Individually, content marketing and SEO are both akin to titans in this era of digital marketing. And although people are typically aware that they complement each other well, they’re rarely mentioned in the same breath.
As anyone who’s tried the two together will tell you, SEO and content marketing form a deadly jab-cross combo that can knock out your competition.
But if they’re really that good together, why aren’t more businesses adopting this approach?
Let’s take a closer look at the objectives of SEO and content marketing. And while we’re at it, we’ll try to analyze what the crux of the problem is.
SEO and Content Marketing Objectives
The biggest issue, here, is that people perceive both to be completely separate and individual aspects of digital marketing. They believe that both are two very different things, but that isn’t the case.
There’s a significant overlap between the two. I might even go so far as to say that they’re two personalities of the same beast.
In fact, according to a recent survey, on-page content is the most effective SEO tactic that marketers rely on. And what is on-page content, if not a part of content marketing?
Image via Statista
To understand this better, let’s chalk out the objectives of both.
People, typically, use SEO techniques to:
- Optimize their site around keywords relevant to their businesses
- Gain new, valuable, and credible backlinks from high authority web domains
Their main goal behind doing so is to:
- Improve their SERP rankings for certain keywords
- Increase their brand awareness and visibility
- Attract more website traffic
In a nutshell, they use SEO to increase website traffic in the hopes to grow their revenue and business.
But what about content marketing? It includes:
- Creating relevant, compelling, engaging, and informative content
- Using effective calls-to-action
- Generating highly-shareable content that is prone to go viral
Marketers do all of this with the objectives of:
- Increasing brand awareness and visibility
- Promoting brand loyalty by establishing thought-leadership in the industry
- Increasing time spent on site by target audiences
- Ultimately improving sales and conversion rates
To put things in perspective, SEO helps you draw users to your site while content marketing keeps them there and helps convert them. So, while SEO has a narrower and more technical approach; content marketing is more holistic in its approach.
Bringing Out the Best in One Another
We’ve established that SEO and content marketing strategies are working towards the same goal. The next question is, how can each serve to improve the other?
How Can SEO Enhance Content Marketing?
You might have written the most exquisite and engaging piece of content you’ve ever created. But what’s the point if there’s no one around to read and appreciate it? A content creation team can’t simply produce brilliant content if it doesn’t turn up in search query results.
This is where SEO can enhance your content marketing, by making your content more discoverable. It addresses the issue of content relevancy (to your business) and improves search rankings.
Simply, content that is built around keywords that are relevant to the business, will rank higher in the appropriate search results.
And it’ll appear in front of the right audience. But don’t restrict yourself to just relevant keywords. Research other SEO-related aspects like:
- Content topics that rank well for particular keywords
- Customer feedback to learn what your audience expects from you
- Content types that are performing well for your competitors
How Can Content Marketing Improve SEO?
Savvy content consumers are looking to engage with content that provides them with value. They’ll easily see through any fluff you might be writing in your content. Especially if you’re creating content for the sole reason of improving your search rankings for certain keywords.
Once they catch on to your “dummy” content, they’ll deem your brand as untrustworthy and of little or no importance to them. They’d gladly take their business elsewhere. It’s what SEO team nightmares are made of.
But with content marketing, you can ensure that your SEO efforts don’t go to waste.
By creating valuable and informative content around relevant keywords, you can kill two birds with one stone. Not only will you rank better on search engines but also ensure brand loyalty and high conversion rates with engaging content.
To put things in perspective:
- SEO states the demands. Content marketing meets those demands.
- SEO requires content. Content marketing delivers the content.
- SEO needs keywords. Content marketing uses those keywords.
- SEO depends on backlinks. Content marketing is a way to get those backlinks.
- SEO demands site optimization. Content marketing demands a great user experience.
Fact is, the more you integrated SEO and content marketing are, the more seamlessly and effectively they’ll work together. Despite their differences, they overlap. They’re much better together than they are apart.
How to Combine SEO and Content Marketing
We’ve covered, at length, why and SEO and content marketing combined can benefit your business. It’s time we address how you can actually achieve the benefits of this double-edged sword.
Let’s take a look at the different ways you can combine your SEO and content marketing efforts for maximum benefit:
1. Set the Right Goals, Measure Results, and Iterate
The first step in combining SEO and content marketing is to set common goals and objectives for your marketing efforts.
