What’s the Difference Between Content Marketing and Paid Advertising?
Chad Kodary
Sep 30th, 2021 at 01:55 PM

What’s the Difference Between Content Marketing and Paid Advertising?

As a business owner, you know that digital marketing is no longer optional in 2021. However, you can only continue your ongoing success by choosing the form of marketing that’s going to get you the best return on your investment.

In this article, we will give you the inside knowledge you need to become an expert when it comes to content marketing vs paid ads. You will also learn how the two work effectively together to make a good business like yours stand out among the best.

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is a mostly free method of advertising your business online. The focus of content marketing is to educate and/or entertain your audience as opposed to being an explicit promotion of your brand.

This form of marketing includes anything that attracts and retains an audience including blog posts, well-researched articles, video content, social media posts, and more. You and your team can produce all of this content, and the advent of technology has made it easier than ever for anyone to produce quality content marketing.

Content Marketing

Not only is content marketing accessible, but it is also effectively mandatory. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 91% of B2B survey respondents use some form of content marketing to drive profits.

Sources: Content Marketing Institute

The Pros and Cons of Content Marketing

The Pros

Perhaps the most attractive benefit of content marketing is its cost-effectiveness. When compared to paid advertising and other digital strategies, content marketing is a minuscule investment. It can be virtually free if you choose to create content yourself as opposed to hiring a content marketing expert.

Content marketing also comes from organic searches. Users are Google searching questions every day to become more informed about a product, service, or industry before spending their hard-earned dollars. Answering those questions is an excellent step into content marketing and attracts a better quality of lead than you would get through expensive paid advertisements.

By suggesting valuable content to your audience naturally, you get to look like the hero that provides something meaningful without asking for anything in return. The knowledge gained through your content marketing also builds your reputation and helps you stand out as an authority in your field. Over time, that organic traffic will accumulate and you will have users coming to you without needing to pay them for their time.

The Cons

The largest downside of content marketing is that it simply takes time. Creating a few videos or posting a few articles will do little in the short term to help your business turn a profit. If you are a business that lacks an online presence and needs new customers now, you’ll need to look to other solutions like paid advertising to get your foot in the door. While still a very much worthwhile investment, content marketing is for the long term.

The additional con is that while anyone can create content freely, there’s more to it than putting words on a page or talking into a microphone. Not only does your content need to provide legitimate value, but it also needs to work together with your overall marketing strategies including your SEO, which determines your overall search rankings online.

Fortunately, this con is mostly alleviated by the availability of knowledgeable writers that provide affordable services freelance or through digital marketing agencies.

What is Paid Advertising?

Paid advertising is a marketing strategy that involves bidding for keywords or phrases to secure premium advertising at the top of search engine results. Paid advertising is also commonly referred to as PPC or pay-per-click. You pay every time a user clicks on or engages with your paid advertisement.

Paid advertising is a commonly used, and often necessary, marketing strategy employed on websites such as Google, Bing, Facebook, and YouTube. You can differentiate paid ads versus organic results by looking for the Ad tag next to top results with true, organic results appearing below.

Paid Advertising

According to a survey conducted by Statista, brands spent 110 billion dollars on paid search in 2020, with that value expected to rise in 2021 and 2022. Paying to cut to the front of the line will always remain a valuable strategy as commercial activity transitions more and more to the digital landscape.

Sources: Statista

The Pros and Cons of Paid Advertising

The Pros

The number one pro that comes from using paid advertising is guaranteed visibility. For the right price, your brand will be the first thing users see any time they type a keyword or question into the world’s most popular search engines. Seeing your brand at number one will always be valuable, and will be necessary for brands that otherwise have no foundation built online yet.

While the cost varies greatly depending upon the industry, each of these platforms offers incredible technology that can automatically adjust campaigns and regulate your budget so that you never overspend or waste time pursuing dead ends. That same technology also allows for precise targeting of individuals from varying demographics as well as those at varying stages of the buyer journey.

Paid advertising effectively offers dependable, predictable results and is one of the best ways to start building your brand online. This gets you the results you need upfront, while you cultivate long-term strategies to improve your organic rankings over time.

The Cons

The largest drawback of paid advertising is the budget required to compete with other businesses bidding for the same advertising spots. However, this is more of a warning than a guarantee, as some industries are far less competition for keywords, making PPC ads more affordable. With that said, when you stop paying, you lose your spot immediately.

Paid advertising may also prove more difficult as consumers are catching on to our marketing strategies. The truth is, we all dislike advertisements. They are everywhere we look – television, emails, online videos, search results, website browsing, and so on. Seeing the word “Ad” stamped next to your brand may be off-putting and make you appear less authentic or trustworthy. Additionally, more and more consumers are using ad blockers to remove your paid ad campaign from the equation altogether.

Should I Use Content Marketing or Paid Advertising?

Based upon the pros and cons of each, you can see that content marketing and paid to advertise actually complement the other’s weaknesses effectively. Digital marketing experts will consistently recommend the use of both to help build your brand online and earn you results both in the short term, while you build of a stronger foundation for lasting results.

Content Marketing vs Paid Advertising

For example, Business A has no experience in digital marketing and needs to see a return on its investment immediately. They began a PPC ad campaign on Google to start getting customers into your digital storefront. In the meantime, they also begin publishing informative articles, engaging videos, and other forms of content that keep the audience engaged after the paid advertisements get them inside.

Over time, that content library begins to speak for itself, and search engines begin to trust Business A’s website more, allowing them to rank higher organically. Brand reputation improves, consumer loyalty and trust improves, and your paid advertising budget goes down as you no longer need to pay for higher rankings.

Finally, consider that your paid ad campaigns also require great content to be effective. No matter what you pay, a user will ignore an ad that’s bland, boring, or uninspired. Content marketing strategies work effectively in paid advertising campaigns by empowering your audience with the information they need to make informed purchasing decisions.

When considering the question of content marketing vs paid advertising, the answer is clear – use both whenever possible. Take advantage of the powerful PPC tools the industry has to offer to get immediate results, and cultivate a library of engaging content that builds your reputation, earns consumer trust, and ensures that your ROI remains consistent well into the future.

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