Content Marketing vs Inbound Marketing


Content marketing and inbound marketing are terms people in the digital space throw around very often. Yet most people don’t know to distinguish the two.

They are very much related, and some experts even claim they serve the same purposes. But if studied on a deeper level, we find some fundamentally unique strategies, methods, and goals for each of them.

Knowing how to differentiate them empowers you to choose the most effective strategies for your digital marketing strategies.

So today, we’ll pin content marketing vs inbound marketing.

What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing starts with attracting customers through relevant and helpful content and interactions that add value and pull prospects towards your brand.

Then it proceeds with taking them through a wholesome and integrated process of transformation from prospects into customers.

Today, traditional marketing methods such as cold emails and sales calls have become ineffective. Cold emails, for instance, have a success rate of 1%, while sales calls convert only 2% of targeted prospects.

Yet permission email marketing, an emergent marketing strategy, has a success rate of 14.1%. This comparatively superior success rate is courtesy of people no longer paying attention to aggressive advertising.

Shifting from these aggressive methods of marketing into targeted marketing is effective because nobody likes interruptive ads.

People prefer to have the freedom of choosing what is advertised to them. And this is done through targeting; using relevant content to promote relevant products.

Inbound marketing can either be online or offline.

When done online, it includes

  • SEO, which is search site engine optimization,
  • Social media marketing,
  • Permission to email marketing
  • Ad Promotions.

Offline inbound marketing involves public speaking engagements, events, and conferences, interacting with people, and building brand awareness.

Stages of Inbound Marketing

Remember the definition of inbound marketing? A holistic and systematic process of “customer-zation” of visitors. Now, this process takes place in 4 stages

1. Attract

It starts with pulling the right people who are most likely to turn into customers by creating content relevant to the type of customers you want.

And so, when these people come across your content through search engines and social media platforms, they interact with your brand for the first time, and what you do to keep them around matters, as we see in the following stages.

2. Convert

You want readers to keep coming. And one of the best ways to keep them coming is through converting, which is collecting contact information from the visitors you have attracted.

This can be done through email signups, and it’s made more effective by giving freebies, such as e-books and ultimate guides or lists of useful tools to your audience.

Once you have their email, you can send regular updates of your content.

3. Close

Remember, after converting, it’s only through constant engagement that you’ll turn your leads into customers. You don’t just want them to read your content; you want to make sales too.  

Closing involves transforming leads into customers by using permission email marketing and customer relationship management tools, which enable you to follow up on your customers and lead them into purchasing your product.

4. Delight

Every businessperson loves to see customers return to their shop again and again. It gives them confidence in their products, and they make more money. The same feeling exists for content creators.

This is why in the final stage, you must keep impressing your existing customers. Dont forget to provide valuable information to your leads and visitors, encouraging them to purchase your products or services.

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is a continuous process of creating valuable content consistently and distributing this content to attract a targeted audience and drive profitable customer action.

People are tired of aggressive marketing pitches and ‘salesy’ promotions. They prefer to have more power over the kinds of products and services promotions they want to encounter.

And this is done through targeted advertisement, which is only possible when people seek answers online and have relevant or related ads pitched.

These advertisements are based on the information and intention of the searcher and thus convert more effectively than traditional marketing strategies.

Content marketing sets the stage for digital marketing. It’s done to build trust among potential customers before introducing advertisements.

Some examples of content include

  • Blog Posts
  • Infographics
  • How-to-guides
  • E-books
  • Videos
  • Presentation Slides

Stages of Content Marketing

Content Marketing involves three strategies that are almost synonymous with the stages in inbound marketing.

1. Attract

To attract is to captivate the right audience, and you can only capture the right audience by solving their pain points using high-quality content.

You need

  • A content strategy, your goals in mind, and a good understanding of your audience are essential for creating the right content that sucks customers in.
  • A list of the distribution channels you’ll use to promote your content.
  • Strategies to optimize your content to reach more people through search engines and other platforms.
  • Regular analysis of content performance to know what works and what doesn’t.

2. Convince

Use valuable and relevant content to build relationships with your visitors. When visitors come to your website and get interesting, engaging, and informative content that solves their problems, some become more interested.

They recognize your brand courtesy of the quality of your content and might make it their source of reliable information, especially if you tackle their specific problems well.

With such an audience, it is easier to convince them to become active members of your platform

3. Convert

When you turn visitors or readers into prospective leads through email signups and Call-to-actions, that’s called converting.

Once people have seen value on your website or your online platform, it improves their chances of signing up for more valuable content from you.

And at this stage, they are the most likely people to be turned into customers.

Similarities of Inbound and Content Marketing

From the definitions of inbound marketing and content marketing, it is pretty clear that these two strategies have so many similarities.

But let’s focus on the two most significant.

First of all, both inbound marketing and content marketing involve creating high-quality and relevant content targeted to a specific audience.

