PubCon is the top social media and optimization conference: it’s supported by the top businesses, speakers, exhibitors, and sponsors involved in social media, Internet marketing, search engines, and digital advertising agencies. (Yes, one day I’ll make it to one.) This awesome event always offers an in depth look at the future of technology, as envisioned by the top-speakers, in cutting edge sessions. Moreover, at PubCon Vegas 2014, a noteworthy speaker made it widely known that content marketing and SEO are irrevocably joined at the hip.
At the recent PubCon in Las Vegas, Carolyn Shelby spoke about how content marketing and SEO are inextricably linked. Shelby is the Director of SEO and SEM for Tribune Publishing. She also works for six Tribune newspapers, plus the LA Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has been in the industry since 1994, and she has been professionally designing and developing websites for nonprofits and a diverse variety of businesses since 1995. She consults, she speaks, and she isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty with hard online work. Her specialty is rehabbing underperforming and outdated websites. In addition, her appearance at PubCon sheds some new light on SEO as content marketing.
What are SEO and Content Marketing?
As you know, SEO is the acronym for search engine optimization. SEO is the process of affecting the visibility of a specific website or web page in a SERP’s “natural” or un-paid (“organic”) search results. Lee Odden, an industry expert from the Content Marketing Institute, recently described SEO as “a customer focused content marketing program.” He went on to say that it’s like a “sandwich” in which “SEO is the mayonnaise.” Although the mayo touches just about everything and enhances the sandwich’s flavor, it’s not exactly appetizing on its own.
Content marketing is marketing that involves the creation and sharing of media content in order to draw in and retain customers. You might liken it to the bread of Odden’s sandwich. Good quality bread can really make a sandwich and complement its contents. While the bread may be scrumptious all on its own, it’s usually the contents of the sandwich that lead us to eating it.
Why You Need SEO in Content Marketing
If SEO is like mayo and content marketing is like bread, then obviously both are important. In her segment at PubCon, Carolyn Shelby listed the following reasons for why you need SEO in your content marketing:
- It helps identify the goals for your marketing, and it creates a performance benchmark
- It helps you select your themes and topics through good old-fashioned keyword research
- It assists you in writing that unbelievably amazing, on topic content
- It allows you to decide where to distribute and promote your content for the best visibility to your target audience
- It gives you the capability to run reports that show your ROI
However, these aren’t the only reasons you need SEO and content marketing as a combo. Regardless of what people say, SEO and content marketing aren’t duking it out to see which species survives to the next step of cyber evolution. We’re not looking at survival of the fittest or a corporate takeover. We’re staring at a merger.
The people who go around pushing “Content Marketing vs. SEO” are chomping at the bit to pit them against each other like a couple of prizefighters. Not only do they want you to pick a side, but they also need you to do so. Do I have your attention?
SEO versus Content Marketing
The apparent implication comes across that, in order to be wise with your digital marketing budget, you have no choice but to choose between hiring only one type of specialist over the other. In this case, it’s the SEO guru over the content marketing king. Maybe you have a $3,000 budget dedicated to marketing to allocate as seen best fit per month. The dilemma then becomes, do you put your eggs into the content marketing or SEO basket?
The only way this makes any kind of sense is if the intended SEO in question is of the black-hat variety. Black-hat SEOs were indeed a booming, albeit questionable, business practice for years. Today, their methods are entirely unethical, ineffective, and downright dangerous to your SEO strategies. Search engines don’t take too kindly to websites caught running a black-hat SEO tactic and they penalize those found guilty of doing so accordingly. It can be disastrous.
The truth is white-hat SEO practices are tried and true methods of increasing visibility and ultimately readership, thus leading to conversion. One of the most talked about white-hat SEO methods is creating and publishing high quality content. Guess what? We just stepped into the domain of a seasoned content marketer. There is no choice between SEO and content marketing. They work together. In fact, awesome content is quickly turning into the ultimate SEO tool!
SEO as Content Marketing: Two Sides of a New Coin
Savvy online marketing professionals should come to the conclusion that content marketing and SEO are the two key contributors in an enterprise-focused marketing strategy. If your website is lacking in one or both of these areas, it has to be brought up to par.
SEO experts shouldn’t be living in fear of the extinction of the craft they’ve worked so hard to build. Their roles will continue to be vital for a brand’s marketing strategy because they know better than anyone that effective, ethical SEO can’t happen without the necessary content to optimize. And where the content gurus know the ins and outs of epic content—like citations and internal linking going SEO viral—the SEOs know how to get search engines to see that content.
We all strive to create high quality content with the intention of supporting our marketing objectives. If done properly, an integral part of our execution strategies will be focused on creating optimizations that will increase the probability of our content being discovered on search engine result pages.
As it stands, claiming that SEO and content marketing are two separate marketing tactics with no interaction is akin to saying that headlines and copy are mortal enemies. However, as Google continues to perfect the search users’ experience, content is taking on new meaning. One might even go as far as saying, as Shelby did at PubCon, that SEO is becoming the new content marketing. Content marketing is huge!
Baskets Be Gone
Remember how we talked about the content marketing and SEO baskets? One of the greatest struggles is that of a majority of people attempting to distinguish between various tactics by putting them into separate baskets. In truth, as SEO becomes the new content marketing, we are effectively merging the two baskets to create one—a better one. Ideally, instead of seeing each one as an individual entity, they should be seen as an aspect of one strategic, overarching process.
Our SEO can literally hand us vital information about our target audience. The performance of our SEO can indicate which content is working and which is not. Shelby pointed out that the Tribune Content Agency actually leverages their SEO as an influencer and informer on behalf of their overall content strategy. That strategy encompasses everything from topic selection to the actual content creation and its placement.
Content is King…
…but it needs SEO to reign supreme. The fundamental element in marketing is and always has been content. As we move forward, content should continue to serve as the basic foundation of your online marketing strategy. Google wants high quality content, and their every algorithm update supports that desire. But it’s not just the wishes of the almighty SEO setter. It’s the wants of audiences around the globe. They want relevancy, but they want awesome content, too.
Content is king, but it should be populated with vital information expertly tailored to speak the language of your intended audience. At the same time, it must adequately and accurately address the problems and desires that are at the forefront of your audience’s mind. It must offer value; otherwise, it is worthless. Content must be able to answer whatever questions your audience has, alleviate their fears, and encourage them to action.
Here’s the thing: the accomplishment of your content marketing goals, according to Shelby, hinges on your SEO. You can’t have one without the other. Regardless of whether your content marketing goal is to build brand awareness, beef up your site’s content inventory, generate that fuzzy feeling, or offer up some link bait, it’s all for not without at least some SEO.
So, before you go separating your 2015 budgets and contemplating which is more important, stop! SEO becoming the new content marketing is happening. To choose one over the other is to choose a disadvantage. Regardless of whether you’re taking the plunge to outsourcing your content creation and/or SEO or not, you have a mission. Be sure to make room for both content marketing and SEO. It’s the only way you can have your cake and eat it too!
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