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):


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 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.


  1. Brandi Hegerty

    Carol, I really enjoy reading your user-friendly, detailed, blogging & writing tips. Thank you for taking the time to share all that you know about the crazy world of blogging. Nice to meet you by the way. 🙂

    • Carol Tice

      You’re welcome, Brandi! Just trying to be highly useful. I consider it a privilege to have so many readers and subscribers, and believe they deserve valuable info they won’t find elsewhere here on my blog.

  2. Susie Rosse

    Thanks for such an informative post!! It has so much info, and you give it all for free. I only just started reading your blog, but it’s been very, very useful for me already. Every single post I read has been really helpful.

  3. Emily Jacobs

    I’ve been reading your posts off and on for a few months, but as I get serious about starting my freelance career, I’m getting more regular about checking this site. Firstly, this post was hugely helpful in my understanding of the difference between these ideas. Secondly, it is SO ENCOURAGING to see that it took you literally years to gain “traction” as you said. It is a bit scary to think how long it might take me, but knowing I’m not alone is the biggest comfort.

    • Carol Tice

      Well, the thrill of it is — you don’t HAVE to take years! I’m here to offer shortcuts based on what I learned on that long road, so that it doesn’t take other writers as long to get there. 😉

    • Jon Penland

      Hi Emily,

      I’m a fulltime freelance writer who made the jump from toying with blogging to fulltime freelance writing in a just a month and was making ~$800 / week right out of the gate. The key is to find the right customers.

    • Tina

      There are many opportunities, but as everything relating to our world today, information overload and the confusing sources of information make it hard to really know what is the right path.
      I appreciate those who share.

  4. Troy Lambert

    Thanks Carol. I freelanced for a long time, have worked for a company for a while, and am headed back to freelance land, happily. Your tips inspire me and set my feet on a path to work that will actually result in more work and paying clients. I appreciate it.

    • Carol Tice

      You’re welcome! Hope you can join me with Heather Lloyd-Stewart for the free training tomorrow. WAY more meat on cracking this market in the presentation. 😉

  5. Wendy ogilvie

    Thanks Carol, for all your helpful insights into the world of freelance writing. I’m a bit of a technophobe but with your help I can improve my chances of writing for a living.
    Thanks again

    • Carol Tice

      If you’re a technophobe — hire someone to do that side of it. Really, you can.

      FYI you typed in your website link wrong and it failed. Classic! But you’ll get the hang of this.

  6. Rani

    Awesome and inspiring, Carol! Hope to catch up with you. Will there be replay? Thanks so much!

  7. Barry Desautels

    What a difference between the two types of writers!
    I had no idea.
    Great post Carol.
    I’m looking forward to the training tomorrow.

    • Carol Tice

      You can see that it’s really worth learning a few more skills, hm? I’ve coached SO many writers who’re earning ridiculously low rates for blogging. And this is the answer. Know more about the POINT of blogging — learn content marketing so you can take a bigger role in helping a company make more sales.

      Anytime you drive business for a company, you are going to earn well. 😉

  8. Julia Daniels

    Another great practical post, Carol. I read them all. Guess I need to take a look at Twitter! I have been slowly working on my business FB page and LinkedIn. I was trying not to spread myself too thin while I worked on one venue at a time. I need this upcoming class! Thanks!

    • Carol Tice

      Business FB for freelance writers, I’ve never heard is something effective. But if you’re blogging, Twitter is generally the #1 place for promotion. I used to get SO much traffic from there on my Forbes posts it was amazing.

  9. Shane Clayworth

    Thanks for a very helpful post. Lots of new info here for me.

  10. Paula Ward

    Carol, you say to hire the tech help. Where would you recommend looking for tech help? Upwork/Freelancer, et al? Elsewhere? Thanks!

    • Carol Tice

      Since I don’t hire overseas myself just on principle, I tend to look in my network. When people are touching my blog, I like them to live in my neighborhood.

      Your local high school or community college digital design instructor can be a great source of referrals to low-cost help — that’s actually how I got my first writer website set up, with a high schooler.

  11. Carla

    This was such a good overview of the whole concept of content marketing. The more I learn about content marketing the more I find it quite fascinating. Coming from a PR background originally (and before that, journalism) I see a lot of similarities between the two – I like that ‘content marketing’ has such as strong focus on relationship building and strategy based on research. Will tomorrow’s webinar be recorded for Den members?

    • Carol Tice

      You bet!

      • Carla

        Thanks :-). I’ll look out for the replay there. Have a great day!

  12. Katherine Swarts

    I think I’m headed in the right direction: looking forward to Tuesday’s workshop.

