The meaning or definition of content is something that confuses a lot of people, especially new business owners and marketers.
Though the word “content” has come into common usage in the business and marketing world, it’s not exactly a clear or common term that the average person is intimately familiar with.
So, what is the definition of “content”? What does “content” mean, precisely? If you’re just starting your website and you’re trying to navigate the world of digital marketing, it’s critical that you understand how marketers are using this term.
What Does “Content” Mean?
The meaning or definition of “content” in the world of marketing is actually pretty straight forward:
“Content is video, audio, text, images, or some combination of the 4 that holds value for someone.”
To make it simple, you could think of the following terms as content synonyms in the context of the marketing world:
- A combination of the previous 4
At its simplest, that’s the definition of content. When we talk about different types of digital marketing efforts, almost invariably, this is what comes up — It’s an umbrella definition for all these different things (audio, text, images, video).
For instance, what you’re reading right now is a form of text content — it was created through the process of “content writing,” meaning simply the creation of text, generally for a digital platform (like this website or a social media platform).
It was written by me, a content writer who spends all day writing content not just for blogs, but also for the different static pages on a website, for social media, for email marketing efforts, or in some other medium.
Content is video, audio, text, images, or some combination of the four that holds value for someone.
The reason we use the word “content” and not “text” to describe this article is because there’s more going on here than just the text. The images on this page are also content.
Once you understand what the word “content” means, we can start talking about “content marketing.”
What the Word “Content” Means to the Average Business Owner or New Marketer
The definition of “content” doesn’t necessarily mean much to the average business owner or new marketer — sure, now you understand a digital marketing industry term and will know what your web developer means when they say “content,” but it doesn’t do you much good on its own.
When you combine “content” with “marketing,” then you start to get somewhere useful…
So I’m going to jump into a discussion of another term you’ve probably heard before: “Content marketing.”
For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on how “content” relates to the practice of “content marketing.”
Content marketing is this awesome, nebulous, popular form of marketing that involves creating content of some sort and giving it away for free, with the goal of drawing new customers to your business.
What Is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is “The distribution, usually for free or for a very low cost, of content your target market finds useful and valuable.”
For instance, a free ebook that teaches your target market a skill or answers a question in depth might actually hold a ton of value.
The idea behind content marketing is simple — you give away some piece of content that holds value in hopes that content will convince the consumer of the content to learn more about your business and become a lead (or even make a purchase).
Content marketing is the distribution, usually for free or for a very low cost, of content your target market finds useful and valuable
We differentiate this slightly from “content writing.” Content writing is the creation of content that can be used for any purpose and isn’t explicitly used to market a product or business. A manual for your product would technically be considered “content.”
Content Marketing Holds Value — You Give It Away for Free
Any type of content can hold value, but an advertisement probably doesn’t inherently hold value. That is to say, it doesn’t hold any value in and of itself — no one is going to go deliberately searching for your advertisement (Superbowl ads excluded).
Other types of content, like a manual, might hold value, but aren’t going to lead to an initial sale. When we talk about content market, we’re almost exclusively focused on content that helps convert someone from just another prospect into an actual sale.
Content marketing comes in many different forms:
- Blog posts
- Ebooks/Whitepapers/Case Studies
The form you choose depends on your goals. Generally speaking, you create different types of content aimed at customers on different parts of the buyer’s journey.
Different Types of Content for Different Locations on the Buyer’s Journey
The buyer’s journey looks something like this:
- Unaware of a problem or need but with a general interest an industry
- Aware of problem or need but not interested in a solution
- Interested in a solution but unaware of options
- Considering a variety of options
- Narrowing to a few options
- Ready to purchase
The journey goes well beyond the initial purchase, but content marketing is usually designed to funnel leads towards that first purchase.
For example, a blog post is usually optimized for a set of keywords and kept under a certain word count, with the goal of being found by one of your prospects during an online search. Such blog posts target the first few stages of the buyer’s journey.
Content marketing is usually designed to funnel leads towards that first purchase.
The prospect reads the content, gets introduced to your brand, and hopefully moves on to another piece of content.
Create Content, Connect to Other Pieces of Content, Distribute
To start the content marketing process, you spend the time necessary to create content that matches different stages of the journey. You write a blog post to introduce someone to your brand, then you pair that blog post with a call to action for another free piece of content (like the buttons you see in this blog post).
To get the free content, your prospect gives up their email address. The email address lets you send them more content via email, introducing them to your services or products and beginning the push towards a sale.
But now we’re starting to get into distribution — once you’ve chosen a form for your content (blog post, email, ebook), you have to decide how that content will be distributed, what medium(s) you’ll use.
Content Can Be Distributed Through Many Different Mediums
In its essence, digital marketing is the distribution of content through a variety of mediums. Those mediums primarily include:
- Your website (combined with search engine optimization)
- Your social media accounts
- Your email
- Pay-per-click advertising
- Press releases
- Free or paid influencers
These mediums often cross the line between free and paid, and the medium you choose depends a lot on the content you’re trying to distribute, your goals for the content, and your budget.
For instance, if you have already built up a huge amount of traffic on your website, you may only need to put your content directly on your website and be done with distribution — no paid ads needed.
However, most business owners and marketers are only going to start by putting a piece of content on their website. They might then share that content on social media, send it to select influencers or micro-influencers, email it to their email list, or set up some paid advertising to drive traffic to that content.
No one answer is right for every business or every piece of content — you have to experiment a little and find out what works best for you.
How to Market Content
Now that you have a clearer general understanding of content — the definition of content, the meaning of content in a marketing context, and the definition of content marketing — it’s time to dive deeper into the world of content marketing itself.
Click the button to read our article on B2B and B2C content marketing — I discuss the difference between the two and how each works for a variety of businesses.
Click to get started.