Content comes at you fast, to paraphrase that old ad campaign from Nationwide. So, you likely missed (or forgot) some helpful and thought-provoking articles from this year.
Sure, we surface pieces through the in-case-you-missed-it entries in the CMI newsletters. But we’re a realistic crew (that produces a lot of content).
I pulled together this list of the 10 most popular articles published in 2023 to highlight things you might have missed. I assessed popularity based on a mix of data, including page views, email responses, unique linking domains, and some editorial discretion.
All these articles include a ton of knowledge you can use right away on emerging topics and evergreen fundamentals. I hope you find them as helpful as other readers did.
Author: Jodi Harris
Why read this: Remember that ear-splitting BEEP followed by the robotic chant, “This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System – this is only a test?” That thing shook ’80s kids from even the deepest Saturday cartoon-induced haze. Blaring a loud noise isn’t an option for getting attention in a noisy inbox (thank goodness).
But you can break through a noisy inbox. This article analyzes the successful designs, tactics, and content choices from newsletters that are easy to admire.
Offer flexible subscription terms: Give subscribers the option to self-select the content they receive – for example, a daily newsletter or a weekly digest. You can also segment content by topics or geographic region. It makes the newsletter more personally resonant – and helps you gather more data on your subscribers’ interests.
Author: Stephanie Stahl
Why read this: CMI’s annual research is one of the most read (and linked) pieces every year. The 14th edition rose up the charts more quickly than most. Maybe because we held nothing back, packing every finding into a single article instead of sending people to a PDF report.
Or maybe the details on everything from generative AI use to social media changes, how content work gets done, and where marketers plan to invest proved to be what everyone needed to figure out their plans for 2024.
AI in content remains mostly ungoverned. Asked if their organizations have guidelines for using generative AI tools, 31% of marketers say yes, 61% say no, and 8% are unsure.
We asked Ann Handley, chief content officer of MarketingProfs, for her perspective. “It feels crazy … 61% have no guidelines? But is it actually shocking and crazy? No. It is not. Most of us are just getting going with generative AI. That means there is a clear and rich opportunity to lead from where you sit,” she says.
“Ignite the conversation internally. Press upon your colleagues and leadership that this isn’t a technology opportunity. It’s also a people and operational challenge in need of thoughtful and intelligent response. You can be the AI leader your organization needs,” Ann says.
Author: Jim Yu
Why read this: People got a look at Google’s Search Generative Experience, an experimental generative AI-driven search interface, this year. And, as you can see in this article, it looks cool from the searcher’s perspective. (You can also sign up to test the feature through Search Labs.)
But, it raised many questions for content producers about what kind of content will surface and whether SGE will be another blow to site traffic as other zero-click search results have been.
Jim Yu, founder of SEO platform BrightEdge, explained how to prep your content for this new search environment.
If you refined your blog content based on Google Search’s helpful content system, you have a head start on building a strategy for Search Generative Experience. Google prioritizes useful, high-quality content and increasingly bumps out thin, generic content that doesn’t seem written by humans for humans.
With SGE, think about the natural flow of conversation between the searcher and Google’s AI. How can you better meet searchers’ needs and make it clear to Google that your blog or article is the best choice for relevant queries?
Author: Ann Gynn
Why read this: Somebody somewhere once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it.” Yet, how many of us struggle to explain content marketing to friends and acquaintances? I know I do. But you won’t have to struggle anymore, thanks to the examples Ann chose tailored to a variety of social and professional situations and the clear explanations she gathered from content and marketing experts.
“Content marketing is what you really wish all marketing was – where the people who are trying to get you to buy something just help you and provide you with answers to your questions. (They) try genuinely to be collaborative support to you during the buying process instead of jumping straight to the click-this-button buy-now.” – Andrea Fryrear, CEO and co-founder, AgileSherpas
Author: Jodi Harris
Why read this: What will the content marketing profession look like in 2028? The plot twists of the past five years have humbled many prognosticators. Content Marketing World presenters give advice on how to future-proof your career when the future’s less than clear.
Too many marketers are reluctant to get in the heads of their customers, opting to make assumptions instead. To get this critical information, you need to talk to customers. If you can’t speak to them directly, work closely with customer-facing roles such as sales, customer success, or community to discover their pain points. Sit in on calls and demos to learn. If that’s not an option, do social listening and scan review sites.