Without content, neither inbound marketing nor content marketing will be effective.

Secondly, both inbound marketing and content marketing use non-interruptive, non-aggressive, and customer-centric marketing strategies.

They depend on internet traffic which comes from visitors looking for specific solutions, and then personalized targeted advertisements are displayed to these customers.

This process does not interrupt the natural flow of customers’ research on the internet.

On the other hand, specific differences put inbound marketing and content marketing aside from each other.

Differences of Inbound and Content Marketing


Inbound marketing is focused more on a particular persona of a buyer. For instance, it can target bloggers who are stay-at-home moms with children.

On the other hand, content marketing a broader target audience. And in this case, and a good example is general mom bloggers.


Inbound marketing focuses more on the website’s design and content that will attract profitable customer actions. The goal of inbound marketing is to transform visitors into customers.

Hence, the general design of everything on our site has to have this main agenda in mind.

On the other hand, content marketing focuses more on creating relevant and helpful content and distributing this content for brand awareness.


Inbound marketing inspires customers to favor a brand using various concepts and approaches, while content marketing is more geared towards building relationships through valuable content.

Tips to maximize Inbound Marketing.

1. Search Engine Optimization.

Imagine the internet as an expansive natural forest. For a tree to stand out, it must have outstanding characteristics which make it easily recognizable such as height, the color of the leaves, and the size.

Likewise, on the internet, great content needs specific features that enable Search Engines to recognize and rank highly.

Most of the content produced online is average and boring. So you have to make your work stand out in easily discoverable.

This is known as SEO optimization. And it involves telling the search engines that your content is relevant to a specific keyword by focusing on that topic and providing the most value to your readers.

When all the website pages are SEO optimized, the cumulative effects of optimization enable our website to rank high for most keywords.

2. Website Design.

Consider a person who is looking to buy a home on Zillow. The first thing that attracts them to a particular listing is the outlook, design, and layout of the house, which they get from the pictures.

If the pictures of a home don’t captivate them, they will likely move on to the next listing.

Likewise, when somebody visits a website, the design is what they see first. If a website is not well designed, most people, 75%, will assume the content is not credible either.

In addition, if the navigation is tricky or unavailable, writers will have a bad user experience

A bad design and equally disappointing navigation chase away potential customers straight into your competitors’ hands.

To optimize your website design and convert easily,

  • Make your website responsive. Most people today, over 50% of internet users are smartphone users. Failing to optimize your website for mobile phones means you’ll miss out on a considerable percentage of your customers.
  • Design an easily navigable website, especially if you want to lead your visitors into becoming customers, which is the primary mission behind inbound marketing.
  • Use smart call-to-action buttons that enable users to get more value from your content.
  • Place social sharing features that make it easy for people to share your content on social media sites which takes us to the next tip

3. Social Media

In today’s world, where billions of people spend hours every day on social media, failing to involve social media in your marketing strategies is like leaving money on the table.

Your prospective customers are on social media platforms. Why not showcase the value you have to offer? They can interact easily with your brand leading to growth in brand awareness.

Leaving out social media is like having a two-legged stool. You’ll need it soon to balance

But how really does social media help you in inbound marketing?

  • It’s the perfect spot to promote your content. Because when you share your content on social media, you are tapping into traffic that spends most of the time on social media.
  • You can meet influencers and brand ambassadors, and other bloggers, network, and potentially get them to share your content on their platforms and reach more people.
  • Social media also helps you get content ideas because when you hang around your type of customers on social media, you’ll recognize their pain points and create content that helps them.

4. Pay-per-click Advertising.

Pay-per-click advertising is a non-interruptive marketing strategy that uses the regular keyword organic traffic to direct internet surfers to your website.

Advertisers bid for keywords that their targeted audience is looking for on the internet and win positions above organic results in SERPs (search engine results pages).

They pay for any clicks on these Ads

Since it’s not free, it’s critical to design and optimize their ads to convert well. To do this

  • Create ads focused on your customers rather than on brand awareness.
  • Use landing pages instead of website home pages because landing pages are more specific and focused on converting visitors into leads or prospects.
  • Use segmentation and personalization systems. Group visitors into segments and create personalized Ads based on customer behaviors. This makes a much more successful marketing approach.

5. Permission Emailing.

Permission emailing is a term popularized by Seth Godin, a content marketing expert who defines it as the privilege to send personalized, relevant, and anticipated content to people who actually want that content.

They want that content because they have signed up for your newsletter, which happened in the second stage of inbound marketing; conversion.

When people sign up for these newsletters, they have trusted you to offer them value, and you must honor that promise.

Due to the personalized nature and direct communication with customers through email, it’s the most powerful strategy to transform visitors and leads into customers.

But it takes time and pure effort by continuously proving your worth to them.

