Author: Olaf Kopp
Reading time: 11 Minutes

The role of content types and formats in the customer journey

5/5 - (1 vote)

Content is one of the most important marketing instruments for accompanying users along their customer journey. There are a variety of content types and content formats that can be used along the user journey. The content format as well as the content type play an important role in content journey mapping. This post is designed to help you conceptualize content marketing strategies.

What is content?

Content is a marketing and corporate communications tool. Content can be created in different formats such as text, images, audio or moving images. Outside of online marketing, content refers to all editorial media content published via media formats such as TV, newspaper, magazines or radio.

What are content types?

Content type describes a specific way of staging a topic. Staged content with the same topic can be aligned according to user context and user intent. There are different definitions of content types. Some refer to the ownership and communication sovereignty of the content type and differentiate between social content, owned, earned and paid content. The others classify content types according to purpose and then there are colleagues again who define it similar to my definition of content type. i will use the term content type synonymously with content type in the following.

User interest along the customer journey

To answer the questions and fulfill many needs, different content types are needed. When developing topic ideas from the topic areas identified in the research, it is important to understand that in the different customer journey phases on the user side, different interest/needs and different proximity to the product are required for the content.

Once the topic areas and topic complexes have been defined, the next step is the concrete development of content ideas.

Around-the-user content” makes sense in the first two phases of pre-awareness and awareness. This is content that does not deal with the offer or the product, but with the user’s topics beyond that.

From the Consideration phase on, the user’s interest in solutions and products increases. In the consideration phase, the user is often still undecided about which solution is best for him. There it is necessary to provide an objective overview of possible solutions.

In the preference phase, he is already one step further. He has focused on one or more solutions and has created a relevant set of potential providers for the solution(s).

In the purchase phase, the customer has decided on a provider and wants to close the deal quickly and easily.

In the after-sales phase, he makes his first positive and negative experiences with the offer and may need support with commissioning, optimal use or returns.

In the loyalty phase, the game starts all over again and the customer may want more information on topics and offers.

Overview of content formats

Content formats can be divided into text, images, applications (e.g. configurators, calculators, etc.), audio (e.g. podcasts), audio-visual content (e.g. videos ) and face-to-face (e.g. lectures).

Certain content types can be created in the form of different content formats. For example, a manual can be produced as text, video or image. The following content formats exist:

  • Text: Whitepaper, e-book, feature, article, guest post, advertorial, interview, guides …
  • Audio & moving image: video, webinar, virtual workshops …
  • Audio: e.g. podcasts
  • Image: photos, graphics, slides …
  • Face to Face: lectures, offline workshops, seminars …
  • Applications: Configurators, games …

These formats can be further divided into subcategories according to the (technical) method of delivery:

  • Live
  • Recording
  • Story
  • gif
  • static
  • PDF
  • html
  • Print
  • 1:1
  • 1:n

All content formats can/should be used multiple times for one content type. This way, synergy effects can be used and different consumption preferences of the target groups can be taken into account.

SERP analyses, surveys or conversations with the target group should be used to identify the appropriate content formats via the consumption preferences. To keep it from getting too granular, I would leave it at the target audience level and not segment further by topic and subject area. Depending on the topic/theme field, the appropriate content formats can be selected from the selection favored by the target group.

Overview Content Types

Below I have created a detailed overview of different content types. You can download the following detailed overview graphic in high resolution at the end of the article.

