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Content Writing vs Content Marketing – Case Study

We have likely all been there… crushing out content for a project and just not getting the results that we’re after. I would argue that it is often because the process of content writing is disconnected or even mistaken for content marketing.

In this post I am going to show you a case study (URL revealed) with advanced content marketing (page 1 results for target 10k/month volume keyword in under 90 days) and discuss the difference between content writing and content marketing

Waitlist – Advanced Content Marketing and Link Building Solution

ContentRefined (a popular content writing service) has been executing the strategy below including strategy, copywriting and link building for potential customers. We are opening it up in the near future to anyone. Join the waitlist here to be the first to find out more about the service. 

This is how we should – but often don’t – think about content marketing and the results we have been able to achieve when a congruent content marketing strategy is proof.

Content Writing vs. Content Marketing – What is the Difference?

Content writing is one of the steps that has to happen within content marketing. Content marketing consists of a series of steps, including digital marketing strategy, keyword research, content writing, publishing, and marketing the created content. Too often, the process of content writing gets mistaken for a business doing content marketing.

How Online Entrepreneurs Often Get the 2 Confused…

Content marketing and content writing are not the same. Without “marketing,” it is just content.

If you are a good content writer that just wants to crank out great content in the form of blog posts or social media posts for the search engines that is great. But, it won’t be enough for you to generate the inbound marketing or brand awareness results you are trying to drive.

As the Content Marketing Institute is better at communicating content is not the same as Content Marketing. They argue this point for larger companies where the brand is an important consideration. However, for those of us building online businesses, our strategy needs to go beyond simply crushing words out and copywriting.

How does the process of the 2 differ?

Typical Content “Marketing” Process for Online Businesses

content writing vs content marketing

The typical process, which definitely works but is not optimal, is a very linear approach where the input to the content creation method is an almost random approach to keyword research.

Too often, the keyword strategy is not defined at the start in a structured way resulting in a random approach that cannibalizes keywords and leaves the site without a great structure. The focus on this process is typically around the copywriting with a good content writer and not on the marketing strategy.

This can and does work but leaves a lot of opportunity on the table.

Ideal Process for Advanced Content MARKETING of an Online Businesses

I firmly believe in the saying, “done is better than perfect,” and that is very true when growing a website. If the strategy below is too intense to be able to execute efficiently, then you are way better to execute the simpler strategy above, then do nothing!

Let’s break each of these steps down into a little more detail.


In the strategy stage, the key is to execute an iterative process that identifies…

●      Target keyword and cluster of supporting keywords to create articles around

●      Identify possible content assets that can be created that go beyond words which will help the audience (infographic, video, tool/aid)

●      Identify the marketing strategy, specifically the promotion and link building strategy. Most importantly, ensure the written content and other assets will support/enable the marketing strategy.

These 3 steps can’t happen in a linear process and are required to be an iterative process where an optimal link building opportunity might shift the focus of the target keyword to better capitalize on the opportunity.

An example of how this might change would be if you identify a target KW to go after but then as you are working through the promotion strategy you find a link building strategy that will perform well in the niche, but you need to shift the article to better capitalize on the link building strategy.

content writing vs content marketing

Create Content:

A high-quality brief leveraging advanced tools like MarketMuse, SurferSEO, and other Keyword Research tools are required. This brief will help ensure that the best content is created which will have the best chance possible of ranking for the target keywords.

In addition to the written words, additional assets can and should be created if the strategy calls for it. Video, infographics or simple tools can all play a significant role in the content marketing strategy. 


This is the simplest step in the process, make all the assets that have been created published.

In an ideal world, the advanced strategy involved a topic cluster structure and the interlinking adheres to that strategy. 

content writing vs content marketing

Execute Promotion Strategy:

The strategy for promoting is now congruent with the content that has been created. If it is a broken link building strategy, the content has been created to best mirror the content no longer available. If the purgatory link building strategy is used again, the content is created to maximize the chance of getting a link on outreach. 

Content Marketing Case Study

Below is a case study as an illustration of how much of the principles above can be applied. In this case study we focus on content writing and promotion with less of a focus on social media or influencer marketing. The content writer here needed to have some specialized knowledge in the field to create a piece for the marketing campaign to resonate with the target audience.


Page 1 Rankings in under 90 days for our ideal target keyword with 12k monthly searches in a competitive niche

content writing vs content marketing
From SerpBook


Spencer Haws, Kelley Van Boxmeer, and I launched MotionInvest in Q4 of 2019.

We wanted to not just rely on our audiences but lay the content strategy foundation for a 10yr+ business.

