Businesses tend to think of SEO and content marketing as completely separate departments, keeping them apart like two naughty children. In fact, when allowed to work together, they form something quite magical.
Content marketing is defined as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive action.” However, around the same time that people were outside chanting “content is king”, companies started littering their website with as much content as possible, often favouring quantity over quality. By ignoring the key objective of content marketing, businesses quickly found that their content was driving little traffic to the website, and probably zero action.
This is where search engine optimisation (SEO) comes in. A lot of businesses admit they don’t know what SEO is, and a lack of understanding often means that it’s left out of website discussions. Sure, there are many complicated technical elements to SEO, not to mention Google changing the goal posts regularly with their algorithm updates. In its simplest terms, SEO is finding and implementing ways to increase your website’s rankings in search engines – the two main ranking factors being relevancy and authority.
SEO not only discovers how to become more visible in the SERPs, but also uses analytics and research to identify relevant, highly searched for topics, paving the way for engaging content which will drive those desired actions.
Is Content Still King?
The answer to this is yes, and it may even be starting to earn its regal title with nearly 90% of marketers saying that they use content marketing. However, businesses are quickly learning that content marketing alone isn’t going to satisfy the requirement for driving traffic to their website.
By involving SEO in your content planning, you can find out exactly what people want and give it to them. Doing your research and making sure your content is targeted can help your website to rank higher in the search engines and build a stronger brand.
This isn’t to say that we need all content marketers to start reading up on SEO. Each require different skills and knowledge, and there are clear differences between the two.
- SEO is more technical. You are researching and implementing improvements based on search engines crawling your content, not actual human feedback. Now, with the fast evolution of machine learning, the search engines have become much more user-focused to match results with customers at various stages in the purchasing funnel. The process is often very statistical and analytical, and as an SEO specialist, you’ll find yourself getting very familiar with Google Analytics and Keyword Tools.
- Content is broader and more emotive. Content is ultimately drafted with the target audience in mind and written in a way to engage a real human mind. You’re up against a lot of content and blogs out there, so content marketing is more about establishing that differentiating factor, writing something that will stand out from the crowd.
The problem is that SEO and content marketing teams often working in silo. Here, we share some insights into how integrating your SEO and content marketing can increase relevant traffic to your website and improve user experience.
Machine Learning Is Changing the SERPs
Machine learning is not a new concept, it’s been around for a few years now. However, we’re only just starting to see the impact it’s having on all of the valuable SEO work we’ve been doing. Instead of dealing with all of the Google algorithm updates, machine learning is changing the way search results are being displayed, putting the user first. Machine learning is a part of artificial intelligence (AI) and uses algorithms that enable computers to learn over time. This means that the search engines will be able to connect great content with customers at different parts of the decision-making funnel.
Therefore, very different SEO and content marketing strategies need to be developed for various stages of the funnel. An example of this would be if someone is thinking about getting a new hairstyle. They will perhaps head straight for a search engine and type “best hairstyles for long hair”. Creating specific content for search engines is more important than ever. The expectations and the attention spans of the consumer have changed. Customers now have a better idea about what they want, thanks to the information available to them. However, they want it right now, and they want technology to do the work for them. Looking back at our example of searching for a new hairstyle, they will expect to type in “hair salon” without a location and be presented with a different, more specific set of content: name, address, ratings, website and directions.
Creating Valuable, Relevant Content
You simply cannot plan a content marketing strategy without SEO. To get maximum engagement and views of your content, it needs to be found. This isn’t just down to whether the page is optimised, it is the optimisation of the whole website. As mentioned earlier, your ranking is based on two main factors: relevancy and authority.
Similarly, if you flip this on its head, you also can’t have SEO without words, articles, or meaningful text. With the internet being much more focused on providing a user-led experience, search engines like Google have already been rolling out changes in their search algorithms to penalise websites for low quality or irrelevant content.
Optimising Existing Content
Existing content that isn’t getting you the right results needs a nudge from SEO. Conducting a full crawl will help identify some of the common factors affecting your ranking, and how to fix them. Some of these might be:
- Duplicate content: copying content across your website is not only lazy, but damaging to your visibility. To create the best user experience, search engines won’t show multiple pages with the same content, so it will choose the best version, resulting in traffic loss.
- Confusing titles and headings: using Webmaster Tools, you can identify what search terms people are using to get to your website. You might find that it’s worth repurposing your content to focus on a different keyword which is driving more traffic to your website.
- Internal links: when identifying pages with high authority, linking these within the pages of other low performing pages can help spread link equity throughout the website. It also helps your website visitors navigate through your website.
- Bad user experience: optimising pages using SEO techniques alone might get you some good traffic, but if your bounce rate on your highest visited pages is above 70%, there is a chance your content relevancy and CTAs need reviewing.
Do Your Keyword Research
Search engines today are more focused on creating an environment that puts the user first. This means that repeating high volume keywords throughout your copy – also known as keyword stuffing – will no longer help your visibility. A high-performing website that can be used as a conversion tool needs to have engaging content, but it also needs to be found in the search engines.
Keyword research and analysis helps you to get into the minds of your potential customers. By linking SEO and content marketing, you can clearly define your target audience and the key terms, phrases and questions they have, and the topics they like to read about. As more people turn to search engines to ask questions (especially on mobile), SEO and content marketing teams need to change their keyword strategy to research these longer tail phrases, and create relevant content that answers these questions.
This doesn’t just stop with attracting people to your website, keyword research should also be used to analyse the behaviours of your audience at different points of the decision process. This allows you to create a content plan based on the needs of these different processes and drive more conversions or sales.
The quality/authority of inbound links is still the number one ranking factor for organic search. Link building is the process of getting links from other websites, with content playing a key part in the success of this. However, with the excessive amount of content available nowadays, it’s hard to know how to cut through the noise and reach your audience. By integrating your SEO and content marketing approach, you will find that your content becomes a lot more relevant to bloggers and other websites, who will feature your content, increasing the number of links back to your website.
Before you go racing off littering your website with links, remember that it’s quality, not quantity. The higher number of quality links you have linking through your website, the higher your rankings will be. Extra ranking points if your content is considered to be of great use to your audience!
A big part of getting a potential customer to make a decision on your website is whether they trust you. Linking SEO techniques with content planning helps businesses to create engaging thought-leadership style content that speaks to their needs. Then, all you need is a decent conversion strategy to turn these into customers.
In conclusion, content marketing without SEO is like a king without its queen. They compliment each other in getting desired information to the consumer fast, and in the exact format they want. There’s a ton of content out there on the internet, and SEO offers a nice little shortcut to your potential customer, saving time and money on alternative marketing methods. As time goes by, technical SEO will be less human focused, and machine learning will involve detecting and fixing the problem instantly. This means that optimised content marketing, targeting consumer intent will be the way forward for any digital marketing human.
To speak to a digital marketing human about developing a smart SEO and content marketing strategy for your business, contact us today.