Content Marketing Vs Paid Advertising: Which one your business needs in 2020?

We’ll be upfront: we wish this was an easier topic to discuss. We would love for there to be quick definitions for these two terms and we could send you on your way with a strong understanding after just a few sentences.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Content marketing and paid advertising are both constantly evolving, branching off into different sectors and developing new trends every day.

To do this topic justice, we need to do two things.

First, we need to do something many bloggers fail to do: talk about the differences between paid advertising vs content marketing.

Second, we need to talk about what separates content marketing from paid advertising by diving into both concepts separately.

Let’s start by discussing two words that are used interchangeably – but are actually different in the digital realm.

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

You know how all dolphins are whales, but not all whales are dolphins?

It’s the same with marketing and advertising. All ads and advertising strategies technically fall under the umbrella of “content marketing,” and yet not every kind of content marketing is a direct advertisement.

  • Content marketing encompasses the large-scale, multi-platform story you want to convey to your target customers.
  • Advertising refers to a specific message to your audience that’s a part of the bigger story.

Instead of wondering about the difference between paid advertising and content marketing, or which wins between marketing vs advertising, you’re better off asking:

How do my advertising strategies play a role in the overall marketing story and goals of my brand?

Now that you’ve got a better grasp on the two terms at the core of this piece, let’s get a bit more specific by diving into the concept of content marketing.

The Basics: Content Marketing

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”Content Marketing Institute

As we just discussed, modern marketing strategies need to revolve around more than just some well-placed ad. They need to tell a story that’s effective in engaging with consumers and pulling them in to learn about the brand.

That’s where content marketing comes into play.

Content helps consumers to learn about your brand, products, and services, as well as where your company’s expertise fits into the picture. Additionally, content can boost SEO rankings and improve a website’s chances of appearing in search results.

Today, the average B2B business allocates about 25 percent of their marketing budget to content marketing alone. It’s effective, and in recent years, it’s become undeniably necessary.

Different Types of Content Marketing

Quality content marketing comes in various shapes and forms, including:

  • Blog posts and long-form articles
  • PR strategies
  • Informative videos or podcasts
  • Infographics
  • Listicles or checklists

All of these types of content marketing revolve around creating brand awareness, finding and nurturing leads, and helping with the overall customer experience, including the conversion.

You’ve probably heard quite a bit about the benefits of blogging (which are numerous), so we won’t dive into that too much. What we do want to talk about is the most up-and-coming, powerful form of content that many companies are embracing: video.

Not all content is written. In fact, Cisco estimated last year that roughly 80 percent of all worldwide online traffic will be video by the end of 2019.

Keep in mind that we are not talking about video advertisements, like a commercial. We’re talking about video content that genuinely informs, engages, and entertains.

Take a look at this video from the Swedish Childhood Cancer Foundation:

It doesn’t advertise a single product, and yet it garnered more than 12 million views and educated the public about the non-profit’s efforts to combat cancer diseases in children. The video tells a clear story, and it’s a compelling one.

What Makes Content Marketing Successful?

When deciding what your content marketing plans will entail, you need to ask yourself:

What differentiates a compelling piece of content from content that is just a part of the ever-present digital noise of today?

Ultimately, a successful content strategy includes media or written pieces that are:

  • Educational in both quantitative and qualitative ways.
  • Focused on a picture greater than the brand’s sale efforts.
  • Able to connect with the audience on a personal level.
  • True to the brand’s personality, values, and goals.

Having said that, how can you tell if a piece of content is actually successful?

The Cost and ROI of Content Marketing

In order to determine if a content marketing strategy is successful, you must first know how much it costs. Then, you can calculate the strategy’s ROI and evaluate its ability to attract interested eyeballs and create conversions.

There’s not really an answer to the question “how much does the average content marketing strategy cost?”

Calculate The Cost of Creating Content - Optinmonster
Image Source: OptinMonster

As OptinMonster has highlighted, there are several factors that must be included in your content marketing strategy costs.

To calculate your content strategy’s ROI, the basic formula goes like this:

  1. Add up all of the sales you made that were directly tied to the content.
  2. Take that return and subtract the investment costs.
  3. Divide the sum by the total investment.
  4. Multiply the result by 100.
  5. Voila, you’ve got yourself an ROI on your strategy.

If you’re feeling worried about how successful your content marketing strategy will prove to be, keep in mind that 63 percent of enterprise marketers have said they were able to generate demands or leads with a powerful content marketing strategy.

So, in a nutshell, that’s content marketing!

Now it’s time to talk about the other side of the coin – paid advertising.

The Basics: Paid Advertising

What is paid advertising?

