the-difference-between-content-marketing-_and-inbound-marketing.jpgIs content marketing the same as inbound marketing?

The two terms are sometimes used interchangeably. In fact, the two are so closely related, that many marketers think they are essentially the same thing.

But they aren’t. Not really. Let’s take a closer look at the definition of each and examine how they are similar, and more importantly, how they are different.

DEFINING THE TERMS

CONTENT MARKETING

Content marketing, by definition, is a marketing strategy that focuses on … you guessed it … content authority.

As defined by the Content Marketing Institute:

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Content marketing strives to attract readers and turn them into customers by utilizing great content. It’s not about asking for traffic, or even directly selling. Content authority uses convincing pieces of writing to change or enhance readers’ behaviors. The underlining idea with content marketing is that if we, as marketers, continue to provide valuable information, our readers will reward us with their loyalty, and eventually their business.

There are many different types of content that can be used for marketing purposes. Some of the most common are:

  • Blogging and guest blogging
  • Infographics
  • Email newsletters
  • Landing pages
  • Videos on sites like YouTube
  • Guides
  • eBooks

The list can go on and on. If it’s written content, it can be used to drive traffic and sales to your business.

It’s also important to note that content marketing can easily be integrated with all other forms of marketing. For example:

  • Social media: Promoting your own blog posts and other content should be part of your social media marketing plan.
  • SEO: Keywords can be used throughout your content to help your articles, and your site, get found. Also, search engines like Google tend to reward sites that consistently publish quality content.
  • PPC ads: To bring attention to your pay per click ads, you need content to drive people to your site(s).

Ideally, content marketing follows this path:

  • Start with attraction: By publishing good content on your blog, other well-known blogs or elsewhere on the web, you bring attention to your business website.
  • Next, connect: By distributing your content around the web using email, social media, blogger outreach, etc., you bring as much attention to your content as possible.
  • Lastly, reach your marketing goals. It can be to build brand loyalty, customer education, reader engagement or something completely different.

INBOUND MARKETING

This is where things get a bit confusing, since the tactics are so closely related.

The official term “inbound marketing” was coined by HubSpot in 2005. They define inbound marketing as:

“Since 2006, inbound marketing has been the most effective marketing method for doing business online. Instead of the old outbound marketing methods of buying ads, buying email lists, and praying for leads, inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be. By aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests, you naturally attract inbound traffic that you can then convert, close, and delight over time.”

Since then, inbound marketing strategies have changed slightly, but it remains a tactic that focuses on attraction – bringing your customers to you.

How do you attract your customers? Inbound marketing uses tactics like:

  • Blogging and content distribution
  • Email marketing
  • Videos
  • Social media marketing
  • SEO
  • PPC advertising

Inbound marketing follows a very similar path to content marketing.

  • Start with attraction. By using one of the above marketing tactics, your goal is to attract people to a destination. It could be back to your website, a landing page for a product, an email opt-in page.
  • Next, convert your visitorsWith inbound marketing, your goal is to convert readers into verified leads by using forms, landings pages, calls to action, etc.
  • Lastly, reach your goal. Whether your goal is to sell a product or get people to sign up for your email list, your ultimate goal is to land your customers, and keep them around.

HOW CONTENT AND INBOUND ARE SIMILAR

Sounds very similar to content marketing doesn’t it? The two do, in fact, have a lot in common. They both:

  • Use quality content
  • Start with attraction as a main way to drive business
  • Have a defined marketing goal in mind
  • Target a defined audience

By now, you can probably see why the two marketing strategies are so often confused. Many will claim they are the same thing, and that arguing the different terms is trivial. They do both focus on the reader, customer or consumer, using some sort of attraction method to get them to a specific destination. They both strive to satisfy the needs of the reader before satisfying the marketer’s need to sell. Both are non-intrusive and both rely on building a relationship between the reader and business.

HOW CONTENT AND INBOUND MARKETING DIFFERS

While they are very similar, content marketing and inbound marketing strategies do have some distinctions that make all the difference.

Content marketing puts all the focus on content. Creating content and distributing it among multiple channels to ensure that it gets read and shared is the prime directive.

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, focuses on the bigger picture. It’s creating a website, creating content or other ways to attract people to the site, and eventually getting those visitors to perform some sort of action – purchasing something, signing up for an email list, following on social media, etc. While inbound marketing strategies can involve content marketing (and for many marketers, it does include some sort of content creation) inbound marketing can encompass a wider variety of methods.

IS ONE MARKETING METHOD BETTER THAN THE OTHER?

This is a hard question to answer, because really, neither strategy is actually better than the other. In fact, since the two methods are so closely related, if you are using inbound marketing, you are most likely using content marketing as well.

Content marketing and inbound marketing are very similar marketing methods. They tend to go hand and hand, and when used together, the two methods can really work well. Write great content, use it to attract readers, and once you get them to your site, convert them into life-long readers or customers.

Learn more ways how content and inbound marketing can capture prospects and increase your search ranking with is free guide.