The Evolution of Content Marketing Over the Past Decade
Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen content marketing evolve dramatically. In 2011, it felt like every company knew they “needed a blog,” but many had no idea why, or to what end, or even how to set up calls to action and get people to subscribe. Now, rather than seeing content marketing as simply having a website and a blog, companies are looking at it as a comprehensive, long-term strategy that encompasses content, SEO, and public relations.
A big reason for this turning point? The realization that consumers often make decisions before directly interacting with a company.
In 2011, Google’s “Zero Moment of Truth” study found that 88% of consumers encounter a Zero Moment of Truth — a stage in the buyer’s journey when they research a product or service before purchasing. As a result of this research phase of consumers’ journeys, companies began to realize that content marketing is an important part of educating and engaging potential customers and nurturing them toward a sale. The ZMOT study also brought the need for SEO into the spotlight, revealing that the brand’s appearance in search results is imperative for influencing consumers during this moment of truth.
After this study came out, Google tweaked its algorithm in order to discourage keyword stuffing. This change made creating high-quality, relevant, meaningful content even more important.
Later, in August 2022, Google launched the "helpful content update," which uses a machine learning algorithm to identify unhelpful content that appears to be solely created for ranking well rather than truly informing and helping searchers and providing value. According to Google, the helpful content update is "part of a broader effort to ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results."
Of course, Google isn’t the only factor that has influenced content marketing’s evolution in recent history. Social media’s growth has popularized more passive content consumption. While consumers use Google searches to find specific answers or content, they began using social media to stumble upon content more casually. To capitalize on this, companies began creating more attention-grabbing, visually appealing, highly shareable content. And video has also grown in prominence. In fact, by 2017, more than half of consumers said they wanted to see videos from their favorite brands.
In addition to types of content changing, the technology powering the industry has also advanced a lot over the past decade. Ten years ago, it was not easy to attribute tangible business results to content marketing. But now, I could tell you exactly how much revenue our company drove from specific content campaigns we’ve done thanks to the features we use in HubSpot.