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7 Inspiring Content Marketing Examples (And Why They Worked)

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7 Inspiring Content Marketing Examples (And Why They Worked)

Everyone says content marketing is great, but what are some really good examples that actually delivered?

To answer this question, we’ve put our Content Explorer to work. These seven examples came from filtering over 6.2B live pages in English by organic traffic and referring domains. 

We will also share our short analysis of why these examples came out so well. 

Adobe's Free Image Background Remover

Estimated monthly organic traffic: 5.1M
Backlinks: 3.7K from 1.8K domains

Adobe. In case you’ve heard about its product but haven’t heard about the company, it’s responsible for putting the “photoshopped” in “this photo looks totally photoshopped.”

Its claim to fame on this list is a tool that automatically removes the background from any pic for free so you don’t have to. If you’ve ever tried to do this manually, you’ll know why such a tool is a lifesaver.

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Why it worked 

Millions of people search for a solution like this every month, and Adobe ranks in the top three every time.

To illustrate, here are some of their top-performing keywords and their search volume in the U.S. alone. 

Keyword data, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer
Data via Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

This site gets most of the traffic from India, where demand is even higher. 

Keyword data, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Naturally, it’s thought about a conversion path. Removing the background is free. But in case you need to resize the image too… Adobe always has a plan (pun intended). 

Adobe Express plans
16Personalities’ Free Personality Test 

Estimated monthly organic traffic: 2.8M
Backlinks: 20.9K from 10.3K domains

This content marketing example is so effective that someone built an entire business on it. 

It’s a free personality test. The site sells premium content on personal growth, customized based on the test outcomes. 

Why it worked

In short, many people want to learn more about themselves and the people in their surroundings, so they seek advice in personality tests like this one. This company created an experience that stands out in every aspect, which allowed it to take advantage of that demand. 

This single page ranks for over 7K keywords, many of which have tens and even hundreds of thousands in search volume. This explains such surprisingly high traffic for “just” a personality test. 

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Keyword data, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer
Data via Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

Another notable thing is how well the conversion path is designed throughout the site with the sole purpose of sending visitors to that page. 

When you enter the site, there is absolutely no distraction; there’s 100% focus on the test. 

CTA buttons leading to the test

After the test, you get a generous amount of free information on your personality. At that point, you’re most likely “hooked.” You’re then offered the opportunity to upgrade your experience: more advice, tips, and more specialized tests. And the site is selling this as frictionless as technically possible. 

How the site reassures visitors

You even get an automatically created free profile which, I must admit, feels like your very own dedicated zone for personal exploration. Even the main CTA buttons change to lead you to your profile.

CTAs leading to a profile on the site
NeoMam’s 13 Reasons Your Brain Craves Infographics

Estimated monthly organic traffic: 4
Backlinks: 4.1K from 329 domains

Launched in 2013, this is an infographic about why your brain craves infographics, created by an infographic design and marketing agency in the U.K. 

It’s well designed and well researched. It’s also one of the few interactive pieces of content we’ve come across that actually resized correctly and worked on mobile (as of when this article was written).

Why it worked 

The timing was almost certainly one of the biggest contributing factors here.

NeoMam published this piece of content in July 2013 which, according to Google Trends, was nearly the peak of a long-term trend of interest in infographics. 

Data from Google Trends

By publishing content about trending topics, you increase the pool of prospects who are likely to be interested in featuring the content. It’s akin to publishing something about the Barbie movie in 2023—if the content is good, journalists and bloggers will be falling over themselves to cover it.

And that’s exactly what happened in this case. NeoMam’s infographic got featured on a lot of huge sites, such as Huffington Post, Harvard Business Review, and Entrepreneur:

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Data via Ahrefs' Site Explorer
Data via Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

But what’s also notable is this work was featured in other lists like this one. So if someone looking for infographic inspiration comes across this example, they may hire the agency that created it. 

Danny Ashton, the founder of NeoMam, also puts some of the success down to the quality and depth of research:

Back in 2013 you could get away with sources that didn’t quite make sense or just link to a blog. But one of the things I said to the team when we did this was to only talk about things that we could cite with a scientific journal. Going the extra mile when it comes to research quality was key for getting the trust from journalists looking to cover the story.

CoinDesk’s Bitcoin Market Data

Estimated monthly organic traffic: 1.3M
Backlinks: 234K from 10.3K domains

CoinDesk is an online magazine devoted to cryptocurrencies, web3, and the underlying technology. This example is one of the web’s go-to sources for checking the latest price of Bitcoin and some related market data. 

