and departments are a major challenge. Marketers in large corporations are also struggling with working with too many departmental silos (60%), implementing new tech for use across the enterprise (50%) and having the flexibility and agility to make changes on the fly when required (49%).

CMI found that even small communication breakdowns can lead to problems that can torpedo even the best campaigns, as conflicted messaging and ineffective budgeting hinders the potential for positive returns and success. However, CMI says restructuring operations can transform content efforts.

Rather than attempting to link departments and align processes, large enterprises should instead attempt to create a single, centralised group that can work with a plethora of products, brands and departments. This dedicated team can define a strategy, create and distribute content, and be proactive rather than reactive when changes are needed.

The study also found a mismatch between content marketing teams and sales as they are often managed as separate units, which impairs their ability to share insights, collaborate and work towards important content goals, such as driving conversions and leads. Just one in five respondents said these teams were either “extremely” or “very” aligned.

“The unique nature of a large organization makes content marketing especially challenging,” explains Lisa Murton Beets, CMI’s research director. “New this year, we asked enterprise marketers about their use of account-based management (ABM) and the alignment between their content marketing and sales teams.”

She added: “Only 19% of enterprise respondents report that their content marketing and sales teams are extremely or very aligned, while 28% say there is little or no alignment between these two functions. However, around half of respondents may have ushered in 2019 with account-based management (ABM) in place. The collaborative nature of ABM may help alleviate the sales and marketing alignment gap.”

Finally, tech is set to play a bigger role in content marketing in 2019, and 71% said the top benefit of cutting-edge advances was gaining better insights into the performance of content. Meanwhile, 50% said it would support better insights into audience preferences.


Many businesses and online marketers have been using Facebook quite successfully to market their products and services through Facebook posts and target advertising. However, with the revelation that the data of millions of users was handed over to Cambridge Analytica – a political consultancy group that managed US President Donald Trump’s successful bid to the White House in 2016 – data privacy has once again come to the forefront.

Now Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, has acknowledged that the company tracks people irrespective of whether they have an account with Facebook, and this has deepened the issue surrounding data privacy.

During a Congressional hearing, Zuckerberg said that Facebook collects data of even those who do not have an account with the social media networking site. He said that this was done for security reasons.

Lawmakers and privacy supporters protested this practice by Facebook. Many said that Facebook had to come up with a system that allowed people without an account to find out the details that the social media networking site had about them.

US Representative Ben Lujan asked Mark Zuckerberg to fix this problem during the hearing. It is unsure how this disclosure will affect Facebook’s ability to offer advertisers targeted ads. In fact, Zuckerberg did not respond to Representative Lujan, and two days after the statement, Facebook announced that it had no plans to build a tool to let non-users know the extent of data the company holds on them.

Mark Zuckerberg has his share of critics, who have said that he has not disclosed sufficient details about how much data Facebook collects and to what extent it is used.

Chris Calabrese, Vice President for Policy at the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), an advocacy group based in Washington, pointed out that it was unclear what the social media site was doing with the vast volume of data.

Facebook attains data of people who do not have an account with the site when they upload email IDs of their friends, who do have a presence on Facebook. It also gets information via cookies, which are stored on a person’s browser to track their internet usage. Usually, this is done to send targeted ads to people.

In a statement, Facebook expressed that the kind of data collection it carried out was in alignment with the way the internet works. When questioned whether people could opt out of giving Facebook access to their data, the company stated people had the option of deleting cookies from their browser and device settings.

Cookies are installed on users’ browsers when they visit websites that have Facebook’s Like and Share buttons. This happens even if the person does not click on the buttons. According to Facebook, the data is used to create analytics reports – not for targeted advertisements.

In the UK and Europe, Facebook will meet its first regulatory challenge when the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect. The new regulation requires companies that collect data to get consent from the public and let them know what their data will be used for.

