Search Engine Optimization and content marketing are two priorities for many marketing organizations today. Depending on who you ask, SEO and content marketing can be put forth as the most important tactic in a digital marketing program. In one corner, SEO advocates tout the importance of optimization in elevating a website in organic search results. Moreover, SEO plays a crucial role in an inbound marketing program that brings interested people to your online presence with the ultimate aim of converting them into customers.
In the other corner, content marketing has gained tremendous momentum because of its capabilities to actually engage people. I say “actually” because engagement is an overused word in marketing, having become cliché as many marketers are clueless about how to truly engage a customer or prospect. Videos, blogs, and social media content are three forms of marketing content that can be crafted to appeal to an audience without reverting to our desire to sell to an audience. Content marketing offers a long sought channel for increasing brand relevance.
Can SEO and Content Marketing Co-Exist?
Are SEO and content marketing friends or foes? Can they co-exist as complementary priorities in a digital marketing program. Here are some points to consider.
- SEO and content marketing offer different perspectives on what is influential in driving website traffic- each has strengths that influence performance
- SEO is measured on performance such as organic search rankings and conversions
- Content can aid in helping SEO effectiveness and can target different stages of the purchase decision cycle
- SEOanticipates demand by aligning website design and architecture practices with user search patterns and behaviors.
- Content marketing creates demand (via informing and building interest); this thought comes from a recent post by digital marketing expert Lee Odden on the TopRank Online Marketing blog.
- SEO has a goal of increasing visibility of content.
- Content Marketing has a goal of influencing outcomes along customer’s buying decision journey
And the Answer is…
Should SEO or content drive digital marketing efforts? The simple answer is “yes.” SEO and content marketing tactics are not adversaries locked in an either/or battle for a marketer’s attention. Instead, they are complementary pieces of a digital marketing strategy. An optimization focus without great content is lifeless in that it does not put emphasis on telling the brand’s story. Similarly, a content focus without consideration for optimization would result in missed opportunities to attune relevant content with an audience’s search behavior.
I was at a conference recently at which a nonprofit marketer shared with an audience an internal debate about whether the organization’s website should focus on filling the homepage with as much as possible. Her contention was that it should be heavy on content for potential SEO benefits, but I cringed at the thought of what that website might look like. A website designed with a search engine in mind instead of the target audience probably looks like… well, a website designed for a search engine- fulfilling the criteria to be recognized by search engines but not necessarily aligned with the brand’s story.
So, listen to the SEO experts and content marketing gurus for they are both correct to assert that you need them to achieve digital marketing success. The conference session presenter, a CEO of a SEO firm, gave the best advice: Design online content for users, not search engines.