  • Viral content (memes, viral videos, gifs …)
  • Social media post
  • Sweepstakes / Raffles / Quiz
  • Interactive graphics
  • Voice message
  • Explanation of terms (lexicon or glossary post)
  • Search engine SERP features (Featured Snippet, Kwowledge Panel, Knowledge Card …)
  • Infographics
  • Overviews
  • Whitepapers
  • How-Tos / Tutorials / Guides
  • Columns / Opinions / Assessments
  • Studies
  • Studies
  • Checklists
  • Event recaps
  • Explainer videos
  • Trend reports
  • Book reviews
  • Industry news
  • Reading tips
  • Author pages
  • Guest articles
  • Random Listicles
  • Data and Statistics
  • Trend Reports
  • Webinars
  • Live Streams
  • Free Tools
  • Free seminars
  • Industry Reports
  • Survey results
  • Tests
  • Comparisons
  • Solution Configurators
  • Employee Presentations
  • Author Descriptions
  • Rated Listicles
  • Press Releases
  • E-commerce category texts / buying guides
  • Product Detail Descriptionse
  • Customer Testimonials
  • Case Studies
  • Product configurators
  • Company News
  • Price Calculator
  • Product Demos
  • Team & Employee Presentations
  • Image Videos
  • Process graphics
  • Company News
  • FAQs about ordering or cooperation
  • Information about payment, delivery, returns …
  • AGB / Imprint / Privacy policy
  • Service-Content
  • User manuals
  • Social Audio

The types of content can be presented in combination within the framework of certain holistic meta-forms or distributed as a distribution channel. Such meta-forms and channels can be:

  • A book
  • Catalogue
  • Lecture
  • Webinar
  • Own website (Service area, pillar page, glossary, holistic landingpage, blog …)
  • Social media
  • Online marketplace
  • Search engine
  • App/Software
  • E-mail
  • Online media
  • Offline media
  • Analog world (fair, barcamp, conference …)
  • (Own) Online shop
  • virtual world (e.g. Metaverse)

Overview graphic content types and content formats

Use of content types and content formats

A wide range of content types and formats are available for content marketing. Which content types are most suitable and useful for a particular purpose depends on the general consumer behavior of the target groups to be addressed.

That’s why you should take a close look at your own target groups when developing a content marketing strategy, e.g., with the help of market research methods, SERP analyses, keyword research, or existing studies. The devices on which users consume content are also important. While PDFs, for example, are more suitable for consumption on desktop PCs, podcasts can be consumed very well via smartphones. For other types of content, you need VR glasses to consume them, for example.

Certain content types and formats are suited to different degrees for the various phases of the customer journey. There are content types that are quicker and easier to consume. While others require more time and effort on the user side. Which content types make sense for your content marketing strategy depends primarily on the target group/industry, the topic areas and the purpose/user intention.

The path to the customer perspective, it is important to understand potential and existing customers in terms of their content consumption behavior.

  • Where and on which devices do they inform themselves about which topics?
  • What topics and questions are driving them?
  • What do they expect from the content?

Influencing factor target group/industry

The consumption habits for content differ according to industry, target groups, personas and context such as place of consumption or end device used. People who, for example, consume or obtain information while running, in the car, on the train… will primarily want to access content via their mobile devices. They may prefer audio and video formats. People who consume information from their workplace are more likely to research from their PC/laptop and invest more time.

Influencing factor platform

The platform used to consume/inform is also a decisive factor in determining which content is better received. For example, content types that can be consumed quickly are suitable in the social media environment. So-called “snackable content” such as memes, short videos, infographics…

Social media networks are becoming less and less suitable for pure content distribution from external sources, as the algorithms of the feeds often punish external outbound links with a significant loss of reach. It is better to share the content directly in the social network as social media content. Here, text content is limited to a certain number of characters, so that topics cannot be described in detail. Especially since users of social networks also only have a short attention span. Since too much information affects the user, we have to assume that in this environment a user will devote only a few seconds to a post in order to decide whether to interact or not.

If we want to publish so-called pull content, search engines like Google are the most important gatekeepers. Here we not only have to pick up the user, but also convince the search engine algorithms. Here, text is currently still indispensable as a content format for the classic search at Google & Co. In addition, video and image formats can be used for the vertical further indexes of the search engines.

If the target groups and personas are researching in trade magazines (online and/or offline), one should try to find there via advertorials, guest articles and earned content supported by outreach in the distribution.

These are just a few examples of how the platforms favored by the user influence the types of content to be selected.

