Inbound vs. Content Marketing: What’s the Difference?

Christy Walters


March 26, 2022 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

Website interface development concept for inbound vs. content marketing

Inbound marketing and content marketing are just one example of terms people use interchangeably in marketing, but they mean different things. These two concepts share some similarities but have nuances about them that make them different. Learning what makes inbound vs. content marketing different can help you be more precise and confident in your strategy development. We’re breaking down those distinctions today.

What Is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is the strategy of collecting, creating, and using content-based resources to provide information, value, and resources to an audience. You can use content marketing to help you attract new leads and customers, not just with products and services, but also with industry knowledge and information. Today, we consider content marketing to be part of digital marketing because it includes pieces like:


Content marketing can also take place offline, using things like pamphlets, posters, books, and guides.

What Is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is an optimization strategy that prepares your content marketing to attract leads and encourage conversions. Search engine optimization (SEO) and writing quality calls-to-action (CTAs) are two important components of inbound marketing. They’re things you can use within content marketing to make the pieces more appealing to the audience. Other components of inbound marketing include:


4 Differences of Inbound vs. Content Marketing

You may notice that some components of inbound and content marketing are the same, but you use them for slightly different purposes within each framework. Other ways these concepts intersect include:

1. Audience Engagement

cartoon skeeball board to explain the differences of inbound vs. content marketing

Image via GIPHY by @grucelee

Content marketing focuses on a broader audience. People from different demographics may have the same questions or needs that written or visual pieces can provide or answer, but they cast a wide net. Inbound marketing lets you find the more specific needs of that wide audience as they make their way through the content. You can do this with targeted language and personalization options.

Think of your content like a game of Skee-Ball. Content marketing is the 10 point ring, the largest one and the easiest one to hit. Using inbound and content marketing together helps your audience access the inner rings based on their interests and needs to become leads. This helps them eventually reach the narrowest, trickiest 100-point target, becoming a paying customer.

2. Strategy

You can run a content marketing strategy on its own. Develop pieces and post or share them on the internet and you have a content strategy. But without inbound marketing, it might be a waste of time. Inbound marketing gets people to notice your content, but it can’t survive on its own. It has to work with content marketing to drive attention and personalization for each piece.

Inbound marketing focuses on attracting, engaging, and delighting audiences to lead them through the marketing and sales funnels. It helps you decide with which social campaigns to engage, if you should use automation tools, and how to best optimize content for both readers and search engines.

3. Process

The process of content marketing focuses on the content creation itself. It includes researching topics, collecting facts, writing or recording pieces, and releasing them into the world. The process of inbound marketing is more about setting the right environment to entice and cater to leads. It may include steps like:

  • Researching competition
  • Optimizing your content for search engines
  • Establishing an email drip campaign
  • Creating a social media calendar
  • Developing customer personas
  • Creating lead-generation tactics
  • Developing multi-channel marketing strategies


If you’re looking for help with your inbound and content marketing tactics, request your free content analysis report from CopyPress. This document can show you how you stack up against three of your top competitors and give you suggestions for content that your audience is looking for right now that you’re currently missing. Then, think about hiring CopyPress. We’re able to close and eliminate that content gap between what your company is producing and what your competitors are gaining traction from. That’s done with a personalized style guide and access to our proprietary CMS, Dante, so you can review and comment on the content we create for your team.

“CopyPress gives us the ability to work with more dealership groups. We are able to provide unique and fresh content for an ever growing customer base. We know that when we need an influx of content to keep our clients ahead of the game in the automotive landscape, CopyPress can handle these requests with ease.”

Kevin Doory

Director of SEO at Auto Revo

4. Goals

Goals for content marketing focus primarily on exposure and attraction. How many people can you get to see your pieces? You may have goals such as increasing:

  • Engagement
  • Website traffic
  • Partnerships
  • Positive reviews or ratings
  • Leads
  • Sales


Inbound marketing is more concerned with conversions. While some content marketing goals like engagement or increasing partnerships are micro-conversions, inbound marketing often cares more about larger-scale conversions, like:

  • Purchasing products or services
  • Requesting demos
  • Creating accounts
  • Subscribing to a newsletter or list


Content marketing helps attract leads by providing them with resources and information. Inbound marketing then guides those leads through the sales funnel to become paying customers. At CopyPress, we can help you create the right content, interspersed with those inbound strategies to entice and excite your prospects as they transform into loyal customers. Call us today to learn how to start a rewarding content partnership.

Author Image - Christy Walters
Christy Walters

CopyPress writer

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