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Two-thirds of B2B manufacturing brands are performing “below average” in their digital marketing efforts, according to a new study released last week by Gartner. The report found that B2B marketers are still struggling to “get digital…right” and risk losing customers and their competitive edge if they fail to rectify the situation.

Gartner’s L2 Digital IQ Index: B2B Manufacturing U.S. 2019 report looks at the digital competence of 87 brands in the sector across the US. Despite the growing importance of digital marketing for achieving key goals and objectives, only two were able to secure a “Genius” status, while the majority were lumped into either being “Feeble” or “Challenged.”

Gartner measured the content output of B2B manufacturing enterprises using four primary criteria, including content marketing and search engine optimisation (SEO). While many have started the process and implementing and managing diverse digital strategies, success has not been easy to come by due to a variety of challenges.

Shifting customer buying behaviour is one of them. The wholesale change in buyer habits during the last five years has disrupted business models, and digital has been used as the bridge between the old and new. However, 51% of those surveyed said they believe the digital experience they currently offer is average at best, which is supported by Gartner’s ranking index.

One reason for the poor performance is a lack of high-quality content. More than a third of B2B brands admit to having no content guides or information on their corporate sites, which is making it difficult for them to meet growing expectations among customers. Ideally, 42% say they would like the buying experience to be quick, but they are not backing it up with the right strategies or tools.

However, the best performers can do this, as they are using data to gain a better understanding of how their customers want to engage with them and, in turn, drive engagement and conversions. Gartner notes that brands must focus on a popular trend this year – being “customer, not company, focused.”

“Marketing leaders at B2B manufacturing companies must make a commitment to building effective digital marketing strategies. As more of their buyers allocate an increasingly large portion of their time learning how to buy online, brands must follow the money and follow suit,” Gartner director, Kyle Rees, said.

B2B brands must also do more to leverage the tools they have at their disposal. Just a quarter are using auto-fill tech in site search and providing corrections to queries. Rees added that best-in-class brands are doing everything they can to create nuanced and balanced brand experiences and that B2B manufacturers should aim to use digital to advance and support new businesses rather than just using it to “fill the top of the funnel” and create short-term demand.

He concluded: “If B2B marketers can’t get digital marketing right, they could seriously jeopardize the success of their company’s future digital business strategies, or worse, fail to protect themselves against looming competitive threats.”


More than three-quarters of digital advertisers are now making SEO a priority in their marketing campaigns, according to a new report published last week by WordStream.

The Online Advertising Landscape in 2019 study provides a snapshot of the digital marketing and advertising industry and highlights some of the biggest roadblocks and favoured platforms and channels for brands around the world. The report focuses mainly on smaller enterprises with marketing teams of between one and five people.

As the focus is on SMEs, it is encouraging to see many embracing organic cost-effective marketing channels, such as SEO and content marketing, both of which have surged in popularity during the last 12 months. A sizeable 79% said they will use SEO to grow their business this year, while 60% will leverage the power of articles, blogs and other forms of content to support expansion.

While advertisers have previously zoned in on paid search since it is usually easier to derive an immediate profit, the sentiment has now shifted towards channels capable of driving long-term benefits. Content marketing has been an excellent option for micro and small businesses aiming to deliver returns without investing huge sums of money, and SMEs are now using search engine optimisation alongside it to amplify the success of digital.

“Like content marketing, SEO can be an extremely valuable long-term strategy when done effectively,” WordStream noted in its report. “Kudos to those surveyed for recognizing the importance of balancing short-term results with a long-term strategy for sustainable growth!”

Content marketing and SEO have also become the primary channels overall for small businesses, as less than a third said they would be spending money on event marketing, guerrilla marketing and affinity marketing in 2019. The only other method expected to be as popular is email marketing (66%).

In terms of goals and objectives for the next year, generating a profit is the most important by a considerable margin, but many admit time limitations are holding them back from achieving success. More than a third also admit a lack of resources is a major challenge, though limited expertise is not a problem, with only 12% citing it as an issue.

Google search ads are taking up a notable portion of budgets, as 46% are planning to invest more in this area during the next nine months. However, 44% say they will spend the same amount as they did last year. Instagram is another focus, as almost a third will target the use of more ads on the visually focused social media platform in 2019.

Finally, when asked to rank the importance of marketing strategies, paid search came out on top, which is not surprising for advertisers. However, content marketing is now ranked second ahead of paid social, again suggesting that small enterprises are now investing in content since they are confident of it paying dividends both in the short term and further down the line. Email marketing, displaying ads and shopping-cart management rounded out the top six.


