confused about digital marketing and content marketing

With the continuing evolution of the online platforms and modern marketing practices, it’s no surprise there’s confusion around the difference between terms like “digital marketing” and “content marketing.”

Yes, they’re both a form of marketing. And yes, content marketing can be part of your digital marketing plan.

But digital marketing and content marketing are not one in the same.

So what the heck is the difference between content marketing and digital marketing? I’ll tell you.

But first, let’s break down some other terms you’ve likely heard in the wild.

What is Content?

Content is all that information we consume. It can be digital or print, audio or video. It comes in the form of newspaper and magazine articles, emails, TV commercials, podcasts, videos, images and gifs, words on a web page, blog posts, webinars, and more.

Content is everywhere.

Content can entertain us. It can educate us. It can evoke emotion through powerful storytelling. It can encourage us to take a desired action, like pick up the phone, subscribe to a newsletter or buy a product.

What is Marketing?

Marketing is all about generating awareness about a business, and its products and services. It’s about building relationships with customers.

There are different types of marketing tactics … some fall into the category of offline marketing (like print marketing, direct mail marketing and telemarketing), while others fall into online marketing (aka digital marketing).

What is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is all about strategy. It encompasses several different tools and tactics, like:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Search engine marketing (SEM)
  • Blogging & guest blogging
  • Social media marketing (unpaid promotion)
  • Social media advertising (paid promotion)
  • Video marketing
  • Podcasting
  • Email marketing
  • Influencer marketing
  • Article marketing
  • Webinars

All of these things come together to create a well-rounded digital marketing plan.

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is a form of online promotion. It is one piece of the over-arching digital marketing strategy. It can be the content you create to live on your own website, like your products and services pages, blog posts or landing pages.

Content marketing can also include social media posts, podcasts or videos. The goal of content marketing is to reach and engage a target audience and, ultimately, convert them.

Wait … What are Conversions?

Any time someone does something you’ve asked them to do, they’ve converted.

For example, if you write a blog post, promote it on social media and ask users to click through to read it … and they do just that … it’s a conversion.

If you encourage website visitors to download a whitepaper … and they do it … that’s a conversion.

If you include a call to action (CTA) at the end of a video asking folks to call your toll-free number … and they call … that’s another conversion.

What is Article Marketing?

Article marketing is online but not necessarily on your website. It’s content you’ve created for publication elsewhere on the web. It’s designed to drive traffic back to your website.

Some people think of article marketing as guest blogging. But articles and blogs are not one in the same.

Blog posts are often higher quality than articles. That’s because blog site owners demand value for their readers, whereas content farms (like HuffPost and Forbes) will publish any old piece of content. That’s because they’re focused more on quantity than quality.

Another difference between a blog post and an article is length. Though it’s not written in stone, articles tend to be longer than blog posts. On average, a blog post is anywhere from 300 – 1000 words, while an article is 1,500 – 3000 words or more.

Blogs tend to be written with a friendlier, more casual tone, while articles are more journalistic in style.

Blogs tend to reflect the writer’s opinion on a topic, whereas articles are more apt to report the cold hard facts.

What is Email Marketing?

Just what it sounds like, email marketing is the act of sending a message, usually to a group of existing or potential customers via email. Is email marketing considered spam? Sometimes. OK, often. But only when it’s done incorrectly. A well-thought-out email marketing strategy – following all the rules and regulations around privacy (think CASL & GDPR), can be very effective.

The advantage to email marketing campaigns is that you’re communicating to a group of people who’ve expressed interest in what you have to say (assuming you’ve acquired their email legitimately – meaning they’ve opted in).

You can also tailor custom messages to targeted segments and various lists, which gives you a lot of control over what you’re saying to whom, when, and why. Email marketing much more targeted than the spray technique of blasting out a message on a social channel in the hopes someone will be there to listen.

What’s the Difference Between Advertising and Marketing?

Advertising is the act of making a product known to an audience. Period.

Marketing is the act of researching, designing and creating a campaign that will align with a target audience.

To advertise an apple, you might say, “Hey, here’s an apple.”

To market an apple, you might do some research around who has purchased apples in the past, how much they’re willing to spend on apples, and where they’re buying their apples. Then you’ll come up with a strategy around the best way to communicate why they should buy their apples from you over the competition.

Essentially, advertising is one piece of the larger marketing puzzle.

It’s All (Just) Semantics

We started out talking about the difference between digital marketing and content marketing, and we may have gone a bit sideways in the process. Still, I’m hoping we cleared up some confusion around all that jargon you’re hearing.

So the next time someone talks to you about content marketing, blogging and conversions, here’s hoping you’ll be a little less confused and a little more apt to join in the conversation.

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