Because of this, a couple of content pieces were identified to be created. This case study summarizes the strategy and execution of one.

Below is the process we used to achieve the results shown above…

content writing vs content marketing

First – Strategy:

Keyword Research:

Keyword Identified – buying websites, website for sale online

Intent & Opportunity Identified – Although there is a lot of content online around this topic, there was limited content that was squarely focused on helping someone looking to buy a content-based website in the under 100k price range. Specifically, a complete resource to guide someone through the entire process including advanced due diligence.

We believe there are no articles that match a searcher’s intent of looking to educate themselves on the website buying process better then what we knew we were capable of creating (with the help of ContentRefined).

Content Asset Creation Plan

In addition to an epic guide helping people buy an online business, we identified 2 additional content assets which would help the user and play into the promotion strategy:

●      Infographic of Website Buying and Selling Landscape – As the landscape in the online buying/selling world has gotten more complex, there was a need for a map of all the players in the industry to help educate someone new to the space who each of the players were and when it would make sense to work with them vs. alternatives.

●      SOP for Due Diligence – All due diligence guides were focused on doing due diligence for larger businesses and therefore covered too many things (taxes, entity setup) and didn’t cover the specific requirements in enough detail (how to analyze backlinks). Therefore, we included in the article the complete SOP on executing due diligence.

●      Tips from Industry Experts – An additional content asset we intended to include were tips from industry experts.

Promotion and Link Building Plan

The strategy that was decided upon focused on a 2 part link building and promotion plan…

●      Skyscraper Technique – Simply create the most epic piece of content for the given searchers intent and reach out to people to get them to link to it

●      “Ego Bait” – Since we are not competitive with almost all brokers (dealing with smaller sites then brokers touch), we have the opportunity to get their involvement in the post sharing their tip. Including their tip helps them with exposure, improves the quality of the article and is an opportunity for them to share

Content Creation:

The outline and this entire strategy were created with the help of the team at ContentRefined leveraging the tools used there.

Between the MotionInvest SOPs, some content provided by the founders, and then the combination of everything into a monster guide, we believe the best BOOK on the topic of buying content websites for profit is the result!

The additional content assets of the infographic were created with a designer. I then executed the industry outreach.


Publishing such a long post is surprisingly challenging and time consuming!

In addition, we have a lot of pages that all rank for some related keywords, which is not ideal but as the site gets built out further it will all make sense to both the visitor and Google.


This is the part that is often left off and the difference maker between a content writer and a content marketing writer! Here was the basic promotion strategy that we have leveraged, including our own assets, to help push this piece of content to page 1. 

●      Skyscraper Technique – Based on the length and depth of what we created, people have been happy to link to us. The main outreach effort has only begun and the results already are promising with links such as this one from Matthew Woodward’s blog.

●      “Ego Bait” – By including people in the post and then letting them know once it is live, it is in there interest to share with their audience if we are not competitive with them and the asset piece helps their audience while demonstrating they are an authority in the space. Such as links from Jean Aglea or Richard Patey.

Hopefully, this case study was insightful in how to approach content marketing more strategically.

If the next time you see a piece of content that is killing it for a competitive keyword, try and reverse engineer their strategy. It is highly unlikely that they stumbled into the keyword or how they promoted it. When you look at top posts under this lens (Strategy, Copywriting, Publish & Promote), on Google, online success becomes far less mysterious.

How Can You Execute:

If you have a site, think about what piece of content you could rank for that would disrupt your industry. What if you ranked on the first page for a would-be trajectory that could then change the outcome for your business?

Imagine what just one of these content surges can do for your business once per quarter or once per month!

Need Help Executing? A Complete Done for You Solution?

The process is underway to combine all parts of what is outlined above under one offering executed by ContentRefined. Early beta testers are already in and the team is building the waitlist now. You can signup here.

Purgatory Link Building Strategy

Building links in an efficient way has been something that I have enjoyed systematizing for almost 10 years online now!

This purgatory link building strategy is on track to be one of my all time favorite strategies! 

As “white hat” link building goes this is a great strategy since it…

  • is scalable across many sites
  • get you niche relevant links
  • doesn’t require a cost per link (typically)
  • doesn’t require you spamming the entire internet
  • is an efficient use of your teams time. 

It does require you to use a few tools, act reasonably quickly and create a solid piece of content…but what are you doing running an online business if those stop you 🙂 

Enough talk… let us get to the details of what the Purgatory Link Building Strategy is all about…

Basic Link Building Concept:

Stealing backlinks from your competitor is great but really hard! 

Stealing competitors links when they are almost dead is easy!

