2019 Content Marketing Report

October 18, 2019

It’s likely you know content marketing is valuable in scaling your business online. But do you know where the content marketing industry is going, and why?

Because Decibite offers non-technical entrepreneurs fast hosting, we were curious about the state of content marketing.

Some questions we wanted data-backed answers were:

  1. Why is content marketing important for entrepreneurs?
  2. How do entrepreneurs and content marketers measure content marketing effectiveness?
  3. When hiring a content marketer, what skills are most important to hire for?
  4. What do people believe are the most important SEO factors? And how important is fast web hosting to content marketers?
  5. What are the current challenges doing content marketing?

For some, doing research is about as fun as doing taxes. It’s not like the adrenaline rush you get when you make your first dollar online. So we did the hard work and put together this report to give you data-driven answers to some of the biggest questions in content marketing.

Note: We surveyed 664 people who said a blog had some importance to them making money online. This includes business owners, managers, freelance content marketers, in-house content managers and specialists.

For simplicity, I used the label “content marketers” to describe everyone surveyed.

A Summary of What You Will Learn in This Survey:

  1. Why is content marketing important? The most important reason is to build relationships with customers (58.6%). The second most important thing is to become a trusted expert (53%). And the third most important reason to do content marketing is to give people a reason to come back to their website (50%).
  2. How do you measure content marketing effectiveness? 27.9% of those who blog measure effectiveness by sales. 22.4% of those who blog measure effectiveness by leads generated. And 21.5% of those who blog measure effectiveness by brand awareness.
  3. What are the most important content marketing skills? The highest ranked content marketing skill is social media and content promotion. Writing and copywriting, and design tied for second. And email marketing and empathy to the buyer tied for third.
  4. What are the most important SEO factors? The top three highest ranked SEO factors by content marketers is content quality, site loading speed, and content freshness.
  5. What's your biggest challenge to doing content marketing? The biggest content marketing challenge is making money from content (54.5%). The second biggest challenge is publishing high quality content (50.3%). And the third biggest challenge is long-term sustainability (48.5%).
  6. What is the demographic background of those who have a blog? 58% of those with a blog are female and 42% are male. 48.6% are married and 24.7% are single. 65.5% are white, 10.5% are hispanic, 8% are Asian, and 7.4% are black.

Are you ready to dive deeper into the content marketing report?

The Importance of Content Marketing: Why Is Content Marketing Important for Your Business?

If you want to grow your business online (and who doesn’t?), you can’t escape hearing about content marketing. Content marketing is everywhere you look and listen.

But why is content marketing important for growing your business?

According to our survey, the top 10 reasons content marketing is important for business is because it helps:

  1. Build relationships with customers: 58.6%
  2. Become a trusted expert: 53%
  3. Give people a reason to come back to your website: 50%
  4. Build brand awareness: 48.5%
  5. Turn more visitors into leads: 41.9%
  6. Set yourself apart from competitors: 40.1%
  7. To keep up with competitors: 40.2%
  8. Increase organic traffic (SEO): 29.2%
  9. Lead generation: 8.4%
  10. To assist other marketing campaigns: 3.8%

Each survey responder assigned a score of “+1,” “0,” or “-1” to each category. This allowed everyone to respond to every topic without assigning equal value to each area of importance. They were then divided by the sample size of 664 responses.

Content marketing is more than a writer seeking to promote content. It’s a tool that, when executed correctly, positions your brand to be a trusted friend and adviser to potential customers.

And this is what’s most important to content marketers: building relationships with their customers and to become a trusted expert.

It was also surprising to find organic traffic 8th on the list. For most content marketers, SEO is necessary to make their traffic growth sustainable. And while 47% of content marketers surveyed believed SEO is important to long-term growth, 17.8% believe SEO was not important.

Content Marketing Metrics and KPIs: How Do You Measure Content Marketing Effectiveness?

Let me make this simple for you.

If you’re not measuring with clear metrics and KPIs, you’re not doing content marketing.