    Hopefully it will also talk a bit about how to sell prospects on the value of content writing. I still run up against a lot of potential clients who hardly know ANYTHING about well-planned use of content: they just want “a blog” because everyone else seems to have one, and often they’ve already made some attempt at writing the whole thing themselves and found it a lot of work for no results. Small wonder that their primary concern is still “Will this cost me much?”–and, I confess, I’ve been short on persuasive “this is a priceless business asset” answers, mostly because I haven’t gotten that far beyond “I do this because I love to WRITE” thinking myself.

    • Carol Tice

      Those aren’t content marketing clients, Katherine — as this post notes, they’re ‘just blogging.’ One of the big differences we’ll be talking about. You’re looking for clients who get content marketing and have developed a strategy, or who want to up their game and get to this level.

  13. Emily Selden

    As always, Carol, you teach us the best tips. Thank you for the Den I was swallowed up by an editor position and now I’m back and ready to dig in! 🙂 Annnd…I’m building a new website so I will link it when it’s built.

    • Carol Tice

      Welcome back, Emily!

  14. Robert Schneider

    I blog to take a break from writing content. One of my blogs does quite well. The other doesn’t. I don’t mind. I like to express my feelings about things. That’s not to say you’re not right. If you’re blogging with a view to making money, your blog has to be found and your posts have to be compelling.

  15. Karen Ingle

    Carol, I appreciate the way this post condenses all the vague learning I’ve been doing into a clear list of action items. Shifting gears from a personal blog to a business blog myself, I needed the clarity your post provides. My biggest challenge is making time to do that vital keyword research and the tracking of results. Thanks for holding my feet to the fire.

  16. Susie Rosse

    Also, I have a question: How do authors who comment on the blog posts on your site, sometimes have this at the end of their comments: ‘their name, recently published…’ and a link to their article? Like in the comment posting section, there’s only a space for a website link, so how do they link their articles with that specific line?

    • Carol Tice

      It’s a tool called CommentLuv, Susie. I used to have it here on the blog, but it broke a while back, and we decided to leave it off. I don’t believe it’s working anymore — correct me if I’m wrong! You’re probably seeing it on older posts.

      Anyway, it’s a decision the site makes, whether to offer a tool like that, which gives commenters an opportunity to promote a post of theirs. If they have it, and you have a blog and have entered your blog URL as your site in the comment form, then it pulls your most recent post (or with premium versions of the tool, may give you a choice of many recent posts you might want to feature).

      It was a critical tool to have years back, but at this point a potential negative with Google, and so many posters were coming on JUST to use that tool and leave a link, and leaving non-relevant comments that didn’t advance the conversation. So we decided to remove it. Hope that answers!

      • Susie Rosse

        Yes it did, thanks!

  17. Carol J Alexander

    Great info, Carol. Thanks. Missed the webinar. Looking forward to the replay.

  18. Vikram Suryawanshi

    Hello, that was really useful, I now understand that how important marketing is to get readers to your post. And most of all learned many new things about marketing from this post.

  19. Drew Drake

    Nice living example of CTA

    One of the things I notice is that the term ‘blogger’ can come across as a personal hobby rather than as a serious job.

    On numerous occasions, people have asked me what I do and I say, I”m a writer. I then go on to explain that I write online. This statement is followed by a sudden lapse in their interest and respect. “So you like, blog?”, they say. “Can you make money doing that?”, they ask.

    However,as a Content Strategist (or Marketer), I am sure people’s interest and respect will be easily commanded. Why? Because you aren’t just a “blogger” talking to yourself. You take the job seriously. You become a business.

    Much like a personal trainer who incorporates diet, lifestyle and analytical recordings to assist their client, you become the real deal by marketing your work effectively, building solid relationships, utilizing tools, and learning to optimize your articles for SEO.

    Awesome article Carol

  20. Cari Mostert

    Something I struggle with – working in a third world country – is justifying the cost of our expensive internet. Now I understand how essential it is to do the keyword/SEO research. Off to watch the replay
    before it’s not there anymore. Thanks again Carol – such fantastic info!

    • Carol Tice

      Hey, it’s a writeoff! And what other options do you have, than to have stable, viable Internet to do business online?

      I don’t even think about the basic costs I have running this blog and the Den, at this point. They’re just what’s needed to make this all possible. Businesses have expenses. Folks just have a myth in their heads that blogging should be free…but successful blogging usually involves investing in some resources.

      • Cari Mostert

        You’re so right – what’s the price of a stable business? I’ve been practicing false economy and it’s cost me. Thanks for the wake-up call!

        • Carol Tice

          Ooh, love that! False Economy. That’s it exactly! Really common affliction among bloggers.

  21. 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”

  22. David Throop

    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.

  23. 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!

  24. 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. 😉

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