Content Marketing vs. Traditional Advertising

The Marketing Shift

There is currently a huge shift happening within marketing and advertising.

Traditional advertising techniques will no longer fly. When I say traditional advertising, I’m referring to disruptive forms of advertising where the only purpose is to sell something to the user.

This means pop-ups, animated banners, YouTube pre-rolls and anything else that interrupts what the user is trying to do.

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Interrupting our users is the opposite of what we want to be doing. We want to improve their online experience and provide them value, not frustrate them and make their task more difficult.

The idea behind content marketing is to inform, entertain, educate and inspire our audience. People should walk away feeling as if their lives have been improved in some way.

Instead of selling to our audience, we should be helping them solve their problems. Content marketing takes us out of the traditional advertising mindset and turns us into publishers instead.

People are drawn to content marketing for numerous reasons.

  • We create permanent assets for the brand. Unlike paid advertising, the content we create will live on forever and bring in new leads for years to come. This allows for far greater returns on investment, especially in the long-term.
  • We can target specific topics and keywords to improve organic rankings. Stuffing keywords into our pages is no longer a viable tactic. Nowadays, we have to create content people actually want to read (crazy right?).
  • We make our users happy instead of frustrating them. People have been interrupted and shown advertisements for far too long. It’s not just annoying, people have become blind to pop-ups and banner ads at this point. If we educate the audience about something they were searching for instead, we bring them into our funnel without ever disrupting their online experience.
  • We don’t have to worry about users blocking our ads. Ad blocker usage has skyrocketed over the past few years. What’s the point of paying for ad impressions if the ad never even reaches the end user? This issue doesn’t exist within content marketing because we’re giving people exactly what they want.

Still not convinced?

See how the top nonprofits around the world use content marketing to increase brand awareness and provide value to their audience.

Content Formats

Content marketing can be a bit overwhelming at first. There are so many different types of content we can create, how do we know which ones to choose?

Rarely can you do it all, so it’s important to figure out which types of content are the best fit for your organization?

We have to look at:

  • What you’re offering
  • The goals of your organization
  • The type of customers you have currently
  • The type of customers you want to attract
  • How many resources are available
  • Insights gathered from analytics
  • Information collected from your customers

I know, it’s a lot to take in. Have a look at our content creation guide if you’re new at this, or if your content isn’t producing the results you’d hoped for.

This of it this way, if we don’t do the necessary groundwork, we may end up wasting time and money creating content our users don’t want to consume.

Or maybe they’ll enjoy consuming it but never convert into paying customers. After all, if we’re not generating leads with our content, what’s the point? Our content needs to resonate with our user base while also accomplishing a very specific goal.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is creating content without first determining a clear goal they want to achieve with that content.

There’s a seemingly endless amount of content formats to choose from.

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If you have more than one audience, it’s especially crucial to vary your content.

Younger demographics may prefer consuming videos on Facebook, while older folks may be used to receiving written email newsletters. This is just an example, but it shows how important it is to identify your audience before creating content for them.

Another thing to consider is your language style for both written text and any visuals you use. Think about how you speak to young kids versus how you speak to someone over the age of 60, you need to apply this same methodology when creating content.

There’s another piece to the puzzle, however, and that’s finding out reading level of your specific audience. Two different audiences of the exact same age could read at completely different levels.

Take a look at this chart and you’ll see that 50% of adult readers in the U.S. read at an 8th-grade level:

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That being said, this doesn’t mean that 50% of U.S. adults don’t know how to read. Most popular authors write somewhere in between the 3rd-grade and 8th-grade level, so by default this is the content they are most likely to consume (since this is the most commercially popular content available).

I recommend checking the reading level of all of your content using Readable. It’s a free online tool that will check the reading level of all of your web content.

You Have To Get Visual

Face it, no one likes reading a big fat wall of text. We aren’t wired that way, our brain processes visual content much differently than it does written text.

Take a look at the data (source):

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Which of the two images sticks out? I sure hope it’s the one on the left, otherwise you may just be from a different planet (in that case, maybe your audience is as well!).

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Not only is visual content easier to digest, it immediately increases the perceived value of your brand (as long as you’re using quality visuals and not boring stock photography).

In our minds, we draw a direct correlation between high-quality design or visual work, with high value. That doesn’t mean you have to go and pay a design agency $10,000 for an infographic, there’s a much cheaper way of doing it.

Look through various artist portfolios on Behance and Dribbble to find unrecognized talent. There are so many quality artists on these sites who are looking for work, you just have to do a bit of digging (hint: don’t sort by most popular).

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Now, this doesn’t mean written statistics are useless, and it doesn’t mean you should put every bit of text you have into an infographic. Visual content is great for breaking up big blocks of text. It gives our brain a rest and helps to keep us engaged. Our attention spans are at an all-time low, so we must use anything and everything at our disposal to keep people interested.

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See how I’m keeping your attention by adding visual content in-between text? This is a great technique that you can implement within your own articles.

So where do you go from here? Video? Absolutely.

In my experience, video content works extremely well with any audience. Insivia put together a great list of statistics that shows just how many people are consuming video online.

Everything from adding videos to your landing pages, to using the word video in email subject lines have proven effective at increasing conversion rates.

A great example of exceptional video content is the Whiteboard Friday series from Moz (more specifically, Rand Fishkin). For those of you that don’t know, Rand Fishkin is pretty much the top dog of the SEO world. He does a new video for Moz every single Friday providing expert insights into various marketing topics.

Moz Whiteboard Friday April

They post a text version of each video within the post as well, this is necessary in order to rank for their target keywords with each video (and some people simply enjoy reading it as well).

You walk away from each video having learned something new, without ever feeling like he was trying to sell you something. You know why that is? It’s because he is simply making the videos to add value to your life, not to sell you a product.

Even though Moz does sell various SEO products, and their content is a part of their marketing strategy, each individual content piece is made in order to help people solve a problem or learn something new.


It’s clear that the traditional approach to advertising has become less effective. People are ignoring TV commercials and banner ads, hardly anyone is reading magazines, and disruptive forms of advertising are becoming more annoying by the day.

No, advertising is not dead! You must learn to utilize new forms of paid advertising (hint: Facebook Ads) in order to truly succeed. Aligning your content marketing, SEO, and paid advertising campaigns is absolutely crucial.