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Advertising vs. Content Marketing vs. Content Advertising: 3 Essentials for Driving Traffic (+ Examples)

Modern technology has completely changed the landscape of pretty much everything. People are used to instant gratification and being able to take "control of the wheel" when it comes to their interactions with brands.

They know what they want, when they want it, and how they want it. And thanks to multimedia streaming services, gone are the days of having to sit through commercials from businesses begging the world to buy their products. Within this context, the entire marketing industry has had to pivot to accommodate new expectations.

The rise of new marketing strategies has brought new terms that you may find odd. For example, what is content marketing? How is it different from advertising? And is there such a thing as having both of them working cohesively? 

For B2B and B2C companies alike, there’s always a question of how to allocate resources for expanding brand awareness and generating sales. Let’s dissect the similarities, differences, advantages, and disadvantages of content marketing and advertising.

What Is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is a strategy involving the creation and distribution of relevant, high-value content directed at your ideal buyer personas. It fits perfectly into the inbound methodology because your content marketing is successful when it is delivered to the right person, in the right way, at the right time.


This blog you’re reading right now is a content marketing example. That puppy/kitten video on Instagram that you liked is content marketing. You’re surrounded by content for good reason — it works.

The Benefits of Content Marketing

It Focuses on the Reader's Needs.

An effective content marketing strategy delivers value to your audience consistently. Based on your buyer persona research, you can identify pain points and challenges to address within your content.

By directly solving their problems through your content, your readers will continue coming back for more, which leads us to the next point. 

It Builds Trust and Authority Over Time.

On a human level, your audience will see you as an authoritative figure in your industry. The A players are seeing big results! According to Conductor, "When deciding between 4 brands, 83.6% of consumers who read a piece of
educational content by a brand chose that brand when prompted to purchase." 

This demonstrates just how much of an impact that good content marketing can have on prospects. If they find value in what you put out, your prospects will subscribe to your email, download your content offers, follow you on social media, and (hopefully) enter your sales cycle.

This level of trust has a massive impact on the success of your business. When they trust your expertise, they consume your content. When they consume your content, they trust your brand and are more likely to buy from you. 

Search engines reward trust and authority too, and with optimized content, you’re well-equipped to climb the rankings. Fueling content marketing with SEO best practices pays off dividends over the long term.

It Yields Better Leads and Customers.

Awesome content attracts good-fit audiences to your brand.

If your content marketing strategy aligns well with the products and services you're selling, the visitors who find solutions to their problems in your content are great fits for your business. In fact, from an ROI standpoint, content marketing produces three times more leads per dollar compared to other strategies.

They'll make good leads and customers because they previously came to you for relevant solutions. This is why content marketing is so cost-effective: it follows the inbound methodology, attracting and engaging the best audience for your company, as opposed to interruptive outbound tactics. 

Types of Content Marketing (+ Examples)

There are many types of content marketing, and although they are all valuable, you should focus on the type of format your buyer persona would prefer. And you don’t have to pick one and stick with it. You can repurpose the same content into several different formats, including: 


What do you do when you need to find answers? If you’re like most people, you’ll search on Google (or Bing, or Yahoo, or whichever search engine rocks your boat). If you need something simple, like a business’ contact information or hours of operation, a simple glance at the search results will suffice.

But if you want to go more in-depth, you’ll likely click on blogs. Often, this same content will link to other relevant content, and you may very well end up going down a rabbit hole of wonderfulness that will clear up your doubts and help you out in whatever it is you intend to do. Translation: You ended up on someone's website. 

Every time you publish a blog, you’re creating an additional indexed page that Google may share with users as a result of their online queries. This, in turn, drives traffic to your website. Do this often enough, and you’ll establish yourself as an authority in your industry, and prospects will enter your sales funnel feeling more confident about your ability to deliver. 


Not everyone has the time or desire to read literature. Or if your subject is particularly complex, your target audience may benefit more from visual demonstrations.

