Since the rise of the term content marketing, perhaps two years ago,there’s been plenty of talk about the end of SEO and its replacement bythe ‘new’ discipline.
It’s true that many search agencies have since rebranded or haveemphasized their content expertise, but this doesn’t mean that contentmarketing has rendered SEO obsolete. Far from it. Indeed, the twodisciplines should work together, and the use of either has to includeboth SEO and content if it is to be truly effective online.
Key Differences Between Content Marketing and SEO
SEO and content marketing overlap, but there are key differences.
- Aspects of SEO are more technical. This includesthe use of correct URLs, title and ALT tags, sitemaps and so on: thestuff that underpins your content marketing strategy.
- Content marketing is broader and isn’t necessarily confined to SEO goals. For example, a publisher should produce excellent content first andforemost as a way of attracting and retaining an audience.
How Content and SEO Can Work Together
There is a school of thought, or at least the perception exists insome quarters, that SEO is merely about creating good content for thesearch engines to index.
While I’m all for the quality content part, there’s more to it thanthat. If you haven’t ensured that the on-site SEO groundwork has beendone, your content efforts will be wasted.
For example, if your site has a penalty, or Google isn’t indexingpages properly, then you’re going to need some SEO expertise, greatcontent or not. This is why the SEO experts and content teams need towork together. As the stats below show, this isn’t necessarily happening all the time, but there is a desire for closer collaboration.
Here are some ways SEO and content can work together:
1. Creating Original, Quality Content
While thin content created to provide fodder for Google’s crawlersmay have worked to a certain extent a few years ago, it isn’t effectivenow. Also, weak content produced to make up the numbers will not workfrom a content marketing perspective, as it will not help to attract and retain readers.
Instead, from an SEO perspective, original and engaging content willset you apart from competitors, as it gives the search engines something to index that can’t be found elsewhere. It also helps your contentmarketing goals, as original and quality content is far more likely toattract the audience you’re targeting.
Ask yourself whether your content inspires people to linger on yoursite longer than a minute or so. Does it provide value, such as usefuladvice that helps them to do their jobs better?
2. Evergreen Content and SEO
Creating evergreen content is a great strategy for improving searchrankings, as well as making your site a more useful one. A piece of news will often do well in Google while it’s fresh topical, but will fadethereafter. It doesn’t deliver long-term traffic. However, a more useful article that contains valuable advice and insight will attract thekinds of links and engagement metrics that Google is looking for, and is more likely to perform well in the search rankings over a longer period of time.
If you can get this right, it’s a virtuous circle, as higher searchrankings means more visits to the article, which then leads to morelinks, better rankings and so on.
3. Keyword Research
Keyword research is essential for content marketing and SEO to workwell together. First of all, the quality has to be in the content youproduce, but you should also ensure that the content you spent timecreating achieves the exposure it deserves. To achieve this, yourcontent needs to match the search terms that people are using and answer these search queries effectively.
If you use too many technical terms in your articles, this languagemay not match that which searchers are using. To avoid this, do somekeyword research to find out which terms are popular and match thelanguage you use to the way people search
Soovle, shown below, is a good tool for quick idea generation, but there are plenty of other SEO tools available.
4. Monitoring Keyword Goals
Once you have a list of terms and phrases to target with your content efforts, it’s important to monitor and measure your efforts. Is thecontent you produce hitting the mark? Is it having an effect on searchpositions? Don’t expect overnight results; it can take time before yousee any shifts in search, and it may be very competitive for certainkeywords.
There are no guarantees of success, but a well-applied strategy using focused content will pay off on a long term basis. It’s important toadd that, while content can play a key role in achieving SEO goals, itshouldn’t be a slave to those goals. Keywords shouldn’t be crowbarred in so that content quality is affected. The reader shouldn’t notice toomuch.
5. Link Building
Good content attracts links. Just make sure it’s distributedeffectively so that it can get the attention of as big or influential an audience as possible. There’s no great science to this; just createcontent that people will want to link to and see how it works.
On my last site, good posts would generally get between 200 and 1,000 backlinks. However, the odd one received more than 10,000. They weren’t necessarily the most popular posts, either. If I knew the secret, I’dbottle it.
6. Internal Linking
This is an obvious way to use content to help with SEO goals, as well as improving the user experience. Internal linking can help Googlecrawl your site more effectively, help pages to rank well for certainsearch terms, and also point users toward content that is relevant tothe article they’re reading.
It’s simple enough to put into practice, and should be a part of the thinking when writing and editing content.
It’s vital to measure the effects of the content you create in termsof SEO goals. If you’re aiming to improve rankings, there are someuseful tools out there to track changes in ranking positions and see the results of your efforts.
You can also use analytics to see how the volume of search trafficchanges over time, and which pages and articles are most effective forthis.
Content metrics should be applied too. If you’re creating the kind of content that is valuable to your target audience, then metrics such asbounce rates, time on site, and visitors viewing multiple pages shouldbe moving in the right direction.
Headlines are very important. They should be descriptive and shouldwork hard to convince people to click, but they shouldn’t try too hard.For example, a title such as “10 useful tips to improve your landingpages” is fine, as long as those tips are useful and deliver on thepromise. However, “10 awesome tips that will improve your landing pagesand make you a millionaire” might be promising more that it candeliver.
Headlines must be written for the Web, and you need to consider thekeywords and phrases you use in headlines. How do people search forthese topics? How will people find your articles? What do you want torank for?
Headline length is important too. It shouldn’t be too long, for a number of reasons.
- Google truncates long titles in search results. You want the full headline to be visible in the search results so people are more inclined to click on it.
- Social sharing. For example, if you want people toshare your articles on Twitter, the headline should be short enough toallow people to retweet without having to edit it, or to add a commentif they want.
- Emails. If it’s going in a newsletter, especially as the headline, the title should be visible in the subject line.
SEO and content are distinct disciplines that require differentskills and knowledge, but the success of each depends on the other.Content teams should be writing with a knowledge and understanding ofSEO goals, ensuring that basics such as internal linking, headlineoptimization and use of keywords are covered.
To repeat my previous point, the quality of the content is allimportant and should not be compromised by SEO goals, but it isperfectly possible to write naturally while fulfilling the SEO work. Inturn, SEO teams should be working with content creators, ensuring thatthey are aware of the basics, and helping to set goals which can beachieved through content.