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What Is Content Marketing and Why Is It So Important in 2020 and Beyond?

Content marketing is everywhere these days … or is it?

Type “what is content marketing” into Google and you’ll get 2.98 billion results. As far back as page 14, you’re still getting results that have that longtail keyword in the meta description.

That isn’t surprising from an industry about to be worth $412 billion. But if you’re just getting into it, talk about information overload.

However, not all information is equal. As it explodes in popularity, it seems like there are some people out there who are still getting it wrong.

So, we’re going to clear things up.

What is content marketing, and why is it important? I’m exploring that question and others right here.

what is content marketing and why is it important

What Is Content Marketing and Why Is It Important?

According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is: a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and publishing valuable content that is relevant to your clearly defined target audience online.

There are a lot of great examples of content marketing online. A few of my favorites include:

  • Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to Content Marketing. This is an excellent example of how to provide a high-value resource to your readers using topic clusters.
  • Venngage’s Freemium Infographics Tool. Rather than expounding on the value of their product, Venngage simply gives you access to the platform, a handful of basic tools, and tons of beautiful templates loaded with content about how to make your infographics better.
  • The Atlantic’s paywall-free pandemic coverage. Normally, the Atlantic gives you five free articles before putting up a paywall. However, by providing free coverage on pandemic topics, The Atlantic is boosting its brand awareness and creating a hub of high-quality, reputable journalism for interested readers.

All three of these examples have two things in common. First, you can see the content strategy on clear display. For Moz, it’s topic clusters. For Venngage, it’s the infographics. For the Atlantic, it’s a knowledge base.

I’ve said it a lot around here: Content marketing is informed by (and how you implement) your content strategy. You need to have a content strategy in place before you can do content marketing.

Second, these efforts focus on providing valuable content without pushing the product onto readers. That’s because content marketing relies on the mere-exposure effect, which states that we tend to develop natural preferences for things to which we’re repeatedly exposed.

So, go ahead and put the best dang information out there for your targeted audience to find. They’ll remember you when they’re ready to purchase.

what is content marketing and why is it important

Why Do You Need Content Marketing?

In the 2020s, content marketing is your single most important tool for success online. That’s because it’s all but replaced traditional advertising online. You need content marketing because:

  • It doesn’t annoy your readers. Several years ago, web pages were so choked up with ads that someone made an ad blocker. Now, at least 26 percent of U.S. web users have them, and that number’s climbing. Content marketing sidesteps both annoying ads and annoying popups that make your readers turn their blockers off.
  • It keeps delivering results. Content strategy and marketing are very front-loaded processes, which can put some people off. However, once you’ve built your content house, it’s much easier to maintain. In contrast, sponsored posts and PPC disappear the second you stop paying for them.
  • It will boost your content ROI. According to Demand Metric, content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional advertising and generates three times more quality leads.
  • Your competitors are doing it. According to HubSpot, 70 percent of companies were actively investing in content marketing in 2020. If you aren’t doing it, you’ll soon fall behind.
  • Your customers want it. Demand Metric also found that 60 percent of people enjoy reading relevant content and that 82 percent of people felt more positive about a company after doing so.
what is content marketing and why is it important

What Does Content Marketing Need to Work? (Hint: The Same Things Your Business Does)

If you still think that content marketing involves creating a content calendar and dutifully churning out blog posts every week, I’ve got bad news for you: You’re doing it wrong.

It probably isn’t working for you, either.

Content marketing shouldn’t feel like an endless grind, and it shouldn’t deliver imperceptible results. Make sure you’ve got these three things in place to guarantee success:

1. Your USP and CDF

USP stands for unique selling proposition. It’s the angle or feature that sets you apart from your competition as the superior choice. Often times, you see it expressed as an intangible benefit:

  • The airline that sells you on-time flights
  • The fine jewelry company that sells you social status
  • The SEO agency that sells you long-term, sustainable SERPs

Your CDF is your content differentiation factor. It’s the angle that you provide in your content that sets you apart from other websites on the web. It’s your brand’s story, and you can think of it as your own personal spin. It might be:

  • How your unique background influences your approach to a topic
  • How your company’s mission influences when or where you connect with your audience
  • How your defined target audience determines your word choice

Your content strategy should include your USP. That’s to say, if you’re selling on-time flights, then you’ll need to create a strategy to convey this specific message.

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On the other hand, your CDF will inform your content marketing, infusing everything you create with your unique “it-factor.” Together, they create a strong and unique message that positions your product or service to speak most clearly to your target audience.

what is content marketing and why is it important

2. Keywords That Generate Sales, Not Just Traffic (with the Right Type of Content)

You can have the best content in the world, but at the end of the day, you still need to nail the keywords to get found. However, be mindful of the keywords around which you’re building content.

As Google gets more sophisticated in understanding its users, search intent is getting more important. But whose search intent are you focusing on when you research?

We know all about informational, navigational, and transactional intentions, but emphasizing these types creates a blind spot for content strategists: We assume our readers already know about possible solutions and how to find them. In reality, searchers come in three different awareness levels:

  • Readers who know they’ve got a problem. They’re hunting for information about their problem and are firmly seeking “informational” type posts.
  • Readers who know the solution to their problem. They know what they need to solve their problem and are ready to purchase the best solution they find.
  • Readers who don’t know either. They maybe have a hunch that something’s wrong, which is why they’re mashing keywords into Google.

These readers all need different content. How many times have you gone looking for more information on a problem, only to find some flimsy landing page that doesn’t explain anything? Or, gone looking for a place to buy a specific product, but wind up oversold while scrolling through endless sales promos to the CTA at the very bottom?

That happened because the content strategist didn’t link search intent with reader awareness. They simply focused on the first and assumed the second. It got them traffic, but the wrong type of traffic for the specific content. As a result, those sites’ conversion rates each took a hit.

Avoid this problem by creating buyer personas around each awareness level, then using these to inform your content strategy. In particular, answer these questions:

  • What questions/problems does the reader have that they know about?
  • What don’t they know that they need to know?
  • Where are they in the customer journey?
  • How can you use your USP and CDF to speak to them?
what is content marketing and why is it important

Master Content Strategy & Marketing by Learning Practical Skills

There we have it: a closer look at what content marketing is and why it is important. It’s much more than simply publishing thoughtfully written blogs and clever landing pages. We’ve just taken a look at three big concepts that are frequently overlooked: how your USP, CDF, and reader awareness levels influence how you build your content strategy.

What I’ve outlined here is something that you learn through hands-on experience with content marketing. Only through doing (and learning!) will you deeply grasp the ways in which your content strategy, brand, and the customer journey are linked.

Want to accelerate your mastery of content strategy? Get hands-on experience in 45 days or less with the Practical Content Strategy & Marketing Course.

Enroll in the Content Strategy and Marketing Course
what is content marketing and why is it important

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