Creating video content provides a convenient way for prospects to become informed about what you’re offering. In addition, if you publish regularly enough, people start getting familiarized with your personality and sense of humor. This humanizes your brand and makes you more trustworthy. 

Something else that gives plenty of food for thought is the vast number of people who rely on video for content. A whopping 70 percent of YouTube viewers have bought from a business after seeing their content on the online platform. And with 2.5 Billion users on the platform, that's a lot of potential influence!

You can use it to showcase a product, create tutorials, or simply talk about the industry you’re in so that consumers become better informed. Even if they don’t buy something from you today, they may do so down the road.

Additionally, you can repurpose the content and turn it into a blog post. Then, you could link to (or embed) the video in your blog post to organically link your website and your YouTube channel in the minds of your audience. HubSpot makes this really easy with their blog editor's Embed tool—you can just click on the "Insert" option from the editor menu, click on "Embed," paste the video embed code into the panel, and viola! You now have a video embedded into your blog.

Here's an example video tutorial from our own YT channel about uploading a Wistia video to your website:


Who has time to sit at a seminar? While some people may find the idea enticing, the reality is that it’s not always feasible or practical to expect your target audience to show up for one.

However, webinars allow both real-time and on-demand content to be available for people when they have the time to do so. They also allow you to build a bigger audience, since you can get guests from around the world to sign up for it. 

Webinars also provide you with a faster way of becoming an authority within your industry. As long as you’re providing insightful, useful, well-researched content, people will find value in what you’re offering and see you as a trustworthy source of information. 

If you prefer an interactive format, you can provide live chat for users to submit questions, which you can answer live. You can also include a Q&A session at the end, where you can provide additional answers and gain insights as to what your prospects want to know (and may need help resolving). 

If you record your webinars, you can then upload them to your website (or another platform like YouTube) to further fuel your content marketing. Just be sure to make your audience aware that the recording may be used if you're hosting an interactive webinar!


Ebooks provide you with an inexpensive way to establish credibility. Although you have to invest either time and/or resources to create it, once it’s completed, distribution is a lot simpler than having to print and sell a book.

You can either self-publish them on a large platform (such as Amazon) or you can make them downloadable on your website once a prospect provides you with their email address (bonus points: This strategy helps you expand your contacts list).

This is often accomplished by creating a landing page for the form to live on, then linking to that landing page through various call-to-action buttons throughout your site. Like this one:

download our how to blog guide

Another huge benefit of an ebook is that they are a valuable tool that doesn’t make your prospects feel like you’re pushing a sale.

People read them because they believe the information will be useful to them — answer questions, provide them with education on a specific subject, give them actionable steps to accomplish a goal. It’s a good way to establish relationships with potential customers, at a fraction of the cost of other marketing methods. 


Podcasts are another way to provide useful content to your prospects, in a format that’s consumable even as they go on about their daily lives — while out on a run, commuting, cooking, or cleaning. They allow you to become an authority in your industry by sharing your insights and experiences, as well as by hosting interviewees who can also provide useful information to your listeners. 

You can also use a podcast as another stream of revenue. Once you build up your listener base, you can get paid for advertisements by mentioning products/brands or even receive commissions from affiliate programs.


Infographics make things much easier for customers. You can use them to visually summarize any complex or nuanced concepts.

They’re also a lot more likely to be read by the TL;DR crowd, by people who feel overloaded with information, or by people who’d rather follow a step-by-step guide with images than read content in a long format book or article. You can also use it to highlight impressive data from your business, such as percentages or number of people served.

Infographics can also be fun, entertaining, and engaging, which can give you a competitive edge over businesses that only present content in text format. 


Whitepapers are in-depth communications about a particular topic. They’re typically more scholarly and well-researched in nature, so they’re a medium for industries that require something more serious in tone than flashy advertising — such as healthcare, engineering, and technology. 

Just as with ebooks, whitepapers can help you stand out as an expert in your industry. You can also use them to increase your marketing list by gating them so that prospects have to enter their email address to be able to access the content. 

Why Does Content Marketing Work? 