Small enterprises are now so committed to digital marketing that 95 percent are planning to spend more on the discipline throughout 2019 according to a new survey published last week by business news website, The Manifest.

Digital marketing has empowered SMEs to effectively level the playing field with larger corps as cost effective content and social media platforms enable them to deliver marketing materials capable of engaging end users without the expensive methods that were once needed two decades ago.

It is no surprise then that all but five percent of the 529 small enterprises surveyed for the ‘2019 Small Business Digital Marketing Survey’ said budgets will increase during the next nine months. Digital marketing encompasses a wide range of channels and the majority are using everything at their disposal to achieve business goals and gain a competitive edge.

Content marketing remains one of the top channels for small businesses but the joint leaders overall are social media and websites. Platforms such as Facebook and Instagram allow small biz to tap into large audiences with ease and 63 percent said they would be spending more in this area during the remainder of the year.

Corporate websites have long been a primary platform for enterprises looking to publish content and create relevant and fast loading experiences for customers. Despite the arrival of newer channels in recent years, 73 percent still use websites and 54 percent will invest more in them in 2019.

While there is variation in the usage of these channels, the consensus is that digital marketing is pretty much essential to the success of a small business as it provides so much added value for a relatively small outlay. Robert Weiss, MultiVision Digital president said its versatility is one the major plus points for SMEs who need to be agile.

Weiss added: “I’m a big believer of always starting with digital first because it’s directly quantifiable, and you can turn it off like a light switch if it’s not working.” The low cost of entry means small enterprises can tear everything down and start again without worrying about getting left behind.

The sheer scale and ease of use these channels, which also include SEO, video and email marketing, also allow enterprises to experiment on a daily basis. Digital marketer, Dipti Parmar said: “Digital marketing offers versatility and the freedom to experiment. Small businesses can spend a bit of money on each and quickly figure out which one works best for them.”

Experts believe smaller businesses should always leverage a variety of tools and channels to make the most of their investments and drive better ROI. However, the survey found that video marketing is not widely used as only 34 percent of respondents are using visual clips to promote products and services.

Brittany Gamble, social media specialist at MyCorporation also says content marketing may even be underrated despite is lauded reputation for deliver consistent returns. She concluded: “High-quality content takes time, money, and effort, but in the end, the results are worth every penny.”


Matcha released its first annual Content Marketing Benchmark Report last week with the aim of helping smaller enterprises navigate the complexities of creating and publishing content. The report analysed data from hundreds of SMEs and the plethora of articles and ads they posted in 2018.

Several recent studies have espoused the benefits of using long-form content as a central pillar in marketing campaigns, and Matcha’s research found they were again among the most effective for driving positive actions. Editorial output, which is typically longer than 750 words, helped to deliver the best reader engagement, with an average of more than four subheadings and almost six images for consumers.

The use of visual aids and subheadlines to break up large blocks of text is believed to be crucial in guiding the reader’s eye and keeping them interested as they scroll down the page. Mixing high-quality prose and fact-based written content with high-resolution images, infographics and catchy headlines is recommended for small businesses aiming to optimise their marking materials this year.

The study also found that “listicles” are particularly effective at keeping reader’ engaged while ensuring output is efficient and meets the needs of users. In-depth analysis of content presented wholly or partly as a list resulted in an uptick in several key metrics, including scroll depth, rates of engagement, click-through rate (CTR) and cost-per-click (CPC). They also perform extremely well on social platforms.

While Facebook has endured a difficult 12 months due to fake news and data privacy scandals, it still leads the way content promotion. The study showed when content is placed alongside ads on the platform, CPC plummets to just $0.19. In contrast, when ads are used on their own, CPC rises to $1.72. Click-through-rates on content ads also see similar remarkable rises.

Matcha also found that licensed content has now caught up with original content in terms of engagement. Licensed content is defined as materials from third parties that brands syndicate from publishers to release across their own channels. It can be distributed by social, email or elsewhere. The study noted that this process is perfect for SMEs, as it enables smaller teams to publish articles with consistent, high quality in a more cost-effective way while taking less time and resources to support.

“This report is invaluable for small businesses, particularly in e-commerce. For the first time, they have a research-backed roadmap to grow their businesses using content marketing,” Matcha CEO, Fynn Glover said. “Great content is a critical ingredient for acquiring and keeping customers. Now, SMBs know exactly what to expect in terms of performance.” Matcha’s full report promises to help small businesses to avoid making the “wrong turns and wasting times” while urging them to use the insights to come with a documented strategy on a robust roadmap for their content marketing efforts. It also outlines why SMEs and e-commerce shops need to embrace content marketing and defines what separates good content from great content.


