Cyber Monday and Black Friday sales dominated web marketing conversations this week, and other industry developments suggest content marketing is key to marketing success this holiday season and year-round.

As the holiday shopping season took full swing the moment Thanksgiving ended, both shoppers and marketers looked for ways to gain from the seasonal rush. This year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday demonstrated that consumers are increasingly buying online – and internet marketers can leverage this trend year-round.

Brafton reported on Tuesday that Cyber Monday generated more than $1.25 billion in sales in just 24 hours. Some were concerned about sales figures for the holiday shopping season, as the economy continues to struggle. However, early figures have been consistently strong for both ecommerce sales and in-store purchases.

ComScore reported that Monday’s sales represented a 22 percent increase over Cyber Monday 2010, which generated $1.02 billion in sales. Even on Black Friday, which is traditionally a day for in-store sales, consumers opted to stay home and shop online. Brafton reported that ecommerce sales on Black Friday totaled $800 million – a 26 percent jump over the previous year. Moreover, the media consumers use to research their online holiday purchases changed as well.

Brafton reported on Tuesday that social media marketing generated 0.56 percent of all referrals that led to record-breaking Cyber Monday sales on Monday. Social media campaigns are becoming increasingly effective for businesses, as consumers begin using Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms to interact directly with their favorite brands and research new companies. This trend has developed over the last few years, and Brafton reported on Thursday that 41 percent of companies enjoy such success with social media marketing that they plan to increase their investment in the channel next year.

Another 49 percent reported that they would maintain their spending on social, while 10 percent will likely cut their investment. The most common challenges reported by the organizations are difficulties in creating the type of content likely to generate engagement and publishing content with the frequency required by social.

Social media marketing requires careful planning, and reports suggest many companies are actively seeking help in this and other internet marketing areas. Brafton reported on Monday that 27 percent of businesses are planning to hire a company to manage and monitor their web presence.

Content marketing, in particular, is a strategy that businesses will be outsourcing this year. Brafton reported on Wednesday that businesses spend, on average, $1.9 million on content marketing. Nearly one-third of marketers (31 percent) say their electronic content is outsourced to professional agencies and content writers.

These businesses attest to the fact that developing custom content allows them to establish themselves as thought leaders in their industries, while consistently improving their SEO standing by boosting the amount of their pages indexed by search crawlers.

Travel industry marketers should take note, as new Google flight search features could push organic travel results further down on results pages.

While travel companies may need content to compete with Google’s flight feature, it seems technology companies are among those most likely to expand their investment in content marketing next year. Brafton reported on Thursday that a new study reveals technology companies are expected to be aggressive adopters. These organizations believe that the creation of news content marketing will help inform prospects about the demand for their products and services.

On the search side of things, a new browser development could have implications for consumers and SEO marketers. According to NetApplications, Google Chrome is positioned to surpass Mozilla Firefox as the No. 2 web browser. This brings searchers one step closer to leading search engine Google. In the last 12 months, 18.2 percent of web users rely on Google Chrome for their browsing. This represents 7.03 percent growth from the beginning of 2011. Meanwhile, Firefox has actually lost ground during the year, falling to 22.1 percent of total market share.

Users have flocked to Google Chrome since its release because of its seamless integration with Google products, such as Gmail and search. As both of these services continue to dominate their markets, Chrome’s popularity and appeal will likely continue.

Although Cyber Monday is over, the holiday shopping rush will likely continue to generate news for search and social in the coming weeks – and internet marketers should prepare themselves for Peak Week, which commences on Monday. Additionally, Monday marks the start of the first-ever SMX Social Media Marketing conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. Check back next week as Brafton will be covering SMX social marketing topics discussed by experts in attendance.

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.