What Is Content Marketing, and Why Does Your Business Need It?

Content marketing has become a hot buzzword these days, thanks to Google algorithm updates and social media. Three experts offer content marketing strategies and examples to follow.

By James A. Martin
Wed, January 09, 2013

CIO — In one form or another, content marketing has been around at least 100 years. It began in the late 1800s, when John Deere started publishing a magazine for farmers with the hopes of selling more tractors and farm machinery, says Brian Clark, founder and CEO of Copyblogger Media, which offers content marketing advice and software. The idea took off with the rise of radio soap operas in the 1930s, he adds, as Proctor & Gamble targeted housewives.

In recent months, content marketing has become a hot buzzword as businesses strive to navigate Google algorithm updates and convert targeted prospects into customers.

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In the era of Panda and Penguin, Google's recent algorithm changes, content marketing has taken on even more importance. But what exactly is content marketing? Why is it important? How can businesses do content marketing effectively? CIO.com asked three experts for their best content marketing strategies and examples.

Content Marketing Is Anything That Builds a Relationship

For starters, content marketing is an umbrella term that "captures all the different ways to communicate within a marketing, lead generation and retention framework," says Scott Fasser, director of digital marketing solutions for Optify, a B2B digital marketing software company.

Clark adds that content marketing refers to any piece of content—including tweets, blog posts, YouTube videos, downloadable white papers, email newsletters, webinars and website articles—designed to build a "direct relationship with prospects and customers."

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The goals of content marketing are to convert prospects into customers and customers into brand advocates. Through effective content marketing, a business engages its target audience by answering questions they have, helping them solve problems or entertaining them. The hope is that prospects will see the brand as a trusted, reliable source and, most importantly, a company they want to do business with.

Social Media, SEO Drive Content Marketing

The rise of social media is one reason that content marketing has become more important today. "In the past, you may have created a piece of content and put it on your site or in an email newsletter. Now, you have all these social channels to feed," Fasser says. "The good news is you can take a single piece of content and make it work across multiple channels, especially social media networks. It all feeds back to your brand."

Google's recent Panda and Penguin algorithm changes have had people talking about the need for better content marketing, too.

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