Why is it named “Purgatory” Link Building – These are links that still have unfinished business, the pages they link to are not quite dead and the links themselves have a lot of life left! 

For other link building guides:

Simple Steps:

  1. Find expiring/auction domains with a lot of links and are reasonably relevant to your site
  2. Create an improved version of the pages that people were linking to (quickly – time matters with this strategy)
  3. Outreach to get people to link to you instead of the almost expired and now useless page


purgatory link building strategy


How is this different from Broken Link Building? Broken link building is about finding a resource that a lot of people linked to that is no longer available. The difference is in timing and scale… when you do broken link building you are reaching out to people who have had that broken links on their site for a number of weeks/months etc… when we are reaching out to domains that are about to expire it may be the first time that they know about the asset they were linking to no longer being active. Often the expiring domain will be a landing page and never actually show up as broken. Plus, you can do this at scale for smaller resources resulting in a lot more opportunities. This is much more scalable with a lower level of overall effort since you don’t need to find a page in your space with 100’s of links to it. 

How is this different from the SkyScraper Technique? With the skyscrapper technique you need to create a resource that is sooo much better than the page the website owner is currently linking to they are willing to either add your link or replace the link. This is a much tougher ask and not as scalable since you need to invest heavily in each piece of content. With purgatory link building you don’t need to create a 10x better piece of content. 

How is this different from my 301 Building Block Strategy? The 301 building block strategy is related where you leverage a micro site of your content on an expired domain and then move that site to be a content cluster within a larger site leveraging the links to the expired domain to raise the authority of the entire larger site. The 301 building block strategy requires you to actually purchase the domain and create a small cluster of content on the topic. Purgatory link building strategy allows for a more efficient/scalable approach to achieving a similar result.

Step by Step Purgatory Link Building Process:

Part 1 – Find Expiring Domain:

In this step you are going to find a domain that has people linking to it, they may not yet know that the link on their site is useless since the domain they are linking to is in “purgatory” not yet expired but the page is no longer live. 

We will identify a domain, the optimal page on that domain and the type of asset to create to then reach out to. 

1-1 – Find Domains

In this stage we want to identify domains that have solid real links… the best way to do this is to filter on TrustFlow from Majestic and verify it has at least a little traffic. This shows it has quality links and likely not terribly abused from an SEO standpoint since it ranks in Google (meaning the links we are going to want to get are ones that are actually useful). 

  • Go to SpamZilla 
  • Enter into the search term
    • TF > 15
    • Keywords > 1
    • Pick the Topical Trust Flow Category if you want to ONLY look in your niche

Purgatory Link Building Strategy

One other filter to apply is to select “MarketPlace Domains” and then only select GoDaddy Auction

Purgatory Link Building Strategy

You will be using this filter a lot so be sure to save it!

Open up each of the domains that look like they might make sense for you first in MajesticSEO looking for a site that has “real” and “relevant” links to the URL. Looking at both the Ref Domains and Pages that links have been built to help show what site would make a good target.

Purgatory Link Building

We need real links to a decent resource.

Here is an example we will do real time… publishing the alternative page here for these 1,414 domains to link to instead here at the same time I publish this article. 

Purgatory Link Building

In the pages tab we are looking for a page that can be created better then it was before which received several links and had a high Trust Flow. Often building a page to be an alternative to link to instead of the homepage is hard however many sub-pages will be a lot easier to build a similar page to. In this case we are targeting people who linked to the homepage and now need an alternative. 

Purgatory Link Building

Now we have an idea of a page or an article that could replace the homepage to recreate on a reasonably relevant site. 

1-2 Verify the Content in is Recreatable

The next step is to check to see if we can recreate content that is superior to the expiring content.

If we were to execute this example we would need to re-write and add some additional value add that would have people taking the time to link to it. 

Checking in to see that the page can be re-written/created anew…

Note – and TheWaybackMachine are often down or not working and here are some alternatives

Purgatory Link Building

1-3 Build Outreach List using MajesticSEO and 

This step is about preparing for the link building outreach plan. 

Using MajesticSEO and ahrefs build as complete a list of everyone who links to that page…


  • Enter the URL in Site Explorer
  • Go to Backlinks
  • Export Data

Purgatory Link BuildingAhrefs:

  • Enter URL 
  • Select Backlinks
  • Export Data

Purgatory Link Building

Part 2 – Create a Link Worthy Piece of Content

Creating “just” an article may not be enough. The goal isn’t to just match the quality of the content but to top it to provide the extra incentive for the site owner to replace the useless link with your own. 


Certainly matching the article quality is important. Doing a little bonus keyword research at this stage so that the article is being created to both be a suitable link alternative but then have a reasonable shot at ranking for a keyword that matters in terms of organic traffic. 

