There seems to be a trend that is increasing in popularity. That trend is to subscribe to the view that content marketing is overtaking search engine optimisation in terms of importance, even to the point of suggesting content marketing is replacing SEO.
You will find many people in the industry online telling you that SEO is basically dead and instead you should focus on content marketing. Produce content, share it, promote it, produce more content, and so on.
The theory is that great content and social media will drive traffic and natural link building. It's an idea that Google itself has pushed for years, partly to stop people from trying to game it by link building and writing content purely to rank.
But what's the truth?
First you have to understand the difference between content marketing and SEO
Search engine optimisation is exactly as it says. It is about optimising your website for the search engines. The goal of SEO is to use keyword-driven content to rank webpages as high as possible in order to bring traffic to that web page.
SEO is narrow and technical in scope, it is about keyword research, it is about optimising your website, it is about looking at hard data for opportunities. It is about looking at keywords, structure, data, design and delivery technology.
Content marketing on the other hand is about engagement with people. It is about having content on your website, or in other locations that will appeal specifically to the person you are looking for, and get them to visit your website and engage with you there.
So content marketing is broader and more holistic in scope than SEO. It is about creating focused and compelling content that will appeal to the exact target market, each part created to target the stage of the buying process the lead is at.
But hopefully you can already see that although the two are different, they are part of the same thing.
If you look at bringing traffic to your website via keyword driven SEO, when that person gets to your website you need great content to keep them on the site and convert them. That's where content marketing comes in.
SEO and content marketing are both about keywords
Search engine optimisation requires the targeting of keywords to rank the terms you want to get targeted visitors for. Getting this right and ranking well is the difference between success and failure.
Content marketing also relies on keywords. When somebody lands on your content, whereever it is presented, they are looking to be empathised with and given the answers they require, or, at the very least, passed on to where they will get those answers. Part of this engagement requires the use of the exact keywords they have searched for, or keywords that exactly target the intent behind them consuming that content.
So SEO and content marketing are part of the same process because they both require that you have a highly targeted set of keywords that you utilise throughout everything you do, so that they appeal exactly to your target audience.
So what is content marketing and SEO when it's put together?
When put together, SEO and content marketing form a digital marketing strategy.
The keywords determine the target audience. You then create content that will appeal directly to that audience and compel them to act.
SEO is then completed using these keywords to drive people to the website by the search engines. Once on the website people can consume the content and take action.
The point is that you shouldn't think of these things as two separate tasks or strategies. They form part of an Internet marketing strategy. A good marketer or website owner will be able to see the value in creating a plan that encompasses both SEO and content marketing in order to maximise their success rate.
How do I make sure my SEO and content marketing efforts succeed?
This is, of course, the million-dollar question and although the answer is simple, it's often misunderstood.
The main reason why individuals and companies fail with their Internet marketing strategy, often despite a high spend, is because they segregate SEO and content marketing, failing to understand that high quality SEO work should feed directly into their content marketing strategy to create a powerful and unified result.
At the heart of this is making sure that you target the right keywords so that your SEO and your content marketing are completely unified.
It's also about then making sure that everybody involved in the process is working together, if you have separate teams or are outsourcing to separate companies, then it's about ensuring that those people work together, or you work with both of them in order to generate maximum effectiveness in unifying the two.
What you should not do is to throw up tons of content as fast as possible, sprinkle it with a load of keywords, then try and dress up the mess with some standard SEO tactics and hope to succeed.
By working hard to create evergreen content and unifying it with solid SEO work, all based around excellent keyword research, you can rank, engage and convert for the long term. It's also about ensuring that your use of social media also targets the same keywords and seeing your social media strategy as part of the same process.
The first step to achieving this utopia is simply to understand that there is no SEO Vs content marketing.