Woodrow Hartzog, Professor of Law and Computer Science at Northeastern University, said that Facebook would have to find ways to give non-users the right notice. However, Facebook has said in a statement that it complies with applicable laws, including GDPR.



Culture may have a more profound impact on the way people consume content than previously thought. A new study found that ads, articles and videos tailored to an audience’s language and social beliefs have a much greater chance of resonating with said audience and driving positive customer actions.

Digital Lives 2018: World of Digital ‘Everything’ through a Cultural Lens is a new study published by the Culture Marketing Council: The Voice of Hispanic Marketing (CMC). It aims to uncover exactly how culture affects the behaviour of users in the digital realm, with a sharp focus on content sharing and consumptions, as well as the types of platforms used.

The CMC studied 3,500 respondents between the ages of 13 and 49, with an equal number of Hispanics, Hispanic African Americans and non-Hispanic whites taking part. The main takeaway is that brands can increase the power of their messages by advertising and publishing organic content in a person’s “cultural space”. This is true for all ages, languages and segments.

Almost three-quarters of non-Hispanic African Americans said they are more likely to make a purchase from a specific brand if they try to advertise in cultural spaces, while around two-thirds of Hispanics said the same. It is perhaps no surprise that Spanish language content drives more engagement with Hispanics. This highlights the importance of transcreation and translation when creating content campaigns.

“Demography and digitalization are the two most transformative and disruptive forces in our society today,” CMC Research Chair Nancy Tellet said. “The growth and influence of the Hispanic consumer, coupled with the pop culture and political clout of African Americans, is transforming the American cultural landscape. At the same time, digital platforms are emerging and evolving, giving consumers more control over the on-demand content they crave.”

While the study is focused on the Americas, it also offers a general insight into how content tailored to different cultures can amplify the power of brand messages. Authentically diverse content appears to be a positive factor across the board, as it increases engagement with the majority of multicultural audiences and also a portion of millennial non-Hispanic whites.

“The results of this new study re-emphasize the strategic imperative of placing culture at the center of your campaigns and valuing culture specialists as key advisors,” said CMC Chair Isaac Mizrahi, who is also co-president and COO of Alna. “We hope this study can help marketers maximize success with in-culture, multicultural segmented efforts and avoid costly cultural gaffes in their mainstream marketing.”

A few tips for successful content transcreation include creating an audience profile covering preferences, lifestyle, language and goals to build a persona for creatives to tailor content towards. The profile also helps the audience grasp the keywords they are searching for by considering localised keyword behaviour. It is important that cultural content is topically and stylistically relevant to audiences. Beyond transcreation, more basic translation can also work if the content can engage with audiences in a positive way. Either way, culture is set to play a big part in content creation in 2018.


Personalisation and brand values are two trends that content experts have trumpeted regularly during the last 12 months, but new research published by mobile location data company, Blis, suggests they are not valued greatly by the public.

The survey of 2,000 consumers in the US highlights just how difficult it is for marketers and brands to strike exactly the right tone and message with their content to engage with audiences and drive positive actions. There appears to be a very fine line between content being well received by consumers and ads, videos and articles that annoy them.

The good news is that most respondents said they were more loyal to brands now compared to 2013, so there is a great opportunity for marketers to strengthen these bonds with engaging written content and infographics in the coming months.

However, for those eager to add a political edge to their content campaigns, there was a stark warning, as consumers currently place “brand morals” last in the “Consumer Hierarchy of Brand Needs.” It is perhaps no surprise that product quality is the most important factor, ahead of price and ease of obtaining products and availability.

Brand safety has been an issue in the industry during the last 18 months, and there is solace for those that have been affected, as many consumers forgive mistakes if they already “liked the brand.” However, women are less brand loyal than men by a significant margin. Consumers also believe over-personalisation is a turn-off, as it can imply that a brand is keeping too close tabs on audiences’ whereabouts in the digital realm.

