Content and SEO are equally as important… But which do you start with? We asked 60+ experts to share the strategy they prioritize—and why.
Content Marketing | Jun 25
Elise Dopson on February 17, 2020 (last modified on February 25, 2021) • 27 minute read
Did you know that content marketing costs up to 41% less per lead than paid search?
Marketing teams know that content is a great, cost-effective way to attract a target audience.
But, what is the actual goal of content marketing? Is it only to attract people? Is it to generate leads? Build an email list? Drive sales? Or is that too dependent on other factors?
In this report, we polled close to 200 marketers (195, to be exact) on the 15 goals they use to measure the success of their content marketing efforts.
*Editor’s note: Before we dive in with the goals, start by analyzing how well your content is working by taking a look at your most important metrics. The Google Analytics Content Analysis dashboard shows your top-performing pages by traffic, conversions, and location:
Before thinking about long-term goals, VGW‘s Olan Ahern advises to start with the basics: “One of the most important goals for a content marketing program is to create content that provides value to your intended audience.”
“Valuable content will resonate with your audience and organically drive traffic to your website. There’s so much noise out there, make it a goal to create content that fills a void for people – even if that’s two great pieces per quarter,” Ahern explains.
“We know that not everyone that visits our site, which is packed full of reviews, explainers, guides and interviews, will purchase through us, but we don’t mind,” explains James Ashton of Find My UK Casino.
“For us, content marketing is all about relationship building and, over time, we believe that it leads to brand loyalty and ultimately a big percentage of those that visit or site purchase through us whether immediately or at some point in the future.”
“I would say the most important goal for content marketing is relevancy,” adds Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré. “Whatever content you publish has to be relevant and genuinely, generously useful to the reader.”
“To achieve relevancy, I look at mapping my B2B SaaS content calendars to the stages of the sales funnel and to address success gaps for current users. I also take into account the customer experience needs of each client segment when planning content, so everyone gets the information they need.”
This can also have an impact on other areas of your business, as Brooks Flanagan of SCS Cloud explains: “The goal of our content marketing efforts is to generate enough high-quality content that benefits and interests our target market. By becoming an opinion leader in that sector we become an authority which drives leads.”
“Particularly in a niche market, like field service, building a relationship, establishing ourselves as thought leaders, and gaining insights into our audience are primary values, but if a lead doesn’t quite understand the value proposition, then they simply won’t convert,” Commusoft‘s Cristina Maria adds.
“Content marketing gives us the possibility to create a context for our product and explore its features in more detail than any other type of marketing strategy.”
Wondering why this important in a world where everyone is turning to Google results?
“You can’t rely solely on ads if you want to want to make your brand known,” says TalentLMS‘s Eri Panselina. “Ad blindness is a reality since internet users tent to ignore consciously or unconsciously all ad-related content on the web.”
(That, plus 40% of people use ad blockers on their laptop.)
“If you want to get the word of your brand out there, create content that is useful, educational, informative, that resonates with your audience and is worth 10 minutes of your audience’s time.”
Eri Panselina of TalentLMS agrees: “You can’t rely solely on ads if you want to want to make your brand known. Ad blindness is a reality since internet users tent to ignore consciously or unconsciously all ad-related content on the web.”
“If you want to get the word of your brand out there, create content that is useful, educational, informative, that resonates with your audience and is worth 10 minutes of your audience’s time.”
“Of course, we have a product to sell..,” Gregory Golinski of YourParkingSpace explains. “But it’s also very important for us to answer our visitors’ questions and become the go-to website for people who’d like to learn more about the automotive and parking industry.”
That’s why SyncShow‘s Erica Eyerman advises to ask: “Will the reader or viewer find this content valuable enough to take the initiative to click on, view or share what we have created?” when publishing any new piece of content.
According to Hans van Gent of User Growth, the answer “is why you created your company in the first place, and your content is helping you educate your customers about the problems they are facing, making you the authority to go to, to solve those problems, which will eventually turn into leads and sales.”
“The most important goal for any content marketing strategy is to improve brand recognition,” says Hannah Stevenson of UK Linkology.
“You want everyone viewing your website and seeing your content referenced to notice your brand name and come to view your organization as experts in its field.”
