How Content Marketing Actually Works

For some, ‘content marketing‘ seems to be a buzzword more and more people are throwing around. The reason for the perhaps overuse of this term may be because of the perceived conceptions of what content marketing does.

Digital marketers tend to think that when a piece of content is shared, it will go viral, bring traffic, convert that traffic into sales, and then turn visitors into brand advocates. This is a myth, however, and should be put to rest if you want to use content marketing to its potential.

The Misconception of Content Marketing

Too often those who plan for, build and promote content have unrealistic expectations for what their content marketing will accomplish, and, as a result, are disappointed when it fails. The truth is, you can’t put out content thinking that someone will experience it, be inspired, and then go make a purchase because of it.

What content marketing does accomplish is still valuable. Smart use of content marketing allows people to see the brand. The greater exposure and the more that people see your brand and associate with it positively, the greater the likeliness that they will purchase from you down the road. It’s hardly ever the case that someone experiences a piece of content from a brand they’ve never heard about or that they don’t know anything about and then thinks, “Hmm I wonder what they sell; I should buy that.”

What does happen, however, is that every time someone sees some kind of content that you produce, they begin to grow a feeling or attitude toward your brand. If the content is good, the feeling or attitude will be like a positive bank account of experiences and ideas with your brand. These could be in the form of experiences they’ve had with your content, social media, etc. Once this capital of positive associations with your brand is built up, these people, when they have the need for the product or service, are more likely to buy from you.

Content Marketing

Content Marketing is a Balance of Trial and Error

This is a long and arduous process. Companies have to experiment with different pieces of content, find something that really resonates with the audience—this takes a great deal of trail and error. Sometimes pieces of content just flop, and there may not be a really clear reason why. For this reason, among others, many give up in the content marketing practice way too early; they decide that they don’t want to invest the amount of time or effort required. This, of course, is an advantage to those who do see the value and decide to invest the time because there will be less competing for attention.

And some content marketers won’t give up, but they won’t improve either. That is why so many novice digital marketers simply don’t understand why all the pieces of content they push don’t get seen by the millions they are hoping to reach. This puts a lot of pressure on the content marketer.

There is More to Content Marketing Than “Exposure”

Content marketing can improve other aspects digital marketing that indirectly affect your customer’s purchase cycle. When content is keyword optimized and has optimized backlinks, it will be an SEO benefit. When content gets picked up by another news source, it will see a boost in social media signals. With social media and SEO marketing channels benefiting from content marketing, it can be difficult to properly identify the attributing medium. It’s important to correctly attribute conversions and assists to know where to devote budget and people.

When it comes to content performance marketing, ‘performance’ refers to quantifiable metrics that measure results such as traffic, ROI and revenue. Measuring content performance in this way helps content marketers discover what kinds of content actually deliver ROI, because it’s about understanding the demand for content. It’s about looking at the historical performance of your content over time and pairing that with trending topics and seasonal spending habits of your potential customers. Consider competitor content and data and assess in what ways they’re doing well and how you can perhaps incorporate some of their tactics into your strategy. Use performance indicators to help you craft a content strategy.

Really good content won’t drive sales immediately, but it will work to separate your brand from competitors and get people on the road to conversions. Whether it takes 4 touches with a brand to convert or 17, every bit of positive association helps.

See some fun content that is really working: check out BrightEdge’s SEO Jokes post.