Content marketing is definitely king! Everyone (including ourselves) has been incessantly blabbing about it for the past 3 or 4 years. In spite of the rather late ROI, advantages are undeniable.
However, every marketer knows that a solid content marketing campaign will pay off after at least 6 months. Unless, of course, you are Coca Cola.
For the average company, leads will start bouncing off the website after at least 6 months of writing compelling, consistent copy. The same average company will realise that there are additional directions springing from written content. Engagement on social media platforms is one of them.
No matter how much user-generated content a brand can attract, however ample their free social media distribution efforts are, it all pales when compared to paid advertising. In the form of Google Adwords, LinkedIn Sponsored Updates and the like.
Big bucks then, immense budgets now
In 2010, brands like Amazon, EBay or Expedia were spending around $5 million per month on paid channel advertising (in Google). In 2014, figures look similar: Amazon, Priceline, AT&T or Expedia register $157.7, $82.3, $81.9, $71.6 billion as Adwords budgets.
One would wonder why these huge brands (who are undoubtedly already popular) still stick to paid advertising. Reality is that the immense marketing/advertising budget pie they dispose of is usually split into several categories: content marketing, TV ads, AdWords, event sponsoring etc. E-commerce websites invest even higher amounts, to the extent of which the cost of acquiring a customer (CAC) is higher than their lifetime value (LTV).
Paid online advertising or content marketing for startups?
The sad truth is that, in most cases, as a small startup it simply doesn’t pay off to use AdWords. At least not in the beginning. We’ve written a post about it and we’ve found similar stances belonging to content marketing agencies online.
At Beaglecat, we set up several AdWords campaigns before we understood it costs too much to even consider it as a long-term strategy. It simply made no sense (and it still doesn’t) to try and advertise phrases such as “content marketing” or “content marketing strategy”, in the context of much more powerful brands doing the same. Competition was so high that a single click would have cost us up to $25. Which, of course, we did not have at the time. There is always the possibility of using long tail keywords, depending on who you’re hoping to convert. We’ve just chosen to go for organic traffic and lead generation.
In our case, a simple “content marketing” search on Google will return Adobe as the first paid option and Content Marketing Institute as the second. Good luck competing with any of them.
What we decided was to simply advertise one of our newly-designed landing pages. Whoever landed on it from Google was given the possibility to download an e-book by filling in a form. The immediate result was that we signed two contracts after having spent approximately $100. Both contracts were worthy from the point of view of ROI.
A Little AdWords Never Hurt Organic Traffic. On the Contrary.
At the same time, investing a few hundred dollars from time to time will ensure you the minimal organic boost you need for Google to notice you. Try writing a compelling article and then invest $100 to promote it via Google Ads or via LinkedIn sponsored updates. You won’t necessarily be selling anything, but you’ll obtain some degree of exposure, which will benefit you in the long run. Even now, 7 months after we ended our AdWords campaign, we still have several daily offer requests coming in from people all across the world. Organically, having a well-optimised landing page paid off.
But this article series is not a pledge to content marketing done the traditional way. It simply enlists and details the main paid online advertising channels, so that you can get a better grasp of what works for each business and marketing objective your business has set.
1. Google AdWords (Paid Search Advertising)
This comes in first, as it is, let’s face it, one of the main channels that spring to mind whenever we think of paid online advertising. The way it works is no longer a secret to most marketers, but we’ll dedicate an entire article to setting an AdWords account and managing it effectively.
2. Social media advertising
Deemed the most efficient paid media channel in 2014, social media never fails to amaze us. Test the paid equivalent of all your favourite social media networks and you won’t be disappointed.
LinkedIn Sponsored Updates
3. Email marketing (monetizing email via display advertising)
When most of us think about email marketing, we think about the newsletters we regularly send our customers. The truth is email marketing now offers far more than that, with several tools that customise messages so that they reach as wide an audience as possible.
One of the various examples of email marketing tools that make use of targeted advertising is Launchbit. This tool will help you create a display campaign based on a monthly budget and target it towards your preferred audience. Your potential clients will view the ads in various email newsletters they regularly receive or on some of the websites and blogs the tool has partnered with.
A much larger, equally effective competitor is Live Intent, an ad emailing provider that works for most of the famous brands out there.
Another vast array of alternative solutions can be found here.
4. Blogging partnerships
Guest blogging may not be what it once used to be, but it’s still a channel worth considering. Partnering with famous bloggers on a cost basis may offer you the exposure you would have only hoped to attain in a year’s equivalent of consistent content marketing.
Among the main disadvantages: costs. Some would even argue that benefits are minor, but we’ll be exploring the issue in a future post. Until then, take a look at our 2014 Content Marketing Retrospective.