Most tech marketers are using content to strengthen ties and build loyalty with existing clients and customers, but their general efforts are being hamstrung by the industry’s more complex audience journey that usually involves more channels and people.

Those are two of the takeaways from Content Marketing Institute’s new report, titled Technology Content Marketing 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends. The study shows that content now plays a pivotal role in informing consumers and driving sales but that the process continues to be incredibly challenging due to a range of factors.

The primary concern is creating content that appeals to multiple roles, as tech brands say there are several people across the business who have a direct influence on a purchase. It is perhaps no surprise that “top performers” are doing better in this area and are usually more committed and have a “mature” or “sophisticated” approach to content marketing.

Content can be used to support a myriad of goals and objectives, but creating white papers, articles, videos and blogs for existing customers appears to be a near-universal aim, as 82% of those surveyed agree that their enterprise focuses on the use of creative content to build loyalty with current customers rather than targeting new ones.

However, most marketers are successful at achieving goals, as 84% said they had managed to “create brand awareness” during the last 12 months, while 80% have been able to generate demand and leads during the same period. More than two-thirds also have educated audiences (74%), built credibility and trust (69%) and nurtured existing subscribers or leads (66%).

Moving back to “top performers”, this select group of high achievers are way ahead of the rest and serve as inspiration for laggards who are struggling to make the most of their content efforts. For example, 58% of top performers are extremely committed to content marketing but this figure slumps to just 28% of all respondents. The takeaway here is that is best to go all in on content to achieve a better return on investment and results.

“Tech content marketers definitely feel the challenge of the complex decision-making process they face with clients,” Content Marketing Institute VP of Editorial, Kim Moutsos said. “We found this among content marketers who consider themselves very/extremely successful as well as the group as a whole. Despite this, a full 75% say their organization’s content marketing is more successful compared with one year ago, which is exciting to see.”

The study also found that the ever-changing SEO landscape is causing headaches for tech marketers, as 62% are concerned about the state of flux in search algorithms, making it the top-reported concern ahead of content being a steady revenue centre (48%). However, many appear to have got to grips with audience research, as more than two-thirds are using keyword analysis, website analytics and sales team feedback to support their creative efforts and make better decisions.


Marketing on Instagram is maturing, and brands need to consider it more than just an outlet for driving engagement, according to a new study on the visual platform released this week by HubSpot and Mention.

The latest research found Instagram is delivering the goods in terms of basic engagement levels and that video posts are the best for pumping the numbers on that metric. Clips on Instagram see a 100% uptick in engagement compared to other posts, which is measured in the number of comments and likes.

However, brands appear to have tunnel vision and a sole focus on engagement, as 80% of those surveyed said it was the most important metric. While engagement is a crucial factor for determining the success of content campaigns, Mention noted that the ever-evolving nature of Instagram makes it hard for many to look beyond the metric.

“Unlike other social platforms, its growth and expansion weren’t paced and they never meant to be. Instagram is a trendsetting platform that’s functionality is developing quickly, making it hard to keep up with,” Mention CMO, Joel Gaudeul, said.

He added: “It’s becoming increasingly difficult for organisations to learn and adapt to updates and changes on the platform. Businesses that are selling their brand stories today must understand that Instagram goes beyond engagement, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

HubSpot and Mention analysed more than 48 million posts published by 306,278 top users on Instagram. They found the average post gets just shy of 6,000 likes, though as the study is centred on users on the more influential side of the spectrum, it can be difficult to ascertain how less-visible brands perform.

However, since the median number of likes for all users is 100, it suggests much of the engagement is front-loaded towards the most popular users. This number is higher for video posts, which usually get the most likes and have seen the fastest pace increase in engagement during the last year.

Video posts also get the most comments at 150 per clip on average, though this falls to a comparatively small number of four per video in some cases, which again highlights how the large swathes of Instagram’s user base see little-to-no engagement on a regular basis.

Hashtags are also a useful way to amplify the reach of content, and the study found the average post has just one of these, while the recommendation is to have five or less for every clip or photo to maximise engagement.

The study concluded by saying that Instagram has developed into perhaps the most powerful marketing changes of the current day and that brands and influencers must now tap into the vast range of capabilities to connect with audiences and improve their experiences. HubSpot and Mention said brands do not quite know the best ways to do this just yet and urged them to adopt an insights-driven approach to social media to ensure they can improve their creative processes this year.


