What is Content?

What
is
Content?

 

Content. You hear this buzzword all the time across marketing websites, videos, social media… you name it.

There are all kinds of blogs, articles, podcasts, and more that revolve around this little word.

But what is content? What does it look like? And how is it used?

Let’s find out.

Do a quick Google search for “content” and you’ll get over 15 billion results.

Click over to the image results for “content”, and you’ll see what that one word encompasses:

Marketing. SEO. Infographic. Quality. Social media. Website. Email. Digital.

Wait – we’re not done yet.

The list goes on: Creative. Presentation. Course. Research. Original. Visual. Sponsored. Design. Facebook.

Here’s the elephant in the room: You have to know what ‘content’ is.

If you don’t know what content is in the first place, including why it’s created and who it’s intended for, anything you learn about content will all be gibberish. So, let’s address the elephant in the room.

Are you unsure of what content is? You’re on the right page.

I’m going to explain exactly what content is, what it isn’t, how businesses use it for marketing, and a few great examples. As you’re about to see, content is powerful. 👑 Perhaps more importantly, it’s the future of marketing. 🔮

The Definition of Content

“Content” is a broad term that generally refers to any type of information provided by a website.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary says that content is the “principal substance offered by a website.”

When you think about it, the internet IS content.

Without content, a website is nothing more than a blank space, or a placeholder.

Without content, it would have no web pages, no home page, no blog, no images – nothing. ALL of that stuff is considered different types of content.

The same goes for your social media profiles, your YouTube channels, your Pinterest boards, and more. Each of these things is an empty container until you populate them with content – posts, pins, videos, images, etc.

Content = information. Information = any words, pictures, or pieces of data that convey ideas.

So, in a nutshell, in whatever form it appears, content conveys ideas.

What Are the Main Types of Content?

There are six main types, with several sub-categories: web pages, blogs and articles, ebooks, books and whitepapers, visual content, podcasts, and webinars/presentations. Let’s investigate each.

1. Web Pages

Web pages are a foundational type of content because they serve as the building blocks of websites. Common types of web pages include homepages, about pages, contact pages, and landing pages – all of which are considered content because they convey information to readers.

Here is an example of web page content in the form of an about page from TwelveSkip:

 

And here’s a webpage about the history of Coca-Cola:

2. Blog Posts and Articles

Blog posts and articles are familiar content types for most people. Google loves to rank comprehensive, well-written blogs for users’ search terms. You probably read blogs every day with various topic focuses, including news articles, how-to posts, guides, and more.

A few examples of blogs and articles:

This travel guide from Architectural Digest:

This blog about updating old content from my own Write Blog:

This how-to blog from Gardening Know How on caring for aloe plants:

This news article from Search Engine Journal:

And this Wikipedia article about landing pages:

3. Ebooks, Books, and Whitepapers

These content types are perhaps the longest and most in-depth – ebooks, physical books, and whitepapers.

Books are probably the easiest content type to understand. Every type of book, no matter the genre, topic, or subject, conveys information and ideas through stories, reports, or journalism.

Ebooks are, of course, electronic versions of books. However, in the marketing world, they also refer to short PDF documents you can download to learn about a specific topic. These are usually professionally designed and can be anywhere from 3 to 50 pages long, depending on the topic.

Example:

HubSpot has a large library of ebooks and resources, including this guide to social media for business:

 

Whitepapers are very similar to ebooks because both are in-depth, but whitepapers tend to focus on presenting an industry-specific problem + a solution using facts and evidence.

4. Visual Content:
Infographics, Images, and Videos

Visual content is pretty self-explanatory, too. Photos, images, and videos all convey information or ideas in visual form.

Infographics are designed images that present information on a specific topic in a fun, easy-to-read, digestible format.

This infographic from Ann Handley and Visual.ly is a great example (see the full version here):

 

Videos are a popular content type because they’re so easy to digest (think YouTube). I post bi-weekly videos on my YouTube channel, Julia McCoy:

5. Podcasts

Podcasts are another popular form of content taking the internet by storm. They’re like radio shows for the 21st century. Every podcast covers a specific topic or method of storytelling. They’re normally presented as individual episodes grouped into seasons.

