Top 7 Content Types and How To Use Them: An Actionable Guide for Marketers

Rosie Allabarton, contributor to the CareerFoundry blog

The importance of quality content to the growth and success of a company has been getting increasing attention over the past few years. This is even more true now—due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing changes it has brought to working practices and lifestyles, individuals have been spending more time online than at any other time in history. 

With users in front of screens for longer periods of the day, marketers have had more opportunities to have their content seen by new audiences. This has enabled digital marketing teams to use articles, videos, and social media posts to build trust and loyalty with users, while simultaneously getting across the key messages of the brand and its products. 

But it’s not just the recent surge in demand for online content that has resulted in content marketing attracting the interest of businesses. What has always been true is that in a competitive online environment, consistently produced, high-quality content combined with a user-centric content marketing strategy is a highly effective growth method that builds brand authority and drives sales. 

In fact, great content has been found to influence customer decision-making more effectively than any other technique. Content marketing can generate over three times as many leads as outbound marketing and cost 62% less. With figures like these in mind, it’s no wonder that companies are typically investing between 25% and 30% of their marketing budget on content marketing.

With 84% of all businesses having a content marketing strategy of some kind, it’s fairly clear that those who aren’t taking advantage of content marketing in some capacity are missing out.

Content can have numerous purposes and goals. Here are some of the most common ones: 

  • To reach new targeted audiences 
  • To educate potential users on an industry and its value 
  • To communicate the company’s vision
  • To persuade a potential customer of the benefits of a service 
  • To build brand authority and increase trust

To give you a bit more of an idea of the various ways in which content marketing can bring a business to the next level, let’s look at seven of the most popular types. We’ll examine why each is so effective, as well as how best to use them to make the most of the content.

If one of the content types catches your eye, then simply use the clickable menu:

  1. Blogs
  2. Listicles
  3. Ebooks
  4. Infographics
  5. Video
  6. How-to guides
  7. Case studies

1. Blogs 

The purpose of a company blog is to publish engaging articles that keep customers and users up-to-date on the business, as well as the industry in which it specializes. However, many companies also use their on-site blog to educate, inform, and inspire readers on topics that are relevant to the product or service in order to increase the brand’s visibility and attract more users to their site. 

Boosts authority, builds trust 

When articles are produced in a compelling, informed, and inspiring way, a company’s authority in the field is established. Two things then happen: firstly, trust is built between a user and the brand. Secondly, when a user has trust in a brand and its expertise, they will return to that site for information and education. In many cases, those who regularly turn to a brand for expertise transform into loyal and repeat customers.  

Increased visibility with SEO 

In addition to building relationships between a brand and its users, a key reason for investing in a blog content strategy is because of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). 

SEO is when a company incorporates so-called “longtail” keywords into articles which address the concerns, questions, and interests of their target audience. Blog posts which contain these frequently searched-for keywords perform well on search engine results pages. This gives a business a unique opportunity to stand out from its competitors. 

As SEO has evolved, and its value and impact on business increasingly recognized, the SEO specialist role has emerged. It is their job to make sure that the right keywords are incorporated into content, which has become just one small part of the process involved in ranking highly on search engine results pages. The quality and originality of the content plays a major part, as does the regularity of posting. How an article is structured, tagged, and referenced by (or linked to) from other credible sites also inform its ranking.  

Teach and explain the products or service

Blogs are the perfect opportunity to teach users about a product, and even how to use it. A business can publish field tests of products, answer popular FAQs in detail, and embed videos with product demonstrations, advice, or useful techniques targeted at their customers. 

Get direct user feedback

An often underrated aspect of blogs is their interactive nature. When comments are turned on, users have the chance to start a discussion about themes in the post, ask the author questions, and provide valuable feedback on the post itself.

This creates a valuable conversation between the user and the brand, and provides even more value to other readers of the post who may have similar comments or questions. For the writer of the post and the content marketing team, comments on an article provide useful feedback on the article itself and can help them gauge user interest in the topic. 

How to use it for maximum impact 

  • Focus first on quality, then on SEO. Keywords won’t help you if your content isn’t providing users with value in the first place
  • Use your blog as a teaching opportunity. When users learn something from you they don’t just keep coming back—they will also trust your expertise when it’s time to buy a product or service 
  • Answer questions in your posts that are important to your users. Don’t just produce the same content as your competitors, or focus too heavily on what you’re selling. Solve the user’s problems first, and everything else will follow

Examples: 

What Is a Digital Marketing Strategy? (And How To Create One)

What Is Cross-Channel Marketing? Your Complete Guide

What is GitHub? A Comprehensive GitHub Tutorial for Beginners

2. Listicles

As the name suggests, listicles are articles which contain a list in them—just like this post! Despite having something of a bad rap due to the number of clickbait articles associated with this content style, there are numerous benefits to producing this type of content. Regardless of its perceived gimmicky nature, they remain extremely popular with readers.

