Why 2012 Will Be the Year of Content Marketing [with 2 Bonus Infographics]

Some would argue that creative content and using it as a marketing device (i.e. Content Marketing) is the only way to market a business. Without it, you’re like the wallflower at the prom. And seriously, who even uses the word wallflower these days?

Which proves our point. If you’re not using content marketing, you’re dated. (Or without a date… at the prom). Get on board. Fast.

“Content marketing is the only marketing that’s left,”
claims Seth Godin, blogging phenomenon and marketing guru.

In 2011, this certainly seemed to be the case, with a study released by Hubspot that showed that businesses with more than 200 blog posts generated 3.5 times more leads than blogs with fewer than 20 posts.

So if 2011 laid the groundwork for content marketing, then 2012 will be the year of it, with businesses switching from older, more expensive models of marketing, to free mediums like blogs. “Content is certainly the name of the game in digital marketing today,” argues Alissa Leonard on ClickZ.

What is Content Marketing?

But what is content marketing, and why would anyone care about you blog? If you’re providing interesting, engaging content – which is the essence of content marketing – and you have 10 customers who are consistently reading it, those 10 customers become your biggest fans. They’ll bring you more business than any of the thousands of other people who visit your site. If you keep them coming back, by posting frequently and engagingly, they’ll bring others with them, until you have a tightly knit network of cheerleaders for your brand.

In other words, making free content that doesn’t suck benefits everyone. It’s a consumer-producer marriage made in heaven. “The average blog, article, anything, gets average results,” says Dharmesh Shah in a lecture at Saleforce.com’s Dreamforce conference. “And average results will kill companies.”

So how to produce engaging content? First start by being real. Consumers are jaded after years of feeling tricked into buying things based on misleading advertising. They want to be talked to directly, and they want to be treated with respect.

They also want to read personal stories. In the age of Facebook and Twitter, people are accustomed to sharing intimate narratives. They relate best to information coming from Facebook friends, whose personal lives are laid out for them to explore. They don’t want to be told to do something indirectly. They want personal contact with a brand, and they want to feel like they can relate to it.

Finally, they want the information to come to them easily. If they follow a blog, they want that blog to post its content on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and any other social media they may follow. They want the language you use to update them to be funny and engaging. And they want to they want to be able to read it all in one click.

Finding the right type of content

Once you master the language of speaking informally and truthfully, all that’s left is to figure out what your readers want. Are they interested in your infographics? Or do they love the content that is broken down into lists? Can you produce some kind of content – an advice column, an expert tip book – that just doesn’t exist anywhere else? If so, then give them more of what they want, and less of what doesn’t get any hits.

As your followers blossom on Twitter, and your Google Analytics spike on your blog, make sure that you’re always drawing in new customers by finding similar sites in your arena, and speaking directly to them. Comment and follow those who follow you. And if you write something, and someone responds to it directly, give them the respect of responding back. Doing so forms symbiotic Internet relationships.

Great Examples of Content Marketing

There are countless examples of great content being produced every day – but here are a couple to give you a sense of what can be used to create a stir. Tip: Always make it your best work.

The N00B Guide to Online Marketing Infographic

Oli Gardner of Unbounce spent weeks designing and writing the now infamous and epic Noob Guide to Online Marketing. Yes, it took a while, but it’s also resonated around the world (translated into at least 7 languages and been read over a hundred thousand times). The best thing you can do with content marketing is to think longevity. Don’t spend an eternity on something that will disappear in a week – think evergreen – something that never dies.

Click the image for the full infographic

The Anatomy of a Perfect Landing Page

Another great example is The Anatomy of a Perfect Landing Page which spurred a lot of inbound links (exactly what you’re looking for) and generated a lot of buzz and is helping to accelerate the production of better landing pages. That’s great content done awesome! While benefiting business and marketers at the same time – which is what all great content should do.

Click the image for the full infographic

How effective is your content marketing?

The last thing you need to do is measure whether or not you have effective content marketing. All you need to do is ask yourself four questions:

  1. Is my content compelling?
  2. Can it be integrated cleanly into the site?
  3. Is it discoverable?
  4. Is it promotable?

If the answers to these four questions are yes, then you’re well on your way to building a successful marketing plan for 2012.

Go get ‘er done!

— Brienne Walsh (and a little from Oli Gardner)

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About Brienne Walsh
Brienne is a guest poster on the Unbounce blog - all opinions are her own - unless theey're badass awesome, in which case I'm in full agreement (Oli). Bio coming soon. :)
» More blog posts by Brienne Walsh


  1. Chris White

    Great content is really important today, and finding a successful way of marketing it is fulfilling for everyone. A really interesting piece here

  2. The Content Marketeer

    These aren’t the run-of-the-mill infographics we’ve been seeing everywhere else in the past months. Nice work and great information to go along with it as well. We’re so looking forward to how the marketing industry steps up its content marketing game in 2012.

    • Oli Gardner

      Thanks! Likewise – I think there’s a real change happening from old school marketing to real and freely available useful content. 2012 will be exciting for sure.

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  5. Tim jordan

    Like Timothy ferris said “a great blog post can change the world” thanks for the quick great read. This will be my main focus growing my new start up this year.

  6. Andy Howard

    Good on you guys for raising awareness of content marketing. Interesting to note it’s nearly 4 years since Seth said content marketing is the only marketing that’s left, and so many marketers and agencies *still* haven’t given content marketing the focus is deserves.

    These notes on producing good content and finding the right type of content are good. A couple of things to add: tell a unique brand story – know your position in the world and have an authentic personality – and create content that people find useful. We just published a blog post with some examples of useful content marketing that solves problems. These are from brands and might people think of ideas for their next content marketing campaign: digital content marketing strategy.

    • Oli Gardner

      I really think it’s the only way. Be smart, share your knowledge with others and build relationships based on a belief that people can trust in your knowledge and thereby trust your product/service.

      And be generous. I hate the old-school protectionist values where ideas should be hidden behind closed doors.

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  11. Kevin Yeaman

    Lim Shi Fu:
    This is a really great article that outlines the importance of content marketing in today’s world as well as a basic framework of how to go about doing so if you are just getting started in this. Web marketing has become the de facto medium for many companies, and those that are not tapping this rich resource are losing out for sure.

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  13. Matter

    Great information, love your point….”In other words, making free content that doesn’t suck benefits everyone.” Also agree that you need break through the barrier that allows you to communicate with your readers in a direct manner. Then all you need to find is the content that truly interests them. That is the hard part though. Again, thanks for the article.

  14. Local Google Citations Orlando

    Hi Brienne,

    I believe that content marketing and maybe social media marketing will be the only strategies that will work in 10 years time. As Google’s algorithm is getting more complex and intelligent, it will eliminate other misleading factors and rank websites solely based on their content quality and website design :). That’s what Google wants to achieve – provide search results according to the site’s quality.

    Franklyn G.

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