Content Marketing – The Complete Guide

Table of Contents

The historic days of telemarketer emails and door-to-door sales are long behind us. The evolution of marketing has led us in a new direction, focusing on informing and providing consumers with valuable content. Content marketing can help accomplish your brand’s goals by allowing you to engage and attract your desired target markets. The strategical approach behind content marketing can help your brand reach a whole new level by creating authentic, tailored information designed to solve your audience’s problems.

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is a strategic process, which aims to provide our customers with relevant, practical content. In doing this, content marketing can help increase sales, build loyalty between the brand and its customers, and cut down marketing costs. As the consumer market evolves, marketing must evolve to create an innovative and efficient marketing strategy. By consistently marketing valuable content, the buyer is becoming more informed of your brand, ultimately leading to loyalty and increased profits. 

Content Marketing is Informative, Not a Sales Pitch

Content marketing aims to provide the consumer with awareness and information about how the company can satisfy the consumer’s goals and needs. By helping customers solve their issues, a direct content marketing strategy will help provide helpful information without the inefficiency of a pushy sales pitch. This targeted content will entice the consumer and help provide critical answers to the questions that they may have. Using the content marketing approach can help increase revenue and maintain the loyalty of existing customers and enhance the perception of the business and bring in new business.

Content Marketing vs. Copywriting

Nowadays, with the increase and innovation of technology, digital marketing has become a complex world. It can easy to get confused between terms like “content marketing” and “copyrighting.” However, there is a significant difference to understand: each form has a unique purpose. On the one hand, businesses use content marketing to create and share content through avenues such as blogs or podcasts to attract and engage consumers with the company or product. However, on the other hand, copywriting attempts to persuade the reader to take a sales-related action. While content marketing informs the reader of the product, service, or company, copywriting takes a more direct approach to persuade the reader to take a specific action. Consumers see copywriting through sales emails, advertisements through social media or SMS, and pay-per-click ads, just to name a few.

Content Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing

Consumers often view traditional marketing as aggressive or pushy, and even worse, ineffective. The days where telemarketer phone calls and door-to-door sales increased profits are far behind us. Online content marketing has turned a new corner, where we can inform buyers by delivering targeted, valuable information that will attract their attention. In doing this, the buyer is more likely to take the time to learn about the business and ultimately purchase the product or service the company is offering.

Why Is Content Marketing Important?

Content Marketing & SEO

search engine optimization factors In recent years, SEO and content marketing have transformed the digital marketing landscape. Before explaining how SEO and content marketing are connected, it is crucial to understand each’s basic definitions. SEO stands for “search engine optimization” and is used to increase a website’s visibility in relevant searches. By using SEO, a website can increase its visibility, which attracts attention and prospective customers. 

SEO and content marketing are two concepts that depend on each other for success. Keywords are always used in content marketing because websites need words, articles, and general substance to be successful. Embedding target keywords into your content can result in high ranks on search engine page results and boost traffic. Additionally, writing compelling content with the right keywords can help target visitors and convince them to read your content.

Content Marketing & B2B Sales

Business-to-business (B2B) is frequently more direct and informational than B2C (business-to-customer). While B2B marketers often use content marketing to achieve broader, top-of-funnel goals, recent years have shown that companies can also use content marketing to nurture the potential sale, build loyalty, and generate sales.  According to a 2020 research report by the Content Marketing Institute, LinkedIn is the top paid and organic social media channel that B2B marketers use, as it generates the best content and marketing results.

Content Marketing & B2C Products and Services

As we have discussed throughout this article, content-based marketing is an extremely efficient way to reach customers. That being said, it is no surprise that as of 2020, three out of four B2C marketers find that content marketing has made their organization extremely, very, or moderately successful and see an increase in success compared to previous years. Similar to B2B marketing, B2C brands use content marketing to achieve top-of-funnel goals, such as creating brand awareness, educating audiences, and building credibility and trust.

Content Marketing as part of a Marketing Strategy

The main goal of marketing is to fulfill primary business objectives and create increased revenue, profit, and shareholder value. You need your marketing strategy to be effective and efficient so that you can drive your business forward and see real, tangible results. Once you can identify your primary business objectives, you need a strategy that will tie them together and create real change.

Content marketing fits like a perfect puzzle piece into an overall marketing strategy, however, there is no one size, ‘content marketing how to’ for every company. It targets your audience by providing the audience with useful information that will attract them to your product and create lasting loyalty. It will produce leads, opportunities, and sales by using relevant, valuable information rather than spamming the customer with irrelevant information that is not tailored to their needs or wants. By incorporating the effective strategy of content marketing into your overall marketing goals, your business is taking the requisite steps towards a reputable, successful company.