Words from the customer make some of the most compelling marketing copy. With the rise of AI, there will be an explosion of content, but most of it won’t be great. Marketers who can speak to their customers will win. – Adrienne Sheares, owner, ViviMae Labs
Author: Ahava Leibtag
Why read this: With all the hoopla around AI-generated content, it felt like the right time to revisit the question of what makes content valuable. No matter who (or what) generates the copy, putting words on a page is only part of the content mission. Someone must decide if those words support your organization’s goals and audience needs. This updated checklist takes the guesswork out of ensuring every piece you publish is up to the task.
[Use] alt tags [to] ensure your images appear in image searches. Describe the picture in the image (because alt tags were first designed for the visually impaired) and use these tags to highlight your content.
For instance, if the image shows doctors performing surgery, the alt tag could be, “The doctors at Sweet Valley Hospital in Sweet Valley, Calif., are experts in separating identical twins in a surgery known as identical separation, as shown in this photo.”
Author: Stephanie Stahl
Why read this: If you want to know how your pay compares to the earnings of people in a similar career stage, this is the place to start. (You may need to download the gated report for the most detailed picture.) After all, it’s a tricky subject to bring up around the coffee station at a conference or other networking opportunity. This report revealed the average content marketing salary in the United States along with career concerns (cough — AI — cough), frustrations, skill investment plans, and aspirations.
[C]ontent marketers are less focused on developing creative skills like writing, editing, video, and audio. A year ago, 40% of respondents said they were interested in honing their writing and editing skills. This year, that figure dropped to nearly half to 22%.
That’s troubling in a profession that relies on talented and creative writers and editors to engage and build trust with audiences. Right now, market forces seem to push content marketers to spend their personal development time on other skills.
But, as legal, intellectual privacy, accuracy, and quality concerns mount, momentum might return in favor of the human team sooner rather than later. Don’t count (or cut) your writers out.
Author: Nicole Martin
Why read this: Search is changing. Social is changing. Competition for attention grows everywhere you look. But one thing hasn’t changed: An audience-first strategy still works. This article explores how to adjust to new content discovery patterns.
Advances in content delivery platforms make “if you build it, they will come” possible when the content aligns with the audience’s intent.
In earlier years, you needed to perform on- and off-page SEO, careful content activation, proactive outreach, and even a media spend to get an audience to notice a stellar piece of content. Now, content discovery platforms can find those shining needles in haystacks.
Content delivery platforms, largely thanks to AI, no longer serve up the longest, newest, fastest, or most-linked-to asset. Rather, search, social, shopping, and streaming platforms align more powerfully to offer new content based on the user’s intent.
You still can’t replace the value of timing, SEO, and content promotion. However, publishing content that meets a user’s intent is the ultimate measure of quality that will help it rise to the top.
Author: Ann Gynn
Why read this: By now, some of the shine has worn off the ChatGPT toy. But back in January, it was a novelty. So we asked intrepid reporter and editor Ann Gynn to have a heart-to-heart chat with the (then) newcomer, causing so much angst for our industry. The results still hold up.
ChatGPT reworded CMI’s definition [of the term content marketing] about as well as a high schooler whose clumsy attempt to “write” an essay earned an F for plagiarism. The use of specific phrases, “clearly defined” and “profitable customer action,” tells me it is copied from CMI.
That’s where a human editor comes into play. Always run the text (human- or AI-created) through a plagiarism checker (another AI tool) before publishing, and always incorporate proper attribution.
But wait, I thought, maybe the attribution problem was my fault. Maybe my prompt was poorly written. What if I asked for attribution?
Author: Carlijn Postma
Why read this: You put so much effort into each piece of long-form content. If you let it be a one-and-done, you’re overlooking opportunities to give yourself a break. This step-by-step plan shows you how to get some easy (or at least easier) wins by turning that big piece into adjacent content over time.
I use the term “content mapping” to talk about mapping content to other content. Content mapping is a logical derivative of the phenomenon of mind mapping — drawing a diagram to visually organize information, frequently around a single concept represented as a circle in the center of the map.
An experienced content mapper can easily chop the topic into separate thoughts or ideas. But less-experienced content mappers should brainstorm, using the map as a physical manifestation. I like to draw a tree and jot down all the different categories, subjects, and content types that come to mind as branches.
HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: Key Trends in Content Marketing 2024: 67 Predictions
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute