We know the link between SEO and content marketing can sometimes seem like an arcane secret only digital wizards and Internet gods know. What is the difference between the two? Our heroes are here to vanquish your confusion and explore just why content marketing and SEO make for an inseparable power duo.
SEO vs content marketing: Let’s talk goals
It’s easy to understand why people sometimes confuse SEO with content marketing. To help make the distinction clear, we’ll define SEO and content marketing separately and explore how their goals differ.
The goals of SEO
You’ve likely heard it before: search engine optimisation (SEO) is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results. The goal of SEO is to boost your website’s visibility in Google and attract qualified leads.
SEO is actually an umbrella term for many diverse activities that aim to a) make it easier for Google to find and navigate your website, b) increase the site’s usability so that audiences want to come back, and c) attract qualified leads. It includes technical, creative and authority building elements. The creative area of SEO is where content marketing comes in.
The goals of content marketing
Content marketing involves creating, publishing, and distributing content for a targeted audience online. While technical SEO improves a website’s clarity, transparency, speed and efficiency to make Google or Bing’s search bots happy, content marketing is all about making real human audiences happy. The goal of content marketing is to craft valuable, relevant online content that attracts your audience, build trust, enthralls them and satisfies their pain points to keep your business top-of-mind.
Content marketing helps create strong and sustainable SEO. But it goes beyond SEO keywords or the technical aspects of a website, encompassing emails, blogs and any other content that engages a user at each stage of the conversion funnel. It’s the human DNA in your online presence: how your brand and product come alive through storytelling. It aims to charm your audience, demonstrate why you’re indispensible and different from the rest, and solve your audiences’ problems in a meaningful way.
Okay, so what’s the link between SEO and content marketing?
For SEO to thrive long-term, you need regular top-quality content that makes your audiences think ‘yes, this is exactly the information or entertainment I wanted to find!’
Say you’ve built a website and done all the housekeeping to meet all of Google’s technical requirements. Congratulations! You’ve ticked the first box to please the mighty Google. The second box is a little tougher: you need to consistently publish content that your target audiences hunger for and appreciate. Why? Google wants to be sure it is delivering users the very best experience possible. That means your content needs to be super customised, anticipate and meet their exact needs, and be unique. Ideally, it should exude human personality, add indisputable value and exceed their expectations.
Since the Hummingbird update, metrics like bounce rate, time on site, pages per visit and other engagement factors carry more weight when it comes to SEO. Yep, that’s right. Not only does your website need to perfectly match Google’s technical specifications; your content needs to be updated regularly and offer lots of relevance and usefulness for your audience (with evidence from how audiences engage with your website!) for Google to reward you with a first-page ranking. No matter which way you slice it, SEO and content marketing are inseparable.
That’s why it’s become critical to align your SEO and content marketing for maximum effect. Although SEO and content marketing can work okay in isolation, when combined together they pack a super-punch.
Curious about how these two team up to make a power duo? Here’s some of the ways content marketing can help your SEO efforts work harder for you.
Those hardworking little search bots need content to crawl! When Google’s bots come to town, you better make sure your content delivers exactly what it promises. From a planning perspective, it’s critical that your SEO and content marketing strategies work in sync from the get-go to make your content visible and unique.
This means working hard to make sure what Google crawls delivers exceptional value, relevance and a ‘je ne sais quoi’ that marks you as different from everyone else. On top of this, you need to be completely transparent with Google.
Bottom line: Offer your audiences something unique, worthwhile and super relevant while adhering to Google’s crawling transparency guidelines – and the search engines will listen and reward you too.
#2 Keyword targeting
Keywords are a fundamental part of SEO, but at the end of the day, keywords are just that: words. Words, even strung together in a tidy sequence, don’t necessarily inspire or make you feel something, do they? Content marketing is all about emotion and authentic connection. In many ways, it’s similar to baking a cake: it takes raw ingredients (keywords, words and images) and mixes them together into something special that delights the emotional senses or satiates a specific kind of hunger by solving an audience’s problem.
Even more, Google and Bing are clever and will quickly pick up on poorly crafted content. If you inelegantly spam keywords (the ol’ keyword stuffing approach), you’re sure to attract search engines’ attention… but not in a good way. Sure, it’s important to understand exactly what your target audiences search for, but how are you–as a unique individual or business–solving that problem for the searcher? And how are you doing it better than that guy over there? This is why it’s super important to understand what a long-tail keyword reveals about a user’s search intent–to make sure the content you produce exactly and 100% delivers what they’re seeking. If you want to keep on top of the SEO and content marketing game, you need to constantly demonstrate your relevance to your audience!
So don’t settle for an SEO strategy that precisely targets keywords and includes a smattering of lexical semantic indexed alternatives (a fancy way of saying synonyms and related words), but doesn’t connect with your audience’s mind, heart and soul. By combining your SEO with a killer content marketing strategy, you can find that sweet spot where search engines know exactly what you’re offering AND your content enchants audiences into becoming loyal fans.
#3 Link building
Any digital marketing pro will tell you that SEO involves building quality links that drive traffic to your website. The best and most sustainable way to attract these inbound links? Produce high-quality content that seduces audiences and influencers into sharing and linking to it. This is the magic signal Google and Bing are looking for.
After all, without authority and credibility, how can search engines recommend you? You might know how amazing your hotel or gardening service or e-commerce business is, but without signs that people love and endorse your content, Google won’t know. Attracting inbound links from engaged readers and credible resources show Google that you know what you’re doing and you’re doing it well.
#4 Social signals
Ah, social signals. These can include shares, likes, comments and clicks. Basically, anything that shows hearty appreciation for or interaction with your content. Though the extent to which these influence rankings is unclear, Moz claims that social signals have an indirect and direct impact on SEO rankings. A well-designed content marketing strategy will consider how to optimise every itty-bitty aspect of your content for shareability and include easy social sharing in the design to give your SEO rankings a little lift.
#5 Featured snippets
To get your website into Google’s featured snippets (a huge SEO win), your brand and your content must have credibility. This means delivering the goods when it comes to authority, with lots of people signalling that they find your content useful through inbound links, strong page engagement, and yes, those social signals we talked about earlier. Insightful content that solves a concrete problem a user is typing into Google will rank much better than content that doesn’t meet that crucial need or answer a question your audience is dying to know.
Want to be irresistible to Google? Our advice: Bring SEO and content marketing together to make a power duo. SEO isn’t SEO without content marketing. Why? Although content marketing can exist without SEO, successful SEO is nearly impossible without content marketing. Together, they make a powerful team and add a lot of value to each other.
Invest in authentic content that solves your target audiences’ problems in a unique way and you’ll see a natural bump in your SEO rankings, engagement and conversions. If you play your cards right, your well-crafted content marketing strategy will thrill and entice your audience to start a conversation with you and boost your credibility–enticing kudos and rewards from the search engine gods.