Influence factor topics/topic fields

The topic areas in which I want to position myself via my content also have an influence on the content types that should be used. For example, some topics or topic areas do not map well in every content type. If you want to deal with the topic of “interior design” in the content, visual content types are to be favored. If you want to deal with complex issues in the industrial goods sector, process graphics combined with text on the technical properties make sense as a content type. In the case of “sports cars”, audiovisual content formats combined with text on the technical features make sense.

As a general rule, the more emotionally charged a subject area/topic is, or the more emotionally charged the purchase decision and commitment later on, the more useful audiovisual content types are.

Influencing factor purpose/user intention

The purpose that a content must fulfill in order to satisfy the user intention also determines the choice of content types. As already mentioned, you can find out which user intention should be satisfied by means of user surveys or SERP analyses. Google is now very good at identifying the search intention for certain topics and keywords and delivering corresponding content or content types. In the context of search engines, user intent is the same as search intent. Therefore, the thorough analysis of the first search results is very interesting not only for SEOs but also for content marketers.

Using so-called micro-intents, content types can be identified per topic/keyword and classified in the customer journey. However, I will not go into this in detail here. You can find out more about the concept of micro-intents here

Content types in the pre-awareness phase

In the pre-awareness phase, content must be distributed proactively to the user, as the user himself has no proactive interest in a particular topic or need.

In other words, emotional content that generates reach. Possible psychological triggers here can be: Fear, fun, surprise, indignation, desire …

The topics can be chosen very diversely.

Possible content types can be, for example:

  • Viral videos
  • Memes
  • Educational campaigns
  • Entertainment events
  • Games
  • Comics
  • Puzzles
  • Reports and reports
  • Psycho tests
  • Surveys and polls
  • Social media stories
  • Columns
  • Sweepstakes

Content types in the awareness phase & consideration phase

In the awareness phase, the user actively searches for topics about which he wants to obtain information. He actively starts researching a topic in the environment of the offer or is already in the process of doing so.

As a store for running shoes, you could offer content around the topic area of weight loss and health, such as nutrition tips, fitness guides ….

Possible content types could be, for example:

  • Podcasts
  • Calculator
  • Advice texts
  • Interviews
  • Topic articles
  • Webinars
  • Instructions
  • Checklists
  • Guides
  • Professional articles
  • Studies

In the consideration phase, the user shows initial interest in or need for solutions, to which one’s own products can belong. In the “Around-the-Product-Content” one should take care to keep the information neutrality. Here, the content acts as a “solution-finding consultant”.

For example, the store for running shoes should highlight the advantages of jogging for the goal of losing weight, but also refer to other areas such as nutrition, and then in the next step present an overview of the best running shoes 2020 or a running shoe configurator.

Possible content types can be, for example:

  • Product tests and comparisons
  • Solution overviews and lists
  • Configurators
  • How to find …-guides
  • Advertorials
  • Workshops

Content types in the preference and purchase phase

In the preference phase, the user shows a concrete interest in or need for products and offers that include their own products. Here, the “about-the-product content” acts as a “purchase advisor” and the previous information neutrality can be lifted.

For the running shoe store, the content on the store category and product detail pages is important here.

Possible content types can be, for example:

  • Product texts
  • Product and material information
  • Manufacturer information
  • case studies
  • Buyer’s guide

In the preference phase, the user determines a narrower circle of possible suppliers (relevant set). Therefore, it is also important to communicate the core story directly at this point (“about-the-brand-content”).

Possible content types can be, for example:

  • Company videos
  • Company profile
  • Reports on social and ecological commitment
  • Awards
  • Case studies
  • Customer testimonials
  • Reviews

In the purchase phase, the user has decided to order the product or offer from a provider or is in the process of concluding the contract.

In this phase, the user needs information about the purchase process by means of “about-the-process content”.

Possible content types can be, for example:

  • FAQs
  • General terms and conditions
  • Explanations of the ordering process
  • Terms of payment

Content types in the after-sales and loyalty phase

In the after-sales phase, the user again needs “about-the-process” and “about-the-product” content. But this time about the further process of ordering and using the product.

For the running shoe store, this could be the order confirmation and care instructions for the shoe.