Examples:

A popular storytelling podcast is This American Life.

For an example of a marketing podcast, I host a podcast called The Write Podcast.

6. Webinars/Presentations

Digital webinars/presentations are the final major content type. These learning sessions from top experts include audio, video, and visual components (including slides). You can attend them via live streaming and participate in the session, or you can watch recorded sessions later.

Here’s an example of a webinar I hosted for SEMrush:

How Does Content Marketing Tie In?

Now that you know what content is, you can more easily understand content marketing.

According to CMI, content marketing is “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Content marketing is about creating amazing content that’s value-focused to win the trust and loyalty of your audience.

Over time, the content you publish on your website (whether that means blogs, podcast episodes, ebooks, etc.) establishes you as an expert on your topic area. Additionally, optimizing your content for search and mapping it to search intent will help you pull in targeted traffic and leads that will have a higher chance of buying into your related business, products, or services.

The industry’s growth serves as a testament to how well it works. Today, 84% of organizations have a content marketing strategy. Added to that, 41% of B2B consumers look at 3-5 pieces of content before reaching out to a salesperson.

Content marketing is huge – and getting huger! It’s the trust-based, non-interruptive, value-focused marketing of today and the future.

Why is Content So High-Value?

Content is worth its weight in gold. 💰

Why?

It brings you more bang for your buck than paid advertising, paid search, or paid ads.

Content marketing is organic marketing, which means, when you implement it into your marketing as a strategy, it naturally generates leads and traffic over time.

Think of it like this: Content marketing is a seed that, when well-planted and tended, grows into a mighty tree that continually bears fruit in the form of traffic and leads – even sales if you do it right. 🌳

That means, instead of shelling out oodles of cash to shove your brand name in front of your target customers’ faces (and praying it works), your customers will come to you. They’ll do a Google search on a topic that interests them, or on a pain point they need to be solved, and they’ll come across your content.

And, with a content strategy in place, your content will present as the solution, education, or entertainment your customer needs at that exact moment in time. As they continue to have this type of interaction with your brand, they’ll follow your posts. They’ll subscribe to your email list. They’ll follow you on social media.

Play your cards (and your content strategy) right, and pretty soon you’ll have a loyal, paying customer on your side.

It all starts with content. But don’t just take my word for it.

  • Leads brought in with content marketing convert at a higher rate: 16% (content marketing) vs. 1.7% (traditional marketing, like ads).
  • Consumers are 131% more likely to buy from a brand after reading some of their content.
  • One content marketing campaign delivers 3x more leads than digital ads.
  • Despite the effects of the pandemic on businesses across the board, 68% of marketers still expect their content marketing budgets to increase in 2021, because they understand the long-term gains.

How Do You Prove Content Marketing ROI to Your Clients?

Content marketing is worth the investment for just about any business. But how do you prove that to clients?

Show, don’t tell.

In other words, pull out real examples of content marketing working in real scenarios. On top of that, show clients real numbers that demonstrate just how well content marketing works.

1. Show Real Examples of Content Marketing ROI

This is where case studies come in very handy. Hundreds, nay, thousands of brands around the world effectively use content marketing every day to bring in and hook their ideal customers.

To drive home these real-life examples, find case studies of other brands successfully using content marketing in your client’s (or your boss’s) industry. A quick Google search should bring up plenty of fodder without much effort.

Here’s an example of what searching for “retail” case studies brought up:

In lieu of case studies, you can also bring up examples of content marketing ROI as compared to paid ads. There are plenty of these across the internet, but I especially like this comparison I wrote up for the Write Blog: How to Spend $37,000 for 2 Years of Content Marketing & Outperform a $41,000 1-Second Super Bowl Ad. 🤯

2. Plug in Real Numbers Demonstrating How Well Content Works

If your client or boss needs to see real numbers concerning THEIR business, including how many conversions, leads, or even sales they might expect to see from investing in content, don’t worry.

