What is Content Marketing? A Definitive Guide with Examples

Jonas Sickler SEO Manager
Key Points
  • Content marketing is an effective solution for generating ROI for your brand.
  • It can be especially valuable if your brand is overly reliant on paid media.
  • The best content is all about your audience and delivers real value to them.
  • To achieve higher ROI from your content, document a content marketing strategy that your audience will love.
  • Good content marketing creates long-term ROI. Over time, it increases organic search engine rankings, brand awareness, inbound links, social shares, organic traffic, engagement, E-A-T, conversions and brand loyalty.
  • The best content marketing strategies create content for every stage of the funnel so your brand is top of mind whether a customer is doing research or is ready to make a purchase.

Your company has great products. But you rely on a large advertising budget rather than content marketing in order to make sales—even at a high cost per acquisition. When you lower your ad spend, sales decline. If you were to shut off your advertising, sales would plummet. Yikes!

Your ads are a crutch. They’re covering up a fatal flaw in your digital marketing that forces you to rely on incremental short-term gains. It’s like paying people to bail water out of a leaky boat rather than building a better boat.

Face it, you’re addicted to advertising. And you need a 12-step program to make you right.

The solution?

Go “all in” on content marketing and you can wean yourself off of advertising. In addition, when you develop a content strategy powered by SEO, you will sustainably increase your visibility, brand awareness, organic traffic and conversions over the long-term. Your investment in content marketing can have a massive influence on your SEO performance. As a result, you’ll dramatically reduce what you spend on customer acquisition marketing.

Over the long term, you’ll generate a higher ROI.

With all of this in mind, it behooves any digital marketer to integrate content marketing techniques into your overall online marketing mix.

Here’s why online content marketing is the backbone of healthy, long-term revenue.

What is content marketing?

First, let’s boil down a simple content marketing definition.

Content Marketing


Content marketing is the strategic publication and distribution of content that is relevant, valuable and brand-consistent across platforms. Content marketing enables you to deliver value to your audience instead of simply promoting your products and services.

Think of your audience consuming your blog, webinars and video content instead of PPC, display and retargeting ads. (Read more about SEO vs PPC.)

In other words, content marketers seek to provide value for the audience through the content itself. Their goal is to produce helpful or entertaining content whether or not the reader makes a purchase.

Digital content marketing can take many formats, including SEO copywriting, audio and many types of visual content:

  • Blog Post
  • Article
  • Whitepaper
  • Ebook
  • Guide
  • Case Study
  • Interview
  • Checklist
  • Template
  • News
  • Topic Cluster
  • Infographic
  • Data Visualization
  • Survey

Content marketing is all about your audience

Think about one of your favorite people and pick out a few qualities that you admire in them. Is she smart, funny and loyal? How did you learn that this person has those qualities? They probably don’t walk around announcing how smart and funny they are. Instead, they most likely gradually revealed those qualities as they engaged in conversations and listened to others.  

People don’t have to announce their positive personality traits; they show them. Over time, they earned your trust by consistently demonstrating those traits.

Content marketing is the “show, don’t tell” part of your marketing strategy. It lets you demonstrate your brand’s values and utility consistently, across any conversational touchpoint.

FYI, successful content marketing is all about your audience.

  • What do they care about?
  • How do they need help?
  • What do they want to learn?
  • Does your content entertain them?
  • What’s coming next?

Find the places where those questions overlap with your company’s unique resources. Then, provide value in the form of expertise, brand voice and industry positioning. 

In this sense, content marketing is a whole lot of fun. It’s less about salesmanship and more about authentically connecting with your audience.

Content marketing example – Red Bull

Want some of the best content marketing examples around? Look no further than Red Bull. They’re constantly pumping out a stream of grab-you-by-the-collar, make-you-scream-and-shout content.

Visit RedBull.com, and you enter an entertainment nirvana for the adrenaline junkie. Check out everything you can see:

  • Watch videos of the brand’s latest motocross race
  • Enjoy the best of surf films, shows and news
  • Visit the Red Bull Music Room
  • Read the brand’s Red Bulletin magazine
  • Play with the brand’s interactive cartoons and animated video shorts
  • Watch a preview of its world championship breakdancing competition

If that’s not enough, you can simply stream the best of Red Bull 24/7, the brand’s live stream that never sleeps. The point is, you’ll never get bored.

The brand even spent more than $2 million producing a movie, The Art of Flight.

What has all this content helped Red Bull to achieve?

