There was a time when keywords and link building were the name of the game in getting your content at the top of search results. It reached the point where some have attempted to rig the system by creating tools that can spin content and stuff them with relevant keywords. Content farms produced volumes of low-quality content, enabling them to dominate the search results. At one point in the history of SEO, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt referred to the internet as a “cesspool,” which the company had to clean up in the years that followed.
It is in this context that some practitioners of content marketing look down on SEO. There’s a notion that emphasis on keywords can pollute content and damage quality. Furthermore, we’re in an age where so many digital platforms and social media enable you to make your content more visible. SEO is passé, they say. But, surprisingly, the SEO practice has matured significantly in the past ten years, and so have search engine algorithms and search engine marketing. With a more thorough understanding of SEO, you’ll see it as your greatest ally. No less than top marketer Neil Patel says that SEO and content marketing are like peanut butter and jelly.
So, what is it about SEO and content marketing that make them work best together?
First, SEO is a technical strategy and content is the substance that enables it. There would be no SEO without content to begin with. There would be no keywords without words, and no backlinks without content to link to. On the other hand, without SEO, your content marketing is ineffective if your content is virtually invisible to those who need to find it.
Second, SEO and content marketing have the same goal: to increase traffic. Leads come from traffic to your content, but traffic doesn’t happen unless your content is searchable. You’ll need your content to rank high on SERPs.
Now that we have established how the two cannot exist independent of each other, let’s talk about what a good blend of SEO and content marketing might look like.
Leveraging SEO with High-Quality Content
Contrary to what many believe about SEO, its rules are actually built around the need for high-quality content. Google’s algorithms care about good content and encourage content creators to apply best practices to add value to their readers. Here are a few examples of the kind of content flagged by Google:
- Auto-generated content
- Auto-synonymizing or spinning of content
- Combining content from different pages without adding value
- Content copied from other websites
- Keyword stuffing
- Unnatural language in the usage of keywords
Google’s guidelines tell website owners to “create great content”which leads readers to your site. And ultimately, that’s what content marketing needs to do; that’s what SEO has to accomplish, too.
A Reader-Centric Approach
One other important factor that matters in SEO is the organization of your content. This isn’t just about your headings and layout on the page. It’s about everything on your site–from tags, video formats, image captions, URL structure, and site navigation.
Though all of the guidelines may seem overwhelming, most of these were set in place in service of the readers. In your case, for content marketers–that would be your prospects and customers. Everything you do should be centered on how you want your readers to interact with your content.
- Categorize your content. It’s not just the crawlers that need to understand your content and find the relevant parts of it. You want your readers to get to your page, stay on your page, and hopefully take action to get in touch with you. That means they need to find what they are looking for. Well-categorized content encourages engagement on your website.
- Create descriptive titles and URLs. If you’re like many readers on the internet, you’ll probably only spend a few seconds on a site before deciding whether or not you want to stay. That critical decision-making period depends highly on the titles, headings, and visual cues. The good news is that these descriptions also contribute to SEO. Crawling and indexing include an analysis of what is important on your website based on these descriptions and URLS.
- Always provide context. Any object you add to your content needs to make sense–both to your reader and to the search engine. If you use an image, add an effective caption or alternative text. If you add a video, make sure there’s surrounding information that crawlers can find, and that will encourage your prospects to click play.
Context is especially important in the way Google does the crawling and indexing of your content. Remember the issue of keywords? That’s still relevant today, but not in the same way as previously understood and conducted. It’s no longer about keyword density or how many times a specific keyword is found on your page. It’s about the relevance of the surrounding content in relation to the key concept. You may have heard of LSI or Latent Semantic Indexing — this is what matters. Instead of stuffing your content with the same words and phrases over and over, use related words and talk about relevant topics. We won’t go into the technicalities of LSI here, but if there’s one tip to share on this: write for relevance; provide context. Create the kind of content that your prospects are looking for.
- Well-organized sitemap. Help your readers navigate your content and find what they need. Your sitemap also provides valuable information to search engines about what is important on your website and how frequently the different parts of it are updated.
For your content to matter, you’ll need to have an authoritative voice which is based on actual expertise borne of experience or years of research—and which in turn is expressed in high-quality, relevant content. However, as you may already know, another huge factor in SEO is whether or not other websites link back to you.
Again, it all boils down to content quality that stands out and yet is easily found by the tracker because of the SEO keywords that you have naturally and organically integrated into it. Expected more positive and constructive interplay between SEO and content marketing in the future. It might already have helped in the development of another digital trend: search engine marketing.
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