Content marketing versus funnels

By Leon Tranter | Funnels

Nov 12
content marketing versus funnels

One of the big decisions you have to make in internet marketing is whether you want to do content marketing, and publish lots of great content that draws in visitors, or build funnels, and focus on conversion and driving focused traffic. This article will explain the pros and cons of content marketing versus funnels. And I’ll tell you what strategy I’m using! (It might not be what you expect).

Content marketing versus funnels

To compare these two approaches, we have to make sure we understand what each one is and how it works.

How content marketing works

The traditional ways of making money online involved content marketing. Basically, you produce lots of great content. Blog posts, videos, podcasts, infographics, and so on.

After a while, this content gets picked up by search engines and starts appearing in search results. You get some traffic that way. Some people love your content and they share it, so you get some more traffic that way. And it starts building up links, and some people click those links.

Remember, links aren’t just for improving your backlink profile (which helps a lot with SEO). They’re actually things that people can click and can get you traffic! I wrote a big article about backlinks if you want to learn all about them.

So good content can get traffic some search results, from sharing, and from people clicking links. The thing about all those traffic sources is that they are all organic. That means I didn’t directly drive them myself. They just happened.

I created the content, sat back and crossed my fingers, and waited. And then some traffic came in by itself, while I did nothing. Maybe a bit, maybe a lot, maybe a hell of a lot.

Once the traffic is coming in, then I can monetise it. I can get people to subscribe to my email list, I can get them to click some affiliate links, and so on. All the techniques I’ve talked about already in internet marketing and affiliate marketing.

This is a proven method that millions and millions of bloggers, companies and entrepreneurs all over the world use every day and it works fine.

But there’s another approach.

How funnels work

Over the last ten years or so, there has been an increase in people who have opted more for a funnel based strategy. I’ll explain what exactly that means.

Some thought “wait , what if I zoom in on the conversion part of my big website full of beautiful content. What if I forget how that traffic got there, forget all the organic stuff. Let’s say I just focus on one tiny part of my website that just did the conversion, and tweaked it until it converted well and I was making say $2 on average off of every person that landed on that part. If I then spent $1 getting a person to just that page, then I can make loads of money. And I don’t have to build all that other content!”.

That’s basically the thinking behind funnels. You forget about the content and focus on the conversion. If you’re converting well enough, you don’t need free organic traffic, you can just do paid traffic. And you pump it through the funnel. And you can scale up and up and make more money.

This is, of course, a very different approach than content marketing.

If your website only consists of funnels (or even just one funnel, like some websites do), then you obviously have no really worthwhile content.

Google is not going to rank your page that just has a payment form and a big sales blurb. People aren’t going to be likely to share it (they’re just advertising your product for free).

Nobody is going to want to hyperlink to it unless they’re your affiliate. Why would they? Again, they’d just be giving you free money.

Your website is not really “adding value” (beyond that provided to people when they buy your product). So your organic traffic will be basically zero.

But you don’t have to build any content! You don’t need to write hundreds of articles, you don’t need to shoot loads of videos, you don’t need to do outreach or link building or SEO or anything. You just need a few funnels, or maybe even one funnel.

This is one of the slogans of the biggest Funnel fan out there, Russel Brunson. “You don’t need a website!” he tells people. “You just need a funnel!”. Well, that sounds fine, but keep in mind that Russel is in the business of selling a tool that builds funnels. So he’s a little biased.

Pros and cons of content marketing vs funnels

So which is better, content marketing or funnels? Well as always, the answer is “it depends”. On a lot of things.

They are very different approaches and each has their pros and cons. Which one you choose depends on your background, your time, your skills, and your overall marketing strategy.

To put it simply, this is a bit like the free traffic vs paid traffic debate. Content marketing focuses on building up free traffic, so it is free but slow. Funnels don’t really get any organic traffic so they use paid traffic, which is fast and costs money.

How I think about content marketing versus funnels

I like to think about these approaches as building a well (content marketing and free traffic) versus turning on or off the tap (funnels and paid traffic).

content marketing well

content marketing is a bit like building a well

If you want water, you can build a well. You have to research and the right spot, then dig it properly, then build it up properly. It will take quite a lot of time and effort to get it all done right. But once it’s there, you can just pull water out of it whenever you want, for nothing.

Another approach is a tap. If you’re happy paying the water supplier for water, you can just turn on the tap. Water comes out right away. And when you’re done, you turn off the tap and water stops.

You pay for every second the water is on, and you stop paying when it is off. You didn’t have to build the tap or the water system. It is just there and ready to whenever you want to. But you have to pay to use every second of it.

It’s not quite as simple as that

That’s a bit of a simplification though.

You can actually do content marketing with paid traffic. I do some of that! I do a hell of a lot of content marketing (this is the 71st article I have published on this blog), but I run some paid ads to my content too. This brings in more visitors, which builds up my retargeting lists (I wrote an article on how retargeting works), gets me some social shares and visitors, and maybe some affiliate sales too.

You can also get free traffic to funnels too. If you’re a master of social media marketing, and you build up big followings and a good reputation, you can send people to your funnels for free! Just put out links to your funnels via social media channels. Plus maybe your email list, if you’re lucky enough to already have one. Email marketing still works, remember.

What is my strategy?

Well if you’ve been reading this blog for a little while, and noticed all the articles I have written, you’d conclude that I believe in content marketing.

And that’s true, I do. Content is massively powerful for two reasons:

  • It can convert people, not just at a point in time, but over time. Over a long period of time. The most expensive product I bought was a $2500 course (on a lot of things, but mainly content marketing). I bought it after I had been following the author and consuming their content for one year. It took me a year of regularly reading their material to trust them enough to spend that amount of money on their course. There is no funnel on the planet that could convince me to spend that much.
  • It involves building up digital assets that draw in traffic from multiple sources, and that accumulate and snowball. Organic search rankings lead to visits which lead to shares and social signals which lead to higher rankings which lead to more visits which lead to more shares and organic backlinks which lead to higher rankings, and so on. Funnels have nothing like that. A good funnel doesn’t really bring in more traffic, it just converts better.

That being said, there’s nothing wrong with funnels! In fact, I’m starting to build some of them myself.

Funnels are actually everywhere. Even hardcore content marketers with thousands of articles or videos will have funnels. They’ll be collecting emails, putting people into follow-up sequences, and so on. They will at some point be promoting their own or other people’s products, which generally involves funnels.

It goes the other way too – it’s rare to find funnels without any content. Even the supposed “funnel king”, Russel Brunson, who tells people they don’t need a website and that content marketing is finished, has a giant website filled with hundreds of articles and podcasts! He publishes books, video tutorials, speaks at conferences, and so on.

So it’s not necessarily an either/or thing. I use a mix of both approaches and I think you should too.

But my overall focus is on content marketing, and I think that’s a good thing. It’s not a short-term or quick-win strategy.

I’m playing the long game. Because marketing is a long game, and the tortoise always beats the hare.


I hope you found this article helpful! Are you still unsure about the content marketing versus funnels debate? Do you need help deciding which approach is best for you? Let me know in the comments!

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