The Best Content Marketing Formats [Research]

Content Marketing Formats: 3 Different Perspectives

Cookie cuttersAs every marketer knows (unless you’ve been living under a rock), content marketing is white hot. To improve your effectiveness, you must understand which are the best content marketing formats to use to achieve your main business objectives.

While recent MarketingSherpa research focused on creating content to support search optimization, the data is worth examining since it gives insights into how marketers think about content. (For a different perspective, here’s an analysis of content marketing based on Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs research.)

Content marketing formats used

Here’s how marketers view different content marketing formats.

  • Over 70% of marketers cited websites (or webpages) and social media. The most used form of content. This makes sense since these platforms provide a homebase for your firm.
  • B2B marketers tend to use white papers (52% B2B versus 10% B2C ) and case studies (51% B2B versus 9% B2C) more than B2C marketers. This is no surprise since these are traditional elements of B2B marketing. 
  • B2C marketers use customer reviews (44% for B2C versus 27% for B2B) more than B2B marketers according to MarketingSherpa. Consumers like to see what others have said about a product or company. Further some purchases may be made infrequently. By contrast, more people are involved in a B2B purchase.
  • The low ranking of mobile websites (23%) and mobile apps (14%) is notable. While these elements may not be strong for search optimization, they’re critical for consumers-on-the-go. Further, mobile apps are gaining popularity due to the increased cost of mobile data plans. If your business isn’t visible on a smartphone or tablet, you risk being left out of the consideration set. 

MarketingSherpa-Content currently use

Content marketing creation ease

Not all content marketing formats are created equal. Some forms are significantly easier to develop than others.

  • Over 70% of marketers consider images to be easy to create. Largely this is attributable to the use of photographs, especially those created by customers and the public. Photographs have the advantage of attracting attention since as humans we’re wired to look at other humans. Images such as infographics while highly shareable require more work to create. Also, images require related text to ensure that they’re searchable.
  • Over 25% of marketers considered mobile apps to be very difficult to create. Interestingly, mobile web content was less intimidating: 11% found mobile web content to be very difficult and another 46% found mobile web content to be difficult. From a marketing perspective, the challenge with mobile apps is getting prospects to download them and then to continue to use them. To this end, your app must provide utility. (See Jay Baer’s book, Youtility for a fuller explanation.) 
  • Over 25% of marketers found video production to be very difficult. While many bloggers and solopreneurs use lower quality options such as voice over a presentation or a live chat via Skype, high quality video production can be expensive relative to other forms of content creation. To this end, leverage the power of existing video opportunities such as advertising shoots. Remember that YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google. 
  • Roughly 20% or more of marketers view long content formats to be very challenging. This includes white papers, case studies, webinars and e-books. Unlike other types of content these options, while more expensive than shorter content, can be outsourced as long as you have a strong content marketing plan.

Marketing Research Chart_ Data on content difficulty reveals customer reviews may be overlooked by marketers | MarketingSherpa

Content marketing format effectiveness

When considering which form of content to use, you must think beyond ease of creation. The question is how effective is the content in terms of achieving your business goals. Bear in mind that this data was asked relative to the goal of search optimization. This is an important factor since the broader goals of acquiring new customers and closing sales may result in different response. (Here’s earlier research by Google on content marketing effectiveness.)

  • Less than 20% (or one fifth) of marketers found social media very effective. Even with data focused on search optimization, this is surprising since search results yield a variety of different types of social media and content. In my opinion, this finding points to a need to provide ways to drive prospects to your organization’s information from social media through the use of a social media call-to-action.
  • About 20% of marketers found mobile websites very effective. This result seems low which may be attributable to the focus on search optimization because, after a prospect looks for a business’s address or phone number, they complete their interaction either in person or on the phone. To this end, make sure that your business address, phone number and email are easy to find on your website, social media and mobile content.
  • Just over a quarter of marketers found blogs to be effective. This is attributable to the fact that many business blogs are boring without providing real value to the reader. Leverage the power of blogs to answer your prospects’ questions and to show them how to use your products. Also, incorporate links to your product pages.

MarketingSherpa-Content Marketing EffectivenessRegardless of whether your company is a B2B or B2C, you need to offer your audience a variety of different types of content. Think beyond the ease and cost of creation. Take into account how effective your content is at achieving your goals.

What do you find to be the most effective type of content? What is the easiest form of content for you to create?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen



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