Inbound Marketing vs Content Marketing: Strategies for 2021

Posted by Surya Ranjan Pandita on October 18, 2023

It's no secret that high-quality content is the sine qua non of effective inbound and content marketing in 2021. Great content hooks the target audience, begins the relationship between publisher and prospect, and can even expand the audience through convenient sharing. At the bottom line, great content drives new revenue.

For many companies, great content is the fuel that powers a successful marketing platform.

However, just like with fuel, great content alone is not enough. Other mechanisms must be in place to harness and direct the power it generates.

Cover Image: Inbound vs Content Marketing

Regularly publishing high-quality content is key to generating organic traffic. Creating highly-targeted downloadables can qualify leads and guide the buyer's journey. Excellent support material creates loyalty and converts users into fans.

But which aspects of this framework are "content marketing" and which are "inbound marketing?" Could you label the whole framework "inbound content marketing?" And if so, should we also consider "outbound content marketing?"

I will help you determine the differences between these terms below.

Putting a short answer to the question, think of content marketing as being under the guidance of inbound marketing. So, you can say content marketing is a subset of inbound marketing. 

Yet, inbound marketing has a broader meaning. It assists in qualifying, nurturing, closing, and delighting customers. So, if you're not using inbound marketing, your content marketing is doomed to fail at reaching its full potential.


Definition of Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing can involve several different marketing strategies, the most popular of which are content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and social media marketing. Inbound marketing entails using these channels in innovative ways to attract your prospect's attention.

Marketing that focuses on attracting visitors and potential customers, rather than outwardly promoting a brand, product, or service, in hopes of generating leads and customers is referred to as inbound marketing.

An effective inbound marketing strategy uses 'earned' and 'owned' media channels to extend the scope of the audience and drive online visibility, interaction, and eventually conversions.

Definition of Content Marketing

The advent of content marketing as a strategy for customer acquisition and retention isn't as recent as you might think. Over 100 years ago, in 1888, Johnson & Johnson began publishing Modern Methods of Antiseptic Wound Treatment to address frequently asked questions from the physicians and surgeons who made up their target audience.

The process of creating and distributing appropriate and useful content to attract, retain, and build loyalty among a given audience is referred to as content marketing.

High-quality content can be developed to achieve a wide variety of specific goals. As long as that content remains optimized and delivers what the user is looking for, it can continue to bring new customers and retain existing customers long after it is initially developed.

Illustration: Content marketing

Marketers often struggle to determine what content they should create for use in their content marketing campaigns, and what types of content should be avoided.

One important guide is to focus on storytelling. Telling stories is an integral aspect of effective content marketing. Is there anybody out there who doesn't like hearing a good story?

No way! Stories are useful tools in all areas of practical life, but particularly in marketing.

Here are a few of the most popular content marketing channels you can adopt to tell your story in the marketplace: 

  • Blogging: A periodic writing technique through which authors communicate helpful or insightful information in a free-flowing and unique manner.
  • Podcasting: A process through which you create digital recordings of audio broadcasts and make them available to be downloaded available on the internet.
  • Video blogging: A powerful way of expressing your opinions periodically by creating and sharing videos.
  • Microblogging: A practice through which authors post short, frequent posts, often about timely topics.
  • Community posting: Sharing thoughts and ideas in a community setting where the audience can easily respond and contribute. Community posting often takes place in forums, social media groups, and platforms that enable user commenting.

Content marketing is a critical component of any inbound marketing program, and it makes a great complement to outbound strategies as well.

Illustration: Outbound marketing

A well-targeted and timely eBook or video presentation on a subject that is important to your industry will be valued by your audience. In this way, you can create trust and begin developing an interactive and inclusive conversation with existing and potential customers.

This dialogue, and the opportunities it presents, are what inbound content marketing is all about.


The content experience will be the defining trend of content marketing in 2021, driven by Google's Page Experience algorithm update.

Think of a content experience as a continuous flow of significant, rich, and professionally crafted content that connects prospects across the buyer's journey.

Adopting the idea of content experience into your inbound content marketing will help ensure that you provide a great page experience that is tailored to your niche, rather than just a repository of keyword-rich content. This will boost user interactions and engagement.

Another big trend will the continued growth of voice search, which has several implications for traditional content marketing strategies.

Video Content Is King

Both voice search and page experience will contribute to the ongoing growth of video content. Consumers enjoy seeing video content from brands they follow on social media. Video also creates a more engaging on-page experience for users who click through to your blog content.

Illustration: Video content

If you aren't already using videos and webinars as part of your inbound content marketing strategy, you should be.

Webinars are a perfect way to show off your company's knowledge, connect with potential customers in real time, and create middle-of-the-funnel (MOFU) leads. In many cases, prospects treat webinars like an audition for your product or service.

The Age of Micro-Influencers

Influencers are well-known social media celebrities who have a wide following. They create relatable, sometimes exclusive, content for their loyal viewers.

The micro-influencer audience is hyper-engaged and opinionated because the micro-influencer is often an expert in a particular area. As a result, for marketers seeking to meet their target audience, micro-influencer marketing is an enticing inbound content marketing strategy trend for 2021.

The Rise of AI-Powered Content

When it comes to delivering data-driven insights to fuel content strategy, AI outperforms humans. AI-powered content can not only help you become more accessible to search engines, propelling you higher up the results pages, but it can also give your readers the feeling that you are an expert in your marketplace.