Content marketing works for many reasons. It gives you an advantage over traditional forms of marketing because it’s not disruptive — prospects find it because they are proactively seeking the information you’re providing.

Therefore, you are being noticed by people who already have a need for what you have to offer. In addition, it costs less than traditional marketing, yet produces more leads per dollar spent. 

Content marketing also gives you more opportunities to be indexed by Google, and thus increasing your likelihood of being found through organic searches, which translates to increased traffic to your website. 

What Is Advertising?

Advertising is a method for influencing your audience’s behavior through messages that are intended to persuade them to take action — usually, the action is to purchase your products or services. You can also provide what’s known as institutional advertising if you run a non-profit organization, host events, or promote certain issues.

Since online streaming platforms and music services make it so easy to skip commercials, it's tempting to write off advertising as a dead channel. However, it does still have a place within the inbound marketing world. After all, there are more avenues for advertising than television!

The Benefits of Advertising

Ads Can Grab Attention.

The nature of advertising is to raise awareness about your brand, a new product or service, an upcoming event, and everything in between. In other words, it's created to earn the attention of an audience.

We all experience ads every day – as we scroll through Facebook feeds, or wait for our YouTube video to start, or drive past a billboard on the highway. A well-made ad can grab the viewer's attention and get them thinking about your brand or product.

Ads Stimulate Emotions.

Once advertising earns a few seconds of attention, the messaging, no matter the format, is designed to elicit an emotional response from the audience. It can make people laugh, cry, cringe, feel confusion, and experience any other emotion.


One of the most popular advertising environments in pop culture is the Super Bowl. Every year, companies pour millions into making elaborate Super Bowl commercials to be seen by millions of people on the day of the big game — and the responses to these ad campaigns are often widely discussed.

A common talking point is how the commercials make audiences feel. Did they feel happy, confused, bewildered, or excited? Media outlets and commentators will often dissect these ads and talk about what they found awesome or confusing—helping further extend the reach of these commercials beyond even the already-huge Super Bowl audience. How big is that Super Bowl audience? According to The Atlantic, Super Bowl LVII set a record with an average audience of 115.1 million viewers.

Ads Often Have Persuasive Messaging. 

Advertising professionals are great at creating concise, punchy messages to include in their campaigns, often with the goal of encouraging audiences to take specific actions.

This messaging is often tied to an overarching narrative and theme that align with the brand and centers around its unique selling proposition (USP).

The restrictions on some types of advertising can encourage companies to be more economical and persuasive with their messaging. When you only have five seconds of guaranteed view time on a YouTube video ad, you want to make sure you capture the audience's attention so they don't all hit that "Skip Ad" button on the bottom of the video!

Types of Advertising

There are still companies using a lot of traditional ad techniques, like:

  • Radio
  • TV
  • Print media
  • Direct mailer

With the shift to digital media, digital advertising has become a major area of focus for companies. Digital ads can also take many forms.

Display Ads

These are images or text that appear on apps and websites. There are four main kinds of display ads:

  • App ads – these target mobile app categories. 
  • Text ads – these include a headline, description, and a link sending users to a landing page.
  • Gmail ads – these appear as custom ads in Gmail, allowing users to expand it, save it, and forward it.
  • Banner ads – these can be customized in the layout of a web page to include animations, interactive elements, etc. 

Video Ads

Anyone who has ever been on YouTube has seen several kinds of ads in their videos. The kinds of ads companies use on this platform include:

  • Outstream ads – ads created only for mobile devices.
  • Bumper ads – non-skippable ads that appear before, during, or after a video, usually lasting up to six seconds. 
  • Skippable in-stream ads – these can be skipped by visitors after five seconds, but they can last up to three minutes.
  • Non-skippable in-stream ads – while these can't be skipped, they can only run 15 seconds maximum. 
  • Discovery ads – these are presented in a video thumbnail form and include a small amount of text. 

Social Media Ads

These are some of the most popular ads in the current climate, based on consumer trends. A diverse digital advertising strategy will incorporate initiatives on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. 

