Content marketing has become the latest trend to catch fire within the Internet marketing industry.

In light of Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, designed to target content and link spam, in favour of rewarding fresh, unique content, quality content represents one of the few SEO strategies to produce consistently good results.

Despite content being central to so much Internet marketing activity, the recent focus on quality, relevancy and clarity from Google has forced many in the industry to sit up and take note.

Indeed, content marketing in itself is hardly a new concept – without content, websites wouldn’t exist. Without consumer-focussed, quality-content, an online business will struggle to exist. Content marketing means more than just providing great on-page copy though: it involves providing shareable, unique content, online PR and attractive images, infographics and video to encourage users to engage with a brand.

Sujan Patel, guest blogging at Search Engine Journal, seems to be a little bemused about the recent fervour over content marketing.

He argues: “After all, if content marketing is all about building exceptional value in order to connect with customers, what makes it so different than, say, the way you should be running a website anyways?”

Robin Bonn, over on the Guardian website, points at certain online companies that have clearly understood this concept and capitalised on good content very early on in their development.

He says: “Some of the successful brands today – just look at the rise and rise of Asos – recognise that the way to take centre ground in the lives of their customers is through great content, ie ‘owned’ media, and not advertising.”

Despite this recognition of the importance of content marketing, reports suggest that brands are being incredibly slow to act.

A report by Econsultancy and Outbrain suggested only 38% of respondents had a defined content marketing strategy.

This is certainly not helped by the fact that over half of brands (54%) have not hired a content marketing person to work in-house, and two-thirds of respondents (66%) simply do not have the budget allotted for this activity.

Bonn believes that such a response could be detrimental to a company’s success, arguing that: “Developing an effective content marketing strategy is increasingly becoming the difference between winning and losing against your competitors.”

Firms can no longer rely solely on outbound marketing techniques, due to Google’s renewed efforts to crack down on the more technical aspects of SEO to level the playing field.

Inbound marketing techniques, such as content marketing, can often generate the same results while requiring far less time and effort. Therefore, in terms of business strategy, investment in solid content marketing could ensure not only great business results, but also act as protection from inevitable search engine changes in the future.

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