The Evolution of Content Marketing

Content marketing is continuously evolving to meet the current marketing landscape. It is vital to consider content marketing’s past to understand its future. 

In the early 2010s, Google produced historical research through its landmark study, Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT). This study found that 88% of shoppers use discovery and awareness to research a product before buying it. The results of this study shifted how and why businesses marketed to their customers. 

In the past decade, we have reached a point where everything we need is at our fingertips. The rapid rise of social media has played a significant role in the evolution of content marketing. Instead of consuming pointed content, social media allows users to consume passive content when they are scrolling through their feeds. Additionally, companies had to readjust their websites for accessibility on mobile phones. This is a significant change for companies and will be an ever-changing issue, as statistics have shown that experts expect global mobile data traffic to grow from less than 100EB per month in 2021 to 226EB per month in 2026. 

Video content also leaped to the stage, and by 2017 over 50% of consumers looked to brands they supported for video content. While platforms like YouTube were central to the initial shift towards video marketing, today, we can find informational content through videos on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.

Types of Content Marketing

Content marketing is more or less divided into two buckets – creating content and distributing it. When creating content, it is essential to narrow the research and strategy to determine what content is best for your brand. Once the company completes this analysis, the business can then develop a strategy and create the content. One of the business’s final steps is determining how they will distribute it to generate revenue and attract consumers.

Blogs

Blog posts can describe your product and make your company stand out as an expert in its industry. Blogs can also utilize numerous keywords and make your content reach the top of the search engine results.

Podcasts & Livestreaming

Podcasts and live streaming is a great way to engage and interact with consumers. Podcasts have become more and more popular recently, as people can multitask and listen to them on the way to work or while cooking dinner. This popular form of content can highlight success stories and explain a product that typical written or visual content cannot. Like word-of-mouth advertising, podcasts provide personal stories that the consumer can relate to and be attracted by.

Videos

When done correctly, video content marketing can create efficient and persuasive content that pulls the consumer in and makes it easy for them to learn about your brand. Studies have shown that the top 100 brands have invested more than $4.3 billion in creating video content. Platforms like Youtube, and more recently TikTok and Instagram, allow the consumer to easily search and consume content, which ultimately increases sales and overall brand reputation.

10x Content & Long-Form Guides

Rand Fishkin coined “10X content” and describes it  as content that is “10 times better than the best result that can currently be found in the search results for a given keyword phrase or topic.” According to Fishkin, 10X content will provide the user with a unique, positive experience through aesthetic visuals, fonts, patterns, and layouts. The content will also deliver high-quality, trustworthy, useful, and interesting information and differs from other work on similar topics. 10X content must also be user-friendly and solve a problem or answer questions. When creating 10X content, you want to consider what other content you are competing with for consumers’ attention. By putting quality over quantity, you can engage consumers with comprehensive content that conveys the message to readers and allows them to walk away with a better understanding of the product or service the company offers.

White Papers & E-Books

While E-books (short for electronic books) provide interactive information on topics, a white book is a report that can break down complex topics and provide solutions or opinions about the relevant subject. Companies can utilize both white papers and E-books to offer content marketing.

Infographics

Infographics provide readers with a visual representation of text or information. This creative approach is helpful when breaking down complex topics or summarizing lengthy information. It also helps present data and statistics in a creative, attractive way that grabs consumers’ attention.

Case Studies

One of the most critical parts of content marketing is staying up to date with the industry and predicting how content marketing will evolve. Case studies can provide information about your respective industry by understanding how people use your product or service.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ pages can be beneficial if you answer the questions that consumers want to know. Your company must have consistent, relevant answers to questions in a straightforward way that is easy for consumers to understand.

Product & Services Pages

Product and service pages are similar to FAQ pages as they inform your consumer about the product. However, these pages are unique because they are answering questions before the consumer asks. These pages provide information about why the product or service is useful and why your company is the best option to give these options. It is important to keep these pages conversational and organized so that the consumer stays engaged.

Content Distribution

Linkbuilding

Linkbuilding is an essential aspect of content marketing that focuses on outside websites or blogs linking to your content. This can improve search engine rankings and drive visibility towards your content.

PR

Another way to distribute your content is through a public relations firm, which can create press releases and generate positive attention for your brand. The increased traffic can also occur through digital PR, such as mentions or tags, comments, and likes.

Podcasts

Podcasts can be a great way to distribute content as you can quickly format it and easily convert it to a written format, which the business can use as a blog post. It is a fun and effective way of reaching consumers across multiple channels and can provide consumers with information and testimonials about your products/services.

