Marketing budget decisions involve prioritization. Small businesses face a tough decision when it comes to allocating a small budget to get the best results. But even big enterprises have to focus to survive. When you’re allocating budget, inhouse or through an agency or contractor, should you be looking at content marketing or SEO?
The problem with that question is, there’s no right answer to it – because it’s the wrong question.
There was a time when you could pour keyword variations into a page’s header and see it rank. Now, tricks like that are more likely to cost you rank. Stuff a page with keywords, and Google will make sure you don’t rank for that keyword at all. Meanwhile pages are ranking for keywords without even containing the keyword.
It’s the same story with content.
There was a time when content marketing would make you stand out from the crowd. But by 2010, 90% of marketers were using it. Now, everyone is doing it – it’s table stakes. We’re approaching the stage where even fairly good, ticks-all-the-boxes content marketing hardly gets seen; the average blog post basically doesn’t even get seen:
If you want content to work for you, your content has to be excellent.
If you want content and SEO to work, you have to make them work together.
What does that look like?
It starts with figuring out who you want to attract.
That’s where personas come in.
Building personas is an effective way of personalizing and humanizing your client base. It’s a lot easier to write a blog post that John will want to read, than to target your work at a bunch of dry demographic data. Start with demographic data and build on it with other sources of information, including browsing data, onsite behavior and survey responses, until you can flesh out a real person who represents your best customers in aggregate.
Nailing personas lets you have some idea of search intent. What are these people looking for?
When you have that, you can address those concerns with targeted blog posts that you know those readers want to see, using their search intent as the basis for a keywording strategy.
The most sensible way to think about how to use content and SEO together is to think of them as two sides of the same coin.
Even the most betentacled website design can only have so many pages. But big, solid blogs can have hundreds of pages. And while Google have been pretty clear that big websites don’t automatically rank better than small ones, it’s obvious that you can target a lot more keywords with content than you can by building a page for every potential search query. That’s especially true in B2B where sales cycles are long and the average visitor is looking to learn and evaluate, not be sold to.
At the same time, those posts aren’t going to get found if they aren’t promoted and optimized for search. Content is the vehicle for SEO, because it gives you something to optimize for search.
Check out what Google considers for ranking:
Consistent output of thought leadership content – that’s content marketing right there, acounting for nearly a quarter of SEO by itself.
Then there’s links. They account for another 28%. Nail both and you have over half your ranking factors covered.
In a way, links are kind of like keywords. There used to be no such thing as a bad link. Now, the picture has changed, and a dodgy backlink profile filled with irrelevant or spammy links will get you panned by Google.
The game for SEOs now is to earn solid, editorial links that are relevant and come from high-quality sites. I’ve put about ten into this post already, linking to sources that had information I couldn’t have written the post without. That’s a real link, and those people earned links from me and (in some cases) hundreds or thousands of others by offering something of real value in their content marketing.
Of course, a link from me isn’t such big potatoes. But check out the top ten links to the Ahrefs post on on-page SEO that I linked out to earlier (miss it? Here it is again).
Their top ten links include Majestic, Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Watch and Shout Me Loud. All those sites are funneling traffic to that post, but they’re also giving it real link juice that you can’t buy.
It’s also a lot easier to get linked to if your content can get found easily!
SEO and content aren’t mutually exclusive options: they’re mutually inclusive necessities.
You need both and they need to work together.
If you’re ready to start making your content and SEO work together, get in touch!