6. Lead Management

When somebody signs up for your newsletter, you must have a follow-up system that will turn these people into customers. Here is how to go by

  • Come up with a system that categorizes your customers based on their behavior to prioritize the people who are most likely to convert into customers.
  • Continue offering relevant content and engaging with your customers by sending timely and occasional email campaigns that provide more value to your customers.
  • Segment your leads into various lists and used personalized content to engage with these segmented customers.
  • Use smart call to action buttons to build upon the already engaged, already built customer engagement.
  • Ask questions to collect necessary information from your customers, enabling you to plan on what to offer your customers.

Using a Customer Relationship Management tool will significantly streamline this.

Tips to Maximize on Content Marketing

1. Focus on a target audience.

In blogging, most people just write content hoping readers will come to their blogs.

Others who are more strategic use keyword research tools and techniques to identify content that people are searching for and then write content targeted towards these readers.

However, do you know what the best approach is?

Doing it backward,

  • Identify your target audience
  • Create an outline of the pain points that they have or the problems that they are facing.
  • Come up with solutions for their problems.

Using the outline and solutions, you can generate as many topic ideas as possible.

Next, do some search analysis to prioritize the topics with the most traffic or engagement, and work on them first to increase your chances of success early on, especially for new bloggers.

2. Niche down and concentrate on a few keywords.

Every day lots of content is produced worldwide, and billions of dollars are invested in promoting content by brands and small businesses alike.

You cannot afford to be general in this digital marketing world. Neither can you afford to try and solve all problems?

That’s why you need to niche down. Select a specific pain point or problem that your target audience is experiencing.

Hit hard on it and try to solve the problems in that niche as much as possible. Become an expert in that area and build your brand based on that niche.

Meanwhile, it would help if you did keyword targeting, which is the basis of niching down.

Many experts advocate for writing content that serves readers’ interests without much emphasis on keyword targeting.

However, I don’t believe it’s possible to produce content that’s great for both search engines and people without understanding the keywords people are searching

Keyword research and targeting are still relevant and essential strategies to increase your digital marketing chances of success.

3. Content Strategy and Content Calendar.

Failing to plan is planning to fail. And that makes so much sense, especially in digital marketing.

Without a plan, you’ll hardly see the results of your efforts because you have no accountability system to compare your efforts and the results.

It’s essential to create a strategy after defining your goals, audience, and target keywords that you want to focus on.

A content strategy will keep your goals in mind in the process of content creation. You don’t just do things for the sake of doing them.

Market Muse defines content strategy as the ongoing process of transforming business objectives and goals into a plan that uses content to achieve the goals.

A strategy puts your goals in mind, which forces you to design your content to help you achieve your goals, be it selling a product or converting visitors into leads.

At the same time, a content calendar ensures that you produce content consistently. You should know that consistency is equally as important as great content for success in digital marketing.      

Not having one is like having a fitness schedule that you don’t follow regularly. You will not see your workout results.

4. Repurposing your content.

Content is not just articles; it can be videos, infographics, images, slides, and much more.

Focusing only on blog posts is technically referred to as ‘article marketing,’ assuming such a term exists.

If you want to achieve more success in content marketing, you must incorporate other content types.

Take the most popular article in your blog, convert it into a video, and post it on YouTube, the second most visited website globally. Your potential customers are YouTubing.

And the fact that 69% of people prefer video over text when learning about a product or service proves how necessary it is to create video content.

Why not take your most viral content into something such as slides and share it on forums and social sharing platforms.

You can even transform your most informative pillar post into an e-book and use it to encourage visitors to sign up for your email newsletter.

5. Serious Content Distribution

Spend twice as much time distributing your content as you spent creating it.

No matter the effort you put into creating your content, the time it takes, or how helpful and engaging your content is, it’s useless unless your customers find it.

That is why taking your content to your prospective customers is essential and a recipe for success in today’s digital marketing world.

Where do your prospective customers meet?

You should find them on Social media platforms, especially niche groups.

Also, you can network with bloggers and influencers and potentially have them share your content on their platforms.

There also exist niche-specific forums where you can meet your prospective customers who have the highest possibility of converting into your customers.

Content distribution significantly increases the exposure of your branded content. People will be encouraged to learn about your products and your services early on, boosting engagements.

You cannot continue waiting for Google to discover your content. It takes a year for a post to rank.

Are you that patient? You must take it out there and promote it ferociously.


The connection between content marketing and inbound marketing makes it hard to practice either without the other.

Some expert institutions such as HubSpot believe that Inbound Marketing is broader and more actionable, while Content marketing is more specific and can be categorized under inbound marketing.

One common theme that rules it all is the power of content to influence people’s decisions. Which makes it integral for businesses of all types and sizes to use content to be successful online.

About El Gwaro

El Gwaro is a content writer and HubSpot Certified Content Marketer. He blogs about meaningful content creation that adds value to people. When he's not writing, he enjoys watching combat sports and fantasizing.

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