Content Marketing or Just Blogging? 10 Big Ways They’re Different

Carol Tice

The Difference Between Content Marketing & Blogging. Makealivingwriting.comContent marketing is such a buzzphrase these days. And I meet a lot of bloggers who say, “Yeah, I’m doing content marketing.”

But often, when I look at their blog, I can tell right away that they’re not.

There’s a reason bloggers get asked to write posts for $20, while content marketing agencies pull down contracts worth tens of thousands of dollars.

It’s because there’s a lot more that goes into effective content marketing than simply writing a blog post.

Wondering what makes the difference?

It’s worth finding out, because of the huge income increase writers can see promoting themselves as a content marketing strategist, rather than simply a blogger.

Here are 10 things content marketers do that most bloggers don’t bother with (full disclosure: some links below are affiliates):

1. Keyword research

Do you toss off blog posts about whatever strikes your fancy?

Content marketers don’t do that. They begin their writing process with keyword research on their topic, to find out what phrases are both popular and relatively easy to rank for.

Then, they build them into fascinating headlines their readers will be unable to resist.

For instance, in looking at what headline to use for this post:

  • I learned that ‘content marketing’ was a way better key phrase to go for than ‘content marketer.’
  • Weirdly, hardly anyone searches on that second one, yet it’s actually a harder phrase to rank for, my Kwfinder search indicates. Go figure:

Content marketing - keyword research i

Content marketing - keyword research ii

2. Read competitors

Do you know what the top blogs in your space published this week?

Content marketing depends on having this intel, so you can position your blog (or case study, or white paper, or infographic) to mine similar territory in new — ideally, even more useful — ways.

3. Study analytics

Once a blog has even a half-dozen posts, you can begin developing stronger posts by studying what’s done better in the past. Content marketers are obsessed with this sort of data, while many bloggers have never once looked at their trends.

For instance, here are the top-performing posts in a recent month for my blog; this shows me which topics and keywords I should use again in new posts:

Content Marketing: Analytics

4. Build relationships

Content marketing relies on relationships with other influential bloggers. Smart content marketers get out and start building connections, long before they need to ask for an interview or a retweet from a top influencer.

By contrast, amateur bloggers reach out with emails that essentially say, “Hey total stranger, would you do me a favor?” And then wonder why they don’t get any shares.

5. Tweak post SEO

If you don’t have a tool like Yoast SEO that helps you improve the SEO of your post, you’re pretty much wasting your time writing the post.

Think about how many posts come out each day that you’re competing with! You’ve got to help Google realize what yours is about, or you’re never going to get the readers you want.

Here at Make a Living Writing, checking our SEO analysis and tweaking to improve it is something we invest serious time in. Yoast gives us messages like this, that we can then take action on to improve the SEO of our post (without being keyword-stuffing and spammy):

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-5-54-43-pm

6. See the post as a starting point

Most bloggers write a post, press ‘publish,’ and figure their job is done. Maybe they tweet it out once.

For content marketers, creating the post is just the beginning. It’s the ‘content’ half of content marketing. Next, the marketing half begins…and goes on. And on.

For instance, I’ve noticed that the content-marketing team at Entrepreneur.com continues to promote a popular “50 business blog-ideas” post I wrote in 2012. They even share it from their Spanish edition, @SoyEntrepreneur:

Content marketing - entrepreneur tweet

That’s a company re-sharing its own content over and over. Anybody can understand why that would make sense. But more sophisticated content marketers take it a step further.

I’ve been watching top social-media influencer Sam Hurley‘s approach. If he finds a post of mine that he likes, he retweets it dozens of times. He’ll retweet it every day for weeks on end, as he did with this post (note the nice number of retweets he gets, with his big social-media audience):

Content marketing - Sam Hurley retweet

Content marketers fire up their scheduling tools (I like HootSuite and Missinglettr), plug good content in, and schedule it out for weeks at a time. This means that when they have stuff of their own they want to promote, they have a deck of other good stuff to sprinkle it into, so they don’t seem too salesy and self-promotional.

Also, repeatedly sharing others’ content is a terrific relationship-builder. I now happily follow and share Sam’s content, right back at him.

7. Create posts with built-in virality

Ever sit down before you write a post and think about how easy or hard your topic would be to promote?

Content marketers do. They engineer their posts so it’ll be fairly easy to get tons of shares.

Tried-and-true ways to do that include things like:

  • Mentioning big brands or
  • Quoting top influencers who you hope will share the post with their larger audiences.

I did a double-hit on this post, which mentioned editors with decent-sized audiences of their own from big online sites with huge follower numbers. No surprise, it ended up the most popular post of the month:

Content marketing - Freshbooks retweet

8. Have editorial and marketing calendars

Do you know what you’ll be publishing on your blog a month from now?

