SEO and content marketing are undoubtedly interlinked. Together, these two stand as probably the most valuable marketing tools that can help boost any business. But is SEO all about content marketing? Or, is it vice versa? Does one exclude the other, as many experts seem to think? Let’s dive into this matter and see just why content is so important for SEO and how they’re connected.
Content and SEO
When we talk about content, the first thing that pops to our mind is text. But, content goes way beyond that and it comes in a plethora of forms. Everything that people see, read, watch, and listen to online is digital content. Videos, images, quotes, tutorials, memes, music, podcasts, etc. – this is all digital content. And it is part of a wider set of strategies and procedures known as content marketing.
A lot of people, laymen and experts alike, seem to think that SEO represents a search engine dictatorship and that it is damaging good content. On the other hand, many others feel that content marketing is literally worthless without applying proper SEO techniques. So, who’s right and who’s wrong? The answer, to both questions, is – they both are.
The problem is that SEO and content marketing are often treated as two separate areas when they should be tightly integrated. SEO focuses on what search engines want, and content marketing focuses on what users want. SEO demands more optimization, technical and otherwise, while content demands to be valuable and engaging to its target audience. A piece of content that has been overly optimized for search engines sometimes comes off as unappealing to readers, whereas content that has undergone zero optimization never even reaches the readers because search engines don’t offer them as search results.
While it is true that search engines, especially Google, have introduced some changes to their algorithm, demanding that content is both high quality and valuable, and definitely not keyword-stuffed, that doesn’t mean that the role of SEO has become obsolete. On the contrary, now more than ever, SEO needs to go hand in hand with content marketing, each fulfilling a role that the other cannot. In short – the two complement each other, and that’s the only way they can work.
Content vs SEO: How They Differ
As we established, content can come in many shapes and forms. In that sense, content marketing is definitely a much wider technique. It also involves a wide array of channels from websites, blogs, podcasts, and YouTube to social media platforms and influencer marketing.
SEO, on the other hand, encompasses a rather narrow set of on- and off-site techniques. Yes, the methodologies continuously evolve, but its channels and techniques remain much more limited compared to content.
Another major difference is in the target, i.e. the recipient. For content marketing, it’s the users, while for SEO it’s (at least apparently) the search engines. And the recipient determines how you’ll go about it. In content marketing, you craft the content to reach and retain an audience, while in SEO you apply the techniques required to increase search engine visibility and ranking. The problem is that these techniques are sometimes mutually exclusive. For instance, SEO wants you to use a certain number of keywords, but those very same keywords can make your content appear stiff and artificial.
Content vs SEO: How They Overlap
You can’t have SEO without content. No content means nothing to optimize. So, SEO needs content in order to do its job. Also, SEO demands certain things from content, so to speak. It demands keywords, backlinks and such. And content provides those.
Even the most technical parts of SEO are tightly connected to content. Tags, metadata, sitemaps, robots.txt files – these are the things you don’t necessarily see as related to content, but in a way they are there to help you promote it and to help your visitors enjoy a good user experience on your website.
There simply cannot be a good SEO strategy without outstanding content. Content that has more value and is better than the competitors’ will obtain priority rankings. It’s as simple as that. And it answers the question posed by this article. But how do you go about creating content that can significantly improve your SEO?
It is clear by now that even the most detailed, carefully mapped out content marketing strategy is worth little or nothing without appropriate optimization, in terms of SEO and otherwise. Here are some of the crucial steps:
1. Know your audience
The starting point of any marketing campaign is understanding who your target audience is and what they’re looking for. The better you identify their characteristics, the more successful your SEO strategy will be. Use social listening and analytics to define your audience personas and then tailor your content accordingly.
2. Choose your keywords
Keywords basically define your content. These are the words and phrases people use as search terms when they’re looking up something online. In order for your website to rank better in SERPs, it’s of utmost importance to do some extensive keyword research and then include them organically in your content.
Also, focus your efforts on long-tail keywords. Simple, one-word keywords often rank amazingly well in SERPs, but at the same time, they come with the toughest competition and often do not provide enough information to searchers. Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, are very specific and therefore more likely to generate organic traffic.
Finally, by all means – avoid keyword stuffing. Use your keywords responsibly and don’t go overboard with them.
3. Don’t forget about readability
When creating your content, make sure that you keep it well formatted. Let’s be real, nobody’s willing to read huge paragraphs since those are a lot harder to skim through. If the text is longer, it’s a good idea to split it into smaller parts, to make it easier to consume. Use sentences that are not too long or complex – especially in long-form pieces of content where you want to make sure your readers’ attention stays focused.
Well-written copy ensures a better user experience and higher rankings in search engines. For instance, Google’s algorithm is trying to mimic humans, to understand how we comprehend what we read. After the Hummingbird update, it even started recognizing synonyms and words that are related to each other. So, if you want to achieve better rankings, you should do your best to use natural language that everyone can easily understand.
4. Avoid thin content
To rank well, you have to answer any questions your audience might have and provide them with concrete, actionable information. Try to think like them and get deep into whatever their top subjects might be. If your content resolves nothing for your visitors and is less than 300 words long, then it’ll have little value to search engines.
5. Include backlinks
A backlink is basically a link from one website to another. These links matter because they signal to search engines just how relevant and credible your website is. If a lot of webpages backlink to yours, it means that your content is top-notch and worth having high ranks. Some websites even go so far as to buy a bunch of poor-quality backlinks, which, of course, search engines severely penalize. The best way to ensure organic backlinks to your website is to create superb and trustworthy content that’ll be worth linking to.
6. Create multimedia content
In order to increase your visibility in SERPs make sure to include at least two media elements on your page. Text and images, text and video, video and images – you get the idea. Pages that feature at least one image or other media content actually rank better. Multimedia content is more visually appealing and also highly shareable, raising the brand awareness and reaching more people. Not to mention it’s a lot easier to make a point by adding, for instance, an explanatory video or an image.
7. Don’t forget about meta tags
Meta tags are generally invisible to the intended audience of your content, but they are still vital since they basically tell Google and other search engines what your content is about. This information is then used for ranking, so it’s obvious it needs to be approached with care. The most important meta tags are meta content type tags, title tags, meta descriptions, as well as social meta tags, robots, language and geo.
So, is SEO really all about content marketing? Or, perhaps, is content marketing all about SEO? As we saw, a definitive “yes” to these questions might be a stretch, while a “no” would be out of the question. The truth is that SEO and content marketing are not just connected, but also codependent and mutually complementing. One simply can’t go without the other. Your content marketing campaigns and your SEO campaigns need to be crafted simultaneously so they can work in synergy. It’s the only way you can reach your end goals, be it more traffic, more sales or better brand visibility.