The Difference Between Content And Content Marketing Is The Destination

What is the difference between content and content marketing? The difference between the two is the destination you will use to attract and build an audience.

Everyone does content. There’s product content, sales content, customer service content, event content, employee-generated content, marketing and campaign content. Even advertising is content.

But with content marketing you are attracting an audience to a brand-owned destination vs. interrupting or buying an audience on someone else’s platform.

The Problem With Content

I meet with and talk to people every day on the subject of content marketing. And I find the concept of having a content marketing destination, owned by the brand, to serve as the digital property for your content efforts, is too often lost.

Think AmEx OPEN forum:

AMEX Open forum content hub

Or Red Bull’s RedBulletin:

Red Bull RedBulletin content hub

Or my latest favorite content marketing destination, Casper’s VanWinkle’s:


These are three great examples of content marketing destinations that are owned by brands, look and act like publisher sites, and in very different ways, drive business value for the brands that own them.

Most marketing teams are focused on creating content that supports the brand or the products you sell. We create this content mainly because someone asked us to. Not because it meets a customer need.

The problem with content is the same as the problem with campaigns. The average shelf life of a piece of content on Twitter is less than 3 hours. On Facebook, it’s 5 hours. An average article reaches just about everyone it’s going to reach in 37 days!

Thanks to social media, our attention spans are now around 8 seconds. That’s 4 seconds less than a goldfish.

Like content, campaigns run for a short period of time and then they die. And if your like most organizations, 60-70% of the content your company creates, goes completely unused.

The problem with most content is that is isn’t created for the audience you are trying to reach, engage and convert. So stop creating content that sells. Stop creating content no one will ever see. Stop creating campaigns that have a short shelf life.

The Promise Of A Content Brand?

As Seth Godin once said,

Content marketing is all the marketing that’s left.

Many people easily confuse content with content marketing. Content marketing is a strategic solution to a strategic problem. In order to reach, engage and convert new customers for your business, you have to create content people actually want.

And you need to attract them to a content marketing destination. According to Author and Speaker Andrew Davis, “developing a content brand takes an audience-first approach to business storytelling that builds a loyal audience.”

Joe Pulizzi, author and founder of the Content Marketing Institute wrote “Content Inc.” a whole book to help brands and entrepreneurs attract an audience BEFORE developing products and services.

Joe’s work has been an inspiration to me for years. I used the steps Joe recommends in his latest book to drive the approach I’m using right here at Marketing Insider Group. I’ve been blogging as a “marketing insider” for over 5 years, posting 1-2 times per week, to build an audience of engaged readers.

But only last month did I take the step of branching out to offer services to brands looking to figure out how to build an effective content marketing strategy.

The Difference Between Content And Content Marketing Is The Destination

Ok, so now you’ve got the message. You’re committed to moving beyond just creating better content, to acting like a publisher. But how do you go about building an effective content marketing destination. Here are more than 20 great examples of content marketing hubs to look at first.

Then come back here and follow these 8 steps:

  1. Determine your Content Marketing Mission Statement. This statement should support your brand mission and put your customers at the center. Define who your target audience is, what topic or topics you will support and what value you intend to provide for them.
  2. Pick a url. The first step is to consider whether you want your content marketing destination on your company’s brand domain like or on an unbranded site.
  3. Determine how branded your site will be. This is a similar but different question as above. Because you can build an on-domain site that should contain at least some elements of your corporate brand. If you go off-domain, your creative direction should support whatever topic you want to become an authority in.
  4. Think about the components of an effective content marketing destination. Your site should include all the components of any publisher site such as:
    1. Categories across the top to show your audience what topics you are covering
    2. Articles published frequently with visible authors and published dates
    3. Heavy use of imagery to support the topic and break up the text
    4. A strong focus on growing your subscribers by asking them to subscribe to your updates
    5. Highlight your top performing content so your readers can easily discover your best content
    6. A call-to-action, an offer or a “contact us” for those who want to reach out to you
    7. Social sharing options so your readers can connect with your social accounts and share your best content
  5. Build the site to focus on subscriptions.  I know I am repeating this step from above. But this is so important it is worth repeating. Subscribers are a measure of reach, engagement and conversion. They represent the audience of readers who invite you into their already-overflowing email inbox. Optimize for them. Build your list. Then build trust by consistently producing great content.
  6. Commit to publishing consistently. If you pick one topic, publish once a week or more. If you pick two topics, publish twice a week or more. You should publish every day on the categories of content that will attract the right audience.
  7. Define your measurement plan. You do not need to pick 65 metrics to track. Just look at traffic (visitors and pageviews), engagement (social shares, comments, time on site) and conversion (subscribers, contact form submissions.)
  8. Create a plan to support visual content. Getting all the above done is hard enough. But once you do, you will find that visual content can be a challenge. You don’t need to break the bank. You can cover and embed other people’s visual content. You can create slideshares for little or no budget.

Best Practices In Designing Your Content Marketing Hub

If you are looking for more detailed tips and tricks to develop your own content marketing destination, check out NewsCred’s own design guru, Dan Rudy’s Slideshare. Dan has helped dozens of companies in building their content marketing hub. In this presentation, Dan provides 32 examples for 26 different considerations you should think about when designing your own.

Dan covers the form and function of both your content hub’s homepage and the article page template you should build. According to Dan:

A content hub is a valuable way of interacting with your customers and connecting them with information, ideas, images, and stories. Once you have this content to pass along, you need a place to house it all. Somewhere that is capable of handling a constant feed of new content, from a variety of sources, covering a variety of topics, while still looking aesthetically pleasing and functioning so well that a customer will want to spend hours browsing what it has to offer.

