Content Marketing Trends for 2017 or How to Make Your Content Marketing Deliver ROI

road to digital marketing success

I’ve written a lot about content marketing over the last 3 or 4 years — ever since Google changed their ranking algorithm to favor the creation of new, valuable content on a consistent basis in determining SERPs (search engine results pages — or where you post shows up in Google search). Obviously, SERPs are important because users rarely go beyond the first page (and often beyond the first 3 organic results on the page).

If you don’t believe me, look at these results from Search Engine Journal. Across all major search engines, 95+% of links clicked are on the 1st page.

visits by serp
Image courtesy of Search Engine Journal

Given the importance of content marketing for SEO, what advice is there to guide content marketers who want to improve their search ranking?

I’m glad you asked. Here’s an infographic from my friends over at CJG Digital Marketing listing the top trends in content marketing for 2017, based on data gleaned from a number of reputable sources.

The top trends are:

  1. Increased emphasis and ROI from documenting your content marketing strategy
  2. More visual content, including video
  3. Businesses generate more niche content that is specific to particular problems
  4. More user-generated content, especially in social media, images, and video as opposed to long-form content, such as blogs
  5. Promotion is key to getting value from your content marketing
  6. Increase importance of influencer marketing
  7. Buzz marketing using guerrilla tactics and storytelling

Don’t think content marketing is only for big businesses, it’s maybe even more critical for small businesses. Here’s a post on how to create content that delivers on a small budget.

Next, I’ll go through each of these trends.

You need a written content marketing strategy

And that means more than writing some disjointed tactics on the back of a napkin. Without a clear, well-conceived written strategy, your content marketing isn’t optimized.

If you’ve never written a strategy before, here’s my template for creating a content marketing strategy.

According to a CMI report, 41% of content marketers don’t have a well-documented content strategy and only 17% are planning to create one in the next 12 months. Every content marketers should expend the time and resources necessary to create a written strategy including KPIs and other metrics to monitor performance.

Visual content is increasingly important for performance

In the same CMI study, 65% of senior marketers believe visual content is a core means for transmitting the brand’s story.

That’s because people interpret images better than mounds of data and images are more memorable that text. It’s not hyperbole that folks across disciplines agree that “a picture paints a thousand words”. Take a look at the image below for an example:

Image courtesy of Data Mentors
Image courtesy of Data Mentors

SMEs may believe they can’t create original content, such as infographics and other images to use in their content, but it really doesn’t have to break the bank with the number and ease of tools available for creating images.

Hubspot recently released 15 free infographic templates while other businesses like Canva and PictoChart offer free or low cost options that allow beginners to produce quality infographics and other types of visual content.

Wanna learn more about low-cost options for creating unique visual content, check out my post here.

The same is true for video and some great tools help create professional quality video and, for those who want more complex video options, Adobe Premier is my choice.

Businesses need more niche content

With the ease of blogging platforms and the importance of content for organic search, an avalanche of content gets produced every day. Much of this content rehashes the same things over and over, providing little or no value to readers and poor ROI for publishers. I don’t think the solution is to provide more niche content, as suggested in the infographic, but providing more DETAILED content — content that’s actionable.

Most content is too general and lacks specific, actionable advice for readers. Emphasizing this, we see that most of the links with high page rank contain around 2000 words, which allows writers to really dig in and provide valuable insights. Yet, many blog posts don’t even cross the 1000 word threshold I set for guest posts — this is the major reason I reject most submissions. There just isn’t room, in most cases, to add value to readers in 1000 words.

If you dissect this post, you find I focus on actionable content, not generalities. I’ve included specifics, such as in the above paragraph where I don’t leave it at creating valuable content, I give concrete examples showing what valuable content looks like. In earlier paragraphs, I provide links to valuable resources, like templates and tools. These go beyond general advice to provide concrete solutions.