There’s a formula for that.

Using some industry-standard, benchmark numbers for conversions, you can calculate estimated earned leads and sales per month for any brand that implements content marketing.

Here are the benchmarks:

  • Average rate targeted traffic converts to leads with content marketing – Across industries, the rate is 16%, according to Marketing Sherpa. (If you have conversion data from your industry, use that.)
  • Average rate those leads convert to sales – 14.6%, according to HubSpot.

And here’s how to estimate earned leads per month if your client/boss implements content marketing:

  • Their total monthly site visitors x 16% (our benchmark conversion rate) = Estimated leads per month

And how to estimate sales from leads:

  • Estimated leads/month x 14% (our benchmark lead conversion rate) = Estimated sales per month

Let’s plug in some real numbers so you can see how it works. Let’s say your client gets 16,200 visitors to their website per month.

  • 16,200 x 16% = 2,592 estimated leads per month from organic traffic brought in by content marketing
  • 2,592 x 14% = 363 estimated sales per month from those 2,592 high-quality leads

Naturally, if you have your own data to work with for conversion rates, these numbers will be even more accurate.

Yes, You Can Get ROI from Old Content, Too

While we’re talking about ROI from content, let’s not forget about the potential hidden inside your old content – the stuff in your archives, or the stuff you published months or even YEARS ago.

This old content is bursting with ROI potential. The key to unlocking it?

Updating!

Updating your old content ensures it keeps working for you long after its publish date. It will stay highly-ranked in Google, not to mention relevant and useful for your customers. It will remain a trust-building machine, one that keeps pulling in new readers, leads, and sales, for as long as you maintain it.

Here’s a quick rundown on how to update old content to keep its ROI potential intact.

1. Update the Right Old Content Pieces

As you look through your content archive to find pieces to update, keep in mind not every old piece is worth the effort.

Instead, look for the gems – the pieces that are still pulling in web traffic, the ones that were well-shared when you first published them or enjoyed a lot of engagement.

Tip: A great place to dig for pieces with good metrics is inside your Google Analytics account.

Once you find content worth updating, open up the post in your content manager and start editing, tweaking, revising, and updating the following areas.

2. Update Facts & Stats

The first order of business for updating old content: Check on all of your facts, stats, and claims within the piece. Make sure they’re still relevant, true, and accurate.

Broken Links

This is a huge one for good SEO. Check ALL of the links in your piece and make sure they lead where they say they lead. Update your links as needed.

Outdated Research

Does your old content piece cite research from 2014? Axe it. Replace it with current research. A good practice is to only use what’s been published within the last two years. Check those dates, and check them twice. ☑

Images

Along with the written content, your piece may need a visual facelift. This goes for both branded images as well as supporting images (charts, graphs, infographics, etc.)

Update images at your discretion. Anything that looks outdated IS outdated.

3. Tweak the Wording & Style

Once the broader edits are finished, go in and edit with a fine-toothed comb.

Main Content

Give the content inside your piece a read-through. Does it still match your brand style and voice? Are there any typos or errors? Shine up the copy as needed.

Headlines

Review your piece’s headline AND subheaders. Are they engaging? Useful? Keyword optimized?

If they don’t hold up, tweak and edit them using tools like CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer and the AMI Headline Analyzer.

Meta Content

Revisit your meta title and description and optimize them for the right character count, your focus keyword, and better engagement in the SERPs.

CTAs

Lastly, double-check your calls-to-action inside your content. Are they persuasive? To-the-point? Actionable?

No CTAs in sight? Add them!

Last Steps for Updated Content

Once your content is updated to your satisfaction, don’t forget to repost it to your blog. After that share with abandon – and expect major ROI. 🎉

Ready to Learn More?

If you’re raring to learn everything there is to know about strategic content, check out my flagship training program, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course where I teach you how to build, from the ground up, a complete content strategy.

If you want to learn to write high-ranking SEO content, head to my bootcamp-style online writing course, The Expert SEO Content Writer.