Content Marketing Vs. Paid Advertising

By Madison Taylor
January 9, 2020
street view of a city square

If you’re a business owner, you’re constantly trying to grow your reach, increase brand awareness, bring in new customers, and grow your bottom line. The goals are a no-brainer — the question is, how do you do it?

One of the biggest choices you’ll have to make is whether you want to put your focus into organic growth or paid traffic. In practical terms, this dichotomy can take a lot of forms, but one of the biggest strategy decisions to make is whether you want to pursue a content marketing or paid advertising approach.

Which one is best for your company? As usual, the answer depends on your company, your goals, and your budget. Let’s dive right in.

The Case for Content

In the long run, content marketing is the best way to generate a more loyal audience, better-quality leads, and better conversions. It takes a long-term vision, executive buy-in, a dedicated content team, and collaboration between departments, but the payoff can be substantial.

Pro: Content Brings In Better Leads

Organic search consistently generates more leads and better conversion rates than paid search or paid social ads. The main reason for this? People who are actively seeking content that relates to what your company does are the ones who are most ready to buy.

You might be throwing paid ads in front of lots of people, but exposing them to your messaging won’t magically make them more interested in what you do.

Con: Content Takes Time

We’re not just talking about the amount of time you have to spend on actually creating content — though that’s a factor, too. The bigger concern for business owners who want to start making a difference immediately is that content marketing takes some time to build momentum.

In order to bring in organic search results, you’ll have to start rising up the search rankings for the topics you write about. Assuming you’ve optimized your content for all the right keywords, Google will index your site somewhere between a day and a month after it’s published (There’s no way to directly affect this — Google works in mysterious ways).

The second way to get your SERP (search engine results page) rankings up is to get people to see your content. That’s where cross-promotion comes in — posting your articles and whitepapers on social media and in your email newsletters is a good way to get eyes on pages. Once people start reading your pages, clicking through CTAs, and sharing articles online, Google will see that your content is useful and start bringing it up through the rankings.

Again, though, this takes time. People aren’t going to notice your new blog or whitepapers the day they go up, especially if you’re new to the content marketing game. At Madison Taylor Marketing, we estimate that it takes about six months for a concerted content marketing strategy to start making a big difference. You might not want to wait that long.

Pro: Content Offers More Bang For Your Buck

If you want to create content, you’ll have to pay content creators. Whether that’s in-house or freelancers, writers or photographers or designers, that’s a cost you’ll have to shoulder before you can start producing.

But the good news is that the cost is mostly one-and-done. Once you’ve published the content, it’s published for good. Sure, it’s a good idea to keep promoting your content, and that’s a recurring cost. But with paid advertising, social ads, or any other form of paid promotion, you have to keep paying forever. Once you stop running ads, that revenue stream is shut down immediately.

Con: Good Content Creators are Hard to Come By

Writing is one of those things that everyone can do, but only a few can do well. When it comes to marketing content, you need someone who can communicate clearly and effectively in a style that matches your brand’s image and appeals to your buyer personas. That’s not easy to find, and it might take you some time to find a good fit.

Pro: There’s an Agency for That

The good news is that there are marketing agencies who already employ talented writers with the exact skillset to create compelling content for your business (hint: give us a call). They’ll be able to find a writer that fits your voice and tone and can keep up with all your content needs.

The Point of Paid

So what about pay-per-click (PPC) advertising — search results, social ads, banner ads, and the like?

Pro: PPC Puts You On Top

When you place a bid on a target keyword, Google weighs your bid against everyone else’s, along with the relevance of your page and other factors. If you bid enough, and your page is relevant, you’ll go straight to the top of search results for that keyword. The benefits are obvious — immediate visibility and increased traffic right off the bat, just from being first in line for clicks.

Con: PPC Is Unsustainably Expensive

Virtually no one maintains a long-term PPC strategy for the purposes of maintaining awareness — like we mentioned before, you have to pour money into it indefinitely, or you’ll suddenly lose your top spot and be forgotten.

Instead, most companies use PPC for a short-term boost. When you start a business, expand your offerings, launch a new product, or do anything else that you want to call attention to, PPC can be a great way to get up and running.

Pro/Con: Visibility is Wildly Variable

The amount it’ll take to win a bid for a certain keyword simply comes down to how many other websites are bidding on that keyword. If you’re a law firm and you want to rank highly for “personal injury lawyer,” you’re going to face some extremely stiff competition. If you’re in the education, e-commerce, or employment game instead, PPC might be a more viable strategy.

That’s according to Search Engine Journal, which broke down click-through rates (CTRs) for 20 major industry categories. The amount you pay will also depend on how specific you can be — “personal injury lawyer Denver” will rank better than “lawyer,” for obvious reasons.

If you’re going to focus on a PPC strategy, it’s important to narrow down your keywords to unambiguous, specific terms that relate to your industry and offering. The last thing you want is to get your paid ads in front of people who couldn’t care less.

The Bottom Line: Room for Everyone

In the end, there’s no single best answer for any one company. Lots of companies are supported by a content strategy that keeps a steady stream of leads coming in, but occasionally need a boost from a PPC campaign. Other companies use PPC to draw eyeballs to their content when they first launch, then rely on organic traffic after a few months.

In either case, though, you need quality content. PPC can only drive people to your website. If they get there only to find that you don’t have the informative, timely, valuable information they need, you’ll never land a sale. Quality content nurtures your PPC leads, making them more likely to convert.

Want to learn more about the power of top-shelf content and the way PPC and content marketing can play nicely together? Get in touch!