Webinars

Webinars can be an intriguing, effective way to grasp consumers’ attention and educate your desired audience about a particular topic. This is a simple, cost-effective way to promote your brand’s education and create a quality relationship between the brand and its market.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a massive asset to content marketers and allows you to access various marketing tools such as InMail, Matched Audience, and Campaign Manager. Find out how to use LinkedIn for B2B sales and marketing.

Social Media

Social Media Buttons With 80% of all B2B leads coming from social media, it is important to utilize both the paid and organic features of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. These platforms also allow you to use filters to determine your reach and see who views your content. These analytical tools can help you further define niche markets and optimize your posts.

Lead Magnets

A lead magnet can help content marketing, as it provides the customer with a free trial version or sample, which can help create sales leads and eventually convert leads into loyal customers.

SEO

SEO can be one of the biggest drivers of consumer traffic and can entice new customers to see your brand. SEO can take time to get started, but once it does, you will be sure to see long-term results, provided that you are consistently updating your content.

Email

While mass emails are typically associated with traditional marketing, content marketing turns email marketing into an effective solution. Using longer, personalized subject lines and personalizing your messages can create a strategic outreach strategy that reaches multiple prospective consumers.

Content Marketer Roles

A critical step in understanding content marketing is to understand who you need to get the job done. Content marketing can require many complex roles and essential skills to create successful marketing results. What is a content company? A content marketing agency will help fulfill the following roles:

Content Writer

Once you know that you want to utilize content marketing as part of your overall strategy, your first step is finding a content writer. A content writer helps create informative content, such as blog posts, social media content, SEO content, graphics, e-books, and other long-form content types. The content writer is responsible for setting the company’s tone and creating informative posts that provide value and attract consumers.

Content Editor

Now that you have a content writer, you have to make sure that the content is perfect, which is where a content editor comes in. The content editor’s role is to ensure that all aspects of the content, including development, design, production, presentation, evaluation, and analysis, are tailored for the company’s success. The content editor will work with the rest of the team, either in-house or at an agency, to ensure that the customer is getting the most positive experience when consuming the content. The content editor must be a skilled editor and writer and must communicate effectively with the rest of the team.

Content Marketing Strategist

When creating content, it is important always to put forth unique, creative ideas that will create a desirable tone and style for your brand’s content. A content marketing strategist is essential in ensuring that the content being created is appropriate for the brand’s defined audience. The content marketing strategist will also complete other duties, such as:

  1. Creating a compelling, consistent approach to delivering content
  2. Analyzing effective solutions for the brand’s marketing efforts
  3. Creating website relaunches and ensuring that content is driving increased revenue and customer attention.

Content Designer

Like most of the other roles needed for content marketing, a content designer must understand the brand to market it effectively. Content designers must have creativity, quality writing skills and should be comfortable with data and research. Working in a team setting will also require the content designer to have an open mind and be willing to collaborate with the rest of the team in order for the brand to succeed.

Video Editor

Videos are a vital part of content marketing and can quickly grab consumers’ attention. That being said, the video editor must edit these videos to make them user-friendly and exciting. The role of a video editor often requires some of the following responsibilities:

  • Manipulating and editing video content in a way that is invisible to the viewer
  • Trim footage and organize sequencing of the film
  • Create rough and final cuts
  • Add music, dialogue, effect, and graphics
  • Familiarity with special effects and 3D designs

Social Media Manager

Today, social media is one of the most expansive ways for brands to increase their content visibility. Social media managers play an integral role in ensuring that the company utilizes the brand promotions, marketing campaigns, and general brand information across numerous social media platforms. Social media managers must assess what content is best on specific networks and the best way to market that information creatively.

Paid Marketing Specialist

Paid marketing specialists are involved in both B2B and B2C businesses. They create strategies for optimizing paid media channels and ensuring that the company meets its marketing goals. Some of the responsibilities of a paid media specialist include:

  • Working with digital campaigns from conception to launch
  • Managing and monitoring paid media budgets
  • Staying up to date with constantly involving technology and industry practices
  • Measure and analyze paid media key performance indicators (KPIs)

SEO Specialist

Unlike a paid marketing specialist, SEO specialists focus on search and keyword strategies. Your SEO specialist must be a logical problem-solver and able to make strategic decisions. By creating and utilizing the proper keywords and search terms, the SEO specialist can drive more visibility and overall consumer traffic to your content.

