News content marketing campaigns can help small businesses attract more prospects.

Search engine optimization is consistently cited as a top strategy for generating high-quality leads, and a new study from MarketingSherpa reveals that content marketing is deemed an effective method for SEO. The organization’s 2012 Search Marketing Benchmark Report highlights how content is key to search engine optimization.

MarketingSherpa asked more than 1,500 businesses about SEO strategies for the coming year and sought to reveal which SEO strategies work best. As Search Engine Land relays, keyword research was the No. 1 SEO tactic, used by 93 percent of marketers. Content creation came in No. 6 overall, used by 60 percent of respondents, but it also proved the most valuable.

The study found that businesses with more developed, formal SEO strategies tend to gravitate toward content. Among those marketers who are “transitioning” their SEO efforts from trial strategies to methods that can demonstrate ROI, the percentage of businesses that use content jumped to 65 percent. Nearly three-quarters of businesses marketers that believe they have strategic SEO game plans (74 percent) say they invest in content creation.

Content creation may be slow to gain adoption as an SEO strategy, but most marketers seem pleased with the results. Ninety-two percent of businesses say content marketing is effective, making it the survey’s most successful SEO tactic.

The visibility offered by content is also key to generating leads. Once content positions a site favorably in search engines, thought leadership and industry insight conveyed can then convert readers. As ContentLEAD reported earlier this year, one business found that content marketing fueled a 70 percent growth in leads.