What Is Content Marketing? Definition, Importance, & Strategy Tips

Semrush Team

Feb 16, 202314 min read
What Is Content Marketing?

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Content marketing can help your brand stand out from your competitors. It’s a way to boost your search ranking, establish authority, build trust—and ultimately drive revenue.

In this article, we’ll discuss what content marketing is, and why it’s important. We’ll also show you how to create your own content marketing strategy and how to measure results.

What Is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is a marketing strategy involving the creation and sharing of relevant materials, such as articles, videos, social media posts, and emails, to attract and engage audiences, establish expertise, promote brand awareness, and drive sales.

One example is this infographic. It’s visual content shared in a social media post: 

img-semblog

It has an attention-grabbing headline, and it’s visually appealing. But most of all—it’s useful. Useful content gives your brand more staying power with potential customers. 

For instance, a Facebook ad linking to a product page may deliver quick conversions among the sliver of your target audience that’s ready to buy now. 

A content marketing campaign builds relationships with your audience, whether they’re ready to buy or not.

Giving readers valuable content positions you as a wise friend. It keeps you top of mind, so you’re the brand they think of when they need your product.

Marketers use content to achieve objectives like:

  • Attracting top-of-the-funnel customers: Content can introduce customers to your brand 
  • Building trust: Sharing helpful information for free establishes your credibility 
  • Contributing to an SEO strategy: Search engines prefer (and rank) websites with useful content
  • Improving the customer experience: Content helps customers see how others use your product, understand what’s going wrong, and more

Anyone can write a blog post or record and upload a video. But to achieve marketing objectives, you need a strategy. 

Now that we’ve covered the content marketing definition, let’s explore the most common types of content.

The Most Common Types of Content Marketing

Content comes in many shapes and sizes. It can be written, visual, or a mix of both. 

Here are some examples of popular types of content:

  • Blog posts
  • Email
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Email newsletters
  • Ebooks and white papers
  • Case studies
  • Podcasts and webinars
  • Landing pages
content marketing examples

Let’s explore a few of these further.

Blog Posts

Blog posts and articles are two of the most common content formats. Mainly because there are minimal barriers to creating and sharing them.

Here’s the landing page of the Semrush blog, where we share high-quality articles about SEO and marketing:

semrush blog landing page

Consistently updating this page helps build our authority with SEO and nurtures relationships with our readers.

If your audience knows your blog is an expert source of information, they’re more likely to trust your advice and recommendations.

Ebooks and White Papers

Ebooks and white papers are in-depth reports or guides full of original data and insights.

They offer a deeper dive into a topic than blog posts. They explore more complex subjects, highlight a company’s products or services, or share the research that drives its solution.

These in-depth types of content can also help you generate more leads when you offer them as gated assets. This means readers need to share personal data or pay to view them.

For instance, if you want to download The Semrush Content Writing Workbook, you’ll need to sign up for our newsletter.

download your pdf

Gated content offers a fair exchange to interested prospects—users get your best content and you get a lead.

Email Marketing

Email marketing drives a very high return on investment (ROI). Sources vary, but some estimate you see a return of as much as $36 for every dollar spent on email marketing. 

So it’s not surprising that nearly three out of four marketers use email newsletters to distribute content. 

Email is a great way to present fresh content to users consistently. 

For example, when users sign up with Salesforce, they immediately receive an email with links to helpful resources: 

salesforce email with links

These roundup emails are great introductions for new customers. Companies can answer common new customer questions proactively.

Ecommerce company Snowe keeps content fresh by using their email newsletter to push timely products for holidays like Father’s Day:

Snowe email newsletter

Email marketing is a great way to keep your brand top of mind for customers. And encourage recurring business.

Video and Audio Content

Video and audio content have become increasingly important in connecting with customers. 

Wyzowl found that 92% of marketers saw a good ROI from video content—and 53% said video marketing helped reduce support queries.

