If anyone claims content marketing is the latest and greatest innovation to recently hit the internet, that’s a good sign you aren’t talking to someone who has been doing it for very long.
The concept of content marketing isn’t new, but it has hit a major boom over the last few years because marketers realized something important — it works!
And now companies who hadn’t been utilizing content marketing are scrambling to incorporate the practice into their business strategy.
92% of marketers and businesses now view content as a valuable business asset, which is something those of us who have been in the game for more than ten years have been saying all along.
So, why exactly is the $400 billion content marketing industry on track to grow by another $471.85 billion USD between 2021-2025 in the post-pandemic digital marketing world?
Let’s take a look at how it started and why it works.
Content Marketing and SEO Have Come a Long Way
In its recognizable form, content marketing has been around for over a decade now.
Surprisingly, even though content marketing started to noticeably arrive on the scene around 2010, it was still about twelve years behind the start of the SEO revolution.
Search engines really hit their stride in the ’90s, which brought on the age of keyword stuffing. Meaning, since search results were pulling results by matching words from user queries, writers would repeat keywords over and over again in the text while leaving out the most important piece — quality content that people actually wanted to read.
And unfortunately, to the disgrace of the consumer, that worked for a while.
In 1998 when two Standford students named Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page published a paper called “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine” to create Google, they wrote: “…the predominant business model for commercial search engines is advertising. The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users.”
That same paper first mentioned PageRank, which is the technology that helps Google to rank search results based on quality rather than strictly keywords.
Search engine optimization (SEO) and Google have always been tied closely together ever since. As Google continued to publish updates throughout the years, more and more emphasis was placed on value to the consumer rather than cheap advertising tricks.
By 2010, early content marketers had caught on. While some writers were still obliviously cramming keywords into poorly written ads disguised as articles, others realized that Google and other search engines were continuing to evolve in a direction that rewarded valuable content.
That foresight paid off! Today, content creation is one of the most important aspects of SEO ranking.
5 Ways Investing in Content Marketing Will Prove Valuable in the Long Run
Content marketing is all about writing for the consumer, not writing for the advertisement. That seems counterproductive for businesses, right?
Not if they do it correctly.
In fact, consumers pretty much expect it now, which means if you’re not already delivering quality content to your audience, you’re way behind in the game.
Here’s why content marketing has proven to be effective:
1. Slow and Steady Wins the Race
You’re no doubt familiar with the story of the tortoise and the hare. (Spoiler alert — the tortoise wins the race. 🐢)
We all know that “get rich quick” schemes are just that — schemes. And they just plain don’t work, whether the context is a personal endeavor to pad your wallet or advertising spend to lure in tons of unsuspecting customers.
Content marketing was hard to justify in its early days because it didn’t yield immediate results, which is why some businesses shrugged it off as a waste of time and gave up too soon.
But just because you don’t see instant success doesn’t mean it isn’t working.
Over time, that hard work does pay off. And the beautiful part is that after the time investment in the beginning, good content continues to perform well all on its own thanks to the organic search results that don’t cost you another penny.
As you continue adding to your pool of high-quality content, your website builds more credibility and the ROI on your investment keeps increasing as more people continue to find you organically.
In the end, the slow and steady tortoise beats the “get rich quick” hare with content that holds value for years after its creation.
2. Content Marketing Is Designed to Withstand Future SEO Changes
Imagine how panicked the keyword-stuffers were when they realized that sneaky trick would no longer get their content to the top of search results!
The businesses who had seen the value of catering to the consumer from the beginning, however, probably did a happy dance and said, “Finally!”
Their content was not only safe, but now it was guaranteed to claim the top spots on the search page because those businesses had been investing in valuable information from the beginning. Bad content would no longer be the acceptable norm.
Marketers and content creators are constantly wondering how the next SEO update from Google is going to affect their business strategies.
If you’re writing good content designed to answer consumer questions and provide information about topics that people are genuinely interested in, you don’t have too much to worry about when looking at your long-term strategy.
Because SEO updates for search rankings continue to trend in the direction of the consumer’s best interest.
If you can answer “yes” to all of these questions, you have no need to stress too much about future SEO best practice changes in the next several years:
- Am I providing an in-depth answer to a question?
- Does my content use relevant, credible links to other sources?
- Can I speak with good authority to the niche I am writing for?
- Is my content interesting and informative?
- Did I allow my keywords to naturally fit into the flow rather than stuff them in where they didn’t fit?
You’ll notice that none of those questions had anything to do directly with your business, product, or service. That’s the trick to content marketing — it’s a soft sell, not a hard one.
The goal is to strategically design your content to be found by consumers who are actively looking for a solution that you can provide.