It appears that artificial intelligence (AI) will be the next significant advancement in content marketing, allowing decision-makers to derive crucial input from large volumes of data to remain abreast of and capitalize on emerging trends.

Illustration: AI-powered content

A prime example of that is The Washington Post's "robot reporter" known as Heliograf. It is a super-smart storytelling technology that covers D.C. area high school football games on the basis of the data submitted by football coaches. With the help of this advanced AI technology, in-house journalists can concentrate on comprehensive reporting of the "bigger" games while keeping the local communities well-informed.

Another example of an AI-powered blog idea generator is Answer the Public. When you enter a specific keyword, for example, "Artificial Intelligence," it gives you the most popular questions asked by real users. In a matter of a few clicks, you end up getting relevant data and ideas that can help you to expand and develop your topic.

Blogging Will Remain Crucial for Content Marketing

Writing new blog posts and getting them indexed by Google and other search engines will continue to boost your site's search engine rankings. Publishing new content proves that your site is intact, active, and relevant. With each page you add, you increase the probability of being found on a search engine (which is still how most people look for content).

There are, however, a few adjustments you should make to stay competitive in 2021.

Focus on Snippet Optimization

The featured snippet is Google's method of keeping users on their platform rather than moving to the websites displayed on the SERP (search engine results page). When a user searches on Google, the featured snippets are often the first results they see.

Screenshot: Featured snippet

Sites that appear in the snippet will inevitably see a spike in organic traffic if the contents are consistent with the user's search intent.

Work to Increase User Interaction

An interactive blog will help you rank better and acquire more visitors and returning readers. If your inbound marketing strategies are effective, this will continue to generate fresh leads.

A good blog acts as a hub to keep the audience informed and builds a lasting reputation for your brand. If you answer popular questions and solve your user's pain points, people will view you as an authority in the industry.

As a marketer, you should be aware that people still believe in the credibility of the written word, and you should take advantage of this to build trust for your organization. Done well, blogging is a win-win scenario for both the reader and the writer.

Long-Form In-Depth Content Will Always Have More Takers

Content with a longer length is evidence of an invested writer backed by authentic research. With long-form blog posts, the relevance and life of the content are also bound to be long-run. Google can be a real friend here, as its dedicated ranking mechanisms can help you cut in front of your competition.

Forms Will Become Less Effective

Forms are often a distinct region of a website that is delivered by a different system. Forms in the conventional sense are becoming less relevant to inbound content marketing. However they can still be found sprinkled all over the web, and they continue to be a part of the data collection and purchasing processes for many businesses.

The trick now is to make your forms less monotonous and easier to use. For users who prefer not to use forms, you should identify alternative methods to guide them through the buyer's journey without them.

You can still transform traffic into qualified leads by offering additional content through your blog that addresses real questions and provides real solutions to your client's problems.

Where traditional download funnels are fizzling out, you can capitalize by providing the most helpful content without compromising your user's desire for privacy. Give them convenient methods to contact you on their own terms, and they will reward you for helping resolve their problems.

How Headless CMS Facilitates Effective Content Marketing

Great for Localization

By publishing several variants of your content in various languages, you can open your content up to a global audience. ButterCMS allows you to configure any number of locales to effectively serve your content to the rest of the world. It's as simple as having a 'locale' parameter attached to your API request to provide localized content that always makes sense to the reader.

Provide Personalized Content

Headless CMS allows you to provide a smooth experience that covers all touch-points based on an individual's attributes while retaining continuity and relevance. Every digital interaction with your brand benefits from this degree of personalization.

Personalization is one of the biggest reasons headless CMS is displacing conventional CMS in the marketplace today.

Keep Your Team Working on Their Most Productive Tasks

Headless CMS is all about efficiency. Your developers spend their time working on development tasks, and your marketers gain full control of their content. After the initial configuration is complete, both teams enjoy improved productivity and fewer distractions.

With a platform-agnostic tool like ButterCMS, front-end developers can use their preferred frameworks and resources as they see fit. The front end can change entirely without impacting the back end, making it fast and straightforward to implement new designs.

Because the presentation layer is decoupled from the back-end, your marketing team can manage the content for any number of channels in a central location using a single dashboard. This allows for consistent content across all of your brand's channels.

Final Thoughts

You already know your content is crucial. But it's only part of the picture. You need an inbound content marketing strategy that includes SEO, social media, and lead conversion. In this strategy, your content becomes tightly integrated with related functions that maximize its conversion potential.

Inbound marketing utilizes content to attract prospects and begin the process of converting them into leads. Here, the ultimate objective is to optimize the content so that it is effective at both attracting prospects and providing a great experience.

When all the inbound marketing components work together with your content, it translates into a lethal approach that drives repeatable and sustainable lead generation for your business — even if you're on a limited budget

View our customer case studies to see how ButterCMS helps leading companies execute powerful inbound marketing strategies. And if you want your product or marketing team to test Butter CMS, we can set up a live demo to walk your team through the fast, easy-to-use interface.


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Surya Ranjan Pandita

Surya Ranjan Pandita is a professional content marketer. He is always on the lookout for new optimization strategies and loves to create actionable content. Feel free to ping him on LinkedIn at

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