Crafting articles and infographics without measuring results is a faster path to disaster. If you can’t show the money, you’ll get burnt out.

But what metrics should you track to measure content marketing effectiveness?

According to our study, here’s how people who make money with content marketing measure results:

  1. 27.9% of those who blog measure effectiveness by sales. This includes measuring effectiveness by online sales, offline sales, and manual reporting.
  2. 22.4% of those who blog measure effectiveness by leads generated. This includes measuring effectiveness by email subscriptions, form completions, or sales inquiries.
  3. 21.5% of those who blog measure effectiveness by brand awareness. This includes measuring effectiveness by monthly traffic, video views, or downloads.
  4. 19.7% of those who blog measure effectiveness by content engagement. This includes measuring effectiveness by comments, social shares, or inbound links.
  5. 8.3% of those who blog do not use any means to measure content effectiveness.

It’s no surprise that tracking sales is the best way to measure the value of blogging.

But you may find it surprising content marketers do not have a clear answer which is best to measure content marketing effectiveness. The difference between the four ways to measure is only 8.2%.

Here’s one possible explanation.

Very few would disagree with the success of a marketing channel is the sales it makes. But measuring and attributing the success is extremely difficult. Attribution isn’t perfect.

The total number of email subscribers is an excellent measure of future sales and it’s easy to track. But it’s also a lagging indicator of success. For example, a large list of people who have no interest in your product won’t make you money.

Tracking views is often easy if you install Google Analytics. But smart content marketers know not all traffic converts the same.

Content engagement is also easy to track and find. And many savvy content marketers observe those who engage are often those who most likely become a customer. But comments and social shares by themselves don’t pay the bills.

Different business models and marketing channels may also change your tracking priorities. Consider these three scenarios:

  1. A visitor comes to your site from a Facebook ad, reads five articles, then clicks a Google ad to buy your product. What was the value of content marketing?
  2. A visitor comes to your site and becomes an email subscriber. Eight months later they buy a product from you. How do you measure your content marketing effectiveness in the meantime? By traffic? Or by email subscribers?
  3. You know people who engage with your emails and what you share on the blog are often the most likely to become a customer. Should this become your new measure of success?

In the end, you need sales to keep your business's lights on. But determining how to measure success will depend on your situation and job function.

Content Marketing Skills: What Skills Should Content Marketing Specialists or Managers Have?

An effective content marketer is a master of many disciplines.

But what are the skills necessary to transform you from a novice to a content marketing specialist? And what types of knowledge and experience do you need to be an effective content marketer?

We asked our survey respondents to rank 10 content marketing skills on how important these skills are to them.

Here are the 10 most important skills to content marketers:

  1. Social Media/Content Promotion: 4.9
  2. Writing and Copywriting: 5.3
  3. Designer: 5.3
  4. Email Marketing: 5.4
  5. Empathetic to Buyer: 5.4
  6. Researcher: 5.6
  7. SEO/Link Building: 5.7
  8. Editing: 5.7
  9. Data-driven: 5.8
  10. Coder: 5.9

These numbers are an average of where each person ranked the skill. Ranking a skill as “one” is most important while “ten” was the least important. Therefore a lower average score means responders believe this skill is more important.

Content marketers get it. If you don’t hustle to promote what you wrote, you are shooting yourself in the foot.

Writing and copywriting is a critical skill (ranked #2). But content marketers believe social media and content promotion takes the cake as the most important content marketing skills.

Design tied writing and copywriting as the second highest ranked content marketing skill.

Why is design so important? Here are three possible explanations.

First, images and graphics are an excellent way to keep readers engaged. Second, design is a form of content you can share. And when done right, images will lead to links, which helps SEO. And third, as competition increases, stellar design becomes a fantastic way to set your blog apart from the competition.

How to Rank on Google: What Are the Most Important Elements of SEO to Improve Your Organic Ranking?

Once upon a time, marketers believed there were 200 ranking factors Google uses in their algorithm. Since then, the list has grown and expanded. Yet most factors have little (if any) impact on your organic traffic.

