2014: The Year of Content Advertising

Here’s a challenge for you: Go search for a marketer that doesn’t understand the importance of content in his or her marketing strategy. You’d be hard pressed to find someone, I’m sure. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s latest benchmarks report, 93 percent of B2B marketers use content marketing, up two percent from last year. And the demand for content just keep growing with a whopping 73 percent of companies surveyed planning to produce more content.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but it’s worth repeating: Content marketing isn’t a fade. It’s the most important part of your brand marketing strategy going forward.

However, the biggest failing in most content marketing strategies is distribution. Eyes. Talk of viral content and social engagement suggests that once you produce it, audiences will come. And while more content on more channels seems to be a commonly shared notion for success, the truth is targeted content distribution is much more effective than spray and pray method. It also frees up your content marketing budget for what will be one of the most important parts of your strategy in 2014: Content advertising.

Why Advertise Content

Like many parts of “traditional” marketing, media buying seems to have been left for dead by many modern marketers. What was once an essential role in every marketing department and agency, today feels forgotten in a world where tweets and status updates are free. Well, if Facebook’s recent algorithm change, which basically requires brands to pay for visibility, those days are over. And LinkedIn, Twitter and other formerly “free” methods of distribution are sure to follow.

Social media advertising can certainly help build your brand, but more importantly, it takes advantage of a networks deep knowledge of its users to allow hyper-targeting. But why stop at social advertising? Content advertising networks, trade magazines, native advertising and batch email marketing can all be used to promote your existing content far beyond the reach of search and social.

Because your content is so valuable, leaving discovery to chance, especially in an increasingly difficult organic reach environment, is something brands simply can’t afford.

Where to Advertise Content

Just like traditional media buying, content advertising is about finding the right place to advertise at the best price. So advertising in the New York Times or a even local news magazine obviously doesn’t make sense for your a national B2B marketer. That’s not to say you’ll never use them in your strategy, but rather, when you’re getting started with content advertising, you should use tried and true methods for finding your target audience.

  • Social Media: I mentioned social advertising above, but want to take it one step further. Both Facebook and LinkedIn offer traditional PPC methods. But for content advertising, sponsored updates, which place your page updates in the actual newsfeed on a person’s Facebook or LinkedIn home screen, are much more effective. They take advantage of the innate content consumption experience that is built into those social networks. Promoted Tweets, likewise, focus on increasing the visibility of a tweet you’ve already created. So rather than writing new ad copy and worrying about images, use what you’ve already created for the social network. This provides a consistent brand voice for all audiences that you want to engage with.
  • Trade Publications: Most trade publications offer a variety of advertising options, from print to banner advertising to email marketing. The most effective that I’ve seen for capturing leads from you content is email. Start with sending a batch email promoting just your content (with no trade magazine branding), then support that initial engagement with print and banner ads if you deem necessary. Just don’t fall into the old “advertising package” trap many trade pubs are still shilling.
  • Content Advertising Networks: While still relatively new, content ad networks allow you to promote links to your content on relevant articles on third-party sites. Small businesses have an option with OutBrain. Midsize business can find success with Disqus and Taboola. Large enterprises can look into OneSpot. Whichever one you choose, the art is picking the right content to promote, more so than finding the right place to promote it, which the network does for you.
  • Sponsored Content: Remember those old advertorials or those special business sections that allowed you to write about your company and pay to place an article? Well they’re back. Many online publications are starting to experiment with this sponsored content (or native advertising, if you prefer). The difference today is that you’re not talking about who you are and what you do, but like all your other content marketing, you’re focusing on delighting the reader or helping him or her solve a problem. Preferably both!

How to Determine Success

Advertising today, content or otherwise, has one distinct advantage over advertising of yesteryear: We can track everything. But most importantly we can track raw leads, qualified leads and even customers to their origin source, be it organic or paid.

Using a software like HubSpot or the goals feature in Google Analytics, you can track any channel, which helps you determine, not just the effectiveness of the advertising, but what sources are worth your time, money and energy.

That’s really what makes you successful in content advertising: Knowing where to put your content for maximum engagement.

photo credit: shannonkringen

Author: Dan Stasiewski

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