Lee Odden

Content Marketing: Definition & Tactics

content marketingContent Marketing – Tactics and Best Practices

Here is a series of practical tips on tactics that marketers can use to complement their content-focused online marketing efforts.

The idea of content marketing seems to vary with different people, so to start, my definition of content marketing is: “Aligning business and consumer information needs with content.” We’ll see if that holds as we build out a deep dive on each of these different tactics.

A lot of the information on content marketing that we promote here on TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog offers process, strategy and models of approach. This series makes the bold assumption that the reader has already considered goals, audience, strategy and measurement and is looking for tips on tactics that fit within their planned digital marketing mix.

We’ll be going through the list in alphabetical order and following a fairly consistent format.  Below is the list of tactics I’ve decided on and as the posts are published, links will be added below so this page will serve as an index. After you’ve had a chance to check out a few of these posts and you’re in need of help developing and implementing a content marketing program, be sure to connect with my agency team.

  1. Advertorial & Native Advertising – Content intended as advertising but structured like news or an article. Infomercials are a common video form of advertorial.
  2. Blogging – Content published using blog software that organizes pages chronologically and/or by category. Blogs also provide an RSS feed so readers can subscribe without visiting the blog website.
  3. Case Studies – “Facts tell, stories sell” and case studies continue to serve an effective purpose for telling successful problem/solution brand and product stories.
  4. Crowdsource – Along the lines of “collective wisdom”, this tactic may involve inviting a network to help solve a particular problem or to contribute insight/expertise/option towards a particular topic. The resulting content attracts the attention of participants’ networks.
  5. Content Curation – As an art gallery employs a curator to find, organize and manage the best art, a content curator does something similar with information.
  6. Digital Newsletters – Newsletters provide a consistent source of useful information, advertorial and links to web pages that further engage the reader.
  7. Earned Media (PR) – Media Relations often results in contributed articles from a brand placed in industry publications or contributions of content excerpts to a larger story published by online and offline news sites.
  8. eBooks – Robust content, especially with B2B marketing and the education involved with longer sales cycles, can be compelling and an eBook provides an in depth look at a particular topic of expertise.
  9. Email Marketing – From timed sequences of articles to special promotions, messages via email continue to provide the highest conversion rates of any online marketing tactic.
  10. Gamification -From frequent flyer programs to unlocking badges in Foursquare, gamification is permanently embedded in our cultural DNA.
  11. Influencer Content – Collaborating with internal subject matter experts and industry authorities – both are types of influencers can result in content that reaches all new audiences with more credibility than brand content.
  12. Infographics – A picture is worth a thousand words and an infographic might be worth a few thousand eyeballs and nearly as many links, tweets and shares. Annotated with descriptive text and repurposed, infographics that are well planned and executed are high impact for social sharing.
  13. Interactive Tools – Tools that allow user input and that publish customized output as content can be very effective but tools can also simply answer questions or facilitate a process.
  14. Microsites – Dedicated web sites for specific campaigns, promotions or to serve as a social hub can provide a focus for content that doesn’t really fit on the corporate website or blog.
  15. Mobile Applications – The popular web is increasingly mobile, so apps that provide information and experience can be very effective as part of a content marketing program.
  16. Mobile Content – Content specifically written and formatted for mobile consumption is also a worthwhile consideration and for some markets, essential right now.
  17. News Releases – Press releases are certainly content, although the format, application and distribution has evolved.  Press releases can still reach journalists, but are also effective as direct to consumer content as well.
  18. Online Magazines & Apps – Creative web design can simulate the page turning experience of a print magazine, yet offer all the convenience of a website through online magazines. iPads are an effective device for consuming online magazine content.
  19. Podcasts – iTunes provides an effective distribution and promotion platform for many popular podcasts which can be audio or video.  Like newsletters, podcasts are often published according to a schedule and provide regular, useful information.
  20. Print Magazines – While the print world has experienced substantial changes, print is very much alive for certain markets. Print magazines may be based on a subscription model on topics related to the brand, such as a lifestyle magazine.
  21. Print Newsletters – One of the oldest forms of content marketing, printed newsletters that arrive via snail mail can provide an effective compliment to online promotions or serve niche markets where print is a preferred format.
  22. Real-Time Video – Livestreaming video taps into all of the immediacy needs of both content consumers and consumers and there are now more tools than ever to make real time video a part of your content marketing.
  23. Real-World Events – The content opportunities around an industry conference or trades show are abundant, from pre-event storytelling through interviews and advance articles from speakers to liveblogging during the event.
  24. Research & Surveys – Statistics and data based insights can be very engaging and sharable content that work in tandem with many of the tactics on this list.
  25. Social Content – Content created specifically for social networks like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn may be a different format, but can have significant impact on awareness and engagement when planned and implemented using best practices.
  26. Traditional Media – Advertising, education or advertorial can take many forms with traditional digital media besides TV/Cable and radio.
  27. Video Content –  Engaging and rich as a content format that can be repurposed, video is effective for consumer and B2B markets.
  28. Virtual Conferences – An online conference aggregates a variety of content and incorporates many of the content tactics included in this list from promotions to presentations to the social exchanges inspired by the event.
  29. Webinars – Audio combined with presentation slides, Q and A and chat provide a content experience that can also be replayed when stored in an online archive.
  30. White Papers – In digital format, a deep dive into a specific topic can be very effective for educating and persuading B2B prospects. Reports co-authored with marketing partners or industry analysts can boost credibility and reach.

