Content marketing is consistently evolving, and a study relayed by the Content Marketing Institute this week showed the true value of content.

As 2012 rolls on, this week’s internet marketing news revealed a number of insights on the first quarter of the year as well as companies’ plans for web marketing in the rest of the year. Recent developments will likely affect digital marketing substantially for the remainder of 2012, from emphasis on content marketing to more actionable analytics.

Throughout the week, Brafton cited data from a survey conducted by Brandpoint and relayed by the Content Marketing Institute.

The 2012 Digital Content Marketing Report found that content marketing is becoming a largely diverse and varied element of companies’ plans. Some organizations are looking to shift the direction of their campaigns, while others are more concerned about finding the right content writers to produce their material. Brafton reported on Thursday that investment in content marketing is increasing and will continue to do so for most of the year. Eighty-seven percent of companies included in the analysis said they are currently or will soon use content marketing to improve their presence on the web and ability to convert web leads.

While there were several different types of content covered in the study, it’s clear that businesses are looking to change the way they target their audiences.

Seventy percent of the companies planning to increase their investment in content marketing told Brandpoint and CMI that they are likely to outsource production to a third-party agency. Video marketing was the most frequently mentioned content type for outsourcing, as 32 percent of companies said they plan to hire outside video creators.

Leveraging video content as part of a content marketing strategy can help companies reach diverse audiences with information in an engaging format. Meanwhile, 22 percent of companies said they would likely rely on third parties for articles. Creating industry-related news content can help organizations drive traffic to their websites as part of both SEO and social media marketing.

However, it can be difficult for companies to staff these projects since it requires frequent, timely publishing. Using outside, experienced content writers can help companies ensure their news content marketing campaigns are successful.

In terms of the qualifications companies look for in content marketing partners, the paradigm is shifting from targeting search engine crawlers toward appealing to prospects. Forty-nine percent of respondents said they are most interested in high-quality content, which includes both strong writing and an understanding of different industries to ensure readers are engaged. However, this is not to say that search visibility isn’t still a priority. SEO is still a top focus for 26 percent of respondents.

As search marketing evolves, the best ways to improve search standing do as well. No longer is it enough to write keyword-stuffed web pages and hope search rankings improve. Companies must now be sure that their articles are well-written and engaging enough for prospects to continue reading.

Brafton reported on Friday that 39 percent of companies said want a content marketing provider that can offer consultancy on best practices for a strategy.

This is an increasingly vital consideration as major changes from Google and other search engines are coming. Many believe that Google will soon begin altering its algorithm to punish those sites with excessive use of SEO best practices that don’t offer a compelling user experience.

On Friday, Brafton reported that many thought this update had come. Some websites noticed their pages were dropping from Google’s rankings altogether and were frantically trying to find the cause. Google’s Matt Cutts said on his Google+ page that the issue was the result of an error in a system designed to remove parked domains from results. The company mistakenly removed the websites in question from SERPs.

The issue was addressed quickly by Google, but the reaction from those affected demonstrates the importance of search visibility to their companies.

Brafton reported on Wednesday that search marketing generated more than $14 billion in revenue in 2011, by far the most of any studied web channel. Overall, paid search yielded more than 46 percent of revenue for companies offering various web marketing services.

The figure, which came from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers, represents the sixth consecutive year that saw search produce at least 40 percent of web marketing revenue.

Helping consumers use both paid and organic search more effectively is a major mission for Google. As such, the company rolled out autocorrecting and synonym capability to PPC this week, Google announced on Tuesday. Users who misspell words will now see paid results for the corrected spellings. Moreover, a term with a synonym more likely to generate a higher-quality result will show the links for the more competitive query.

Brafton reported that the capability can be turned on and off by paid search marketers as they please.

Google also announced the Brand Activate Initiative to help marketers gain more actionable insights on their web campaigns. The first features to roll out offer data about ad visibility and engagement that may help businesses make smarter display ad choices.

Refining traditional search efforts is critical for companies, but ensuring that sites are adjusted for mobile search use is equally important moving forward. Brafton reported on Thursday that 30 percent of queries take place on smartphones or other mobile devices.

While certain industries are more likely than others to appeal to the mobile consumers, AT&T reported that more companies are seeing increased interest from mobile search. As a result, the study urges organizations of all kinds to use mobile search capability more effectively.

Part of doing search better is keeping an eye on activity from all search engines. While Google is still the dominant force in search, there are other gaining ground. Bing is the runner up in search, but it still has a long way to go in providing the same search features as Google. Brafton reported this week that Microsoft’s search engine updates the way it handles paginated content, but it still can’t compare to Google’s responsive representation of multi-page content.

Aside from Bing, Blekko is the latest entrant to build consistent success. The company announced this week that its traffic has quadruple from the start of the year to now. Brafton reported that it’s not just raw traffic that is increasing. The company has also seen more unique visitors who are returning to the search engine after positive experiences. It still has a long way to go to become a major player in search, but its consistent growth bodes well for Blekko moving forward.

As another weeks goes by, May quickly approaches, and the month holds major opportunities for companies to leverage content marketing to boost traffic and conversions. Most notably, Mother’s Day presents interesting ideas for original, informative content. And internet marketers will want to pay close attention to any Google updates as the implications of its “overly-SEO’ed” penalty loom.

Joe Meloni is Brafton's former Executive News and Content Writer. He studied journalism at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and has written for a number of print and web-based publications.