Still not convinced? According to PopShorts‘ Jake Hay, “having potential clients know your brand name and associate a positive view with that is key. Being mentioned in articles or talked about elsewhere is how your brand name gets spread and noticed by more and more people.”
BoardActive‘s Cierra Flythe also says: “The most important goal of content in any industry is a conversation. Get people talking – to you, about you, with you. If your content doesn’t start a conversation then its time to reassess.”
“As a cryptocurrency ATM company [Pelicoin], our primary goal for content marketing is to spread awareness and educate our potential customers,” Sam Olmstead explains. “We want them to understand what cryptocurrency is, how it can be used, and, of course, how they can purchase it in the real world.”
“Achieving that goal starts with connecting on a human to human level. That’s why much of our content marketing comes in the form of questions and answers. We predict what types of questions customers will have and then answer them in long-form posts.”
Sarah Walters of The Whit Group adds: “Brand visibility will, if done right, lead to increased search visibility, but it all starts with the brand. You use the content to expand your brand, explain your brand, and explore your brand. As you shape your brand, better search results will follow!”
“The whole idea is to lend awareness of our company so that we have warm leads and so that when sales reach out, the potential customer has some idea of who we are and our reputation,” Chris Park of Anvil Foundry explains.
Catherine Cohen of Cohen Coaching adds: “We create content that is helpful enough and has steps to take to progress a business forward. The trick is not to give everything away. After all, when you set yourself up as the authority in your field, people want to buy from you, hire you, work with you.”
This seems to be a controversial goal though, as Nate Nead of SEO.co explains: “For most business owners, they can’t afford to simply spend money on a content marketing campaign for just growing “exposure.” No, they want actionable data on how their content marketing will drive real results for their business.”
“We really want people to have that ‘ah-hah!’ moment after they read our content,” says Joshua Joseph of Motivosity. “We want to use content to position ourselves so that when they have a question related to our niche; we’re the first ones that they come to.”
This doesn’t have to be on your own site, though. Angela Ash of Flow SEO says: “This content can be posted on your own company’s blog, or you can also sign up for contributor accounts with other high-traffic blogs that are in the same niche.”
Atomic Reach’s Michael Bibla concludes: “No matter the metrics being measured are––ROI on content, if your content marketing efforts result in a widespread understanding of your value proposition from a unique position, then you’ve won!”
According to Pulno’s Agnieszka Cejrowska, “the goal of content marketing is to keep your users engaged. When you publish something, try to give your audience a chance to connect with you whether it is through comments or reviews or sharing.”
“You can also use that engagement to educate potential customers. How? Make note of the questions they may have or issues they are facing and then turn them into helpful articles.”
“That will be invaluable for your users and will help establish loyalty for your brand, as readers will start to see you as credible, trustworthy, sharing expertise but also as people behind the brand,” Cejrowska adds.
Cejrowska isn’t alone. In fact, the Content Marketing Institute found that 72% of marketers think content marketing increases engagement.
Dustin DeTorres of DeTorres Group adds: “While everyone else seems to create generic, unremarkable content, we like to create content that gets SHARED and CONSUMED by the target audience.”
“This, more times than none, has a positive net effect on our brand awareness, new subscribers and ultimately new prospects when done in a consistent manner.”
“Once visitors are on the site, it is the content’s job to keep viewers captivated and engaged so they remain on the site,” Alex Membrillo of Cardinal SEO Company explains. “We rely on content marketing to help generate lead acquisitions, email sign-ups, and shares.”
“At Data Hosting UK, we have found that by focusing on customer engagement through content marketing, we are able to position ourselves as an authentic, trustworthy site that users and customers alike return to,” Alex Williams explains.
“Publishing a blog or article and then responding to comments or questions with current or potential customers gives a great opportunity to connect with our users. It develops loyalty and trust and ultimately provides that human touch that many businesses seem to lack.”
“The primary goal of [WakeupData‘s] content marketing efforts is to build industry education,” says Ben Culpin. “Operating in a fairly specific niche in the ecommerce industry, we have realized that the best results we achieved from our content creation efforts were those which sought to educate readers on what product feed management is.”