3. Customer Expectations for Brands Aren’t What They Used to Be
Cold advertising and impersonal pop-ups used to be fairly effective. But those days are pretty much over.
If you’re in denial about the state of the advertising game, consider this statistic — 42.7% of worldwide internet users between the ages of 16-64 years old use ad blocking tools at least once a month. AdBlock alone is reported to have more than 65 million users. And those numbers increase every year.
There’s no getting around it. Spamming a customer with generic ads is much more likely to annoy rather than intrigue a potential buyer.
Consumer shopping habits have also changed drastically over the last few years largely due to online shopping habits carrying over into in-person shopping.
Nowadays, it’s not just common for consumers to look up product information online even when they’re in the store — it’s expected. 93% of customers read online reviews before purchasing a product.
Searches for “I want to buy [product]” and “best [product]” are exploding! If people are relying on organic search results for those keywords, wouldn’t it benefit you to provide content that reads more like an answer to their search inquiry and less like an advertisement?
Consumers have a knack for finding genuine brands versus cash-grabbing scams, which is why they tend to respond well to the non-sales style of content marketing.
They’re looking for information, not a sales pitch. But if they like what they read, you may have landed the sale anyway, or at least earned their attention to warrant a look at what you have to offer.
4. Investments Are Lower Than Traditional Marketing… and ROI Is Higher
On average, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing while generating approximately three times more leads per dollar.
And that makes sense. Content marketing brings in organic traffic with keywords, which are free to use. You aren’t wasting money on ads that most people bypass, anyway.
The investment for content marketing generally comes in the form of time and effort rather than a more typical ad spend budget.
But the rewards are so worth it!
Last year, B2C marketers leveraged content marketing to achieve some of their top goals. Over the course of twelve months:
- 84% created brand awareness.
- 75% educated their audience(s).
- 65% built credibility and trust.
- 61% generated leads.
- 55% fostered loyalty with their existing customers and clients.
- 51% supported the launch of a new product or service.
- 49% nurtured their audience, subscribers, and leads.
- 48% generated sales/revenue.
- 38% built a subscribed audience.
- 38% drove attendance to more in-person events.
Those numbers are nothing to scoff at!
Time and again, content marketing proves its worth for those who invest in doing it correctly. In fact, small businesses that have blogs generate 126% higher lead growth in comparison to small businesses that don’t have a blog.
Because they’re providing value that builds their credibility so consumers are more likely to trust the business.
5. Content Marketing Creates Brand Awareness and Establishes Your Business as an Authority in the Market
“Fake it ‘til you make it” isn’t going to cut it anymore.
There’s really no faking content marketing. You either know your stuff… or you don’t.
And audiences tend to smell BS from a mile away. Yes, they’ll call you out publicly on it, and no, that’s not a great look for your brand.
On the other hand, if you can talk the talk and also walk the walk, your perception as a trusted authority within the marketplace is only going to grow.
Trust goes a long way with consumers. The Edelman Trust Barometer special report found that 71% of global consumers claimed they would lose trust in a brand forever if they perceived that brand to be putting profit over people in the pandemic.
This value of human compassion reflects across just about every level of the consumer shopping experience. People want trustworthy brands that genuinely care.
Taking a content marketing approach will elevate you from a basic brand trying to sell goods or services to an authoritative resource focused on educating and helping people.
Consumers, in turn, perceive you to be knowledgeable and worth trusting. You’re not shamelessly trying to sell them something. You’re helping them find a solution.
As your content continues to perform well in organic searches, more and more people are going to discover your brand and see what you have to offer.
The result is a snowball effect — the more high-quality content you produce, the more you establish yourself as a dominant force in the marketplace, and the more your content ranks in search engines to reach more people.
Not to mention if you can successfully turn most of those leads into lifelong customers, you’re now broadening your reach with word-of-mouth, user-generated content (UGC), and other underutilized marketing techniques that are only possible if you have a good product and happy customer base.
Content Marketing Is the Future of Marketing
The data from the last eleven years of content marketing doesn’t lie. Traditional advertising methods simply can’t keep up with the overwhelmingly positive reception of content marketing.
If you’ve been thinking about becoming a content marketer, now is a great time to join the industry. The profession is gaining momentum as businesses every day realize the value of investing in quality content.
As companies outsource content creation and look to hire in-house employees as part of their marketing team, the need is growing for knowledgeable writers who are familiar with the most effective strategies, research, and analytics.
Download my free guide to learn the top skills and tools of a leading content strategist. If you’re hungry for more, watch my 60-minute content marketing training video and enroll in my six-week online course.