The Evolution of Content Marketing: What We Can Learn From the Past?

Content marketing is one of the most popular long-term marketing strategies that, if done right, can significantly increase brand awareness and brand loyalty. It’s a highly effective tactic. It costs 62% less than traditional marketing, while at the same time creating 3 times more leads. Content marketing comes down to offering people relevant info related to your industry on a regular basis. You do promote your brand through content, but the emphasis is not on advertising, but instead on providing value for those who consume the content. The ultimate goal then is to slowly and spontaneously turn your audience into your customers.

This strategy has been around for a long time, although it’s gained real significance on a global scale just a decade or two ago. Let’s have a brief look at the history of content marketing and then we’ll try to point out to a few valuable lessons it can teach us.

Pre-internet era

It’s possible to trace the roots of content marketing to as early as 19th century. It was far from being as widespread as today, but a few standalone examples have showed the way to the marketers of the future and basically relied on the same principles as content marketing nowadays.

In 1895, Deere & Company started publishing The Furrow Magazine, which provided farmers with valuable pieces of advice and information on topics related to agriculture. And by 1912, it had more than 4 million readers. This was a great marketing move for a company that produces agricultural tools, machinery and equipment, and has done wonders for the image of the brand.

Other early examples of this kind include Michelin’s Guide from 1900, Jell-O’s booklets of recipes from 1904, as well as Procter & Gamble’s radio drama soap campaign from 1930s. All these were a huge success, but these content marketing attempts were still just isolated examples rather than a trend. This has all changed with the emergence of the internet.

Online opportunities: 1990s-2010

The trouble with content marketing was the lack of channels for such a long-term marketing effort. Anything more than a few inches of a printed page or a 30-second TV ad was simply too expensive for most companies. And for content marketing to be done right, you need your own channel where you can regularly publish new content that normally has to be long enough in order to be really relevant and informative.

With the emergence of internet, the circumstances have changed radically. People started using the power of blogs and social media – channels that are basically free and that you can use to publish an unlimited amount of content. This event is often referred to as “democratization” of content marketing. It has opened the door for the real expansion of this marketing strategy in the last decade.

The golden age: 2010 – ?

The explosion of online channels and opportunities has resulted in the explosion of content marketing as well, since 88% of B2B companies reportedly used it in their marketing efforts in 2015. Today, more than 2 million blog posts are published every day and this has resulted in a lot of noise and poor-quality content.

Thus, in order to stand out, it has become extremely important to deliver first-rate content, and both brands and top content marketing companies have recognized this. Moreover, Google’s algorithm updates guarantee low rankings for low-quality and short-form content, which has put additional emphasis on creating top-class, long-form articles that provide real value.

Another novelty that 2010s have brought is the way content is promoted. Companies have realized how useful influencer marketing and paid ads are. Furthermore, the amount of content produced every day is such that you have to invest in promotion in order to be noticed, no matter how good your content is. This has been reflected in the fact that companies today spend a lot more money on promoting the content than on creating it.

Lessons to be learned

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Source: burst.shopifycdn.com

When we look at the history of content marketing, one constant becomes obvious immediately. The most important condition for this type of marketing to be successful is simply providing purposeful and interesting content that answers your audience’s questions. This is becoming more essential as the amount of available content grows.

Another constant is the necessity of careful targeting and narrowing your niche. You can’t and shouldn’t let the topics become too dispersed or completely irrelevant for your products and your industry. Stick to what you do and know best and tell stories that will not only benefit your audience right away, but that will also do good things for your business on the long run.

Furthermore, you ought to take advantage of the fact that content marketing has been “democratized”. It has apparently always been effective, but it was too expensive to be done properly. Today, you have all the necessary tools at your disposal basically for free and a multitude of channels ready to be utilized. And with careful targeting and distribution of the content, the resources you’ll have to invest in promotion can also be minimized.

At the end of the day, the ultimate message is to not be afraid to employ new strategies and put innovative ideas to work. Stay in touch with the latest trends and take chances. Some particular rules and practices applied in content marketing are going to change constantly and you have to be familiar with them and put them to use. Currently, these trends include the use of videos, strong links with journalism, as well as employing latest technological tools to analyze your content and feedback. So do your homework, see what works for you and include it in your strategy starting from today.

Guest author Meaghan is a web designer who is also quite passionate about digital marketing. These days she is all about researching various IT related topics and collaborating with other bloggers. When she is not working she enjoys dancing classical ballet.