One of the most frequently asked questions in digital marketing is about content marketing and how it differs from Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). There’s often a lack of understanding of the difference between SEO and content marketing, so without further delay, let’s get down to discussing content marketing Vs SEO!
What is content marketing?
Perhaps it’s prudent to start by explaining what content marketing isn’t. Content marketing isn’t about your brand, products or services. Now that is cleared up, I will explain what content marketing is about.
Content marketing is primarily about your audience, and what appeals to them. That could be in the form of educational blog articles, e-books, videos, podcasts, webinars and infographics. Content marketing should answer specific questions that your audience has and give them something they can’t easily find elsewhere.
By demonstrating credibility, expertise and authority on topics that appeal to potential customers, your website has a higher potential to be discovered by the right audience and earn their loyalty and trust. This, in turn, enables you to build stronger relationships with your audience, grow an engaged consumer base, that will be instrumental in building your business into the future.
The key differentiator between content marketing and other forms of marketing or advertising is value. Your content needs to be so valuable to your audience, that they seek it out, rather than actively trying to avoid it, as is often the case with advertising or untargeted marketing.
Why choose content marketing?
Awareness– Customers are aware that they have a problem, but many don’t realise there is a solution to their problem. A good example is that many businesses find it difficult to source trusted, pre-qualified suppliers for their business, but they might not be aware that a service such as Matchboard exists to match buyers with suppliers.
Consideration– Customers spend considerable time researching and learning about the various options in the marketplace. This is even more prevalent in the B2B space, where purchases are measured in months or even years. Content marketing is great for informational pieces that inform customers.
Purchase– When the buyer has considerable knowledge about the solutions available and is confident to make an informed decision based on the consideration, they proceed to purchase.
Content marketing is a big factor in the first two phases of the buying cycle. If content marketing is done well, by the time the searcher reaches the purchase phase, they are already convinced that they want to buy the good or service from your business.
Types of content marketing
Below is a list of the most popular forms of content marketing. There are of course others, but for the purposes of this article, only the most popular forms of content will be covered.
Web pages (including blogs and case studies)
People often don’t realise the difference between web pages, that are “going through the motions” of creating content for the sake of creating content and those web pages, blogs or case studies that could truly be classed as content marketing.
Content marketing content is often so widely read, it becomes cult-like in nature, receives thousands of views and is actively sought out by readers.
An example of content marketing (in the form of a microsite) is domain.com.au’s ultimate guide to building a new home. This resource is free, adds significant value to those building a home, as is evidenced by the thousands of readers that view this piece each month.
Hopefully the above example demonstrates the difference between just placing content on your website and the extra effort that’s involved to create content marketing.
Infographics are generally long (vertical) graphics that contain tables, charts, images and other information to help explain a particular topic with relative ease and simplicity. Infographics have become a popular form of content marketing in the past decade, as they are easy to read and share over social media.
Although the cost of creating an infographic can be substantial (up to $1000), they can be an effective form of content marketing if used correctly.
Here is an example of an Infographic, that even includes the share code to make it easier to go viral.
Podcasts are digital audio programs that are generally focused on a theme. This could be music, business, current affairs etc. Often podcast guests are also interviewed on various related or “shoulder” topics.
As podcasts are much less competitive than traditional content marketing methods, like blogs, they provide an excellent opportunity for businesses to display their expertise and stand out from the crowd. Podcasts are extremely accessible and can be accessed while driving, commuting and are easily consumable on mobile devices.
The other beauty of podcasts is that they are available on different platforms than the business owner already has an exposure, like Spotify, iTunes etc.
Videos or webinars
Youtube channels have seen a huge growth as a content marketing platform. Youtube is the second largest search engine in the world after Google, so video is a high growth market for content marketers. Professional grade equipment has dropped considerably in price, and consumer grade equipment has improved dramatically in the past decade, so much so that phones and laptops generally produce acceptable audio and video quality for YouTube videos.
Due to the decline in sales of physical books, e-books and Whitepapers have provided a real opportunity for businesses and content marketers to stand out. With digital platforms being readily accessible, it’s easy to create an ebook or Whitepaper from your computer. Distribution is also simple these days, with everything from a “lead capture” form on a website to download the document, to self-publishing on Amazon’s kindle store.
What is SEO
Search Engine Optimisation or SEO is the art of growing traffic, leads and conversions from free or “organic” traffic from search engines. Whilst this is a very simplistic view of SEO, at a higher level, it comprises content creation, content optimisation and backlink building to improve the performance of a website in the search engine results pages (SERPs)
Content marketing Vs SEO: What’s the connection?
Hopefully, its clear from the preceding paragraph that there is a significant overlap between content marketing and SEO. In case it was overlooked, that key overlap area is content!
SEO needs content generation which comes from content marketing
For SEO to be successful, a website needs a strong foundation of content. That could be in the form of website pages (including blogs), infographics, podcasts, videos etc. That’s where SEO relies on content marketing- for the creation of content.
SEO needs keywords which also are fulfilled by content marketing
As part of keyword research, suitable keywords should be selected that will bring substantial traffic to a website. The keywords that are selected need to be targeted via content marketing activities to be able to rank in search engines. Content marketing, or the creation of high quality, informative & educational content is required to enable a website to rank for these targeted keywords
SEO needs backlinks to perform and content marketing is used to attract backlinks
One of the most important ranking factors (after content!) is backlinks. These are simply links from other websites to your website and act as votes to send a signal to the search engine that the destination website is credible and capable of attracting links. Links are one of the foundations of Google’s success as a search engine. At a very high level, link building tactics either revolve around outreach, which means creating excellent content on your website that’s link worthy and promoting that content to acquire links. The other popular method is guest posting, where a site owner will produce high quality content on another, more powerful website in exchange for link(s) to their website. Guess what. Both of these methods require content marketing to work effectively!
Content marketing needs a great User Experience (UX) which comes from SEO
For content to be attractive to read, it is important to provide readers with a good user experience (UX). SEO is responsible for bringing users to a website, and as UX is a ranking factor, SEO needs to factor in UX as part of regular activities to ensure a site ranks as high as possible. UX is also crucial to ensure readers stay on a website long enough to consume the content marketing that’s been generated.
SEO is more technical; Content marketing is more user focused
Although all forms of marketing must be user focused, SEO tends to lean towards more technical aspects than content marketing. As part of SEO, technical skills like understanding site structure, website speed and the basics of code are required.
There are many forms of content marketing including website content, podcasts, videos and infographics that will bring success in the online space in 2020 and beyond. There is a significant interdependence between content marketing and search engine optimisation, and both elements need to work together to bring success in the form of online marketing for a business.