“Alongside this, we address themes that cover the various roles that companies like mine play in optimizing the ecommerce performance of online stores.”
Culpin continues: “As a result of producing educational material on the industry itself, we’ve seen an uptake in organic traffic and inbound leads engaging with our brand.”
“I believe that in our case, building brand awareness and brand loyalty should come second behind content marketing that seeks to help the reader, whether prospect or customer, through educating them on the industry.”
It’s the same for Best Price Nutrition, according to Crystal Diaz: “The biggest goal for content marketing at least for us is teaching. We want to make sure all of our posts, blogs, etc can provide some sort of knowledge to help the customer and their families.”
Edyta Garcia of Ship Support adds that “we are a maritime webshop, and the products we sell – ship components – are usually of a complex nature. Buyers frequently seek technical advice before they make important purchase decisions and great content can help them convert,” Garcia continues.
Plus, Cauvee says that one of the main content marketing goals for Inspiration Engineering is to “nurture a prospective buyer into trusting you.”
“Think about it, people buy from people they know like and trust right? So what better way to get them to know who you are than by providing valuable resources whether that is in an ebook of some sort, a pdf, or on a blog.”
Lorraine Cline explains what this looks like for Cline Design, LLC: “We work with commercial and industrial construction clients. Our primary content goal is to educate the reader.”
“Construction can be a complex and lengthy project. The construction buyer needs to know that their project can be built on time, within budget, and with as little disruption to their on-going business activities as possible.”
Cline continues: “We use content to educate about capabilities, safety, budgeting, schedule, construction delivery systems, company culture, and the sensitivities to the pain points of our buyers. Through content (blogs, case studies, eBooks, etc.) we are able to clearly illustrate that my client understands the unique concerns of the buyer.”
“For most companies, the highest-impact outcome of content marketing is capturing more traffic from organic search and other marketing channels,” writes SoftwarePundit‘s Bruce Hogan.
“As a result, one of the most important goals for content marketing programs is increasing the percentage of total website traffic that is generated by their content program over time.”
Hogan explains: “More specifically, if a company’s content was responsible for 10% of total website traffic last quarter, the company should set a goal that 11-13% of all website traffic comes from content this quarter, and 13-15% for the following quarter.”
“This metric accounts for increased performance of existing content, the impact of newly published content, and the growth of the company’s other marketing channels.”
“If content is high quality and answers the user’s questions, they will find your website and provide a much better opportunity for you to convert them into paying clients or sell your products,” Brian Barwig of Integrate Digital Marketing explains.
“Paying for traffic is expensive, and you can wind up losing a lot of money if your paid marketing strategy doesn’t go as planned,” UpPhone‘s David Lynch adds. “Using content marketing to rank well in Google lets us drive free, targeted traffic to our website.”
Spendesk‘s Patrick Whatman adds: “As long as the blog readership keeps growing month over month, the leads seem to follow close behind. We also see more traffic to the main website, and in turn, more demos requested. But it’s really that high-level awareness that’s most important to us.”
This could tie-in with the fact most content marketers set new goals on a monthly basis:
When we asked for CrazyCall‘s main content marketing goal, Jakub Kliszczak’s response was simple: “It’s definitely creating viable traffic. Viable, meaning that it has a high probability of converting to paid users.”
“Our content marketing efforts are aimed towards making it easy to discover our brand/product through useful and informative content that pushed leads forward in the marketing pipeline.”
“You don’t want to create content just for the sake of it,” says Jonathan Aufray of Growth Hackers. “You want your content to move the needle and, therefore, help you generate leads and sales.”
“The goal of your content isn’t just brand awareness or traffic. What you want is to generate qualified and targeted leads. Lead generation is the most important goal for your content marketing program. How much time it takes you to generate content, how much it costs and how many leads got generated for that piece of content. This is what you want to track.”
Jonathan Chan of Insane Growth puts that into practice: “For example, if you’re a B2B business and you’re looking to close more leads and prospects.”
“It’s always worth checking to see what the effect content has on your close rate and if providing content to your prospect during the sales stage is beneficial or not.”
James Pollard of The Advisor Coach explains that “this is typically done by including an opt-in form within the content where people can opt-in to an email list.”