Pay Per Click (PPC)

The name perfectly describes this kind of advertising. You only pay a fee each time a user clicks your ad on a search. Google Ads is the most popular PPC system.

Essentially, you're paying for visitors to come to your site via ads on SERPs, instead of earning free organic traffic through SEO-driven content marketing. 

Native Advertising

In its simplest definition, native ads are simply paid ads that match the media format in which the ads appear.

For social media, for example, you'll see ads in your feed that look like social media content, but they will have a "sponsored" mention on the ad.

Google also has promoted listings, and some sites will make content recommendations with "sponsored" disclaimers. 


Also known as remarketing, this kind of advertising is based on cookies. To simplify how these ads work, say that a visitor comes to your site and leaves, then as they're searching the internet, they start to see your ad. This is because their browser will have a tracking cookie from your site.

Then, as they surf the web, any display ads they see may contain promotions or offers from your site that you've bid to appear in Google.

The idea is to drive visitors back to your site to make a purchase. 

The Difference Between Advertising and Content Marketing


One of the best perspectives to adopt here to truly understand the difference between advertising and content marketing is looking at it in terms of media – earned media, owned media, and paid media.

Earned Media

Earned media is...well...earned – it’s free media you gain through your customers. Examples include followers sharing a brand’s post, press mentions, and bloggers reviewing your product.

Owned Media

This media is controlled by your company. It includes your website, email newsletters, social media profiles, and other media assets you have control over. 

Paid Media

Obviously, this is the media you pay for. Examples include PPC, social ads, and any other form of advertising. 

What Is Content Advertising? 

Content advertising marries both concepts. You create inbound marketing content, and then promote it through paid advertising — social media ads, PPC campaigns, video advertisements, sponsored placements, etc. It’s done to expand your reach from what you would get organically. 

Pros and Cons of Content Advertising

Content advertising is targeted. You can segment your audience by demographics and stage in the sales funnel and send your ads to them. This can help give you a boost in a landscape where most of your competitors are also following a content marketing strategy

On the other hand, while content marketing brings organic traffic to your website, content advertising requires an upfront investment. Additionally, too many of these ads can be as disruptive and annoying to your audience as TV commercials. This is why it’s crucial to have a well-thought-out marketing strategy — to ensure a good ROI by putting forth the right content at the right time.

Content Advertising Examples

Google Ads

When you enter a search query in a search engine, the first listings that appear are all paid content. Readers can differentiate them from organic search results because they’re clearly identified as ads. 

Social Media Ads

These will only be seen by your targeted audience, based on their shared interests, demographics, and browsing history. They will appear on their newsfeed as sponsored content; however, instead of looking like an ad, it has the appearance of regular social media posts. 

Newsletter Ads

Just as with traditional mediums, you can place paid ads on email and snail mail newsletters to promote your content. 

Bringing It All Together in Your Strategy

Depending on your budget and goals, both content marketing and digital advertising can work together really well. You can build a comprehensive strategy roping in both of these approaches while promoting your content using content ads. 

The important thing to remember is that content marketing and advertising vary widely in terms of timelines for results. Both share end goals, but the methodology is different.

Traditional advertising has you invading a customer’s space at a date and time you set – and you have no way of knowing for sure if your message is reaching them at a time when they’re amenable to it.

With content marketing, you’re creating content online (blogs, webpages, social media posts, whitepapers, etc.) and letting the customers come to you. When potential customers search for something related to your industry online, you want them to find you ranking high on the search engine results page (SERP).

Keep in mind that content marketing does tend to be a bit slower to generate results than more direct marketing tactics. It takes time for content to be indexed by the major search engines and for a company’s domain to gain enough traction to consistently rank high in the SERPs.

You’re not going to see positive ROI for content campaigns the same day you launch them (unless you’re already huge online and have a big, dedicated following). But, over time, you can produce consistent and valuable results if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.



Douglas Phillips

Douglas Phillips

Former military brat, graduated from Leilehua High School in Wahiawa, Hawaii in 2001. After earning my Bachelor's in English/Professional Writing, took on a job as a writer here at Bluleadz.