Well, for starters, the Red Bull domain is an off-page SEO machine with more than 18 million backlinks (YEET!). The brand has over 48 million Likes on Facebook. Plus, they have an additional 10 million from its Red Bull Racing Facebook account. They also have an incremental 2.2 million from its B-Boy/B-Girl dance account. On top of this, Red Bull has 11.6 million followers on Instagram and over 8 million YouTube subscribers.

You want content that delivers? Red Bull’s got it.

Create a content marketing strategy

To get more value from your content marketing efforts, create an effective strategy. Red Bull’s content marketing works because it connects with its target audience on a deeper level while providing real entertainment and engendering brand love. The brand also doubles down on influencer marketing. They host events, partner with extreme sports athletes and produce content as if it were a prime-time broadcaster.

For Red Bull, content is the very medium through which it connects, engages and builds relationships with its community.

Although many large brands regularly blog or have a content hub, they rarely have a well-organized content marketing strategy. They publish content just for the sake of it, rather than to provide real value.

If you want results from your content marketing, develop a blog strategy that aligns with the audience and thrills them throughout the funnel. Here’s a short list of things to consider:

  • Define your content marketing goals
  • Build buyer personas
  • Map the customer journey
  • Conduct a content gap analysis
  • Do keyword research
  • Build authority and trust
  • Create a content calendar
  • Define workflows
  • Build scalability into your process
  • Develop a content amplification plan
  • Clarify KPIs
  • Measure success
Achieve Greater Content Marketing ROILearn to Create Content that Strategically Delivers Higher Rankings, More Traffic and Increased Conversions.Let’s Talk

Content marketing ROI and benefits

One of the biggest benefits of content marketing is the long-term sustainability of the ROI. Content marketing is diversified and incremental in nature. It’s the equivalent of building a diverse investment portfolio instead of putting all your money into the stock of a single volatile company. The long-term impact reverberates across several marketing channels and KPIs. In fact, B2B content marketing is one of the key drivers for marketing ROI.

Here are several content marketing tips to make the most of each one.

At the heart of every content strategy is one laser-focused goal: create content your customers actually want to read (or view, listen to, etc). The impact of this goal? Natural shareability. Anything genuinely useful or interesting to your audience is poised to build up trust signals through social and off-site sharing — whether it’s a tweet or a LinkedIn post.

Take John Deere’s The Furrow, one of the world’s longest-running examples of content marketing. For the past 110 years, John Deere has been using The Furrow to tell its story and provide useful resources to its agricultural customers. And they make sure to honor that community with their storytelling, news and helpful information.

The result is naturally shareable content within this lucrative user base. Oh, and more than 449,000 backlinks from other websites.

Improve SEO results

Representatives at Google have often explained that if you want to improve your organic search results, you should produce high-quality content that your audience will find relevant and highly valuable. The message, at its core, is that excellent content leads to better rankings, as Google aims to recognize and deliver the best content for each query.

If your keywords are a forest, then every single piece of content you produce is a seed. (If we really want to run with this metaphor, trust signals are the fertilizer that encourages the long-term health of each seedling.) Your forest full of trees can collectively provide more results than a single redwood. Plus, they don’t take as long to grow. With that in mind, a holistic content strategy is the way to go.

How else does content marketing help your organic search results? Backlinks from high-quality sources help you to rank better in Google. And social shares can send positive signals to Google, as well.

Put it all together, and a strong content marketing program is a guaranteed way to improve SEO rankings.

Increase brand awareness

In some ways, the impact of content marketing is direct and measurable. You can look at social, organic and referral traffic, for example. In other ways, the value is harder to measure in its full scope. However, it’s no less vital to your company’s success. Nowhere is this more true than with brand awareness. 

Even if it’s positive, a user’s first interaction with your content may not be enough to convince them to switch brands or even (in the case of social or off-site content) click through to your site. But if they’re introduced to great content from your brand consistently, they’ll start to develop a positive memory of the brand. 

Over time, they’ll have more and more data points in their brain that inform their shopping preferences: how helpful has your content been? Has it been entertaining? Does it feel authentic? Is it likeable? How has the content helped to establish that your brand’s values overlap with their own? When it’s time to shop for a product your brand sells, your brand will be one that comes to mind. 

Because brand awareness happens over a long period of time, and because it happens so unconsciously, it’s hard to connect a single piece of content to brand awareness. But cumulatively, good content leads directly to long-term, positive brand sentiment.

Increase website traffic

So, let’s talk about how to get more traffic. Generating content that your target audience will value and look forward to will lead many of your audience members to click through in the SERPs to your website.