To put it simply, paid ads can be a part of your marketing efforts by placing advertisements directly in front of potential customers. This could be on a social media platform, the search engine result pages (SERPs), YouTube, a review site, or on a relevant website.

When you hear people talk about “PPC” or “pay-per-click advertising,” they’re referring to the paid campaigns that are instrumental to the success of their overall marketing plan.

Different Types of Paid Advertising

Different Types of Paid Advertising - Elizabeth Sponsored Post
Image Source:

You see paid advertising in countless formats every day.

From commercials to big display ads or pop-ups, these formats are the ones that typically come to mind when you think of paid advertising.

Wedding Venues - Paid result in Google Search Page
Image Source: Google

Ever notice that when you search for things on Google now, there’s often a highly ranked result that has the little “Ad” sign next to it? This is just another form of paid advertising and one that has come to play an immense role in SEM strategies.

Right now, Google and Facebook are the two top contenders when it comes to digital ad spending. That said, platforms like Amazon and Instagram are sneaking up on them as digital trends continue to evolve.

What Makes Paid Ads Successful?

You might be thinking, “Well these seem more impactful than content marketing!”

To some extent, you might be right.

Paid online advertising packs a punch, especially when the ads are placed according to target consumer groups. Deciding who to stick these ads in front of and where to keep them is a big part of the paid marketing strategy, and the decisions can pay off.

Take Google Ads, for example. For every $1 a business spends on Google Ads, they make an average of $2 in revenue. It’s a simple method for boosting your revenue without spending tons of time and energy creating original content.

The Cost and ROI of Paid Advertising

As of 2019, the average small business spends between $9,000 and $10,000 per month on online advertising campaigns. How much you spend per keyword can vary dramatically, depending on what your target topics and phrases might be.

most expensive keywords in google adwords advertising
Image Source: Word Stream

When it comes to deciding on your paid advertising budget, it’s all about evaluating the cost versus performance. For instance, Facebook’s average CPCs are relatively low, and yet Facebook Ads often have excellent results – meaning you can potentially get a huge bang for your buck.

A Direct Comparison Between Content Marketing and Paid Advertising

Let’s be honest: you’re not reading this article just because you want to understand the ins and outs of two different marketing concepts. You’re reading to find out which of the most effective advertising methods can benefit you the most (and how).

We’ll help you out by conducting a direct comparison between content marketing and paid advertising.

1. Which Is More Cost-Effective?

Content marketing, on average, is 62 percent less expensive than outbound marketing. Obviously, this number can fluctuate depending on how little or how much you spend on either type of marketing, but in general, it’s easier to keep your spending low with content marketing than with paid ads.

2. Which One Will Get Me More Leads?

According to the Content Marketing Institute’s research from two years ago, content marketing brings in about three times the number of leads than paid search advertising can generate. Additionally, 41 percent of marketers confirm that content marketing has a significant ROI – if you can do it the right way.

3. Which Is More Necessary?

What a heated question… As most marketing experts will tell you, there’s no right or wrong answer. Both channels can be extremely effective, depending on what your brand is trying to achieve.

shoes Branding through Bloomberg blog post
Image Source: Bloomberg

Let’s say you’re trying to simply educate people on what your brand does and what value you offer. In this case, you will probably have better luck with content marketing than via traditional advertising.

twitters promoted-sponsored tweet by ancestry
Image Source: InstaPage

On the other hand, let’s say you’ve got a catalog of products and you need to push online sales. A promoted Tweet, paid search result, Facebook ad or another form of PPC could take your ROI a long way – and quicker.

4. How Can I Get the Best of Both Worlds?

linen n lush facebook sponsored post
Image Source:

According to Matthew Grant, a marketing guru at Convince & Convert, you can reap the rewards of both sides by promoting content across owned, earned, and paid media. Think of content as your pot of gold and paid advertisements as the rainbow that leads consumers there.

In Conclusion

We could all talk about different marketing channels until we’re blue in the face, but at the end of the day, there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Anyone who says they know EXACTLY what you should be spending and how you should be reaching consumers is lying.

What we can tell you is that testing different methods of content creation and paid advertising is an excellent way to find what avenue works best for your brand. Spend time figuring out what appeals the most to your target consumer group, then learn to toggle the levers on different kinds of marketing.

At E2M, content marketing has been our building blocks since the beginning. If you have any questions about how to get your digital strategy off the ground, don’t hesitate to get in contact!

  • Vishalsinh Mahida is a Content Marketing Analyst at E2M inc, a San Diego Based Digital Agency that specializes in White Label Services for Website Design & Development and eCommerce SEO. He has previously assisted top brands like Axis Bank, Fox Star, IIFL, and more in implementing several customer engagement strategies.