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Content Marketing Versus SEO: The Holistic Approach to Improving Both at Once

Back in the bygone days of ye olde internet, people worried about prioritizing content marketing versus SEO.

There was actually a concern about whether to focus more on one or the other.

Nowadays, this question just sounds outdated.

Content Marketing and SEO are two sides of the same coin.

It’s actually a challenge to do one effectively without the other.

Why Content Marketing Versus SEO Is a Losing Battle

There’s a lot of overlap between content marketing and SEO now.

SEO (search engine optimization) is the practice of optimizing your website’s structure, content and engagement so that it appears in search results for your audience to find. This includes technical SEO efforts, keyword optimization and linkbuilding.

Content marketing is a way to connect with your audience through quality content. The method involves developing valuable, useful content that helps nurture leads, then delivering that content to your audience via different channels—mainly social media and SEO.

Good content marketing involves a good SEO. SEO is the best way to deliver content to readers because it can perch it at the top of the SERPs (search engine ranking pages) for a long time, allowing you to gain a steady flow of organic traffic. It’s also a great way to answer reader questions, because keywords (which are just search engine queries) are reader questions.

Good SEO requires good content. You can’t just spam the comments of websites with thousands of backlinks or stuff a hundred keywords into your page anymore. That’s what passed for SEO long ago. Now, it requires full, grammatically-correct sentences, valuable information, relevant keywords placed naturally within your text and relevant internal linking.

We shouldn’t be thinking about pitting content marketing versus SEO, deciding which one is more important and investing there.

We should be thinking holistically about this, right?

In 2018, any digital marketer worth his salt 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. You need to know about and apply both.

Still, we know that time and budgets are limited. You’ll have to make hard decisions about where you focus your energy

Where to Focus Your Energy on Content Marketing Versus SEO

1. Start with Technical SEO

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
  • Creating a site map

content-marketing-versus-seo

The technical SEO directly impacts the content marketing game of any site.

Broken pages and site errors damage an important element of content marketing: User experience (UX). A slow website, or one that’s inaccessible to mobile users, might mean no one has the patience to view your content at all.

Staying on top of your technical SEO can prepare your content for big wins in the SERPs.

That’s why technical SEO isn’t an issue of content marketing versus SEO. It should be your main priority at the beginning, because it can deliver big gains in both areas.

2. Develop Content That’s Optimized for Search Engines

Once you have the technical stuff out of the way, it’s time to switch the focus to content marketing.

But before you do, ask yourself: “How will my audience reach my website?”

Oops, you’re back to SEO again. There’s just no shaking it off. SEO should be involved in every piece of content you produce.

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

  • 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’re probably thinking, “forget content marketing!” You should go ahead and focus all of your energy on SEO for optimum results, right?

Not quite.

Completely choosing SEO over content marketing can cause big problems for engagement and 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.

If there’s no good content worth sticking around for, site visitors bounce right out off the page and over to your competitors in the SERPS.

Before long, you’ll earn yourself a high bounce rate and a low engagement rate. Both of which will destroy your SEO and knock you out of the SERPs.

See how it’s all connected? The way to go is to develop content that has strong on-page SEO. This includes:

  • Keyword-optimized content (in the text, title and headings, but not “stuffed”)
  • Heading formatting (H1, H2, H3)
  • Internal linking
  • Longer content length (1,000+ words)
  • Optimized images (alt tags)
  • Meta title and description
  • Permalink using keywords

And there’s more! Check out this cool Backlinko guide (with infographic) for more details of on-page SEO.

3. Develop Content for People

So, you need to start developing content. You know what’s required for each post in terms of on-page SEO.

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

Both are really important. Luckily, there’s no reason to choose. This is another false question in the faulty “content marketing versus seo” debate.

Keyword research and audience research is very valuable for both content marketing and SEO, 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 their burning questions?
  • What are my competitors writing about that my audience has enjoyed?

Use a tool like Google AdWords Keyword Planner or Mangools KWFinder to find keywords that lots of people are searching for in search engines.

Answering these questions will help you brainstorm valuable content and relevant keywords simultaneously. Then, your SEO and keyword optimization will help you put your answers (in your content) in front of your audience—people who are turning to search engines to find answers to their questions.

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

What’s next?

4. Take Your Content and SEO on the Road

Getting backlinks links from high-authority websites remains an extremely important ranking factor.

Linkbuilding is generally considered an SEO strategy.

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. While it can be a huge boost for SEO, it’s still content marketing.

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-marketing-versus-seo-2

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

5. Answer 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
  • 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.

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:

content-marketing-versus-seo-3
[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? Hit us up on Twitter or Facebook, we’re listening!

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