Possible content types for the after-sale phase could be, for example:

  • Order confirmation
  • Status of delivery
  • Information about the first steps or kick-off
  • Instructions for use
  • Operating instructions
  • Care instructions
  • Installation or assembly instructions

In the loyalty phase, the user again needs the same content types as in the awareness and pre-awareness phase – tailored to his previous interests and preferences. The aim of the content in the loyalty phase is to turn the customer into a repeat buyer and/or loyal supporter.

Summary

Phew, that was a lot of content again. Here are the most important insights you can take away from this article:

  • Content formats can/should be used multiple times for one content type. This way, synergy effects can be used and different consumption preferences of the target groups can be taken into account.
  • SERP analyses, keyword research, surveys or conversations with the target group should be used to identify the appropriate content formats via the consumption preferences.
  • Certain content types and formats are differently suited for the different phases of the customer journey.
  • Content consumption habits differ according to industry, target groups, personas, and context such as place of consumption or device used.
  • The platform used for consumption/information is also a decisive factor in determining which content is better accepted. For example, content types that can be consumed quickly are suitable in the social media environment. So-called “snackable content” such as memes, short videos, infographics…
  • If we want to publish so-called pull content, search engines like Google are the most important gatekeepers. Here we not only have to pick up the user, but also convince the search engine algorithms. Here, text is currently still indispensable as a content format for the classic search at Google & Co.
  • The subject areas in which I want to position myself via my content also have an influence on the types of content that should be used.
  • As a general rule, the more emotionally charged a subject area/topic is, or the more emotional the purchase decision and commitment later on, the more useful audiovisual content types are.
  • Classification according to the classic search intentions transactional and informational is often not sufficient to derive clear recommendations for the content to be created. Therefore, the classification according to micro-intents makes more sense.
  • In the first two phases, pre-awareness and awareness, “around-the-user content” makes sense. This is content that does not deal with the offer or the product, but with the user’s topics beyond that.
  • From the Consideration phase on, the user’s interest in solutions and products increases. In the consideration phase, the user is often still undecided about which solution is best for him. There it is necessary to provide an objective overview of possible solutions.
  • In the preference phase, he is already one step further. He has focused on one or more solutions and has created a relevant set of potential providers for the solution(s).
    In the purchase phase, the customer has decided on a provider and wants to close the deal quickly and easily.
  • In the after-sales phase, he makes his first positive and negative experiences with the offer and may need support with commissioning, optimal use or returns.
    In the loyalty phase, the game starts all over again and the customer may want more information on topics and offers.

About Olaf Kopp

Olaf Kopp is Co-Founder, Chief Business Development Officer (CBDO) and Head of SEO & Content at Aufgesang GmbH. He is an internationally recognized industry expert in semantic SEO, E-E-A-T, modern search engine technology, content marketing and customer journey management. As an author, Olaf Kopp writes for national and international magazines such as Search Engine Land, t3n, Website Boosting, Hubspot, Sistrix, Oncrawl, Searchmetrics, Upload … . In 2022 he was Top contributor for Search Engine Land. His blog is one of the most famous online marketing blogs in Germany. In addition, Olaf Kopp is a speaker for SEO and content marketing SMX, CMCx, OMT, OMX, Campixx...

COMMENT ARTICLE



Content from the blog

Helpful content: What Google really evaluates?

Since the first Helpful Content Update in 2022, the SEO world has been thinking about read more

Interesting Google patents & research papers for search and SEO in 2024

In this article I would like to contribute to archiving well-founded knowledge from Google patents read more

Information gain score: How it is calculated? Which factors are crucial?

Information gain is one of the most exciting ranking factors for modern search engines and read more

Google API Leak: Ranking factors and systems

If you delve a little deeper into the Google API leak from 2024, you will read more

What is BM25?

BM25 is a popular ranking function used in information retrieval systems to estimate the relevance read more

LLMO: How do you optimize for the answers of generative AI systems?

As more and more people prefer to ask ChatGPT rather than Google when searching for read more