Figure out which activities lie in the overlap between the two and accordingly set a quantifiable, measurable goal for them. Typically, that includes things increasing web traffic and conversion rates.
Having decided on your goals, you need to decide your key performance indicators (KPIs) which will help you measure the success of your efforts.
The best way to synergize SEO and content marketing is to use KPIs that apply to both techniques. These include content sharing, engagement, content links, CTA conversion rates, and more.
The goal, here, is to constantly measure your marketing efforts, and optimize your strategy to consistently grow your business.
There are a ton of things you can learn from your marketing campaigns, like:
- Successes – Understand what made you stand out and try to replicate those efforts. Convert anomalies into regular occurrences.
- Failures – Compare your underperforming content with more successful endeavors to figure out where you might have gone wrong. Focus on details like traffic, conversions, revenues generated, etc. by said piece of content.
2. Get a Deep Understanding of Your Target Audience
It goes without saying that a brand must revolve around their target customer – the product, the experience, and the marketing strategy.
Clearly defining your target audience will help your content team create content pieces best suited for their consumption. Surprisingly, though, only 20% of companies claim that they fully know their customer.
You need to intimately understand the motivations, pain points, experiences, and processes of your audience. Only then will you be able to deliver more engaging and impactful content to them in order to achieve long-term business growth.
Here’s what you should be doing to understand the “job” your audience is hiring you to do:
- Map their customer journey – Consider how different users are interacting with your content across channels in the different stages of the sales funnel. Customer conversion and buying behavior are important aspects you need to understand.
- Conduct customer analysis – Customer preferences are always changing. You need to keep your ear to the ground and constantly monitor customer behavior. Perform regular customer-brand interaction analysis to glean these insights and ensure you’re keeping with consumer trends.
3. Create Search Engine Optimized Content
Once you’ve figured out your target audience and marketing plan, you need to start optimizing for maximum brand visibility.
Like I mentioned earlier, if people aren’t finding your content, however great it may be, it’s doing nothing for your business. That’s why you need to optimize your content for search engines to grow your audience organically.
Here’s a list of things you can do to ensure that your content efforts don’t go in vain:
- Write on relevant topics – Content should always be customer-centric and never business- or brand-centric. Your topics should appeal to your audience based on their demographics, interests, and behaviors.
- Leverage the right keywords – Forget business and corporate jargon. Focus on creating content using keywords that are relevant to your business.
- Optimize for mobile – Mobile devices accounted for 49% of the global internet usage, last year. That means more and more people are looking up your business on their mobile and not their desktop. If your site isn’t optimized for mobile, your customers will have a poor experience using it and will be highly likely to jump ship. Mobile-first indexing is one way to go.
- Map your content to specific user personas and sales funnel stages – Make the most of your customer insights and journey map. Ensure you’re delivering the right content they need to proceed to the next stage in the sales funnel and ultimately convert.
4. Leverage Guest Posting and Expert Roundups
There are two really easy ways I can think of that allow you to reap the benefits of a combined SEO and content marketing strategy. They’re fairly quick to implement and you won’t need to do a lot of restructuring to leverage them.
The first is to start guest posting – both on other sites as well as yours. Guest posting helps you establish your thought-leadership. Expose your content to new audiences. By being a value provider, you stand to gain their trust and convert them to regular customers.
Similarly, if you’re doing expert roundup posts, you’re exposing your audience to views and opinions of other industry experts. This will showcase how well-connected you are in the industry and improve your credibility.
Just reach out to industry influencers with a relevant topic or question and seek their views on it. Encourage them to share the final roundup post with their readers so as to expose yourself to their audiences.
From an SEO perspective, both of these techniques will do a lot for your link-building efforts, thereby improving your search rankings. By linking to and getting backlinks from this high-authority sites, you increase your own credibility.
Now consider that Google gives the utmost importance to content and links when deciding search rankings. These two tactics are highly effective means to leverage that fact. After all, they combine SEO and content marketing beautifully to great effect.
The methodologies we’ve discussed above are by no means easy or quick to implement. But they do represent what I like to call the silver bullet of digital marketing: SEO and content marketing working in tandem.
If you’ve tried any of these strategies before, I’d love to hear from you how they worked out for your business. Feel free to share your integrated SEO and content marketing experiences with us in the comment section.
Shane Barker is a digital marketing consultant who specializes in sales funnels, targeted traffic, and website conversions. He has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, influencers with digital products, and a number of A-List celebrities.