Content Marketing vs Paid Advertising – What SMB’s Should Know
Digital marketing is full of flashy tools and technology that promises to flood your funnels with leads overnight. While it may seem complicated (and it can be), a solid digital marketing strategy doesn’t have to involve heavy investment into technology or a degree in data science.
When it comes to marketing, small business owners often have to pick from paid advertising and content marketing. Paid online advertising consists of ad space on websites like Facebook or Google Ads pages. Content marketing focuses on attracting customers by offering information in the form of blogs, videos, social media posts, white papers, infographics, and more.
Before we go further, it’s important to note that every small and medium-sized business has different needs when it comes to digital marketing initiatives. To claim that content marketing is a magic bullet to solve all of your sales woes would be wildly out of touch. Both paid advertising and content marketing have their strengths and weaknesses, and both require long-term investments for results to be seen.
Why Choose Content Marketing?
We do believe that content marketing – more so than other strategies – provides the best chance at building leads and boosting sales. Content marketing – while perhaps not as targeted as paid advertising can be – is meant to be consumed by people instead of being pushed at them as advertising tends to do.
The idea behind content marketing is that you know your customers well, and you create and deliver content to resonate on an emotional level and provide real value. Advertising requires the purchase of ad space to promote a brand to larger audiences.
For example, if you use content marketing, HubSpot estimates old blog posts on evergreen topics account for 38 percent of your total web traffic. Those posts published months and months ago eventually start reeling in targeted visitors as they climb the rankings. Another study found that marketers who prioritize creating quality content are 13x more likely to achieve a positive ROI on their marketing efforts.
Other studies from Hubspot confirm that content marketing can generate 3x more leads than paid search advertising, while also offering a cost that’s 62% less per lead compared to traditional advertising methods. Another study found that conversation rates for content marketing were double compared to those same rates for advertising – 14% and 7% respectively. This may not seem like a major difference, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s significant.
Last but not least – and perhaps most important for small business owners that don’t have huge budgets for marketing spend – ROI for content marketing also trumps that of traditional advertising. In a study, researchers found that content marketing returned $44 for every dollar spent. In contrast, traditional advertising yielded only $17 for every dollar spent.
We could go on and on with statistics and studies to prove that content marketing outpaces paid advertising. But let’s dive a little deeper into reasons why we believe content marketing to be a superior digital marketing strategy for small business owners.
- Content marketing humanizes your brand in a way that advertising cannot. In fact (not to bring up another study), 77% of people say they prefer getting to know a company via articles rather than ads. Building trust with your customers is important, especially when you’re selling a product such as a service or software. Building trust by opening up to your audience and adding value to their customer experience is an important first step towards consistent lead generation.
- Content marketing is also great for lead generation, and leads from content marketing are often superior to those gained from ads. According to Marketing Sherpa, among online lead generation channels, organic search generates the greatest volume of leads and the highest conversion rates, with paid search ranking third for both – just behind email marketing campaigns. Quality leads are more likely to buy, and content marketing draws them in better.
- If you want to become an authority in your industry, content marketing is a good strategy. By publishing high-quality, valuable content for free, you will come to be seen as an industry expert. In the same breath, by publishing high-quality content, you can increase the visibility of your brand and reach new audiences.
- Improving SEO comes as a side benefit of content marketing. In fact, content marketing is core to improving SEO ranking. Sure – you can jump to the top of a SERP page if you pay enough money, but as soon as you quit paying, your page will plummet to the bottom. That’s not a sustainable strategy for most small business owners.
- There are many kinds of content marketing and a lot of agencies that specialize in creating and delivering high-quality content. Not every business owner has the time or talent to craft compelling blog posts or write entire white papers or ebooks. However, content marketing includes other forms of communication such as podcasts, videos, infographics, case studies, and more.
Paid advertising and content marketing are both viable strategies that can work. But content marketing does have an edge with regard to longevity, cost-effectiveness, and stability.
However, using both in conjunction with one another can be the most effective strategy of them all. If you already have quality content, then your ads will fare far better because your leads will be nurtured by your library of content once you gain traffics from PPC or other sources of advertising.