Why it worked

There are millions of searches for the live price of Bitcoin every month. With this page, CoinDesk ranks high for these searches and generates massive traffic it doesn’t need to pay for. 

Keyword data, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer
Data via Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

What’s in it for CoinDesk to go through all of that hassle to provide fresh market data? Especially when traders get their data from their trading apps? I can think of a few things:

  • Advertising revenue from on-site ads, which get millions of views. 
  • Affiliate revenue—the “buy/sell” button you can see in the screenshot leads to third-party trading apps. 
  • Authority from all of the links pointing to that site. Which can, in turn, help it rank other content.
  • Last but not least, increased readership. Its core content (news) is just a click away. 
Cars.com’s Auto Loan Calculator

Estimated monthly organic traffic: 140K
Backlinks: 16.6K from 570 domains

Cars.com’s Auto Loan Calculator does exactly what it says on the tin. But as you may have guessed, cars.com is not in the calculator business—it’s an online car marketplace. 

Once it calculates the monthly payment amount, there’s an auto-generated search box underneath that lets you “search for cars in your budget.” Of course, the list of cars comes from cars.com.

List of eligible offers based on the calculation

Why it worked

The phrase “car loan calculator” gets an estimated 475K monthly searches in the U.S.

Keyword data, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer
Data via Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.

The calculator ranks in the top three in Google for that query. It also ranks in the top 100 for 8,970 other keywords, which also send traffic to the page resulting in an estimated 148,242 monthly visits. 

SERP overview for "car loan calculator," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

That traffic then converts into leads when people search for cars on the website within that price range.

Superdrug’s Perceptions of Perfection Across Borders

Estimated monthly organic traffic: 28
Backlinks: 1.1K from 545 domains

Superdrug, a health and beauty retailer in the U.K., asked female graphic designers from 18 different countries to retouch a photo of a woman to make her more attractive.

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Here are just a few of the results:

Perceptions of perfection—women

A year later, it repeated the study with men:

Perceptions of perfection—men

Each resulting image and body type is vastly different from the rest—which is the entire point.

Superdrug aimed to show that there’s no such thing as the perfect body. It’s subjective, not definitive. What’s seen as the ideal body varies massively from country to country.

Why it worked 

Superdrug launched this campaign in 2015 when, according to Google Trends, the body positivity movement was starting to gain traction. 

Data from Google Trends

That meant there were many journalists and bloggers eager to cover positive, thought-provoking content around this subject, which led to features in big news sites such as Huffington Post, The Telegraph, and Daily Mail. 

Data via Ahrefs' Site Explorer
Data via Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.
Zendesk Alternative

Estimated monthly organic traffic: 88
Backlinks: 475 from 329 domains

In 2013, Zendesk, a customer support solution, playfully created a fictional rock band called “Zendesk Alternative.” The band’s concept revolved around Zendesk stealing its name, leading to humorous and quirky situations. 

Despite being entirely fake, Zendesk put in a lot of effort. It established the band on various platforms like Facebook, Bandcamp, or YouTube, giving it the appearance of a real act. 

Why it worked 

Not only is it funny and insanely well executed, but it actively targets customers considering other alternatives to Zendesk and attempts to win them over.

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The page ranks in the top five search results most of the time on Google for “zendesk alternative,” a keyword that gets 800 searches per month in the U.S.

Data via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer
Data via Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.

This is a keyword for which the bulk of traffic would ordinarily go to some other website.

Also, according to this archived article on radius.com, Zendesk closed five deals that originated from the Zendesk Alternative page within six months of the campaign going live.

Final thoughts

Every one of these examples relies on creating something of value (content) and promoting it to interested audiences (marketing).

They’re all relatively replicable and straightforward ideas at their core. Some of them may have required more resources, but others prove that you can create outstanding content even if you’re on a budget.

Do you know of any other cool content marketing examples? Let me know on Twitter or Mastodon

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10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

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10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

Whether you are new to paid media or reevaluating your efforts, it’s critical to review your performance and best practices for your overall PPC marketing program, accounts, and campaigns.

Revisiting your paid media plan is an opportunity to ensure your strategy aligns with your current goals.

Reviewing best practices for pay-per-click is also a great way to keep up with trends and improve performance with newly released ad technologies.

As you review, you’ll find new strategies and features to incorporate into your paid search program, too.

Here are 10 PPC best practices to help you adjust and plan for the months ahead.

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1. Goals

When planning, it is best practice to define goals for the overall marketing program, ad platforms, and at the campaign level.

