With the end of the year rapidly approaching, everyone will start looking back to see what the year had to offer and the lessons it gave.

For many, 2016 was a dumpster fire. So many great actors, musicians, artists, and political and cultural leaders died, and politics became even more contentious than usual.

But for marketers, 2016 brought with it a lot of great developments. Brands learned how to use new technology and strategies to overcome challenges and to better reach customers.

Particularly, we saw a lot of changes in the way brands approached content marketing.

Here’s our content marketing summary for 2016 to help us understand what went well and where we can go from here:

Content Got Longer

Once upon a time, the average blog post was anywhere from 300 to 500 words long.

The goal was just to keep fresh content in front of visitors and to create a steady supply of new content for search indexing and ranking.

In 2016, the focus shifted to the quality of the content, and content got much longer. The average length of the posts now hovers around 800 to 1,000 words. Many marketers are even focusing on creating posts up to 1,500 or 2,000 words as a rule.

Not only does Google now value longer posts in its rankings, but readers are also putting a premium on content that provides real solutions and information. Content that performs the best with both search engines and readers is content that explores a topic in-depth and that is backed up by references, statistics, citations and more.

Marketers became Smarter about Recycling Content

No one who writes authoritatively about a subject year in and year out is going to be able to keep coming up with fresh ideas and new angles to take in their writing.

Eventually, you are going to hit a wall, or you are going to start writing about flimsy topics that don’t offer much value to your readers, which will only undermine your efforts.

In the last year, marketers became smarter about recycling their content to solve this problem.

Instead of creating whole new posts about new topics, they found ways to breathe new life into those old posts. Maybe they broke it down into smaller arguments or subtopics and then wrote new posts exploring each in more detail. Or maybe they created new content types, such as videos, infographics or even a blog series from single blog posts.

Recycling content like this will continue to be important in 2017. Marketers will need to find ways to get more out of their content and to present the information to readers in new ways.

New Tools Were Introduced

Creating content is just one half of the content marketing strategy – promoting that content is the other half.

New tools were introduced in 2016 to help marketers get more exposure for their content with less effort. Other tools just rose in popularity as marketers learned more about their potential benefits.

For example, In-tag and In-feed from CodeFuel help publishers get their content in front of the right audiences with an algorithm based on user intent signals. The tools look at what users are doing online to better understand what kind of content they really need, and then they deliver the right content through text links and native ads.

By looking at user intent signals, these tools ensure the right customers get the right content at the right time. The content is more effective, and brands get more leads and sales.

Brands Looked at Expanding Budget and Staff

Many brands have said that they either don’t have the budget or the staff they need to implement the content marketing strategy that will get them results.

In 2016, many brands started to come to terms with the fact that they would have to prioritize content marketing to get the results they wanted, and that would mean expanding their budget and their staff for it.

We’re likely to see brands continue to expand both budgets and staff in 2017 since most are only making baby steps toward meeting their goals and since content marketing will only continue to grow in importance.

Content marketing will likely never be dead. Content is king, after all. What we saw in 2016 was the slow step forward in the evolution of content marketing that will continue to take place in 2017.

We’ll need to keep relying on smarter tools that make use of the growing availability of user data to deliver the right content at the right time. We’ll need to keep creating high-quality content that explores topics in-depth to provide real value to users. We’ll need to continue expanding our budgets and our staff for creating and promoting this content.

Hopefully, by the end of 2017, we’ll have a review that will celebrate even bigger successes and smarter ways to reach our audiences.