Content marketing

Content marketing is a form of marketing focused on creating, publishing and distributing content for a targeted audience online.[1] It is often used by businesses in order to:

Unlike other forms of online marketing, content marketing relies on intercepting an existing customer need, as opposed to creating demand for a new need. As James O'Brian of Contently wrote on Mashable, "The idea central to content marketing is that a brand must give something valuable to get something valuable in return. Instead of the commercial, be the show. Instead of the banner ad, be the feature story."[2]

When businesses pursue content marketing, the main focus should be the needs of the customer. Once a business has identified the customer's need, information can be presented in a variety of formats, including news, video, white papers, e-books, infographics, email newsletters, case studies, podcasts, how-to guides, question and answer articles, photos, blogs etc.[3][4][5][6]


Traditional advertising has long used content to disseminate information about a brand and build a brand's reputation. For example:

The phrase "content marketing" was used as early as 1996,[10] when John F. Oppedahl led a roundtable for journalists at the American Society for Newspaper Editors. In 1998, Jerrell Jimerson held the title of "director of online and content marketing" at Netscape.[11] In 1999, author Jeff Cannon wrote,“In content marketing, content is created to provide consumers with the information they seek.”[12]

By 2014, Forbes Magazine's website had written about the seven most popular ways companies use content marketing.[13] In it, the columnist points out that by 2013, use of content marketing had jumped across corporations from 60% a year or so before, to 93%[14] as part of their overall marketing strategy. Despite the fact that 70% of organizations are creating more content, only 21% of marketers think they are successful at tracking ROI.[15]


The rise of content marketing has turned traditional businesses into media publishing companies.[16]

For example:

The rise of content marketing has also accelerated the growth of online platforms, such as YouTube, Yelp, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest, and more.

For example:

Businesses who actively curate their content on these platforms have been able to expand their reach to new audiences.

Content Creation

When creating content, businesses will typically go through 3 preliminary steps:

1. Define a target audience and their needs

The first step in creating a successful content marketing campaign is to define your target audience, commonly known as user segmentation. Successful content marketers deeply understand their customers' needs and desires, beyond just their sole interest in their products or service. For example, if you are marketing a food truck, you may define your target customer as young millennials who work within a 5-minute walk of downtown San Francisco and who enjoy trying fresh, healthy foods. The more narrowly you can define your customer, the better you will be able to define content to your target audience.

2. Determine the types of content

The most commonly used type of content is blog posts,[23] though other types of content can resonate with your customer as well. Content includes:

The appropriate type of content for any business will depend on the business' goals and target customer. For example, an architect provider targeting real estate developers of large residential complexes may benefit from creating a list outlining all the considerations that a real estate developer should consider before entering a deal. Conversely, a local catering service targeting busy families may benefit from a video showcasing the warmth and convenience of a home-made, freshly-cooked meal.

3. Establish a content management system

To get started, businesses will need to find a content management system (CMS). Though there are many CMS and they each offer a slightly different value proposition, most include functions to help with content creation, publication, and analytics to track the success of posts.

Content Distribution

There are 3 distribution strategies for successful content marketing, each with tradeoffs in customization, reach, and time commitment. Content distribution is often among the most overlooked aspects of a successful content marketing campaign, as it requires a consistent time commitment.

Building your own site

Businesses who build their own website maximize for complete control and customization. This is especially helpful for creative fields like art or interior design, where the primary value proposition communicated to users centers on qualitative factors or emotions. One challenge to building your own site is that there is not a natural base of visitors to leverage (as might be the case if you hosted a YouTube video). To increase reach, content marketing managers will want to invest in SEO, SEM or other audience-building campaigns.

Guest posts

Guest posts are blog posts that you submit on other people's sites, often with links or references back to your own business (or online business profile/ website). Businesses who create guest posts maximize for low time commitment and high reach. The challenge is that there is a limited level of customization, as your guest post will sit in another website. Content marketing managers pursuing this distribution channel will want to emphasize


Re-engagement marketing include: email newsletters, white papers, and podcasts. It entails anything that might allow you to re-connect with a visitor to your site or social media page - often by collecting the customer's email. This optimizes for customization and depth of relationship.

Common Metrics

Metrics to determine the success of a content marketing are often tied to the original goals of the campaign.

For example, for each of these goals, a content marketer may measure different engagement and conversion metrics:

Brand awareness and visibility

Businesses focused on expanding their reach to more customers will want to pay attention to the increase in volume of visitors, as well as the quality of those interactions. Traditional measures of volume include number of visitors to a page and number of emails collected, while time spent on page and click-through to other pages/ photos are good indicators for engagement.

Diversified user base

For businesses hoping to reach not only more - but also new - types of customers online, they should pay attention to the demographics of new visitors, as evidenced by cookies that can be installed, different sources of traffic, different online behaviors, and/or different buying habits of online visitors.


Businesses focused on increasing sales through content marketing should look at traditional e-commerce metrics including click-through-rate from a product-page to check-out and completion rates at the check-out. Altogether, these form a conversion funnel. Moreover, to better understand customers' buying habits, they should look at other engagement metrics like time spent per page, number of product-page visits per user, and re-engagement.

See also


  1. Wainwright, Corey. "Content Marketing Strategy: A Comprehensive Guide for Modern Marketers". Retrieved 2016-09-28.
  2. "How Red Bull Takes Content Marketing to the Extreme". Mashable. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  3. "Trends 2014 in Online Marketing: Content Marketing". Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  4. "What is Content Marketing?: Content Marketing". Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  5. "Content marketing defined: a customer-centric content marketing definition". Retrieved 29 June 2014.
  6. "What Is Content Marketing?". Copyblogger. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  7. John Deere: The Media Company (Video). Content Marketing Institute. 30 April 2012.
  8. "The Michelin Guide: 100 Editions and Over a Century of History". Michelin. Retrieved 3 February 2009.
  9. Cohen, Heidi. "Content Marketing". Retrieved 30 December 2014.
  10. "Roundtable: Content Marketing".
  11. "Netscape to offer Web forums". CNET. CBS Interactive.
  12. Cannon, Jeff (1999), 'Make Your Website Work For You', pg. 45. McGraw Hill Professional, ISBN 978-0071352413
  13. The Top 7 Content Marketing Trends Dominating 2014 (2014-08-24). Retrieved on 2014-09-22
  14. 2014 B2B Content Marketing Research: Strategy is Key to Effectiveness (2013-10-01). Retrieved on 2014-09-22
  15. Idinopulos, Michael. "Content Selling". Content Marketing Institue. PeopleLinx. Retrieved 30 December 2014.
  16. "An Old-Media Empire, Axel Springer Reboots for the Digital Age". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  17. "Red Bull Media House: Feature Films". Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  18. "How To Build Your Audience Well Before Launching Your Product". Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  19. "How Mint Turned Content Into a Big Business". The Content Strategist. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  20. "GOOG 10-Q Q2 2015". Retrieved 2016-09-28.
  21. YouTube. "Statistics - YouTube". Retrieved 2016-09-28.
  22. "Event & Presentations | Investor Relations | Yelp". Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  23. McGill, Justin. "How to Build an Unbeatable Content Marketing Plan". Retrieved 2016-09-28.
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