Search engine optimization and content marketing are two oft-referenced aspects of a larger growth marketing strategy. But are they referring to the same thing? Are they both part of a similar activity?
How are SEO and content strategy related? Let’s compare and contrast these essential elements of successful brand growth and look at ways to integrate them into your current growth marketing plans.
A content marketing strategy is a digital marketing activity that involves creating content online. Content marketing typically focuses on editorial content (i.e., information and education-driven content rather than straight sales pitches).
Content marketing comes in many different forms. It can take the form of blog posts, infographics, emails, video content, and much more. Much of this content lives on a brand’s website, although it can also exist on third-party publications, as is the case with guest posts or social media content.
SEO is the pursuit of optimizing and improving your website to increase organic traffic from search engines like Google and Bing. It utilizes multiple tools to do this, including keywords, link building, and technical SEO.
Clearly, content marketing and SEO are not the same thing. But do they overlap?
Yes. The two marketing disciplines may not be identical in nature, but their shared connection to content, in general, means they both play significant roles in most growth marketing plans. Content marketing commonly integrates SEO in a variety of ways, too.
If you write holistic content focused on truly providing value for your audience, you often naturally address SEO needs, as well. If a construction company writes an article on how to frame a house, for instance, they might use terms like wood, blueprint, nails, trusses, gables, and so on.
These are all important secondary keywords. Search engines look at these to consider if a piece of content is comprehensively addressing a topic or question before suggesting it as an answer for a search query.
In addition, if a piece of content is engaging or effective, someone might spend several minutes reading it. This boosts their dwell time on your site (something also referred to as “long clicks versus short clicks”). When dwell time is high, it improves your SEO.
There are other nuanced ways high-quality content and SEO naturally overlap. Linking to additional resources helps readers while also boosting link strategy. Keyword research can help create content that thoroughly addresses user queries and common customer pain points. The list goes on.
The question is, how do you ensure that you’re addressing both SEO and quality content at the same time? The answer boils down to understanding the strategy behind each one and how you can integrate them simultaneously.
The strategies behind content and SEO marketing are different.
On the one hand, a content marketing strategy operates as a roadmap for your content creation itself. It answers the “why” behind each piece of content’s purpose on your site, tying specific goals to correlating marketing tactics.
The ultimate goal of a content strategy is to boost your brand’s authority in the eyes of consumers. You can do this by demonstrating your firm grasp of industry knowledge and your ability to deliver experienced and information-backed solutions for your customers.
On the other hand, SEO strategy focuses on boosting visibility. It seeks to increase your organic search traffic by showing up higher in SERPS.
Marketers accomplish this through various tactics, many of which have already popped up, such as keywords and backlinks. Technical SEO is also important and includes things like streamlined navigation and site structure, as well as XML sitemaps and loading speed.
Healthy, synergistic growth marketing typically involves three key pillars: authority, credibility, and visibility. Along with content for authority and SEO for visibility, digital PR is a powerful way to establish brand credibility in the eyes of consumers.
Content marketing may focus on building brand authority, but it often overlaps with the other two pillars. When it comes to SEO, in particular, content marketing gets a huge boost by naturally creating an environment where keywords and backlinks can thrive. When you optimize a piece of content for SEO, the combined effect on authority and credibility feeds off one another.
Consider an individual who is searching for a piece of luggage before going on an overseas trip. As they research various shapes, sizes, and features, they keep seeing results pop up on Google’s search results page from a specific airline. This puts the company on their radar. (I.e., it creates visibility.)
At the same time, consider if the consumer clicks through on a piece of the airline’s content about carry-ons versus personal items. Once on their blog, they find the answer they’re looking for, giving them the impression that the company knows their stuff and can answer their questions.
When the person finally goes to buy their tickets, hey presto! That airline shows up as an option. The individual is instantly more inclined to choose them, as they already are both aware of the company and see them as an industry authority.
In the example, a lack of quality content would have failed to answer the consumer’s questions about their luggage options (or, if they had bad content, could even leave a negative impression). At the same time, a lack of SEO could have meant the consumer didn’t even know about the airline until the moment they were choosing their tickets. That would mean there is no pre-established trust before the point of making a decision.
