What is content marketing?

Marketing as a concept has been around for millennia. But the traditional practice of marketing has changed radically in recent years. Today, it’s all about content.

The power of content to connect with a clearly defined audience and convert them into loyal customers is indisputable. And it’s not going away any time soon — the global content marketing industry is predicted to grow by US$417.85 billion by 2025.

So, what is content marketing? It’s a strategic approach that cuts through the noise. It delivers captivating, valuable and relevant information in a variety of forms directly to a brand’s target audience to drive sales, loyalty and engagement.

In this article, we make several key distinctions. We look at the differences between content marketing and digital marketing. We explain content marketing vs. content creation. And we outline the importance of a great content strategy and show you exactly how content marketing can become your SEO superpower.

With all this said, let’s take the plunge into the ever-evolving world of content marketing.

Digital marketing refers to all marketing and promotional activities that use digital technologies to reach consumers online.

We’re talking all the different types of content marketing: search engine optimisation copywriting (blogswebsites, ebooks and whitepapers), images, video, infographics, podcasts, EDMs, social media marketing and PPC ads.

In our article, The 7 Fundamentals of Marketing You Need to Know, Founder and Strategic Director of Content Copywriting Sarah Spence says while the basic concepts of traditional marketing remain the same, digital marketing has created an entirely new playing field.

So, what are the seven fundamentals of marketing?

In 1960, Professor E. Jerome McCarthy of Michigan State University co-authored the book Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach. He outlined the four Ps of marketing: product, price, promotion and place. Those marketing fundamentals have since grown to include people, process and physical evidence.

While the seven Ps still stand, companies have had to drastically rethink their marketing strategies over the past 30 years. Since the advent of the internet in the 1990s, the world has made a radical shift to an online space. We’ve evolved the way we communicate as a society, the way we consume information and the way we do business.

In the past, only large companies could afford to conduct sizeable market research to learn about customer behaviour. In this brave new digital world, any business can access ‘big data’ — the large amount of customer information available through the tracking of user behaviour while they’re online.

And it’s this data that is absolute gold for marketers.

The significant amount of customer data available enables digital marketers to create highly targeted marketing campaigns and accurately track results and ROI.

In short: digital marketing is a total game changer.

So now you know the basics of digital marketing, you may be wondering, ‘What is content marketing?’ and ‘Are content marketing and digital marketing the same thing?’ Well, yes and no.

At its core, content marketing is a marketing strategy that helps connect brands with their ideal audience. It’s a case of engagement creating loyalty and loyalty inspiring conversion.

In its State of Marketing 2022 Global Report, Semrush surveyed 1,500 businesses across 20 industries. Incredibly, it reported that 97% of survey respondents claimed content formed an important part of their overall marketing strategy in 2021. It also found that 47% of companies plan to grow their content teams this year.

Digital marketing, on the other hand, is the process by which this is all achieved. That is, your content marketing strategy is delivered through various digital channels. 

Content Copywriting’s Sarah Spence breaks it down.

“Content marketing goes beyond just trying to get a sale or just trying to stop a customer leaving,” says Sarah. “It is a very broad strategy that takes into account all channels.” 

There are three main reasons why content marketing works:

  1. It thrives on genuine connection.When you share your story in an authentic way, it connects with people, captures their interest and is more likely to deliver ongoing leads.
  2. It’s strategically compatible.Content marketing and search-engine optimisation copywriting go hand-in-hand, so well-written optimised content delivers better organic search results and stronger leads.
  3. It beats paid ads hands down.Paid ads deliver a return only while you run them, whereas content is evergreen and stays on your website, continuing to attract customers at no extra cost.

The Content Marketing Insitute’s B2B Content Marketing Report (2022) revealed the majority of B2B marketers say content marketing helps them achieve their goals, with the top three being:

  • Creating brand awareness (80%)
  • Building credibility/trust (75%)
  • Educating the audience (70%)

The difference between content marketing vs. content creation is simple. Content marketing is an umbrella term that refers to the overall marketing blueprint, whereas content creation is the process of — you guessed it — creating the content.