The link juice makes this strategy often worth it on its own but if you can find an angle that will move the needle for traffic that is even better! 

Make sure you are using strong internal linking strategies from these pages to the pages that matter most for your site so that you can pass the link juice along to the pages that really matter. 


If you can get a decent infographic created in a matter of hours for $5 (via Fiverr) with the research already done (share the link for the data) then it is a great means of getting some additional link love!


If there is a simple video that can be created that will also fulfill the searchers query that might be enough to reach out and share. 

Tool / Aid:

If the opportunity is large enough there could be a simple template or tool that would make the effort to swap out the link worthwhile. 

Publish the content and be ready for the next step.


See example – 10 Best Note Taking Apps for Windows


Part 3 – Outreach

If you want to build a really robust outreach machine then have a look at this B2B Lead Generation article! 

However, for this relatively efficient outreach system focused around linkbuilding than the outreach tool from SEMRush fits the bill. 

  • Upload list
  • Create template
  • Start sending 
  • Monitor and follow up if needed

SEMRush Link Building Tool

To see a detailed post on how to do cold outreach for link building checkout this guide.

More on this Content Marketing Strategy…

This is just one of several strategies we have been developing and scaling within the team to be able to REALLY push a site! 

Fun Story About the Inspiration for This Strategy – I am a Terrible Loser!

I was buying some expired domains with traffic and lost one I REALLY wanted… being a terrible loser I decided to quickly create some superior quality content then what the site had and “steal” the links going to the domain that I just got outbid on. Yes, I am a petty and a terrible loser! But now hopefully you can be too!

Purgatory Link Building

Later talking with the ContentRefined team we decided that this wasn’t just something to execute on a one-off basis but to scale and hence the reason for this post existing.

Very interested in hearing your thoughts on this strategy and more importantly the results you are able to achieve with it! 


How to Promote your Service with Affiliates–The Right Way

This post is to serve a couple purposes… 

  • First: I hope to show that if you have a valuable service this is a way to get people on board to help promote it. 
  • Second: This is where I am going to send people who reach out with messages like, “Hey you don’t know me, but promote my course/app/service so I can make lots of money”. It can be mildly frustrating when we receive these messages. 

At the bottom of this post we will share some resources on how you can achieve similar results in terms of impressive traffic increase that Doug Cunnington achieved to his sites.

End Result:

The end result of this effort was…

  1. 12.83% increase in page views to the upgraded articles (in 4 weeks)
  2. Doug’s niche site’s organic traffic is now at an all time high (see image below)
  3. A great article explaining the strategy that resulted in that traffic increase
  4. $8,388.00 in sales from 7 new customers for Content Refined

Strategy Overview:

At ContentRefined Maddie and her team developed a process called the Pareto Upgrade where they identify the content to upgrade that will have the biggest impact and be able to predictably show an increase in traffic quickly.

Doug Cunnington is a contact in the space who runs a site called NicheSiteProject

During a conversation with him we were comparing notes on what was working now with his sites and what we were learning from all the data analysis ContentRefined does. From that discussion an idea was born to take one of his sites, identify and complete several upgrades and share the results.

Based on those results, we completed an interview and case study post at Doug’s site you can see here.

The results of a value first approach was a win for Doug’s site, win for his audience and a win for ContentRefined. This is an example of the type of affiliate relationship of ‘value first’ that we prefer to do.

The business benefit to ContentRefined was significant with over $8k in sales and 7 well-qualified new customers we will be able to help! 


Doug Cunnington’s Case Study

Results for Content Refined: $8,388.00 and 7 new customers

Doug Cunnington made $838.80 in Affiliate Earnings

5 Key Lessons Re-Learned:

  1. Always seek to add value first. 
  2. Give away all the information of a strategy so anyone can execute it themselves.
  3. Reaching a new audience is most efficiently done working with someone who already has an audience.
  4. The people who see the largest benefit of Content Refined’s offering are profitable niche site owners.
  5. Content Upgrades continue to blow me away with how fast they work, how well they work and how consistently they drive an increase in traffic.

Want Similar Increase in Traffic As Doug Achieved?

  1. Do it yourself – Here is a detailed step by step guide – Pareto Upgrade Strategy
  2. Have the experts at Content Refined do it for you – contact ContentRefined

Constantly Improving Our Systems – Spamzilla

With every business I operate, we are constantly looking for ways to improve our systems and either make them more efficient or to provide better results. This is no different when it comes to our LightningRank services. For each Lightningrank service, we rely on expired domain tools to help us fulfill our services, and in the past, we have used Register Compass, but more recently we have switched to Spamzilla.