Long-form editorial content generates more shares on social media platforms compared to shorter posts, as do headlines with more words and characters.

Those are two of the major takeaways from a new, comprehensive content-marketing study released by BuzzSumo and Backlinko last week. The two companies analysed more than 900 million blog posts published on Facebook, Twitter and other social sites during a 12-month period from October 2017, making it one of the largest ever to date.

There has been an emerging trend of snippets and bite-sized content in recent months, but brands that focus solely on short-form creative content may be missing out if they don’t supplement it with blogs and articles that are extensive, relevant and insightful. The study found the ideal content length is between 1,000 and 2,000 words.

The ideal length is based purely on social shares, so brands should ideally mix up their content lengths to align with their own targets and objectives. However, long-form is king for social media, as articles with 2,000 to 3,000 words and 3,000 to 10,000 words still generated more social shares than those under 1,000 words.

However, anywhere between 1,000 and 2,000 words appears to be the sweet spot, as these articles see an average of 56.1% more shares on social media compared to shorter articles with less than 1,000 words. Also, longer headlines are better for sharing, which is perhaps a surprise considering shorter, snappier titles are easier to digest.

The study found that headlines with 14 to 17 words are the best overall, and these are defined as “very long.” Short headlines with one to five words performed the worst, as they are unlikely to be relevant or eye-catching. The same pattern is also true for characters, with “more” being the ideal. Headlines with 80 to 100 characters get the most social shares.

While long content is king for sharing, there is not one specific day of the week where articles or blogs can benefit from higher levels of engagement. The study found there was a just 1.45% difference in the number of social shares on each of the seven days, although Sunday did come out on top.

The most shareable types of content on social media are those made up of lists or those leading with a “why” question as a headline. Meanwhile, infographics are incredibly useful for brands attempting to build backlinks, as they remain a highly citable resource for long after their publication date. They are also easy to embed within the body of a blog or article.

Finally, BuzzSumo found that B2C content is much more shareable than B2B content, although the study noted that B2C output often covers more appealing topics, such as health and fitness, which are more likely to resonate with a general audience on social media. In contrast, B2B materials are more esoteric and are less likely to be shared.


Agencies are practising what they are preaching in terms of content marketing. During the last 12 months, 83% have been able to create brand awareness via the discipline, and half believe their strategies and campaigns are either mature or sophisticated.

The Agency Content Marketing 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report published by Content Marketing Institute (CMI) on Wednesday highlights the value of working with skilled and knowledgeable third parties. Almost 2,000 employees at agencies around the world were surveyed last year for the findings.

The primary takeaway is that agencies are a cut above regular enterprises in their approach to content marketing. While many SMEs struggle with the “first steps” and “adolescent” stages of maturity with content, agencies are predominantly in the “mature” and “sophisticated” phases.

The higher levels of maturity are also translating into success, as a third believe their own approaches to content marketing are either “very” or “extremely” successful. The study found these high performers also more likely to have a documented strategy in place. Just 4% said they did not have a strategy and do not intend to implement one within the next 12 months.

Storytelling has emerged as a critical trend in marketing during the last two years, and agencies are proficient in delivering engaging messages on a regular basis. More than two-thirds said they now use storytelling “frequently” or “always” for content published across various platforms.

More B2B and B2C companies are now pivoting away from traditional ads to organic content to meet the demands of consumers eager for fresh videos, articles and blogs, so it is no surprise that agencies are making changes to satisfy their clients. A sizeable 58% expect to increase their content budgets in 2018, while 24% say spending will jump by 9% or more.

Agencies believe in the power of content marketing, as evidenced by the 38% of respondents who claim their organisation is now “extremely” committed to the discipline. A further 36% are also “very” committed. For those agencies specialising in content marketing, the commitment levels are likely to be near universal.

“It’s encouraging to see many agencies report content marketing maturity and success,” says Cathy McPhillips, the Content Marketing Institute’s Vice President of Marketing. “One of the most exciting findings from the research is that 74% of agencies are extremely or very committed to content marketing – that’s higher than the B2B, B2C, and manufacturing segments studied. Agencies are filled with skilled communication professionals who see the value of content marketing as part of an integrative approach. They see the value and success it brings to their marketing mix as well as their clients.”

CMI concluded by saying that the greater role that content now plays in the marketing mix will prompt many agencies to diversify the types of services that they are offering to clients. In addition to creative services and production, agencies may also branch out to provide account management, media planning and public relations.


The complex and sprawling nature of departments in large enterprises makes it more difficult to create and distribute content marketing materials and measure the success of campaigns, a new study published by Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has found.

