As of this morning, wyzowl released the results of their “State of Content Marketing 2015” survey, and, honestly, it’s about what you’d expect: businesses across the board are strongly committed to their inbound strategies, and most believe that blogging and social content are driving significant ROI.

The most interesting shift, one that we’ve been hearing about for years and I, personally, never believed would manifest itself in data, is now clear as day as well: the number of respondents who believe that content should inform/educate/entertain (~74%) is catching up with those who believe content should primarily provide product overviews (76%).

In other words, the majority of businesses are finally starting to understand that content marketing is not clever outbound placement. And, furthermore, it is, at its best, 100% about offering excellent content to those interested in it.

Understanding the Shift to Engagement-Only Content Marketing

Though, in some ways, the value of creating engaging content has been evident since Hubspot’s original piece about inbound marketing, in other ways, the shift may actually run counter to the early predictions.

Though it’s true that inbound, engagement-driven content gets far more clicks and drives more potential customers to a brand than traditional advertising, the conversion rate isn’t all that impressive. According to Argyle Social, inbound content marketing produces only 25 sales-qualified leads per thousand (2.5%) as opposed to outbound, which converts at 3.5-5%.

Why then would you continue your content marketing efforts? Especially since 68% of you spent nearly 30% of your marketing budget on content, and 86% of you anticipate spending that, or more, this year?

Because it’s still good for business!

What Engagement-Only Content Marketing Actually Does

Not to get all “Into the Woods” on everyone, but what content marketing is demonstrably incredible at is being the tar on the stairs.

It’s not going to make customers buy products. What it will do, if you lay enough tar (err… content), is slow down your potential customer long enough for you to send in your handsome prince of a sales-pitch, whatever he/she may be. Have him/her approach too soon, in an untargeted way, and you end up in the past: children quoting Budweiser frogs, yelling “Whazzup” from the rooftops, and no one buys any more beer, or in the present, where your prince becomes a fast-talking head moving at quadruple speed thanks to Tivo. And that’s something you don’t want.

It’s also not something that Google wants.

How Google Rewards Engagement-Only Content Marketing

Although Google algorithms can be extremely difficult to parse/predict, the last few (and the intelligence we have about the one coming) suggests that Google’s algorithms are learning to differentiate between good and bad content: content that’s helpful, content that engages users, content that gets eyeballs… you know, good content.

Traditionally determined solely by the number of inbound links your piece of content receives, these adjustments—allowing the algorithm to “read” the article as well as the engagements, social interactions, and back-linking—put a premium on content creation for its own sake, not necessarily as a selling strategy.

Yes, of course the idea is to become more searchable on Google and convert your readers to customers, but content marketing, long thought to be “just another strategy for acquisition marketing” is showing its face as something else, a kind of branding tool that functions in a league of its own; part educational, part perception-shaping, part SEO strategy, content—and I mean good content, not that junk that employs all the right keywords/ relevant topics and says nothing—is what makes your business visible.

To compliment your engagement-only strategy, you’ll need a more aggressive outbound presence which, of course, relies on accurate targeting. Let CircleBack for iOS or Android keep all of your professional contacts clean, complete, and updated automatically so that you can easily reach your engaged prospects.