Content Marketing and SEO – Optimizing Content in Six Steps
Content marketing and SEO are two of the most valuable tools in a marketer’s repertoire. Together, they can boost visibility, inspire customer loyalty, and of course, drive sales. In many people’s minds, it’s content marketing that fuels SEO, but is it that simple? Are these two concepts mutually exclusive, dependent on one another, or inexorably linked?
One answer is that while they are linked, they satisfy different criteria. SEO is aimed at satisfying the criteria set forth by search engines like Google; content marketing is geared toward providing something useful or entertaining to human users—this is what inspires users to come back to your content as well as to share it with others. To achieve the best results, a marketing professional must strike a balance between the two, because a piece written strictly for SEO, packed with repetitive keywords but offering no real value to the people it draws, will likely as not alienate readers, doing nothing to earn their trust or loyalty. In addition, search engines are becoming too sophisticated for these kinds of tricks to work. Their goal is to provide the best experience to their users, and to that end, they’re learning to detect keyword stuffing and similar techniques.
One the other hand, a useful, thoroughly researched, and cleverly written article does little good if it is never found by search engines and never finds its way to readers. Google algorithms are evolving to detect this kind of high-quality content, but for the foreseeable future, additional SEO strategies will still be needed to help searchers find it.
Content is More Than Just Text
Most people still imagine written words—articles and blog posts—when they imagine content marketing. This kind of writing still does form the foundation of most internet content, the real definition of content is anything people can see, read, watch, or listen to. This includes not only written information but graphics, music, video (which is becoming increasingly popular), podcasts, and more. All of this can be used to impart company values and brand personality to users, as well as providing information. When this is well done, users find value and relevance in the content, and this not only keeps them coming back for more, it encourages them to share the content with others, broadening your reach and increasing your visibility.
The key takeaway is that content is versatile and virtually boundless: any medium that spreads information and offers value to consumers is a legitimate form of content. Content can also be disseminated through a vast array of channels, such as your own website, a newsletter, blogs, podcasts, YouTube, and various social media platforms.
How SEO Differs From Content
Firstly, SEO’s parameters are much more sharply defined than those of content. As we’ve already established, content can be created in nearly any medium, in a wide variety of formats, spread through an array of different platforms. In contrast, SEO is a fairly set toolkit of on and offsite techniques. These have and are changing alongside technology, though the remain limited when compared with the almost infinite possibilities of content creation.
But perhaps the most significant difference between content and SEO is the intended audience. Content is for people; it must have something to offer the human beings who read, watch, or listen to it. SEO is essentially for nonhumans, machines: the search engines.
There’s a real art to creating content that contains the requisite elements to attract and satisfy search engines without subjecting human readers to prose that’s awkward at best, nonsensical at worst.
SEO Relies on Content
There’s no such thing as SEO without content, because without content, there’d be nothing to optimize. There would be nowhere to put keywords, backlinks, and so on. Even facets of SEO like tags, metadata, sitemaps, and robots.txt files are intimately connected to content. Better content will beat out SEO tricks every time, and the ultimate goal is superb content that also utilizes SEO, meeting the demands of both of the audiences you’re creating for.
What is Thin Content?
Thin content offers no value to readers or viewers. It does not serve to answer their questions or provide them with information. It’s also brief at less than 300 words. In addition, it does little for SEO efforts.
Optimizing Content in Six Steps
If your ultimate goal is to strike that elusive balance between content and SEO, just how can that be accomplished without the balance shifting too far in one direction or the other?
- Define Your Target Audience
The better you understand your audience and what they’re looking for, the easier it will be to create something of value to them. If you don’t have a clear understanding of your target demographic, your first step should be to use analytics to paint a clearer picture so you can tailor your content accordingly.
- Perform Keyword Research
You should absolutely avoid keyword stuffing. It’s clumsy, makes for poor content, and readers can see what you’re doing from a mile away. Even search engines are becoming wise to it. But that doesn’t mean keywords don’t have a place in your content. In fact, each piece of content will likely be built around a keyword. It’s crucial to do thorough keyword research so you know what your target audience is searching. Then you can construct content organically around those words and phrases.
Don’t neglect long-tail keywords. There’s much less competition for them, and they’re specific, which means attracting the audience you’re looking for.
After you’ve chosen your keywords, use them as a guide to explore topics and tangents that relate to them and that your audience might want to know about. Use the keywords organically throughout the writing. Keep in mind that as a result of Google’s Hummingbird update, synonyms and related words are also recognized, so there’s more than one reward for using natural speech.
- Remember Value and Relevance
Never forget that your content is for your audience, and it needs to be valuable and relevant to them—well-written, entertaining, and informative. Creating a piece of content that will engage others is an acquired skill, and it can be either learned or purchased. You probably already have a pretty good idea of where your talents lie and whether a good copywriter or videographer will be a worthwhile investment.
- Incorporate Multimedia
Images and video greatly increase the value of a page, and including these elements alongside your text content will bolster its rank on the search results page. Of course, the same rules apply, and your videos and images will be seen by actual people, so they should be of good quality and offer value to those people.
- Use Backlinks
Backlinks directly influence ranking because they indicate to search engines how valuable your content is. Other websites are unlikely to link to yours if the content is poor, and the authority of the sites linking to your matters as well. So buying a series of backlinks from poor quality or disreputable sites is as likely to result in a penalty as an improvement in ranking. The best way to acquire high-authority backlinks? Quality content.
- Include Meta Tags
Meta tags are for Google; your readers will never know they are there. They tell search engines what your content is about. The meta tags you should pay the most attention to are title tags, meta descriptions, social meta tags, robots, language, and geo.
The best marketing approach is to make your content and SEO work together, and if you start with content aimed at your audience with flourishes for Google, you will achieve those goals, find your audience, increase your visibility online.