Defining primary and secondary goals guides the entire PPC program. For example, your primary conversion may be to generate leads from your ads.

You’ll also want to look at secondary goals, such as brand awareness that is higher in the sales funnel and can drive interest to ultimately get the sales lead-in.

2. Budget Review & Optimization

Some advertisers get stuck in a rut and forget to review and reevaluate the distribution of their paid media budgets.

To best utilize budgets, consider the following:

  • Reconcile your planned vs. spend for each account or campaign on a regular basis. Depending on the budget size, monthly, quarterly, or semiannually will work as long as you can hit budget numbers.
  • Determine if there are any campaigns that should be eliminated at this time to free up the budget for other campaigns.
  • Is there additional traffic available to capture and grow results for successful campaigns? The ad platforms often include a tool that will provide an estimated daily budget with clicks and costs. This is just an estimate to show more click potential if you are interested.
  • If other paid media channels perform mediocrely, does it make sense to shift those budgets to another?
  • For the overall paid search and paid social budget, can your company invest more in the positive campaign results?

3. Consider New Ad Platforms

If you can shift or increase your budgets, why not test out a new ad platform? Knowing your audience and where they spend time online will help inform your decision when choosing ad platforms.

Go beyond your comfort zone in Google, Microsoft, and Meta Ads.

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Here are a few other advertising platforms to consider testing:

  • LinkedIn: Most appropriate for professional and business targeting. LinkedIn audiences can also be reached through Microsoft Ads.
  • TikTok: Younger Gen Z audience (16 to 24), video.
  • Pinterest: Products, services, and consumer goods with a female-focused target.
  • Snapchat: Younger demographic (13 to 35), video ads, app installs, filters, lenses.

Need more detailed information and even more ideas? Read more about the 5 Best Google Ads Alternatives.

4. Top Topics in Google Ads & Microsoft Ads

Recently, trends in search and social ad platforms have presented opportunities to connect with prospects more precisely, creatively, and effectively.

Don’t overlook newer targeting and campaign types you may not have tried yet.

  • Video: Incorporating video into your PPC accounts takes some planning for the goals, ad creative, targeting, and ad types. There is a lot of opportunity here as you can simply include video in responsive display ads or get in-depth in YouTube targeting.
  • Performance Max: This automated campaign type serves across all of Google’s ad inventory. Microsoft Ads recently released PMAX so you can plan for consistency in campaign types across platforms. Do you want to allocate budget to PMax campaigns? Learn more about how PMax compares to search.
  • Automation: While AI can’t replace human strategy and creativity, it can help manage your campaigns more easily. During planning, identify which elements you want to automate, such as automatically created assets and/or how to successfully guide the AI in the Performance Max campaigns.

While exploring new features, check out some hidden PPC features you probably don’t know about.

5. Revisit Keywords

The role of keywords has evolved over the past several years with match types being less precise and loosening up to consider searcher intent.

For example, [exact match] keywords previously would literally match with the exact keyword search query. Now, ads can be triggered by search queries with the same meaning or intent.

A great planning exercise is to lay out keyword groups and evaluate if they are still accurately representing your brand and product/service.

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Review search term queries triggering ads to discover trends and behavior you may not have considered. It’s possible this has impacted performance and conversions over time.

Critical to your strategy:

  • Review the current keyword rules and determine if this may impact your account in terms of close variants or shifts in traffic volume.
  • Brush up on how keywords work in each platform because the differences really matter!
  • Review search term reports more frequently for irrelevant keywords that may pop up from match type changes. Incorporate these into match type changes or negative keywords lists as appropriate.

6. Revisit Your Audiences

Review the audiences you selected in the past, especially given so many campaign types that are intent-driven.

Automated features that expand your audience could be helpful, but keep an eye out for performance metrics and behavior on-site post-click.

Remember, an audience is simply a list of users who are grouped together by interests or behavior online.

Therefore, there are unlimited ways to mix and match those audiences and target per the sales funnel.

Here are a few opportunities to explore and test:

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  • LinkedIn user targeting: Besides LinkedIn, this can be found exclusively in Microsoft Ads.
  • Detailed Demographics: Marital status, parental status, home ownership, education, household income.
  • In-market and custom intent: Searches and online behavior signaling buying cues.
  • Remarketing: Advertisers website visitors, interactions with ads, and video/ YouTube.

Note: This varies per the campaign type and seems to be updated frequently, so make this a regular check-point in your campaign management for all platforms.