Easy to read

Listicles are extremely easy to read. Readers can skim the subheads and skip straight to the section which is most interesting or relevant to them. For newcomers to a theme or field, they’re also a very quick way to get a good understanding of the main points of a subject without needing to spend hours with a textbook or studying complex articles online. 

Shareable 

With social media dominating so many aspects of our lives, it’s no surprise that in content creation the more shareable a piece of content is on social media, the more popular it will become.

Due to their easily-digestible nature, list articles are often repurposed and shared on social media sites. For example, a listicle can be transformed into a carousel post for Instagram with each slide containing a different numbered point of the post. 

Easy to write 

For the content marketing team, the planning and production of a listicle is typically more straightforward than other types of articles. Once the numbered headers have been decided, the copywriter can easily follow the structure and fill in the necessary gaps. 

Despite this simple structure, a listicle is not an excuse to write a poor quality article. Although it won’t be going into as much depth as, say, a white paper, it should nevertheless be well researched, compelling, and with links to valuable resources that provide more information for readers who need it. 

How to use it for maximum impact 

  • Don’t keep your list posts confined to your blog–share them! Repurpose your listicles as infographics, social media posts, or use the same topics to produce short videos or animations. For an example of this, here is the video we created out of a UX design trends listicle:
  • Keep your listicles unique. Include expert quotes, cover topics in detail, and provide an angle that your competitors haven’t covered
  • Spend time on the title! Avoid clickbait language at all costs—instead use a title that is honest about the content it’s describing while also encouraging users to click through and read

Examples:

7 Interesting Companies Using Data Analytics

5 Steps To Create an Effective UX Strategy

The 10 Most In-Demand Design Job Titles in 2022

3. Ebooks

Some of the main goals of content marketing are to offer website visitors something of value, prove your company’s expertise in your field, answer commonly-asked questions, and help users solve a problem. An ebook is therefore a great opportunity to do all of these things, but in considerably more detail than is typically common of a blog or social media post. 

Get down to the details 

Due to its length, an ebook is an opportunity to cover a topic in depth. Rather than just briefly outlining a theme, here you have the chance to quote different statistics and studies, debate research, and offer varied expert opinions. As pretty much all ebooks are available in a downloadable format, users can keep returning to the content at their leisure to get the answers that they need. 

Adjusted expectations

Users have adjusted expectations when accessing or downloading an ebook. In contrast to reading a blog post or viewing a social media story, users expect more than just the bare essentials of a topic, and are instead prepared to take in a sizable amount of information.

Due to these altered expectations, readers are likely to invest time in reading and rereading segments of an ebook to get the full value out of this longer form piece of content.

Become known as an expert 

Due to the increased length and complexity of an ebook over say, an article or a short video, ebooks help a brand to establish credibility and authority in its field of expertise. The more value an ebook can provide its readers, the more readers begin to associate the company with the information they’re taking in. This demonstration of expertise establishes a brand as a trusted source for users when looking to solve related problems in the future.    

Get leads

In line with other types of longform content, many ebooks are gated, which means that users have to provide an email address and their name in order to access or download it. For a company, this is an effective method of growing a database of warm leads. For users, this also enables them to be immediately informed when similar types of content become available. 

Blog posts—repurposed

Writing an ebook can be as simple as collecting together numerous high quality blog posts on a particular theme, adding visual elements, and publishing them in a single, downloadable file. This is a great way to get more out of content that has already been created for a blog, and give more people the chance to benefit from valuable content that they might have previously missed. 

How to use it for maximum impact 

  • Use Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to co-author your ebook to give it extra clout among both users and industry figures. Failing that, ask for some quotes from individuals in your field who you admire  
  • Never just give it away! Make sure that in return for your ebook download, users provide an email address or even fill out a short survey. This is valuable data that will inform your other content marketing efforts 

4. Infographics

An infographic is typically a collection of eye-catching visual representations of information. This might take the form of graphs, charts, pie-charts, and stylized statistics accompanied by illustrations and a minimal amount of text. Infographics are used to help present what can be complex ideas or information in an engaging and easy-to-understand format. 