“Content marketing is the overall strategy and includes the market research and also gaining buy-in on the overall plan from all the stakeholders,” explains Sarah. “Content creation is the actual execution of each individual content item, whether that be a video or a blog article, a website page or a social media post.”

Anyone posting content online — from the best copywriting and content production agencies to Celeste Barber to 100-year-old New York fashionistas like Iris Apfel — is engaged in content production.

So why is content creation important in business? Because human beings both want and need connection, and they connect through story. Content allows you to create an authentic brand story that amuses, informs and galvanises your customers like never before.

And while content creation is the fun part, content marketing requires robust strategising. Without a sophisticated strategy, content creation becomes directionless.

Back in 2008 (side note: that’s a loooong time ago now), entrepreneur, author and marketing guru Seth Godin predicted the future when he boldly stated, “Content marketing is all the marketing that’s left.”

Almost everyone in the industry took the ball and ran with it but many didn’t make it to the goalposts. Why? 

In a word: strategy — or lack thereof. A key factor in the success of all content marketing is an effective content strategy. 

The State of Content Marketing 2022 Global Report by Semrush found that 78% of companies that succeeded in content in 2021 had a documented content marketing strategy.

You may know the ‘how’ of creating content, but without a solid strategy, you won’t know the ‘why’. And it’s all about the why. 

A content strategy also ensures your content is consistent across all your channels and throughout all your teams and adheres to a high standard. It’s a reflection of your brand after all. That’s one of many reasons why a content marketing strategy is so important.

A content strategy begins with defining your goals. Three common content marketing goals are:

  • To improve SEO
  • To engage with clients
  • To find new clients

Your strategy might be aimed at just one of these goals or all three. Once you know your goals, the next step is to document the who, what, why, when, where and how of your content strategy. 

If you want to create a content strategy for a website, for example, you could try this: 

  • Research your audience. Who are they, and how will they find your website?
  • Analyse how your current website is performing. Where is your traffic coming from, and what do they do once they’re on your website?
  • Decide what you want your website to achieve. For example, which keywords do you want it to rank for?
  • Set some metrics to track visitor engagement and conversions. How many views of the product page does it take before someone converts?
  • Create a sitemap for your new or updated website using all your fresh research.

A content strategy can be short and simple or very detailed, depending on the size of your business and your goals. Content Copywriting’s comprehensive 10-step content strategy is based on solid content strategy principles and takes a deep dive into your brand’s entire online presence.

“There’s a lot of research and thinking behind a successful content strategy,” says Sarah. “It looks at all the audience research, the competitor research, the current state analysis and high-level recommendations from an overall strategic perspective for all content and all channels.”

There’s also a difference between a content strategy vs. a content marketing strategy. Content strategy is the master plan, while content marketing strategy is the means by which the master plan is brought to life.

The two primary content strategies we use at Content Copywriting are the Pillar and Cluster Content Model and the Waterfall Content Strategy. 

A Pillar and Cluster Content Model centres around a detailed pillar article that summarises the main topic and targets a primary keyword with high search volume and usually high competition. That makes it hard to rank for, so the pillar article is linked to a series of cluster articles.

“A Pillar and Cluster Model helps with SEO because the cluster articles are more likely to rise up through Google’s ranks faster than the pillar article,” Sarah says. “Due to the internal linking, the overall success of the smaller articles should bring the larger pillar article up in the ranks with them.”

A Waterfall Content Strategy involves taking one interview and amplifying it into 50-plus pieces of content.

“From just one interview, you can create blog posts, videos, infographics, social media content and EDMs,” says Sarah. “We’re creating content in a much smarter way.”

SEO is all about improving the quality and quantity of traffic to your website and increasing your ranking in the search-engine results page (known as SERP).

While there are a number of SEO techniques out there, Sarah argues content marketing is the most fundamental part of SEO.

“You can have a technically healthy website and a strong domain authority and therefore be ranking reasonably well,” she says. “But if the content on your site is not tailored to your audience, and it’s not well written, not engaging, not well thought-out, not well-structured and not well amplified, then all of your efforts are going to fall short.