Podcasts are also gaining popularity as business-to-business (B2B) content assets. They rank in the top ten most popular types of B2B content:

B2B content assets

Each type of content has its merits and resonates with different types of audiences. Now, let’s look at the overall benefits of creating and sharing content as a part of your marketing strategy.

5 Benefits of Content Marketing

What specific benefits do these top effective content types bring to the table? Let’s take a look at a few of the reasons so many marketers rely on high-quality content:

  • More online visibility
  • More leads
  • More authority
  • More customer engagement
  • More budget
content marketing strategy benefits

More Online Visibility

Engaging with readers in the places they frequent gives you access to more potential leads at the top of your funnel. And posting consistently and branching out to more channels expands your audience.

For example, Logo designers Looka created a YouTube video version of their written guide on choosing a logo font:

Youtube video thumbnail

The video increased this business’s chances of attracting new audiences from new demographics.

More Leads

For many marketers, effective content marketing management produces more leads. More eyes on your brand’s useful content—paired with an effective call to action (CTA)—means more people willing to try your product.

You can use content in any form to generate leads for your business. 

Make a social post about an upcoming webinar you’re hosting with directions to click the link in your bio for more information (and to submit an email).

Embed a link to a free trial directly into blog articles.

embedded link

Or add your sales team’s contact information directly to white papers and ebooks.

There are so many ways to generate new leads with content.

More Authority

When you’re a source of expert knowledge and valuable content, your brand becomes a trusted authority. And when people trust you, they’re more likely to buy from you. 

You can build expertise (and trust) by creating content that does the following:

  • Answers questions
  • Unearths new information and data
  • Shares insights from other respected sources
  • Gives away some secrets

For instance, one startup founder created an informative Twitter thread to share what he learned from his journey:

informative Twitter thread

Sharing personal tips and experiences humanizes your brand. And audiences crave this kind of authenticity.

More Customer Engagement

To fuel business growth, you need to gain new customers and keep existing customers happy. Your content marketing plan can help you accomplish both of these goals.

Social media marketing makes it easy to connect directly with customers and build stronger relationships.

For example, you could reach out to your user base and ask for quotes to use in a new blog post. Or you could encourage users to post videos of your product in action under a branded hashtag

And, of course, you could actively reply to comments and direct messages from your customers.

This kind of interaction can reinvigorate engagement with your brand. 

More Budget

Producing engaging content can help save time and maximize productivity. This way, there’s no need to start from scratch with every piece of content. 

Recycling content on different channels can provide a bigger ROI.

You could turn a podcast interview into a blog post. Or turn study results into a whitepaper and infographic. The options are endless.

When you repurpose content, you don’t need to come up with 100% new ideas every time. So you can save some budget and divert it to other areas.

5 Steps to Create an Effective Content Marketing Strategy

A content marketing strategy is a roadmap to keep your marketing efforts on track. It details why you’re creating content, who it’s for, and how and when you will implement it.

An effective marketing strategy will help you set goals, define clear success metrics, and create processes for improvement. 

Here are five steps to help you develop your own strategy:

1. Set Content Marketing Goals

Before you start, you need to know what success looks like. That includes the following:

  • Specific goals that support meaningful business outcomes
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs) that chart your progress against your goals
  • Benchmarks that give you a baseline to measure progress against

In our 2022 State of Content Marketing report, content marketers shared their top goals. These were some of the popular answers:

  • Creating brand awareness
  • Driving more traffic to their website
  • Generating leads
  • Improving loyalty with existing customers/clients
img-semblog

The KPIs tied to your goals will be unique to your business. 

For some businesses, success may look like increasing daily views on Instagram by 10,000 views per post. 

For others, it may mean driving 50% more traffic to their site over the next year.

Determine what you want (goals) and how you’ll define success (KPIs) relative to your own or competitors’ current results (benchmarks). This first step will help you keep your efforts focused. 

2. Identify and Describe Your Target Audience

Your target audience is the group of people you want to attract to your site. You need to know who they are and what they’re interested in if you want your content to speak to them. 

