2014 has been a fantastic year for content marketing. Brands, both big and small, seriously started considering content an intrinsic part of their marketing strategy. Marketers became more confident about using content creation and its distribution as a means of boosting marketing deliverables. The ambiguity surrounding content marketing ROI has dissipated and we are also witnessing a shift towards documentation of a content marketing strategy.

This was also the year when we had thought leaders coming up with some brilliant posts on content marketing. These posts helped us get a better and more comprehensive understanding of content marketing and showed us how to leverage its potential to the fullest.

These posts left no room for doubt that content was the cornerstone of customer engagement and brands couldn’t afford to ignore this tactic. I have come up with a list of top content marketing posts of 2014 that were packed with actionable wisdom; these posts offer tremendous learning and can be read again and again.

Here’s the list:

1.  Wake a Sleeping Giant for Content Marketing SEO – Employees

Written by Paul Shapiro, this post on Content Marketing Institute (a must bookmark site, if you haven’t already done so) talks about using employees to enhance content marketing deliverables. If you are looking for ways to involve employees in your content marketing plan, this is the post you must read.

2.  64 Tools to Improve Your Content Marketing Campaigns

Searching for tools that will help optimize your content marketing campaign? This post by Matthew Barby lists the best of the lot and categorizes them into three sections namely ‘idea generation and planning’, ‘content creation’ and ‘content planning’.

3.  6 Content Marketing Takeaways from 30 Days of LinkedIn Publishing

This post by Greg Ciotti is about an experiment conducted by the writer. The subject of this experiment was ‘LinkedIn’s new publishing platform’. His basic objective was to gauge the response of 1-2 articles that he published on LinkedIn, which were already published elsewhere. Sounds interesting? It definitely is!

4.  A Handy Guide to Using Quizzes in Your Content Marketing

If you are planning to diversify your content formats, have you thought about using quizzes? Josh Haynam has written a wonderful guide that not only helps you make quizzes an important part of your content strategy, but also makes a solid case for using them.

5.  Content Marketing Best Practices Report: Creating a Culture of Content

In this post, Lee Odden takes a closer look at the ‘Culture of Content’ report released by the Altimeter Group. This report discusses institutionalizing the importance of content throughout the organization, beyond the marketing department.

6.  Marketers: What Formats Have Been Most Effective in Your Content Marketing Creation and Curation?

Opentopic asked marketers across diverse industries about the content formats that delivered the best results in their content marketing strategy. This post, by Rebecca McIntyre covers their answers; marketers not only talk about effective content formats, but also give reasons how and why they worked.

7.  Content Marketing Secrets: How to Tell Stories that Convert

Content marketing is all about selling stories; and the one secret that every content marketer wants to know is what makes an effective story that converts. This post lays the secret bare! The writer, Veronica Beguas takes you through 7 secrets that push readers to the buying cycle.

8.  The Content Marketer’s Toolkit: 35 Tools You Can’t Blog Without

If Neil Patel is saying something, you must listen. In this post, he lists 35 tools that can help you in various stages of the content marketing process including content discovery, writing and distribution. This post can be filed away for future reference.

9.  5 Reasons Why Long Content and Blog Posts are Once Again the Future of Content Marketing

Long content and blog posts are back and they’re back with a vengeance; that’s the point this extremely perceptive post, by Marcus Sheridan, is trying to make. It makes a case for focusing on longer content and tells you why it works better.

10.  How to Win at SEO & Content Marketing In 2015

Who doesn’t want to know how to tackle SEO and content marketing in 2015? This post, by Nate Dame, helps SEOs and content marketers revamp the strategies they were using in 2014 and get them ready for the New Year.

11.  When is a Blog the Right Form of Content Marketing

In this post, Isla McKetta answers the fundamental question of content marketing, ‘To Blog or not to Blog’. Yes, it makes a very valid point that blogging might not always be the right content marketing tactic for your business. Surprised! Don’t’ be. Read the post to find out why.

12.  The Ultimate Content Marketing Checklist: 40 Questions to Ask Yourself before Publishing Your Next Blog Post

The thing about any post with a title that has ‘ultimate’ in it is that it might not be as comprehensive as the title suggests. But, when the post is by Neil Patel, rest assured it will be in-depth. This one lists 40 questions that you must ask yourself to create a masterpiece of a post.

13.  9 Tips for Building a Killer Content Marketing Strategy

Killer content marketing, the kind that boosts strategic business growth, is a dream come true for most content marketers. But this is easier said than done. Gary Dek through this post aims to do his bit to help content marketers come up with a winning strategy.

14.  How to Optimize Your Content Marketing Strategy for More Leads

Content marketing ROI is determined by the amount of leads your strategy is able to generate. This is a huge challenge and you will need to implement every tip in the book for generating leads through content publishing and distribution. This great post, by Nate Desmond, tells you how it’s done.

