2012: The year content marketing changed forever

It seems like an understatement to say that content marketing has really moved into the spotlight this year. Thanks to the on-going social media explosion, an increasing focus on visually orientated content, and one very influential Penguin, 2012 has changed content marketing forever. We’ve put together this timeline of the most notable developments in content marketing from 2012.

January

After a December crammed full of digital predictions, January brought a fresh start, a fresh approach, and a clear indication that 2012 was indeed the year of content marketing. The biggest news stories were Facebook’s decision to place ‘Featured’ ads in the newsfeeds of their users, and Google’s inclusion of content from Google+ within “personalised” search results. Hubspot released its State of Inbound Marketing Report, which found that 57% of companies have acquired a customer from their blog, a figure which rose to 92% when blogging took place more than once a day.

February
Google caused uproar when it overhauled Analytics to conceal the majority of user search queries – information that had previously enabled marketers to understand what people were looking for when they arrived at a website. This was also the month that Google employee Jon Rockway declared that “SEO isn’t good for users or the internet at large … Manipulating Google results shouldn’t be something you feel entitled to be able to do” – his words foreshadowing the major algorithm update that was to take place in April.

March
Figures from Recommend.ly showed that 82% of Facebook brand pages were updated fewer than 5 times a month, which perhaps prompted the social networking behemoth to update its offering for brands: Facebook timeline for businesses became universal on the 30th March, changing the way brands presented their content on the site. Twitter announced its acquisition of the blogging site Posterous Spaces, a move described by rival blogging site Tumblr as a “talent acquisition” because the deal involved Twitter employing all of Posterous’ developers.

April
April 2012 was the month of the algorithm update that rocked the content marketing world like no other. The now infamous ‘Google Penguin’ was released on 24th April, with the intention of pushing low quality content to the bottom of the search rankings. Google estimated that 3.1% of search queries would be affected by this change, prompting content creators the world over to make a conscious effort to ensure that their pages were prioritised and not penalised.

May
In May, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)’s cookie law was finally implemented, exposing companies that did not make users aware of their cookie usage to potential fines of up to £500,000. May was also another big month for social content, with Pinterest receiving a $100m funding investment, Twitter reaching 140m users, and a survey from Fishburn Hedges revealing that more than a third of consumers now connect with businesses through social media.

June
Research from Search Metrics told us that the higher the number of Facebook and Twitter shares a piece of content receives, the higher its chances of topping the search engine results pages. Linkedin, possibly inspired by Google+’s ‘Circles’ approach, introduced targeted status updates.

July
Infographics had been lurking on the content horizon for the past few months, but a remark by Google’s Matt Cutts in July moved them into the spotlight, when he implied they had significance for search.

August
August brought us two major content marketing surveys – one from IDG, and one from SEOmoz. IDG’s B2B Content Marketing Trends report showed that 84% of marketers believed content marketing to be on the rise, and highlighted the creation of original content as one of the biggest challenges faced by the industry, whilst SEOmoz’s industry survey revealed that 71% of brands use content as part of their marketing mix. Ultimately, statistics from both surveys pointed to the content industry’s continued growth over the months to come. Meanwhile, the majority of almost everybody’s content was dedicated to the national phenomenon that was the London 2012 Olympic Games.

September
Figures from Comscore showed that demand for online video was higher than ever, with 188 million users watching 47 billion videos on a monthly basis – providing a stark reminder to marketers not to discount the medium from their content strategies, and yet another nod towards the prevalence of visual content, which was reinforced when Instagram overtook Twitter’s user headcount, with 7.3 million users to Twitter’s 6.9 million. At the opposite end of the content spectrum, a survey of 440 B2B marketers showed that 51% of marketers believed content marketing had a positive impact on lead generation.

October
October was another month of content facts and figures, as Econsultancy produced its first ever Content Marketing Survey Report, in association with Outbrain. The key statistics showed that more than 90% of respondents thought that content marketing would become even more important over the next twelve months, and nearly three quarters believed that brands were becoming publishers. A Hubspot report claimed that posting 15 or more blog articles per month generated 5 times more web traffic than if no blogging took place.

November
E-commerce content was brought to everyone’s attention by booming Cyber Monday sales on 26th November – an occasion which went on to become the biggest online shopping day in history, whilst figures from Tealeaf showed that UK shoppers are actually now more likely to make a purchase online than in a conventional high street store. On the social media side, Pinterest launched business pages.

December
The month isn’t quite over yet, so who knows what content-based delights remain for 2012, but so far in social media alone we’ve had the 12/12/12 phenomenon, the alarming revelation that Justin Bieber is the most influential person on Twitter, and even the very first tweet from the Pope, so there’s bound to be plenty more weird and wonderful content news to analyse before the year is out.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our content marketing highlights of 2012 (believe us, we had to cut a LOT of stuff to hit the word count!). Check back in the New Year for our predictions about content marketing in 2013.

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