Content Marketing vs Digital Marketing: Key Differences

Aaron Haynes
Sep 4, 2020

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Content marketing and digital marketing are two phrases that you will hear often if you do business online. They are used together so frequently that they can be confused with one another.

What does it mean for a project to come down to content marketing vs. digital marketing? While the two aren’t in conflict, it’s possible to build marketing budgets that include one but not the other. Understanding the differences will help you choose the right strategy and hires.

In this guide, you’ll learn the differences along with the advantages and disadvantages of each approach.

Content Marketing vs Digital Marketing

Content marketing is a strategy that uses valuable information to attract fans and develop brands. Digital marketing is a broad term that covers all of the ways you can advertise products using the internet.

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Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is a strategy that uses information-rich articles, graphics, or videos to drive sales and brand development. Many types of content can be used, as long as they provide real utility to your readers.

It’s not as easy as it might sound, at first. These campaigns must target the right market segments to be worth the cost. Developing content assets that impress readers can cost a lot, as well. Many CM strategies, like the hub and spoke model, require networks of different content pieces.

If you choose to try content marketing, you can easily develop a plan that takes most of your marketing budget. You can pursue various Google certification programs that offer in-depth training and expertise in leveraging Google’s platforms and tools for content marketing success. Let’s look at some of the advantages and disadvantages, compared to a broader strategy that uses many different digital marketing techniques.


  • Cut through the noise: One of the benefits of content marketing is that people are less resistant to it than they are to many forms of traditional advertising. The assets created for these campaigns provide value to readers, so they tend to draw more engagement.
  • Highly scalable:  It’s possible to manage content marketing for small businesses, or for large enterprises. Depending on the goal, you can work to develop the reputation of a single product or a global brand.


  • Requires expertise: Content marketing is research-intensive and can be ineffective if not targeted properly Some other digital marketing strategies can be managed without much expertise.
  • Indirect and long-term: Content can take a long time to catch attention. Most strategies only have a modest effect in the short-term, though they can be powerful over time.

What is digital marketing?

Digital marketing refers to any type of promotion or advertising that uses online channels. You may have heard of any of these popular online promotion strategies:

  • Search engine optimization
  • Pay-per-click advertising
  • Social media marketing
  • Video marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Guest blogging

Content marketing is also considered to be digital marketing, though many digital strategies don’t use informational content at all. Digital strategies may focus on any of the techniques in the list above. And in turn these approaches involve a multifaceted array of tools, skills and specialisms to tackle effectively. From adding video subtitles to ensure visual content is accessible to a wider audience, to picking suitable topics for targeted guest blogs, the varied strategies involve their own learning curves and eventual outcomes.

Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of running a campaign that applies a mix of digital marketing techniques without content marketing.


  • Adaptable: A mixed digital strategy gives you a lot of options to discover where the most leads are coming from. If you start with one, you can follow the most profitable thread and drop funding for the others as the campaign goes on.
  • Early growth is possible: Mixed strategies can result in some explosive early growth. If you don’t have basic SEO applied to your site, for example, simply bringing it up to date can change how high it ranks for key search terms.


  • Difficult to overcome resistance: Many digital marketing tactics need to be intrusive to catch attention, including pop-ups, unrequested retargeting emails, or the ads that run before videos play. People have learned how to tune out information they don’t want, making these tactics less effective at low numbers of impressions.
  • Subject to disruptive updates: New Google updates, spam lists, and ad blockers can sink a digital marketing strategy. Even well-behaved advertisers can lose out to updates.

What’s the difference between content marketing and digital marketing?

The difference between content marketing and digital marketing is that content marketing is a specific technique for using content, while digital marketing is a catch-all term for any type of online promotion.

Content marketing is indirect, digital marketing can be very direct

Content marketing works by providing information and building trust. It rarely tries to convert customers directly, though it may link to other pages that do so. Many digital marketing tactics, such as PPC, focus on driving a specific action from the very first impression.

Content marketing is a long-term investment, digital marketing can be done on any timeline

Even well-funded content marketing campaigns can take a long time to get started. So, why is content marketing important? It’s because the campaigns can pay off massively in the long term once the content has reached a big audience. Other digital marketing campaigns may offer immediate signups or sales, but without long-term growth.

Understanding Content Marketing and Digital Marketing

Now, you understand the differences between content marketing and digital marketing. You can use what you’ve learned to plan your campaigns more effectively or make sure that you focus on the right hires.

Remember, content marketers are narrowly focused on one method of promoting brands. Digital marketers may prefer one—or a combination of—different techniques that are used together. While digital marketers may be able to supervise content marketers in a large-scale campaign, they rarely have the same specific skillset as content marketers.

Hand off the toughest tasks in SEO, PPC, and content without compromising quality

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Written by Aaron Haynes on September 4, 2020

CEO and partner at Loganix, I believe in taking what you do best and sharing it with the world in the most transparent and powerful way possible. If I am not running the business, I am neck deep in client SEO.