This isn’t an easy task, but one that will be simplified and attainable after reading this guide. The guide is split into four sections, two dealing with your main hub page and two dealing with your specific article page. For both page types the guide is split into a form and function section. Form being your most basic layout, the pieces you need for the page and how to handle them stylistically. Function guides you through how a user will experience each page and the added elements to help improve this experience.

Each suggestion is analyzed on its own page and is accompanied by a screenshot of a site that demonstrates the topic. If you want to explore the entirety of the site, you can click the magnifying glass in the upper left corner of the screenshot on each example page to launch the full site on your browser.

Check it out and less us know what you think?

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

4 thoughts on “The Difference Between Content And Content Marketing Is The Destination

  1. Michael:

    Overall, I completely agree w/ your take on the importance of a content hub and top-funnel content. The overall sentiment you communicate in this article is one shared by many in our space — that content marketing is an exercise in top-funnel content exclusively and any content produced mid to bottom funnel is just content and not part of content marketing.

    I don’t agree w/ that sentiment and here’s why:

    Depending on where a prospect (audience member) resides in the buyer’s journey will determine the problems they need solved. If that prospect has a middle/bottom funnel problem (like needing specs on a product) than that’s what we as marketers need to deliver to them.

    A perfect example of this would be Marcus Sheridan’s “How much does a pool cost?” That article is not top-funnel content. The person needing this problem solved is already substantially through their journey in determining whether or not to purchase a pool.

    This is the basis of Google’s ZMOT and the foundation of good marketing automation (delivering the right content to the right person on the right channel at the right time.) It’s our job as content marketers to manage the entire journey, not just the top of the funnel.

    Our top-funnel content builds an audience. Our mid to bottom-funnel content harvests that audience. Either one by themselves in today’s digital environment of content surpluses and hatred for interruption marketing is a disaster for many industries.

    I’ve witnesses too many brands in over-saturated content verticals just attack the top of their funnel with content, having no plan for the rest of the buyers journey, and failing to drive any meaningful KPIs or ROI (let alone visibility). While it is true that just a few short years ago we could “build it and they came.” People would jump from the top to become a customer quickly.

    It doesn’t work that way for most industries today due to over-saturation. And most of us have also witnessed the diminishing returns in exclusively producing and promoting mid to bottom-funnel content. For me content marketing is a full-funnel exercise and has to be in order to optimize real business outcomes.

    Perhaps this is a semantic difference that many people associate between “inbound marketing” and “content marketing” in their minds. I don’t see it that way, but others may.

    I hope your post and this comment sparks some much needed debate moving forward. As always, keep up the great work and I look forward to your reply.


    1. Hi Chad, thanks for your thoughtful comment and well-argued position. I hate to be all, like, agreeable. But the fact is I totally and 100% agree with you. After reading your comment, I went back through this post and didn’t find any argument to producing only top of funnel comment. So if I gave that impression in any of my ranting words, it was not my intention at all.

      Like you, I have been inspired by Marcus’ story of “they ask, and you answer.” My favorite quote and the one that helped me build a content marketing destination at SAP was the IDC quote “The buyer journey is nothing more than a series of questions that must be answered.”

      But the real problem I see with the brands I work with and talk to is not a lack of mid or bottom funnel content. (With one exception: pricing! Marcus nailed it with that post because one of the main reasons prospects go to vendor websites is to find out how much something costs. And they want an unbiased and objective answer, not self-serving propaganda.)

      So I think studies show, and every audit I’ve ever conducted supported the fact, that 60-90% of brand-produced content is product-focused. The metaphor of the funnel exists mainly to show one thing: the majority of prospects are asking early-stage questions.

      We did some research for a financial services company and found that the number one question asked by their target audience is simply “what is a checking account?” This brand didn’t answer that question anywhere on their site. And it’s not just the volume of people, it’s the volume and frequency with which those questions are asked.

      In workshops, I often walk through the typical questions buyers ask as the move down the funnel. They generally start with basic “what is” and “why” questions, then “how to” questions, followed by “who” “where” and “how much” questions. But for every prospect looking for pricing, there are 10 looking to understand how to execute a solution effectively. And for everyone one of those middle-stage prospects, there are 100 early-stage prospects experiencing Google’s zero moment of truth and asking what and why questions.

      So I agree with you that brands should answer all these questions and focus on the volume and frequency of the queries at each stage. An effective content marketing program will reflect that volume and frequency. This is buyer-centric, intent-driven, search-informed content marketing that seeks to attract, engage and convert prospects from the earliest possible stage.

      But we digress! The point of this article is my frustration at brands just creating content and not focusing on building an online content destination that has a lifetime value and proven ROI. Content is not content marketing unless it is consistently published first on a brand-owned media site that acts like a publisher and answers ALL the questions their buyers are asking. If the content is good it will be read and shared. The best content should also be distributed via paid channels to reach as many people as possible. And that traffic should be optimized for conversion to something the brand can quantify.

      So I’ll just close with the main argument of this article. Content without a destination is just content. Content published consistently on a brand-owned media property is what makes it content marketing.

      Thanks for bringing up this important point. As I said I agree with you 100%! Content marketing should answer your customers’ questions at each stage of their journey.

  2. Thanks for sharing this awesome post.
    You have very well said that you must know the topic of your post that you are writing. The keywords must be in your mind and should be placed where ever you feel like inserting them.
    Thanks again

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