Peaking in popularity between 2012 and 2016, content marketers used infographics to transform research, studies, and statistics into memorable, easily-digestible, attention-grabbing and, crucially, highly-shareable visual content to promote information which supported the use of their product or service. 

Although infographics are less commonly used now than five years ago, their continued impact shouldn’t be underestimated. This compelling format still packs a punch when it comes to sharing knowledge quickly and succinctly to large groups of people.   

Easier to digest

With so much written content out there, it might be a surprise to learn that our brains actually process visual content much more easily than words. In fact, studies show we process visuals a whopping 60 times faster than text. In the sea of text-heavy content out there, it also makes a welcome change. With a well-researched and delightfully designed infographic, users can find, digest, compare, memorize, and understand the information they need quickly with minimal effort and maximum enjoyment. 

Reach new audiences

Although there’s definitely a time and a place for longform content (and we’ll cover that later in this post), some people just don’t have the time or inclination to wade through long articles, or study a company’s latest white paper. Infographics are a neat way of engaging with users who are excited by a topic but short on time. 

Highly shareable

As infographics are so visually appealing, they are instant hits on social media, blogs, in emails, or on Slack. An infographic can be divided up into different cards to be used in an Instagram carousel, or embedded in a company newsletter. They can also be easily linked to in other articles from journalists or other companies which use the data from the infographic to support their own story, or promote their own product.  

How to use it for maximum impact 

  • Work closely with your design team to create eye-catching infographics that tell a story users can relate to and learn from
  • Research your subject matter thoroughly—there’s nothing worse than out-of-date information, or an infographic that’s been done many times before 
  • Don’t just hide your infographic in an email or newsletter. Share it on all your social media platforms, tweaking the accompanying text to match the audience you’re catering to

Examples: 

UX designer salaries by company, including logos for companies listed in the article

An example of an infographic used on a UX designer salaries article.[/caption]

5. Video

Whether it’s an animation, a live video, an interview, a webinar, or a short instructional film, video is a unique way for companies to quite literally speak to their customers. Whether they’re explaining how to use their product, troubleshooting common issues, demonstrating a feature, or teaching a technique, an engaging, personable video can bring a distinctly human touch to a company’s content output.

The success of video on a company’s growth is also gaining recognition. In fact, in 2020, 83% of marketers claimed that video was more important than ever before. 

Platforms for publishing video content vary. YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter are popular choices for putting videos in the public domain as they also enable sharing, likes, comments, and audience interaction. Other companies choose to embed videos into their own blogs or website pages. Videos can also be published as gated content, enabling companies to collect customer data.  

Explain your product

A simple and compelling video explaining how your product works and, crucially, how it will help your users, will go a very long way towards turning users into customers. A video is an opportunity to show, not just tell, the specific workings of a feature or service, which can help potential customers visualize using that product themselves. A video is also an opportunity to troubleshoot common issues, answer most-asked customer questions, and address any common misconceptions in a personable way.

Boost to SEO 

Videos which target common search terms are not only very useful to your customers (and help you to create a catalogue of evergreen video content which can be used for future campaigns), they also help you rank more highly on Google.

This is because YouTube videos appear at the top of Google search engine results pages. As video is still less commonly used to answer searched-for questions than, say, blog posts or articles, this is a highly effective way for companies to still gain an edge over their competitors. 

Video is hugely popular

Back in 2020, Twitter revealed that tweets which contain video receive ten times more engagement than those without, while Facebook boasts 8 billion video views a day. With the meteoric rise of platforms such as TikTok, these statistics should come as no surprise. Video is showing itself to be one of the most popular ways for users (particularly younger users), to quickly consume and share the content that interests them, and is an essential part of any content strategy. 

How to use it for maximum impact 

  • Use this medium to show (rather than just tell) how to solve that common user issue 
  • Create videos with titles that directly correspond to commonly searched for terms in your field
  • Show your team’s personality and inject some humor! Video is a great way to demonstrate the human side of your company 
  • Give a short product or feature demonstration. Users will often prefer to watch how something works than read a blog post about it 

Examples: 

UX Design Trends 2022 (And The Future Of UX…)

The UX Design Process For Beginners! (The 5 Key Stages)

How To Job Search and Network In The UX Design Industry (2022)

6. How-to guides

With “how-to”-style posts generating on average 55% more views than all other types of posts, this is a content style that no digital marketing team can afford to ignore. But what exactly do we mean by a “how-to” post?

Put simply, it’s an instructional post with clear steps for the reader to take in order to achieve a specific goal. A company will produce this type of article when the goal of the reader is in some way aligned with, or relevant to, the service or product that company is selling. 

