Content Marketing 101: Definition, Channels and Success Stories

While many elements of online marketing have changed over the years, content marketing is one that has more or less stayed the same. Sure, we have different ways of sharing that content. One example is social media marketing, which has become a powerhouse and continues to grow as new platforms gain popularity. But, the use of content remains consistent at its core, giving us what is perhaps the most stable form of marketing available.

That doesn’t mean there has been no change in how content is marketed. Just the way it has shifted to fit an expanding web has shifted both the way information is presented, and how it is received by the reader.

What Is Content Marketing?

Content Marketing

A better question (and a harder one to answer) is ‘What is content?’. In the past, this was not a question at all because we had a very solid definition for what content entailed. Once upon a time, content was regarded as information published by experts (journalists and public figures, or novelists). Experts were someone who had a sturdy history behind them, in a particular area, and they had used this as a foundation to build their credibility.

Today, we have a much different definition of what constitutes content. Anyone can make it, anyone can publish it. More importantly, anyone can establish themselves as an expert by using it. Now, the implication of that fact used to make others nervous. One example is the initial reaction of journalists to the political or event bloggers that were popping up on the web a decade ago. As of today, a fair amount of content shared by news sources has actually been broken by those very same bloggers.

Since the definition of content has changed, the definition is much broader than it ever was before. Content, in the context of the online world, can be anything, from an article to a photo. As long as it holds relevance to readers, and it has the potential to spread through social media, I would argue that it is content. And so, it is perfect for content marketing.

Again, What Is Content Marketing?

Because of the evolution mentioned above, content marketing is much easier to define. It is simply using whatever content you publish on the web as a means of generating visibility and monetizing those views. There are definitely better ways to put it… Here are a few great definitions I have come across:

Zemanta: “content marketing is creating and sharing valuable, relevant content with prospects for the purpose of turning them into customers and regular buyers.

Rand Fishkin (this one is GOLD): “Content marketing isn’t just about attracting customers. It’s about attracting and appealing to anyone who might influence (!) a potential customers.

Quora: “content marketing is the umbrella of all techniques that are used to generate traffic, leads, online visibility, and brand awareness/fidelity.

>>>Further reading:

That being said, content marketing is all kinds of marketing you already know – done through content.

Basic Content Marketing Channels

How you actually “market” is going to vary, but you should be utilizing the basic tools for anyone on the net:

SEO

No matter what you have heard, SEO is not going anywhere. It remains the main tool for marketing your content online because search engines are still able to provide your glamorous content with steady exposure.

>>>Further reading: If you are new to SEO, make sure to read the beginner’s guide. If you want to improve your knowledge, read this one: “Why Content Marketing is the New SEO

Perhaps my favorite quote on this topic came from James Gurd in a recent interview with eConsultancy. “Content Marketing is not SEO, but it is complementary and should be integrated.” He makes a good point, and it should be a lesson to those who mistake SEO as spam, when used with quality content.

Another thing to mention here is of course Google Authorship – which is verifying your authorship with Google. It’s not yet a ranking factor, but it can definitely boost the exposure of your content since verified content shows the author’s photo in search results and thus increases its click-through!

Link Building

Link building has evolved incredibly. Now it’s no longer cool to say “build links” – we say “attract links” or even “deserve links”… And the best way to “attract” links is… right: Through awesome content people keep referring to!

Content-focused link building tactics include:

Social Media Sharing

This is the big one. Go to your Facebook friend feed and see how many third-party links are being shared. How often have you shared links to content yourself? The two forms of marketing go hand in hand, and I see them as an extension of one another. You should have social media profiles across major and niche communities, and you should be using them to spread content as far as possible.

Tools and further reading:

  • Kikolani’s eBook on promoting each piece of content as well as Dan Zarrella’s “Science of ReTweets
  • Viral Content Bizz to get essential core votes to get the word out
Retweet me option

Content Marketing Channels

Because content types may vary broadly (moreover, you can re-package your content into many types), there are lots of specific channels where you can market your content. Below listed are just a few possible channels – what’s more important is that there’s a third-party case study with each channel that you can use to learn how to market your content there and sky rocket your strategy!

