People often get a bit confused about SEO and content marketing – do they work together or are they at odds with one another?  Do you have to force them to work together or is there a smooth process where everything is in harmony?  The first thing to understand is that the two do work perfectly together and here we will explain why this is.

Why not integrating can be a problem

Many businesses run into issues with these two areas because they view them as if they are different and separate.  But the reality is that there is so much overlap between the two areas that sometimes it is impossible to completely separate them.

Businesses can fall into the trap of thinking that the two are separate, even be competing, with headlines on Google such as ‘Will Content Marketing Overtake SEO Completely’ adding to this confusion.  To most SEO experts, there is no case for one overtaking the other because it is impossible to have one without the other.

Yet stories persist that Google now ‘favours’ content marketing over SEO and that the time of SEO is dead.  While it might make great headlines, it is better to think of the two as different personalities within the same person, rather than as two separate people.  So to have success with either, you need to master the basics of both.

Content marketing supplies keywords for SEO to work

Overlap between SEO and content marketing

So visualise two circles, one being SEO and the other being content marketing.  Rather than standing apart with a clear gap between them, the two overlap each other.  This means that there are areas that are different with each but there are also a number of areas where they overlap.  Perhaps the best way to understand them is to see the contrasts and convergences.

  • Contrasts – SEO is more technical and is narrower while content marketing is broader and more holistic in its approach
  • Convergences – SEO applies to the channel in a broader way than content marketing, but the techniques are needed for content marketing to be successful

Another way to look at it is this: SEO tells you what you need to do while content marketing will do it for you.  SEO States requirements while content marketing fulfils them.  But how can you work with the two and get the most from their strengths and convergences?

SEO needs to content to work

For starters, without content SEO cannot work – it requires those words, articles, keywords and substance in order to do its job.  This makes the old cliché about ‘content is king’ into a very true statement because without content, there is no SEO.  In fact, most experts don’t even bother to argue the point anymore.

Content marketing is about the content and therefore the practical application of SEO with content is the substance that makes content marketing function.  Content marketing supplies the content that allows SEO to work.

Content marketing supplies keywords for SEO to work with

In that content are those relevant keywords that SEO requires to function.  Keyword research is a recognised mainstay of good SEO – researching them, utilising them in content and then tracking them in SERPs.

The use of keywords and the practical application of all that research is the essence of content marketing.  Because the only way you can use those keywords is to place them in content.  And it isn’t just any old string of words – it needs to be well written, top quality content that is written for people, not search engine bots and that sensibly features the keywords.

Keyword stuffing is a trend of the past, where keywords were added in manic proportions in order to rank a page without thinking about the readability of the content.  So today, using keywords is about balance and a quality user experience.

Content marketing provides linkbacks to SEO to use in rankings

As well as the content and the keywords, content marketing are the location for linkbacks, another key component in ranking a page.  The aim of web pages is to acquire legitimate back links from other sites, particularly authority ones, that shows that the content is quality and is useful.  This, in turn, tells the search engines that the content is top notch and can increase the ranking of the page.

Take a look at a site that offers a product to its users. Now you will see that this website is full of useful content to helpful guides and assist it, potential customers, for free. By doing this you will find that some may link back to certain inner pages due to it being helpful, free, content.

Again, practices such as buying links are in the past.  Links need to be done naturally and authentically, and the best way to do this is to produce good content.  That way, people share the content, and other sites are more likely to link to it, giving that SEO juice that you desire.

Content marketing provides linkbacks to SEO to use in rankings

Content marketing requires consistency, and SEO needs consistent output

To have a successful content marketing strategy, you need to plan out fresh content to ensure that there is something new for visitors to read. And the same applies to SEO – Websites that are stagnant and don’t have fresh content will slip down the rankings and appear less often to people searching for that topic, even if they were previously number one.

Therefore, to succeed in both, you need a consistent output of quality content.  This means writing articles that are well written, of decent length and that people are interested in reading.  It also means keeping up with the latest SEO changes and keyword trends to ensure that the new content is in line with best practices.

Balancing technical optimisation and user experience

Perhaps the biggest balancing act for the website owner and creator is the one between the technical optimisation needed for SEO and the quality user experience needed by content marketing.

SEO is about more than just keywords, backlinks and lots of great content.  There are areas such as metadata, tags, sitemaps and optimising the robots.txt – all the technical stuff that is required to really make SEO work.

However, this doesn’t mean they should be done at the expense of user experience.

In fact, it pays to think of each point as both an SEO bonus and a content marketing feature.  A sitemap, for example, allows crawlers to see what is on the website and also allows people to more easily find the content they require when searching.

The same can apply to tags and metadata – it fulfils SEO requirements and makes for a better experience for users visiting the site.  That robots.txt file might make sure all pages can be seen by search engine crawlers but also means that all the pages can be seen by real people when they reach the website too.

So, when optimising for SEO, all elements should also be considered from the viewpoint of the user experience.  And in almost all cases, the two will meet up showing that what helps SEO also helps the user experience.

To conclude

Hopefully, this has shown the overlap between the two areas and highlighted the point that one cannot exist without the other.  This means that an SEO expert also needs to be a content marketing expert and vice versa.

You can have all the knowledge of one, but if you don’t have knowledge of the other, then the strategy is liable to fail.  This often means bringing people together to work in harmony and unite their knowledge of the areas into one harmonious operation.

For many businesses, this is something where you will need to call in a professional.  I don’t want to teach anyone how to suck eggs, but the best way of finding, an agency, or expert in SEO, is to Google internet marketing and then your local area. So if you live in Adelaide, then you just Google “internet marketing Adelaide” or for London, internet marketing agency London.

Also remember that with everything you do regarding content, SEO must be the bedrock beneath it.  There’s no point writing the best content ever if you don’t use the other SEO criteria to ensure the content is found.  By combining the best of both approaches, you will have a successful strategy that will increase your traffic, gain interest on social media and help the business fulfil its goals.

Without the two, you will never establish the internet presence you dreamed about and have the online success that you crave.


Paul Gordon (author)

Freelance SEO Expert, with over 15 years experience in digital marketing.

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