“One of the reasons I like this goal so much is that it’s easily measured. So many people struggle with measuring the effectiveness of content marketing but I enjoy being able to check my opt-in stats and see exactly which pieces of content are performing and which ones aren’t.”
Khabeer Rockley of The 5% Institute explains how this can tie-in with other content marketing goals: “My content marketing strategy is to be found via search engine optimized content, and to be present and found by people looking for our products and services.”
“Whilst on the page, we then offer to give them something in exchange for their email address – where we then build a more engaging relationship with them in the inbox.”
According to Michael Keenan, you can find judge whether you’re meeting this content marketing goal by asking questions like:
“The attribution model changes from client to client, but what’s important is that you show them how your content is helping them make money,” Keenan adds.
This is lucky, since James Pollard of The Advisor Coach has found “content marketing tends to deliver higher quality leads.”
“For example, I put my email opt-in at the bottom of my blog articles. If someone is willing to read an entire article about a topic on my website, that person is a much better fit than someone who just saw a paid ad. Plus, content marketing helps build trust, rapport, and credibility. All three of these things lead to higher quality subscribers on my email list.”
“Of course all content isn’t going to lead directly to sales, but it should be creating leads,” writes Brooks Manley. “Marketing Qualified Leads are great, but if they aren’t ultimately contributing to customer acquisition, the content isn’t doing as much as it could.
“At Beekeeper, we utilize content marketing to direct visitors to our site so that they can read beneficial content and learn about what our company has to offer. See your content as a “free offer” for those who visit your site, and hopefully they will become clients and customers,” Jessica Ruane explains.
Jamie Kehoe agrees: “For [Venturi], in the B2B space, it’s about pure conversions. In other words, how is your hard work at the top of the funnel impacting the bottom line.”
“Build out your keyword strategy and content for the top of your buyers funnel, nurture and track. Ensure your goals are set up in GA for your conversion pages (form submission pages) so you can see the behavior flow of customers.”
“If you’re seeing conversions from blogs, articles or other content, you’re doing well. If you’re seeing issues with prospects getting through the funnel, consider looking at the UX of your funnel and how you can reduce friction,” Kehoe adds.
Anastasiia Khlystova explains how they measure this for HelpCrunch: “We have two main metrics for our content – the number of registrations and the number of trial-to-paid conversions from the blog.”
Summarizing, SyncShow‘s Jasz Joseph adds: “Pageviews, organic search rankings, and time on page are all important, however, they only tell you if people are finding and consuming your content.”
“Conversion rate tells you if the right people are findings and consuming your content. The right people will take it one step further and convert after reading. Unqualified traffic will ore often just read and bounce.”
“Ultimately, the most important goal that every content marketing program should pursue is a profitable increase in business,” says Tony Mastri of MARION Internet Marketing. “The objectives you set on the way can vary, but the goal should mostly remain the same.”
“From a high-level view, how much do your employees, relevant software subscriptions, and even office hardware cost? Now, how do you expect content marketing to generate revenue? You can use these general figures to determine where the break-even point is for your content marketing efforts.”
Mastri adds: “Your team will use different strategies and set different objectives to reach and exceed that break-even point, but at the end of the day, your content marketing should be leading to profit increases.”
“The overarching goal is to rank better in Google so as to give our website an edge in relation to our competitors,” writes Agata Gruszka of Resumelab.
“In doing so, we need to take into account everything from keyword volume optimization to vocal SEO backed by semantic HTML elements and structured data.”
“Content marketing is a never-ending process of tuning and refining dictated by the changes in Google’s algorithms as well as shifts in consumer and competition patterns.”
Sib Mahapatra adds: “Content is one of our most powerful SEO tools, and the content marketing program has three goals at Branch: the first is increasing our ranking for specific keywords, the second is improving our domain authority by generating authoritative backlinks, and the third is driving direct traffic to our site through social sharing and viral amplification.”
“When done properly, it helps you rank higher on search engines for keywords and topics that are relevant to your business, and your company,” Evenbound‘s Mackenzie Deater explains. “And when you’re highly visible as an authority in your industry, more consumers are going to come to you for answers. The more consumers that make it to your website or sales and marketing teams, the more deals you can close.”