7. Organize Data Sources

You will likely be running campaigns on different platforms with combinations of search, display, video, etc.

Looking back at your goals, what is the important data, and which platforms will you use to review and report? Can you get the majority of data in one analytics platform to compare and share?

Millions of companies use Google Analytics, which is a good option for centralized viewing of advertising performance, website behavior, and conversions.

8. Reevaluate How You Report

Have you been using the same performance report for years?

It’s time to reevaluate your essential PPC key metrics and replace or add that data to your reports.

There are two great resources to kick off this exercise:

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Your objectives in reevaluating the reporting are:

  • Are we still using this data? Is it still relevant?
  • Is the data we are viewing actionable?
  • What new metrics should we consider adding we haven’t thought about?
  • How often do we need to see this data?
  • Do the stakeholders receiving the report understand what they are looking at (aka data visualization)?

Adding new data should be purposeful, actionable, and helpful in making decisions for the marketing plan. It’s also helpful to decide what type of data is good to see as “deep dives” as needed.

9. Consider Using Scripts

The current ad platforms have plenty of AI recommendations and automated rules, and there is no shortage of third-party tools that can help with optimizations.

Scripts is another method for advertisers with large accounts or some scripting skills to automate report generation and repetitive tasks in their Google Ads accounts.

Navigating the world of scripts can seem overwhelming, but a good place to start is a post here on Search Engine Journal that provides use cases and resources to get started with scripts.

Luckily, you don’t need a Ph.D. in computer science — there are plenty of resources online with free or templated scripts.

10. Seek Collaboration

Another effective planning tactic is to seek out friendly resources and second opinions.

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Much of the skill and science of PPC management is unique to the individual or agency, so there is no shortage of ideas to share between you.

You can visit the Paid Search Association, a resource for paid ad managers worldwide, to make new connections and find industry events.

Preparing For Paid Media Success

Strategies should be based on clear and measurable business goals. Then, you can evaluate the current status of your campaigns based on those new targets.

Your paid media strategy should also be built with an eye for both past performance and future opportunities. Look backward and reevaluate your existing assumptions and systems while investigating new platforms, topics, audiences, and technologies.

Also, stay current with trends and keep learning. Check out ebooks, social media experts, and industry publications for resources and motivational tips.

More resources: 

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Featured Image: Vanatchanan/Shutterstock

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Google Limits News Links In California Over Proposed ‘Link Tax’ Law

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A brown cardboard price tag with a twine string and a black dollar sign symbol, influenced by the Link Tax Law, set against a dark gray background.

Google announced that it plans to reduce access to California news websites for a portion of users in the state.

The decision comes as Google prepares for the potential passage of the California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA), a bill requiring online platforms like Google to pay news publishers for linking to their content.

What Is The California Journalism Preservation Act?

The CJPA, introduced in the California State Legislature, aims to support local journalism by creating what Google refers to as a “link tax.”

If passed, the Act would force companies like Google to pay media outlets when sending readers to news articles.

However, Google believes this approach needs to be revised and could harm rather than help the news industry.

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Jaffer Zaidi, Google’s VP of Global News Partnerships, stated in a blog post:

“It would favor media conglomerates and hedge funds—who’ve been lobbying for this bill—and could use funds from CJPA to continue to buy up local California newspapers, strip them of journalists, and create more ghost papers that operate with a skeleton crew to produce only low-cost, and often low-quality, content.”

Google’s Response

To assess the potential impact of the CJPA on its services, Google is running a test with a percentage of California users.

During this test, Google will remove links to California news websites that the proposed legislation could cover.

Zaidi states:

“To prepare for possible CJPA implications, we are beginning a short-term test for a small percentage of California users. The testing process involves removing links to California news websites, potentially covered by CJPA, to measure the impact of the legislation on our product experience.”

Google Claims Only 2% of Search Queries Are News-Related

Zaidi highlighted peoples’ changing news consumption habits and its effect on Google search queries (emphasis mine):

“It’s well known that people are getting news from sources like short-form videos, topical newsletters, social media, and curated podcasts, and many are avoiding the news entirely. In line with those trends, just 2% of queries on Google Search are news-related.”

Despite the low percentage of news queries, Google wants to continue helping news publishers gain visibility on its platforms.

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However, the “CJPA as currently constructed would end these investments,” Zaidi says.

A Call For A Different Approach

In its current form, Google maintains that the CJPA undermines news in California and could leave all parties worse off.

The company urges lawmakers to consider alternative approaches supporting the news industry without harming smaller local outlets.

