Updated Sept. 13, 2021
At first glance, pay-per-click and content marketing can seem like contrasting ideologies. PPC offers an immediate ROI. Alternatively, content marketing takes time to gain momentum.
But the two can work together. PPC can act as a secret weapon for your content marketing, supercharging your content campaigns and giving you an edge over your competition.
Get attention and trust
Marketers often run Facebook ads to highly targeted demographics. They send those who click the ad to an optimized landing page featuring sales copy, product photographs, FAQs, reviews, security badges, and other trust elements. Their objective is to get the lead to click the add-to-cart button conveniently placed for maximum visibility and then to complete the purchase.
However, marketers often get tunnel vision in terms of optimizing their PPC landing pages for purchasing conversions. Even if their PPC campaigns successfully drive people to the site, those viewers can feel it was a waste of a click because the marketers haven’t focused their effort on making visitors feel at home but only on encouraging them to convert.
In a recent survey, 57% of consumers said they were fully prepared to purchase from brands they trust. Before somebody buys from an unfamiliar company, they often explore other pages on the site, looking for indicators of legitimacy. Having a frequently updated blog with lots of high-value content and indicators of social proof (many comments and social shares) demonstrates credibility and builds the trust needed to ultimately drive conversions.
TAKEAWAY: PPC can be used to bring attention to your site, while content marketing can be used to build trust once these new visitors have arrived.
Laser target to attract content fans
Content marketing sometimes is used as a shotgun approach to brand exposure – you regularly upload content, hoping your core buyer reads it and ultimately becomes a paying customer.
While content marketing provides long-term SEO benefits, which eventually help buyers find you, in the short term, content marketing too often entails broad targeting.
For instance, guest blogging is a frequent tactic in content marketing. But if an infographic design agency publishes a guest post on a digital marketing blog, only a fraction of the readers is likely interested in hiring an agency to create visual content for their brand.
But with a documented buyer persona, you can laser-target your content through a PPC campaign because you have analyzed demographic data – age, gender, geography, interests – from previous customers. You can exclude unlikely buyers and include likely buyers in your content promotion.
Say, for example, you’re selling mixed martial arts apparel. You want to target fans of former lightweight UFC champion Conor McGregor. Although this type of targeting is better than nothing, it’s still not going to get you in front of the right people.
Because his name transcends the sport, plenty of people who like Conor on Facebook may only watch mixed martial arts when he competes or they might just enjoy updates of his extravagant lifestyle and not care about the sport. In other words, Facebook fans of Conor McGregor wouldn’t be ideal customers for your apparel.
Say, instead, that you target fans of fighters who have less mainstream recognition but are highly regarded within the mixed martial arts niche, such as No. 4-ranked welterweight Jorge Masvidal. It’s highly unlikely that someone would be a fan of Jorge without having a deep affinity for the sport – so this targeting makes more sense. By advertising your content to these fans, your resonance will be much higher.
TAKEAWAY: Laser-targeted PPC campaigns can be used to ensure that your content gets in front of the more highly sought prospective customers.
Test your content elements
Split testing is integral to running a successful PPC ad campaign, yet the tactic also can work for content marketing.
In PPC campaigns, landing page elements such as the imagery, sales copy, placement of the add-to-cart button or email opt-in form, social proof, and value proposition can all be tested.
When using split testing for content, you can test elements such as your blog layout, tone of voice, and headline. It’s best to run tests for at least a week and include multiple blog posts to ensure that your results demonstrate real user preferences.
Metrics such as clicks, time on page, conversions, and shares can be used to determine the winners of your split tests. If you’re using a heat-mapping tool such as Inspectlet, you may want to record how far down the average user scrolls on each page variant.
You also can test the length of blog posts. While longer blog posts typically perform better than shorter ones, no audience is the same. Split testing will help you understand the situation with your audience. Upload two versions of your post: one lengthy (at least 1,500 words) and a shorter, more succinct version. Use Facebook ads to target your core demographic and send paid traffic to both pages and track the results. Do this with multiple blog posts to ensure that any trends you discover are universally applicable.
TAKEAWAY: Use PPC split testing to evaluate your audience’s preferences for blog layout, tone of voice, article length, and headlines.
Promote special content
As any marketer knows, your “best” content doesn’t always generate the most engagement. If you ever run a content audit, it can be perplexing to determine why some articles went viral while others tanked.
If you’ve allocated significant resources to produce a special piece of content, such as an infographic, e-book, video, etc., it’s unacceptable to roll the dice in terms of whether it receives attention.
By running a Facebook page post engagement ad to promote your special content, you will receive likes, posts, and shares at a low cost – particularly if you’re smart with your targeting as described above. If your content is genuinely awesome, you’ll receive organic reach amplified by the engaged paid traffic.
Including a call to action in the ad’s box text, such as “tag a friend who would love this,” prompts people to show the content to their friends (so long as they see it as high value), putting more eyeballs on your content without any additional ad cost.
TIP: Alternatively, page post engagement ads can be used to promote content that already performed well. PPC ads can bring the content (and your brand) to an even wider audience.
TAKEAWAY: If you use page post engagement ads on Facebook to promote special content that paid traffic finds highly valuable, organic reach also will grow.
Go with your audience
Even if you ignore all the other tips in this article, this one is by far the most powerful.
Too many businesses never interact after a visitor sees and leaves the site without engaging. Yet, these people could all be potential customers who, for whatever reason, didn’t engage on their first visit.
Use retargeting. In e-commerce PPC campaigns, for example, retargeting is often used to promote discount offers to people who have added a product to the cart but who didn’t finish the purchase. They use the ad to send them back to the purchase page.
But in terms of content, you could use retargeting through a Facebook ad to promote a contextually relevant blog post to someone who has added one of your products to their shopping cart but hasn’t completed the purchase.
For example, if you sold hair-care products, the retargeted ad could promote a how-to post about steps to achieve glowing, healthy hair. The article could include a subtle mention of your product, but the goal should be to deliver high-quality, actionable advice. By sending people to a helpful blog post, you’ll not only boost conversions, but you’ll help build long-term relationships with customers who can be leveraged for repeat business.
Alternatively, you can retarget people who engaged with a particular blog post with a PPC ad promoting a contextually relevant product.
TIP: Install Facebook pixel, a small line of code on every page on your site, to track and retarget people based on the way they’ve interacted with your brand.
TAKEAWAY: Use retargeting PPC ads to promote relevant content to someone who abandoned the purchase process.
I hope you can use these PPC tips to take your content marketing efforts to the next level.
Can you think of any other ways to improve content marketing using PPC? Please let me know in the comments.
All tools noted in blog posts are identified by the author. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute