19 Mar 2024
7 min read

Is content marketing still worth it?



Marketing Manager

Content has been a pillar of digital marketing strategy for over a decade. Ever since Google cracked down on low-quality sites with its Panda algorithm update back in 2011, marketers have had to invest time and effort in creating original, well-researched and well-written content to increase online visibility. Since then, the search engine has continued to update its core algorithm in order to prioritise high quality, helpful content in the search results – most recently with their aptly named “Helpful Content Update”.

As the online space becomes more and more saturated with content, and AI content creation becomes increasingly prominent, many in the industry have been forced to ask the question which we’ll try to answer in this post: is content marketing still worth it?

(Spoiler alert: yes)

We’ll also cover off some of the fundamentals of content marketing, including:

  • What content marketing is and what it entails
  • Why content marketing is important
  • What makes content marketing effective for your business
  • How content marketing impacts SEO, and vice versa
  • The value of human vs AI generated content

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is a digital marketing strategy that focuses on consistently creating and sharing content that is helpful and valuable to your customers and potential customers. The content is helpful and valuable in that it is relevant to their challenges and goals, rather than just directly selling your product or service. For example, if you were a company selling outdoor wear, you might produce content around hiking routes, camping hacks or gear lists, rather than just constantly and exclusively promoting your products. Content marketing can come in all shapes and forms, but most commonly includes blog posts, guides and e-books, podcasts, video, and social media.

Why is content marketing important?

Up to 73% of B2B marketers and 70% of B2C marketers use content marketing as part of their marketing strategy. No matter your industry, product or service, good content is how you reach people early and how you differentiate yourself from competitors. Research by the CMO Council found that 87% of B2B buyers said that content has a moderate to major impact on purchasing decisions. Through effective content marketing, you can get potential customers engaged with you at the point they’re experiencing the symptoms of a problem. They may not be in a position to buy your product or service there and then, but you’re on their radar, and because you’ve helped by sharing that content, they’ll likely come back when they are ready to buy. Creating this value exchange via content early on creates trust and loyalty which you can build on as you forge a relationship with customers. Considering that according to research by Google, a buyer will spend 7 hours across 11 touch points and in 4 different locations engaged with your content before committing to a purchase with you, it’s easy to see why content marketing is such a vital part of your overall marketing strategy.

Is content marketing effective?

As we’ve already touched on, there are numerous stats around buyer and consumer behaviour that point to effectiveness and importance of content as part of a marketing strategy. But what about actual outcomes? According to Demand Metric, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing (advertising, etc), but delivers three times as many leads. While it can sometimes be difficult to directly measure the return on investment (ROI) of content marketing, there are countless examples and case studies of organisations seeing boosts in leads, sales and customer retention off the back of investing in content marketing.

How does content marketing help with SEO?

A key consideration of content marketing as an approach is its role in SEO. When talked about in the context of SEO, content marketing is sometimes referred to as inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is built around drawing in users and attracting them to engage with you through sharing content. Put simply – a user searches for a keyword related to a problem they’re trying to solve (which is related to your product or service) – you want to be visible in the search results for that keyword so that they engage with you. For example, in the scenario we talked about earlier, if you were a website selling outdoor wear, you might identify a good opportunity to rank for the keyword “what to pack for a camping trip”, and produce a piece of content to target this keyword.

Another facet to this is Google’s – as the world’s most popular search engine – increasingly sophisticated approach to content. As mentioned in the introduction to this post, their recent Helpful Content Update is the latest and most significant tweak to their algorithm in trying to prioritise high-quality content that’s gneiunely useful to the user. Google is improving its ability to understand user intent and content quality all the time – so you need to stay on top of your content game in order to make sure you’re performing as well as you can.

Why not let AI do it?

As alluded to earlier in the post, AI content generation is becoming more and more prevalent. You only have to hop on to LinkedIn for five minutes and you’ll see countless posts about how you can use Chat GPT to develop a whole marketing strategy in five minutes. So, why not just let AI do the hard work and your content marketing for you?

Well, because it’s not as good. Aside from some obvious practical limitations – ChatGPT for example can’t look up up-to-date information and is limited to before 2021 – there’s also compelling evidence to suggest that it’s just not as engaging and effective as human-generated content.

User behaviour testing and analytics tool Hotjar recently did an experiment where they “briefed” the same piece of content to a human writer, and to AI. The human-generated content outperformed the AI-generated content in basically every metric: clicks, impressions, click-through-rate and scroll depth. The human-generated piece also generated sign-ups for their platform, whereas the AI content didn’t. This is obviously just one example, but it’s a pretty good demonstration of how AI content is empirically not as effective as content written by a human.

(Side note – that HotJar piece is a great example of content marketing!)

In addition to this, in March 2024 Google began rolling out a core algorithm update specifically targeted at reducing the amount of AI spam in the search results. Referred to as “scaled content abuse”, Google have made it clear that generating content at scale to boost rankings is against their guidelines, in particular – “pages that pretend to have answers to popular searches but fail to deliver helpful content.”

Key takeaways

  • Content marketing is a strategy that focuses on creating and sharing content that is helpful, valuable and highly relevant to your potential customers
  • A good content strategy is vital in engaging with potential customers early in the buying journey – being there every step of the way as they research their options
  • Executed in the right way, content marketing can be up to three times as effective for lead gen compared to “traditional” marketing strategies
  • High-quality content is key in bringing users to your site organically via search engines
  • Human-generated content is still empirically more effective and more valuable than AI-generated content (at least for now)

Launching a new website without an ongoing content marketing strategy is like buying a new car and never filling it up with fuel. We’ve just launched content and SEO services for our clients – find out more.