When you think about the types of content produced as part of a content marketing program, you may think about blog posts, articles, and maybe whitepapers. But content marketing is actually much more than this. In fact, you may be doing content marketing right now and not even realize it!
Let’s explore a few types of content marketing, how you can use them, and the benefits they have to businesses that choose to utilize them.
Articles are typically pages posted on your website with the intention of informing, educating, or helping a visitor in some way. They may be created with the intention of ranking well in search engines, and linked to other articles or resources on the same website to encourage additional reading.
Unlike blog posts (which we’ll cover shortly), articles are meant to be evergreen, always-relevant pieces of content that serve a long-term purpose to a website. For example, a technology website may write a blog post about the features of the newest cell phone model, but they may choose to create an article detailing how to set up a new cell phone. One may not always be relevant—chances are good that there will be another new model to cover soon after—but the other will likely always apply.
If they’re well-optimized for search, well-written, and contain the right amount of information and supporting resources, articles alone can be an enormously powerful component of a content marketing campaign. Consider this: if you’re looking for information about a product or service you’ve never used before, and read a well-written explanation from a company offering it, it’s more likely that you’ll look at what they have for sale, right?
Many websites use articles to improve the likelihood that their company will show up in searches for specific queries or questions. As an example, it might be advantageous for a business selling appliances to rank highly in search engines by creating articles to answer questions like “how do I install a dishwasher?”
The biggest difference between blog posts and articles, as mentioned, are typically their timeliness. However, if you don’t have a dedicated section on your website for articles, or want to consolidate all your content to one spot, blog posts can serve basically the same purpose as articles.
A company’s blog can be used for a number of purposes, and the posts within it can help with different steps of the sales process. Blog posts about hot topics might serve as the initial introduction to a company, while more in-depth how-tos or guides could further educate the visitor and push them to learn more about the business.
Infographics are an attractive, interesting, and often fast-spreading way to bring content to those who may be interested in your company, products, or services. They’re great for educating someone on a complex topic in a short period of time, and if they’re well-designed, they’re also great to look at!
If your business deals with complex ideas or has a large amount of data to present, an infographic can help you communicate that to potential customers in a much easier way. For example, if you run a law office, an infographic that explains the average costs associated with divorce could help answer the question “how much does divorce cost?” and act as the first introduction to your firm.
Infographics also tend to help businesses gain links, as it’s very easy to create a blog post around an infographic. If your graphic is published with code that allows anyone to embed it into their website—with credit, of course—you can gain some powerful links out of them that help with your SEO.
A word of caution with infographics: avoid creating an infographic simply because you think it will go viral or gain you a lot of links. If the topic of your graphic strays too far from your business goals, viewers won’t be able to make a connection, and may not feel any urge to visit your website (or may visit and leave immediately). So if you’re a lawyer, creating an infographic on the topic of computer viruses probably isn’t a great idea.
Putting a video on YouTube is not an act of content marketing. However, creating a video that answers a question or helps someone solve a problem is.
Like infographics, videos can help you present complex ideas or educate a viewer in a short amount of time, holding their attention in ways that text simply can’t. They also give you the ability to solve problems in big ways for those who are seeking out a video tutorial or guide for help with an issue they are having.
If you run an auto supply store, you might choose to produce a video showing how to change the oil in a car, how to install a new headlight, or how to fix scratches in paint. The knowledge you’re giving away is free—and truthfully, this same information can probably be found elsewhere on the Internet. However, if you do this video well, you’re making it more likely that the person watching it will go to your store to buy the parts they need to make those repairs.
Again, much like infographics, you should avoid producing a video simply because you think it will go viral or gain thousands of views. Viral videos can be powerful marketing tools—for example, Blendtec’s “Will it Blend?” series reportedly gave the company a 700% increase in retail sales—but if they aren’t relevant to your company, you probably won’t see any results.
Guides are detailed, in-depth pieces designed to educate someone on a topic they are unfamiliar with and give them the knowledge and tools they need to take action. They are typically fairly long (several thousand words in length) and may contain diagrams, illustrations, or additional related resources.
A guide can be an effective form of content marketing for businesses that have a lot of knowledge they aren’t afraid to pass on to their customers. They may work best for companies that provide products or services to complement the guide. For example, it would make sense for a florist to write a guide about planting flowers, such as when and where to plant them and which flowers are best for which environments… but perhaps not a guide to finding the best florist in their area.
Though you may be hesitant to give your knowledge away for free, you may find that making a guide available on complex topics can actually do you a great deal of good. Some readers may get halfway through the guide and say “this is too complicated, can I just hire you to do it for me?” By at least making that information available, you’re showing that you know what you’re talking about, which could make a reader more likely to become a buyer.
Ebooks are virtually identical to guides, although they may be longer and more detailed. Also, depending on your business model, you may prefer to charge for an ebook, while most guides are free or email-gated (that is, you must enter your email address to download and read them).
You may think of webinars purely as sales tools... but they don’t have to be. A webinar can be held for the purpose of educating and informing viewers in a real-time format.
If your industry doesn’t have regular events, or could benefit from a speaker occasionally sharing their knowledge in a widespread manner, a webinar can be a great way to reach a large audience and help others. If you offer social media software, you might offer a webinar on social media marketing, which could be the first introduction attendees have to your software.
One big downfall of webinars is that they are often used solely as sales tools, and attendees receive emails after the presentation that try to sell them something. Avoid doing this. If you hold a webinar, send a follow-up email asking if there are any questions, and let things progress from there. Remember: content marketing isn’t about a hard sell, and you don’t want to drive your leads away!
Additional Types of Content
The content marketing methods listed above aren’t the only ones that exist—they're just among the most common. There are many ways you can attract and appeal to potential leads and customers with content, and new methods are being invented all the time.
Generally speaking, you can consider something a type of content marketing if it:
- Informs and educates, rather than sells
- Provides value
- Exists in a tangible form that can be referenced more than once (ex. a guide vs a commercial)
- Is widely available and does not cost money to access
Now that you’ve learned about the history of content marketing, how it works, and the type of content that fuels it, it’s time to do some marketing of your own. In these next few chapters, we’ll walk you through starting your own content marketing program, beginning with the creation of your strategy and ending with ways to measure your long-term success.
Are you ready to create your own content marketing plan? Keep reading to get started!