15.  10 Content Marketing Lessons from The World’s Fastest Growing Websites

You know who can give you actionable content marketing lessons? Those that are tried, tested and guaranteed to deliver results? It’s websites whose growth is a result of a solid content marketing strategy. Yes, that’s right. Jeff Bullas brings to you a list of 10 great lessons learnt from some of the world’s fastest growing websites.

16.  Kings of Content: 9 Lessons from Brands Who are Doing it Right

There are brands that are getting content marketing absolutely right and it makes sense to learn from them. This post, by Pratik Dholakiya, discusses 9 takeaways from brands whose content marketing campaigns are delivering solid returns.

17.  The Difference Between Content Marketing and Inbound Marketing (And Why It Matters)

Content is an important subset of inbound marketing and it’s important to understand the difference between the two to get the most out of your inbound marketing plan. This post, by Joe Chernov, HubSpot discusses how company personnel, customers and even non-customers think about content and its relationship with inbound marketing.

18.  What Should I Spend More Time On – Technical SEO or Content Marketing

Another post by the redoubtable Neil Patel and this one answers a question that is keeping businesses and marketers awake at nights – Do I spend more time on technical SEO or content marketing? If you’ve been wondering along the same lines, this post will provide you with an answer.

19.  Introducing the Content Marketing Team Matrix

You can always depend on Econsultancy to publish high octane marketing posts that offer sound tactical advice. This one written by Chris Lake, the man who brought to us The Periodic Table of Content Marketing, is about the Content Marketing Team Matrix; to put it simply, it answers the following question – What will an effective content marketing team look like? To say that it’s a must read, is stating the obvious.

20.  How Can B2B Brands Become Thought Leaders with Content Marketing?

One often-ignored deliverable of content marketing is ‘niche authority’ and the opportunity for brands to come across as thought leaders. If your brand wants to become a thought leader in its domain, this post by Yael Kochman will tell you how it’s done.

21.  5 Steps to Creating a Powerful Content Marketing Strategy

Having a content marketing strategy is all well and good, but the question to ask is – does it deliver results? Or you are just wasting valuable resources on it? In 2014, if you had doubts about the effectiveness of your content marketing strategy, this was post to read. Actually, the steps mentioned by Alex Pirouz, will also stand true in 2015 and beyond.

22.  Why You Must Change Your Content Marketing Approach

Change should be a constant in your content marketing strategy. It needs to evolve all the time. In this post, John Jantsch has brought together the views of some very reputed content marketers who share how content marketing has changed since the time it first made its appearance on the scene.

23.  9 Content Marketing Growth Hacks to Drive Traffic and Conversions

Want to apply growth hacking tactics to your content marketing efforts? Of course, you do. Garrett Moon takes you through 9 fantastic hacks to boost traffic and conversions. All the points, this post makes are backed with solid facts and figures; it’s a post that will keep making sense for a long time to come.

24.  7 Lessons Learned While Content Marketing for an Early Stage-Startup

This post is as real-time, hands-on, and practical as they come. In this post, Sean Smith takes you through a content marketing journey of an early stage startup. It discusses core focus areas, what works and what doesn’t. If you want to create a content marketing plan for startups, this post will ensure you don’t take a wrong step.

25.  How to Create People-Powered Content that Works for Your Brand

How do you produce content that triggers customer engagement with your brand? The answer is focusing on people-powered content. What’s that? Read this post by Jennifer Swartley to find out.

26.  Five Steps to Effective and Affordable Small Business Content Marketing

Can a small business afford content marketing? Kristen Hicks tells you how it can; her post talks about developing a small business content marketing strategy that is affordable and yet doesn’t sacrifice the steps that make it more effective.

27.  Stop Link Building and Start Content Marketing ( for Real)

If you are using content marketing as a link building tactic, it’s time to stop, starting right now! In this post, Manish Dudharejia tells you why marketers must look beyond link building, when thinking of content marketing deliverables.

28.  How to Use Data to Improve Your Content Marketing Strategy

Content marketing is part art, part science; this is why it’s important to use data to make important content marketing decisions. Ben Harper’s post says how it’s done by telling you which data you must study and how to go about leveraging this data.

29.  The Art of Thinking Sideways: Content Marketing for “Boring” Businesses

Saddled with creating a content marketing strategy for a boring business? In such cases, your strategy needs to be out-of-the-box; that’s because the business’s target audience will expect it to come up with content that grabs their attention and doesn’t let it go. This is easier said than done – but not if you read this post by Robin Swire.

30.  How to Do SEO for Local Business, WITHOUT Content Marketing

And finally, a post that is about content marketing, but isn’t. What if you don’t want to use content marketing? What if you want to focus purely on SEO? Is high quality SEO possible without great content being pushed to your target users? Yes, it is and Pratik Dholakiya tells you how it’s done.

One of the problems with content curation is that you need to walk a thin line between what is your personal opinion and what others might find useful. Coming up with this list wasn’t easy, and I have not mentioned plenty of articles that were my personal favorites, but which I thought did not have all round appeal.

Something else that I’ve kept in mind while creating this list is longevity. I believe the information on these posts will be useful for a very long time to come. And for my money, that is the mark of high quality post.