YouTube

Lisa IrbyOne of the most amazing bloggers on YouTube is Lisa Irby. Her content is always immensely useful. Check out one of her recent video, for example, that introduces content promotion tactics. It’s a must for everyone building websites for profit!

Lisa is an excellent example of a great content marketer. Read her tutorial and personal case study on using YouTube as a content marketing channel!

SlideShare

Ana HoffmanSlideshare is one of the most under-utilized content marketing channels. Everyone starting a project is rushing up to create a Google Plus page and a Twitter account but how about utilizing and re-using your own presentations?

Read this very detailed guide “How to Milk SlideShare Homepage for All the Traffic You Can Handle” from Anna Hoffman as well as her personal stats!

iTunes

Michael StelznerHave you ever heard podcasting is about to die? Never believe it! People still love listening to what you have to say – especially while on the go!

If you do videos or Google Hangouts, podcasting is another brilliant idea to reuse that content to another channel: iTunes!

Michael Stelzner is one of the best examples of brilliant podcasters. Here’s his own guide starting a successful podcast.

What Is The Future of Content Marketing?

It is hard to say, but I would venture a guess that it will more or less stay the same. Providing high quality content is the consistent root that has never evolved. Low quality content has always been seen as spam for SEO manipulation, and search engines have been adapting to catch it. This has led spammers to switch to scraping articles to sell as their own, a problem Google addressed with the creation of Google Authorship.

This shows a pattern: content marketing and production will remain steady and the same, but the standards for finding scams will continue to adapt. All you have to worry about is writing high quality content, publishing it with authentication, and waiting for the benefits.

>>> Further reading: “Content marketing trends

Conclusion

To me, content marketing comes down to one principle: If you make something good, people will like it. If they like it, they will share it. Nothing in that rule is difficult to understand and it is a simple principle to follow. You should just be doing what you should have been all along-> providing readers with something awesome they will want to show others.

What do you think of content marketing? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credits: 12.

About Ann Smarty

Ann Smarty is the serial blogger and guest blogger running My Blog Guest, the free guest blogging and content sharing platform. Ann is also community and brand manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas as well as excited entrepreneur that pretty much tried to turn any bright idea into a new project

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10 Comments

Neil Ferree

An excellent article on content marketing Ann. It might be your best work so far this year and that’s saying a lot. You said “social media sharing — this is the big one” and you’re right

Rand’s definition “Content marketing isn’t just about attracting customers. It’s about attracting and appealing to anyone who might influence (!) a potential customers.” <—– GOLD you're right again!

Lisa Irby

Thanks so much for the feature, Ann. I’m humbled and honored to be listed among such great people. Great article.

Ileane

Ann, bravo on this awesome post. I think it will be an eye opener for a lot of bloggers and internet marketers who really need an education on what Content Marketing is all about and how to use it effectively.

I love the idea of re-packaging content into different forms and SlideShare, YouTube and Podcasting are certainly fantastic tools at everyone’s disposal. Social media can no longer be ignored and thanks to wonderful sites like Viral Content Buzz it’s so much easier to not only find great content to share but to connect with influencers who will reshare our content. Thanks Ann!

Ann Smarty

Thanks, Ileane, for always reading my staff and always cheering me up!

Ana Hoffman

Love it how you broke down content marketing into bite-size bits that readers can actually wrap their heads around, Ann.

And yes, Slideshare is quickly becoming my favorite content marketing channel; thanks for the shout to my post!

By the way, did you ever get to see this Slideshare presentation: http://www.slideshare.net/MeetAna/twitter-kaepernicked-by-googleplus – one of your posts gave me an idea for it. :)

Steve Balliett

Hi Ann,

I liked your definiton of content marketing – that it is “simply using whatever content you publish on the web as a means of generating visibility and monetizing those views.”

This definition helps me to stop and think more about what I post or comment about. To make each count and contribute to the conversation as well.

Comments are closed.