Google argues that, over the past two decades, it’s done plenty to help news publishers innovate:

“We’ve rolled out Google News Showcase, which operates in 26 countries, including the U.S., and has more than 2,500 participating publications. Through the Google News Initiative we’ve partnered with more than 7,000 news publishers around the world, including 200 news organizations and 6,000 journalists in California alone.”

Zaidi suggested that a healthy news industry in California requires support from the state government and a broad base of private companies.

As the legislative process continues, Google is willing to cooperate with California publishers and lawmakers to explore alternative paths that would allow it to continue linking to news.

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Featured Image:Ismael Juan/Shutterstock

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The Best of Ahrefs’ Digest: March 2024

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The Best of Ahrefs’ Digest: March 2024

Every week, we share hot SEO news, interesting reads, and new posts in our newsletter, Ahrefs’ Digest.

If you’re not one of our 280,000 subscribers, you’ve missed out on some great reads!

Here’s a quick summary of my personal favorites from the last month:

Best of March 2024

How 16 Companies are Dominating the World’s Google Search Results

Author: Glen Allsopp

tl;dr

Glen’s research reveals that just 16 companies representing 588 brands get 3.5 billion (yes, billion!) monthly clicks from Google.

My takeaway

Glen pointed out some really actionable ideas in this report, such as the fact that many of the brands dominating search are adding mini-author bios.

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Example of mini-author bios on The VergeExample of mini-author bios on The Verge

This idea makes so much sense in terms of both UX and E-E-A-T. I’ve already pitched it to the team and we’re going to implement it on our blog.

How Google is Killing Independent Sites Like Ours

Authors: Gisele Navarro, Danny Ashton

tl;dr

Big publications have gotten into the affiliate game, publishing “best of” lists about everything under the sun. And despite often not testing products thoroughly, they’re dominating Google rankings. The result, Gisele and Danny argue, is that genuine review sites suffer and Google is fast losing content diversity.

My takeaway

I have a lot of sympathy for independent sites. Some of them are trying their best, but unfortunately, they’re lumped in with thousands of others who are more than happy to spam.

Estimated search traffic to Danny and Gisele's site fell off a cliff after Google's March updatesEstimated search traffic to Danny and Gisele's site fell off a cliff after Google's March updates
Estimated search traffic to Danny and Gisele’s site fell off a cliff after Google’s March updates 🙁 

I know it’s hard to hear, but the truth is Google benefits more from having big sites in the SERPs than from having diversity. That’s because results from big brands are likely what users actually want. By and large, people would rather shop at Walmart or ALDI than at a local store or farmer’s market.

That said, I agree with most people that Forbes (with its dubious contributor model contributing to scams and poor journalism) should not be rewarded so handsomely.

The Discussion Forums Dominating 10,000 Product Review Search Results

Author: Glen Allsopp

Tl;dr

Glen analyzed 10,000 “product review” keywords and found that:

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My takeaway

After Google’s heavy promotion of Reddit from last year’s Core Update, to no one’s surprise, unscrupulous SEOs and marketers have already started spamming Reddit. And as you may know, Reddit’s moderation is done by volunteers, and obviously, they can’t keep up.

I’m not sure how this second-order effect completely escaped the smart minds at Google, but from the outside, it feels like Google has capitulated to some extent.

John Mueller seemingly having too much faith in Reddit...John Mueller seemingly having too much faith in Reddit...

I’m not one to make predictions and I have no idea what will happen next, but I agree with Glen: Google’s results are the worst I’ve seen them. We can only hope Google sorts itself out.

Who Sends Traffic on the Web and How Much? New Research from Datos & SparkToro

Author: Rand Fishkin

tl;dr

63.41% of all U.S. web traffic referrals from the top 170 sites are initiated on Google.com.

Data from SparktoroData from Sparktoro

My takeaway

Despite all of our complaints, Google is still the main platform to acquire traffic from. That’s why we all want Google to sort itself out and do well.

But it would also be a mistake to look at this post and think Google is the only channel you should drive traffic from. As Rand’s later blog post clarifies, “be careful not to ascribe attribution or credit to Google when other investments drove the real value.”

I think many affiliate marketers learned this lesson well from the past few Core Updates: Relying on one single channel to drive all of your traffic is not a good idea. You should be using other platforms to build brand awareness, interest, and demand.

Want more?

Each week, our team handpicks the best SEO and marketing content from around the web for our newsletter. Sign up to get them directly in your inbox.

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