Content Marketing vs. PPC Advertising: Which is Better?

Time to invest in some online reach for your brand? One of the first things you’re going to need to decide is where you’re going to spend your marketing dollars. Are you going to be striving for long-term, compounding success with content marketing?

Or, do you need to focus on getting attention for your business immediately through PPC campaigns?

Both content marketing and PPC advertising have their benefits to offer today’s business leaders. For instance, content marketers enjoy conversions rates for their sites that are 6 times higher than their counterparts. However, content takes a lot of time and hard work. 

PPC provides a more immediate way to get to the top of the SERPs, and often in front of customers who might be more prepared to convert. 

So, how do you decide between one option or the other?

What Are Content Marketing and PPC?

Content marketing is the creation of informative, helpful, and original content that intends to introduce new leads to your brand and convince those customers that you’re trustworthy. Content marketing works overtime to introduce more people to your organization and convert them into leads and paying customers. Crucially, while blog posts are some of the most common forms of content marketing, there are other ways to get involved too, such as:

  • Podcasts
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Whitepapers
  • Case studies
  • Articles
  • eBooks

Check out this example of content marketing from HubSpot’s blog for instance:

Anything that offers helpful resources to your customers can be classed as a form of content marketing. Long-term, the continued production of these assets highlights your company as a thought leader in a specific niche and makes it easier for you to attract visitors to your website. 

So, what’s PPC?

PPC, or “Pay Per Click” advertising is a form of online marketing that involves paying for your position in the search engine with things like Facebook marketing, Microsoft (Bing) Ads, or Google AdWords. You bid for your chance to show up at the top of the search results for specific keywords and phrases. There are even ad networks out there that will place your ad content on sites that fit the target audience that you want to reach. 

When you invest in PPC, you’re basically buying your opportunities to earn leads, rather than waiting for people to find your site and convert organically. 

Here’s what a PPC ad looks like on Google:

On the one hand, you’re far more likely to reach the top of the search results with PPC and gain traction for your website quickly. However, your success will only last for as long as you continue to pay for your ad’s position. 

Let’s look at the pros and cons of content marketing vs. PPC in closer detail. 

The Benefits of Content Marketing

Content marketing is a promotional strategy that requires constant work and strategy. 

The idea is that you write or produce the material that your audience wants to see online, and in return, they’ll be attracted to your website. Not only does content marketing help to attract intent-driven customers, but it also shows your target audience that you understand your industry, and have a lot of useful information to share. 

Content marketing makes you a thought leader in your space and continues to drive results for years at a time – not just for as long as you’re paying for your campaign. 

Some of the biggest positives of content marketing include:

  1. It Earns you Better Leads

As your content begins to gain traction in the search engine results, the results you get from your organic search will be a lot higher in quality than your bought leads. According to studies, organic search generates the highest conversion rates and the best volume of leads over time. Your organic points are both more likely to purchase your products and services and more inclined to keep coming back and delivering repeat value to your company. 

  1. Content Marketing Builds Authority

As mentioned above, as well as driving leads to your sales and marketing team, content marketing also boosts your authority in your chosen industry. The right content, filled with useful insights and information, will establish you as a valuable market leader and expert in your space. This means that you can increase brand awareness and promote a more positive sentiment for your company as your brand continues to grow. Just look at the kind of authority content we see on the Sprout Social blog:

  1. It’s Cost-Effective

Content marketing generally isn’t free, unless you can do all the production and marketing on your own. However, even with the up-front costs of paying for a writer or expert to help you out, you’ll still be paying less than you would be for PPC. Once you publish your content, it also continues to deliver results over time, earning leads and clicks without you paying another penny. 

  1. Content Creates Compounding Assets

Finally, once you’ve published high-quality content, it will continue to work on delivering results for you and your company, without you having to do any extra work. You might need to refresh your content now and again to keep it up to date – but that’s about it. The great thing about content marketing too, is that it has a compound effect. Over time, as you continue to publish more content, your marketing campaign will become more valuable and powerful. 

The Problems with Content Marketing

Overall, content marketing might be the best way to gain results and keep building value for your marketing campaign over time – but it has it’s negatives too. 

For instance, simply finding qualified writers and content creators that can capture your brand’s unique voice is incredibly difficult. It takes time to vet the writers and designers in your marketplace and find out whether they’re a good fit for your brand. 

Other problems with content marketing include:

  1. It Takes Longer to See Results

Content marketing is incredibly valuable, but it takes time and commitment before you’re going to see any real results. You won’t see any success from your content marketing for a few months. However, once you do begin to notice ROI, it will often snowball. For instance, Hubspot predicts that old evergreen blog posts often account for around 38% of your web traffic. These posts will continue to reel in targeted visitors over time too. 