In addition, your offsite content pieces, such as a PDF or content in YouTube, SlideShare or Instagram can end with a call-to-action back to your site, driving self-qualified traffic.

It’s only with traffic that you can then start to engage with them, build a bond and guide them to profitable customer action. Traffic is the start of it all, and the value of generating traffic growth cannot be overstated.

How powerful is creative content marketing in generating traffic?

Through ongoing, consistent content marketing as part of Terakeet’s overall Enterprise SEO scope, a disruptive retail brand was able to go from zero to more than 1,532,000 in monthly organic traffic within 15 months. By developing so much content, we were able to seed 346 content placements with publishers during that time for the brand, resulting in more than 17,600 social engagements.

For a financial services brand, we were able to use content marketing, again as part of an overarching enterprise SEO strategy, to increase organic traffic by an eye-popping 9.6X within two and a half years. If you want more traffic, content marketing is a good place to start.

Increase page views

Your content marketing can drastically impact your site’s total number of page views. When a user visits a lead gen landing page to read a great piece of content, they’re likely to stick around for awhile. They may check out other articles. They might browse products or follow links and calls to action. Or, they might click to your home page and start at the beginning. 

All of those page views establish a pattern of engagement with the site that increases your site’s authority and trust. That’s why each piece of content should be intentional and UX-focused. Offer users a fast loading page, an easy reading experience and plenty of opportunities to take the next step.

Better Content Marketing for Better ROILearn to Create Content that Strategically Connects with Your Audience throughout the Funnel.Let’s Talk

Increase in engagement

What’s the easiest way to determine whether your audience is having a positive user experience with your content? Look for signs of engagement.

Audience engagement should be part of your content marketing objectives because it connects you more deeply with your existing and prospective customers. Engaging content also increases the amount of time users spend with your brand (and therefore not with your competitors). Another reason why content engagement is important is that it helps you rank better in Google.

Google’s algorithm factors in engagement metrics when considering the relevance of your content for specific searches. Engagement metrics Google may consider for SERP rankings include time on page, time on site, bounce rate, conversions, page views, comments and other interactions with the site.

Great content drives engagement higher. On a more subjective level, high engagement is a sign that your brand is really connecting.

And you don’t have to write long guides just to try to keep people on the page longer. Nor do you have to put your slideshow on 20 separate pages and force people to click through each one. In fact, please don’t do this. Instead, focus on producing interesting, useful, awe-inspiring, funny or interactive content in many different lengths and formats, and your audience will engage.

Check out these other key SEO metrics to measure success.

Increase in E-A-T

Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness (E-A-T) are the three critical factors Google wants to see from websites across the board. This is straight from the horse’s mouth. In its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, Google instructs its quality raters to consider E-A-T first when determining page quality. 

So, be sure to have true experts involved in your content creation process, and seek validation from peers and other authoritative organizations in your market.

On top of this, any time someone embeds one of your infographics on their blog, shares your articles, links to your website, participates in a brand-driven contest, listens to your podcast, or writes in the comments of your blog, they add to a growing web of trust pointed at your brand.

Generate more leads and conversions

Although every piece of content has a goal, it isn’t always to get leads and conversions. But, that’s typically a priority for the overall content marketing strategy. Content marketing drives sales by expanding your audience while keeping your brand top of mind for existing customers. So, with each piece of content you produce, determine the action you want the reader to take next.

If you want them to sign up for your email list, then include a sign up box along with each content piece. Want to generate more leads? Offer content upgrades, downloads, and webinars. You may also want to consider an exit intent pop-up to get them to sign up for something before they leave your site.

What about new product sales? Incorporate promotions for sales, loyalty point programs, coupons or VIP membership, etc. within your content. Shutterstock, which sells stock photography, makes it easy to purchase any stock photo or video included in its blog posts – that’s an “on brand” way to naturally incorporate sales right into its content.

If you exclusively sell to businesses, check out our B2B lead generation guide.

You can also provide next steps in video content marketing. In the following JP Morgan Chase video, for example, the brand features its client Harpoon Brewery. At the end of the video, viewers are asked to subscribe to JP Morgan Chase’s YouTube channel, with additional CTAs to watch related videos of other entrepreneurs.

Improved brand loyalty

At the end of the day, content marketing is about delivering value to your audience. How? Hear their needs, give them resources, speak to them in a way that’s meaningful, entertain them and create a community of shared values. If you do that, then you’ll get brand loyalty in return.

