End of the month also means end of the year, and the content marketing landscape in 2014 will be a whole new world. Americans (and brands) are changing their perception of what constitutes as “content,” and the post-Panda, post-Penguin, Authorship-friendly SEO landscape should finally open marketers’ eyes to the concept that search can’t get in the way of great content. In our December monthly content marketing recap , I want to take some time to not only reflect on what’s happened in the past 30 days, but also review content marketing for the New Year.

Documented strategies: Not a luxury – an essential

Effective content marketing in 2014 will prove that documented strategies are not a luxury – they’re essential. This year’s Content Marketing Institute survey found that just 44 percent of B2B and 39 percent of B2C marketers are starting the new year with a formal content strategy. But those who have a strategy are already up to 6 times more likely to say their marketing plans are effective, and 84 percent of B2Cs who admit they’re plans are ineffective lack a documented strategy.

Marketers must make sure their content marketing strategies map to their goals.

At Brafton, we recognize that an initial stage of skepticism for any content format is too often followed by a period when marketers are hung up on production without really considering the strategy. When this happens, companies might be guilty of tweeting every 10 minutes because they don’t have a schedule or an optimized Twitter plan. Or they’ll produce a half dozen video testimonials at once, without creating the “warm-up” content that gets people ready to watch them.

This pattern gets in the way of results-focused strategies. So before simply throwing more money at content, take the New Year as a time step back and create or revisit what Brafton calls the editorial brief – a documented strategy that maps business goals and the customer buying journey to specific content formats and channels.

With documented strategies, 2014 could become the year when marketers stop saying, “Think like publishers” and start acting like them. 2013 has shown us traditional media publishers and web content providers are one in the same. In Q4, we learned Katie Couric will move from ABC to anchor for Yahoo News, along with a string of former New York Times editors who’ve also accepted positions with Yahoo. These appointments verify the web’s place as a primary information portal, and we can expect online users to have higher expectations for online content.

Credible content that banishes the boring: Authorship & entertainment

Google reduced the number of Author Snippets in search by 15 percent, increasing the chances that quality sites will be rewarded.

As consumers’ standards for digital media rise, successful content marketing in 2014 won’t distinguish between marketing and interesting, credible content. This is already something that’s taking effect in terms of content’s reach, as Authorship continues to literally put a brand face forward in search result. But Authorship shouldn’t be treated as an SEO silver bullet. In Brafton’s resource on Authorship released earlier this year, we predicted the search benefits of Authorship would be dependent on the consistency and trustworthiness of the content produced, and 2013 ended with Matt Cutts confirming this. In December, Google reduced the number of Author Snippets in search by 15 percent – penalizing abusive sites, but also increasing the chances that quality sites will be rewarded.

Authorship is a good way to build audience trust, but the sites that will really be rewarded – by searchers and other online users – will be the ones that take 2014 as a chance to banish boring content. Nielsen’s December rankings of the best brand campaigns on TV and the web show Americans give top marks to those that entertain and inform. While the ranked ads are generally consumer-facing, business-facing companies have to be equally prepared to intrigue their audiences this year, and we’ve learned offering a variety of formats helps keep things interesting.

Diversification to drive engagement & delivers results

Content diversification without a game plan is pointless. Each piece and every format is a strategic choice that should have purpose in a broader campaign.

In 2013, the CMI says companies averaged between 12 and 13 content tactics, while those with the “most effective” strategies used 14 formats. Similarly, Adobe stats show posts that combine text and image or video have higher social click rates than those that lack multimedia. Next year, we can expect broader adoption of multi-format marketing, with reports of budget increases for marketing videos and graphics. But diversification without a game plan is pointless. Each piece and every format is a strategic choice that should have purpose in a broader campaign.

The results are worth the effort. Speaking firsthand, a Brafton.com campaign that combined video, search-friendly writing, social and email generated more than double the results in a single week than a less diversifed and integrated campaign delivered over the course of a month. If you want to check that campaign out, it was our video blog, or vlog, interview series on different content formats a part of December’s #12DaysOfContent.

Marketers must diversify their strategies to be successful in 2014.

Offline impact of online marketing: Better follow up in 2014

Of course, no matter how brilliant your content is, another important takeaway for 2014 is to be diligent. We’ve seen simple call-to-action button design tweaks can fuel up to 40 percent higher conversion rates, and improving the placement of CTAs on blog and landing pages similarly drives success.

And responsiveness is key: ClickZ reports 45 percent of companies leave their hard-earned content leads in the lurch, not following up with web referrals within 24 hours.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out more insights on content marketing in 2014 in our related blog post.

Happy new year, and happy content marketing.