Content marketing strategists do. They know what they’ll be selling months from now, and are busy devising complementary content that will drive the right sort of readers.

Note: This is a time-honored strategy that began with complementary copy in magazines, where an article about how to put on makeup is always sitting right next to that Maybelline ad.

I’ll just say the last time I was out guest posting to promote a new e-book, some of the top blogs I contacted let me know they were booked out about three months. Content marketers plan ahead!

For instance, here’s a post I did the week we were selling the Make Money Blogging for Clients Bootcamp in the Freelance Writers Den. Obviously, it was designed to attract readers who might be interested in blogging and content marketing:

Content Marketing: Blog

9. Write posts with a CTA

Do readers know what to do at the end of reading your blog post?

Content marketing involves creating content that’s released in service of getting readers to take a particular action. That call to action (CTA) moves readers along the road to being buyers.

Content marketers close the loop by letting you know what they’d like you to do next, even if it’s just subscribing to their blog.

Here’s the engagement question and ad that sat at the bottom of that post above about blogging and content marketing:

  • Are you a blogger or content writer? Share your experience in the comments.

One final note on this — the days when “sign up for posts!” worked as a CTA are long gone. Create a useful freebie if you hope to build a list.

10. Build a social-media audience

I wish I had a dime for every blogger I’ve met who says they hate Twitter, or plan to get into using social media some day, but just never seem to have time. Why?

Social media is one of the primary content-marketing tools.”

I’d say these days, I’m recruited to write in part because I have a decent-sized Twitter following. Being a content marketer means showing you can offer more than just good writing — you’re a total package of good writing and promotional savvy.

Tip: Stop thinking it’s too late, or too hard to get many followers, and get started in social media.

  • Connect with popular bloggers who already have a big social-media audience, and you may be able to build up pretty quickly.

Every day you wait is a day longer it’ll be until you have enough followers to move the needle on clicks.

Develop your content marketing skills to earn more

Ready to start earning more as a freelance writer? Start developing your content marketing skills. Knowing how to write a blog post is a useful skill. Knowing how to promote that blog post, drive traffic, and help your clients is eve better. Keep going.

Questions about content marketing vs. blogging?  Let’s discuss in the comments below.

Your Shortcut to Success. Freelancewritersden.com

48 Comments

  1. Big League Consulting

    My distinction between content marketing and blogging is when blogging the writer is telling a personal story and taking the readers on a journey. With content marketing the writers are doing the same thing, but with an end goal to get you in front of a product, connect with it and believe it can solve a problem of yours. Authentic content marketing needs to increase in my humble opinion.

    • Carol Tice

      Nice insight, Big League — just a warning that I don’t usually allow comments unless you have a person’s name — please use one next time, so we can get to know you!

    • Jonathan Strong

      My mistake! I’ll make sure to use my name from now on. Happy Holidays!

    • Carol Tice

      Yay! Nice to meet you. You can co-brand, like Jonathan Strong | Big League Consulting — that’ll work. 😉

  2. Kaitlyn

    I really enjoyed this read! I sometimes see these terms used interchangeably; you clearly laid out all the differences to avoid any confusion.

    I don’t know how some bloggers make it without social media!

  3. David Throop

    Carol,
    This is an outstanding breakdown of content marketing. I think it’s important for freelance writers to understanding the fundamentals and help explain those to their clients. I think too many people don’t understand the specificity and strategy that goes to content marketing and this post should be used as an absolute starting point in the discussion!

    • Carol Tice

      Thanks, David. My point is that by taking the discussion to this more sophisticated level, writers can position themselves to earn a lot more. And the content marketing side is probably stuff most paid bloggers KNOW — they’re just not presenting themselves as someone who has the knowledge to plan their posts as part of a marketing agenda. And that makes all the difference.

  4. Sonia Pitt

    This was an interesting topic and enjoyed reading this post. I believe that serious, passionate, consistent and professional blogging is basically called content marketing, when there is a marketing to distribute and amplify the blog post to the larger audience using different online channels. But content marketing can be of many different forms, starting from articles, videos, info-graphics, podcasts, case studies etc. where as blogging is basically publishing articles (in general).

    • Carol Tice

      I’m not sure you read the post, Sonia. Simply writing blog posts and retweeting them, to me, is blogging. You can ‘call’ it content marketing, and maybe it is that, but it’s not EFFECTIVE content marketing, usually.

      Having a strategy, a goal, and an intentional content development and promotion plan is what adds up to content marketing — and is the level of activity that allows you to position yourself to earn more as a content marketing strategist, as a freelancer, rather than simply pitching to write blog posts.

      I don’t think simply throwing in a video or infographic turns it into content marketing. It’s more about the intent, planning, SEO focus, and strategy behind it than the form of content.

    • David Throop

      I would add one quote from John Wooden in this discussion.

      “Failure to plan is planning to fail”

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