Demystifying Content Advertising: What is it and Is It Right for Your Business?

In the ever-evolving realm of digital marketing, the pace is relentless. Tools, apps, and technologies that were once vital have now become obsolete. Marketers from various sectors are constantly on the lookout for innovative ways to connect with their audiences.

Content Advertising In this fast-paced world, digital marketing is teeming with buzzwords and jargon, some of which are more perplexing than enlightening. One such term that's been making the rounds is "content advertising." After stumbling upon this term in a blog post, I embarked on a quest to delve into content advertising and its relevance for us.

Here's the lowdown on everything you need to know.

What Is Content Advertising? As one might expect, pinning down an exact definition of content advertising can be elusive. To further complicate matters, many individuals understandably confuse content advertising with content marketing, native advertising, and content strategy. It's enough to make your head spin.

Although the concept of content advertising is relatively new, its core idea is straightforward:

Content advertising involves creating content with the specific purpose of promoting it through paid distribution channels. This can encompass PPC campaigns, paid social ads, sponsored placements, and various other paid promotional avenues.

Content Advertising Google AdWords Concept Illustration Any content format can be incorporated into a content advertising campaign. For instance, you could develop a whitepaper addressing a common issue within your industry, with the intent of promoting it through paid social advertisements. As long as the content you create is designed for promotion through paid distribution, you're engaging in content advertising.

Content Advertising vs. Content Marketing We're well aware of the myriad advantages of content marketing, but how does content advertising differentiate itself from "conventional" content marketing? In the grand scheme of things, the term "content advertising" might seem somewhat misleading. After all, content marketing is a fundamental aspect of inbound marketing, which is crafted to be as minimally disruptive to consumers as possible. On the contrary, traditional advertising frequently employs deliberate disruption to capture viewers' attention and prompt them to take action.

One aspect shared by both content marketing and content advertising is their emphasis on quality. Just because you're distributing and promoting your content through paid channels doesn't mean the content should be any less valuable to your audience compared to your "organic" content. In fact, the quality bar should be set even higher, considering you're investing in promoting that content.

Content Advertising Quality Over Quantity Moreover, just because you're promoting content through paid channels doesn't mean you should resort to distasteful, disruptive tactics commonly used in TV and radio advertisements. Your audience expects, and deserves, better treatment. Employing such tactics may discourage potential customers and tarnish your brand, even if your content is of high quality.

Another critical distinction between content marketing and content advertising lies in their respective reliance on SEO and organic rankings. Content marketing campaigns often hinge on SEO and organic reach, whereas content advertising sidesteps the challenges posed by declining organic reach by capitalizing on the strengths of paid promotional channels, such as highly granular audience segmentation.

We've been warning against relying on organic traffic for some time now, and with organic reach dwindling daily, one could argue that content advertising is the next logical step in the ongoing evolution of content as a marketing tool.

Is Content Advertising Just a New Name for Native Advertising? This is one of the most common misconceptions regarding native advertising: that it's merely another buzzword with little substantive difference from native advertising.

However, this notion is far from accurate.

Content advertising native advertising example Native advertising thrives by seamlessly blending with truly organic content, often going unnoticed by most consumers. Native advertising campaigns rely on consumers' inability to distinguish between organic and promoted content, which is why native advertising remains one of the most divisive – and potentially risky – content types at advertisers' disposal.

Conversely, content advertising, in theory, should be indistinguishable from organic content marketing in the eyes of the consumer. If I'm considering downloading a guide or whitepaper on a topic of interest, I couldn't care less about how the company promoting the guide chose to do so. In some cases, I might not even realize that I clicked on an ad before accessing the guide. What concerns me is the quality of the content, not the means by which it was promoted.

What Are the Advantages of Content Advertising?

The single most significant advantage of content advertising over organic content marketing is that it doesn't rely on search or discoverability in any way. If you're paying to promote content, you need not fret over appealing to a broader audience or satisfying the increasingly fickle SEO algorithms to make an impact. Identify your target audience and select the most suitable distribution channel to align with your content project's business objectives.

Another advantage of this aspect of content advertising is its ability to hone in on highly specific, niche topics that may not fare well organically. This enables you to address your prospective customers' precise pain points and tailor your content to meet their needs precisely, positioning you and your business favorably in their minds.

Content advertising initiatives also have substantial scalability. Depending on your content's purpose and potential relevant audiences, you can employ a range of paid channels to disseminate your content. This can range from large-scale PPC campaigns that reach broad audiences to smaller, targeted paid social campaigns that offer excellent results with a highly competitive ROI.

What Are the Disadvantages of Content Advertising? Every marketing channel has its drawbacks, and content advertising is no exception.

While the challenge of producing quality content is hardly unique to content advertising, it remains a persistent concern for advertisers. Even if you're an expert in your field, creating high-quality content consistently requires a significant time investment, and there are only so many hours in a day. Hiring content professionals to alleviate the workload comes with its own financial pressures, which can be particularly daunting for companies with limited resources considering content advertising.

Although content advertising projects can scale well due to the inherent flexibility of paid promotion, this also means that your budget may impose limitations on your potential reach. Paid social advertising, such as Facebook ads, offers excellent ROI for advertisers with smaller budgets. However, in the face of ambitious business objectives, content advertising may not yield the necessary results to justify costs, especially considering the often lengthy customer journeys typical of content marketing conversion funnels.

Content Advertising Content Marketing Funnel Similarly, the ability to target incredibly niche topics without worrying about discoverability comes with its own challenges. Smaller audiences necessitate higher conversion rates to justify the campaign. Eventually, the law of diminishing returns comes into play, rendering some projects too niche to rationalize the costs of producing and promoting the content. Smaller audiences also pose segmentation challenges, as you can only subdivide a limited number of people so many times before you risk overwhelming potential customers with ads for your content.

Jeff Hecht

Jeff Hecht

Jeff is the Founder and Managing Director of the Aronson Hecht Agency. He grew up in the advertising industry at his father's' agency. He has over 40 years in sales and marketing experience. Jeff brings that experience to every client and every project we work on.