Organic traffic is key to sustainable traffic. So we wanted to find out what people believe are the most important organic ranking factors.

According to our survey, here are the top 10 SEO organic ranking factors:

  1. Content Quality: 4.8
  2. Site Loading Speed: 5.3
  3. Content Freshness: 5.4
  4. Easy to Crawl Site: 5.5
  5. Mobile Optimized Site: 5.5
  6. Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T): 5.5
  7. On-Page SEO (Keyword Usage): 5.6
  8. Search Intent Match: 5.6
  9. Domain Authority or Domain Rating (Total Site Backlinks): 5.9
  10. Page Authority or URL Rating (Total Page Backlinks): 6.0

These numbers are an average of what people who have a blog believe is most important to rank on Google. Ranking an SEO factor as “one” is most important, while “ten” was the least important. Therefore a lower average score means responders believe this factor is a more important element of SEO.

The days of keyword-stuffed articles are as dead as a stuffed turkey. So much so, content marketers and entrepreneurs who have a blog feel content quality is the number one organic ranking factor.

It’s a delight to find many content marketers care about fast site loading speeds. At Decibite, we believe all content marketers deserve faster hosting because:

  1. Fast hosting increases customer delight.
  2. Fast hosting increases search traffic.
  3. Fast hosting increases conversions.

It’s surprising to see backlinks are ranked so low by those who own a blog. When Moz asked 150 SEO experts, domain links and page links were the #1 and #2 SEO factors. Perhaps many content marketers still lack the knowledge why SEO is valuable.

Content Marketing Challenges: What's Your Biggest Challenge to Doing Content Marketing?

Content marketing is simple to learn, but challenging to master.

Perhaps you struggle to make money from your content. Or maybe it’s consistently produce high quality content and remembering to promote after you hit publish.

Are the challenges you face the same as other content marketers? And where are business opportunities to help solve these challenges? Let’s find out.

Here are the top 10 challenges of content marketing:

  1. Making money from your content: 54.5%
  2. Publishing high quality content: 50.3%
  3. Long-term sustainability: 48.5%
  4. Promoting content: 45.3%
  5. Knowing your niche: 39.5%
  6. Consistently posting articles: 35.5%
  7. Increasing competition: 17.9%
  8. Not knowing what to write about: 12.5%
  9. Difficulty measuring ROI: 10.8%
  10. Unrealistic expectations from a boss or client: -6.3%

Each survey responder assigned a score of “+1,” “0,” or “-1” to each category. This allowed everyone to respond to every topic without assigning equal value to each area of importance. They were then divided by the sample size of 664 responses. A negative score means more people felt it was not a challenge than it is a challenge.

Contrary to what YouTube ads and Facebook gurus will tell you, it’s not easy making money online. A full 63.7% of content marketers felt making money from their content was their biggest challenge.

Publishing high quality content is the second highest important factor. Given that content marketers surveyed felt content quality was the #1 SEO factor, perhaps that explains why this is such a huge challenge. Yet the issue isn’t not knowing what to write about, ranked at #8.

And while many content marketers feel content promotion is the #1 skill, it’s also their #4 greatest challenge too. Perhaps this pain explains why many content marketers view this skill should be a high priority.

It’s interesting to note that “unrealistic expectations from a boss or client” was so controversial. Here are three possible reasons why this might be true:

  1. Most entrepreneurs or solo content marketers do not have a boss or a client. If they write their own content, it’s unlikely they’d see their own unrealistic expectations. And if they did, they would fix those expectations.
  2. Some who have a boss or client have reasonable expectations about the blogger’s work.
  3. Some who have a boss or client have no expectations. The founder hears they should have a blog. So they get content written. As a result, the boss may not know what to expect beyond, “It (hopefully) helps increase total customers.”

Survey Methodology

Are you curious to learn about the people we got this data from?

We wanted 664 people to fill out our survey.

This gave us a confidence level of 99%. This means there is a 99-in-100 chance that a future experiment will encompass the true value of the population. Most empirical studies should use at least a 95% confidence level, meaning there is likely an error in 1-in-20 tests.