Big Sea‘s Maria Mora adds how this can impact another goal: “A natural byproduct of well-strategized content marketing is an increase in organic search visibility. But it isn’t only about ranking — it’s about providing content that guides a user through the buyer’s journey, building confidence in their decision to do business with you.”
Michael Lucy of 3V Business Solutions also says: “While social media content distribution is a sound tactic, search engines are still the gold standard for connecting with people that have a focused interest and purchasing intent.”
To do this, Sarah Franklin says that Blue Tree AI “create SEO reports bimonthly to properly analyze data that has been recorded and create change in places that are showing signs of weakness or not getting the intended results we had imagined.”
“This provides us with more opportunities to be successful and integrate new software or methods to our workflow if we feel there is a need to.”
“By having these reports and looking at overall productivity as a team we are able to develop great communication and ideas to help with our goal to be financially free and provide an excellent service.”
*Editor’s note: Do you know how well your SEO strategy is performing? Instead of manually collecting data from several tools, this Google Analytics SEO template pulls it automatically–and shows your most important metrics all on one dashboard:
However, this content marketing goal may soon become less important, as Shane Hebzynski of 3 Cats Labs says: “With the way Google is pushing organic traffic further and further down the page, that may become a secondary goal but we’ll see what that brings in the future.”
“Even if that’s the case. we will still need content to demonstrate that we know what we’re doing.”
Alayna Okerlund of BestCompany.com thinks that “for starters, most content marketing programs should set a goal to increase their unique dofollow backlink count from reputable, relevant websites.”
“Setting this type of goal can help you and your team create better content, connect with relevant/reputable websites, and enhance your company’s overall SEO strategy and reputation.”
Luke Arezina adds that Data Prot’s “primary goal with content marketing is to establish our relevance within the niche and to increase our organic traffic over time.”
“We’re creating a lot of linkable content, such as infographics and statistics, because we’re investing in long-haul relevancy, by getting high DR websites’ backlinks, and establishing top-expert status within the niche.”
Kevin Rodrigues explains how they do this at Gardening Mentor: “The primary goal of our content marketing efforts is to create high-quality content and build links using the Skyscraper technique.”
“This means we write the content and then reach out to the other websites that would be interested in this content. They can then add our link to the website so their readers can read this content. Some of these websites also promote our content through their social media channels.”
“Whilst you may have category and product pages ranking for your “money” keywords, a content marketing strategy will allow you to target those top of funnel and informational keywords. People who may be just starting their path to purchase,” says Dan Reeves of Dandy Marketing.
“For goals, you of course can set an increase in traffic. Within Google Analytics if you also have goals set up correctly you can see the impact these are having from a lead generation point of view as well.”
David Sandy agrees: “If you think about it, when someone searches your brand name into Google or any search engine it builds a sense of trust. Not only that but also by showing up for any number of other keywords and topics related to your niche helps to establish your brand as the go-to hub of your niche.”
Malte Scholz adds: “The primary goal of [Airfocus‘] content marketing efforts is to increase our organic traffic and maximize our conversions from highly targeted keywords.”
“We create various types of content for different stages in the sales funnel, but each of them is optimized for a keyword that our target audience is searching for.”
“Content marketing, when done right, should aim to build trust with your audience,” Nicole Sengers of Spitfire Inbound says. “Good content should provide answers to the questions people are asking about your product, service or business.”
“If one of the goals of inbound marketing is to always be helping then content marketing is about using content to help, guide and provide answers to the questions people have.”
demandDrive‘s AJ Alonzo adds: “We know that there are lots of competitors touting the same things we are, so it’s important for us to stand out and be seen as an authority on the subject matter.”
“The best way for us to do that is by creating high-quality content that resonates with our audience. The more impressions, engagement and reach that our content has, the better.”
(Chances are, your competitors can’t do that as you can.)
“The goal is to share the unique knowledge and views you or your company has, Perry Nalevka of Penguin Strategies adds. “Done right this will answer questions your audience has about your domain, product, and services leading to higher quality leads and shorter sales cycles.”