So, who is your target audience? Find out by using one—or multiple—of these approaches:

  • Ask your sales team. Get specific. Ask for a breakdown of those with the highest conversion rate or the highest average order value.
  • Use Google Analytics data. Check out the “Audience”report to see who’s visiting your site and where they’re from.
  • Check out social media audience insights. Use your platforms’ built-in tools or Semrush’s Social Analytics tool to learn about follower breakdown, growth and unfollows, top locations, age range, gender, active times, and more.
  • Dive into competitor data. Semrush’s Organic Research tool can help you discover new competitors, explore your rivals’ keyword rankings, and more.
  • Survey or interview customers. Ask how customers prefer to engage with your brand (e.g., website, social media, blog posts).
  • Explore the market. Semrush’s Market Explorer Tool lets you check industry insights and benchmark yourself against competitors.

All this data gives you a unique understanding of your current place in the market and how you stack up against others targeting your same audience.

Use this information to fine-tune your strategy. Are you missing topics that are important to your audience? Do your competitors cover key ideas better than you do?

3. Choose the Right Content Formats and Channels

Once you’ve set your goals and know your audience, you need to reach users in the right place with the right content.

Aligning your content with where users are in the funnel (also called content mapping) will help you create relevant, timely content.

For example, how do you help those ready to make a purchase? What content and channels would be most useful for those still assessing and considering their options? 

Consider all the different stages of the buyer’s journey as you plan your content formats and channels:

img-semblog

Serving the right content at each stage of the customer journey also means delivering that content in the right format. 

Let’s look at the top formats marketers used in 2022 according to HubSpot’s State of Inbound Marketing Trends. Plus the merits of each:

top media formats marketers use

Videos

According to HubSpot, short-form videos (like TikToks and Instagram Reels) are the most effective type of social media content.

San Diego Zoo’s TikTok, for instance, helps viewers feel like they’re part of the team with funny behind-the-scenes footage of working life:

San Diego Zoo’s TikTok

Video content doesn’t have to be super polished or professional-looking. Often, an unscripted look helps your brand appear more personable and relatable.

Blogs

Blogs are a great way to drive traffic to your site. Long-form content like blog posts and articles can help you build trust and authority with your target audience. 

Take personal finance company NerdWallet. They post financial planning, management, and education articles on their site:

NerdWallet educational articles

Prospects with questions about wealth management will find answers and also recognize NerdWallet as an expert in the field. 

Images and Infographics

Visual content can help you communicate ideas and information with your audience quickly—whatever the channel. 

Infographics are a specific type of image where lots of valuable information is put into an easy-to-read graphic. 

For example, e-learning platform TalentLMS created a visual to help users see the benefits of using a learning management system (LMS) at work:

utilizing infographics

This infographic uses clear icons and scannable statistics to quickly communicate the widespread use of LMS platforms in today’s workplace.

Case studies

Case studies showcase customer success stories and act as social proof to prospects investigating your product or service.

Slack uses customer stories to stand out in a market that has exploded since 2020 (remote communications).

Slack customer stories

Showcasing your work with other brands helps customers see that you’re experienced in working with people or companies just like them. 

Customer stories are easy to host on your site or share with leads to show specific ways your solution can help solve their pain points.

4. Create a Content Marketing Calendar

A content calendar (or editorial calendar) organizes the timeline and destination for your content. It summarizes what you’ll be publishing and when. It’ll help you:

  • Keep your team on the same page
  • Maintain consistency (and avoid repetition)
  • Avoid missing specific events
  • Track performance more efficiently
  • Spark creative ideas

A content calendar template can help you create your own. Or you can try Semrush’s ready-made Marketing Calendar.

content calendar

The right tool will allow you to accomplish the following:

  • Set weekly deadlines and goals
  • Create a checklist of steps to complete for each task
  • Collaborate with team members
  • Migrate plans from other calendars with ease

Following a content calendar will help you stay on track and consistently deliver high-quality content. Which is key to keeping readers and followers engaged.