There is also a margin of error of 5%. This means any answer we provide may be plus or minus 5%.

s a qualification to keep responses relevant, each person answered two questions:

  1. How do you earn a living?
  2. How important is a blog to making you money?

For the first question, a person was given five responses:

  1. I have a job which requires me to work online.
  2. I have a job which I do NOT work online.
  3. I have a business OR website which makes money online.
  4. I have a business OR website, which does NOT make money online.
  5. None of the above

They needed to respond with either statement one or three to fill out the survey. 481 people (or 72.4%) said they have a job which requires them to work online. 183 people (or 27.6%) said they have a business OR website which makes money online.

For the second question, a person was given another five responses:

  1. A blog has no importance to making me money.
  2. A blog has low importance to making me money.
  3. A blog has medium importance to making me money.
  4. A blog has high importance to making me money.
  5. A blog has very high importance to making me money.

They needed to answer with any but number one to continue. Of the 664 people who responded, here was the breakdown for each answer:

  1. A blog has no importance to making me money: 0%
  2. A blog has low importance to making me money: 162 (or 24.4%)
  3. A blog has medium importance to making me money: 224 (or 33.7%)
  4. A blog has high importance to making me money: 185 (or 27.9%)
  5. A blog has very high importance to making me money: 93 (or 14%).

The responses are subjective. So there is a possibility that some may have over or under-estimated the importance of a blog to them.

We felt using subjective responses was necessary because there was not a clear way of finding content marketers. Once consideration was monthly traffic. However this would potentially skew the results too much to the opinion of top content marketers. Further, asking about their traffic is skewed because they self-report this data.

In hindsight, it may have been better if we did not include everyone who has a blog who views it as a lower importance.

Still, we were delighted there was a balanced spread of answers from content marketers at different skills.

Here are some other fast facts about our sample population:

  1. 58% are female, 42% are male.
  2. 95.3% live in the United States. 4.7% live in Canada.
  3. 7.2% are between ages 18-24, 40% are between 25-34, 32.8% are between 35-44, 14% are between 45-54, and 5.9% are 55 and older.
  4. 35% graduated from university, 28.8% from high school, 19.6% from a vocational technical college, 15.2% from post-graduate, and 1.4% middle school or below.
  5. Income levels:
    • Prefer not to say - 2.7%
    • Under $25,000 - 12.1%
    • Between $25,000 and $49,999 - 24.1%
    • Between $50,000 and $74,999 - 21.5%
    • Between $75,000 and $99,999 - 18.5%
    • Between $100,000 and $124,999 - 9.5%
    • Between $125,000 and $149,999 - 6%
    • $150,000 or more - 5.6%
  6. 48.6% are married, 24.7% are single, 16.9% living with partner, 4.8% divorced, 2.9% separated, 1.7% widowed, 0.5% prefer not to say.
  7. 33.4% have no kids, 20.3% have one kid, 25.3% have two kids, 10.8% have three kids, 4.4% have four kids, 3.3% have five kids, 1.2% have six or more, and 0.8% prefer not to say.
  8. 65.5% are white, 10.5% are hispanic, 8% are Asian, 7.4% are black, 2.6% are multiracial, 2.1% are latino, 0.9% are Arab, and 1.4% are some other ethnicity.

Final Thoughts

Content marketers are valuing quality and user experience more-and-more.

Consider these statistics found in this survey:

  1. Building relationships with customers is the most important reason for doing content marketing.
  2. Design is tied for the 2nd most important content marketing skill. And empathy to the buyer is tied for 3rd.
  3. Content quality is the highest ranked SEO factor, followed by site loading speed.
  4. Publishing high quality content is the second highest challenge for content marketers.

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, once said, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we (Amazon) are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”

Improving the customer experience could be improving design to make your blog more inviting. It could be improving your site speed to reduce load time frustrations. And it can even be just writing quality content.

Whatever you do, keep seeking to improve the customer experience through your content.

Perhaps that’s why a satisfied customer is the best business strategy ever.