In-House vs. Content Marketing Agency

The decision to go in-house or use a marketing agency depends mostly on each business’s factors. If your business wishes to go the in-house route, the first step is to create a team composed of the crucial roles discussed above, such as a social media manager, content creator, and an SEO expert. The positive side of an in-house marketing agency is that the employees are focused solely on marketing your brand. The team is personally invested and must understand the brand, and since the company will specifically hire the expert, you will know that you have chosen the best. Since your team will be in-house, they will be easy to communicate with and discuss tasks with. You won’t have to worry about slow email responses or their commitment to other companies because they will be solely dedicated to you. While having an in-house team sounds ideal, it is essential to note that you will have to take the time to find and hire, and eventually pay for, the marketing team and their resources. 

An initial positive for hiring a content marketing agency is the cost. The cost is often pre-set and negotiable, and an agency usually supplies its own software, technology, and training. While the agency will have other clients on their roster, their creative minds are always learning from new businesses and industries, which can help promote creativity. However, the company and the agency must consider any conflicts of interest when deciding which marketing agency to choose. This will help avoid running into issues later down the road if they do work for competitors. 

While there are pros and cons to both in-house and content marketing agencies, the ultimate decision rests on what is best for your business.

In-House

Pros: 

  • Employees are personally invested in your business
  • Will have a better understanding of competitors and how your business will stand out
  • In-house teams are easy to communicate with, given their close proximity to the business and other departments 

 

Cons:

  • Taking the time to hire a team is necessary, as one person cannot take on all aspects of digital marketing
  • It can be expensive to pay for the team’s salaries
  • The business will need to provide office space, computers, and any additional resources

Content Marketing Agency

Pros:

  • An agency marketer works with numerous clients, so they have a constant influx of creative ideas for multiple industries
  • Can have a beneficial, “outside of the box” perspective
  • Agency costs are often pre-set and negotiable

 

Cons:

  • It may take time for a marketing agency to understand all aspects of your business
  • Narrowing down a content agency that checks off all of your boxes can be difficult and time-consuming
  • The agency can have multiple clients, so it is crucial to select an agency that you know will have a dedicated account manager for you and your business

Examples of Content Marketing

One of the best things about content marketing is that you are not limited to a single form. Content marketers use content marketing throughout multiple platforms to increase consumer visibility and drive digital growth. While there are endless possibilities for content marketing, some of the most successful ways that content marketing can put you ahead of competitors is through:

  • B2B Search Engine Optimization: The three main tactics used to increase B2B SEO include (1) on-page optimization, (2) off-page signals, and (3) technical considerations. On-page optimization ensures that the written, image, and video content on your channels will allow your content to rank highly and make your continent more attractive to users. Search engines will also rank your content higher through off-page signals, which are created when other websites link and cite to your content. This process will validate your website’s legitimacy and lead to higher rankings on search engine results. Lastly, it is critical to consider certain technical factors, such as mobile-friendliness, HTTPS, and page speed, included in Google’s algorithms.

     

  • Blog Writing: Creating a blog for your business can help focus consumers on a specific topic or range of content. This approach can increase search engine visibility, drive traffic, and ultimately influence prospective consumers to purchase products and services.

     

  • Account-Based Marketing: Account-based marketing is a strategy used to align sales and marketing teams to create specific, high-value target accounts. It is primarily used in B2B marketing to target the best business accounts and turn them into customers. By creating target accounts, this strategy allows your business to directly communicate with the targeted company and create a unique, personal approach to each. This personal approach is more likely to result in receptive customers and ultimately increased sales.

     

  • Social Media: Social media is critical when considering content marketing. This approach allows your business to enhance visibility, build brand awareness, attract prospective customers, increase traffic to content sources, and drive conversions and business. With 3.6 billion people using social media in 2020, there is no doubt that this content marketing strategy enables you to reach numerous prospective consumers. Especially now, when new social media platforms are popping up regularly, your company has several social media options to explore, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and TikTok.

     

  • Live Streams and Podcasting: With more than half of the United States listening to podcasts during the year, the opportunity for content marketing to succeed through live streams and podcasts is abundant. Live streams and podcasts do show up in organic search results and can increase brand reach through their unique content. Live streams are particularly beneficial because they can engage the consumer in real-time. The people who access the live stream can interact with the brand and other customers, which allows them to have questions answered quicker and creates a sense of community.

Defining Your Audience

So, your business has decided to use content marketing, but now you are tasked with answering the question, ‘who do you target?’ It can be costly to target everyone, so by targeting a specific audience, small businesses can have an even better chance of succeeding. Finding your target audience can help you create a defined, targeted market so that your content focuses explicitly on attracting that group of people. However, note that you are not excluding people who do not fit your defined criteria when choosing a target market. Instead, this strategy focuses your marketing budget and brand message on a specific market that is more likely to buy and benefit from your products. This creates an efficient, affordable method of reaching potential clients and growing your business. 

