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Content Marketing Examples: Home Depot and Lowe’s

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Content marketing is a method for distributing online content that contains a direct and measurable benefit for the core business.

The starting point often is a business that obviously or subtly sells products or services via the content itself. That’s an important distinction to make because traditional and digital media businesses also distribute online content with direct and measurable benefits to themselves.

But in the case of media, the actual content does not contain the sales message. The advertising around the content does that job.

In other words, a newspaper article or TV clip about a crime or government action don’t contain sales material asking or suggesting that people buy advertising for that newspaper or TV station.

Instead, the most common way for media Web sites to acquire advertisers is through a sales staff that contacts current or prospective clients.

The two largest home improvement stores in America provide useful examples of how content marketing works to attract customers and sell products.

Example 1: Home Depot

http://www.homedepot.com/c/diy_projects_and_ideas

Home Depot content marketing

The above image illustrates a Home Depot content marketing page.

Home Depot’s Web site has a section called DIY Projects and Ideas. It breaks down into multiple subsections: storage, baths, kitchens, outdoor, paint, etc.

Click on Bathroom Lighting Ideas and discover a short list of tips on making that bathroom shine in more ways than one.

At the same time, discover numerous images of related products available for sale online or in a local store.

This is a simple example of content marketing in which the company has built some limited useful information on its site that attract visitors interested in such ideas. At the same time, it sells products.

How they attract visitors is worth exploring. Like all online businesses, Home Depot appeals to customers or prospects with branding, social media and search engine optimization in addition to content marketing and other tactics.

One way of testing Home Depot’s effectiveness with content marketing is by doing a search engine query of “bathroom lighting ideas” like the example above and see where that page displays in search results.

At the time of this writing, the results were interesting.

The company’s major competitor, Lowe’s, appeared on page 1 in the ninth position with a link to Maximize Lighting in Your Bathroom while the Home Depot page appeared on page 2 with a rank of 15.

It appears that Lowe’s has done a better job of promoting its pages than Home Depot, although the ranks are close and will shift over time.

Why would Lowe’s have a higher rank with a less relevant query? Taking a look at examples of Lowe’s content marketing may reveal some clues.

Example 2: Lowe’s

http://www.lowes.com/creative-ideas/

Lowe’s has been experimenting with content marketing since the late 1990s.

I know it for a fact because the company was a major client — in fact the largest client — of the interactive division at Cox Enterprises where I worked as an online general manager.

The agreement at that time allowed Lowe’s to put content marketing articles on all of our sites and required us to run on-site ads and links to that material.

Today, Lowe’s emphasizes on-site content marketing in much the same way as Home Depot, but with some important differences that might explain the higher ranking for the content described above.

For starters, Lowe’s has a much more prominent link to its DIY guides than Home Depot. In fact, the link is in the main navigation bar while the HD link is in a secondary location.

The aggressive approach to content marketing by Lowe’s doesn’t stop there.

The kitchen planning guide, for example, starts with an overview page that allows visitors to post comments. It’s worth noting that the Lowe’s “Web team” responds to every single one, which is a rare level of responsiveness in an online commenting environment.

Lowe’s actual guide to kitchen planning comes in three forms — a PDF for download, a Flash-based flip book version and a mobile app. The content is much more comprehensive than the pages at Home Depot.

As a result, it is not surprising that a Lowe’s page ranks higher in Google even though the page title is different from the search term.

That said, Home Depot integrates more products for sale in its content marketing pages than Lowe’s.

It suggests two somewhat different strategies. For Home Depot, it’s about generating direct and immediate sales. For Lowe’s, it’s about attracting more audience from search engines, creating a relationship with those visitors and ultimately generating more sales.

Lowe's content marketing

The above example illustrates a Lowe’s content marketing page.

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