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Why content marketing is (not) the new SEO

And how their interplay can be beneficial

Is SEO the new content marketing? That question arose most frequently during my research for the “Content marketing” lecture of my “content strategy” master study programme at FH Joanneum.

“Why Content Marketing is the New SEO” was the headline of the first article I came upon my research for the topic. The outlook in the Quick Sprout blog post seems quite promising:

“Content marketing is the cheapest and most effective way to do SEO these days. Not only does writing high quality content produce links at a quicker pace than building them manually, but it’s also cheaper. Plus, your content will naturally get shared on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest.”

Behind superficial benefits

Too promising to me. So, I looked for other voices on this topic and found lots of different opinions. Here, I want to mention a blog post by Franz Keim which made in several points sense to me. The quote from the Quick Sprout blog is in the view of Keim much simplified. He states that:

“Of course, content marketing and SEO can cross-fertilise each other. But content marketing does not necessarily make SEO easier”.

Keim sees SEO as more than content. That mainly includes the technical SEO requirements for complicated things such as faceted navigation, pagination and so on. But also, for data audits one will usually use SEOs who have well-founded assumptions as to how search engines react to certain measures.

According to Keim there are especially two SEO topics which are not correctly presented in relation to content marketing:

  1. Content as SEO performance pusher or “editorial SEO”

Keim sees it as a common mistake of thinking that the whole job of SEO is done with easy textual improvements. That would only be a small part of SEO performance.

He points out:

“From a higher-level perspective, textual optimization can usually be referred to as SEO basics — i.e. the basis for SEO success.”

According to Keim’s experience established sites in particular benefit from editorial optimization (i.e. keyword targeting and adaptation of internal links). The editorial optimization of these sites ensures that traffic is increased and / or sharpened. New sites or sites with a weak link profile, editorial optimization don’t really benefit.

Keim offers the following explanation for that:

“Keyword targeting (i.e. the targeted placement of certain keywords in relevant elements) shows the search engines what the content is about, but other factors are necessary for the push to the top positions, such as Link power, domain authority, etc. important”.

2. Content Marketing — The new linkbuilding

Great content is important — and content marketing can help. But, does it make it easier to get more attention and links? No, is the clear answer from Franz Keim. He states:

“Links just come by in the rarest of cases. Unfortunately, the reason for this can also be found in search engine optimization itself.”

SEO experts e.g. maintained that if the link target offends against Google guidelines, this may lead to punishment. This rumor sometimes persists. Many website operators don’t even think of linking to other sites at first. And those who move in the problematic depths of SEO semi-knowledge may even have reservations about linking. Therefore, the idea of the “link magnet” is according to Keim “usually just wishful thinking on the part of the content producers.”

In terms of the interplay between content marketing and SEO Keim stays sceptical and points to a presentation by B2B content strategist John Henry Scherck.

Scherck’s opinion can be summarised by the following quote:

“If all you want is a ranking, you may not need content”.

How content SEO and content marketing play together

But, can the interplay between SEO and content marketing be really seen in such a black and white manner? As I couldn’t really believe it, I searched for more opinions — and got found. One text I want to point out here is “Why SEO Is Actually All About Content Marketing” by Neil Patel. The content marketer states:

“The crux of the problem is that SEO and content marketing are separated, as if they were two very different things. The truth is, however, that they go together, overlap, cohere, blend.”

However, Patel also sees differences between content marketing and SEO:

  • SEO is narrower, and more technical. Content marketing is broader and more holistic.
  • The way to apply SEO in a broader way is according to Patel to channel its specific technical endeavors into content marketing. And: “Conversely, the only way to ensure the success of content marketing is to apply SEO techniques in its implementation.

After all Patel is convinced that “SEO makes demands. Content marketing fulfills those demands.”

He summarizes the connection between SEO and content marketing in the following points:

  • SEO states the requirements. Content marketing fulfills them.
  • SEO demands content. Content marketing is content.
  • SEO demands keywords. Content marketing means using keywords.
  • SEO demands linkbacks. Content marketing introduces linkbacks.
  • SEO demands onsite technical optimization. Content marketing needs great UX.

After all, I think it’s all about focusing on a beneficial interplay between SEO and content marketing. What’s your opinion on that? I’m looking forward to reading about your experiences in the comments :).

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