The Enterprise Content Marketing 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report for North America posits that implementing strategies and managing campaigns is more challenging for large corporations compared to small and medium enterprises due to the complexity of core operations.

These larger enterprises usually have several office locations, product and service lines and multiple functional silos. The study found that the sheer scale of these companies makes it especially challenging for each department and team to know what content is being created, the audiences that are being targeted and the metrics that should be tracked to determine success or failure.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents said coordinating content marketing efforts across several brands and departments are a major challenge. Marketers in large corporations are also struggling with working with too many departmental silos (60%), implementing new tech for use across the enterprise (50%) and having the flexibility and agility to make changes on the fly when required (49%).

CMI found that even small communication breakdowns can lead to problems that can torpedo even the best campaigns, as conflicted messaging and ineffective budgeting hinders the potential for positive returns and success. However, CMI says restructuring operations can transform content efforts.

Rather than attempting to link departments and align processes, large enterprises should instead attempt to create a single, centralised group that can work with a plethora of products, brands and departments. This dedicated team can define a strategy, create and distribute content, and be proactive rather than reactive when changes are needed.

The study also found a mismatch between content marketing teams and sales as they are often managed as separate units, which impairs their ability to share insights, collaborate and work towards important content goals, such as driving conversions and leads. Just one in five respondents said these teams were either “extremely” or “very” aligned.

“The unique nature of a large organization makes content marketing especially challenging,” explains Lisa Murton Beets, CMI’s research director. “New this year, we asked enterprise marketers about their use of account-based management (ABM) and the alignment between their content marketing and sales teams.”

She added: “Only 19% of enterprise respondents report that their content marketing and sales teams are extremely or very aligned, while 28% say there is little or no alignment between these two functions. However, around half of respondents may have ushered in 2019 with account-based management (ABM) in place. The collaborative nature of ABM may help alleviate the sales and marketing alignment gap.”

Finally, tech is set to play a bigger role in content marketing in 2019, and 71% said the top benefit of cutting-edge advances was gaining better insights into the performance of content. Meanwhile, 50% said it would support better insights into audience preferences.


The importance of optimising content for Google search was highlighted again this week after Merkle’s latest quarterly Digital Marketing report found it accounted for a considerable 96% of all organic search visits on mobile devices in the US.

Google leads the way

Google’s visit share on smartphones and tablets increased in the fourth quarter from an already dominant 95% for the same period a year earlier. The tech giant also saw its overall search visit share on mobile and desktop increase a full percentage point to 93% year-over-year.

Google is the overall organic search leader by a large margin, Microsoft’s Bing only managed to muster a mere 4% share in Q4 2018, which was down from the 5% figure recorded in 2017. Yahoo was next on the list with a 3% share, while privacy-focused DuckDuckGo came in at just 0.4%.

Organic searches usually fall at the end of the year as marketers ramp up investment in paid channels to support festive strategies and campaigns. This was true again, as total site visits from organic search grew 6% in the third quarter but only increased by around 2% in the final three months of the year.

Smartphone supremacy

Smartphones now account for more of those organic search visits, as there was a 17% year-over-year increase on mobile compared with a 10% year-over-year decline on desktops. For content marketers, this suggests a focus on tailoring content for mobile using Google’s AMP initiative may be worthwhile in 2019.

Merkle’s latest Q4 2018 report also highlighted a few other search, social and advertising trends. Facebook’s advertising spending slumped 10% year-over-year, but the study noted that this fall was not driven by a pull-back from advertisers or adverse headlines but was due to a focus on other areas.

“Coming off of a very healthy holiday shopping season for retailers, our Digital Marketing Report sheds light on digital marketing strategies and how they are shifting to suit consumer shopping habits,” Merkle senior vice president of marketing, Erin Hutchinson, said in a statement.

“Google Shopping ads are gaining in popularity and Amazon continues its steady growth, Advertising on Facebook is declining as the company is looking to grow its other social media properties like Instagram and engage with new users and younger generations.”

Google Shopping ads saw an impressive growth of 42% in the final quarter, which represents the fastest pace of growth for shopping investment in two-and-a-half years. Google is also dominant in this area, as it Shopping ads accounted for almost two-thirds of all ad clicks on Google search, another record level.

Organic SEO

Google’s search and ad performance bode well for content marketers who are focusing their SEO efforts on mobile and organic search this year. A few of the content formats that regularly rank on the first page of Google’s SERPs include engaging and regularly updated blog posts, evergreen articles, long-form editorials, infographics, and visual galleries and video.