“You can do a lot to drive people to your website, but if what’s there isn’t suited to them, they’re not going to convert; they’re just going to fall off.”

So, how can content marketing help with SEO?

We like to use the analogy of a snowball. You start small, moulding your content snowballs piece by piece. The snowballs then begin to roll and gain momentum. Gradually, they pick up speed and bring more and more organic search traffic to your site over time, which is unpaid traffic that comes to your site from a search engine. 

“The great thing is, even if you turn off the budget to SEO, that snowball’s going to keep on rolling,” says Sarah. “The work you do now will continue to have a positive impact into the future.”

While TikTok and Twitter may favour short-form content, long-form content is often better for SEO. It’s usually longer than 1,200 words and implements SEO tactics like targeted keyword research, optimised headings and images, and inbound and outbound links. Because it’s more substantial, well-written long-form content keeps your audience on your site for longer.

When it comes to content marketing, it’s not all about how to generate leads through content marketing — it’s about how to generate qualified leads. These leads are generated from within your ideal audience and are more likely to convert into clients or customers. The way to do it is to get to know your audience well and then deliver the exact content they need. They’ll love you for it.

The whole point of SEO is to make your website more visible for people searching online for a product or service related to your business.  Knowing how to optimise website content for SEO can be intimidating at first, but if you set your strategy, choose the right keywords, write quality content and keep your site healthy, you’ll be on your way.

SEO copywriting techniques involve helping search engines find web pages through a clever combination of copywriting and content writing. So the writing is clear and catchy, solves a problem and tells a story. It incorporates keywords, as well as headings and images, and leaves readers wanting more.

SEO trends change all the time, as SEO is a fast-paced and dynamic industry. The number one SEO trend is to understand your audience — SEO and marketing 101. Next, your website needs to have ‘mobile first indexing’, given over half of all internet traffic comes from mobile phones. Page speed, voice search and quality content round out the top five SEO trends, but only for now. Watch this space.

Great content interests and engages the audience. It can be amplified across a number of channels, encouraging your audience to engage more, spend more and share more. 

When a strong content strategy is executed successfully, it leads to a stronger relationship with your customers, one that builds loyalty and trust, and drives conversions naturally.

Here are two of our content marketing examples that achieved great results:

  • In 2021, Content Copywriting began working with Woolworths on its new healthylife website. We produced a high volume of quality content following a Pillar and Cluster Content Model. The metrics show visitors who view our content are more likely to purchase products, keep browsing the site, return to the site and engage with more content. In fact, our content marketing efforts for healthylife were so great we’ve been selected as a finalist for the 2022 Content Marketing Campaign of the Year at the Australian Marketing Institute Awards! Check out our submission now. 
  • Innovative Internet of Things startup Inauro came to us wanting to tap into the construction and equipment rental sectors. We created two industry reports that converted 250 prospects. We also boosted Inauro’s domain authority by 266% and increased its website visitors by 71%.

There’s a lot to know about content marketing, and producing excellent content on a regular basis isn’t a walk in the park.

The Content Marketing Institute‘s B2B Content Marketing Report from 2022 found that while 75% of large companies outsource their content marketing, the top challenge was finding partners with adequate expertise. In this regard, 65% of the participants said they found it difficult.

Creating top-quality content for brands with big ideas is our jam.

We love what we do and we are all about getting to know you, understanding your goals, getting to know your ideal customers and joining all the dots. We connect your brand with your audience in a way that not only gets measurable results but builds trust, brand awareness and loyalty.

Check out our portfolio to see what we could do for you. 

    The integration of the internet into everyday life has revolutionised marketing over the past three decades. And content marketing has revolutionised the revolution. It has spearheaded a new era in marketing that has become the most effective way in history to reach customers.

    It’s by far the best way to match the right people with your products or services. Through storytelling, customers are able to enter into a domain where they feel seen, heard and understood.

    Content Copywriting can help you connect with your ideal audience. Through our content marketing experience and expertise, we’ll craft the perfect content strategy to ensure your customers know your brand is exactly where they belong. 

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