Therefore, brands must attempt to walk the fine line between personalisation and tailored content without it coming off as “too intrusive.” While this is arguably an easier concept for organic formats, such as articles and videos, creating ads that do so is more challenging and should be a focus for marketers in 2018 as they look to retain the trust of consumers amid growing concerns about access to personal information.

Moving to the need for better organic results, social media analytics company, Socialbakers, has revealed that Instagram Stories may be a better channel for driving engagement than Facebook after the latter recently made changes to its algorithm that makes it harder for brands to get its articles on user’s news feeds.

Jordan Julian, the social media analyst for the company, said focusing on Instagram Stories can really make a difference in terms of reach and impressions. She concluded that it is becoming increasingly difficult for brands to achieve organic reach on social media, and marketers will usually need to pursue more creative content ideas to ensure it gets seen.

Finally, a study by ANA earlier this year found that three-quarters of marketers are now using influencers, but many are still not sure whether they are truly effective. However, in an age where competition is so fierce, these social media personalities and celebrities can have a positive impact on brand perception while driving purchase intention.


According to a new joint study published by LinkedIn and CMI, content marketing can play a major role in bringing marketing and sales teams together to drive better brand recognition and benefit a business.

The report, titled “Content Marketing: Unlocking Sales and Marketing Performance,” reveals how quality articles, blogs, news releases, videos and a documented strategy that links marketing to sales can enable “true success and revenue growth.” The two departments are often at loggerheads in modern businesses, as the marketing department often claims that the sales department doesn’t follow-up on leads while the sales department claims that the leads generated by the marketing department are weak.

A previous LinkedIn study found that 60% of sales and marketing professionals said a failure to align sales and marketing can be disadvantageous for the business and negatively affect financial performance. It is obviously in the best interests of brands to reduce silos and bring the two departments closer together, but putting that plan into action has traditionally been difficult.

Less than half of marketers in the new study believe the two departments are “highly aligned” at their enterprise, while 54% admitted marketing and sales teams currently have “low alignment”. This is a challenge that brands will be eager to address in 2018, and the new research suggests content could be the key that unlocks a scenario where both functions work in tandem without issues.

Content collaboration drives greater alignment according to the study, as more than three-quarters of highly aligned brands have marketing and sales teams interacting with each other to build and optimise content strategies. Highly aligned companies are also much more likely to collaborate on content than to work in isolation.

To clear the initial hurdle, brands should prioritise a document strategy for content, as the most successful enterprises have written procedures, objectives and schedules to work towards. It is also important to meet at least weekly so salespeople and content marketers can actively collaborate.

To increase alignment, marketing and sales teams should also agree on shared metrics to drive better performance and leverage the right mix of technologies to “develop a single view of the customer that enables teams to act quickly and decisively to deliver more value,” CMI’s Chief Strategy Advisor, Robert Rose says.

Working on content together then puts the building blocks in place for sales and marketing teams to come together more often for other business efforts. Content can create a culture where everyone pulls together for the benefit of the business. Rose also urges brands to experiment. He adds: “Iterate often and create enthusiasm for controlled experiments that can inform process changes and investment decisions.”

When brands work with agencies for creative output, this three-way relationship between in-house sales and marketing teams and the third party must also be managed carefully. Alignment is advantageous for all, as it can then lead to bigger budgets. Six out of ten companies say they will have more to spend on content and marketing endeavours in 2018, but this drops to just 35% for those that are not aligned.


Content marketers are doubling down on targeting strategies that deliver the most useful news, blogs and videos to consumers at the appropriate time. However, there has been a decline in content that tailors experiences for specific points in the journey a buyer takes from discovering a product to making a purchase.

Those are the main talking points from the latest study published by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), titled Technology Content Marketing 2018: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends. CMI regularly releases practical data from the content industry, and the latest report draws from its eighth annual marketing survey.

While the emphasis on targeted and well-timed content is the headline trend, the study begins by examining how marketers feel about their approach to content. It found that 78% of respondents believe they are achieving either moderate or great success with their efforts, with 28% falling in the higher band.