Evergreen content

How-tos make for great evergreen content. A piece of evergreen content is when an article (or other type of content) can be referred back to over a long period of time; the content is not time-sensitive, and holds its value for users.

How-tos fall into this category because new users to a service or product will likely have similar questions and queries to users from six months or a year before. Both will be looking for content that offers specific guidance or instruction to follow that can help them solve their problems.

Great for repurposing 

Due to their explanatory nature, how-to articles are great for repurposing into other types of content. Let’s take the title: “How to train for a marathon in 5 simple steps”. 

This can be turned into:

  • An Instagram carousel post, with a slide for each step 
  • A video, with a presenter or animation demonstrating each step 
  • An infographic, with each step illustrated with a drawing 

It could even be expanded into a longer form blog post or ebook, whereby each step is not only described but also supported by research, statistics, or testimonials to prove why this is an effective way to reach your goal. 

Promotes expertize

If you’re trying to establish yourself as a market leader, there is nothing more important than demonstrating the expertise of your team on your website or blog. How-tos are a very tangible way of doing this. They demonstrate expertise in the field while also solving your users’ problems. As a way of building brand authority and demonstrating why users should trust your product, there are few more effective and accessible ways of doing so. 

How to use it for maximum impact 

  • Answer commonly searched for questions in a direct way that provides tangible results for the user
  • Repurpose into social media posts, video, or an infographic (or all three) 
  • Ask in-house experts from different teams to author guest posts in their area of expertise, or approach Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) from outside the company to author guest posts 

Examples:

How To Get Started in Freelance Digital Marketing: The Ultimate Career Guide for 2022

How To Make a Storyboard: A Step-by-Step Guide for Designers and Animators

How to Create a Checkbox in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

7. Case Studies

A case study is when an individual, experience, group of people, or event is studied in depth and in detail within a real world context. The purposes behind producing or commissioning a case study can be varied, but some of the most common reasons include: 

  • To describe a situation in detail 
  • To identify key issues
  • To investigate a problem (and provide a solution) 
  • To provide social proof 
  • To persuade readers that a product, or service can solve a problem

With so many of us looking to friends, colleagues, or online reviews for product recommendations before making a purchasing decision, a case study can be an effective way for a marketing team to perform a similar role.

A case study demonstrates to a potential customer how the product has been the solution for someone with a very similar problem to them. The potential customer identifies with the picture being painted, and is therefore much more likely to trust in and purchase the product themselves. 

Demonstrates knowledge of the user

A case study demonstrates a company’s in-depth knowledge of its users’ needs, goals, and problems through the depiction of detailed, real life scenarios and individuals. This makes the company seem more trustworthy to potential customers, who feel seen and understood. A case study also shows that the company has the right knowledge and expertise to solve these issues. 

Quotes, statistics, and testimonials for future content 

Case studies are an opportunity to gather positive quotes and testimonials from real customers who have had a positive experience with your product or service. These soundbites can then be reused on a host of different formats: 

  • Social media posts 
  • On landing pages
  • In newsletters 
  • In advertising or sponsored posts 

Longer quotes or interviews can be turned into testimonial blog posts or, if recorded on film, can even be posted as a video on YouTube or on the company’s website. 

How to use it for maximum impact 

  • Use your case study to demonstrate how your product solves a known user issue
  • Repurpose great quotes or interviews from the case study into other types of content
  • Think of a case study as an opportunity to show users a “sneak peek” into the customer’s buying experience. Demonstrate what they too can expect if they become customers! 

Examples:

From Sales Executive to UX Designer at the BBC: How I Landed My First Job in the Industry

Trevor Allen’s Portfolio Project

Final thoughts 

We hope our rundown of popular content types has provided you with some new content format ideas, as well as some techniques and tricks to try that will help you make the most out of the content you already have. 

Got a blog post? Turn it into:

  • An infographic
  • A video
  • A chapter in an ebook
  • A gated download
  • An Instagram post 

Got a case study? Turn it into: 

  • Testimonials for your landing pages
  • An interview on YouTube
  • A quote for your listicle 
  • An example for your how-to 

You’ve probably got the idea by now… If you only take away one thing from this post let it be this: solve your user’s problem with your content! Why?

Because high-quality, well-researched, user-focused content that addresses the needs and solves the problems of your target user group is the key to building long lasting customer relationships. Put simply, if you put the user at the center of your content strategy, they will keep coming back for more! 

Interested in learning more about content and marketing? Check out CareerFoundry’s free 5-day course, or read these articles:

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