RegisterCompass was great over the years but it’s more expensive and I find the usability of the program to be a bit harder. When taking a 3 hours period, with Register Compass we would find about 5-6 quality domains, however with Spamzilla since we have started using it, we have been able to find double that amount in the same time period on average.

We have been using this tool for just under a month and since then our team has loved it and has been able to be more productive with it, so we wanted to show you some of the cool features that go along with it. If you are interested in building out your own PBN or having us do it, using our improved system, you can take a look at this case study we did a few weeks ago.

Variety of filters to choose from

The filter section is great. It allows you to customize exactly what you are looking for down to the Topical Trust Flow you are looking for. Another feature I really like is that you are able to select the anchor text language, which helps to quickly eliminate thousands of spammy domains.

If you have a particular set of filters you like, you can also save the preset so it’s quickly usable the next time you go to find domains as well.

Usability of the Dashboard

Once you are searching for domains, the look and feel of the dashboard is very user friendly. You can quickly see the Topical Trust Flow categories under the Maj Topics heading which allows you to easily look for domains that are in the niche you are looking for.

You also have the ability to click on the number in the TF column and it will bring up the MajesticSEO screen where you can dig deeper and look at the backlinks. The one thing I don’t like is that you can’t move the headings and arrange them the way you want them to be arranged, but it’s pretty easy read the headings that it’s not a big deal.

If you are looking for domains for either building out private blog networks or you are looking for a money site domain, this tool is a fantastic tool to have and it comes at the fraction of some of the other tools in the space.

PBNs in 2019 – Do they still work? Rankings to Show

I always get emails from potential clients asking about PBNs and whether or not they still work in today's day and age. The last time I did one of these updates was back in 2017, which you can find here. However,  I decided to do a little test with one of my sites to see how it reacts to PBNs in 2019. During this test, I decided to try and improve 6 keywords by pointing 1 PBN link to each. Below are the results, most of the results were positive however there are a few that had little improvement. This could be due to competitiveness of the niche or that it may need a little more time to pass the link juice onto that keyword.

Keyword #1: This keyword was stuck around the  38-40 rank but within 2 months of the PBN link being live, it bumped up to #7.

Keyword #2: This keyword lost its rankings back in October, where it fluctuated between 55-60. I wanted to try and bring it back to life as it was a high volume keyword. The link went live on Feb 20th so less then a month later it popped back up in the charts at 48. I am hopeful that after a few more weeks it will move a little more.

Keyword #3: This keyword is one where it either may need a bit of time or it may need more links in order to help it move more in the rankings. The PBN link was added Jan 5th, it did drop its rankings in October and the link seemed to help it gain back its rankings. Hopefully in a few more weeks it will move a bit more.

Keyword #4: This keyword was consistently sitting at 5 in Google for a long time. After getting a PBN posted on Jan 3rd, the keyword took a bit of a ranking hit but soon increased its rankings and is now sitting at 1 for a keyword with a volume of 2K/month and is a buyer intent keyword as well.

Keyword #5: This keyword was sitting at 4 for a while. After the link was posted, the keyword lost its rankings completely, however about a week later the ranking came back and within 2 months, the keyword bumped up to #1.

Keyword #6: This PBN link was posted on Jan 10th, it initially had some good traction and climbed to 29th but then dropped to 32. It would of been nice for it to stay up but it is ranking higher than it was prior to the link, so although not a huge push, it still moved a bit.

Frequently Asked Questions on PBNs

What is a PBN link?

PBN (private blog network) are sites that are built up with the intent to link to your site. We find expired domains that still have quality links pointing to them, build a similar website on the expired domain and link to your money site. The end result is you can create network of high authority and relevant sites linking back to your money site and increasing its rankings in Google.

How do you get PBN links?

There are two approaches you can take when building PBN links. One is to create your own sites, which I have created a how to guide here. The other is to use services such as LightningRank who will do everything for you.

How many PBN links do I need?

This is a very hard thing to judge as there are so many factors that are involved in the process. What we usually like to do is look at a few similar sites that are ranking higher for a particular keyword and look at how many links are pointing to that page in Majestic. If there are 10 links but 7 of them are very low quality (ie TF<10 and CF<10) we do not count them. So we would only count 3. Meaning we believe that we would roughly need about 3 links to rank that keyword similar to that site.

How risky is it to use PBNs?

Just like any links on the internet, there are risks associated with using PBN links. You must decide if the risk is worth it to see if you can improve your rankings. We do keep up with Google algorithms and make changes to our process so that we keep up with building sites that are able to mostly withstand Google.

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