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Content Marketing Versus SEO: Where And How To Invest On A Tight Budget

Any marketer will tell you that you need to invest in both content marketing and SEO if you want to be competitive in the digital marketing landscape.

But for many businesses, time and budgets are limited, and they have to make hard decisions about where their efforts should lie.

If that sounds like your business, this post will show you where and how to invest on a tight budget: content marketing or SEO?

What’s the Big Difference?

There’s a lot of overlap between content marketing and SEO, so it can be difficult to understand the big difference in the strategies.

SEO, essentially, is the practice of optimizing your website’s structure, content, and online reputation so that it appears in search results for your audience to find. This includes technical SEO efforts, keyword optimization, and backlinking strategies, among other tasks.

Content marketing is another way to connect with your audience. The method involves developing valuable, useful content that helps nurture leads, and then using different strategies to deliver that content to your audience, including social media marketing – and SEO.

So really, content marketing and SEO aren’t mutually exclusive. But if you’re on a budget, it can be difficult to fully operationalize both strategies.
Technical SEO is a Must
First off, no website should neglect their technical SEO duties. Here are some of the technical SEO tasks you should be focusing on:

  • Looking for technical errors on your website:
    • 302 redirects
    • Broken links
    • Crawling problems
    • Duplicate pages
    • Missing metadata
    • Missing H1 tags
    • Missing anchor text
  • Checking your site speed (use Google’s PageSpeed Insights)
  • Creating a site map
  • Making sure you’re mobile friendly (use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test)

mobile friendly test

Screen shot taken 24/02/16 from Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.

Using technical SEO can mean big wins for search results, but these aspects are also very important for content marketing. Broken pages aren’t going to help with your content marketing’s user experience, and a slow website might mean no one has the patience to view your content at all.

And getting friendly with Google Analytics does help with SEO by giving insights into key metrics, but it also gives you access to tools that can help you evaluate the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts.

That’s why technical SEO is essential to both strategies.

How Will Your Audience Reach Your Website?

Once you have the technical stuff out of the way, it might be time to switch the focus to content marketing. But before you do, ask yourself: “How will my audience reach my website?”

Your particular audience’s behavior could vary, but according to the research, SEO remains supremely important for finding new customers overall:

  • Organic search drives 51% of traffic; paid search 10%; social 5%
  • 89% of customers start their buying process with search
  • 72% of enterprise marketers rate SEO as successful for marketing objectives
  • In contrast, only 38% of B2C and 30% of B2B marketers say their content marketing efforts are effective

Given those statistics, you should probably focus all of your energy on SEO for optimum results, right?

Not quite.

Choosing SEO over content marketing completely can cause big problems for conversions. Even if people can easily find your website through search, they’re still going to need that targeted, valuable content in order to move them down the sales funnel.

Developing Content for People and Search Engines

So you need to start developing content.

The next question: should you focus more on targeting and adding value for your audience, or on keyword research?

Both are really important, and luckily there’s no reason to choose.

Researching your audience is very valuable for both content marketing and SEO keyword development, and you’ll use the same information for both purposes:

  • What are my target audience’s interests?
  • What are their problems, and how can I solve them?
  • What are my competitors writing about?
  • What are publishers in my niche writing about?

Answering these questions will help you brainstorm valuable content and relevant keywords simultaneously. Sure, you need to evaluate your keywords to see if they’re worthwhile to target, but that’s easy – just use the helpful tools available for that purpose, like Google Adwords.

Looking at it this way, there’s no reason the content you create can’t be optimized for search engines and for people.

What’s next?

Prioritizing Your Strategies

Up until this point, almost every effort you’ve made works for both SEO and content marketing. But eventually, you have to prioritize one over the other.

Since SEO remains the most important way to generate leads, I recommend you focus more energy on off-page SEO (link building).

Getting links from high-authority websites remains an extremely important rank factor. But focusing on building links doesn’t have to mean leaving your content marketing plans in the dust.

One of the most common strategies for link building is writing guest posts: guest posts (to a certain extent) can help you nurture leads by offering valuable content related to your niche.

Finding influencers to collaborate with is another great way to build links, and it also allows you to develop content that demonstrates your brand’s credibility – an extremely important component of content marketing efforts.

Buzzsumo and Moz’s Content, Shares and Links Joint Research Report is a great example of how two brands can build links and leverage each other’s clout to reach their audiences.

content shares and links

[Screenshot taken 08/02/16 from the joint report]

So even if your focus is on building links, you can easily find ways to integrate some content marketing efforts into your SEO strategy.

The Question of Social Media

Social media is a huge part of content marketing. It also sucks up a lot of time and resources: 64% of marketers are on social media for at least 6 hours weekly, and 41% use it for 11 hours or more.

So even if you can integrate some of your content marketing efforts into your SEO strategy, social media is too much work to be a priority, right?

Maybe not.

It turns out, social media is starting to matter more and more for SEO as well. The latest ranking factors study from Searchmetrics shows that social signals (likes, tweets, and +1s) help boost search rank.

So it seems that a social media presence is just another strategy that works for both content marketing and SEO efforts.

According to Social Media Examiner, 54% of businesses that have used social media for at least one year saw improved search rankings. The longer they used social media, the more likely they were to see results:

[Screenshot taken 08/02/15 from Social Media Examiner’s 2015 Social Media Marketing Industry Report]

A social media presence should become a part of your long-term SEO efforts. At the same time, you can use it to promote your content.

The Takeaway

Despite the perks of engaging in content marketing, search remains the most valuable way to generate new leads. So if you’re on a budget, investing in SEO should be a priority.

That said, there’s a lot of overlap between what works for content marketing and what works for SEO. Since both are valuable, the best thing you can do is develop a strategy that helps you progress in both.

Know of any other ways you can integrate your content marketing and SEO strategies? Comment below.


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