Coke took this idea to a literal level when they launched the 2018 version of their annual Share a Coke campaign. For the summer, each Coke can featured the words “Share a Coke With” followed by a different name. Then, they built content around that concept and encouraged their customers to share the moments when they were able to find a Coke with their name on it.

The result was a hit UGC campaign primed for shareability. But, more than that, it made customers feel a ping of satisfaction and pride when they found a bottle with their own name on it. And those feelings encouraged brand loyalty.

Increased customer lifetime value

When people discover content organically through SEO, they tend to be more loyal. This commissioned study by Forrester Consulting revealed that content marketing amplified by SEO leads to increased engagement, time on site, and brand loyalty. That means investing SEO-focused content yields greater customer lifetime value (CLV). Read the full study below.

The New SEO Paradigm ShiftHow Integrated SEO Can Unlock New Areas Of Value For Your BrandDownload the Study

Types of content marketing

The purchase funnel is the path that your audience takes as they move from research to consideration to decision-making in the purchase of products or services that you offer. People in each phase have different needs and behaviors, and that includes the type of content they want to read and where they want to move next. 

To that end, you’ll achieve better results if you segment your content marketing ideas for each phase of the purchase funnel, ToFu, MoFu and BoFu.

Content marketing plans for every stage of the conversion funnel

Before you dive into the following section, you may want to skim over our post about how to build a better conversion funnel. In that post, we cover just about everything you need to know to target customers throughout the buyer’s journey.


When a customer is in the “Awareness” phase, they have an interest or pain point. And your brand may not be in their purview as a potential solution. Unknown brands and Fortune 1000s alike should care deeply about this phase. Even if a consumer knows your brand well, they might not have formed a connection between your brand and their needs or interests. The “Awareness” phase is about making that connection clear. 

When Shutterstock created an interactive infographic about 2018’s creative trends, they were targeting customers in the “Awareness” phase. They poured resources into that infographic not to target people in need of stock photos or graphics, but to target everyone in the creative community. And the goal wasn’t to get everyone who viewed the infographic to drop everything and buy graphics from Shutterstock; it was to provide something interesting and useful for their community, and to show that they were part of the community, too. 

Within months, that infographic had been shared 19,000+ times while it was linked to from more than 320 other websites. If Shutterstock can move people down the content marketing funnel towards a purchase, they’ll end up with a whole lot of new customers. 


In the consideration phase, your audience knows your brand is a possible solution to their problem. Therefore, it’s critical to emphasize your brand’s benefits at this phase of the funnel.

Content aimed at the consideration audience should highlight your brand’s differentiators and be bolder about positioning your company as the perfect solution for the customer. However, it should be just as helpful or entertaining as it was before. But, your brand will be more tightly woven into your content.

Let’s stick with Shutterstock and watch how they target this next phase of the funnel. The piece 3 Simple Strategies for Sourcing Inclusive Imagery targets someone who has moved into the upper part of the “Consideration” phase. This person has goals that are more closely tied to Shutterstock than the ones who found the infographic interesting. This person is a B2C or B2B marketer who currently uses stock imagery. 

Shutterstock’s post first establishes authority by discussing their partnership with a heavy-hitter in the photography world. Then, they provide actionable tips. Naturally, the post is illustrated with photos you can actually purchase from Shutterstock. Shutterstock doesn’t have to oversell their connection to high-quality, diverse imagery: they’ve provided several examples within the post. 


In the decision phase, they’re ready to choose a product and make the purchase, so brand and product comparisons rule this phase of the funnel.

Let’s continue with the Shutterstock example. What they should do here is provide resources for potential customers to compare the overall costs of Shutterstock vs. other options, including taking one’s own photos. Or, they could emphasize that they are adding 196,000 new photos to their library every single day. Alternatively, they could provide them with a tool to see whether Shutterstock is a fit for their needs. One more option for valuable content might be to showcase an amazing set of case studies to see all the possibilities when they choose Shutterstock.

They can also add urgency to purchase today.

Why do they need stock photos today? According to Shutterstock, it’s because back-to-school season is right around the corner, and their target audience manages websites or runs marketing campaigns that may address the back-to-school crowd. So, they’ve created a Back-to-School Collection and can now use social media and other content to highlight the urgency.

An effective content marketing team meets its audience at every stage they’re at, in every place they visit, in every format they prefer. And it gives them the content they want. In doing so, content marketing increases your visibility, improves your SEO results, drives traffic and conversions, creates brand loyalty and cements long-term organic success.