In the course of writing this post and compiling information for the series, a reasonable question arises: “What is content?”.  Does it have to include text? Is it images, video or audio as well?  Or is it information that people can experience? The latter definition is what emerges for me, but that’s something I’ll be exploring more in future posts. I’d love to hear your opinion on what defines content.

For the series of blog posts, I’ll provide an overview, examples and tactics. When the series is done, the information will be compiled into an ebook using the following format for each tactic:

  • Definition
  • Applications
  • Pros
  • Cons
  • Expert Opinions
  • Brand Examples
  • Best Practices
  • Related Software & Resources

To help make this series as useful as possible, feel free to share any specific questions that you have on the above list of tactics in the comments below.

Of course, if you have need of a content marketing strategy and discovering the right mix of content for your marketing, check out TopRank Marketing’s content marketing services.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Looks like the series will be a good resource, esp. when it’s all compiled. Of course tactics like blogging, email, even direct mail (print newsletters) and media relations (news release) can get a lot more involved, be interesting to see the strategies you discover as you cover various versions of content.

  2. Thanks for the post Lee! I am really looking forward to the series and engaging in helping define content marketing.  For me content can include photos, videos, written text, or any other information/data that is consumed by readers.  

  3. Great reminder of the variety that really exists in content marketing – I think many of these often get overlooked as out of date or old tools, but the reality is, they all have their place. I look forward to seeing more details as you work to build out the ebook!

    • For some markets, many of these content types and formats are out of date. For others, they meet consumer needs just fine.

      Interestingly, the genesis of this list is from SEO efforts to uncover content to use for optimization. Many companies are creating content types and formats on this list without a second thought as to how they could repurpose or integrate into social or SEO scenarios.

  4. Good stuff — I’ve always said that having a good variety of different content types is key to having a really great, dynamic site. One term you have listed that still seems often misunderstood is “content curation”. I would stress even more that that the best curated content does more than just link to other sources of info, but also comment on, package and create something new and valuable with it. That way you’re not only driving traffic for external sources, but truly  creating something new and valuable for your own readers to engage with.

    • Yes indeed, the magic of curation is not just in selection but adding value. Kind of like what the mashup is to apps.

  5. Content marketing has become a very big and important part of online business these days in my opinion. Fresh content is what gets people to keep coming back to you, because no one wants to read/see/hear the same thing over and over again for 6 months until you decide tp update your website. 
    Looking forward to the series, Lee, and hoping it inspires me with a couple of new ideas.Cheers,Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

  6. Avatar Carlyfries says

    This sounds as if it will be an interesting and useful series. I believe content is important in online marketing. If your content is not diverse enough or updated frquently your site will appear too one dimmensional and will not attract many people. Looking foraward to this series!

  7. Looking forward to this series. I think one of the main questions that I would like to get a detailed and robust answer on is how to promote and disperse the content so that it’s effectively generating additional leads and business.

  8. Lee – did you just commit to 30 more posts? 🙂 Great list and it will be an outstanding resource for all.

  9. Looking forward to this series, thanks for taking this on!  This will be a great resource for me and as a reference for some of the internal busniess partners that I consult with as they work toward building out content strategies for their market segments.

  10. This will be an awesome resource, looking forward to it. Sounds like a big task. Thanks for tackling it head on and providing the rest of us with all your great information. 

  11. Good list of tactics about content marketing. But we should keep in mind about Google Panda Updates because Google Panda = Unique Content.

    • Unique is subjective. To an SEO and a search engine, unique often means a certain percentage of difference in the characters/text from one page to another. The “algorithmic view”. 

      But to a person, difference means more than exact match text – it means a difference in story and experience. That’s a lot tougher but it’s an important realization when moving from mechanical to meaningful content marketing.

  12. I think the key to content marketing is being able to influence consumers to share with others.   Easier said than done of course… creating content that makes people want to share it has been a hit or miss game for me. I’m excited about the incentivized “sharing” and “liking” space because I think these services can help solve this problem. There are new startups like http://virurl.com that have been coming out recently, I look forward to trying them out and seeing how the results are.

  13. Simply good tips. These days, We can’t imagine SEO for a website without unique content whether it be for website or be for other SEO stuffs.

  14. Great tips, thanks for sharing.  Rich, consumer-friendly content was a big theme at this week’s Internet Retailer’s Conference in Chicago #IRCE2012.  “Design your content for consumers, Google will figure it out”

    • Thanks Jason, I’m not sure I have that much faith in Google 🙂 Especially in a competitive category. Optimize for customers AND search/social = the win. That’s what my book Optimize is all about 🙂