Encouragingly, more than two-thirds believe they have become “much” or “somewhat more successful” during the last 12 months. This finding suggests that marketers’ approach to content continues to mature. Previous studies have shown that more experienced brands are reaping greater rewards from their campaigns, so the method bodes well for ROI in 2018.

Creating quality content plays a significant role in successful content marketing, as 78% of the respondents said higher quality and more efficient article and video creation had been a factor in their success during the last year. Almost three-quarters said adjusted strategies had been a key factor, while 55% said they have become better at distributing content. All these factors are aspects of marketing that a third-party agency can use to help a brand.

The report’s main takeaway is that 63% said they are now placing more focus on delivering content at the right moments, which is a big increase from the 49% who said so in last year’s study. In contrast, just 50% are frequently creating content to support buyers at different points on their purchasing journey, which is down from 60% a year ago.

“It could be a semantical difference to some degree, but rather than the ‘old-school’ development of content for the buyer’s journey, we’re seeing a focus on dynamically serving up content in the audience’s time – no matter what stage they happen to be in,” Chief Strategy Advisor for the Content Marketing Institute, Robert Rose said. “We’re also seeing a general maturing of the market and a shift to ‘other’ types of content programs like account-based marketing.”

The study also found that leadership support for content marketing initiatives is strengthening, as 66% of all marketers say they now have ample time to drive the results they need. For marketers that are performing at the highest level, 88% responded that they had enough time to achieve marketing success.

There has also been a considerable increase in support for the least successful tech marketers. Finally, two-thirds of all respondents chose to outsource at least one of their marketing activities.


Artificial intelligence (AI) has been a hot topic in content marketing this week. A new study published by BrightEdge found that most brands will use the technology to improve creation and strategy this year.

Canadian PR agency RNMKR revealed that it had used AI to drive lead generation to the top of the sales funnel for its clients.

The BrightEdge study featured an in-depth look at the adoption of AI technologies, which include robotic process automation and machine learning, with a view to informing brands about key trends and to see whether it will have an impact on content campaigns in 2018.

The results suggest that the AI revolution is finally here. While last year’s Future of Marketing survey revealed a reluctance among marketers to fully embrace AI despite recognising its future value, this year’s study found that a few brands are already on board. Many more are either “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to use it to develop their strategies during the next 12 months.

Data and analytics are becoming more important for brands as they attempt to use the growing amount of information they collect on social and other platforms to inform content decisions. Therefore, it is no surprise that many are planning to use AI to streamline and improve these activities. Personalising content for target audiences has also been a widely discussed trend recently, and AI feeds into this objective.

“Despite some of the hype surrounding artificial intelligence, this survey shows that AI is very real, and marketers are adopting AI-first technology in search and content marketing sectors faster than most,” said BrightEdge CEO Jim Yu. “The insights that AI brings allows marketers to make smarter and faster decisions to deliver compelling customer experiences that perform.”

Gaining a better understanding of customers is more important than ever, as content must speak personally to different user groups. Approximately 31% of respondents said that AI had enabled them to deliver targeted customer experiences and get a better handle on audience desires. An additional 14.5% said it had also led to better performing content, while 8.5% claimed it had caused an increase in return on investment.

AI is quickly becoming essential for content creation according to RNMKR’s Founder and Chairman, Ari S. Goldberg, who revealed that the technology is having a profound impact on how they optimise content to convert leads into paying customers. AI can also be used to capture customer interest and help build strategies from the ground up.

“What we’ve come to realize is whether we apply those steps to luxury grooming and essentials, or to travel, or to luxury real estate, it doesn’t matter — it’s the same steps,” Goldberg said. “You’re creating content. You’re doing that based on SEO. You’re still using the same social platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, whatever it might be, so that the foundation, the tactics, are the same but the vertical and the brand might change.”