5. Create a Content Distribution Plan

Content distribution is the process of promoting your content on multiple platforms to address different audiences and demographics.

These can include the following:

  • Your website and blog
  • Email marketing and newsletters
  • Social media platforms
  • Online communities and forums
  • Content roundups and guest posts
  • Influencer posts
  • Paid ads

A content distribution plan is crucial to ensuring your content gets in front of your intended audience. For example, Headspace distributes relevant blog posts in their email newsletters:

distribution channels

This directs email list subscribers back to Headspace’s site (which subscribers may not have visited in a while) for deeper insights.

Use data about your audience and what channels they prefer—as well as your own goals and KPIs—to determine which channels to post on.

How to Measure the Success of Your Content Marketing Strategy

Content marketing analytics is the final piece of the puzzle. These metrics let you see how well your content is doing. 

Use this data to show your progress and help you allocate budget to the right places. Or catch any issues before they get costly. 

That’s why 75% of B2B organizations measure content performance.

Track the metrics that help you evaluate the success of your inbound marketing goals. 

Here are some key measurements you can track in Google Analytics, Semrush, and similar platforms. And how each can help you understand how well your content is performing:

Metric

Meaning

Category

Unique visitors

The number of people visiting a page (or multiple pages) on your website

Brand awareness

Unique pageviews

The times a single user has viewed your page

Brand awareness

Authority Score

Your domain’s overall quality

SEO

Average time on page

How long people spend on a page

Engagement

Bounce rate

The number of page visitors who quickly exit

Engagement

Click-through rate (CTR)

How many people click your links (and which)

Engagement

3 Content Marketing Examples of Companies Doing It Right

What works for one company may not work for others. But it’s helpful to learn from successful content marketing examples

Here are three brands with great content strategies to inspire your web content marketing.

Spotify Wrapped

Spotify Wrapped is one of the best examples of personalized, data-driven content

Spotify users are eager for their Wrapped report to drop at the end of every year.

Spotify Wrapped

Since 2016, the company has provided an annual report that visualizes the following data for each listener:

  • The amount of time they spent listening
  • Their top artists and genres
  • Their “listening personality” 
  • Their top 100 songs
Spotify Wrapped

It’s a hot topic on social media in the weeks leading up to it. Then widely shared because of its optimized story format. 

Wrapped is part of an online content marketing campaign that opens up conversations that continue through the year. And that people are constantly talking about Spotify.

Design Personality by Airbnb

Airbnb’s Design Personality quiz is a perfect example of interactive content. They’ve also partnered with a relevant brand (interior design experts Domino) to give both companies more reach.

Airbnb’s Design Personality quiz

After answering eight visual questions, users find out their design personality. It doesn’t take much time and the results are highly shareable.

Airbnb’s Design Personality quiz results

The results also lead users to recommended Airbnb stays and blog posts based on their style. 

This kind of content is a much softer way of selling. And the personalized results enhance the customer journey while helping the brands collect relevant data.

Mos Student Hub

Mos is a smaller brand creating trust with its blog posts. 

They help students get financial aid for college tuition. And they use their blog to answer student questions with accessible articles.

Mos Student Hub

Mos hones in on topics that resonate with their readers, like what to do if you’ve “blown your tuition money on spring break.”

Mos Student Hub topics

Finance can be a complicated topic. But Mos keeps the language simple and explains any jargon. 

This ensures readers understand the content and gives students confidence that they know what they’re talking about. 

Use Content Marketing to Build Trust with Your Audience

Content can be one of your most powerful marketing tools. So don’t just write something for the sake of it. Get to know your audience and base your decisions on reliable data. 

Keep your message simple but empathetic. Create content that helps your audience see you as a trusted partner and collaborator, not just a supplier.

Build and document a content strategy so you won’t miss a thing. And always take note of what’s working and what you can improve.

Need some help with that? Take the pressure off with some automation from Semrush’s Content Marketing Platform. We’ll walk you through every step to make sure you’re providing value.

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