In some ways, paid advertising is the polar opposite of content marketing. Paid advertising is a traditional form of outbound marketing; you’re reaching out to a virtually unknown audience with a pitch to get them to buy something. Content is all about inbound marketing; you’re making yourself an authoritative, valuable source to naturally attract the type of people who would want to buy from you anyway. On paper, these are independent, contradictory strategies, but there are ways to use them together to massively benefit your brand.
Using paid advertising to support a content marketing campaign isn’t exactly a new strategy, but it hasn’t seen much growth in recent years because most marketers view them as independent channels. When using both together, the idea is for your content to take center stage and for your paid advertising to serve merely as a means to get more attention for it.
Jump Starting a Stale (or New) Campaign
One key motivation for paid advertising support is for a content campaign that’s either struggling or just starting. Content marketing takes a long time to generate a decent audience, even if your material is strong, and even thriving campaigns can sometimes reach a peak and become stagnant if you fail to gain visibility for a new audience. In either of these situations, paid advertising can be a way to jump start your campaign. Because paid advertising allows you to gain significant visibility from a highly specific audience, you’ll essentially have a shortcut to a new readership.
Widening the Funnel
Paid advertising could also be useful if you’re confident in your ability to convert readers with a chosen piece. Because with paid advertising you’ll be directing users to a specific page of your site (or a landing page), you’ll need to be certain that you can convert them successfully. If you find that a piece of content of yours has an exceptionally high conversion rate and you’d like to drive extra traffic to it, paid ads could be the solution. Just be sure to run some calculations first—you’ll be paying for a certain amount of traffic, so you’ll need to make sure you’ll theoretically generate enough sales from the deal to yield a positive ROI.
Increasing Content Sales
Of course, paid advertising can also be effective if you’re offering special content—such as an eBook or a whitepaper—in exchange for money. In this case, your content stops being a traditional content marketing strategy and instead becomes another product for you to sell. Still, in this scenario, paid advertising can be effective. For this purpose, you’ll want to set up an independent landing page designed to pitch the appeal of your content, and you’ll need to set the price at a level that entices your readership, but still allows you to edge over a positive ROI.
The three motivations above are the most common reasons people seek paid advertising as a way to enhance their content marketing strategy. But simply implementing a paid strategy isn’t enough—with so many options available, it can be tough to choose the proper medium. Keep in mind, no matter what channel(s) you choose, you’ll need to research the competitive environment, optimize your copy to compel user action, and use A/B testing to weed out ineffective strategies before they start to wear on your bottom line.
Search-Based PPC Advertising
When you think of paid advertising on the web, most people immediately imagine Google AdWords. While Google’s PPC advertising platform is certainly the most popular and robust on the web, it’s also one of the most expensive. If you get involved with Google AdWords, be sure your campaign is highly targeted, and run some user testing in advance so you know what you’re getting yourself into. Otherwise, Bing and Yahoo advertising might be more cost-effective options.
Facebook and Social Ads
In terms of cost efficiency, Facebook is one of your best options. It’s a relatively new advertising vehicle, but its options are practically limitless and you can set your budget to as low as five dollars per day. You’ll be able to drill down to specific demographics—including the right age, gender, geographic location, and interests—and use detailed analytics to fine-tune your campaign as you go. Or, if you’re targeting an audience who doesn’t often use Facebook, you can try other social platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn.
Finally, consider using affiliate links on third party sources. They’re generally very affordable, though the traffic they’ll generate is arguably less than what you would find in a search engine or social platform. The key is to get links on sites that naturally attract your target audience.
When it comes to content marketing, the paid advertising component is purely optional. If you find that your content isn’t generating as much visibility as quickly as you’d like, or if you need an extra boost of sales from your conversion-optimized pieces, it can definitely be worth it if you pick the right strategy. If you’d rather go the organic route with your content, there’s nothing wrong with that—you’ll see the same results, but it might take you a longer time to generate them. You can still use paid advertising as an independent strategy to generate new sales, or just abandon it altogether in favor of an inbound-exclusive campaign.
Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.