Content marketing spend has reach an all-time high, and 79 percent of marketers now update their websites with content.

The U.S. content marketing sector is now a $41 billion industry, and online content in particular is growing. The 11th Annual Industry Characteristics Study from the Custom Content Council reveals that website content is becoming a competitive must for brands that want to be relevant (and visible!) online.

Marketers spent an all-time high of $12.5 billion on “electronic content” in 2010, the Council reports. While print content maintains the lead in terms of overall spend, investment in print dropped from $30.9 billion in 2009 to $24 billion last year. Meanwhile, online content marketing budgets rose $400 million in 2010 over 2009.

All respondents said they will be at least maintaining their website content efforts, and 45 percent will increase website updates this year. Website updates are also the most common form of online content marketing, employed by 79 percent of marketers. For the purposes of the study, website updates are defined as blog posts, articles and other site content, while white papers, virtual events, email newsletters, video content and mobile content are categorized separately.

Email newsletters are also holding strong. Sixty-one percent of marketers say they are developing content for email. Of these marketers, 78 percent will maintain last year’s efforts and 21 percent will increase their investment in email newsletters this year.

Mobile content and video content are proving to be two areas of rapid adoption. Forty-three percent of marketers say they will do more mobile content marketing this year, and 57 percent expect to increase investment in video content marketing.

These figures should signal to marketers that developing quality site content is a priority, and the online content market is now mainstream; innovative techniques, new content formats and frequent publication will be necessary for businesses to retain a competitive edge. In 2010, the average marketer updated his or her website nearly three times per week, and this rate will likely rise with increased investment.

What do marketers stand to gain from frequent content updates? In addition to being SEO-friendly in the post-Caffeine Google searchscape, fresh content converts consumers. As Brafton has reported, 57 percent of marketers say blogs have brought new customers and nearly 90 percent of those who acquire customers via blogs say they post fresh content multiple times per day.

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.