Content marketing vs paid advertising: The ROI discussion
‘Content Marketing vs. Paid Advertising’ is a battle as old as time, and everyone has their preferences.
We wanted to take a more numbers-based approach and look at the two forms of marketing in terms of ROI (return on investment). Marketing is all about ROI, so it makes sense to see which form of marketing will get you the best return on your investment.
The definitions: Let's start with the basics
What is content marketing?
Content marketing means creating content for a specific audience, which you then distribute via a variety of channels, such as:
- social media
Content marketing is all about getting your audience to trust you by delivering a series of strategic content pieces in the right place, at the right time.
What is paid advertising?
Paid advertising means paying for views of – and clicks on – your content to get people to buy your product. It works differently depending on the advertising platform you use. For example:
- On Google, you target a keyword or phrase. Then, when your specified audience types in that keyword or phrase, your ad shows up before the organic search results.
- On social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, you pay to get your ad in front of a highly targeted audience.
Why CMOs are traditionally more comfortable with paid advertising
Paid advertising can make it really easy to predict ROI, and the financial powers-that-be are more comfortable with this kind of data. After all, it’s how they need to present the company’s data to their shareholders or Board of Directors.
However, research shows that 73% of people prefer to learn about an organisation through quality content, rather than through paid advertising. Content creates trust, and if you build your brand’s reputation through quality content, potential customers are more likely to view you as credible.
The good and the bad of paid advertising
- The sales process is fast – especially with promotions or special offers.
- You can immediately see which content different audiences are responding to and A/B test different creatives/messaging.
- You can get your ads in front of a highly targeted audience (seriously, the possibilities are almost endless), so you don’t waste money targeting the wrong people.
- Well, firstly, you have to pay for it! Paid advertising requires a continuous flow of funds to see results. In most cases, you pay for every click on your ad, even if the clicker doesn’t turn into a lead. And the moment you stop paying for your ads, they disappear from view. There’s no ongoing benefit to having had ads turned on in the past.
- Marketers tend to rely completely on paid ads and nothing else. This can be a dangerous marketing or content strategy from two angles:
1. First, advertising platforms can quickly change the way they show your ads to your audience.
2. Secondly, they can change the amount you have to spend to reach that audience. They could even wipe out paid ads all together, and where would your sales come from then?
- A lot of people hate ads, and simply ignore them. Ad blockers have also become more popular over recent years, so many of your potential customers are probably blocking your ads from their browsers.
Now let's look at content marketing
- Done well, content is meaningful, useful information that people appreciate – in part, because it doesn’t include harsh, uncomfortable sells. In fact, content’s main purpose isn’t to sell, sell, sell. Instead, it aims to provide readers with valuable information that helps them and/or makes them feel something.
- Content lives FOREVER. Unlike with paid advertising, once you publish a piece of content, it lives on your website for as long as you want it there. And that means it’s available for potential customers to read, share and engage with at zero cost to you.
- You won’t usually see instant ROI from content marketing, unless you’ve been doing it for a long time. That means it can seem expensive and time-consuming at first – but the long-term ROI is well worth any initial teething troubles.
You can probably guess the winner
Actually, you’d ideally use both marketing strategies together to get the best bang for your buck! Creating great, strategic content and then distributing it through paid advertising will ensure the right people see it, at the right time.
However, if you really want us to choose a winner, we recommend content marketing over a longer period of time to get the best ROI. Why?
- Content marketing builds trust with your audience AND it’s evergreen, so it keeps on converting leads with no further investment from you.
- Paid advertising, on the other hand, requires a continuous – often daily – flow of money with no guarantee of leads, especially in our increasingly ‘anti-ad’ world.
Want to discover the ROI that content marketing could give your business? Get in touch today.