There are two frequent questions that are asked when trying to make the most of any (if not every) digital campaign. One is: “How strong is the quality of the content in the marketing?” The other is: “Is the SEO working as efficiently as possible?” The truth is – both questions deserve equal time and attention.
EGC's Search Marketing Manager Evan Calafates comments, “I always find it funny when I read an article ‘SEO is Dead’ when there’s more than 3 billion searches a day on Google alone. SEO is very much alive and still heavily reliant on the content. The key points to keep in mind would have to be to find the opportunities, or if you’re refreshing content of an existing page, to not hinder any successes you have organically for that page. Keeping these two areas in mind and allowing the writer to do what they do best, and write great content for the USER will set you up for success in organic search.”
Content Strategist & Developer at EGC Group, Amy Edel-Vaughn, adds, "It's critical for brands to have a solid strategy. Inbound content, such as blogs and guides, need to work in concert with outbound content, such as paid social. And SEO must be part of content planning from the beginning. Here at EGC, Evan and I work together to build content plans, and also include the Creative team from the beginning of development. We need to move beyond the days of silos and work together to create the best possible holistic plan for our clients."
Indeed, every facet of a digital strategy deserves as much detail and care as possible. With so many competitors who are posting and promoting just as many campaigns to attract and convert customers, it would seem obvious that content marketing and SEO would get the same degree of curation – and ideally – complement one another (if not be combined). Ironically, that is not the case a lot of the time.
A recent article appeared on MemBurn, entitled Need Proof That Content Marketing is the Future? Here It Is by Bianca Delport, who states up front that when it comes to the importance of content marketing over SEO (or vice versa): “The truth is that this argument is completely null and void. Why? Because the only way in which to really maximise one’s digital marketing results is to incorporate aspects of both disciplines into one’s marketing strategy.”
Ms. Delport’s case for acknowledging and accelerating the use of content marketing is based on several developments that have taken place over the last several years. The first was the update to Google’s Hummingbird algorithm, where content was emphasized over keywords. Another variable concerns the increased demand for mobile-friendly accessibility; or rather, the potential for a website to still receive high rankings in Google – providing that the pages have high quality content – regardless of whether or not it has a corresponding mobile site. (And with the “everything mobile” mood of today, that conclusion says something.)
The final factor that Ms. Delport highlights is the emergence of Google featured “snippets,” which provide quick and to-the-point answers to any number or types of questions a user might type into (read “as”) in the Google search engine. If a “snippet” has the best content, it will appear higher in a search result – even if its corresponding website is not in the number one spot.
(One cautionary note on “snippets” and related Google’s Quick Answers to keep in mind is that information is not always accurate or verified. An article in The Record points out: “Unfortunately, as long as Google has a commercial interest in appearing omniscient, it probably won't work to improve knowledge panel transparency.”) So there are pros and cons to “snippets.” The pros are that answers to random questions can be found quickly. The cons are that there are no guarantees that the information is correct (depending on the subject and complexity of the question).
Whereas the tone of Bianca Delport’s article focuses more on content marketing, Aaron Agius, writing for Business 2 Community, counters this: “Even if content marketing is your main strategy, there are some SEO essentials all businesses need to take advantage of.” Mr. Agius goes on to report that a number of companies (some of which are classified as Fortune 500), have neglected best practices when it comes to SEO.
Missing keywords in home page titles, failure to include meta descriptions, and not properly naming images via keywords separated by dashes are among the weaknesses in the SEO presence of these companies. Mr. Agius makes the following point: This is bad for SEO, but it also reduces content marketing effectiveness by creating a bad user experience.
So, it has been established that content marketing and SEO must work in unison. A third question (joining the two at the top of this blog) emerges, which is: “Where is the balance between SEO and content marketing?” When it comes to SEO, Mr. Agius advises to fix broken links and always adhere to Google’s best practices. In conjunction with this, content marketing tasks to maintain include creating buyer personas, identifying campaign objectives, mapping content, and developing a promotional strategy.
And, maybe it is coincidence or a natural connection, but there are practices where SEO and content marketing actually overlap. These include researching keywords, applying meta descriptions, and measuring and adjusting SEO analytics along with campaign results whenever necessary.
Effective integration of content marketing and SEO, Mr. Agius believes, can be accomplished through learning about an audience via search, using search engines as a content marketing channel, and applying content creation strategies to improve SEO. (Once again, note the connection of how each strategy is supplemental and beneficial to the other.)
Content marketing and SEO…to quote a lyric from the song once sung by Frank Sinatra…”you can’t have one without the other.”