Content-Based Marketing: A Post-Cookie Evolution

content-based marketing illustration feature

Content-based marketing is coming to the forefront as 3P cookies are sunset (Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash)

Ask any marketer their preferred superpower — at least in a work context — and the answer would likely be mind reading. While we wait for the next millennia of human evolution (maybe Neuralink?), marketers are doing everything in their power to determine the optimum moment to engage with consumers.

Third-party cookies served their purpose of helping advertisers learn more about their audiences for a time. But now with their imminent depreciation in 2024 – for real this time – content-based marketing has taken the stage. This is bringing marketers back to the impactful basics, seeking and reaching high-intent consumers at the likely point of purchase.

The key to a content-based marketing strategy is letting the content tell you where your customers are, not cookies. Marketers have become overly reliant on cookies and other third-party data solutions to run their campaigns and show where consumers are in the purchase funnel. However, this often ignores the value of lower-funnel shoppers; in other words, those most likely to purchase your product.

Marketers have a valuable opportunity to reach these high-intent consumers by serving ads on the sites where they’re most likely to make a purchase, at the optimal moment. This process begins by understanding high-intent shoppers and locating the sites that serve as beacons for them.

High-Intent Shopper Havens

The difference between a standard consumer and a high-intent shopper starts with awareness. Once someone begins to research a product in detail, search for alternatives and compare pricing, they become a high-intent shopper. The length of time between becoming a high-intent shopper and making a purchase of course varies across verticals. To use an extreme example, bigger-ticket items such as cars or insurance take longer to convert than more low-value purchases.

Naturally, content-based marketing starts with knowing the best traffic sources to find these high-intent audiences. For instance, someone following and browsing an Instagram influencer’s page appreciates their curated content and is lower down the funnel for their highlighted products than someone arriving there via search. Beyond influencers, there are a number of channels that host high-intent shoppers as significant segments of their audience.

For example, deal comparison sites are an often-overlooked traffic source. These websites are a valuable resource for high-intent customers in the purchasing mindset, making the extra effort to find an item at a price that works best for them. Other traffic sources for high-intent shoppers might include listicles, review sites, and comparison-shopping engines that allow them to quickly and easily view the pros and cons of specific products. By placing ads on these sites, brands are reinforcing messaging at key moments for consumers actively seeking their solution, increasing the chance of a conversion.

Content-Based Concerns

Many brands have concerns about using a content-based marketing approach. These concerns are often based on how they’re running their current attribution model. It may be that the model over-values conversions from high-funnel efforts such as search marketing, while discrediting low-funnel conversions (purchases from comparison sites). Many attribution models are trained to value the first click. Search campaigns will often consider conversions directly through a brand’s site more valuable than those from an independent publisher.

Along with perceptions around conversion method value, there is a common misconception that shoppers searching for a deal would not have purchased without a discounted offer. However, these consumers are most often the ones who do holistic research on a product or service before purchasing. Although their conversion takes more time, they do so with more confidence than someone buying at the first click. It’s important for brands to not undervalue these consumers. You need to recognize the opportunity you have to curate an ongoing sense of brand loyalty.

Brands must also recognize the ability of an impactful affiliate in a consumers’ research phase. When done well, their ability to sell consumers on a product’s differentiators can be a determining factor in the purchase decision and ongoing brand loyalty. The conversions that result from an affiliate purchase must be weighted equally with those from search marketing efforts.

Capitalizing on Content-Based Marketing

Content-based marketing provides a valuable opportunity to connect with low-funnel, high-intent shoppers and reap conversions. Impactful content, particularly from affiliates such as influencers and other independent publishers, can go beyond conversion to increasing brand loyalty. Marketers therefore must ensure attribution models weigh conversions equally, whether through search or affiliate site clicks.

Deborah Kilpatrick is co-founder and VP of Marketing at SourceKnowledge