Use more user-generated content

User-generated content is more believable than that created by companies — in fact, 85% of respondents find it more trustworthy. But, benefits from user-generated content also help create awareness, which is the critical first step on the journey towards sales.

content marketing planOn this site, user-generated content comes primarily through guest posts and, in exchange, guest writers share the content through their social networks. Occasionally, I get a backlink in addition to the social shares. My Facebook group, Social Media Marketing Tribe, is specifically designed as a community where I share my content and members share theirs with the goal of encouraging and supporting each other.

On my other major site,, where I market my novels (BTW, you should check them out–they’re really very good, 4.7 stars on Amazon), I include extensive user-generated content both on the site and in social media. For instance, I include reader reviews, as well as reviewing content (in this case, books) created by other indie writers as a means of mutual support.

Polls, contests (especially contest for naming, which I use extensively, images and video), guest posts, and social media engagement create opportunities for valuable user-generated content.


The notion that, if you build it, they will come was never true and its never been less true that today where clutter is the norm across the internet. Regardless of how great content is, it’ll die in obscurity without promotion.

Again, if you’re an SME, you don’t need a huge promotional budget and can get very good results through networking, engagement, and building community. Also, I find Facebook Sponsored Posts particularly valuable when you consider the low cost and advanced targeting offered by the platform. I don’t have much experience with Twitter, but I’ve not found the same value in Google Adwords or LinkedIn, although your experience might differ.

wheel of digital marketing
Image courtesy of Kissmetrics

In my experience, one of the most overlooked tools for promoting content is sharing across your social platforms — and by that I mean sharing on a rational schedule, not just once. Here’s the schedule I use, courtesy of Kissmetrics and based on their own Monte Carlo testing.

When I moved from sharing sporadically to this schedule, my daily visits doubled within a short period and has continued to increase at a higher rate than before. As a side note, I added LinkedIn (after all, I’m a B2B site) to the schedule and follow the timing for G+. I also share to my Facebook group on the same schedule that Kissmetrics recommends for my page.

Influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is the new shiny toy in content marketing. It involves engaging influencers to create and share content because these influencers have more connections and more pull than ordinary users. A study by TapInfluence and Nielsen shows that influencer marketing has 11X the ROI of traditional advertising Of course, there’s a downside if you don’t do influencer marketing correctly and you can see some of the dangers of influencer marketing in this post.

Implementing influencer marketing is accomplished in several ways and here’s a list of some of the best tools for influencer marketing, although I find it a bit dated. Klout, for instance, has been extensively criticized. I recently discovered Grin, which is an influencer marketing tool specific to Instagram. I haven’t used it yet, but I hope to post a review soon.

Buzz marketing

Buzz marketing is basically generating organic reach for your content marketing efforts. I’ve seen proposals where firms suggest buzz marketing as a tactic for reaching a clients goals. But, buzz marketing isn’t a tactic, it’s the result of other tactics done well. Generating buzz is the outcome, not the tactic.

So, instead of planning for buzz marketing, we should plan for tactics likely to generate buzz.

Here are some things that might generate buzz:

  • Weird, unusual, surprising content
  • Advice that conflicts with established norms or highlights the conflict among experts
  • Guerrilla marketing tactics such as the one mentioned in the infographic below, which involves VR to recreate the experience of driving. I could create an entire post citing examples of where guerrilla marketing generated buzz, but also some colossal failures.
  • Storytelling, when done well, creates buzz. For instance, here’s a link to amazing examples of storytelling in content marketing.

Final thoughts on content marketing

So, I hope you learned a lot about content marketing from this post. If you have questions, please be sure to add them to the comments and I’ll happily reply.

Here are the high-points of this discussion:

  • You need unique, valuable content on a consistent basis to achieve high search ranking, which often translates into more visits and higher ROI.
  • Tactics that optimize content performance have reached a higher plain, which may mean you need to revise (or create) a detailed content marketing strategy.
  • Firms need to step-up their content marketing efforts by including more visual content and creating more detailed and unique content. The general content that was painted with broad brush strokes is no longer valuable. Readers what content that’s actionable.
  • Storytelling and other types of content can generate buzz that extends the reach of your content. So can using influencer marketing

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Be sure to scroll down to see the infographic.

content marketing
Image courtesy of CJG Digital Marketing