Most older marketing and advertising strategies have been based on short-term gains. For example, a direct mail piece might convert a handful of recipients, but once it's sent out, most of the batch gets thrown away and the design is scrapped in favor of next year's model. A billboard might work well for a few months, but eventually, the design will grow tiresome, and you'll need to purchase new space to see another influx.

There's nothing inherently wrong with this approach, especially if you're seeing a positive ROI, but if you want to be successful in the long term, you'll need a strategy with a little more staying power. Inbound marketing strategies, like SEO and social media marketing, are effective in producing a slow build of results, but for my money, there's no better long-term strategy than content marketing.

Here's why.

Content influences almost every other online strategy

First, it's important to understand that content can serve as a complementary strategy to almost any other online marketing strategy:

  • Content helps SEO by providing more web "real estate" and increasing your domain authority (as well as earning inbound links).
  • It provides source material for a social media marketing campaign.
  • It can encourage more email signups and be used as the basis for an email marketing campaign.
  • It can enhance the value of your landing page and other web pages.
  • It can help you build relationships with other online brands and industries.

In addition to these core complementary influences, content has a number of positive effects that function independently:

  • It attracts new traffic. If you're guest posting or just producing content on your own blog, people will be more likely to find you and click through to your site. You can also encourage further site interactions by interlinking your blog posts with other pieces of onsite content.
  • It builds your reputation. The more people see your content, the more they'll remember your brand and the higher your reputation with those individuals will be.
  • It encourages trust and faith in your brand. When a visitor stumbles on your site for any reason, your content can secure his/her confidence in your brand, so long as that content is authoritative, helpful, and well-written overall.
  • It can influence conversions. Again assuming that your content is well-written, a well-placed call to action embedded in your content can encourage direct conversions, resulting in more average revenue for every visitor on your site.
  • It can make you a separate stream of revenue. If your content is strong enough, you can feature it as a separate service from your company, such as an extended whitepaper or eBook.

Evergreen content lasts forever

They call it "evergreen" content because it never decays. Trendy content, news content, and other forms of "in the moment" material are all important, and tend to attract a lot of visitors, but some forms of content will always be relevant. For example, people will always need to know tips for better communication, or advice on how to travel efficiently. There may be new elements to some of these features as new technologies develop, but you can always spruce up old posts with a few new tidbits as relevant. Because content can theoretically last forever, it never loses value, making it a perfect long-term investment.

Every piece you write is permanent real estate

Unless you take one of your posts down or change the URL, every piece you publish on your site is valuable web real estate that will never go away. Your guest posts are under the control of other editors, so you have less influence there, but for the most part, every new URL from your content is another URL that can be indexed by Google and found in organic search results.

Content is all about compounding returns

Hopefully, you're familiar with the concept of compound interest--as your investment earns interest, your principal grows and you earn more interest with each subsequent round of compounding. Content works much the same way, since it's more or less "permanent." If you publish twice a week, you'll have 110 pieces the first year, so the first year you'll produce 110 pieces and get 110 pieces' worth of results. The second year, you'll produce 110 pieces and see 220 pieces' worth of results. The third year, you'll see 330 pieces of results, and so on. Additionally, the more people see your name, the more they read your content, and the longer you've been around, the greater effects you'll see with every piece.

Content might evolve, but it will never be unnecessary

As new technologies and new trends permeate the marketing landscape, the form and function of content will evolve. Already, video is starting to overtake written content in terms of popularity, and just a few years ago, semantic, long-tail topics overtook their keyword-focused counterparts in importance. But no matter what happens, content will always be relevant--all that changes is the way it is produced and the way people access it.

Content marketing may be a long-term strategy, but the sooner you start investing in it, the sooner you'll start seeing the benefits--and conversely, the longer you wait to get started, the longer it will take. If you currently have no content strategy whatsoever, it's time to establish one. Whether it serves your bottom line independently or as a backbone for your other inbound marketing strategies, you'll be glad you did.