Is content marketing the same as digital marketing?

Erina, June 2023

The terms digital marketing and content marketing are often used interchangeably. However, digital marketing and content marketing are actually different approaches to marketing a business online. In short, digital marketing primarily uses an outbound marketing approach, which involves selling to consumers to get them interested in buying a product or service. By contrast, content marketing uses an inbound marketing approach which is all about creating and distributing valuable, relevant and timely content that attracts people to your business, eventually resulting in a sale or action.

While both are valuable and effective marketing approaches, the strategy that will work best for your business depends on your business model and goals.

What are the similarities between digital marketing and content marketing?

Delivered online

Digital marketing and content marketing are primarily delivered online. They both leverage various digital channels and platforms to reach and engage with target audiences.

Focus on the target audience

Digital marketing and content marketing both focus on understanding the preferences of the target audience. They both aim to create relevant and valuable content that resonates with that audience.

Enhance brand awareness and increase visibility

Digital marketing and content marketing strategies strive to enhance brand visibility and increase awareness among the target audience. They employ tactics to boost brand recognition and attract potential customers.

What are the differences between digital marketing and content marketing?

Content at the core

At the core of its strategy, content marketing is intent on creating ongoing high-quality, informative and engaging content that aims to move consumers through the buyer’s journey. This content may be provided in many formats including videos, blog posts, articles, infographics, guides, fact sheets, podcasts and ebooks. Marketers use this content to tell stories and cultivate long-term relationships with customers to build trust and loyalty. The approach is often thought of as less ‘salesy’ than digital marketing as it focuses on helping people to solve a problem instead of direct selling.

Scope and focus

Content marketing aims to educate, entertain or engage a target audience at the same time as it establishes the brand as an authority in its industry. Digital marketing aims to promote products or services to potential buyers using a broad range of activities across all digital channels. These activities may include search engine optimisation (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), social media marketing, email marketing, digital display advertising, and more.

Channel diversity

Digital marketing uses multiple channels to promote paid media content, such as video, image, and text ads. In contrast, content marketing maximises the potential of owned media such as websites, blogs and social media platforms by creating valuable and helpful content that can be shared through digital channels.

Lead generation versus relationship building

Digital marketing often prioritises lead generation and customer conversion in the short term and therefore can be transactional. It does this by deploying tactics like paid ads, landing pages, and lead magnets (free assets or special deals in exchange for a customer’s contact details). Content marketing, on the other hand, seeks to build customer relationships over the long term. It aims to foster trust, loyalty and brand advocacy, ideally creating a customer for life. It does this by consistently providing high-quality, informative and engaging content that answers questions to consumer needs such as ‘how to…’.

Metrics and evaluation

To evaluate the success of campaigns, digital marketing typically relies on tracking measurable metrics such as impressions, click-through rates, conversion rates and sales. Content marketing will also track these metrics, placing additional emphasis on qualitative indicators like engagement and shares on social channels, brand sentiment and increase in subscribers.

How to choose between digital marketing and content marketing

Digital marketing and content marketing do share the goal of reaching and engaging target audiences online, they just do it differently.

When you understand the difference between the approaches, you can be more confident that you’re developing effective marketing strategies that align with your business goals and target audience. The choice may be between paying more to gain an audience in the short term or working towards building a more sustainable audience in the long term.

If you’d like advice on choosing between digital marketing and content marketing, or designing a strategy that balances both, contact LEP Digital.

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