February marked the two-year anniversary of Google’s first Panda update, so it’s only fitting that content was at the forefront of marketers’ minds throughout the month. (You can watch my video recap below for the biggest highlights.) The latest industry headlines and trends reveal marketers’ continued focus on creating content that goes above and beyond what readers would expect of marketing copy. Brands are becoming more strategic, leveraging new formats and building smarter strategies with data.

Their efforts are being rewarded – research reports, sentiment surveys and marketers’ personal accounts of end-results show that strategies are delivering stronger results. On the user side, content discovered through search engines is regarded with almost the same esteem as mainstream media.

SEO content: Quality builds trust and visibilty

There’s new evidence that SEO content is trusted by Americans. An Edelman study shows half of Americans trust media they find through search engines, putting SEO results on par with traditional media. Some people think search results are even more reliable than mainstream media. 61 percent of millennials trust SERPs, compared to 59 percent who trust traditional news sources.

What does this mean?

Your company’s SEO content can build good faith with consumers – but you need to invest in quality content to appear in search results in the first place. February marked the two-year anniversary of Panda, Google’s algorithm that reduces ranking of sites with shallow content. Marketers are stepping up their game, with CopyPress data indicating virtually all brands are maintaining or increasing their content budgets. Which formats deliver best results? Marketers across industries reported website articles drive the most ROI.

Smart video strategies deliver real ROI

Info-rich articles are a great way to build up search presence and become a consistent resource for online audiences. Businesses are also turning their focus more toward video, which CopyPress respondents ranked second in terms of ROI. The biggest problem brands have is finding video resources that fit their budgets.

What does this mean?

It’s important to have a dynamic video marketing strategy that makes the most of every clip to maximize investment. Post the content directly on your site, and share it across social media to generate more awareness. Also, distribute it via email to get it directly in front of the right customers. You can get more tips in Brafton’s latest white paper – Video Marketing, from Production to Purchases.

Worried about diluting site traffic because of shared video? Be smart about optimizing videos on YouTube and other social channels with CTAs that direct viewers back to your site. Brafton offers more tips in our just-published YouTube optimization video, with a real-time overview of how to add CTAs.

Data takes the lead in content marketing

To measure the return on video marketing – or any content format – marketers need to know how and what to measure. According to an Infogroup study, 49% of marketers say website data is their best friend when it comes to generating audience insights, and 83% want to use this data to drive smarter marketing campaigns. 

Those new to metrics can get a hand from Google, thanks to a new Solutions Gallery available in Analytics. Businesses can enter their business goal and the marketing metrics they want to track for a quick overview of website performance. Of course, the key to success is knowing how to act on these insights. Almost half of Infgroup respondents say analyzing or applying data will be their biggest data-related challenge in 2013, which is why it’s important for content strategists with SEO and social marketing savvy to work directly with writers or designers on results-focused content marketing.

What does this mean?

Brands that don’t already use content analytics to drive strategy updates need to set a plan now or find partners who can help them execute results-focused strategies.

Those are February’s biggest content marketing highlights – subscribe to our YouTube Channel to keep up with the latest insights.

Katherine Griwert is Brafton's Marketing Director. She's practiced content marketing, SEO and social marketing for over five years, and her enthusiasm for new media has even deeper roots. Katherine holds a degree in American Studies from Boston College, and her writing is featured in a number of web publications.