The interesting takeaway here is that, at the end of the day, SEO and content are different, but they can work together and piggyback off of each other. If you create a blog post, it shouldn’t look any different in the eyes of consumers, regardless of whether it is generated as part of your SEO strategy or your content strategy. Either way, it should meet your brand’s content standards and incorporate SEO strategy every time.
Okay, you understand the need for SEO and content marketing to overlap — but how do you integrate them? While we’ll go through a blow-by-blow of creating the content itself in a moment, there’s one important thing you have to do first to set the stage.
Every time you go to create a piece of content, make sure you’re reviewing both strategies. It doesn’t matter what your focus is at the moment.
If you’re working on SEO, you should have your content strategy in mind to ensure whatever you make holds up to your pre-existing content standards. If you’re making a user-friendly piece of educational content, consider keywords and linking strategies, too. This ensures the content boosts brand visibility and shows up in search engines where people will be requesting the information.
If you want to integrate SEO and content strategy, you have to consciously use both to help each other at all times.
If you can write quality content while also answering SEO needs, you can feed two birds with one scone. Content creation isn’t instantaneous, and using the same time and effort to check two things off your marketing list can be an efficient and productive way to operate.
However, we’ve already established that while these are two closely related areas of growth marketing, they aren’t the same thing. The trick to developing a simultaneously effective SEO and content marketing strategy is addressing both at the same time as you go through the content creation process.
Here is a step-by-step guide to help you do just that.
This is a wise step to start any marketing-related activity. Orienting yourself with your goals ensures that you’re aware of where you’re trying to get to from the first moment you start working on a content-related project.
In the case of SEO and content, it’s wise to review your goals in relation to both areas. What are the visibility and authority benchmarks you’re trying to achieve here?
As you prepare to create content, take time to do some keyword research. Look for common terms your target audience is using that are high-volume and related to one another. This is called a “keyword cluster.”
Saas management, Saas spend, and Saas management tool, for instance, are all related keywords that indicate a searcher is looking to purchase a tool related to managing the cost of their tech stack. Gathering keyword clusters is one of the most powerful SEO marketing tactics, and it can simultaneously inform what you cover in each piece or batch of content.
Once you have your keyword cluster, it’s time to integrate it into your content strategy. Again, keep your content strategy goals and KPIs in mind as you go about this process. Take a look at the different keywords that you’re working with.
What SEO content ideas can you come up with that relate to this grouping? In the above example, a title like “What Does a Saas Management Tool Do?” or “How Can I Manage My Saas Spend?” are excellent choices. If you’re struggling to come up with ideas, try using an AI tool like ChatGPT to generate some ideas and help you brainstorm.
Once you’ve reviewed objectives, identified a keyword cluster, and brainstormed topical ideas, it’s time to create! As you write, build images, craft social posts, edit videos, and so on, remember to always put human users before search engines.
It’s all too easy to prioritize SEO first and treat the end user as an afterthought. But that never works. That would be like a brick-and-mortar store over-investing in a killer billboard ad and then treating the customers that it attracts as troublemaking intruders. Make sure that if your SEO works, the organic traffic it attracts will find exceptional answers to their questions.
As you build out your content, take the time to consider a few key SEO factors. Once again, make sure you’re primarily focused on the end user. However, you should also consider optimization tactics like integrating important keywords into your title and body text.
Linking is also critical here. You can occasionally link to other high-quality external URLs. However, more and more marketers focus on linking your new content to relevant and high-performing internal pages on your site. This strategy, called interlinking, weaves your website into an interconnected web of useful, SEO-optimized content.
It’s too easy to create new content and then never give it a second thought. We’re not perfect though, and the new content you posted may need to be edited and optimized if it isn’t quite performing at the level you hoped.
You’ll want to set up Google Analytics. This allows you to check in on your SEO content over time. Usually, it takes several months for your content to settle, so set reminders to check in a couple of times per year. If something is underperforming, take steps to improve your SEO without reducing the quality of the content for human readers.
Everyone knows content is king. At the same time, it’s hard to understate the importance of SEO in digital marketing. Even in a world where AI is impacting how we search for information, the need to rank in SERPs and build organic visibility through search engines remains paramount.
Use your content creation activities as a springboard to enhance your SEO strategy. If you need help integrating the two, consider partnering with a growth marketing agency that specializes in SEO and content strategy. They can help you capitalize on each content-related initiative and ensure that it enhances both your brand’s authority and visibility in the process.