Mike Allton of Blogging Brute thinks that “content marketing should be to help customers. Existing customers. That might sound odd to some businesses who think that marketing is all about driving sales, but that is NOT the sum of all marketing, particularly content marketing.”
“If you’ve never gone through this exercise, consider:
Allton continues: “Creating content that helps your customers helps you KEEP those customers, resulting in less churn and greater lifetime revenue and value from the customers you have.”
“Plus, great customer-facing content is still public and seen by prospects and while they may not need it at that moment, they may be impressed and therefore convert at a higher rate.”
Anu Ramani of Isoline Communications adds: “This is important as acquiring new customers is expensive. It costs 5x more to attract a new customer than to nurture an existing one. Content can help show the customer you support them understanding their needs, and introduce them to new products that they could potentially buy.”
Andrea Moxham of Horseshoe+co explains: “Brand loyalty will ultimately help your brand develop customer advocacy, which occurs when your customers turn into evangelists or organic influencers of your brand.”
*Editor’s note: Keeping track of how many customers you’re losing is crucial. Clearly see how many accounts you’re bringing in, compared to those canceling their subscriptions with this Stripe (MRR & Churn) dashboard:
“The goal of content marketing should be to move people through the stages of the buying process,” says ForgeCollective‘s Vince Martellacci. “At different stages, you use different content and different platforms.”
“When they’re just starting to realize they have a problem that you can solve, before they know anything about it, you would use explainer and informative content that lays a foundation for other forms of content.”
Kinsta‘s Tom Zsomborgi explains: “First you need to create brand awareness and let them see your name and content several times before they notice that you are a trustworthy source in the industry. With the right content strategy, you can move them from top to the bottom of the funnel and convert them to customers.”
“The more you invest in the quality of your content the better results you see in the long-term. And I don’t need to mention that content marketing is a never-ending process.”
Illumine8‘s Liam Redding agrees: “These content efforts should focus on nurturing the customer through the customer journey with the goal of converting them to a lead or evangelist by providing timely, relevant, and helpful information at key strategic points in their customer lifecycle.”
“By creating engaging content across various platforms and mediums, while also strategizing and executing high-level industry standards, you will be able to achieve this goal,” Redding explains.
According to Nichole Turner of Chief Martech Office, “to do this, your content needs to create awareness and educate, develop consideration for your brand by providing examples of how you solve problems, and then solidify your brand as the best solution and help people make a decision to buy from you.”
John Donnachie says that ClydeBank Media does this by “casting a wide net and creating touchpoints to “warm-up” our traffic is the primary goal. […] Once we have our warmed up traffic interacting with our brand, and ideally on our email list, then we shift to more sales-oriented messaging.”
Rick Ramos explains that for HealthJoy, “we write content throughout the marketing funnel. We write lots of thought leadership pieces that we consider top of the funnel.”
“Maybe twenty perfect is middle of the funnel content that educates people about our benefits experience platform and how it can lower a companies healthcare spend while increasing employee benefits satisfaction. We also write some amazing eBooks that we use for lead generation and we link to those in every blog post.”
Again, this ties in with another huge content marketing goal, as Synthesio‘s Anna Tolette explains: “By establishing yourself as an expert in your field with content that connects readers with your brand’s objective, you can engage with more prospects who are in different stages of the sales cycle.”
Kenzi Wood of Kenzi Writes adds: “Content marketing isn’t about pushing people to buy something right now. It’s about being there for them right now, when they need answers. The hard sell comes later in the sales funnel. Right now, it’s about engaging and being there for your customers.”
However, Looka‘s Christine Glossop argues that “before you can even talk about funnel stages or social engagement, your content needs to earn your audience’s trust and position you as an authority.”
“Keeping those goals at the heart of every content marketing decision will make your content more effective at accomplishing your company’s specific goals—from creating a community to growing brand awareness, to performing better in search, to driving sales.”
Ready to hit your content marketing goals?
As Megan Mosley of Referral Rock summarizes, “content marketing is all about putting relevant and helpful information out there so that you can build your brand.”
“The trick is to create content that makes sense, is helpful to the reader, and that is in-depth. Otherwise, all your efforts probably won’t pay off.”
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