  1. Content Can Be Difficult to Create

If you’re new to the concept of creating high-quality content online, then the process can seem daunting. It’s not always easy to figure out where you should start or what you need to do. Managing the process is often extremely challenging, and you may need to find an in-house marketing department to help you create, build, and even share your content. 

  1. It’s time-consuming

Creating plenty of high-quality content takes a lot of time and effort – and the process is ongoing. To make sure that you’re attracting the right customers, you’re going to need to spend some time understanding your customers and their problems. You might also need to do some research to make sure you have plenty of ideas for the content that you want to create. There’s also the work involved with tracking your content and finding out which pieces have the biggest impact on your customers to think about too. 

The Benefits of PPC Marketing 

So, we know that content marketing has a lot to offer when it comes to long-term benefits. 

However, PPC has its advantages too. 

Pay-per-click marketing is often seen as one of the best ways to initially launch your company online and start gaining immediate traction. If you want to start gaining leads and potential visitors when you’re working on your SEO and content marketing strategy, then you might start off with some PPC. 

Here are some of the biggest advantages of PPC. 

  1. PPC Puts You on Top 

Content marketing and search engine optimization are great for helping you rise to the top of the search engines – but they take a lot of time and effort. PPC solutions like Google AdWords will help you shoot to the top of the search results immediately, provided that you can bid enough on your required keywords. For instance, if you can bid for “social media marketer” and get a top spot, then the visibility is through the roof:

  1. It Delivers Measurable Results

Another great thing about PPC is that the results you get are often a lot more quantifiable than the results you get with content marketing. This is because PPC networks like Google AdWords can offer a lot of metrics that allow you to see how you’re attracting and converting potential visitors. This information will enable you to find out how many people are seeing your ads and how many are performing the actions that you want. 

  1. PPC is Quick 

If you’re looking for quick results from your marketing campaigns, then PPC is definitely one of the best methods for that. Unlike content marketing, you’re not going to need a lot of patience to start seeing your investments pay off. It’s very easy to start your PPC campaign through Google AdWords and start attracting customers as quickly as possible. However, there’s a good chance that those visitors will only last for as long as you keep paying for your PPC. 

The Problems with PPC

While PPC has a lot of immediate benefits, it’s not the perfect marketing tool either. Unless you’ve got tons of money for your marketing campaigns, you probably won’t be able to sustain a long-term strategy for PPC, and your leads will begin to dry up as a result. Remember, with PPC, you get charged every time someone clicks on your SERP listing. If you try to stay at the top with this strategy for too long, you could end up spending a lot of cash. 

Other problems with PPC include:

  1. It Can be Hard Work

Just as you need a strategy for your content marketing, you also may need some assistance with your PPC too. You’ll need to think carefully about how you’re going to beat your competition, which keywords you’re going to bid for and how much you’re going to spend. Additionally, it’s worth noting that PPC can be more expensive depending on the industry that you’re in and the strategy that you choose, meaning that the more complicated your campaign is, the more you pay. 

  1. PPC Doesn’t Last forever

As mentioned above, it’s very expensive to try and maintain a PPC campaign for a long period of time. However, as soon as you stop paying for your results, you’ll often find that they start to disappear. You might get a few customers who remember your site and come back in the future. However, you won’t have any content to keep you at the top of the search engines, so new customers won’t be able to find you. Your visibility will disappear. 

  1. People Often Ignore Sponsored Listings

Finally, a lot of customers don’t want to see endless ads when they’re browsing online. You might find that your customers ignore your listing because it’s not authentic or organic. According to a survey from Google, around 85% of people claim to ignore the sponsored listings that appear on Google. When customers are searching for answers to their problems online, they’re more likely to trust a company that’s earned its position at the top of the search results. 

Should You Use Content Marketing or PPC?

So, which channel should you be using for your advertising strategy?

Content marketing is all about building trust, authority, and reach for your brand, through the development of excellent online material. PPC, on the other hand, allows businesses to pay for prime space in the search results and get attention quickly. 

Overall, content marketing is a more effective form of advertising. Not only is it less expensive than pay-per-click advertising, but content marketing also has a compounding long-term impact on your results. You don’t just get visibility for as long as you pay for it – you invest in a powerful reputation for your company. Your content marketing will continue to attract new customers and repeat clients to your business for as long as you’re available online. 

However, that doesn’t mean that PPC doesn’t have value to offer too. With paid advertising, you can get the initial boost you need to stand out online when you’re first trying to attract new customers to your website. Your PPC strategies can supplement your content marketing and SEO as you wait to gain traction in the search engines. 

Look for Balance

Ultimately, the best thing you can do is create a long-term long for content marketing and SEO and consider using PPC to gain some initial attention. 

PPC won’t be the ideal long-term strategy for any brand, but it can give you the extra help you need when you’re first launching your business online. On the other hand, content marketing will be the solution you can use for consistent and compounding results in the years to come. 

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