Our take on the latest Semrush State of Content Marketing Report 2023

Content Marketing is high on the agenda at the moment, with budgets being squeezed amid global economic uncertainty, extracting the maximum value from content marketing activities will be a key priority.

The Semrush State of Content Marketing Report 2023 takes a deep dive into the issues facing our industry, and the steps PR and Marketing professionals can take to strengthen their position, and continue producing cutting-edge, concise, and creative content despite turbulent market conditions.

Semrush polled 1700 marketers and business owners on their content efforts, and, as with our recent blog on Cision’s State of Global Comms Report, we’ve broken down the key trends to save you the hassle:

  1. As budgets stall, marketers need to maximize the content lifecycle:

As the impact of high inflation drags on, advertising spend looks set to stall, with businesses growing keener for proven ROI on all buyer-facing material. But it’s not all bad, as Semrush found a whopping 69% of businesses are planning to increase budgets in 2023, and with the C-suite trusting PR and Marketing professionals like never before, content looks to be getting a share of the marketing spend. When content marketing and strategies are invested in and executed correctly, Marketing teams and their PR partners can demonstrate great value-for-money and maximize the content lifecycle of pitched material. Here’s some ideas on how:

  • Telling creative stories – ever pitched and chased a story and wondered why it’s not gaining traction? Sometimes changing tack and finding a new format is a better policy than launching the same rocket into space twice and wondering why it’s still misfiring (*heads up Elon*). For example, here at IBA we recently repurposed an existing client piece on Autonomous Vehicle manufacturing to bandwagon on the recent legislative breakthroughs relating to AVs in the U.S. Content creators need to get creative to maximize the content lifecycle by reacting to a relevant story in the press.
  • Researching, researching, and researching: there’s no disguising poor research! Semrush highlights that 37% of respondents think that creating more research-driven content is central to boosting rankings, and 53% want to create more valuable content. Simply put, prospects, buyers and journalists can see through pieces that use low-quality insights or misrepresent data to suit their own bias (it’s called a sales pitch). Don’t fear being creative with data, but do fear when data sources get too creative for their own good – using primary sources and trust Hansard (UK) or the Congressional Record (U.S.) for government figures, or reputable MSM outlets for details on breaking news is the best policy.
  • Utilizing SEO research in pitches – don’t try to shout through a brick wall. Find the back door into journalist’s inboxes with carefully curated language choices. It can be as simple as choosing keywords that align with headlines and articles in target publications, or dropping in a phrase synonymous with your chosen vertical, but subtle language changes can make all the difference as you move from Retail to Manufacturing to IT.

  1. The AI-volution is firmly underway, but humans are irreplaceable

Although new automated software is incisive, (relatively) knowledgeable, and speedier than a jump into hyperspace, the first line of a truthful ad for new GPT-4 Processing systems might read “Do you want bland, boring, homogenous content written by a machine? Employ AI.”

ChatGPT has quickly gained notoriety worldwide – but as we recently highlighted, it’s not called Artificial Intelligence for nothing. According to the so-called “Godfather of AI” Geoffrey Hinton, who recently quit his post at Google, chatbots could soon overtake the level of information that a human brain holds. But Hinton forgets the never-say-die spirit of humans, of marketers and agencies that are constantly seeking new ways to create content surpassing anything GPT can produce.

To beat the machine, marketers need to harness their best asset – creativity! Moving away from easily imitable PR and Marketing speak towards emotive, idea-driven writing is key, but knowing where to start in switching up your style can be overwhelming. Thankfully, Semrush respondents highlight the tactics needed to propel content forward – among the most popular include:

  1. Researching and adding keywords to blog content (45%)
  2. Analyzing and addressing customer questions in their blogs (38%)
  3. Adding video to enrich the media mix (33%)
  4. Completing in-depth search intent analysis before writing (27%)

With a change in the way marketers write will come a change in the non-copywriting responsibilities of content marketers. For Semrush: managing corporate social accounts & media planning (48%), developing new marketing campaigns (10%), and improving collaboration between internal teams (9%) are all critical.

  1. Search Engine changes prove that SEO isn’t everything:

Times are ch-ch-changing with Search Engines, as the goalposts for high-ranking content moves, and that number 1 spot on Google changes hands. This is all down to further adjustments in the criteria some of the leading Search Engines are using to rank content.  Last year we highlighted the importance of SEO to hit top spot, and while optimizing keywords is still important, businesses should also focus on creating high-converting content to satisfy the following requirements:

  1. Visitor’s needs are met without having to physically interact with content – related questions, pullquotes and knowledge panels can all secure this.
  2. Visitor’s needs are met by non-standard web formats – for example, embedded videos, images, or maps.

Traditional organic rankings are getting lost in the mix, and marketers (once again) need to think creatively about the shape of their stories to have a tangible impact. The key? Make those click-throughs count! To accomplish this, Semrush respondents recommend that businesses become visible on other high-performing websites through guest blogging, expand video marketing to hone in on optimal phrases and show in video search results, and actively seek organic social media interaction from B2B key players.

The outlook for B2B Content Marketers is bright:

A gloomy economic forecast and changes in expectations from C-suite executives mean that Content Marketers need to make sure they don’t just churn out mindless copy, but move with the times.

By maximizing the content lifecycle to prove ROI, harnessing creativity to beat AI, and creating high-converting content, there’s no reason why marketers can’t continue to deliver market gains for clients.

Judith Ingleton-Beer is CEO at IBA International

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