When defining the audience, all businesses should consider the following:

  • Who are your current competitors targeting? If they have a specific market, it is beneficial not to go after the same market but instead expand your possibilities and try to find a niche market that they are not targeting.

  • What are the benefits of your product or service? After considering what your product or service provides to the people, think of who can benefit from that product. 

  • Think about demographics, such as age, location, gender, income level, and occupation. Consider who is most likely to need your product or service and who is most willing to buy it. It is also important to consider people’s lifestyles and behavior when considering who will benefit from and ultimately purchase your product or service. Companies like Pew Research Center often publish statistics related to advertising and internet usage, which can help you narrow down your target market through statistical data. You can also use other direct research methods, such as surveys, questionnaires, focus groups, and interviews, to better understand your specific target audience and how they react to your products or services. 

  • Narrow, but not too narrow. Once you have determined your target audience, make sure that there are enough people who fit your criteria. If you have narrowed it down too specifically, you may be hurting your chances by failing to spend your marketing dollars efficiently. Instead, be open to multiple niche markets, and tailor your brand message to each group.

Quality vs. Quantity of Content

The quality far outweighs quantity in the world of content marketing. While both are important, you cannot sacrifice quality for quantity. If you put too much content out there, it can be annoying for your audience. You want to create a conversation with your consumers and make your point without overwhelming your audience with too much irrelevant information. Consistency is also important and creates a reliable relationship between the company and its consumers.

ROI of Content Marketing

Once you have determined to invest in content marketing, you must ensure that you are getting a return on your investment (ROI). It is also important to understand that content marketing is an investment that grows in value over time. To determine your ROI, you must first calculate how much it will cost to produce content and distribute it. After this, you must determine how much you received in return for your content. In order your content marketing ROI as a percentage, you can follow this formula:

Converting Readers to Leads

Converting your readers to leads is one of the main goals of marketing content. Some essential tips to consider include:

  1. Graph on a computer Understanding and defining your target audience
  2. Answer your customers’ questions and create a solution to their problems
  3. Research, understand and adapt to customers’ buying cycle
  4. Organize your content so it is easily readable
  5. Include testimonials to legitimize your products and/or services

How Often Should Content Be Updated?

Businesses should consistently update web content marketing to continuously engage existing customers and attract new consumers. Creative, new content is one of the most critical tools to keep audiences engaged with your brand. When updating your marketing content, businesses should consider data and statistics about their customer’s experiences. While there is no specific interim marker for updates, it can be helpful to implement small updates every 12 to 24 months if your company has the resources to do so. However, the most crucial tip for updating is to continuously provide unique, relevant content that considers your industry’s evolution and your company.

What Google Has Said About Content Marketing

A recent article from Google highlighted three main ways to implement content marketing: enticing new customers to visit your site and creating loyalty between the brand and consumer. The three main points that Google makes are to:

  1. Utilize resources, such as Google Trends, Google Question Hub, Market Finder, and News Consumer Insights, to analyze and identify your targeted audience’s consumption behaviors. This can help your business narrow down areas with high potential, which will ultimately result in high rewards. 
  2. Improve your content market by using a strategy that allows you to understand which search queries bring users to your content and how many impressions your content receives.
  1. Stay up to date with the latest trends by understanding how and why people use internet content marketing.

How to Get Started with Content Marketing

Now that you have answered the question of ‘what’s content marketing?’, you are faced with the task of starting your first content marketing campaign. While this may seem like an intimidating task, you can break down the first content marketing campaign into simple steps. By reading this article, you have already crossed off your first step, which is briefing yourself on how to content market, what content marketing is, and the general idea of online content marketing. 

Next, you will want to research your competitors and determine how your brand can stand out amongst the crowd. Now that you have gone through the initial research phase, you will create an editorial planner to set goals and determine what results you want to see. Your first posts will test the waters, and from there, you can revise and edit your content and figure out what works best for your brand. Always focus on consistent, valuable, and creative work and keep your brand moving forward by adapting to the market’s ever-changing trends and by continually looking for new niche markets to target. For content marketing help, consult with an expert SEO agency or firm that can provide you with invaluable insight on what will benefit your brand.

Key Takeaways

Through effective content marketing, your brand can not only engage with your defined audience, but promote loyalty, boost revenue, grow brand awareness, and attract new customers. Content marketing provides numerous avenues to create content and distribute it, allowing you to tailor your marketing to fit your company’s needs. There is no “one size fits all,” but with the proper research and analytics, you can figure out what works best for your brand and start reaping the numerous benefits of content marketing.