Content Marketing vs Online Advertising [Infographic]

Understanding the pros and cons of content marketing and online advertising is critical for your long-term success as a company operating in the digital realm. Let’s start with a look at what they actually are, then move in to what you need to know about using – and profiting – from each.

The Basics of Content Marketing

As its name suggests, content marketing is all about using content to draw in customers and get them interested in your products. Content marketing is often direct and straightforward – it offers something of value to your reader, and in return, hopefully, your reader will give something of value (typically, but not always, money) in return.

Content marketing often manifests in the following ways:

  • Blog Posts: Blogs such as this one are a type of permanent content – as long as you continue to host your website, they’ll be available for people to reach… and over time, you could have high-ranking pages for thousands of keywords. It’s not hard to imagine how well that could support your overall business efforts.
  • Infographics: There are times when visual explanations work better than long posts, and a well-written infographic can quickly communicate many different ideas to the reader while getting them to nod their heads. Most people are visually-oriented, and taking advantage of this is a wise policy for most businesses.
  • Videos: As with infographics, videos offer a degree of visual appeal… and unlike infographics, they also include movement. Watching videos is easy, and it can hold attention in ways that other types of content marketing can’t.
  • Podcasts: Podcasts that take place on a regular basis can ultimately create an archive of discussions and comments that people can refer to over time. As far as the pros and cons of content marketing go, that’s definitely a pro.

The Basics of Online Advertising

Online advertising is essentially just the digital version of traditional advertising, where you place ads in various areas in the hope that enough people will click on them. If your ads aren’t terrible, you can reasonably expect a certain number of people to ultimately convert – that’s one of the pros and cons of content marketing and online advertising that many people forget.

Online advertising often manifests in the following ways:

  • Search Results: Showing a related result to someone when they search is a good way of trying to catch their attention as long as you can draw their eye. Google AdWords is one of the largest platforms in the world for doing this.
  • Facebook and Other Social Media: The majority of social networks thrive by placing advertisements within the feeds and pages of their users. Even better, they tend to have some type of analytics software so you can understand who’s reading your content – and even specifically target certain types of people.
  • Banners: Banner ads are a popular form of website advertising. The purpose of banner advertising is to promote a brand and/or to get visitors from the host website to go to the advertiser’s website.
  • Featured Blog Post: This is a lot like a normal blog post, except it’s placed on someone else’s site and may be forgotten sooner than your own content. Still, it can help expose your company to a new audience, and that’s often worthwhile in its own right.

The Pros and Cons of Content Marketing


    Generally, content marketing is a long-term investment, and can be relied upon to bring in traffic for a long time. It may take weeks or months for any individual post to pay itself off, but once it has, each blog post essentially becomes a unique driver of revenue. See the infographic below for a clear view of the ROI of content marketing in the long run.

  • In many cases, the end result is having a high number of blog posts that convert readers at a moderate pace each. Readership tends to average out over time as long as the content is still relevant.
  • Content that remains relevant for a long time is known as ‘evergreen’ material, and the majority of your created content should be designed with this principle in mind. Content that stops being relevant will see fewer visitors and even fewer conversions.
  • Content marketing also tends to build trust. The driving force behind this is content marketing’s emphasis on providing something of value to the reader. Within the pros and cons of content marketing, that is one of the biggest pros, because the average person honestly likes receiving something of value.
  • High-quality content also gives you the chance to demonstrate expertise. People like this – the more of an expert they think you are, the more inclined they are to trust you and rely on you to help them solve their problems.


    High-quality content often requires more time, cost, and effort to produce. This is the part that makes many companies hesitate to do it.

  • In many cases, it’s possible to reduce two out of these three issues. For example, hiring a content-producing company (or even an individual writer) could result in obtaining content with minimal time or effort on your part… but you can expect to pay a premium for the service.
  • Many companies are willing to accept the high cost because of the long-term value of quality content. If you can expect to see a return on investment of several times whatever you put in, each post suddenly looks much more reasonable to fit into your budget.
  • As far as the pros and cons of content marketing go, this may be the biggest con: the results can vary. Producing top-notch content is considerably more difficult than it looks, even for an expert, and it’s as much art as science.
  • Content marketing knows this is a problem, and tries to resolve it with a focus on constantly testing things. In other words “find out what works and do more of that”. Over time, you should be able to create content with reasonably predictable results.

The Pros and Cons of Online Advertising


  • Online advertisements are fairly good at generating immediate results – often as soon as the same day (or at least the next day, depending on when you start your campaign). It’s a short-term focus, and if you really need to drum up some extra cash right now, then this is often a sensible way of approaching the subject.
  • Finding people to advertise to is a simple and straightforward process. There are also numerous tools – Google’s Keyword Planner typically being the foremost among them – that exist specifically to give you a good idea of what the results are likely to be. In short, online advertising is reasonably predictable.


  • Online advertising isn’t anywhere near as effective as it once was. Known as ad blindness/banner blindness, many users have actually trained themselves to ignore ads, associating the content as something ‘other’ that they don’t want in their lives.

    Learn more about ad blindness and ways to overcome it here.

    • On average, you can expect that maybe a third of all users will even bother to look at the advertisements posted in places like Google’s search results. A large majority of people will go straight to the organic results that content marketing specializes in.
    • Software exists to block online ads. In other words, no matter how attractive your banner is, they’re not even going to see it in the first place – and there’s no real point in trying to get around that, because anyone who installed an ad-blocker won’t be paying attention to you even if you find a way to sneak advertisements through.

Online ads also fail to bring in future revenue. They’re a one-shot promotion, and this may be the biggest negative when evaluating the pros and cons of content marketing and online advertising. Once you’ve paid your money, it’s gone – unlike the long-term value of content that can be used over and over again.

Most online ads don’t provide any kind of additional value to the person seeing it. If they’re not getting value, you can’t demonstrate expertise or establish trust.

So, Which One Should Companies Use?

That’s an easy one. Most companies will benefit the most if they use both approaches to support their growth. It goes like this:

When a company is still small, it’s looking for immediate results – customers who can be enticed to buying now so that the company can pay its bills and start to grow. Online advertising, when performed correctly, is ideal for this task.

At the same time, however, the company should be focused on building up its content marketing. This means creating blog posts and infographics, recording videos and podcasts, and generally starting to set up an archive of content.

Over time, the content marketing will slowly pick up speed and start to draw in more and more users. Eventually, this will outpace the profit that comes from online advertising, whose primary use was a stop-gap measure while a long-term content creation stream was generated.

At this point, the goal of online advertising shifts – rather than being used to pay the company’s bills, all the profits gathered through online advertising can be put into content marketing.

In other words, you’re making your advertising pay for itself as part of a self-sustaining process. If you hit a hard time, you can always temporarily redirect the profits back into your general fund, but that should be considered an emergency measure more than anything else.

Traditional online advertising isn’t going to go away any time soon – many companies still need to advertise for immediate results, and that’s something content marketing simply can’t provide. The ultimate goal is the creation of a long-term stream of income that requires minimal upkeep… and once you’ve reached that point, you can say that your business has truly succeeded.

Now that you understand the pros and cons of content marketing and online advertising, it’s time to put them to use – start writing up a plan today and figure out how you can integrate both of them into your business.


Updated: 1/6/15


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