With content the conduit to customers, marketers must keep up with user trends

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B-to-b marketers need to be more sophisticated in their efforts to reach potential buyers with content and update their approaches to search marketing, content registration and syndication to keep up with recent user trends, according to a survey by KnowledgeStorm and MarketingSherpa.

The survey was conducted online in April and drew more than 3,000 technology buyers and marketers as respondents. It focused on analyzing the different information vehicles marketers can use when developing their content distribution strategies. How do buyers search for content? How do marketers deliver content? And are those two paths intersecting to the benefit of both sides?

Not surprising, most users start their content hunt at a search engine, typically Google (97% of respondents said they start their search with Google). But their behavior there is evolving in intriguing ways, said Matt Lohman, director of market research at KnowledgeStorm.

Searchers go deeper

In particular, 56% of users search on phrases of three words or more, and 19% use search operators such as and or or. In addition, a majority of users (53%) are scanning well beyond the first page of search listings, often three to five pages deep.

"This is major information for marketers as they rush into search engine optimization," Lohman said. "It confirms that users are moving beyond high-level, one-word descriptors. That forces marketers to be a lot more strategic and focused in their SEO."

Marketers appear to be fairly comfortable with the level of search engine optimization for their sites and content. According to the survey, 66% of marketers say they have an organic search strategy in place, and 56% claim they are getting good results from their SEO efforts.

The study's other major area of focus was gated content, or requiring users to register to receive access to Web content, downloads, webcasts and the like. Such content strategies drive lead generation, which is becoming an increasingly important part of online marketing strategies.

The survey found that more than 50% of buyers said they provide a valid name, e-mail address, industry, job title and company name when they register; although less than 40% provide accurate phone numbers. As for e-mail addresses, in many cases marketers may harvest personal e-mail addresses rather than corporate ones (43% of users said they gave personal e-mail addresses). Respondents said they did so to better manage information rather than hide from follow-ups.

Perhaps most interesting, Lohman said, was what type of content users said they were willing to register for. White papers came out on top at 80%. Demos lagged at 38% and webcasts at 31%. That's somewhat surprising, Lohman said, as marketers themselves ranked demos (77%) and webcasts (64%) as two types of content they most often require registration to access.

Going deeper on registration, 74% of buyers said they want at least a one-paragraph excerpt or overview of the content they are being asked to register for, while only 48% of marketers provide that level of detail.

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